(Penguin World Classics, 2000)
The Surviving Draft-Fragments of Far From the Madding Crowd
The complete heading of the two draft-fragments is:
"Far from the Madding Crowd. Some pages of the first Draft -- afterwards revised.T.H".
The lower inscription is marked in red ink and "1873" is added in pencil. In 1915 Hardy had the two draft-fragments bound together and gave them to his second wife, Florence.
The first of the two draft-fragments, written on seven leaves, is numbered 2-18 and has the chapter number,"XXIII", marked in pencil. These leaf measurements differ significantly from those of the ms, indicating that the fragment itself probably formed one of the occasional set pieces Hardy submitted to his editor, Leslie Stephen, for appraisal before settling upon the text proper. He carried around a notebook for just such a purpose -- as much for making detailed observations of the sights, sounds, events and conversations of everyday life as for re-creating these details in literary form. In fact, according to Hardy's own chronicle, Far From the Madding Crowd was composed "sometimes indoors, sometimes out -- when he would occasionally find himself without a scrap of paper at the very moment that he felt volumes. In such circumstances he would use large dead leaves..."
Whereas both the chapter number and story-line of this particular draft-fragment cohere with the ms account of the shearing supper, this episode ultimately went through many changes and many titles in the composition process from "A merry time: a second declaration" to "Eventide: A Second Declaration," before settling on "A pleasant time: a second declaration." In the process only a few passages from the draft-fragment were retained for the ms version and, consequently, for publication in the Cornhill.
As to the date of composition, one thing is certain: it was written after serialisation had begun in 1874, not before in 1873 -- as Hardy quite reasonably but quite forgetfully dates it with hindsight. He had not, at that time, by December 1873, yet completed chapters XXI-XXIV for the May number, nor had he, as yet, adopted the Cornhill spelling of Fanny "Robin." This appeared, unauthorised by him, in the first published instalment of Far From the Madding Crowd, which he came across quite by chance while travelling on New Year's Eve, 1873-74. At this point he was still writing "Robbin" in his ms (chapters IX-XIV-- March number), which he had sent off to Stephen late in December 1873 before seeing the first instalment in print. But, of course, once "Robin" was visibly in print there was nothing to be done except to follow suit. Thus the shearing episode saw the first of Hardy's adopted Cornhill spellings of "Robin."
He was, then, in the process of completing this episode during the earlier part of February 1874, shortly after spending much time and care making radical alterations to earlier issues to accommodate Stephen's cuts, his imposition of alternative chapter divisions and what he judged, in his editorial wisdom, to be "a better break" between instalments. Now nervously anxious about his May chapters, Hardy awaited Stephen's verdict. On February 17 it arrived. Please would Hardy "omit the chapter headed the 'shearing supper' and add a few paragraphs to the succeeding or preceding, just explaining that there has been a supper"?
Hardy must have been devastated. Framed in artistic terms, that the shearing episode "rather delays the action unnecessarily," Stephen's request to omit the chapter pointed not at all, at this juncture, to the issue of censorship, but quite simply at pertinence: "I don't know whether anything turns on the bailiff's story: but I don't think it necessary." The "bailiff's story" was Stephen's delicate way of speaking of Fanny Robbin's illicit-sex story. Naturally enough, at this nerve-racking point on the eve of publication, Hardy threw it out!
In this, his early struggle to circumvent Mrs Grundy -- or Leslie Stephen -- Hardy must have felt his integrity had been severely compromised, the more so for the fact that in the same "prudery" letter and with the same daintiness of mind Stephen goes on to "suggest that Troy's seduction of the young woman will require to be treated in a gingerly fashion." Still unable to utter Fanny's name Stephen does not, in the end, "suggest" so much as command. Censorship was the order of the day. Nevertheless, despite these enforcements Hardy had succeeded in producing -- for the shearing episode -- two set-pieces which had genuinely delighted his editor: the segments entitled the "Great Barn" and "A Merry Mist." And these he incorporated into two newly-reduced, newly-divided chapters (XXII and XXIII) treating with the barn-shearing and merrymaking supper respectively. Thus, judiciously negotiating Stephen's request to "add a few paragraphs...just explaining that there has been a supper," he re-created a shearing supper episode after all.
