The Return of the Native (04 of 10)

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The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
Book 2 “The Arrival” 4—Eustacia Is Led on to an Adventure
In the evening of this last day of expectation, which was the
twenty-third of December, Eustacia was at home alone. She had passed
the recent hour in lamenting over a rumour newly come to her ears—that
Yeobright's visit to his mother was to be of short duration, and would
end some time the next week. "Naturally," she said to herself. A man
in the full swing of his activities in a gay city could not afford to
linger long on Egdon Heath. That she would behold face to face the owner
of the awakening voice within the limits of such a holiday was most
unlikely, unless she were to haunt the environs of his mother's house
like a robin, to do which was difficult and unseemly.
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. And hither
a comparatively recent settler like Eustacia may betake herself to
scrutinize the person of a native son who left home before her advent
upon the scene, and consider if the friendship of his parents be worth
cultivating during his next absence in order to secure a knowledge of
him on his next return.
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.
It was dusk, and she was sitting by the fire in the dining-room or
hall, which they occupied at this time of the year in preference to the
parlour, because of its large hearth, constructed for turf-fires, a
fuel the captain was partial to in the winter season. The only visible
articles in the room were those on the window-sill, which showed their
shapes against the low sky, the middle article being the old hourglass,
and the other two a pair of ancient British urns which had been dug
from a barrow near, and were used as flowerpots for two razor-leaved
cactuses. Somebody knocked at the door. The servant was out; so was her
grandfather. The person, after waiting a minute, came in and tapped at
the door of the room.
"Who's there?" said Eustacia.
"Please, Cap'n Vye, will you let us——"
Eustacia arose and went to the door. "I cannot allow you to come in so
boldly. You should have waited."
"The cap'n said I might come in without any fuss," was answered in a
lad's pleasant voice.
"Oh, did he?" said Eustacia more gently. "What do you want, Charley?"
"Please will your grandfather lend us his fuelhouse to try over our
parts in, tonight at seven o'clock?"
"What, are you one of the Egdon mummers for this year?"
"Yes, miss. The cap'n used to let the old mummers practise here."
"I know it. Yes, you may use the fuelhouse if you like," said Eustacia
The choice of Captain Vye's fuelhouse as the scene of rehearsal was
dictated by the fact that his dwelling was nearly in the centre of the
heath. The fuelhouse was as roomy as a barn, and was a most desirable
place for such a purpose. The lads who formed the company of players
lived at different scattered points around, and by meeting in this spot
the distances to be traversed by all the comers would be about equally
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.
The result was that in the end the Valiant Soldier, of the Christian
army, was distinguished by no peculiarity of accoutrement from the
Turkish Knight; and what was worse, on a casual view Saint George
himself might be mistaken for his deadly enemy, the Saracen. The guisers
themselves, though inwardly regretting this confusion of persons, could
not afford to offend those by whose assistance they so largely profited,
and the innovations were allowed to stand.
There was, it is true, a limit to this tendency to uniformity. The
Leech or Doctor preserved his character intact—his darker habiliments,
peculiar hat, and the bottle of physic slung under his arm, could never
be mistaken. And the same might be said of the conventional figure of
Father Christmas, with his gigantic club, an older man, who accompanied
the band as general protector in long night journeys from parish to
parish, and was bearer of the purse.
Seven o'clock, the hour of the rehearsal, came round, and in a short
time Eustacia could hear voices in the fuelhouse. 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.
On a ledge in the fuelhouse stood three tall rushlights and by the
light of them seven or eight lads were marching about, haranguing, and
confusing each other, in endeavours to perfect themselves in the play.
Humphrey and Sam, the furze-and turf-cutters, were there looking on, so
also was Timothy Fairway, who leant against the wall and prompted
the boys from memory, interspersing among the set words remarks and
anecdotes of the superior days when he and others were the Egdon
mummers-elect that these lads were now.
"Well, ye be as well up to it as ever ye will be," he said. "Not that
such mumming would have passed in our time. Harry as the Saracen should
strut a bit more, and John needn't holler his inside out. Beyond that
perhaps you'll do. Have you got all your clothes ready?"
"We shall by Monday."
"Your first outing will be Monday night, I suppose?"
