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Return of the Native, by Thomas Hardy

Part 7 out of 10

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might well have wondered how such a prepossessing set
of young women of like size, age, and disposition,
could have been collected together where there were only
one or two villages to choose from. In the background
was one happy man dancing by himself, with closed eyes,
totally oblivious of all the rest. A fire was burning under
a pollard thorn a few paces off, over which three kettles
hung in a row. Hard by was a table where elderly dames
prepared tea, but Eustacia looked among them in vain for the
cattle-dealer's wife who had suggested that she should come,
and had promised to obtain a courteous welcome for her.

This unexpected absence of the only local resident whom
Eustacia knew considerably damaged her scheme for an
afternoon of reckless gaiety. Joining in became a matter
of difficulty, notwithstanding that, were she to advance,
cheerful dames would come forward with cups of tea and make
much of her as a stranger of superior grace and knowledge
to themselves. Having watched the company through the
figures of two dances, she decided to walk a little further,
to a cottage where she might get some refreshment,
and then return homeward in the shady time of evening.

This she did, and by the time that she retraced her steps
towards the scene of the gipsying, which it was necessary
to repass on her way to Alderworth, the sun was going down.
The air was now so still that she could hear the band
afar off, and it seemed to be playing with more spirit,
if that were possible, than when she had come away.
On reaching the hill the sun had quite disappeared;
but this made little difference either to Eustacia
or to the revellers, for a round yellow moon was rising
before her, though its rays had not yet outmastered those
from the west. The dance was going on just the same,
but strangers had arrived and formed a ring around the figure,
so that Eustacia could stand among these without a chance
of being recognized.

A whole village-full of sensuous emotion, scattered abroad
all the year long, surged here in a focus for an hour.
The forty hearts of those waving couples were beating as they
had not done since, twelve months before, they had come
together in similar jollity. For the time paganism was
revived in their hearts, the pride of life was all in all,
and they adored none other than themselves.

How many of those impassioned but temporary embraces were
destined to become perpetual was possibly the wonder of
some of those who indulged in them, as well as of Eustacia
who looked on. She began to envy those pirouetters,
to hunger for the hope and happiness which the
fascination of the dance seemed to engender within them.
Desperately fond of dancing herself, one of Eustacia's
expectations of Paris had been the opportunity it might
afford her of indulgence in this favourite pastime.
Unhappily, that expectation was now extinct within her for ever.

Whilst she abstractedly watched them spinning and
fluctuating in the increasing moonlight she suddenly
heard her name whispered by a voice over her shoulder.
Turning in surprise, she beheld at her elbow one whose
presence instantly caused her to flush to the temples.

It was Wildeve. Till this moment he had not met her eye
since the morning of his marriage, when she had been
loitering in the church, and had startled him by lifting
her veil and coming forward to sign the register as witness.
Yet why the sight of him should have instigated that sudden
rush of blood she could not tell.

Before she could speak he whispered, "Do you like dancing
as much as ever?"

"I think I do," she replied in a low voice.

"Will you dance with me?"

"It would be a great change for me; but will it not
seem strange?"

"What strangeness can there be in relations dancing together?"

"Ah--yes, relations. Perhaps none."

"Still, if you don't like to be seen, pull down your veil;
though there is not much risk of being known by this light.
Lots of strangers are here."

She did as he suggested; and the act was a tacit
acknowledgment that she accepted his offer.

Wildeve gave her his arm and took her down on the outside
of the ring to the bottom of the dance, which they entered.
In two minutes more they were involved in the figure
and began working their way upwards to the top.
Till they had advanced halfway thither Eustacia wished
more than once that she had not yielded to his request;
from the middle to the top she felt that, since she had come
out to seek pleasure, she was only doing a natural thing
to obtain it. Fairly launched into the ceaseless glides
and whirls which their new position as top couple opened
up to them, Eustacia's pulses began to move too quickly
for long rumination of any kind.

Through the length of five-and-twenty couples they threaded
their giddy way, and a new vitality entered her form.
The pale ray of evening lent a fascination to the experience.
There is a certain degree and tone of light which tends
to disturb the equilibrium of the senses, and to promote
dangerously the tenderer moods; added to movement,
it drives the emotions to rankness, the reason becoming
sleepy and unperceiving in inverse proportion; and this
light fell now upon these two from the disc of the moon.
All the dancing girls felt the symptoms, but Eustacia most
of all. The grass under their feet became trodden away,
and the hard, beaten surface of the sod, when viewed aslant
towards the moonlight, shone like a polished table.
The air became quite still, the flag above the wagon which held
the musicians clung to the pole, and the players appeared
only in outline against the sky; except when the circular
mouths of the trombone, ophicleide, and French horn gleamed
out like huge eyes from the shade of their figures.
The pretty dresses of the maids lost their subtler day
colours and showed more or less of a misty white.
Eustacia floated round and round on Wildeve's arm,
her face rapt and statuesque; her soul had passed away
from and forgotten her features, which were left empty
and quiescent, as they always are when feeling goes beyond
their register.

How near she was to Wildeve! it was terrible to think of.
She could feel his breathing, and he, of course,
could feel hers. How badly she had treated him! yet,
here they were treading one measure. The enchantment
of the dance surprised her. A clear line of difference
divided like a tangible fence her experience within
this maze of motion from her experience without it.
Her beginning to dance had been like a change of atmosphere;
outside, she had been steeped in arctic frigidity
by comparison with the tropical sensations here.
She had entered the dance from the troubled hours of her
late life as one might enter a brilliant chamber after
a night walk in a wood. Wildeve by himself would have
been merely an agitation; Wildeve added to the dance,
and the moonlight, and the secrecy, began to be a delight.
Whether his personality supplied the greater part of this
sweetly compounded feeling, or whether the dance and the
scene weighed the more therein, was a nice point upon
which Eustacia herself was entirely in a cloud.

People began to say "Who are they?" but no invidious
inquiries were made. Had Eustacia mingled with the
other girls in their ordinary daily walks the case would
have been different: here she was not inconvenienced by
excessive inspection, for all were wrought to their brightest
grace by the occasion. Like the planet Mercury surrounded
by the lustre of sunset, her permanent brilliancy passed
without much notice in the temporary glory of the situation.

As for Wildeve, his feelings are easy to guess.
Obstacles were a ripening sun to his love, and he
was at this moment in a delirium of exquisite misery.
To clasp as his for five minutes what was another man's
through all the rest of the year was a kind of thing he
of all men could appreciate. He had long since begun
to sigh again for Eustacia; indeed, it may be asserted
that signing the marriage register with Thomasin was the
natural signal to his heart to return to its first quarters,
and that the extra complication of Eustacia's marriage
was the one addition required to make that return compulsory.

Thus, for different reasons, what was to the rest an exhilarating
movement was to these two a riding upon the whirlwind.
The dance had come like an irresistible attack upon whatever
sense of social order there was in their minds, to drive
them back into old paths which were now doubly irregular.
Through three dances in succession they spun their way;
and then, fatigued with the incessant motion, Eustacia turned
to quit the circle in which she had already remained too long.
Wildeve led her to a grassy mound a few yards distant,
where she sat down, her partner standing beside her.
From the time that he addressed her at the beginning
of the dance till now they had not exchanged a word.

"The dance and the walking have tired you?" he said tenderly.

"No; not greatly."

"It is strange that we should have met here of all places,
after missing each other so long."

"We have missed because we tried to miss, I suppose."

"Yes. But you began that proceeding--by breaking a promise."

"It is scarcely worth while to talk of that now.
We have formed other ties since then--you no less than I."

"I am sorry to hear that your husband is ill."

"He is not ill--only incapacitated."

"Yes--that is what I mean. I sincerely sympathize
with you in your trouble. Fate has treated you cruelly."

She was silent awhile. "Have you heard that he has
chosen to work as a furze-cutter?" she said in a low,
mournful voice.

"It has been mentioned to me," answered Wildeve hesitatingly.
"But I hardly believed it."

"It is true. What do you think of me as a furze-
cutter's wife?"

"I think the same as ever of you, Eustacia. Nothing of
that sort can degrade you--you ennoble the occupation
of your husband."

"I wish I could feel it."

"Is there any chance of Mr. Yeobright getting better?"

"He thinks so. I doubt it."

"I was quite surprised to hear that he had taken a cottage.
I thought, in common with other people, that he would have
taken you off to a home in Paris immediately after you had
married him. 'What a gay, bright future she has before her!'
I thought. He will, I suppose, return there with you,
if his sight gets strong again?"

Observing that she did not reply he regarded her
more closely. She was almost weeping. Images of a
future never to be enjoyed, the revived sense of her
bitter disappointment, the picture of the neighbour's
suspended ridicule which was raised by Wildeve's words,
had been too much for proud Eustacia's equanimity.

Wildeve could hardly control his own too forward feelings
when he saw her silent perturbation. But he affected
not to notice this, and she soon recovered her calmness.

