Part 5 out of 10
To many persons this Egdon was a place which had slipped
out of its century generations ago, to intrude as an
uncouth object into this. It was an obsolete thing,
and few cared to study it. How could this be otherwise
in the days of square fields, plashed hedges,
and meadows watered on a plan so rectangular that on a
fine day they looked like silver gridirons? The farmer,
in his ride, who could smile at artificial grasses,
look with solicitude at the coming corn, and sigh
with sadness at the fly-eaten turnips, bestowed upon
the distant upland of heath nothing better than a frown.
But as for Yeobright, when he looked from the heights
on his way he could not help indulging in a barbarous
satisfaction at observing that, in some of the attempts
at reclamation from the waste, tillage, after holding
on for a year or two, had receded again in despair,
the ferns and furze-tufts stubbornly reasserting themselves.
He descended into the valley, and soon reached his home
at Blooms-End. His mother was snipping dead leaves from
the window-plants. She looked up at him as if she did
not understand the meaning of his long stay with her;
her face had worn that look for several days. He could
perceive that the curiosity which had been shown by the
hair-cutting group amounted in his mother to concern.
But she had asked no question with her lips, even when
the arrival of his trunk suggested that he was not going
to leave her soon. Her silence besought an explanation
of him more loudly than words.
"I am not going back to Paris again, Mother," he said.
"At least, in my old capacity. I have given up the business."
Mrs. Yeobright turned in pained surprise. "I thought
something was amiss, because of the boxes. I wonder you
did not tell me sooner."
"I ought to have done it. But I have been in doubt
whether you would be pleased with my plan. I was not
quite clear on a few points myself. I am going to take
an entirely new course."
"I am astonished, Clym. How can you want to do better
than you've been doing?"
"Very easily. But I shall not do better in the way
you mean; I suppose it will be called doing worse.
But I hate that business of mine, and I want to do some
worthy thing before I die. As a schoolmaster I think
to do it--a school-master to the poor and ignorant,
to teach them what nobody else will."
"After all the trouble that has been taken to give you
a start, and when there is nothing to do but to keep
straight on towards affluence, you say you will be a poor
man's schoolmaster. Your fancies will be your ruin, Clym."
Mrs. Yeobright spoke calmly, but the force of feeling
behind the words was but too apparent to one who knew
her as well as her son did. He did not answer.
There was in his face that hopelessness of being understood
which comes when the objector is constitutionally beyond
the reach of a logic that, even under favouring conditions,
is almost too coarse a vehicle for the subtlety of the argument.
No more was said on the subject till the end of dinner.
His mother then began, as if there had been no interval
since the morning. "It disturbs me, Clym, to find
that you have come home with such thoughts as those.
I hadn't the least idea that you meant to go backward
in the world by your own free choice. Of course,
I have always supposed you were going to push straight on,
as other men do--all who deserve the name--when they have
been put in a good way of doing well."
"I cannot help it," said Clym, in a troubled tone.
"Mother, I hate the flashy business. Talk about men
who deserve the name, can any man deserving the name
waste his time in that effeminate way, when he sees half
the world going to ruin for want of somebody to buckle
to and teach them how to breast the misery they are born
to? I get up every morning and see the whole creation
groaning and travailing in pain, as St. Paul says,
and yet there am I, trafficking in glittering splendours
with wealthy women and titled libertines, and pandering
to the meanest vanities--I, who have health and strength
enough for anything. I have been troubled in my mind
about it all the year, and the end is that I cannot do it
"Why can't you do it as well as others?"
"I don't know, except that there are many things other
people care for which I don't; and that's partly why I
think I ought to do this. For one thing, my body does
not require much of me. I cannot enjoy delicacies;
good things are wasted upon me. Well, I ought to turn
that defect to advantage, and by being able to do without
what other people require I can spend what such things
cost upon anybody else."
Now, Yeobright, having inherited some of these very
instincts from the woman before him, could not fail
to awaken a reciprocity in her through her feelings,
if not by arguments, disguise it as she might for his good.
She spoke with less assurance. "And yet you might
have been a wealthy man if you had only persevered.
Manager to that large diamond establishment--what better
can a man wish for? What a post of trust and respect!
I suppose you will be like your father; like him,
you are getting weary of doing well."
"No," said her son, "I am not weary of that, though I am
weary of what you mean by it. Mother, what is doing well?"
Mrs. Yeobright was far too thoughtful a woman to be
content with ready definitions, and, like the "What
is wisdom?" of Plato's Socrates, and the "What is truth?"
of Pontius Pilate, Yeobright's burning question received
The silence was broken by the clash of the garden gate,
a tap at the door, and its opening. Christian Cantle
appeared in the room in his Sunday clothes.
It was the custom on Egdon to begin the preface to a story
before absolutely entering the house, so as to be well
in for the body of the narrative by the time visitor
and visited stood face to face. Christian had been
saying to them while the door was leaving its latch,
"To think that I, who go from home but once in a while,
and hardly then, should have been there this morning!"
"'Tis news you have brought us, then, Christian?"
said Mrs. Yeobright.
"Ay, sure, about a witch, and ye must overlook my time o'
day; for, says I, 'I must go and tell 'em, though they
won't have half done dinner.' I assure ye it made me shake
like a driven leaf. Do ye think any harm will come o't?"
"This morning at church we was all standing up,
and the pa'son said, 'Let us pray.' 'Well,' thinks I,
'one may as well kneel as stand'; so down I went; and,
more than that, all the rest were as willing to oblige
the man as I. We hadn't been hard at it for more than a
minute when a most terrible screech sounded through church,
as if somebody had just gied up their heart's blood.
All the folk jumped up and then we found that Susan
Nunsuch had pricked Miss Vye with a long stocking-needle,
as she had threatened to do as soon as ever she could
get the young lady to church, where she don't come
very often. She've waited for this chance for weeks,
so as to draw her blood and put an end to the bewitching
of Susan's children that has been carried on so long.
Sue followed her into church, sat next to her, and as soon
as she could find a chance in went the stocking-needle
into my lady's arm."
"Good heaven, how horrid!" said Mrs. Yeobright.
"Sue pricked her that deep that the maid fainted away;
and as I was afeard there might be some tumult among us,
I got behind the bass viol and didn't see no more.
But they carried her out into the air, 'tis said;
but when they looked round for Sue she was gone.
What a scream that girl gied, poor thing! There were the
pa'son in his surplice holding up his hand and saying,
'Sit down, my good people, sit down!' But the deuce a bit
would they sit down. O, and what d'ye think I found out,
Mrs. Yeobright? The pa'son wears a suit of clothes under his
surplice!--I could see his black sleeves when he held up
"'Tis a cruel thing," said Yeobright.
"Yes," said his mother.
"The nation ought to look into it," said Christian.
"Here's Humphrey coming, I think."
In came Humphrey. "Well, have ye heard the news?
But I see you have. 'Tis a very strange thing that
whenever one of Egdon folk goes to church some rum job
or other is sure to be doing. The last time one of us
was there was when neighbour Fairway went in the fall;
and that was the day you forbad the banns, Mrs. Yeobright."
"Has this cruelly treated girl been able to walk home?"
"They say she got better, and went home very well.
And now I've told it I must be moving homeward myself."
"And I," said Humphrey. "Truly now we shall see if there's
anything in what folks say about her."
When they were gone into the heath again Yeobright said
quietly to his mother, "Do you think I have turned teacher
"It is right that there should be schoolmasters,
and missionaries, and all such men," she replied.
"But it is right, too, that I should try to lift you out
of this life into something richer, and that you should
not come back again, and be as if I had not tried at all."
Later in the day Sam, the turf-cutter, entered.
"I've come a-borrowing, Mrs. Yeobright. I suppose you
have heard what's been happening to the beauty on the hill?"
"Yes, Sam: half a dozen have been telling us."
"Beauty?" said Clym.
"Yes, tolerably well-favoured," Sam replied. "Lord! all
the country owns that 'tis one of the strangest things
in the world that such a woman should have come to live
"Dark or fair?"
"Now, though I've seen her twenty times, that's a thing
I cannot call to mind."
"Darker than Tamsin," murmured Mrs. Yeobright.
"A woman who seems to care for nothing at all, as you
"She is melancholy, then?" inquired Clym.
"She mopes about by herself, and don't mix in with the people."