"Yes. At Mrs. Yeobright's."
"Oh, Mrs. Yeobright's. What makes her want to see ye? I should think a
middle-aged woman was tired of mumming."
"She's got up a bit of a party, because 'tis the first Christmas that
her son Clym has been home for a long time."
"To be sure, to be sure—her party! I am going myself. I almost forgot
it, upon my life."
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
The lads and men prepared to leave the premises, and Eustacia returned
to her fireside. She was immersed in thought, but not for long. In a
few minutes the lad Charley, who had come to ask permission to use the
place, returned with the key to the kitchen. Eustacia heard him, and
opening the door into the passage said, "Charley, come here."
The lad was surprised. He entered the front room not without blushing;
for he, like many, had felt the power of this girl's face and form.
She pointed to a seat by the fire, and entered the other side of the
chimney-corner herself. It could be seen in her face that whatever
motive she might have had in asking the youth indoors would soon appear.
"Which part do you play, Charley—the Turkish Knight, do you not?"
inquired the beauty, looking across the smoke of the fire to him on the
other side.
"Yes, miss, the Turkish Knight," he replied diffidently.
"Is yours a long part?"
"Nine speeches, about."
"Can you repeat them to me? If so I should like to hear them."
The lad smiled into the glowing turf and began—
"Here come I, a Turkish Knight, Who learnt in Turkish land to fight,"
continuing the discourse throughout the scenes to the concluding
catastrophe of his fall by the hand of Saint George.
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."
"I have heard it before," she quietly observed. "Now, would you do
anything to please me, Charley?"
"I'd do a good deal, miss."
"Would you let me play your part for one night?"
"Oh, miss! But your woman's gown—you couldn't."
"I can get boy's clothes—at least all that would be wanted besides the
mumming dress. What should I have to give you to lend me your things,
to let me take your place for an hour or two on Monday night, and on no
account to say a word about who or what I am? You would, of course, have
to excuse yourself from playing that night, and to say that somebody—a
cousin of Miss Vye's—would act for you. The other mummers have never
spoken to me in their lives so that it would be safe enough; and if it
were not, I should not mind. Now, what must I give you to agree to this?
Half a crown?"
The youth shook his head
"Five shillings?"
He shook his head again. "Money won't do it," he said, brushing the iron
head of the firedog with the hollow of his hand.
"What will, then, Charley?" said Eustacia in a disappointed tone.
"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. Very well; you shall be allowed to have my hand as soon as you
bring the dress and your sword and staff. I don't want you any longer
Charley departed, and 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.
On the question of recognition she was somewhat indifferent. By the
acting lads themselves she was not likely to be known. With the guests
who might be assembled she was hardly so secure. Yet detection, after
all, would be no such dreadful thing. The fact only could be detected,
her true motive never. It would be instantly set down as the passing
freak of a girl whose ways were already considered singular. That she
was doing for an earnest reason what would most naturally be done in
jest was at any rate a safe secret.
The next evening Eustacia stood punctually at the fuelhouse door,
waiting for the dusk which was to bring Charley with the trappings.
Her grandfather was at home tonight, and she would be unable to ask her
confederate indoors.
He appeared on the dark ridge of heathland, like a fly on a Negro,
bearing the articles with him, and came up breathless with his walk.
"Here are the things," he whispered, placing them upon the threshold.
"And now, Miss Eustacia—"
"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
"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. Now, there is only one thing I want you to do—to wait while
I put on the dress, and then to see if I do my part properly. But let me
look first indoors."
She vanished for a minute or two, and went in. Her grandfather was
safely asleep in his chair. "Now, then," she said, on returning, "walk
down the garden a little way, and when I am ready I'll call you."
Charley walked and waited, and presently heard a soft whistle. He
returned to the fuelhouse door.
"Did you whistle, Miss Vye?"
"Yes; come in," reached him in Eustacia's voice from a back quarter.
"I must not strike a light till the door is shut, or it may be seen
shining. Push your hat into the hole through to the wash-house, if you
can feel your way across."
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
"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.
"And now for your excuse to the others," she said. "Where do you meet
before you go to Mrs. Yeobright's?"
"We thought of meeting here, miss, if you have nothing to say against
it. At eight o'clock, so as to get there by nine."