"You do not intend to walk home by yourself?" he asked.

"O yes," said Eustacia. "What could hurt me on this heath,
who have nothing?"

"By diverging a little I can make my way home the same
as yours. I shall be glad to keep you company as far
as Throope Corner." Seeing that Eustacia sat on in
hesitation he added, "Perhaps you think it unwise to be
seen in the same road with me after the events of last summer?"

"Indeed I think no such thing," she said haughtily.
"I shall accept whose company I choose, for all that may be
said by the miserable inhabitants of Egdon."

"Then let us walk on--if you are ready. Our nearest way
is towards that holly bush with the dark shadow that you
see down there."

Eustacia arose, and walked beside him in the direction
signified, brushing her way over the damping heath and fern,
and followed by the strains of the merrymakers, who still kept
up the dance. The moon had now waxed bright and silvery,
but the heath was proof against such illumination,
and there was to be observed the striking scene of a dark,
rayless tract of country under an atmosphere charged
from its zenith to its extremities with whitest light.
To an eye above them their two faces would have appeared
amid the expanse like two pearls on a table of ebony.

On this account the irregularities of the path were not visible,
and Wildeve occasionally stumbled; whilst Eustacia found
it necessary to perform some graceful feats of balancing
whenever a small tuft of heather or root of furze
protruded itself through the grass of the narrow track
and entangled her feet. At these junctures in her progress
a hand was invariably stretched forward to steady her,
holding her firmly until smooth ground was again reached,
when the hand was again withdrawn to a respectful distance.

They performed the journey for the most part in silence,
and drew near to Throope Corner, a few hundred yards from
which a short path branched away to Eustacia's house.
By degrees they discerned coming towards them a pair of
human figures, apparently of the male sex.

When they came a little nearer Eustacia broke the silence
by saying, "One of those men is my husband. He promised
to come to meet me."

"And the other is my greatest enemy," said Wildeve.

"It looks like Diggory Venn."

"That is the man."

"It is an awkward meeting," said she; "but such is my fortune.
He knows too much about me, unless he could know more,
and so prove to himself that what he now knows counts
for nothing. Well, let it be--you must deliver me up
to them."

"You will think twice before you direct me to do that.
Here is a man who has not forgotten an item in our meetings
at Rainbarrow--he is in company with your husband.
Which of them, seeing us together here, will believe
that our meeting and dancing at the gipsy party was
by chance?"

"Very well," she whispered gloomily. "Leave me before
they come up."

Wildeve bade her a tender farewell, and plunged across
the fern and furze, Eustacia slowly walking on. In two
or three minutes she met her husband and his companion.

"My journey ends here for tonight, reddleman," said Yeobright
as soon as he perceived her. "I turn back with this lady.
Good night."

"Good night, Mr. Yeobright," said Venn. "I hope to see
you better soon."

The moonlight shone directly upon Venn's face as he spoke,
and revealed all its lines to Eustacia. He was looking
suspiciously at her. That Venn's keen eye had discerned
what Yeobright's feeble vision had not--a man in the act
of withdrawing from Eustacia's side--was within the limits
of the probable.

If Eustacia had been able to follow the reddleman she would
soon have found striking confirmation of her thought.
No sooner had Clym given her his arm and led her off
the scene than the reddleman turned back from the beaten
track towards East Egdon, whither he had been strolling
merely to accompany Clym in his walk, Diggory's van
being again in the neighbourhood. Stretching out his
long legs, he crossed the pathless portion of the heath
somewhat in the direction which Wildeve had taken.
Only a man accustomed to nocturnal rambles could at this
hour have descended those shaggy slopes with Venn's
velocity without falling headlong into a pit, or snapping
off his leg by jamming his foot into some rabbit burrow.
But Venn went on without much inconvenience to himself,
and the course of his scamper was towards the Quiet
Woman Inn. This place he reached in about half an hour,
and he was well aware that no person who had been near
Throope Corner when he started could have got down here
before him.

The lonely inn was not yet closed, though scarcely
an individual was there, the business done being chiefly
with travellers who passed the inn on long journeys,
and these had now gone on their way. Venn went to the
public room, called for a mug of ale, and inquired
of the maid in an indifferent tone if Mr. Wildeve was at home.

Thomasin sat in an inner room and heard Venn's voice.
When customers were present she seldom showed herself,
owing to her inherent dislike for the business;
but perceiving that no one else was there tonight she
came out.

"He is not at home yet, Diggory," she said pleasantly.
"But I expected him sooner. He has been to East Egdon
to buy a horse."

"Did he wear a light wideawake?"


"Then I saw him at Throope Corner, leading one home,"
said Venn drily. "A beauty, with a white face and a mane
as black as night. He will soon be here, no doubt."
Rising and looking for a moment at the pure, sweet face
of Thomasin, over which a shadow of sadness had passed
since the time when he had last seen her, he ventured to add,
"Mr. Wildeve seems to be often away at this time."

"O yes," cried Thomasin in what was intended to be a tone
of gaiety. "Husbands will play the truant, you know.
I wish you could tell me of some secret plan that would
help me to keep him home at my will in the evenings."

"I will consider if I know of one," replied Venn in that
same light tone which meant no lightness. And then he
bowed in a manner of his own invention and moved to go.
Thomasin offered him her hand; and without a sigh,
though with food for many, the reddleman went out.

When Wildeve returned, a quarter of an hour later Thomasin
said simply, and in the abashed manner usual with her now,
"Where is the horse, Damon?"

"O, I have not bought it, after all. The man asks too much."

"But somebody saw you at Throope Corner leading it
home--a beauty, with a white face and a mane as black
as night."

"Ah!" said Wildeve, fixing his eyes upon her; "who told
you that?"

"Venn the reddleman."

The expression of Wildeve's face became curiously condensed.
"That is a mistake--it must have been someone else,"
he said slowly and testily, for he perceived that Venn's
countermoves had begun again.

4 - Rough Coercion Is Employed

Those words of Thomasin, which seemed so little, but meant
so much, remained in the ears of Diggory Venn: "Help me
to keep him home in the evenings."

On this occasion Venn had arrived on Egdon Heath only to cross
to the other side--he had no further connection with the
interests of the Yeobright family, and he had a business of
his own to attend to. Yet he suddenly began to feel himself
drifting into the old track of manoeuvring on Thomasin's account.

He sat in his van and considered. From Thomasin's words and
manner he had plainly gathered that Wildeve neglected her.
For whom could he neglect her if not for Eustacia? Yet it
was scarcely credible that things had come to such a head
as to indicate that Eustacia systematically encouraged him.
Venn resolved to reconnoitre somewhat carefully the lonely
road which led along the vale from Wildeve's dwelling
to Clym's house at Alderworth.

At this time, as has been seen, Wildeve was quite
innocent of any predetermined act of intrigue, and except
at the dance on the green he had not once met Eustacia
since her marriage. But that the spirit of intrigue
was in him had been shown by a recent romantic habit
of his--a habit of going out after dark and strolling
towards Alderworth, there looking at the moon and stars,
looking at Eustacia's house, and walking back at leisure.

Accordingly, when watching on the night after the festival,
the reddleman saw him ascend by the little path,
lean over the front gate of Clym's garden, sigh, and turn
to go back again. It was plain that Wildeve's intrigue
was rather ideal than real. Venn retreated before him
down the hill to a place where the path was merely
a deep groove between the heather; here he mysteriously
bent over the ground for a few minutes, and retired.
When Wildeve came on to that spot his ankle was caught
by something, and he fell headlong.

As soon as he had recovered the power of respiration
he sat up and listened. There was not a sound in the
gloom beyond the spiritless stir of the summer wind.
Feeling about for the obstacle which had flung him down,
he discovered that two tufts of heath had been tied together
across the path, forming a loop, which to a traveller
was certain overthrow. Wildeve pulled off the string
that bound them, and went on with tolerable quickness.
On reaching home he found the cord to be of a reddish colour.
It was just what he had expected.

Although his weaknesses were not specially those akin
to physical fear, this species of coup-de-Jarnac
from one he knew too well troubled the mind of Wildeve.
But his movements were unaltered thereby. A night
or two later he again went along the vale to Alderworth,
taking the precaution of keeping out of any path.
The sense that he was watched, that craft was employed
to circumvent his errant tastes, added piquancy to a journey
so entirely sentimental, so long as the danger was of no
fearful sort. He imagined that Venn and Mrs. Yeobright
were in league, and felt that there was a certain legitimacy
in combating such a coalition.

The heath tonight appeared to be totally deserted;
and Wildeve, after looking over Eustacia's garden gate
for some little time, with a cigar in his mouth, was tempted
by the fascination that emotional smuggling had for his nature
to advance towards the window, which was not quite closed,
the blind being only partly drawn down. He could see
into the room, and Eustacia was sitting there alone.
Wildeve contemplated her for a minute, and then retreating
into the heath beat the ferns lightly, whereupon moths flew
out alarmed. Securing one, he returned to the window,
and holding the moth to the chink, opened his hand.
The moth made towards the candle upon Eustacia's table,
hovered round it two or three times, and flew into
the flame.

