Return of the Native, by Thomas Hardy

Part 6 out of 10

distance below the inn, and ascended to Mistover by a
circuitous and easy incline. This was the only route
on that side for vehicles to the captain's retreat.
A light cart from the nearest town descended the road,
and the lad who was driving pulled up in front of the inn
for something to drink.

"You come from Mistover?" said Wildeve.

"Yes. They are taking in good things up there. Going to
be a wedding." And the driver buried his face in his mug.

Wildeve had not received an inkling of the fact before,
and a sudden expression of pain overspread his face.
He turned for a moment into the passage to hide it.
Then he came back again.

"Do you mean Miss Vye?" he said. "How is it--that she
can be married so soon?"

"By the will of God and a ready young man, I suppose."

"You don't mean Mr. Yeobright?"

"Yes. He has been creeping about with her all the spring."

"I suppose--she was immensely taken with him?"

"She is crazy about him, so their general servant
of all work tells me. And that lad Charley that looks
after the horse is all in a daze about it. The stun-
poll has got fond-like of her."

"Is she lively--is she glad? Going to be married so soon--well!"

"It isn't so very soon."

"No; not so very soon."

Wildeve went indoors to the empty room, a curious heartache
within him. He rested his elbow upon the mantelpiece
and his face upon his hand. When Thomasin entered
the room he did not tell her of what he had heard.
The old longing for Eustacia had reappeared in his
soul--and it was mainly because he had discovered
that it was another man's intention to possess her.

To be yearning for the difficult, to be weary of that offered;
to care for the remote, to dislike the near; it was Wildeve's
nature always. This is the true mark of the man of sentiment.
Though Wildeve's fevered feeling had not been elaborated
to real poetical compass, it was of the standard sort.
His might have been called the Rousseau of Egdon.

7 - The Morning and the Evening of a Day

The wedding morning came. Nobody would have imagined from
appearances that Blooms-End had any interest in Mistover
that day. A solemn stillness prevailed around the house
of Clym's mother, and there was no more animation indoors.
Mrs. Yeobright, who had declined to attend the ceremony,
sat by the breakfast table in the old room which communicated
immediately with the porch, her eyes listlessly directed
towards the open door. It was the room in which,
six months earlier, the merry Christmas party had met,
to which Eustacia came secretly and as a stranger.
The only living thing that entered now was a sparrow;
and seeing no movements to cause alarm, he hopped boldly round
the room, endeavoured to go out by the window, and fluttered
among the pot-flowers. This roused the lonely sitter,
who got up, released the bird, and went to the door.
She was expecting Thomasin, who had written the night
before to state that the time had come when she would wish
to have the money and that she would if possible call
this day.

Yet Thomasin occupied Mrs. Yeobright's thoughts but
slightly as she looked up the valley of the heath,
alive with butterflies, and with grasshoppers whose
husky noises on every side formed a whispered chorus.
A domestic drama, for which the preparations were now
being made a mile or two off, was but little less vividly
present to her eyes than if enacted before her. She tried
to dismiss the vision, and walked about the garden plot;
but her eyes ever and anon sought out the direction of the
parish church to which Mistover belonged, and her excited fancy
clove the hills which divided the building from her eyes.
The morning wore away. Eleven o'clock struck--could
it be that the wedding was then in progress? It must
be so. She went on imagining the scene at the church,
which he had by this time approached with his bride.
She pictured the little group of children by the gate
as the pony carriage drove up in which, as Thomasin
had learnt, they were going to perform the short journey.
Then she saw them enter and proceed to the chancel and kneel;
and the service seemed to go on.

She covered her face with her hands. "O, it is a mistake!"
she groaned. "And he will rue it some day, and think
of me!"

While she remained thus, overcome by her forebodings,
the old clock indoors whizzed forth twelve strokes.
Soon after, faint sounds floated to her ear from afar
over the hills. The breeze came from that quarter,
and it had brought with it the notes of distant bells,
gaily starting off in a peal: one, two, three, four, five.
The ringers at East Egdon were announcing the nuptials of
Eustacia and her son.

"Then it is over," she murmured. "Well, well! and life
too will be over soon. And why should I go on scalding my
face like this? Cry about one thing in life, cry about all;
one thread runs through the whole piece. And yet we say,
'a time to laugh!'"

Towards evening Wildeve came. Since Thomasin's marriage
Mrs. Yeobright had shown him that grim friendliness which
at last arises in all such cases of undesired affinity.
The vision of what ought to have been is thrown aside in
sheer weariness, and browbeaten human endeavour listlessly
makes the best of the fact that is. Wildeve, to do
him justice, had behaved very courteously to his wife's aunt;
and it was with no surprise that she saw him enter now.

"Thomasin has not been able to come, as she promised to do,"
he replied to her inquiry, which had been anxious,
for she knew that her niece was badly in want of money.

"The captain came down last night and personally pressed
her to join them today. So, not to be unpleasant,
she determined to go. They fetched her in the pony-chaise,
and are going to bring her back."

"Then it is done," said Mrs. Yeobright. "Have they gone
to their new home?"

"I don't know. I have had no news from Mistover since
Thomasin left to go."

"You did not go with her?" said she, as if there might
be good reasons why.

"I could not," said Wildeve, reddening slightly.
"We could not both leave the house; it was rather
a busy morning, on account of Anglebury Great Market.
I believe you have something to give to Thomasin? If
you like, I will take it."

Mrs. Yeobright hesitated, and wondered if Wildeve knew
what the something was. "Did she tell you of this?"
she inquired.

"Not particularly. She casually dropped a remark about
having arranged to fetch some article or other."

"It is hardly necessary to send it. She can have it
whenever she chooses to come."

"That won't be yet. In the present state of her health
she must not go on walking so much as she has done."
He added, with a faint twang of sarcasm, "What wonderful
thing is it that I cannot be trusted to take?"

"Nothing worth troubling you with."

"One would think you doubted my honesty," he said,
with a laugh, though his colour rose in a quick
resentfulness frequent with him.

"You need think no such thing," said she drily.
"It is simply that I, in common with the rest of the world,
feel that there are certain things which had better be
done by certain people than by others."

"As you like, as you like," said Wildeve laconically.
"It is not worth arguing about. Well, I think I must turn
homeward again, as the inn must not be left long in charge
of the lad and the maid only."

He went his way, his farewell being scarcely so courteous
as his greeting. But Mrs. Yeobright knew him thoroughly
by this time, and took little notice of his manner,
good or bad.

When Wildeve was gone Mrs. Yeobright stood and considered
what would be the best course to adopt with regard to
the guineas, which she had not liked to entrust to Wildeve.
It was hardly credible that Thomasin had told him
to ask for them, when the necessity for them had arisen
from the difficulty of obtaining money at his hands.
At the same time Thomasin really wanted them, and might be
unable to come to Blooms-End for another week at least.
To take or send the money to her at the inn would be impolite,
since Wildeve would pretty surely be present, or would
discover the transaction; and if, as her aunt suspected,
he treated her less kindly than she deserved to be treated,
he might then get the whole sum out of her gentle hands.
But on this particular evening Thomasin was at Mistover,
and anything might be conveyed to her there without the
knowledge of her husband. Upon the whole the opportunity was
worth taking advantage of.

Her son, too, was there, and was now married.
There could be no more proper moment to render him his
share of the money than the present. And the chance
that would be afforded her, by sending him this gift,
of showing how far she was from bearing him ill-will,
cheered the sad mother's heart.

She went upstairs and took from a locked drawer a little box,
out of which she poured a hoard of broad unworn guineas
that had lain there many a year. There were a hundred
in all, and she divided them into two heaps, fifty in each.
Tying up these in small canvas bags, she went down to the
garden and called to Christian Cantle, who was loitering
about in hope of a supper which was not really owed him.
Mrs. Yeobright gave him the moneybags, charged him to go
to Mistover, and on no account to deliver them into any one's
hands save her son's and Thomasin's. On further thought
she deemed it advisable to tell Christian precisely what
the two bags contained, that he might be fully impressed
with their importance. Christian pocketed the moneybags,
promised the greatest carefulness, and set out on his way.

