The three members of the family were sitting at breakfast one day, and Henchard was looking silently, as he often did, at this head of hair, which in colour was brown — rather light than dark. "I thought Elizabeth-Jane's hair — didn't you tell me that Elizabeth-Jane's hair promised to be black when she was a baby?" he said to his wife.
She looked startled, jerked his foot warningly, and murmured, "Did I?"
As soon as Elizabeth was gone to her own room Henchard resumed. "Begad, I nearly forgot myself just now! What I meant was that the girl's hair certainly looked as if it would be darker, when she was a baby."
"It did; but they alter so," replied Susan.
"Their hair gets darker, I know — but I wasn't aware it lightened ever?"
"O yes." And the same uneasy expression came out on her face, to which the future held the key. It passed as Henchard went on:
"Well, so much the better. Now Susan, I want to have her called Miss Henchard — not Miss Newson. Lots o' people do it already in carelessness — it is her legal name — so it may as well be made her usual name — I don't like t'other name at all for my own flesh and blood. I'll advertise it in the Casterbridge paper — that's the way they do it. She won't object."
"No. O no. But — "
"Well, then, I shall do it," he said, peremptorily. "Surely, if she's willing, you must wish it as much as I?"
"O yes — if she agrees let us do it by all means," she replied.
Then Mrs. Henchard acted somewhat inconsistently; it might have been called falsely, but that her manner was emotional and full of the earnestness of one who wishes to do right at great hazard. She went to Elizabeth-Jane, whom she found sewing in her own sitting-room upstairs, and told her what had been proposed about her surname. "Can you agree — is it not a slight upon Newson — now he's dead and gone?"
Elizabeth reflected. "I'll think of it, mother," she answered.
When, later in the day, she saw Henchard, she adverted to the matter at once, in a way which showed that the line of feeling started by her mother had been persevered in. "Do you wish this change so very much, sir?" she asked.
"Wish it? Why, my blessed fathers, what an ado you women make about a trifle! I proposed it — that's all. Now, 'Lizabeth-Jane, just please yourself. Curse me if I care what you do. Now, you understand, don't 'ee go agreeing to it to please me."
Here the subject dropped, and nothing more was said, and nothing was done, and Elizabeth still passed as Miss Newson, and not by her legal name.
Meanwhile the great corn and hay traffic conducted by Henchard throve under the management of Donald Farfrae as it had never thriven before. It had formerly moved in jolts; now it went on oiled casters. The old crude viva voce system of Henchard, in which everything depended upon his memory, and bargains were made by the tongue alone, was swept away. Letters and ledgers took the place of "I'll do't," and "you shall hae't"; and, as in all such cases of advance, the rugged picturesqueness of the old method disappeared with its inconveniences.
The position of Elizabeth-Jane's room — rather high in the house, so that it commanded a view of the hay-stores and granaries across the garden — afforded her opportunity for accurate observation of what went on there. She saw that Donald and Mr. Henchard were inseparables. When walking together Henchard would lay his arm familiarly on his manager's shoulder, as if Farfrae were a younger brother, bearing so heavily that his slight frame bent under the weight. Occasionally she would hear a perfect cannonade of laughter from Henchard, arising from something Donald had said, the latter looking quite innocent and not laughing at all. In Henchard's somewhat lonely life he evidently found the young man as desirable for comradeship as he was useful for consultations. Donald's brightness of intellect maintained in the corn-factor the admiration it had won at the first hour of their meeting. The poor opinion, and but ill-concealed, that he entertained of the slim Farfrae's physical girth, strength, and dash was more than counterbalanced by the immense respect he had for his brains.
Her quiet eye discerned that Henchard's tigerish affection for the younger man, his constant liking to have Farfrae near him, now and then resulted in a tendency to domineer, which, however, was checked in a moment when Donald exhibited marks of real offence. One day, looking down on their figures from on high, she heard the latter remark, as they stood in the doorway between the garden and yard, that their habit of walking and driving about together rather neutralized Farfrae's value as a second pair of eyes, which should be used in places where the principal was not. "'Od damn it," cried Henchard, "what's all the world! I like a fellow to talk to. Now come along and hae some supper, and don't take too much thought about things, or ye'll drive me crazy."