"Is she a young lady inclined for adventures?"
"Not to my knowledge."
"Doesn't join in with the lads in their games, to get
some sort of excitement in this lonely place?"
"Mumming, for instance?"
"No. Her notions be different. I should rather say her
thoughts were far away from here, with lords and ladies
she'll never know, and mansions she'll never see again."
Observing that Clym appeared singularly interested
Mrs. Yeobright said rather uneasily to Sam, "You see
more in her than most of us do. Miss Vye is to my
mind too idle to be charming. I have never heard
that she is of any use to herself or to other people.
Good girls don't get treated as witches even on Egdon."
"Nonsense--that proves nothing either way," said Yeobright.
"Well, of course I don't understand such niceties,"
said Sam, withdrawing from a possibly unpleasant argument;
"and what she is we must wait for time to tell us.
The business that I have really called about is this,
to borrow the longest and strongest rope you have.
The captain's bucket has dropped into the well,
and they are in want of water; and as all the chaps
are at home today we think we can get it out for him.
We have three cart-ropes already, but they won't reach to
Mrs. Yeobright told him that he might have whatever ropes
he could find in the outhouse, and Sam went out to search.
When he passed by the door Clym joined him, and accompanied
him to the gate.
"Is this young witch-lady going to stay long at Mistover?"
"I should say so."
"What a cruel shame to ill-use her, She must have suffered
greatly--more in mind than in body."
"'Twas a graceless trick--such a handsome girl, too.
You ought to see her, Mr. Yeobright, being a young man
come from far, and with a little more to show for your
years than most of us."
"Do you think she would like to teach children?"
Sam shook his head. "Quite a different sort of body
from that, I reckon."
"O, it was merely something which occurred to me.
It would of course be necessary to see her and talk it
over--not an easy thing, by the way, for my family and hers
are not very friendly."
"I'll tell you how you mid see her, Mr. Yeobright,"
said Sam. "We are going to grapple for the bucket at six
o'clock tonight at her house, and you could lend a hand.
There's five or six coming, but the well is deep, and another
might be useful, if you don't mind appearing in that shape.
She's sure to be walking round."
"I'll think of it," said Yeobright; and they parted.
He thought of it a good deal; but nothing more was
said about Eustacia inside the house at that time.
Whether this romantic martyr to superstition and the
melancholy mummer he had conversed with under the full
moon were one and the same person remained as yet a problem.
3 - The First Act in a Timeworn Drama
The afternoon was fine, and Yeobright walked on the heath
for an hour with his mother. When they reached the lofty
ridge which divided the valley of Blooms-End from the
adjoining valley they stood still and looked round.
The Quiet Woman Inn was visible on the low margin of
the heath in one direction, and afar on the other hand
rose Mistover Knap.
"You mean to call on Thomasin?" he inquired.
"Yes. But you need not come this time," said his mother.
"In that case I'll branch off here, Mother. I am going
Mrs. Yeobright turned to him inquiringly.
"I am going to help them get the bucket out of the
captain's well," he continued. "As it is so very deep
I may be useful. And I should like to see this Miss
Vye--not so much for her good looks as for another reason."
"Must you go?" his mother asked.
"I thought to."
And they parted. "There is no help for it," murmured Clym's
mother gloomily as he withdrew. "They are sure to see
each other. I wish Sam would carry his news to other
houses than mine."
Clym's retreating figure got smaller and smaller
as it rose and fell over the hillocks on his way.
"He is tender-hearted," said Mrs. Yeobright to herself
while she watched him; "otherwise it would matter little.
How he's going on!"
He was, indeed, walking with a will over the furze,
as straight as a line, as if his life depended upon it.
His mother drew a long breath, and, abandoning the visit
to Thomasin, turned back. The evening films began to make
nebulous pictures of the valleys, but the high lands
still were raked by the declining rays of the winter sun,
which glanced on Clym as he walked forward, eyed by every
rabbit and field-fare around, a long shadow advancing in
front of him.
On drawing near to the furze-covered bank and ditch which
fortified the captain's dwelling he could hear voices within,
signifying that operations had been already begun.
At the side-entrance gate he stopped and looked over.
Half a dozen able-bodied men were standing in a line from the
well-mouth, holding a rope which passed over the well-roller
into the depths below. Fairway, with a piece of smaller
rope round his body, made fast to one of the standards,
to guard against accidents, was leaning over the opening,
his right hand clasping the vertical rope that descended
into the well.
"Now, silence, folks," said Fairway.
The talking ceased, and Fairway gave a circular motion
to the rope, as if he were stirring batter. At the end
of a minute a dull splashing reverberated from the bottom
of the well; the helical twist he had imparted to the rope
had reached the grapnel below.
"Haul!" said Fairway; and the men who held the rope began
to gather it over the wheel.
"I think we've got sommat," said one of the haulers-in.
"Then pull steady," said Fairway.
They gathered up more and more, till a regular dripping
into the well could be heard below. It grew smarter
with the increasing height of the bucket, and presently
a hundred and fifty feet of rope had been pulled in.
Fairway then lit a lantern, tied it to another cord,
and began lowering it into the well beside the first:
Clym came forward and looked down. Strange humid leaves,
which knew nothing of the seasons of the year,
and quaint-natured mosses were revealed on the wellside
as the lantern descended; till its rays fell upon a
confused mass of rope and bucket dangling in the dank,
"We've only got en by the edge of the hoop--steady,
for God's sake!" said Fairway.
They pulled with the greatest gentleness, till the wet
bucket appeared about two yards below them, like a dead
friend come to earth again. Three or four hands were
stretched out, then jerk went the rope, whizz went the wheel,
the two foremost haulers fell backward, the beating
of a falling body was heard, receding down the sides
of the well, and a thunderous uproar arose at the bottom.
The bucket was gone again.
"Damn the bucket!" said Fairway.
"Lower again," said Sam.
"I'm as stiff as a ram's horn stooping so long,"
said Fairway, standing up and stretching himself till
his joints creaked.
"Rest a few minutes, Timothy," said Yeobright.
"I'll take your place."
The grapnel was again lowered. Its smart impact upon
the distant water reached their ears like a kiss,
whereupon Yeobright knelt down, and leaning over the well
began dragging the grapnel round and round as Fairway
"Tie a rope round him--it is dangerous!" cried a soft
and anxious voice somewhere above them.
Everybody turned. The speaker was a woman, gazing down
upon the group from an upper window, whose panes blazed
in the ruddy glare from the west. Her lips were parted
and she appeared for the moment to forget where she was.
The rope was accordingly tied round his waist, and the
work proceeded. At the next haul the weight was not heavy,
and it was discovered that they had only secured a coil
of the rope detached from the bucket. The tangled
mass was thrown into the background. Humphrey took
Yeobright's place, and the grapnel was lowered again.
Yeobright retired to the heap of recovered rope in a
meditative mood. Of the identity between the lady's voice
and that of the melancholy mummer he had not a moment's doubt.
"How thoughtful of her!" he said to himself.
Eustacia, who had reddened when she perceived the effect
of her exclamation upon the group below, was no longer
to be seen at the window, though Yeobright scanned
it wistfully. While he stood there the men at the well
succeeded in getting up the bucket without a mishap.
One of them went to inquire for the captain, to learn
what orders he wished to give for mending the well-tackle.
The captain proved to be away from home, and Eustacia
appeared at the door and came out. She had lapsed into
an easy and dignified calm, far removed from the intensity
of life in her words of solicitude for Clym's safety.
"Will it be possible to draw water here tonight?"
"No, miss; the bottom of the bucket is clean knocked out.
And as we can do no more now we'll leave off, and come
again tomorrow morning."
"No water," she murmured, turning away.
"I can send you up some from Blooms-End," said Clym,
coming forward and raising his hat as the men retired.
Yeobright and Eustacia looked at each other for one instant,
as if each had in mind those few moments during
which a certain moonlight scene was common to both.
With the glance the calm fixity of her features sublimed
itself to an expression of refinement and warmth;
it was like garish noon rising to the dignity of sunset
in a couple of seconds.
"Thank you; it will hardly be necessary," she replied.
"But if you have no water?"
"Well, it is what I call no water," she said, blushing,
and lifting her long-lashed eyelids as if to lift them
were a work requiring consideration. "But my grandfather
calls it water enough. I'll show you what I mean."