"You need not hurry," said Mrs. Yeobright. "It will
be better not to get there till after dusk, and then
nobody will notice you. Come back here to supper,
if it is not too late."

It was nearly nine o'clock when he began to ascend the vale
towards Mistover; but the long days of summer being at
their climax, the first obscurity of evening had only just
begun to tan the landscape. At this point of his journey
Christian heard voices, and found that they proceeded from
a company of men and women who were traversing a hollow
ahead of him, the tops only of their heads being visible.

He paused and thought of the money he carried. It was almost
too early even for Christian seriously to fear robbery;
nevertheless he took a precaution which ever since his
boyhood he had adopted whenever he carried more than
two or three shillings upon his person--a precaution
somewhat like that of the owner of the Pitt Diamond when
filled with similar misgivings. He took off his boots,
untied the guineas, and emptied the contents of one little
bag into the right boot, and of the other into the left,
spreading them as flatly as possible over the bottom
of each, which was really a spacious coffer by no means
limited to the size of the foot. Pulling them on again
and lacing them to the very top, he proceeded on his way,
more easy in his head than under his soles.

His path converged towards that of the noisy company,
and on coming nearer he found to his relief that they
were several Egdon people whom he knew very well,
while with them walked Fairway, of Blooms-End.

"What! Christian going too?" said Fairway as soon as he
recognized the newcomer. "You've got no young woman nor
wife to your name to gie a gown-piece to, I'm sure."

"What d'ye mean?" said Christian.

"Why, the raffle. The one we go to every year.
Going to the raffle as well as ourselves?"

"Never knew a word o't. Is it like cudgel playing or
other sportful forms of bloodshed? I don't want to go,
thank you, Mister Fairway, and no offence."

"Christian don't know the fun o't, and 'twould be a fine
sight for him," said a buxom woman. "There's no danger
at all, Christian. Every man puts in a shilling apiece,
and one wins a gown-piece for his wife or sweetheart
if he's got one."

"Well, as that's not my fortune there's no meaning in it
to me. But I should like to see the fun, if there's
nothing of the black art in it, and if a man may look
on without cost or getting into any dangerous wrangle?"

"There will be no uproar at all," said Timothy.
"Sure, Christian, if you'd like to come we'll see there's
no harm done."

"And no ba'dy gaieties, I suppose? You see, neighbours,
if so, it would be setting father a bad example, as he
is so light moral'd. But a gown-piece for a shilling,
and no black art--'tis worth looking in to see, and it
wouldn't hinder me half an hour. Yes, I'll come, if you'll
step a little way towards Mistover with me afterwards,
supposing night should have closed in, and nobody else
is going that way?"

One or two promised; and Christian, diverging from his
direct path, turned round to the right with his companions
towards the Quiet Woman.

When they entered the large common room of the inn
they found assembled there about ten men from among
the neighbouring population, and the group was
increased by the new contingent to double that number.
Most of them were sitting round the room in seats divided
by wooden elbows like those of crude cathedral stalls,
which were carved with the initials of many an illustrious
drunkard of former times who had passed his days and his
nights between them, and now lay as an alcoholic cinder
in the nearest churchyard. Among the cups on the long
table before the sitters lay an open parcel of light
drapery--the gown-piece, as it was called--which was
to be raffled for. Wildeve was standing with his back
to the fireplace smoking a cigar; and the promoter of
the raffle, a packman from a distant town, was expatiating
upon the value of the fabric as material for a summer dress.

"Now, gentlemen," he continued, as the newcomers drew up
to the table, "there's five have entered, and we want
four more to make up the number. I think, by the faces
of those gentlemen who have just come in, that they are
shrewd enough to take advantage of this rare opportunity
of beautifying their ladies at a very trifling expense."

Fairway, Sam, and another placed their shillings
on the table, and the man turned to Christian.

"No, sir," said Christian, drawing back, with a quick gaze
of misgiving. "I am only a poor chap come to look on,
an it please ye, sir. I don't so much as know how you
do it. If so be I was sure of getting it I would put
down the shilling; but I couldn't otherwise."

"I think you might almost be sure," said the pedlar.
"In fact, now I look into your face, even if I can't say
you are sure to win, I can say that I never saw anything
look more like winning in my life."

"You'll anyhow have the same chance as the rest of us,"
said Sam.

"And the extra luck of being the last comer," said another.

"And I was born wi' a caul, and perhaps can be no more
ruined than drowned?" Christian added, beginning to give way.

Ultimately Christian laid down his shilling, the raffle began,
and the dice went round. When it came to Christian's turn
he took the box with a trembling hand, shook it fearfully,
and threw a pair-royal. Three of the others had thrown
common low pairs, and all the rest mere points.

"The gentleman looked like winning, as I said," observed the
chapman blandly. "Take it, sir; the article is yours."

"Haw-haw-haw!" said Fairway. "I'm damned if this isn't
the quarest start that ever I knowed!"

"Mine?" asked Christian, with a vacant stare from his
target eyes. "I--I haven't got neither maid, wife,
nor widder belonging to me at all, and I'm afeard it
will make me laughed at to ha'e it, Master Traveller.
What with being curious to join in I never thought of that!
What shall I do wi' a woman's clothes in MY bedroom,
and not lose my decency!"

"Keep 'em, to be sure," said Fairway, "if it is only
for luck. Perhaps 'twill tempt some woman that thy poor
carcase had no power over when standing empty-handed."

"Keep it, certainly," said Wildeve, who had idly watched
the scene from a distance.

The table was then cleared of the articles, and the men
began to drink.

"Well, to be sure!" said Christian, half to himself.
"To think I should have been born so lucky as this,
and not have found it out until now! What curious creatures
these dice be--powerful rulers of us all, and yet at my
command! I am sure I never need be afeared of anything
after this." He handled the dice fondly one by one.
"Why, sir," he said in a confidential whisper to Wildeve,
who was near his left hand, "if I could only use this power
that's in me of multiplying money I might do some good
to a near relation of yours, seeing what I've got about me
of hers--eh?" He tapped one of his money-laden boots upon
the floor.

"What do you mean?" said Wildeve.

"That's a secret. Well, I must be going now." He looked
anxiously towards Fairway.

"Where are you going?" Wildeve asked.

"To Mistover Knap. I have to see Mrs. Thomasin there--
that's all."

"I am going there, too, to fetch Mrs. Wildeve. We can
walk together."

Wildeve became lost in thought, and a look of inward
illumination came into his eyes. It was money for his
wife that Mrs. Yeobright could not trust him with.
"Yet she could trust this fellow," he said to himself.
"Why doesn't that which belongs to the wife belong to the
husband too?"

He called to the pot-boy to bring him his hat, and said,
"Now, Christian, I am ready."

"Mr. Wildeve," said Christian timidly, as he turned to
leave the room, "would you mind lending me them wonderful
little things that carry my luck inside 'em, that I
might practise a bit by myself, you know?" He looked
wistfully at the dice and box lying on the mantlepiece.

"Certainly," said Wildeve carelessly. "They were only cut
out by some lad with his knife, and are worth nothing."
And Christian went back and privately pocketed them.

Wildeve opened the door and looked out. The night was
warm and cloudy. "By Gad! 'tis dark," he continued.
"But I suppose we shall find our way."

"If we should lose the path it might be awkward,"
said Christian. "A lantern is the only shield that will
make it safe for us."

"Let's have a lantern by all means." The stable lantern
was fetched and lighted. Christian took up his gownpiece,
and the two set out to ascend the hill.

