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CHAPTER 30.


Farfrae's words to his landlady had referred to the removal
of his boxes and other effects from his late lodgings to
Lucetta's house. The work was not heavy, but it had been
much hindered on account of the frequent pauses necessitated
by exclamations of surprise at the event, of which the good
woman had been briefly informed by letter a few hours
earlier.

At the last moment of leaving Port-Bredy, Farfrae, like John
Gilpin, had been detained by important customers, whom, even
in the exceptional circumstances, he was not the man to
neglect. Moreover, there was a convenience in Lucetta
arriving first at her house. Nobody there as yet knew what
had happened; and she was best in a position to break the
news to the inmates, and give directions for her husband's
accommodation. He had, therefore, sent on his two-days'
bride in a hired brougham, whilst he went across the country
to a certain group of wheat and barley ricks a few miles
off, telling her the hour at which he might be expected the
same evening. This accounted for her trotting out to meet
him after their separation of four hours.

By a strenuous effort, after leaving Henchard she calmed
herself in readiness to receive Donald at High-Place Hall
when he came on from his lodgings. One supreme fact
empowered her to this, the sense that, come what would, she
had secured him. Half-an-hour after her arrival he walked
in, and she met him with a relieved gladness, which a
month's perilous absence could not have intensified.

"There is one thing I have not done; and yet it is
important," she said earnestly, when she had finished
talking about the adventure with the bull. "That is, broken
the news of our marriage to my dear Elizabeth-Jane."

"Ah, and you have not?" he said thoughtfully. "I gave her a
lift from the barn homewards; but I did not tell her either;
for I thought she might have heard of it in the town, and
was keeping back her congratulations from shyness, and all
that."

"She can hardly have heard of it. But I'll find out; I'll
go to her now. And, Donald, you don't mind her living on
with me just the same as before? She is so quiet and
unassuming."

"O no, indeed I don't," Farfrae answered with, perhaps, a
faint awkwardness. "But I wonder if she would care to?"

"O yes!" said Lucetta eagerly. "I am sure she would like
to. Besides, poor thing, she has no other home."

Farfrae looked at her and saw that she did not suspect the
secret of her more reserved friend. He liked her all the
better for the blindness. "Arrange as you like with her by
all means," he said. "It is I who have come to your house,
not you to mine."

"I'll run and speak to her," said Lucetta.

When she got upstairs to Elizabeth-Jane's room the latter
had taken off her out-door things, and was resting over a
book. Lucetta found in a moment that she had not yet learnt
the news.

"I did not come down to you, Miss Templeman," she said
simply. "I was coming to ask if you had quite recovered
from your fright, but I found you had a visitor. What are
the bells ringing for, I wonder? And the band, too, is
playing. Somebody must be married; or else they are
practising for Christmas."

Lucetta uttered a vague "Yes," and seating herself by the
other young woman looked musingly at her. "What a lonely
creature you are," she presently said; "never knowing what's
going on, or what people are talking about everywhere with
keen interest. You should get out, and gossip about as
other women do, and then you wouldn't be obliged to ask me a
question of that kind. Well, now, I have something to tell
you.

Elizabeth-Jane said she was so glad, and made herself
receptive.

"I must go rather a long way back," said Lucetta, the
difficulty of explaining herself satisfactorily to the
pondering one beside her growing more apparent at each
syllable. "You remember that trying case of conscience I
told you of some time ago--about the first lover and the
second lover?" She let out in jerky phrases a leading word
or two of the story she had told.

"O yes--I remember the story of YOUR FRIEND," said
Elizabeth drily, regarding the irises of Lucetta's eyes as
though to catch their exact shade. "The two lovers--the old
one and the new: how she wanted to marry the second, but
felt she ought to marry the first; so that she neglected the
better course to follow the evil, like the poet Ovid I've
just been construing: 'Video meliora proboque, deteriora
sequor.'"

"O no; she didn't follow evil exactly!" said Lucetta
hastily.

"But you said that she--or as I may say you"--answered
Elizabeth, dropping the mask, "were in honour and conscience
bound to marry the first?"

Lucetta's blush at being seen through came and went again
before she replied anxiously, "You will never breathe this,
will you, Elizabeth-Jane?"

"Certainly not, if you say not.

"Then I will tell you that the case is more complicated--
worse, in fact--than it seemed in my story. I and the first
man were thrown together in a strange way, and felt that we
ought to be united, as the world had talked of us. He was a
widower, as he supposed. He had not heard of his first wife
for many years. But the wife returned, and we parted. She
is now dead, and the husband comes paying me addresses
again, saying, 'Now we'll complete our purposes.' But,
Elizabeth-Jane, all this amounts to a new courtship of me by
him; I was absolved from all vows by the return of the other
woman."

