“No appetite at all, they say.”
Geoffrey crossed to Mellstock and called at the school that afternoon. Fancy welcomed him as usual, and asked him to stay and take tea with her.
“I be’n’t much for tea, this time o’ day,” he said, but stayed.
During the meal he watched her narrowly. And to his great consternation discovered the following unprecedented change in the healthy girl—that she cut herself only a diaphanous slice of bread-and-butter, and, laying it on her plate, passed the meal-time in breaking it into pieces, but eating no more than about one-tenth of the slice. Geoffrey hoped she would say something about Dick, and finish up by weeping, as she had done after the decision against him a few days subsequent to the interview in the garden. But nothing was said, and in due time Geoffrey departed again for Yalbury Wood.
“’Tis to be hoped poor Miss Fancy will be able to keep on her school,” said Geoffrey’s man Enoch to Geoffrey the following week, as they were shovelling up ant-hills in the wood.
Geoffrey stuck in the shovel, swept seven or eight ants from his sleeve, and killed another that was prowling round his ear, then looked perpendicularly into the earth as usual, waiting for Enoch to say more. “Well, why shouldn’t she?” said the keeper at last.
“The baker told me yesterday,” continued Enoch, shaking out another emmet that had run merrily up his thigh, “that the bread he’ve left at that there school-house this last month would starve any mouse in the three creations; that ‘twould so! And afterwards I had a pint o’ small down at Morrs’s, and there I heard more.”
“What might that ha’ been?”
“That she used to have a pound o’ the best rolled butter a week, regular as clockwork, from Dairyman Viney’s for herself, as well as just so much salted for the helping girl, and the ’ooman she calls in; but now the same quantity d’last her three weeks, and then ’tis thoughted she throws it away sour.”
“Finish doing the emmets, and carry the bag home-along.” The keeper resumed his gun, tucked it under his arm, and went on without whistling to the dogs, who however followed, with a bearing meant to imply that they did not expect any such attentions when their master was reflecting.
On Saturday morning a note came from Fancy. He was not to trouble about sending her the couple of rabbits, as was intended, because she feared she should not want them. Later in the day Geoffrey went to Casterbridge and called upon the butcher who served Fancy with fresh meat, which was put down to her father’s account.
“I’ve called to pay up our little bill, Neighbour Haylock, and you can gie me the chiel’s account at the same time.”
Mr. Haylock turned round three quarters of a circle in the midst of a heap of joints, altered the expression of his face from meat to money, went into a little office consisting only of a door and a window, looked very vigorously into a book which possessed length but no breadth; and then, seizing a piece of paper and scribbling thereupon, handed the bill.