She moved away a few yards, and Clym followed. When she
reached the corner of the enclosure, where the steps
were formed for mounting the boundary bank, she sprang up
with a lightness which seemed strange after her listless
movement towards the well. It incidentally showed
that her apparent languor did not arise from lack of force.
Clym ascended behind her, and noticed a circular burnt
patch at the top of the bank. "Ashes?" he said.
"Yes," said Eustacia. "We had a little bonfire here
last Fifth of November, and those are the marks of it."
On that spot had stood the fire she had kindled
to attract Wildeve.
"That's the only kind of water we have," she continued,
tossing a stone into the pool, which lay on the outside
of the bank like the white of an eye without its pupil.
The stone fell with a flounce, but no Wildeve appeared
on the other side, as on a previous occasion there.
"My grandfather says he lived for more than twenty years
at sea on water twice as bad as that," she went on,
"and considers it quite good enough for us here on
"Well, as a matter of fact there are no impurities
in the water of these pools at this time of the year.
It has only just rained into them."
She shook her head. "I am managing to exist in a wilderness,
but I cannot drink from a pond," she said.
Clym looked towards the well, which was now deserted,
the men having gone home. "It is a long way to send
for spring-water," he said, after a silence.
"But since you don't like this in the pond, I'll try
to get you some myself." He went back to the well.
"Yes, I think I could do it by tying on this pail."
"But, since I would not trouble the men to get it,
I cannot in conscience let you."
"I don't mind the trouble at all."
He made fast the pail to the long coil of rope, put it over
the wheel, and allowed it to descend by letting the rope slip
through his hands. Before it had gone far, however, he checked it.
"I must make fast the end first, or we may lose the whole,"
he said to Eustacia, who had drawn near. "Could you hold
this a moment, while I do it--or shall I call your servant?"
"I can hold it," said Eustacia; and he placed the rope
in her hands, going then to search for the end.
"I suppose I may let it slip down?" she inquired.
"I would advise you not to let it go far," said Clym.
"It will get much heavier, you will find."
However, Eustacia had begun to pay out. While he was
tying she cried, "I cannot stop it!"
Clym ran to her side, and found he could only check the
rope by twisting the loose part round the upright post,
when it stopped with a jerk. "Has it hurt you?"
"Yes," she replied.
"No; I think not." She opened her hands. One of them
was bleeding; the rope had dragged off the skin.
Eustacia wrapped it in her handkerchief.
"You should have let go," said Yeobright. "Why didn't you?"
"You said I was to hold on....This is the second time
I have been wounded today."
"Ah, yes; I have heard of it. I blush for my native Egdon.
Was it a serious injury you received in church, Miss Vye?"
There was such an abundance of sympathy in Clym's tone
that Eustacia slowly drew up her sleeve and disclosed
her round white arm. A bright red spot appeared on its
smooth surface, like a ruby on Parian marble.
"There it is," she said, putting her finger against the spot.
"It was dastardly of the woman," said Clym. "Will not
Captain Vye get her punished?"
"He is gone from home on that very business. I did
not know that I had such a magic reputation."
"And you fainted?" said Clym, looking at the scarlet
little puncture as if he would like to kiss it and make
"Yes, it frightened me. I had not been to church for
a long time. And now I shall not go again for ever so
long--perhaps never. I cannot face their eyes after this.
Don't you think it dreadfully humiliating? I wished
I was dead for hours after, but I don't mind now."
"I have come to clean away these cobwebs," said Yeobright.
"Would you like to help me--by high-class teaching? We
might benefit them much."
"I don't quite feel anxious to. I have not much love
for my fellow-creatures. Sometimes I quite hate them."
"Still I think that if you were to hear my scheme you might
take an interest in it. There is no use in hating people--if
you hate anything, you should hate what produced them."
"Do you mean Nature? I hate her already. But I shall
be glad to hear your scheme at any time."
The situation had now worked itself out, and the next
natural thing was for them to part. Clym knew this
well enough, and Eustacia made a move of conclusion;
yet he looked at her as if he had one word more to say.
Perhaps if he had not lived in Paris it would never have
"We have met before," he said, regarding her with rather
more interest than was necessary.
"I do not own it," said Eustacia, with a repressed,
"But I may think what I like."
"You are lonely here."
"I cannot endure the heath, except in its purple season.
The heath is a cruel taskmaster to me."
"Can you say so?" he asked. "To my mind it is most
exhilarating, and strengthening, and soothing. I would
rather live on these hills than anywhere else in the world."
"It is well enough for artists; but I never would learn
"And there is a very curious druidical stone just out there."
He threw a pebble in the direction signified. "Do you
often go to see it?"
"I was not even aware there existed any such curious
druidical stone. I am aware that there are boulevards
Yeobright looked thoughtfully on the ground.
"That means much," he said.
"It does indeed," said Eustacia.
"I remember when I had the same longing for town bustle.
Five years of a great city would be a perfect cure
"Heaven send me such a cure! Now, Mr. Yeobright,
I will go indoors and plaster my wounded hand."
They separated, and Eustacia vanished in the increasing shade.
She seemed full of many things. Her past was a blank,
her life had begun. The effect upon Clym of this
meeting he did not fully discover till some time after.
During his walk home his most intelligible sensation
was that his scheme had somehow become glorified.
A beautiful woman had been intertwined with it.
On reaching the house he went up to the room which was to
be made his study, and occupied himself during the evening
in unpacking his books from the boxes and arranging them
on shelves. From another box he drew a lamp and a can
of oil. He trimmed the lamp, arranged his table,
and said, "Now, I am ready to begin."
He rose early the next morning, read two hours before
breakfast by the light of his lamp--read all the morning,
all the afternoon. Just when the sun was going down his
eyes felt weary, and he leant back in his chair.
His room overlooked the front of the premises and the valley
of the heath beyond. The lowest beams of the winter
sun threw the shadow of the house over the palings,
across the grass margin of the heath, and far up the vale,
where the chimney outlines and those of the surrounding
tree-tops stretched forth in long dark prongs. Having been
seated at work all day, he decided to take a turn upon
the hills before it got dark; and, going out forthwith,
he struck across the heath towards Mistover.
It was an hour and a half later when he again appeared at
the garden gate. The shutters of the house were closed,
and Christian Cantle, who had been wheeling manure about
the garden all day, had gone home. On entering he found
that his mother, after waiting a long time for him,
had finished her meal.
"Where have you been, Clym?" she immediately said.
"Why didn't you tell me that you were going away at
"I have been on the heath."
"You'll meet Eustacia Vye if you go up there."
Clym paused a minute. "Yes, I met her this evening,"
he said, as though it were spoken under the sheer necessity
of preserving honesty.
"I wondered if you had."
"It was no appointment."
"No; such meetings never are."
"But you are not angry, Mother?"
"I can hardly say that I am not. Angry? No. But when I
consider the usual nature of the drag which causes men
of promise to disappoint the world I feel uneasy."
"You deserve credit for the feeling, Mother. But I can
assure you that you need not be disturbed by it on my account."
"When I think of you and your new crotchets," said Mrs. Yeobright,
with some emphasis, "I naturally don't feel so comfortable
as I did a twelvemonth ago. It is incredible to me
that a man accustomed to the attractive women of Paris
and elsewhere should be so easily worked upon by a girl
in a heath. You could just as well have walked another way."
"I had been studying all day."
"Well, yes," she added more hopefully, "I have been thinking
that you might get on as a schoolmaster, and rise that way,
since you really are determined to hate the course you
Yeobright was unwilling to disturb this idea, though his
scheme was far enough removed from one wherein the education
of youth should be made a mere channel of social ascent.
He had no desires of that sort. He had reached the stage
in a young man's life when the grimness of the general
human situation first becomes clear; and the realization
of this causes ambition to halt awhile. In France it
is not uncustomary to commit suicide at this stage;
in England we do much better, or much worse, as the case
The love between the young man and his mother was
strangely invisible now. Of love it may be said,
the less earthly the less demonstrative. In its absolutely
indestructible form it reaches a profundity in which all
exhibition of itself is painful. It was so with these.
Had conversations between them been overheard,
people would have said, "How cold they are to each other!"
His theory and his wishes about devoting his future
to teaching had made an impression on Mrs. Yeobright.