Eustacia started up. This had been a well-known signal
in old times when Wildeve had used to come secretly wooing
to Mistover. She at once knew that Wildeve was outside,
but before she could consider what to do her husband
came in from upstairs. Eustacia's face burnt crimson
at the unexpected collision of incidents, and filled it
with an animation that it too frequently lacked.

"You have a very high colour, dearest," said Yeobright,
when he came close enough to see it. "Your appearance
would be no worse if it were always so."

"I am warm," said Eustacia. "I think I will go into
the air for a few minutes."

"Shall I go with you?"

"O no. I am only going to the gate."

She arose, but before she had time to get out of the room
a loud rapping began upon the front door.

"I'll go--I'll go," said Eustacia in an unusually quick
tone for her; and she glanced eagerly towards the window
whence the moth had flown; but nothing appeared there.

"You had better not at this time of the evening,"
he said. Clym stepped before her into the passage,
and Eustacia waited, her somnolent manner covering her
inner heat and agitation.

She listened, and Clym opened the door. No words were
uttered outside, and presently he closed it and came back,
saying, "Nobody was there. I wonder what that could have meant?"

He was left to wonder during the rest of the evening,
for no explanation offered itself, and Eustacia said nothing,
the additional fact that she knew of only adding more
mystery to the performance.

Meanwhile a little drama had been acted outside which saved
Eustacia from all possibility of compromising herself
that evening at least. Whilst Wildeve had been preparing
his moth-signal another person had come behind him up
to the gate. This man, who carried a gun in his hand,
looked on for a moment at the other's operation by
the window, walked up to the house, knocked at the door,
and then vanished round the corner and over the hedge.

"Damn him!" said Wildeve. "He has been watching me again."

As his signal had been rendered futile by this uproarious
rapping Wildeve withdrew, passed out at the gate, and walked
quickly down the path without thinking of anything except
getting away unnoticed. Halfway down the hill the path
ran near a knot of stunted hollies, which in the general
darkness of the scene stood as the pupil in a black eye.
When Wildeve reached this point a report startled his ear,
and a few spent gunshots fell among the leaves around him.

There was no doubt that he himself was the cause of that
gun's discharge; and he rushed into the clump of hollies,
beating the bushes furiously with his stick; but nobody
was there. This attack was a more serious matter than
the last, and it was some time before Wildeve recovered
his equanimity. A new and most unpleasant system of menace
had begun, and the intent appeared to be to do him grievous
bodily harm. Wildeve had looked upon Venn's first attempt
as a species of horseplay, which the reddleman had indulged
in for want of knowing better; but now the boundary
line was passed which divides the annoying from the perilous.

Had Wildeve known how thoroughly in earnest Venn
had become he might have been still more alarmed.
The reddleman had been almost exasperated by the sight
of Wildeve outside Clym's house, and he was prepared to go
to any lengths short of absolutely shooting him, to terrify
the young innkeeper out of his recalcitrant impulses.
The doubtful legitimacy of such rough coercion did not
disturb the mind of Venn. It troubles few such minds
in such cases, and sometimes this is not to be regretted.
From the impeachment of Strafford to Farmer Lynch's
short way with the scamps of Virginia there have been
many triumphs of justice which are mockeries of law.

About half a mile below Clym's secluded dwelling
lay a hamlet where lived one of the two constables
who preserved the peace in the parish of Alderworth,
and Wildeve went straight to the constable's cottage.
Almost the first thing that he saw on opening the door
was the constable's truncheon hanging to a nail, as if
to assure him that here were the means to his purpose.
On inquiry, however, of the constable's wife he learnt
that the constable was not at home. Wildeve said he
would wait.

The minutes ticked on, and the constable did not arrive.
Wildeve cooled down from his state of high indignation
to a restless dissatisfaction with himself, the scene,
the constable's wife, and the whole set of circumstances.
He arose and left the house. Altogether, the experience
of that evening had had a cooling, not to say a chilling,
effect on misdirected tenderness, and Wildeve was in no mood
to ramble again to Alderworth after nightfall in hope of a
stray glance from Eustacia.

Thus far the reddleman had been tolerably successful in his
rude contrivances for keeping down Wildeve's inclination
to rove in the evening. He had nipped in the bud the
possible meeting between Eustacia and her old lover this
very night. But he had not anticipated that the tendency
of his action would be to divert Wildeve's movement
rather than to stop it. The gambling with the guineas
had not conduced to make him a welcome guest to Clym;
but to call upon his wife's relative was natural, and he
was determined to see Eustacia. It was necessary to choose
some less untoward hour than ten o'clock at night.
"Since it is unsafe to go in the evening," he said,
"I'll go by day."

Meanwhile Venn had left the heath and gone to call upon
Mrs. Yeobright, with whom he had been on friendly terms
since she had learnt what a providential countermove he
had made towards the restitution of the family guineas.
She wondered at the lateness of his call, but had no
objection to see him.

He gave her a full account of Clym's affliction, and of the
state in which he was living; then, referring to Thomasin,
touched gently upon the apparent sadness of her days.
"Now, ma'am, depend upon it," he said, "you couldn't do
a better thing for either of 'em than to make yourself
at home in their houses, even if there should be a little
rebuff at first."

"Both she and my son disobeyed me in marrying;
therefore I have no interest in their households.
Their troubles are of their own making." Mrs. Yeobright
tried to speak severely; but the account of her son's
state had moved her more than she cared to show.

"Your visits would make Wildeve walk straighter than he
is inclined to do, and might prevent unhappiness down
the heath."

"What do you mean?"

"I saw something tonight out there which I didn't like at all.
I wish your son's house and Mr. Wildeve's were a hundred
miles apart instead of four or five."

"Then there WAS an understanding between him
and Clym's wife when he made a fool of Thomasin!"

"We'll hope there's no understanding now."

"And our hope will probably be very vain. O Clym!
O Thomasin!"

"There's no harm done yet. In fact, I've persuaded
Wildeve to mind his own business."


"O, not by talking--by a plan of mine called the silent system."

"I hope you'll succeed."

"I shall if you help me by calling and making friends
with your son. You'll have a chance then of using your eyes."

"Well, since it has come to this," said Mrs. Yeobright sadly,
"I will own to you, reddleman, that I thought of going.
I should be much happier if we were reconciled.
The marriage is unalterable, my life may be cut short,
and I should wish to die in peace. He is my only son;
and since sons are made of such stuff I am not sorry
I have no other. As for Thomasin, I never expected
much from her; and she has not disappointed me.
But I forgave her long ago; and I forgive him now.
I'll go."

At this very time of the reddleman's conversation
with Mrs. Yeobright at Blooms-End another conversation
on the same subject was languidly proceeding at Alderworth.

All the day Clym had borne himself as if his mind were too full
of its own matter to allow him to care about outward things,
and his words now showed what had occupied his thoughts.
It was just after the mysterious knocking that he began
the theme. "Since I have been away today, Eustacia,
I have considered that something must be done to heal up
this ghastly breach between my dear mother and myself.
It troubles me."

"What do you propose to do?" said Eustacia abstractedly,
for she could not clear away from her the excitement caused
by Wildeve's recent manoeuvre for an interview.

"You seem to take a very mild interest in what I propose,
little or much," said Clym, with tolerable warmth.

"You mistake me," she answered, reviving at his reproach.
"I am only thinking."

"What of?"

"Partly of that moth whose skeleton is getting burnt up
in the wick of the candle," she said slowly. "But you
know I always take an interest in what you say."

"Very well, dear. Then I think I must go and call upon
her."...He went on with tender feeling: "It is a thing
I am not at all too proud to do, and only a fear
that I might irritate her has kept me away so long.
But I must do something. It is wrong in me to allow
this sort of thing to go on."

"What have you to blame yourself about?"

"She is getting old, and her life is lonely, and I am
her only son."

"She has Thomasin."

"Thomasin is not her daughter; and if she were that
would not excuse me. But this is beside the point.
I have made up my mind to go to her, and all I wish
to ask you is whether you will do your best to help
me--that is, forget the past; and if she shows her
willingness to be reconciled, meet her halfway by welcoming
her to our house, or by accepting a welcome to hers?"

At first Eustacia closed her lips as if she would rather
do anything on the whole globe than what he suggested.
But the lines of her mouth softened with thought, though not
so far as they might have softened, and she said, "I will
put nothing in your way; but after what has passed it,
is asking too much that I go and make advances."

"You never distinctly told me what did pass between you."

"I could not do it then, nor can I now. Sometimes more
bitterness is sown in five minutes than can be got rid
of in a whole life; and that may be the case here."
She paused a few moments, and added, "If you had never
returned to your native place, Clym, what a blessing it
would have been for you!...It has altered the destinies of----"

"Three people."

