Characters 

 

Clym Yeobright 

 

 

 

 

 

The "Native" of the novel's title, Clym is the son of Mrs. Yeobright and the cousin of Thomasin Yeobright. He goes abroad to work as a diamond merchant in Paris, but comes home when he realizes that his ambition is not towards material wealth. He is pursued by Eustacia Vye, and eventually marries her, but their marriage turns sour when her ambition to move to Paris conflicts with his plan to stay on Egdon Heath and teach school. Clym is intelligent, cultured and deeply introspective. He is patient and generous, but also deeply determined, and fierce when angered: it is this determination that leads to his eventual split with his mother, and separation from Eustacia. At the end of the novel, weakened by a degenerative eye condition and by the trauma of losing his mother and Eustacia--for whose deaths he blames himself--he becomes an itinerant preacher, sermonizing about simple moral topics. .

 

Eustacia Vye

Born in the busy port town of Budmouth and transplanted to Egdon Heath to live with her grandfather, Eustacia despises the heath, and searches for a way to escape. However, even as she hates the heath, Eustacia seems in her deep, brooding passion, to be a part of its wild nature. She has an amorous relationship with Damon Wildeve, but enters into a tragic marriage with Clym Yeobright when she realizes that he is the more interesting, and urbane, of the two men. .

 

Diggory Venn

Throughout most of the novel, Venn works as a semi-nomadic "reddleman": he travels throughout the region selling the dye that farmers use to mark their sheep. As a consequence of his exposure to the dye, his entire body and everything he owns are dyed red. Entirely red, camping out on the heath in his wagon, and emerging mysteriously from time to time, Venn functions as an image of the heath incarnated. He watches over Thomasin Yeobright's interests throughout the novel, but also preserves his own interests: he has long been in love with her, and at the end of the novel they marry. Venn is very clever and insightful, and can be a devious schemer.

 

Damon Wildeve

A local innkeeper, Damon is described as a "lady-killer." At the start of the novel, he puts off his marriage to Thomasin Yeobright in order to pursue a relationship with the woman he truly wants, Eustacia Vye; when he is jilted by Eustacia, however, he marries Thomasin, and has a daughter with her. He drowns at the end of the novel just before making an escape with Eustacia. He is interested throughout in possession rather than love.

 

Thomasin Yeobright

Clym Yeobright's cousin and Mrs. Yeobright's niece and ward. Thomasin is an innocent and goodhearted, if somewhat vacuous, woman who seems genuinely to care for Damon Wildeve--who, however, is merely using her to make Eustacia Vye jealous. She eventually marries Wildeve--over the objections of her aunt--and has a child, which she names Eustacia. At the end of the novel, she marries Diggory Venn, who has long loved her.



 Mrs. Yeobright

Clym Yeobright's mother, and Thomasin Yeobright's aunt and guardian. A proper, class-conscious, proud woman, Mrs. Yeobright objects to the marriage of both her charges; as it turns out, she is entirely correct. She dies when, exhausted, she is bitten by an adder on the heath, believing that Clym has utterly rejected her. The daughter of a parson, Mrs. Yeobright considers herself--and is considered--of a higher class than the local laborers.

 

Christian Cantle

 

 

 

An awkward, superstitious young man who works for Mrs. Yeobright. Christian provides comic relief throughout the novel with his dolorous over-certainty that he will never marry and his petty phobias. He fails in his mission to bring Thomasin her inheritance, thus contributing to the degeneration of the family relationships.

 

Captain Vye

 

 

 

Eustacia's grandfather and guardian, a former captain in the British navy. A reclusive and silent man. He doubts the viability of Eustacia's marriage to Clym from the start and welcomes her back after they split.

 

Johnny Nonsuch

 

 

The son of Susan Nonsuch. The boy has the knack of being in the right place at the right time: he reports Eustacia and Damon Wildeve's tryst to Diggory Venn, and is also the one who tells Clym Yeobright of his mother's damning last words.

 

Charley

 

 

A local youth who works for the Vyes, and who falls hopelessly in love with Eustacia. He tries to protect Eustacia from her own self-destructive impulses after she returns to Captain Vye's home.

 

Susan Nunsuch 

 

 

 


A woman who suspects that Eustacia is a witch who has cast evil spells on her son. She stabs Eustacia with a needle in the church and creates an effigy of her to pierce with needles near the end of the novel.

 

Grandfer Cantle 


A somewhat senile and always lively ex-soldier of about sixty-nine who constantly recalls his glory days as a young soldier fighting against "Boney".

 

Timothy Fairway


A pompous, sententious man of middle age who is greatly respected by the other heath folk.
 

Humphrey & Sam 

Two local laborers, one a furze cutter and one a turf-cutter.

 

The Return Of The Native

(1878)

   Book First: The Three Women .  


I - A Face on Which Time Makes but Little Impression


A Saturday afternoon in November was approaching the time
of twilight, and the vast tract of unenclosed wild known
as Egdon Heath embrowned itself moment by moment
. Overhead
the hollow stretch of whitish cloud shutting out the sky
was as a tent which had the whole heath for its floor.
    The heaven being spread with this pallid screen and the
earth with the darkest vegetation, their meeting-line at
the horizon was clearly marked. In such contrast the heath
wore the appearance of an instalment of night which had
taken up its place before its astronomical hour was come:

darkness had to a great extent arrived hereon, while day
stood distinct in the sky.
Looking upwards, a furze-cutter
would have been inclined to continue work; looking down,
he would have decided to finish his faggot and go home.
The distant rims of the world and of the firmament seemed
to be a division in time no less than a division in matter.

The face of the heath by its mere complexion added half an
hour to evening; it could in like manner
retard the dawn,
sadden noon, anticipate the frowning of storms scarcely
generated, and intensify the opacity of a moonless midnight
to a cause of shaking and dread.

    In fact, precisely at this transitional point of its
nightly roll into darkness the great and particular glory of
the Egdon waste began,
and nobody could be said to understand
the heath who had not been there at such a time. It could best
be felt when it could not clearly be seen, its complete effect
and explanation lying in this and the succeeding hours before
the next dawn; then, and only then, did it tell its true tale.
The spot was, indeed, a near relation of night, and when night
showed itself an apparent tendency to gravitate together could
be perceived in its shades and the scene.
The sombre stretch
of rounds and hollows seemed to rise and meet the evening gloom
in pure sympathy, the heath exhaling darkness as rapidly as the
heavens precipitated it.
And so the obscurity in the air and
the obscurity in the land
closed together in a black fraternization
towards which each advanced halfway.
    
The place became full of a watchful intentness now; for when
other things sank brooding to sleep the heath appeared slowly to
awake and listen.
Every night its Titanic form seemed to await
something; but it had waited thus, unmoved, during so many
centuries, through the crises of so many things, that it could
only be imagined to await one last crisis--the final overthrow.
    It was a spot which returned upon the memory of those who
loved it with an aspect of peculiar and kindly congruity.
Smiling
champaigns of flowers
and fruit hardly do this, for they are
permanently harmonious only with an existence of better reputation
as to its issues than the present
. Twilight combined with the
scenery of Egdon Heath to evolve a thing majestic without severity,
impressive without showiness, emphatic in its admonitions, grand
in its simplicity. The qualifications which frequently invest the
facade of a prison with far more dignity than is found in the facade
of a palace double its size lent to this heath a sublimity in which
spots renowned for beauty of the accepted kind are utterly wanting.
Fair prospects wed happily with fair times; but alas, if times be
not fair! Men have oftener suffered from, the mockery of a place
too smiling for their reason than from the oppression of surroundings
oversadly tinged. Haggard Egdon appealed to a subtler and scarcer
instinct, to a more recently learnt emotion,
than that which responds
to the sort of beauty called charming and fair.

    Indeed, it is a question if the exclusive reign of this orthodox
beauty is not approaching its last quarter.
The new Vale of Tempe
may be a gaunt waste in Thule; human souls may find themselves in
closer and closer harmony with external things wearing a sombreness
distasteful to our race when it was young
. The time seems near, if
it has not actually arrived, when
the chastened sublimity of a moor,
a sea, or a mountain will be all of nature that is absolutely in
keeping with the moods of the more thinking among mankind.
And
ultimately, to the commonest tourist, spots like Iceland may become
what the vineyards and myrtle gardens of South Europe are to him
now; and Heidelberg and Baden be passed unheeded as he hastens from
the Alps to the sand dunes of Scheveningen.
     The most thoroughgoing ascetic could feel that he had a natural
right to wander on Egdon--he was keeping within the line of legitimate
indulgence when he laid himself open to influences such as these.
Colours and beauties so far subdued were, at least, the birthright
of all. Only in summer days of highest feather did its mood touch
the level of gaiety. Intensity was more usually reached by way of
the solemn than by way of the brilliant, and such a sort of intensity
was often arrived at during winter darkness, tempests, and mists.
Then
Egdon was aroused to reciprocity; for the storm was its lover,
and the wind its friend. Then it became the home of strange phantoms;

and it was found to be the hitherto unrecognized original of those
wild regions of obscurity which are vaguely felt to be compassing us
about in midnight dreams of flight and disaster, and are never thought
of after the dream till revived by scenes like this.
    It was at present
a place perfectly accordant with man's nature--
neither ghastly, hateful, nor ugly; neither commonplace, unmeaning,
nor tame; but, like man, slighted and enduring; and withal singularly
colossal and mysterious in its swarthy monotony.
As with some persons
who have long lived apart, solitude seemed to look out of its countenance.
It had a lonely face, suggesting tragical possibilities.
    This obscure, obsolete, superseded country figures in Domesday. Its
condition is recorded therein as that of heathy, furzy, briary wilderness--
"Bruaria."
Then follows the length and breadth in leagues; and, though
some uncertainty exists as to the exact extent of this ancient lineal
measure, it appears from the figures that the area of Egdon down to the
present day has but little diminished. "Turbaria Bruaria"--the right of
cutting heath-turf--occurs in charters relating to the district.
"Overgrown with heth and mosse," says Leland of the same dark sweep
of country.
    Here at least were intelligible facts regarding landscape--far-
reaching proofs productive of genuine satisfaction.
The untameable,
Ishmaelitish thing that Egdon now was it always had been. Civilization
was its enemy; and ever since the beginning of vegetation its soil had
worn the same antique brown dress,
the natural and invariable garment
of the particular formation.
In its venerable one coat lay a certain
vein of satire on human vanity in clothes
. A person on a heath in
raiment of modern cut and colours has more or less an anomalous look.
We seem to want the oldest and simplest human clothing where the
clothing of the earth is so primitive
.
    To recline on a stump of thorn in the central valley of Egdon,
between afternoon and night, as now, where the eye could reach nothing
of the world outside the summits and shoulders of heathland which filled
the whole circumference of its glance, and to know that everything around
and underneath had been from prehistoric times as unaltered as the stars
overhead, gave ballast to the mind adrift on change, and harassed by
the irrepressible New.
The great inviolate place had an ancient permanence
which the sea cannot claim. Who can say of a particular sea that it is
old?
Distilled by the sun, kneaded by the moon, it is renewed in a year,
in a day, or in an hour.
The sea changed, the fields changed, the rivers,
the villages, and the people changed, yet Egdon remained. Those surfaces
were neither so steep as to be destructible by weather, nor so flat as
to be the victims of floods and deposits. With the exception of an aged
highway, and a still more aged barrow presently to be referred to--
themselves almost crystallized to natural products by long continuance--
even the trifling irregularities were not caused by pickaxe, plough, or
spade, but remained as the very finger-touches of the last geological
change.

    The above-mentioned highway traversed the lower levels of the
heath, from one horizon to another. In many portions of its course
it overlaid an old vicinal way, which branched from the great
Western road of the Romans, the
Via Iceniana, or Ikenild Street,
hard by. On the evening under consideration it would have been
noticed that, though the gloom had increased sufficiently to
confuse the minor features of the heath, the white surface of
the road remained almost as
clear as ever.



II - Humanity Appears upon the Scene, Hand in Hand with Trouble



    Along the road walked an old man. He was white-headed as a
mountain,
bowed in the shoulders, and faded in general aspect. He
wore a
glazed hat, an ancient boat-cloak, and shoes; his brass buttons
bearing an anchor upon their face. In his hand was a silver-headed
walking stick, which he used as
a veritable third leg, perseveringly
dotting the ground with its point
at every few inches' interval. One
would have said that he had been, in his day, a naval officer of
some sort or other.
    Before him stretched the long, laborious road, dry, empty, and
white. It was quite open to the heath on each side, and bisected
that vast dark surface
like the parting-line on a head of black hair,
diminishing and bending away on the furthest horizon.
    The old man frequently
stretched his eyes ahead to gaze over the
tract that he had yet to
traverse. At length he discerned, a long
distance in front of him, a
moving spot, which appeared to be a
vehicle, and it proved to be going the same way as that in which he
himself was
journeying. It was the single atom of life that the scene
contained,
and it only served to render the general loneliness more
evident. Its rate of advance was slow, and the old man gained upon it
sensibly.
    When he drew nearer he
perceived it to be a spring van, ordinary
in shape, but
singular in colour, this being a lurid red. The driver
walked beside it; and, like his van, he was completely red. One dye of
that tincture
covered his clothes, the cap upon his head, his boots,
his face, and his hands.
He was not temporarily overlaid with the colour;
it permeated him.

    The old man knew the meaning of this. The traveller with the cart
was a reddleman--a person whose vocation it was to
supply farmers with
redding for their sheep. He was one of a class
rapidly becoming extinct
in Wessex, filling at present in the
rural world the place which, during
the last century, the dodo occupied in the world of animals. He is a
curious, interesting, and nearly perished link between obsolete forms of
life and those which generally prevail.

    The decayed officer, by degrees, came up alongside his fellow-
wayfarer, and wished him good evening. The reddleman turned his head,
and replied in
sad and occupied tones. He was young, and his face, if
not exactly
handsome, approached so near to handsome that nobody
would have
contradicted an assertion that it really was so in its natural
colour
. His eye, which glared so strangely through his stain, was in itself
attractive--keen as that of a bird of prey, and blue as autumn mist
. He
had neither whisker nor moustache, which allowed the
soft curves of
the lower part of his face to be apparent.
His lips were thin, and though,
as it seemed,
compressed by thought, there was a pleasant twitch at their
corners
now and then. He was clothed throughout in a tight-fitting suit of
corduroy, excellent in quality, not much worn, and well-chosen for its
purpose, but deprived of its original colour by his trade. It showed to
advantage the good shape of his figure. A certain well-to-do air about
the man suggested that he was not poor for his degree. The natural
query of an observer would have been,
Why should such a promising
being as this have hidden his prepossessing exterior by adopting that
singular occupation
?
    After replying to the old man's greeting he showed no inclination to
continue in talk, although they still walked side by side, for the elder
traveller seemed to desire company. There were no sounds but that of the
booming wind upon the stretch of tawny herbage
around them, the crackling
wheels, the tread of the men, and the footsteps of the two shaggy ponies
which drew the van. They were small, hardy animals, of a breed between
Galloway and Exmoor, and were known as "heath-croppers" here.

    Now, as they thus pursued their way, the reddleman occasionally left
his companion's side, and, stepping behind the van, looked into its interior
through a small window. The look was always anxious. He would then return
to the old man, who made another remark about the state of the country and
so on, to which the reddleman again abstractedly replied, and then again
they would lapse into silence. The silence conveyed to neither any sense of
awkwardness; in these lonely places wayfarers, after a first greeting,
frequently plod on for miles without speech;
contiguity amounts to a tacit
conversation where, otherwise than in cities, such contiguity can be put
an end to on the merest inclination, and where not to put an end to it is
intercourse in itself.



-----------------------------------------------------------------

"My wife!" said the other bitterly. "She's above mating with such as
I. But there's no reason why I should tell you about that."


"That's true. And there's no reason why you should not. What harm can I
do to you or to her?"

The reddleman looked in the old man's face. "Well, sir," he said at last,
"I knew her before today, though perhaps it would have been better if I
had not. But she's nothing to me, and I am nothing to her; and she wouldn't
have been in my van if any
better carriage had been there to take her."

"Where, may I ask?"

"At Anglebury."

"I know the town well. What was she doing there?"

"Oh, not much--to gossip about. However, she's tired to death now, and not
at all well, and that's what makes her so
restless. She dropped off into a
nap about an hour ago, and 'twill do her good."


"A nice-looking girl, no doubt?"

"You would say so."

The other traveller turned his eyes with interest towards the van window,
and, without withdrawing them, said, "I presume I might look in upon her?"

"No," said the reddleman
abruptly. "It is getting too dark for you to see
much of her; and, more than that, I have no right to allow you. Thank God
she sleeps so well, I hope she won't wake till she's home."


-----------------------------------------------------------------


    The reddleman watched his form as it diminished to a speck on the road
and became absorbed in the thickening films of night
. He then took some hay
from a truss which was slung up under the van, and, throwing a portion of
it in front of the horses, made a pad of the rest, which he laid on the
ground beside his vehicle. Upon this he sat down, leaning his back against
the wheel. From the interior a
low soft breathing came to his ear. It
appeared to
satisfy him, and he musingly surveyed the scene, as if
considering the next step that he should take.
    To do things
musingly, and by small degrees, seemed, indeed, to be a
duty in the Egdon valleys at this
transitional hour, for there was that in
the condition of the heath itself which resembled
protracted and halting
dubiousness. It was the quality of the repose appertaining to the scene.
This was not the
repose of actual stagnation, but the apparent repose of
incredible slowness . A condition of healthy life so nearly resembling the
torpor of death is a noticeable thing of its sort; to exhibit the inertness
of the desert, and at the same time to be exercising powers akin to those
of the meadow, and even of the forest, awakened in those who thought of it
the attentiveness usually engendered by understatement and reserve.

    The scene before the reddleman's eyes was a gradual series of ascents
from the level of the road backward into the heart of the heath. It
embraced
hillocks, pits, ridges, acclivities, one behind the other, till all was
finished by a high hill cutting against the
still light sky. The traveller's
eye
hovered about these things for a time, and finally settled upon one
noteworthy object up there. It was a barrow. This
bossy projection of earth
above its natural level
occupied the loftiest ground of the loneliest height
that the heath contained. Although from the vale it appeared but as
a wart
on an Atlantean brow,
its actual bulk was great. It formed the pole and axis
of this
heathery world.
    As the resting man looked at the barrow he became aware that its
summit, hitherto the highest object in the whole prospect round, was
surmounted by something higher. It rose from the semiglobular mound like
a spike from a helmet. The first instinct of an
imaginative stranger might
have been to
suppose it the person of one of the Celts who built the barrow,
so far had all of modern date
withdrawn from the scene. It seemed a sort of
last man among them,
musing for a moment before dropping into eternal night
with the rest of his race.

    Such a perfect, delicate,
and necessary finish did the figure give to
the
dark pile of hills that it seemed to be the only obvious justification of
their outline. Without it, there was the dome without the lantern; with it the
architectural demands of the mass were satisfied. The scene was strangely
homogeneous
, in that the vale, the upland, the barrow, and the figure above
it
amounted only to unity. Looking at this or that member of the group was not
observing a
complete thing, but a fraction of a thing.
    The form was so much
like an organic part of the entire motionless structure
that to see it move would have impressed the mind as a strange phenomenon.
Immobility being the chief characteristic of that whole which the person formed
portion of,
the discontinuance of immobility in any quarter suggested confusion.
    Yet that is what happened. The figure perceptibly gave up its fixity,
shifted a step or two, and turned round. As if alarmed, it descended on the
right side of the barrow, with the glide of a water-drop down a bud, and then
vanished.
The movement had been sufficient to show more clearly the
characteristics of the figure, and that it was a woman's.
    The reason of her
sudden displacement now appeared. With her dropping out
of sight on the right side, a newcomer, bearing a burden,
protruded into the sky
on the left side,
ascended the tumulus, and deposited the burden on the top. A
second followed, then a third, a fourth, a fifth, and
ultimately the whole barrow
was
peopled with burdened figures.
    The only
intelligible meaning in this sky-backed pantomime of silhouettes
was that the woman had no relation to the forms who had taken her place, was
sedulously avoiding these, and had come thither for another object than theirs.
The imagination of the observer clung by preference to that vanished, solitary
figure, as to something more interesting, more important, more likely to have a
history worth knowing
than these newcomers, and unconsciously regarded them
as intruders. But they
remained, and established themselves; and the lonely
person who hitherto had been queen of the
solitude did not at present seem
likely to return.




III - The Custom of the Country



    Had a looker-on been posted in the immediate vicinity of the
barrow, he would have learned that these persons were boys and men
of the neighbouring hamlets. Each, as he ascended the barrow, had
been heavily laden with furze faggots, carried upon the shoulder by
means of a long stake sharpened at each end for impaling them easily--
two in front and two behind. They came from a part of the heath a
quarter of a mile to the rear, where furze almost exclusively
prevailed as a product.
    Every individual was so involved in furze by his method of
carrying the faggots that he appeared like a bush on legs till he
had thrown them down. The party had marched in trail, like a
travelling flock of sheep; that is to say, the strongest first, the
weak and young behind.
    The loads were all laid together, and a pyramid of furze thirty
feet in circumference now
occupied the crown of the tumulus, which
was known as Rainbarrow for many miles round. Some made themselves
busy with matches, and in selecting the driest tufts of furze, others
in loosening the bramble bonds which held the faggots together.
Others, again, while this was in progress, lifted their eyes and
swept the vast expanse of country commanded by their position, now
lying nearly obliterated by shade. In the valleys of the heath nothing
save its own wild face was visible at any time of day; but this spot
commanded a horizon enclosing a tract of far extent, and in many cases
lying beyond the heath country. None of its features could be seen now,
but the whole made itself felt as a vague stretch of remoteness.
    While the men and lads were building the pile, a change took place
in the mass of shade which denoted the distant landscape. Red suns and
tufts of fire one by one began to arise, flecking the whole country round
.
They were the bonfires of other parishes and hamlets that were engaged in
the same sort of
commemoration. Some were distant, and stood in a dense
atmosphere, so that
bundles of pale straw-like beams radiated around them
in the shape of a fan. Some were large and near, glowing scarlet-red from
the shade, like wounds in a black hide. Some were Maenades, with winy
faces and blown hair. These tinctured the silent bosom of the clouds above
them and lit up their ephemeral caves, which seemed thenceforth to become
scalding caldrons.
Perhaps as many as thirty bonfires could be counted
within the whole bounds of the district; and as the hour may be told on a
clock-face when the figures themselves are
invisible, so did the men
recognize the locality of each fire by its angle and direction, though
nothing of the scenery could be
viewed.
    The first tall flame from Rainbarrow sprang into the sky, attracting
all eyes that had been
fixed on the distant conflagrations back to their
own attempt in the same kind. The cheerful blaze streaked the inner surface
of the human circle
--now increased by other stragglers, male and female--
with its own gold livery, and even overlaid the dark turf around with a
lively luminousness, which softened off into obscurity
where the barrow
rounded downwards out of sight. It showed the barrow to be the segment of
a globe, as
perfect as on the day when it was thrown up, even the little
ditch remaining from which the earth was dug. Not a plough had ever
disturbed a grain of that stubborn soil. In the heath's barrenness to the
farmer lay its fertility to the historian.
There had been no obliteration,
because there had been no tending.
    It seemed as if the bonfire-makers were standing in some radiant upper
story of the world, detached from and independent of the dark stretches below
.
The heath down there was now a vast abyss, and no longer a continuation of
what they stood on; for their eyes, adapted to the blaze, could see nothing
of the deeps beyond its influence
. Occasionally, it is true, a more vigorous
flare than usual from their faggots sent darting lights like aides-de-camp
down the inclines to some distant bush, pool, or patch of white sand, kindling
these to replies of the same colour,
till all was lost in darkness again. Then
the whole black phenomenon beneath represented Limbo as viewed from the
brink by the sublime Florentine in his vision, and the muttered articulations of
the wind in the hollows were as complaints and petitions from the "souls of
mighty worth" suspended therein.

    It was as if these men and boys had suddenly dived into past ages, and
fetched therefrom an hour and deed which had before been familiar with this
spot
. The ashes of the original British pyre which blazed from that summit lay
fresh and undisturbed in the barrow beneath their tread. The flames from funeral
piles long ago
kindled there had shone down upon the lowlands as these were
shining now. Festival fires to Thor and Woden had followed on the same ground
and duly had their day. Indeed, it is pretty well known that such
blazes as this
the heathmen were now
enjoying are rather the lineal descendants from jumbled
Druidical rites and Saxon ceremonies
than the invention of popular feeling
about Gunpowder Plot.
    Moreover
to light a fire is the instinctive and resistant act of man when,
at the winter ingress, the curfew is sounded throughout Nature. It indicates a
spontaneous, Promethean rebelliousness against that fiat that this recurrent
season shall bring foul times, cold darkness, misery and death. Black chaos
comes, and the fettered gods of the earth say, Let there be light.
    The brilliant lights and sooty shades which struggled upon the skin and
clothes of the persons standing round caused their lineaments and general
contours to be drawn with Dureresque vigour and dash. Yet the permanent moral
expression of each face it was impossible to discover, for as the nimble flames
towered, nodded, and swooped through the surrounding air, the blots of shade
and flakes of light upon the countenances of the group changed shape and
position endlessly. All was unstable; quivering as leaves, evanescent as lightning.
Shadowy eye-sockets, deep as those of a death's head, suddenly turned into pits
of lustre: a lantern-jaw was cavernous, then it was shining; wrinkles were
emphasized to ravines, or obliterated entirely by a changed ray. Nostrils were
dark wells; sinews in old necks were gilt mouldings; things with no particular
polish on them were glazed; bright objects, such as the tip of a furze-hook
one of the men carried, were as glass; eyeballs glowed like little lanterns
.
Those whom Nature had depicted as merely quaint became grotesque, the
grotesque became preternatural; for all was in extremity.
    Hence it may be that the face of an old man, who had like others been called
to the heights by the
rising flames, was not really the mere nose and chin that
it appeared to be, but
an appreciable quantity of human countenance. He stood
complacently sunning himself in the heat. With a speaker, or stake, he tossed the
outlying scraps of fuel into the conflagration, looking at the midst of the pile,
occasionally lifting his eyes to measure the height of the flame, or to follow
the
great sparks which rose with it and sailed away into darkness. The beaming
sight, and the penetrating warmth, seemed to breed in him a cumulative
cheerfulness
, which soon amounted to delight. With his stick in his hand he
began to
jig a private minuet, a bunch of copper seals shining and swinging like
a pendulum from under his waistcoat: he also began to
sing, in the voice of a
bee up a flue--


"The king' call'd down' his no-bles all',
By one', by two', by three';
Earl Mar'-shal, I'll' go shrive'-the queen',
And thou' shalt wend' with me'.

"A boon', a boon', quoth Earl' Mar-shal',
And fell' on his bend'-ded knee',
That what'-so-e'er' the queen' shall say',
No harm' there-of' may be'.

Want of breath prevented a continuance of the song; and the breakdown
attracted the attention of a firm-standing man of middle age, who kept each
corner of his
crescent-shaped mouth rigorously drawn back into his cheek, as if
to
do away with any suspicion of mirthfulness which might erroneously have
attached to him.

"A fair stave, Grandfer Cantle; but I am afeard 'tis too much for the
mouldy weasand of such a old man as you," he said to the wrinkled reveller.
"Dostn't wish th' wast three sixes again, Grandfer, as you was when you first
learnt to sing it?"

"Hey?" said Grandfer Cantle, stopping in his dance.

"Dostn't wish wast young again, I say? There's a hole in thy poor bellows
nowadays seemingly."

"But there's good art in me? If I couldn't make a little wind go a long ways
I should seem no younger than the most aged man, should I, Timothy?"

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"But there's good art in me? If I couldn't make a little
wind go a
long ways I should seem no younger than the most
aged man, should I, Timothy?"

"And how about the new-married folks down there at the Quiet
Woman Inn?" the other inquired, pointing towards a dim light
in the direction of the
distant highway, but considerably
apart from where the reddleman was at that moment resting.
"What's the rights of the matter about 'em? You ought to
know, being an understanding man."

"But a little rakish, hey? I own to it. Master Cantle is
that, or he's nothing. Yet 'tis a gay fault, neigbbour Fairway,
that age will cure."

"I heard that they were coming home tonight. By this time they
must have come. What besides?"

"The next thing is for us to go and wish 'em joy, I suppose?"

"Well, no."

"No? Now, I thought we must. I must, or 'twould be very unlike
me--the first in every spree that's going!

"Do thou' put on' a fri'-ar's coat',
And I'll' put on' a-no'-ther,
And we' will to' Queen Ele'anor go',
Like Fri'ar and' his bro'ther.

I met Mis'ess Yeobright, the young bride's aunt, last night,
and she told me that her son Clym was coming home a' Christmas.
Wonderful clever, 'a believe--ah, I should like to have all
that's under that young man's hair
. Well, then, I spoke to her
in my well-known merry way, and she said, 'O that what's shaped
so venerable
should talk like a fool!'--that's what she said to
me. I don't care for her, be jowned if I do, and so I told her.
'Be jowned if I care for 'ee,'
I said. I had her there--hey?"

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"I didn't know the two had walked together since last fall,
when her aunt forbad the banns. How long has this new set-to
been in mangling then? Do you know, Humphrey?"

"Yes, how long?" said Grandfer Cantle smartly, likewise
turning to Humphrey. "I ask that question."

"Ever since her aunt altered her mind, and said she might
have the man after all," replied Humphrey, without removing
his eyes from the fire
. He was a somewhat solemn young fellow,
and carried the hook and leather gloves of a furze-cutter,
his legs, by reason of that occupation, being sheathed in
bulging leggings as stiff as the Philistine's greaves of brass.
"That's why they went away to be married, I count. You see,
after kicking up such a nunny-watch and forbidding the banns
'twould have made Mis'ess Yeobright seem foolish-like to have
a
banging wedding in the same parish all as if she'd never
gainsaid it."

"Exactly--seem foolish-like; and that's very bad for the poor
things that be so, though I only guess as much, to be sure,"
said Grandfer Cantle, still strenuously preserving a sensible
bearing and mien.


"Ah, well, I was at church that day," said Fairway, "which was
a very curious thing to happen."

"If 'twasn't my name's Simple," said the Grandfer emphatically.
"I ha'n't been there to-year; and now the winter is a-coming on
I won't say I shall."

"I ha'n't been these three years," said Humphrey; "for I'm so
dead sleepy of a Sunday; and 'tis so terrible far to get there;
and when you do get there
'tis such a mortal poor chance that
you'll be chose for up above, when so many bain't
, that I bide
at home and don't go at all."


"I not only happened to be there," said Fairway, with a fresh
collection of emphasis
, "but I was sitting in the same pew as
Mis'ess Yeobright. And though you may not see it as such, it
fairly made my blood
run cold to hear her. Yes, it is a curious
thing; but it made my blood run cold, for I was close at her
elbow." The speaker looked round upon the bystanders, now
drawing closer to hear him, with his lips gathered tighter
than ever in the
rigorousness of his descriptive moderation.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

'Tis against my conscience to curse and swear in company, and
I hope any woman here will overlook it. Still what I did say I
did say, and 'twould be a lie if I didn't own it."

"So 'twould, neighbour Fairway."

"'Be damned if there isn't Mis'ess Yeobright a-standing up,' I
said," the narrator repeated, giving out the bad word with the
same
passionless severity of face as before, which proved how
entirely
necessity and not gusto had to do with the iteration.
"And the next thing I heard was, 'I forbid the banns,' from her.
'I'll speak to you after the service,' said the parson, in quite
a homely way--yes, turning all at once into a common man no
holier than you or I. Ah, her face was pale! Maybe you can call
to mind that monument in Weatherbury church--the cross-legged
soldier that have had his arm knocked away by the schoolchildren?
Well, he would about have matched that woman's face, when she
said, 'I forbid the banns.'"

The audience cleared their throats and tossed a few stalks into
the fire, not because these deeds were
urgent, but to give
themselves time to weigh the moral of the story.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"And now the maid have married him just the same," said Humphrey.

"After that Mis'ess Yeobright came round and was quite agreeable,"
Fairway resumed, with an unheeding air, to show that his words were
no
appendage to Humphrey's, but the result of independent reflection.

"Supposing they were ashamed, I don't see why they shouldn't have
done it here-right," said a wide-spread woman whose stays creaked
like shoes whenever she stooped or turned. "'Tis well to call the
neighbours together and to
hae a good racket once now and then; and
it may as well be when there's a wedding as at tide-times
. I don't
care for
close ways."

"Ah, now, you'd hardly believe it, but I don't care for gay weddings,"
said Timothy Fairway, his eyes again travelling round. "I hardly blame
Thomasin Yeobright and neighbour Wildeve for doing it quiet, if I must
own it. A wedding at home means five and six-handed reels by the hour;
and they do a man's legs no good when he's over forty."

"True. Once at the woman's house you can hardly say nay to being one
in a
jig, knowing all the time that you be expected to make yourself
worth your victuals."

"You be bound to dance at Christmas because 'tis the time o' year; you
must dance at weddings because 'tis the time o' life. At christenings
folk will even smuggle in a reel or two, if 'tis no further on than the
first or second chiel. And this is not naming the songs you've got to
sing....For my part I like a
good hearty funeral as well as anything.
You've as
splendid victuals and drink as at other parties, and even better.
And it don't
wear your legs to stumps in talking over a poor fellow's
ways as it do to stand up in hornpipes.
"

"Nine folks out of ten would own 'twas going too far to dance then, I
suppose?" suggested Grandfer Cantle.

"'Tis the only sort of party a staid man can feel safe at after the
mug have been round a few times."

"Well, I can't understand a quiet ladylike little body like Tamsin
Yeobright caring to be married in such a mean way," said Susan Nunsuch,
the wide woman, who preferred the original subject. "'Tis worse than the
poorest do. And I shouldn't have cared about the man, though some may
say he's good-looking."

"To give him his due he's a clever, learned fellow in his way--a'most
as clever as Clym Yeobright used to be. He was brought up to better
things than
keeping the Quiet Woman. An engineer--that's what the man
was, as we know; but he threw away his chance, and so 'a took a public
house to live. His learning was no use to him at all."

"Very often the case," said Olly, the besom-maker. "And yet how people
do
strive after it and get it! The class of folk that couldn't use to
make a round O to save their bones from the pit can write their names
now without a
sputter of the pen, oftentimes without a single blot--what
do I say?--why, almost without a desk to lean their stomachs and elbows
upon."

"True--'tis amazing what a polish the world have been brought to," said
Humphrey.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Ah, Humph, well I can mind when I was married how I zid thy father's
mark
staring me in the face as I went to put down my name. He and
your mother were the couple married just afore we were and
there
stood they father's cross with arms stretched out like a great
banging scarecrow. What a terrible black cross that was--thy father's
very likeness in en!
To save my soul I couldn't help laughing when I
zid en
, though all the time I was as hot as dog-days, what with the
marrying, and what with the woman a-hanging to me, and what with Jack
Changley and a lot more chaps grinning at me through church window.
But the next moment a strawmote would have knocked me down, for I
called to mind that if thy father and mother had had high words once,
they'd been at it twenty times since they'd been man and wife, and I
zid myself as the next poor stunpoll to get into the same mess....
Ah--well, what a day 'twas!"

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Whatever is Christian Cantle's teeth a-chattering for?" said a
boy from amid the smoke and shades on the other side of the blaze.
"Be ye a-cold, Christian?"

A thin jibbering voice was heard to reply, "No, not at all."

"Come forward, Christian, and show yourself. I didn't know you
were here," said Fairway, with a humane look across towards that
quarter.

Thus requested, a faltering man, with reedy hair, no shoulders,
and
a great quantity of wrist and ankle beyond his clothes,
advanced a step or two by his own will, and was pushed by the
will of others half a dozen steps more
. He was Grandfer Cantle's
youngest son.

"What be ye quaking for, Christian?" said the turf- cutter kindly.

"I'm the man."

"What man?"

"The man no woman will marry."

"The deuce you be!" said Timothy Fairway, enlarging his gaze to
cover Christian's whole surface and a great deal more
, Grandfer
Cantle meanwhile
staring as a hen stares at the duck she has hatched.

"Yes, I be he; and it makes me afeard," said Christian. "D'ye think
'twill hurt me? I shall always say I don't care, and swear to it,
though I do care all the while."

"Well, be damned if this isn't the queerest start ever I know'd,"
said Mr. Fairway. "I didn't mean you at all. There's another in
the country, then! Why did ye reveal yer misfortune, Christian?"

"'Twas to be if 'twas, I suppose. I can't help it, can I?" He
turned upon them his painfully circular eyes, surrounded by
concentric lines like targets
.

"No, that's true. But 'tis a melancholy thing, and my blood ran
cold when you spoke, for I felt there were two poor fellows where
I had thought only one. 'Tis a
sad thing for ye, Christian.
How'st know the women won't hae thee?"

"I've asked 'em."

"Sure I should never have thought you had the face. Well, and what
did the last one say to ye? Nothing that can't be got over, perhaps,
after all?"

"'Get out of my sight, you slack-twisted, slim-looking maphrotight
fool,' was the woman's words to me."

"Not encouraging, I own," said Fairway. "'Get out of my sight, you
slack-twisted, slim-looking maphrotight fool,' is rather a hard way
of
saying No. But even that might be overcome by time and patience,
so as to let a few grey hairs show themselves in the hussy's head.
How old be you, Christian?"

"Thirty-one last tatie-digging, Mister Fairway."

"Not a boy--not a boy. Still there's hope yet."

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"No moon--that's bad. Hey, neighbours, that's bad for him!"

"Yes, 'tis bad," said Grandfer Cantle, shaking his head.

"Mother know'd 'twas no moon, for she asked another woman that
had an almanac, as she did whenever a boy was born to her,
because of the saying, 'No moon, no man,' which made her afeard
every man-child she had. Do ye really think it serious, Mister
Fairway, that there was no moon?"

"Yes. 'No moon, no man.' 'Tis one of the truest sayings ever
spit out. The boy never comes to anything that's born at new
moon. A
bad job for thee, Christian, that you should have showed
your nose
then of all days in the month."

"I suppose the moon was
terrible full when you were born?" said
Christian, with a look of
hopeless admiration at Fairway.

"Well, 'a was not new," Mr. Fairway replied, with a
disinterested
gaze.

"I'd sooner go without drink at Lammas-tide than be a man of no
moon," continued Christian, in the same shattered recitative.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"You'll have to lie alone all your life; and 'tis not to
married couples but to single sleepers that a ghost shows
himself
when 'a do come. One has been seen lately, too. A
very strange one."

"No--don't talk about it if 'tis agreeable of ye not to!
'Twill make my skin crawl when I think of it in bed alone.
But you will--ah, you will, I know, Timothy; and I shall
dream all night o't! A very strange one? What sort of a
spirit did ye mean when ye said, a very strange one,
Timothy?--no, no--don't tell me."

"I don't half believe in spirits myself. But I think it
ghostly enough--what I was told. 'Twas a little boy that
zid it."

"What was it like?--no, don't--"

"A red one. Yes, most ghosts be white; but this is as if
it had been
dipped in blood."

Christian drew a deep breath without letting it expand
his body, and Humphrey said, "Where has it been seen?"

-----------------------------------------------------------------

--"what do you say to giving the new man and wife a bit of
a song tonight afore we go to bed--being their wedding-day?
When folks are just married 'tis as well to look glad o't,
since looking
sorry won't unjoin 'em. I am no drinker, as
we know, but when the womenfolk and youngsters have gone
home we can drop down across to the Quiet Woman, and strike
up a ballet in front of the married folks' door. 'Twill
please the young wife, and that's what I should like to do,
for many's the
skinful I've had at her hands when she lived
with her aunt at Blooms-End."


"Hey? And so we will!" said Grandfer Cantle, turning so briskly
that his copper seals
swung extravagantly. "I'm as dry as a kex
with
biding up here in the wind, and I haven't seen the colour
of drink since nammet-time today. 'Tis said that the last brew
at the Woman is very pretty
drinking. And, neighbours, if we
should be a little late in the finishing, why, tomorrow's Sunday,
and we can
sleep it off?"

-----------------------------------------------------------------


    The bonfire was by this time beginning to sink low, for
the fuel had not been of that substantial sort which can support
a blaze long. Most of the other fires within the wide horizon were
also
dwindling weak. Attentive observation of their brightness,
colour, and length of existence would have revealed the quality of
the material
burnt, and through that, to some extent the natural
produce of the district in which each bonfire was
situate. The clear,
kingly effulgence
that had characterized the majority expressed a
heath and furze country like their own, which in one direction
extended
an unlimited number of miles; the
rapid flares and extinctions at other
points of the compass showed the lightest of fuel--straw, beanstalks,
and the usual waste from
arable land.The most enduring of all--steady
unaltering eyes like Planets
--signified wood, such as hazel-branches,
thorn-faggots, and
stout billets. Fires of the last-mentioned materials
were rare, and though comparatively small in magnitude beside the
transient blazes, now began to get the best of them by mere long
continuance. The great ones had perished, but these remained. They
occupied the remotest visible positions--sky-backed summits rising out
of
rich coppice and plantation districts to the north, where the soil
was different, and heath
foreign and strange.
    Save one; and this was the nearest of any, the moon of the
whole shining throng
. It lay in a direction precisely opposite to
that of the little window in the vale below. Its nearness was such
that, notwithstanding its actual smallness, its glow infinitely
transcended theirs.
    This quiet eye had attracted attention from time to time; and
when their own fire had become sunken and dim it attracted more; some
even of the wood fires more recently lighted had reached their decline,
but no change was perceptible here.

"To be sure, how near that fire is!" said Fairway. "Seemingly.
I can see a fellow of some sort walking round it. Little and good must
be said of that fire, surely."

"I can throw a stone there," said the boy.

"And so can I!" said Grandfer Cantle.

"No, no, you can't, my sonnies. That fire is not much less than
a mile off, for all that 'a seems so
near."

"'Tis in the heath, but no furze," said the turf-cutter.

"'Tis cleft-wood, that's what 'tis," said Timothy Fairway. "Nothing
would burn like that except
clean timber. And 'tis on the knap afore the
old captain's house at Mistover.
Such a queer mortal as that man is! To
have a
little fire inside your own bank and ditch, that nobody else may
enjoy it or come
anigh it! And what a zany an old chap must be, to light
a bonfire when there's no youngsters to please."


"Cap'n Vye has been for a long walk today, and is quite tired out,"
said Grandfer Cantle, "so 'tisn't likely to be he."

"And he would hardly afford good fuel like that," said the wide
woman.

"Then it must be his granddaughter," said Fairway. "Not that a body
of her age can want a fire much."

"She is very strange in her ways, living up there by herself, and
such things please her," said Susan.

"She's a well-favoured maid enough," said Humphrey the furze-cutter,
"especially when she's got one of her dandy gowns on."

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Nonsense, Christian. Lift up your spirits like a man! Susy, dear,
you and I will have a
jig--hey, my honey?--before 'tis quite too
dark to see how well-favoured you be still, though so many summers
have passed since your husband, a son of a witch, snapped you up
from me."

This was addressed to Susan Nunsuch; and the next circumstance of
which the beholders were conscious was a
vision of the matron's
broad form whisking off towards the space whereon the fire had been
kindled. She was lifted bodily by Mr. Fairway's arm, which had been
flung round her waist before she had become aware of his intention.
The site of the fire was now merely a circle of ashes
flecked with
red embers and sparks, the furze having burnt completely away. Once
within the circle he
whirled her round and round in a dance. She
was
a woman noisily constructed; in addition to her enclosing
framework of whalebone and
lath, she wore pattens summer and winter,
in wet weather and in dry, to preserve her boots from wear; and when
Fairway began to jump about with her,
the clicking of the pattens,
the creaking of the stays, and her screams of surprise, formed a
very audible concert
.

"I'll crack thy numskull for thee, you mandy chap!" said Mrs.
Nunsuch, as she
helplessly danced round with him, her feet playing
like drumsticks among the sparks
. "My ankles were all in a fever
before, from walking through that prickly furze, and now you must
make 'em worse with these vlankers!"

The vagary of Timothy Fairway was infectious. The turf-cutter seized
old Olly Dowden, and, somewhat more
gently, poussetted with her
likewise.
The young men were not slow to imitate the example of
their elders, and seized the maids; Grandfer Cantle and his stick
jigged in the form of a three-legged object among the rest; and in
half a minute all that could be seen on Rainbarrow was a whirling
of dark shapes amid a boiling confusion of sparks
, which leapt
around the dancers as high as their waists. The chief noises were
women's
shrill cries, men's laughter, Susan's stays and pattens,
Olly Dowden's "heu-heu-heu!" and the
strumming of the wind upon
the furze-bushes, which
formed a kind of tune to the demoniac
measure
they trod. Christian alone stood aloof, uneasily rocking
himself as he murmured, "They ought not to do it--how the vlankers
do fly! 'tis tempting the Wicked one, 'tis."

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Ought we not to run home as hard as we can, neighbours, as 'tis
getting late?" said Christian. "Not run away from one another, you
know; run close together, I mean."
"Scrape up a few stray locks of
furze, and
make a blaze, so that we can see who the man is," said
Fairway.

When the flame arose it revealed a young man in tight raiment, and
red from top to toe. "Is there a track across here to Mis'ess
Yeobright's house?" he repeated.

"Ay--keep along the path down there."

"I mean a way two horses and a van can travel over?"

"Well, yes; you can get up the vale below here with time. The track
is rough, but if you've got a light your horses may pick along wi'
care. Have ye brought your cart far up, neighbour reddleman?"

"I've left it in the bottom, about half a mile back, I stepped on in
front to make sure of the way, as 'tis night-time, and I han't been
here for so long."

"Oh, well you can get up," said Fairway. "What a turn it did give me
when I saw him!" he added to the whole group, the reddleman included.
"Lord's sake, I thought, whatever
fiery mommet is this come to
trouble us? No
slight to your looks, reddleman, for ye bain't
bad-looking in the groundwork, though the finish is queer
. My meaning
is just to say how
curious I felt. I half thought it 'twas the devil
or the red ghost the boy told of."

"It gied me a turn likewise," said Susan Nunsuch, "for I had a dream
last night of a death's head."

"Don't ye talk o't no more," said Christian. "If he had a handkerchief
over his head he'd look for all the world like the Devil in the picture
of the Temptation."

"Well, thank you for telling me," said the young reddleman, smiling
faintly. "And good night t'ye all."

-----------------------------------------------------------------


    The reddleman had not been gone more than a few minutes when
another person approached the partially revived bonfire. It proved to
be a well-known and respected widow of the neighbourhood, of a
standing which can only be expressed by the word genteel. Her face,
encompassed by the blackness of the receding heath, showed whitely,
and with-out half-lights, like a cameo.

    She was a woman of middle-age, with well-formed features of
the type usually found where perspicacity is the chief quality enthroned
within. At moments she seemed to be regarding issues from a Nebo denied
to others around. She had something of an estranged mien; the solitude
exhaled from the heath was concentrated in this face that had risen
from it.
The air with which she looked at the heathmen betokened a
certain
unconcern at their presence, or at what might be their opinions
of her for walking in that lonely spot at such an hour, thus indirectly
implying that in some respect or other they were not up to her level.
The explanation lay in the fact that though her husband had been a small
farmer she herself was a curate's daughter, who had once dreamt of doing
better things.
    Persons with any weight of character carry, like planets, their
atmospheres along with them
in their orbits; and the matron who entered
now upon the scene could, and usually did, bring her own tone into a
company
. Her normal manner among the heathfolk had that reticence which
results from the consciousness of superior communicative power. But the
effect of coming into society and light after lonely wandering in darkness
is a
sociability in the comer above its usual pitch, expressed in the
features even more than in words
.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"'Tis very lonesome for 'ee in the heth tonight, mis'ess," said
Christian, coming from the seclusion he had hitherto maintained.
"Mind you don't get lost. Egdon Heth is a bad place to get lost in,
and the winds do huffle queerer tonight than ever I heard 'em afore.
Them that know Egdon best have been pixy-led here at times."

"Is that you, Christian?" said Mrs. Yeobright. "What made you hide
away from me?"

"'Twas that I didn't know you in this light, mis'ess; and being a
man of the mournfullest make
, I was scared a little, that's all.
Oftentimes if you could see how terrible down I get in my mind,
'twould make 'ee quite nervous for fear I should die by my hand."

"You don't take after your father," said Mrs. Yeobright, looking
towards the fire, where Grandfer Cantle, with some want of originality,
was
dancing by himself among the sparks, as the others had done before.

"Now, Grandfer," said Timothy Fairway, "we are ashamed of ye. A reverent
old patriarch man as you be--seventy if a day--to go hornpiping like
that by yourself!"

"A harrowing old man, Mis'ess Yeobright," said Christian despondingly.
"I wouldn't live with him a week, so playward as he is, if I could get
away."

"'Twould be more seemly in ye to stand still and welcome Mis'ess
Yeobright, and you the venerablest here, Grandfer Cantle," said the
besom-woman.

"Faith, and so it would," said the reveller checking himself repentantly.
"I've such a bad memory, Mis'ess Yeobright, that I forget how I'm looked
up to by the rest of 'em. My spirits must be wonderful good, you'll say?
But not always. 'Tis a weight upon a man to be looked up to as commander,
and I often feel it."




IV - The Halt on the Turnpike Road



    Down, downward they went, and yet further down--their descent
at each step seeming to outmeasure their advance. Their skirts were
scratched noisily by the furze, their shoulders brushed by the ferns,
which, though dead and dry, stood erect as when alive, no sufficient
winter weather having as yet arrived to beat them down. Their
Tartarean situation might by some have been called an imprudent one
for two unattended women. But these shaggy recesses were at all
seasons a familiar surrounding to Olly and Mrs. Yeobright; and the
addition of darkness lends no frightfulness to the face of a friend.




Olly, though without the tact to perceive when remarks were
untimely, was saved by her very simplicity from rendering them offensive.
Questions that would have been resented in others she could ask with
impunity. This accounted for Mrs. Yeobright's acquiescence in the revival
of an evidently sore subject.

"I was quite strook to hear you'd agreed to it, ma'am, that I was,"
continued the besom-maker.

"You were not more struck by it than I should have been last year this
time, Olly. There are a good many sides to that wedding. I could not tell
you all of them, even if I tried."

"I felt myself that he was hardly solid-going enough to mate with your
family. Keeping an inn--what is it? But 'a's clever, that's true, and
they say he was an engineering gentleman once, but has come down by being
too outwardly given."




    She first reached Wildeve's Patch, as it was called, a plot of
land redeemed from the heath, and after long and laborious years brought
into cultivation. The man who had discovered that it could be tilled died
of the labour; the man who
succeeded him in possession ruined himself in
fertilizing it. Wildeve came like Amerigo Vespucci, and received the
honours due to those who had gone before.





"I can't explain much, ma'am. All I know is that, as I was going along
the road this morning, about a mile out of Anglebury, I heard something
trotting after me like a doe, and looking round there she was, white as
death itself.
'Oh, Diggory Venn!' she said, 'I thought 'twas you--will
you help me? I am in trouble.'"

"How did she know your Christian name?" said Mrs. Yeobright doubtingly.

"I had met her as a lad before I went away in this trade. She asked then
if she might ride, and then down she fell in a faint. I picked her up and
put her in, and there she has been ever since. She has cried a good deal,
but she has hardly spoke; all she has told me being that she was to have
been married this morning. I tried to get her to eat something, but she
couldn't; and at last she fell asleep."

"Let me see her at once," said Mrs. Yeobright, hastening towards the van.

The reddleman followed with the lantern, and, stepping up first, assisted
Mrs. Yeobright to mount beside him. On the door being opened she perceived
at the end of the van an extemporized couch, around which was hung apparently
all the drapery that the reddleman
possessed, to keep the occupant of the
little couch from
contact with the red materials of his trade. A young girl
lay thereon, covered with a cloak. She was asleep, and the light of the
lantern fell upon her features.

A fair, sweet, and honest country face was revealed, reposing in a nest of
wavy chestnut hair. It was between pretty and beautiful. Though her eyes
were closed, one could easily imagine the light necessarily shining in them
as the culmination of the luminous workmanship around. The groundwork of
the face was hopefulness; but over it now lay like a foreign substance a
film of anxiety and grief. The grief had been there so shortly as to have
abstracted nothing of the bloom, and had as yet but given a dignity to what
it might eventually undermine. The scarlet of her lips had not had time to
abate, and just now it appeared still more intense by the absence of the
neighbouring and more transient colour of her cheek. The lips frequently
parted, with a murmur of words. She seemed to belong rightly to a madrigal--
to require viewing through rhyme and harmony.

One thing at least was obvious: she was not made to be looked at thus. The
reddleman had
appeared conscious of as much, and, while Mrs. Yeobright
looked in upon her, he
cast his eyes aside with a delicacy which well became
him. The sleeper apparently thought so too, for the next moment she opened
her own.


The lips then parted with something of anticipation, something more of doubt;
and her several thoughts and fractions of thoughts, as signalled by the
changes on her face, were exhibited by the light to the utmost nicety. An
ingenuous, transparent life was disclosed, as if the flow of her existence

could be seen passing within her. She understood the scene in a moment.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"He is indeed kind," murmured Thomasin. "I was once acquainted with him,
Aunt, and when I saw him today I thought I should prefer his van to any
conveyance of a stranger. But I'll walk now. Reddleman, stop the horses,
please."

The man regarded her with tender reluctance, but stopped them

Aunt and niece then descended from the van, Mrs. Yeobright saying to its
owner, "I quite recognize you now. What made you change from the nice
business your father left you?"

"Well, I did," he said, and looked at Thomasin, who blushed a little.
"Then you'll not be wanting me any more tonight, ma'am?"

Mrs. Yeobright glanced around at the dark sky, at the hills, at the
perishing bonfires, and at the lighted window of the inn they had neared.
"I think not," she said, "since Thomasin wishes to walk. We can soon run
up the path and reach home--we know it well."

And after a few further words they parted, the reddleman moving onwards
with his van, and the two women remaining standing in the road.



V - Perplexity among Honest People



"I don't know. Mr. Wildeve can explain. I did not think when I went
away this morning that I should come back like this." It being dark,
Thomasin allowed her emotion to escape her by the silent way of tears,
which could
roll down her cheek unseen.

"I could almost say that it serves you right--if I did not feel that
you don't deserve it," continued Mrs. Yeobright, who, possessing two
distinct moods in close contiguity, a gentle mood and an angry, flew
from one to the other without the
least warning. "Remember, Thomasin,
this business was none of my seeking; from the very first, when you
began to feel foolish about that man, I warned you he would not make
you happy. I felt it so strongly that I did what I would never have
believed myself capable of doing--stood up in the church, and made
myself the public talk for weeks. But having once consented, I don't
submit to these fancies without good reason. Marry him you must after
this."

"Do you think I wish to do otherwise for one moment?" said Thomasin,
with a heavy sigh. "I know how wrong it was of me to love him, but
don't pain me by talking like that, Aunt! You would not have had me
stay there with him, would you?--and your house is the only home I have
to return to. He says we can be married in a day or two."

"I wish he had never seen you."

"Very well; then I will be the miserablest woman in the world, and not
let him see me again. No, I won't have him!"

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"I cannot explain it any better, and you must be angry with me if
you will."

"I shall see about that," said Mrs. Yeobright; and they turned towards
the inn, known in the neighbourhood as the Quiet Woman, the sign of
which represented the figure of a matron carrying her head under her
arm
, beneath which gruesome design was written the couplet so well
known to frequenters of the inn:--

SINCE THE WOMAN'S QUIET
LET NO MAN BREED A RIOT.


The front of the house was towards the heath and Rainbarrow, whose dark
shape seemed to
threaten it from the sky. Upon the door was a neglected
brass plate, bearing the unexpected inscription, "Mr. Wildeve, Engineer"
--a useless yet cherished relic from the time when he had been started
in that profession in an office at Budmouth by those who had hoped much
from him, and had been disappointed. The garden was at the back, and
behind this ran a still deep stream, forming the margin of the heath in
that direction, meadow-land appearing beyond the stream.

But the thick obscurity permitted only skylines to be visible of any
scene at present. The water at the back of the house could be heard,
idly spinning whirpools in its creep between the rows of dry feather-
headed
reeds which formed a stockade along each bank. Their presence
was
denoted by sounds as of a congregation praying humbly, produced by
their
rubbing against each other in the slow wind.

The window, whence the candlelight had shone up the vale to the eyes of
the bonfire group, was uncurtained, but the sill lay too high for a
pedestrian on the outside to look over it into the room. A vast shadow,
in which could be dimly traced portions of a masculine contour, blotted
half the ceiling.





    The back and shoulders of a man came between Mrs. Yeobright's eyes
and the fire. Wildeve, whose form it was, immediately turned, arose,
and advanced to meet his visitors.
    He was quite a young man, and of the two properties, form and motion,
the latter first attracted the eye in him. The grace of his movement
was singular--it was the pantomimic expression of a lady-killing career
.
Next came into notice the more material qualities, among which was a
profuse crop of hair impending over the top of his face, lending to
his forehead the high-cornered outline of an early Gothic shield; and
a neck which was smooth and round as a cylinder. The lower half of his
figure was of light build. Altogether he was one in whom no man would
have seen anything to admire, and in whom no woman would have seen
anything to dislike.

He discerned the young girl's form in the passage, and said, "Thomasin,
then, has reached home. How could you leave me in that way, darling?"
And turning to Mrs. Yeobright--"It was useless to argue with her. She
would go, and go alone."

"But what's the meaning of it all?" demanded Mrs. Yeobright haughtily.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Such things don't happen for nothing," said the aunt. "It is a
great slight to me and my family; and when it gets known there will
be a very unpleasant time for us. How can she look her friends in
the face tomorrow
? It is a very great injury, and one I cannot easily
forgive. It may even reflect on her character."

"Nonsense," said Wildeve.

Thomasin's large eyes had flown from the face of one to the face of
the other
during this discussion, and she now said anxiously, "Will
you allow me, Aunt, to talk it over alone with Damon for five minutes?
Will you, Damon?"

"Certainly, dear," said Wildeve, "if your aunt will excuse us." He
led her into an adjoining room, leaving Mrs. Yeobright by the fire.

As soon as they were alone, and the door closed, Thomasin said,
turning up her pale, tearful face to him, "It is killing me, this,
Damon! I did not mean to part from you in anger at Anglebury this
morning; but I was frightened and hardly knew what I said. I've not
let Aunt know how much I suffered today; and it is so hard to command
my face and voice, and to smile as if it were a slight thing to me;
but I try to do so, that she may not be still more indignant with you.
I know you could not help it, dear, whatever Aunt may think."

"She is very unpleasant."

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Then do let us go!--O Damon, what you make me say!" She hid her
face
in her handkerchief. "Here am I asking you to marry me, when
by rights you ought to be on your knees imploring me, your cruel
mistress, not to refuse you, and saying it would break your heart
if I did. I used to think it would be pretty and sweet like that;
but how different!"

"Yes, real life is never at all like that."

"But I don't care personally if it never takes place," she added with
a little dignity; "no, I can live without you. It is Aunt I think of.
She is so proud, and thinks so much of her family respectability,
that she will be cut down with mortification if this story should get
abroad before--it is done. My cousin Clym, too, will be much wounded."

"Then he will be very unreasonable. In fact, you are all rather
unreasonable."

Thomasin coloured a little, and not with love. But whatever the
momentary feeling which caused that flush in her, it went as it came,
and she humbly said, "I never mean to be, if I can help it. I merely
feel that you have my aunt to some extent in your power at last."

"As a matter of justice it is almost due to me," said Wildeve. "Think
what I have gone through to win her consent; the insult that it is to
any man to have the banns forbidden--the double insult to a man unlucky
enough to be cursed with sensitiveness, and blue demons, and Heaven
knows what, as I am. I can never forget those banns. A harsher man
would rejoice now in the power I have of turning upon your aunt by
going no further in the business."

She looked wistfully at him with her sorrowful eyes as he said those
words, and her aspect showed that more than one person in the room
could deplore the possession of sensitiveness. Seeing that she was
really suffering he seemed disturbed and added, "This is merely a
reflection you know. I have not the least intention to refuse to
complete the marriage, Tamsie mine--I could not bear it."

-----------------------------------------------------------------

There fell upon their ears the sound of numerous voices singing in
front of the house. Among these, two made themselves prominent by
their peculiarity: one was a very strong bass, the other a wheezy
thin piping
. Thomasin recognized them as belonging to Timothy Fairway
and Grandfer Cantle respectively.

"What does it mean--it is not skimmity-riding, I hope?" she said,
with a frightened gaze at Wildeve.

"Of course not; no, it is that the heath-folk have come to sing to
us a welcome. This is intolerable!" He began pacing about, the men
outside singing cheerily--

"He told' her that she' was the joy' of his life',
And if' she'd con-sent' he would make her his wife';
She could' not refuse' him; to church' so they went',
Young Will was forgot', and young Sue' was content';
And then' was she kiss'd' and set down' on his knee',
No man' in the world' was so lov'-ing as he'!"

Mrs. Yeobright burst in from the outer room. "Thomasin, Thomasin!"
she said, looking indignantly at Wildeve; "here's a pretty exposure!
Let us escape at once. Come!"

-----------------------------------------------------------------

I'll manage them. Blundering fools!"

He pressed the agitated girl into a seat, returned to the outer
room and opened the door. Immediately outside, in the passage,
appeared Grandfer Cantle singing in concert with those still
standing in front of the house. He came into the room and nodded
abstractedly to Wildeve, his lips still parted, and his features
excruciatingly strained in the emission of the chorus
. This being
ended, he said heartily, "Here's welcome to the new-made couple,
and God bless 'em!"

"Thank you," said Wildeve, with dry resentment, his face as gloomy
as a thunderstorm
.


"And I see the young bride's little head!" said Grandfer, peeping
in the same direction, and discerning Thomasin, who was waiting
beside her aunt in a miserable and awkward way. "Not quite settled
in yet--well, well, there's plenty of time."

Wildeve made no reply; and probably feeling that the sooner he
treated them the sooner they would go, he produced a stone jar,
which threw a warm halo over matters at once
.

"That's a drop of the right sort, I can see," said Grandfer Cantle,
with the air of a man too well-mannered to show any hurry to taste
it
.

"Yes," said Wildeve, "'tis some old mead. I hope you will like it."

"O ay!" replied the guests, in the hearty tones natural when the words
demanded by politeness coincide with those of deepest feeling. "There
isn't a
prettier drink under the sun."

"I'll take my oath there isn't," added Grandfer Cantle. "All that can
be said against mead is that 'tis rather heady, and apt to lie about a
man a good while
. But tomorrow's Sunday, thank God."

"I feel'd for all the world like some bold soldier after I had had some
once," said Christian.

"You shall feel so again," said Wildeve, with condescension, "Cups or
glasses, gentlemen?"

"Well, if you don't mind, we'll have the beaker, and pass 'en round;
'tis better than
heling it out in dribbles."

"Jown the slippery glasses," said Grandfer Cantle. "What's the good of
a thing that you can't put down in the ashes to
warm, hey, neighbours;
that's what I ask?"

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Whenever a club walked he'd play the clarinet in the band that
marched before 'em as if he'd never touched anything but a clarinet
all his life. And then, when they got to church door he'd throw
down the clarinet, mount the gallery, snatch up the bass viol, and
rozum away as if he'd never played anything but a bass viol. Folk
would say--folk that knowed what a true stave was--'Surely, surely
that's never the same man that I saw handling the clarinet so
masterly by now!"

"I can mind it," said the furze-cutter. "'Twas a wonderful thing
that one body could hold it all and never
mix the fingering."

"There was Kingsbere church likewise," Fairway recommenced, as one
opening a new vein of the same mine of interest.

Wildeve breathed the breath of one intolerably bored, and glanced
through the partition at the prisoners.