Within the room the men fell into chat till their
attention was for a moment drawn to the chimney-corner.
This was large, and, in addition to its proper recess,
contained within its jambs, like many on Egdon,
a receding seat, so that a person might sit there
absolutely unobserved, provided there was no fire to light
him up, as was the case now and throughout the summer.
From the niche a single object protruded into the light
from the candles on the table. It was a clay pipe,
and its colour was reddish. The men had been attracted
to this object by a voice behind the pipe asking for a light.

"Upon my life, it fairly startled me when the man spoke!"
said Fairway, handing a candle. "Oh--'tis the reddleman!
You've kept a quiet tongue, young man."

"Yes, I had nothing to say," observed Venn. In a few
minutes he arose and wished the company good night.

Meanwhile Wildeve and Christian had plunged into the heath.

It was a stagnant, warm, and misty night, full of all the
heavy perfumes of new vegetation not yet dried by hot sun,
and among these particularly the scent of the fern.
The lantern, dangling from Christian's hand, brushed the
feathery fronds in passing by, disturbing moths and
other winged insects, which flew out and alighted upon
its horny panes.

"So you have money to carry to Mrs. Wildeve?"
said Christian's companion, after a silence. "Don't you
think it very odd that it shouldn't be given to me?"

"As man and wife be one flesh, 'twould have been all
the same, I should think," said Christian. "But my strict
documents was, to give the money into Mrs. Wildeve's
hand--and 'tis well to do things right."

"No doubt," said Wildeve. Any person who had known the
circumstances might have perceived that Wildeve was mortified
by the discovery that the matter in transit was money,
and not, as he had supposed when at Blooms-End, some fancy
nick-nack which only interested the two women themselves.
Mrs. Yeobright's refusal implied that his honour was not
considered to be of sufficiently good quality to make
him a safer bearer of his wife's property.

"How very warm it is tonight, Christian!" he said,
panting, when they were nearly under Rainbarrow.
"Let us sit down for a few minutes, for Heaven's sake."

Wildeve flung himself down on the soft ferns;
and Christian, placing the lantern and parcel on
the ground, perched himself in a cramped position hard by,
his knees almost touching his chin. He presently thrust
one hand into his coat-pocket and began shaking it about.

"What are you rattling in there?" said Wildeve.

"Only the dice, sir," said Christian, quickly withdrawing
his hand. "What magical machines these little things be,
Mr. Wildeve! 'Tis a game I should never get tired of.
Would you mind my taking 'em out and looking at 'em for
a minute, to see how they are made? I didn't like to look
close before the other men, for fear they should think it
bad manners in me." Christian took them out and examined
them in the hollow of his hand by the lantern light.
"That these little things should carry such luck,
and such charm, and such a spell, and such power in 'em,
passes all I ever heard or zeed," he went on, with a
fascinated gaze at the dice, which, as is frequently
the case in country places, were made of wood, the points
being burnt upon each face with the end of a wire.

"They are a great deal in a small compass, You think?"

"Yes. Do ye suppose they really be the devil's playthings,
Mr. Wildeve? If so, 'tis no good sign that I be such
a lucky man."

"You ought to win some money, now that you've got them.
Any woman would marry you then. Now is your time,
Christian, and I would recommend you not to let it slip.
Some men are born to luck, some are not. I belong to the
latter class."

"Did you ever know anybody who was born to it besides myself?"

"O yes. I once heard of an Italian, who sat down at a gaming
table with only a louis, (that's a foreign sovereign),
in his pocket. He played on for twenty-four hours,
and won ten thousand pounds, stripping the bank he had
played against. Then there was another man who had lost
a thousand pounds, and went to the broker's next day
to sell stock, that he might pay the debt. The man to
whom he owed the money went with him in a hackney-coach;
and to pass the time they tossed who should pay the fare.
The ruined man won, and the other was tempted to continue
the game, and they played all the way. When the coachman
stopped he was told to drive home again: the whole thousand
pounds had been won back by the man who was going to sell."

"Ha--ha--splendid!" exclaimed Christian. "Go on--go on!"

"Then there was a man of London, who was only a waiter at
White's clubhouse. He began playing first half-crown stakes,
and then higher and higher, till he became very rich,
got an appointment in India, and rose to be Governor
of Madras. His daughter married a member of Parliament,
and the Bishop of Carlisle stood godfather to one of
the children."

"Wonderfull wonderfull"

"And once there was a young man in America who gambled till
he had lost his last dollar. He staked his watch and chain,
and lost as before; staked his umbrella, lost again;
staked his hat, lost again; staked his coat and stood in his
shirt-sleeves, lost again. Began taking off his breeches,
and then a looker-on gave him a trifle for his pluck.
With this he won. Won back his coat, won back his hat,
won back his umbrella, his watch, his money, and went
out of the door a rich man."

"Oh, 'tis too good--it takes away my breath! Mr. Wildeve,
I think I will try another shilling with you, as I am one
of that sort; no danger can come o't, and you can afford
to lose."

"Very well," said Wildeve, rising. Searching about
with the lantern, he found a large flat stone, which he
placed between himself and Christian, and sat down again.
The lantern was opened to give more light, and it's rays
directed upon the stone. Christian put down a shilling,
Wildeve another, and each threw. Christian won.
They played for two, Christian won again.

"Let us try four," said Wildeve. They played for four.
This time the stakes were won by Wildeve.

"Ah, those little accidents will, of course, sometimes happen,
to the luckiest man," he observed.

"And now I have no more money!" explained Christian excitedly.
"And yet, if I could go on, I should get it back again,
and more. I wish this was mine." He struck his boot upon
the ground, so that the guineas chinked within.

"What! you have not put Mrs. Wildeve's money there?"

"Yes. 'Tis for safety. Is it any harm to raffle with a
married lady's money when, if I win, I shall only keep
my winnings, and give her her own all the same; and if
t'other man wins, her money will go to the lawful owner?"

"None at all."

Wildeve had been brooding ever since they started on the mean
estimation in which he was held by his wife's friends;
and it cut his heart severely. As the minutes passed he
had gradually drifted into a revengeful intention without
knowing the precise moment of forming it. This was to
teach Mrs. Yeobright a lesson, as he considered it to be;
in other words, to show her if he could that her niece's
husband was the proper guardian of her niece's money.

"Well, here goes!" said Christian, beginning to unlace
one boot. "I shall dream of it nights and nights,
I suppose; but I shall always swear my flesh don't crawl
when I think o't!"

He thrust his hand into the boot and withdrew one
of poor Thomasin's precious guineas, piping hot.
Wildeve had already placed a sovereign on the stone.
The game was then resumed. Wildeve won first,
and Christian ventured another, winning himself this time.
The game fluctuated, but the average was in Wildeve's favour.
Both men became so absorbed in the game that they took
no heed of anything but the pigmy objects immediately
beneath their eyes, the flat stone, the open lantern,
the dice, and the few illuminated fern-leaves which lay
under the light, were the whole world to them.

At length Christian lost rapidly; and presently,
to his horror, the whole fifty guineas belonging
to Thomasin had been handed over to his adversary.

"I don't care--I don't care!" he moaned, and desperately
set about untying his left boot to get at the other fifty.
"The devil will toss me into the flames on his three-pronged
fork for this night's work, I know! But perhaps I shall
win yet, and then I'll get a wife to sit up with me o'
nights and I won't be afeard, I won't! Here's another for'ee,
my man!" He slapped another guinea down upon the stone,
and the dice-box was rattled again.

Time passed on. Wildeve began to be as excited as
Christian himself. When commencing the game his intention
had been nothing further than a bitter practical joke on
Mrs. Yeobright. To win the money, fairly or otherwise,
and to hand it contemptuously to Thomasin in her
aunt's presence, had been the dim outline of his purpose.
But men are drawn from their intentions even in the course
of carrying them out, and it was extremely doubtful,
by the time the twentieth guinea had been reached,
whether Wildeve was conscious of any other intention
than that of winning for his own personal benefit.
Moreover, he was now no longer gambling for his wife's money,
but for Yeobright's; though of this fact Christian,
in his apprehensiveness, did not inform him till afterwards.