Indeed, how could it be otherwise when he was a part
of her--when their discourses were as if carried on
between the right and the left hands of the same body?
He had despaired of reaching her by argument; and it
was almost as a discovery to him that he could reach her
by a magnetism which was as superior to words as words are to yells.
Strangely enough he began to feel now that it would
not be so hard to persuade her who was his best friend
that comparative poverty was essentially the higher
course for him, as to reconcile to his feelings the act
of persuading her. From every provident point of view
his mother was so undoubtedly right, that he was not
without a sickness of heart in finding he could shake her.
She had a singular insight into life, considering that she
had never mixed with it. There are instances of persons who,
without clear ideas of the things they criticize have
yet had clear ideas of the relations of those things.
Blacklock, a poet blind from his birth, could describe
visual objects with accuracy; Professor Sanderson,
who was also blind, gave excellent lectures on colour,
and taught others the theory of ideas which they had and
he had not. In the social sphere these gifted ones are
mostly women; they can watch a world which they never saw,
and estimate forces of which they have only heard.
We call it intuition.
What was the great world to Mrs. Yeobright? A multitude whose
tendencies could be perceived, though not its essences.
Communities were seen by her as from a distance;
she saw them as we see the throngs which cover the
canvases of Sallaert, Van Alsloot, and others of that
school--vast masses of beings, jostling, zigzagging,
and processioning in definite directions, but whose features
are indistinguishable by the very comprehensiveness of the view.
One could see that, as far as it had gone, her life was
very complete on its reflective side. The philosophy of
her nature, and its limitation by circumstances, was almost
written in her movements. They had a majestic foundation,
though they were far from being majestic; and they had
a ground-work of assurance, but they were not assured.
As her once elastic walk had become deadened by time,
so had her natural pride of life been hindered in its
blooming by her necessities.
The next slight touch in the shaping of Clym's destiny
occurred a few days after. A barrow was opened on the heath,
and Yeobright attended the operation, remaining away
from his study during several hours. In the afternoon
Christian returned from a journey in the same direction,
and Mrs. Yeobright questioned him.
"They have dug a hole, and they have found things like flowerpots
upside down, Mis'ess Yeobright; and inside these be real
charnel bones. They have carried 'em off to men's houses;
but I shouldn't like to sleep where they will bide.
Dead folks have been known to come and claim their own.
Mr. Yeobright had got one pot of the bones, and was going
to bring 'em home--real skellington bones--but 'twas
ordered otherwise. You'll be relieved to hear that he gave
away his pot and all, on second thoughts; and a blessed thing
for ye, Mis'ess Yeobright, considering the wind o' nights."
"Gave it away?"
"Yes. To Miss Vye. She has a cannibal taste for such
churchyard furniture seemingly."
"Miss Vye was there too?"
"Ay, 'a b'lieve she was."
When Clym came home, which was shortly after, his mother said,
in a curious tone, "The urn you had meant for me you
Yeobright made no reply; the current of her feeling
was too pronounced to admit it.
The early weeks of the year passed on. Yeobright certainly
studied at home, but he also walked much abroad,
and the direction of his walk was always towards
some point of a line between Mistover and Rainbarrow.
The month of March arrived, and the heath showed its first
signs of awakening from winter trance. The awakening
was almost feline in its stealthiness. The pool outside
the bank by Eustacia's dwelling, which seemed as dead
and desolate as ever to an observer who moved and made
noises in his observation, would gradually disclose
a state of great animation when silently watched awhile.
A timid animal world had come to life for the season.
Little tadpoles and efts began to bubble up through
the water, and to race along beneath it; toads made noises
like very young ducks, and advanced to the margin in twos
and threes; overhead, bumblebees flew hither and thither
in the thickening light, their drone coming and going
like the sound of a gong.
On an evening such as this Yeobright descended into
the Blooms-End valley from beside that very pool,
where he had been standing with another person quite
silently and quite long enough to hear all this puny stir
of resurrection in nature; yet he had not heard it.
His walk was rapid as he came down, and he went with a
springy trend. Before entering upon his mother's premises
he stopped and breathed. The light which shone forth
on him from the window revealed that his face was flushed
and his eye bright. What it did not show was something
which lingered upon his lips like a seal set there.
The abiding presence of this impress was so real that he
hardly dared to enter the house, for it seemed as if his
mother might say, "What red spot is that glowing upon
your mouth so vividly?"
But he entered soon after. The tea was ready, and he sat
down opposite his mother. She did not speak many words;
and as for him, something had been just done and some
words had been just said on the hill which prevented him
from beginning a desultory chat. His mother's taciturnity
was not without ominousness, but he appeared not to care.
He knew why she said so little, but he could not remove
the cause of her bearing towards him. These half-silent
sittings were far from uncommon with them now. At last
Yeobright made a beginning of what was intended to strike
at the whole root of the matter.
"Five days have we sat like this at meals with scarcely
a word. What's the use of it, Mother?"
"None," said she, in a heart-swollen tone. "But there
is only too good a reason."
"Not when you know all. I have been wanting to speak
about this, and I am glad the subject is begun. The reason,
of course, is Eustacia Vye. Well, I confess I have seen
her lately, and have seen her a good many times."
"Yes, yes; and I know what that amounts to. It troubles
me, Clym. You are wasting your life here; and it is solely
on account of her. If it had not been for that woman
you would never have entertained this teaching scheme at all."
Clym looked hard at his mother. "You know that is not it,"
"Well, I know you had decided to attempt it before you
saw her; but that would have ended in intentions. It was
very well to talk of, but ridiculous to put in practice.
I fully expected that in the course of a month or two
you would have seen the folly of such self-sacrifice,
and would have been by this time back again to Paris
in some business or other. I can understand objections
to the diamond trade--I really was thinking that it
might be inadequate to the life of a man like you
even though it might have made you a millionaire.
But now I see how mistaken you are about this girl
I doubt if you could be correct about other things."
"How am I mistaken in her?"
"She is lazy and dissatisfied. But that is not all of it.
Supposing her to be as good a woman as any you can find,
which she certainly is not, why do you wish to connect
yourself with anybody at present?"
"Well, there are practical reasons," Clym began, and then
almost broke off under an overpowering sense of the weight
of argument which could be brought against his statement.
"If I take a school an educated woman would be invaluable
as a help to me."
"What! you really mean to marry her?"
"It would be premature to state that plainly. But consider
what obvious advantages there would be in doing it. She----"
"Don't suppose she has any money. She hasn't a farthing."
"She is excellently educated, and would make a good
matron in a boarding-school. I candidly own that I
have modified my views a little, in deference to you;
and it should satisfy you. I no longer adhere to my
intention of giving with my own mouth rudimentary education
to the lowest class. I can do better. I can establish
a good private school for farmers' sons, and without
stopping the school I can manage to pass examinations.
By this means, and by the assistance of a wife like her----"
"I shall ultimately, I hope, be at the head of one
of the best schools in the county."
Yeobright had enunciated the word "her" with a fervour which,
in conversation with a mother, was absurdly indiscreet.
Hardly a maternal heart within the four seas could
in such circumstances, have helped being irritated at
that ill-timed betrayal of feeling for a new woman.
"You are blinded, Clym," she said warmly. "It was
a bad day for you when you first set eyes on her.
And your scheme is merely a castle in the air built
on purpose to justify this folly which has seized you,
and to salve your conscience on the irrational situation
you are in."
"Mother, that's not true," he firmly answered.
"Can you maintain that I sit and tell untruths, when all
I wish to do is to save you from sorrow? For shame,
Clym! But it is all through that woman--a hussy!"
Clym reddened like fire and rose. He placed his hand
upon his mother's shoulder and said, in a tone which hung
strangely between entreaty and command, "I won't hear it.
I may be led to answer you in a way which we shall
His mother parted her lips to begin some other vehement truth,
but on looking at him she saw that in his face which led her
to leave the words unsaid. Yeobright walked once or twice
across the room, and then suddenly went out of the house.
It was eleven o'clock when he came in, though he had
not been further than the precincts of the garden.
His mother was gone to bed. A light was left burning
on the table, and supper was spread. Without stopping
for any food he secured the doors and went upstairs.
4 - An Hour of Bliss and Many Hours of Sadness
The next day was gloomy enough at Blooms-End. Yeobright
remained in his study, sitting over the open books;
but the work of those hours was miserably scant.