The First Draft-Fragment.
For the shearing-supper a long table was placed on the grass-plot beside the farmhouse, the end of the table being thrust over the sill of the wide parlour-window and a foot or two into the room whence with its white cloth it protruded as a sort of jetty mantled in new-fallen snow. The outward extremity stretched under the trees, the flexible boughs having been pruned by cattle to the greatest height attainable by their extended necks and nibbling mouths forming, to sitters at that end of the board, a roof coloured with young green of untanned diaphanous hue.
Bathsheba and Liddy were to be seen sitting inside the window and facing down the table: Bathsheba was thus at the head, without mingling with the men. Mutton-pies and beef, apple and rhubarb pudding, cider and ale in five large God-forgive-me mugs, were the chief furniture of the board, which was speedily environed by the shearers, the wives of two or three assisting as waiters.
This evening Bathsheba was unusually excited, her red cheeks and lips contrasting lustrously with the mazy skeins of her shadowy hair. She seemed to expect assistance, and the seat at the bottom of the table was left vacant by her request until after they had begun the meal. She then asked Gabriel to take the place and the duties appertaining to that end which he did with great readiness.
Just at this moment Farmer Boldwood came in at the gate and crossed the green to Bathsheba at the window. He apologised for his lateness: his arrival was evidently by arrangement.
Gabriel, said she, will you move again, please, and let Mr Boldwood come there? Gabriel moved in silence back to his original seat.
The farmer appeared dressed in a cheerful style, in a new coat and a bright modern summer waistcoat, quite in contrast to his usual suits of sober brown and grey, and, like the rest of the assembly, he was further brightened up by the sun, which stretched vivid lines through the leaves to his shoulders and decorated him with argus spots. Inwardly too he was blithe and consequently chatty to an exceptional degree; so also was Bathsheba now that he had come. Boldwood being at the remote end of the table she made it her pleasure to talk to Mr Jan Coggan.
I see one person here I don't know, Coggan, she said. Who is he -- that man in velveteen?
Mistress, said the shearer, you know the old portions of him well enough -- 'tis his new part you don't know. 'Tis Baily Pennyways, in the array of a beard, which he's been growing ever since he left you.
He has no business here! she said her face flaming with displeasure.
He is come to tell ye news of Fanny Robin, replied Coggan.
Ah! said Bathsheba, interested now, and raising her voice to reach the stranger. And what do you know of Fanny?
I see her in Melchester, ma'am, said the man of beard and velveteen.
O -- did you? Yes, I see her in Melchester, ma'am, the ex-bailiff continued, who seemed anxious to make a very little knowledge of Fanny Robin last as long as a very large quantity of the food he was at that time consuming.
And what do you know about her? Did she speak to you?
No. That was a point she did not do.
Did you speak to her?
I did not. That's one of the things I was going to name as not having accomplished to the full extent.
Then you know nothing about her at all?
Ma'am, how can you! said the bailiff reproachfully and still eating on.
Yes indeed more than nothing at all -- much more. 'Twas the eye that I used, as regards her dress.
What did you see?
That she was too well-off to be anything but a ruined woman.
Why did you bring such an uncouth and shuffling man here? Bathsheba said to Coggan.
I didn't in particular, mistress, he apologised. And if I had known his tale was going to be such a bruckle hit as that I wouldn't have let him come on no account. Still, I assure ye he's a very nice feller, and can sing a song as heartily as any martel can wish. All that can be said against poor Pennyways is that he can't keep himself from a curious habit of thieving and telling lies, but he'll do his duty like a saint as a member of good company. He's only been in prison a very few times since he left us. Never been transported in his life -- O no, no: we'd never ask a convict to our table -- 'twould be too low. You'll let him finish his meal, ma'am?
O yes: let him stay if you wish it, but just see that he doesn't steal anything. His knowledge of Fanny is all sham.
Ay, ay, ma'am.
Dear me -- 'tis time to fetch the clean plates for the puddens! said Maryann Money suddenly.
Not at all -- not at all, said Mr Coggan, answering Maryann, but looking at Bathsheba and then the whole company. No such trouble desired ma'am. 'Tis the greatest extravagance in the world, neighbours, to set people running about for plates when ye've got one warm and clane ready to hand -- hey, Master Poorgrass?