"Yes. Well, you of course must not appear. I will march in about five
minutes late, ready-dressed, and tell them that you can't come. I have
decided that the best plan will be for you to be sent somewhere by me,
to make a real thing of the excuse. Our two heath-croppers are in the
habit of straying into the meads, and tomorrow evening you can go and
see if they are gone there. I'll manage the rest. Now you may leave me."
"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
"You had good measure," said she, turning away.
"Yes, miss. Well, 'tis over, and now I'll get home-along."
5—Through the Moonlight
The next evening the mummers were assembled in the same spot, awaiting
the entrance of the Turkish Knight.
"Twenty minutes after eight by the Quiet Woman, and Charley not come."
"Ten minutes past by Blooms-End."
"It wants ten minutes to, by Grandfer Cantle's watch."
"And 'tis five minutes past by the captain's clock."
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
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.
"It don't matter—if you be not too young," said Saint George.
Eustacia's voice had sounded somewhat more juvenile and fluty than
"I know every word of it, I tell you," said Eustacia decisively. Dash
being all that was required to carry her triumphantly through, she
adopted as much as was necessary. "Go ahead, lads, with the try-over.
I'll challenge any of you to find a mistake in me."
The play was hastily rehearsed, whereupon the other mummers were
delighted with the new knight. They extinguished the candles at
half-past eight, and set out upon the heath in the direction of Mrs.
Yeobright's house at Bloom's-End.
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
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
"Why does Mrs. Yeobright give parties of this sort?" Eustacia asked, a
little surprised to hear merriment so pronounced.
"It is not one of her bettermost parlour-parties. She's asked the plain
neighbours and workpeople without drawing any lines, just to give 'em a
good supper and such like. Her son and she wait upon the folks."
"I see," said Eustacia.
"'Tis the last strain, I think," said Saint George, with his ear to the
panel. "A young man and woman have just swung into this corner, and he's
saying to her, 'Ah, the pity; 'tis over for us this time, my own.'"
"Thank God," said the Turkish Knight, stamping, and taking from the wall
the conventional lance that each of the mummers carried. Her boots being
thinner than those of the young men, the hoar had damped her feet and
made them cold.
"Upon my song 'tis another ten minutes for us," said the Valiant
Soldier, looking through the keyhole as the tune modulated into another
without stopping. "Grandfer Cantle is standing in this corner, waiting
his turn."
"'Twon't be long; 'tis a six-handed reel," said the Doctor.
"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."
Humpbacked Father Christmas then made a complete entry, swinging his
huge club, and in a general way clearing the stage for the actors
proper, while he informed the company in smart verse that he was come,
welcome or welcome not; concluding his speech with
"Make room, make room, my gallant boys, And give us space to rhyme;
We've come to show Saint George's play, Upon this Christmas time."
The guests were now arranging themselves at one end of the room, the
fiddler was mending a string, the serpent-player was emptying his
mouthpiece, and the play began. First of those outside the Valiant
Soldier entered, in the interest of Saint George—
"Here come I, the Valiant Soldier; Slasher is my name";
and so on. This speech concluded with a challenge to the infidel, at the
end of which it was Eustacia's duty to enter as the Turkish Knight.
She, with the rest who were not yet on, had hitherto remained in the
moonlight which streamed under the porch. With no apparent effort or
backwardness she came in, beginning—
"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. Then,
after more words from the Turkish Knight, rather too faintly delivered,
and statements that he'd fight Saint George and all his crew, Saint
George himself magnificently entered with the well-known flourish—
"Here come I, Saint George, the valiant man, With naked sword and spear in hand,
Who fought the dragon and brought him to the slaughter,
And by this won fair Sabra, the King of Egypt's daughter;
What mortal man would dare to stand Before me with my sword in hand?"
This was the lad who had first recognized Eustacia; and when she now, as
the Turk, replied with suitable defiance, and at once began the combat,
the young fellow took especial care to use his sword as gently as
possible. Being wounded, the Knight fell upon one knee, according to the
direction. 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.
