At an Upper Window

It was very early the next morning - a time of sun and dew. The confused beginnings of many birds' songs spread into the healthy air, and the wan blue of the heaven was here and there coated with thin webs of incorporeal cloud which were of no effect in obscuring day. All the lights in the scene were yellow as to colour, and all the shadows were attenuated as to form. The creeping plants about the old manor-house were bowed with rows of heavy water drops, which had upon objects behind them the effect of minute lenses of high magnifying power.

Just before the clock struck five Gabriel Oak and Coggan passed the village cross, and went on together to the fields. They were yet barely in view of their mistress's house, when Oak fancied he saw the opening of a casement in one of the upper windows. The two men were at this moment partially screened by an elder bush, now beginning to be enriched with black bunches of fruit, and they paused before emerging from its shade.

A handsome man leaned idly from the lattice. He looked east and then west, in the manner of one who makes a first morning survey. The man was Sergeant Troy. His red jacket was loosely thrown on, but not buttoned, and he had altogether the relaxed bearing of a soldier taking his ease.

Coggan spoke first, looking quietly at the window.

`She has married him!' he said.

Gabriel had previously beheld the sight, and he now stood with his back turned, making no reply.

`I fancied we should know something to-day,' continued Coggan. `I heard wheels pass my door just after dark - you were out somewhere.' He glanced round upon Gabriel. `Good heavens above us, Oak, how white your face is; you look like a corpse!'

`Do I?' said Oak, with a faint smile.

`Lean on the gate: I'll wait a bit.'

`All right, all right.'

They stood by the gate awhile, Gabriel listlessly staring at the ground. His mind sped into the future, and saw there enacted in years of leisure the scenes of repentance that would ensue from this work of haste. That they were married he had instantly decided. Why had it been so mysteriously managed? It had become known that she had had a fearful journey to Bath, owing to her miscalculating the distance; that the horse had broken down, and that she had been more than two days getting there. It was not Bathsheba's way to do things furtively With all her cults she was candour itself. Could she have been entrapped? The union was not only an unutterable grief to him; it amazed him, notwithstanding that he had passed the preceding week in a suspicion that such might be the issue of Troy's meeting her away from home. Her quiet return with Liddy had to some extent dispersed the dread. Just as that imperceptible motion which appears like stillness is infinitely divided in its properties from stillness itself, so had his hope undistinguishable from despair differed from despair indeed.

In a few minutes they moved on again towards the house. The sergeant still looked from the window.

`Morning, comrades!' he shouted, in a cheery voice, when they came up.

Coggan replied to the greeting. `Bain't ye going to answer the man?' he then said to Gabriel. `I'd say good morning - you needn't spend a hapeth" of meaning upon it, and yet keep the man civil.'

Gabriel soon decided too that, since the deed was done, to put the best face upon the matter would be the greatest kindness to her he loved.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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