Part 4 out of 10
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
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
"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 does Mrs. Yeobright give parties of this sort?"
Eustacia asked, a little surprised to hear merriment
"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
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 hither.
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 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,
"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,
"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 agreed.
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
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
"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
"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.
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,  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 aside.
 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
A long silence. "And do you find excitement?" asked Clym
"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 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.
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 one-and-twenty."
"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
"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 leaves.
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 said.
"It isn't true?"
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. "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 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.
"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 serious.
TO MR. WILDEVE.
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."
"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 chimney-corner.
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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. "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 nothing."
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
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
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
"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.
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 house.
"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 ill?"
"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
"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
"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.
"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?"
"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?"
"How very remarkable! Miss Vye! It is to be considered
an honour, I suppose?"
"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 story----
"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
"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."
1 - "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
He had been a lad of whom something was expected.
Beyond this all had been chaos. That he would be
successful in an original way, or that he would go to
the dogs in an original way, seemed equally probable.
The only absolute certainty about him was that he would
not stand still in the circumstances amid which he was born.
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.
The details of this choice of a business for him it is not
necessary to give. At the death of his father a neighbouring
gentleman had kindly undertaken to give the boy a start,
and this assumed the form of sending him to Budmouth.
Yeobright did not wish to go there, but it was the only
feasible opening. Thence he went to London; and thence,
shortly after, to Paris, where he had remained till now.
Something being expected of him, he had not been at home
many days before a great curiosity as to why he stayed
on so long began to arise in the heath. The natural
term of a holiday had passed, yet he still remained.
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.
"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."
2 - 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
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.