True -- considerably true, neighbour Coggan: quite true as I may say.
Then the head-shearer took his plate by its edges, shovelled off his knife and fork upon the cloth and turned the plate bottom upwards. Master Poorgrass followed suit with slavish closeness of imitation, and he was followed unconcernedly by the majority of the company.
Pudden for you Joseph? said Mrs Coggan from a distance.
-- A tiny bit -- the smallest crumb of imagination, Mrs Coggan.
And a bit about the size of a horse's toe-nail will be quite enough for me, said Jan.
The genius displayed in this remark seized so forcibly upon the fancy of one of the juvenile Coggans who was present, and the enigma it contained filled him with such unqualified delight, that it was treasured up, and repeated to friends and enemies half a dozen times a day for the space of a week.
When I was at my sister-in-law's at Casterbridge t'other day, continued Jan, and turned up my plate as I do now, and as I always do at meals, as did my father afore me, and yours too, neighbours all [the neighbours nodded their heads in assent] my wife made quite a noise about it. Why Jane, I said, how canst be so extravagant? There's two clane sides to yer plate always, and ye never use but one of them...Why, neighbour Oak, pudding wouldn't have had the right taste to my father and yours if they hadn't had it off the bottom of their trenchers? [Coggan threw a strenuous gaze of demand on the shepherd who expressed similarity of opinion by the minor muscles.] Ah, there's my wife listening to what I've got to say [turning to Mrs Coggan, who was wiping knives and forks in the rear.] Bless her dear old heart! Jane you be like a good fiddle -- the older and more battered you get, the sweeter you grow. Ah, she've presented me with five youngsters, and I fancy I can see another in that twinkling eye of hers!
Don't be such a noddy, Jan! said Mrs Coggan indignantly and blushing with confusion.
Well -- there -- time will tell -- 'tis the only proof for prophets, said Jan, lowering his spirits. Joseph Poorgrass, in some surprise at the words, privately surveyed Mrs Coggan and thereupon coloured more than had Mrs Coggan herself. Jacob Smallbury, to the great relief of that matron, then started a new subject.
Now if there's one sort of sallet I like at the springtime of the year, 'tis watercress, he said, putting a little heap of salt upon the tablecloth, and folding together a tuft of the cress into the form of a bow.
As for myself, I can always chaw in a head of lettuce in its naterel state," said Susan Tall's husband, helping himself to a complete plant that had been rinsed without mutilation, rolling it round like an umbrella, and then reaching over Joseph Poorgrass's shoulders and probing a distant salt-cellar with the base of the stalk in a fencing attitude, till a satisfactory quantity of salt had adhered. "What with a mouthful of rawmil' cheese, and another shard of cider 'tis as neat a stopper down as --- The remainder of the statement was lost in a noise slightly resembling the crackling of thorns under a pot, produced by the action of Mr Tall's teeth upon the lettuce-leaves and stem, as the flourishing plant gradually disappeared from daylight, like a plume of feathers vanishing down a conjuror's throat.
* * * * * * * * * *
The second of the two draft-fragments is simply headed "Chapter," and consists of eleven leaves of blue paper, measuring five and seven-eighths by eight inches and foliated 106a-k, with a later note in red ink, "Some pages of 1st draft -- (Details of Sheep-rot-- omitted from MS. when revised) T.H." All physical indications suggest that this fragment is an anomaly -- probably one of the roughest outline-sketches made for Stephen who no doubt saw the potential in it. But it was never part of the holograph ms: the different leaf measurements, different blue paper and different mode of foliation bear no relation to the ms sheets which are ivory-tinted, measure six and a half by eight and three eighths inches, and bear a numerical foliation which is both haphazard and frequently overwritten but not alphabetical. These indications, together with the uncharacteristic pencil-markings and roughness of composition -- its heavy alterations, unfilled gaps, unamended interlinear revisions, word abbreviations and careless handwriting -- bear out Hardy's claim that he often drafted snippets for Far From the Madding Crowd if not always on dead leaves at any rate on whatever notebook he had to hand, as he roamed the highways and byways of his Wessex or crossed its wider boundaries by rail.
