Far from the Madding Crowd HTML version

9. The Homestead -- A Visitor -- Half-Confidences
BY daylight, the Bower of Oak's new-found mistress, Bathsheba Everdene,
presented itself as a hoary building, of the early stage of Classic Renaissance as
regards its architecture, and of a proportion which told at a glance that, as is so
frequently the case, it had once been the memorial hall upon a small estate
around it, now altogether effaced as a distinct property, and merged in the vast
tract of a non-resident landlord, which comprised several such modest
Fluted pilasters, worked from the solid stone, decorated its front, and above the
roof the chimneys were panelled or columnar, some coped gables with finials
and like features still retaining traces of their Gothic extraction. Soft brown
mosses, like faded velveteen, formed cushions upon the stone tiling, and tufts of
the houseleek or sengreen sprouted from the eaves of the low surrounding
buildings. A gravel walk leading from the door to the road in front was encrusted
at the sides with more moss -- here it was a silver-green variety, the nut-brown of
the gravel being visible to the width of only a foot or two in the centre. This
circumstance, and the generally sleepy air of the whole prospect here, together
with the animated and contrasting state of the reverse facade, suggested to the
imagination that on the adaptation of the building for farming purposes the vital
principle of the house had turned round inside its body to face the other way.
Reversals of this kind, strange deformities, tremendous paralyses, are often seen
to be inflicted by trade upon edifices -- either individual or in the aggregate as
streets and towns -- which were originally planned for pleasure alone.
Lively voices were heard this morning in the upper rooms, the main staircase to
which was of hard oak, the balusters, heavy as bed-posts, being turned and
moulded in the quaint fashion of their century, the handrail as stout as a parapet-
top, and the stairs themselves continually twisting round like a person trying to
look over his shoulder. Going up, the floors above were found to have a very
irregular surface, rising to ridges, sinking into valleys; and being just then
uncarpeted, the face of the boards was seen to be eaten into innumerable
vermiculations. Every window replied by a clang to the opening and shutting of
every door, a tremble followed every bustling movement, and a creak
accompanied a walker about the house, like a spirit, wherever he went.
In the room from which the conversation proceeded Bathsheba and her servant-
companion, Liddy Smallbury were to be discovered sitting upon the floor, and
sorting a complication of papers, books, bottles, and rubbish spread out thereon -
- remnants from the household stores of the late occupier. Liddy, the maltster's
great-granddaughter, was about Bathsheba's equal in age, and her face was a
prominent advertisement of the light-hearted English country girl. The beauty her
features might have lacked in form was amply made up for by perfection of hue,
which at this winter-time was the softened ruddiness on a surface of high
rotundity that we meet with in a Terburg or a Gerard Douw; and, like the
presentations of those great colourists, it was a face which kept well back from
the boundary between comeliness and the ideal. Though elastic in nature she