Nothing was seen or heard further of Durbeyfield in his triumphal chariot
under the conduct of the ostleress
, and the club having entered the allotted space, dancing began. As there were no men in the company the girls danced at first with each other, but when the hour for the close of labour drew on, the masculine inhabitants of the village, together with other idlers and pedestrians
, gathered round the spot, and appeared inclined to negotiate for a partner.
Among these on-lookers were three Young men of a superior class, carrying small knapsacks
strapped to their shoulders, and stout
sticks in their hands. Their general likeness to each other, and their consecutive
ages, would almost have suggested that they might be, what in fact they were, brothers. The eldest wore the white tie, high waistcoat
, and thin-brimmed hat of the regulation curate
; the second was the normal undergraduate; the appearance of the third and youngest would hardly have been sufficient to characterize him; there was an uncribbed, uncabined aspect in his eyes and attire, implying that he had hardly as yet found the entrance to his professional groove
. That he was a desultory tentative
student of something and everything might only have been predicted of him.
These three brethren
told casual acquaintance that they were spending their Whitsun holidays in a walking tour through the Vale of Blackmoor, their course being south-westerly from the town of Shaston on the north-east.
They leant over the gate by the highway, and inquired as to the meaning of the dance and the white-frocked maids. The two elder of the brothers were plainly not intending to linger more than a moment, but the spectacle of a bevy
of girls dancing without male partners seemed to amuse the third, and make him in no hurry to move on. He unstrapped his knapsack, put it, with his stick, on the hedge-bank, and opened the gate.
'What are you going to do, Angel?' asked the eldest.
'I am inclined to go and have a fling
with them. Why not all of us - just for a minute or two - it will not detain