The extraneous nature of this draft-fragment is also consistent with his practice of self-borrowing. Just as he chose to infuse his published prose with measures of his unpublished verse, or with lost threads of his unpublished novel, The Poor Man and the Lady (1868), so the ms version of Far From the Madding Crowd acquires choice remnants of the Sheep-rot segment which, with its statistical focus coupled with its ramshackle prose structure, appears to have been primarily a referential piece on pestilential footrot.
The most remarkable of these self-borrowings is that of the "noxious vapoury" swamp. Elaborated and embedded in chapter XLIV of the ms, into the scene of Bathsheba's night retreat after her conflict with Troy, this transferred segment now ingeniously provides an apt correlation to the treacherous domestic "terrain" within: figuratively, an exteriorisation of what Bathsheba inwardly experiences as the "pollution" of her person by marriage.
By contrast there is the less artistically noteworthy self-borrowing of Troy's words to Gabriel after their skirmish: "Now...remember that I am her husband, & injuring me is injuring her: & if you go now it will be injuring...me." Adapted for the ms these now become Troy's self-preserving words in his skirmish with Boldwood: "A moment," he gasped. "You are injuring her you love....How can she be saved now unless I marry her?" (XXXIV).
Since Hardy was writing under great pressure, against the clock -- many chapters remaining unfinished right up to the last few weeks before publication date -- expediency was, no doubt, a significant factor in these self-borrowings. Hence, the transfer of certain segments from the draft-fragment to the ms which may have been handy rather than matchless. The skirmish scene is just such a segment -- not only in its transference of the "injury" idea to chapter XXXIV in the ms, but also in its infusion into chapter XX of Gabriel's firing by Troy after the sheep-rot episode, which is adapted (in the ms) into his firing by Bathsheba before the sheep-blasting episode.
Art and not expediency, though, surely prompted the transfer of Gabriel's "glowing autumn sunset." This finds Hardy struggling for apt words and vivid images in the draft-fragment. But by the time it has found its way into the ms and into Bathsheba's sunrise (XLIV), also to round out her hours of desolate repose as it settles into her sundown, the artistic struggle is over: the configuration of the solar orbit enacts an artistic completion of a kind that simultaneously renders the erstwhile fragment poetically whole.
It happens thus. Whereas, in the draft-fragment, Gabriel is set in an incoherent photosphere alternately pausing to contemplate a glowing sunset, "bristling with a thousand spines of light, which stuck & tormented his eyes," and then turning aside to look down on "a Valley of the Shadow of Death," Bathsheba, by contrast, is set, in her moment of contemplation (at the selfsame swamp), in a coherent firmament in which all elements unite, evoking a slow awakening of both her hazy consciousness and the softly radiating sun. Accordingly, in place of the allusion to the twenty-third Psalm and the "Valley of the Shadow of Death," Hardy now more appropriately cites (in the ms), Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind," which he links with Bathsheba's "creation" of the breezes that shake off the unseen presences of the dead. Equally, as the "fiery mist" rises, in the draft-fragment, to the accompaniment of a rather inappropriate allusion to Hamlet's "god kissing carrion" so, in the ms, the same mist more poetically provides "a fulsome yet magnificent silvery veil, full of light from the sun" to illumine the dawning of Bathsheba's outer and inner world. And ultimately, as the haze clears and the new day begins -- a lustral day for Bathsheba -- and as this, in turn, completes its solemn course at eventide, so too the sun goes "down almost blood-red" over her domain, striking not with a "thousand spines of light" upon "tormented eyes" as in the draft-fragment, but upon the soaring church spire, which "rose distinct and lustrous...bristling with rays" -- as the lonely woman watching at her window awaits the dark night, and the black days of mourning to come.
Troy soon began to make himself busy about the farm.
Bathsheba's flock always fell naturally into two great divisions, the store sheep, and the fatting sheep at this time of the year. The latter could be subdivided, with different shades of distinctness into several grades of fatness, each group of which at due intervals of time follow to market the one preceeding it.
It now happened that Oak was absent from Weatherbury for two or three days on account of two great-markets and one fair which he had attended with some young rams, and he had taken the opportunity of spending a day at Norcombe on his way back. On his return he did not go near the forward fatting wethers for two or three days in addition, so it was about a week from the time of his departure that one evening at dusk he again set eyes on them.