Determined that there should be nothing in his conduct
towards his mother resembling sullenness, he had occasionally
spoken to her on passing matters, and would take no notice
of the brevity of her replies. With the same resolve to keep
up a show of conversation he said, about seven o'clock
in the evening, "There's an eclipse of the moon tonight.
I am going out to see it." And, putting on his overcoat,
he left her.
The low moon was not as yet visible from the front of the house,
and Yeobright climbed out of the valley until he stood
in the full flood of her light. But even now he walked on,
and his steps were in the direction of Rainbarrow.
In half an hour he stood at the top. The sky was clear from
verge to verge, and the moon flung her rays over the whole heath,
but without sensibly lighting it, except where paths and
water-courses had laid bare the white flints and glistening
quartz sand, which made streaks upon the general shade.
After standing awhile he stooped and felt the heather.
It was dry, and he flung himself down upon the barrow,
his face towards the moon, which depicted a small image
of herself in each of his eyes.
He had often come up here without stating his purpose
to his mother; but this was the first time that he had been
ostensibly frank as to his purpose while really concealing it.
It was a moral situation which, three months earlier,
he could hardly have credited of himself. In returning
to labour in this sequestered spot he had anticipated
an escape from the chafing of social necessities;
yet behold they were here also. More than ever he
longed to be in some world where personal ambition was
not the only recognized form of progress--such, perhaps,
as might have been the case at some time or other in the
silvery globe then shining upon him. His eye travelled
over the length and breadth of that distant country--over
the Bay of Rainbows, the sombre Sea of Crises, the Ocean
of Storms, the Lake of Dreams, the vast Walled Plains,
and the wondrous Ring Mountains--till he almost felt
himself to be voyaging bodily through its wild scenes,
standing on its hollow hills, traversing its deserts,
descending its vales and old sea bottoms, or mounting
to the edges of its craters.
While he watched the far-removed landscape a tawny stain
grew into being on the lower verge--the eclipse had begun.
This marked a preconcerted moment--for the remote celestial
phenomenon had been pressed into sublunary service as
a lover's signal. Yeobright's mind flew back to earth
at the sight; he arose, shook himself and listened.
Minute after minute passed by, perhaps ten minutes passed,
and the shadow on the moon perceptibly widened.
He heard a rustling on his left hand, a cloaked figure
with an upturned face appeared at the base of the Barrow,
and Clym descended. In a moment the figure was in his arms,
and his lips upon hers.
Such a situation had less than three months brought forth.
They remained long without a single utterance, for no
language could reach the level of their condition--words
were as the rusty implements of a by-gone barbarous epoch,
and only to be occasionally tolerated.
"I began to wonder why you did not come," said Yeobright,
when she had withdrawn a little from his embrace.
"You said ten minutes after the first mark of shade
on the edge of the moon, and that's what it is now."
"Well, let us only think that here we are."
Then, holding each other's hand, they were again silent,
and the shadow on the moon's disc grew a little larger.
"Has it seemed long since you last saw me?" she asked.
"It has seemed sad."
"And not long? That's because you occupy yourself, and so
blind yourself to my absence. To me, who can do nothing,
it has been like living under stagnant water."
"I would rather bear tediousness, dear, than have time
made short by such means as have shortened mine."
"In what way is that? You have been thinking you wished
you did not love me."
"How can a man wish that, and yet love on? No, Eustacia."
"Men can, women cannot."
"Well, whatever I may have thought, one thing is certain--I
do love you--past all compass and description. I love you
to oppressiveness--I, who have never before felt more than
a pleasant passing fancy for any woman I have ever seen.
Let me look right into your moonlit face and dwell on
every line and curve in it! Only a few hairbreadths make
the difference between this face and faces I have seen
many times before I knew you; yet what a difference--the
difference between everything and nothing at all.
One touch on that mouth again! there, and there, and there.
Your eyes seem heavy, Eustacia."
"No, it is my general way of looking. I think it arises
from my feeling sometimes an agonizing pity for myself
that I ever was born."
"You don't feel it now?"
"No. Yet I know that we shall not love like this always.
Nothing can ensure the continuance of love. It will
evaporate like a spirit, and so I feel full of fears."
"You need not."
"Ah, you don't know. You have seen more than I,
and have been into cities and among people that I have
only heard of, and have lived more years than I; but yet
I am older at this than you. I loved another man once,
and now I love you."
"In God's mercy don't talk so, Eustacia!"
"But I do not think I shall be the one who wearies first.
It will, I fear, end in this way: your mother will find out
that you meet me, and she will influence you against me!"
"That can never be. She knows of these meetings already."
"And she speaks against me?"
"I will not say."
"There, go away! Obey her. I shall ruin you. It is foolish
of you to meet me like this. Kiss me, and go away forever.
Forever--do you hear?--forever!"
"It is your only chance. Many a man's love has been
a curse to him."
"You are desperate, full of fancies, and wilful;
and you misunderstand. I have an additional reason
for seeing you tonight besides love of you. For though,
unlike you, I feel our affection may be eternal.
I feel with you in this, that our present mode of existence
"Oh! 'tis your mother. Yes, that's it! I knew it."
"Never mind what it is. Believe this, I cannot let
myself lose you. I must have you always with me.
This very evening I do not like to let you go.
There is only one cure for this anxiety, dearest--you must
be my wife."
She started--then endeavoured to say calmly, "Cynics say
that cures the anxiety by curing the love."
"But you must answer me. Shall I claim you some day--I
don't mean at once?"
"I must think," Eustacia murmured. "At present speak
of Paris to me. Is there any place like it on earth?"
"It is very beautiful. But will you be mine?"
"I will be nobody else's in the world--does that satisfy you?"
"Yes, for the present."
"Now tell me of the Tuileries, and the Louvre,"
she continued evasively.
"I hate talking of Paris! Well, I remember one sunny room
in the Louvre which would make a fitting place for you to live
in--the Galerie d'Apollon. Its windows are mainly east;
and in the early morning, when the sun is bright,
the whole apartment is in a perfect blaze of splendour.
The rays bristle and dart from the encrustations of gilding
to the magnificent inlaid coffers, from the coffers to
the gold and silver plate, from the plate to the jewels
and precious stones, from these to the enamels, till there
is a perfect network of light which quite dazzles the eye.
But now, about our marriage----"
"And Versailles--the King's Gallery is some such
gorgeous room, is it not?"
"Yes. But what's the use of talking of gorgeous rooms?
By the way, the Little Trianon would suit us beautifully
to live in, and you might walk in the gardens in the
moonlight and think you were in some English shrubbery;
It is laid out in English fashion."
"I should hate to think that!"
"Then you could keep to the lawn in front of the Grand Palace.
All about there you would doubtless feel in a world
of historical romance."
He went on, since it was all new to her, and described
Fontainebleau, St. Cloud, the Bois, and many other
familiar haunts of the Parisians; till she said--
"When used you to go to these places?"
"Ah, yes. I dislike English Sundays. How I should chime
in with their manners over there! Dear Clym, you'll go
Clym shook his head, and looked at the eclipse.
"If you'll go back again I'll--be something,"
she said tenderly, putting her head near his breast.
"If you'll agree I'll give my promise, without making
you wait a minute longer."
"How extraordinary that you and my mother should be
of one mind about this!" said Yeobright. "I have vowed
not to go back, Eustacia. It is not the place I dislike;
it is the occupation."
"But you can go in some other capacity."
"No. Besides, it would interfere with my scheme.
Don't press that, Eustacia. Will you marry me?"
"I cannot tell."
"Now--never mind Paris; it is no better than other spots.
"You will never adhere to your education plan, I am
quite sure; and then it will be all right for me;
and so I promise to be yours for ever and ever."
Clym brought her face towards his by a gentle pressure
of the hand, and kissed her.
"Ah! but you don't know what you have got in me," she said.
"Sometimes I think there is not that in Eustacia Vye
which will make a good homespun wife. Well, let it go--see
how our time is slipping, slipping, slipping!" She pointed
towards the half-eclipsed moon.
"You are too mournful."
"No. Only I dread to think of anything beyond the present.
What is, we know. We are together now, and it is unknown
how long we shall be so; the unknown always fills my mind
with terrible possibilities, even when I may reasonably
expect it to be cheerful....Clym, the eclipsed moonlight
shines upon your face with a strange foreign colour,
and shows its shape as if it were cut out in gold.