"He used to walk over there of a Sunday afternoon to visit his old
acquaintance Andrew Brown, the first clarinet there; a good man
enough, but rather screechy in his music, if you can mind?"

"'A was."

"And neighbour Yeobright would take Andrey's place for some part of
the service, to let Andrey have a bit of a nap, as any friend would
naturally do."

"As any friend would," said Grandfer Cantle, the other listeners
expressing the same accord by the shorter way of nodding their heads.

"No sooner was Andrey asleep and the first whiff of neighbour Yeobright's
wind had got inside Andrey's clarinet
than everyone in church feeled in
a moment there was a great soul among 'em. All heads would turn, and
they'd say, 'Ah, I thought 'twas he!' One Sunday I can well mind--a bass
viol day that time, and Yeobright had brought his own. 'Twas the Hundred-
and-thirty-third to 'Lydia'; and when they'd come to 'Ran down his beard
and o'er his robes its costly moisture shed,'
neighbour Yeobright, who
had just warmed to his work, drove his bow into them strings that glorious
grand
that he e'en a'most sawed the bass viol into two pieces. Every
winder in church rattled as if 'twere a thunderstorm. Old Pa'son Williams
lifted his hands in his great holy surplice as natural as if he'd been in
common clothes, and seemed to say hisself, 'O for such a man in our parish!'
But not a soul in Kingsbere could hold a candle to Yeobright."

"Was it quite safe when the winder shook?" Christian inquired.

He received no answer, all for the moment sitting rapt in admiration of
the performance described. As with Farinelli's singing before the princesses,
Sheridan's renowned Begum Speech, and other such examples, the fortunate
condition of its being for ever lost to the world invested the deceased Mr.
Yeobright's tour de force
on that memorable afternoon with a cumulative
glory
which comparative criticism, had that been possible, might considerably
have shorn down.

"He was the last you'd have expected to drop off in the prime of life," said
Humphrey.

"Ah, well; he was looking for the earth some months afore he went. At that
time women used to run for smocks and gown-pieces at Greenhill Fair, and my
wife that is now, being a long-legged slittering maid, hardly husband-high,
went with the rest of the maidens, for 'a was a good, runner afore she got
so heavy. When she came home I said--we were then just beginning to walk
together--'What have ye got, my honey?' 'I've won--well, I've won--a gown-
piece,' says she, her colours coming up in a moment. 'Tis a smock for a crown,
I thought; and so it turned out. Ay, when I think what she'll say to me now
without a mossel of red in her face, it do seem strange that 'a wouldn't say
such a little thing then....However, then she went on, and that's what made
me bring up the story. Well, whatever clothes I've won, white or figured,
for eyes
to see or for eyes not to see' ('a could do a pretty stroke of
modesty in those days)
, 'I'd sooner have lost it than have seen what I have.
Poor Mr. Yeobright was took bad directly he reached the fair ground, and was
forced to go home again.' That was the last time he ever went out of the
parish."

-----------------------------------------------------------------

There was a solemn silence, and looking from the window, which was
unshuttered and unblinded, Timothy said, "Well, what a fess little
bonfire that one is,
out by Cap'n Vye's! 'Tis burning just the same
now as ever, upon my life."

All glances went through the window, and nobody noticed that Wildeve
disguised a brief, telltale look. Far away up the sombre valley of
heath, and to the right of Rainbarrow, could indeed be seen the light,
small, but steady and persistent as before.

"It was lighted before ours was," Fairway continued; "and yet every
one in the country round is out afore 'n."

"Perhaps there's meaning in it!" murmured Christian.

"How meaning?" said Wildeve sharply.

Christian was too scattered to reply, and Timothy helped him.

"He means, sir, that the lonesome dark-eyed creature up there that some
say is a witch--ever I should call a fine young woman such a name--is
always up to some odd conceit or other; and so perhaps 'tis she."

"I'd be very glad to ask her in wedlock, if she'd hae me and take the risk
of her wild dark eyes ill-wishing me
," said Grandfer Cantle staunchly.

"Don't ye say it, Father!" implored Christian.

"Well, be dazed if he who do marry the maid won't hae an uncommon picture
for his best parlour,
" said Fairway in a liquid tone, placing down the cup
of mead at the end of a good pull.

"And a partner as deep as the North Star," said Sam, taking up the cup and
finishing the little that remained. "Well, really, now I think we must be
moving," said Humphrey, observing the emptiness of the vessel.

-----------------------------------------------------------------


All then took their leave, wishing their entertainer long life and
happiness as a married man, with recapitulations which occupied some
time. Wildeve attended them to the door, beyond which the deep-dyed
upward
stretch of heath stood awaiting them, an amplitude of darkness
reigning from their feet almost to the zenith, where a definite form
first became
visible in the lowering forehead of Rainbarrow. Diving
into the
dense obscurity in a line headed by Sam the turf-cutter, they
pursued their trackless way home.

When the scratching of the furze against their leggings had fainted
upon the ear, Wildeve returned to the room where he had left Thomasin
and her aunt. The women were gone.

They could only have left the house in one way, by the back window; and
this was open.

Wildeve laughed to himself, remained a moment thinking, and idly returned
to the front room.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Still waiting, are you, my lady?" he murmured.

However, he did not proceed that way just then; but leaving the hill
to the left of him, he stumbled over a rutted road that brought him
to a cottage which, like all other habitations on the heath at this
hour, was only saved from being visible by a faint shine from its
bedroom window
. This house was the home of Olly Dowden, the besom-maker,
and he entered.

The lower room was in darkness; but by feeling his way he found a table,
whereon he placed the bottle, and a minute later emerged again upon the
heath. He stood and looked northeast at the undying little fire--high up
above him, though not so high as Rainbarrow.

We have been told what happens when a woman deliberates; and the epigram
is not always terminable with woman, provided that one be in the case,
and that a fair one. Wildeve stood, and stood longer, and breathed perplexedly,
and then said to himself with resignation, "Yes--by Heaven, I must go to
her, I suppose!"

Instead of turning in the direction of home he pressed on rapidly by a path
under Rainbarrow towards what was evidently a signal light.



VI - The Figure against the Sky



    When the whole Egdon concourse had left the site of the bonfire to its
accustomed loneliness, a closely wrapped female figure approached the
barrow from that quarter of the heath in which the little fire lay.
Had the reddleman been watching he might have recognized her as the
woman who had first stood there so
singularly, and vanished at the
approach of strangers. She ascended to her old position at the top,
where the red coals of the perishing fire greeted her like living eyes
in the corpse of day. There she stood still around her stretching the
vast night atmosphere, whose incomplete darkness in comparison with the
total darkness of the heath below it might have represented a venial
beside a mortal sin.

    That she was tall and straight in build, that she was lady-like in her
movements, was all that could be learnt of her just now, her form being
wrapped in a shawl folded in the old cornerwise fashion, and her head
in a large kerchief, a protection not superfluous at this hour and place.
Her back was towards the wind, which blew from the northwest; but whether
she had avoided that aspect because of the chilly gusts which played
about her exceptional position, or because her interest lay in the
southeast, did not at first appear.
    Her reason for standing so dead still as the pivot of this circle of
heath-country
was just as obscure. Her extraordinary fixity, her
conspicuous loneliness, her heedlessness of night, betokened among other
things an utter absence of fear. A tract of country unaltered from that
sinister condition which made Caesar anxious every year to get clear of
its glooms before the autumnal equinox
, a kind of landscape and weather
which leads travellers from the South to describe our island as Homer's
Cimmerian land, was not, on the face of it, friendly to women.
    It might reasonably have been supposed that she was listening to the
wind, which rose somewhat as the night advanced, and
laid hold of the
attention. The wind, indeed, seemed made for the scene, as the scene
seemed made for the hour. Part of its tone was quite special; what was
heard there could be heard nowhere else.
Gusts in innumerable series
followed each other from the northwest, and when each one of them raced
past the sound of its progress resolved into three. Treble, tenor, and bass
notes were to be found therein. The general ricochet of the whole over pits
and prominences had the gravest pitch of the chime. Next there could be heard
the baritone buzz of a holly tree. Below these in force, above them in pitch,
a dwindled voice strove hard at a husky tune, which was the peculiar local
sound alluded to. Thinner and less immediately traceable than the other two,
it was far more impressive than either. In it lay what may be called the
linguistic peculiarity of the heath; and being audible nowhere on earth
off a heath, it afforded a shadow of reason for the woman's tenseness,
which continued as unbroken as ever
.
    Throughout the blowing of these plaintive November winds that note bore
a great resemblance to the ruins of human song which remain to the throat
of fourscore and ten. It was a worn whisper, dry and papery, and it brushed
so distinctly across the ear that, by the accustomed, the material minutiae
in which it originated could be realized as by touch. It was the united
products of infinitesimal vegetable causes, and these were neither stems,
leaves, fruit, blades, prickles, lichen, nor moss.

    They were the mummied heathbells of the past summer, originally tender
and purple, now washed colourless by Michaelmas rains, and dried to dead skins
by October suns. So low was an individual sound from these that a combination
of hundreds only just emerged from silence, and the myriads of the whole
declivity reached the woman's ear but as a shrivelled and intermittent
recitative.
Yet scarcely a single accent among the many afloat tonight
could have such power to impress a listener with thoughts of its origin.

One inwardly saw the infinity of those combined multitudes; and perceived
that each of the tiny trumpets was seized on entered, scoured and emerged
from by the wind as thoroughly as if it were as vast as a crater.
    "The spirit moved them." A meaning of the phrase forced itself upon
the attention; and an emotional listener's fetichistic mood might have ended
in one of more advanced quality. It was not, after all, that the left-hand
expanse of old blooms spoke, or the right-hand, or those of the slope in
front; but
it was the single person of something else speaking through each
at once.
    Suddenly, on the barrow, there mingled with all this wild rhetoric of night
a sound which modulated so naturally into the rest that its beginning and
ending were hardly to be distinguished. The bluffs, and the bushes, and the
heather-bells had broken silence; at last, so did the woman; and her
articulation was but as another phrase of the same discourse as theirs.
Thrown out on the winds it became twined in with them, and with them it
flew away.

    What she uttered was a lengthened sighing, apparently at something in her
mind which had led to her presence here
. There was a spasmodic abandonment
about it as if, in allowing herself to utter the sound. the woman's brain
had authorized what it could not regulate. One point was evident in this;
that she had been existing in a suppressed state, and not in one of languor,
or stagnation.

    Far away down the valley the faint shine from the window of the inn still
lasted on; and a few additional moments proved that the window, or what was
within it, had more to do with the woman's sigh than had either her own
actions or the scene immediately around. She lifted her left hand, which
held a closed telescope. This she rapidly extended, as if she were well
accustomed to the operation, and raising it to her eye directed it towards
the light beaming from the inn.
    The handkerchief which had hooded her head was now a little thrown
back, her face being somewhat elevated. A profile was visible against the dull
monochrome of cloud around her;
and it was as though side shadows from the
features of Sappho and Mrs. Siddons had converged upwards from the tomb to
form an image like neither but suggesting both. This, however, was mere
superficiality. In respect of character a face may make certain admissions
by its outline; but it fully confesses only in its changes
. So much is this
the case that what is called the play of the features often helps more in
understanding a man or woman than the earnest labours of all the other
members together. Thus
the night revealed little of her whose form it was
embracing, for the mobile parts of her countenance could not be seen
.
    At last she gave up her spying attitude, closed the telescope, and turned
to the decaying embers. From these no appreciable beams now radiated,
except when a more than usually smart gust brushed over their faces and
raised a fitful glow which came and went like the blush of a girl.
She
stooped over the silent circle, and selecting from the brands a piece of
stick which bore the largest live coal at its end, brought it to where she
had been standing before.
    She held the brand to the ground, blowing the red coal with her mouth
at the same time; till it
faintly illuminated the sod, and revealed a small
object, which turned out to be an hourglass,
though she wore a watch. She
blew long enough to show that the sand had all slipped through.

"Ah!" she said, as if surprised.

    The light raised by her breath had been very fitful, and a momentary
irradiation of flesh
was all that it had disclosed of her face. That
consisted of two matchless lips and a cheek only, her head being still
enveloped. She threw away the stick, took the glass in her hand, the
telescope under her arm, and moved on.
    Along the ridge ran a faint foot-track, which the lady followed. Those
who knew it well called it a path; and, while a mere visitor would have
passed it unnoticed even by day, the regular haunters of the heath were
at no loss for it at midnight. The whole secret of following these
incipient paths, when there was not light enough in the atmosphere to
show a turnpike road, lay in the development of the sense of touch in
the feet,
which comes with years of night-rambling in little-trodden spots.
To a walker practised in such places a difference between impact on maiden
herbage, and on the crippled stalks of a slight footway, is perceptible
through the thickest boot or shoe.

    The solitary figure who walked this beat took no notice of the windy tune
still
played on the dead heathbells. She did not turn her head to look at
a group of dark creatures further on, who fled from her presence as she
skirted a ravine where they fed. They were about a score of the small wild
ponies known as heath-croppers. They roamed at large on the undulations of
Egdon
, but in numbers too few to detract much from the solitude.
    The pedestrian noticed nothing just now, and a clue to her abstraction
was afforded by a trivial incident. A bramble caught hold of her skirt, and
checked her progress. Instead of putting it off and hastening along, she
yielded herself up to the pull, and stood passively still. When she began
to extricate herself it was by turning round and round, and so unwinding
the prickly switch. She was in a desponding reverie.
    Her course was in the direction of the small undying fire which had
drawn the attention of the men on Rainbarrow and of Wildeve in the valley
below. A faint illumination from its rays began to glow upon her face, and the
fire soon revealed itself to be lit, not on the level ground, but on a
salient corner or redan of earth, at the junction of two converging bank
fences. Outside was a ditch, dry except immediately under the fire, where
there was a
large pool, bearded all round by heather and rushes. In the
smooth water of the pool the fire appeared upside down.
    The banks meeting behind were bare of a hedge, save such as was
formed by disconnected tufts of furze, standing upon stems along the top, like
impaled heads above a city wall. A white mast, fitted up with spars and
other nautical tackle, could be seen rising against the dark clouds whenever
the flames played brightly enough to reach it. Altogether the scene had
much the appearance of a fortification upon which had been kindled a beacon
fire.
    Nobody was visible; but ever and anon a whitish something moved above
the bank from behind, and vanished again. This was a small human hand, in the
act of lifting pieces of fuel into the fire, but for all that could be
seen the hand, like that which troubled Belshazzar, was there alone.
Occasionally an ember rolled off the bank, and dropped with a hiss into
the pool.



-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Stay a little longer and I will give you a crooked six-pence," said
Eustacia, more gently. "Put in one piece of wood every two or three
minutes, but not too much at once. I am going to walk along the ridge
a little longer, but I shall keep on coming to you. And if you hear a
frog
jump into the pond with a flounce like a stone thrown in, be sure
you run and tell me, because it is a sign of rain."

"Yes, Eustacia."

"Miss Vye, sir."

"Miss Vy--stacia."

"That will do. Now put in one stick more."

The little slave went on feeding the fire as before. He seemed a mere
automaton,
galvanized into moving and speaking by the wayward Eustacia's
will
. He might have been the brass statue which Albertus Magnus is said
to have
animated just so far as to make it chatter, and move, and be his
servant.


Before going on her walk again the young girl stood still on the bank for
a few instants and listened. It was to the full as lonely a place as
Rainbarrow, though at rather a
lower level; and it was more sheltered from
wind and weather on account of the few firs to the north. The bank which
enclosed the homestead, and protected it from the lawless state of the
world without
, was formed of thick square clods, dug from the ditch on the
outside, and built up with a slight batter or incline, which forms no
slight defense where hedges will not grow because of the wind and the
wilderness, and where wall materials are unattainable. Otherwise the
situation was quite open, commanding the whole length of the valley which
reached to the river behind Wildeve's house. High above this to the right,
and much nearer thitherward than the Quiet Woman Inn, the blurred contour
of Rainbarrow
obstructed the sky.

After her attentive survey of the wild slopes and hollow ravines a gesture
of impatience escaped Eustacia. She vented petulant words every now and
then, but there were sighs between her words, and sudden listenings between
her sighs.


-----------------------------------------------------------------


Eustacia stepped upon the bank.

"Yes?" she said, and held her breath.

Thereupon the contour of a man became dimly visible against the
low-reaching sky over the valley, beyond the outer margin of the pool.
He came round it and leapt upon the bank beside her. A low laugh
escaped her--the third utterance which the girl had indulged in
tonight. The first, when she stood upon Rainbarrow, had expressed
anxiety; the second, on the ridge, had expressed impatience; the
present was one of triumphant pleasure. She let her joyous eyes
rest upon him without speaking, as upon some wondrous thing she
had created out of chaos
.

"I have come," said the man, who was Wildeve. "You give me no peace.
Why do you not leave me alone? I have seen your bonfire all the
evening." The words were not without emotion, and retained their
level tone as if by a careful equipoise between imminent extremes.

At this unexpectedly repressing manner in her lover the girl seemed
to repress herself also. "Of course you have seen my fire," she
answered with languid calmness, artificially maintained. "Why
shouldn't I have a bonfire on the Fifth of November, like other
denizens of the heath?"

"I knew it was meant for me."

"How did you know it? I have had no word with you since you--you
chose her, and walked about with her, and deserted me entirely, as
if I had never been yours life and soul so irretrievably!"

"Eustacia! could I forget that last autumn at this same day of the
month and at this same place you lighted exactly such a fire as a
signal for me to come and see you? Why should there have been a
bonfire again by Captain Vye's house if not for the same purpose?"

"Yes, yes--I own it," she cried under her breath, with a drowsy
fervour
of manner and tone which was quite peculiar to her.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Did you indeed think I believed you were married?" she again
demanded earnestly. "Then you wronged me; and upon my life and
heart I can hardly bear to recognize that you have such ill
thoughts of me! Damon, you are not worthy of me--I see it, and
yet I love you. Never mind, let it go--I must bear your mean
opinion
as best I may....It is true, is it not," she added with
ill-concealed anxiety, on his making no demonstration, "that
you could not bring yourself to give me up, and are still going
to love me best of all?"

"Yes; or why should I have come?" he said touchily. "Not that
fidelity will be any great merit in me after your kind speech
about my unworthiness, which should have been said by myself if
by anybody, and comes with an ill grace from you. However, the
curse of inflammability is upon me
, and I must live under it,
and take any snub from a woman. It has brought me down from
engineering to innkeeping--what lower stage it has in store for
me I have yet to learn." He continued to look upon her gloomily.

She seized the moment, and throwing back the shawl so that the
firelight
shone full upon her face and throat, said with a smile,
"Have you seen anything better than that in your travels?"


Eustacia was not one to commit herself to such a position
without good ground. He said quietly, "No."

"Not even on the shoulders of Thomasin?"

"Thomasin is a pleasing and innocent woman."

"That's nothing to do with it," she cried with quick passionateness.
"We will leave her out; there are only you and me now to think of."
After a long look at him she resumed with the old quiescent warmth,
"Must I go on weakly confessing to you things a woman ought to
conceal; and own that no words can express how gloomy I have been
because of that dreadful belief I held till two hours ago--that you
had quite deserted me?"

"I am sorry I caused you that pain."

"But perhaps it is not wholly because of you that I get gloomy,"
she archly added. "It is in my nature to feel like that. It was
born in my blood, I suppose."

"Hypochondriasis."

"Or else it was coming into this wild heath. I was happy enough
at Budmouth. O the times, O the days at Budmouth! But Egdon will
be brighter again now."

"I hope it will," said Wildeve moodily. "Do you know the
consequence of this recall to me, my old darling? I shall come
to see you again as before, at Rainbarrow."

"Of course you will."

"And yet I declare that until I got here tonight I intended,
after this one good-bye, never to meet you again."

"I don't thank you for that," she said, turning away, while
indignation spread through her like subterranean heat. "You may
come again to Rainbarrow if you like, but you won't see me; and
you may call, but I shall not listen; and you may tempt me, but
I won't give myself to you any more."

"You have said as much before, sweet; but such natures as yours
don't so easily adhere to their words. Neither, for the matter of
that, do such natures as mine."

"This is the pleasure I have won by my trouble," she whispered
bitterly
. "Why did I try to recall you? Damon, a strange warring
takes place
in my mind occasionally. I think when I become calm
after you woundings, 'Do I embrace a cloud of common fog after
all?' You are a chameleon, and now you are at your worst colour.
Go home, or I shall hate you!"


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"I don't know. I prefer not to speak of her to you. I have not
yet married her; I have come in obedience to your call. That
is enough."

"I merely lit that fire because I was dull, and thought I would
get a little excitement by calling you up and triumphing over
you as the Witch of Endor called up Samuel. I
determined you
should come; and you have come! I have
shown my power. A mile
and half hither, and a mile and half back again to your home--
three miles in the dark for me. Have I not shown my
power?"

He shook his head at her. "I know you too well, my Eustacia; I
know you too well. There isn't a note in you which I don't know;
and
that hot little bosom couldn't play such a cold-blooded trick
to save its life. I saw a woman on Rainbarrow at dusk looking
down towards my house. I think I drew out you before you drew out
me."


The revived embers of an old passion glowed clearly in Wildeve
now;
and he leant forward as if about to put his face towards her
cheek.

"O no," she said, intractably moving to the other side of the
decayed fire.
"What did you mean by that?"

"Perhaps I may kiss your hand?"

"No, you may not."

"Then I may shake your hand?"

"No."

"Then I wish you good night without caring for either. Good-bye,
good-bye."

She returned no answer, and with the bow of a dancing-master he
vanished on the other side of the pool as he had come.

Eustacia sighed--it was no fragile maiden sigh, but a sigh which
shook her like a shiver
. Whenever a flash of reason darted like an
electric light upon her lover
- -as it sometimes would--and showed
his imperfections, she shivered thus. But it was over in a second,
and she loved on. She knew that he trifled with her; but she loved
on. She scattered the half-burnt brands, went indoors immediately,
and up to her bedroom without a light. Amid the rustles which
denoted her to be undressing in the darkness other heavy breaths
frequently came; and the same kind of shudder occasionally moved
through
her when, ten minutes later, she lay on her bed asleep.



VII - Queen of Night



    Eustacia Vye was the raw material of a divinity. On Olympus she
would have done well with a little preparation. She had
the passions
and instincts which make a model goddess, that is, those which make
not quite a model woman
. Had it been possible for the earth and mankind
to be entirely in her grasp for a while,
she had handled the distaff,
the spindle, and the shears at her own free will, few in the world
would have noticed the change of government.
There would have been the
same inequality of lot, the same heaping up of favours here, of
contumely there, the same generosity before justice, the same perpetual
dilemmas,
the same captious alteration of caresses and blows that we
endure now
.
    She was in person full-limbed and somewhat heavy; without ruddiness,
as without pallor; and soft to the touch as a cloud. To see her hair was
to fancy that a whole winter did not contain darkness enough to form its
shadow--it closed over her forehead like nightfall extinguishing the
western glow.

    Her nerves extended into those tresses, and her temper could always
be softened by stroking them down. When her hair was brushed she would
instantly sink into stillness and look like the Sphinx.
If, in passing
under one of the Egdon banks, any of its
thick skeins were caught, as
they sometimes were, by a
prickly tuft of the large Ulex Europoeus--which
will act as a sort of hairbrush--she would go back a few steps, and pass
against it a second time.

    She had pagan eyes, full of nocturnal mysteries, and their light,
as it came and went, and came again, was partially hampered by their
oppressive lids and lashes;
and of these the under lid was much fuller
than it usually is with English women. This enabled her to indulge in
reverie without seeming to do so--she might have been believed capable of
sleeping without closing them up. Assuming that the
souls of men and
women were visible essences,
you could fancy the colour of Eustacia's
soul to be flamelike. The sparks from it that rose into her dark pupils

gave the same impression.

    The mouth seemed formed less to speak than to quiver, less to quiver
than to kiss. Some might have added, less to kiss than to curl. Viewed
sideways, the closing-line of her lips formed, with almost geometric
precision, the curve so well known in the arts of design as the cima-recta,
or ogee. The sight of such a flexible bend as that on grim Egdon was quite
an apparition. It was felt at once that the mouth did not come over from
Sleswig with a band of Saxon pirates whose lips met like the two halves
of a muffin. One had fancied that such lip-curves were mostly lurking
underground in the South as fragments of forgotten marbles. So fine were
the lines of her lips that, though full, each corner of her mouth was as
clearly cut as the point of a spear.
This keenness of corner was only
blunted when she was given over to sudden fits of gloom, one of the phases
of the
night-side of sentiment which she knew too well for her years.
    Her presence brought memories of such things as Bourbon roses,
rubies, and tropical midnight; her moods recalled lotus-eaters and the
march in Athalie; her motions, the ebb and flow of the sea; her voice, the
viola.
In a dim light, and with a slight rearrangement of her hair, her
general figure might have stood for that of either of the
higher female
deities
. The new moon behind her head, an old helmet upon it, a diadem of
accidental dewdrops round her brow, would have been adjuncts sufficient to
strike the note of Artemis, Athena, or Hera respectively, with as close an
approximation to the antique as that which passes muster on many respected
canvases.
    But celestial imperiousness, love, wrath, and fervour had proved to be
somewhat thrown away on netherward Egdon.
Her power was limited, and the
consciousness of this
limitation had biassed her development. Egdon was her
Hades, and since coming there she had imbibed much of what was dark in its
tone, though inwardly and eternally unreconciled thereto. Her appearance
accorded well with this smouldering rebelliousness, and the shady splendour
of her beauty was the real surface of the sad and stifled warmth within her.

A true Tartarean dignity sat upon her brow, and not factitiously or with
marks of
constraint, for it had grown in her with years.
    Across the upper part of her head she wore a thin fillet of black velvet,
restraining the luxuriance of her shady hair, in a way which added much to
this class of majesty by irregularly clouding her forehead. "Nothing can
embellish a beautiful face more than a narrow band drawn over the brow," says
Richter. Some of the neighbouring girls wore coloured ribbon for the same
purpose, and sported metallic ornaments elsewhere; but if anyone suggested
coloured ribbon and metallic ornaments to Eustacia Vye she laughed and went
on.




    But the musician did his best; adopted his wife's name, made
England permanently his home, took great trouble with his child's
education, the expenses of which were defrayed by the grandfather,
and throve as the chief local musician till her mother's death,
when he left off thriving, drank, and died also. The girl was left
to the care of her grandfather, who, since three of his ribs became
broken in a shipwreck, had lived in this airy perch on Egdon, a spot
which had taken his fancy because the house was to be had for next
to nothing, and because a remote blue tinge on the horizon between
the hills,
visible from the cottage door, was traditionally believed
to be the English Channel. She
hated the change; she felt like one
banished; but here she was forced to abide.
    Thus it happened that in Eustacia's brain were juxtaposed the
strangest assortment of ideas, from old time and from new. There was
no middle distance in her perspective--romantic recollections of sunny
afternoons on an esplanade, with military bands, officers, and gallants
around, stood like gilded letters upon the dark tablet of surrounding
Egdon. Every bizarre effect that could result from the random
intertwining of watering-place glitter with the grand solemnity of a
heath, was to be found in her.
Seeing nothing of human life now, she
imagined all the more of what she had seen.
    Where did her dignity come from? By a latent vein from Alcinous'
line, her father hailing from Phaeacia's isle?--or from Fitzalan and
De Vere, her maternal grandfather having had a cousin in the peerage?
Perhaps it was the gift of Heaven--a happy convergence of natural laws.
Among other things opportunity had of late years been denied her of
learning to be undignified, for she lived lonely. Isolation on a heath
renders vulgarity well-nigh impossible. It would have been as easy for
the heath-ponies, bats, and snakes to be
vulgar as for her. A narrow
life in Budmouth might have
completely demeaned her.
    The only way to look queenly without realms or hearts to queen it
over
is to look as if you had lost them; and Eustacia did that to a
triumph. In the captain's cottage
she could suggest mansions she had
never seen. Perhaps that was because she frequented a vaster mansion
than any of them, the open hills
. Like the summer condition of the place
around her,
she was an embodiment of the phrase "a populous solitude"--
apparently so listless, void, and quiet, she was really busy and full
.
    To be loved to madness--such was her great desire. Love was to her
the one cordial which could drive away the eating loneliness of her days
.
And she seemed to long for the abstraction called passionate love more
than for any
particular lover.
    She could show a most
reproachful look at times, but it was directed
less against human beings than against
certain creatures of her mind, the
chief of these being Destiny, through whose
interference she dimly fancied
it arose
that love alighted only on gliding youth--that any love she might
win would sink simultaneously with the sand in the glass
. She thought of
it with an
ever-growing consciousness of cruelty, which tended to breed
actions of reckless unconventionality, framed to snatch a year's, a week's,
even an hour's passion from anywhere while it could be won.
Through want of
it she had
sung without being merry, possessed without enjoying, outshone
without
triumphing. Her loneliness deepened her desire. On Egdon, coldest
and meanest kisses were at famine prices, and where was a mouth matching
hers to be found?

    Fidelity in love for fidelity's sake had less attraction for her than
for most women; fidelity because of love's
grip had much. A blaze of love,
and extinction, was better than a lantern glimmer of the same which should
last long years.
On this head she knew by prevision what most women learn
only by experience--
she had mentally walked round love, told the towers
thereof, considered its palaces, and concluded that love was but a doleful
joy. Yet she desired it, as one in a desert would be thankful for brackish
water.





    Thus she was a girl of some forwardness of mind, indeed,
weighed in relation to her situation among the very rearward of
thinkers, very original. Her instincts towards social non-comformity
were at the root of this. In the matter of holidays, her mood was
that of horses who, when turned out to grass, enjoy looking upon
their kind at work on the highway. She only valued rest to herself
when it came in the midst of other people's labour. Hence she hated
Sundays when all was at rest, and often said they would be the death
of her. To see the heathmen in their Sunday condition, that is, with
their hands in their pockets, their boots newly oiled, and not laced
up (a particularly Sunday sign), walking leisurely among the turves
and furze-faggots they had cut during the week, and kicking them
critically as if their use were unknown, was
a fearful heaviness to
her.
To relieve the tedium of this untimely day she would overhaul
the cupboards containing her grandfather's old charts and other rubbish,
humming Saturday-night ballads of the country people the while. But on
Saturday nights she would frequently sing a psalm
, and it was always
on a weekday that she read the Bible, that she might be unoppressed with
a sense of doing her duty.

    Such views of life were to some extent the natural begettings
of her situation upon her nature
. To dwell on a heath without studying
its meanings was like wedding a foreigner without learning his tongue.
The subtle beauties of the heath were lost to Eustacia; she only caught
its vapours. An environment which would have made a contented woman a
poet, a suffering woman a devotee, a pious woman a psalmist, even a giddy
woman thoughtful, made a rebellious woman saturnine.

    Eustacia had got beyond the vision of some marriage of inexpressible
glory; yet, though her emotions were in full vigour, she cared for no
meaner union. Thus we see her in a strange state of isolation.
To have
lost the godlike conceit that we may do what we will, and not to have
acquired a homely zest for doing what we can
, shows a grandeur of temper
which cannot be
objected to in the abstract, for it denotes a mind that,
though
disappointed, forswears compromise. But, if congenial to philosophy,
it is apt to be
dangerous to the commonwealth. In a world where doing means
marrying, and
the commonwealth is one of hearts and hands, the same peril
attends the condition.

    And so we see our Eustacia--for at times she was not altogether
unlovable--arriving at that stage of enlightenment which feels that nothing
is worth while, and filling up the spare hours of her existence by idealizing
Wildeve for want of a better object. This was the sole reason of his
ascendency: she knew it herself. At moments her pride rebelled against her
passion for him, and she even had longed to be free. But there was only one
circumstance which could dislodge him, and that was the advent of a greater
man.
    For the rest, she suffered much from depression of spirits, and took
slow walks to recover them, in which she carried her grandfather's telescope
and her grandmother's hourglass--the latter because of
a peculiar pleasure
she derived from watching a material representation of time's gradual glide
away
. She seldom schemed, but when she did scheme, her plans showed rather
the comprehensive strategy of a general than the small arts called womanish,
though she could utter oracles of Delphian ambiguity when she did not choose
to be direct. In heaven she will probably sit between the Heloises and the
Cleopatras.



VIII - Those Who Are Found Where There Is Said to Be Nobody



    He ran until he was out of breath, and then, becoming more
courageous, walked leisurely along, singing in an old voice a
little song about a sailor-boy and a fair one, and bright gold in
store. In the middle of this the child stopped--from a pit under
the hill ahead of him shone a light, whence proceeded a cloud of
floating dust and a smacking noise.
    Only unusual sights and sounds frightened the boy. The
shrivelled voice of the heath did not alarm him, for that was familiar.
The thornbushes which arose in his path from time to time were less
satisfactory, for they whistled gloomily, and had a ghastly habit
after dark of putting on the shapes of jumping madmen, sprawling
giants, and hideous cripples.
Lights were not uncommon this evening,
but the nature of all of them was different from this. Discretion
rather than terror prompted the boy to turn back instead of passing
the light, with a view of asking Miss Eustacia Vye to let her servant
accompany him home.
    When the boy had reascended to the top of the valley he found
the fire to be still burning on the bank, though lower than before.
Beside it, instead of Eustacia's solitary form, he saw two persons,
the second being a man. The boy crept along under the bank to ascertain
from the nature of the proceedings if it would be prudent to interrupt
so splendid a creature as Miss Eustacia on his poor trivial account.
    After listening under the bank for some minutes to the talk he
turned in a perplexed and doubting manner and began to withdraw as
silently as he had come. That he did not, upon the whole, think it
advisable to interrupt her conversation with Wildeve, without being
prepared to bear the whole weight of her displeasure, was obvious.
    Here was a Scyllaeo-Charybdean position for a poor boy. Pausing
when again safe from discovery, he finally decided to face the pit
phenomenon as the lesser evil. With a heavy sigh he retraced the slope,
and followed the path he had followed before.
    The child assumed that this was the cart of a gipsy, and his dread
of those wanderers reached but to
that mild pitch which titillates
rather than pains.
Only a few inches of mud wall kept him and his family
from being gipsies themselves. He skirted the gravel pit at a respectful
distance, ascended the slope, and came forward upon the brow, in order
to look into the open door of the van and see the original of the shadow.
    The picture alarmed the boy. By a little stove inside the van sat a
figure red from head to heels--the man who had been Thomasin's friend. He
was darning a stocking, which was red like the rest of him. Moreover, as
he darned he smoked a pipe, the stem and bowl of which were red also.
    At this moment one of the heath-croppers feeding in the outer shadows
was audibly shaking off the clog attached to its foot. Aroused by the sound,
the reddleman laid down his stocking, lit a lantern which hung beside him,
and came out from the van. In sticking up the candle
he lifted the lantern
to his face, and the light shone into the whites of his eyes and upon his
ivory teeth, which, in contrast with the red surrounding, lent him a
startling aspect
enough to the gaze of a juvenile. The boy knew too well
for his peace of mind upon whose lair he had lighted. Uglier persons than
gipsies were known to cross Egdon at times, and a reddleman was one of them.

"How I wish 'twas only a gipsy!" he murmured.

The man was by this time coming back from the horses. In his fear
of being seen the boy rendered detection certain by nervous motion. The
heather and peat stratum overhung the brow of the pit in mats
, hiding the
actual verge. The boy had stepped beyond the solid ground; the heather now
gave way, and down he rolled over the scarp of grey sand to the very foot
of the man.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"My eyes have got foggy-like--please may I sit down, master?"
said the boy.

"To be sure, poor chap. 'Tis enough to make you feel fainty.
Sit on that bundle."

The man finished tying up the gash, and the boy said, "I think
I'll go home now, master."

"You are rather afraid of me. Do you know what I be?"

The child surveyed his vermilion figure up and down with much
misgiving and finally said, "Yes."

"Well, what?"

"The reddleman!" he faltered.

"Yes, that's what I be. Though there's more than one. You little
children think there's only one cuckoo, one fox, one giant, one
devil, and one reddleman, when there's lots of us all."


"Is there? You won't carry me off in your bags, will ye, master?
'Tis said that the reddleman will sometimes."

"Nonsense. All that reddlemen do is sell reddle. You see all these
bags at the back of my cart? They are not full of little boys--only
full of red stuff."

"Was you born a reddleman?"

"No, I took to it. I should be as white as you if I were to give up
the trade--that is, I should be white in time--perhaps six months;
not at first, because 'tis grow'd into my skin and won't wash out.
Now, you'll never be afraid of a reddleman again, will ye?"



IX - Love Leads a Shrewd Man into Strategy



    Reddlemen of the old school are now but seldom seen. Since
the introduction of railways Wessex farmers have managed to do
without these Mephistophelian visitants, and the bright pigment so
largely used by shepherds in preparing sheep for the fair is obtained
by other routes. Even those who yet survive are losing the poetry of
existence which characterized them when the pursuit of the trade meant
periodical journeys to the pit whence the material was dug, a regular
camping out from month to month, except in the depth of winter, a
peregrination among farms which could be counted by the hundred, and
in spite of this Arab existence the preservation of that respectability
which is insured by the never-failing production of a well-lined purse
.
    Reddle spreads its lively hues over everything it lights on, and
stamps unmistakably, as with the mark of Cain, any person who has handled
it half an hour.
    A child's first sight of a reddleman was an epoch in his life. That
blood-coloured figure was a sublimation of all the horrid dreams which
had afflicted the juvenile spirit since imagination began. "The reddleman
is coming for you!" had been the formulated threat of Wessex mothers for
many generations. He was successfully supplanted for a while, at the beginning
of the present century, by Buonaparte; but as process of time
rendered the
latter personage stale and ineffective
the older phrase resumed its early
prominence. And now the reddleman has in his turn followed Buonaparte to
the
land of worn-out bogeys, and his place is filled by modern inventions.




    The reddleman who had entered Egdon that afternoon was an
instance of the pleasing being wasted to form the ground-work of the
singular, when an ugly foundation would have done just as well for
that purpose. The one point that was forbidding about this reddleman
was his colour. Freed from that he would have been as agreeable a
specimen of rustic manhood as one would often see. A keen observer
might have been inclined to think--which was, indeed, partly the
truth--that he had relinquished his proper station in life for want
of interest in it
. Moreover, after looking at him one would have
hazarded the guess that good nature, and an acuteness as extreme as
it could be without verging on craft, formed the framework of his
character.




    The writing had originally been traced on white paper, but the
letter had now assumed a pale red tinge from the accident of its
situation; and the black strokes of writing thereon looked like the
twigs of a winter hedge against a vermilion sunset
. The letter bore
a date some two years previous to that time, and was signed "Thomasin
Yeobright." It ran as follows:--

   Dear Diggory Venn,--The question you put when you overtook
   me coming home from Pond-close gave me such a surprise that
   I am afraid I did not make you exactly understand what I meant.
   Of course, if my aunt had not met me I could have explained
   all then at once, but as it was there was no chance. I have
   been quite uneasy since, as you know I do not wish to pain
   you, yet I fear I shall be doing so now in contradicting what
   I seemed to say then. I cannot, Diggory, marry you, or think
   of letting you call me your sweetheart. I could not, indeed,
   Diggory. I hope you will not much mind my saying this, and
   feel in a great pain. It makes me very sad when I think it
   may, for I like you very much, and I always put you next to
   my cousin Clym in my mind. There are so many reasons why we
   cannot be married that I can hardly name them all in a letter.
   I did not in the least expect that you were going to speak
   on such a thing when you followed me, because I had never
   thought of you in the sense of a lover at all. You must not
   becall me for laughing when you spoke; you mistook when you
   thought I laughed at you as a foolish man. I laughed because
   the idea was so odd, and not at you at all. The great reason
   with my own personal self for not letting you court me is,
   that I do not feel the things a woman ought to feel who
   consents to walk with you with the meaning of being your
   wife.





    Rejected suitors take to roaming as naturally as unhived
bees
; and the business to which he had cynically devoted himself
was in many ways congenial to Venn. But his wanderings, by mere
stress of old emotions, had frequently taken an Egdon direction,
though he never intruded upon her who attracted him thither. To be
in Thomasin's heath, and near her, yet unseen, was the one ewe-lamb
of pleasure left to him.

    Then came the incident of that day, and the reddleman,
still loving her well, was excited by this accidental service to
her at a critical juncture to vow an active devotion to her cause,
instead of, as hitherto, sighing and holding aloof. After what had
happened it was impossible that he should not doubt the honesty of
Wildeve's intentions. But her hope was apparently centred upon him;
and dismissing his regrets Venn determined to aid her to be happy
in her own chosen way. That this way was, of all others, the most
distressing to himself, was awkward enough; but the reddleman's
love was generous
.




    That Eustacia was somehow the cause of Wildeve's carelessness
in relation to the marriage had at once been Venn's conclusion on
hearing of the secret meeting between them. It did not occur to his
mind that Eustacia's love signal to Wildeve was the tender effect upon
the deserted beauty of the intelligence
which her grandfather had
brought home. His instinct was to regard her as a conspirator against
rather than as an antecedent obstacle to Thomasin's happiness.

    During the day he had been exceedingly anxious to learn the
condition of Thomasin, but he did not venture to intrude upon a
threshold to which he was a stranger, particularly at such an
unpleasant moment as this. He had occupied his time in moving with his
ponies and load to a new point in the heath, eastward to his previous
station; and here he selected a nook with a careful eye to shelter
from wind and rain, which seemed to mean that his stay there was to
be a comparatively extended one. After this he returned on foot some
part of the way that he had come; and, it being now dark, he diverged
to the left till he stood behind a holly bush on the edge of a pit
not twenty yards from Rainbarrow.
    He watched for a meeting there, but he watched in vain. Nobody
except himself came near the spot that night.
    But the loss of his labour produced little effect upon the
reddleman. He had stood in the shoes of Tantalus, and seemed to look
upon a certain mass of disappointment as the natural preface to all
realizations
, without which preface they would give cause for alarm.




    The reddleman, stung with suspicion of wrong to Thomasin, was
aroused to strategy in a moment. He instantly left the bush and crept
forward on his hands and knees. When he had got as close as he might
safely venture without discovery he found that, owing to a cross-wind,
the conversation of the trysting pair could not be overheard.
    Near him, as in divers places about the heath, were areas strewn
with large turves, which lay edgeways and upside down awaiting removal
by Timothy Fairway, previous to the winter weather. He took two of these
as he lay, and dragged them over him till one covered his head and
shoulders, the other his back and legs. The reddleman would now have
been quite invisible, even by daylight; the turves, standing upon him
with the heather upwards, looked precisely as if they were growing. He
crept along again, and the turves upon his back crept with him. Had he
approached without any covering the chances are that he would not have
been perceived in the dusk; approaching thus, it was as though he
burrowed underground. In this manner he came quite close to where the
two were standing.
    "Wish to consult me on the matter?" reached his ears in the
rich, impetuous accents of Eustacia Vye. "Consult me? It is an indignity
to me to talk so--I won't bear it any longer!" She began weeping. "I
have loved you, and have shown you that I loved you, much to my regret;
and yet you can come and say in that frigid way that you wish to consult
with me whether it would not be better to marry Thomasin. Better--of
course it would be. Marry her--she is nearer to your own position in
life than I am!"


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"I never wish to desert you."

"I do not thank you for that. I should hate it to be all smooth.
Indeed, I think I like you to desert me a little once now and then.
Love is the dismallest thing where the lover is quite honest. O, it
is a shame to say so; but it is true!" She indulged in a little laugh.
"My low spirits begin at the very idea.
Don't you offer me tame love,
or away you go!
"

"I wish Tamsie were not such a confoundedly good little woman," said
Wildeve, "so that I could be faithful to you without injuring a worthy
person. It is I who am the sinner after all; I am not worth the little
finger of either of you."

"But you must not sacrifice yourself to her from any sense of justice,"
replied Eustacia quickly. "If you do not love her it is the most
merciful thing in the long run to leave her as she is. That's always
the best way. There, now I have been unwomanly, I suppose. When you
have left me I am always angry with myself for things that I have said
to you."


Wildeve walked a pace or two among the heather without replying. The
pause was filled up by the intonation of a pollard thorn a little way
to windward, the breezes filtering through its unyielding twigs as
through a strainer. It was as if the night sang dirges with clenched
teeth.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Yes, yes! I am nothing in it--I am nothing in it. You only trifle
with me. Heaven, what can I, Eustacia Vye, be made of to think so
much of you!"

"Nonsense; do not be so passionate....Eustacia, how we roved among
these bushes last year, when the
hot days had got cool, and the
shades of the hills kept us almost
invisible in the hollows!"

She remained in moody silence till she said, "Yes; and how I used
to laugh at you for daring to look up to me! But you have well made
me suffer for that since."

"Yes, you served me cruelly enough until I thought I had found
someone fairer than you. A blessed find for me, Eustacia."

"Do you still think you found somebody fairer?"

"Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. The scales are balanced so
nicely that a feather would turn them."


"But don't you really care whether I meet you or whether I don't?"
she said slowly.

"I care a little, but not enough to break my rest," replied the
young man
languidly. "No, all that's past. I find there are two
flowers where I thought there was only one. Perhaps there are three,
or four, or any number as good as the first
....Mine is a curious fate.
Who would have thought that all this could happen to me?"


She interrupted with a suppressed fire of which either love or anger
seemed an equally possible issue, "Do you love me now?"


"Who can say?"

"Tell me; I will know it!"

"I do, and I do not," said he mischievously. "That is, I have my times
and my seasons. One moment you are too
tall, another moment you are
too
do-nothing, another too melancholy, another too dark, another I
don't know what, except--that
you are not the whole world to me that
you used to be, my dear
. But you are a pleasant lady to know and nice
to meet, and I dare say as
sweet as ever--almost."

Eustacia was silent, and she turned from him, till she said, in a
voice of suspended mightiness, "I am for a walk, and this is my way."

"Well, I can do worse than follow you."

"You know you can't do otherwise, for all your moods and changes!" she
answered defiantly. "Say what you will; try as you may; keep away from
me all that you can--you will never forget me. You will love me all
your life long. You would jump to marry me!"

"So I would!" said Wildeve. "Such strange thoughts as I've had from time
to time, Eustacia; and they come to me this moment. You hate the heath
as much as ever; that I know."

"I do," she
murmured deeply. "'Tis my cross, my shame, and will be my
death!"

"I
abhor it too," said he. "How mournfully the wind blows round us now!"

She did not answer.
Its tone was indeed solemn and pervasive. Compound
utterances addressed themselves to their senses, and it was possible to
view by ear the features of the neighbourhood. Acoustic pictures were
returned from the darkened scenery; they could hear where the tracts of
heather began and ended; where the furze was growing stalky and tall;
where it had been recently cut; in what direction the fir-clump lay,
and how near was the pit in which the hollies grew; for these differing
features had their voices no less than their shapes and colours.

"God, how lonely it is!" resumed Wildeve. "What are picturesque ravines
and mists
to us who see nothing else?" Why should we stay here? Will you
go with me to America? I have kindred in Wisconsin."

"That wants consideration."

"It seems impossible to do well here, unless one were a wild bird or a
landscape-
painter. Well?"

"Give me time," she softly said, taking his hand. "America is so far away.
Are you going to walk with me a little way?"

As Eustacia uttered the latter words she retired from the base of the
barrow, and Wildeve followed her, so that the reddleman could hear no more.

He lifted the turves and arose. Their black figures sank and disappeared
from against the sky. They were as two horns which the sluggish heath had
put forth from its crown, like a mollusc, and had now again drawn in.


The reddleman's walk across the vale, and over into the next where his cart
lay, was not sprightly for a slim young fellow of twenty-four. His spirit
was
perturbed to aching. The breezes that blew around his mouth in that walk
carried off upon them the accents of a
commination.

He entered the van, where there was a fire in a stove. Without lighting his
candle he sat down at once on the three-legged stool, and pondered on what
he had seen and heard
touching that still-loved one of his. He uttered a
sound which was neither
sigh nor sob, but was even more indicative than
either of a
troubled mind.

"My Tamsie," he whispered heavily. "What can be done? Yes, I will see that
Eustacia Vye."



X - A Desperate Attempt at Persuasion



    Though these shaggy hills were apparently so solitary, several
keen round eyes were always ready on such a wintry morning as this to
converge upon a passer-by. Feathered species sojourned here in hiding
which would have created wonder if found elsewhere. A bustard haunted the
spot, and not many years before this five and twenty might have been seen
in Egdon at one time. Marsh-harriers looked up from the valley by Wildeve's.
A cream-coloured courser had used to visit this hill, a bird so rare that
not more than a dozen have ever been seen in England; but a barbarian rested
neither night nor day till he had shot the African truant, and after that
event cream-coloured coursers thought fit to enter Egdon no more.
    A traveller who should walk and observe any of these visitants
as Venn observed them now could feel himself to be in
direct communication
with regions unknown to man. Here in front of him was
a wild mallard--just
arrived from the home of the north wind. The creature brought within him
an amplitude of Northern knowledge. Glacial catastrophes, snowstorm episodes,
glittering auroral effects, Polaris in the zenith, Franklin underfoot--the
category of his commonplaces was wonderful
. But the bird, like many other
philosophers, seemed as he looked at the reddleman to think that a present
moment of comfortable reality was worth a decade of memories.

    Venn passed on through these towards the house of the isolated beauty
who lived up among them and despised them. The day was Sunday; but as going
to church, except to be married or buried, was exceptional at Egdon, this made
little difference. He had determined upon the bold stroke of asking for an
interview with Miss Vye--to attack her position as Thomasin's rival either by
art or by storm, showing therein, somewhat too conspicuously, the want of
gallantry characteristic of a certain astute sort of men, from clowns to kings.
The great Frederick
making war on the beautiful Archduchess, Napoleon refusing
terms to the beautiful Queen of Prussia, were not more
dead to difference of
sex than the reddleman was, in his peculiar way, in
planning the displacement
of Eustacia.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

    He was beginning to think that his scheme had failed, when he beheld
the form of Eustacia herself coming leisurely towards him. A sense
of novelty in giving audience to that singular figure had been sufficient
to draw her forth.
    She seemed to feel, after a bare look at Diggory Venn, that the man
had come on a strange errand, and that he was not so mean as she had
thought him;
for her close approach did not cause him to writhe uneasily,
or shift his feet, or show any of those little signs which escape an
ingenuous rustic at the advent of the uncommon in womankind
. On his
inquiring if he might have a conversation with her she replied, "Yes,
walk beside me," and continued to move on.
    Before they had gone far it occurred to the perspicacious reddleman
that he would have acted more wisely by appearing less unimpressionable,
and he resolved to correct the error as soon as he could find opportunity.

"I have made so bold, miss, as to step across and tell you some strange
news which has come to my ears about that man."

"Ah! what man?"

He jerked his elbow to the southeast--the direction of the Quiet Woman.

Eustacia turned quickly to him. "Do you mean Mr. Wildeve?"

"Yes, there is trouble in a household on account of him, and I have come
to let you know of it, because I believe you might have power to drive
it away
."

"I? What is the trouble?"

"It is quite a secret. It is that he may
refuse to marry Thomasin
Yeobright after all."

Eustacia, though
set inwardly pulsing by his words, was equal to her part
in such a drama as this
. She replied coldly, "I do not wish to listen to
this, and you must not
expect me to interfere."

"But, miss, you will hear one word?"

"I cannot. I am not interested in the marriage, and even if I were I
could not
compel Mr. Wildeve to do my bidding."

"As the only lady on the heath I think you might," said Venn with
subtle
indirectness
. "This is how the case stands. Mr. Wildeve would marry
Thomasin at once, and
make all matters smooth, if so be there were not
another woman in the case. This other woman is some person he has picked
up with, and meets on the heath occasionally, I believe. He will never
marry her, and yet through her he may never marry the woman who
loves
him
dearly. Now, if you, miss, who have so much sway over us menfolk,
were to
insist that he should treat your young neighbour Tamsin with
honourable kindness and give up the other woman, he would perhaps do it,
and save her a good deal of
misery."

"Ah, my life!" said Eustacia,
with a laugh which unclosed her lips so
that the sun shone into her mouth as into a tulip, and lent it a similar
scarlet fire.
"You think too much of my influence over menfolk indeed,
reddleman. If I had such a power as you imagine I would go straight and
use it for the good of anybody who has been kind to me--which Thomasin
Yeobright has not particularly, to my knowledge."

"Can it be that you really don't know of it--how much she had always
thought of you?"

"I have never heard a word of it. Although we live only two miles apart
I have never been inside her aunt's house in my life."

The superciliousness that lurked in her manner told Venn that thus far
he had
utterly failed. He inwardly sighed and felt it necessary to unmask
his second argument.


"Well, leaving that out of the question, 'tis in your power, I assure you,
Miss Vye, to do a great deal of good to another woman."

She shook her head.

"Your comeliness is law with Mr. Wildeve. It is law with all men who see
'ee. They say, 'This
well- favoured lady coming--what's her name? How
handsome!' Handsomer than Thomasin Yeobright," the reddleman persisted,
saying to himself, "God forgive a rascal for lying!" And she was handsomer,
but the reddleman was far from thinking so. There was a certain
obscurity
in Eustacia's beauty, and Venn's eye was not trained. In her winter dress,
as now,
she was like the tiger-beetle, which, when observed in dull
situations, seems to be of the quietest neutral colour, but under a full
illumination blazes with dazzling splendour
.

Eustacia could not help replying, though conscious that she endangered her
dignity thereby. "Many women are lovelier than Thomasin," she said, "so
not much
attaches to that."

The reddleman
suffered the wound and went on: "He is a man who notices the
looks of women, and you could twist him to your
will like withywind, if
you only had the mind."

"Surely what she cannot do who has been so much with him I cannot do
living up here away from him."

The reddleman
wheeled and looked her in the face. "Miss Vye!" he said.

"Why do you say that--as if you
doubted me?" She spoke faintly, and her
breathing was quick
. "The idea of your speaking in that tone to me!" she
added, with a
forced smile of hauteur. "What could have been in your mind
to lead you to speak like that?"

"Miss Vye, why should you make believe that you don't know this man?--I
know why, certainly. He is beneath you, and you are
ashamed."

"You are mistaken. What do you mean?"

The reddleman had decided to
play the card of truth. "I was at the meeting
by Rainbarrow last night and heard every word," he said. "The woman that
stands between Wildeve and Thomasin is yourself."


It was a disconcerting lift of the curtain, and the mortification of
Candaules' wife glowed in her
. The moment had arrived when her lip would
tremble in spite of herself, and when the gasp could no longer be kept
down.

"I am
unwell," she said hurriedly. "No--it is not that--I am not in a
humour to hear you further.
Leave me, please."

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"No--I won't, I won't!" she said impetuously, quite forgetful of her
previous manner towards the reddleman as an underling. "Nobody has ever
been
served so! It was going on well--I will not be beaten down--by an
inferior woman like her. It is very well for you to come and plead for
her, but is she not herself the cause of all her own trouble? Am I not
to show favour to any person I may choose
without asking permission of
a parcel of cottagers
? She has come between me and my inclination, and
now that she finds herself rightly
punished she gets you to plead for
her!"


-----------------------------------------------------------------

The reddleman looked hopeful; after these words from her his third
attempt seemed promising. "As we have now opened our minds a bit,
miss," he said, "I'll tell you what I have got to
propose. Since I
have taken to the reddle trade I travel a good deal, as you know."

She inclined her head, and swept round so that her eyes rested in
the misty vale beneath them.

"And in my travels I go near Budmouth. Now Budmouth is a wonderful
place--wonderful--a great salt sheening sea bending into the land
like a bow
--thousands of gentlepeople walking up and down--bands of
music playing--officers by sea and officers by land walking among
the rest--
out of every ten folks you meet nine of 'em in love."

"I know it," she said disdainfully. "I know Budmouth better than you.
I was born there. My father came to be a military musician there from
abroad. Ah, my soul, Budmouth! I wish I was there now."

The reddleman was
surprised to see how a slow fire could blaze on
occasion.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"It is to wear myself out to please her! and I won't go. O, if I could
live in a gay town as a lady should, and go my own ways, and do my
own doings,
I'd give the wrinkled half of my life! Yes, reddleman, that
would I."


"Help me to get Thomasin happy, miss, and the chance shall be yours,"
urged her companion.

"Chance--'tis no chance," she said proudly. "What can a poor man like
you
offer me, indeed?--I am going indoors. I have nothing more to say.
Don't your horses want
feeding, or your reddlebags want mending, or
don't you want to find buyers for your goods, that you stay
idling here
like this?"

Venn spoke not another word. With his hands behind him he
turned away,
that she might not see the
hopeless disappointment in his face. The
mental clearness and power he had found in this lonely girl had indeed
filled his manner with misgiving even from the first few minutes of
close quarters with her
. Her youth and situation had led him to expect
a
simplicity quite at the beck of his method. But a system of inducement
which might have
carried weaker country lasses along with it had merely
repelled Eustacia. As a rule, the word Budmouth meant fascination on
Egdon. That Royal port and watering place, if truly
mirrored in the
minds of the heathfolk, must have
combined, in a charming and
indescribable manner a Carthaginian bustle of building with Tarentine
luxuriousness and Baian health and beauty
. Eustacia felt little less
extravagantly about the place; but she would not sink her independence
to get there.

When Diggory Venn had gone quite away, Eustacia walked to the bank and
looked down the
wild and picturesque vale towards the sun, which was
also in the direction of Wildeve's.
The mist had now so far collapsed
that the tips of the trees and bushes around his house could just be
discerned, as if boring upwards through a vast white cobweb which
cloaked them from the day. There was no doubt that her mind was inclined
thitherward; indefinitely, fancifully--twining and untwining about him
as the single object within her horizon on which dreams might crystallize.

The man who had begun by being merely her amusement, and would never have
been more than her hobby but for
his skill in deserting her at the right
moments
, was now again her desire. Cessation in his love-making had
revivified her love. Such feeling as Eustacia had idly given to Wildeve
was dammed into a flood by Thomasin
. She had used to tease Wildeve, but
that was before another had
favoured him. Often a drop of irony into an
indifferent situation renders the whole piquant.


"I will never give him up--never!" she said impetuously.

The reddleman's hint that rumour might show her to disadvantage had no
permanent terror for Eustacia. She was
as unconcerned at that contingency
as a goddess at a lack of linen.
This did not originate in inherent
shamelessness, but in her living too far from the world to feel the impact
of public opinion. Zenobia in the desert could hardly have cared what
was said about her at Rome. As far as social ethics were concerned

Eustacia approached the savage state, though in emotion she was all the
while an epicure. She had advanced to the secret recesses of sensuousness,
yet had hardly crossed the threshold of conventionality.




XI - The Dishonesty of an Honest Woman



"Mr. Wildeve is not the only man who has asked Thomasin to marry him;
and why should not another have a chance? Mrs. Yeobright, I should be
glad to marry your niece. and would have done it any time these last
two years. There, now it is out, and I have never told anybody before
but herself."

Mrs. Yeobright was not demonstrative, but her eyes involuntarily
glanced
towards his singular though shapely figure.

"Looks are not everything," said the reddleman, noticing the glance.
"There's many a calling that don't bring in so much as mine, if it
comes to money; and perhaps I am not so much worse off than Wildeve.
There is nobody so poor as these professional fellows who have failed;
and if you shouldn't like my redness--well, I am not red by birth,
you know; I only took to this business for a freak; and I might turn
my hand to something else in good time."

-----------------------------------------------------------------

And she went on. But though this conversation did not divert
Thomasin's aunt from her purposed interview with Wildeve, it
made a considerable difference in her mode of conducting that
interview. She thanked God for the weapon which the reddleman
had put into her hands
.

Wildeve was at home when she reached the inn. He showed her
silently into the parlour, and closed the door. Mrs. Yeobright
began--

"I have thought it my duty to call today. A new proposal has
been made to me, which has rather astonished me. It will affect
Thomasin greatly; and I have decided that it should at least
be mentioned to you."

"Yes? What is it?" he said civilly.

"It is, of course, in reference to her future. You may not be
aware that another man has shown himself anxious to marry Thomasin.
Now, though I have not encouraged him yet, I cannot conscientiously
refuse him a chance any longer. I don't wish to be short with you;
but I must be
fair to him and to her."

"Who is the man?" said Wildeve with surprise.

"One who has been in love with her longer than she has with you.
He proposed to her two years ago. At that time she refused him."

"Well?"

"He has seen her lately, and has asked me for permission to pay his
addresses to her. She may not refuse him twice."

"What is his name?"

Mrs. Yeobright declined to say. "He is a man Thomasin likes," she
added, "and one whose constancy she respects at least. It seems to
me that what she refused then she would be glad to get now. She is
much annoyed at her awkward position."

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Of course I should do no such thing," said Wildeve "But they
are not engaged yet. How do you know that Thomasin would accept him?"

"That's a question I have carefully put to myself; and upon the
whole the probabilities are in favour of her
accepting him in time.
I flatter myself that I have some influence over her. She is pliable,
and I can be strong in my recommendations of him."

"And in your disparagement of me at the same time."

"Well, you may depend upon my not praising you," she said drily.
"And if this seems like manoeuvring, you must remember that her
position is peculiar, and that she has been hardly used. I shall also
be helped in making the match by her own desire to escape from the
humiliation of her present state; and a woman's pride in these cases
will lead her a very great way. A little managing may be required to
bring her round; but I am equal to that, provided that you agree to
the one thing indispensable; that is, to make a distinct declaration
that she is to think no more of you as a possible husband. That will
pique her into accepting him."

"I can hardly say that just now, Mrs. Yeobright. It is so sudden."

"And so my whole plan is interfered with! It is very inconvenient that
you refuse to help my family even to the small extent of saying
distinctly you will have nothing to do with us."

Wildeve reflected uncomfortably. "I confess I was not prepared for this,"
he said. "Of course I'll give her up if you wish, if it is necessary.
But I thought I might be her husband."

-----------------------------------------------------------------

At this hour the lonely dwelling was closely blinded and shuttered
from the chill and darkness without. Wildeve's clandestine plan with
her was to take a little gravel in his hand and hold it to the
crevice at the top of the window shutter, which was on the outside,
so that it should fall with a gentle rustle, resembling that of a
mouse, between shutter and glass. This precaution in attracting her
attention was to avoid arousing the suspicions of her grandfather.

The soft words, "I hear; wait for me," in Eustacia's voice from
within told him that she was alone.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"The woman, now she no longer needs me, actually shows off!"
Wildeve's vexation has escaped him in spite of himself.

Eustacia was silent a long while. "You are in the awkward position
of an official who is no longer wanted," she said in a changed tone.

"It seems so. But I have not yet seen Thomasin."

"And that irritates you. Don't deny it, Damon. You are actually
nettled by this slight from an unexpected quarter."

"Well?"

"And you come to get me because you cannot get her. This is
certainly a new position altogether. I am to be a stop-gap."

"Please remember that I proposed the same thing the other day."

Eustacia again remained in a sort of stupefied silence. What curious
feeling was this coming over her? Was it really possible that her
interest in Wildeve had been so entirely the result of antagonism
that the
glory and the dream departed from the man with the first
sound that he was no longer
coveted by her rival? She was, then,
secure of him at last. Thomasin no longer required him. What a
humiliating victory! He loved her best, she thought; and yet--dared
she to murmur such treacherous criticism ever so softly?--what was
the man worth whom a woman
inferior to herself did not value? The
sentiment which lurks more or less in all animate nature--that of
not desiring the undesired of others--was lively as a passion in
the supersubtle, epicurean heart of Eustacia
. Her social superiority
over him, which hitherto had scarcely ever impressed her, became
unpleasantly insistent, and for the first time she felt that she
had stooped in loving him.

"Well, darling, you agree?" said Wildeve.

"If it could be London, or even Budmouth, instead of America," she
murmured languidly. "Well, I will think. It is too great a thing
for me to decide offhand. I wish I hated the heath less--or loved
you more."

"You can be painfully frank. You loved me a month ago warmly enough
to go anywhere with me."