"Five," Eustacia thought; but she kept that in.

5 - The Journey across the Heath

Thursday, the thirty-first of August, was one of a series
of days during which snug houses were stifling, and when cool
draughts were treats; when cracks appeared in clayey gardens,
and were called "earthquakes" by apprehensive children;
when loose spokes were discovered in the wheels of carts
and carriages; and when stinging insects haunted the air,
the earth, and every drop of water that was to be found.

In Mrs. Yeobright's garden large-leaved plants of a
tender kind flagged by ten o'clock in the morning;
rhubarb bent downward at eleven; and even stiff cabbages
were limp by noon.

It was about eleven o'clock on this day that Mrs. Yeobright
started across the heath towards her son's house, to do
her best in getting reconciled with him and Eustacia,
in conformity with her words to the reddleman.
She had hoped to be well advanced in her walk before
the heat of the day was at its highest, but after
setting out she found that this was not to be done.
The sun had branded the whole heath with its mark,
even the purple heath-flowers having put on a brownness
under the dry blazes of the few preceding days.
Every valley was filled with air like that of a kiln,
and the clean quartz sand of the winter water-courses,
which formed summer paths, had undergone a species of
incineration since the drought had set in.

In cool, fresh weather Mrs. Yeobright would have found
no inconvenience in walking to Alderworth, but the present
torrid attack made the journey a heavy undertaking
for a woman past middle age; and at the end of the third
mile she wished that she had hired Fairway to drive
her a portion at least of the distance. But from the
point at which she had arrived it was as easy to reach
Clym's house as to get home again. So she went on,
the air around her pulsating silently, and oppressing
the earth with lassitude. She looked at the sky overhead,
and saw that the sapphirine hue of the zenith in spring
and early summer had been replaced by a metallic violet.

Occasionally she came to a spot where independent worlds
of ephemerons were passing their time in mad carousal,
some in the air, some on the hot ground and vegetation,
some in the tepid and stringy water of a nearly dried pool.
All the shallower ponds had decreased to a vaporous mud
amid which the maggoty shapes of innumerable obscure
creatures could be indistinctly seen, heaving and wallowing
with enjoyment. Being a woman not disinclined to philosophize
she sometimes sat down under her umbrella to rest
and to watch their happiness, for a certain hopefulness
as to the result of her visit gave ease to her mind,
and between important thoughts left it free to dwell
on any infinitesimal matter which caught her eyes.

Mrs. Yeobright had never before been to her son's house,
and its exact position was unknown to her. She tried one
ascending path and another, and found that they led her astray.
Retracing her steps, she came again to an open level,
where she perceived at a distance a man at work.
She went towards him and inquired the way.

The labourer pointed out the direction, and added, "Do you
see that furze-cutter, ma'am, going up that footpath yond?"

Mrs. Yeobright strained her eyes, and at last said
that she did perceive him.

"Well, if you follow him you can make no mistake.
He's going to the same place, ma'am."

She followed the figure indicated. He appeared of a
russet hue, not more distinguishable from the scene around
him than the green caterpillar from the leaf it feeds on.
His progress when actually walking was more rapid than
Mrs. Yeobright's; but she was enabled to keep at an equable
distance from him by his habit of stopping whenever he
came to a brake of brambles, where he paused awhile.
On coming in her turn to each of these spots she found half
a dozen long limp brambles which he had cut from the bush
during his halt and laid out straight beside the path.
They were evidently intended for furze-faggot bonds which he
meant to collect on his return.

The silent being who thus occupied himself seemed
to be of no more account in life than an insect.
He appeared as a mere parasite of the heath, fretting its
surface in his daily labour as a moth frets a garment,
entirely engrossed with its products, having no knowledge
of anything in the world but fern, furze, heath, lichens, and moss.

The furze-cutter was so absorbed in the business of his
journey that he never turned his head; and his leather-
legged and gauntleted form at length became to her as
nothing more than a moving handpost to show her the way.
Suddenly she was attracted to his individuality by observing
peculiarities in his walk. It was a gait she had seen
somewhere before; and the gait revealed the man to her,
as the gait of Ahimaaz in the distant plain made him known
to the watchman of the king. "His walk is exactly as my
husband's used to be," she said; and then the thought
burst upon her that the furze-cutter was her son.

She was scarcely able to familiarize herself with this
strange reality. She had been told that Clym was in the
habit of cutting furze, but she had supposed that he
occupied himself with the labour only at odd times,
by way of useful pastime; yet she now beheld him as a
furze-cutter and nothing more--wearing the regulation
dress of the craft, and thinking the regulation thoughts,
to judge by his motions. Planning a dozen hasty schemes
for at once preserving him and Eustacia from this mode
of life, she throbbingly followed the way, and saw him
enter his own door.

At one side of Clym's house was a knoll, and on the top
of the knoll a clump of fir trees so highly thrust
up into the sky that their foliage from a distance
appeared as a black spot in the air above the crown
of the hill. On reaching this place Mrs. Yeobright felt
distressingly agitated, weary, and unwell. She ascended,
and sat down under their shade to recover herself,
and to consider how best to break the ground with Eustacia,
so as not to irritate a woman underneath whose apparent
indolence lurked passions even stronger and more active
than her own.

The trees beneath which she sat were singularly battered,
rude, and wild, and for a few minutes Mrs. Yeobright
dismissed thoughts of her own storm-broken and exhausted
state to contemplate theirs. Not a bough in the nine
trees which composed the group but was splintered, lopped,
and distorted by the fierce weather that there held them
at its mercy whenever it prevailed. Some were blasted
and split as if by lightning, black stains as from fire
marking their sides, while the ground at their feet was
strewn with dead fir-needles and heaps of cones blown
down in the gales of past years. The place was called
the Devil's Bellows, and it was only necessary to come
there on a March or November night to discover the forcible
reasons for that name. On the present heated afternoon,
when no perceptible wind was blowing, the trees kept up
a perpetual moan which one could hardly believe to be caused
by the air.

Here she sat for twenty minutes or more ere she could
summon resolution to go down to the door, her courage
being lowered to zero by her physical lassitude.
To any other person than a mother it might have seemed
a little humiliating that she, the elder of the two women,
should be the first to make advances. But Mrs. Yeobright
had well considered all that, and she only thought how best
to make her visit appear to Eustacia not abject but wise.

From her elevated position the exhausted woman could
perceive the roof of the house below, and the garden
and the whole enclosure of the little domicile. And now,
at the moment of rising, she saw a second man approaching
the gate. His manner was peculiar, hesitating, and not
that of a person come on business or by invitation.
He surveyed the house with interest, and then walked round
and scanned the outer boundary of the garden, as one might
have done had it been the birthplace of Shakespeare,
the prison of Mary Stuart, or the Chateau of Hougomont.
After passing round and again reaching the gate he went in.
Mrs. Yeobright was vexed at this, having reckoned on
finding her son and his wife by themselves; but a moment's
thought showed her that the presence of an acquaintance
would take off the awkwardness of her first appearance
in the house, by confining the talk to general matters
until she had begun to feel comfortable with them.
She came down the hill to the gate, and looked into the
hot garden.

There lay the cat asleep on the bare gravel of the path,
as if beds, rugs, and carpets were unendurable. The leaves
of the hollyhocks hung like half-closed umbrellas, the sap
almost simmered in the stems, and foliage with a smooth
surface glared like metallic mirrors. A small apple tree,
of the sort called Ratheripe, grew just inside the gate,
the only one which throve in the garden, by reason of the
lightness of the soil; and among the fallen apples on the
ground beneath were wasps rolling drunk with the juice,
or creeping about the little caves in each fruit which
they had eaten out before stupefied by its sweetness.
By the door lay Clym's furze-hook and the last handful
of faggot-bonds she had seen him gather; they had plainly
been thrown down there as he entered the house.

6 - A Conjuncture, and Its Result upon the Pedestrian

Wildeve, as has been stated, was determined to visit
Eustacia boldly, by day, and on the easy terms of a relation,
since the reddleman had spied out and spoilt his walks
to her by night. The spell that she had thrown over him
in the moonlight dance made it impossible for a man
having no strong puritanic force within him to keep
away altogether. He merely calculated on meeting her and
her husband in an ordinary manner, chatting a little while,
and leaving again. Every outward sign was to be conventional;
but the one great fact would be there to satisfy him--he
would see her. He did not even desire Clym's absence,
since it was just possible that Eustacia might resent any
situation which could compromise her dignity as a wife,
whatever the state of her heart towards him. Women were often so.

He went accordingly; and it happened that the time of his
arrival coincided with that of Mrs. Yeobright's pause on the
hill near the house. When he had looked round the premises
in the manner she had noticed he went and knocked at the door.
There was a few minutes' interval, and then the key turned
in the lock, the door opened, and Eustacia herself confronted him.

Nobody could have imagined from her bearing now that here
stood the woman who had joined with him in the impassioned
dance of the week before, unless indeed he could have
penetrated below the surface and gauged the real depth
of that still stream.