That means that you should be doing better things
"You are ambitious, Eustacia--no, not exactly ambitious,
luxurious. I ought to be of the same vein, to make
you happy, I suppose. And yet, far from that, I could
live and die in a hermitage here, with proper work to do."
There was that in his tone which implied distrust of his
position as a solicitous lover, a doubt if he were acting
fairly towards one whose tastes touched his own only
at rare and infrequent points. She saw his meaning,
and whispered, in a low, full accent of eager assurance
"Don't mistake me, Clym--though I should like Paris,
I love you for yourself alone. To be your wife and live
in Paris would be heaven to me; but I would rather live
with you in a hermitage here than not be yours at all.
It is gain to me either way, and very great gain.
There's my too candid confession."
"Spoken like a woman. And now I must soon leave you.
I'll walk with you towards your house."
"But must you go home yet?" she asked. "Yes, the sand has
nearly slipped away, I see, and the eclipse is creeping
on more and more. Don't go yet! Stop till the hour has
run itself out; then I will not press you any more.
You will go home and sleep well; I keep sighing in my
sleep! Do you ever dream of me?"
"I cannot recollect a clear dream of you."
"I see your face in every scene of my dreams, and hear
your voice in every sound. I wish I did not. It is
too much what I feel. They say such love never lasts.
But it must! And yet once, I remember, I saw an officer
of the Hussars ride down the street at Budmouth,
and though he was a total stranger and never spoke to me,
I loved him till I thought I should really die of love--
but I didn't die, and at last I left off caring for him.
How terrible it would be if a time should come when I could
not love you, my Clym!"
"Please don't say such reckless things. When we see such
a time at hand we will say, 'I have outlived my faith
and purpose,' and die. There, the hour has expired--now
let us walk on."
Hand in hand they went along the path towards Mistover.
When they were near the house he said, "It is too late
for me to see your grandfather tonight. Do you think he
will object to it?"
"I will speak to him. I am so accustomed to be my own
mistress that it did not occur to me that we should have
to ask him."
Then they lingeringly separated, and Clym descended
And as he walked further and further from the charmed
atmosphere of his Olympian girl his face grew sad with
a new sort of sadness. A perception of the dilemma in
which his love had placed him came back in full force.
In spite of Eustacia's apparent willingness to wait
through the period of an unpromising engagement, till he
should be established in his new pursuit, he could not
but perceive at moments that she loved him rather as a
visitant from a gay world to which she rightly belonged
than as a man with a purpose opposed to that recent past
of his which so interested her. It meant that, though she
made no conditions as to his return to the French capital,
this was what she secretly longed for in the event of marriage;
and it robbed him of many an otherwise pleasant hour.
Along with that came the widening breach between himself
and his mother. Whenever any little occurrence had brought
into more prominence than usual the disappointment that he
was causing her it had sent him on lone and moody walks;
or he was kept awake a great part of the night by the
turmoil of spirit which such a recognition created.
If Mrs. Yeobright could only have been led to see what a
sound and worthy purpose this purpose of his was and how
little it was being affected by his devotions to Eustacia,
how differently would she regard him!
Thus as his sight grew accustomed to the first
blinding halo kindled about him by love and beauty,
Yeobright began to perceive what a strait he was in.
Sometimes he wished that he had never known Eustacia,
immediately to retract the wish as brutal. Three antagonistic
growths had to be kept alive: his mother's trust in him,
his plan for becoming a teacher, and Eustacia's happiness.
His fervid nature could not afford to relinquish one
of these, though two of the three were as many as he
could hope to preserve. Though his love was as chaste
as that of Petrarch for his Laura, it had made fetters
of what previously was only a difficulty. A position which
was not too simple when he stood whole-hearted had become
indescribably complicated by the addition of Eustacia.
Just when his mother was beginning to tolerate one scheme
he had introduced another still bitterer than the first,
and the combination was more than she could bear.
5 - Sharp Words Are Spoken, and a Crisis Ensues
When Yeobright was not with Eustacia he was sitting slavishly
over his books; when he was not reading he was meeting her.
These meetings were carried on with the greatest secrecy.
One afternoon his mother came home from a morning visit
to Thomasin. He could see from a disturbance in the lines
of her face that something had happened.
"I have been told an incomprehensible thing,"
she said mournfully. "The captain has let out
at the Woman that you and Eustacia Vye are engaged to be married."
"We are," said Yeobright. "But it may not be yet
for a very long time."
"I should hardly think it WOULD be yet for a very
long time! You will take her to Paris, I suppose?"
She spoke with weary hopelessness.
"I am not going back to Paris."
"What will you do with a wife, then?"
"Keep a school in Budmouth, as I have told you."
"That's incredible! The place is overrun with schoolmasters.
You have no special qualifications. What possible chance
is there for such as you?"
"There is no chance of getting rich. But with my system
of education, which is as new as it is true, I shall
do a great deal of good to my fellow-creatures."
"Dreams, dreams! If there had been any system left to be
invented they would have found it out at the universities
long before this time."
"Never, Mother. They cannot find it out, because their
teachers don't come in contact with the class which
demands such a system--that is, those who have had no
preliminary training. My plan is one for instilling high
knowledge into empty minds without first cramming them
with what has to be uncrammed again before true study begins."
"I might have believed you if you had kept yourself free
from entanglements; but this woman--if she had been
a good girl it would have been bad enough; but being----"
"She is a good girl."
"So you think. A Corfu bandmaster's daughter! What has
her life been? Her surname even is not her true one."
"She is Captain Vye's granddaughter, and her father merely
took her mother's name. And she is a lady by instinct."
"They call him 'captain,' but anybody is captain."
"He was in the Royal Navy!"
"No doubt he has been to sea in some tub or other.
Why doesn't he look after her? No lady would rove about
the heath at all hours of the day and night as she does.
But that's not all of it. There was something queer between
her and Thomasin's husband at one time--I am as sure of it
as that I stand here."
"Eustacia has told me. He did pay her a little
attention a year ago; but there's no harm in that.
I like her all the better."
"Clym," said his mother with firmness, "I have no
proofs against her, unfortunately. But if she makes
you a good wife, there has never been a bad one."
"Believe me, you are almost exasperating,"
said Yeobright vehemently. "And this very day I had
intended to arrange a meeting between you. But you
give me no peace; you try to thwart my wishes in everything."
"I hate the thought of any son of mine marrying badly! I
wish I had never lived to see this; it is too much for
me--it is more than I dreamt!" She turned to the window.
Her breath was coming quickly, and her lips were pale,
parted, and trembling.
"Mother," said Clym, "whatever you do, you will always
be dear to me--that you know. But one thing I have a
right to say, which is, that at my age I am old enough
to know what is best for me."
Mrs. Yeobright remained for some time silent and shaken,
as if she could say no more. Then she replied, "Best? Is it
best for you to injure your prospects for such a voluptuous,
idle woman as that? Don't you see that by the very fact
of your choosing her you prove that you do not know
what is best for you? You give up your whole thought--you
set your whole soul--to please a woman."
"I do. And that woman is you."
"How can you treat me so flippantly!" said his mother,
turning again to him with a tearful look.
"You are unnatural, Clym, and I did not expect it."
"Very likely," said he cheerlessly. "You did not know
the measure you were going to mete me, and therefore did
not know the measure that would be returned to you again."
"You answer me; you think only of her. You stick to her
in all things."
"That proves her to be worthy. I have never yet supported
what is bad. And I do not care only for her. I care
for you and for myself, and for anything that is good.
When a woman once dislikes another she is merciless!"
"O Clym! please don't go setting down as my fault what is
your obstinate wrongheadedness. If you wished to connect
yourself with an unworthy person why did you come home
here to do it? Why didn't you do it in Paris?--it is more
the fashion there. You have come only to distress me,
a lonely woman, and shorten my days! I wish that you
would bestow your presence where you bestow your love!"
Clym said huskily, "You are my mother. I will say no
more--beyond this, that I beg your pardon for having thought
this my home. I will no longer inflict myself upon you;
I'll go." And he went out with tears in his eyes.
It was a sunny afternoon at the beginning of summer,
and the moist hollows of the heath had passed from their
brown to their green stage. Yeobright walked to the edge
of the basin which extended down from Mistover and Rainbarrow.
