Far from the Madding Crowd
Coming Home -- A Cry
ON the turnpike road, between Casterbridge and Weatherbury, and about three
miles from the former place, is Yalbury Hill, one of those steep long ascents
which pervade the highways of this undulating part of South Wessex. In returning
from market it is usual for the farmers and other gig-gentry to alight at the bottom
and walk up.
One Saturday evening in the month of October Bathsheba's vehicle was duly
creeping up this incline. She was sitting listlessly in the second seat of the gig,
whilst walking beside her in farmer's marketing suit of unusually fashionable cut
was an erect, well-made young man. Though on foot, he held the reins and whip,
and occasionally aimed light cuts at the horse's ear with the end of the lash, as a
recreation. This man was her husband, formerly Sergeant Troy, who, having
bought his discharge with Bathsheba's money, was gradually transforming
himself into a farmer of a spirited and very modern school. People of unalterable
ideas still insisted upon calling him "Sergeant" when they met him, which was in
some degree owing to his having still retained the well-shaped moustache of his
military days, and the soldierly bearing inseparable from his form and training.
"Yes, if it hadn't been for that wretched rain I should have cleared two hundred as
easy as looking, my love," he was saying. "Don't you see, it altered all the
chances? To speak like a book I once read, wet weather is the narrative, and fine
days are the episodes, of our country's history; now, isn't that true?"
"But the time of year is come for changeable weather."
"Well, yes. The fact is, these autumn races are the ruin of everybody. Never did I
see such a day as 'twas! 'Tis a wild open place, just out of Budmouth, and a drab
sea rolled in towards us like liquid misery. Wind and rain -- good Lord! Dark?
Why, 'twas as black as my hat before the last race was run. 'Twas five o'clock,
and you couldn't see the horses till they were almost in, leave alone colours. The
ground was as heavy as lead, and all judgment from a fellow's experience went
for nothing. Horses, riders, people, were all blown about like ships at sea. Three
booths were blown over, and the wretched folk inside crawled out upon their
hands and knees; and in the next field were as many as a dozen hats at one
time. Ay, Pimpernel regularly stuck fast, when about sixty yards off, and when I
saw Policy stepping on, it did knock my heart against the lining of my ribs, I
assure you, my love!"
"And you mean, Frank," said Bathsheba, sadly -- her voice was painfully lowered
from the fulness and vivacity of the previous summer -- "that you have lost more
than a hundred pounds in a month by this dreadful horse-racing? O, Frank, it is
cruel; it is foolish of you to take away my money so. We shall have to leave the
farm; that will be the end of it!"
"Humbug about cruel. Now, there 'tis again -- turn on the waterworks; that's just
"But you'll promise me not to go to Budmouth second meeting, won't you?" she
implored. Bathsheba was at the full depth for tears, but she maintained a dry eye.