Eustacia was now among the number of the slain, though not on the
floor, for she had managed to sink into a sloping position against
the clock-case, so that her head was well elevated. The play proceeded
between Saint George, the Saracen, the Doctor, and Father Christmas;
and Eustacia, having no more to do, for the first time found leisure to
observe the scene round, and to search for the form that had drawn her
6—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.
The remainder of the play ended—the Saracen's head was cut off, and
Saint George stood as victor. Nobody commented, any more than they would
have commented on the fact of mushrooms coming in autumn or snowdrops
in spring. They took the piece as phlegmatically as did the actors
themselves. It was a phase of cheerfulness which was, as a matter of
course, to be passed through every Christmas; and there was no more to
be said.
They sang the plaintive chant which follows the play, during which all
the dead men rise to their feet in a silent and awful manner, like the
ghosts of Napoleon's soldiers in the Midnight Review. Afterwards the
door opened, and Fairway appeared on the threshold, accompanied by
Christian and another. They had been waiting outside for the conclusion
of the play, as the players had waited for the conclusion of the dance.
"Come in, come in," said Mrs. Yeobright; and Clym went forward to
welcome them. "How is it you are so late? Grandfer Cantle has been here
ever so long, and we thought you'd have come with him, as you live so
near one another."
"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
"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!"
"'Tis his mother's side where Master Clym's figure comes from, bless
ye," said Timothy. "I know'd her brothers well. Longer coffins were
never made in the whole country of South Wessex, and 'tis said that poor
George's knees were crumpled up a little e'en as 'twas."
"Coffins, where?" inquired Christian, drawing nearer. "Have the ghost of
one appeared to anybody, Master Fairway?"
"No, no. Don't let your mind so mislead your ears, Christian; and be a
man," said Timothy reproachfully.
"I will." said Christian. "But now I think o't my shadder last night
seemed just the shape of a coffin. What is it a sign of when your
shade's like a coffin, neighbours? It can't be nothing to be afeared of,
I suppose?"
"Afeared, no!" said the Grandfer. "Faith, I was never afeard of nothing
except Boney, or I shouldn't ha' been the soldier I was. Yes, 'tis a
thousand pities you didn't see me in four!"
By this time the mummers were preparing to leave; but Mrs. Yeobright
stopped them by asking them to sit down and have a little supper. To
this invitation Father Christmas, in the name of them all, readily
Eustacia was happy in the opportunity of staying a little longer.
The cold and frosty night without was doubly frigid to her. But the
lingering was not without its difficulties. Mrs. Yeobright, for want
of room in the larger apartment, placed a bench for the mummers halfway
through the pantry door, which opened from the sitting-room. Here they
seated themselves in a row, the door being left open—thus they were
still virtually in the same apartment. Mrs. Yeobright now murmured a few
words to her son, who crossed the room to the pantry door, striking his
head against the mistletoe as he passed, and brought the mummers beef
and bread, cake pastry, mead, and elder-wine, the waiting being done by
him and his mother, that the little maid-servant might sit as guest. The
mummers doffed their helmets, and began to eat and drink.
"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 across it to the further extremity.
The mummers, as has been stated, were seated on a bench, one end of
which extended into the small apartment, or pantry, for want of space
in the outer room. Eustacia, partly from shyness, had chosen the midmost
seat, which thus commanded a view of the interior of the pantry as well
as the room containing the guests. 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,
"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.
Women have done much for themselves in histrionic dress. To look far
below those who, like a certain fair personator of Polly Peachum early
in the last century, and another of Lydia Languish early in this, (1)
have won not only love but ducal coronets into the bargain, whole shoals
of them have reached to the initial satisfaction of getting love almost
whence they would. But the Turkish Knight was denied even the chance
of achieving this by the fluttering ribbons which she dared not brush
(1) Written in 1877.
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?"
"That's a cause of depression a good many have to put up with."
A long silence. "And do you find excitement?" asked Clym at last.
"At this moment, perhaps."
"Then you are vexed at being discovered?"
"Yes; though I thought I might be."
"I would gladly have asked you to our party had I known you wished to
come. Have I ever been acquainted with you in my youth?"
"Won't you come in again, and stay as long as you like?"
"No. I wish not to be further recognized."
