Eustacia was indoors in the dining-room, which was really more like a kitchen, having a stone floor and a gaping chimney-corner. The air was still, and while she lingered a moment here alone sounds of voices in conversation came to her ears directly down the chimney. She entered the recess, and, listening, looked up the old irregular shaft, with its cavernous hollows, where the smoke blundered about on its way to the square bit of sky at the top, from which the daylight struck down with a pallid glare upon the tatters of soot draping the flue as seaweed drapes a rocky fissure.
She remembered: the furze-stack was not far from the chimney, and the voices were those of the workers.
Her grandfather joined in the conversation. “That lad ought never to have left home. His father’s occupation would have suited him best, and the boy should have followed on. I don’t believe in these new moves in families. My father was a sailor, so was I, and so should my son have been if I had had one.”
“The place he’s been living at is Paris,” said Humphrey, “and they tell me ’tis where the king’s head was cut off years ago. My poor mother used to tell me about that business. ‘Hummy,’ she used to say, ’I was a young maid then, and as I was at home ironing mother’s caps one afternoon the parson came in and said, “They’ve cut the king’s head off, Jane; and what ’twill be next God knows."’”
“A good many of us knew as well as He before long,” said the captain, chuckling. “I lived seven years under water on account of it in my boyhood—in that damned surgery of the Triumph, seeing men brought down to the cockpit with their legs and arms blown to Jericho... And so the young man has settled in Paris. Manager to a diamond merchant, or some such thing, is he not?”
“Yes, sir, that’s it. ’Tis a blazing great business that he belongs to, so I’ve heard his mother say—like a king’s palace, as far as diments go.”
“I can well mind when he left home,” said Sam.
“’Tis a good thing for the feller,” said Humphrey. “A sight of times better to be selling diments than nobbling about here.”
“It must cost a good few shillings to deal at such a place.”
“A good few indeed, my man,” replied the captain. “Yes, you may make away with a deal of money and be neither drunkard nor glutton.”
“They say, too, that Clym Yeobright is become a real perusing man, with the strangest notions about things. There, that’s because he went to school early, such as the school was.”
“Strange notions, has he?” said the old man. “Ah, there’s too much of that sending to school in these days! It only does harm. Every gatepost and barn’s door you come to is sure to have some bad word or other chalked upon it by the young rascals: a woman can hardly pass for shame some times. If they’d never been taught how to write they wouldn’t have been able to scribble such villainy. Their fathers couldn’t do it, and the country was all the better for it.”