"I hope you reached home safely?" said Wildeve.

"O yes," she carelessly returned.

"And were you not tired the next day? I feared you might be."

"I was rather. You need not speak low--nobody will
over-hear us. My small servant is gone on an errand
to the village."

"Then Clym is not at home?"

"Yes, he is."

"O! I thought that perhaps you had locked the door
because you were alone and were afraid of tramps."

"No--here is my husband."

They had been standing in the entry. Closing the front
door and turning the key, as before, she threw open
the door of the adjoining room and asked him to walk in.
Wildeve entered, the room appearing to be empty;
but as soon as he had advanced a few steps he started.
On the hearthrug lay Clym asleep. Beside him were
the leggings, thick boots, leather gloves, and sleeve-
waistcoat in which he worked.

"You may go in; you will not disturb him," she said,
following behind. "My reason for fastening the door
is that he may not be intruded upon by any chance comer
while lying here, if I should be in the garden or upstairs."

"Why is he sleeping there?" said Wildeve in low tones.

"He is very weary. He went out at half-past four
this morning, and has been working ever since. He cuts
furze because it is the only thing he can do that does
not put any strain upon his poor eyes." The contrast
between the sleeper's appearance and Wildeve's at this
moment was painfully apparent to Eustacia, Wildeve being
elegantly dressed in a new summer suit and light hat;
and she continued: "Ah! you don't know how differently he
appeared when I first met him, though it is such a little
while ago. His hands were as white and soft as mine;
and look at them now, how rough and brown they are!
His complexion is by nature fair, and that rusty look
he has now, all of a colour with his leather clothes,
is caused by the burning of the sun."

"Why does he go out at all!" Wildeve whispered.

"Because he hates to be idle; though what he earns
doesn't add much to our exchequer. However, he says
that when people are living upon their capital they must
keep down current expenses by turning a penny where they can."

"The fates have not been kind to you, Eustacia Yeobright."

"I have nothing to thank them for."

"Nor has he--except for their one great gift to him."

"What's that?"

Wildeve looked her in the eyes.

Eustacia blushed for the first time that day.
"Well, I am a questionable gift," she said quietly.
"I thought you meant the gift of content--which he has,
and I have not."

"I can understand content in such a case--though
how the outward situation can attract him puzzles me."

"That's because you don't know him. He's an enthusiast
about ideas, and careless about outward things.
He often reminds me of the Apostle Paul."

"I am glad to hear that he's so grand in character as that."

"Yes; but the worst of it is that though Paul was excellent
as a man in the Bible he would hardly have done in real life."

Their voices had instinctively dropped lower, though at first
they had taken no particular care to avoid awakening Clym.
"Well, if that means that your marriage is a misfortune
to you, you know who is to blame," said Wildeve.

"The marriage is no misfortune in itself," she retorted
with some little petulance. "It is simply the accident
which has happened since that has been the cause of my ruin.
I have certainly got thistles for figs in a worldly sense,
but how could I tell what time would bring forth?"

"Sometimes, Eustacia, I think it is a judgment upon you.
You rightly belonged to me, you know; and I had no idea
of losing you."

"No, it was not my fault! Two could not belong to you;
and remember that, before I was aware, you turned aside
to another woman. It was cruel levity in you to do that.
I never dreamt of playing such a game on my side till you
began it on yours."

"I meant nothing by it," replied Wildeve. "It was a
mere interlude. Men are given to the trick of having a passing
fancy for somebody else in the midst of a permanent love,
which reasserts itself afterwards just as before.
On account of your rebellious manner to me I was tempted
to go further than I should have done; and when you still
would keep playing the same tantalizing part I went
further still, and married her." Turning and looking
again at the unconscious form of Clym, he murmured,
"I am afraid that you don't value your prize, Clym....He
ought to be happier than I in one thing at least.
He may know what it is to come down in the world,
and to be afflicted with a great personal calamity;
but he probably doesn't know what it is to lose the woman
he loved."

"He is not ungrateful for winning her," whispered Eustacia,
"and in that respect he is a good man. Many women
would go far for such a husband. But do I desire
unreasonably much in wanting what is called life--
music, poetry, passion, war, and all the beating
and pulsing that are going on in the great arteries
of the world? That was the shape of my youthful dream;
but I did not get it. Yet I thought I saw the way to it in my Clym."

"And you only married him on that account?"

"There you mistake me. I married him because I loved him,
but I won't say that I didn't love him partly because I
thought I saw a promise of that life in him."

"You have dropped into your old mournful key."

"But I am not going to be depressed," she cried perversely.
"I began a new system by going to that dance, and I mean
to stick to it. Clym can sing merrily; why should not I?"

Wildeve looked thoughtfully at her. "It is easier
to say you will sing than to do it; though if I could I
would encourage you in your attempt. But as life means
nothing to me, without one thing which is now impossible,
you will forgive me for not being able to encourage you."

"Damon, what is the matter with you, that you speak
like that?" she asked, raising her deep shady eyes to his.

"That's a thing I shall never tell plainly; and perhaps if I
try to tell you in riddles you will not care to guess them."

Eustacia remained silent for a minute, and she said,
"We are in a strange relationship today. You mince
matters to an uncommon nicety. You mean, Damon, that you
still love me. Well, that gives me sorrow, for I am not
made so entirely happy by my marriage that I am willing
to spurn you for the information, as I ought to do.
But we have said too much about this. Do you mean to wait
until my husband is awake?"

"I thought to speak to him; but it is unnecessary,
Eustacia, if I offend you by not forgetting you,
you are right to mention it; but do not talk of spurning."

She did not reply, and they stood looking musingly at Clym
as he slept on in that profound sleep which is the result
of physical labour carried on in circumstances that wake
no nervous fear.

"God, how I envy him that sweet sleep!" said Wildeve.
"I have not slept like that since I was a boy--years and
years ago."

While they thus watched him a click at the gate was audible,
and a knock came to the door. Eustacia went to a window
and looked out.

Her countenance changed. First she became crimson,
and then the red subsided till it even partially left
her lips.

"Shall I go away?" said Wildeve, standing up.

"I hardly know."

"Who is it?"

"Mrs. Yeobright. O, what she said to me that day! I
cannot understand this visit--what does she mean? And
she suspects that past time of ours."

"I am in your hands. If you think she had better not see
me here I'll go into the next room."

"Well, yes--go."

Wildeve at once withdrew; but before he had been half
a minute in the adjoining apartment Eustacia came after him.

"No," she said, "we won't have any of this. If she comes
in she must see you--and think if she likes there's
something wrong! But how can I open the door to her,
when she dislikes me--wishes to see not me, but her son?
I won't open the door!"

Mrs. Yeobright knocked again more loudly.

"Her knocking will, in all likelihood, awaken him,"
continued Eustacia, "and then he will let her in himself.

They could hear Clym moving in the other room, as if
disturbed by the knocking, and he uttered the word "Mother."

"Yes--he is awake--he will go to the door,"
she said, with a breath of relief. "Come this way.
I have a bad name with her, and you must not be seen.
Thus I am obliged to act by stealth, not because I do ill,
but because others are pleased to say so."

By this time she had taken him to the back door,
which was open, disclosing a path leading down the garden.
"Now, one word, Damon," she remarked as he stepped forth.
"This is your first visit here; let it be your last.
We have been hot lovers in our time, but it won't do now.

"Good-bye," said Wildeve. "I have had all I came for,
and I am satisfied."

"What was it?"

"A sight of you. Upon my eternal honour I came for no more."

Wildeve kissed his hand to the beautiful girl he addressed,
and passed into the garden, where she watched him down the path,
over the stile at the end, and into the ferns outside,
which brushed his hips as he went along till he became lost
in their thickets. When he had quite gone she slowly turned,
and directed her attention to the interior of the house.

But it was possible that her presence might not be
desired by Clym and his mother at this moment of their
first meeting, or that it would be superfluous.
At all events, she was in no hurry to meet Mrs. Yeobright.
She resolved to wait till Clym came to look for her,
and glided back into the garden. Here she idly occupied
herself for a few minutes, till finding no notice was
taken of her she retraced her steps through the house to
the front, where she listened for voices in the parlour.
But hearing none she opened the door and went in.
To her astonishment Clym lay precisely as Wildeve and herself
had left him, his sleep apparently unbroken. He had been
disturbed and made to dream and murmur by the knocking,
but he had not awakened. Eustacia hastened to the door,
and in spite of her reluctance to open it to a woman who had
spoken of her so bitterly, she unfastened it and looked out.
Nobody was to be seen. There, by the scraper, lay Clym's
hook and the handful of faggot-bonds he had brought home;
in front of her were the empty path, the garden gate standing
slightly ajar; and, beyond, the great valley of purple
heath thrilling silently in the sun. Mrs. Yeobright
was gone.