It was nearly eleven o'clock, when, with almost a shriek,
Christian placed Yeobright's last gleaming guinea upon
the stone. In thirty seconds it had gone the way of
its companions.

Christian turned and flung himself on the ferns
in a convulsion of remorse, "O, what shall I do
with my wretched self?" he groaned. "What shall
I do? Will any good Heaven hae mercy upon my wicked soul?"

"Do? Live on just the same."

"I won't live on just the same! I'll die! I say you
are a--a----"

"A man sharper than my neighbour."

"Yes, a man sharper than my neighbour; a regular sharper!"

"Poor chips-in-porridge, you are very unmannerly."

"I don't know about that! And I say you be unmannerly!
You've got money that isn't your own. Half the guineas
are poor Mr. Clym's."

"How's that?"

"Because I had to gie fifty of 'em to him. Mrs. Yeobright
said so."

"Oh?...Well, 'twould have been more graceful of her
to have given them to his wife Eustacia. But they
are in my hands now."

Christian pulled on his boots, and with heavy breathings,
which could be heard to some distance, dragged his
limbs together, arose, and tottered away out of sight.
Wildeve set about shutting the lantern to return to the house,
for he deemed it too late to go to Mistover to meet his wife,
who was to be driven home in the captain's four-wheel.
While he was closing the little horn door a figure rose
from behind a neighbouring bush and came forward into
the lantern light. It was the reddleman approaching.

8 - A New Force Disturbs the Current

Wildeve stared. Venn looked coolly towards Wildeve, and,
without a word being spoken, he deliberately sat himself
down where Christian had been seated, thrust his hand into
his pocket, drew out a sovereign, and laid it on the stone.

"You have been watching us from behind that bush?"
said Wildeve.

The reddleman nodded. "Down with your stake," he said.
"Or haven't you pluck enough to go on?"

Now, gambling is a species of amusement which is much more
easily begun with full pockets than left off with the same;
and though Wildeve in a cooler temper might have prudently
declined this invitation, the excitement of his recent
success carried him completely away. He placed one of
the guineas on a slab beside the reddleman's sovereign.
"Mine is a guinea," he said.

"A guinea that's not your own," said Venn sarcastically.

"It is my own," answered Wildeve haughtily. "It is my
wife's, and what is hers is mine."

"Very well; let's make a beginning." He shook the box,
and threw eight, ten, and nine; the three casts amounted
to twenty-seven.

This encouraged Wildeve. He took the box; and his
three casts amounted to forty-five.

Down went another of the reddleman's sovereigns against
his first one which Wildeve laid. This time Wildeve threw
fifty-one points, but no pair. The reddleman looked grim,
threw a raffle of aces, and pocketed the stakes.

"Here you are again," said Wildeve contemptuously.
"Double the stakes." He laid two of Thomasin's guineas,
and the reddleman his two pounds. Venn won again.
New stakes were laid on the stone, and the gamblers proceeded
as before.

Wildeve was a nervous and excitable man, and the game
was beginning to tell upon his temper. He writhed,
fumed, shifted his seat, and the beating of his heart
was almost audible. Venn sat with lips impassively closed
and eyes reduced to a pair of unimportant twinkles;
he scarcely appeared to breathe. He might have been an Arab,
or an automaton; he would have been like a red sandstone
statue but for the motion of his arm with the dice-box.

The game fluctuated, now in favour of one, now in favour
of the other, without any great advantage on the side
of either. Nearly twenty minutes were passed thus.
The light of the candle had by this time attracted
heath-flies, moths, and other winged creatures of night,
which floated round the lantern, flew into the flame,
or beat about the faces of the two players.

But neither of the men paid much attention to these things,
their eyes being concentrated upon the little flat stone,
which to them was an arena vast and important as a battlefield.
By this time a change had come over the game; the reddleman
won continually. At length sixty guineas--Thomasin's
fifty, and ten of Clym's--had passed into his hands.
Wildeve was reckless, frantic, exasperated.

"'Won back his coat,'" said Venn slily.

Another throw, and the money went the same way.

"'Won back his hat,'" continued Venn.

"Oh, oh!" said Wildeve.

"'Won back his watch, won back his money, and went out
of the door a rich man,'" added Venn sentence by sentence,
as stake after stake passed over to him.

"Five more!" shouted Wildeve, dashing down the money.
"And three casts be hanged--one shall decide."

The red automaton opposite lapsed into silence, nodded,
and followed his example. Wildeve rattled the box,
and threw a pair of sixes and five points. He clapped
his hands; "I have done it this time--hurrah!"

"There are two playing, and only one has thrown,"
said the reddleman, quietly bringing down the box.
The eyes of each were then so intently converged upon
the stone that one could fancy their beams were visible,
like rays in a fog.

Venn lifted the box, and behold a triplet of sixes
was disclosed.

Wildeve was full of fury. While the reddleman was grasping
the stakes Wildeve seized the dice and hurled them, box and all,
into the darkness, uttering a fearful imprecation.
Then he arose and began stamping up and down like a madman.

"It is all over, then?" said Venn.

"No, no!" cried Wildeve. "I mean to have another chance yet.
I must!"

"But, my good man, what have you done with the dice?"

"I threw them away--it was a momentary irritation.
What a fool I am! Here--come and help me to look for
them--we must find them again."

Wildeve snatched up the lantern and began anxiously
prowling among the furze and fern.

"You are not likely to find them there,"
said Venn, following. "What did you do such a crazy
thing as that for? Here's the box. The dice can't be far off."

Wildeve turned the light eagerly upon the spot where Venn
had found the box, and mauled the herbage right and left.
In the course of a few minutes one of the dice was found.
They searched on for some time, but no other was to
be seen.

"Never mind," said Wildeve; "let's play with one."

"Agreed," said Venn.

Down they sat again, and recommenced with single guinea stakes;
and the play went on smartly. But Fortune had unmistakably
fallen in love with the reddleman tonight. He won steadily,
till he was the owner of fourteen more of the gold pieces.
Seventy-nine of the hundred guineas were his, Wildeve
possessing only twenty-one. The aspect of the two opponents
was now singular. Apart from motions, a complete diorama
of the fluctuations of the game went on in their eyes.
A diminutive candle-flame was mirrored in each pupil,
and it would have been possible to distinguish therein
between the moods of hope and the moods of abandonment,
even as regards the reddleman, though his facial muscles
betrayed nothing at all. Wildeve played on with the
recklessness of despair.

"What's that?" he suddenly exclaimed, hearing a rustle;
and they both looked up.

They were surrounded by dusky forms between four and
five feet high, standing a few paces beyond the rays
of the lantern. A moment's inspection revealed that
the encircling figures were heath-croppers, their heads
being all towards the players, at whom they gazed intently.

"Hoosh!" said Wildeve, and the whole forty or fifty animals
at once turned and galloped away. Play was again resumed.

Ten minutes passed away. Then a large death's head moth
advanced from the obscure outer air, wheeled twice round
the lantern, flew straight at the candle, and extinguished
it by the force of the blow. Wildeve had just thrown,
but had not lifted the box to see what he had cast;
and now it was impossible.

"What the infernal!" he shrieked. "Now, what shall we
do? Perhaps I have thrown six--have you any matches?"

"None," said Venn.

"Christian had some--I wonder where he is. Christian!"

But there was no reply to Wildeve's shout, save a mournful
whining from the herons which were nesting lower down
the vale. Both men looked blankly round without rising.
As their eyes grew accustomed to the darkness they
perceived faint greenish points of light among the grass
and fern. These lights dotted the hillside like stars
of a low magnitude.

"Ah--glowworms," said Wildeve. "Wait a minute.
We can continue the game."

Venn sat still, and his companion went hither and thither
till he had gathered thirteen glowworms--as many as he could
find in a space of four or five minutes--upon a fox-glove
leaf which he pulled for the purpose. The reddleman vented
a low humorous laugh when he saw his adversary return
with these. "Determined to go on, then?" he said drily.