He was amazed at the change in their appearance. Could his eyes deceive him -- he went round them pushed them felt them: no, there was no mistake -- they had increased beyond all anticipation. When Oak was at home that night, he suddenly thought of something in connection with the sheep and looked concerned. "It is impossible," he said to himself. However he was uneasy.
Next morning, he went straight to these promising creatures, hooked one of them by the leg, held it between his legs and examined the gland in the corner of its eye.
It was yellow.
Oak turned pale, and murmured one word.
Now to an honest shepherd or farmer symptoms of Rot are as an alarm of fire to a householder or panic to a capitalist. It is a ruinous catastrophe: the most fearful visitation of the sheep walk, and generally speaking incurable. So destructive is this pestilence that not one sheep in a hundred, when once tainted ever recovers. The animal, after a certain stage, wastes to a skeleton, and at the end of two or three months it dies. It has been calculated by those who collect statistics of this subject -- that more than a million sheep and lambs die in Great Britain every year from this disease alone.
We have here regarded rot entirely in its ultimate result, and given it the complexion it naturally wears in the mind of conscientious owners of flocks. But the most remarkable feature of this remarkable terrible malady remains to be pointed out. /There is/ It has an antecedent feature which is abnormal and surprising, and on account of this to sheep owners not over scrupulous the word has another meaning altogether. It is an opportunity. The disease is a remedy: the blight of what is owned is the enrichment of the owner. It is a means to an end which can be reached so quickly by no other route. The end is readiness of stock for market, and consequent early profits from sales.
The explanation, which also embodies an explanation of the wonderful appearance of Bathsheba's fatting ewes just at this time, is briefly this. At the beginning of the attack the bile absorbed into the system operates apparently as a stimulant. It forces on the animal at a rate which is simply astounding. Its appetite is increased, all its nutritive organs seem strengthened, and fat and flesh accumulate with marvellous rapidity upon the most meagre frames. The fatting processes which would naturally occupy two or three months complete themselves by the demoniac aid of this pestilence in half that time. Then comes the re-action, and the poor creatures literally melt away.
The trick is or was, to take the flock to market at the climax of that first stage of the disease, immediately before the skin becomes yellow, and when the animal is plump, sleek and round, and none but an experienced eye can distinguish between its condition and that of the carefully fattened animal.
It was a practice which Oak in common with a few honest farmers in/of the vicinity resolutely set his face against, and his perplexity was now of a peculiar kind. On examination he found that the limits of the rot in his flock were marked in a very definite and singular manner. The sheep affected were precisely those which were first wanted for market. All the others were as usual. In other words it seemed as if in his absence somebody had been operating upon the sheep for purposes before mentioned.
Gabriel made up his mind at once. Whether the result were that of accident or design, he would have nothing to do with such a scheme, and would do his utmost to counteract it. He took them away from all green food, substituted hay -- and gave them each plenty of rock salt to lick, which was the best antidote then in his power. Next morning the salt was gone. The sheep could not have consumed it. Oak had his suspicions.
That day Troy came and said
These shall go off on Saturday I think Oak. Is there not something wonderful in their advance lately. Did you ever see sheep fatten so.
Never, except when they have been rotted, as these are, said Oak, looking Troy full in the face.
O no -- nonsense, said Troy. They are not rotted.
Oak did not trouble to reply just then, for his knowledge of the events which had transpired in his absence was limited and he wanted proofs. The damage must have been done some time before he left Weatherbury, though its effects were not visible till his return. The sheep were sent away on the Saturday as Troy had desired.
How the sheep became rotted seemed likely to continue a mystery, and the matter gradually passed into the vast list of unknown causes or undiscovered crimes.
The next batch intended to be fattened were at this time feeding by themselves as usual in a portion of the Great Ewelease. It was in the main a high dry and altogether desirable declivity for the purpose. One end however ran down to a fenny nook at the level of the springs, and was one of the spots on the farm, and the most likely spot, for engendering the disease. To guard against any such contingency Oak had railed off this spot by iron hurdles, which were only removed in winter frosts, when sheep can with perfect impunity depasture upon land at other times fatal. This corner of the land could be flooded by raising a hatch in a small weir at the upper end.