"And you loved Thomasin."

"Yes, perhaps that was where the reason lay," he returned, with
almost a
sneer. "I don't hate her now."

"Exactly. The only thing is that you can no longer get her."

"Come--no taunts, Eustacia, or we shall quarrel. If you don't agree
to go with me, and agree shortly, I shall go by myself."

"Or try Thomasin again. Damon, how strange it seems that you could
have married her or me
indifferently, and only have come to me because
I am--
cheapest! Yes, yes--it is true. There was a time when I should
have exclaimed against a man of that sort, and been quite wild; but
it is all past now."

"Will you go, dearest? Come secretly with me to Bristol, marry me, and
turn our backs upon this dog-hole of England for ever? Say Yes."

-----------------------------------------------------------------


Eustacia watched his shadowy form till it had disappeared. She placed
her hand to her forehead and breathed heavily; and then her rich,
romantic lips parted under that homely impulse--a yawn
. She was
immediately angry at having betrayed even to herself the possible
evanescence of her passion for him. She could not admit at once that
she might have overestimated Wildeve, for to perceive his mediocrity
now was to admit her own great folly heretofore. And the discovery that
she was the owner of a disposition so purely that of the dog in the
manger had something in it which at first made her ashamed
.

The fruit of Mrs. Yeobright's diplomacy was indeed remarkable, though
not as yet of the kind she had anticipated. It had appreciably
influenced Wildeve, but it was influencing Eustacia far more. Her lover
was no longer to her an
exciting man whom many women strove for, and
herself could only
retain by striving with them. He was a superfluity.

She went indoors in that peculiar state of misery which is not exactly
grief, and which especially attends the dawnings of reason in the latter
days of an
ill-judged, transient love. To be conscious that the end of
the dream is
approaching, and yet has not absolutely come, is one of the
most
wearisome as well as the most curious stages along the course
between the beginning of a passion and its end.


Her grandfather had returned, and was busily engaged in pouring some
gallons of newly arrived rum into the square bottles of his square cellaret.
Whenever these home supplies were exhausted he would go to the Quiet Woman,
and, standing with his back to the fire, grog in hand, tell remarkable
stories of how he had lived seven years under the waterline of his ship,
and other naval wonders, to the natives, who hoped too earnestly for a
treat of ale from the teller to exhibit any doubts of his truth.

He had been there this evening. "I suppose you have heard the Egdon news,
Eustacia?" he said, without looking up from the bottles. "The men have been
talking about it at the Woman as if it were of national importance."

"I have heard none," she said.

"Young Clym Yeobright, as they call him, is coming home next week to spend
Christmas with his mother. He is a fine fellow by this time, it seems. I
suppose you remember him?"

"I never saw him in my life."

"Ah, true; he left before you came here. I well remember him as a promising
boy."

"Where has he been living all these years?"

"In that rookery of pomp and vanity, Paris, I believe."

-----------------------------------------------------------------


    Book Second: The Arrival .



I - Tidings of the Comer



    On the fine days at this time of the year, and earlier, certain
ephemeral operations were apt to disturb, in their trifling way,
the
majestic calm of Egdon Heath. They were activities which,
beside those of a town, a village, or even a farm, would have
appeared as
the ferment of stagnation merely, a creeping of the
flesh of somnolence
. But here, away from comparisons, shut in by
the
stable hills, among which mere walking had the novelty of
pageantry, and where any man could
imagine himself to be Adam
without the least difficulty, they
attracted the attention of
every bird within eyeshot, every reptile not yet asleep, and set
the surrounding rabbits
curiously watching from hillocks at a
safe distance.
    The performance was that of bringing together and building into
a stack the furze faggots which Humphrey had been cutting for the
captain's use during the foregoing fine days. The stack was at
the end of the dwelling, and the men engaged in building it were
Humphrey and Sam, the old man looking on.
    It was a fine and quiet afternoon, about three o'clock; but the
winter solstice having stealthily come on, the lowness of the sun
caused the hour to seem later than it actually was, there being
little here to remind an inhabitant that he must unlearn his summer
experience of the sky as a dial
. In the course of many days and
weeks sunrise had advanced its quarters from northeast to southeast,
sunset had receded from northwest to southwest; but Egdon had hardly
heeded the change.
    Eustacia was indoors in the dining-room, which was really more like
a kitchen, having a stone floor and a gaping chimney-corner. The
air was still, and while she lingered a moment here alone sounds of
voices in conversation came to her ears directly down the chimney.
She entered the recess, and, listening, looked
up the old irregular
shaft, with its cavernous hollows, where the smoke blundered about
on its way to the square bit of sky at the top, from which the
daylight struck down with a pallid glare upon the tatters of soot
draping the flue as seaweed drapes a rocky fissure
.


-----------------------------------------------------------------

"Strange notions, has he?" said the old man. "Ah, there's too
much of that sending to school in these days! It only does
harm.
Every gatepost and barn's door you come to is sure to have some
bad word or other chalked upon it by the young rascals--a woman
can hardly
pass for shame sometimes. If they'd never been taught
how to write they wouldn't have been able to
scribble such villainy.
Their fathers couldn't do it, and the country was all the better
for it."

"Now, I should think, Cap'n, that Miss Eustacia had about as much
in her head that comes from books as anybody about here?"

"Perhaps if Miss Eustacia, too, had less romantic nonsense in her
head it would be better for her," said the captain shortly; after
which he walked away.

"I say, Sam," observed Humphrey when the old man was gone, "she
and Clym Yeobright would make
a very pretty pigeon-pair--hey? If
they wouldn't I'll be
dazed! Both of one mind about niceties for
certain, and learned in print, and
always thinking about high
doctrine
--there couldn't be a better couple if they were made o'
purpose.
Clym's family is as good as hers. His father was a farmer,
that's true; but his mother was a sort of lady, as we know. Nothing
would please me better than to see them two man and wife."

"They'd look very natty, arm-in-crook together, and their best
clothes on, whether or no, if he's at all the well-favoured fellow
he used to be."

"They would, Humphrey. Well, I should like to see the chap terrible
much after so many years. If I knew for certain when he was coming
I'd stroll out three or four miles to meet him and help carry
anything for'n; though I suppose he's altered from the boy he was.
They say he can talk French as fast as a maid can eat blackberries;
and if so,
depend upon it we who have stayed at home shall seem no
more than scroff in his eyes."


"Coming across the water to Budmouth by steamer, isn't he?"

"Yes; but how he's coming from Budmouth I don't know."

"That's a bad trouble about his cousin Thomasin. I wonder such a
nice-notioned fellow as Clym likes to come home into it. What a
nunnywatch we were in, to be sure, when we heard they weren't married
at all, after singing to 'em as man and wife that night! Be dazed if
I should like a relation of mine to have been made such a fool of by
a man. It makes the family look small."

"Yes. Poor maid, her heart has ached enough about it. Her health is
suffering from it, I hear, for she will bide entirely indoors. We
never see her out now,
scampering over the furze with a face as red
as a rose, as she used to do."


-----------------------------------------------------------------


    While the furze-gatherers had desultorily conversed thus Eustacia's
face gradually bent to the hearth in a profound reverie, her toe
unconsciously tapping the dry turf which lay burning at her feet.
    The subject of their discourse had been keenly interesting to her.
A young and clever man was coming into that lonely heath from, of all
contrasting places in the world, Paris. It was like a man coming from
heaven. More
singular still, the heathmen had instinctively coupled
her and this man together in their minds as a pair born for each other.

    That five minutes of overhearing furnished Eustacia with visions
enough to
fill the whole blank afternoon. Such sudden alternations
from mental vacuity do sometimes occur thus quietly.
She could never
have believed in the morning that
her colourless inner world would
before night become as animated as water under a microscope
, and that
without the arrival of a single visitor. The words of Sam and Humphrey
on the harmony between the unknown and herself had on her mind the
effect of the
invading Bard's prelude in the Castle of Indolence, at
which
myriads of imprisoned shapes arose where had previously appeared
the stillness of a void
.




    Beyond the irregular carpet of grass was a row of white palings,
which marked the verge of the heath in this latitude. They showed upon
the dusky scene that they bordered as distinctly as white lace on velvet.
Behind the white palings was a little garden; behind the garden an old,
irregular, thatched house, facing the heath, and commanding a full view
of the valley. This was the obscure, removed spot to which was about to
return a man whose latter life had been passed in the French capital--
the centre and vortex of the fashionable world.



II- The People at Blooms-End Make Ready



    The loft was lighted by a semicircular hole, through which
the pigeons
crept to their lodgings in the same high quarters of
the premises; and
from this hole the sun shone in a bright yellow
patch upon the figure of the maiden as she knelt and plunged her
naked arms into the soft brown fern
, which, from its abundance, was
used on Egdon in
packing away stores of all kinds. The pigeons were
flying about her head with the greatest
unconcern, and the face of
her aunt was just
visible above the floor of the loft, lit by a few
stray motes of light
, as she stood halfway up the ladder, looking
at a spot into which she was not climber enough to
venture.

"Now a few russets, Tamsin. He used to like them almost as well as
ribstones."

Thomasin turned and rolled aside the fern from another nook, where
more
mellow fruit greeted her with its ripe smell. Before picking
them out she stopped a moment.

"Dear Clym, I wonder how your face looks now?" she said, gazing
abstractedly at the pigeon-hole. which admitted the sunlight so
directly upon her brown hair and transparent tissues that it almost
seemed to shine through her.


"If he could have been dear to you in another way," said Mrs.
Yeobright from the ladder, "this might have been a happy meeting."

"Is there any use in saying what can do no good, Aunt?"

"Yes," said her aunt, with some warmth. "To thoroughly fill the air
with the past misfortune, so that other girls may take warning and
keep clear of it."


Thomasin
lowered her face to the apples again. "I am a warning to
others, just as thieves and drunkards and gamblers are," she said
in a
low voice. "What a class to belong to! Do I really belong to
them? 'Tis
absurd! Yet why, Aunt, does everybody keep on making me
think that I do, by the way they
behave towards me? Why don't people
judge me by my acts? Now, look at me as I kneel here, picking up
these apples--do I look like a
lost woman?...I wish all good women
were as good as I!" she
added vehemently.

"Strangers don't see you as I do," said Mrs. Yeobright; "they judge
from false report. Well, it is a silly job, and I am partly to blame."

"How quickly a rash thing can be done!" replied the girl. Her lips
were quivering, and tears so crowded themselves into her eyes that
she could hardly
distinguish apples from fern as she continued
industriously searching to hide her weakness.

----------------------------------------------------------------


    Thomasin came down when the apples were collected, and together
they went through the white palings to the heath beyond. The open
hills were
airy and clear, and the remote atmosphere appeared, as it
often appears on a
fine winter day, in distinct planes of illumination
independently toned, the rays which lit the nearer tracts of landscape
streaming visibly across those further off; a stratum of ensaffroned
light was imposed on a stratum of deep blue, and behind these lay still
remoter scenes wrapped in frigid grey.

    They reached the place where the hollies grew, which was in a
conical pit, so that the tops of the trees were not much above the general
level of the ground. Thomasin stepped up into a fork of one of the bushes,
as she had done under happier circumstances on many similar occasions, and
with a small chopper that they had brought she began to lop off the heavily
berried
boughs.
    "Don't scratch your face," said her aunt, who stood at the edge of
the pit, regarding the girl as she held on amid the glistening green and
scarlet masses of the tree.


----------------------------------------------------------------

"What did you tell him?"

"That he was standing in the way of another lover of yours."

"Aunt," said Thomasin, with round eyes, "what do you mean?"

"Don't be alarmed; it was my duty. I can say no more about it now,
but when it is over I will tell you exactly what I said, and why I
said it."

Thomasin was perforce content.

"And you will keep the secret of my would-be marriage from Clym for
the present?" she next asked.

"I have given my word to. But what is the use of it? He must soon
know what has happened. A mere look at your face will show him that
something is wrong."

Thomasin turned and regarded her aunt from the tree. "Now, hearken
to me," she said,
her delicate voice expanding into firmness by a
force which was other than physical.
"Tell him nothing. If he finds
out that I am not worthy to be his cousin, let him. But, since he
loved me once, we will not pain him by telling him my trouble too
soon. The air is full of the story, I know; but gossips will not
dare to speak of it to him for the first few days. His closeness to
me is the very thing that will hinder the tale from reaching him
early. If I am not made safe from sneers in a week or two I will
tell him myself."

----------------------------------------------------------------



III - How a Little Sound Produced a Great Dream



    They went by her, and at the moment of passing appeared
to discern her dusky form. There came to her ears in a masculine
voice, "Good night!
"
    She murmured a reply, glided by them, and turned round. She
could not, for a moment, believe that chance, unrequested, had
brought into her presence the soul of the house she had gone to
inspect, the man without whom her inspection would not have been
thought of.
    She strained her eyes to see them, but was unable. Such was
her intentness, however, that it seemed as if her ears were
performing the functions of seeing as well as hearing.




    It was to the alternating voice that gave out about one-tenth
of them--the voice that had wished her good night. Sometimes this
throat uttered Yes, sometimes it uttered No; sometimes it made
inquiries about a time worn denizen of the place. Once it surprised
her notions by
remarking upon the friendliness and geniality
written in the faces of the hills around.
    The three voices passed on, and decayed and died out upon her
ear
. Thus much had been granted her; and all besides withheld. No
event could have been more exciting. During the greater part of the
afternoon she had been entrancing herself by imagining the
fascination which must attend a man come direct from beautiful
Paris--
laden with its atmosphere, familiar with its charms. And
this man had greeted her.
    With the departure of the figures the profuse articulations of
the women wasted away from her memory; but the accents of the other
stayed on. Was there anything in the voice of Mrs. Yeobright's son--
for Clym it was--
startling as a sound? No; it was simply comprehensive.
All
emotional things were possible to the speaker of that "good night."
Eustacia's imagination
supplied the rest--except the solution to one
riddle. What could the tastes of that man be who saw
friendliness and
geniality in these shaggy hills?
    On such occasions as this a thousand ideas pass through a highly
charged woman's head; and they indicate themselves on her face; but
the changes, though
actual, are minute. Eustacia's features went through
a
rhythmical succession of them. She glowed; remembering the mendacity
of the imagination, she flagged; then she freshened; then she fired;
then she cooled again. It was a cycle of aspects, produced by a cycle of
visions.



----------------------------------------------------------------

"Why is it that we are never friendly with the Yeobrights?" she
said, coming forward and stretching her soft hands over the warmth.
"I wish we were. They seem to be very nice people."

"Be hanged if I know why," said the captain. "I liked the old man
well enough, though he was as rough as a hedge. But you would never
have cared to go there, even if you might have, I am well sure."

"Why shouldn't I?"

"Your town tastes would find them far too countrified. They sit in
the kitchen, drink mead and elder-wine, and sand the floor to keep
it clean. A sensible way of life; but how would you like it?"


----------------------------------------------------------------


    That night was an eventful one to Eustacia's brain, and one
which she hardly ever forgot. She
dreamt a dream; and few human
beings, from Nebuchadnezzar to the Swaffham tinker, ever dreamt a
more
remarkable one. Such an elaborately developed, perplexing,
exciting dream was certainly never dreamed by a girl in Eustacia's
situation before.
It had as many ramifications as the Cretan labyrinth,
as many fluctuations as the northern lights, as much colour as a
parterre in June
, and was as crowded with figures as a coronation.
To Queen Scheherazade the dream might have seemed not far
removed
from commonplace;
and to a girl just returned from all the courts of
Europe it might have seemed not more than interesting. But amid the
circumstances of Eustacia's life it was as wonderful as a dream could
be.
    There was, however, gradually evolved from its transformation
scenes a less extravagant episode, in which the heath dimly appeared
behind the general brilliancy of the action. She was dancing to
wondrous music, and her partner was the man in silver armour who had
accompanied her through the previous fantastic changes, the visor of
his helmet being closed.
The mazes of the dance were ecstatic. Soft
whispering came into her ear from under the radiant helmet, and she
felt like a woman in Paradise. Suddenly these two wheeled out from
the mass of dancers, dived into one of the pools of the heath, and
came out somewhere into an iridescent hollow, arched with rainbows.
"It must be here," said the voice by her side, and blushingly
looking up she saw him removing his casque to kiss her. At that
moment there was a cracking noise, and his figure fell into fragments
like a pack of cards.





    When she became cooler she perceived that many of the phases
of the dream had naturally arisen out of the images and fancies of
the day before. But this detracted little from its interest, which
lay in the excellent fuel it provided for newly kindled fervour.
She was at the modulating point between indifference and love, at
the stage called "having a fancy for." It occurs once in the history
of the most gigantic passions, and it is a period when they are in
the hands of the weakest will.
    The perfervid woman was by this time half in love with a vision.
The fantastic nature of her passion, which lowered her as an intellect,
raised her as a soul
. If she had had a little more self-control she
would have
attenuated the emotion to nothing by sheer reasoning, and
so have
killed it off. If she had had a little less pride she might
have gone and
circumambulated the Yeobrights' premises at Blooms-End
at any maidenly sacrifice until she had seen him. But Eustacia did
neither of these things. She acted as the most exemplary might have
acted, being so influenced; she took an airing twice or thrice a day
upon the Egdon hills, and kept her eyes employed.
    The first occasion passed, and he did not come that way.
    She promenaded a second time, and was again the sole wanderer there.
    The third time there was a dense fog; she looked around, but without
much hope. Even if he had been walking within twenty yards of her she
could not have seen him.
    At the fourth attempt to encounter him it began to rain in torrents,
and she turned back.
    The fifth sally was in the afternoon; it was fine, and she remained
out long, walking to the very top of the valley in which Blooms-End lay.
She saw the white paling about half a mile off; but he did not appear.
It was almost with heart-sickness that she came home and with a sense of
shame at her weakness. She resolved to look for the man from Paris no
more.
    But Providence is nothing if not coquettish; and no sooner had Eustacia
formed this resolve than the opportunity came which, while sought, had
been entirely withholden.



IV - Eustacia Is Led on to an Adventure



    The customary expedient of provincial girls and men in such
circumstances is churchgoing. In an ordinary village or country town
one can
safely calculate that, either on Christmas day or the Sunday
contiguous, any native home for the holidays, who has not through age
or
ennui lost the appetite for seeing and being seen, will turn up in
some pew or other, shining with hope, self-consciousness, and new
clothes.
Thus the congregation on Christmas morning is mostly a Tussaud
collection of celebrities who have been born in the neighbourhood
.
Hither the mistress, left neglected at home all the year, can steal and
observe the development of the returned lover who has forgotten her,
and think as she watches him over her prayer book that he may throb with
a renewed fidelity when novelties have lost their charm.
    But these tender schemes were not feasible among the scattered
inhabitants of Egdon Heath
. In name they were parishioners, but virtually
they belonged to no parish at all. People who came to these few isolated
houses to keep Christmas with their friends remained in their friends'
chimney-corners
drinking mead and other comforting liquors till they left
again for good and all. Rain, snow, ice, mud everywhere around, they did
not care to
trudge two or three miles to sit wet-footed and splashed to
the nape of their necks among those who, though in some measure neighbours,
lived close to the church, and entered it
clean and dry. Eustacia knew it
was ten to one that Clym Yeobright would go to no church at all during his
few days of leave, and that it would be a waste of labour for her to go
driving the pony and gig over a bad road in hope to see him there.




    For mummers and mumming Eustacia had the greatest contempt. The
mummers themselves were not afflicted with any such feeling for their
art, though at the same time they were not enthusiastic. A traditional
pastime is to be distinguished from a mere revival in no more striking
feature than in this, that while in the revival all is excitement and
fervour, the survival is carried on with a
stolidity and absence of stir
which sets one wondering why a thing that is done so
perfunctorily should
be kept up at all. Like Balaam and other unwilling prophets, the agents
seem moved by an inner compulsion to say and do their allotted parts whether
they will or no.This
unweeting manner of performance is the true ring by
which,
in this refurbishing age, a fossilized survival may be known from a
spurious reproduction.

    The piece was the well-known play of Saint George, and all who were
behind the scenes assisted in the preparations, including the women of each
household. Without the co-operation of sisters and sweethearts the dresses
were likely to be a failure; but on the other hand, this class of assistance
was not without its drawbacks. The girls could never be brought to respect
tradition in
designing and decorating the armour; they insisted on attaching
loops and bows of silk and velvet in any situation
pleasing to their taste.
Gorget, gusset, basinet, cuirass, gauntlet, sleeve, all alike in the view of
these feminine eyes were
practicable spaces whereon to sew scraps of
fluttering colour.
    It might be that Joe, who fought on the side of Christendom, had a
sweetheart, and that Jim, who fought on the side of the Moslem, had one
likewise. During the making of the costumes it would come to the knowledge
of Joe's sweetheart that Jim's was putting brilliant silk scallops at the
bottom of her lover's surcoat, in addition to the ribbons of the visor, the
bars of which, being invariably formed of coloured strips about half an inch
wide hanging before the face, were mostly of that material. Joe's sweetheart
straight-way placed brilliant silk on the scallops of the hem in question,
and, going a little further, added ribbon tufts to the shoulder pieces. Jim's,
not to be outdone, would affix bows and rosettes everywhere.




    To dissipate in some trifling measure her abiding sense of
the
murkiness of human life she went to the "linhay" or lean-to
shed, which formed the root-store of their dwelling and abutted on
the fuelhouse. Here was a small rough hole in the mud wall,
originally made for pigeons, through which the interior of the next
shed could be viewed. A light came from it now; and Eustacia stepped
upon a stool to look in upon the scene.




    Eustacia's face flagged. There was to be a party at the
Yeobrights'; she, naturally, had nothing to do with it. She was a
stranger to all such local gatherings, and had always held them as
scarcely appertaining to her sphere. But had she been going, what
an opportunity would have been afforded her of seeing the man whose
influence was
penetrating her like summer sun! To increase that
influence was
coveted excitement; to cast it off might be to regain
serenity; to leave it as it stood was tantalizing.




    Eustacia had occasionally heard the part recited before. When
the lad ended she began, precisely in the same words, and ranted on
without hitch or divergence till she too reached the end. It was the
same thing, yet how different. Like in form, it had the added softness
and finish of a
Raffaelle after Perugino, which, while faithfully
reproducing the original subject, entirely distances the original art.

Charley's eyes rounded with surprise. "Well, you be a clever lady!"
he said, in admiration. "I've been three weeks learning mine."

----------------------------------------------------------------

"You know what you forbade me at the Maypoling, miss," murmured
the lad, without looking at her, and still stroking the firedog's
head.

"Yes," said Eustacia, with a little more hauteur. "You wanted to
join hands with me in the ring, if I recollect?"

"Half an hour of that, and I'll agree, miss."

Eustacia regarded the youth steadfastly. He was three years younger
than herself, but apparently not backward for his age. "Half an
hour of what?" she said, though she guessed what.

"Holding your hand in mine."

She was silent. "Make it a quarter of an hour," she said

"Yes, Miss Eustacia--I will, if I may kiss it too. A quarter of an
hour. And I'll swear to do the best I can to let you take my place
without anybody knowing. Don't you think somebody might know your
tongue, miss?"

"It is possible. But I will put a pebble in my mouth to make is
less likely.

----------------------------------------------------------------


    Eustacia felt more and more interest in life. Here was something
to
do: here was some one to see, and a charmingly adventurous way to see
him. "Ah," she said to herself, "want of an object to
live for--that's
all is the matter with me!"
    Eustacia's manner was as a rule of a
slumberous sort, her passions
being of the massive rather than the vivacious kind
. But when aroused she
would make a
dash which, just for the time, was not unlike the move of a
naturally lively person.


----------------------------------------------------------------

"The payment. It is quite ready. I am as good as my word."

She leant against the door-post, and gave him her hand. Charley took
it in both his own with a tenderness beyond description
, unless it
was like that of a child
holding a captured sparrow.

"Why, there's a glove on it!" he said in a
deprecating way.

"I have been walking," she observed.

"But, miss!"

"Well--it is
hardly fair." She pulled off the glove, and gave him her
bare hand.

They stood together minute after minute, without further speech, each
looking at the
blackening scene, and each thinking his and her own
thoughts.

"I think I won't use it all up tonight," said Charley
devotedly, when
six or eight minutes had been passed by him
caressing her hand. "May I
have the other few minutes another time?"

"As you like," said she without the
least emotion. "But it must be
over in a week.

----------------------------------------------------------------


    Charley did as commanded, and she struck the light revealing
herself to be
changed in sex, brilliant in colours, and armed from
top to toe. Perhaps she
quailed a little under Charley's vigorous gaze,
but whether any
shyness at her male attire appeared upon her countenance
could not be seen by reason of the strips of ribbon which used to cover
the face in mumming costumes, representing the barred visor of the
mediaeval helmet.

"It fits pretty well," she said, looking down at the white
overalls, "except that the tunic, or whatever you call it, is long in
the sleeve. The bottom of the overalls I can turn up inside. Now pay
attention."

    Eustacia then proceeded in her delivery, striking the sword against
the staff or lance at the
minatory phrases, in the orthodox mumming
manner, and
strutting up and down. Charley seasoned his admiration with
criticism of the gentlest kind, for the touch of Eustacia's hand yet
remained with him.



----------------------------------------------------------------

"Yes, miss. But I think I'll have one minute more of what I
am owed, if you don't mind."

Eustacia gave him her hand as before.

"One minute," she said, and counted on till she reached seven
or eight minutes. Hand and person she then withdrew to a
distance of several feet, and
recovered some of her old dignity.
The contract
completed, she raised between them a barrier
impenetrable as a wall.

"There, 'tis all gone; and I didn't mean quite all," he said,
with a sigh.

"You had good measure," said she, turning away.

"Yes, miss. Well, 'tis over, and now I'll get home-along."

----------------------------------------------------------------




V - Through the Moonlight



    On Egdon there was no absolute hour of the day. The time at any
moment was a number of varying doctrines professed by the different
hamlets, some of them having originally grown up from a common root,
and then become divided by secession, some having been alien from the
beginning.
West Egdon believed in Blooms-End time, East Egdon in the
time of the Quiet Woman Inn. Grandfer Cantle's watch had numbered many
followers in years gone by, but since he had grown older faiths were
shaken. Thus, the mummers having gathered hither from scattered points
each came with his own tenets on early and late; and they waited a
little longer as a compromise.

    Eustacia had watched the assemblage through the hole; and seeing
that now was the proper moment to enter, she went from the "linhay"
and boldly pulled the bobbin of the fuelhouse door. Her grandfather
was safe at the Quiet Woman.

"Here's Charley at last! How late you be, Charley."

"'Tis not Charley," said the Turkish Knight from within his visor.
"'Tis a cousin of Miss Vye's, come to take Charley's place from curiosity.
He was obliged to go and look for the heath-croppers that have got
into the meads, and I agreed to take his place, as he knew he couldn't
come back here again tonight. I know the part as well as he."
    Her graceful gait, elegant figure, and dignified manner in general
won the mummers to the opinion that they had gained by the exchange, if
the newcomer were perfect in his part.




    There was a slight hoarfrost that night, and the moon, though
not more than half full,
threw a spirited and enticing brightness upon
the fantastic figures of the mumming band
, whose plumes and ribbons
rustled in their walk like autumn leaves. Their path was not over
Rainbarrow now, but down a valley which left that
ancient elevation a
little to the east. The bottom of the vale was green to a width of ten
yards or thereabouts, and
the shining facets of frost upon the blades
of grass seemed to move on with the shadows of those they surrounded.

The masses of furze and heath to the right and left were dark as ever;
a mere half-moon was powerless to silver such sable features as theirs.
    Half-an-hour of walking and talking brought them to the spot in
the valley where the grass riband widened and led down to the front of
the house. At sight of the place Eustacia who had felt a few passing
doubts during her walk with the youths, again was glad that the adventure
had been
undertaken. She had come out to see a man who might possibly
have the power to deliver her soul from a most deadly oppression. What was
Wildeve? Interesting, but inadequate. Perhaps she would see a sufficient
hero tonight.
    As they drew nearer to the front of the house the mummers became
aware that music and dancing were
briskly flourishing within. Every now
and then
a long low note from the serpent, which was the chief wind
instrument played at these times,
advanced further into the heath than
the thin treble part, and reached their ears alone
; and next a more than
usual loud
tread from a dancer would come the same way. With nearer
approach
these fragmentary sounds became pieced together, and were found
to be the
salient points of the tune called "Nancy's Fancy."
    He was there, of course. Who was she that he danced with? Perhaps
some unknown woman, far beneath herself in culture, was
by the most subtle
of lures sealing his fate this very instant. To dance with a man is to
concentrate a twelvemonth's regulation fire upon him in the fragment of an
hour.
To pass to courtship without acquaintance, to pass to marriage
without courtship, is a skipping of terms reserved for those alone who
tread
this
royal road. She would see how his heart lay by keen observation of them
all.

    The enterprising lady followed the mumming company through the gate in
the white paling, and stood before the open porch. The house was encrusted
with heavy thatchings, which dropped between the upper windows; the front,
upon which the moonbeams directly played, had originally been white; but a
huge pyracanth now darkened the greater portion.
    It became at once evident that the dance was proceeding immediately within
the surface of the door, no apartment
intervening. The brushing of skirts and
elbows, sometimes the
bumping of shoulders, could be heard against the very
panels.
Eustacia, though living within two miles of the place, had never seen
the interior of this quaint old habitation. Between Captain Vye and the
Yeobrights there had never existed much acquaintance, the former having come
as a stranger and purchased the long-empty house at Mistover Knap not long
before the death of Mrs. Yeobright's husband; and with that event and the
departure of her son such friendship as had grown up became quite broken off.

"Is there no passage inside the door, then?" asked Eustacia as they stood
within the porch.

"No," said the lad who played the Saracen. "The door opens right upon
the front sitting-room, where the spree's going on."

"So that we cannot open the door without stopping the dance."

"That's it. Here we must bide till they have done, for they always bolt
the back door after dark."

"They won't be much longer," said Father Christmas.

    This assertion, however, was hardly borne out by the event. Again the
instruments
ended the tune; again they recommenced with as much fire and
pathos as if it were the first strain. The air was now that one without any
particular beginning, middle, or end, which perhaps, among all the dances
which
throng an inspired fiddler's fancy, best conveys the idea of the
interminable--the celebrated "Devil's Dream." The fury of personal movement
that was
kindled by the fury of the notes could be approximately imagined
by these outsiders under the moon, from the
occasional kicks of toes and
heels against the door, whenever the
whirl round had been of more than
customary velocity.
    The first five minutes of listening was interesting enough to the
mummers. The five minutes extended to ten minutes, and these to a quarter
of an hour; but no signs of ceasing were audible in the lively "Dream." The
bumping against the door, the laughter, the stamping, were all as vigorous
as ever, and the pleasure in being outside
lessened considerably.


----------------------------------------------------------------

"Why not go in, dancing or no? They sent for us," said the Saracen.

"Certainly not," said Eustacia authoritatively, as she paced smartly
up and down from door to gate to warm herself. "We should burst into
the middle of them and stop the dance, and that would be unmannerly."

"He thinks himself somebody because he has had a bit more schooling
than we," said the Doctor.

"You may go to the deuce!" said Eustacia.

There was a whispered conversation between three or four of them, and
one turned to her.

"Will you tell us one thing?" he said, not without gentleness. "Be
you Miss Vye? We think you must be."

"You may think what you like," said Eustacia slowly. "But honourable
lads will not tell tales upon a lady."

"We'll say nothing, miss. That's upon our honour."

"Thank you," she replied.

At this moment the fiddles finished off with a screech, and the serpent
emitted a last note that nearly lifted the roof. When, from the
comparative quiet within, the mummers judged that the dancers had taken
their seats, Father Christmas advanced, lifted the latch, and put his
head inside the door.

"Ah, the mummers, the mummers!" cried several guests at once. "Clear a
space for the mummers."

----------------------------------------------------------------




    "Here come I, a Turkish Knight,
    Who learnt in Turkish land to fight;
    I'll fight this man with courage bold:
    If his blood's hot I'll make it cold!"

During her declamation Eustacia held her head erect, and spoke as
roughly as she could, feeling pretty secure from observation. But
the concentration upon her part necessary to prevent discovery, the
newness of the scene, the shine of the candles, and the confusing
effect upon her vision of the
ribboned visor which hid her features,
left her absolutely unable to
perceive who were present as spectators.
On the further side of a table bearing candles she could faintly
discern faces, and that was all.

Meanwhile Jim Starks as the Valiant Soldier had come forward, and,
with a glare upon the Turk, replied--

    "If, then, thou art that Turkish Knight,
    Draw out thy sword, and let us fight!"

And fight they did; the issue of the combat being that the Valiant
Soldier was slain by a preternaturally inadequate thrust from Eustacia,
Jim, in his
ardour for genuine histrionic art, coming down like a log
upon the stone floor with force enough to
dislocate his shoulder.




    The Doctor now entered, restored the Knight by giving him a
draught from the bottle which he carried, and the fight was again
resumed, the Turk sinking by degrees until quite overcome--dying as
hard in this
venerable drama as he is said to do at the present day.
    This
gradual sinking to the earth was, in fact, one reason why
Eustacia had thought that the part of the Turkish Knight, though not
the shortest, would
suit her best. A direct fall from upright to horizontal,
which was the end of the other fighting characters, was not an
elegant or
decorous part for a girl. But it was easy to die like a Turk, by a dogged
decline.




VI - The Two Stand Face to Face



    The room had been arranged with a view to the dancing, the
large oak table having been moved back till it stood as a breastwork
to the fireplace. At each end, behind, and in the chimney-corner were
grouped the guests, many of them being warm-faced and panting, among
whom Eustacia cursorily recognized some well-to-do persons from beyond
the heath. Thomasin, as she had expected, was not visible, and Eustacia
recollected that a light had shone from an upper window when they were
outside--the window, probably, of Thomasin's room. A nose, chin, hands,
knees, and toes
projected from the seat within the chimney opening,
which members she found to
unite in the person of Grandfer Cantle, Mrs.
Yeobright's occasional assistant in the garden, and therefore one of the
invited. The smoke went up from an Etna of peat in front of him, played
round the notches of the chimney-crook,
struck against the salt-box, and
got lost among the flitches
.
    Another part of the room soon riveted her gaze. At the other side
of the chimney stood the settle, which is the necessary supplement to a
fire so open that nothing less than a strong breeze will carry up the smoke.
It is, to the hearths of old-fashioned cavernous fireplaces, what the east
belt of trees is to the
exposed country estate, or the north wall to the
garden.
Outside the settle candles gutter, locks of hair wave, young women
shiver, and old men sneeze. Inside is Paradise. Not a symptom of a draught
disturbs the air; the sitters' backs are as warm as their faces, and songs
and old tales are drawn from the occupants by the comfortable heat, like fruit
from melon plants in a frame.

    It was, however, not with those who sat in the settle that Eustacia was
concerned. A face showed itself with
marked distinctness against the dark-
tanned
wood of the upper part. The owner, who was leaning against the settle's
outer end, was Clement Yeobright, or Clym, as he was called here; she knew it
could be nobody else.
The spectacle constituted an area of two feet in
Rembrandt's intensest manner.
A strange power in the lounger's appearance
lay in the fact that, though his whole figure was visible, the observer's eye
was only aware of his face.

    To one of middle age the countenance was that of a young man, though
a youth might hardly have seen any necessity for the term of immaturity. But
it was really one of those faces which convey less the idea of so many years
as its age than of
so much experience as its store. The number of their years
may have adequately summed up Jared, Mahalaleel, and the rest of the
antediluvians, but the age of a modern man is to be measured by the intensity
of his history
.     The face was well shaped, even excellently. But the mind
within was beginning to use it as a mere waste tablet whereon to trace its
idiosyncrasies as they developed themselves. The beauty here visible would in
no long time be ruthlessly over-run by its parasite, thought, which might just
as well have fed upon a plainer exterior where there was nothing it could harm.
Had Heaven preserved Yeobright from a wearing habit of meditation, people
would have said, "A handsome man." Had his brain unfolded under sharper
contours they would have said, "A thoughtful man." But an inner strenuousness
was preying upon an outer symmetry, and they rated his look as singular.

    Hence people who
began by beholding him ended by perusing him. His
countenance was overlaid with legible meanings
. Without being thought-worn he
yet had certain marks
derived from a perception of his surroundings, such as
are not unfrequently found on men at the end of the four or five years of
endeavour which follow the close of
placid pupilage. He already showed that
thought is a disease of flesh, and indirectly bore evidence that ideal physical
beauty is incompatible with emotional development and a full recognition of
the coil of things. Mental luminousness must be fed with the oil of life, even
though there is already a physical need for it; and the pitiful sight of two
demands on one supply was just showing itself here.

    When standing before certain men
the philosopher regrets that thinkers
are but perishable tissue, the artist that perishable tissue has to think.
Thus
to deplore, each from his point of view, the
mutually destructive
interdependence of spirit and flesh
would have been instinctive with these in
critically
observing Yeobright.
    As for his look, it was a
natural cheerfulness striving against depression
from without, and not quite
succeeding. The look suggested isolation, but it
revealed
something more. As is usual with bright natures, the deity that lies
ignominiously chained within an ephemeral human carcase shone out of him
like a ray.

    The effect upon Eustacia was palpable. The extraordinary pitch of
excitement that she had reached beforehand would, indeed, have caused her
to be influenced by the most commonplace man. She was troubled at
Yeobright's presence.


----------------------------------------------------------------

"Well, I should have come earlier," Mr. Fairway said and paused to
look along the beam of the ceiling for a nail to hang his hat on; but,
finding his accustomed one to be occupied by the mistletoe, and all
the nails in the walls to be burdened with bunches of holly, he at
last relieved himself of the hat by ticklishly balancing it between
the candle-box and the head of the clock-case
. "I should have come
earlier, ma'am," he resumed, with a more composed air, "but I know
what parties be, and how there's none too much room in folks' houses
at such times, so I thought I wouldn't come till you'd got settled a
bit."

"And I thought so too, Mrs. Yeobright," said Christian earnestly,
"but Father there was so eager that he had no manners at all, and
left home almost afore 'twas dark. I told him 'twas barely decent in
a' old man to come so oversoon; but words be wind."

"Klk! I wasn't going to bide waiting about, till half the game was
over! I'm as light as a kite when anything's going on!" crowed
Grandfer Cantle from the chimneyseat.

Fairway had meanwhile concluded a critical gaze at Yeobright. "Now,
you may not believe it," he said to the rest of the room, "but I
should never have knowed this gentleman if I had met him anywhere
off his own he'th--he's altered so much."

"You too have altered, and for the better, I think Timothy," said
Yeobright, surveying the firm figure of Fairway.

"Master Yeobright, look me over too. I have altered for the better,
haven't I, hey?" said Grandfer Cantle, rising and placing himself
something above half a foot from Clym's eye, to induce the most
searching criticism.


"To be sure we will," said Fairway, taking the candle and moving it
over the surface of the Grandfer's countenance, the subject of his
scrutiny irradiating himself with light and pleasant smiles, and
giving himself jerks of juvenility.


"You haven't changed much," said Yeobright.

"If there's any difference, Grandfer is younger," appended Fairway
decisively.

"And yet not my own doing, and I feel no pride in it," said the
pleased ancient
. "But I can't be cured of my vagaries; them I plead
guilty to.
Yes, Master Cantle always was that, as we know. But I am
nothing by the side of you, Mister Clym."

"Nor any o' us," said Humphrey, in a low rich tone of admiration,
not intended to reach anybody's ears.

"Really, there would have been nobody here who could have stood as
decent second to him, or even third, if I hadn't been a soldier in
the Bang-up Locals (as we was called for our smartness)," said Grandfer
Cantle. "And even as 'tis we all look a little scammish beside him.
But in the year four 'twas said there wasn't a finer figure in the
whole South Wessex than I, as I looked when dashing past the shop-
winders with the rest of our company on the day we ran out o'
Budmouth because it was thoughted that Boney had landed round the
point. There was I, straight as a young poplar, wi' my firelock,
and my bagnet, and my spatterdashes, and my stock sawing my jaws
off, and
my accoutrements sheening like the seven stars! Yes,
neighbours, I was a pretty sight in my soldiering days. You ought
to have seen me in four!"


----------------------------------------------------------------

"But you will surely have some?" said Clym to the Turkish Knight, as he
stood before that warrior, tray in hand. She had refused, and still sat
covered, only the sparkle of her eyes being visible between the ribbons
which
covered her face.

"None, thank you," replied Eustacia.

"He's quite a youngster," said the Saracen apologetically, "and you must
excuse him. He's not one of the old set, but have jined us because
t'other couldn't come."

"But he will take something?" persisted Yeobright. "Try a glass of mead
or elder-wine."

"Yes, you had better try that," said the Saracen. "It will keep the cold
out going home-along."

Though Eustacia could not eat without uncovering her face she could drink
easily enough beneath her disguise. The elder-wine was accordingly accepted,
and the glass vanished inside the ribbons.

    At moments during this performance Eustacia was half in doubt about
the
security of her position; yet it had a fearful joy. A series of attentions
paid to her, and yet not to her but to some imaginary person, by the first
man she had ever been
inclined to adore, complicated her emotions
indescribably. She had loved him partly because he was exceptional in this
scene, partly because she had
determined to love him, chiefly because she
was in
desperate need of loving somebody after wearying of Wildeve.
Believing that she must love him in spite of herself, she had been
influenced after the fashion of the second Lord Lyttleton and other
persons, who have
dreamed that they were to die on a certain day, and by
stress of a
morbid imagination have actually brought about that event.
Once let a maiden admit the possibility of her being
stricken with love
for someone at a certain hour and place, and the thing is as good as done.
    Did anything at this moment suggest to Yeobright the sex of the
creature whom that
fantastic guise inclosed, how extended was her scope
both in feeling and in making others feel, and how far her compass
transcended
that of her companions in the band? When the disguised
Queen of Love
appeared before Aeneas a preternatural perfume accompanied
her presence
and betrayed her quality. If such a mysterious emanation ever
was projected by the emotions of an earthly woman upon their object
, it must
have
signified Eustacia's presence to Yeobright now. He looked at her
wistfully, then seemed to fall into a reverie, as if he were forgetting
what he observed. The momentary situation ended, he passed on, and
Eustacia
sipped her wine without knowing what she drank. The man for whom
she had pre-determined to
nourish a passion went into the small room, and
a cross it to the further extremity.





    When Clym passed down the pantry her eyes followed him in the
gloom which prevailed there. At the remote end was a door which, just as
he was about to open it for himself, was opened by somebody within;
and light streamed forth.
    The person was Thomasin, with a candle, looking anxious, pale, and
interesting. Yeobright appeared glad to see her, and pressed her hand.
"That's right, Tamsie," he said heartily, as though recalled to
himself by the sight of her, "you have decided to come down. I am
glad of it."

"Hush--no, no," she said quickly. "I only came to speak to you."

"But why not join us?"

"I cannot. At least I would rather not. I am not well enough, and we
shall have plenty of time together now you are going to be home a good
long holiday."

"It isn't nearly so pleasant without you. Are you really ill?"

"Just a little, my old cousin--here," she said, playfully sweeping her
hand across her heart.

"Ah, Mother should have asked somebody else to be present tonight,
perhaps?"

"O no, indeed. I merely stepped down, Clym, to ask you--" Here he
followed her through the doorway into the private room beyond, and, the
door closing, Eustacia and the mummer who sat next to her, the only
other witness of the performance, saw and heard no more.

    The heat flew to Eustacia's head and cheeks. She instantly guessed
that Clym, having been home only these two or three days, had not as yet
been made
acquainted with Thomasin's painful situation with regard to Wildeve;
and seeing her living there just as she had been living before he left
home, he
naturally suspected nothing. Eustacia felt a wild jealousy of
Thomasin on the instant. Though Thomasin might possibly have
tender
sentiments towards another man as yet, how long could they be expected to
last when she was shut up here with this
interesting and travelled cousin
of hers? There was no knowing what
affection might not soon break out
between the two, so constantly in each other's society, and not a
distracting object near. Clym's boyish love for her might have languished,
but it might easily be
revived again.
    Eustacia was
nettled by her own contrivances. What a sheer waste of
herself to be dressed thus while another was
shining to advantage! Had
she known the full effect of the
encounter she would have moved heaven
and earth to get here in a
natural manner. The power of her face all
lost, the charm of her emotions all disguised, the fascinations of her
coquetry denied existence, nothing but a voice left to her; she had a
sense of the doom of Echo.
"Nobody here respects me," she said. She had
overlooked the fact that, in coming as a boy among other boys, she would
be
treated as a boy. The slight, though of her own causing, and self-
explanatory, she was unable to
dismiss as unwittingly shown, so sensitive
had the situation made her.





    Yeobright returned to the room without his cousin. When within
two or three feet of Eustacia he stopped, as if again arrested by a
thought. He was gazing at her. She looked another way, disconcerted,
and wondered how long this purgatory was to last. After lingering a
few seconds he passed on again.
    To court their own discomfiture by love is a common instinct
with
certain perfervid women. Conflicting sensations of love, fear, and
shame reduced Eustacia to a state of the utmost uneasiness. To
escape was her great and immediate desire. The other mummers
appeared to be in no hurry to leave; and murmuring to the lad who
sat next to her that she preferred waiting for them outside the
house, she moved to the door as imperceptibly as possible, opened
it, and
slipped out.
    The
calm, lone scene reassured her. She went forward to the
palings and leant over them, looking at the moon.
She had stood thus
but a little time when the door again opened. Expecting to see the
remainder of the band Eustacia turned; but no--Clym Yeobright came
out as softly as she had done, and closed the door behind him.

He advanced and stood beside her. "I have an odd opinion," he said,
"and should like to ask you a question. Are you a woman--or am I
wrong?"

"I am a woman."

His eyes
lingered on her with great interest. "Do girls often play
as mummers now? They never used to."

"They don't now."

"Why did you?"

"To get
excitement and shake off depression," she said in low tones.

"What
depressed you?"

"Life."

"That's a cause of depression a good many have to put up with."


"Yes."

A long silence. "And do you find excitement?" asked Clym at last.

"At this moment, perhaps."




    Eustacia, warmed with an inner fire, could not wait for her
companions after this. She flung back the ribbons from her face, opened
the gate, and at once struck into the heath. She did not hasten along. Her
grandfather was in bed at this hour, for she so frequently walked upon
the hills on moonlight nights that he took no notice of her comings and
goings, and, enjoying himself in his own way, left her to do likewise.
A more important subject than that of getting indoors now engrossed her.
Yeobright, if he had the least curiosity, would infallibly discover her
name. What then? She first felt a sort of exultation at the way in which
the adventure had terminated, even though at moments between her
exultations she was abashed and blushful. Then this consideration recurred
to
chill her: What was the use of her exploit? She was at present a total
stranger to the Yeobright family
. The unreasonable nimbus of romance with
which she had
encircled that man might be her misery. How could she allow
herself to become so
infatuated with a stranger? And to fill the cup of
her
sorrow there would be Thomasin, living day after day in inflammable
proximity
to him; for she had just learnt that, contrary to her first
belief, he was going to stay at home some considerable time.

    She reached the wicket at Mistover Knap, but before opening it she
turned and faced the heath once more. The form of Rainbarrow stood above
the hills, and the moon stood above Rainbarrow. The air was charged with
silence and frost.
The scene reminded Eustacia of a circumstance which till
that moment she had totally forgotten. She had promised to meet Wildeve by
the Barrow this very night at eight, to give a final answer to his pleading for
an elopement.

    She herself had fixed the evening and the hour. He had probably come
to the spot, waited there in the cold, and been greatly disappointed.

"Well, so much the better--it did not hurt him," she said serenely. Wildeve
had at present the rayless outline of the sun through smoked glass
, and she
could say such things as that with the greatest
facility.

She remained deeply pondering; and Thomasin's winning manner towards her
cousin arose again upon Eustacia's mind.

"O that she had been married to Damon before this!" she said. "And she would
if it hadn't been for me! If I had only known--if I had only known!"

    Eustacia once more lifted her deep stormy eyes to the moonlight, and,
sighing that tragic sigh of hers which was so much like a shudder, entered the
shadow of the roof. She threw off her trappings in the outhouse, rolled them
up, and went indoors to her chamber.





VII - A Coalition between Beauty and Oddness



"Of course. But, Eustacia, you never did--ha! ha! Dammy, how 'twould
have pleased me forty years ago!
But remember, no more of it, my girl.
You may walk on the heath night or day, as you choose, so that you
don't bother me; but no figuring in breeches again."

"You need have no fear for me, Grandpapa."

Here the conversation ceased, Eustacia's moral training never exceeding
in
severity a dialogue of this sort, which, if it ever became profitable
to good works, would be a result not dear at the price. But her thoughts
soon
strayed far from her own personality; and, full of a passionate and
indescribable solicitude for one to whom she was not even a name, she
went forth into the
amplitude of tanned wild around her, restless as
Ahasuerus the Jew.
She was about half a mile from her residence when she
beheld a sinister redness arising from a ravine a little way in advance--
dull and lurid like a flame in sunlight and she guessed it to signify
Diggory Venn.




    Eustacia looked at the lonely man. Wildeve had told her at
their last meeting that Venn had been thrust forward by Mrs. Yeobright
as one ready and anxious to take his place as Thomasin's betrothed.
His figure was perfect, his face young and well outlined, his eye
bright, his intelligence keen, and his position one which he could
readily better if he chose. But in spite of possibilities it was not
likely that Thomasin would accept this Ishmaelitish creature while she
had a cousin like Yeobright at her elbow, and Wildeve at the same time
not absolutely indifferent.
Eustacia was not long in guessing that poor
Mrs. Yeobright, in her anxiety for her niece's future, had mentioned
this lover to stimulate the zeal of the other. Eustacia was on the side
of the Yeobrights now, and entered into the spirit of the aunt's desire.




Her face seemed to ask for an armed peace, and he therefore said
frankly, "Yes, miss; it is on account of her."

"On account of your approaching marriage with her?"

Venn flushed through his stain. "Don't make sport of me, Miss Vye,"
he said.

"It isn't true?"

"Certainly not."

She was thus convinced that the reddleman was a mere pis aller in Mrs.
Yeobright's mind; one, moreover, who had not even been informed of his
promotion to that lowly standing. "It was a mere notion of mine," she
said quietly; and was about to pass by without further speech, when,
looking round to the right, she saw a painfully well-known figure
serpentining upwards by one of the little paths which led to the top
where she stood.
Owing to the necessary windings of his course his back
was at present towards them. She glanced quickly round; to escape that
man there was only one way. Turning to Venn, she said, "Would you allow
me to rest a few minutes in your van? The banks are damp for sitting on."

"Certainly, miss; I'll make a place for you."

She followed him behind the dell of brambles to his wheeled dwelling
into which Venn mounted, placing the three-legged stool just within the
door.

"That is the best I can do for you," he said, stepping down and retiring
to the path, where he resumed the smoking of his pipe as he walked up
and down.

Eustacia bounded into the vehicle and sat on the stool, ensconced from
view on the side towards the trackway. Soon she heard the
brushing of
other feet than the reddleman's, a
not very friendly "Good day" uttered by
two men in passing each other, and then the
dwindling of the foot-fall of
one of them in a direction onwards. Eustacia
stretched her neck forward
till she caught a
glimpse of a receding back and shoulders; and she felt
a wretched twinge of misery, she knew not why. It was the sickening
feeling which, if the changed heart has any generosity at all in its
composition, accompanies the sudden sight of a once-loved one who is
beloved no more
.

When Eustacia descended to proceed on her way the reddleman came near.
"That was Mr. Wildeve who passed, miss," he said slowly, and expressed
by his face that he expected her to feel
vexed at having been sitting
unseen.


"Yes, I saw him coming up the hill," replied Eustacia. "Why should you
tell me that?" It was a bold question, considering the reddleman's
knowledge of her past love; but her
undemonstrative manner had power
to repress the opinions of those she treated as remote from her.

"I am glad to hear that you can ask it," said the reddleman bluntly.

----------------------------------------------------------------

"To be again disappointed. The truth is, reddleman, that that lady, so
far from wishing to stand in the way of Thomasin's marriage with Mr.
Wildeve, would be very glad to promote it."

Venn felt much astonishment at this avowal, though he did not show it
clearly; that
exhibition may greet remarks which are one remove from
expectation, but it is usually withheld in complicated cases of two
removes and upwards.
"Indeed, miss," he replied.

"How do you know that Mr. Wildeve will come to Rainbarrow again tonight?"
she asked.

"I heard him say to himself that he would. He's in a regular temper."

Eustacia looked for a moment what she felt, and she murmured, lifting
her
deep dark eyes anxiously to his, "I wish I knew what to do. I don't
want to be
uncivil to him; but I don't wish to see him again; and I have
some few little things to return to him."


"If you choose to send 'em by me, miss, and a note to tell him that you
wish to say no more to him, I'll take it for you quite privately. That
would be the most straightforward way of letting him know your mind."

"Very well," said Eustacia. "Come towards my house, and I will bring it
out to you."

She went on, and as the path was an infinitely small parting in the
shaggy locks of the heath, the reddleman followed exactly in her trail.
She saw from a distance that the captain was on the bank sweeping the
horizon with his telescope; and bidding Venn to wait where he stood she
entered the house alone.

In ten minutes she returned with a parcel and a note, and said, in
placing them in his hand, "Why are you so ready to take these for me?"

"Can you ask that?"

"I suppose you think to serve Thomasin in some way by it. Are you as
anxious as ever to help on her marriage?"

Venn was a little moved. "I would sooner have married her myself," he said
in a
low voice. "But what I feel is that if she cannot be happy without
him I will do my duty in helping her to get him, as a man ought."

Eustacia
looked curiously at the singular man who spoke thus. What a
strange sort of love, to be entirely free from that quality of selfishness
which is frequently the
chief constituent of the passion, and sometimes
its only one! The reddleman's
disinterestedness was so well deserving of
respect that it overshot respect by being barely comprehended; and she
almost
thought it absurd.

"Then we are both of one mind at last," she said.

"Yes," replied Venn gloomily. "But if you would tell me, miss, why you
take such an interest in her, I should be easier. It is so sudden and
strange
."

Eustacia appeared at a loss. "I cannot tell you that, reddleman," she
said coldly.

Venn said no more. He pocketed the letter, and, bowing to Eustacia,
went away.

Rainbarrow had again become blended with night when Wildeve ascended the
long acclivity at its base. On his reaching the top a shape grew up from
the earth immediately behind him. It was that of Eustacia's emissary. He
slapped Wildeve on the shoulder. The feverish young inn-keeper and ex-
engineer started like Satan at the touch of Ithuriel's spear.


"The meeting is always at eight o'clock, at this place," said Venn, "and
here we are--we three."

"We three?" said Wildeve, looking quickly round.

"Yes; you, and I, and she. This is she." He held up the letter and parcel.


Wildeve took them wonderingly. "I don't quite see what this means," he
said. "How do you come here? There must be some mistake."

"It will be cleared from your mind when you have read the letter. Lanterns
for one." The reddleman struck a light, kindled an inch of tallow-candle
which he had brought, and sheltered it with his cap.

"Who are you?" said Wildeve, discerning by the candle- light an obscure
rubicundity of person
in his companion.

----------------------------------------------------------------

By the time that Wildeve reached her name the blankness with which
he had read the first half of the letter intensified to mortification
.
"I am made a great fool of, one way and another," he said pettishly.
"Do you know what is in this letter?"

The reddleman hummed a tune.

"Can't you answer me?" asked Wildeve warmly.

"Ru-um-tum-tum," sang the reddleman.

Wildeve stood looking on the ground beside Venn's feet, till he
allowed his eyes to travel upwards over Diggory's form, as
illuminated by the candle, to his head and face. "Ha-ha! Well, I
suppose I deserve it, considering how I have played with them both,"
he said at last, as much to himself as to Venn. "But of all the odd
things that ever I knew, the oddest is that you should so run counter
to your own interests as to bring this to me."

"My interests?"

"Certainly. 'Twas your interest not to do anything which would send
me courting Thomasin again, now she has accepted you--or something
like it. Mrs. Yeobright says you are to marry her. 'Tisn't true,
then?"

"Good Lord! I heard of this before, but didn't believe it. When did
she say so?"

Wildeve began humming as the reddleman had done.

"I don't believe it now," cried Venn.

"Ru-um-tum-tum," sang Wildeve.

"O Lord--how we can imitate!" said Venn contemptuously. "I'll have
this out. I'll go straight to her."

Diggory withdrew with an emphatic step, Wildeve's eye passing over
his form in
withering derision, as if he were no more than a heath-
cropper. When the reddleman's figure could no longer be seen, Wildeve
himself descended and plunged into the rayless hollow of the vale.

To lose the two women--he who had been the well-beloved of both--was
too ironical an issue to be endured. He could only decently save
himself by Thomasin; and once he became her husband, Eustacia's
repentance, he thought, would
set in for a long and bitter term. It
was no wonder that Wildeve, ignorant of the new man at the back of
the scene, should have supposed Eustacia to be playing a part. To
believe that the letter was not the result of some momentary pique,
to infer that she really gave him up to Thomasin, would have required
previous knowledge of her transfiguration by that man's influence.
Who was to know that she had grown generous in the greediness of a
new passion, that in coveting one cousin she was dealing liberally
with another, that in her
eagerness to appropriate she gave way?




VIII - Firmness Is Discovered in a Gentle Heart



"I don't like your going out after dark alone, Tamsin," said her aunt
quietly, without looking up from her work. "I have only been just
outside the door."

"Well?" inquired Mrs. Yeobright, struck by a change in the tone of
Thomasin's voice, and observing her. Thomasin's cheek was flushed to
a pitch far beyond that which it had reached before her troubles, and
her eyes
glittered.

"It was he who knocked," she said.

"I thought as much."

"He wishes the marriage to be at once."

"Indeed! What--is he anxious?" Mrs. Yeobright directed a searching
look upon her niece.
"Why did not Mr. Wildeve come in?"

"He did not wish to. You are not friends with him, he says. He would
like the wedding to be the day after tomorrow, quite privately; at the
church of his parish--not at ours."

"Oh! And what did you say?"

"I agreed to it," Thomasin answered firmly. "I am a practical woman now.
I don't believe in hearts at all.
I would marry him under any circumstances
since--since Clym's letter."

A letter was lying on Mrs. Yeobright's work-basket, and at Thomasin's words
her aunt reopened it, and silently read for the tenth time that day:--

What is the meaning of this silly story that people are circulating
about Thomasin and Mr. Wildeve? I should call such a scandal
humiliating if there was the least chance of its being true. How could
such a gross falsehood have arisen? It is said that one should go abroad
to hear news of home, and I appear to have done it. Of course I contradict
the tale everywhere; but it is very vexing, and I wonder how it could have
originated. It is too ridiculous that such a girl as Thomasin could so
mortify us as to get jilted on the wedding day. What has she done?

"Yes," Mrs. Yeobright said sadly, putting down the letter. "If you think you
can marry him, do so. And since Mr. Wildeve wishes it to be unceremonious,
let it be that too. I can do nothing. It is all in your own hands now. My
power over your welfare came to an end when you left this house to go with
him to Anglebury." She continued, half in bitterness, "I may almost ask, why
do you
consult me in the matter at all? If you had gone and married him
without saying a word to me, I could hardly have been
angry--simply because,
poor girl, you can't do a better thing."

"Don't say that and
dishearten me."

"You are right--I will not."

"I do not plead for him, Aunt. Human nature is weak, and I am not a blind
woman to insist that he is perfect.
I did think so, but I don't now. But I
know my course, and you know that I know it. I hope for the best."

"And so do I, and we will both continue to," said Mrs. Yeobright, rising
and kissing her.

----------------------------------------------------------------


Aunt and niece stood together in the bedroom where the bride
was dressing. The sun, where it could catch it, made a mirror of
Thomasin's hair, which she always wore
braided. It was braided
according to a calendar system--the more
important the day the more
numerous the strands in the braid. On ordinary working-days she
braided it in threes; on ordinary Sundays in fours; at Maypolings,
gipsyings, and the like, she
braided it in fives. Years ago she had
said that when she married she would braid it in sevens. She had
braided it in sevens today.

"I have been thinking that I will wear my blue silk after all," she
said. "It is my wedding day, even though there may be something
sad
about the time. I mean," she added,
anxious to correct any wrong
impression, "not sad in itself, but in its having had great
disappointment and trouble before it."

Mrs. Yeobright breathed in a way which might have been called a sigh.
"I almost wish Clym had been at home," she said. "Of course you chose
the time because of his absence."

"Partly. I have felt that I acted unfairly to him in not telling him
all; but, as it was done not to grieve him, I thought I would carry
out the plan to its end, and tell the whole story when the sky was
clear."

"You are a practical little woman," said Mrs. Yeobright, smiling.
"I wish you and he--no, I don't wish anything. There, it is nine
o'clock," she
interrupted, hearing a whizz and a dinging downstairs.

"I told Damon I would leave at nine," said Thomasin, hastening out
of the room.

Her aunt followed. When Thomasin was going up the little walk from
the door to the wicket-gate, Mrs. Yeobright looked reluctantly at
her, and said, "It is a shame to let you go alone."

"It is necessary," said Thomasin.

"At any rate," added her aunt with forced cheerfulness, "I shall
call upon you this afternoon, and bring the cake with me. If Clym
has returned by that time he will perhaps come too. I wish to show
Mr. Wildeve that I bear him no ill-will. Let the past be forgotten.
Well, God bless you! There, I don't believe in old superstitions,
but I'll do it." She threw a slipper at the retreating figure of
the girl, who turned, smiled, and went on again.

A few steps further, and she looked back. "Did you call me, Aunt?"
she tremulously inquired. "Good-bye!"

Moved by an uncontrollable feeling as she looked upon Mrs.
Yeobright's
worn, wet face, she ran back, when her aunt came
forward, and they met again. "O--Tamsie," said the elder,
weeping,
"I don't like to let you go."

"I--I am--" Thomasin began,
giving way likewise. But, quelling her
grief, she said "Good-bye!" again and went on.

Then Mrs. Yeobright saw a
little figure wending its way between the
scratching furze-bushes, and diminishing far up the valley--a
pale-blue spot in a vast field of neutral brown, solitary and
undefended except by the power of her own hope.

But the worst feature in the case was one which did not appear in
the landscape; it was the man.


The hour chosen for the ceremony by Thomasin and Wildeve had been so
timed as to enable her to escape the awkwardness of meeting her
cousin Clym, who was returning the same morning. To
own to the
partial truth of what he had heard would be distressing as long as
the
humiliating position resulting from the event was unimproved. It
was only after a second and
successful journey to the altar that she
could lift up her head and
prove the failure of the first attempt a
pure accident.

----------------------------------------------------------------

"Well, I felt vexed with her just then. She seemed to me to be
obstinate; and when I found that you were nothing in her mind I vowed
that she should be nothing in yours. I felt that she was only my niece
after all; I told her she might marry, but that I should take no
interest in it, and should not bother you about it either."

"It wouldn't have been bothering me. Mother, you did wrong."

"I thought it might disturb you in your business, and that you might
throw up your situation, or injure your prospects in some way because
of it, so I said nothing. Of course, if they had married at that time
in a proper manner, I should have told you at once."

"Tamsin actually being married while we are sitting here!"

"Yes. Unless some accident happens again, as it did the first time. It
may, considering he's the same man."

"Yes, and I believe it will. Was it right to let her go? Suppose Wildeve
is really a
bad fellow?"

"Then he won't come, and she'll come home again."

"You should have looked more into it."

"It is useless to say that," his mother answered with an impatient look
of
sorrow. "You don't know how bad it has been here with us all these
weeks, Clym. You don't know what a
mortification anything of that sort
is to a woman. You don't know the
sleepless nights we've had in this
house, and the almost
bitter words that have passed between us since
that Fifth of November. I hope never to pass seven such weeks again.
Tamsin has not gone outside the door, and I have been
ashamed to look
anybody in the face; and now you blame me for letting her do the only
thing that can be done to
set that trouble straight."

