"And that story of the black man, who murdered his wife Desdemona? It is a nice dismal one that would suit you excellent just now."
"Now, Liddy, you've been looking into my books without telling me; and I said you were not to! How do you know it would suit me? It wouldn't suit me at all."
"But if the others do — "
"No, they don't; and I won't read dismal books. Why should I read dismal books, indeed? Bring me Love in a Village, and Maid of the Mill, and Doctor Syntax, and some volumes of the Spectator-."
All that day Bathsheba and Liddy lived in the attic in a state of barricade; a precaution which proved to be needless as against Troy, for he did not appear in the neighbourhood or trouble them at all. Bathsheba sat at the window till sunset, sometimes attempting to read, at other times watching every movement outside without much purpose, and listening without much interest to every sound.
The sun went down almost blood-red that night, and a livid cloud received its rays in the east. Up against this dark background the west front of the church tower — the only part of the edifice visible from the farm-house windows — rose distinct and lustrous, the vane upon the summit bristling with rays. Hereabouts, at six o'clock, the young men of the village gathered, as was their custom, for a game of Prisoners' base. The spot had been consecrated to this ancient diversion from time immemorial, the old stocks conveniently forming a base facing the boundary of the churchyard, in front of which the ground was trodden hard and bare as a pavement by the players. She could see the brown and black heads of the young lads darting about right and left, their white shirt-sleeves gleaming in the sun; whilst occasionally a shout and a peal of hearty laughter varied the stillness of the evening air. They continued playing for a quarter of an hour or so, when the game concluded abruptly, and the players leapt over the wall and vanished round to the other side behind a yew-tree, which was also half behind a beech, now spreading in one mass of golden foliage, on which the branches traced black lines.
"Why did the base-players finish their game so suddenly?" Bathsheba inquired, the next time that Liddy entered the room.
"I think 'twas because two men came just then from Casterbridge and began putting up a grand carved tombstone," said Liddy. "The lads went to see whose it was."
"Do you know?" Bathsheba asked.
"I don't," said Liddy.