"I always am!" said Wildeve angrily. And shaking the
glowworms from the leaf he ranged them with a trembling hand
in a circle on the stone, leaving a space in the middle
for the descent of the dice-box, over which the thirteen
tiny lamps threw a pale phosphoric shine. The game was
again renewed. It happened to be that season of the year
at which glowworms put forth their greatest brilliancy,
and the light they yielded was more than ample for
the purpose, since it is possible on such nights to read
the handwriting of a letter by the light of two or three.

The incongruity between the men's deeds and their
environment was great. Amid the soft juicy vegetation
of the hollow in which they sat, the motionless and the
uninhabited solitude, intruded the chink of guineas,
the rattle of dice, the exclamations of the reckless players.

Wildeve had lifted the box as soon as the lights were obtained,
and the solitary die proclaimed that the game was still
against him.

"I won't play any more--you've been tampering with the dice,"
he shouted.

"How--when they were your own?" said the reddleman.

"We'll change the game: the lowest point shall win
the stake--it may cut off my ill luck. Do you refuse?"

"No--go on," said Venn.

"O, there they are again--damn them!" cried Wildeve,
looking up. The heath-croppers had returned noiselessly,
and were looking on with erect heads just as before,
their timid eyes fixed upon the scene, as if they were
wondering what mankind and candlelight could have to do in
these haunts at this untoward hour.

"What a plague those creatures are--staring at me so!"
he said, and flung a stone, which scattered them;
when the game was continued as before.

Wildeve had now ten guineas left; and each laid five.
Wildeve threw three points; Venn two, and raked in the coins.
The other seized the die, and clenched his teeth upon
it in sheer rage, as if he would bite it in pieces.
"Never give in--here are my last five!" he cried,
throwing them down.

"Hang the glowworms--they are going out. Why don't you burn,
you little fools? Stir them up with a thorn."

He probed the glowworms with a bit of stick, and rolled
them over, till the bright side of their tails was upwards.

"There's light enough. Throw on," said Venn.

Wildeve brought down the box within the shining circle
and looked eagerly. He had thrown ace. "Well done!--I
said it would turn, and it has turned." Venn said nothing;
but his hand shook slightly.

He threw ace also.

"O!" said Wildeve. "Curse me!"

The die smacked the stone a second time. It was ace again.
Venn looked gloomy, threw--the die was seen to be lying
in two pieces, the cleft sides uppermost.

"I've thrown nothing at all," he said.

"Serves me right--I split the die with my teeth.
Here--take your money. Blank is less than one."

"I don't wish it."

"Take it, I say--you've won it!" And Wildeve threw the stakes
against the reddleman's chest. Venn gathered them up,
arose, and withdrew from the hollow, Wildeve sitting stupefied.

When he had come to himself he also arose, and, with the
extinguished lantern in his hand, went towards the highroad.
On reaching it he stood still. The silence of night
pervaded the whole heath except in one direction; and that
was towards Mistover. There he could hear the noise of
light wheels, and presently saw two carriagelamps descending
the hill. Wildeve screened himself under a bush and waited.

The vehicle came on and passed before him. It was a
hired carriage, and behind the coachman were two persons
whom he knew well. There sat Eustacia and Yeobright,
the arm of the latter being round her waist.
They turned the sharp corner at the bottom towards
the temporary home which Clym had hired and furnished,
about five miles to the eastward.

Wildeve forgot the loss of the money at the sight
of his lost love, whose preciousness in his eyes was
increasing in geometrical progression with each new
incident that reminded him of their hopeless division.
Brimming with the subtilized misery that he was capable
of feeling, he followed the opposite way towards the inn.

About the same moment that Wildeve stepped into the
highway Venn also had reached it at a point a hundred
yards further on; and he, hearing the same wheels,
likewise waited till the carriage should come up.
When he saw who sat therein he seemed to be disappointed.
Reflecting a minute or two, during which interval the
carriage rolled on, he crossed the road, and took a short
cut through the furze and heath to a point where the
turnpike road bent round in ascending a hill. He was now
again in front of the carriage, which presently came up
at a walking pace. Venn stepped forward and showed himself.

Eustacia started when the lamp shone upon him, and Clym's
arm was involuntarily withdrawn from her waist. He said,
"What, Diggory? You are having a lonely walk."

"Yes--I beg your pardon for stopping you," said Venn.
"But I am waiting about for Mrs. Wildeve: I have something
to give her from Mrs. Yeobright. Can you tell me if she's
gone home from the party yet?"

"No. But she will be leaving soon. You may possibly meet
her at the corner."

Venn made a farewell obeisance, and walked back to his
former position, where the byroad from Mistover joined
the highway. Here he remained fixed for nearly half an hour,
and then another pair of lights came down the hill.
It was the old-fashioned wheeled nondescript belonging to
the captain, and Thomasin sat in it alone, driven by Charley.

The reddleman came up as they slowly turned the corner.
"I beg pardon for stopping you, Mrs. Wildeve," he said.
"But I have something to give you privately from Mrs. Yeobright."
He handed a small parcel; it consisted of the hundred
guineas he had just won, roughly twisted up in a piece
of paper.

Thomasin recovered from her surprise, and took the packet.
"That's all, ma'am--I wish you good night," he said,
and vanished from her view.

Thus Venn, in his anxiety to rectify matters, had placed
in Thomasin's hands not only the fifty guineas which
rightly belonged to her, but also the fifty intended
for her cousin Clym. His mistake had been based upon
Wildeve's words at the opening of the game, when he
indignantly denied that the guinea was not his own.
It had not been comprehended by the reddleman that at
halfway through the performance the game was continued
with the money of another person; and it was an error
which afterwards helped to cause more misfortune
than treble the loss in money value could have done.

The night was now somewhat advanced; and Venn plunged deeper
into the heath, till he came to a ravine where his van was
standing--a spot not more than two hundred yards from the site
of the gambling bout. He entered this movable home of his,
lit his lantern, and, before closing his door for the night,
stood reflecting on the circumstances of the preceding hours.
While he stood the dawn grew visible in the northeast quarter
of the heavens, which, the clouds having cleared off,
was bright with a soft sheen at this midsummer time,
though it was only between one and two o'clock. Venn,
thoroughly weary, then shut his door and flung himself
down to sleep.

book four


1 - The Rencounter by the Pool

The July sun shone over Egdon and fired its crimson
heather to scarlet. It was the one season of the year,
and the one weather of the season, in which the heath
was gorgeous. This flowering period represented the second
or noontide division in the cycle of those superficial
changes which alone were possible here; it followed
the green or young-fern period, representing the morn,
and preceded the brown period, when the heathbells
and ferns would wear the russet tinges of evening; to be
in turn displaced by the dark hue of the winter period,
representing night.

Clym and Eustacia, in their little house at Alderworth,
beyond East Egdon, were living on with a monotony which
was delightful to them. The heath and changes of weather
were quite blotted out from their eyes for the present.
They were enclosed in a sort of luminous mist, which hid
from them surroundings of any inharmonious colour,
and gave to all things the character of light. When it
rained they were charmed, because they could remain
indoors together all day with such a show of reason;
when it was fine they were charmed, because they could
sit together on the hills. They were like those double
stars which revolve round and round each other, and from
a distance appear to be one. The absolute solitude in
which they lived intensified their reciprocal thoughts;
yet some might have said that it had the disadvantage
of consuming their mutual affections at a fearfully
prodigal rate. Yeobright did not fear for his own part;
but recollection of Eustacia's old speech about the
evanescence of love, now apparently forgotten by her,
sometimes caused him to ask himself a question; and he
recoiled at the thought that the quality of finiteness was
not foreign to Eden.

When three or four weeks had been passed thus,
Yeobright resumed his reading in earnest. To make up
for lost time he studied indefatigably, for he wished
to enter his new profession with the least possible delay.