By this time he was calm, and he looked over the landscape.
In the minor valleys, between the hillocks which
diversified the contour of the vale, the fresh young
ferns were luxuriantly growing up, ultimately to reach
a height of five or six feet. He descended a little way,
flung himself down in a spot where a path emerged from one
of the small hollows, and waited. Hither it was that he
had promised Eustacia to bring his mother this afternoon,
that they might meet and be friends. His attempt had utterly failed.
He was in a nest of vivid green. The ferny vegetation
round him, though so abundant, was quite uniform--it
was a grove of machine-made foliage, a world of green
triangles with saw-edges, and not a single flower.
The air was warm with a vaporous warmth, and the stillness
was unbroken. Lizards, grasshoppers, and ants were
the only living things to be beheld. The scene seemed
to belong to the ancient world of the carboniferous period,
when the forms of plants were few, and of the fern kind;
when there was neither bud nor blossom, nothing but a
monotonous extent of leafage, amid which no bird sang.
When he had reclined for some considerable time,
gloomily pondering, he discerned above the ferns a
drawn bonnet of white silk approaching from the left,
and Yeobright knew directly that it covered the head
of her he loved. His heart awoke from its apathy to a
warm excitement, and, jumping to his feet, he said aloud,
"I knew she was sure to come."
She vanished in a hollow for a few moments, and then
her whole form unfolded itself from the brake.
"Only you here?" she exclaimed, with a disappointed air,
whose hollowness was proved by her rising redness and her
half-guilty low laugh. "Where is Mrs. Yeobright?"
"She has not come," he replied in a subdued tone.
"I wish I had known that you would be here alone,"
she said seriously, "and that we were going to have such
an idle, pleasant time as this. Pleasure not known
beforehand is half wasted; to anticipate it is to double it.
I have not thought once today of having you all to myself
this afternoon, and the actual moment of a thing is so soon gone."
"It is indeed."
"Poor Clym!" she continued, looking tenderly into his face.
"You are sad. Something has happened at your home.
Never mind what is--let us only look at what seems."
"But, darling, what shall we do?" said he.
"Still go on as we do now--just live on from meeting
to meeting, never minding about another day. You, I know,
are always thinking of that--I can see you are. But you
must not--will you, dear Clym?"
"You are just like all women. They are ever content to build
their lives on any incidental position that offers itself;
whilst men would fain make a globe to suit them.
Listen to this, Eustacia. There is a subject I have
determined to put off no longer. Your sentiment on
the wisdom of Carpe diem does not impress me today.
Our present mode of life must shortly be brought to an end."
"It is your mother!"
"It is. I love you none the less in telling you;
it is only right you should know."
"I have feared my bliss," she said, with the merest motion
of her lips. "It has been too intense and consuming."
"There is hope yet. There are forty years of work in me yet,
and why should you despair? I am only at an awkward turning.
I wish people wouldn't be so ready to think that there
is no progress without uniformity."
"Ah--your mind runs off to the philosophical side of it.
Well, these sad and hopeless obstacles are welcome in
one sense, for they enable us to look with indifference
upon the cruel satires that Fate loves to indulge in.
I have heard of people, who, upon coming suddenly
into happiness, have died from anxiety lest they should
not live to enjoy it. I felt myself in that whimsical
state of uneasiness lately; but I shall be spared it now.
Let us walk on."
Clym took the hand which was already bared for him--it
was a favourite way with them to walk bare hand in bare
hand--and led her through the ferns. They formed a very
comely picture of love at full flush, as they walked along
the valley that late afternoon, the sun sloping down on
their right, and throwing their thin spectral shadows,
tall as poplar trees, far out across the furze and fern.
Eustacia went with her head thrown back fancifully,
a certain glad and voluptuous air of triumph pervading her
eyes at having won by her own unaided self a man who was
her perfect complement in attainment, appearance, and age.
On the young man's part, the paleness of face which he had
brought with him from Paris, and the incipient marks of time
and thought, were less perceptible than when he returned,
the healthful and energetic sturdiness which was his by
nature having partially recovered its original proportions.
They wandered onward till they reached the nether
margin of the heath, where it became marshy and merged
"I must part from you here, Clym," said Eustacia.
They stood still and prepared to bid each other farewell.
Everything before them was on a perfect level.
The sun, resting on the horizon line, streamed across
the ground from between copper-coloured and lilac clouds,
stretched out in flats beneath a sky of pale soft green.
All dark objects on the earth that lay towards the sun
were overspread by a purple haze, against which groups
of wailing gnats shone out, rising upwards and dancing about
like sparks of fire.
"O! this leaving you is too hard to bear!"
exclaimed Eustacia in a sudden whisper of anguish.
"Your mother will influence you too much; I shall not be
judged fairly, it will get afloat that I am not a good girl,
and the witch story will be added to make me blacker!"
"They cannot. Nobody dares to speak disrespectfully
of you or of me."
"Oh how I wish I was sure of never losing you--that you
could not be able to desert me anyhow!"
Clym stood silent a moment. His feelings were high,
the moment was passionate, and he cut the knot.
"You shall be sure of me, darling," he said, folding her
in his arms. "We will be married at once."
"Do you agree to it?"
"If--if we can."
"We certainly can, both being of full age. And I have
not followed my occupation all these years without having
accumulated money; and if you will agree to live in a tiny
cottage somewhere on the heath, until I take a house in
Budmouth for the school, we can do it at a very little expense."
"How long shall we have to live in the tiny cottage, Clym?"
"About six months. At the end of that time I shall
have finished my reading--yes, we will do it, and this
heart-aching will be over. We shall, of course, live in
absolute seclusion, and our married life will only begin
to outward view when we take the house in Budmouth,
where I have already addressed a letter on the matter.
Would your grandfather allow you?"
"I think he would--on the understanding that it should
not last longer than six months."
"I will guarantee that, if no misfortune happens."
"If no misfortune happens," she repeated slowly.
"Which is not likely. Dearest, fix the exact day."
And then they consulted on the question, and the day
was chosen. It was to be a fortnight from that time.
This was the end of their talk, and Eustacia left him.
Clym watched her as she retired towards the sun.
The luminous rays wrapped her up with her increasing distance,
and the rustle of her dress over the sprouting sedge
and grass died away. As he watched, the dead flat of
the scenery overpowered him, though he was fully alive
to the beauty of that untarnished early summer green
which was worn for the nonce by the poorest blade.
There was something in its oppressive horizontality
which too much reminded him of the arena of life; it gave
him a sense of bare equality with, and no superiority to,
a single living thing under the sun.
Eustacia was now no longer the goddess but the woman to him,
a being to fight for, support, help, be maligned for.
Now that he had reached a cooler moment he would have
preferred a less hasty marriage; but the card was laid,
and he determined to abide by the game. Whether Eustacia
was to add one other to the list of those who love too hotly
to love long and well, the forthcoming event was certainly
a ready way of proving.
6 - Yeobright Goes, and the Breach Is Complete
All that evening smart sounds denoting an active packing up
came from Yeobright's room to the ears of his mother downstairs.
Next morning he departed from the house and again proceeded
across the heath. A long day's march was before him,
his object being to secure a dwelling to which he might
take Eustacia when she became his wife. Such a house,
small, secluded, and with its windows boarded up, he had
casually observed a month earlier, about two miles beyond
the village of East Egdon, and six miles distant altogether;
and thither he directed his steps today.
The weather was far different from that of the evening before.
The yellow and vapoury sunset which had wrapped up
Eustacia from his parting gaze had presaged change.
It was one of those not infrequent days of an English June
which are as wet and boisterous as November. The cold clouds
hastened on in a body, as if painted on a moving slide.
Vapours from other continents arrived upon the wind,
which curled and parted round him as he walked on.
At length Clym reached the margin of a fir and beech
plantation that had been enclosed from heath land in
the year of his birth. Here the trees, laden heavily
with their new and humid leaves, were now suffering
more damage than during the highest winds of winter,
when the boughs are especially disencumbered to do battle
with the storm. The wet young beeches were undergoing
amputations, bruises, cripplings, and harsh lacerations,
from which the wasting sap would bleed for many a day
to come, and which would leave scars visible till the day
of their burning. Each stem was wrenched at the root,
where it moved like a bone in its socket, and at every
onset of the gale convulsive sounds came from the branches,
as if pain were felt. In a neighbouring brake a finch
was trying to sing; but the wind blew under his feathers
till they stood on end, twisted round his little tail,
and made him give up his song.
