A Foggy Night and Morning - Conclusion

`The most private, secret, plainest wedding that it is possible to have.' Those had been Bathsheba's words to Oak one evening, some time after the event of the preceding chapter, and he meditated a hill hour by the clock upon how to carry out her wishes to the letter.

`A license - O yes, it must be a license,' he said to himself at last. `Very well, then; first, a license.'

On a dark night, a few days later, Oak came with mysterious steps from the surrogate's door in Casterbridge. On the way home he heard a heavy tread in front of him, and, overtaking the man, found him to be Coggan. They walked together into the village until they came to a little lane behind the church, leading down to the cottage of Laban Tall, who had lately been installed as clerk of the parish, and was yet in mortal terror at church on Sundays when he heard his lone voice among certain hard words of the Psalms, whither no man ventured to follow him.

`Well, good-night, Coggan,' said Oak, `I'm going down this way.'

`Oh!' said Coggan, surprised; `what's going on to-night, then, make so bold, Mr Oak?'

It seemed rather ungenerous not to tell Coggan, under the circumstances, for Coggan had been true as steel all through the time of Gabriel's unhappiness about Bathsheba, and Gabriel said, `You can keep a secret, Coggan?'

`You've proved me, and you know.'

`Yes, I have, and I do know. Well, then, mistress and I mean to get married tomorrow morning.'

`Heaven's high tower! And yet I've thought of such a thing from time to time; true, I have. But keeping it so close! Well, there, 'tis no consarn of mine, and I wish 'ee joy o' her.'

`Thank you, Coggan. But I assure 'ee that this great hush is not what I wished for at all, or what either of us would have wished if it hadn't been for certain things that would make a gay wedding seem hardly the thing. Bathsheba has a great wish that all the parish shrill not be in church, looking at her - she's shy - like and nervous about it, in fact - so I be doing this to humour her.'

`Ay, I see: quite right, too, I suppose I must say. And you be now going down to the clerk.'

`Yes; you may as well come with me.'

`I am afeard your labour in keeping it close will be throwed away,' said Coggan, as they walked along. `Labe Tall's old woman will horn it all over parish in half-an-hour.'

`So she will, upon my life; I never thought of that,' said Oak, pausing. `Yet I must tell him to-night, I suppose, for he's working so far off, and leaves early.'

`I'll tell 'ee how we could tackle her,' said Coggan. `I'll knock and ask to speak to Laban outside the door, you standing in the background. Then he'll come out, and you tell yer tale. She'll never guess what I want en for; and I'll make up a few words about the farm-work, as a blind.'

This scheme was considered feasible; and Coggan advanced boldly, and rapped at Mrs Tall's door. Mrs Tall herself opened it.

`I wanted to have a word with Laban.'

`He's not at home, and won't be this side of eleven o'clock. He've been forced to go over to Yalbury since shutting out work. I shall do quite as well.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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