"Well, you are safe with me." After remaining in thought a minute he
added gently, "I will not intrude upon you longer. It is a strange way
of meeting, and I will not ask why I find a cultivated woman playing
such a part as this." She did not volunteer the reason which he seemed
to hope for, and he wished her good night, going thence round to the
back of the house, where he walked up and down by himself for some time
before re-entering.
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
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.
7—A Coalition between Beauty and Oddness
The old captain's prevailing indifference to his granddaughter's
movements left her free as a bird to follow her own courses; but it so
happened that he did take upon himself the next morning to ask her why
she had walked out so late.
"Only in search of events, Grandfather," she said, looking out of the
window with that drowsy latency of manner which discovered so much force
behind it whenever the trigger was pressed.
"Search of events—one would think you were one of the bucks I knew at
"It is lonely here."
"So much the better. If I were living in a town my whole time would be
taken up in looking after you. I fully expected you would have been home
when I returned from the Woman."
"I won't conceal what I did. I wanted an adventure, and I went with the
mummers. I played the part of the Turkish Knight."
"No, never? Ha, ha! Good gad! I didn't expect it of you, Eustacia."
"It was my first performance, and it certainly will be my last. Now I
have told you—and remember it is a secret."
"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.
When the farmers who had wished to buy in a new stock of reddle during
the last month had inquired where Venn was to be found, people replied,
"On Egdon Heath." Day after day the answer was the same. Now, since
Egdon was populated with heath-croppers and furze-cutters rather than
with sheep and shepherds, and the downs where most of the latter were
to be found lay some to the north, some to the west of Egdon, his
reason for camping about there like Israel in Zin was not apparent. The
position was central and occasionally desirable. But the sale of reddle
was not Diggory's primary object in remaining on the heath, particularly
at so late a period of the year, when most travellers of his class had
gone into winter quarters.
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.
"Good morning, miss," said the reddleman, taking off his cap of
hareskin, and apparently bearing her no ill-will from recollection of
their last meeting.
"Good morning, reddleman," she said, hardly troubling to lift her
heavily shaded eyes to his. "I did not know you were so near. Is your
van here too?"
Venn moved his elbow towards a hollow in which a dense brake of
purple-stemmed brambles had grown to such vast dimensions as almost to
form a dell. Brambles, though churlish when handled, are kindly shelter
in early winter, being the latest of the deciduous bushes to lose their
The roof and chimney of Venn's caravan showed behind the tracery and
tangles of the brake.
"You remain near this part?" she asked with more interest.
"Yes, I have business here."
"Not altogether the selling of reddle?"
"It has nothing to do with that."
"It has to do with Miss Yeobright?"
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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
"And, now I think of it, it agrees with what I saw last night."
"Ah—what was that?" Eustacia wished to leave him, but wished to know.
"Mr. Wildeve stayed at Rainbarrow a long time waiting for a lady who
didn't come."
"You waited too, it seems?"
"Yes, I always do. I was glad to see him disappointed. He will be there
again tonight."
"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
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
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
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
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. "You are the reddleman I saw on
the hill this morning—why, you are the man who——"
"Please read the letter."
"If you had come from the other one I shouldn't have been surprised,"
murmured Wildeve as he opened the letter and read. His face grew
After some thought I have decided once and for all that we must hold
no further communication. The more I consider the matter the more I am
convinced that there must be an end to our acquaintance. Had you been
uniformly faithful to me throughout these two years you might now have
some ground for accusing me of heartlessness; but if you calmly consider
what I bore during the period of your desertion, and how I passively put
up with your courtship of another without once interfering, you will, I
think, own that I have a right to consult my own feelings when you come
back to me again. That these are not what they were towards you may,
perhaps, be a fault in me, but it is one which you can scarcely reproach
me for when you remember how you left me for Thomasin.
The little articles you gave me in the early part of our friendship are
returned by the bearer of this letter. They should rightly have been
sent back when I first heard of your engagement to her.
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?
Full of this resolve to marry in haste, and wring the heart of the proud
girl, Wildeve went his way.
Meanwhile Diggory Venn had returned to his van, where he stood looking
thoughtfully into the stove. A new vista was opened up to him. But,
however promising Mrs. Yeobright's views of him might be as a candidate
for her niece's hand, one condition was indispensable to the favour of
Thomasin herself, and that was a renunciation of his present wild mode
of life. In this he saw little difficulty.