Yet a few yards to Yeobright's left, on the open heath,
how ineffectively gnashed the storm! Those gusts which
tore the trees merely waved the furze and heather in a
light caress. Egdon was made for such times as these.
Yeobright reached the empty house about midday.
It was almost as lonely as that of Eustacia's grandfather,
but the fact that it stood near a heath was disguised
by a belt of firs which almost enclosed the premises.
He journeyed on about a mile further to the village in which
the owner lived, and, returning with him to the house,
arrangements were completed, and the man undertook that one
room at least should be ready for occupation the next day.
Clym's intention was to live there alone until Eustacia
should join him on their wedding-day.
Then he turned to pursue his way homeward through the
drizzle that had so greatly transformed the scene.
The ferns, among which he had lain in comfort yesterday,
were dripping moisture from every frond, wetting his legs
through as he brushed past; and the fur of the rabbits
leaping before him was clotted into dark locks by the same
He reached home damp and weary enough after his ten-
mile walk. It had hardly been a propitious beginning,
but he had chosen his course, and would show no swerving.
The evening and the following morning were spent in
concluding arrangements for his departure. To stay at
home a minute longer than necessary after having once
come to his determination would be, he felt, only to give
new pain to his mother by some word, look, or deed.
He had hired a conveyance and sent off his goods
by two o'clock that day. The next step was to get
some furniture, which, after serving for temporary use
in the cottage, would be available for the house at
Budmouth when increased by goods of a better description.
A mart extensive enough for the purpose existed at Anglebury,
some miles beyond the spot chosen for his residence,
and there he resolved to pass the coming night.
It now only remained to wish his mother good-bye. She was
sitting by the window as usual when he came downstairs.
"Mother, I am going to leave you," he said, holding out
"I thought you were, by your packing," replied Mrs. Yeobright
in a voice from which every particle of emotion was painfully
"And you will part friends with me?"
"I am going to be married on the twenty-fifth."
"I thought you were going to be married."
"And then--and then you must come and see us. You will
understand me better after that, and our situation
will not be so wretched as it is now."
"I do not think it likely I shall come to see you."
"Then it will not be my fault or Eustacia's, Mother.
He kissed her cheek, and departed in great misery, which was
several hours in lessening itself to a controllable level.
The position had been such that nothing more could be
said without, in the first place, breaking down a barrier;
and that was not to be done.
No sooner had Yeobright gone from his mother's house than
her face changed its rigid aspect for one of blank despair.
After a while she wept, and her tears brought some relief.
During the rest of the day she did nothing but walk up and
down the garden path in a state bordering on stupefaction.
Night came, and with it but little rest. The next day,
with an instinct to do something which should reduce
prostration to mournfulness, she went to her son's room,
and with her own hands arranged it in order, for an imaginary
time when he should return again. She gave some attention
to her flowers, but it was perfunctorily bestowed, for they
no longer charmed her.
It was a great relief when, early in the afternoon,
Thomasin paid her an unexpected visit. This was not the first
meeting between the relatives since Thomasin's marriage;
and past blunders having been in a rough way rectified,
they could always greet each other with pleasure and ease.
The oblique band of sunlight which followed her through
the door became the young wife well. It illuminated her
as her presence illuminated the heath. In her movements,
in her gaze, she reminded the beholder of the feathered
creatures who lived around her home. All similes and
allegories concerning her began and ended with birds.
There was as much variety in her motions as in their flight.
When she was musing she was a kestrel, which hangs
in the air by an invisible motion of its wings.
When she was in a high wind her light body was blown
against trees and banks like a heron's. When she was
frightened she darted noiselessly like a kingfisher.
When she was serene she skimmed like a swallow, and that is
how she was moving now.
"You are looking very blithe, upon my word, Tamsie,"
said Mrs. Yeobright, with a sad smile. "How is Damon?"
"He is very well."
"Is he kind to you, Thomasin?" And Mrs. Yeobright observed
"Is that honestly said?"
"Yes, Aunt. I would tell you if he were unkind."
She added, blushing, and with hesitation, "He--I don't
know if I ought to complain to you about this, but I am
not quite sure what to do. I want some money, you know,
Aunt--some to buy little things for myself--and he
doesn't give me any. I don't like to ask him; and yet,
perhaps, he doesn't give it me because he doesn't know.
Ought I to mention it to him, Aunt?"
"Of course you ought. Have you never said a word
on the matter?"
"You see, I had some of my own," said Thomasin evasively,
"and I have not wanted any of his until lately. I did
just say something about it last week; but he seems--not
"He must be made to remember. You are aware that I have
a little box full of spade-guineas, which your uncle put
into my hands to divide between yourself and Clym whenever
I chose. Perhaps the time has come when it should be done.
They can be turned into sovereigns at any moment."
"I think I should like to have my share--that is, if you
"You shall, if necessary. But it is only proper that
you should first tell your husband distinctly that you
are without any, and see what he will do."
"Very well, I will....Aunt, I have heard about Clym.
I know you are in trouble about him, and that's why I
Mrs. Yeobright turned away, and her features worked
in her attempt to conceal her feelings. Then she ceased
to make any attempt, and said, weeping, "O Thomasin,
do you think he hates me? How can he bear to grieve me so,
when I have lived only for him through all these years?"
"Hate you--no," said Thomasin soothingly. "It is only
that he loves her too well. Look at it quietly--do.
It is not so very bad of him. Do you know, I thought
it not the worst match he could have made. Miss Vye's
family is a good one on her mother's side; and her father
was a romantic wanderer--a sort of Greek Ulysses."
"It is no use, Thomasin; it is no use. Your intention
is good; but I will not trouble you to argue. I have gone
through the whole that can be said on either side times,
and many times. Clym and I have not parted in anger;
we have parted in a worse way. It is not a passionate
quarrel that would have broken my heart; it is the steady
opposition and persistence in going wrong that he has shown.
O Thomasin, he was so good as a little boy--so tender
"He was, I know."
"I did not think one whom I called mine would grow up
to treat me like this. He spoke to me as if I opposed
him to injure him. As though I could wish him ill!"
"There are worse women in the world than Eustacia Vye."
"There are too many better that's the agony of it.
It was she, Thomasin, and she only, who led your husband
to act as he did--I would swear it!"
"No," said Thomasin eagerly. "It was before he knew me
that he thought of her, and it was nothing but a mere flirtation."
"Very well; we will let it be so. There is little use
in unravelling that now. Sons must be blind if they will.
Why is it that a woman can see from a distance what a man
cannot see close? Clym must do as he will--he is nothing
more to me. And this is maternity--to give one's best
years and best love to ensure the fate of being despised!"
"You are too unyielding. Think how many mothers there
are whose sons have brought them to public shame by real
crimes before you feel so deeply a case like this."
"Thomasin, don't lecture me--I can't have it. It is
the excess above what we expect that makes the force
of the blow, and that may not be greater in their case
than in mine--they may have foreseen the worst....I am
wrongly made, Thomasin," she added, with a mournful smile.
"Some widows can guard against the wounds their children
give them by turning their hearts to another husband
and beginning life again. But I always was a poor, weak,
one-idea'd creature--I had not the compass of heart nor
the enterprise for that. Just as forlorn and stupefied
as I was when my husband's spirit flew away I have sat
ever since--never attempting to mend matters at all.
I was comparatively a young woman then, and I might have
had another family by this time, and have been comforted
by them for the failure of this one son."
"It is more noble in you that you did not."
"The more noble, the less wise."
"Forget it, and be soothed, dear Aunt. And I shall
not leave you alone for long. I shall come and see you
And for one week Thomasin literally fulfilled her word.
She endeavoured to make light of the wedding; and brought
news of the preparations, and that she was invited
to be present. The next week she was rather unwell,
and did not appear. Nothing had as yet been done about
the guineas, for Thomasin feared to address her husband
again on the subject, and Mrs. Yeobright had insisted
One day just before this time Wildeve was standing at
the door of the Quiet Woman. In addition to the upward
path through the heath to Rainbarrow and Mistover,
there was a road which branched from the highway a short