----------------------------------------------------------------

They lapsed into silence. "I'll tell you what," said Yeobright again,
in a tone which showed some slumbering feeling still. "I don't think
it
kind to Tamsin to let her be married like this, and neither of us
there to
keep up her spirits or care a bit about her. She hasn't
disgraced herself, or done anything to deserve that. It is bad enough
that the wedding should be so hurried and unceremonious, without our
keeping away from it in addition. Upon my soul, 'tis almost a shame.
I'll go."

"It is over by this time," said his mother with a sigh; "unless they
were late, or he--"

"Then I shall be soon enough to see them come out. I don't quite like
your keeping me in ignorance, Mother, after all. Really, I half hope
he has failed to meet her!"

"And ruined her character?"

"Nonsense--that wouldn't ruin Thomasin."

He took up his hat and hastily left the house. Mrs. Yeobright looked
rather unhappy, and sat still, deep in thought. But she was not long
left alone. A few minutes later Clym came back again, and in his
company came Diggory Venn.

"I find there isn't time for me to get there," said Clym.

"Is she married?" Mrs. Yeobright inquired, turning to the reddleman a
face in which a strange
strife of wishes, for and against, was apparent.

Venn bowed. "She is, ma'am."

"How strange it sounds," murmured Clym.

----------------------------------------------------------------

"How came Miss Vye to have anything to do with it, if she was
only on a walk that way?"

"Because there was nobody else. She had gone into the church just
before me, not into the gallery. The parson looked round before
beginning, and as she was the only one near he beckoned to her,
and she went up to the rails. After that, when it came to signing
the book, she pushed up her veil and signed; and Tamsin seemed to
thank her for her kindness."The reddleman told the tale
thoughtfully for there lingered upon his vision the changing
colour
of Wildeve, when Eustacia lifted the thick veil which had
concealed her from recognition and looked calmly into his face.
"And then," said Diggory
sadly, "I came away, for her history as
Tamsin Yeobright was over."


"I offered to go," said Mrs. Yeobright regretfully. "But she said
it was not necessary."

"Well, it is no matter," said the reddleman. "The thing is done at
last as it was meant to be at first, and God send her happiness.
Now I'll wish you good morning."

He placed his cap on his head and went out.

From that instant of leaving Mrs. Yeobright's door, the reddleman
was seen no more in or about Egdon Heath for a space of many months.
He
vanished entirely. The nook among the brambles where his van had
been standing was as
vacant as ever the next morning, and scarcely a
sign
remained to show that he had been there, excepting a few straws,
and
a little redness on the turf, which was washed away by the next
storm of rain.


The report that Diggory had brought of the wedding, correct as far as
it went, was
deficient in one significant particular, which had escaped
him through his being at some distance back in the church. When
Thomasin was
tremblingly engaged in signing her name Wildeve had flung
towards Eustacia a
glance that said plainly, "I have punished you now."
She had replied in a
low tone--and he little thought how truly--"You
mistake; it
gives me sincerest pleasure to see her your wife today."




         Book Third: The Fascination    -



I - "My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is"



    In Clym Yeobright's face could be dimly seen the typical countenance
of the future. Should there be a
classic period to art hereafter, its
Pheidias may produce such faces. The view of life as a thing to be put up
with, replacing that
zest for existence which was so intense in early
civilizations, must ultimately enter so thoroughly into the constitution
of the
advanced races that its facial expression will become accepted as
a new
artistic departure. People already feel that a man who lives without
disturbing a curve of feature, or setting a mark of mental concern anywhere
upon himself, is too far removed from modern perceptiveness
to be a modern
type.
Physically beautiful men--the glory of the race when it was young--
are almost an anachronism now; and we may wonder whether, at some time
or other,
physically beautiful women may not be an anachronism likewise.
    The truth seems to be that
a long line of disillusive centuries has
permanently displaced the Hellenic idea of life, or whatever it may be
called. What the Greeks only suspected we know well; what their Aeschylus
imagined our nursery children feel. That old-fashioned revelling in the
general situation grows less and less possible as we uncover the defects of
natural laws, and see the quandary that man is in by their operation
.
    The lineaments which will get
embodied in ideals based upon this new
recognition will probably be akin to those of Yeobright. The observer's eye
was
arrested, not by his face as a picture, but by his face as a page; not
by what it was, but by what it
recorded. His features were attractive in the
light of symbols, as sounds intrinsically common become attractive in
language, and as shapes intrinsically simple become interesting in writing.





    Hence, when his name was casually mentioned by neighbouring yeomen,
the listener said, "Ah, Clym Yeobright--what is he doing now?" When the
instinctive question about a person is, What is he doing? it is felt that
he will be found to be, like most of us, doing nothing in particular.
There is an indefinite sense that he must be invading some region of
singularity,
good or bad. The devout hope is that he is doing well. The
secret faith is that he is making a mess of it. Half a dozen comfortable
market-men, who were
habitual callers at the Quiet Woman as they passed
by in their carts, were
partial to the topic. In fact, though they were
not Egdon men, they could hardly
avoid it while they sucked their long
clay
tubes and regarded the heath through the window. Clym had been so
inwoven with the heath in his boyhood that hardly anybody could look upon
it without
thinking of him. So the subject recurred: if he were making a
fortune and a name, so much the better for him; if he were making a
tragical figure in the world, so much the better for a narrative.
    The fact was that Yeobright's fame had spread to an awkward extent
before he left home. "It is bad when your fame outruns your means," said
the Spanish Jesuit Gracian. At the age of six he had asked a Scripture
riddle: "Who was the first man known to wear breeches?" and applause had
resounded from the very verge of the heath. At seven he painted the Battle
of Waterloo with
tiger-lily pollen and black-currant juice, in the absence
of
water-colours. By the time he reached twelve he had in this manner been
heard of as artist and scholar for at least two miles round. An individual
whose
fame spreads three or four thousand yards in the time taken by the
fame of others similarly situated to travel six or eight hundred, must of
necessity have something in him.
Possibly Clym's fame, like Homer's, owed
something to the accidents of his situation; nevertheless famous he was.
    He grew up and was helped out in life. That waggery of fate which
started Clive as a writing clerk, Gay as a linen-draper, Keats as a surgeon,
and a thousand others in a thousand other odd ways, banished the wild and
ascetic heath lad to a trade whose sole concern was with the especial symbols
of
self-indulgence and vainglory.




On the Sunday morning following the week of Thomasin's marriage
a discussion on this subject was in progress at a hair-cutting before
Fairway's house. Here the local barbering was always done at this hour
on this day, to be followed by the
great Sunday wash of the inhabitants
at noon, which in its turn was followed by the
great Sunday dressing an
hour later. On Egdon Heath Sunday proper did not begin till dinner-time,
and even then it was
a somewhat battered specimen of the day.

These Sunday-morning hair-cuttings were
performed by Fairway; the
victim sitting on a chopping-block in front of the house, without a coat,
and the neighbours
gossiping around, idly observing the locks of hair as
they rose upon the wind after the snip, and flew away out of sight to the
four quarters of the heavens.
Summer and winter the scene was the same,
unless the wind were more than usually
blusterous, when the stool was
shifted a few feet round the corner. To complain of cold in sitting out
of doors,
hatless and coatless, while Fairway told true stories between
the cuts of the scissors, would have been to pronounce yourself no man
at once.
To flinch, exclaim, or move a muscle of the face at the small
stabs under the ear received from those instruments, or at scarifications
of the neck by the comb
, would have been thought a gross breach of good
manners, considering that Fairway did it all for nothing. A
bleeding
about the poll on Sunday afternoons was
amply accounted for by the
explanation. "I have had my hair cut, you know."


The conversation on Yeobright had been started by a distant view
of the young man
rambling leisurely across the heath before them.

"A man who is doing well elsewhere wouldn't bide here two or three weeks
for nothing," said Fairway. "He's got some project in 's head--depend
upon that."

"Well, 'a can't keep a diment shop here," said Sam.

"I don't see why he should have had them two heavy boxes home if he had
not been going to bide; and what there is for him to do here the Lord
in heaven knows."

Before many more surmises could be indulged in Yeobright had come near;
and seeing the hair-cutting group he turned aside to join them.
Marching up, and looking critically at their faces for a moment, he
said, without introduction, "Now, folks, let me guess what you have
been talking about."

"Ay, sure, if you will," said Sam.

"About me."

"Now, it is a thing I shouldn't have dreamed of doing, otherwise," said
Fairway in a tone of
integrity; "but since you have named it, Master
Yeobright, I'll own that we was talking about 'ee. We were
wondering
what could keep you home here mollyhorning about when you have made
such a world-wide name for yourself in
the nick-nack trade--now,
that's the truth o't."


"I'll tell you," said Yeobright. with unexpected earnestness. "I am
not sorry to have the opportunity. I've come home because, all things
considered, I can be a trifle less useless here than anywhere else.
But I have only lately found this out. When I first got away from home
I thought this place was not worth
troubling about. I thought our life
here was
contemptible. To oil your boots instead of blacking them, to
dust your coat with a switch instead of a brush--was there ever
anything more
ridiculous? I said."

"So 'tis; so 'tis!"

"No, no--you are wrong; it isn't."

"Beg your pardon, we thought that was your maning?"

"Well, as my views changed my course became very depressing. I found
that I was trying to be like people who had hardly anything in common
with myself. I was endeavouring to put off one sort of life for another
sort of life, which was not better than the life I had known before.
It was simply different."

"True; a sight different," said Fairway.

"Yes, Paris must be a taking place," said Humphrey. "Grand shop-winders,
trumpets, and drums; and here be we out of doors in all winds and
weathers--"


"But you mistake me," pleaded Clym. "All this was very depressing. But
not so
depressing as something I next perceived--that my business was
the
idlest, vainest, most effeminate business that ever a man could be
put to. That decided me--I would give it up and try to follow some
rational occupation among the people I knew best, and to whom I could
be of most use.
I have come home; and this is how I mean to carry out
my plan. I shall keep a school as near to Egdon as possible, so as to
be able to walk over here and have a night-school in my mother's house.
But I must study a little at first, to get properly qualified. Now,
neighbours, I must go."

And Clym resumed his walk across the heath.

"He'll never carry it out in the world," said Fairway. "In a few weeks
he'll learn to see things otherwise."

"'Tis good-hearted of the young man," said another. "But, for my part,
I think he had better mind his business."




II - The New Course Causes Disappointment



    Yeobright loved his kind. He had a conviction that the want
of most men was knowledge of a sort which
brings wisdom rather than
affluence. He wished to raise the class at the expense of individuals
rather than individuals at the expense of the class. What was more,
he was ready at once to be the first unit
sacrificed.
    In
passing from the bucolic to the intellectual life the
intermediate stages are usually two at least, frequently many more;
and one of those stages is almost sure to be
worldly advanced. We
can hardly imagine
bucolic placidity quickening to intellectual aims
without imagining
social aims as the transitional phase. Yeobright's
local peculiarity was that in striving at high thinking he still
cleaved to plain living--nay, wild and meagre living in many respects,
and brotherliness with clowns
.
    He was a John the Baptist who took ennoblement rather than
repentance for his text
. Mentally he was in a provincial future, that
is, he was in many points abreast with the central town thinkers of his
date. Much of this
development he may have owed to his studious life in
Paris, where he had
become acquainted with ethical systems popular at
the time.
    In consequence of this
relatively advanced position, Yeobright
might have been called
unfortunate. The rural world was not ripe for him.
A man should be only
partially before his time--to be completely to the
vanward in
aspirations is fatal to fame. Had Philip's warlike son been
intellectually so far ahead as to have attempted civilization without
bloodshed, he would have been twice the godlike hero that he seemed, but
nobody would have heard of an Alexander.
    In the interests of
renown the forwardness should lie chiefly in
the capacity to
handle things. Successful propagandists have succeeded
because the doctrine they bring into form is that which their listeners
have for some time
felt without being able to shape. A man who advocates
aesthetic effort and deprecates social effort is only likely to be
understood by a class to which
social effort has become a stale matter.
To
argue upon the possibility of culture before luxury to the bucolic
world may be to
argue truly, but it is an attempt to disturb a sequence
to which humanity has been long
accustomed. Yeobright preaching to the
Egdon eremites that they might rise to a serene comprehensiveness without
going through the process of enriching themselves was not unlike arguing
to ancient Chaldeans that in ascending from earth to the pure empyrean it
was not necessary to pass first into the intervening heaven of ether.
    Was Yeobright's mind well-proportioned? No
. A well proportioned mind
is one which shows no particular bias; one of which we may safely say that
it will never
cause its owner to be confined as a madman, tortured as a
heretic, or crucified as a blasphemer. Also, on the other hand, that it will
never cause him to be
applauded as a prophet, revered as a priest, or exalted
as a
king. Its usual blessings are happiness and mediocrity. It produces the
poetry of Rogers, the paintings of West, the statecraft of North, the
spiritual guidance of Tomline;
enabling its possessors to find their way to
wealth, to wind up well, to step with dignity off the stage, to die comfortably
in their beds
, and to get the decent monument which, in many cases, they
deserve. It never would have allowed Yeobright to do such a
ridiculous thing
as throw up his business to benefit his
fellow-creatures.
    He walked along towards home without attending to paths. If anyone
knew the heath well it was Clym.
He was permeated with its scenes, with its
substance, and with its odours. He might be said to be its product. His eyes
had first opened thereon; with its appearance all the first images of his
memory were mingled, his estimate of life had been coloured by it: his toys had
been the flint knives and arrow-heads which he found there, wondering why
stones should "grow" to such odd shapes; his flowers, the purple bells and
yellow furze: his animal kingdom, the snakes and croppers; his society, its
human haunters.
Take all the varying hates felt by Eustacia Vye towards the
heath, and
translate them into loves, and you have the heart of Clym. He
gazed
upon the wide prospect as he walked, and was glad.
    To many persons this Egdon was a place which had slipped out of its
century generations ago, to intrude as an uncouth object into this. It was an
obsolete thing, and few cared to study it. How could this be otherwise in the
days of square fields, plashed hedges, and meadows watered on a plan so
rectangular that on a fine day they looked like silver gridirons? The farmer,
in his ride, who could smile at artificial grasses, look with solicitude at
the coming corn, and sigh with sadness at the fly-eaten turnips, bestowed upon
the distant upland of heath nothing better than a frown. But as for Yeobright,
when he looked from the heights on his way he could not help indulging in a
barbarous satisfaction at observing that, in some of the attempts at reclamation
from the waste, tillage, after holding on for a year or two, had receded again
in despair, the ferns and furze-tufts stubbornly reasserting themselves.

    He descended into the valley, and soon reached his home at
Blooms-End. His mother was snipping dead leaves from the window-plants.
She looked up at him as if she did not understand the meaning of his
long stay with her; her face had worn that look for several days. He
could perceive that the curiosity which had been shown by the hair-
cutting group amounted in his mother to concern. But she had asked no
question with her lips
, even when the arrival of his trunk suggested
that he was not going to leave her soon. Her silence besought an
explanation of him more loudly than words.


----------------------------------------------------------------

"It disturbs me, Clym, to find that you have come home with such
thoughts as those. I hadn't the least idea that you meant to go
backward in the world by your own free choice. Of course, I have
always supposed you were going to
push straight on, as other men do--
all who
deserve the name--when they have been put in a good way of
doing well."

"I cannot help it," said Clym, in a troubled tone. "Mother, I hate
the flashy business. Talk about men who deserve the name, can any man
deserving the name waste his time in that effeminate way, when he sees
half the world going to
ruin for want of somebody to buckle to and
teach them how to breast the misery they are born to? I get up every
morning and see the whole creation groaning and travailing in pain,
as St. Paul says, and yet there am I, trafficking in glittering
splendours with wealthy women and titled libertines, and pandering to
the meanest vanities
--I, who have health and strength enough for
anything. I have been troubled in my mind about it all the year, and
the end is that I cannot do it any more."

"Why can't you do it as well as others?"

"I don't know, except that there are many things other people care for
which I don't; and that's partly why I think I ought to do this. For
one thing, my body does not require much of me. I cannot enjoy
delicacies; good things are wasted upon me. Well, I ought to turn that
defect to advantage, and by being able to do without what other people
require I can spend what such things cost upon anybody else."

Now, Yeobright, having
inherited some of these very instincts from
the woman before him, could not fail to
awaken a reciprocity in her
through her feelings, if not by arguments,
disguise it as she might
for his good. She spoke with less
assurance. "And yet you might have
been a
wealthy man if you had only persevered. Manager to that large
diamond establishment--what better can a man
wish for? What a post of
trust and respect! I suppose you will be like your father; like him,
you are getting weary of doing well."

"No," said her son, "I am not weary of that, though I am weary of
what you mean by it. Mother, what is doing well?"

Mrs. Yeobright was far too thoughtful a woman to be content with ready
definitions, and, like the "What is wisdom?" of Plato's Socrates, and
the "What is truth?" of Pontius Pilate, Yeobright's burning question
received no answer.

----------------------------------------------------------------

"This morning at church we was all standing up, and the pa'son said,
'Let us pray.' 'Well,' thinks I, 'one may as well kneel as stand'; so
down I went
; and, more than that, all the rest were as willing to oblige
the man as I. We hadn't been hard at it for more than a minute when a
most
terrible screech sounded through church, as if somebody had just
gied up their heart's blood. All the folk jumped up and then we found
that Susan Nunsuch had pricked Miss Vye with a long stocking-needle,
as she had threatened to do as soon as ever she could get the young
lady to church, where she don't come very often. She've waited for this
chance for weeks, so as to draw her blood and put an end to the
bewitching of Susan's children that has been carried on so long. Sue
followed her into church, sat next to her, and as soon as she could
find a chance in went the stocking-needle into my lady's arm."

----------------------------------------------------------------

"A woman who seems to care for nothing at all, as you may say."

"She is melancholy, then?" inquired Clym.

"She mopes about by herself, and don't mix in with the people."

"Is she a young lady inclined for adventures?"

"Not to my knowledge."

"Doesn't join in with the lads in their games, to get some sort of
excitement in this lonely place?"

"No."

"Mumming, for instance?"

"No. Her notions be different. I should rather say her thoughts were
far away from here, with lords and ladies she'll never know, and
mansions she'll never
see again."

Observing that Clym appeared singularly interested Mrs. Yeobright said
rather
uneasily to Sam, "You see more in her than most of us do. Miss
Vye is to my mind too
idle to be charming. I have never heard that she
is of any use to herself or to other people.
Good girls don't get
treated
as witches even on Egdon."



III - The First Act in a Timeworn Drama



Clym's retreating figure got smaller and smaller as it rose and
fell over the hillocks on his way. "He is tender-hearted," said Mrs.
Yeobright to herself while she watched him; "otherwise it would matter
little. How he's going on!"

He was, indeed, walking with a will over the furze, as straight
as a line, as if his life
depended upon it. His mother drew a long
breath, and, abandoning the visit to Thomasin, turned back. The evening
films began to make nebulous pictures of the valleys
, but the high lands
still were
raked by the declining rays of the winter sun, which glanced
on Clym as he walked
forward, eyed by every rabbit and field-fare around,
a
long shadow advancing in front of him.




The talking ceased, and Fairway gave a circular motion to the rope,
as if he were stirring batter. At the end of a minute a dull splashing
reverberated from the bottom of the well; the helical twist he had
imparted to the rope had reached the grapnel below.

"Haul!" said Fairway; and the men who held the rope began to gather
it over the wheel.

"I think we've got sommat," said one of the haulers-in.

"Then pull steady," said Fairway.

They gathered up more and more, till a regular dripping into the well
could be heard below. It grew smarter with the increasing height of the
bucket, and presently a hundred and fifty feet of rope had been pulled
in.

Fairway then lit a lantern, tied it to another cord, and began lowering
it into the well beside the first: Clym came forward and looked down.
Strange humid leaves, which knew nothing of the seasons of the year, and
quaint-natured mosses were revealed on the wellside as the lantern
descended; till its rays fell upon a confused mass of rope and bucket
dangling in the dank, dark air.


"We've only got en by the edge of the hoop--steady, for God's sake!"
said Fairway.

They pulled with the greatest gentleness, till the wet bucket appeared
about two yards below them,
like a dead friend come to earth again.
Three or four hands were
stretched out, then jerk went the rope, whizz
went the wheel, the two
foremost haulers fell backward, the beating of
a
falling body was heard, receding down the sides of the well, and a
thunderous uproar arose at the bottom. The bucket was gone again.




The grapnel was again lowered. Its smart impact upon the distant water
reached their ears like a kiss
, whereupon Yeobright knelt down, and
leaning over the well began dragging the grapnel round and round as
Fairway had done.

"Tie a rope round him--it is dangerous!" cried a soft and anxious
voice somewhere above them.


Everybody turned. The speaker was a woman, gazing down upon the group
from an upper window, whose
panes blazed in the ruddy glare from the west.
Her lips were
parted and she appeared for the moment to forget where she
was.

The rope was accordingly tied round his waist, and the work proceeded.
At the next haul the weight was not heavy, and it was discovered that they
had only secured a coil of the rope detached from the bucket. The tangled
mass was thrown into the background. Humphrey took Yeobright's place, and
the grapnel was lowered again.

Yeobright retired to the heap of recovered rope in a meditative mood.
Of the identity between the lady's voice and that of the
melancholy mummer
he had not a moment's doubt. "How
thoughtful of her!" he said to himself.

Eustacia, who had
reddened when she perceived the effect of her
exclamation upon the group below, was no longer to be seen at the window,
though Yeobright
scanned it wistfully. While he stood there the men
at the well succeeded in getting up the bucket without a mishap. One of
them went to inquire for the captain, to learn what orders he wished to give
for mending the well-tackle. The captain proved to be away from home, and
Eustacia appeared at the door and came out. She had lapsed into an easy
and
dignified calm, far removed from the intensity of life in her words of
solicitude for Clym's safety.

"Will it be possible to draw water here tonight?" she inquired.

"No, miss; the bottom of the bucket is clean knocked out. And as we can do
no more now we'll leave off, and come again tomorrow morning."

"No water," she murmured, turning away.

"I can send you up some from Blooms-End," said Clym, coming forward and
raising his hat as the men retired.

Yeobright and Eustacia looked at each other for one instant, as if each
had in mind those few moments during which a certain
moonlight scene was
common to both
. With the glance the calm fixity of her features sublimed
itself to an expression of refinement and warmth; it was like garish noon
rising to the dignity of sunset in a couple of seconds
.

"Thank you; it will hardly be necessary," she replied.

"But if you have no water?"

"Well, it is what I call no water," she said, blushing, and lifting her
long-lashed eyelids as if to lift them were a work requiring consideration.
"But my grandfather calls it water enough. I'll show you what I mean."


She moved away a few yards, and Clym followed. When she reached the
corner of the enclosure, where the steps were formed for mounting the
boundary bank,
she sprang up with a lightness which seemed strange after
her listless movement towards the well. It incidentally showed that her
apparent languor did not arise from lack of force.


Clym ascended behind her, and noticed a circular burnt patch at the top of
the bank. "Ashes?" he said.

"Yes," said Eustacia. "We had a little bonfire here last Fifth of November,
and those are the marks of it."

On that spot had stood the fire she had kindled to attract Wildeve.

"That's the only kind of water we have," she continued, tossing a stone
into the pool, which lay on the outside of the bank like the white of an eye
without its pupil.
The stone fell with a flounce, but no Wildeve appeared on
the other side, as on a previous occasion there. "My grandfather says he
lived for more than twenty years at sea on water twice as bad as that," she
went on, "and considers it quite good enough for us here on an emergency."

"Well, as a matter of fact there are no impurities in the water of these pools
at this time of the year. It has only just rained into them."

She shook her head. "I am managing to exist in a wilderness, but I cannot
drink from a pond," she said.

----------------------------------------------------------------

However, Eustacia had begun to pay out. While he was tying she cried,
"I cannot stop it!"

Clym ran to her side, and found he could only check the rope by twisting
the
loose part round the upright post, when it stopped with a jerk. "Has
it
hurt you?"

"Yes," she replied.

"Very much?"

"No; I think not." She opened her hands. One of them was bleeding; the
rope had
dragged off the skin. Eustacia wrapped it in her handkerchief.

"You should have let go," said Yeobright. "Why didn't you?"

"You said I was to hold on....This is the second time I have been
wounded today."

"Ah, yes; I have heard of it. I blush for my native Egdon. Was it a
serious injury you received in church, Miss Vye?"

There was such an
abundance of sympathy in Clym's tone that Eustacia
slowly drew up her sleeve and
disclosed her round white arm. A bright
red spot appeared on its smooth surface, like a ruby on Parian marble
.

"There it is," she said, putting her finger against the spot.

"It was dastardly of the woman," said Clym. "Will not Captain Vye get
her
punished?"

"He is gone from home on that very business. I did not know that I had
such a
magic reputation."

"And you
fainted?" said Clym, looking at the scarlet little puncture as
if he would like to
kiss it and make it well.

"Yes, it frightened me. I had not been to church for a long time. And now
I shall not go again for ever so long--perhaps never. I cannot face their
eyes after this. Don't you think it
dreadfully humiliating? I wished I
was
dead for hours after, but I don't mind now."

"I have come to
clean away these cobwebs," said Yeobright. "Would you like
to help me--by high-class teaching? We might
benefit them much."

"I don't quite
feel anxious to. I have not much love for my fellow-
creatures. Sometimes I quite
hate them."

----------------------------------------------------------------

"You are lonely here."

"I cannot endure the heath, except in its purple season. The heath
is a
cruel taskmaster to me."

"Can you say so?" he asked. "To my mind it is most exhilarating,
and
strengthening, and soothing. I would rather live on these hills
than anywhere else in the world."

"It is well enough for artists; but I never would learn to draw."

"And there is a very curious druidical stone just out there." He
threw a pebble in the direction signified. "Do you often go to see
it?"

"I was not even aware there existed any such curious druidical stone.
I am aware that there are boulevards in Paris."


Yeobright looked thoughtfully on the ground. "That means much," he
said.

"It does indeed," said Eustacia.

"I
remember when I had the same longing for town bustle. Five years
of a
great city would be a perfect cure for that."

"Heaven send me such a cure! Now, Mr. Yeobright, I will go indoors
and
plaster my wounded hand."

They
separated, and Eustacia vanished in the increasing shade. She
seemed
full of many things. Her past was a blank, her life had begun.
The effect upon Clym of this meeting he did not fully discover till
some time after. During his walk home his most intelligible sensation
was that his scheme had somehow become glorified. A beautiful woman
had been intertwined with it.






His room overlooked the front of the premises and the valley of the
heath beyond. The lowest beams of the winter sun threw the shadow
of the house over the palings, across the grass margin of the heath, and
far up the vale, where the chimney outlines and those of the
surrounding
tree-tops
stretched forth in long dark prongs. Having been seated at
work all day, he decided to take a turn upon the hills before it got dark;
and, going out forthwith, he struck across the heath towards Mistover.




----------------------------------------------------------------

"You'll meet Eustacia Vye if you go up there."

Clym paused a minute. "Yes, I met her this evening," he said, as
though it were spoken under the
sheer necessity of preserving
honesty.

"I wondered if you had."

"It was no appointment."

"No; such meetings never are."

"But you are not angry, Mother?"

"I can hardly say that I am not. Angry? No. But when I consider
the usual nature of
the drag which causes men of promise to
disappoint the world
I feel uneasy."

"You
deserve credit for the feeling, Mother. But I can assure
you that you need not be
disturbed by it on my account."

"When I think of you and your new crotchets," said Mrs.
Yeobright, with some
emphasis, "I naturally don't feel so
comfortable as I did a twelvemonth ago. It is incredible to me
that a man
accustomed to the attractive women of Paris and
elsewhere should be so
easily worked upon by a girl in a heath.
You could just as well have walked another way."


"I had been studying all day."

"Well, yes," she added more hopefully, "I have been thinking that
you might
get on as a schoolmaster, and rise that way, since you
really are
determined to hate the course you were pursuing."

Yeobright was unwilling to disturb this idea, though his scheme
was far enough removed from one wherein the education of youth
should be made a mere channel of social ascent. He had no
desires of that sort. He had reached the stage in a young man's
life when
the grimness of the general human situation first
becomes clear
; and the realization of this causes ambition to
halt awhile. In France it is not uncustomary to commit suicide
at this stage;
in England we do much better, or much worse, as
the case may be
.

The love between the young man and his mother was strangely
invisible
now. Of love it may be said, the less earthly the
less demonstrative. In its absolutely indestructible form it
reaches a profundity in which all exhibition of itself is
painful.
It was so with these. Had conversations between them
been
overheard, people would have said, "How cold they are to
each other!"


His theory and his wishes about devoting his future to teaching
had made an
impression on Mrs. Yeobright. Indeed, how could it
be otherwise when he was a part of her--when their
discourses
were as if carried on between the right and the left hands of
the
same body? He had despaired of reaching her by argument;
and it was almost as a
discovery to him that he could reach her
by a magnetism which was as superior to words as words are to
yells.


Strangely enough he began to feel now that it would not be so
hard to persuade her who was his best friend that comparative
poverty
was essentially the higher course for him, as to
reconcile to his feelings the act of persuading her. From every
provident point of view his mother was so undoubtedly right,
that he was not without a
sickness of heart in finding he could
shake her.





What was the great world to Mrs. Yeobright? A multitude whose
tendencies could be perceived, though not its essences. Communities
were
seen by her as from a distance; she saw them as we see the
throngs which
cover the canvases of Sallaert, Van Alsloot, and
others of that school
--vast masses of beings, jostling, zigzagging,
and processioning in definite directions, but whose features are
indistinguishable by the very comprehensiveness of the view.


One could see that, as far as it had gone, her life was very complete
on its
reflective side. The philosophy of her nature, and its
limitation by circumstances, was almost written in her movements.
They had a
majestic foundation, though they were far from being
majestic; and they had a ground-work of
assurance, but they were not
assured.
As her once elastic walk had become deadened by time, so
had her natural pride of life been hindered in its blooming by her
necessities.


The next slight touch in the shaping of Clym's destiny occurred a
few days after
. A barrow was opened on the heath, and Yeobright
attended the operation, remaining away from his study during several
hours. In the afternoon Christian returned from a journey in the same
direction, and Mrs. Yeobright questioned him.

"They have dug a hole, and they have found things like flowerpots
upside down, Mis'ess Yeobright; and inside these be
real charnel
bones. They have
carried 'em off to men's houses; but I shouldn't
like to
sleep where they will bide. Dead folks have been known to
come and
claim their own. Mr. Yeobright had got one pot of the bones,
and was going to bring 'em home--
real skellington bones--but 'twas
ordered otherwise
. You'll be relieved to hear that he gave away his
pot and all, on second thoughts; and a blessed thing for ye, Mis'ess
Yeobright, considering the wind o' nights."

"Gave it away?"

"Yes. To Miss Vye. She has a cannibal taste for such churchyard
furniture seemingly.
"

"Miss Vye was there too?"

"Ay, 'a b'lieve she was."

When Clym came home, which was shortly after, his mother said, in a
curious tone, "The urn you had meant for me you gave away."

Yeobright made no
reply; the current of her feeling was too pronounced
to
admit it.





The month of March arrived, and the heath showed its first signs of
awakening from winter trance. The awakening was almost feline in its
stealthiness
. The pool outside the bank by Eustacia's dwelling, which
seemed as
dead and desolate as ever to an observer who moved and made
noises in his observation, would
gradually disclose a state of great
animation when silently watched awhile. A timid animal world had come
to life for the season. Little tadpoles and efts began to bubble up
through the water, and to race along beneath it; toads made noises
like very young ducks, and advanced to the margin in twos and threes;
overhead, bumblebees flew hither and thither in the thickening light,
their drone coming and going like the sound of a gong
.

On an evening such as this Yeobright descended into the Blooms-End
valley from beside that very pool, where he had been standing with
another person quite
silently and quite long enough to hear all this
puny stir of resurrection in nature; yet he had not heard it. His walk
was
rapid as he came down, and he went with a springy trend. Before
entering upon his mother's premises
he stopped and breathed. The light
which shone forth on him from the window revealed that his face was
flushed and his eye bright. What it did not show was something which
lingered upon his lips like a seal set there. The abiding presence of
this impress was so real that he hardly dared to enter the house, for
it seemed as if his mother might say, "What red spot is that glowing
upon your mouth so vividly?"


But he entered soon after. The tea was ready, and he sat down opposite
his mother. She did not
speak many words; and as for him, something had
been just done and some words had been just said on the hill which
prevented him from beginning a desultory chat. His mother's taciturnity
was not without ominousness
, but he appeared not to care. He knew why she
said so little, but he could not
remove the cause of her bearing towards
him. These half-silent
sittings were far from uncommon with them now. At
last Yeobright made a beginning of what was intended to
strike at the
whole root of the matter.

"Five days have we sat like this at meals with
scarcely a word. What's
the use of it, Mother?
"

"None," said she, in a heart-swollen tone. "But there is only too good a
reason."


"Not when you know all. I have been wanting to speak about this, and I am
glad the subject is begun. The reason, of course, is Eustacia Vye. Well,
I confess I have seen her lately, and have seen her a good many times."

"Yes, yes; and I know what that amounts to. It troubles me, Clym. You are
wasting your life here; and it is solely on account of her. If it had not
been for that woman you would never have
entertained this teaching scheme
at all."

Clym
looked hard at his mother. "You know that is not it," he said.

"Well, I know you had decided to
attempt it before you saw her; but that
would have ended in intentions. It was very well to
talk of, but ridiculous
to
put in practice. I fully expected that in the course of a month or two
you would have seen the
folly of such self-sacrifice, and would have been
by this time back again to Paris in some business or other. I can understand
objections to the diamond trade--I really was thinking that it might be
inadequate to the life of a man like you even though it might have made you
a millionaire. But now I see how
mistaken you are about this girl I doubt
if you could be
correct about other things."

"How am I mistaken in her?"

"She is lazy and dissatisfied. But that is not all of it. Supposing her to
be as good a woman as any you can find, which she certainly is not, why do
you wish to
connect yourself with anybody at present?"

"Well, there are
practical reasons," Clym began, and then almost broke off
under an
overpowering sense of the weight of argument which could be brought
against
his statement.

"If I take a school an educated woman would be invaluable as a help to me."

"What! you really mean to marry her?"

"It would be premature to state that plainly. But consider what obvious
advantages there would be in doing it. She----"

"Don't suppose she has any money. She hasn't a farthing."

"She is excellently educated, and would make a good matron in a boarding-
school. I
candidly own that I have modified my views a little, in deference
to you; and it should
satisfy you. I no longer adhere to my intention of
giving with my own mouth rudimentary education to the lowest class. I can
do better. I can
establish a good private school for farmers' sons, and
without stopping the school I can manage to pass examinations. By this means,
and by the
assistance of a wife like her----"

"Oh, Clym!"

"I shall ultimately, I hope, be at the head of one of the best schools in
the county."

Yeobright had enunciated the word "her" with a fervour which, in
conversation with a mother, was absurdly indiscreet. Hardly a maternal
heart within the four seas could in such circumstances, have helped being
irritated at that ill-timed betrayal of feeling for a new woman.


"You are blinded, Clym," she said warmly. "It was a bad day for you when
you first
set eyes on her. And your scheme is merely a castle in the air
built on purpose to justify this folly which has seized you, and to salve
your conscience on the
irrational situation you are in."

"Mother, that's not
true," he firmly answered.

"Can you
maintain that I sit and tell untruths, when all I wish to do is
to save you from
sorrow? For shame, Clym! But it is all through that
woman--a hussy!"


Clym reddened like fire and rose. He placed his hand upon his mother's
shoulder and said, in a tone which hung strangely between entreaty and
command,
"I won't hear it. I may be led to answer you in a way which we
shall both
regret."

His mother parted her lips to begin some other vehement truth, but on
looking at him she saw that in his face which led her to leave the words
unsaid.
Yeobright walked once or twice across the room, and then suddenly
went out of the house.
It was eleven o'clock when he came in, though he
had not been further than the precincts of the garden. His mother was gone
to bed. A light was left burning on the table, and supper was spread.
Without stopping for any food he secured the doors and went upstairs.



IV - An Hour of Bliss and Many Hours of Sadness



The low moon was not as yet visible from the front of the house, and
Yeobright climbed out of the valley until he stood in the
full flood
of her light.
But even now he walked on, and his steps were in the
direction of Rainbarrow.





In half an hour he stood at the top. The sky was clear from verge to
verge, and the moon flung her rays over the whole heath, but without
sensibly lighting it, except where paths and water-courses had laid
bare the white flints and glistening quartz sand, which made streaks
upon the general shade. After standing awhile he stooped and felt the
heather. It was dry, and he flung himself down upon the barrow, his
face towards the moon, which depicted a small image of herself in
each of his eyes.


He had often come up here without stating his purpose to his mother;
but this was the first time that he had been
ostensibly frank as to
his purpose while really
concealing it. It was a moral situation
which, three months earlier, he could hardly have
credited of himself.
In returning to labour in this
sequestered spot he had anticipated
an
escape from the chafing of social necessities; yet behold they
were here also. More than ever he longed to be in some world where
personal ambition was not the only recognized form of progress--such,
perhaps, as might have been the case at some time or other in
the
silvery globe then shining upon him. His eye travelled over the
length and breadth of that distant country--over the Bay of Rainbows,
the sombre Sea of Crises, the Ocean of Storms, the Lake of Dreams,
the vast Walled Plains, and the wondrous Ring Mountains--till he
almost felt himself to be voyaging bodily through its wild scenes,
standing on its hollow hills, traversing its deserts, descending
its vales and old sea bottoms, or mounting to the edges of its
craters.

While he watched the far-removed landscape a tawny stain grew into
being on the lower verge--the eclipse had begun. This marked a
preconcerted moment--for the remote celestial phenomenon had been
pressed into sublunary service as a lover's signal. Yeobright's
mind flew back to earth at the sight
; he arose, shook himself and
listened. Minute after minute passed by, perhaps ten minutes passed,
and the shadow on the moon
perceptibly widened. He heard a rustling
on his left hand, a
cloaked figure with an upturned face appeared at
the base of the Barrow, and Clym
descended. In a moment the figure
was in his arms, and his lips upon hers.


"My Eustacia!"

"Clym, dearest!"

Such a situation had less than three months brought forth.

They remained long without a single utterance, for
no language could
reach the level of their condition--words were as the rusty implements
of a by-gone barbarous epoch, and only to be occasionally tolerated
.

"I began to wonder why you did not come," said Yeobright, when she
had withdrawn a little from his embrace.

"You said ten minutes after the first mark of shade on the edge of
the moon, and that's what it is now."

"Well, let us only think that here we are."

Then, holding each other's hand, they were again silent, and the
shadow on the moon's disc
grew a little larger.

"Has it seemed long since you last saw me?" she asked.

"It has seemed sad."

"And not long? That's because you occupy yourself, and so blind
yourself to my absence. To me, who can do nothing, it has been like
living under stagnant water
."

"I would rather bear tediousness, dear, than have time made short by
such means as have shortened mine."

"In what way is that? You have been thinking you wished you did not
love me."

"How can a man wish that, and yet love on? No, Eustacia."

"Men can, women cannot."

"Well, whatever I may have thought, one thing is certain--I do love
you--past all
compass and description. I love you to oppressiveness--
I, who have never before felt more than a
pleasant passing fancy for
any woman I have ever seen. Let me look right into your
moonlit face
and
dwell on every line and curve in it! Only a few hairbreadths
make the difference between this face and faces I have seen many
times before I knew you; yet what a difference--the difference
between everything and nothing at all. One
touch on that mouth
again! there, and there, and there. Your eyes seem
heavy, Eustacia."

"No, it is my
general way of looking. I think it arises from my
feeling sometimes an
agonizing pity for myself that I ever was born."

"You don't feel it now?"

"No. Yet I know that we shall not love like this always. Nothing can
ensure the continuance of love. It will evaporate like a spirit, and
so I feel full of fears."


"You need not."

"Ah, you don't know. You have seen more than I, and have been into
cities and among people that I have only heard of, and have lived
more years than I; but yet I am
older at this than you. I loved
another man once, and now I
love you."

"In God's
mercy don't talk so, Eustacia!"

----------------------------------------------------------------

"Never mind what it is. Believe this, I cannot let myself lose you.
I must have you always with me. This very evening I do not like to
let you go. There is only one
cure for this anxiety, dearest--you
must be my wife."


She started--then endeavoured to say calmly, "Cynics say that cures
the anxiety by curing the love."


"But you must answer me. Shall I claim you some day--I don't mean at
once?"

"I must think," Eustacia murmured. "At present speak of Paris to me.
Is there any place like it on earth?"

"It is very beautiful. But will you be mine?"

"I will be nobody else's in the world--does that satisfy you?"

"Yes, for the present."

"Now tell me of the Tuileries, and the Louvre," she continued
evasively.

"I hate talking of Paris! Well, I remember one sunny room in the
Louvre which would make a
fitting place for you to live in--the
Galerie d'Apollon. Its windows are mainly east; and in the early
morning, when the sun is bright,
the whole apartment is in a perfect
blaze of splendour. The rays bristle and dart from the encrustations
of gilding to the magnificent inlaid coffers, from the coffers to
the gold and silver plate, from the plate to the jewels and precious
stones, from these to the enamels, till there is a perfect network
of light which quite dazzles the eye.
But now, about our marriage----"

"And Versailles--the King's Gallery is some such gorgeous room, is it
not?"

"Yes. But what's the use of talking of gorgeous rooms? By the way,
the Little Trianon would suit us beautifully to live in, and you
might walk in the gardens in the moonlight and think you were in
some English shrubbery; It is laid out in English fashion."

"I should hate to think that!"

"Then you could keep to the lawn in front of the Grand Palace. All
about there you would doubtless feel in a world of historical
romance
."

He went on, since it was all new to her, and described Fontainebleau,
St. Cloud, the Bois, and many other familiar haunts of the Parisians;
till she said--

"When used you to go to these places?"

"On Sundays."

"Ah, yes. I dislike English Sundays. How I should chime in with their
manners over there! Dear Clym, you'll go back again?"

Clym shook his head, and looked at the
eclipse.

"If you'll go back again I'll--be something," she said tenderly,
putting her head near his breast. "If you'll agree I'll give my
promise, without making you wait a minute longer."

"How extraordinary that you and my mother should be of one mind about
this!" said Yeobright. "I have
vowed not to go back, Eustacia. It
is not the place I dislike; it is the occupation."

"But you can go in some other capacity."

"No. Besides, it would
interfere with my scheme. Don't press that,
Eustacia. Will you marry me?"


"I cannot tell."

"Now--never mind Paris; it is no better than other spots. Promise,
sweet!"

"You will never adhere to your education plan, I am quite sure; and
then it will be all right for me; and so I promise to be yours for
ever and ever."

Clym brought her face towards his by a gentle pressure of the hand,
and
kissed her.

"Ah! but you don't know what you have got in me," she said.
"Sometimes I think there is not that in Eustacia Vye which will
make a
good homespun wife. Well, let it go--see how our time is
slipping, slipping, slipping!" She pointed towards the half-eclipsed
moon
.

"You are too mournful."

"No. Only I
dread to think of anything beyond the present. What is,
we know
. We are together now, and it is unknown how long we shall be
so; the unknown always
fills my mind with terrible possibilities,
even when I may
reasonably expect it to be cheerful....Clym, the
eclipsed moonlight shines upon your face with a strange foreign
colour, and shows its shape as if it were cut out in gold. That means
that you should be doing better things than this."


"You are ambitious, Eustacia--no, not exactly ambitious, luxurious.
I ought to be of the same vein, to make you
happy, I suppose. And
yet, far from that, I could live and die in a hermitage here, with
proper work to do."

There was that in his tone which
implied distrust of his position as
a
solicitous lover, a doubt if he were acting fairly towards one whose
tastes
touched his own only at rare and infrequent points. She saw
his meaning, and whispered, in a low, full accent of eager assurance

"Don't mistake me, Clym--though I should like Paris, I love you for
yourself alone. To be your wife and live in Paris would be heaven to
me; but I would rather live with you in a hermitage here than not be
yours at all. It is gain to me either way, and
very great gain.
There's my
too candid confession."

"Spoken like a woman. And now I must soon leave you. I'll walk with
you towards your house."

"But must you go home yet?" she asked. "Yes, the sand has nearly
slipped away, I see, and the eclipse is creeping on more and more.
Don't go yet! Stop till the hour has
run itself out; then I will
not
press you any more. You will go home and sleep well;I keep
sighing in my sleep! Do you ever dream of me?"

"I cannot recollect a clear dream of you."


"I see your face in every scene of my dreams, and hear your voice
in every sound. I wish I did not. It is too much what I feel.
They
say such
love never lasts. But it must! And yet once, I remember,
I saw an officer of the Hussars ride down the street at Budmouth,
and though he was a
total stranger and never spoke to me, I loved
him till I thought I should really
die of love-- but I didn't die,
and at last I
left off caring for him. How terrible it would be if
a time should come when I could not love you, my Clym!"

"Please don't say such
reckless things. When we see such a time at
hand we will say, 'I have
outlived my faith and purpose,' and die.
There, the hour has expired--now let us walk on."

Hand in hand they went along the path towards Mistover. When they
were near the house he said, "It is too late for me to see your
grandfather tonight. Do you think he will object to it?"

"I will speak to him. I am so accustomed to be my own mistress that
it did not occur to me that we should have to ask him."

Then they lingeringly separated, and Clym descended towards Blooms-
End
.

And as he walked further and further from the charmed atmosphere of
his Olympian girl his face grew sad with a new sort of sadness.
A
perception of the dilemma in which his love had placed him came back
in
full force. In spite of Eustacia's apparent willingness to wait
through the period of an
unpromising engagement, till he should be
established in his new pursuit, he could not but perceive at moments
that she loved him rather as a
visitant from a gay world to which
she
rightly belonged than as a man with a purpose opposed to that
recent past of his which so
interested her. It meant that, though
she made no conditions as to his return to the French capital, this
was what she
secretly longed for in the event of marriage; and it
robbed him of many an otherwise pleasant hour. Along with that came
the
widening breach between himself and his mother. Whenever any
little occurrence had brought into more
prominence than usual the
disappointment that he was causing her it had sent him on lone and
moody walks; or he was kept awake a great part of the night by the
turmoil of spirit which such a recognition created. If Mrs. Yeobright
could only have been led to see what a sound and worthy purpose this
purpose of his was and how little it was being affected by his
devotions to Eustacia, how differently would she regard him!

Thus as his sight grew accustomed to the first blinding halo kindled
about him by love and beauty, Yeobright began to perceive what a
strait he was in
. Sometimes he wished that he had never known
Eustacia,
immediately to retract the wish as brutal. Three
antagonistic growths had to be kept alive: his mother's trust in him,
his plan for becoming a teacher, and Eustacia's happiness. His fervid
nature could not afford to relinquish one of these, though two of the
three were as many as he could hope to preserve.
Though his love was
as
chaste as that of Petrarch for his Laura, it had made fetters of
what previously was only a difficulty. A position which was not too
simple when he stood whole-hearted had become indescribably
complicated
by the addition of Eustacia. Just when his mother was
beginning to
tolerate one scheme he had introduced another still
bitterer than the first, and the combination was more than she could
bear.



V - Sharp Words Are Spoken, and a Crisis Ensues



"I have been told an incomprehensible thing," she said mournfully.
"The captain has let out at the Woman that you and Eustacia Vye are
engaged to be married."

"We are," said Yeobright. "But it may not be yet for a very long
time."

"I should hardly think it would be yet for a very long time! You will
take her to Paris, I suppose?" She spoke with
weary hopelessness.

"I am not going back to Paris."

"What will you do with a wife, then?"

"Keep a school in Budmouth, as I have told you."

"That's incredible! The place is overrun with schoolmasters. You have
no
special qualifications. What possible chance is there for such as
you?"

"There is no chance of
getting rich. But with my system of education,
which is as
new as it is true, I shall do a great deal of good to my
fellow-creatures."

"
Dreams, dreams! If there had been any system left to be invented they
would have found it out at the universities long before this time."

"Never, Mother. They cannot find it out, because their teachers don't
come in
contact with the class which demands such a system--that is,
those who have had no
preliminary training. My plan is one for
instilling high knowledge into empty minds without first cramming
them with what has to be uncrammed again before true study begins."


"I might have believed you if you had kept yourself free from
entanglements; but this woman--if she had been a good girl it would
have been bad enough; but being----"

"She is a good girl."

"So you think. A Corfu bandmaster's daughter! What has her life been?
Her surname even is not her
true one."

"She is Captain Vye's granddaughter, and her father merely took her
mother's name. And she is a lady by instinct."

"They call him 'captain,' but anybody is captain."

"He was in the Royal Navy!"


"No doubt he has been to sea in some tub or other. Why doesn't he
look after her? No lady would rove about the heath at all hours of
the day and night as she does. But that's not all of it. There was
something
queer between her and Thomasin's husband at one time--I am
as sure of it as that I stand here."


"Eustacia has told me. He did pay her a little attention a year ago;
but there's no harm in that. I like her all the better."

"Clym," said his mother with firmness, "I have no proofs against her,
unfortunately. But if she makes you a good wife, there has never been
a
bad one."

"Believe me, you are almost exasperating," said Yeobright vehemently.
"And this very day I had intended to arrange a meeting between you.
But you give me no peace; you try to thwart my wishes in everything."

"I hate the thought of any son of mine marrying badly! I wish I had
never lived to see this; it is too much for me--it is more than I
dreamt!" She turned to the window. Her breath was coming quickly, and
her lips were pale, parted, and trembling.

"Mother," said Clym, "whatever you do, you will always be dear to
me--that you know. But one thing I have a right to say, which is,
that at my age I am old enough to know what is
best for me."

Mrs. Yeobright
remained for some time silent and shaken, as if she
could say no more. Then she
replied, "Best? Is it best for you to
injure your prospects for such a voluptuous, idle woman as that?
Don't you see that by the very fact of your choosing her you prove
that you do not know what is
best for you? You give up your whole
thought
--you set your whole soul--to please a woman."

"I
do. And that woman is you."

"How can you
treat me so flippantly!" said his mother, turning again
to him with a tearful look. "
You are unnatural, Clym, and I did not
expect it."

"Very likely," said he cheerlessly. "You did not know the measure
you were going to mete me, and therefore did not know the measure
that would be returned to you again."


"You answer me; you think only of her. You stick to her in all things."

"That
proves her to be worthy. I have never yet supported what is bad.
And I do not care only for her. I care for you and for myself, and for
anything that is good. When a woman once
dislikes another she is
merciless!"

"O Clym! please don't go setting down as my fault what is your
obstinate wrongheadedness. If you wished to connect yourself with an
unworthy person why did you come home here to do it? Why didn't you
do it in Paris?--it is more the fashion there. You have come only to
distress me, a lonely woman, and shorten my days! I wish that you
would bestow your presence where you bestow your love!"


Clym said huskily, "You are my mother. I will say no more--beyond
this, that
I beg your pardon for having thought this my home. I will
no longer
inflict myself upon you; I'll go." And he went out with
tears in his eyes.

It was a
sunny afternoon at the beginning of summer, and the moist
hollows of the heath had
passed from their brown to their green
stage. Yeobright walked to the edge of the basin which
extended down
from Mistover and Rainbarrow.

By this time he was
calm, and he looked over the landscape. In the
minor valleys, between the hillocks which diversified the contour of
the vale, the
fresh young ferns were luxuriantly growing up,
ultimately to reach a height of five or six feet. He
descended a
little way,
flung himself down in a spot where a path emerged from
one of the small hollows, and waited. Hither it was that he had
promised Eustacia to bring his mother this afternoon, that they might
meet and be friends. His
attempt had utterly failed.

He was in a nest of vivid green. The ferny vegetation round him,
though so abundant, was quite uniform--it was a grove of machine-made
foliage, a world of green triangles with saw-edges, and not a single
flower. The air was warm with a vaporous warmth, and the stillness
was unbroken. Lizards, grasshoppers, and ants were the only living
things to be beheld. The scene seemed to belong to the ancient world
of the carboniferous period, when the forms of plants were few, and
of the fern kind; when there was neither bud nor blossom, nothing but
a monotonous extent of leafage, amid which no bird sang.


When he had reclined for some considerable time, gloomily pondering,
he
discerned above the ferns a drawn bonnet of white silk approaching
from the left, and Yeobright knew directly that it covered the head of
her he loved. His heart
awoke from its apathy to a warm excitement,
and, jumping to his feet, he said aloud, "I knew she was sure to come."


She vanished in a hollow for a few moments, and then her whole form
unfolded itself from the brake.


"Only you here?" she exclaimed, with a disappointed air, whose
hollowness was proved by her rising redness and her half-guilty low
laugh
. "Where is Mrs. Yeobright?"

"She has not come," he replied in a subdued tone.

"I wish I had known that you would be here alone," she said
seriously,
"and that we were going to have such an
idle, pleasant time as this.
Pleasure not known beforehand is half wasted; to anticipate it is to
double it. I have not thought once today of having you all to myself
this afternoon, and the actual moment of a thing is so soon gone."


"It is indeed."

"Poor Clym!" she continued, looking tenderly into his face. "You are
sad. Something has happened at your home. Never mind what is--let us
only look at what seems."


"But, darling, what shall we do?" said he.

"Still go on as we do now--just live on from meeting to meeting,
never minding about another day. You, I know, are always thinking of
that--I can see you are. But you must not--will you,
dear Clym?"

"You are just like all women. They are ever
content to build their
lives on any
incidental position that offers itself; whilst men
would fain
make a globe to suit them. Listen to this, Eustacia. There
is a subject I have determined to put off no longer. Your sentiment
on the wisdom of Carpe diem does not impress me today. Our present
mode of life must shortly be brought to an end."

"It is your mother!"

"It is. I love you none the less in telling you; it is only right
you should know."


"I have feared my bliss," she said, with the merest motion of her
lips. "It has been too intense and consuming."


"There is hope yet. There are forty years of work in me yet, and why
should you
despair? I am only at an awkward turning. I wish people
wouldn't be so ready to think that there is no
progress without
uniformity."

"Ah--your mind
runs off to the philosophical side of it. Well, these
sad and hopeless obstacles are welcome in one sense, for they enable
us to look with
indifference upon the cruel satires that Fate loves
to
indulge in. I have heard of people, who, upon coming suddenly
into happiness, have
died from anxiety lest they should not live to
enjoy it. I felt myself in that
whimsical state of uneasiness lately;
but I shall be
spared it now. Let us walk on."

Clym took the hand which was already
bared for him--it was a
favourite way with them to walk
bare hand in bare hand--and led her
through the ferns.
They formed a very comely picture of love at full
flush, as they walked along the valley that late afternoon, the sun
sloping down on their right, and throwing their thin spectral shadows,
tall as poplar trees, far out across the furze and fern. Eustacia
went with her head thrown back fancifully, a certain glad and
voluptuous air of triumph pervading her eyes at having won by her
own unaided self a man who was her perfect complement in attainment,
appearance, and age.
On the young man's part, the paleness of face
which he had brought with him from Paris, and the
incipient marks of
time and thought, were less
perceptible than when he returned, the
healthful and energetic sturdiness which was his by nature having
partially recovered its original proportions. They wandered onward
till they reached the
nether margin of the heath, where it became
marshy and merged in moorland.

"I must
part from you here, Clym," said Eustacia.

They stood still and prepared to bid each other farewell. Everything
before them was on a perfect level
. The sun, resting on the horizon
line, streamed across the ground from between copper-coloured and
lilac clouds, stretched out in flats beneath a sky of pale soft
green. All dark objects on the earth that lay towards the sun were
overspread by a purple haze, against which groups of wailing gnats
shone out, rising upwards and dancing about like sparks of fire.


"O! this leaving you is too hard to bear!" exclaimed Eustacia in a
sudden whisper of anguish. "Your mother will influence you too much;
I shall not be
judged fairly, it will get afloat that I am not a
good girl, and the witch story will be added to make me blacker!"

"They cannot. Nobody dares to
speak disrespectfully of you or of me."

"Oh how I wish I was
sure of never losing you--that you could not be
able to
desert me anyhow!"

Clym stood
silent a moment. His feelings were high, the moment was
passionate, and he cut the knot.

"You shall be
sure of me, darling," he said, folding her in his arms.
"We will be married at once."


"O Clym!"

"Do you agree to it?"

"If--if we can."

"We certainly can, both being of full age. And I have not followed
my occupation all these years without having accumulated money; and
if you will agree to live in a tiny cottage somewhere on the heath,
until I take a house in Budmouth for the school, we can do it at a
very little expense."

"How long shall we have to live in the
tiny cottage, Clym?"

"About six months. At the end of that time I shall have finished my
reading--yes, we will do it, and this
heart-aching will be over. We
shall, of course, live in
absolute seclusion, and our married life
will only begin to outward view when we take the house in Budmouth,
where I have already addressed a letter on the matter. Would your
grandfather allow you?"

"I think he would--on the understanding that it should not last
longer than six months."

"I will guarantee that, if no misfortune happens."

"If no
misfortune happens," she repeated slowly.

"Which is not likely. Dearest,
fix the exact day."

And then they consulted on the question, and the day was chosen. It
was to be a fortnight from that time.

This was the end of their talk, and Eustacia left him. Clym watched
her as
she retired towards the sun. The luminous rays wrapped her up
with her increasing distance, and the rustle of her dress over the
sprouting sedge and grass died away. As he watched, the dead flat of
the scenery overpowered him, though he was fully alive to the beauty
of that untarnished early summer green which was worn for the nonce
by the poorest blade. There was something in its oppressive
horizontality which too much reminded him of the arena of life; it
gave him a sense of bare equality with, and no superiority to, a
single living thing under the sun.


Eustacia was now no longer the goddess but the woman to him, a being
to
fight for, support, help, be maligned for. Now that he had reached
a
cooler moment he would have preferred a less hasty marriage; but
the card was laid, and he
determined to abide by the game. Whether
Eustacia was to add one other to the list of those who
love too hotly
to
love long and well, the forthcoming event was certainly a ready
way of proving.




VI - Yeobright Goes, and the Breach Is Complete



All that evening smart sounds denoting an active packing up came from
Yeobright's room to the ears of his mother downstairs.


Next morning he departed from the house and again proceeded across the
heath. A long day's march was before him, his object being to secure a
dwelling to which he might take Eustacia when she became his wife. Such
a house, small, secluded, and with its windows boarded up, he had casually
observed a month earlier, about two miles beyond the village of East Egdon,
and six miles distant altogether; and thither he directed his steps today.

The weather was far different from that of the evening before. The yellow
and vapoury sunset which had wrapped up Eustacia from his parting gaze had
presaged change
. It was one of those not infrequent days of an English June
which are as
wet and boisterous as November. The cold clouds hastened on in
a body, as if painted on a moving slide. Vapours from other continents
arrived upon the wind, which curled and parted round him as he walked on.


At length Clym reached the margin of a fir and beech plantation that had
been
enclosed from heath land in the year of his birth. Here the trees,
laden heavily with their new and humid leaves, were now suffering more
damage than during the highest winds of winter, when the boughs are
especially disencumbered to do battle with the storm. The wet young
beeches were undergoing amputations, bruises, cripplings, and harsh
lacerations, from which the wasting sap would bleed for many a day to
come, and which would leave scars visible till the day of their burning.
Each stem was wrenched at the root, where it moved like a bone in its
socket, and at every onset of the gale convulsive sounds came from the
branches, as if pain were felt. In a neighbouring brake a finch was
trying to sing; but the wind blew under his feathers till they stood on
end, twisted round his little tail, and made him give up his song.

Yet a few yards to Yeobright's left, on the open heath, how ineffectively
gnashed the storm! Those gusts which tore the trees merely waved the furze
and heather in a light caress. Egdon was made for such times as these.


Yeobright reached the empty house about midday. It was almost as lonely as
that of Eustacia's grandfather, but the fact that it stood near a heath was
disguised by a belt of firs which almost enclosed the premises. He journeyed
on about a mile further to the village in which the owner lived, and,
returning with him to the house, arrangements were completed, and the man
undertook that one room at least should be ready for occupation the next day.
Clym's intention was to live there alone until Eustacia should join him on
their wedding-day.

Then he turned to pursue his way homeward through the drizzle that had so
greatly transformed the scene. The ferns, among which he had lain in comfort
yesterday, were
dripping moisture from every frond, wetting his legs through
as he
brushed past; and the fur of the rabbits leaping before him was clotted
into
dark locks by the same watery surrounding.

He reached home
damp and weary enough after his ten- mile walk. It had hardly
been a
propitious beginning, but he had chosen his course, and would show no
swerving. The evening and the following morning were spent in concluding
arrangements for his
departure. To stay at home a minute longer than
necessary after having once come to his
determination would be, he felt,
only to
give new pain to his mother by some word, look, or deed.



----------------------------------------------------------------

"Mother, I am going to leave you," he said, holding out his hand.

"I thought you were, by your
packing," replied Mrs. Yeobright in a voice
from which every particle of emotion was painfully excluded.


"And you will part friends with me?"

"
Certainly, Clym."

"I am going to be
married on the twenty-fifth."

"I thought you were going to be
married."

"And then--and then you must
come and see us. You will understand me
better after that, and our situation will not be so wretched as it is
now."


"I do not think it likely I shall come to see you."

"Then it will not be my fault or Eustacia's, Mother. Good-bye!"

He kissed her cheek, and departed in great misery, which was several
hours in lessening itself to a controllable level.
The position had
been such that nothing more could be said without, in the first place,
breaking down a barrier; and that was not to be done.

No sooner had Yeobright gone from his mother's house than
her face
changed its rigid aspect for one of blank despair. After a while she
wept, and her tears brought some relief.
During the rest of the day
she did nothing but
walk up and down the garden path in a state
bordering on stupefaction
. Night came, and with it but little rest.
The next day, with an instinct to do something which should
reduce
prostration to mournfulness
, she went to her son's room, and with her
own hands
arranged it in order, for an imaginary time when he should
return again. She gave some
attention to her flowers, but it was
perfunctorily bestowed, for they no longer charmed her.

It was a great relief when, early in the afternoon, Thomasin paid her
an unexpected visit. This was not the first meeting between the
relatives since Thomasin's marriage; and past blunders having been in
a rough way
rectified, they could always greet each other with pleasure
and
ease.

The oblique band of sunlight which followed her through the door became
the young wife well. It illuminated her as her presence illuminated the
heath. In her movements, in her gaze, she reminded the beholder of the
feathered creatures who lived around her home. All similes and allegories
concerning her began and ended with birds. There was as much variety in
her motions as in their flight. When she was musing she was a kestrel,
which hangs in the air by an invisible motion of its wings. When she was
in a high wind her light body was blown against trees and banks like a
heron's. When she was frightened she darted noiselessly like a kingfisher.
When she was serene she skimmed like a swallow, and that is how she was
moving now.

"You are looking very blithe, upon my word, Tamsie,"
said Mrs. Yeobright,
with a
sad smile. "How is Damon?"

"He is very
well."

"Is he
kind to you, Thomasin?" And Mrs. Yeobright observed her narrowly.

"
Pretty fairly."

----------------------------------------------------------------

"Very well, I will....Aunt, I have heard about Clym. I know you are in
trouble about him, and that's why I have come."

Mrs. Yeobright turned away, and her features worked in her attempt to
conceal her feelings. Then she ceased to make any attempt, and said,
weeping, "O Thomasin, do you think he hates me? How can he bear to grieve
me so, when I have lived only for him through all these years?"

"
Hate you--no," said Thomasin soothingly. "It is only that he loves her
too well.
Look at it quietly--do. It is not so very bad of him. Do you
know, I thought it not the worst
match he could have made. Miss Vye's
family is a
good one on her mother's side; and her father was a romantic
wanderer--a sort of Greek Ulysses."