Clym's mother was at this time following a path which lay
hidden from Eustacia by a shoulder of the hill. Her walk
thither from the garden gate had been hasty and determined,
as of a woman who was now no less anxious to escape from
the scene than she had previously been to enter it.
Her eyes were fixed on the ground; within her two sights
were graven--that of Clym's hook and brambles at the door,
and that of a woman's face at a window. Her lips trembled,
becoming unnaturally thin as she murmured, "'Tis too
much--Clym, how can he bear to do it! He is at home;
and yet he lets her shut the door against me!"

In her anxiety to get out of the direct view of the house
she had diverged from the straightest path homeward,
and while looking about to regain it she came upon
a little boy gathering whortleberries in a hollow.
The boy was Johnny Nunsuch, who had been Eustacia's stoker
at the bonfire, and, with the tendency of a minute body
to gravitate towards a greater, he began hovering round
Mrs. Yeobright as soon as she appeared, and trotted on
beside her without perceptible consciousness of his act.

Mrs. Yeobright spoke to him as one in a mesmeric sleep.
"'Tis a long way home, my child, and we shall not get there
till evening."

"I shall," said her small companion. "I am going to play
marnels afore supper, and we go to supper at six o'clock,
because Father comes home. Does your father come home
at six too?"

"No, he never comes; nor my son either, nor anybody."

"What have made you so down? Have you seen a ooser?"

"I have seen what's worse--a woman's face looking at me
through a windowpane."

"Is that a bad sight?"

"Yes. It is always a bad sight to see a woman looking
out at a weary wayfarer and not letting her in."

"Once when I went to Throope Great Pond to catch effets
I seed myself looking up at myself, and I was frightened
and jumped back like anything."

..."If they had only shown signs of meeting my advances
halfway how well it might have been done! But there is
no chance. Shut out! She must have set him against me.
Can there be beautiful bodies without hearts inside? I
think so. I would not have done it against a neighbour's
cat on such a fiery day as this!"

"What is it you say?"

"Never again--never! Not even if they send for me!"

"You must be a very curious woman to talk like that."

"O no, not at all," she said, returning to the boy's prattle.
"Most people who grow up and have children talk as I do.
When you grow up your mother will talk as I do too."

"I hope she won't; because 'tis very bad to talk nonsense."

"Yes, child; it is nonsense, I suppose. Are you not
nearly spent with the heat?"

"Yes. But not so much as you be."

"How do you know?"

"Your face is white and wet, and your head is hanging-down-like."

"Ah, I am exhausted from inside."

"Why do you, every time you take a step, go like this?"
The child in speaking gave to his motion the jerk and limp
of an invalid.

"Because I have a burden which is more than I can bear."

The little boy remained silently pondering, and they
tottered on side by side until more than a quarter of an
hour had elapsed, when Mrs. Yeobright, whose weakness
plainly increased, said to him, "I must sit down here to rest."

When she had seated herself he looked long in her
face and said, "How funny you draw your breath--like
a lamb when you drive him till he's nearly done for.
Do you always draw your breath like that?"

"Not always." Her voice was now so low as to be scarcely
above a whisper.

"You will go to sleep there, I suppose, won't you? You
have shut your eyes already."

"No. I shall not sleep much till--another day, and then
I hope to have a long, long one--very long. Now can you
tell me if Rimsmoor Pond is dry this summer?"

"Rimsmoor Pond is, but Oker's Pool isn't, because he
is deep, and is never dry--'tis just over there."

"Is the water clear?"

"Yes, middling--except where the heath-croppers walk
into it."

"Then, take this, and go as fast as you can, and dip me
up the clearest you can find. I am very faint."

She drew from the small willow reticule that she carried
in her hand an old-fashioned china teacup without
a handle; it was one of half a dozen of the same sort
lying in the reticule, which she had preserved ever
since her childhood, and had brought with her today
as a small present for Clym and Eustacia.

The boy started on his errand, and soon came back with
the water, such as it was. Mrs. Yeobright attempted
to drink, but it was so warm as to give her nausea, and she
threw it away. Afterwards she still remained sitting,
with her eyes closed.

The boy waited, played near her, caught several of the little
brown butterflies which abounded, and then said as he
waited again, "I like going on better than biding still.
Will you soon start again?"

"I don't know."

"I wish I might go on by myself," he resumed,
fearing, apparently, that he was to be pressed
into some unpleasant service. "Do you want me any more, please?"

Mrs. Yeobright made no reply.

"What shall I tell Mother?" the boy continued.

"Tell her you have seen a broken-hearted woman cast off
by her son."

Before quite leaving her he threw upon her face a
wistful glance, as if he had misgivings on the generosity
of forsaking her thus. He gazed into her face in a vague,
wondering manner, like that of one examining some strange old
manuscript the key to whose characters is undiscoverable.
He was not so young as to be absolutely without a sense
that sympathy was demanded, he was not old enough to be
free from the terror felt in childhood at beholding misery
in adult quarters hither-to deemed impregnable; and whether
she were in a position to cause trouble or to suffer from it,
whether she and her affliction were something to pity
or something to fear, it was beyond him to decide.
He lowered his eyes and went on without another word.
Before he had gone half a mile he had forgotten all about her,
except that she was a woman who had sat down to rest.

Mrs. Yeobright's exertions, physical and emotional,
had well-nigh prostrated her; but she continued to creep
along in short stages with long breaks between. The sun
had now got far to the west of south and stood directly
in her face, like some merciless incendiary, brand in hand,
waiting to consume her. With the departure of the boy
all visible animation disappeared from the landscape,
though the intermittent husky notes of the male grasshoppers
from every tuft of furze were enough to show that amid
the prostration of the larger animal species an unseen
insect world was busy in all the fullness of life.

In two hours she reached a slope about three-fourths the
whole distance from Alderworth to her own home, where a
little patch of shepherd's-thyme intruded upon the path;
and she sat down upon the perfumed mat it formed there.
In front of her a colony of ants had established a
thoroughfare across the way, where they toiled a never-ending
and heavy-laden throng. To look down upon them was
like observing a city street from the top of a tower.
She remembered that this bustle of ants had been in
progress for years at the same spot--doubtless those of
the old times were the ancestors of these which walked
there now. She leant back to obtain more thorough rest,
and the soft eastern portion of the sky was as great
a relief to her eyes as the thyme was to her head.
While she looked a heron arose on that side of the sky
and flew on with his face towards the sun. He had come
dripping wet from some pool in the valleys, and as he
flew the edges and lining of his wings, his thighs
and his breast were so caught by the bright sunbeams
that he appeared as if formed of burnished silver.
Up in the zenith where he was seemed a free and happy place,
away from all contact with the earthly ball to which
she was pinioned; and she wished that she could arise
uncrushed from its surface and fly as he flew then.

But, being a mother, it was inevitable that she should soon
cease to ruminate upon her own condition. Had the track
of her next thought been marked by a streak in the air,
like the path of a meteor, it would have shown a direction
contrary to the heron's, and have descended to the eastward
upon the roof of Clym's house.

7 - The Tragic Meeting of Two Old Friends

He in the meantime had aroused himself from sleep, sat up,
and looked around. Eustacia was sitting in a chair hard
by him, and though she held a book in her hand she had
not looked into it for some time.

"Well, indeed!" said Clym, brushing his eyes with his hands.
"How soundly I have slept! I have had such a tremendous dream,
too--one I shall never forget."

"I thought you had been dreaming," said she.

"Yes. It was about my mother. I dreamt that I took you
to her house to make up differences, and when we got there we
couldn't get in, though she kept on crying to us for help.
However, dreams are dreams. What o'clock is it, Eustacia?"

"Half-past two."

"So late, is it? I didn't mean to stay so long. By the
time I have had something to eat it will be after three."

"Ann is not come back from the village, and I thought I
would let you sleep on till she returned."

Clym went to the window and looked out. Presently he said,
musingly, "Week after week passes, and yet Mother does not come.
I thought I should have heard something from her long before this."

Misgiving, regret, fear, resolution, ran their swift
course of expression in Eustacia's dark eyes.
She was face to face with a monstrous difficulty,
and she resolved to get free of it by postponement.

"I must certainly go to Blooms-End soon," he continued,
"and I think I had better go alone." He picked up his
leggings and gloves, threw them down again, and added,
"As dinner will be so late today I will not go back to
the heath, but work in the garden till the evening, and then,
when it will be cooler, I will walk to Blooms-End.
I am quite sure that if I make a little advance Mother
will be willing to forget all. It will be rather late
before I can get home, as I shall not be able to do the
distance either way in less than an hour and a half.
But you will not mind for one evening, dear? What are you
thinking of to make you look so abstracted?"

"I cannot tell you," she said heavily. "I wish we didn't
live here, Clym. The world seems all wrong in this place."

"Well--if we make it so. I wonder if Thomasin has been to
Blooms-End lately. I hope so. But probably not, as she is,
I believe, expecting to be confined in a month or so.
I wish I had thought of that before. Poor Mother must
indeed be very lonely."

