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Even though Grandfather William is seventy, he is still very active although sometimes weak-minded. His bright face would remind a gardener of the "sunny side of a ripe ribstone - pippin." William, a religious man, is also very good-hearted. When he joins the party, he wishes everyone a merry Christmas and throws an armful of logs on the fire. Before coming in, William has invited Grandfather James, Mrs. Dewy's father, to join them. He is a miserly stone mason who lives alone in his cottage.
Grandfather William and the choir talk about which carols they will sing, for they need to practice in order to do well. Robert Penny, the local shoemaker, interrupts to exclaim that he has forgotten to deliver a pair of boots to the schoolhouse; he curses his weak-mindedness in forgetting important matters. Seeing that the mention of the boots has generated greater interest than expected, Penny explains that he has made boots for Geoffrey Day, Geoffrey's father, and Geoffrey's sister, Fancy Day. The boots that he has forgotten to deliver are the ones for Miss Day, who wanted to wear them to church the next morning. Talk turns to the new schoolmistress, whom they call "a figure of fun" and "just husband-high."
Penny then tells the story of John Woodward's brother. When he drowned, no one could identify the body; but Penny was able to identify his boots. Spinks, considered the town scholar and a good teacher, says that he can identify the ways of a man's heart from his feet. Reuben expresses surprise at the fact that a person's character could be read from his feet. Grandfather William again turns the talk to the carol sing. He wonders whether they should sing for the new schoolmistress. Dick Dewy's interest is aroused because he has heard that Fancy Day is young and beautiful.
In this chapter the Mellstock rustics are brought to life through their conversation and the stories that they tell. They perform an almost choric function as they give information on various characters and events. Penny's discussion on boot making and his digression on John Woodward's brother are very interesting and earthy, lending realism to the dialogue. The discussion of Fancy Day is humorous, but significant, since she will become the protagonist of the story and the object of Dick's affection.
Much time is spent in the description of Grandfather William, Reuben's father. He is a kind-hearted man of seventy; although he is still very active, he is often forgetful. His cheerfulness is a sharp contrast to Mrs. Dewy's father, Grandfather James, who is a miserly loner.