"Well, Captain Newson, I will be glad to see ye here every day now, since it can do no harm," said Farfrae. "And what I've been thinking is that the wedding may as well be kept under my own roof, the house being large, and you being in lodgings by yourself — so that a great deal of trouble and expense would be saved ye? — and 'tis a convenience when a couple's married not to hae far to go to get home!"
"With all my heart," said Captain Newson; "since, as ye say, it can do no harm, now poor Henchard's gone; though I wouldn't have done it otherwise, or put myself in his way at all; for I've already in my lifetime been an intruder into his family quite as far as politeness can be expected to put up with. But what do the young woman say herself about it? Elizabeth, my child, come and hearken to what we be talking about, and not bide staring out o' the window as if ye didn't hear.'
"Donald and you must settle it," murmured Elizabeth, still keeping up a scrutinizing gaze at some small object in the street.
"Well, then," continued Newson, turning anew to Farfrae with a face expressing thorough entry into the subject, "that's how we'll have it. And, Mr. Farfrae, as you provide so much, and houseroom, and all that, I'll do my part in the drinkables, and see to the rum and schiedam — maybe a dozen jars will be sufficient? — as many of the folk will be ladies, and perhaps they won't drink hard enough to make a high average in the reckoning? But you know best. I've provided for men and shipmates times enough, but I'm as ignorant as a child how many glasses of grog a woman, that's not a drinking woman, is expected to consume at these ceremonies?"
"Oh, none — we'll no want much of that — O no!" said Farfrae, shaking his head with appalled gravity. "Do you leave all to me."
When they had gone a little further in these particulars Newson, leaning back in his chair and smiling reflectively at the ceiling, said, "I've never told ye, or have I, Mr. Farfrae, how Henchard put me off the scent that time?"
He expressed ignorance of what the Captain alluded to.
"Ah, I thought I hadn't. I resolved that I would not, I remember, not to hurt the man's name. But now he's gone I can tell ye. Why, I came to Casterbridge nine or ten months before that day last week that I found ye out. I had been here twice before then. The first time I passed through the town on my way westward, not knowing Elizabeth lived here. Then hearing at some place — I forget where — that a man of the name of Henchard had been mayor here, I came back, and called at his house one morning. The old rascal! — he said Elizabeth-Jane had died years ago."
Elizabeth now gave earnest heed to his story.
"Now, it never crossed my mind that the man was selling me a packet," continued Newson. "And, if you'll believe me, I was that upset, that I went back to the coach that had brought me, and took passage onward without lying in the town half-an-hour. Ha-ha! — 'twas a good joke, and well carried out, and I give the man credit for't!"
Elizabeth-Jane was amazed at the intelligence. "A joke? — O no!" she cried. "Then he kept you from me, father, all those months, when you might have been here?"
The father admitted that such was the case.
"He ought not to have done it!" said Farfrae.
Elizabeth sighed. "I said I would never forget him. But O! I think I ought to forget him now!"
Newson, like a good many rovers and sojourners among strange men and strange moralities, failed to perceive the enormity of Henchard's crime, notwithstanding that he himself had been the chief sufferer therefrom. Indeed, the attack upon the absent culprit waxing serious, he began to take Henchard's part.
"Well, 'twas not ten words that he said, after all," Newson pleaded. "And how could he know that I should be such a simpleton as to believe him? 'Twas as much my fault as his, poor fellow!"
"No," said Elizabeth-Jane firmly, in her revulsion of feeling. "He knew your disposition — you always were so trusting, father; I've heard my mother say so hundreds of times — and he did it to wrong you. After weaning me from you these five years by saying he was my father, he should not have done this."
Thus they conversed; and there was nobody to set before Elizabeth any extenuation of the absent one's deceit. Even had he been present Henchard might scarce have pleaded it, so little did he value himself or his good name.
"Well, well — never mind — it is all over and past," said Newson good-naturedly. "Now, about this wedding again."