A Changed Man; and Other Tales

Contents:
Author: Thomas Hardy

Chapter III

At the chapel-of-ease attended by the troops there arose above the edge of the pulpit one Sunday an unknown face. This was the face of a new curate. He placed upon the desk, not the familiar sermon book, but merely a Bible. The person who tells these things was not present at that service, but he soon learnt that the young curate was nothing less than a great surprise to his congregation; a mixed one always, for though the Hussars occupied the body of the building, its nooks and corners were crammed with civilians, whom, up to the present, even the least uncharitable would have described as being attracted thither less by the services than by the soldiery.

Now there arose a second reason for squeezing into an already overcrowded church. The persuasive and gentle eloquence of Mr. Sainway operated like a charm upon those accustomed only to the higher and dryer styles of preaching, and for a time the other churches of the town were thinned of their sitters.

At this point in the nineteenth century the sermon was the sole reason for churchgoing amongst a vast body of religious people. The liturgy was a formal preliminary, which, like the Royal proclamation in a court of assize, had to be got through before the real interest began; and on reaching home the question was simply: Who preached, and how did he handle his subject? Even had an archbishop officiated in the service proper nobody would have cared much about what was said or sung. People who had formerly attended in the morning only began to go in the evening, and even to the special addresses in the afternoon.

One day when Captain Maumbry entered his wife’s drawing-room, filled with hired furniture, she thought he was somebody else, for he had not come upstairs humming the most catching air afloat in musical circles or in his usual careless way.

’What’s the matter, Jack?’ she said without looking up from a note she was writing.

’Well—not much, that I know.’

’O, but there is,’ she murmured as she wrote.

’Why—this cursed new lath in a sheet—I mean the new parson! He wants us to stop the band-playing on Sunday afternoons.’

Laura looked up aghast.

’Why, it is the one thing that enables the few rational beings hereabouts to keep alive from Saturday to Monday!’

’He says all the town flock to the music and don’t come to the service, and that the pieces played are profane, or mundane, or inane, or something—not what ought to be played on Sunday. Of course ’tis Lautmann who settles those things.’

Lautmann was the bandmaster.

The barrack-green on Sunday afternoons had, indeed, become the promenade of a great many townspeople cheerfully inclined, many even of those who attended in the morning at Mr. Sainway’s service; and little boys who ought to have been listening to the curate’s afternoon lecture were too often seen rolling upon the grass and making faces behind the more dignified listeners.

Laura heard no more about the matter, however, for two or three weeks, when suddenly remembering it she asked her husband if any further objections had been raised.

’O—Mr. Sainway. I forgot to tell you. I’ve made his acquaintance. He is not a bad sort of man.’

Laura asked if either Maumbry or some others of the officers did not give the presumptuous curate a good setting down for his interference.

’O well—we’ve forgotten that. He’s a stunning preacher, they tell me.’

The acquaintance developed apparently, for the Captain said to her a little later on, ’There’s a good deal in Sainway’s argument about having no band on Sunday afternoons. After all, it is close to his church. But he doesn’t press his objections unduly.’

’I am surprised to hear you defend him!’

’It was only a passing thought of mine. We naturally don’t wish to offend the inhabitants of the town if they don’t like it.’

’But they do.’

The invalid in the oriel never clearly gathered the details of progress in this conflict of lay and clerical opinion; but so it was that, to the disappointment of musicians, the grief of out-walking lovers, and the regret of the junior population of the town and country round, the band-playing on Sunday afternoons ceased in Casterbridge barrack-square.

By this time the Maumbrys had frequently listened to the preaching of the gentle if narrow-minded curate; for these light-natured, hit-ormiss, rackety people went to church like others for respectability’s sake. None so orthodox as your unmitigated worldling. A more remarkable event was the sight to the man in the window of Captain Maumbry and Mr. Sainway walking down the High Street in earnest conversation. On his mentioning this fact to a caller he was assured that it was a matter of common talk that they were always together.

The observer would soon have learnt this with his own eyes if he had not been told. They began to pass together nearly every day. Hitherto Mrs. Maumbry, in fashionable walking clothes, had usually been her husband’s companion; but this was less frequent now. The close and singular friendship between the two men went on for nearly a year, when Mr. Sainway was presented to a living in a denselypopulated town in the midland counties. He bade the parishioners of his old place a reluctant farewell and departed, the touching sermon he preached on the occasion being published by the local printer. Everybody was sorry to lose him; and it was with genuine grief that his Casterbridge congregation learnt later on that soon after his induction to his benefice, during some bitter weather, he had fallen seriously ill of inflammation of the lungs, of which he eventually died.

We now get below the surface of things. Of all who had known the dead curate, none grieved for him like the man who on his first arrival had called him a ’lath in a sheet.’ Mrs. Maumbry had never greatly sympathized with the impressive parson; indeed, she had been secretly glad that he had gone away to better himself. He had considerably diminished the pleasures of a woman by whom the joys of earth and good company had been appreciated to the full. Sorry for her husband in his loss of a friend who had been none of hers, she was yet quite unprepared for the sequel.

’There is something that I have wanted to tell you lately, dear,’ he said one morning at breakfast with hesitation. ’Have you guessed what it is?’

She had guessed nothing.

’That I think of retiring from the army.’

’What!’

’I have thought more and more of Sainway since his death, and of what he used to say to me so earnestly. And I feel certain I shall be right in obeying a call within me to give up this fighting trade and enter the Church.’

’What—be a parson?’

’Yes.’

’But what should do?’

’Be a parson’s wife.’

’Never!’ she affirmed.

’But how can you help it?’

’I’ll run away rather!’ she said vehemently;

’No, you mustn’t,’ Maumbry replied, in the tone he used when his mind was made up. ’You’ll get accustomed to the idea, for I am constrained to carry it out, though it is against my worldly interests. I am forced on by a Hand outside me to tread in the steps of Sainway.’

’Jack,’ she asked, with calm pallor and round eyes; ’do you mean to say seriously that you are arranging to be a curate instead of a soldier?’

’I might say a curate IS a soldier—of the church militant; but I don’t want to offend you with doctrine. I distinctly say, yes.’

Late one evening, a little time onward, he caught her sitting by the dim firelight in her room. She did not know he had entered; and he found her weeping. ’What are you crying about, poor dearest?’ he said.

She started. ’Because of what you have told me!’ The Captain grew very unhappy; but he was undeterred.

In due time the town learnt, to its intense surprise, that Captain Maumbry had retired from the —th Hussars and gone to Fountall Theological College to prepare for the ministry.

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Chicago: Thomas Hardy, "Chapter III," A Changed Man; and Other Tales, ed. Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915 and trans. Evans, Sebastian in A Changed Man; and Other Tales Original Sources, accessed April 23, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DARNQZDXLV1A4N3.

MLA: Hardy, Thomas. "Chapter III." A Changed Man; and Other Tales, edited by Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915, and translated by Evans, Sebastian, in A Changed Man; and Other Tales, Original Sources. 23 Apr. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DARNQZDXLV1A4N3.

Harvard: Hardy, T, 'Chapter III' in A Changed Man; and Other Tales, ed. and trans. . cited in , A Changed Man; and Other Tales. Original Sources, retrieved 23 April 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DARNQZDXLV1A4N3.