Now, Eustacia's dream had always been that, once married
to Clym, she would have the power of inducing him to return
to Paris. He had carefully withheld all promise to do so;
but would he be proof against her coaxing and argument?
She had calculated to such a degree on the probability
of success that she had represented Paris, and not Budmouth,
to her grandfather as in all likelihood their future home.
Her hopes were bound up in this dream. In the quiet days
since their marriage, when Yeobright had been poring
over her lips, her eyes, and the lines of her face,
she had mused and mused on the subject, even while in the
act of returning his gaze; and now the sight of the books,
indicating a future which was antagonistic to her dream,
struck her with a positively painful jar. She was hoping for
the time when, as the mistress of some pretty establishment,
however small, near a Parisian Boulevard, she would be
passing her days on the skirts at least of the gay world,
and catching stray wafts from those town pleasures she
was so well fitted to enjoy. Yet Yeobright was as firm
in the contrary intention as if the tendency of marriage
were rather to develop the fantasies of young philanthropy
than to sweep them away.

Her anxiety reached a high pitch; but there was something
in Clym's undeviating manner which made her hesitate
before sounding him on the subject. At this point
in their experience, however, an incident helped her.
It occurred one evening about six weeks after their union,
and arose entirely out of the unconscious misapplication
of Venn of the fifty guineas intended for Yeobright.

A day or two after the receipt of the money Thomasin
had sent a note to her aunt to thank her. She had been
surprised at the largeness of the amount; but as no sum
had ever been mentioned she set that down to her late
uncle's generosity. She had been strictly charged
by her aunt to say nothing to her husband of this gift;
and Wildeve, as was natural enough, had not brought himself
to mention to his wife a single particular of the midnight
scene in the heath. Christian's terror, in like manner,
had tied his tongue on the share he took in that proceeding;
and hoping that by some means or other the money had gone
to its proper destination, he simply asserted as much,
without giving details.

Therefore, when a week or two had passed away, Mrs. Yeobright
began to wonder why she never heard from her son of the
receipt of the present; and to add gloom to her perplexity
came the possibility that resentment might be the cause
of his silence. She could hardly believe as much,
but why did he not write? She questioned Christian,
and the confusion in his answers would at once have led
her to believe that something was wrong, had not one-half
of his story been corroborated by Thomasin's note.

Mrs. Yeobright was in this state of uncertainty when she
was informed one morning that her son's wife was visiting her
grandfather at Mistover. She determined to walk up the hill,
see Eustacia, and ascertain from her daughter-in-law's lips
whether the family guineas, which were to Mrs. Yeobright
what family jewels are to wealthier dowagers, had miscarried or not.

When Christian learnt where she was going his concern
reached its height. At the moment of her departure he could
prevaricate no longer, and, confessing to the gambling,
told her the truth as far as he knew it--that the guineas
had been won by Wildeve.

"What, is he going to keep them?" Mrs. Yeobright cried.

"I hope and trust not!" moaned Christian. "He's a good man,
and perhaps will do right things. He said you ought
to have gied Mr. Clym's share to Eustacia, and that's
perhaps what he'll do himself."

To Mrs. Yeobright, as soon as she could calmly reflect,
there was much likelihood in this, for she could hardly
believe that Wildeve would really appropriate money
belonging to her son. The intermediate course of giving it
to Eustacia was the sort of thing to please Wildeve's fancy.
But it filled the mother with anger none the less.
That Wildeve should have got command of the guineas
after all, and should rearrange the disposal of them,
placing Clym's share in Clym's wife's hands, because she
had been his own sweetheart, and might be so still,
was as irritating a pain as any that Mrs. Yeobright had
ever borne.

She instantly dismissed the wretched Christian from her
employ for his conduct in the affair; but, feeling quite
helpless and unable to do without him, told him afterwards
that he might stay a little longer if he chose.
Then she hastened off to Eustacia, moved by a much less
promising emotion towards her daughter-in-law than she
had felt half an hour earlier, when planning her journey.
At that time it was to inquire in a friendly spirit if there
had been any accidental loss; now it was to ask plainly
if Wildeve had privately given her money which had been
intended as a sacred gift to Clym.

She started at two o'clock, and her meeting with Eustacia
was hastened by the appearance of the young lady beside
the pool and bank which bordered her grandfather's premises,
where she stood surveying the scene, and perhaps thinking
of the romantic enactments it had witnessed in past days.
When Mrs. Yeobright approached, Eustacia surveyed her
with the calm stare of a stranger.

The mother-in-law was the first to speak. "I was coming
to see you," she said.

"Indeed!" said Eustacia with surprise, for Mrs. Yeobright,
much to the girl's mortification, had refused to be present
at the wedding. "I did not at all expect you."

"I was coming on business only," said the visitor,
more coldly than at first. "Will you excuse my asking
this--Have you received a gift from Thomasin's husband?"

"A gift?"

"I mean money!"

"What--I myself?"

"Well, I meant yourself, privately--though I was not going
to put it in that way."

"Money from Mr. Wildeve? No--never! Madam, what do you
mean by that?" Eustacia fired up all too quickly,
for her own consciousness of the old attachment between
herself and Wildeve led her to jump to the conclusion
that Mrs. Yeobright also knew of it, and might have come
to accuse her of receiving dishonourable presents from him now.

"I simply ask the question," said Mrs. Yeobright.
"I have been----"

"You ought to have better opinions of me--I feared you
were against me from the first!" exclaimed Eustacia

"No. I was simply for Clym," replied Mrs. Yeobright,
with too much emphasis in her earnestness. "It is the
instinct of everyone to look after their own."

"How can you imply that he required guarding against me?"
cried Eustacia, passionate tears in her eyes. "I have
not injured him by marrying him! What sin have I done
that you should think so ill of me? You had no right to
speak against me to him when I have never wronged you."

"I only did what was fair under the circumstances,"
said Mrs. Yeobright more softly. "I would rather not have
gone into this question at present, but you compel me.
I am not ashamed to tell you the honest truth. I was firmly
convinced that he ought not to marry you--therefore I
tried to dissuade him by all the means in my power. But it
is done now, and I have no idea of complaining any more.
I am ready to welcome you."

"Ah, yes, it is very well to see things in that business
point of view," murmured Eustacia with a smothered fire
of feeling. "But why should you think there is anything
between me and Mr. Wildeve? I have a spirit as well
as you. I am indignant; and so would any woman be.
It was a condescension in me to be Clym's wife, and not
a manoeuvre, let me remind you; and therefore I will
not be treated as a schemer whom it becomes necessary
to bear with because she has crept into the family."

"Oh!" said Mrs. Yeobright, vainly endeavouring to control
her anger. "I have never heard anything to show that my
son's lineage is not as good as the Vyes'--perhaps better.
It is amusing to hear you talk of condescension."

"It was condescension, nevertheless," said Eustacia vehemently.
"And if I had known then what I know now, that I should
be living in this wild heath a month after my marriage,
I--I should have thought twice before agreeing."

"It would be better not to say that; it might not
sound truthful. I am not aware that any deception
was used on his part--I know there was not--whatever
might have been the case on the other side."

"This is too exasperating!" answered the younger woman huskily,
her face crimsoning, and her eyes darting light.
"How can you dare to speak to me like that? I insist upon
repeating to you that had I known that my life would
from my marriage up to this time have been as it is,
I should have said NO. I don't complain. I have never
uttered a sound of such a thing to him; but it is true.
I hope therefore that in the future you will be silent on
my eagerness. If you injure me now you injure yourself."

"Injure you? Do you think I am an evil-disposed person?"

"You injured me before my marriage, and you have now
suspected me of secretly favouring another man for money!"

"I could not help what I thought. But I have never spoken
of you outside my house."

"You spoke of me within it, to Clym, and you could not
do worse."

"I did my duty."

"And I'll do mine."

"A part of which will possibly be to set him against
his mother. It is always so. But why should I not bear
it as others have borne it before me!"

