"Yes, straight from the mountains of Scotland, I believe," replied Coney.
Young Farfrae repeated the last verse. It was plain that nothing so pathetic had been heard at the Three Mariners for a considerable time. The difference of accent, the excitability of the singer, the intense local feeling, and the seriousness with which he worked himself up to a climax, surprised this sect of worthies, who were only too prone to shut up their emotions with caustic words.
"Danged if our country down here is worth singing about like that!" continued the glazier, as the Scotchman again melodized with a dying fall. "My ain countree!" "When you take away from among us the fools and the rogues, and the lammigers, and the wanton hussies, and the slatterns, and such like, there's cust few left to ornament a song with in Casterbridge, or the country round."
"True," said Buzzford, the dealer, looking at the grain of the table. "Casterbridge is a old, hoary place o' wickedness, by all account. 'Tis recorded in history that we rebelled against the King one or two hundred years ago, in the time of the Romans, and that lots of us was hanged on Gallows Hill, and quartered, and our different jints sent about the country like butcher's meat; and for my part I can well believe it."
"What did ye come away from yer own country for, young maister, if ye be so wownded about it?" inquired Christopher Coney, from the background, with the tone of a man who preferred the original subject. "Faith, it wasn't worth your while on our account, for, as Maister Billy Wills says, we be bruckle folk here - the best o' us hardly honest sometimes, what with hard winters, and so many mouths to fill, and God- a'mighty sending his little taties so terrible small to fill 'em with. We don't think about flowers and fair faces, not we - except in the shape o' cauliflowers and pigs' chaps."
"But no!" said Donald Farfrae, gazing round into their faces with earnest concern; "the best of ye hardly honest - not that surely? None of ye has been stealing what didn't belong to him?"
"Lord! no, no!" said Solomon Longways, smiling grimly. "That's only his random way o' speaking. 'A was always such a man of under-thoughts." (And reprovingly towards Christopher): 'Don't ye be so over-familiar with a gentleman that ye know nothing of - and that's travelled a'most from the North Pole."
Christopher Coney was silenced, and as he could get no public sympathy, he mumbled his feelings to himself: "Be dazed, if I loved my country half as well as the young feller do, I'd live by claning my neighbour's pigsties afore I'd go away!For my part I've no more love for my country than I have for Botany Bay!"
"Come," said Longways; "let the young man draw onwards with his ballet, or we shall be here all night."
"That's all of it," said the singer apologetically.
"Soul of my body, then we'll have another|" said the general dealer.
"Can you turn a strain to the ladies, sir?" inquired a fat woman with a figured purple apron, the waist- string of which was overhung so far by her sides as to be invisible.
"Let him breathe - let him breathe, Mother Cuxsom. He hain't got his second wind yet," said the master glazier.
"O yes, but I have!" exclaimed the young man; and he at once rendered "O Nannie" with faultless modulations, and another or two of the like sentiment, winding up at their earnest request with "Auld Lang Syne."
By this time he had completely taken possession of the hearts of the Three Mariners' inmates, including even old Coney. Notwithstanding an occasional odd gravity which awoke their sense of the ludicrous for the moment, they began to view him through a golden haze which the tone of his mind seemed to raise around him. Casterbridge had sentiment - Casterbridge had romance; but this stranger's sentiment was of differing quality. Or rather, perhaps, the difference was mainly superficial; he was to them like
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