Under the Greenwood Tree: Part Four Chapter 1 to 2

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Part Four: Autumn


Summary – Chapter One ‘Going Nutting’ and Chapter Two ‘Honey-Taking, and Afterwards’

Dick visits Fancy on the Friday before their arranged visit to her father and as both are free he suggests they go collecting nuts. She agrees, but asks him to wait while she alters one of her dresses.


He waits for her for hours and remembers she had said she would wear this blue dress on Sunday and he would not be there to see it. She says how lots of other people will be looking at her, though.


He goes outside to wait as she says she will only be another quarter of an hour. He fumes as he thinks that she has warm but not deep feelings and cares too much about how she appears ‘in the eyes of other men’. He also thinks she loves her hair and complexion best, then her dresses, and then him, ‘perhaps’. A cruel thought crosses his mind, that he will punish her and not call after a quarter of an hour. He decides to go nutting instead, which is as he first intended.


He walks for 2 miles to the hazel copse and collects nuts until the sun sets. He takes up his 2 pecks, which are as much use to him as ‘stones from the road’, and whistles as he walks along the bridle path.


On the way back, he sees Fancy and she runs to him and sobs that she has suffered agony and thought he would never come back again. She has been walking miles to find him. She also says she has not finished her dress and never will and will wear an old one on Sunday. He renounces ‘his freedom’ and kisses her 10 times over.


In Chapter Two, Dick visits the home of Fancy’s father as arranged and unseen he notices a small procession made up of Miss and Mrs Day, Enoch and Shinar. He sees them head toward Geoffrey who is standing near the beehives.


Stakes of wood are fixed in the ground and kindled and two hives are placed over the holes. Fancy says how the holes will be the graves of thousands and that it is a cruel thing to do. Her father disagrees and says that this way they are suffocated only once (by smoke) and if they are fumigated in the ‘new way’ they come to life again and so suffer death pangs twice.


She says she would never like to take the honey from them and Enoch says it is done for money, “‘and without money man is a shadder!’” Some stray bees fly about and all but Geoffrey move away, and he stands firm even though he has been stung. Shinar is the last to return and asks if it is safe.

As they go in the house, Shinar and Fancy are the last ones and she is careful to avoid trifling with him. The lantern falls to the ground and they make their way to the house in the dark. Shinar asks her to lend her hand and she gives him the extreme tips of her fingers. He says about offering her his attentions and love, and she says it will not be taken, “‘not at all’”. They go to the storehouse and while Fancy removes the honeycombs from the hives, her father goes in the house to remove the bees from his shirt.


Fancy is with Shinar when Dick appears and Shinar shows his apparent nonchalance by singing. Fancy offers Dick some honey and she says she will try some too. Shinar asks for some as well and as he holds it the cell crushes and honey runs down his fingers.


Fancy gives a faint cry and says a bee has stung the inside of her lip as it must have been in one of the cells she was eating. Shinar asks to see it and she says no. Dick asks and with some hesitation she shows him. Both men go at once to find the oil and hartshorn (to help cure the sting) and both approach Mrs Day for it. She finds it and asks who the ‘head man’ is. As neither answer, she hands it to Shinar. He goes to return to Fancy when Geoffrey comes downstairs and Dick asks to speak to him.


Geoffrey looks for his hat while Dick goes to the garden, as it is the custom there to ‘reserve the garden for very important affairs’ (which probably dates from when families had only one room to live in). The two men talk and Dick says he has come to ask for Fancy’s hand. Her father says he has come on a “‘foolish errand’” as her mother was a governess and Fancy lived with her aunt when he went “‘a-wandering’” after her mother’s death. Her aunt kept a boarding school and married a lawyer. Fancy also has “‘the highest of the first class’” in her teaching certificate. He asks Dick if he thinks he is good enough and Dick says no. They say goodnight to each other and Dick wonders at his ‘presumption in asking for a woman whom he had seen from the beginning to be so superior to him’.


Analysis – Chapter One ‘Going Nutting’ and Chapter Two ‘Honey-Taking, and Afterwards’

The question of class difference arises when Dick asks Geoffrey for Fancy’s hand in marriage. Geoffrey points out the privileges his daughter has had, in education, upbringing and employment, and claims these points demonstrate her superiority.


As a tranter and son of a tranter, Dick is reminded of the inequality in their positions in the class system, but rather than rail against the unfairness he accepts Geoffrey’s argument that Fancy is ‘superior’ to him. This apparent acceptance is in keeping with the acquiescence shown by the other local men when ousted from their role (as a choir) in church. Submission has become a standard for those who represent the nostalgic past.




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