"I understand you," said Eustacia, breathless with emotion.
"You think me capable of every bad thing. Who can be
worse than a wife who encourages a lover, and poisons
her husband's mind against his relative? Yet that is now
the character given to me. Will you not come and drag
him out of my hands?"

Mrs. Yeobright gave back heat for heat.

"Don't rage at me, madam! It ill becomes your beauty,
and I am not worth the injury you may do it on my account,
I assure you. I am only a poor old woman who has lost
a son."

"If you had treated me honourably you would have had
him still." Eustacia said, while scalding tears trickled
from her eyes. "You have brought yourself to folly;
you have caused a division which can never be healed!"

"I have done nothing. This audacity from a young woman
is more than I can bear."

"It was asked for; you have suspected me, and you have made
me speak of my husband in a way I would not have done.
You will let him know that I have spoken thus, and it will
cause misery between us. Will you go away from me? You
are no friend!"

"I will go when I have spoken a word. If anyone says I
have come here to question you without good grounds for it,
that person speaks untruly. If anyone says that I
attempted to stop your marriage by any but honest means,
that person, too, does not speak the truth. I have fallen
on an evil time; God has been unjust to me in letting
you insult me! Probably my son's happiness does not lie
on this side of the grave, for he is a foolish man
who neglects the advice of his parent. You, Eustacia,
stand on the edge of a precipice without knowing it.
Only show my son one-half the temper you have shown
me today--and you may before long--and you will find
that though he is as gentle as a child with you now,
he can be as hard as steel!"

The excited mother then withdrew, and Eustacia, panting,
stood looking into the pool.

2 - He Is Set upon by Adversities but He Sings a Song

The result of that unpropitious interview was that Eustacia,
instead of passing the afternoon with her grandfather,
hastily returned home to Clym, where she arrived three hours
earlier than she had been expected.

She came indoors with her face flushed, and her eyes
still showing traces of her recent excitement.
Yeobright looked up astonished; he had never seen
her in any way approaching to that state before.
She passed him by, and would have gone upstairs unnoticed,
but Clym was so concerned that he immediately followed her.

"What is the matter, Eustacia?" he said. She was standing
on the hearthrug in the bedroom, looking upon the floor,
her hands clasped in front of her, her bonnet yet unremoved.
For a moment she did not answer; and then she replied
in a low voice--

"I have seen your mother; and I will never see her again!"
A weight fell like a stone upon Clym. That same morning,
when Eustacia had arranged to go and see her grandfather,
Clym had expressed a wish that she would drive down to
Blooms-End and inquire for her mother-in-law, or adopt
any other means she might think fit to bring about
a reconciliation. She had set out gaily; and he had hoped
for much.

"Why is this?" he asked.

"I cannot tell--I cannot remember. I met your mother.
And I will never meet her again."


"What do I know about Mr. Wildeve now? I won't have
wicked opinions passed on me by anybody. O! it was too
humiliating to be asked if I had received any money
from him, or encouraged him, or something of the sort--
I don't exactly know what!"

"How could she have asked you that?"

"She did."

"Then there must have been some meaning in it. What did
my mother say besides?"

"I don't know what she said, except in so far as this,
that we both said words which can never be forgiven!"

"Oh, there must be some misapprehension. Whose fault
was it that her meaning was not made clear?"

"I would rather not say. It may have been the fault of
the circumstances, which were awkward at the very least.
O Clym--I cannot help expressing it--this is an unpleasant
position that you have placed me in. But you must improve
it--yes, say you will--for I hate it all now! Yes,
take me to Paris, and go on with your old occupation,
Clym! I don't mind how humbly we live there at first,
if it can only be Paris, and not Egdon Heath."

"But I have quite given up that idea," said Yeobright,
with surprise. "Surely I never led you to expect such
a thing?"

"I own it. Yet there are thoughts which cannot be kept
out of mind, and that one was mine. Must I not have
a voice in the matter, now I am your wife and the sharer
of your doom?"

"Well, there are things which are placed beyond the pale
of discussion; and I thought this was specially so,
and by mutual agreement."

"Clym, I am unhappy at what I hear," she said in a low voice;
and her eyes drooped, and she turned away.

This indication of an unexpected mine of hope in Eustacia's
bosom disconcerted her husband. It was the first time
that he had confronted the fact of the indirectness
of a woman's movement towards her desire. But his
intention was unshaken, though he loved Eustacia well.
All the effect that her remark had upon him was a resolve
to chain himself more closely than ever to his books,
so as to be the sooner enabled to appeal to substantial
results from another course in arguing against her whim.

Next day the mystery of the guineas was explained.
Thomasin paid them a hurried visit, and Clym's share was
delivered up to him by her own hands. Eustacia was not
present at the time.

"Then this is what my mother meant," exclaimed Clym.
"Thomasin, do you know that they have had a bitter quarrel?"

There was a little more reticence now than formerly in Thomasin's
manner towards her cousin. It is the effect of marriage
to engender in several directions some of the reserve it
annihilates in one. "Your mother told me," she said quietly.
"She came back to my house after seeing Eustacia."

"The worst thing I dreaded has come to pass. Was Mother
much disturbed when she came to you, Thomasin?"


"Very much indeed?"


Clym leant his elbow upon the post of the garden gate,
and covered his eyes with his hand.

"Don't trouble about it, Clym. They may get to be friends."

He shook his head. "Not two people with inflammable
natures like theirs. Well, what must be will be."

"One thing is cheerful in it--the guineas are not lost."

"I would rather have lost them twice over than have had
this happen."

Amid these jarring events Yeobright felt one thing to be
indispensable--that he should speedily make some show
of progress in his scholastic plans. With this view
he read far into the small hours during many nights.

One morning, after a severer strain than usual, he awoke with
a strange sensation in his eyes. The sun was shining directly
upon the window-blind, and at his first glance thitherward
a sharp pain obliged him to close his eyelids quickly.
At every new attempt to look about him the same morbid
sensibility to light was manifested, and excoriating tears
ran down his cheeks. He was obliged to tie a bandage
over his brow while dressing; and during the day it could
not be abandoned. Eustacia was thoroughly alarmed.
On finding that the case was no better the next morning
they decided to send to Anglebury for a surgeon.

Towards evening he arrived, and pronounced the disease
to be acute inflammation induced by Clym's night studies,
continued in spite of a cold previously caught, which had
weakened his eyes for the time.

Fretting with impatience at this interruption to a task he was
so anxious to hasten, Clym was transformed into an invalid.
He was shut up in a room from which all light was excluded,
and his condition would have been one of absolute
misery had not Eustacia read to him by the glimmer of a
shaded lamp. He hoped that the worst would soon be over;
but at the surgeon's third visit he learnt to his dismay
that although he might venture out of doors with shaded
eyes in the course of a month, all thought of pursuing
his work, or of reading print of any description,
would have to be given up for a long time to come.

One week and another week wore on, and nothing
seemed to lighten the gloom of the young couple.
Dreadful imaginings occurred to Eustacia, but she
carefully refrained from uttering them to her husband.
Suppose he should become blind, or, at all events,
never recover sufficient strength of sight to engage
in an occupation which would be congenial to her feelings,
and conduce to her removal from this lonely dwelling among
the hills? That dream of beautiful Paris was not likely
to cohere into substance in the presence of this misfortune.
As day after day passed by, and he got no better,
her mind ran more and more in this mournful groove,
and she would go away from him into the garden and weep
despairing tears.

Yeobright thought he would send for his mother;
and then he thought he would not. Knowledge of his state
could only make her the more unhappy; and the seclusion
of their life was such that she would hardly be likely
to learn the news except through a special messenger.
Endeavouring to take the trouble as philosophically
as possible, he waited on till the third week had arrived,
when he went into the open air for the first time since
the attack. The surgeon visited him again at this stage,
and Clym urged him to express a distinct opinion.
The young man learnt with added surprise that the date at
which he might expect to resume his labours was as uncertain
as ever, his eyes being in that peculiar state which,
though affording him sight enough for walking about,
would not admit of their being strained upon any definite
object without incurring the risk of reproducing ophthalmia
in its acute form.