"It is no
use, Thomasin; it is no use. Your intention is good; but I will
not trouble you to
argue. I have gone through the whole that can be said
on either side times, and many times.
Clym and I have not parted in anger;
we have parted in a worse way
. It is not a passionate quarrel that would
have broken my heart; it is the
steady opposition and persistence in
going wrong that he has shown. O Thomasin, he was so good as a little
boy--so
tender and kind!"

"He was, I know."

"I did not think one whom I called mine would grow up to treat me like
this. He spoke to me as if I opposed him to injure him. As though I could
wish him ill!"

"There are worse women in the world than Eustacia Vye."

"There are too many better that's the
agony of it. It was she, Thomasin,
and she only, who led your husband to act as he did--I would
swear it!"

"No," said Thomasin
eagerly. "It was before he knew me that he thought of
her, and it was nothing but a
mere flirtation."

"Very well; we will let it be so. There is little use in
unravelling that
now. Sons must be
blind if they will. Why is it that a woman can see from
a distance what a man cannot see close?
Clym must do as he will--he is
nothing more to me. And this is maternity--to give one's best years and
best love to ensure the fate of being despised!"


"You are too unyielding. Think how many mothers there are whose sons have
brought them to
public shame by real crimes before you feel so deeply a
case like this."

"Thomasin, don't
lecture me--I can't have it. It is the excess above what
we expect that makes the force of the blow
, and that may not be greater
in their case than in mine--they may have
foreseen the worst....I am
wrongly made, Thomasin," she added, with a mournful smile. "Some widows
can guard against the wounds their children give them by turning their
hearts to another husband and beginning life again. But I always was a
poor, weak, one-idea'd creature--I had not the compass of heart nor the
enterprise for that. Just as forlorn and stupefied as I was when my
husband's spirit flew away I have sat ever since--never attempting to
mend matters at all.
I was comparatively a young woman then, and I might
have had another family by this time, and have been
comforted by them
for the
failure of this one son."

"It is more
noble in you that you did not."

"The more noble, the less wise."

"Forget it, and be soothed, dear Aunt. And I shall not leave you alone
for long. I shall come and see you every day."





Wildeve went indoors to the empty room, a curious heartache within him.
He rested his elbow upon the mantelpiece and his face upon his hand.

When Thomasin entered the room he did not tell her of what he had heard.
The old longing for Eustacia had reappeared in his soul--and it was mainly
because he had
discovered that it was another man's intention to possess
her.

To be yearning for the difficult, to be weary of that offered; to care
for the
remote, to dislike the near; it was Wildeve's nature always.
This is the true mark of the man of
sentiment. Though Wildeve's fevered
feeling had not been elaborated to real poetical compass
, it was of the
standard sort. His might have been called
the Rousseau of Egdon.



VII - The Morning and the Evening of a Day



The wedding morning came. Nobody would have imagined from appearances
that Blooms-End had any
interest in Mistover that day. A solemn stillness
prevailed around the house of Clym's mother, and there was no more
animation indoors. Mrs. Yeobright, who had declined to attend the
ceremony, sat by the breakfast table in the old room which communicated
immediately with the porch, her eyes
listlessly directed towards the
open door.
It was the room in which, six months earlier, the merry
Christmas party had met, to which Eustacia came secretly and as a
stranger. The only living thing that entered now was a sparrow; and
seeing no movements to
cause alarm, he hopped boldly round the room,
endeavoured to go out by the window, and
fluttered among the pot-flowers.
This
roused the lonely sitter, who got up, released the bird, and went to
the door.
She was expecting Thomasin, who had written the night before to
state that the time had come when she would wish to have the money and
that she would if possible call this day.

Yet Thomasin occupied Mrs. Yeobright's thoughts but slightly as she
looked up the valley of the heath,
alive with butterflies, and with
grasshoppers whose
husky noises on every side formed a whispered chorus.
A
domestic drama, for which the preparations were now being made a mile
or two off, was but
little less vividly present to her eyes than if
enacted before her. She tried to dismiss the vision, and walked about
the garden plot; but her eyes ever and anon
sought out the direction
of the parish church to which Mistover belonged, and
her excited fancy
clove the hills which divided the building from her eyes
. The morning
wore away. Eleven o'clock struck--could it be that the wedding was
then in progress? It must be so. She went on
imagining the scene at
the church, which he had by this time
approached with his bride. She
pictured the little group of children by the gate as the pony carriage
drove up
in which, as Thomasin had learnt, they were going to perform
the short journey. Then she saw them enter and proceed to the chancel
and kneel; and the service seemed to go on.

She covered her face with her hands. "O, it is a mistake!" she groaned.
"And he will
rue it some day, and think of me!"

While she remained thus, overcome by her forebodings, the old clock
indoors
whizzed forth twelve strokes. Soon after, faint sounds floated
to her ear from afar over the hills. The breeze came from that quarter,
and it had brought with it the notes of
distant bells, gaily starting
off in a
peal: one, two, three, four, five. The ringers at East Egdon
were
announcing the nuptials of Eustacia and her son.

"Then it is over," she
murmured. "Well, well! and life too will be over
soon. And why should I go on scalding my face like this? Cry about one
thing in life, cry about all; one thread runs through the whole piece.
And yet we say, 'a time to laugh!'"


Towards evening Wildeve came. Since Thomasin's marriage Mrs. Yeobright
had shown him that
grim friendliness which at last arises in all such
cases of
undesired affinity. The vision of what ought to have been is
thrown aside in sheer weariness, and browbeaten human endeavour
listlessly makes the best of the fact that is
. Wildeve, to do him
justice, had
behaved very courteously to his wife's aunt; and it was
with no
surprise that she saw him enter now.





"Then it is done," said Mrs. Yeobright. "Have they gone to their new
home?"

"I don't know. I have had no news from Mistover since Thomasin left
to go."

"You did not go with her?" said she, as if there might be good reasons
why.

"I could not," said Wildeve,
reddening slightly. "We could not both
leave the house; it was rather a busy morning, on account of Anglebury
Great Market. I believe you have something to give to Thomasin? If you
like, I will take it."

Mrs. Yeobright
hesitated, and wondered if Wildeve knew what the
something was. "Did she tell you of this?" she
inquired.

"Not particularly. She
casually dropped a remark about having arranged
to
fetch some article or other."

"It is hardly necessary to
send it. She can have it whenever she
chooses to
come."

"That won't be yet. In the present state of her health she must not go
on walking so much as she has done." He added,
with a faint twang of
sarcasm
, "What wonderful thing is it that I cannot be trusted to take?"

"Nothing
worth troubling you with."

"One would think you
doubted my honesty," he said, with a laugh, though
his
colour rose in a quick resentfulness frequent with him.

"You need think no such thing,"
said she drily. "It is simply that I,
in common with the rest of the world, feel that there are certain things
which had better be done by certain people than by others."

"As you like, as you like,"
said Wildeve laconically. "It is not worth
arguing about.
Well, I think I must turn homeward again, as the inn
must not be left long in charge of the lad and the maid only."

He went his way, his farewell being scarcely so courteous as his
greeting. But Mrs. Yeobright knew him thoroughly by this time, and
took little notice of his manner,
good or bad.

----------------------------------------------------------------

"No, sir," said Christian, drawing back, with a quick gaze of
misgiving. "I am only a poor chap come to look on, an it please ye,
sir.
I don't so much as know how you do it. If so be I was sure of
getting it I would put down the shilling; but I couldn't otherwise."

"I think you might almost be sure," said the pedlar. "In fact, now I
look into your face, even if I can't say you are sure to
win, I can say
that I never saw anything look more like
winning in my life."

"You'll anyhow have the same chance as the rest of us," said Sam.

"And the extra luck of being the last comer," said another.

"And I was born wi' a caul, and perhaps can be no more ruined than
drowned?" Christian added, beginning to give way.

Ultimately Christian laid down his shilling, the raffle began, and the
dice went round. When it came to Christian's turn he took the box with
a
trembling hand, shook it fearfully, and threw a pair-royal. Three of
the others had thrown common low pairs, and all the rest mere points.

"The gentleman looked like
winning, as I said," observed the chapman
blandly. "Take it, sir; the article is yours."

"Haw-haw-haw!" said Fairway. "I'm damned if this isn't the
quarest
start that ever I knowed!"

"Mine?" asked Christian, with a
vacant stare from his target eyes.
"I--I haven't got neither maid, wife, nor widder belonging to me at
all, and I'm afeard it will make me
laughed at to ha'e it, Master
Traveller. What with being
curious to join in I never thought of that!
What shall I do wi' a woman's clothes in my bedroom, and not lose my
decency!"

"Keep 'em, to be sure," said Fairway, "if it is only for luck.
Perhaps
'twill tempt some woman that thy poor carcase had no power over when
standing empty-handed.
"

"Keep it, certainly," said Wildeve, who had idly watched the scene
from a distance.

The table was then cleared of the articles, and the men began to drink.

"Well, to be sure!" said Christian, half to himself. "To think I should
have been born so
lucky as this, and not have found it out until now!
What curious creatures these dice be--powerful rulers of us all, and
yet at my command!
I am sure I never need be afeared of anything after
this." He
handled the dice fondly one by one. "Why, sir," he said in a
confidential whisper to Wildeve, who was near his left hand, "if I
could only use this power that's in me of
multiplying money I might do
some good to a near relation of yours, seeing what I've got about me of
hers--eh?" He tapped one of his money-laden boots upon the floor.


"What do you mean?" said Wildeve.

"That's a secret. Well, I must be going now." He looked anxiously
towards Fairway.





It was a stagnant, warm, and misty night, full of all the heavy
perfumes of new vegetation not yet dried by hot sun
, and among these
particularly the scent of the fern.
The lantern, dangling from
Christian's hand, brushed the feathery fronds in passing by,
disturbing moths and other winged insects, which flew out and
alighted upon its horny panes.


"So you have money to carry to Mrs. Wildeve?" said Christian's
companion, after a silence. "Don't you think it very
odd that it
shouldn't be given to me?"

"As man and wife be one flesh, 'twould have been all the same, I
should think," said Christian.
"But my strict documents was, to
give the money into Mrs. Wildeve's hand--and 'tis well to do things
right."

"No doubt," said Wildeve. Any person who had known the circumstances
might have
perceived that Wildeve was mortified by the discovery
that the matter in transit was money, and not, as he had supposed
when at Blooms-End, some
fancy nick-nack which only interested the
two women themselves. Mrs. Yeobright's
refusal implied that his
honour was not considered to be of
sufficiently good quality to make
him a safer bearer of his wife's property.






"What are you rattling in there?" said Wildeve.

"Only the dice, sir," said Christian, quickly withdrawing his hand.
"What magical machines these little things be, Mr. Wildeve! 'Tis a
game I should never
get tired of. Would you mind my taking 'em out
and looking at 'em for a minute, to see how they are made? I didn't
like to look close before the other men, for fear they should think
it bad manners in me." Christian took them out and examined them in
the hollow of his hand by the lantern light
. "That these little
things should carry such
luck, and such charm, and such a spell,
and such
power in 'em, passes all I ever heard or zeed," he went
on, with a
fascinated gaze at the dice, which, as is frequently the
case in country places, were made of wood, the points being burnt
upon each face with the end of a wire.

"They are a great deal in a small compass, You think?"

"Yes. Do ye suppose they really be the devil's playthings, Mr.
Wildeve? If so, 'tis no good sign that I be such a lucky man."

"You ought to win some money, now that you've got them. Any woman
would
marry you then. Now is your time, Christian, and I would
recommend you not to let it slip. Some men are born to luck, some
are not. I belong to the latter class."






Wildeve had been brooding ever since they started on the mean
estimation in which he was held by his wife's friends; and it
cut his heart severely. As the minutes passed he had gradually
drifted into a revengeful intention without knowing the precise
moment of
forming it. This was to teach Mrs. Yeobright a lesson,
as he considered it to be; in other words, to show her if he
could that her niece's husband was the proper guardian of her
niece's money.


"Well, here goes!" said Christian, beginning to unlace one boot.
"I shall dream of it nights and nights, I suppose; but I shall
always swear my flesh don't crawl when I think o't!"

He thrust his hand into the boot and withdrew one of
poor
Thomasin's
precious guineas, piping hot. Wildeve had already
placed a sovereign on the stone. The game was then resumed.
Wildeve won first, and Christian
ventured another, winning
himself this time. The game
fluctuated, but the average was in
Wildeve's favour. Both men became so absorbed in the game that
they took no heed of anything but
the pigmy objects immediately
beneath their eyes, the flat stone, the open lantern, the dice,
and the few illuminated fern-leaves which lay under the light,
were the whole world to them.


At length Christian lost rapidly; and presently, to his horror,
the whole fifty guineas belonging to Thomasin had been handed over
to his adversary.

"I don't care--I don't care!" he moaned, and desperately set about
untying his left boot to get at the other fifty. "The devil will
toss me into the flames on his three-pronged fork for this night's
work, I know! But perhaps I shall win yet, and then I'll
get a wife
to
sit up with me o' nights and I won't be afeard, I won't! Here's
another for'ee, my man!" He
slapped another guinea down upon the
stone, and the dice-box was
rattled again.

Time passed on. Wildeve began to be as
excited as Christian himself.
When
commencing the game his intention had been nothing further than
a
bitter practical joke on Mrs. Yeobright. To win the money, fairly
or otherwise, and to
hand it contemptuously to Thomasin in her aunt's
presence, had been the
dim outline of his purpose. But men are drawn
from their intentions even in the course of carrying them out, and
it was extremely doubtful, by the time the twentieth guinea had been
reached, whether Wildeve was
conscious of any other intention than
that of
winning for his own personal benefit. Moreover, he was now no
longer
gambling for his wife's money, but for Yeobright's; though of
this fact Christian, in his apprehensiveness, did not inform him till
afterwards.

It was nearly eleven o'clock, when, with almost a
shriek, Christian
placed Yeobright's last
gleaming guinea upon the stone. In thirty
seconds it had gone the way of its companions.

Christian
turned and flung himself on the ferns in a convulsion of
remorse, "O, what shall I do with my wretched self?" he groaned.
"What shall I do? Will any good Heaven hae
mercy upon my wicked
soul?"


"Do? Live on just the same."

"I won't live on just the same! I'll die! I say you are a--a----"

"A man sharper than my neighbour."

"Yes, a man sharper than my neighbour; a regular sharper!"

"Poor chips-in-porridge, you are very unmannerly."


"I don't know about that! And I say you be unmannerly! You've got
money that isn't your own. Half the guineas are poor Mr. Clym's."

"How's that?"

"Because I had to gie fifty of 'em to him. Mrs. Yeobright said so."

"Oh?...Well, 'twould have been more graceful of her to have given
them to his wife Eustacia. But they are in my hands now."

Christian pulled on his boots, and with heavy breathings, which
could be heard to some distance,
dragged his limbs together, arose,
and tottered away out of sight. Wildeve set about shutting the
lantern to return to the house, for he deemed it too late to go to
Mistover to meet his wife, who was to be driven home in the
captain's four-wheel. While he was closing the little horn door a
figure rose from behind a neighbouring bush and came forward into
the lantern light. It was the reddleman approaching.



VIII - A New Force Disturbs the Current



Wildeve stared. Venn looked coolly towards Wildeve, and,
without a word being spoken, he
deliberately sat himself down
where Christian had been seated, thrust his hand into his pocket,
drew out a sovereign, and laid it on the stone
.

"You have been watching us from behind that bush?" said Wildeve.

The reddleman nodded.
"Down with your stake," he said. "Or haven't
you
pluck enough to go on?"

Now, gambling is a species of amusement which is much more easily
begun with full pockets than left off with the same; and though
Wildeve in a
cooler temper might have prudently declined this
invitation, the excitement of his recent success carried him
completely away. He placed one of the guineas on a slab beside the
reddleman's sovereign. "Mine is a guinea," he said.

"A guinea that's not your own," said Venn
sarcastically.

"It is my own," answered Wildeve
haughtily. "It is my wife's, and
what is hers is mine."





Wildeve was a nervous and excitable man, and the game was beginning
to tell upon his temper.
He writhed, fumed, shifted his seat, and the
beating of his heart was almost audible. Venn sat with lips impassively
closed and eyes reduced to a pair of unimportant twinkles; he scarcely
appeared to breathe. He might have been an Arab, or an automaton; he
would have been like a red sandstone statue
but for the motion of his
arm with the dice-box.

The game fluctuated, now in favour of one, now in favour of the other,
without any great advantage on the side of either. Nearly twenty minutes
were passed thus. The light of the candle had by this time attracted
heath-flies, moths, and other
winged creatures of night, which floated
round the lantern,
flew into the flame, or beat about the faces of the
two players.

But neither of the men paid much attention to these things, their eyes
being
concentrated upon the little flat stone, which to them was an
arena
vast and important as a battlefield. By this time a change had
come over the game; the reddleman
won continually. At length sixty
guineas--Thomasin's fifty, and ten of Clym's--had passed into his hands.
Wildeve was
reckless, frantic, exasperated.





Down they sat again, and recommenced with single guinea stakes;
and the play
went on smartly. But Fortune had unmistakably fallen
in love with
the reddleman tonight. He won steadily, till he was
the owner of fourteen more of the gold pieces. Seventy-nine of the
hundred guineas were his, Wildeve possessing only twenty-one. The
aspect of the two opponents was now
singular. Apart from motions,
a complete diorama of the fluctuations of the game went on in their
eyes. A diminutive candle-flame was mirrored in each pupil, and it
would have been possible to distinguish therein between the moods
of hope and the moods of abandonment
, even as regards the reddleman,
though his facial muscles
betrayed nothing at all. Wildeve played
on with the
recklessness of despair.

"What's that?" he suddenly
exclaimed, hearing a rustle; and they both
looked up.

They were
surrounded by dusky forms between four and five feet high,
standing a few paces beyond the rays of the lantern. A moment's
inspection revealed that the
encircling figures were heath-croppers,
their heads being all towards the players, at whom they
gazed
intently.

"Hoosh!" said Wildeve, and the whole forty or fifty animals at once
turned and
galloped away. Play was again resumed.

Ten minutes passed away.
Then a large death's head moth advanced
from the obscure outer air, wheeled twice round the lantern, flew
straight at the candle, and extinguished it by the force of the blow.

Wildeve had just thrown, but had not lifted the box to see what he
had cast; and now it was
impossible.

"What the infernal!" he shrieked. "Now, what shall we do? Perhaps I
have thrown six--have you any matches?"

"None," said Venn.

"Christian had some--I wonder where he is. Christian!"

But there was no reply to Wildeve's shout, save a mournful whining
from the herons which were nesting lower down the vale. Both men
looked blankly round without rising. As their eyes grew
accustomed
to the darkness
they perceived faint greenish points of light among
the grass and fern. These lights dotted the hillside like stars of
a low magnitude.


"Ah--glowworms," said Wildeve. "Wait a minute. We can continue the
game."


Venn sat still, and his companion went hither and thither till he
had
gathered thirteen glowworms--as many as he could find in a space
of four or five minutes--
upon a fox-glove leaf which he pulled for
the purpose. The reddleman vented a low humorous laugh when he saw
his adversary return with these. "Determined to go on, then?" he
said drily.


"I always am!" said Wildeve angrily. And shaking the glowworms from
the leaf he
ranged them with a trembling hand in a circle on the
stone, leaving a space in the middle for the descent of the dice-box,
over which
the thirteen tiny lamps threw a pale phosphoric shine.
The game was again renewed. It happened to be that season of the year
at which glowworms put forth their greatest
brilliancy, and the light
they
yielded was more than ample for the purpose, since it is possible
on such nights to read the handwriting of a letter by the light of
two or three.


The incongruity between the men's deeds and their environment was great.
Amid the soft juicy vegetation of the hollow in which they sat, the
motionless and the uninhabited solitude, intruded the chink of guineas,
the rattle of dice,
the exclamations of the reckless players.

Wildeve had lifted the box as soon as the lights were obtained, and
the solitary die
proclaimed that the game was still against him.

"I won't play any more--you've been tampering with the dice," he shouted.

"How--when they were your own?" said the reddleman.

"We'll change the game: the lowest point shall win the stake--it may cut
off my
ill luck. Do you refuse?"

"No--go on," said Venn.


"O, there they are again--damn them!" cried Wildeve, looking up. The
heath-croppers had
returned noiselessly, and were looking on with erect
heads just as before, their timid eyes
fixed upon the scene, as if they were
wondering what mankind and candlelight could have to do in these haunts
at this untoward hour.


"What a plague those creatures are--staring at me so!" he said, and flung
a stone, which scattered them; when the game was continued as before.

Wildeve had now ten guineas left; and each laid five. Wildeve threw three
points; Venn two, and raked in the coins. The other
seized the die, and
clenched his teeth upon it in sheer rage, as if he would bite it in pieces.
"Never give in--here are my last five!" he cried, throwing them down.


"Hang the glowworms--they are going out. Why don't you burn, you little
fools?
Stir them up with a thorn."

He
probed the glowworms with a bit of stick, and rolled them over, till
the bright side of their tails was upwards.


"There's light enough. Throw on," said Venn.

Wildeve brought down the box within the shining circle and looked eagerly.
He had thrown ace. "Well done!--I said it would turn, and it has turned."
Venn said nothing; but his hand
shook slightly.

He threw ace also.

"O!" said Wildeve. "
Curse me!"

The die
smacked the stone a second time. It was ace again. Venn looked
gloomy, threw--the die was seen to be lying in two pieces, the cleft sides
uppermost.

"I've thrown nothing at all," he said.

"
Serves me right--I split the die with my teeth. Here--take your money.
Blank is less than one."

"I don't wish it."

"Take it, I say--you've won it!" And Wildeve
threw the stakes against the
reddleman's chest. Venn
gathered them up, arose, and withdrew from the
hollow, Wildeve
sitting stupefied.





Wildeve forgot the loss of the money at the sight of his lost love,
whose
preciousness in his eyes was increasing in geometrical progression
with each new incident that reminded him of their
hopeless division.
Brimming with the subtilized misery that he was capable of feeling, he
followed the opposite way towards the inn.






Thus Venn, in his anxiety to rectify matters, had placed in
Thomasin's hands not only the fifty guineas which
rightly
belonged to her, but also the fifty intended for her cousin
Clym.
His mistake had been based upon Wildeve's words at the
opening of the game, when he indignantly denied that the
guinea was not his own. It had not been comprehended by the
reddleman that at halfway through the performance the game
was continued with the money of another person; and it was
an error which afterwards helped to cause more misfortune
than treble the loss in money value could have done.


The night was now somewhat advanced; and Venn plunged deeper
into the heath, till he came to a ravine where his van was
standing--a spot not more than two hundred yards from the site
of the gambling bout. He entered this
movable home of his, lit
his lantern, and, before closing his door for the night, stood
reflecting on the circumstances of the preceding hours. While
he stood the dawn grew visible in the northeast quarter of the
heavens, which, the clouds having cleared off, was
bright with
a soft sheen
at this midsummer time, though it was only between
one and two o'clock. Venn,
thoroughly weary, then shut his door
and
flung himself down to sleep.



Book Fourth - The Closed Door-


I - The Rencounter by the Pool



The July sun shone over Egdon and fired its crimson heather to scarlet.
It was the one season of the year, and the one weather of the season,
in which the heath was
gorgeous. This flowering period represented the
second or noontide division in the cycle of those
superficial changes
which alone were possible here; it followed the green or young-fern
period, representing the morn, and
preceded the brown period, when the
heathbells and ferns would wear the
russet tinges of evening; to be in
turn
displaced by the dark hue of the winter period, representing night.

Clym and Eustacia, in their little house at Alderworth, beyond East
Egdon, were living on with a
monotony which was delightful to them.
The heath and changes of weather were quite
blotted out from their eyes
for the present.
They were enclosed in a sort of luminous mist, which
hid from them surroundings of any inharmonious colour, and gave to all
things the character of light
. When it rained they were charmed,
because they could remain indoors together all day with such a show of
reason; when it was fine they were
charmed, because they could sit
together on the hills.
They were like those double stars which revolve
round and round each other, and from a distance appear to be one. The
absolute solitude in which they lived intensified their reciprocal
thoughts; yet some might have said that it had the disadvantage of
consuming their mutual affections at a fearfully prodigal rate.

Yeobright did not
fear for his own part; but recollection of Eustacia's
old speech about the
evanescence of love, now apparently forgotten by
her, sometimes caused him to ask himself a question; and
he recoiled
at the thought that the quality of finiteness was not foreign to Eden
.

When three or four weeks had been passed thus, Yeobright resumed his
reading in earnest. To make up for lost time he studied indefatigably,
for he wished to enter his new profession with the least possible
delay.

Now, Eustacia's dream had always been that, once married to Clym, she
would have the power of
inducing him to return to Paris. He had
carefully withheld all promise to do so; but would he be proof
against her
coaxing and argument? She had calculated to such a
degree on the probability of
success that she had represented Paris,
and not Budmouth, to her grandfather as in all likelihood their
future home. Her hopes were
bound up in this dream. In the quiet
days since their marriage,
when Yeobright had been poring over her
lips, her eyes, and the lines of her face, she had mused and mused
on the subject, even while in the act of returning his gaze
; and now
the sight of the books, indicating a future which was
antagonistic
to her dream,
struck her with a positively painful jar. She was
hoping for the time when, as the mistress of some
pretty
establishment, however small, near a Parisian Boulevard, she would
be passing her days on the skirts at least of the
gay world, and
catching stray wafts from those town pleasures she was so well
fitted to enjoy
. Yet Yeobright was as firm in the contrary
intention as if the tendency of marriage were rather to
develop
the fantasies of young philanthropy than to
sweep them away.

----------------------------------------------------------------

The mother-in-law was the first to speak. "I was coming to see you,"
she said.

"Indeed!" said Eustacia with surprise, for Mrs. Yeobright, much to the
girl's
mortification, had refused to be present at the wedding. "I did
not at all expect you."

"I was coming on business only," said the visitor, more
coldly than at
first. "Will you excuse my asking this--Have you received a gift from
Thomasin's husband?"


"A gift?"

"I mean money!"

"What--I myself?"

"Well, I meant yourself, privately--though I was not going to put it in
that way."

"Money from Mr. Wildeve? No--never! Madam, what do you mean by that?"

Eustacia fired up all too quickly, for her own consciousness of the
old
attachment between herself and Wildeve led her to jump to the
conclusion
that Mrs. Yeobright also knew of it, and might have come to
accuse her of
receiving dishonourable presents from him now.

"I simply ask the question," said Mrs. Yeobright. "I have been----"

"You ought to have better opinions of me--I feared you were against me
from the first!" exclaimed Eustacia

"No. I was simply
for Clym," replied Mrs. Yeobright, with too much
emphasis in her earnestness. "It is the instinct of everyone to look
after their own."

"How can you
imply that he required guarding against me?" cried
Eustacia,
passionate tears in her eyes. "I have not injured him by
marrying him! What sin have I done that you should
think so ill of me?
You had no right to
speak against me to him when I have never wronged
you."

"I only did what was
fair under the circumstances," said Mrs. Yeobright
more
softly. "I would rather not have gone into this question at present,
but you
compel me. I am not ashamed to tell you the honest truth. I was
firmly convinced that he ought not to marry you--therefore I tried to
dissuade him by all the means in my power. But it is done now, and I
have no idea of
complaining any more. I am ready to welcome you."

"Ah, yes, it is very well to see things in that
business point of view,"
murmured Eustacia with a smothered fire of feeling. "But why should you
think there is anything between me and Mr. Wildeve? I have a spirit as
well as you. I am
indignant; and so would any woman be. It was a
condescension in me to be Clym's wife, and not a manoeuvre, let me
remind you; and therefore
I will not be treated as a schemer whom it
becomes necessary to bear with because she has crept into the family."


"Oh!" said Mrs. Yeobright, vainly endeavouring to control her anger.
"I have never heard anything to show that my son's lineage is not as
good as the Vyes'--perhaps better.
It is amusing to hear you talk of
condescension."


"It was condescension, nevertheless," said Eustacia vehemently. "And
if I had known then what I know now, that I should be living in this
wild heath a month after my marriage, I--I should have thought twice
before agreeing."

"It would be better not to say that; it might not sound truthful. I
am not
aware that any deception was used on his part--I know there
was not--whatever might have been the case on the other side."

"This is too
exasperating!" answered the younger woman huskily, her
face crimsoning, and her eyes darting light
. "How can you dare to
speak to me like that? I
insist upon repeating to you that had I
known that my life would from my marriage up to this time have been
as it is, I should have said no. I don't
complain. I have never
uttered a sound of such a thing to him; but it is true. I hope
therefore that in the future you will be
silent on my eagerness. If
you
injure me now you injure yourself."

"
Injure you? Do you think I am an evil-disposed person?"

"You
injured me before my marriage, and you have now suspected me
of
secretly favouring another man for money!"

"I could not help what I thought. But I have never spoken of you
outside my house."

"You spoke of me within it, to Clym, and you could not
do worse."

"I
did my duty."

"And I'll
do mine."

"A part of which will possibly be to
set him against his mother.
It is always so. But why should I not
bear it as others have borne
it before me!"


"I understand you," said Eustacia, breathless with emotion. "You
think me capable of every bad thing. Who can be worse than a wife
who encourages a lover, and poisons her husband's mind against his
relative? Yet that is now the character given to me. Will you not
come and drag him out of my hands?"

Mrs. Yeobright gave back heat for heat.

"Don't rage at me, madam! It ill becomes your beauty, and I am not
worth the injury you may do it on my account, I assure you. I am
only a poor old woman who has lost a son."

"If you had treated me honourably you would have had him still."
Eustacia said, while scalding tears trickled from her eyes.
"You
have brought yourself to
folly; you have caused a division which
can never be
healed!"

"I have done nothing. This
audacity from a young woman is more
than I can bear."

"It was asked for; you have
suspected me, and you have made me
speak of my husband in a way I would not have done. You will let
him know that I have spoken thus, and it will
cause misery between
us. Will you go away from me? You are no friend!"

"I will go when I have spoken a word. If anyone says I have come
here to question you without
good grounds for it, that person
speaks untruly. If anyone says that I attempted to stop your
marriage by any but
honest means, that person, too, does not speak
the truth.
I have fallen on an evil time; God has been unjust to
me in letting you insult me! Probably my son's happiness does not
lie on this side of the grave
, for he is a foolish man who
neglects the advice of his parent. You, Eustacia, stand on the
edge of a precipice without knowing it. Only show my son one-half
the temper you have shown me today--and you may before long--and
you will find that though he is as gentle as a child with you
now, he can be as hard as steel!"


The excited mother then withdrew, and Eustacia, panting, stood
looking into the pool.



II - He Is Set upon by Adversities but He Sings a Song



She came indoors with her face flushed, and her eyes still showing
traces of her recent
excitement. Yeobright looked up astonished; he
had never seen her in any way approaching to that state before.
She
passed him by, and would have gone upstairs unnoticed, but Clym was
so concerned that he immediately followed her.

"What is the matter, Eustacia?" he said. She was standing on the
hearthrug in the bedroom, looking upon the floor, her hands
clasped
in front of her, her bonnet yet
unremoved. For a moment she did not
answer; and then she
replied in a low voice--

"I have seen your mother; and I will never see her again!"
A weight
fell like a stone upon Clym.
That same morning, when Eustacia had
arranged to go and see her grandfather, Clym had expressed a wish
that she would drive down to Blooms-End and
inquire for her mother-
in-law, or adopt any other means she might think fit to bring about
a
reconciliation. She had set out gaily; and he had hoped for much.

"Why is this?" he asked.

"I cannot tell--I cannot remember. I met your mother. And I will
never meet her again."

"Why?"

"What do I know about Mr. Wildeve now? I won't have wicked opinions
passed on me by anybody. O! it was too
humiliating to be asked if I
had
received any money from him, or encouraged him, or something of
the sort-- I don't exactly know what!"

"How could she have asked you that?"

"She did."

"Then there must have been some meaning in it. What did my mother
say besides?"

"I don't know what she said, except in so far as this, that we both
said words which can never be
forgiven!"

"Oh, there must be some
misapprehension. Whose fault was it that her
meaning was not made
clear?"

"I would rather not say. It may have been the fault of the circumstances,
which were
awkward at the very least. O Clym--I cannot help expressing
it--this is an
unpleasant position that you have placed me in. But you
must
improve it--yes, say you will--for I hate it all now! Yes, take me
to Paris, and go on with your
old occupation, Clym! I don't mind how
humbly we live there at first, if it can only be Paris, and not Egdon
Heath."

"But I have quite
given up that idea," said Yeobright, with surprise.
"Surely I never
led you to expect such a thing?"

"I
own it. Yet there are thoughts which cannot be kept out of mind, and
that one was mine. Must I not have a voice in the matter, now I am your
wife and the
sharer of your doom?"

"Well, there are things which are
placed beyond the pale of discussion;
and I thought this was
specially so, and by mutual agreement."

"Clym, I am
unhappy at what I hear," she said in a low voice; and her
eyes
drooped, and she turned away.

This
indication of an unexpected mine of hope in Eustacia's bosom
disconcerted her husband. It was the first time that he had confronted
the fact of the
indirectness of a woman's movement towards her desire.
But his intention was
unshaken, though he loved Eustacia well. All the
effect that her remark had upon him was a
resolve to chain himself more
closely than ever to his books, so as to be the sooner enabled to appeal
to
substantial results from another course in arguing against her whim.





Amid these jarring events Yeobright felt one thing to be
indispensable--that he should speedily make some show of
progress in his scholastic plans. With this view he read far
into the small hours during many nights.

One morning, after a severer strain than usual, he awoke with
a
strange sensation in his eyes. The sun was shining directly
upon the window-blind, and at his first
glance thitherward a
sharp pain obliged him to close his eyelids quickly. At every
new attempt to look about him the same
morbid sensibility to
light was
manifested, and excoriating tears ran down his cheeks.
He was obliged to tie a bandage over his brow while dressing;
and during the day it could not be
abandoned. Eustacia was
thoroughly alarmed. On finding that the case was no better the
next morning they decided to send to Anglebury for a surgeon.

Towards evening he arrived, and pronounced the disease to be acute
inflammation induced by Clym's night studies, continued in spite
of a cold previously caught, which had weakened his eyes for the
time.

Fretting with impatience at this interruption to a task he was so
anxious to hasten, Clym was transformed into an invalid. He was
shut up in a room from which all light was excluded, and his
condition would have been one of
absolute misery had not Eustacia
read to him by the
glimmer of a shaded lamp. He hoped that the
worst would soon be over; but at the surgeon's third visit he
learnt to his dismay that although he might venture out of doors
with
shaded eyes in the course of a month, all thought of pursuing
his work, or of
reading print of any description, would have to be
given up for a long time to come.

One week and another week
wore on, and nothing seemed to lighten
the
gloom of the young couple. Dreadful imaginings occurred to
Eustacia, but she
carefully refrained from uttering them to her
husband. Suppose he should become blind, or, at all events, never
recover
sufficient strength of sight to engage in an occupation
which would be
congenial to her feelings, and conduce to her removal
from this
lonely dwelling among the hills? That dream of beautiful
Paris was not likely to
cohere into substance in the presence of
this misfortune. As day after day passed by, and he got no better,
her mind ran more and more in this
mournful groove, and she would
go away from him into the garden and
weep despairing tears.

Yeobright thought he would send for his mother; and then he thought
he would not. Knowledge of his state could only make her the more
unhappy; and the seclusion of their life was such that she would
hardly be likely to learn the news except through a special messenger.
Endeavouring to take the trouble as philosophically as possible, he
waited on till the third week had arrived, when he went into the
open air for the first time since the attack. The surgeon visited
him again at this stage, and Clym urged him to express a distinct
opinion. The young man
learnt with added surprise that the date at
which he might expect to resume his labours was as
uncertain as
ever, his eyes being in that
peculiar state which, though affording
him sight enough for walking about, would not
admit of their being
strained upon any definite object without incurring the risk of
reproducing ophthalmia in its
acute form.

Clym was very
grave at the intelligence, but not despairing. A quiet
firmness
, and even cheerfulness, took possession of him. He was not
to be blind; that was enough.
To be doomed to behold the world through
smoked glas
s for an indefinite period was bad enough, and fatal to any
kind of
advance; but Yeobright was an absolute stoic in the face of
mishaps which only
affected his social standing; and, apart from
Eustacia, the
humblest walk of life would satisfy him if it could be
made to work in with some form of his culture scheme. To keep a
cottage night-school was one such form; and his affliction did not
master his spirit as it might otherwise have done.

He walked through the warm sun westward into those tracts of Egdon
with which he was best
acquainted, being those lying nearer to his
old home. He saw before him in one of the valleys
the gleaming of
whetted iron, and advancing, dimly perceived that the shine came from
the tool of a man who was cutting furze.
The worker recognized Clym,
and Yeobright learnt from the voice that the speaker was Humphrey.





"I am going to be a furze- and turf-cutter."

"No, Clym!" she said, the
slight hopefulness previously apparent
in her face
going off again, and leaving her worse than before.

"Surely I shall. Is it not very
unwise in us to go on spending the
little money we've got when I can keep down expenditures by an
honest
occupation? The outdoor exercise will do me good, and who knows but
that in a few months I shall be able to go on with my reading again?"

"But my grandfather offers to
assist us, if we require assistance."

"We don't
require it. If I go furze-cutting we shall be fairly well
off
."

"In comparison with slaves, and the Israelites in Egypt, and such
people!" A bitter tear rolled down Eustacia's face, which he did not
see. There had been nonchalance in his tone, showing her that he felt
no absolute grief at a consummation which to her was a positive horror.


The very next day Yeobright went to Humphrey's cottage, and borrowed
of him leggings, gloves, a whetstone, and a hook, to use till he
should be able to
purchase some for himself. Then he sallied forth
with his new fellow-labourer and old acquaintance, and selecting a
spot where the furze grew thickest he struck the first blow in his
adopted calling. His sight, like the wings in Rasselas, though
useless to him for his grand purpose, sufficed for this strait
, and
he found that when a little practice should have
hardened his palms
against
blistering he would be able to work with ease.

Day after day he
rose with the sun, buckled on his leggings, and went
off to the
rendezvous with Humphrey. His custom was to work from four
o'clock in the morning till noon; then, when the heat of the day was
at its highest, to go home and sleep for an hour or two; afterwards
coming out again and working till dusk at nine.

This man from Paris was now so
disguised by his leather accoutrements,
and by the goggles he was
obliged to wear over his eyes, that his
closest friend might have passed by without recognizing him.
He was
a brown spot in the midst of an expanse of olive-green gorse, and
nothing more.
Though frequently depressed in spirit when not actually
at work, owing to thoughts of Eustacia's position and his mother's
estrangement, when in the full swing of labour he was cheerfully
disposed and calm.

His daily life was of a curious microscopic sort, his whole world
being limited to a circuit of a few feet from his person. His familiars
were creeping and winged things, and they seemed to enroll him in their
band. Bees hummed around his ears with an intimate air, and tugged at
the heath and furze-flowers at his side in such numbers as to weigh
them down to the sod. The strange amber-coloured butterflies which
Egdon produced, and which were never seen elsewhere, quivered in the
breath of his lips, alighted upon his bowed back, and sported with
the glittering point of his hook as he flourished it up and down.
Tribes of emerald-green grasshoppers leaped over his feet, falling
awkwardly on their backs, heads, or hips, like unskilful acrobats,
as chance might rule; or engaged themselves in noisy flirtations
under the fern-fronds with silent ones of homely hue. Huge flies,
ignorant of larders and wire-netting, and quite in a savage state,
buzzed about him without knowing that he was a man. In and out of
the fern-dells snakes glided in their most brilliant blue and
yellow guise, it being the season immediately following the
shedding of their old skins, when their colours are brightest.
Litters of young rabbits came out from their forms to sun
themselves upon hillocks, the hot beams blazing through the
delicate tissue of each thin-fleshed ear, and firing it to a
blood-red transparency in which the veins could be seen. None of
them feared him. The monotony of his occupation soothed him, and
was in itself a pleasure. A forced limitation of effort offered
a justification of homely courses to an unambitious man, whose
conscience would hardly have allowed him to remain in such
obscurity while his powers were unimpeded.
Hence Yeobright
sometimes
sang to himself, and when obliged to accompany
Humphrey in search of brambles for faggot-bonds he would
amuse
his companion with
sketches of Parisian life and character,
and so while away the time.

On one of these
warm afternoons Eustacia walked out alone in
the direction of Yeobright's place of work. He was
busily
chopping away at the furze, a long row of faggots which
stretched downward from his position representing the labour
of the day. He did not observe her approach, and she stood
close to him, and
heard his undercurrent of song. It shocked
her. To see him there, a poor afflicted man, earning money
by the sweat of his brow, had at first moved her to tears;
but to hear him sing and not at all rebel against an
occupation which, however satisfactory to himself, was
degrading to her, as an educated lady-wife, wounded her
through
. Unconscious of her presence, he still went on singing:--

"Le point du jour
A nos bosquets rend toute leur parure;
Flore est plus belle a son retour;
L'oiseau reprend doux chant d'amour;
Tout celebre dans la nature
Le point du jour.

"Le point du jour
Cause parfois, cause douleur extreme;
Que l'espace des nuits est court
Pour le berger brulant d'amour,
Force de quitter ce qu'il aime
Au point du jour!"

It was bitterly plain to Eustacia that he did not care much about
social failure; and the proud fair woman bowed her head and wept
in sick despair at thought of the blasting effect upon her own
life of that mood and condition in him.
Then she came forward.

"I would starve rather than do it!" she exclaimed vehemently.
"And you can sing!
I will go and live with my grandfather again!"

"Eustacia! I did not see you, though I
noticed something moving,"
he said
gently. He came forward, pulled off his huge leather
glove, and took her hand. "Why do you speak in such a
strange
way? It is only a little
old song which struck my fancy when I
was in Paris, and now just applies to my life with you. Has
your
love for me all died, then, because my appearance is no
longer that of a
fine gentleman?"

"Dearest, you must not
question me unpleasantly, or it may make
me not
love you."

"Do you
believe it possible that I would run the risk of doing
that?"

"Well, you
follow out your own ideas, and won't give in to mine
when I wish you to
leave off this shameful labour. Is there
anything you
dislike in me that you act so contrarily to my
wishes? I am your wife, and why will you not listen? Yes, I am
your wife indeed!"

"I know what that tone means."

"What tone?"


"The tone in which you said, 'Your wife indeed.' It meant,
'Your wife, worse luck.'"

"It is hard in you to probe me with that remark. A woman may
have reason, though she is not without heart, and if I felt
'worse luck,' it was no ignoble feeling-- it was only too
natural.
There, you see that at any rate I do not attempt
untruths. Do you remember how, before we were married, I
warned you that I had not good wifely qualities?"

"You mock me to say that now. On that point at least the
only noble course would be to hold your tongue, for you are
still queen of me, Eustacia, though I may no longer be king
of you."


"You are my husband. Does not that content you?"

"Not unless you are my wife without
regret."

"I cannot
answer you. I remember saying that I should be a
serious matter on your hands."

"Yes, I
saw that."

"Then you were too
quick to see! No true lover would have
seen any such thing; you are too severe upon me, Clym--I
won't like your speaking so at all."

"Well, I married you in spite of it, and don't
regret doing
so.
How cold you seem this afternoon! and yet I used to
think there never was a warmer heart than yours."

"Yes, I fear we are cooling--I see it as well as you," she
sighed mournfully. "And how madly we loved two months ago!
You were never tired of contemplating me, nor I of
contemplating you. Who could have thought then that by this
time my eyes would not seem so very bright to yours, nor
your lips so very sweet to mine? Two months--is it possible?
Yes, 'tis too true!"

"You sigh, dear, as if you were sorry for it; and that's a
hopeful sign."


"No. I don't sigh for that. There are other things for me to
sigh for, or any other woman in my place."

"That your chances in life are
ruined by marrying in haste
an
unfortunate man?"

"Why will you
force me, Clym, to say bitter things? I deserve
pity as much as you. As much?--I think I deserve it more. For
you can sing! It would be a
strange hour which should catch me
singing under such a cloud as this! Believe me, sweet, I could
weep to a degree that would astonish and confound such an
elastic mind as yours.
Even had you felt careless about your
own
affliction, you might have refrained from singing out of
sheer pity for mine. God! if I were a man in such a position I
would
curse rather than sing."

Yeobright placed his hand upon her arm. "Now, don't you suppose,
my
inexperienced girl, that I cannot rebel, in high Promethean
fashion, against the gods and fate as well as you. I have felt
more steam and smoke of that sort than you have ever heard of.
But the more I see of life the more do I perceive that there is
nothing particularly great in its greatest walks, and therefore
nothing particularly small in mine of furze-cutting. If I feel
that the greatest blessings vouchsafed to us are not very
valuable, how can I feel it to be any great hardship when they
are taken away?
So I sing to pass the time. Have you indeed lost
all
tenderness for me, that you begrudge me a few cheerful
moments?"

"I have still some
tenderness left for you."

"Your words have no longer their old flavour. And so love dies
with good fortune!"


"I cannot listen to this, Clym--it will end bitterly," she said
in a broken voice. "I will go home."




III -She Goes Out to Battle against Depression



"Come, brighten up, dearest; we shall be all right again. Some day
perhaps I shall see as well as ever. And I solemnly promise that I'll
leave off cutting furze as soon as I have the power to do anything
better. You cannot seriously wish me to
stay idling at home all day?"

"But it is so
dreadful--a furze-cutter! and you a man who have lived
about the world, and speak French, and German, and who are
fit for
what is so much
better than this."

"I suppose when you first saw me and heard about me
I was wrapped in
a sort of golden halo to your eyes--a man who knew glorious things,
and had mixed in brilliant scenes--in short, an adorable, delightful,
distracting hero?"


"Yes," she said,
sobbing.

"And now I am a
poor fellow in brown leather."

"Don't
taunt me. But enough of this. I will not be depressed any more.
I am going from home this afternoon, unless you greatly object. There
is to be a village picnic--a
gipsying, they call it--at East Egdon,
and I shall go."

"To
dance?"

"Why not? You can
sing."

"Well, well, as you will. Must I come to fetch you?"

"If you return soon enough from your work. But do not inconvenience
yourself about it.
I know the way home, and the heath has no terror for
me."

"And
can you cling to gaiety so eagerly as to walk all the way to a
village festival in search of it?"

"Now, you don't like my going alone! Clym, you are not jealous?"

"No. But I would come with you if it could
give you any pleasure; though,
as things stand, perhaps you have too much of me already. Still, I
somehow wish that you did not want to go. Yes, perhaps I am
jealous; and
who could be
jealous with more reason than I, a half-blind man, over
such a woman as you?"

"Don't think like it. Let me go, and
don't take all my spirits away!"

"I would rather lose all my own, my sweet wife. Go and do whatever you
like. Who can
forbid your indulgence in any whim? You have all my heart
yet, I believe; and because you
bear with me, who am in truth a drag upon
you, I owe you thanks
. Yes, go alone and shine. As for me, I will stick
to my
doom. At that kind of meeting people would shun me. My hook and
gloves are like the St. Lazarus rattle of the leper, warning the world
to get out of the way of a sight that would sadden them
." He kissed her,
put on his leggings, and went out.

When he was gone she rested her head upon her hands and said to herself,
"Two wasted lives--his and mine. And I am come to this! Will it drive me
out of my mind?"

She cast about for any possible course which offered the least improvement
on the existing state of things, and could find none. She imagined how all
those Budmouth ones who should learn what had become of her would say,
"Look at the girl for whom nobody was good enough!" To Eustacia the
situation seemed such a
mockery of her hopes that death appeared the only
door of
relief if the satire of Heaven should go much further.

Suddenly she aroused herself and exclaimed, "But I'll shake it off. Yes, I
will shake it off! No one shall know my
suffering.I'll be bitterly merry,
and ironically gay, and I'll laugh in derision.
And I'll begin by going to
this dance on the green."

She ascended to her bedroom and dressed herself with scrupulous care. To
an onlooker her
beauty would have made her feelings almost seem reasonable.
The
gloomy corner into which accident as much as indiscretion had brought
this woman might have led even a moderate partisan to feel that she had
cogent reasons for asking the Supreme Power by what right a being of such
exquisite finish
had been placed in circumstances calculated to make of her
charms a curse rather than a blessing.

It was five in the afternoon when she came out from the house ready for her
walk. There was material enough in the picture for twenty new conquests.
The rebellious sadness that was rather too apparent when she sat indoors
without a bonnet was cloaked and softened by her outdoor attire, which
always had a sort of nebulousness about it, devoid of harsh edges anywhere;
so that her face looked from its environment as from a cloud, with no
noticeable lines of demarcation between flesh and clothes.
The heat of the
day had scarcely
declined as yet, and she went along the sunny hills at a
leisurely pace, there being ample time for her idle expedition. Tall ferns
buried her in their leafage whenever her path lay through them, which now
formed
miniature forests, though not one stem of them would remain to bud
the next year.


The site chosen for the village festivity was one of the lawnlike oases
which were occasionally, yet not often, met with on the plateaux of the
heath district.
The brakes of furze and fern terminated abruptly round the
margin, and the grass was unbroken. A green cattletrack skirted the spot,
without, however, emerging from the screen of fern, and this path Eustacia
followed, in order to reconnoitre the group before joining it. The lusty
notes of the East Egdon band had directed her unerringly, and she now beheld
the musicians themselves, sitting in a blue wagon with red wheels
scrubbed
as
bright as new, and arched with sticks, to which boughs and flowers were
tied. In front of this was the
grand central dance of fifteen or twenty
couples, flanked by minor dances of inferior individuals whose
gyrations
were not always in strict keeping with the tune.

The young men wore blue and white rosettes, and with a flush on their faces
footed it to the girls, who, with the excitement and the exercise, blushed
deeper than the pink of their numerous ribbons
. Fair ones with long curls,
fair ones with short curls, fair ones with lovelocks, fair ones with braids,
flew round and round; and a beholder might well have wondered how such a
prepossessing set of young women of like size, age, and disposition, could
have been
collected together where there were only one or two villages to
choose from. In the background was one happy man dancing by himself, with
closed eyes, totally
oblivious of all the rest. A fire was burning under a
pollard thorn a few paces off, over which three kettles hung in a row. Hard
by was a table where elderly dames prepared tea, but Eustacia looked among
them in vain for the cattle-dealer's wife who had suggested that she should
come, and had promised to obtain a
courteous welcome for her.





A whole village-full of sensuous emotion, scattered abroad all the year long,
surged here in a focus for an hour. The forty hearts of those waving couples
were beating as they had not done since, twelve months before, they had come
together in similar jollity. For the time paganism was revived in their hearts,
the pride of life was all in all, and they adored none other than themselves.

How many of those impassioned but temporary embraces were destined to become
perpetual was possibly the wonder of some of those who indulged in them, as
well as of Eustacia who looked on. She began to envy those pirouetters, to
hunger for the hope and happiness which the fascination of the dance seemed
to engender within them. Desperately fond of dancing herself, one of
Eustacia's expectations of Paris had been the opportunity it might afford
her of indulgence in this favourite pastime. Unhappily, that expectation
was now extinct within her for ever.


Whilst she abstractedly watched them spinning and fluctuating in the
increasing moonlight she suddenly heard her name whispered by a voice over
her shoulder. Turning in
surprise, she beheld at her elbow one whose presence
instantly caused her to flush to the temples.

It was Wildeve. Till this moment he had not met her eye since the morning of
his marriage, when she had been loitering in the church, and had startled
him by lifting her veil and coming forward to sign the register as witness.
Yet why the sight of him should have instigated that sudden rush of blood
she could not tell.

Before she could
speak he whispered, "Do you like dancing as much as ever?"

"I think I do," she replied in a low voice.

"Will you dance with me?"

"It would be a great change for me; but will it not seem
strange?"

"What
strangeness can there be in relations dancing together?"

"Ah--yes, relations. Perhaps none."

"Still, if you don't like to be seen, pull down your veil; though there is not
much risk of being known by this light. Lots of strangers are here."

She did as he suggested; and the act was a
tacit acknowledgment that she
accepted his offer.

Wildeve gave her his arm and took her down on the outside of the ring to the
bottom of the dance, which they entered. In two minutes more they were involved
in the figure and began working their way upwards to the top. Till they had
advanced halfway thither Eustacia wished more than once that she had not
yielded to his request; from the middle to the top she felt that, since she
had come out to
seek pleasure, she was only doing a natural thing to obtain
it
. Fairly launched into the ceaseless glides and whirls which their new
position as top couple opened up to them, Eustacia's pulses began to move
too quickly for long rumination of any kind.

Through the length of five-and-twenty couples they threaded their giddy way,
and a new vitality entered her form. The pale ray of evening lent a
fascination to the experience. There is a certain degree and tone of light
which tends to disturb the equilibrium of the senses, and to promote
dangerously the tenderer moods; added to movement, it drives the emotions to
rankness, the reason becoming sleepy and unperceiving in inverse proportion;
and this light fell now upon these two from the disc of the moon. All the
dancing girls felt the symptoms, but Eustacia most of all. The grass under
their feet became trodden away, and the hard, beaten surface of the sod,
when viewed aslant towards the moonlight, shone like a polished table. The
air became quite still, the flag above the wagon which held the musicians
clung to the pole, and the players appeared only in outline against the sky;
except when the circular mouths of the trombone, ophicleide, and French horn
gleamed out like huge eyes from the shade of their figures. The pretty
dresses of the maids lost their subtler day colours and showed more or
less of a misty white. Eustacia floated round and round on Wildeve's arm,
her face rapt and statuesque; her soul had passed away from and forgotten
her features, which were left empty and quiescent, as they always are when
feeling goes beyond their register.


How near she was to Wildeve! it was terrible to think of. She could feel
his breathing, and he, of course, could feel hers. How
badly she had
treated him! yet, here they were treading one measure. The enchantment of
the dance surprised her. A clear line of difference divided like a tangible
fence her experience within this maze of motion from her experience without
it. Her beginning to dance had been like a change of atmosphere; outside,
she had been steeped in arctic frigidity by comparison with the tropical
sensations here. She had entered the dance from the troubled hours of her
late life as one might enter a brilliant chamber after a night walk in a
wood. Wildeve by himself would have been merely an agitation; Wildeve added
to the dance, and the moonlight, and the secrecy, began to be a delight.
Whether his personality supplied the greater part of this sweetly compounded
feeling, or whether the dance and the scene weighed the more therein, was a
nice point upon which Eustacia herself was entirely in a cloud.


People began to say "Who are they?" but no invidious inquiries were made.
Had Eustacia
mingled with the other girls in their ordinary daily walks the
case would have been different: here she was not
inconvenienced by excessive
inspection, for all were wrought to their brightest grace by the occasion.
Like the planet Mercury surrounded by the lustre of sunset, her permanent
brilliancy passed without much notice in the temporary glory
of the situation.

As for Wildeve, his feelings are easy to guess. Obstacles were a ripening sun
to his love, and he was at this moment in a delirium of exquisite misery.
To
clasp as his for five minutes what was another man's through all the rest of
the year was a kind of thing he of all men could
appreciate. He had long
since begun to
sigh again for Eustacia; indeed, it may be asserted that
signing the marriage register with Thomasin was
the natural signal to his
heart to return to its first quarters
, and that the extra complication of
Eustacia's marriage was the one addition required to make that return
compulsory.

Thus, for different reasons, what was to the rest an exhilarating movement
was to these two a riding upon the whirlwind. The dance had come like an
irresistible attack upon whatever sense of social order there was in their
minds, to drive them back into old paths which were now doubly irregular.

Through three dances in succession they spun their way; and then, fatigued
with the
incessant motion, Eustacia turned to quit the circle in which she
had already remained too long. Wildeve led her to a grassy mound a few yards
distant, where she sat down, her partner standing beside her. From the time
that he
addressed her at the beginning of the dance till now they had not
exchanged a word.

----------------------------------------------------------------

"Yes--that is what I mean. I sincerely sympathize with you in your trouble.
Fate has
treated you cruelly."

She was silent awhile. "Have you heard that he has chosen to work as a
furze-cutter?" she said in a low, mournful voice.

"It has been mentioned to me," answered Wildeve hesitatingly. "But I hardly
believed it."

"It is true. What do you think of me as a furze- cutter's wife?"

"I think the same as ever of you, Eustacia. Nothing of that sort can degrade
you--you
ennoble the occupation of your husband."

"I wish I could feel it."


"Is there any chance of Mr. Yeobright getting better?"

"He thinks so. I doubt it."

"I was quite surprised to hear that he had taken a cottage. I thought, in
common with other people, that he would have taken you off to a home in Paris
immediately after you had married him. 'What a gay, bright future she has
before her!' I thought
. He will, I suppose, return there with you, if his
sight gets strong again?"

Observing that she did not reply he regarded her more closely. She was almost
weeping. Images of a future never to be enjoyed, the revived sense of her
bitter disappointment, the picture of the neighbour's suspended ridicule
which was raised by Wildeve's words, had been too much for
proud Eustacia's
equanimity.

Wildeve could
hardly control his own too forward feelings when he saw her
silent perturbation. But he affected not to notice this, and she soon
recovered her calmness.

"You do not intend to walk home by yourself?" he asked.

"O yes," said Eustacia. "What could hurt me on this heath, who have nothing?"

"By
diverging a little I can make my way home the same as yours. I shall be
glad to keep you company as far as Throope Corner." Seeing that Eustacia sat
on in
hesitation he added, "Perhaps you think it unwise to be seen in the
same road with me after the events of last summer?"

"Indeed I think no such thing," she said
haughtily. "I shall accept whose
company I
choose, for all that may be said by the miserable inhabitants of
Egdon."


"Then let us walk on--if you are ready. Our nearest way is towards that
holly bush with the dark shadow that you see down there."

Eustacia arose, and walked beside him in the direction signified, brushing
her way over the
damping heath and fern, and followed by the strains of the
merrymakers, who still kept up the dance.
The moon had now waxed bright and
silvery, but the heath was proof against such illumination, and there was to
be observed the striking scene of a dark, rayless tract of country under an
atmosphere charged from its zenith to its extremities with whitest light. To
an eye above them their two faces would have appeared amid the expanse like
two pearls on a table of ebony.


----------------------------------------------------------------

"Very well," she whispered gloomily. "Leave me before they come up."

Wildeve bade her a tender farewell, and plunged across the fern and furze,
Eustacia slowly walking on. In two or three minutes she met her husband
and his companion.

"My journey ends here for tonight, reddleman," said Yeobright as soon as
he perceived her. "I turn back with this lady. Good night."

"Good night, Mr. Yeobright," said Venn. "I hope to see you better soon."

The moonlight shone directly upon Venn's face as he spoke, and revealed all
its lines to Eustacia. He was
looking suspiciously at her. That Venn's keen
eye had discerned what Yeobright's feeble vision had not--a man in the act
of withdrawing from Eustacia's side--was within the limits of the probable.


If Eustacia had been able to follow the reddleman she would soon have found
striking confirmation of her thought. No sooner had Clym given her his arm
and led her off the scene than the reddleman turned back from the beaten
track towards East Egdon, whither he had been strolling merely to accompany
Clym in his walk, Diggory's van being again in the neighbourhood. Stretching
out his long legs, he crossed the pathless portion of the heath somewhat in
the direction which Wildeve had taken. Only a man accustomed to
nocturnal
rambles could at this hour have descended those shaggy slopes with Venn's
velocity without
falling headlong into a pit, or snapping off his leg by
jamming his foot into some rabbit burrow. But Venn went on without much
inconvenience to himself, and the course of his scamper was towards the
Quiet Woman Inn. This place he reached in about half an hour, and he was
well aware that no person who had been near Throope Corner when he started
could have got down here before him.

The lonely inn was not yet closed, though scarcely an individual was there,
the business done being chiefly with travellers who passed the inn on long
journeys, and these had now gone on their way. Venn went to the public room,
called for a mug of ale, and
inquired of the maid in an indifferent tone if
Mr. Wildeve was at home.

Thomasin sat in an inner room and heard Venn's voice. When customers were
present she
seldom showed herself, owing to her inherent dislike for the
business; but perceiving that no one else was there tonight she came out.

"He is not at home yet, Diggory," she
said pleasantly. "But I expected him
sooner. He has been to East Egdon to buy a horse."


"Did he wear a light wideawake?"

"Yes."

"Then I saw him at Throope Corner, leading one home," said Venn drily. "A
beauty, with a
white face and a mane as black as night. He will soon be here,
no doubt." Rising and looking for a moment at the
pure, sweet face of
Thomasin, over which a shadow of
sadness had passed since the time when he
had last seen her, he
ventured to add, "Mr. Wildeve seems to be often away
at this time."

"O yes," cried Thomasin in what was
intended to be a tone of gaiety.
"Husbands will play the truant, you know. I wish you could tell me of some
secret plan that would help me to keep him home at my will in the evenings."

"I will consider if I know of one," replied Venn in that same
light tone
which meant no
lightness. And then he bowed in a manner of his own invention
and moved to go. Thomasin offered him her hand; and
without a sigh, though
with food for many
, the reddleman went out.



4 - Rough Coercion Is Employed



Although his weaknesses were not specially those akin to physical
fear, this species of coup-de-Jarnac from one he knew too well troubled
the mind of Wildeve. But his movements were unaltered thereby. A night
or two later he again went along the vale to Alderworth, taking the
precaution of keeping out of any path. The sense that he was watched,
that
craft was employed to circumvent his errant tastes, added piquancy
to a journey so entirely
sentimental, so long as the danger was of no
fearful sort. He imagined that Venn and Mrs. Yeobright were in league,
and felt that there was a certain
legitimacy in combating such a coalition.

The heath tonight appeared to be totally deserted; and Wildeve, after
looking over Eustacia's garden gate for some little time, with a cigar in
his mouth, was
tempted by the fascination that emotional smuggling had for
his nature to advance towards the window, which was not quite closed, the
blind being only partly drawn down. He could see into the room, and Eustacia
was sitting there alone. Wildeve
contemplated her for a minute, and then
retreating into the heath
beat the ferns lightly, whereupon moths flew out
alarmed. Securing one, he returned to the window, and holding the moth to
the chink, opened his hand. The moth made towards the candle upon Eustacia's
table,
hovered round it two or three times, and flew into the flame.

Eustacia started up. This had been a well-known signal in old times when
Wildeve had used to come secretly wooing to Mistover. She at once knew that
Wildeve was outside, but before she could consider what to do her husband came
in from upstairs. Eustacia's face burnt crimson at the unexpected collision of
incidents, and
filled it with an animation that it too frequently lacked.

"You have a very
high colour, dearest," said Yeobright, when he came close
enough to see it. "Your
appearance would be no worse if it were always so."

"I am
warm," said Eustacia. "I think I will go into the air for a few minutes."

"Shall I go with you?"

"O no. I am only going to the gate."

She
arose, but before she had time to get out of the room a loud rapping began
upon the front door.

"I'll go--I'll go," said Eustacia in an
unusually quick tone for her; and she
glanced eagerly towards the window whence the moth had flown; but nothing
appeared there.

"You had better not at this time of the evening," he said. Clym stepped before
her into the passage, and Eustacia waited,
her somnolent manner covering her
inner heat and agitation.


She listened, and Clym opened the door. No words were uttered outside, and
presently he closed it and came back, saying, "Nobody was there. I wonder what
that could have meant?"

He was left to wonder during the rest of the evening, for no explanation offered
itself, and Eustacia said nothing, the additional fact that she knew of only
adding more mystery to the performance.

Meanwhile a little drama had been acted outside which saved Eustacia from all
possibility of
compromising herself that evening at least. Whilst Wildeve had
been
preparing his moth-signal another person had come behind him up to the gate.
This man, who carried a gun in his hand,
looked on for a moment at the other's
operation by the window, walked up to the house,
knocked at the door, and then
vanished round the corner and over the hedge.