"Have you not lately renewed your promise?" said the younger
with quiet surmise. She had divined Man Number One.

"That was wrung from me by a threat."

"Yes, it was. But I think when any one gets coupled up with
a man in the past so unfortunately as you have done she
ought to become his wife if she can, even if she were not
the sinning party."

Lucetta's countenance lost its sparkle. "He turned out to
be a man I should be afraid to marry," she pleaded. "Really
afraid! And it was not till after my renewed promise that I
knew it."

"Then there is only one course left to honesty. You must
remain a single woman."

"But think again! Do consider----"

"I am certain," interrupted her companion hardily. "I have
guessed very well who the man is. My father; and I say it
is him or nobody for you."

Any suspicion of impropriety was to Elizabeth-Jane like a
red rag to a bull. Her craving for correctness of procedure
was, indeed, almost vicious. Owing to her early troubles
with regard to her mother a semblance of irregularity had
terrors for her which those whose names are safeguarded from
suspicion know nothing of. "You ought to marry Mr. Henchard
or nobody--certainly not another man!" she went on with a
quivering lip in whose movement two passions shared.

"I don't admit that!" said Lucetta passionately.

"Admit it or not, it is true!"

Lucetta covered her eyes with her right hand, as if she
could plead no more, holding out her left to Elizabeth-Jane.

"Why, you HAVE married him!" cried the latter, jumping
up with pleasure after a glance at Lucetta's fingers. "When
did you do it? Why did you not tell me, instead of teasing
me like this? How very honourable of you! He did treat my
mother badly once, it seems, in a moment of intoxication.
And it is true that he is stern sometimes. But you will
rule him entirely, I am sure, with your beauty and wealth
and accomplishments. You are the woman he will adore, and
we shall all three be happy together now!"

"O, my Elizabeth-Jane!" cried Lucetta distressfully. "'Tis
somebody else that I have married! I was so desperate--so
afraid of being forced to anything else--so afraid of
revelations that would quench his love for me, that I
resolved to do it offhand, come what might, and purchase a
week of happiness at any cost!"

"You--have--married Mr. Farfrae!" cried Elizabeth-Jane, in
Nathan tones

Lucetta bowed. She had recovered herself.

"The bells are ringing on that account," she said. "My
husband is downstairs. He will live here till a more
suitable house is ready for us; and I have told him that I
want you to stay with me just as before."

"Let me think of it alone," the girl quickly replied,
corking up the turmoil of her feeling with grand control.

"You shall. I am sure we shall be happy together."

Lucetta departed to join Donald below, a vague uneasiness
floating over her joy at seeing him quite at home there.
Not on account of her friend Elizabeth did she feel it: for
of the bearings of Elizabeth-Jane's emotions she had not the
least suspicion; but on Henchard's alone.

Now the instant decision of Susan Henchard's daughter was to
dwell in that house no more. Apart from her estimate of the
propriety of Lucetta's conduct, Farfrae had been so nearly
her avowed lover that she felt she could not abide there.

It was still early in the evening when she hastily put on
her things and went out. In a few minutes, knowing the
ground, she had found a suitable lodging, and arranged to
enter it that night. Returning and entering noiselessly she
took off her pretty dress and arrayed herself in a plain
one, packing up the other to keep as her best; for she would
have to be very economical now. She wrote a note to leave
for Lucetta, who was closely shut up in the drawing-room
with Farfrae; and then Elizabeth-Jane called a man with a
wheel-barrow; and seeing her boxes put into it she trotted
off down the street to her rooms. They were in the street
in which Henchard lived, and almost opposite his door.

Here she sat down and considered the means of subsistence.
The little annual sum settled on her by her stepfather would
keep body and soul together. A wonderful skill in netting
of all sorts--acquired in childhood by making seines in
Newson's home--might serve her in good stead; and her
studies, which were pursued unremittingly, might serve her
in still better.

By this time the marriage that had taken place was known
throughout Casterbridge; had been discussed noisily on
kerbstones, confidentially behind counters, and jovially at
the Three Mariners. Whether Farfrae would sell his business
and set up for a gentleman on his wife's money, or whether
he would show independence enough to stick to his trade in
spite of his brilliant alliance, was a great point of
interest.



The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
Category:
English Classics
Book Review:
Thomas Hardy’s masterpiece "The Mayor of Casterbridge" proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that “character is destiny”, and in writing it Hardy proved that a tragedy can be one of the most enjoyable forms of literature. As in ancient Greek tragedies, the protagonist of
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