He could not afford to wait till the next day before seeing Thomasin and
detailing his plan. He speedily plunged himself into toilet operations,
pulled a suit of cloth clothes from a box, and in about twenty minutes
stood before the van-lantern as a reddleman in nothing but his face, the
vermilion shades of which were not to be removed in a day. Closing the
door and fastening it with a padlock, Venn set off towards Blooms-End.
He had reached the white palings and laid his hand upon the gate when
the door of the house opened, and quickly closed again. A female form
had glided in. At the same time a man, who had seemingly been standing
with the woman in the porch, came forward from the house till he was
face to face with Venn. It was Wildeve again.
"Man alive, you've been quick at it," said Diggory sarcastically.
"And you slow, as you will find," said Wildeve. "And," lowering his
voice, "you may as well go back again now. I've claimed her, and got
her. Good night, reddleman!" Thereupon Wildeve walked away.
Venn's heart sank within him, though it had not risen unduly high.
He stood leaning over the palings in an indecisive mood for nearly a
quarter of an hour. Then he went up the garden path, knocked, and asked
for Mrs. Yeobright.
Instead of requesting him to enter she came to the porch. A discourse
was carried on between them in low measured tones for the space of ten
minutes or more. At the end of the time Mrs. Yeobright went in, and Venn
sadly retraced his steps into the heath. When he had again regained his
van he lit the lantern, and with an apathetic face at once began to pull
off his best clothes, till in the course of a few minutes he reappeared
as the confirmed and irretrievable reddleman that he had seemed before.
8—Firmness Is Discovered in a Gentle Heart
On that evening the interior of Blooms-End, though cosy and comfortable,
had been rather silent. Clym Yeobright was not at home. Since the
Christmas party he had gone on a few days' visit to a friend about ten
miles off.
The shadowy form seen by Venn to part from Wildeve in the porch, and
quickly withdraw into the house, was Thomasin's. On entering she threw
down a cloak which had been carelessly wrapped round her, and came
forward to the light, where Mrs. Yeobright sat at her work-table,
drawn up within the settle, so that part of it projected into the
"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
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
"And so do I, and we will both continue to," said Mrs. Yeobright, rising
and kissing her. "Then the wedding, if it comes off, will be on the
morning of the very day Clym comes home?"
"Yes. I decided that it ought to be over before he came. After that you
can look him in the face, and so can I. Our concealments will matter
Mrs. Yeobright moved her head in thoughtful assent, and presently said,
"Do you wish me to give you away? I am willing to undertake that, you
know, if you wish, as I was last time. After once forbidding the banns I
think I can do no less."
"I don't think I will ask you to come," said Thomasin reluctantly, but
with decision. "It would be unpleasant, I am almost sure. Better let
there be only strangers present, and none of my relations at all. I
would rather have it so. I do not wish to do anything which may touch
your credit, and I feel that I should be uncomfortable if you were
there, after what has passed. I am only your niece, and there is no
necessity why you should concern yourself more about me."
"Well, he has beaten us," her aunt said. "It really seems as if he had
been playing with you in this way in revenge for my humbling him as I
did by standing up against him at first."
"O no, Aunt," murmured Thomasin.
They said no more on the subject then. Diggory Venn's knock came soon
after; and Mrs. Yeobright, on returning from her interview with him in
the porch, carelessly observed, "Another lover has come to ask for you."
"Yes, that queer young man Venn."
"Asks to pay his addresses to me?"
"Yes; and I told him he was too late."
Thomasin looked silently into the candle-flame. "Poor Diggory!" she
said, and then aroused herself to other things.
The next day was passed in mere mechanical deeds of preparation, both
the women being anxious to immerse themselves in these to escape the
emotional aspect of the situation. Some wearing apparel and other
articles were collected anew for Thomasin, and remarks on domestic
details were frequently made, so as to obscure any inner misgivings
about her future as Wildeve's wife.
The appointed morning came. The arrangement with Wildeve was that he
should meet her at the church to guard against any unpleasant curiosity
which might have affected them had they been seen walking off together
in the usual country way.
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
"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.