"I don't like you going tonight."

"Why not tonight?"

"Something may be said which will terribly injure me."

"My mother is not vindictive," said Clym, his colour
faintly rising.

"But I wish you would not go," Eustacia repeated in a
low tone. "If you agree not to go tonight I promise to go
by myself to her house tomorrow, and make it up with her,
and wait till you fetch me."

"Why do you want to do that at this particular time,
when at every previous time that I have proposed it you
have refused?"

"I cannot explain further than that I should like to see
her alone before you go," she answered, with an impatient
move of her head, and looking at him with an anxiety
more frequently seen upon those of a sanguine temperament
than upon such as herself.

"Well, it is very odd that just when I had decided to go
myself you should want to do what I proposed long ago.
If I wait for you to go tomorrow another day will be lost;
and I know I shall be unable to rest another night without
having been. I want to get this settled, and will.
You must visit her afterwards--it will be all the same."

"I could even go with you now?"

"You could scarcely walk there and back without a longer
rest than I shall take. No, not tonight, Eustacia."

"Let it be as you say, then," she replied in the quiet way
of one who, though willing to ward off evil consequences
by a mild effort, would let events fall out as they
might sooner than wrestle hard to direct them.

Clym then went into the garden; and a thoughtful languor
stole over Eustacia for the remainder of the afternoon,
which her husband attributed to the heat of the weather.

In the evening he set out on the journey. Although the heat
of summer was yet intense the days had considerably shortened,
and before he had advanced a mile on his way all the
heath purples, browns, and greens had merged in a uniform
dress without airiness or graduation, and broken only by
touches of white where the little heaps of clean quartz sand
showed the entrance to a rabbit burrow, or where the white
flints of a footpath lay like a thread over the slopes.
In almost every one of the isolated and stunted thorns
which grew here and there a nighthawk revealed his presence
by whirring like the clack of a mill as long as he could
hold his breath, then stopping, flapping his wings,
wheeling round the bush, alighting, and after a silent
interval of listening beginning to whirr again. At each
brushing of Clym's feet white millermoths flew into the air
just high enough to catch upon their dusty wings the mellowed
light from the west, which now shone across the depressions
and levels of the ground without falling thereon to light them up.

Yeobright walked on amid this quiet scene with a hope that
all would soon be well. Three miles on he came to a spot
where a soft perfume was wafted across his path, and he
stood still for a moment to inhale the familiar scent.
It was the place at which, four hours earlier,
his mother had sat down exhausted on the knoll covered
with shepherd's-thyme. While he stood a sound between
a breathing and a moan suddenly reached his ears.

He looked to where the sound came from; but nothing
appeared there save the verge of the hillock stretching
against the sky in an unbroken line. He moved a few
steps in that direction, and now he perceived a recumbent
figure almost close to his feet.

Among the different possibilities as to the person's
individuality there did not for a moment occur to
Yeobright that it might be one of his own family.
Sometimes furze-cutters had been known to sleep
out of doors at these times, to save a long journey
homeward and back again; but Clym remembered the moan
and looked closer, and saw that the form was feminine;
and a distress came over him like cold air from a cave.
But he was not absolutely certain that the woman was his mother
till he stooped and beheld her face, pallid, and with closed eyes.

His breath went, as it were, out of his body and the cry
of anguish which would have escaped him died upon his lips.
During the momentary interval that elapsed before he
became conscious that something must be done all sense
of time and place left him, and it seemed as if he and his
mother were as when he was a child with her many years
ago on this heath at hours similar to the present.
Then he awoke to activity; and bending yet lower he found
that she still breathed, and that her breath though feeble
was regular, except when disturbed by an occasional gasp.

"O, what is it! Mother, are you very ill--you are not dying?"
he cried, pressing his lips to her face. "I am your Clym.
How did you come here? What does it all mean?"

At that moment the chasm in their lives which his love
for Eustacia had caused was not remembered by Yeobright,
and to him the present joined continuously with that friendly
past that had been their experience before the division.

She moved her lips, appeared to know him, but could not speak;
and then Clym strove to consider how best to move her,
as it would be necessary to get her away from the spot
before the dews were intense. He was able-bodied,
and his mother was thin. He clasped his arms round her,
lifted her a little, and said, "Does that hurt you?"

She shook her head, and he lifted her up; then, at a slow pace,
went onward with his load. The air was now completely cool;
but whenever he passed over a sandy patch of ground
uncarpeted with vegetation there was reflected from its
surface into his face the heat which it had imbibed
during the day. At the beginning of his undertaking he
had thought but little of the distance which yet would
have to be traversed before Blooms-End could be reached;
but though he had slept that afternoon he soon began
to feel the weight of his burden. Thus he proceeded,
like Aeneas with his father; the bats circling round his head,
nightjars flapping their wings within a yard of his face,
and not a human being within call.

While he was yet nearly a mile from the house his mother
exhibited signs of restlessness under the constraint
of being borne along, as if his arms were irksome to her.
He lowered her upon his knees and looked around.
The point they had now reached, though far from any road,
was not more than a mile from the Blooms-End cottages
occupied by Fairway, Sam, Humphrey, and the Cantles.
Moreover, fifty yards off stood a hut, built of clods
and covered with thin turves, but now entirely disused.
The simple outline of the lonely shed was visible,
and thither he determined to direct his steps. As soon
as he arrived he laid her down carefully by the entrance,
and then ran and cut with his pocketknife an armful of the
dryest fern. Spreading this within the shed, which was
entirely open on one side, he placed his mother thereon;
then he ran with all his might towards the dwelling
of Fairway.

Nearly a quarter of an hour had passed, disturbed only by the
broken breathing of the sufferer, when moving figures began
to animate the line between heath and sky. In a few moments
Clym arrived with Fairway, Humphrey, and Susan Nunsuch;
Olly Dowden, who had chanced to be at Fairway's, Christian
and Grandfer Cantle following helter-skelter behind.
They had brought a lantern and matches, water, a pillow,
and a few other articles which had occurred to their minds
in the hurry of the moment. Sam had been despatched
back again for brandy, and a boy brought Fairway's pony,
upon which he rode off to the nearest medical man,
with directions to call at Wildeve's on his way, and inform
Thomasin that her aunt was unwell.

Sam and the brandy soon arrived, and it was administered
by the light of the lantern; after which she became
sufficiently conscious to signify by signs that something
was wrong with her foot. Olly Dowden at length
understood her meaning, and examined the foot indicated.
It was swollen and red. Even as they watched the red
began to assume a more livid colour, in the midst
of which appeared a scarlet speck, smaller than a pea,
and it was found to consist of a drop of blood, which rose
above the smooth flesh of her ankle in a hemisphere.

"I know what it is," cried Sam. "She has been stung
by an adder!"

"Yes," said Clym instantly. "I remember when I was
a child seeing just such a bite. O, my poor mother!"

"It was my father who was bit," said Sam. "And there's
only one way to cure it. You must rub the place
with the fat of other adders, and the only way to get
that is by frying them. That's what they did for him."

"'Tis an old remedy," said Clym distrustfully, "and I
have doubts about it. But we can do nothing else till
the doctor comes."

"'Tis a sure cure," said Olly Dowden, with emphasis.
"I've used it when I used to go out nursing."

"Then we must pray for daylight, to catch them,"
said Clym gloomily.

"I will see what I can do," said Sam.

He took a green hazel which he had used as a walking stick,
split it at the end, inserted a small pebble, and with
the lantern in his hand went out into the heath.
Clym had by this time lit a small fire, and despatched
Susan Nunsuch for a frying pan. Before she had returned
Sam came in with three adders, one briskly coiling
and uncoiling in the cleft of the stick, and the other
two hanging dead across it.

"I have only been able to get one alive and fresh as he
ought to be," said Sam. "These limp ones are two I
killed today at work; but as they don't die till the sun
goes down they can't be very stale meat."

The live adder regarded the assembled group with a sinister
look in its small black eye, and the beautiful brown and jet
pattern on its back seemed to intensify with indignation.
Mrs. Yeobright saw the creature, and the creature saw
her--she quivered throughout, and averted her eyes.

"Look at that," murmured Christian Cantle. "Neighbours, how
do we know but that something of the old serpent in
God's garden, that gied the apple to the young woman
with no clothes, lives on in adders and snakes still?
Look at his eye--for all the world like a villainous sort
of black currant. 'Tis to be hoped he can't ill-wish us!
There's folks in heath who've been overlooked already.
I will never kill another adder as long as I live."

"Well, 'tis right to be afeard of things, if folks can't
help it," said Grandfer Cantle. "'Twould have saved me
many a brave danger in my time."

"I fancy I heard something outside the shed," said Christian.
"I wish troubles would come in the daytime, for then
a man could show his courage, and hardly beg for mercy
of the most broomstick old woman he should see, if he
was a brave man, and able to run out of her sight!"

"Even such an ignorant fellow as I should know better
than do that," said Sam.