Gabriel finding no other traces of the pestilence in his flock might possibly have ignored the suspicion altogether had not a new incident deepened it. One evening after having been at the other end of the farm for the greater part of the day, he passed this corner of the meadow, and paused to look at /the/one of the most glowing of autumn sunsets which shone upon him across the swamp. The effect was indeed, beautiful, and one of which description, though it has been exercised for centuries, in every variety of form, somehow seems never to become stale and wearisome. The yellow sun, bristling with a thousand spines of light, which stuck into and tormented his eyes......Gabriel had poetical ideas, but they were all discreetly diluted with the practical. He admired the red and the gold and the brisling rays, and then looked lower upon the little swamp. It was/He looked upon a Valley of the Shadow of Death to any ovine entity under the sky. But it was indeed beautiful to look upon. The air about it, looking thus towards the sun, had a substance and a surface visible to the eye. It was a magnificent aureate mist or veil, fiery, yet semi-opaque -- the hedge behind it being in some measure hidden by its golden brilliancy.
The presence of the fiery mist was caused by the effect of the hot sun's rays upon the swamp that afternoon -- .. "god kissing carrion" etc -- its colour, of course, by the reflection and refraction of the sun's rays.
Oak's thought was that this was spot which would indeed rot a sheep, or a thousand sheep, in a very short time, and he thought that if those rotted the other day had only got in there, the cause would be accounted for. The corner was a nuisance -- a nursery of pestilences small and great -- and it was to be drained. The attempt to convert it into a small water-meadow by introducing a running stream had been virtually a failure.
He went closer to see if any old sheep tracks were visible there, which would be an explanation. Iridescent bubbles full of dank subterranean breath rose beside his feet as he trod and hissed as they burst and expanded away to join the fulsome/steaming/noxious/ vapoury firmament above. Oak then noticed /was/ that very lately water had been artificially admitted to the swamp by drawing the hatch above, and allowing the water to trickle down the course in the centre, formed for irrigation in winter and spring time. This was strange, for such a procedure was useless and unusual at that time of the year and condition of the pasture.
On this account any old sheep tracks would naturally be washed out. But to his surprise he saw new ones, of less than a day's standing, and more recent than the admission of water appeared to have been.
How could the sheep have got in? He went to the iron hurdles, and looked carefully along their length. In the corner one had been removed -- a crowd of tracks were visible under it. Among them were the footprints of a man. Oak knelt down and examined the quality of impression. The boot was a light and well shaped one, with only a few small nails round the heel. The single male person on the farm whose boots were not hobnailed, and queued and tipped with iron, was Troy.
Oak felt himself on the track of a discovery. He resolved to lurk about the place. The trick might be repeated through a possibility of failure the first time.
After supper he took a sheepskin from a nail behind his door, rolled it under his arm, and crossed Great Ewelease almost -- down to the lower corner. Here he rolled himself up in the sheepskin and lay down under the hedge. Troy was a bird of night, he knew.
Presently the moon peeped over the hill and raked the long incline with its rays. Then, as if the light had been waited for, a man came down the hill, and went to the upper corner of the swamp where the weir was fixed. Then Oak heard the soft rush of water and in a few minutes the shady channel in the middle of the swamp brightened like the streak of a match. The sheen widened and leapt into detached holes and depressions over the surface of the ground, spotting the swamp with dancing reflections of the moon. The spot was flooded.
Then he heard the latch lowered with a sudden jolt, and the rush of water ceased. Everything was silent. Oak slid through the hedge -- crept onwards -- and looked toward the hatch. This was standing in a nook, sheltered by a belt of pollard willows, and was obscure. A red spot of fire increasing and diminishing in regular pulsations was visible among the shades. Immediately underneath was a white triangle/small whitish patch, triangular in shape. The triangle of white was the visible portion of the stranger's shirt-front over his waistcoat. The red spot was the fire of a cigar. The man who had irrigated the meadow after turning off the water again was apparently sitting on the rail, smoking. Oak retreated to his nook again. The water partially drained away. Then the effect became visible. The stagnant hollow deprived of every cooling breeze by its position had been highly heated that afternoon by a clear sun. The faint mist which had been previously rising was increased till it assumed the definite form of steam.