She had not been gone from Blooms-End more than half an hour when
Yeobright came by the meads from the other direction and entered the
"I had an early breakfast," he said to his mother after greeting her.
"Now I could eat a little more."
They sat down to the repeated meal, and he went on in a low, anxious
voice, apparently imagining that Thomasin had not yet come downstairs,
"What's this I have heard about Thomasin and Mr. Wildeve?"
"It is true in many points," said Mrs. Yeobright quietly; "but it is all
right now, I hope." She looked at the clock.
"Thomasin is gone to him today."
Clym pushed away his breakfast. "Then there is a scandal of some sort,
and that's what's the matter with Thomasin. Was it this that made her
"Yes. Not a scandal—a misfortune. I will tell you all about it, Clym.
You must not be angry, but you must listen, and you'll find that what we
have done has been done for the best."
She then told him the circumstances. All that he had known of the affair
before he returned from Paris was that there had existed an
attachment between Thomasin and Wildeve, which his mother had at first
discountenanced, but had since, owing to the arguments of Thomasin,
looked upon in a little more favourable light. When she, therefore,
proceeded to explain all he was greatly surprised and troubled.
"And she determined that the wedding should be over before you came
back," said Mrs. Yeobright, "that there might be no chance of her
meeting you, and having a very painful time of it. That's why she has
gone to him; they have arranged to be married this morning."
"But I can't understand it," said Yeobright, rising. "'Tis so unlike
her. I can see why you did not write to me after her unfortunate return
home. But why didn't you let me know when the wedding was going to
be—the first time?"
"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."
"No," he said slowly. "Upon the whole I don't blame you. But just
consider how sudden it seems to me. Here was I, knowing nothing; and
then I am told all at once that Tamsie is gone to be married. Well,
I suppose there was nothing better to do. Do you know, Mother," he
continued after a moment or two, looking suddenly interested in his own
past history, "I once thought of Tamsin as a sweetheart? Yes, I did. How
odd boys are! And when I came home and saw her this time she seemed so
much more affectionate than usual, that I was quite reminded of those
days, particularly on the night of the party, when she was unwell. We
had the party just the same—was not that rather cruel to her?"
"It made no difference. I had arranged to give one, and it was not worth
while to make more gloom than necessary. To begin by shutting ourselves
up and telling you of Tamsin's misfortunes would have been a poor sort
of welcome."
Clym remained thinking. "I almost wish you had not had that party," he
said; "and for other reasons. But I will tell you in a day or two. We
must think of Tamsin now."
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.
"And he didn't disappoint her this time?" said Mrs. Yeobright.
"He did not. And there is now no slight on her name. I was hastening
ath'art to tell you at once, as I saw you were not there."
"How came you to be there? How did you know it?" she asked.
"I have been in that neighbourhood for some time, and I saw them go in,"
said the reddleman. "Wildeve came up to the door, punctual as the clock.
I didn't expect it of him." He did not add, as he might have added, that
how he came to be in that neighbourhood was not by accident; that,
since Wildeve's resumption of his right to Thomasin, Venn, with the
thoroughness which was part of his character, had determined to see the
end of the episode.
"Who was there?" said Mrs. Yeobright.
"Nobody hardly. I stood right out of the way, and she did not see me."
The reddleman spoke huskily, and looked into the garden.
"Who gave her away?"
"Miss Vye."
"How very remarkable! Miss Vye! It is to be considered an honour, I
"Who's Miss Vye?" said Clym.
"Captain Vye's granddaughter, of Mistover Knap."
"A proud girl from Budmouth," said Mrs. Yeobright. "One not much to my
liking. People say she's a witch, but of course that's absurd."
The reddleman kept to himself his acquaintance with that fair personage,
and also that Eustacia was there because he went to fetch her, in
accordance with a promise he had given as soon as he learnt that the
marriage was to take place. He merely said, in continuation of the
"I was sitting on the churchyard wall when they came up, one from one
way, the other from the other; and Miss Vye was walking thereabouts,
looking at the headstones. As soon as they had gone in I went to the
door, feeling I should like to see it, as I knew her so well. I pulled
off my boots because they were so noisy, and went up into the gallery. I
saw then that the parson and clerk were already there."
"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
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."
End of Chapter 8 End of Book 2