"Damn him!" said Wildeve. "He has been watching me again."

As his signal had been rendered futile by this uproarious rapping Wildeve
withdrew, passed out at the gate, and walked quickly down the path without
thinking of anything except getting away unnoticed. Halfway down the hill the
path ran near a knot of
stunted hollies, which in the general darkness of the
scene stood as the pupil in a black eye. When Wildeve
reached this point a report
startled his ear, and a few spent gunshots fell among the leaves around him.

There was no doubt that he himself was the cause of that gun's
discharge; and he
rushed into the clump of hollies, beating the bushes furiously with his stick;
but nobody was there. This
attack was a more serious matter than the last, and
it was some time before Wildeve
recovered his equanimity. A new and most
unpleasant system of menace had begun, and the intent appeared to be to do him
grievous bodily harm. Wildeve had looked upon Venn's first attempt as a species of
horseplay, which the reddleman had indulged in for want of knowing better; but
now the boundary line was
passed which divides the annoying from the perilous.

Had Wildeve known how
thoroughly in earnest Venn had become he might have been
still more
alarmed. The reddleman had been almost exasperated by the sight of
Wildeve outside Clym's house, and he was
prepared to go to any lengths short of
absolutely
shooting him, to terrify the young innkeeper out of his recalcitrant
impulses. The
doubtful legitimacy of such rough coercion did not disturb the mind
of Venn. It
troubles few such minds in such cases, and sometimes this is not to
be
regretted. From the impeachment of Strafford to Farmer Lynch's short way with
the scamps of Virginia there have been many triumphs of justice which are
mockeries of law
.

About half a mile below Clym's secluded dwelling lay a hamlet where lived one of
the two constables who preserved the peace in the parish of Alderworth, and
Wildeve went straight to the constable's cottage. Almost the first thing that he saw
on opening the door was the constable's truncheon hanging to a nail, as if to assure
him that here were the means to his purpose. On inquiry, however, of the
constable's wife he learnt that the constable was not at home. Wildeve said he would
wait.

The minutes ticked on, and the constable did not arrive. Wildeve cooled down from
his state of high
indignation to a restless dissatisfaction with himself, the scene,
the constable's wife, and the whole set of circumstances. He
arose and left the
house. Altogether, the experience of that evening had had a
cooling, not to say a
chilling, effect on misdirected tenderness, and Wildeve was in no mood to ramble
again to Alderworth after nightfall in hope of a
stray glance from Eustacia.

Thus far the reddleman had been
tolerably successful in his rude contrivances for
keeping down Wildeve's
inclination to rove in the evening. He had nipped in the bud
the possible meeting between Eustacia and her old lover this very night. But he had
not
anticipated that the tendency of his action would be to divert Wildeve's
movement rather than to
stop it. The gambling with the guineas had not conduced to
make him a welcome guest to Clym; but to call upon his wife's relative was natural,
and he was determined to see Eustacia. It was necessary to choose some less
untoward hour than ten o'clock at night. "Since it is unsafe to go in the evening,"
he said, "I'll go by day."

----------------------------------------------------------------

"Both she and my son disobeyed me in marrying; therefore I have no interest in
their households. Their
troubles are of their own making." Mrs. Yeobright tried to
speak severely; but the account of her son's state had moved her more than she
cared to show.

"Your visits would make Wildeve
walk straighter than he is inclined to do, and might
prevent unhappiness down the heath."

"What do you mean?"

"I saw something tonight out there which I didn't like at all. I wish your son's
house and Mr. Wildeve's were a hundred miles apart instead of four or five."

"Then there was an understanding between him and Clym's wife when he made a fool
of Thomasin!"

"We'll hope there's no
understanding now."

"And our
hope will probably be very vain. O Clym! O Thomasin!"

"There's no
harm done yet. In fact, I've persuaded Wildeve to mind his own
business."

"How?"

"O, not by talking--by a plan of mine called the
silent system."

"I hope you'll
succeed."

"I shall if you help me by calling and
making friends with your son. You'll have
a chance then of
using your eyes."

"Well, since it has come to this," said Mrs. Yeobright
sadly, "I will own to you,
reddleman, that I thought of going. I should be much
happier if we were reconciled.
The marriage is
unalterable, my life may be cut short, and I should wish to die in
peace. He is my only son; and since sons are made of such stuff I am not sorry I
have no other
. As for Thomasin, I never expected much from her; and she has not
disappointed me. But I forgave her long ago; and I forgive him now. I'll go."

----------------------------------------------------------------

"Since I have been away today, Eustacia, I have considered that something must be
done to heal up this ghastly breach between my dear mother and myself. It troubles
me."

"What do you propose to do?" said Eustacia abstractedly, for she could not clear
away from her the excitement caused by Wildeve's recent manoeuvre for an interview.

"You seem to take a very mild interest in what I propose, little or much," said
Clym, with tolerable warmth.

"You mistake me," she answered, reviving at his reproach. "I am only thinking."

"What of?"

"Partly of that moth whose skeleton is getting burnt up in the wick of the candle,"
she said slowly. "But you know I always take an interest in what you say."

"Very well, dear. Then I think I must go and call upon her."...He went on with
tender feeling: "It is a thing I am not at all too proud to do, and only a fear
that I might irritate her has kept me away so long. But I must do something. It
is wrong in me to allow this sort of thing to go on."

"What have you to blame yourself about?"

"She is getting old, and her life is lonely, and I am her only son."

"She has Thomasin."

"Thomasin is not her daughter; and if she were that would not excuse me. But this
is beside the point. I have made up my mind to go to her, and all I wish to ask you
is whether you will do your best to help me--that is, forget the past; and if she
shows her willingness to be reconciled, meet her halfway by welcoming her to our
house, or by accepting a welcome to hers?"

At first Eustacia closed her lips as if she would rather do anything on the whole
globe than what he suggested. But the lines of her mouth softened with thought,
though not so far as they might have softened, and she said, "I will put nothing
in your way; but after what has passed it, is asking too much that I go and make
advances."

"You never distinctly told me what did pass between you."

"I could not do it then, nor can I now. Sometimes more bitterness is sown in five
minutes than can be got rid of in a whole life; and that may be the case here."
She paused a few moments, and added, "If you had never returned to your native
place, Clym, what a blessing it would have been for you!...It has altered the
destinies of----"

"Three people."

"Five," Eustacia thought; but she kept that in.



5 - The Journey across the Heath



Thursday, the thirty-first of August, was one of a series of days during which
snug houses were stifling, and when cool draughts were treats; when cracks appeared
in clayey gardens,
and were called "earthquakes" by apprehensive children; when
loose spokes were discovered in the wheels of carts and carriages; and
when stinging
insects haunted the air, the earth, and every drop of water that was to be found.

In Mrs. Yeobright's garden large-leaved plants of a tender kind flagged by ten
o'clock in the morning; rhubarb bent downward at eleven; and even stiff cabbages
were limp by noon.


It was about eleven o'clock on this day that Mrs. Yeobright started across the heath
towards her son's house, to do her best in getting reconciled with him and Eustacia,
in conformity with her words to the reddleman. She had hoped to be well advanced in
her walk before the heat of the day was at its highest, but after setting out she
found that this was not to be done.
The sun had branded the whole heath with its mark,
even the purple heath-flowers having put on a brownness under the dry blazes of the
few preceding days. Every valley was filled with air like that of a kiln, and the
clean quartz sand of the winter water-courses, which formed summer paths, had under-
gone a species of incineration since the drought had set in.


In cool, fresh weather Mrs. Yeobright would have found no inconvenience in walking to
Alderworth, but the present torrid attack made the journey a heavy undertaking for a
woman past middle age; and at the end of the third mile she wished that she had hired
Fairway to drive her a portion at least of the distance. But from the point at which
she had arrived it was as easy to reach Clym's house as to get home again. So she went
on,
the air around her pulsating silently, and oppressing the earth with lassitude.
She looked at the sky overhead, and saw that the sapphirine hue of the zenith in
spring and early summer had been replaced by a metallic violet.

Occasionally she came to a spot where independent worlds of ephemerons were passing
their time in mad carousal, some in the air, some on the hot ground and vegetation,
some in the tepid and stringy water of a nearly dried pool. All the shallower ponds
had decreased to a vaporous mud amid which the maggoty shapes of innumerable obscure
creatures could be indistinctly seen, heaving and wallowing with enjoyment.
Being a
woman not disinclined to philosophize she sometimes sat down under her umbrella to
rest and to watch their happiness, for a certain hopefulness as to the result of her
visit gave ease to her mind, and between important thoughts left it free to dwell on
any infinitesimal matter which caught her eyes.






She followed the figure indicated. He appeared of a russet hue, not more distinguish-
able from the scene around him than the green caterpillar from the leaf it feeds on.

His progress when actually walking was more rapid than Mrs. Yeobright's; but she was
enabled to keep at an equable distance from him by his habit of stopping whenever he
came to a brake of brambles, where he paused awhile. On coming in her turn to each of
these spots she found half a dozen long limp brambles which he had cut from the bush
during his halt and laid out straight beside the path. They were evidently intended
for furze-faggot bonds which he meant to collect on his return.


The silent being who thus occupied himself seemed to be of no more account in life
than an insect. He appeared as a mere parasite of the heath, fretting its surface in
his daily labour as a moth frets a garment, entirely engrossed with its products,
having no knowledge of anything in the world but fern, furze, heath, lichens, and moss.


The furze-cutter was so absorbed in the business of his journey that he never turned
his head; and his leather-legged and gauntleted form at length became to her as noth-
ing more than a moving handpost to show her the way. Suddenly she was attracted to his
individuality by observing peculiarities in his walk. It was a gait she had seen some-
where before; and the gait revealed the man to her, as the gait of Ahimaaz in the
distant plain made him known to the watchman of the king. "His walk is exactly as my
husband's used to be," she said; and then the thought burst upon her that the furze-
cutter was her son.


She was scarcely able to familiarize herself with this strange reality. She had been
told that Clym was in the habit of cutting furze, but she had supposed that he occu-
pied himself with the labour only at odd times, by way of useful pastime; yet she now
beheld him as a furze-cutter and nothing more--wearing the regulation dress of the
craft, and thinking the regulation thoughts, to judge by his motions. Planning a dozen
hasty schemes for at once preserving him and Eustacia from this mode of life, she
throbbingly followed the way, and saw him enter his own door.

At one side of Clym's house was a knoll, and on the top of the knoll a clump of fir
trees so highly thrust up into the sky that their foliage from a distance appeared as
a black spot in the air above the crown of the hill. On reaching this place Mrs. Yeo-
bright felt distressingly agitated, weary, and unwell. She ascended, and sat down under
their shade to recover herself, and to consider how best to break the ground with Eust-
acia, so as not to irritate a woman underneath whose apparent indolence lurked passions
even stronger and more active than her own.


The trees beneath which she sat were singularly battered, rude, and wild, and for a few
minutes Mrs. Yeobright dismissed thoughts of her own storm-broken and exhausted state
to contemplate theirs. Not a bough in the nine trees which composed the group but was
splintered, lopped, and distorted by the fierce weather that there held them at its mercy
whenever it prevailed. Some were blasted and split as if by lightning, black stains as from
fire marking their sides, while the ground at their feet was strewn with dead fir-needles
and heaps of cones blown down in the gales of past years. The place was called the Devil's
Bellows,
and it was only necessary to come there on a March or November night to discover
the forcible reasons for that name. On the present heated afternoon, when no perceptible
wind was blowing,
the trees kept up a perpetual moan which one could hardly believe to be
caused by the air.


Here she sat for twenty minutes or more ere she could summon resolution to go down to
the door, her courage being lowered to zero by her physical lassitude. To any other person
than a mother it might have seemed a little humiliating that she, the elder of the two wo-
men, should be the first to make advances. But Mrs. Yeobright had well considered all that,
and she only thought how best to make her visit appear to Eustacia not abject but wise.

From her elevated position the exhausted woman could perceive the roof of the house below,
and the garden and the whole enclosure of the little domicile. And now, at the moment of
rising, she saw a second man approaching the gate. His manner was peculiar, hesitating, and
not that of a person come on business or by invitation. He surveyed the house with interest,
and then walked round and scanned the outer boundary of the garden, as one might have
done had it been the birthplace of Shakespeare, the prison of Mary Stuart, or the Chateau of
Hougomont. After passing round and again reaching the gate he went in. Mrs. Yeobright was
vexed at this, having reckoned on finding her son and his wife by themselves; but a moment's
thought showed her that the presence of an acquaintance would take off the awkwardness
of her first appearance in the house, by confining the talk to general matters until she had
begun to feel comfortable with them. She came down the hill to the gate, and looked into the
hot garden.


There lay the cat asleep on the bare gravel of the path, as if beds, rugs, and carpets were
unendurable. The leaves of the hollyhocks hung like half-closed umbrellas, the sap almost
simmered in the stems, and foliage with a smooth surface glared like metallic mirrors.
A
small apple tree, of the sort called Ratheripe, grew just inside the gate, the only one which
throve in the garden, by reason of the lightness of the soil; and
among the fallen apples on
the ground beneath were wasps rolling drunk with the juice, or creeping about the little
caves in each fruit which they had eaten out before stupefied by its sweetness.
By the door
lay Clym's furze-hook and the last handful of faggot-bonds she had seen him gather; they
had plainly been thrown down there as he entered the house.




6 - A Conjuncture, and Its Result upon the Pedestrian



Nobody could have imagined from her bearing now that here stood the woman who had joined with
him in the impassioned dance of the week before, unless indeed he could have penetrated below
the surface and gauged the real depth of that still stream.


"I hope you reached home safely?" said Wildeve.

"O yes," she carelessly returned.

"And were you not tired the next day? I feared you might be."

"I was rather. You need not speak low--nobody will over-hear us. My small servant is gone on
an errand to the village."

"Then Clym is not at home?"

"Yes, he is."

----------------------------------------------------------------

"Why is he sleeping there?" said Wildeve in low tones.

"He is very weary. He went out at half-past four this morning, and has been working ever since.
He cuts furze because it is the only thing he can do that does not put any
strain upon his poor
eyes." The contrast between the sleeper's appearance and Wildeve's at this moment was pain-
fully apparent to Eustacia, Wildeve being elegantly
dressed in a new summer suit and light hat; and
she
continued: "Ah! you don't know how differently he appeared when I first met him, though it is
such a little while ago. His hands were as white and soft as mine; and look at them now, how
rough and brown they are! His complexion is by nature fair, and that rusty look he has now, all
of a colour with his leather clothes, is caused by the
burning of the sun."

"Why does he go out at all!" Wildeve
whispered.

"Because he
hates to be idle; though what he earns doesn't add much to our exchequer. However,
he says that when people are living upon their capital they must keep down current expenses by
turning a penny where they can."

"The fates have not been kind to you, Eustacia Yeobright."

"I have nothing to
thank them for."

"Nor has he--except for their one great gift to him."

"What's that?"

Wildeve looked her in the eyes.

Eustacia
blushed for the first time that day. "Well, I am a questionable gift," she said quietly.
"I thought you meant the gift of content--which he has, and I have not."


"I can understand content in such a case--though how the outward situation can attract him puz-
zles
me."

"That's because you don't know him. He's an enthusiast about ideas, and careless about outward
things. He often reminds me of the Apostle Paul."

"I am glad to hear that he's so grand in character as that."

"Yes; but the worst of it is that though Paul was excellent as a man in the Bible he would
hardly have done in real life."

Their voices had instinctively dropped lower, though at first they had taken no particular care
to avoid awakening Clym. "Well, if that means that your marriage is a misfortune to you, you
know who is to blame," said Wildeve.

"The marriage is no misfortune in itself," she retorted with some little petulance. "It is
simply the accident which has happened since that has been the cause of my ruin. I have certainly
got thistles for figs in a worldly sense, but how could I tell what time would bring forth?"


"Sometimes, Eustacia, I think it is a judgment upon you. You rightly belonged to me, you know;
and I had no idea of losing you."

"No, it was not my fault! Two could not belong to you; and remember that, before I was aware,
you turned aside to another woman. It was cruel levity in you to do that. I never dreamt of
playing such a game on my side till you began it on yours."

"I meant nothing by it," replied Wildeve. "It was a mere interlude. Men are given to the trick
of having a passing fancy for somebody else in the midst of a permanent love, which
reasserts
itself afterwards just as before. On account of your rebellious manner to me I was
tempted to
go further than I should have done; and when you still would keep playing the same
tantalizing
part I went further still, and married her." Turning and looking again at the unconscious form
of Clym, he
murmured, "I am afraid that you don't value your prize, Clym....He ought to be hap-
pier than I in one thing at least. He may know what it is to
come down in the world, and to be
afflicted with a great personal calamity; but he probably doesn't know what it is to lose the
woman he loved."

"He is not ungrateful for
winning her," whispered Eustacia, "and in that respect he is a good
man. Many women would go far for such a husband.
But do I desire unreasonably much in wanting
what is called life-- music, poetry, passion, war, and all the beating and pulsing that are
going on in the great arteries of the world? That was the shape of my youthful dream; but I
did not get it.
Yet I thought I saw the way to it in my Clym."

"And you only married him on that account?"

"There you mistake me. I married him because I loved him, but I won't say that I didn't love
him partly because I thought I saw a promise of that life in him."

"You have dropped into your old mournful key."

"But I am not going to be depressed," she cried perversely. "I began a new system by going to
that dance, and I mean to stick to it. Clym can sing merrily; why should not I?"

Wildeve looked thoughtfully at her. "It is easier to say you will sing than to do it; though
if I could I would encourage you in your attempt. But as life means nothing to me, without one
thing which is now impossible, you will forgive me for not being able to encourage you."


"Damon, what is the matter with you, that you speak like that?" she asked, raising her deep
shady eyes to his.

"That's a thing I shall never tell plainly; and perhaps if I try to tell you in riddles you
will not care to guess them."

Eustacia remained silent for a minute, and she said, "We are in a strange relationship today.
You mince matters to an uncommon nicety. You mean, Damon, that you still love me. Well, that
gives me sorrow, for I am not made so entirely happy by my marriage that I am willing to spurn
you for the information, as I ought to do.
But we have said too much about this. Do you mean
to wait until my husband is awake?"

"I thought to speak to him; but it is unnecessary, Eustacia, if I offend you by not forget-
ting you, you are right to mention it; but do not talk of spurning."

She did not reply, and they stood looking musingly at Clym as he slept on in that profound
sleep which is the result of physical labour carried on in circumstances that wake no nervous
fear.

"God, how I envy him that sweet sleep!" said Wildeve. "I have not slept like that since I was
a boy--years and years ago."


While they thus watched him a click at the gate was audible, and a knock came to the door.
Eustacia went to a window and looked out.

Her countenance changed. First she became crimson, and then the red subsided till it even
partially left her lips.


"Shall I go away?" said Wildeve, standing up.

"I hardly know."

"Who is it?"

"Mrs. Yeobright. O, what she said to me that day! I cannot understand this visit--what does
she mean? And she suspects that past time of ours."

"I am in your hands. If you think she had better not see me here I'll go into the next room."

"Well, yes--go."

Wildeve at once withdrew; but before he had been half a minute in the adjoining apartment
Eustacia came after him.

"No," she said, "we won't have any of this. If she comes in she must see you--and think if
she likes there's something wrong! But how can I open the door to her, when she dislikes me--
wishes to see not me, but her son? I won't open the door!"


Mrs. Yeobright knocked again more loudly.

"Her knocking will, in all likelihood, awaken him," continued Eustacia, "and then he will
let her in himself. Ah--listen."

They could hear Clym moving in the other room, as if disturbed by the knocking, and he ut-
tered the word "Mother."

"Yes--he is awake--he will go to the door," she said, with a breath of relief. "Come this
way. I have a bad name with her, and you must not be seen. Thus I am obliged to act by
stealth, not because I do ill, but because others are pleased to say so."


----------------------------------------------------------------


To her astonishment Clym lay precisely as Wildeve and herself had left him, his sleep ap-
parently unbroken. He had been disturbed and made to dream and murmur by the knocking, but
he had not awakened. Eustacia hastened to the door, and in spite of her reluctance to open
it to a woman who had spoken of her so bitterly, she unfastened it and looked out. Nobody
was to be seen. There, by the scraper, lay Clym's hook and the handful of faggot-bonds he
had brought home; in front of her were the empty path, the garden gate standing slightly
ajar; and,
beyond, the great valley of purple heath thrilling silently in the sun. Mrs.
Yeobright was gone.

Clym's mother was at this time following a path which lay hidden from Eustacia by a shoulder
of the hill. Her walk thither from the garden gate had been hasty and determined, as of a
woman who was now no less anxious to escape from the scene than she had previously been to
enter it. Her eyes were fixed on the ground; within her two sights were graven--that of
Clym's hook and brambles at the door, and that of a woman's face at a window. Her lips
trembled, becoming unnaturally thin as she murmured, "'Tis too much--Clym, how can he bear
to do it! He is at home; and yet he lets her shut the door against me!"


In her anxiety to get out of the direct view of the house she had diverged from the straight-
est path homeward, and while looking about to regain it she came upon a little boy gathering
whortleberries in a hollow. The boy was Johnny Nunsuch, who had been Eustacia's stoker at the
bonfire, and,
with the tendency of a minute body to gravitate towards a greater, he began
hovering round Mrs. Yeobright as soon as she appeared, and trotted on beside her without
perceptible consciousness of his act.


Mrs. Yeobright spoke to him as one in a mesmeric sleep. "'Tis a long way home, my child, and
we shall not get there till evening."

"I shall," said her small companion. "I am going to play marnels afore supper, and we go to
supper at six o'clock, because Father comes home. Does your father come home at six too?"

"No, he never comes; nor my son either, nor anybody."

"What have made you so down? Have you seen a ooser?"

"I have seen what's worse--a woman's face looking at me through a windowpane."

"Is that a bad sight?"

"Yes. It is always a bad sight to see a woman looking out at a weary wayfarer and not letting
her in."


"Once when I went to Throope Great Pond to catch effets I seed myself looking up at myself,
and I was frightened and jumped back like anything."


..."If they had only shown signs of meeting my advances halfway how well it might have been
done! But there is no chance. Shut out! She must have set him against me.
Can there be beau-
tiful bodies without hearts inside?
I think so. I would not have done it against a neighbour's
cat on such a fiery day as this!"

"What is it you say?"

"Never again--never! Not even if they send for me!"

"You must be a very curious woman to talk like that."

"O no, not at all," she said, returning to the boy's prattle. "Most people who grow up and
have children talk as I do. When you grow up your mother will talk as I do too."

"I hope she won't; because 'tis very bad to talk nonsense."

"Yes, child; it is nonsense, I suppose. Are you not nearly spent with the heat?"

"Yes. But not so much as you be."

"How do you know?"


"Your face is white and wet, and your head is hanging-down-like."

"Ah, I am exhausted from inside."

"Why do you, every time you take a step, go like this?" The child in speaking gave to his mo-
tion the jerk and limp of an invalid.


"Because I have a burden which is more than I can bear."

The little boy remained silently pondering, and they tottered on side by side until more than
a quarter of an hour had elapsed, when Mrs. Yeobright, whose weakness plainly increased, said
to him, "I must sit down here to rest."

When she had seated herself he looked long in her face and said,
"How funny you draw your
breath--like a lamb when you drive him till he's nearly done for.
Do you always draw your
breath like that?"

"Not always." Her voice was now so low as to be scarcely above a whisper.

"You will go to sleep there, I suppose, won't you? You have shut your eyes already."

"No. I shall not sleep much till--another day, and then I hope to have a long, long one--very
long.
Now can you tell me if Rimsmoor Pond is dry this summer?"

"Rimsmoor Pond is, but Oker's Pool isn't, because he is deep, and is never dry--'tis just
over there."

"Is the water clear?"

"Yes, middling--except where the heath-croppers walk into it."

"Then, take this, and go as fast as you can, and dip me up the clearest you can find. I am
very faint."

She drew from the small willow reticule that she carried in her hand an old-fashioned china
teacup without a handle; it was one of half a dozen of the same sort lying in the reticule,
which she had preserved ever since her childhood, and had brought with her today as a small
present for Clym and Eustacia.

The boy started on his errand, and soon came back with the water, such as it was. Mrs. Yeo-
bright attempted to drink, but it was so warm as to give her nausea,
and she threw it away.
Afterwards she still remained sitting, with her eyes closed.

The boy waited, played near her, caught several of the little brown butterflies which aboun-
ded
, and then said as he waited again, "I like going on better than biding still. Will you
soon start again?"

"I don't know."

"I wish I might go on by myself," he resumed, fearing, apparently, that he was to be pressed
into some unpleasant service.
"Do you want me any more, please?"

Mrs. Yeobright made no
reply.

"What shall I tell Mother?" the boy continued.

"Tell her you have seen a
broken-hearted woman cast off by her son."

Before quite leaving her
he threw upon her face a wistful glance, as if he had misgivings on
the generosity of forsaking her thus. He gazed into her face in a vague, wondering manner,
like that of one examining some strange old manuscript the key to whose characters is undis-
coverable. He was not so young as to be absolutely without a sense that sympathy was demanded,
he was not old enough to be free from the terror felt in childhood at beholding misery in
adult quarters hither-to deemed impregnable;
and whether she were in a position to cause
trouble or to
suffer from it, whether she and her affliction were something to pity or some-
thing to
fear, it was beyond him to decide. He lowered his eyes and went on without another
word. Before he had gone half a mile he had
forgotten all about her, except that she was a
woman who had
sat down to rest.

Mrs. Yeobright's
exertions, physical and emotional, had well-nigh prostrated her; but she
continued to
creep along in short stages with long breaks between. The sun had now got far
to the west of south and stood directly in her face, like some merciless incendiary, brand
in hand, waiting to consume her.
With the departure of the boy all visible animation disap-
peared
from the landscape, though the intermittent husky notes of the male grasshoppers from
every tuft of furze were enough to show that amid the prostration of the larger animal spe-
cies an unseen insect world was busy in all the fullness of life.


In two hours she reached a slope about three-fourths the whole distance from Alderworth to
her own home, where
a little patch of shepherd's-thyme intruded upon the path; and she sat
down upon the perfumed mat it formed there
. In front of her a colony of ants had established
a thoroughfare across the way, where
they toiled a never-ending and heavy-laden throng. To
look down upon them was like observing a city street from the top of a tower. She remembered
that this
bustle of ants had been in progress for years at the same spot--doubtless those of
the old times were the ancestors of these which walked there now.
She leant back to obtain
more thorough rest, and the soft eastern portion of the sky was as great a relief to her eyes
as the thyme was to her head. While she looked a heron arose on that side of the sky and flew
on with his face towards the sun. He had come dripping wet from some pool in the valleys, and
as he flew the edges and lining of his wings, his thighs and his breast were so caught by the
bright sunbeams that he appeared as if formed of burnished silver. Up in the zenith where he
was seemed a free and happy place, away from all contact with the earthly ball to which she
was pinioned; and she wished that she could arise uncrushed from its surface and fly as he
flew then.


But, being a mother, it was inevitable that she should soon cease to ruminate upon her own
condition.
Had the track of her next thought been marked by a streak in the air, like the path
of a meteor, it would have shown a direction contrary to the heron's, and have descended to
the eastward upon the roof of Clym's house
.



7 - The Tragic Meeting of Two Old Friends



"I dreamt that I took you to her house to make up differences, and when we got there we could-
n't get in, though she kept on crying to us for help. However, dreams are dreams.
What o'clock
is it, Eustacia?"

"Half-past two."

"So late, is it? I didn't mean to stay so long. By the time I have had something to eat it
will be after three."

"Ann is not come back from the village, and I thought I would let you sleep on till she re-
turned."

Clym went to the window and looked out. Presently he said, musingly, "Week after week passes,
and yet Mother does not come. I thought I should have heard something from her long before
this."


Misgiving, regret, fear, resolution, ran their swift course of expression in Eustacia's dark
eyes.
She was face to face with a monstrous difficulty, and she resolved to get free of it by
postponement
.

"I must certainly go to Blooms-End soon," he continued, "and I think I had better go alone."
He picked up his leggings and gloves, threw them down again, and added, "As dinner will be so
late today I will not go back to the heath, but work in the garden till the evening, and then,
when it will be cooler, I will walk to Blooms-End. I am quite sure that if I make a little
advance Mother will be willing to forget all. It will be rather late before I can get home,
as I shall not be able to do the distance either way in less than an hour and a half. But you
will not mind for one evening, dear? What are you thinking of to make you look so abstracted?"

"I cannot tell you," she said heavily. "I wish we didn't live here, Clym. The world seems all
wrong in this place."


"Well--if we make it so. I wonder if Thomasin has been to Blooms-End lately. I hope so. But
probably not, as she is, I believe, expecting to be confined in a month or so. I wish I had
thought of that before. Poor Mother must indeed be very lonely."

"I don't like you going tonight."

"Why not tonight?"

"Something may be said which will terribly injure me."

"My mother is not vindictive," said Clym, his colour faintly rising.


----------------------------------------------------------------

"Let it be as you say, then," she replied in the quiet way of one who, though willing to ward
off evil consequences by a mild effort, would let events fall out as they might sooner than
wrestle hard to direct them.

Clym then went into the garden; and a thoughtful languor stole over Eustacia for the remainder
of the afternoon, which her husband attributed to the heat of the weather.


In the evening he set out on the journey. Although the heat of summer was yet intense the days
had considerably shortened, and before he had advanced a mile on his way all the heath purples,
browns, and greens had merged in a uniform dress without airiness or graduation, and broken
only by touches of white where the little heaps of clean quartz sand showed the entrance to a
rabbit burrow, or where the white flints of a footpath lay like a thread over the slopes. In
almost every one of the isolated and stunted thorns which grew here and there a nighthawk re-
vealed his presence by whirring like the clack of a mill as long as he could hold his breath,
then stopping, flapping his wings, wheeling round the bush, alighting, and after a silent in-
terval of listening beginning to whirr again. At each brushing of Clym's feet white millermoths
flew into the air just high enough to catch upon their dusty wings the mellowed light from the
west, which now shone across the depressions and levels of the ground without falling thereon
to light them up.


Yeobright walked on amid this quiet scene with a hope that all would soon be well. Three miles
on he came to a spot where a soft perfume was wafted across his path, and he stood still for a
moment to inhale the familiar scent. It was the place at which, four hours earlier, his mother
had sat down exhausted on the knoll covered with shepherd's-thyme. While he stood a sound be-
tween a breathing and a moan suddenly reached his ears.

He looked to where the sound came from; but nothing appeared there save the verge of the hillock
stretching against the sky in an unbroken line. He moved a few steps in that direction, and now
he perceived a recumbent figure almost close to his feet.

Among the different possibilities as to the person's individuality there did not for a moment
occur to Yeobright that it might be one of his own family. Sometimes furze-cutters had been
known to sleep out of doors at these times, to save a long journey homeward and back again; but
Clym remembered the moan and looked closer, and
saw that the form was feminine; and a distress
came over him like cold air from a cave.
But he was not absolutely certain that the woman was
his mother till he stooped and beheld her face, pallid, and with closed eyes.


His breath went, as it were, out of his body and the cry of anguish which would have escaped
him died upon his lips.
During the momentary interval that elapsed before he became conscious
that something must be done all sense of time and place left him, and it seemed as if he and
his mother were as when he was a child with her many years ago on this heath at hours similar
to the present. Then he awoke to activity; and bending yet lower he found that she still brea-
thed, and that her breath though feeble was regular, except when disturbed by an occasional
gasp.

"O, what is it! Mother, are you very ill--you are not dying?" he cried, pressing his lips to
her face. "I am your Clym. How did you come here? What does it all mean?"

At that moment the chasm in their lives which his love for Eustacia had caused was not remem-
bered by Yeobright, and to him the present joined continuously with that friendly past that had
been their experience before the division.

She moved her lips, appeared to know him, but could not speak; and then Clym strove to consider
how best to move her, as it would be necessary to get her away from the spot before the dews
were intense. He was able-bodied, and his mother was thin. He clasped his arms round her, lif-
ted her a little, and said, "Does that hurt you?"

She shook her head, and he lifted her up; then, at a slow pace, went onward with his load.

The air was now completely cool; but whenever he passed over a sandy patch of ground uncar-
peted with vegetation there was reflected from its surface into his face the heat which it
had imbibed during the day.
At the beginning of his undertaking he had thought but little of
the distance which yet would have to be traversed before Blooms-End could be reached; but
though he had slept that afternoon he soon began to feel the weight of his burden. Thus
he
proceeded, like Aeneas with his father; the bats circling round his head, nightjars flapping
their wings within a yard of his face,
and not a human being within call.

While he was yet nearly a mile from the house his mother exhibited signs of restlessness under
the constraint of being borne along, as if his arms were irksome to her.
He lowered her upon
his knees and looked around. The point they had now reached, though far from any road, was not
more than a mile from the Blooms-End cottages occupied by Fairway, Sam, Humphrey, and the Can-
tles. Moreover, fifty yards off stood a hut, built of clods and covered with thin turves, but
now entirely disused. The simple outline of the lonely shed was visible, and thither he deter-
mined to direct his steps. As soon as he arrived he laid her down carefully by the entrance,
and then ran and cut with his pocketknife an armful of the dryest fern. Spreading this within
the shed, which was entirely open on one side, he placed his mother thereon; then he ran with
all his might towards the dwelling of Fairway.



----------------------------------------------------------------

Sam and the brandy soon arrived, and it was administered by the light of the lantern; after
which she became sufficiently conscious to signify by signs that something was wrong with her
foot. Olly Dowden at length understood her meaning, and examined the foot indicated.
It was
swollen and red. Even as they watched the red began to assume a more livid colour, in the midst
of which appeared a scarlet speck, smaller than a pea, and it was found to consist of a drop
of blood, which rose above the smooth flesh of her ankle in a hemisphere.


"I know what it is," cried Sam. "She has been stung by an adder!"

"Yes," said Clym instantly. "I remember when I was a child seeing just such a bite. O, my poor
mother!"

"It was my father who was bit," said Sam. "And there's only one way to cure it. You must rub
the place with the fat of other adders, and the only way to get that is by frying them. That's
what they did for him."


"'Tis an old remedy," said Clym distrustfully, "and I have doubts about it. But we can do no-
thing else till the doctor comes."

"'Tis a sure cure," said Olly Dowden, with emphasis. "I've used it when I used to go out nur-
sing."

"Then we must pray for daylight, to catch them," said Clym gloomily.

"I will see what I can do," said Sam.

He took a green hazel which he had used as a walking stick, split it at the end, inserted a
small pebble, and with the lantern in his hand went out into the heath. Clym had by this time
lit a small fire, and despatched Susan Nunsuch for a frying pan. Before she had returned Sam
came in with three adders, one briskly coiling and uncoiling in the cleft of the stick, and
the other two hanging dead across it.

"I have only been able to get one alive and fresh as he ought to be," said Sam. "These limp
ones are two I killed today at work; but as they don't die till the sun goes down they can't
be very stale meat."


The live adder regarded the assembled group with a sinister look in its small black eye, and
the beautiful brown and jet pattern on its back seemed to intensify with indignation.
Mrs.
Yeobright saw the creature, and the creature saw her--she quivered throughout, and averted
her eyes.

"Look at that," murmured Christian Cantle. "Neighbours,
how do we know but that something of
the old serpent in God's garden, that gied the apple to the young woman with no clothes,
lives on in adders and snakes still? Look at his eye--for all the world like a villainous
sort of black currant. 'Tis to be hoped he can't ill-wish us!
There's folks in heath who've
been overlooked already. I will never kill another adder as long as I live."


----------------------------------------------------------------

"Now, if I had been stung by ten adders I should hardly have lost a day's work for't," said
Grandfer Cantle. "Such is my spirit when I am on my mettle. But perhaps 'tis natural in a man
trained for war. Yes, I've gone through a good deal; but nothing ever came amiss to me after
I joined the Locals in four." He shook his head and smiled at a mental picture of himself in
uniform. "I was always first in the most galliantest scrapes in my younger days!"

"I suppose that was because they always used to put the biggest fool afore," said Fairway
from the fire, beside which he knelt, blowing it with his breath.


"D'ye think so, Timothy?" said Grandfer Cantle, coming forward to Fairway's side with sudden
depression in his face. "Then a man may feel for years that he is good solid company, and be
wrong about himself after all?"

"Never mind that question, Grandfer. Stir your stumps and get some more sticks. 'Tis very
nonsense of an old man to prattle so when life and death's in mangling."

"Yes, yes," said Grandfer Cantle, with melancholy conviction.
"Well, this is a bad night
altogether for them that have done well in their time; and if I were ever such a dab at the
hautboy or tenor viol, I shouldn't have the heart to play tunes upon 'em now."

Susan now arrived with the frying pan, when the live adder was killed and the heads of the
three taken off. The remainders, being cut into lengths and split open, were tossed into
the pan, which began hissing and crackling over the fire.
Soon a rill of clear oil trickled
from the carcases, whereupon Clym dipped the corner of his handkerchief into the liquid and
anointed the wound.




8 - Eustacia Hears of Good Fortune, and Beholds Evil



To be left to pass the evening by herself was irksome to her at any time, and this evening
it was more
irksome than usual by reason of the excitements of the past hours. The two vis-
its had
stirred her into restlessness. She was not wrought to any great pitch of uneasiness
by the probability of
appearing in an ill light in the discussion between Clym and his moth-
er, but she was
wrought to vexation, and her slumbering activities were quickened to the ex-
tent of wishing that she had opened the door. She had certainly believed that Clym was awake,
and the excuse would be an
honest one as far as it went; but nothing could save her from cen-
sure
in refusing to answer at the first knock. Yet, instead of blaming herself for the issue
she
laid the fault upon the shoulders of some indistinct, colossal Prince of the World, who
had
framed her situation and ruled her lot.




When her grandfather was gone Eustacia went on her way mechanically; but her thoughts were
no longer concerning her mother-in-law and Clym. Wildeve, notwithstanding his complaints a-
gainst his fate, had been
seized upon by destiny and placed in the sunshine once more. Ele-
ven thousand pounds! From every Egdon point of view he was a
rich man. In Eustacia's eyes,
too, it was an
ample sum--one sufficient to supply those wants of hers which had been stig-
matized
by Clym in his more austere moods as vain and luxurious. Though she was no lover of
money she loved what money could
bring; and the new accessories she imagined around him
clothed Wildeve with a great deal of interest. She recollected now how quietly well-dressed
he had been that morning--he had probably put on his newest suit, regardless of damage by
briars and thorns. And then she thought of his manner towards herself.

"O I see it, I see it," she said. "How much he wishes he had me now, that he might give me
all I desire!"

In recalling the details of his glances and words--at the time scarcely regarded--it became
plain to her how greatly they had been dictated by his knowledge of this new event. "Had he
been a man to bear a jilt ill-will he would have told me of his good fortune in crowing
tones; instead of doing that he mentioned not a word, in deference to my misfortunes, and
merely implied that he loved me still, as one superior to him."

Wildeve's silence that day on what had happened to him was just the kind of behaviour cal-
culated to make an impression on such a woman. Those delicate touches of good taste were,
in fact, one of the strong points in his demeanour towards the other sex. The peculiarity
of Wildeve was that, while at one time passionate, upbraiding, and resentful towards a wo-
man, at another he would treat her with such unparalleled grace as to make previous neglect
appear as no discourtesy, injury as no insult, interference as a delicate attention, and
the ruin of her honour as excess of chivalry.
This man, whose admiration today Eustacia
had disregarded, whose good wishes she had scarcely taken the trouble to accept, whom she
had shown out of the house by the back door, was the possessor of eleven thousand pounds--
a man of fair professional education, and one who had served his articles with a civil
engineer.

So intent was Eustacia upon Wildeve's fortunes that she forgot how much closer to her own
course were those of Clym; and instead of walking on to meet him at once she sat down upon
a stone. She was disturbed in her reverie by a voice behind, and turning her head beheld
the old lover and fortunate inheritor of wealth immediately beside her.

She remained sitting, though the fluctuation in her look might have told any man who knew
her so well as Wildeve that she was thinking of him.

"How did you come here?" she said in her clear low tone. "I thought you were at home."

"I went on to the village after leaving your garden; and now I have come back again--
that's all. Which way are you walking, may I ask?"

She waved her hand in the direction of Blooms-End. "I am going to meet my husband. I
think I may possibly have got into trouble whilst you were with me today."

"How could that be?"

"By not letting in Mrs. Yeobright."

"I hope that visit of mine did you no harm."

"None. It was not your fault," she said quietly.

By this time she had risen; and they involuntarily sauntered on together,
without speak-
ing, for two or three minutes; when Eustacia broke silence by saying, "I assume I must
congratulate you."

"On what? O yes; on my eleven thousand pounds, you mean. Well, since I didn't get something
else, I must be content with getting that."

"You seem very indifferent about it. Why didn't you tell me today when you came?" she said
in the tone of a neglected person. "I heard of it quite by accident."

"I did mean to tell you," said Wildeve. "But I--well, I will speak frankly--I did not like
to mention it when I saw, Eustacia, that your star was not high. The sight of a man lying
wearied out with hard work, as your husband lay, made me feel that to brag of my own fortune
to you would be greatly out of place. Yet, as you stood there beside him, I could not help
feeling too that in many respects he was a richer man than I."

At this Eustacia said, with slumbering mischievousness, "What, would you exchange with him--
your fortune for me?"

"I certainly would," said Wildeve.

"As we are imagining what is impossible and absurd, suppose we change the subject?"

"Very well; and I will tell you of my plans for the future, if you care to hear them. I
shall permanently invest nine thousand pounds, keep one thousand as ready money, and with
the remaining thousand travel for a year or so."

"Travel? What a bright idea! Where will you go to?"

"From here to Paris, where I shall pass the winter and spring. Then I shall go to Italy,
Greece, Egypt, and Palestine, before the hot weather comes on. In the summer I shall go to
America; and then, by a plan not yet settled, I shall go to Australia and round to India.
By that time I shall have begun to have had enough of it. Then I shall probably come back
to Paris again, and there I shall stay as long as I can afford to."

"Back to Paris again," she murmured in a voice that was nearly a sigh. She had never once
told Wildeve of the Parisian desires which Clym's description had sown in her; yet here
was he involuntarily in a position to gratify them. "You think a good deal of Paris?" she
added.

"Yes. In my opinion it is the central beauty-spot of the world."

"And in mine!
And Thomasin will go with you?"

"Yes, if she cares to. She may prefer to stay at home."

"So you will be going about, and I shall be staying here!"




They advanced to the turf-shed, and when they got near it the firelight and the lantern
inside showed distinctly enough the form of a woman reclining on a bed of fern, a group
of heath men and women standing around her. Eustacia did not recognize Mrs. Yeobright in
the reclining figure, nor Clym as one of the standers-by till she came close. Then she
quickly pressed her hand up on Wildeve's arm and signified to him to come back from the
open side of the shed into the shadow.

"It is my husband and his mother," she whispered in an agitated voice. "What can it mean?
Will you step forward and tell me?"

Wildeve left her side and went to the back wall of the hut. Presently Eustacia perceived
that he was beckoning to her, and she advanced and joined him.

"It is a serious case," said Wildeve.

From their position they could hear what was proceeding inside.

"I cannot think where she could have been going," said Clym to someone. "She had evident-
ly walked a long way, but even when she was able to speak just now she would not tell me
where. What do you really think of her?"

"There is a great deal to fear," was gravely answered, in a voice which Eustacia recogniz-
ed as that of the only surgeon in the district. "She has suffered somewhat from the bite
of the adder; but it is exhaustion which has overpowered her. My impression is that her
walk must have been exceptionally long."


"I used to tell her not to overwalk herself this weather," said Clym, with distress. "Do
you think we did well in using the adder's fat?"

"Well, it is a very ancient remedy--the old remedy of the viper-catchers, I believe," re-
plied the doctor. "It is mentioned as an infallible ointment by Hoffman, Mead, and I think
the Abbe Fontana. Undoubtedly it was as good a thing as you could do; though I question if
some other oils would not have been equally efficacious."

"Come here, come here!" was then rapidly said in anxious female tones, and Clym and the
doctor could be heard rushing forward from the back part of the shed to where Mrs. Yeo-
bright lay.

"Oh, what is it?" whispered Eustacia.

"'Twas Thomasin who spoke," said Wildeve. "Then they have fetched her. I wonder if I had
better go in--yet it might do harm."

For a long time there was utter silence among the group within; and it was broken at last
by Clym saying, in an agonized voice, "O Doctor, what does it mean?"

The doctor did not reply at once; ultimately he said, "She is sinking fast. Her heart was
previously affected, and physical exhaustion has dealt the finishing blow."

Then there was a weeping of women, then waiting, then hushed exclamations, then a strange
gasping sound, then a painful stillness.

"It is all over," said the doctor.

Further back in the hut the cotters whispered, "Mrs. Yeobright is dead."

Almost at the same moment the two watchers observed the form of a small old-fashioned child
entering at the open side of the shed. Susan Nunsuch, whose boy it was, went forward to the
opening and silently beckoned to him to go back.

"I've got something to tell 'ee, Mother," he cried in a shrill tone. "That woman asleep
there walked along with me today; and she said I was to say that I had seed her, and she
was a broken-hearted woman and cast off by her son, and then I came on home."


A confused sob as from a man was heard within, upon which Eustacia gasped faintly, "That's
Clym--I must go to him--yet dare I do it? No--come away!"

When they had withdrawn from the neighbourhood of the shed
she said huskily, "I am to blame
for this. There is evil in store for me."

"Was she not admitted to your house after all?" Wildeve inquired.

"No, and that's where it all lies!
Oh, what shall I do! I shall not intrude upon them--I
shall go straight home. Damon, good-bye! I cannot speak to you any more now."

They parted company; and when Eustacia had reached the next hill she looked back. A melan-
choly procession was wending its way by the light of the lantern from the hut towards Blooms-
End. Wildeve was nowhere to be seen.





Book Fifth - The Discovery-



1 - "Wherefore Is Light Given to Him That Is in Misery"



One evening, about three weeks after the funeral of Mrs. Yeobright, when the silver face of
the moon sent a bundle of beams
directly upon the floor of Clym's house at Alderworth, a wo-
man came forth from within. She
reclined over the garden gate as if to refresh herself awhile.
The pale lunar touches which make beauties of hags lent divinity to this face, already beaut-
iful.


She had not long been there when a man came up the road and with some hesitation said to her,
"How is he tonight, ma'am, if you please?"

"He is
better, though still very unwell, Humphrey," replied Eustacia.

"Is he
light-headed, ma'am?"

"No. He is quite
sensible now."

"Do he
rave about his mother just the same, poor fellow?" continued Humphrey.

"Just as
much, though not quite so wildly," she said in a low voice.

"It was very
unfortunate, ma'am, that the boy Johnny should ever ha' told him his mother's
dying words, about her being broken-hearted and cast off by her son. 'Twas enough to upset
any man
alive."

Eustacia made no reply beyond that of a
slight catch in her breath, as of one who fain would
speak but could not; and Humphrey, declining her invitation to come in, went away.

Eustacia turned, entered the house, and
ascended to the front bedroom, where a shaded light
was
burning. In the bed lay Clym, pale, haggard, wide awake, tossing to one side and to the
other, his eyes lit by a hot light, as if the fire in their pupils were burning up their sub-
stance.


"Is it you, Eustacia?" he said as she sat down.

"Yes, Clym. I have been down to the gate. The moon is shining beautifully, and there is not
a leaf
stirring."

"
Shining, is it? What's the moon to a man like me? Let it shine--let anything be, so that I
never see another day!...Eustacia, I don't know where to
look--my thoughts go through me
like swords. O, if any man wants to make himself immortal by painting a picture of wretch-
edness, let him come here!"


"Why do you say so?"

"I cannot help feeling that I did my best to kill her."

"No, Clym."

"Yes, it was so; it is useless to excuse me! My conduct to her was too hideous--I made no
advances; and she could not bring herself to forgive me. Now she is dead! If I had only
shown myself willing to make it up with her sooner, and we had been friends, and then she
had died, it wouldn't be so
hard to bear. But I never went near her house, so she never
came near mine, and didn't know how
welcome she would have been--that's what troubles me.
She did not know I was going to her house that very night, for she was too
insensible to
understand me. If she had only come to see me! I
longed that she would. But it was not to
be."

There
escaped from Eustacia one of those shivering sighs which used to shake her like a
pestilent blast.
She had not yet told.

But Yeobright was too deeply absorbed in the ramblings incidental to his remorseful state
to notice her. During his illness he had been continually talking thus.
Despair had been
added to his original
grief by the unfortunate disclosure of the boy who had received the
last words of Mrs. Yeobright--words too
bitterly uttered in an hour of misapprehension.
Then his
distress had overwhelmed him, and he longed for death as a field labourer longs
for the shade. It was the pitiful sight of a man standing in the very focus of sorrow.
He
continually
bewailed his tardy journey to his mother's house, because it was an error
which could never be
rectified, and insisted that he must have been horribly perverted by
some fiend not to have thought before that it was his duty to go to her, since she did not
come to him. He would ask Eustacia to agree with him in his self-
condemnation; and when
she,
seared inwardly by a secret she dared not tell, declared that she could not give an
opinion, he would say, "That's because you didn't know my mother's nature. She was always
ready to forgive if asked to do so; but I seemed to her to be as an obstinate child, and
that made her
unyielding. Yet not unyielding--she was proud and reserved, no more....Yes,
I can understand why she held out against me so long. She was waiting for me. I dare say
she said a hundred times in her sorrow, 'What a return he makes for all the
sacrifices I
have made for him!' I never went to her! When I set out to visit her it was too late. To
think of that is nearly intolerable!"

Sometimes his condition had been one of
utter remorse, unsoftened by a single tear of pure
sorrow: and then he writhed as he lay, fevered far more by thought than by physical ills.

"If I could only get one assurance that she did not die in a belief that I was resentful,"
he said one day when in this mood, "it would be better to think of than a hope of heaven.
But that I cannot do."



Eustacia was always
anxious to avoid the sight of her husband in such a state as this,
which
had become as dreadful to her as the trial scene was to Judas Iscariot. It brought
before her eyes the spectre of a
worn-out woman knocking at a door which she would not
open; and she
shrank from contemplating it. Yet it was better for Yeobright himself when
he
spoke openly of his sharp regret, for in silence he endured infinitely more, and would
sometimes remain so long in a tense, brooding mood, consuming himself by the gnawing of his
thought,
that it was imperatively necessary to make him talk aloud, that his grief might
in some degree
expend itself in the effort.

Eustacia had not been long indoors after her look at the moonlight when a soft footstep came
up to the house, and Thomasin was announced by the woman downstairs.

"Ah, Thomasin! Thank you for coming tonight," said Clym when she entered the room. "Here am
I, you see. Such a wretched spectacle am I, that I shrink from being seen by a single friend,
and almost from you."

"You must not
shrink from me, dear Clym," said Thomasin earnestly, in that sweet voice of
hers which came to a sufferer like fresh air into a Black Hole.
"Nothing in you can ever
shock me or drive me away. I have been here before, but you don't remember it."

"Yes, I do; I am not delirious, Thomasin, nor have I been so at all. Don't you believe that
if they say so. I am only in great misery at what I have done, and that, with the weakness,
makes me seem mad. But it has not upset my reason. Do you think I should remember all about
my mother's death if I were out of my mind? No such good luck. Two months and a half, Thoma-
sin, the last of her life, did my poor mother live
alone, distracted and mourning because of
me; yet she was
unvisited by me, though I was living only six miles off. Two months and a
half--seventy-five days did the sun
rise and set upon her in that deserted state which a dog
didn't
deserve! Poor people who had nothing in common with her would have cared for her, and
visited her had they known her
sickness and loneliness; but I, who should have been all to
her, stayed away like a cur. If there is any
justice in God let Him kill me now. He has near-
ly
blinded me, but that is not enough. If He would only strike me with more pain I would be-
lieve
in Him forever!"

"
Hush, hush! O, pray, Clym, don't, don't say it!" implored Thomasin, affrighted into sobs and
tears; while Eustacia, at the other side of the room, though her
pale face remained calm,
writhed in her chair.





"You laboured to win her round; I did nothing. I, who was going to teach people the higher
secrets of
happiness, did not know how to keep out of that gross misery which the most un-
taught
are wise enough to avoid."

"How did you get here tonight, Thomasin?" said Eustacia.

"Damon set me down at the end of the lane. He has driven into East Egdon on business, and he
will come and pick me up by-and-by."

Accordingly they soon after heard the noise of wheels. Wildeve had come, and was waiting out-
side with his horse and gig.

"Send out and tell him I will be down in two minutes," said Thomasin.

"I will run down myself," said Eustacia.

She went down. Wildeve had alighted, and was standing before the horse's head when Eustacia
opened the door. He did not turn for a moment, thinking the comer Thomasin. Then he looked,
startled ever so little, and said one word: "Well?"

"I have not yet told him," she
replied in a whisper.

"Then don't do so till he is well--it will be
fatal. You are ill yourself."

"I am
wretched....O Damon," she said, bursting into tears, "I--I can't tell you how unhappy
I am! I can hardly
bear this. I can tell nobody of my trouble--nobody knows of it but you."

"
Poor girl!" said Wildeve, visibly affected at her distress, and at last led on so far as to
take her hand. "It is hard, when you have done nothing to
deserve it, that you should have got
involved in such a web as this. You were not made for these
sad scenes. I am to blame most. If
I could only have saved you from it all!"

"But, Damon, please pray tell me what I must do? To sit by him hour after hour, and hear him
reproach himself as being the cause of her death, and to know that I am the sinner, if any hu-
man being is at all,
drives me into cold despair. I don't know what to do. Should I tell him
or should I not tell him? I always am asking myself that. O, I want to tell him; and yet I am
afraid. If he find it out he must surely
kill me, for nothing else will be in proportion to
his feelings now. '
Beware the fury of a patient man' sounds day by day in my ears as I watch
him."


"Well, wait till he is better, and trust to chance. And when you tell, you must only tell part
--for his own sake."

"Which part should I keep back?"

Wildeve paused. "That I was in the house at the time," he said in a low tone.

"Yes; it must be concealed, seeing what has been whispered. How much easier are hasty actions
than speeches that will
excuse them!"

"If he were only to
die--" Wildeve murmured.

"Do not think of it! I would not
buy hope of immunity by so cowardly a desire even if I hated
him. Now I am going up to him again. Thomasin bade me tell you she would be down in a few mi-
nutes. Good-bye."

She returned, and Thomasin soon appeared. When she was
seated in the gig with her husband, and
the horse was turning to go off, Wildeve
lifted his eyes to the bedroom windows. Looking from
one of them
he could discern a pale, tragic face watching him drive away. It was Eustacia's.



2 - A Lurid Light Breaks in upon a Darkened Understanding



Clym's grief became mitigated by wearing itself out. His strength returned, and a
month after the visit of Thomasin he might have been seen walking about the garden.

Endurance and despair, equanimity and gloom, the tints of health and the pallor of
death, mingled weirdly in his face
. He was now unnaturally silent upon all of the
past that related to his mother; and though Eustacia knew that he was thinking of
it none the less, she was only too glad to escape the topic ever to bring it up
anew. When his mind had been weaker his heart had led him to speak out; but reason
having now somewhat recovered itself he sank into taciturnity.

One evening when he was thus standing in the garden, abstractedly spudding up a
weed with his stick, a bony figure turned the corner of the house and came up to
him.


"Christian, isn't it?" said Clym. "I am glad you have found me out. I shall soon
want you to go to Blooms- End and assist me in putting the house in order. I sup-
pose it is all locked up as I left it?"

"Yes, Mister Clym."

"Have you dug up the potatoes and other roots?"

"Yes, without a drop o' rain, thank God. But I was coming to tell 'ee of something
else which is quite different from what we have lately had in the family. I am sent
by the rich gentleman at the Woman, that we used to call the landlord, to tell 'ee
that Mrs. Wildeve is doing well of a girl, which was born punctually at one o'clock
at noon, or a few minutes more or less; and 'tis said that expecting of this in-
crease is what have kept 'em there since they came into their money."

"And she is getting on well, you say?"

"Yes, sir. Only Mr. Wildeve is twanky because 'tisn't a boy--that's what they say
in the kitchen, but I was not supposed to notice that."


"Christian, now listen to me."

"Yes, sure, Mr. Yeobright."

"Did you see my mother the day before she died?"

"No, I did not."

Yeobright's face expressed disappointment.

"But I zeed her the morning of the same day she died."

Clym's look lighted up. "That's nearer still to my meaning," he said.

"Yes, I know 'twas the same day; for she said, 'I be going to see him, Christian;
so I shall not want any vegetables brought in for dinner.'"

"See whom?"

"See you. She was going to your house, you understand."

Yeobright regarded Christian with intense surprise. "Why did you never mention this?"
he said. "Are you sure it was my house she was coming to?"

"O yes. I didn't mention it because I've never zeed you lately. And as she didn't
get there it was all nought, and nothing to tell."

"And I have been wondering why she should have walked in the heath on that hot day!
Well, did she say what she was coming for? It is a thing, Christian, I am very anx-
ious to know."

"Yes, Mister Clym. She didn't say it to me, though I think she did to one here and
there."

"Do you know one person to whom she spoke of it?"

"There is one man, please, sir, but I hope you won't mention my name to him, as
I
have seen him in strange places, particular in dreams. One night last summer he
glared at me like Famine and Sword, and it made me feel so low that I didn't comb
out my few hairs for two days.
He was standing, as it might be, Mister Yeobright,
in the middle of the path to Mistover, and your mother came up, looking as pale--"

"Yes, when was that?"

"Last summer, in my dream."

"Pooh! Who's the man?"

"Diggory, the reddleman. He called upon her and sat with her the evening before she
set out to see you. I hadn't gone home from work when he came up to the gate."

"I must see Venn--I wish I had known it before," said Clym anxiously. "I wonder
why he has not come to tell me?"


"He went out of Egdon Heath the next day, so would not be likely to know you
wanted him."






He journeyed onward, not quickly or decisively, but in the slow walk of one who
has been awakened from a stupefying sleep. It was early afternoon when he reached
the valley. The expression of the place, the tone of the hour, were precisely
those of many such occasions in days gone by; and these antecedent similarities
fostered the illusion that she, who was there no longer, would come out to wel-
come him.
The garden gate was locked and the shutters were closed, just as he
himself had left them on the evening after the funeral. He unlocked the gate,
and found that a spider had already constructed a large web, tying the door to
the lintel,
on the supposition that it was never to be opened again. When he had
entered the house and flung back the shutters he set about his task of overhaul-
ing the cupboards and closets, burning papers, and considering how best to ar-
range the place for Eustacia's reception, until such time as he might be in a
position to carry out his long-delayed scheme, should that time ever arrive.

As he surveyed the rooms he felt strongly disinclined for the alterations which
would have to be made in the time-honoured furnishing of his parents and grand-
parents, to suit Eustacia's modern ideas. The gaunt oak-cased clock, with the
picture of the Ascension on the door panel and the Miraculous Draught of Fishes
on the base; his grandmother's corner cupboard with the glass door, through
which the spotted china was visible; the dumb-waiter; the wooden tea trays; the
hanging fountain with the brass tap--whither would these venerable articles
have to be banished?


He noticed that the flowers in the window had died for want of water, and he
placed them out upon the ledge, that they might be taken away. While thus en-
gaged he heard footsteps on the gravel without, and somebody knocked at the door.

Yeobright opened it, and Venn was standing before him.

"Good morning," said the reddleman. "Is Mrs. Yeobright at home?"

Yeobright looked upon the ground. "Then you have not seen Christian or any of
the Egdon folks?" he said.

"No. I have only just returned after a long stay away. I called here the day
before I left."

"And you have heard nothing?"

"Nothing."

"My mother is--dead."

"Dead!" said Venn mechanically.


"Her home now is where I shouldn't mind having mine."

Venn regarded him, and then said, "If I didn't see your face I could never be-
lieve your words. Have you been ill?"

"I had an illness."

"Well, the change! When I parted from her a month ago everything seemed to say
that she was going to begin a new life."

"And what seemed came true."

"You say right, no doubt.
Trouble has taught you a deeper vein of talk than mine.
All I meant was regarding her life here. She has died too soon."

"Perhaps through my living too long. I have had a bitter experience on that score
this last month, Diggory.
But come in; I have been wanting to see you."

He conducted the reddleman into the large room where the dancing had taken place
the previous Christmas, and they sat down in the settle together. "There's the cold
fireplace, you see," said Clym. "When that half- burnt log and those cinders were
alight she was alive! Little has been changed here yet. I can do nothing. My life
creeps like a snail."

"How came she to die?" said Venn.

Yeobright gave him some particulars of her illness and death, and continued:
"After this no kind of pain will ever seem more than an indisposition to me. I
began saying that I wanted to ask you something, but I stray from subjects like a
drunken man. I am anxious to know what my mother said to you when she last saw you.
You talked with her a long time, I think?"

"I talked with her more than half an hour."

"About me?"

"Yes. And it must have been on account of what we said that she was on the heath.
Without question she was coming to see you."

"But why should she come to see me if she felt so bitterly against me? There's the
mystery."

"Yet I know she quite forgave 'ee."

"But, Diggory--would a woman, who had quite forgiven her son, say, when she felt
herself ill on the way to his house, that she was broken-hearted because of his
ill-usage? Never!"

"What I know is that she didn't blame you at all. She blamed herself for what had
happened, and only herself. I had it from her own lips."

"You had it from her lips that I had not ill-treated her; and at the same time an-
other had it from her lips that I had ill-treated her? My mother was no impulsive
woman who changed her opinion every hour without reason. How can it be, Venn, that
she should have told such different stories in close succession?"

"I cannot say. It is certainly odd, when she had forgiven you, and had forgiven your
wife, and was going to see ye on purpose to make friends."


"If there was one thing wanting to bewilder me it was this incomprehensible thing!...
Diggory, if we, who remain alive, were only allowed to hold conversation with the
dead--just once, a bare minute, even through a screen of iron bars, as with persons
in prison--what we might learn! How many who now ride smiling would hide their heads!

And this mystery--I should then be at the bottom of it at once. But the grave has
forever shut her in; and how shall it be found out now?"

No reply was returned by his companion, since none could be given; and when Venn
left, a few minutes later, Clym had passed from the dullness of sorrow to
the fluct-
uation of carking incertitude
.

He continued in the same state all the afternoon. A bed was made up for him in the
same house by a neighbour, that he might not have to return again the next day; and
when he retired to rest in the deserted place it was only to remain awake hour after
hour thinking the same thoughts. How to discover a solution to this riddle of death
seemed a query of more importance than highest problems of the living.
There was
housed in his memory a vivid picture of the face of a little boy as he entered the
hovel where Clym's mother lay. The round eyes, eager gaze, the piping voice which
enunciated the words, had operated like stilettos on his brain.


A visit to the boy suggested itself as a means of gleaning new particulars; though
it might be quite unproductive. To probe a child's mind after the lapse of six weeks,
not for facts which the child had seen and understood, but to get at those which were
in their nature beyond him, did not promise much; yet when every obvious channel is
blocked we grope towards the small and obscure. There was nothing else left to do;
after that he would
allow the enigma to drop into the abyss of undiscoverable things.

It was about daybreak when he had reached this decision, and he at once arose. He
locked up the house and went out into the green patch which merged in heather further
on. In front of the white garden-palings the path branched into three like a broad
arrow. The road to the right led to the Quiet Woman and its neighbourhood; the middle
track led to Mistover Knap; the left-hand track led over the hill to another part of
Mistover, where the child lived. On inclining into the latter path Yeobright felt a
creeping chilliness, familiar enough to most people, and probably caused by the un-
sunned morning air. In after days he thought of it as a thing of singular significance.