Judging from the time which passed it was when the cigar was finished that the man at the weir went up the hill. Oak heard a muffled trotting, without any accompanying tinkle. The wethers (?) about to be fatted had no bell. The flock appeared -- the man, whom Oak now distinctly recognised as Troy, removed one of the iron hurdles, and the sheep were admitted. An instant noise of munching began -- Every one of the simple creatures was momentarily and inevitably sucking in disease, death -- and an antecedent fatness.
Oak jumped up and ran round them. In two minutes they were again outside the rails.
Troy started round, and came forward. Who the devil are you? he said. Why 'tis Oak -- what do you do here.
What do you, said Oak. I came here to save the sheep. 'Twas you who rotted them last time.
Well -- suppose it was. Every man can do what he likes with his own.
Not if he poisons other people by doing it.
Pooh -- it is no use your being such an pattern of virtue as all that, Oak.
You know very well that these things must be done. There's nothing new in my rotting sheep to force their fattening. Every body does it.
Do they. I don't, and Farmer Boldwood don't.
Then you must learn to if you stay here. As to a rotted sheep being poison -- it's all nonsense. Besides we send 'em to market, and the dealers send 'em to London -- and the people who eat them are nothing to us.
'Tis as much harm to hurt people you don't know as people you do.
Not at all. And Londoners have a taste for such things. They deliberately choose the diseased livers of poultry as delicacies and call them pates de foie gras with watering mouths.
And woodcock's entrails.
And newborn pigs like bladders of babies' drool not healthy enough to rear.
And putrid deer, and hide bound oxen, and/And any far gone animal that's killed to save it life.
So I've heard.
Well then, now let us turn in the sheep again.
Not whilst I am here, said Oak firmly, putting himself before the opening.
O. Who says so?
I know so.
We'll see. Once and for all, are you going to stand aside.
I am not.
Take that then!
Troy sprang forward and, as he intended flung himself against Oak's shoulder on the principle of a batteringram, to turn him round on his centre, and so dislodge him. Oak being quite unprepared received the full force of the butt, and recovering himself flung his arms over Troy's, hugged him, flung him against the rails, and pinned him there.
Where are you now, said Oak quietly.
Look here Oak, said Troy. I am the cleverest at this farm, but you are the strongest. So suppose we effect a compromise.
With all my heart, said Oak.
Then, loosen my arms.
Suppose we hear the compromise first -
Very Well. Here's the treaty. I agree to give up the idea of putting the sheep in the mead to night. You on you part will leave your post as shepherd here to morrow morning.
'Tisn't a treaty at all. I can't help leaving because you discharge me: for my last agreement was only by the week. You can't put the sheep in to night, at any rate because I shan't let you. Though you will doubtless to morrow. There's no choice either side. However let it be. There you are loose.
Now I shall toddle homeward. To morrow morning you shall be paid up and I shall expect you not to trouble me again.
Troy went on. Oak replaced the hurdle and followed him.
To Oaks surprise he met Troy just as he left his door the next morning.
Well Oak -- how do you feel, said Troy grimly.
A little stiffness in the shoulder -- that's all. How do you?
A slight pain in the back where the iron of the railing came. But look here. My wife says -- and privately between us, she has a bit of the wilful in her constitution you know -- that I had no right to say anything last night about your leaving us. So, to cut the matter short, what do you say to going on as if nothing had occurred.
Not if any of those tricks with the sheep are to be tried.
Never mind them -- you may as well stay. My wife is a favourite of yours I know -- and you wouldn't like to see her in difficulty. Now remember that I am her husband, and injuring me is injuring her: and if you go now it will be injuring me. I own candidly that we can't very well do without you, at least so Bathsheba says.
I'll stay till Candlemas fair if you agree not to interfere with the sheep, and I have my own way with them entirely. That's my offer. And if it wasn't for my old mistress's sake I wouldn't make that.
Troy agreed and the subject was dropped. Though the rotting system would have saved a clear month and more in the fatting of each sheep the possible loss by having to entrust an untried shepherd with the approaching fall of lambs more than outweighed the certain gain.
NOTES not appended here.