Under the Greenwood Tree: Part Two Chapter 6 to 8
Summary – Chapter Six ‘Yalbury Wood and the Keeper’s House’, Chapter Seven ‘Dick Makes Himself Useful’ and Chapter Eight ‘Dick Meets His Father’
The chapter begins with Dick going to pick up Fancy from her father’s home in Yalbury Wood in order to take her and some household goods to Mellstock. Reuben has not told his son about what he thinks of ‘the state of Shinar’s heart’ as he prefers to let ‘such delicate affairs right themselves’.
Fancy’s father is a gamekeeper and lives in the woods. The furniture in the house is detailed and it is explained that there are two of every item as one set is for Fancy. Her mother bought these things from the time she was born. The room is described further as is the curiosity of the window in the back of the chimney.
Fancy is preparing dinner and her father comes in. He is depicted as taciturn and his trapper, Enoch, is also present. Her father asks after the whereabouts of her stepmother, but before she answers they hear the Dewy cart approach.
Dick is invited in and asked to eat with them, and Geoffrey talks about his absent wife and how it is ‘trying’ for females to be second wives especially when they have been first wives before. He also says, “‘…wives be such a provoking class of society, because though they be never right, they be never more than half wrong.’”
At the table, Fancy sits next to Dick and at one point he puts her hand on his while her father looks at his plate. They slide apart and Geoffrey speaks of Shinar and says how Fancy knows him well. Dick looks anxious and Fancy says to Dick that she has never done anything to warrant this.
Following this, Geoffrey’s wife comes downstairs and criticizes the tablecloth. She goes back upstairs and brings a newer and less shabby one. She also replaces the cutlery with more ‘decent’ ones.
In Chapter Seven, Dick drives Fancy back to her home and his conversation is restrained after her father’s ‘incidental allusions’ to Shinar. At her home, they drink tea together and she has the cup while he has the saucer. They see the vicar coming down her path to visit her, and she says she wishes he (Dick) were not here as she feels awkward. Dick bids her good afternoon in ‘a huff’ and leaves. As he prepares his horse, he looks through the window and sees the vicar drive a nail into the wall as she holds the canary cage up to him.
On the drive home in Chapter Nine, Dick is caught between thinking Fancy is and is not a coquette. His father appears and is coming down the hill and they stop and talk. His father points out that ‘the maid’ is taking up his thoughts more than is good for him and it is making him miserable. Dick says of his fears about the vicar and Reuben tries to comfort him. He then says how the ‘bitter weed’ in their being turned out of the choir is Shinar, because he is in love with “‘thy young woman’”.
Dick doubts this and doubts she has “‘made up’” to Shinar. His father questions this and also says if he “‘can’t read a maid’s mind by her motions, nater’d seem to say thou’st ought to be a bachelor’”.
Reuben goes on his way and Dick stays where he is for a while. He goes too and at home in his room he writes a letter. He takes this to Fancy’s home and wearing a ‘resolute expression’ at her gate he takes it off again, turns for home and tears up the letter.
He decides he needs to use the tone of ‘a heartless man-of-the-world’. He writes another letter asking in plain terms if she means anything by her bearing to him or not. He gets a little boy to take the note for him and takes the precaution of telling him to not turn back if he shouts for him. He waits for a response from Fancy, but hears nothing.
Analysis – Chapter Six ‘Yalbury Wood and the Keeper’s House’, Chapter Seven ‘Dick Makes Himself Useful’ and Chapter Eight ‘Dick Meets His Father’
The relationships between the sexes is given more airing as Dick attempts to get closer to Fancy and Geoffrey refers to wives as a ‘provoking class of society’. Such misunderstandings between men and women are emphasized when Reuben advises his son about staying a bachelor if he cannot understand a ‘maid’. The comments of these older men border on misogyny at times, that is until one sees them at home in their relationships and their wives shows a certain lack of comprehension of them too. Men and women are characterized here, then, as contrasting and occasionally inexplicable to each other, and despite or rather because of this, the attraction remains.