When Yeobright reached the cottage of Susan Nunsuch, the mother of the boy he sought,
he found that the inmates were not yet astir.
But in upland hamlets the transition
from a-bed to abroad is surprisingly swift and easy. There no dense partition of yawns
and toilets divides humanity by night from humanity by day.
Yeobright tapped at the
upper windowsill, which he could reach with his walking stick; and in three or four
minutes the woman came down.

It was not till this moment that Clym recollected her to be the person who had behaved
so barbarously to Eustacia. It partly explained the insuavity with which the woman
greeted him. Moreover, the boy had been ailing again; and Susan now, as ever since the
night when he had been pressed into Eustacia's service at the bonfire, attributed his
indispositions to Eustacia's influence as a witch. It was
one of those sentiments which
lurk like moles underneath the visible surface of manners
, and may have been kept alive
by Eustacia's entreaty to the captain, at the time that he had intended to prosecute
Susan for the pricking in church, to let the matter drop; which he accordingly had done.

Yeobright overcame his repugnance, for Susan had at least borne his mother no ill-will.

He asked kindly for the boy; but her manner did not improve.

"I wish to see him," continued Yeobright, with some hesitation, "to ask him if he re-
members anything more of his walk with my mother than what he has previously told."

She regarded him in a peculiar and criticizing manner. To anybody but a half-blind man
it would have said, "You want another of the knocks which have already laid you so low."


She called the boy downstairs, asked Clym to sit down on a stool, and continued, "Now,
Johnny, tell Mr. Yeobright anything you can call to mind."

"You have not forgotten how you walked with the poor lady on that hot day?" said Clym.

"No," said the boy.

"And what she said to you?"

The boy repeated the exact words he had used on entering the hut. Yeobright rested his
elbow on the table and shaded his face with his hand; and the mother looked as if she
wondered how a man could want more of what had stung him so deeply.

"She was going to Alderworth when you first met her?"

"No; she was coming away."

"That can't be."

"Yes; she walked along with me. I was coming away, too."

"Then where did you first see her?"

"At your house."

"Attend, and speak the truth!" said Clym sternly.

"Yes, sir; at your house was where I seed her first."

Clym started up, and Susan smiled in an expectant way which did not embellish her face;
it seemed to mean, "Something sinister is coming!"

"What did she do at my house?"

"She went and sat under the trees at the Devil's Bellows."

"Good God! this is all news to me!"

"You never told me this before?" said Susan.

"No, Mother; because I didn't like to tell 'ee I had been so far. I was picking black-
hearts, and went further than I meant."

"What did she do then?" said Yeobright.

"Looked at a man who came up and went into your house."

"That was myself--a furze-cutter, with brambles in his hand."

"No; 'twas not you. 'Twas a gentleman. You had gone in afore."

"Who was he?"

"I don't know."

"Now tell me what happened next."

"The poor lady went and knocked at your door, and the lady with black hair looked out
of the side window at her."

The boy's mother turned to Clym and said, "This is something you didn't expect?"

Yeobright took no more notice of her than if he had been of stone. "Go on, go on," he
said hoarsely to the boy.

"And when she saw the young lady look out of the window the old lady knocked again;
and when nobody came she took up the furze-hook and looked at it, and put it down again,
and then she looked at the faggot-bonds; and
then she went away, and walked across to
me, and blowed her breath very hard, like this. We walked on together, she and I, and
I talked to her and she talked to me a bit, but not much, because she couldn't blow her
breath."

"O!" murmured Clym, in a low tone, and bowed his head. "Let's have more," he said.

"She couldn't talk much, and she couldn't walk; and her face was, O so queer!"

"How was her face?"

"Like yours is now."

The woman looked at Yeobright, and beheld him colourless, in a cold sweat. "Isn't there
meaning in it?" she said stealthily. "What do you think of her now?"

"Silence!" said Clym fiercely. And, turning to the boy, "And then you left her to die?"

"No," said the woman, quickly and angrily. "He did not leave her to die! She sent him
away. Whoever says he forsook her says what's not true."

"Trouble no more about that," answered Clym,
with a quivering mouth. "What he did is a
trifle in comparison with what he saw. Door kept shut, did you say? Kept shut, she
looking out of window? Good heart of God!--what does it mean?"


The child shrank away from the gaze of his questioner.

"He said so," answered the mother, "and Johnny's a God- fearing boy and tells no lies."

"'Cast off by my son!' No, by my best life, dear mother, it is not so! But by your son's,
your son's--May all murderesses get the torment they deserve!"

With these words Yeobright went forth from the little dwelling.
The pupils of his eyes,
fixed steadfastly on blankness, were vaguely lit with an icy shine; his mouth had passed
into the phase more or less imaginatively rendered in studies of Oedipus. The strangest
deeds were possible to his mood. But they were not possible to his situation. Instead of
there being before him the pale face of Eustacia, and a masculine shape unknown, there
was only the imperturbable countenance of the heath, which, having defied the cataclysmal
onsets of centuries, reduced to insignificance by its seamed and antique features the
wildest turmoil of a single man.




3 - Eustacia Dresses Herself on a Black Morning



A consciousness of a vast impassivity in all which lay around him took possession
even of Yeobright in his wild walk towards Alderworth.
He had once before felt in
his own person this overpowering of the fervid by the inanimate; but then it had
tended to enervate a passion far sweeter than that which at present pervaded him.

It was once when he stood parting from Eustacia in the moist still levels beyond
the hills.

But dismissing all this he went onward home, and came to the front of his house.
The blinds of Eustacia's bedroom were still closely drawn, for she was no early
riser.
All the life visible was in the shape of a solitary thrush cracking a small
snail upon the door-stone for his breakfast,
and his tapping seemed a loud noise
in the general silence which prevailed; but on going to the door Clym found it un-
fastened, the young girl who attended upon Eustacia being astir in the back part
of the premises. Yeobright entered and went straight to his wife's room.

The noise of his arrival must have aroused her, for when he opened the door she
was standing before the looking glass in her nightdress, the ends of her hair ga-
thered into one hand, with which she was coiling the whole mass round her head,
previous to beginning toilette operations. She was not a woman given to speaking
first at a meeting, and she allowed Clym to walk across in silence, without turn-
ing her head. He came behind her, and
she saw his face in the glass. It was ashy,
haggard, and terrible.
Instead of starting towards him in sorrowful surprise, as
even Eustacia, undemonstrative wife as she was, would have done in days before
she burdened herself with a secret, she remained motionless, looking at him in
the glass.
And while she looked the carmine flush with which warmth and sound
sleep had suffused her cheeks and neck dissolved from view, and the deathlike
pallor in his face flew across into hers. He was close enough to see this, and
the sight instigated his tongue.

"You know what is the matter," he said huskily. "I see it in your face."


Her hand relinquished the rope of hair and dropped to her side, and the pile of
tresses, no longer supported, fell from the crown of her head about her shoul-
ders and over the white nightgown. She made no reply.

"Speak to me," said Yeobright peremptorily.


The blanching process did not cease in her, and her lips now became as white as
her face.
She turned to him and said, "Yes, Clym, I'll speak to you. Why do you
return so early? Can I do anything for you?"

"Yes, you can listen to me. It seems that my wife is not very well?"

"Why?"

"Your face, my dear; your face. Or perhaps it is the pale morning light which
takes your colour away? Now I am going to reveal a secret to you. Ha-ha!"

"O, that is ghastly!"


"What?"

"Your laugh."

"There's reason for ghastliness. Eustacia, you have held my happiness in the
hollow of your hand, and like a devil you have dashed it down!"


She started back from the dressing-table, retreated a few steps from him, and
looked him in the face. "Ah! you think to frighten me," she said, with a slight
laugh. "Is it worth while? I am undefended, and alone."

"How extraordinary!"

"What do you mean?"

"As there is ample time I will tell you, though you know well enough. I mean that
it is extraordinary that you should be alone in my absence. Tell me, now, where
is he who was with you on the afternoon of the thirty- first of August? Under the
bed? Up the chimney?"

A shudder overcame her and shook the light fabric of her nightdress throughout.
"I do not remember dates so exactly," she said. "I cannot recollect that anybody
was with me besides yourself."

"The day I mean," said Yeobright, his voice growing louder and harsher, "was the
day you shut the door against my mother and killed her. O, it is too much--too
bad!" He leant over the footpiece of the bedstead for a few moments, with his
back towards her; then rising again--"Tell me, tell me! tell me--do you hear?"
he cried, rushing up to her and seizing her by the loose folds of her sleeve.

The superstratum of timidity which often overlies those who are daring and defi-
ant at heart had been passed through, and the mettlesome substance of the woman
was reached. The red blood inundated her face, previously so pale.

"What are you going to do?" she said in a low voice, regarding him with a proud
smile.
"You will not alarm me by holding on so; but it would be a pity to tear
my sleeve."

Instead of letting go he drew her closer to him.
"Tell me the particulars of--
my mother's death," he said in a hard, panting whisper;
"or--I'll--I'll--"

"Clym," she answered slowly, "do you think you dare do anything to me that I
dare not bear? But before you strike me listen. You will get nothing from me by
a blow, even though it should kill me, as it probably will. But perhaps you do
not wish me to speak--killing may be all you mean?"

"Kill you! Do you expect it?"

"I do."

"Why?"

"No less degree of rage against me will match your previous grief for her."

"Phew--I shall not kill you," he said contemptuously, as if under a sudden
change of purpose. "I did think of it; but--I shall not. That would be making a
martyr of you, and sending you to where she is; and I would keep you away from
her till the universe come to an end, if I could."

"I almost wish you would kill me," said she with gloomy bitterness. "It is with
no strong desire, I assure you, that I play the part I have lately played on
earth. You are no blessing, my husband."


"You shut the door--you looked out of the window upon her--you had a man in the
house with you--you sent her away to die.
The inhumanity--the treachery--I will
not touch you--stand away from me--and confess every word!"


"Never! I'll hold my tongue like the very death that I don't mind meeting, even
though I can clear myself of half you believe by speaking. Yes. I will!
Who of
any dignity would take the trouble to clear cobwebs from a wild man's mind after
such language as this? No; let him go on, and think his narrow thoughts, and run
his head into the mire. I have other cares."

"'Tis too much--but I must spare you."

"Poor charity."


"By my wretched soul you sting me, Eustacia! I can keep it up, and hotly too.
Now, then, madam, tell me his name!"

"Never, I am resolved."

"How often does he write to you? Where does he put his letters--when does he
meet you? Ah, his letters! Do you tell me his name?"

"I do not."

"Then I'll find it myself." His eyes had fallen upon a small desk that stood
near, on which she was accustomed to write her letters. He went to it. It was
locked.

"Unlock this!"

"You have no right to say it. That's mine."

Without another word he seized the desk and dashed it to the floor. The hinge
burst open, and a number of letters tumbled out.

"Stay!" said Eustacia, stepping before him with more excitement than she had hi-
therto shown.

"Come, come! stand away! I must see them."

She looked at the letters as they lay, checked her feeling and moved indiffer-
ently aside; when he gathered them up, and examined them.

By no stretch of meaning could any but a harmless construction be placed upon a
single one of the letters themselves. The solitary exception was an empty envelope
directed to her, and the handwriting was Wildeve's. Yeobright held it up. Eustacia
was doggedly silent.


"Can you read, madam? Look at this envelope. Doubtless we shall find more soon,
and what was inside them. I shall no doubt be gratified by learning in good time
what a well-finished and full-blown adept in a certain trade my lady is."

"Do you say it to me--do you?" she gasped.

He searched further, but found nothing more. "What was in this letter?" he said.

"Ask the writer. Am I your hound that you should talk to me in this way?"

"Do you brave me? do you stand me out, mistress? Answer. Don't look at me with
those eyes if you would bewitch me again! Sooner than that I die. You refuse to
answer?"

"I wouldn't tell you after this, if I were as innocent as the sweetest babe in
heaven!"


"Which you are not."

"Certainly I am not absolutely," she replied. "I have not done what you suppose;
but if to have done no harm at all is the only innocence recognized, I am beyond
forgiveness. But I require no help from your conscience."

"You can resist, and resist again! Instead of hating you I could, I think, mourn
for and pity you, if you were contrite, and would confess all. Forgive you I
never can. I don't speak of your lover--I will give you the benefit of the doubt
in that matter, for it only affects me personally. But the other--had you half-
killed me, had it been that you wilfully took the sight away from these feeble
eyes of mine, I could have forgiven you. But that's too much for nature!"

"Say no more. I will do without your pity. But I would have saved you from utter-
ing what you will regret."


"I am going away now. I shall leave you."

"You need not go, as I am going myself. You will keep just as far away from me
by staying here."

"Call her to mind--think of her--what goodness there was in her--it showed in
every line of her face! Most women, even when but slightly annoyed, show a flick-
er of evil in some curl of the mouth or some corner of the cheek; but as for her,
never in her angriest moments was there anything malicious in her look. She was
angered quickly, but she forgave just as readily, and underneath her pride there
was the meekness of a child. What came of it.?--what cared you? You hated her
just as she was learning to love you. O! couldn't you see what was best for you,
but must bring a curse upon me, and agony and death upon her, by doing that cruel
deed! What was the fellow's name who was keeping you company and causing you to
add cruelty to her to your wrong to me? Was it Wildeve? Was it poor Thomasin's
husband? Heaven, what wickedness! Lost your voice, have you? It is natural after
detection of that most noble trick....Eustacia, didn't any tender thought of your
own mother lead you to think of being gentle to mine at such a time of weariness?
Did not one grain of pity enter your heart as she turned away? Think what a vast
opportunity was then lost of beginning a forgiving and honest course. Why did not
you kick him out, and let her in, and say I'll be an honest wife and a noble woman
from this hour? Had I told you to go and quench eternally our last flickering
chance of happiness here you could have done no worse. Well, she's asleep now;
and have you a hundred gallants, neither they nor you can insult her any more."

"You exaggerate fearfully," she said in a faint, weary voice; "but I cannot enter
into my defence--it is not worth doing. You are nothing to me in future, and the
past side of the story may as well remain untold.
I have lost all through you, but
I have not complained. Your blunders and misfortunes may have been a sorrow to you,
but they have been a wrong to me. All persons of refinement have been scared away
from me since I sank into the mire of marriage.
Is this your cherishing--to put me
into a hut like this, and keep me like the wife of a hind? You deceived me--not by
words, but by appearances, which are less seen through than words.
But the place
will serve as well as any other--as somewhere to pass from--into my grave." Her
words were smothered in her throat, and her head drooped down.


"I don't know what you mean by that. Am I the cause of your sin?"
(Eustacia made a
trembling motion towards him.) "What, you can begin to shed tears and offer me your
hand? Good God! can you? No, not I. I'll not commit the fault of taking that." (The
hand she had offered dropped nervelessly, but the tears continued flowing.) "Well,
yes, I'll take it, if only for the sake of my own foolish kisses that were wasted
there before I knew what I cherished. How bewitched I was! How could there be any
good in a woman that everybody spoke ill of?"

"O, O, O!" she cried, breaking down at last; and, shaking with sobs which choked her,
she sank upon her knees. "O, will you have done! O, you are too relentless--there's
a limit to the cruelty of savages! I have held out long--but you crush me down. I
beg for mercy--I cannot bear this any longer--it is inhuman to go further with this!
If I had--killed your--mother with my own hand--I should not deserve such a scourging
to the bone as this. O, O! God have mercy upon a miserable woman!...You have beaten
me in this game--I beg you to stay your hand in pity!..
.I confess that I--wilfully
did not undo the door the first time she knocked--but--I should have unfastened it
the second-- if I had not thought you had gone to do it yourself. When I found you
had not I opened it, but she was gone. That's the extent of my crime--towards her.
Best natures commit bad faults sometimes, don't they?--I think they do. Now I will
leave you--for ever and ever!"

"Tell all, and I will pity you. Was the man in the house with you Wildeve?"

"I cannot tell," she said desperately through her sobbing. "Don't insist further--I
cannot tell. I am going from this house. We cannot both stay here."

"You need not go--I will go. You can stay here."

"No, I will dress, and then I will go."

"Where?"

"Where I came from, or elsewhere."

She hastily dressed herself, Yeobright moodily walking up and down the room the whole
of the time. At last all her things were on.
Her little hands quivered so violently
as she held them to her chin to fasten her bonnet that she could not tie the strings,
and after a few moments she relinquished the attempt. Seeing this he moved forward
and said, "Let me tie them."

She assented in silence, and lifted her chin. For once at least in her life she was
totally oblivious of the charm of her attitude. But he was not, and he turned his eyes
aside, that he might not be tempted to softness.


The strings were tied; she turned from him. "Do you still prefer going away yourself
to my leaving you?" he inquired again.

"I do."

"Very well--let it be. And when you will confess to the man I may pity you."

She flung her shawl about her and went downstairs, leaving him standing in the room.

Eustacia had not long been gone when there came a knock at the door of the bedroom;
and Yeobright said, "Well?"

It was the servant; and she replied, "Somebody from Mrs. Wildeve's have called to
tell 'ee that the mis'ess and the baby are getting on wonderful well, and the baby's
name is to be Eustacia Clementine." And the girl retired.

"What a mockery!" said Clym. "This unhappy marriage of mine to be perpetuated in that
child's name!"




4 - The Ministrations of a Half-forgotten One



Eustacia's journey was at first as vague in direction as that of thistledown on
the wind.
She did not know what to do. She wished it had been night instead of
morning, that she might at least have borne her misery without the possibility
of being seen.
Tracing mile after mile along between the dying ferns and the wet
white spiders' webs,
she at length turned her steps towards her grandfather's
house. She found the front door closed and locked. Mechanically she went round
to the end where the stable was, and on looking in at the stable door she saw
Charley standing within.


"Captain Vye is not at home?" she said.

"No, ma'am," said the lad in a flutter of feeling; "he's gone to Weatherbury,
and won't be home till night. And the servant is gone home for a holiday. So
the house is locked up."

Eustacia's face was not visible to Charley as she stood at the doorway, her
back being to the sky, and the stable but indifferently lighted; but the wild-
ness of her manner arrested his attention. She turned and walked away across
the enclosure to the gate, and was hidden by the bank.

When she had disappeared Charley, with misgiving in his eyes, slowly came from
the stable door, and going to another point in the bank he looked over. Eusta-
cia was leaning against it on the outside, her face covered with her hands, and
her head pressing the dewy heather which bearded the bank's outer side. She
appeared to be utterly indifferent to the circumstance that her bonnet, hair,
and garments were becoming wet and disarranged by the moisture of her cold,
harsh pillow.
Clearly something was wrong.

Charley had always regarded Eustacia as Eustacia had regarded Clym when she
first beheld him--as
a romantic and sweet vision, scarcely incarnate. He had
been so shut off from her by the dignity of her look and the pride of her speech,
except at that one blissful interval when he was allowed to hold her hand, that
he had
hardly deemed her a woman, wingless and earthly, subject to household
conditions and domestic jars. The inner details of her life he had only conject-
ured.
She had been a lovely wonder, predestined to an orbit in which the whole
of his own was but a point; and this sight of her leaning like a helpless, des-
pairing creature against a wild wet bank filled him with an amazed horror.
He
could no longer remain where he was. Leaping over, he came up, touched her with
his finger, and said tenderly, "You are poorly, ma'am. What can I do?"

Eustacia started up, and said, "Ah, Charley--you have followed me. You did not
think when I left home in the summer that I should come back like this!"

"I did not, dear ma'am. Can I help you now?"

"I am afraid not. I wish I could get into the house. I feel giddy--that's all."


"Lean on my arm, ma'am, till we get to the porch, and I will try to open the
door."

He supported her to the porch, and there depositing her on a seat hastened to
the back, climbed to a window by the help of a ladder, and descending inside
opened the door. Next he assisted her into the room, where there was an old-
fashioned horsehair settee as large as a donkey wagon. She lay down here, and
Charley covered her with a cloak he found in the hall.

"Shall I get you something to eat and drink?" he said.

"If you please, Charley. But I suppose there is no fire?"

"I can light it, ma'am."

He vanished, and she heard a splitting of wood and a blowing of bellows; and
presently he returned, saying, "I have lighted a fire in the kitchen, and now
I'll light one here."

He lit the fire, Eustacia dreamily observing him from her couch. When it was
blazing up he said, "Shall I wheel you round in front of it, ma'am, as the
morning is chilly?"

"Yes, if you like."

"Shall I go and bring the victuals now?"

"Yes, do," she murmured languidly.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

"Let me hold it to you, if you don't wish to get up," said Charley. He brought
the tray to the front of the couch, where he knelt down, adding, "I will hold it
for you."

Eustacia sat up and poured out a cup of tea. "You are very kind to me, Charley,"
she murmured as she sipped.

"Well, I ought to be," said he diffidently, taking great trouble not to rest his
eyes upon her, though this was their only natural position, Eustacia being immed-
iately before him. "You have been kind to me."


"How have I?" said Eustacia.

"You let me hold your hand when you were a maiden at home."

"Ah, so I did. Why did I do that? My mind is lost--it had to do with the mumming,
had it not?"

"Yes, you wanted to go in my place."

"I remember. I do indeed remember--too well!"

She again became utterly downcast; and Charley, seeing that she was not going to
eat or drink any more, took away the tray.

Afterwards he occasionally came in to see if the fire was burning, to ask her if
she wanted anything, to tell her that the wind had shifted from south to west, to
ask her if she would like him to gather her some blackberries; to all which inqui-
ries she replied in the negative or with indifference.

She remained on the settee some time longer, when she aroused herself and went up-
stairs. The room in which she had formerly slept still remained much as she had
left it, and the recollection that this forced upon her of her own greatly changed
and infinitely worsened situation again set on her face the undetermined and form-
less misery which it had worn on her first arrival. She peeped into her grandfa-
ther's room, through which the fresh autumn air was blowing from the open window.
Her eye was arrested by what was a familiar sight enough, though it broke upon her
now with a new significance.

It was a brace of pistols, hanging near the head of her grandfather's bed, which
he always kept there loaded, as a precaution against possible burglars, the house
being very lonely.
Eustacia regarded them long, as if they were the page of a book
in which she read a new and a strange matter.
Quickly, like one afraid of herself,
she returned downstairs and stood in deep thought.

"If I could only do it!" she said. "It would be doing much good to myself and all
connected with me, and no harm to a single one."

The idea seemed to gather force within her, and she remained in a fixed attitude
nearly ten minutes, when a certain finality was expressed in her gaze, and no
longer the blankness of indecision.

She turned and went up the second time--softly and stealthily now--and entered her
grandfather's room, her eyes at once seeking the head of the bed. The pistols were
gone.

The instant quashing of her purpose by their absence affected her brain as a sudden
vacuum affects the body--she nearly fainted.
Who had done this? There was only one
person on the premises besides herself. Eustacia involuntarily turned to the open
window which overlooked the garden as far as the bank that bounded it. On the sum-
mit of the latter stood Charley, sufficiently elevated by its height to see into
the room. His gaze was directed eagerly and solicitously upon her.

She went downstairs to the door and beckoned to him.

"You have taken them away?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Why did you do it?"

"I saw you looking at them too long."

"What has that to do with it?"

"You have been heart-broken all the morning, as if you did not want to live."

"Well?"

"And
I could not bear to leave them in your way. There was meaning in your look
at them."


"Where are they now?"

"Locked up."

"Where?"

"In the stable."

"Give them to me."

"No, ma'am."

"You refuse?"

"I do. I care too much for you to give 'em up."

She turned aside,
her face for the first time softening from the stony immobility
of the earlier day, and the corners of her mouth resuming something of that deli-
cacy of cut
which was always lost in her moments of despair. At last she confront-
ed him again.

"Why should I not die if I wish?" she said tremulously. "I have made a bad bargain
with life, and I am weary of it--weary.
And now you have hindered my escape. O,
why did you, Charley!
What makes death painful except the thought of others' grief?
--and that is absent in my case, for not a sigh would follow me!"


"Ah, it is trouble that has done this! I wish in my very soul that he who brought
it about might die and rot, even if 'tis transportation to say it!"

"Charley, no more of that. What do you mean to do about this you have seen?"

"Keep it close as night, if you promise not to think of it again."

"You need not fear. The moment has passed. I promise." She then went away, entered
the house, and lay down.

Later in the afternoon her grandfather returned. He was about to question her cate-
gorically, but on looking at her he withheld his words.

"Yes, it is too bad to talk of," she slowly returned in answer to his glance. "Can
my old room be got ready for me tonight, Grandfather? I shall want to occupy it
again."

He did not ask what it all meant, or why she had left her husband, but ordered the
room to be prepared.




5 - An Old Move Inadvertently Repeated



Charley's attentions to his former mistress were unbounded. The only solace to his
own trouble lay in his attempts to relieve hers. Hour after hour he considered her
wants; he thought of her presence there with a sort of gratitude, and, while utter-
ing imprecations on the cause of her unhappiness, in some measure blessed the result.
Perhaps she would always remain there, he thought, and then he would be as happy as
he had been before. His dread was lest she should think fit to return to Alderworth,
and in that dread his eyes, with all the inquisitiveness of affection, frequently
sought her face when she was not observing him, as he would have watched the head of
a stockdove to learn if it contemplated flight. Having once really succoured her,
and possibly preserved her from the rashest of acts, he mentally assumed in addition
a guardian's responsibility for her welfare.

For this reason
he busily endeavoured to provide her with pleasant distractions,
bringing home curious objects which he found in the heath, such as white trumpet-
shaped mosses, redheaded lichens, stone arrowheads used by the old tribes on Egdon,
and faceted crystals from the hollows of flints.
These he deposited on the premises
in such positions that she should see them as if by accident.


A week passed, Eustacia never going out of the house. Then she walked into the en-
closed plot and looked through her grandfather's spyglass, as she had been in the
habit of doing before her marriage. One day she saw, at a place where the highroad
crossed the distant valley, a heavily laden wagon passing along. It was piled with
household furniture. She looked again and again, and recognized it to be her own.
In the evening her grandfather came indoors with a rumour that Yeobright had removed
that day from Alderworth to the old house at Blooms-End.

On another occasion when reconnoitring thus she beheld two female figures walking
in the vale. The day was fine and clear; and the persons not being more than half a
mile off she could see their every detail with the telescope.
The woman walking in
front carried a white bundle in her arms, from one end of which hung a long appendage
of drapery; and when the walkers turned, so that the sun fell more directly upon them,
Eustacia could see that the object was a baby. She called Charley, and asked him if
he knew who they were, though she well guessed.

"Mrs. Wildeve and the nurse-girl," said Charley.

"The nurse is carrying the baby?" said Eustacia.

"No, 'tis Mrs. Wildeve carrying that," he answered, "and the nurse walks behind
carrying nothing."





When all the surrounding bonfires had burst into existence Charley kindled his, and
arranged its fuel so that it should not require tending for some time. He then went
back to the house, and lingered round the door and windows till she should by some
means or other learn of his achievement and come out to witness it. But the shutters
were closed, the door remained shut, and no heed whatever seemed to be taken of his
performance. Not liking to call her he went back and replenished the fire, continuing
to do this for more than half an hour. It was not till his stock of fuel had greatly
diminished that he went to the back door and sent in to beg that Mrs. Yeobright would
open the window-shutters and see the sight outside.

Eustacia, who had been sitting listlessly in the parlour, started up at the intelli-
gence and flung open the shutters. Facing her on the bank blazed the fire, which at
once sent a ruddy glare into the room where she was, and overpowered the candles.


"Well done, Charley!" said Captain Vye from the chimney-corner. "But I hope it is
not my wood that he's burning....Ah, it was this time last year that I met with that
man Venn, bringing home Thomasin Yeobright--to be sure it was! Well, who would have
thought that girl's troubles would have ended so well? What a snipe you were in that
matter, Eustacia! Has your husband written to you yet?"

"No," said Eustacia, looking vaguely through the window at the fire, which just then
so much engaged her mind that she did not resent her grandfather's blunt opinion. She
could see Charley's form on the bank, shovelling and stirring the fire; and there
flashed upon her imagination some other form which that fire might call up.

She left the room, put on her garden bonnet and cloak, and went out. Reaching the bank,
she looked over with a wild curiosity and misgiving, when Charley said to her, with a
pleased sense of himself, "I made it o' purpose for you, ma'am."

"Thank you," she said hastily. "But I wish you to put it out now."


"It will soon burn down," said Charley, rather disappointed. "Is it not a pity to knock
it out?"

"I don't know," she musingly answered.

They stood in silence, broken only by the crackling of the flames, till Charley, per-
ceiving that she did not want to talk to him, moved reluctantly away.

Eustacia remained within the bank looking at the fire, intending to go indoors, yet
lingering still. Had she not by her situation been inclined to hold in indifference all
things honoured of the gods and of men she would probably have come away. But her state
was so hopeless that she could play with it. To have lost is less disturbing than to
wonder if we may possibly have won; and Eustacia could now, like other people at such
a stage, take a standing-point outside herself, observe herself as a disinterested spec-
tator, and think what a sport for Heaven this woman Eustacia was.

While she stood she heard a sound. It was the splash of a stone in the pond.


Had Eustacia received the stone full in the bosom her heart could not have given a more
decided thump.
She had thought of the possibility of such a signal in answer to that
which had been unwittingly given by Charley; but she had not expected it yet. How prompt
Wildeve was! Yet how could he think her capable of deliberately wishing to renew their
assignations now? An impulse to leave the spot, a desire to stay, struggled within her;
and the desire held its own. More than that it did not do, for she refrained even from
ascending the bank and looking over. She remained motionless, not disturbing a muscle
of her face or raising her eyes; for were she to turn up her face the fire on the bank
would shine upon it, and Wildeve might be looking down.

There was a second splash into the pond.

Why did he stay so long without advancing and looking over? Curiosity had its way--she
ascended one or two of the earth-steps in the bank and glanced out.

Wildeve was before her. He had come forward after throwing the last pebble, and the
fire now shone into each of their faces from the bank stretching breast-high between
them.

"I did not light it!" cried Eustacia quickly. "It was lit without my knowledge. Don't,
don't come over to me!"

"Why have you been living here all these days without telling me? You have left your
home. I fear I am something to blame in this?"

"I did not let in his mother; that's how it is!"

"You do not deserve what you have got, Eustacia; you are in great misery; I see it in
your eyes, your mouth, and all over you. My poor, poor girl!" He stepped over the bank.
"You are beyond everything unhappy!"

"No, no; not exactly--"


"It has been pushed too far--it is killing you--I do think it!"

Her usually quiet breathing had grown quicker with his words. "I--I--" she began, and
then burst into quivering sobs, shaken to the very heart by the unexpected voice of
pity--a sentiment whose existence in relation to herself she had almost forgotten.

This outbreak of weeping took Eustacia herself so much by surprise that she could not
leave off, and she turned aside from him in some shame, though turning hid nothing
from him. She sobbed on desperately; then the outpour lessened, and she became quieter.

Wildeve had resisted the impulse to clasp her, and stood without speaking.

"Are you not ashamed of me, who used never to be a crying animal?" she asked in a weak
whisper as she wiped her eyes. "Why didn't you go away? I wish you had not seen quite
all that; it reveals too much by half."


"You might have wished it, because it makes me as sad as you," he said with emotion
and deference. "As for revealing--the word is impossible between us two."

"I did not send for you--don't forget it, Damon; I am in pain, but I did not send for
you! As a wife, at least, I've been straight."

"Never mind--I came. O, Eustacia, forgive me for the harm I have done you in these
two past years! I see more and more that I have been your ruin."

"Not you. This place I live in."

"Ah, your generosity may naturally make you say that. But I am the culprit. I should
either have done more or nothing at all."

"In what way?"

"I ought never to have hunted you out, or, having done it, I ought to have persisted
in retaining you. But of course I have no right to talk of that now. I will only ask
this--can I do anything for you? Is there anything on the face of the earth that a
man can do to make you happier than you are at present? If there is, I will do it.
You may command me, Eustacia, to the limit of my influence; and don't forget that I
am richer now. Surely something can be done to save you from this!
Such a rare plant
in such a wild place it grieves me to see.
Do you want anything bought? Do you want
to go anywhere? Do you want to escape the place altogether? Only say it, and I'll do
anything to put an end to those tears, which but for me would never have been at all."

"We are each married to another person," she said faintly; "and assistance from you
would have an evil sound--after--after--"

"Well, there's no preventing slanderers from having their fill at any time; but you
need not be afraid. Whatever I may feel I promise you on my word of honour never to
speak to you about--or act upon--until you say I may. I know my duty to Thomasin
quite as well as I know my duty to you as a woman unfairly treated. What shall I
assist you in?"

"In getting away from here."

"Where do you wish to go to?"

"I have a place in my mind. If you could help me as far as Budmouth I can do all the
rest. Steamers sail from there across the Channel, and so I can get to Paris, where
I want to be. Yes," she pleaded earnestly, "help me to get to Budmouth harbour without
my grandfather's or my husband's knowledge, and I can do all the rest."

"Will it be safe to leave you there alone?"

"Yes, yes. I know Budmouth well."

"Shall I go with you? I am rich now."

She was silent.

"Say yes, sweet!"

She was silent still.


"Well, let me know when you wish to go. We shall be at our present house till December;
after that we remove to Casterbridge. Command me in anything till that time."

"I will think of this," she said hurriedly. "Whether I can honestly make use of you as
a friend, or must close with you as a lover--that is what I must ask myself. If I wish
to go and decide to accept your company I will signal to you some evening at eight
o'clock punctually, and this will mean that you are to be ready with a horse and trap
at twelve o'clock the same night to drive me to Budmouth harbour in time for the morn-
ing boat."

"I will look out every night at eight, and no signal shall escape me."

"Now please go away. If I decide on this escape I can only meet you once more unless--
I cannot go without you. Go--I cannot bear it longer. Go--go!"

Wildeve slowly went up the steps and descended into the darkness on the other side; and
as he walked he glanced back, till the bank blotted out her form from his further view.




6 - Thomasin Argues with Her Cousin, and He Writes a Letter



Yeobright was at this time at Blooms-End, hoping that Eustacia would return to him.
The removal of furniture had been accomplished only that day, though Clym had lived
in the old house for more than a week. He had spent the time in working about the
premises, sweeping leaves from the garden paths, cutting dead stalks from the flower
beds, and nailing up creepers which had been displaced by the autumn winds. He took
no particular pleasure in these deeds, but they formed a screen between himself and
despair. Moreover, it had become a religion with him to preserve in good condition
all that had lapsed from his mother's hands to his own.

During these operations he was constantly on the watch for Eustacia. That there
should be no mistake about her knowing where to find him he had ordered a notice
board to be affixed to the garden gate at Alderworth, signifying in white letters
whither he had removed.
When a leaf floated to the earth he turned his head, thinking
it might be her foot-fall. A bird searching for worms in the mould of the flower-beds
sounded like her hand on the latch of the gate; and at dusk, when soft, strange ven-
triloquisms came from holes in the ground, hollow stalks, curled dead leaves, and
other crannies wherein breezes, worms, and insects can work their will, he fancied
that they were Eustacia, standing without and breathing wishes of reconciliation.


Up to this hour he had persevered in his resolve not to invite her back. At the same
time
the severity with which he had treated her lulled the sharpness of his regret
for his mother,
and awoke some of his old solicitude for his mother's supplanter.
Harsh feelings produce harsh usage, and this by reaction quenches the sentiments
that gave it birth. The more he reflected the more he softened. But to look upon
his wife as innocence in distress was impossible, though he could ask himself whe-
ther he had given her quite time enough--if he had not come a little too suddenly
upon her on that sombre morning.

Now that the first flush of his anger had paled he was disinclined to ascribe to her
more than an indiscreet friendship with Wildeve, for there had not appeared in her
manner the signs of dishonour. And this once admitted, an absolutely dark interpre-
tation of her act towards his mother was no longer forced upon him.

On the evening of the fifth November his thoughts of Eustacia were intense.
Echoes
from those past times when they had exchanged tender words all the day long came
like the diffused murmur of a seashore left miles behind.
"Surely," he said, "she
might have brought herself to communicate with me before now, and confess honestly
what Wildeve was to her."


Instead of remaining at home that night he determined to go and see Thomasin and
her husband. If he found opportunity he would allude to the cause of the separation
between Eustacia and himself, keeping silence, however, on the fact that there was
a third person in his house when his mother was turned away. If it proved that Wil-
deve was innocently there he would doubtless openly mention it. If he were there
with unjust intentions Wildeve, being a man of quick feeling, might possibly say
something to reveal the extent to which Eustacia was compromised.

But on reaching his cousin's house he found that only Thomasin was at home, Wildeve
being at that time on his way towards the bonfire innocently lit by Charley at
Mistover. Thomasin then, as always, was glad to see Clym, and took him to inspect
the sleeping baby, carefully screening the candlelight from the infant's eyes with
her hand.

"Tamsin, have you heard that Eustacia is not with me. now?" he said when they had
sat down again.

"No," said Thomasin, alarmed.

"And not that I have left Alderworth?"

"No. I never hear tidings from Alderworth unless you bring them. What is the matter?"

Clym in a disturbed voice related to her his visit to Susan Nunsuch's boy, the
revelation he had made, and what had resulted from his charging Eustacia with having
wilfully and heartlessly done the deed. He suppressed all mention of Wildeve's
presence with her.

"All this, and I not knowing it!" murmured Thomasin in an awestruck tone, "Terrible!
What could have made her--O, Eustacia! And when you found it out you went in hot
haste to her? Were you too cruel?--or is she really so wicked as she seems?"

"Can a man be too cruel to his mother's enemy?"

"I can fancy so."

"Very well, then--I'll admit that he can. But now what is to be done?"

"Make it up again--if a quarrel so deadly can ever be made up. I almost wish you
had not told me. But do try to be reconciled. There are ways, after all, if you
both wish to."

"I don't know that we do both wish to make it up," said Clym. "If she had wished
it, would she not have sent to me by this time?"

"You seem to wish to, and yet you have not sent to her."

"True; but I have been tossed to and fro in doubt if I ought, after such strong
provocation. To see me now, Thomasin, gives you no idea of what I have been; of
what depths I have descended to in these few last days. O, it was a bitter shame
to shut out my mother like that! Can I ever forget it, or even agree to see her
again?"

"She might not have known that anything serious would come of it, and perhaps she
did not mean to keep Aunt out altogether."

"She says herself that she did not. But the fact remains that keep her out she
did."

"Believe her sorry, and send for her."

"How if she will not come?"

"It will prove her guilty, by showing that it is her
habit to nourish enmity.
But I do not think that for a moment."

"I will do this. I will wait for a day or two longer-- not longer than two days
certainly; and if she does not send to me in that time I will indeed send to her.
I thought to have seen Wildeve here tonight. Is he from home?"

Thomasin blushed a little. "No," she said. "He is merely gone out for a walk."

"Why didn't he take you with him? The evening is fine. You want fresh air as well
as he."

"Oh, I don't care for going anywhere; besides, there is baby."

"Yes, yes. Well, I have been thinking whether I should not consult your husband
about this as well as you," said Clym steadily.

"I fancy I would not," she quickly answered. "It can do no good."

Her cousin looked her in the face. No doubt Thomasin was ignorant that her husband
had any share in the events of that tragic afternoon; but her countenance seemed
to signify that she concealed some suspicion or thought of the reputed tender rela-
tions between Wildeve and Eustacia in days gone by.

Clym, however, could make nothing of it,
and he rose to depart, more in doubt than
when he came.

"You will write to her in a day or two?" said the young woman earnestly. "I do so
hope the wretched separation may come to an end."

"I will," said Clym; "I don't rejoice in my present state at all."

And he left her and climbed over the hill to Blooms-End. Before going to bed he
sat down and wrote the following letter:--


  My Dear Eustacia,--I must obey my heart without consulting my reason too closely.
  Will you come back to me? Do so, and the past shall never be mentioned. I was too
  severe; but O, Eustacia, the provocation! You don't know, you never will know, what
  those words of anger cost me which you drew down upon yourself. All that an honest
  man can promise you I promise now, which is that from me you shall never suffer
  anything on this score again. After all the vows we have made, Eustacia, I think
  we had better pass the remainder of our lives in trying to keep them. Come to me,
  then, even if you reproach me. I have thought of your sufferings that morning on
  which I parted from you; I know they were genuine, and they are as much as you
  ought to bear. Our love must still continue.
Such hearts as ours would never have
  been given us but to be concerned with each other.
I could not ask you back at
  first, Eustacia, for I was unable to persuade myself that he who was with you was
  not there as a lover. But if you will come and explain distracting appearances I
  do not question that you can show your honesty to me. Why have you not come before?
  Do you think I will not listen to you? Surely not, when you remember the kisses and
  vows we exchanged under the summer moon. Return then, and you shall be warmly wel-
  comed. I can no longer think of you to your prejudice--I am but too much absorbed
  in justifying you.--Your husband as ever,


  Clym.


"There," he said, as he laid it in his desk, "that's a good thing done. If she does
not come before tomorrow night I will send it to her."


Meanwhile, at the house he had just left Thomasin sat sighing uneasily. Fidelity to
her husband had that evening induced her to conceal all suspicion that Wildeve's
interest in Eustacia had not ended with his marriage. But she knew nothing positive;
and though Clym was her well-beloved cousin there was one nearer to her still.

When, a little later, Wildeve returned from his walk to Mistover, Thomasin said,
"Damon, where have you been? I was getting quite frightened, and thought you had
fallen into the river. I dislike being in the house by myself."

"Frightened?" he said, touching her cheek as if she were some domestic animal. "Why,
I thought nothing could frighten you. It is that you are getting proud, I am sure,
and don't like living here since we have risen above our business. Well, it is a
tedious matter, this getting a new house; but I couldn't have set about it sooner,
unless our ten thousand pounds had been a hundred thousand, when we could have affor-
ded to despise caution."

"No--I don't mind waiting--I would rather stay here twelve months longer than run any
risk with baby. But I don't like your vanishing so in the evenings. There's something
on your mind--I know there is, Damon. You go about so gloomily, and look at the heath
as if it were somebody's gaol instead of a nice wild place to walk in."

He looked towards her with pitying surprise. "What, do you like Egdon Heath?" he said.

"I like what I was born near to;
I admire its grim old face."

"Pooh, my dear. You don't know what you like."

"I am sure I do. There's only one thing unpleasant about Egdon."

"What's that?"

"You never take me with you when you walk there. Why do you wander so much in it your-
self if you so dislike it?"

The inquiry, though a simple one, was plainly disconcerting, and he sat down before re-
plying. "I don't think you often see me there. Give an instance."

"I will," she answered triumphantly. "When you went out this evening I thought that as
baby was asleep I would see where you were going to so mysteriously without telling me.
So I ran out and followed behind you. You stopped at the place where the road forks,
looked round at the bonfires, and then said, 'Damn it, I'll go!' And you went quickly
up the left-hand road. Then I stood and watched you."

Wildeve frowned, afterwards saying, with a forced smile, "Well, what wonderful discovery
did you make?"


"There--now you are angry, and we won't talk of this any more." She went across to him,
sat on a footstool, and looked up in his face.

"Nonsense!" he said, "that's how you always back out. We will go on with it now we have
begun. What did you next see? I particularly want to know."

"Don't be like that, Damon!" she murmured. "I didn't see anything. You vanished out of
sight, and then I looked round at the bonfires and came in."

"Perhaps this is not the only time you have dogged my steps. Are you trying to find out
something bad about me?"

"Not at all! I have never done such a thing before, and I shouldn't have done it now if
words had not sometimes been dropped about you."

"What do you mean?" he impatiently asked.


"They say--they say you used to go to Alderworth in the evenings, and it puts into my
mind what I have heard about--"

Wildeve turned angrily and stood up in front of her. "Now," he said, flourishing his hand
in the air, "just out with it, madam! I demand to know what remarks you have heard."

"Well, I heard that you used to be very fond of Eustacia--nothing more than that, though
dropped in a bit-by-bit way. You ought not to be angry!"

He observed that her eyes were brimming with tears. "Well," he said, "there is nothing
new in that, and of course I don't mean to be rough towards you, so you need not cry. Now,
don't let us speak of the subject any more."

And no more was said, Thomasin being glad enough of a reason for not mentioning Clym's
visit to her that evening, and his story.




7 - The Night of the Sixth of November



Having resolved on flight Eustacia at times seemed anxious that something should
happen to thwart her own intention. The only event that could really change her
position was the appearance of Clym.
The glory which had encircled him as her lover
was departed now; yet some good simple quality of his would occasionally return to
her memory and stir a momentary throb of hope
that he would again present himself
before her. But calmly considered it was not likely that such a severance as now
existed would ever close up--she would have to live on as a painful object, isola-
ted, and out of place. She had used to think of the heath alone as an uncongenial
spot to be in; she felt it now of the whole world.

Towards evening on the sixth her determination to go away again revived. About
four o'clock she packed up anew the few small articles she had brought in her
flight from Alderworth, and also some belonging to her which had been left here;
the whole formed a bundle not too large to be carried in her hand for a distance
of a mile or two. The scene without grew darker;
mud-coloured clouds bellied down-
wards from the sky like vast hammocks slung across it,
and with the increase of
night a stormy wind arose; but as yet there was no rain.

Eustacia could not rest indoors, having nothing more to do, and she wandered to
and fro on the hill, not far from the house she was soon to leave. In these desul-
tory ramblings she passed the cottage of Susan Nunsuch, a little lower down than
her grandfather's. The door was ajar, and
a riband of bright firelight fell over
the ground without. As Eustacia crossed the firebeams she appeared for an instant
as distinct as a figure in a phantasmagoria--a creature of light surrounded by an
area of darkness; the moment passed, and she was absorbed in night again.


A woman who was sitting inside the cottage had seen and recognized her in that
momentary irradiation. This was Susan herself, occupied in preparing a posset for
her little boy, who, often ailing, was now seriously unwell. Susan dropped the
spoon, shook her fist at the vanished figure, and then proceeded with her work in
a musing, absent way.

At eight o'clock, the hour at which Eustacia had promised to signal Wildeve if
ever she signalled at all, she looked around the premises to learn if the coast
was clear, went to the furze-rick, and pulled thence a long-stemmed bough of that
fuel. This she carried to the corner of the bank, and, glancing behind to see if
the shutters were all closed, she struck a light, and kindled the furze. When it
was thoroughly ablaze Eustacia took it by the stem and waved it in the air above
her head till it had burned itself out.

She was gratified, if gratification were possible to such a mood, by seeing a
similar light in the vicinity of Wildeve's residence a minute or two later. Hav-
ing agreed to keep watch at this hour every night, in case she should require
assistance, this promptness proved how strictly he had held to his word. Four
hours after the present time, that is, at midnight, he was to be ready to drive
her to Budmouth, as prearranged.

Eustacia returned to the house. Supper having been got over she retired early,
and sat in her bedroom waiting for the time to go by. The night being dark and
threatening, Captain Vye had not strolled out to gossip in any cottage or to call
at the inn, as was sometimes his custom on these long autumn nights; and he sat
sipping grog alone downstairs. About ten o'clock there was a knock at the door.
When the servant opened it the rays of the candle fell upon the form of Fairway.

"I was a-forced to go to Lower Mistover tonight," he said, "and Mr. Yeobright
asked me to leave this here on my way; but, faith, I put it in the lining of my
hat, and thought no more about it till I got back and was hasping my gate before
going to bed. So I have run back with it at once."

He handed in a letter and went his way. The girl brought it to the captain, who
found that it was directed to Eustacia. He turned it over and over, and fancied
that the writing was her husband's, though he could not be sure. However, he de-
cided to let her have it at once if possible, and took it upstairs for that pur-
pose; but on reaching the door of her room and looking in at the keyhole he found
there was no light within, the fact being that Eustacia, without undressing, had
flung herself upon the bed, to rest and gather a little strength for her coming
journey. Her grandfather concluded from what he saw that he ought not to disturb
her; and descending again to the parlour he placed the letter on the mantelpiece
to give it to her in the morning.

At eleven o'clock he went to bed himself, smoked for some time in his bedroom, put
out his light at half- past eleven, and then, as was his invariable custom, pulled
up the blind before getting into bed, that he might see which way the wind blew on
opening his eyes in the morning, his bedroom window commanding a view of the flag-
staff and vane.
Just as he had lain down he was surprised to observe the white pole
of the staff flash into existence like a streak of phosphorus drawn downwards across
the shade of night without.
Only one explanation met this--a light had been suddenly
thrown upon the pole from the direction of the house. As everybody had retired to
rest the old man felt it necessary to get out of bed, open the window softly, and
look to the right and left. Eustacia's bedroom was lighted up, and it was the shine
from her window which had lighted the pole. Wondering what had aroused her, he remai-
ned undecided at the window, and was thinking of fetching the letter to slip it under
her door, when he heard a slight brushing of garments on the partition dividing his
room from the passage.

The captain concluded that Eustacia, feeling wakeful, had gone for a book, and
would have dismissed the matter as unimportant if he had not also heard her dis-
tinctly weeping as she passed.

"She is thinking of that husband of hers," he said to himself. "Ah, the silly
goose! she had no business to marry him. I wonder if that letter is really his?"

He arose, threw his boat-cloak round him, opened the door, and said, "Eustacia!"
There was no answer. "Eustacia!" he repeated louder, "there is a letter on the
mantelpiece for you."

But no response was made to this statement save an imaginary one from the wind,
which seemed to gnaw at the corners of the house, and the stroke of a few drops
of rain upon the windows.

He went on to the landing, and stood waiting nearly five minutes. Still she did
not return. He went back for a light, and prepared to follow her; but first he
looked into her bedroom. There, on the outside of the quilt, was the impression
of her form, showing that the bed had not been opened; and, what was more signi-
ficant, she had not taken her candlestick downstairs. He was now thoroughly alar-
med; and hastily putting on his clothes he descended to the front door, which he
himself had bolted and locked. It was now unfastened. There was no longer any
doubt that Eustacia had left the house at this midnight hour; and whither could
she have gone? To follow her was almost impossible. Had the dwelling stood in an
ordinary road, two persons setting out, one in each direction, might have made
sure of overtaking her;
but it was a hopeless task to seek for anybody on a heath
in the dark, the practicable directions for flight across it from any point being
as numerous as the meridians radiating from the pole.
Perplexed what to do, he
looked into the parlour, and was vexed to find that the letter still lay there
untouched.

At half-past eleven, finding that the house was silent, Eustacia had lighted her
candle, put on some warm outer wrappings, taken her bag in her hand, and, extin-
guishing the light again, descended the staircase. When she got into the outer
air she found that it had begun to rain, and as she stood pausing at the door it
increased, threatening to come on heavily. But having committed herself to this
line of action there was no retreating for bad weather. Even the receipt of Clym's
letter would not have stopped her now.
The gloom of the night was funereal; all
nature seemed clothed in crape. The spiky points of the fir trees behind the house
rose into the sky like the turrets and pinnacles of an abbey.
Nothing below the
horizon was visible save a light which was still burning in the cottage of Susan
Nunsuch.

Eustacia opened her umbrella and went out from the enclosure by the steps over
the bank, after which she was beyond all danger of being perceived.
Skirting the
pool, she followed the path towards Rainbarrow, occasionally stumbling over twis-
ted furze roots, tufts of rushes, or oozing lumps of fleshy fungi, which at this
season lay scattered about the heath like the rotten liver and lungs of some colo-
ssal animal. The moon and stars were closed up by cloud and rain to the degree of
extinction. It was a night which led the traveller's thoughts instinctively to
dwell on nocturnal scenes of disaster in the chronicles of the world, on all that
is terrible and dark in history and legend--the last plague of Egypt, the destru-
ction of Sennacherib's host, the agony in Gethsemane.


Eustacia at length reached Rainbarrow, and stood still there to think.
Never was
harmony more perfect than that between the chaos of her mind and the chaos of the
world without.
A sudden recollection had flashed on her this moment--she had not
money enough for undertaking a long journey. Amid the fluctuating sentiments of
the day her unpractical mind had not dwelt on the necessity of being well-provided,
and now that she thoroughly realized the conditions she sighed bitterly and ceased
to stand erect, gradually crouching down under the umbrella as if she were drawn
into the Barrow by a hand from beneath. Could it be that she was to remain a cap-
tive still? Money--she had never felt its value before.
Even to efface herself from
the country means were required.
To ask Wildeve for pecuniary aid without allowing
him to accompany her was impossible to a woman with a shadow of pride left in her;
to fly as his mistress--and she knew that he loved her--was of the nature of humil-
iation.

Anyone who had stood by now would have pitied her, not so much on account of her
exposure to weather, and isolation from all of humanity except the mouldered remains
inside the tumulus; but for that other form of misery which was denoted by the
slightly rocking movement that her feelings imparted to her person. Extreme unhap-
piness weighed visibly upon her. Between the drippings of the rain from her umbrella
to her mantle, from her mantle to the heather, from the heather to the earth, very
similar sounds could be heard coming from her lips; and the tearfulness of the outer
scene was repeated upon her face. The wings of her soul were broken by the cruel
obstructiveness of all about her;
and even had she seen herself in a promising way
of getting to Budmouth, entering a steamer, and sailing to some opposite port,
she
would have been but little more buoyant, so fearfully malignant were other things.
She uttered words aloud. When a woman in such a situation, neither old, deaf, crazed,
nor whimsical, takes upon herself to sob and soliloquize aloud there is something
grievous the matter.

"Can I go, can I go?" she moaned. "He's not great enough for me to give myself to--
he does not suffice for my desire!...If he had been a Saul or a Bonaparte-- ah! But
to break my marriage vow for him--it is too poor a luxury!...And I have no money to
go alone! And if I could, what comfort to me? I must drag on next year, as I have
dragged on this year, and the year after that as before. How I have tried and tried
to be a splendid woman, and how destiny has been against me!...I do not deserve my
lot!" she cried in a frenzy of bitter revolt. "O, the cruelty of putting me into this
ill-conceived world! I was capable of much; but I have been injured and blighted and
crushed by things beyond my control! O, how hard it is of Heaven to devise such tor-
tures for me, who have done no harm to Heaven at all!"


The distant light which Eustacia had cursorily observed in leaving the house came, as
she had divined, from the cottage window of Susan Nunsuch. What Eustacia did not divine
was the occupation of the woman within at that moment. Susan's sight of her passing
figure earlier in the evening, not five minutes after the sick boy's exclamation,
"Mother, I do feel so bad!" persuaded the matron that an evil influence was certainly
exercised by Eustacia's propinquity.


On this account Susan did not go to bed as soon as the evening's work was over, as she
would have done at ordinary times. To counteract the malign spell which she imagined
poor Eustacia to be working, the boy's mother busied herself with
a ghastly invention
of superstition, calculated to bring powerlessness, atrophy, and annihilation on any
human being against whom it was directed
. It was a practice well known on Egdon at that
date, and one that is not quite extinct at the present day.

She passed with her candle into an inner room, where, among other utensils, were
two
large brown pans, containing together perhaps a hundredweight of liquid honey, the pro-
duce of the bees during the foregoing summer. On a shelf over the pans was a smooth and
solid yellow mass of a hemispherical form, consisting of beeswax from the same take of
honey. Susan took down the lump, and cutting off several thin slices, heaped them in an
iron ladle, with which she returned to the living-room, and placed the vessel in the hot
ashes of the fireplace. As soon as the wax had softened to the plasticity of dough she
kneaded the pieces together. And now her face became more intent. She began moulding the
wax; and it was evident from her manner of manipulation that she was endeavouring to give
it some preconceived form. The form was human.

By warming and kneading, cutting and twisting, dismembering and re-joining the incipient
image she had in about a quarter of an hour produced a shape which tolerably well resem-
bled a woman, and was about six inches high. She laid it on the table to get cold and
hard.
Meanwhile she took the candle and went upstairs to where the little boy was lying.

"Did you notice, my dear, what Mrs. Eustacia wore this afternoon besides the dark dress?"

"A red ribbon round her neck."

"Anything else?"

"No--except sandal-shoes."

"A red ribbon and sandal-shoes," she said to herself.

Mrs. Nunsuch went and searched till she found a fragment of the narrowest red ribbon,
which she took downstairs and tied round the neck of the image. Then fetching ink and a
quilt from the rickety bureau by the window, she blackened the feet of the image to the
extent presumably covered by shoes; and on the instep of each foot marked cross-lines in
the shape taken by the sandalstrings of those days. Finally she tied a bit of black thread
round the upper part of the head, in faint resemblance to a snood worn for confining the
hair.

Susan held the object at arm's length and contemplated it with a satisfaction in which
there was no smile. To anybody acquainted with the inhabitants of Egdon Heath the image
would have suggested Eustacia Yeobright.

From her workbasket in the window-seat the woman took a paper of pins, of the old long
and yellow sort, whose heads were disposed to come off at their first usage.
These she
began to thrust into the image in all directions, with apparently excruciating energy.
Probably as many as fifty were thus inserted, some into the head of the wax model, some
into the shoulders, some into the trunk, some upwards through the soles of the feet,
till the figure was completely permeated with pins.

She turned to the fire. It had been of turf; and though the high heap of ashes which
turf fires produce was somewhat dark and dead on the outside, upon raking it abroad with
the shovel the inside of the mass showed a glow of red heat. She took a few pieces of
fresh turf from the chimney-corner and built them together over the glow, upon which the
fire brightened. Seizing with the tongs the image that she had made of Eustacia, she held
it in the heat, and watched it as it began to waste slowly away. And while she stood thus
engaged there came from between her lips a murmur of words.

It was a strange jargon--the Lord's Prayer repeated backwards--the incantation usual in
proceedings for obtaining unhallowed assistance against an enemy. Susan uttered the lugu-
brious
discourse three times slowly, and when it was completed the image had considerably
diminished. As the wax dropped into the fire a long flame arose from the spot, and curling
its tongue round the figure ate still further into its substance. A pin occasionally
dropped with the wax, and the embers heated it red as it lay.



8 - Rain, Darkness, and Anxious Wanderers



While the effigy of Eustacia was melting to nothing, and the fair woman herself
was standing on Rainbarrow,
her soul in an abyss of desolation seldom plumbed by
one so young,
Yeobright sat lonely at Blooms-End. He had fulfilled his word to
Thomasin by sending off Fairway with the letter to his wife, and now waited with
increased impatience for some sound or signal of her return. Were Eustacia still
at Mistover the very least he expected was that she would send him back a reply
tonight by the same hand; though, to leave all to her inclination, he had caution-
ed Fairway not to ask for an answer. If one were handed to him he was to bring it
immediately; if not, he was to go straight home without troubling to come round
to Blooms-End again that night.

But secretly Clym had a more pleasing hope. Eustacia might possibly decline to
use her pen--it was rather her way to work silently--and surprise him by appear-
ing at his door.
How fully her mind was made up to do otherwise he did not know.

To Clym's regret it began to rain and blow hard as the evening advanced. The wind
rasped and scraped at the corners of the house, and filliped the eavesdroppings
like peas against the panes.
He walked restlessly about the untenanted rooms,
stopping strange noises in windows and doors by jamming splinters of wood into the
casements and crevices, and pressing together the leadwork of the quarries where
it had become loosened from the glass. It was one of those nights when cracks in
the walls of old churches widen, when ancient stains on the ceilings of decayed
manor houses are renewed and enlarged from the size of a man's hand to an area of
many feet. The little gate in the palings before his dwelling continually opened
and clicked together again, but when he looked out eagerly nobody was there; it
was as if invisible shapes of the dead were passing in on their way to visit him.


Between ten and eleven o'clock, finding that neither Fairway nor anybody else
came to him, he retired to rest, and despite his anxieties soon fell asleep. His
sleep, however, was not very sound, by reason of the expectancy he had given way
to, and he was easily awakened by a knocking which began at the door about an
hour after. Clym arose and looked out of the window. Rain was still falling hea-
vily,
the whole expanse of heath before him emitting a subdued hiss under the
downpour.
It was too dark to see anything at all.

"Who's there?" he cried.

Light footsteps shifted their position in the porch, and he could just distin-
guish in a plaintive female voice the words, "O Clym, come down and let me in!"

He flushed hot with agitation. "Surely it is Eustacia!" he murmured. If so, she
had indeed come to him unawares.

He hastily got a light, dressed himself, and went down. On his flinging open the
door the rays of the candle fell upon a woman closely wrapped up, who at once
came forward.

"Thomasin!" he exclaimed in an indescribable tone of disappointment. "It is Thom-
asin, and on such a night as this! O, where is Eustacia?"

Thomasin it was, wet, frightened, and panting.

"Eustacia? I don't know, Clym; but I can think," she said with much perturbation.
"Let me come in and rest--I will explain this. There is a great trouble brewing--
my husband and Eustacia!"

"What, what?"

"I think my husband is going to leave me or do something dreadful--I don't know
what--Clym, will you go and see? I have nobody to help me but you; Eustacia has
not yet come home?"

"No."

She went on breathlessly: "Then they are going to run off together! He came in-
doors tonight about eight o'clock and said in an off-hand way, 'Tamsie, I have
just found that I must go a journey.' 'When?' I said. 'Tonight,' he said. 'Where?'
I asked him. 'I cannot tell you at present,' he said; 'I shall be back again tomor-
row.'
He then went and busied himself in looking up his things, and took no notice
of me at all. I expected to see him start, but he did not, and then it came to be
ten o'clock, when he said, 'You had better go to bed.' I didn't know what to do,
and I went to bed. I believe he thought I fell asleep, for half an hour after that
he came up and unlocked the oak chest we keep money in when we have much in the
house and took out a roll of something which I believe was banknotes, though I was
not aware that he had 'em there. These he must have got from the bank when he went
there the other day. What does he want banknotes for, if he is only going off for
a day? When he had gone down I thought of Eustacia, and how he had met her the night
before--I know he did meet her, Clym, for I followed him part of the way; but I did
not like to tell you when you called, and so make you think ill of him, as I did not
think it was so serious. Then I could not stay in bed; I got up and dressed myself,
and when I heard him out in the stable I thought I would come and tell you. So I
came downstairs without any noise and slipped out."

"Then he was not absolutely gone when you left?"

"No. Will you, dear Cousin Clym, go and try to persuade him not to go? He takes no
notice of what I say, and puts me off with the story of his going on a journey, and
will be home tomorrow, and all that; but I don't believe it. I think you could influ-
ence him."

"I'll go," said Clym. "O, Eustacia!"

Thomasin carried in her arms a large bundle; and having by this time seated herself
she began to unroll it, when a baby appeared as the kernel to the husks--dry, warm,
and unconscious of travel or rough weather.
Thomasin briefly kissed the baby, and
then found time to begin crying as she said, "I brought baby, for I was afraid what
might happen to her. I suppose it will be her death, but I couldn't leave her with
Rachel!"

Clym hastily put together the logs on the hearth, raked abroad the embers, which
were scarcely yet extinct, and blew up a flame with the bellows.

"Dry yourself," he said. "I'll go and get some more wood."

"No, no--don't stay for that. I'll make up the fire. Will you go at once--please
will you?"

Yeobright ran upstairs to finish dressing himself. While he was gone another rapping
came to the door. This time there was no delusion that it might be Eustacia's--the
footsteps just preceding it had been heavy and slow. Yeobright thinking it might
possibly be Fairway with a note in answer, descended again and opened the door.

"Captain Vye?" he said to a dripping figure.

"Is my granddaughter here?" said the captain.

"No."

"Then where is she?".

"I don't know."

"But you ought to know--you are her husband."

"Only in name apparently," said Clym with rising excitement. "I believe she means to
elope tonight with Wildeve. I am just going to look to it."

"Well, she has left my house; she left about half an hour ago. Who's sitting there?"

"My cousin Thomasin."

The captain bowed in a preoccupied way to her. "I only hope it is no worse than an
elopement," he said.

"Worse? What's worse than the worst a wife can do?"

"Well, I have been told a strange tale. Before starting in search of her I called up
Charley, my stable lad. I missed my pistols the other day."

"Pistols?"

"He said at the time that he took them down to clean. He has now owned that he took
them because he saw Eustacia looking curiously at them; and she afterwards owned to
him that she was thinking of taking her life, but bound him to secrecy, and promised
never to think of such a thing again. I hardly suppose she will ever have bravado
enough to use one of them; but it shows what has been lurking in her mind; and peo-
ple who think of that sort of thing once think of it again."