"Well, there's calamities where we least expect it,
whether or no. Neighbours, if Mrs. Yeobright were to die,
d'ye think we should be took up and tried for the
manslaughter of a woman?"

"No, they couldn't bring it in as that," said Sam,
"unless they could prove we had been poachers at some time
of our lives. But she'll fetch round."

"Now, if I had been stung by ten adders I should hardly
have lost a day's work for't," said Grandfer Cantle.
"Such is my spirit when I am on my mettle. But perhaps
'tis natural in a man trained for war. Yes, I've gone
through a good deal; but nothing ever came amiss to me
after I joined the Locals in four." He shook his head
and smiled at a mental picture of himself in uniform.
"I was always first in the most galliantest scrapes in my
younger days!"

"I suppose that was because they always used to put
the biggest fool afore," said Fairway from the fire,
beside which he knelt, blowing it with his breath.

"D'ye think so, Timothy?" said Grandfer Cantle, coming forward
to Fairway's side with sudden depression in his face.
"Then a man may feel for years that he is good solid company,
and be wrong about himself after all?"

"Never mind that question, Grandfer. Stir your stumps
and get some more sticks. 'Tis very nonsense of an old
man to prattle so when life and death's in mangling."

"Yes, yes," said Grandfer Cantle, with melancholy conviction.
"Well, this is a bad night altogether for them that have
done well in their time; and if I were ever such a dab
at the hautboy or tenor viol, I shouldn't have the heart
to play tunes upon 'em now."

Susan now arrived with the frying pan, when the live
adder was killed and the heads of the three taken off.
The remainders, being cut into lengths and split open,
were tossed into the pan, which began hissing and crackling
over the fire. Soon a rill of clear oil trickled from
the carcases, whereupon Clym dipped the corner of his
handkerchief into the liquid and anointed the wound.

8 - Eustacia Hears of Good Fortune, and Beholds Evil

In the meantime Eustacia, left alone in her cottage
at Alderworth, had become considerably depressed by the
posture of affairs. The consequences which might result
from Clym's discovery that his mother had been turned
from his door that day were likely to be disagreeable,
and this was a quality in events which she hated as much
as the dreadful.

To be left to pass the evening by herself was irksome
to her at any time, and this evening it was more irksome
than usual by reason of the excitements of the past hours.
The two visits had stirred her into restlessness.
She was not wrought to any great pitch of uneasiness
by the probability of appearing in an ill light in the
discussion between Clym and his mother, but she was wrought
to vexation, and her slumbering activities were quickened
to the extent of wishing that she had opened the door.
She had certainly believed that Clym was awake,
and the excuse would be an honest one as far as it went;
but nothing could save her from censure in refusing
to answer at the first knock. Yet, instead of blaming
herself for the issue she laid the fault upon the shoulders
of some indistinct, colossal Prince of the World, who had
framed her situation and ruled her lot.

At this time of the year it was pleasanter to walk by
night than by day, and when Clym had been absent about
an hour she suddenly resolved to go out in the direction
of Blooms-End, on the chance of meeting him on his return.
When she reached the garden gate she heard wheels approaching,
and looking round beheld her grandfather coming up in his car.

"I can't stay a minute, thank ye," he answered
to her greeting. "I am driving to East Egdon;
but I came round here just to tell you the news.
Perhaps you have heard--about Mr. Wildeve's fortune?"

"No," said Eustacia blankly.

"Well, he has come into a fortune of eleven thousand
pounds--uncle died in Canada, just after hearing
that all his family, whom he was sending home,
had gone to the bottom in the Cassiopeia; so Wildeve
has come into everything, without in the least expecting it."

Eustacia stood motionless awhile. "How long has he known
of this?" she asked.

"Well, it was known to him this morning early, for I knew
it at ten o'clock, when Charley came back. Now, he is
what I call a lucky man. What a fool you were, Eustacia!"

"In what way?" she said, lifting her eyes in apparent calmness.

"Why, in not sticking to him when you had him."

"Had him, indeed!"

"I did not know there had ever been anything between you
till lately; and, faith, I should have been hot and strong
against it if I had known; but since it seems that there
was some sniffing between ye, why the deuce didn't you
stick to him?"

Eustacia made no reply, but she looked as if she could
say as much upon that subject as he if she chose.

"And how is your poor purblind husband?" continued the
old man. "Not a bad fellow either, as far as he goes."

"He is quite well."

"It is a good thing for his cousin what-d'ye-call-her?
By George, you ought to have been in that galley,
my girl! Now I must drive on. Do you want any assistance?
What's mine is yours, you know."

"Thank you, Grandfather, we are not in want at present,"
she said coldly. "Clym cuts furze, but he does it mostly
as a useful pastime, because he can do nothing else."

"He is paid for his pastime, isn't he? Three shillings
a hundred, I heard."

"Clym has money," she said, colouring, "but he likes
to earn a little."

"Very well; good night." And the captain drove on.

When her grandfather was gone Eustacia went on her
way mechanically; but her thoughts were no longer concerning
her mother-in-law and Clym. Wildeve, notwithstanding his
complaints against his fate, had been seized upon by destiny
and placed in the sunshine once more. Eleven thousand
pounds! From every Egdon point of view he was a rich man.
In Eustacia's eyes, too, it was an ample sum--one sufficient
to supply those wants of hers which had been stigmatized
by Clym in his more austere moods as vain and luxurious.
Though she was no lover of money she loved what money
could bring; and the new accessories she imagined around
him clothed Wildeve with a great deal of interest.
She recollected now how quietly well-dressed he had been
that morning--he had probably put on his newest suit,
regardless of damage by briars and thorns. And then she
thought of his manner towards herself.

"O I see it, I see it," she said. "How much he wishes
he had me now, that he might give me all I desire!"

In recalling the details of his glances and words--at
the time scarcely regarded--it became plain to her how
greatly they had been dictated by his knowledge of this
new event. "Had he been a man to bear a jilt ill-will he
would have told me of his good fortune in crowing tones;
instead of doing that he mentioned not a word, in deference
to my misfortunes, and merely implied that he loved
me still, as one superior to him."

Wildeve's silence that day on what had happened to him was
just the kind of behaviour calculated to make an impression
on such a woman. Those delicate touches of good taste were,
in fact, one of the strong points in his demeanour towards
the other sex. The peculiarity of Wildeve was that,
while at one time passionate, upbraiding, and resentful
towards a woman, at another he would treat her with such
unparalleled grace as to make previous neglect appear
as no discourtesy, injury as no insult, interference as a
delicate attention, and the ruin of her honour as excess
of chivalry. This man, whose admiration today Eustacia
had disregarded, whose good wishes she had scarcely
taken the trouble to accept, whom she had shown out of
the house by the back door, was the possessor of eleven
thousand pounds--a man of fair professional education,
and one who had served his articles with a civil engineer.

So intent was Eustacia upon Wildeve's fortunes that she
forgot how much closer to her own course were those of Clym;
and instead of walking on to meet him at once she sat
down upon a stone. She was disturbed in her reverie by a
voice behind, and turning her head beheld the old lover
and fortunate inheritor of wealth immediately beside her.

She remained sitting, though the fluctuation in her look
might have told any man who knew her so well as Wildeve
that she was thinking of him.

"How did you come here?" she said in her clear low tone.
"I thought you were at home."

"I went on to the village after leaving your garden;
and now I have come back again--that's all. Which way
are you walking, may I ask?"

She waved her hand in the direction of Blooms-End. "I
am going to meet my husband. I think I may possibly
have got into trouble whilst you were with me today."

"How could that be?"

"By not letting in Mrs. Yeobright."

"I hope that visit of mine did you no harm."

"None. It was not your fault," she said quietly.

By this time she had risen; and they involuntarily sauntered
on together, without speaking, for two or three minutes;
when Eustacia broke silence by saying, "I assume I must
congratulate you."

"On what? O yes; on my eleven thousand pounds,
you mean. Well, since I didn't get something else,
I must be content with getting that."

"You seem very indifferent about it. Why didn't you
tell me today when you came?" she said in the tone
of a neglected person. "I heard of it quite by accident."

"I did mean to tell you," said Wildeve. "But I--well,
I will speak frankly--I did not like to mention it
when I saw, Eustacia, that your star was not high.
The sight of a man lying wearied out with hard work,
as your husband lay, made me feel that to brag of my own
fortune to you would be greatly out of place. Yet, as you
stood there beside him, I could not help feeling too
that in many respects he was a richer man than I."

At this Eustacia said, with slumbering mischievousness,
"What, would you exchange with him--your fortune for me?"

"I certainly would," said Wildeve.

"As we are imagining what is impossible and absurd,
suppose we change the subject?"

"Very well; and I will tell you of my plans for the future,
if you care to hear them. I shall permanently invest
nine thousand pounds, keep one thousand as ready money,
and with the remaining thousand travel for a year or so."

"Travel? What a bright idea! Where will you go to?"

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