"Where are the pistols?"

"Safely locked up. O no, she won't touch them again.
But there are more ways of let-
ting out life than through a bullet-hole.
What did you quarrel about so bitterly with
her to drive her to all this? You must have treated her badly indeed. Well, I was
always against the marriage, and I was right."

"Are you going with me?" said Yeobright, paying no attention to the captain's latter
remark. "If so I can tell you what we quarrelled about as we walk along."

"Where to?"


"To Wildeve's--that was her destination, depend upon it."

Thomasin here broke in, still weeping: "He said he was only going on a sudden short
journey; but if so why did he want so much money? O, Clym, what do you think will
happen? I am afraid that you, my poor baby, will soon have no father left to you!"

"I am off now," said Yeobright, stepping into the porch.

"I would fain go with 'ee," said the old man doubtfully. "But I begin to be afraid
that my legs will hardly carry me there such a night as this. I am not so young as I
was. If they are interrupted in their flight she will be sure to come back to me, and
I ought to be at the house to receive her. But be it as 'twill I can't walk to the
Quiet Woman, and that's an end on't. I'll go straight home."

"It will perhaps be best," said Clym. "Thomasin, dry yourself, and be as comfortable
as you can."

With this he closed the door upon her, and left the house in company with Captain Vye,
who parted from him outside the gate, taking the middle path, which led to Mistover.
Clym crossed by the right-hand track towards the inn.

Thomasin, being left alone, took off some of her wet garments, carried the baby up-
stairs to Clym's bed, and then came down to the sitting-room again, where she made a
larger fire, and began drying herself.
The fire soon flared up the chimney, giving the
room an appearance of comfort that was doubled by contrast with the drumming of the
storm without, which snapped at the windowpanes and breathed into the chimney strange
low utterances that seemed to be the prologue to some tragedy.


But the least part of Thomasin was in the house, for her heart being at ease about the
little girl upstairs
she was mentally following Clym on his journey. Having indulged
in this imaginary peregrination for some considerable interval, she became impressed
with a sense of the intolerable slowness of time.
But she sat on. The moment then came
when she could scarcely sit longer, and it was like a satire on her patience to remember
that Clym could hardly have reached the inn as yet. At last she went to the baby's bed-
side. The child was sleeping soundly; but her imagination of possibly disastrous events
at her home,
the predominance within her of the unseen over the seen, agitated her be-
yond endurance.
She could not refrain from going down and opening the door. The rain
still continued,
the candlelight falling upon the nearest drops and making glistening
darts of them as they descended across the throng of invisible ones behind. To plunge
into that medium was to plunge into water slightly diluted with air.
But the difficulty
of returning to her house at this moment made her all the more desirous of doing so--
anything was better than suspense. "I have come here well enough," she said, "and why
shouldn't I go back again? It is a mistake for me to be away."

She hastily fetched the infant, wrapped it up, cloaked herself as before, and shoveling
the ashes over the fire, to prevent accidents, went into the open air. Pausing first to
put the door key in its old place behind the shutter,
she resolutely turned her face to
the confronting pile of firmamental darkness beyond the palings, and stepped into its
midst.
But Thomasin's imagination being so actively engaged elsewhere, the night and
the weather had for her no terror beyond that of their actual discomfort and difficulty.

She was soon ascending Blooms-End valley and traversing the undulations on the side of
the hill.
The noise of the wind over the heath was shrill, and as if it whistled for joy
at finding a night so congenial as this. Sometimes the path led her to hollows between
thickets of tall and dripping bracken, dead, though not yet prostrate, which enclosed
her like a pool. When they were more than usually tall she lifted the baby to the top
of her head, that it might be out of the reach of their drenching fronds. On higher
ground, where the wind was brisk and sustained, the rain flew in a level flight without
sensible descent, so that it was beyond all power to imagine the remoteness of the point
at which it left the bosoms of the clouds. Here self-defence was impossible, and indivi-
dual drops stuck into her like the arrows into Saint Sebastian.
She was enabled to avoid
puddles by the nebulous paleness which signified their presence, though beside anything
less dark than the heath they themselves would have appeared as blackness.

Yet in spite of all this Thomasin was not sorry that she had started.
To her there were
not, as to Eustacia, demons in the air, and malice in every bush and bough. The drops
which lashed her face were not scorpions, but prosy rain; Egdon in the mass was no mon-
ster whatever, but impersonal open ground.
Her fears of the place were rational, her dis-
likes of its worst moods reasonable. At this time it was in her view a windy, wet place,
in which a person might experience much discomfort, lose the path without care, and poss-
ibly catch cold.

If the path is well known the difficulty at such times of keeping therein is not altogether
great, from its familiar feel to the feet; but once lost it is irrecoverable. Owing to her
baby, who somewhat impeded Thomasin's view forward and distracted her mind, she did at last
lose the track. This mishap occurred when she was descending an open slope about two-thirds
home. Instead of attempting, by wandering hither and thither, the hopeless task of finding
such a mere thread, she went straight on, trusting for guidance to her general knowledge of
the contours, which was scarcely surpassed by Clym's or by that of the heath-croppers them-
selves.

At length Thomasin reached a hollow and began to discern through the rain
a faint blotted
radiance, which presently assumed the oblong form of an open door.
She knew that no house
stood hereabouts, and was soon aware of the nature of the door by its height above the
ground.

"Why, it is Diggory Venn's van, surely!" she said.

A certain secluded spot near Rainbarrow was, she knew, often Venn's chosen centre when stay-
ing in this neighbourhood; and she guessed at once that she had stumbled upon this mysterious
retreat. The question arose in her mind whether or not she should ask him to guide her into
the path. In her anxiety to reach home she decided that she would appeal to him, notwithstan-
ding the strangeness of appearing before his eyes at this place and season. But when, in pur-
suance of this resolve, Thomasin reached the van and looked in she found it to be untenanted;
though there was no doubt that it was the reddleman's. The fire was burning in the stove, the
lantern hung from the nail. Round the doorway the floor was merely sprinkled with rain, and
not saturated, which told her that the door had not long been opened.

While she stood uncertainly looking in Thomasin heard a footstep advancing from the darkness
behind her, and turning, beheld the well-known form in corduroy,
lurid from head to foot, the
lantern beams falling upon him through an intervening gauze of raindrops.


"I thought you went down the slope," he said, without noticing her face. "How do you come back
here again?"

"Diggory?" said Thomasin faintly.

"Who are you?" said Venn, still unperceiving. "And why were you crying so just now?"

"O, Diggory! don't you know me?" said she. "But of course you don't, wrapped up like this. What
do you mean? I have not been crying here, and I have not been here before."

Venn then came nearer till he could see the illuminated side of her form.

"Mrs. Wildeve!" he exclaimed, starting. "What a time for us to meet! And the baby too! What
dreadful thing can have brought you out on such a night as this?"

She could not immediately answer; and without asking her permission he hopped into his van,
took her by the arm, and drew her up after him.

"What is it?" he continued when they stood within.

"I have lost my way coming from Blooms-End, and I am in a great hurry to get home. Please show
me as quickly as you can! It is so silly of me not to know Egdon better, and I cannot think how
I came to lose the path. Show me quickly, Diggory, please."

"Yes, of course. I will go with 'ee. But you came to me before this, Mrs. Wildeve?"

"I only came this minute."

"That's strange. I was lying down here asleep about five minutes ago, with the door shut to keep
out the weather, when the brushing of a woman's clothes over the heath-bushes just outside woke
me up, for I don't sleep heavy, and at the same time
I heard a sobbing or crying from the same
woman. I opened my door and held out my lantern, and just as far as the light would reach I saw
a woman; she turned her head when the light sheened on her, and then hurried on downhill.
I hung
up the lantern, and was curious enough to pull on my things and dog her a few steps, but I could
see nothing of her any more. That was where I had been when you came up; and when I saw you I
thought you were the same one."

"Perhaps it was one of the heathfolk going home?"

"No, it couldn't be. 'Tis too late.
The noise of her gown over the he'th was of a whistling sort
that nothing but silk will make."


"It wasn't I, then. My dress is not silk, you see....Are we anywhere in a line between Mistover
and the inn?"

"Well, yes; not far out."

"Ah, I wonder if it was she! Diggory, I must go at once!"

She jumped down from the van before he was aware, when Venn unhooked the lantern and leaped down
after her. "I'll take the baby, ma'am," he said. "You must be tired out by the weight."

Thomasin hesitated a moment, and then delivered the baby into Venn's hands. "Don't squeeze her,
Diggory," she said, "or hurt her little arm; and keep the cloak close over her like this, so that
the rain may not drop in her face."

"I will," said Venn earnestly. "As if I could hurt anything belonging to you!"

"I only meant accidentally," said Thomasin.

"The baby is dry enough, but you are pretty wet," said the reddleman when, in closing the door of
his cart to padlock it, he noticed on the floor a ring of water drops where her cloak had hung
from her.

Thomasin followed him as he wound right and left to avoid the larger bushes, stopping occasionally
and covering the lantern, while he looked over his shoulder to gain some idea of the position of
Rainbarrow above them, which it was necessary to keep directly behind their backs to preserve a
proper course.

"You are sure the rain does not fall upon baby?"

"Quite sure. May I ask how old he is, ma'am?"

"He!" said Thomasin reproachfully. "Anybody can see better than that in a moment. She is nearly
two months old. How far is it now to the inn?"

"A little over a quarter of a mile."

"Will you walk a little faster?"

"I was afraid you could not keep up."

"I am very anxious to get there. Ah, there is a light from the window!"

"'Tis not from the window. That's a gig-lamp, to the best of my belief."

"O!" said Thomasin in despair. "I wish I had been there sooner--give me the baby, Diggory--you
can go back now."

"I must go all the way," said Venn. "There is a quag between us and that light, and you will walk
into it up to your neck unless I take you round."

"But the light is at the inn, and there is no quag in front of that."

"No, the light is below the inn some two or three hundred yards."

"Never mind," said Thomasin hurriedly. "Go towards the light, and not towards the inn."

"Yes," answered Venn, swerving round in obedience; and, after a pause, "I wish you would tell me
what this great trouble is. I think you have proved that I can be trusted."

"There are some things that cannot be--cannot be told to--" And then her heart rose into her throat, and she could say no more.




9 - Sights and Sounds Draw the Wanderers Together



Having seen Eustacia's signal from the hill at eight o'clock, Wildeve immediately
prepared to assist her in her flight, and, as he hoped, accompany her. He was
somewhat perturbed, and his manner of informing Thomasin that he was going on a
journey was in itself sufficient to rouse her suspicions. When she had gone to
bed he collected the few articles he would require, and went upstairs to the mo-
ney-chest, whence he took a tolerably bountiful sum in notes, which had been ad-
vanced to him on the property he was so soon to have in possession, to defray
expenses incidental to the removal.


He then went to the stable and coach-house to assure himself that the horse,
gig, and harness were in a fit condition for a long drive. Nearly half an hour
was spent thus, and on returning to the house Wildeve had no thought of Thomasin
being anywhere but in bed. He had told the stable lad not to stay up, leading
the boy to understand that his departure would be at three or four in the morn-
ing; for this, though an exceptional hour, was less strange than midnight, the
time actually agreed on, the packet from Budmouth sailing between one and two.

At last all was quiet, and he had nothing to do but to wait. By no effort could
he shake off the oppression of spirits which he had experienced ever since his
last meeting with Eustacia, but he hoped there was that in his situation which
money could cure. He had persuaded himself that to act not ungenerously towards
his gentle wife by settling on her the half of his property, and with chivalrous
devotion towards another and greater woman by sharing her fate, was possible.
And though he meant to adhere to Eustacia's instructions to the letter, to de-
posit her where she wished and to leave her, should that be her will, the spell
that she had cast over him intensified, and his heart was beating fast in the
anticipated futility of such commands in the face of a mutual wish that they
should throw in their lot together.

He would not allow himself to dwell long upon these conjectures, maxims, and
hopes, and at twenty minutes to twelve he again went softly to the stable, har-
nessed the horse, and lit the lamps; whence, taking the horse by the head, he
led him with the covered car out of the yard to a spot by the roadside some
quarter of a mile below the inn.

Here Wildeve waited, slightly sheltered from the driving rain by a high bank
that had been cast up at this place.
Along the surface of the road where lit
by the lamps the loosened gravel and small stones scudded and clicked together
before the wind, which, leaving them in heaps, plunged into the heath and
boomed across the bushes into darkness.
Only one sound rose above this din of
weather, and that was the roaring of a ten-hatch weir to the southward, from
a river in the meads which formed the boundary of the heath in this direction.

He lingered on in perfect stillness till he began to fancy that the midnight
hour must have struck. A very strong doubt had arisen in his mind if Eustacia
would venture down the hill in such weather; yet knowing her nature he felt
that she might. "Poor thing! 'tis like her ill-luck," he murmured.


At length he turned to the lamp and looked at his watch. To his surprise it
was nearly a quarter past midnight. He now wished that he had driven up the
circuitous road to Mistover, a plan not adopted because of the enormous
length of the route in proportion to that of the pedestrian's path down the
open hillside, and the consequent increase of labour for the horse.

At this moment a footstep approached; but the light of the lamps being in a
different direction the comer was not visible. The step paused, then came on
again.

"Eustacia?" said Wildeve.

The person came forward, and the light fell upon the form of Clym, glistening
with wet, whom Wildeve immediately recognized; but Wildeve, who stood behind
the lamp, was not at once recognized by Yeobright.

He stopped as if in doubt whether this waiting vehicle could have anything to
do with the flight of his wife or not. The sight of Yeobright at once banished
Wildeve's sober feelings, who saw him again as the deadly rival from whom
Eustacia was to be kept at all hazards. Hence Wildeve did not speak, in the
hope that Clym would pass by without particular inquiry.

While they both hung thus in hesitation a dull sound became audible above the
storm and wind. Its origin was unmistakable--it was the fall of a body into
the stream in the adjoining mead, apparently at a point near the weir.


Both started. "Good God! can it be she?" said Clym.

"Why should it be she?" said Wildeve, in his alarm forgetting that he had
hitherto screened himself.

"Ah!--that's you, you traitor, is it?" cried Yeobright. "Why should it be
she? Because last week she would have put an end to her life if she had been
able. She ought to have been watched! Take one of the lamps and come with me."

Yeobright seized the one on his side and hastened on; Wildeve did not wait
to unfasten the other, but followed at once along the meadow track to the
weir, a little in the rear of Clym.

Shadwater Weir had at its foot a large circular pool, fifty feet in diameter,
into which the water flowed through ten huge hatches, raised and lowered by
a winch and cogs
in the ordinary manner. The sides of the pool were of mason-
ry, to prevent the water from washing away the bank; but the force of the
stream in winter was sometimes such as to undermine the retaining wall and
precipitate it into the hole. Clym reached the hatches, the framework of which
was shaken to its foundations by the velocity of the current.
Nothing but the
froth of the waves could be discerned in the pool below.
He got upon the plank
bridge over the race, and holding to the rail, that the wind might not blow
him off, crossed to the other side of the river.
There he leant over the wall
and lowered the lamp, only to behold the vortex formed at the curl of the re-
turning current.


Wildeve meanwhile had arrived on the former side, and the light from
Yeobright's
lamp shed a flecked and agitated radiance across the weir pool, revealing to the
ex-engineer the tumbling courses of the currents from the hatches above. Across
this gashed and puckered mirror a dark body was slowly borne by one of the back-
ward currents.

"O, my darling!" exclaimed Wildeve in an agonized voice; and, without showing
sufficient presence of mind even to throw off his greatcoat, he leaped into the
boiling caldron.


Yeobright could now also discern the floating body, though but indistinctly;
and imagining from Wildeve's plunge that there was life to be saved he was about
to leap after. Bethinking himself of a wiser plan, he placed the lamp against a
post to make it stand upright, and running round to the lower part of the pool,
where there was no wall,
he sprang in and boldly waded upwards towards the deeper
portion. Here he was taken off his legs, and in swimming was carried round into
the centre of the basin, where he perceived Wildeve struggling
.

While these hasty actions were in progress here, Venn and Thomasin had been toil-
ing through the lower corner of the heath in the direction of the light. They had
not been near enough to the river to hear the plunge, but they saw the removal of
the carriage lamp, and watched its motion into the mead. As soon as they reached
the car and horse Venn guessed that something new was amiss, and hastened to fol-
low in the course of the moving light. Venn walked faster than Thomasin, and came
to the weir alone.

The lamp placed against the post by Clym still shone across the water, and the
reddleman observed something floating motionless. Being encumbered with the infant,
he ran back to meet Thomasin.

"Take the baby, please, Mrs. Wildeve," he said hastily. "Run home with her, call
the stable lad, and make him send down to me any men who may be living near. Some-
body has fallen into the weir."

Thomasin took the child and ran. When she came to the covered car the horse, though
fresh from the stable, was standing perfectly still, as if conscious of misfortune.
She saw for the first time whose it was. She nearly fainted, and would have been
unable to proceed another step but that the necessity of preserving the little girl
from harm nerved her to an amazing self-control
. In this agony of suspense she en-
tered the house, put the baby in a place of safety, woke the lad and the female do-
mestic, and ran out to give the alarm at the nearest cottage.

Diggory, having returned to the brink of the pool, observed that the small upper
hatches or floats were withdrawn. He found one of these lying upon the grass, and
taking it under one arm, and with his lantern in his hand, entered at the bottom of
the pool as Clym had done. As soon as he began to be in deep water he flung himself
across the hatch; thus supported he was able to keep afloat as long as he chose,
holding the lantern aloft with his disengaged hand. Propelled by his feet, he steer-
ed round and round the pool, ascending each time by one of the back streams and
descending in the middle of the current.

At first he could see nothing. Then
amidst the glistening of the whirlpools and the
white clots of foam he distinguished a woman's bonnet floating alone.
His search
was now under the left wall, when something came to the surface almost close beside
him. It was not, as he had expected, a woman, but a man. The reddleman put the ring
of the lantern between his teeth, seized the floating man by the collar, and, hold-
ing on to the hatch with his remaining arm, struck out into the strongest race, by
which the unconscious man, the hatch, and himself were carried down the stream. As
soon as Venn found his feet dragging over the pebbles of the shallower part below
he secured his footing and waded towards the brink.
There, where the water stood at
about the height of his waist, he flung away the hatch, and attempted to drag forth
the man. This was a matter of great difficulty, and he found as the reason that the
legs of the unfortunate stranger were tightly embraced by the arms of another man,
who had hitherto been entirely beneath the surface.


At this moment his heart bounded to hear footsteps running towards him, and two men,
roused by Thomasin, appeared at the brink above. They ran to where Venn was, and
helped him in lifting out the apparently drowned persons, separating them, and lay-
ing them out upon the grass. Venn turned the light upon their faces. The one who had
been uppermost was Yeobright; he who had been completely submerged was Wildeve.

"Now we must search the hole again," said Venn. "A woman is in there somewhere. Get
a pole."

One of the men went to the footbridge and tore off the handrail.
The reddleman and
the two others then entered the water together from below as before, and with their
united force probed the pool forwards to where it sloped down to its central depth.
Venn was not mistaken in supposing that any person who had sunk for the last time
would be washed down to this point, for when they had examined to about halfway a-
cross something impeded their thrust.


"Pull it forward," said Venn, and they raked it in with the pole till it was close
to their feet.

Venn vanished under the stream, and came up with an armful of wet drapery enclosing
a woman's cold form, which was all that remained of the desperate Eustacia.


When they reached the bank there stood Thomasin, in a stress of grief, bending over
the two unconscious ones who already lay there. The horse and cart were brought to
the nearest point in the road, and it was the work of a few minutes only to place the
three in the vehicle. Venn led on the horse, supporting Thomasin upon his arm, and
the two men followed, till they reached the inn.

The woman who had been shaken out of her sleep by Thomasin had hastily dressed her-
self and lighted a fire, the other servant being left to snore on in peace at the
back of the house.
The insensible forms of Eustacia, Clym, and Wildeve were then
brought in and laid on the carpet, with their feet to the fire,
when such restorat-
ive processes as could be thought of were adopted at once, the stableman being in
the meantime sent for a doctor. But there seemed to be not a whiff of life in either
of the bodies. Then
Thomasin, whose stupor of grief had been thrust off awhile by
frantic action, applied a bottle of hartshorn to Clym's nostrils, having tried it
in vain upon the other two. He sighed.

"Clym's alive!" she exclaimed.

He soon breathed distinctly,
and again and again did she attempt to revive her hus-
band by the same means; but Wildeve gave no sign. There was too much reason to think
that he and Eustacia both were for ever
beyond the reach of stimulating perfumes.
Their exertions did not relax till the doctor arrived, when one by one, the sense-
less three were taken upstairs and put into warm beds
.

Venn soon felt himself relieved from further attendance, and went to the door, scarce-
ly able yet to realize the strange catastrophe that had befallen the family in which
he took so great an interest. Thomasin surely would be broken down by the sudden and
overwhelming nature of this event.
No firm and sensible Mrs. Yeobright lived now to
support the gentle girl through the ordeal; and, whatever an unimpassioned spectator
might think of her loss of such a husband as Wildeve, there could be no doubt that
for the moment she was distracted and horrified by the blow.
As for himself, not being
privileged to go to her and comfort her, he saw no reason for waiting longer in a
house where he remained only as a stranger.

He returned across the heath to his van. The fire was not yet out, and everything
remained as he had left it.
Venn now bethought himself of his clothes, which were
saturated with water to the weight of lead.
He changed them, spread them before the
fire, and lay down to sleep. But it was more than he could do to rest here while ex-
cited by a vivid imagination of the turmoil they were in at the house he had quitted,
and, blaming himself for coming away, he dressed in another suit, locked up the door,
and again hastened across to the inn. Rain was still falling heavily when he entered
the kitchen. A bright fire was shining from the hearth, and two women were bustling
about, one of whom was Olly Dowden.

"Well, how is it going on now?" said Venn in a whisper.

"Mr. Yeobright is better; but
Mrs. Yeobright and Mr. Wildeve are dead and cold. The
doctor says they were quite gone before they were out of the water."


"Ah! I thought as much when I hauled 'em up. And Mrs. Wildeve?"

"She is as well as can be expected. The doctor had her put between blankets, for
she
was almost as wet as they that had been in the river, poor young thing. You don't
seem very dry, reddleman."


"Oh, 'tis not much. I have changed my things. This is only a little dampness I've got
coming through the rain again."

"Stand by the fire. Mis'ess says you be to have whatever you want, and she was sorry
when she was told that you'd gone away."

Venn drew near to the fireplace, and looked into the flames in an absent mood. The
steam came from his leggings and ascended the chimney with the smoke, while he thought
of those who were upstairs. Two were corpses, one had barely escaped the jaws of death,
another was sick and a widow. The last occasion on which he had lingered by that fire-
place was when the raffle was in progress; when Wildeve was alive and well; Thomasin
active and smiling in the next room; Yeobright and Eustacia just made husband and wife,
and Mrs. Yeobright living at Blooms-End. It had seemed at that time that the then posi-
tion of affairs was good for at least twenty years to come. Yet, of all the circle, he
himself was the only one whose situation had not materially changed.


While he ruminated a footstep descended the stairs. It was the nurse, who brought in
her hand a rolled mass of wet paper. The woman was so engrossed with her occupation
that she hardly saw Venn. She took from a cupboard some pieces of twine, which she
strained across the fireplace, tying the end of each piece to the firedog, previously
pulled forward for the purpose, and, unrolling the wet papers, she began pinning them
one by one to the strings in a manner of clothes on a line.

"What be they?" said Venn.

"Poor master's banknotes," she answered. "They were found in his pocket when they un-
dressed him."

"Then he was not coming back again for some time?" said Venn.

"That we shall never know," said she.

Venn was loth to depart, for all on earth that interested him lay under this roof. As
nobody in the house had any more sleep that night, except the two who slept for ever,
there was no reason why he should not remain. So he retired into the niche of the fire-
place where he had used to sit, and there he continued, watching the steam from the
double row of banknotes as they waved backwards and forwards in the draught of the chim-
ney till their flaccidity was changed to dry crispness throughout.
Then the woman came
and unpinned them, and, folding them together, carried the handful upstairs. Presently
the doctor appeared from above with the look of a man who could do no more, and, pulling
on his gloves, went out of the house, the trotting of his horse soon dying away upon the
road.

At four o'clock there was a gentle knock at the door. It was from Charley, who had been
sent by Captain Vye to inquire if anything had been heard of Eustacia. The girl who ad-
mitted him looked in his face as if she did not know what answer to return, and showed
him in to where Venn was seated, saying to the reddleman, "Will you tell him, please?"

Venn told.
Charley's only utterance was a feeble, indistinct sound. He stood quite still;
then he burst out spasmodically, "I shall see her once more?"


"I dare say you may see her," said Diggory gravely. "But hadn't you better run and tell
Captain Vye?"

"Yes, yes. Only I do hope I shall see her just once again."

"You shall," said a low voice behind; and starting round they beheld by the dim light,
a thin, pallid, almost spectral form, wrapped in a blanket, and looking like Lazarus
coming from the tomb.


It was Yeobright. Neither Venn nor Charley spoke, and Clym continued, "You shall see her.
There will be time enough to tell the captain when it gets daylight. You would like to
see her too--would you not, Diggory?
She looks very beautiful now."

Venn assented by rising to his feet, and with Charley he followed Clym to the foot of
the staircase, where he took off his boots; Charley did the same. They followed Yeobright
upstairs to the landing, where there was a candle burning, which Yeobright took in his
hand, and with it led the way into an adjoining room. Here he went to the bedside and
folded back the sheet.

They stood silently looking upon Eustacia, who, as she lay there still in death, eclipsed
all her living phases. Pallor did not include all the quality of her complexion, which
seemed more than whiteness; it was almost light. The expression of her finely carved
mouth was pleasant, as if a sense of dignity had just compelled her to leave off speak-
ing. Eternal rigidity had seized upon it in a momentary transition between fervour and
resignation. Her black hair was looser now than either of them had ever seen it before,
and surrounded her brow like a forest. The stateliness of look which had been almost too
marked for a dweller in a country domicile had at last found an artistically happy back-
ground.


Nobody spoke, till at length Clym covered her and turned aside. "Now come here," he said.

They went to a recess in the same room, and there, on a smaller bed, lay another figure--
Wildeve.
Less repose was visible in his face than in Eustacia's, but the same luminous
youthfulness overspread it, and the least sympathetic observer would have felt at sight
of him now that he was born for a higher destiny than this. The only sign upon him of his
recent struggle for life was in his fingertips, which were worn and sacrificed in his dy-
ing endeavours to obtain a hold on the face of the weir-wall.


Yeobright's manner had been so quiet, he had uttered so few syllables since his reappear-
ance, that Venn imagined him resigned. It was only when they had left the room and stood
upon the landing that the true state of his mind was apparent. Here
he said, with a wild
smile, inclining his head towards the chamber in which Eustacia lay, "She is the second
woman I have killed this year.
I was a great cause of my mother's death, and I am the
chief cause of hers."

"How?" said Venn.

"I spoke cruel words to her, and she left my house. I did not invite her back till it was
too late. It is I who ought to have drowned myself. It would have been a charity to the
living had the river overwhelmed me and borne her up.
But I cannot die. Those who ought
to have lived lie dead; and here am I alive!"

"But you can't charge yourself with crimes in that way,"
said Venn. "You may as well say
that the parents be the cause of a murder by the child, for without the parents the child
would never have been begot."

"Yes, Venn, that is very true; but you don't know all the circumstances. If it had pleased
God to put an end to me it would have been a good thing for all.
But I am getting used to
the horror of my existence. They say that a time comes when men laugh at misery through
long acquaintance with it. Surely that time will soon come to me!"

"Your aim has always been good," said Venn. "Why should you say such desperate things?"

"No, they are not desperate. They are only hopeless; and my great regret is that for what
I have done no man or law can punish me!"




Book Sixth - The Aftercourses-



1 - The Inevitable Movement Onward



The story of the deaths of Eustacia and Wildeve was told throughout Egdon, and
far beyond, for many weeks and months. All the known incidents of their love were
enlarged, distorted, touched up, and modified, till the original reality bore but
a slight resemblance to the counterfeit presentation by surrounding tongues. Yet,
upon the whole, neither the man nor the woman lost dignity by sudden death.
Mis-
fortune had struck them gracefully, cutting off their erratic histories with a
catastrophic dash, instead of, as with many, attenuating each life to an uninter-
esting meagreness, through long years of wrinkles, neglect, and decay.


On those most nearly concerned the effect was somewhat different. Strangers who
had heard of many such cases now merely heard of one more;
but immediately where
a blow falls no previous imaginings amount to appreciable preparation for it
. The
very suddenness of her bereavement dulled, to some extent, Thomasin's feelings;
yet irrationally enough,
a consciousness that the husband she had lost ought to
have been a better man
did not lessen her mourning at all. On the contrary, this
fact seemed at first to set off the dead husband in his young wife's eyes, and to
be the necessary cloud to the rainbow.


But the horrors of the unknown had passed. Vague misgivings about her future as
a deserted wife were at an end. The worst had once been matter of trembling con-
jecture; it was now matter of reason only, a limited badness. Her chief interest,
the little Eustacia, still remained.
There was humility in her grief, no defiance
in her attitude; and when this is the case a shaken spirit is apt to be stilled.

Could Thomasin's mournfulness now and Eustacia's serenity during life have been
reduced to common measure, they would have touched the same mark nearly.
But Thom-
asin's former brightness made shadow of that which in a sombre atmosphere was
light itself.


The spring came and calmed her; the summer came and soothed her; the autumn ar-
rived, and she began to be comforted, for her little girl was strong and happy,
growing in size and knowledge every day. Outward events flattered Thomasin not a
little. Wildeve had died intestate, and she and the child were his only relatives.
When administration had been granted, all the debts paid, and the residue of her
husband's uncle's property had come into her hands, it was found that the sum wait-
ing to be invested for her own and the child's benefit was little less than ten
thousand pounds.


Where should she live? The obvious place was Blooms-End. The old rooms, it is true,
were not much higher than the between-decks of a frigate, necessitating a sinking
in the floor under the new clock-case she brought from the inn, and the removal of
the handsome brass knobs on its head, before there was height for it to stand; but,
such as the rooms were, there were plenty of them, and the place was endeared to
her by every early recollection. Clym very gladly admitted her as a tenant, confin-
ing his own existence to two rooms at the top of the back staircase, where he lived
on quietly, shut off from Thomasin and the three servants she had thought fit to in-
dulge in now that she was a mistress of money, going his own ways, and thinking his
own thoughts.

His sorrows had made some change in his outward appearance; and yet the alteration
was chiefly within.
It might have been said that he had a wrinkled mind. He had no
enemies, and he could get nobody to reproach him, which was why he so bitterly re-
proached himself.

He did sometimes think he had been ill-used by fortune, so far as to say that to be
born is a palpable dilemma, and that instead of men aiming to advance in life with
glory they should calculate how to retreat out of it without shame. But that he and
his had been sarcastically and pitilessly handled in having such irons thrust into
their souls he did not maintain long. It is usually so, except with the sternest of
men. Human beings, in their generous endeavour to construct a hypothesis that shall
not degrade a First Cause, have always hesitated to conceive a dominant power of low-
er moral quality than their own; and, even while they sit down and weep by the waters
of Babylon, invent excuses for the oppression which prompts their tears.


Thus, though words of solace were vainly uttered in his presence, he found relief in
a direction of his own choosing when left to himself. For a man of his habits the house
and the hundred and twenty pounds a year which he had inherited from his mother were
enough to supply all worldly needs. Resources do not depend upon gross amounts, but
upon the proportion of spendings to takings.


He frequently walked the heath alone, when the past seized upon him with its shadowy
hand, and held him there to listen to its tale. His imagination would then people the
spot with its ancient inhabitants--forgotten Celtic tribes trod their tracks about him,
and he could almost live among them, look in their faces, and see them standing beside
the barrows which swelled around, untouched and perfect as at the time of their erect-
ion. Those of the dyed barbarians who had chosen the cultivable tracts were, in compar-
ison with those who had left their marks here, as writers on paper beside writers on
parchment. Their records had perished long ago by the plough, while the works of these
remained. Yet they all had lived and died unconscious of the different fates awaiting
their relics. It reminded him that unforeseen factors operate in the evolution of immor-
tality.

Winter again came round, with its winds, frosts, tame robins, and sparkling starlight.
The year previous Thomasin had hardly been conscious of the season's advance; this year
she laid her heart open to external influences of every kind.
The life of this sweet
cousin, her baby, and her servants, came to Clym's senses only in the form of sounds
through a wood partition as he sat over books of exceptionally large type; but his ear
became at last so accustomed to these slight noises from the other part of the house
that he almost could witness the scenes they signified.
A faint beat of half-seconds
conjured up Thomasin rocking the cradle, a wavering hum meant that she was singing the
baby to sleep, a crunching of sand as between millstones raised the picture of Humph-
rey's, Fairway's, or Sam's heavy feet crossing the stone floor of the kitchen; a light
boyish step, and a gay tune in a high key, betokened a visit from Grandfer Cantle; a
sudden break-off in the Grandfer's utterances implied the application to his lips of a
mug of small beer, a bustling and slamming of doors meant starting to go to market;
for
Thomasin, in spite of her added scope of gentility, led a ludicrously narrow life, to
the end that she might save every possible pound for her little daughter.

One summer day Clym was in the garden, immediately outside the parlour window, which
was as usual open. He was looking at the pot-flowers on the sill; they had been revived
and restored by Thomasin to the state in which his mother had left them. He heard a slight
scream from Thomasin, who was sitting inside the room.

"O, how you frightened me!" she said to someone who had entered. "I thought you were the
ghost of yourself."

Clym was curious enough to advance a little further and look in at the window. To his
astonishment there stood within the room Diggory Venn, no longer a reddleman, but
exhib-
iting the strangely altered hues of an ordinary Christian countenance,
white shirt-front,
light flowered waistcoat, blue-spotted neckerchief, and bottle-green coat. Nothing in
this appearance was at all singular but the fact of its great difference from what he
had formerly been. Red, and all approach to red, was carefully excluded from every art-
icle of clothes upon him; for what is there that persons just out of harness dread so
much as reminders of the trade which has enriched them?

Yeobright went round to the door and entered.

"I was so alarmed!" said Thomasin, smiling from one to the other. "I couldn't believe
that he had got white of his own accord!
It seemed supernatural."

"I gave up dealing in reddle last Christmas," said Venn. "It was a profitable trade, and
I found that by that time I had made enough to take the dairy of fifty cows that my fa-
ther had in his lifetime. I always thought of getting to that place again if I changed
at all, and now I am there."

"How did you manage to become white, Diggory?" Thomasin asked.

"I turned so by degrees, ma'am."


"You look much better than ever you did before."

Venn appeared confused; and Thomasin, seeing how inadvertently she had spoken to a man
who might possibly have tender feelings for her still, blushed a little. Clym saw noth-
ing of this, and added good-humouredly--

"What shall we have to frighten Thomasin's baby with, now you have become a human being
again?"

"Sit down, Diggory," said Thomasin, "and stay to tea."

Venn moved as if he would retire to the kitchen, when Thomasin said with
pleasant pert-
ness
as she went on with some sewing, "Of course you must sit down here. And where does
your fifty-cow dairy lie, Mr. Venn?"


"At Stickleford--about two miles to the right of Alderworth, ma'am, where the meads begin.
I have thought that if Mr. Yeobright would like to pay me a visit sometimes he shouldn't
stay away for want of asking. I'll not bide to tea this afternoon, thank'ee, for I've got
something on hand that must be settled. 'Tis Maypole-day tomorrow, and the Shadwater folk
have clubbed with a few of your neighbours here to have a pole just outside your palings
in the heath, as it is a nice green place." Venn waved his elbow towards the patch in
front of the house. "I have been talking to Fairway about it," he continued, "and I said
to him that before we put up the pole it would be as well to ask Mrs. Wildeve."

"I can say nothing against it," she answered. "Our property does not reach an inch further
than the white palings."

"But you might not like to see a lot of folk going crazy round a stick, under your very
nose?"

"I shall have no objection at all."

Venn soon after went away, and in the evening Yeobright strolled as far as Fairway's cot-
tage. It was a lovely May sunset, and the birch trees which grew on this margin of the
vast Egdon wilderness had put on their
new leaves, delicate as butterflies' wings, and dia-
phanous as amber.
Beside Fairway's dwelling was an open space recessed from the road, and
here were now collected all the young people from within a radius of a couple of miles.
The pole lay with one end supported on a trestle, and women were engaged in wreathing it
from the top downwards with wild-flowers. The instincts of merry England lingered on here
with exceptional vitality,
and the symbolic customs which tradition has attached to each
season of the year were yet a reality on Egdon. Indeed,
the impulses of all such outlandish
hamlets are pagan still--in these spots homage to nature, self-adoration, frantic gaieties,
fragments of Teutonic rites to divinities whose names are forgotten,
seem in some way or
other to have survived mediaeval doctrine.

Yeobright did not interrupt the preparations, and went home again. The next morning, when
Thomasin withdrew the curtains of her bedroom window, there stood the Maypole in the middle
of the green, its top cutting into the sky. It had sprung up in the night, or rather early
morning, like Jack's bean-stalk. She opened the casement to get a better view of the gar-
lands and posies that adorned it.
The sweet perfume of the flowers had already spread into
the surrounding air, which, being free from every taint, conducted to her lips a full mea-
sure of the fragrance received from the spire of blossom in its midst.
At the top of the
pole were crossed hoops decked with small flowers; beneath these came
a milk-white zone of
Maybloom; then a zone of bluebells, then of cowslips, then of lilacs, then of ragged-robins,
daffodils,
and so on, till the lowest stage was reached. Thomasin noticed all these, and
was delighted that the May revel was to be so near.

When afternoon came people began to gather on the green, and Yeobright was interested enough
to look out upon them from the open window of his room. Soon after this Thomasin walked out
from the door immediately below and turned her eyes up to her cousin's face. She was dressed
more gaily than Yeobright had ever seen her dressed since the time of Wildeve's death, eight-
een months before; since the day of her marriage even she had not exhibited herself to such
advantage.

"How pretty you look today, Thomasin!" he said. "Is it because of the Maypole?"

"Not altogether." And then she blushed and dropped her eyes, which he did not specially ob-
serve, though her manner seemed to him to be rather peculiar, considering that she was only
addressing himself. Could it be possible that she had put on her summer clothes to please
him?

He recalled her conduct towards him throughout the last few weeks, when they had often been
working together in the garden, just as they had formerly done when they were boy and girl
under his mother's eye. What if her interest in him were not so entirely that of a relative
as it had formerly been? To Yeobright any possibility of this sort was a serious matter;
and he almost felt troubled at the thought of it.
Every pulse of loverlike feeling which
had not been stilled during Eustacia's lifetime had gone into the grave with her. His pass-
ion for her had occurred too far on in his manhood to leave fuel enough on hand for another
fire of that sort,
as may happen with more boyish loves. Even supposing him capable of lov-
ing again,
that love would be a plant of slow and laboured growth, and in the end only small
and sickly, like an autumn-hatched bird
.

He was so distressed by this new complexity that when the enthusiastic brass band arrived
and struck up, which it did about five o'clock, with apparently wind enough among its memb-
ers to blow down his house, he withdrew from his rooms by the back door, went down the gar-
den, through the gate in the hedge, and away out of sight. He could not bear to remain in
the presence of enjoyment today, though he had tried hard.

Nothing was seen of him for four hours. When he came back by the same path it was
dusk, and
the dews were coating every green thing.
The boisterous music had ceased; but, entering the
premises as he did from behind, he could not see if the May party had all gone till he had
passed through Thomasin's division of the house to the front door. Thomasin was standing
within the porch alone.

She looked at him reproachfully. "You went away just when it began, Clym," she said.


"Yes. I felt I could not join in. You went out with them, of course?"

"No, I did not."

"You appeared to be dressed on purpose."

"Yes, but I could not go out alone; so many people were there. One is there now."

Yeobright strained his eyes across the dark-green patch beyond the paling, and near the
black form of the Maypole he discerned a shadowy figure, sauntering idly up and down. "Who
is it?" he said.

"Mr. Venn," said Thomasin.

"You might have asked him to come in, I think, Tamsie. He has been very kind to you first
and last."

"I will now," she said; and, acting on the impulse, went through the wicket to where Venn
stood under the Maypole.

"It is Mr. Venn, I think?" she inquired.

Venn started as if he had not seen her--artful man that he was--and said, "Yes."

"Will you come in?"

"I am afraid that I--"

"I have seen you dancing this evening, and you had the very best of the girls for your part-
ners.
Is it that you won't come in because you wish to stand here, and think over the past
hours of enjoyment?"

"Well, that's partly it," said Mr. Venn, with ostentatious sentiment. "But the main reason
why I am biding here like this is that I want to wait till the moon rises."

"To see how pretty the Maypole looks in the moonlight?"

"No. To look for a glove that was dropped by one of the maidens."

Thomasin was speechless with surprise. That a man who had to walk some four or five miles
to his home should wait here for such a reason pointed to only one conclusion--the man must
be amazingly interested in that glove's owner.

"Were you dancing with her, Diggory?" she asked, in a voice which revealed that he had made
himself considerably more interesting to her by this disclosure.

"No," he sighed.


"And you will not come in, then?"

"Not tonight, thank you, ma'am."

"Shall I lend you a lantern to look for the young person's glove, Mr. Venn?"

"O no; it is not necessary, Mrs. Wildeve, thank you. The moon will rise in a few minutes."

Thomasin went back to the porch. "Is he coming in?" said Clym, who had been waiting where
she had left him.

"He would rather not tonight," she said, and then passed by him into the house; whereupon
Clym too retired to his own rooms.

When Clym was gone Thomasin crept upstairs in the dark, and, just listening by the cot, to
assure herself that the child was asleep, she went to the window, gently lifted the corner
of the white curtain, and looked out. Venn was still there.
She watched the growth of the
faint radiance appearing in the sky by the eastern hill, till presently the edge of the moon
burst upwards and flooded the valley with light.
Diggory's form was now distinct on the green;
he was moving about in a bowed attitude, evidently scanning the grass for the precious miss-
ing article, walking in zigzags right and left till he should have passed over every foot of
the ground.

"How very ridiculous!" Thomasin murmured to herself, in a tone which was intended to be sa-
tirical. "To think that a man should be so silly as to go mooning about like that for a girl's
glove! A respectable dairyman, too, and a man of money as he is now. What a pity!"

At last Venn appeared to find it; whereupon he stood up and
raised it to his lips. Then pla-
cing it in
his breastpocket--the nearest receptacle to a man's heart permitted by modern rai-
ment
--he ascended the valley in a mathematically direct line towards his distant home in the
meadows.




2 - Thomasin Walks in a Green Place by the Roman Road



Clym saw little of Thomasin for several days after this; and when they met she was more silent
than usual. At length he asked her what she was thinking of so intently.

"I am thoroughly perplexed," she said candidly. "I cannot for my life think who it is that
Diggory Venn is so much in love with. None of the girls at the Maypole were good enough for
him, and yet she must have been there."

Clym tried to imagine Venn's choice for a moment; but ceasing to be interested in the question
he went on again with his gardening.


No clearing up of the mystery was granted her for some time. But one afternoon Thomasin was
upstairs getting ready for a walk, when she had occasion to come to the landing and call "Ra-
chel." Rachel was a girl about thirteen, who carried the baby out for airings; and she came
upstairs at the call.

"Have you seen one of my last new gloves about the house, Rachel?" inquired Thomasin. "It is
the fellow to this one."

Rachel did not reply.

"Why don't you answer?" said her mistress.

"I think it is lost, ma'am."

"Lost? Who lost it? I have never worn them but once."

Rachel appeared as one dreadfully troubled, and at last began to cry. "Please, ma'am, on the
day of the Maypole I had none to wear, and I seed yours on the table, and I thought I would
borrow 'em. I did not mean to hurt 'em at all, but one of them got lost. Somebody gave me some
money to buy another pair for you, but I have not been able to go anywhere to get 'em."

"Who's somebody?"

"Mr. Venn."

"Did he know it was my glove?"

"Yes. I told him."

Thomasin was so surprised by the explanation that she quite forgot to lecture the girl, who
glided silently away. Thomasin did not move further than to turn her eyes upon the grass-plat
where the Maypole had stood. She remained thinking, then said to herself that she would not go
out that afternoon, but would work hard at the baby's unfinished lovely plaid frock, cut on the
cross in the newest fashion. How she managed to work hard, and yet do no more than she had done
at the end of two hours, would have been a mystery to anyone not aware that the recent incident
was of a kind likely to
divert her industry from a manual to a mental channel.

Next day she went her ways as usual, and continued her custom of walking in the heath with no
other companion than
little Eustacia, now of the age when it is a matter of doubt with such
characters whether they are intended to walk through the world on their hands or on their feet;
so that they get into painful complications by trying both
. It was very pleasant to Thomasin,
when she had carried the child to some lonely place, to give her a little private practice on
the green turf and shepherd's-thyme, which formed a soft mat to fall headlong upon them when
equilibrium was lost.


Once, when engaged in this system of training, and stooping to remove bits of stick, fern-stalks,
and other such fragments from the child's path, that the journey might not be brought to an un-
timely end by some insuperable barrier a quarter of an inch high, she was alarmed by discovering
that a man on horseback was almost close beside her, the soft natural carpet having muffled the
horse's tread. The rider, who was Venn, waved his hat in the air and bowed gallantly.

"Diggory, give me my glove," said Thomasin, whose manner it was under any circumstances to plunge
into the midst of a subject which engrossed her.

Venn immediately dismounted, put his hand in his breastpocket, and handed the glove.

"Thank you. It was very good of you to take care of it."

"It is very good of you to say so."

"O no. I was quite glad to find you had it. Everybody gets so indifferent that I was surprised to
know you thought of me."

"If you had remembered what I was once you wouldn't have been surprised."

"Ah, no," she said quickly. "But men of your character are mostly so independent."

"What is my character?" he asked.

"I don't exactly know," said Thomasin simply, "except it is to cover up your feelings under a prac-
tical manner, and only to show them when you are alone."

"Ah, how do you know that?" said Venn strategically.

"Because," said she, stopping to put the little girl, who had managed to get herself upside down,
right end up again, "because I do."

"You mustn't judge by folks in general," said Venn. "Still I don't know much what feelings are now-
adays.
I have got so mixed up with business of one sort and t'other that my soft sentiments are gone
off in vapour like.
Yes, I am given up body and soul to the making of money. Money is all my dream."

"O Diggory, how wicked!" said Thomasin reproachfully, and looking at him in exact balance between
taking his words seriously and judging them as said to tease her.

"Yes, 'tis rather a rum course," said Venn, in the bland tone of one comfortably resigned to sins
he could no longer overcome.

"You, who used to be so nice!"

"Well, that's an argument I rather like, because what a man has once been he may be again."
Thomasin blushed. "Except that it is rather harder now," Venn continued.

"Why?" she asked.

"Because you be richer than you were at that time."

"O no--not much. I have made it nearly all over to the baby, as it was my duty to do, except just
enough to live on."

"I am rather glad of that," said Venn softly, and regarding her from the corner of his eye, "for
it makes it easier for us to be friendly."

Thomasin blushed again, and, when a few more words had been said of a not unpleasing kind, Venn
mounted his horse and rode on.

This conversation had passed in a hollow of the heath near the old Roman road, a place much fre-
quented by Thomasin. And it might have been observed that she did not in future walk that way less
often from having met Venn there now. Whether or not Venn abstained from riding thither because he
had met Thomasin in the same place might easily have been guessed from her proceedings about two
months later in the same year.




3 - The Serious Discourse of Clym with His Cousin



Throughout this period Yeobright had more or less pondered on his duty to his cousin Thomasin.
He could not help feeling that it would be
a pitiful waste of sweet material if the tender-na-
tured thing should be doomed from this early stage of her life onwards to dribble away her
winsome qualities on lonely gorse and fern. But he felt this as an economist merely, and not
as a lover.
His passion for Eustacia had been a sort of conserve of his whole life, and he had
nothing more of that supreme quality left to bestow. So far the obvious thing was not to enter-
tain any idea of marriage with Thomasin, even to oblige her.

But this was not all. Years ago there had been in his mother's mind a great fancy about Thom-
asin and himself. It had not positively amounted to a desire, but it had always been a favou-
rite dream. That they should be man and wife in good time, if the happiness of neither were
endangered thereby, was the fancy in question. So that what course save one was there now left
for any son who reverenced his mother's memory as Yeobright did? It is an unfortunate fact that
any particular whim of parents, which might have been dispersed by half an hour's conversation
during their lives, becomes sublimated by their deaths into a fiat the most absolute, with such
results to conscientious children as those parents, had they lived, would have been the first
to decry.

Had only Yeobright's own future been involved he would have proposed to Thomasin with a ready
heart. He had nothing to lose by carrying out a dead mother's hope. But he dreaded to contem-
plate Thomasin wedded to
the mere corpse of a lover that he now felt himself to be. He had but
three activities alive in him. One was his almost daily walk to the little graveyard wherein
his mother lay, another, his just as frequent visits by night to the more distant enclosure
which numbered his Eustacia among its dead; the third was self-preparation for a vocation which
alone seemed likely to satisfy his cravings--that of an itinerant preacher of the eleventh co-
mmandment. It was difficult to believe that Thomasin would be cheered by a husband with such
tendencies as these.


Yet he resolved to ask her, and let her decide for herself. It was even with a pleasant sense
of doing his duty that he went downstairs to her one evening for this purpose, when the sun
was printing on the valley the same long shadow of the housetop that he had seen lying there
times out of number while his mother lived.

Thomasin was not in her room, and he found her in the front garden. "I have long been wanting,
Thomasin," he began, "to say something about a matter that concerns both our futures."

"And you are going to say it now?" she remarked quickly, colouring as she met his gaze. "Do
stop a minute, Clym, and let me speak first, for oddly enough, I have been wanting to say
something to you."

"By all means say on, Tamsie."

"I suppose nobody can overhear us?" she went on, casting her eyes around and lowering her
voice. "Well, first you will promise me this--that you won't be angry and call me anything
harsh if you disagree with what I propose?"

Yeobright promised, and she continued: "What I want is your advice, for you are my relation--
I mean, a sort of guardian to me--aren't you, Clym?"

"Well, yes, I suppose I am; a sort of guardian. In fact, I am, of course," he said, altoge-
ther perplexed as to her drift.

"I am thinking of marrying," she then observed blandly. "But I shall not marry unless you
assure me that you approve of such a step. Why don't you speak?"

"I was taken rather by surprise. But, nevertheless, I am very glad to hear such news. I
shall approve, of course, dear Tamsie. Who can it be? I am quite at a loss to guess. No I
am not--'tis the old doctor!--not that I mean to call him old, for he is not very old after
all. Ah--I noticed when he attended you last time!"

"No, no," she said hastily. "'Tis Mr. Venn."

Clym's face suddenly became grave.

"There, now, you don't like him, and I wish I hadn't mentioned him!" she exclaimed almost
petulantly. "And I shouldn't have done it, either, only he keeps on bothering me so till I
don't know what to do!"

Clym looked at the heath. "I like Venn well enough," he answered at last. "He is a very
honest and at the same time astute man. He is clever too, as is proved by his having got
you to favour him. But really, Thomasin, he is not quite--"

"Gentleman enough for me? That is just what I feel. I am sorry now that I asked you, and
I won't think any more of him. At the same time I must marry him if I marry anybody--that
I will say!"

"I don't see that," said Clym, carefully concealing every clue to his own interrupted in-
tention, which she plainly had not guessed. "You might marry a professional man, or some-
body of that sort, by going into the town to live and forming acquaintances there."

"I am not fit for town life--so very rural and silly as I always have been. Do not you
yourself notice my countrified ways?"

"Well, when I came home from Paris I did, a little; but I don't now."

"That's because you have got countrified too.
O, I couldn't live in a street for the world!
Egdon is a ridiculous old place; but I have got used to it,
and I couldn't be happy any-
where else at all."

"Neither could I," said Clym.

"Then how could you say that I should marry some town man? I am sure, say what you will,
that I must marry Diggory, if I marry at all. He has been kinder to me than anybody else,
and has helped me in many ways that I don't know of!" Thomasin almost pouted now.

"Yes, he has," said Clym in a neutral tone. "Well, I wish with all my heart that I could
say, marry him. But I cannot forget what my mother thought on that matter, and it goes
rather against me not to respect her opinion. There is too much reason why we should do
the little we can to respect it now."

"Very well, then," sighed Thomasin. "I will say no more."

"But you are not bound to obey my wishes. I merely say what I think."

"O no--I don't want to be rebellious in that way," she said sadly.
"I had no business to
think of him--I ought to have thought of my family. What dreadfully bad impulses there
are in me!" Her lips trembled, and she turned away to hide a tear.


Clym, though vexed at what seemed her unaccountable taste, was in a measure relieved to
find that at any rate the marriage question in relation to himself was shelved. Through
several succeeding days he saw her at different times from the window of his room moping
disconsolately about the garden. He was half angry with her for choosing Venn; then he
was grieved at having put himself in the way of Venn's happiness, who was, after all, as
honest and persevering a young fellow as any on Egdon, since he had turned over a new
leaf. In short, Clym did not know what to do.

When next they met she said abruptly, "He is much more respectable now than he was then!"

"Who? O yes--Diggory Venn."

"Aunt only objected because he was a reddleman."

"Well, Thomasin, perhaps I don't know all the particulars of my mother's wish. So you had
better use your own discretion."

"You will always feel that I slighted your mother's memory."


"No, I will not. I shall think you are convinced that, had she seen Diggory in his present
position, she would have considered him a fitting husband for you. Now, that's my real
feeling. Don't consult me any more, but do as you like, Thomasin. I shall be content."


It is to be supposed that Thomasin was convinced; for a few days after this, when Clym
strayed into a part of the heath that he had not lately visited, Humphrey, who was at
work there, said to him, "I am glad to see that Mrs. Wildeve and Venn have made it up
again, seemingly."

"Have they?" said Clym abstractedly.

"Yes; and he do contrive to stumble upon her whenever she walks out on fine days with the
chiel. But, Mr. Yeobright, I can't help feeling that your cousin ought to have married you.
'Tis a pity to make two chimleycorners where there need be only one. You could get her away
from him now, 'tis my belief, if you were only to set about it."

"How can I have the conscience to marry after having driven two women to their deaths?
Don't think such a thing, Humphrey. After my experience
I should consider it too much of
a burlesque to go to church and take a wife.
In the words of Job, 'I have made a covenant
with mine eyes; when then should I think upon a maid?'"

"No, Mr. Clym, don't fancy that about driving two women to their deaths. You shouldn't
say it."

"Well, we'll leave that out," said Yeobright. "But anyhow God has set a mark upon me which
wouldn't look well in a love-making scene. I have two ideas in my head, and no others. I
am going to keep a night-school; and I am going to turn preacher. What have you got to say
to that, Humphrey?"

"I'll come and hear 'ee with all my heart."

"Thanks. 'Tis all I wish."

As Clym descended into the valley Thomasin came down by the other path, and met him at
the gate. "What do you think I have to tell you, Clym?" she said, looking archly over her
shoulder at him.

"I can guess," he replied.

She scrutinized his face. "Yes, you guess right. It is going to be after all. He thinks I
may as well make up my mind, and I have got to think so too. It is to be on the twenty-
fifth of next month, if you don't object."

"Do what you think right, dear. I am only too glad that you see your way clear to happiness
again. My sex owes you every amends for the treatment you received in days gone by."


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* The writer may state here that the original conception of the story did not design a mar-
riage between Thomasin and Venn. He was to have retained his isolated and weird character
to the last, and to have disappeared mysteriously from the heath, nobody knowing whither--
Thomasin remaining a widow. But certain circumstances of serial publication led to a change
of intent.
Readers can therefore choose between the endings, and those with an austere artistic code
can assume the more consistent conclusion to be the true one.*
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------



4 - Cheerfulness Again Asserts Itself at Blooms-End, and Clym Finds His Vocation



Anybody who had passed through Blooms-End about eleven o'clock on the morning fixed for the
wedding would have found that, while Yeobright's house was comparatively quiet, sounds deno-
ting great activity came from the dwelling of his nearest neighbour, Timothy Fairway. It was
chiefly
a noise of feet, briskly crunching hither and thither over the sanded floor within.
One man only was visible outside, and he seemed to be later at an appointment than he had
intended to be, for he hastened up to the door, lifted the latch, and walked in without cer-
emony.

The scene within was not quite the customary one. Standing about the room was the little knot
of men who formed the chief part of the Egdon coterie, there being present Fairway himself,
Grandfer Cantle, Humphrey, Christian, and one or two turf-cutters. It was a warm day, and the
men were as a matter of course in their shirtsleeves, except Christian, who had always a ner-
vous fear of parting with a scrap of his clothing when in anybody's house but his own. Across
the stout oak table in the middle of the room was thrown a mass of striped linen, which Grand-
fer Cantle held down on one side, and Humphrey on the other, while Fairway
rubbed its surface
with a yellow lump, his face being damp and creased with the effort of the labour.


"Waxing a bed-tick, souls?" said the newcomer.

"Yes, Sam," said Grandfer Cantle, as a man too busy to waste words. "Shall I stretch this cor-
ner a shade tighter, Timothy?"

Fairway replied, and the waxing went on with unabated vigour. "'Tis going to be a good bed, by
the look o't," continued Sam, after an interval of silence. "Who may it be for?"

"'Tis a present for the new folks that's going to set up housekeeping," said Christian, who
stood helpless and overcome by the majesty of the proceedings.

"Ah, to be sure; and a valuable one, 'a b'lieve."

"Beds be dear to fokes that don't keep geese, bain't they, Mister Fairway?" said Christian, as
to an omniscient being.


"Yes," said the furze-dealer, standing up,
giving his forehead a thorough mopping, and handing
the beeswax to Humphrey
, who succeeded at the rubbing forthwith. "Not that this couple be in
want of one, but
'twas well to show 'em a bit of friendliness at this great racketing vagary of
their lives.
I set up both my own daughters in one when they was married, and there have been
feathers enough for another in the house the last twelve months. Now then, neighbours, I think
we have laid on enough wax. Grandfer Cantle, you turn the tick the right way outwards, and then
I'll begin to shake in the feathers."

When the bed was in proper trim Fairway and Christian brought forward vast paper bags, stuffed
to the full, but light as balloons, and began to turn the contents of each into the receptacle
just prepared.
As bag after bag was emptied, airy tufts of down and feathers floated about the
room in increasing quantity till, through a mishap of Christian's, who shook the contents of
one bag outside the tick, the atmosphere of the room became dense with gigantic flakes, which
descended upon the workers like a windless snowstorm.

"I never saw such a clumsy chap as you, Christian," said Grandfer Cantle severely.
"You might
have been the son of a man that's never been outside Blooms-End in his life for all the wit you
have. Really all the soldiering and smartness in the world in the father seems to count for no-
thing in forming the nater of the son. As far as that chief Christian is concerned I might as
well have stayed at home and seed nothing, like all the rest of ye here. Though, as far as my-
self is concerned, a dashing spirit has counted for sommat, to be sure!"

"Don't ye let me down so, Father; I feel no bigger than a ninepin after it. I've made but a
bruckle hit, I'm afeard."

"Come, come. Never pitch yerself in such a low key as that, Christian; you should try more,"
said Fairway.

"Yes, you should try more," echoed the Grandfer with insistence, as if he had been the first
to make the suggestion.
"In common conscience every man ought either to marry or go for a sol-
dier.
'Tis a scandal to the nation to do neither one nor t'other. I did both, thank God! Nei-
ther to raise men nor to lay 'em low-- that shows a poor do-nothing spirit indeed."


"I never had the nerve to stand fire," faltered Christian. "But as to marrying, I own I've
asked here and there, though without much fruit from it. Yes, there's some house or other that
might have had a man for a master--such as he is--that's now ruled by a woman alone. Still it
might have been awkward if I had found her; for, d'ye see, neighbours,
there'd have been nobody
left at home to keep down Father's spirits to the decent pitch that becomes a old man."


"And you've your work cut out to do that, my son," said Grandfer Cantle smartly. "I wish that
the dread of infirmities was not so strong in me!--I'd start the very first thing tomorrow to
see the world over again! But seventy-one, though nothing at home, is a high figure for a ro-
ver....
Ay, seventy-one, last Candlemasday. Gad, I'd sooner have it in guineas than in years!"
And the old man sighed.

"Don't you be mournful, Grandfer," said Fairway. "Empty some more feathers into the bed-tick,
and keep up yer heart. Though rather lean in the stalks you be a green-leaved old man still.
There's time enough left to ye yet to fill whole chronicles."

"Begad, I'll go to 'em, Timothy--to the married pair!" said Granfer Cantle in an encouraged
voice, and starting round briskly. "I'll go to 'em tonight and sing a wedding song, hey? 'Tis
like me to do so, you know; and they'd see it as such. My 'Down in Cupid's Gardens' was well
liked in four; still, I've got others as good, and even better. What do you say to my

She cal'-led to' her love'
From the lat'-tice a-bove,
'O come in' from the fog-gy fog'-gy dew'.'

'Twould please 'em well at such a time! Really, now I come to think of it,
I haven't turned
my tongue in my head to the shape of a real good song since Old Midsummer night, when we had
the 'Barley Mow' at the Woman; and 'tis a pity to neglect your strong point where there's few
that have the compass for such things!"


"So 'tis, so 'tis," said Fairway. "Now gie the bed a shake down. We've put in seventy pounds
of best feathers, and I think that's as many as the tick will fairly hold. A bit and a drap
wouldn't be amiss now, I reckon. Christian,
maul down the victuals from corner-cupboard if
canst reach, man, and I'll draw a drap o' sommat to wet it with."

They sat down to a lunch in the midst of their work,
feathers around, above, and below them;
the original owners of which occasionally came to the open door and cackled begrudgingly at
sight of such a quantity of their old clothes.


"Upon my soul I shall be chokt," said Fairway when, having extracted a feather from his mouth,
he found several others floating on the mug as it was handed round.

"I've swallered several; and one had a tolerable quill," said Sam placidly from the corner.

"Hullo--what's that--wheels I hear coming?" Grandfer Cantle exclaimed, jumping up and hasten-
ing to the door. "Why, 'tis they back again--I didn't expect 'em yet this half-hour.
To be
sure, how quick marrying can be done when you are in the mind for't!"


"O yes, it can soon be done," said Fairway, as if something should be added to make the state-
ment complete.

He arose and followed the Grandfer, and the rest also went to the door. In a moment an open
fly was driven past, in which sat Venn and Mrs. Venn, Yeobright, and a grand relative of Venn's
who had come from Budmouth for the occasion. The fly had been hired at the nearest town, regard-
less of distance and cost, there being nothing on Egdon Heath, in Venn's opinion, dignified
enough for such an event when such a woman as Thomasin was the bride; and the church was too
remote for a walking bridal-party.

As the fly passed the group which had run out from the homestead they shouted
"Hurrah!" and
waved their hands; feathers and down floating from their hair, their sleeves, and the folds of
their garments at every motion, and Grandfer Cantle's seals dancing merrily in the sunlight as
he twirled himself about.
The driver of the fly turned a supercilious gaze upon them; he even
treated the wedded pair themselves with something like condescension; for in what other state
than heathen could people, rich or poor, exist who were doomed to abide in such a world's end
as Egdon? Thomasin showed no such superiority to the group at the door, fluttering her hand as
quickly as a bird's wing towards them, and asking Diggory, with tears in her eyes, if they
ought not to alight and speak to these kind neighbours.
Venn, however, suggested that, as they
were all coming to the house in the evening, this was hardly necessary.


After this excitement the saluting party retu