Clym was very grave at the intelligence, but not despairing.
A quiet firmness, and even cheerfulness, took possession
of him. He was not to be blind; that was enough.
To be doomed to behold the world through smoked glass
for an indefinite period was bad enough, and fatal
to any kind of advance; but Yeobright was an absolute
stoic in the face of mishaps which only affected his
social standing; and, apart from Eustacia, the humblest
walk of life would satisfy him if it could be made to work
in with some form of his culture scheme. To keep a cottage
night-school was one such form; and his affliction did
not master his spirit as it might otherwise have done.

He walked through the warm sun westward into those tracts
of Egdon with which he was best acquainted, being those
lying nearer to his old home. He saw before him in one
of the valleys the gleaming of whetted iron, and advancing,
dimly perceived that the shine came from the tool of a
man who was cutting furze. The worker recognized Clym,
and Yeobright learnt from the voice that the speaker
was Humphrey.

Humphrey expressed his sorrow at Clym's condition,
and added, "Now, if yours was low-class work like mine,
you could go on with it just the same."

"Yes, I could," said Yeobright musingly. "How much
do you get for cutting these faggots?"

"Half-a-crown a hundred, and in these long days I can
live very well on the wages."

During the whole of Yeobright's walk home to Alderworth he
was lost in reflections which were not of an unpleasant kind.
On his coming up to the house Eustacia spoke to him
from the open window, and he went across to her.

"Darling," he said, "I am much happier. And if my mother
were reconciled to me and to you I should, I think,
be happy quite."

"I fear that will never be," she said, looking afar
with her beautiful stormy eyes. "How CAN you say
'I am happier,' and nothing changed?"

"It arises from my having at last discovered something I
can do, and get a living at, in this time of misfortune."


"I am going to be a furze- and turf-cutter."

"No, Clym!" she said, the slight hopefulness previously
apparent in her face going off again, and leaving her
worse than before.

"Surely I shall. Is it not very unwise in us to go
on spending the little money we've got when I can keep
down expenditures by an honest occupation? The outdoor
exercise will do me good, and who knows but that in a few
months I shall be able to go on with my reading again?"

"But my grandfather offers to assist us, if we require assistance."

"We don't require it. If I go furze-cutting we shall
be fairly well off."

"In comparison with slaves, and the Israelites in Egypt,
and such people!" A bitter tear rolled down Eustacia's face,
which he did not see. There had been nonchalance
in his tone, showing her that he felt no absolute grief
at a consummation which to her was a positive horror.

The very next day Yeobright went to Humphrey's cottage,
and borrowed of him leggings, gloves, a whetstone, and a hook,
to use till he should be able to purchase some for himself.
Then he sallied forth with his new fellow-labourer and
old acquaintance, and selecting a spot where the furze grew
thickest he struck the first blow in his adopted calling.
His sight, like the wings in Rasselas, though useless
to him for his grand purpose, sufficed for this strait,
and he found that when a little practice should have hardened
his palms against blistering he would be able to work
with ease.

Day after day he rose with the sun, buckled on his leggings,
and went off to the rendezvous with Humphrey. His custom
was to work from four o'clock in the morning till noon;
then, when the heat of the day was at its highest,
to go home and sleep for an hour or two; afterwards coming
out again and working till dusk at nine.

This man from Paris was now so disguised by his
leather accoutrements, and by the goggles he was obliged
to wear over his eyes, that his closest friend might
have passed by without recognizing him. He was a brown
spot in the midst of an expanse of olive-green gorse,
and nothing more. Though frequently depressed in
spirit when not actually at work, owing to thoughts
of Eustacia's position and his mother's estrangement,
when in the full swing of labour he was cheerfully disposed and calm.

His daily life was of a curious microscopic sort,
his whole world being limited to a circuit of a few
feet from his person. His familiars were creeping and
winged things, and they seemed to enroll him in their band.
Bees hummed around his ears with an intimate air,
and tugged at the heath and furze-flowers at his side
in such numbers as to weigh them down to the sod.
The strange amber-coloured butterflies which Egdon produced,
and which were never seen elsewhere, quivered in the breath
of his lips, alighted upon his bowed back, and sported
with the glittering point of his hook as he flourished
it up and down. Tribes of emerald-green grasshoppers
leaped over his feet, falling awkwardly on their backs,
heads, or hips, like unskilful acrobats, as chance
might rule; or engaged themselves in noisy flirtations
under the fern-fronds with silent ones of homely hue.
Huge flies, ignorant of larders and wire-netting, and
quite in a savage state, buzzed about him without knowing
that he was a man. In and out of the fern-dells snakes
glided in their most brilliant blue and yellow guise,
it being the season immediately following the shedding
of their old skins, when their colours are brightest.
Litters of young rabbits came out from their forms to sun
themselves upon hillocks, the hot beams blazing through
the delicate tissue of each thin-fleshed ear, and firing
it to a blood-red transparency in which the veins could
be seen. None of them feared him. The monotony of his
occupation soothed him, and was in itself a pleasure.
A forced limitation of effort offered a justification
of homely courses to an unambitious man, whose conscience
would hardly have allowed him to remain in such obscurity
while his powers were unimpeded. Hence Yeobright sometimes
sang to himself, and when obliged to accompany Humphrey
in search of brambles for faggot-bonds he would amuse his
companion with sketches of Parisian life and character,
and so while away the time.

On one of these warm afternoons Eustacia walked out alone
in the direction of Yeobright's place of work. He was
busily chopping away at the furze, a long row of faggots
which stretched downward from his position representing
the labour of the day. He did not observe her approach,
and she stood close to him, and heard his undercurrent
of song.

It shocked her. To see him there, a poor afflicted man,
earning money by the sweat of his brow, had at first moved
her to tears; but to hear him sing and not at all rebel
against an occupation which, however satisfactory to himself,
was degrading to her, as an educated lady-wife, wounded
her through. Unconscious of her presence, he still went
on singing:--

"Le point du jour
A nos bosquets rend toute leur parure;
Flore est plus belle a son retour;
L'oiseau reprend doux chant d'amour;
Tout celebre dans la nature
Le point du jour.

"Le point du jour
Cause parfois, cause douleur extreme;
Que l'espace des nuits est court
Pour le berger brulant d'amour,
Force de quitter ce qu'il aime
Au point du jour!"

It was bitterly plain to Eustacia that he did not care much
about social failure; and the proud fair woman bowed her
head and wept in sick despair at thought of the blasting
effect upon her own life of that mood and condition in him.
Then she came forward.

"I would starve rather than do it!" she exclaimed vehemently.
"And you can sing! I will go and live with my grandfather again!"

"Eustacia! I did not see you, though I noticed
something moving," he said gently. He came forward,
pulled off his huge leather glove, and took her hand.
"Why do you speak in such a strange way? It is only a
little old song which struck my fancy when I was in Paris,
and now just applies to my life with you. Has your love
for me all died, then, because my appearance is no longer
that of a fine gentleman?"

"Dearest, you must not question me unpleasantly, or it
may make me not love you."

"Do you believe it possible that I would run the risk
of doing that?"

"Well, you follow out your own ideas, and won't
give in to mine when I wish you to leave off this
shameful labour. Is there anything you dislike in me
that you act so contrarily to my wishes? I am your wife,
and why will you not listen? Yes, I am your wife indeed!"

"I know what that tone means."

"What tone?"

"The tone in which you said, 'Your wife indeed.' It meant,
'Your wife, worse luck.'"

"It is hard in you to probe me with that remark.
A woman may have reason, though she is not without heart,
and if I felt 'worse luck,' it was no ignoble feeling--
it was only too natural. There, you see that at any
rate I do not attempt untruths. Do you remember how,
before we were married, I warned you that I had not good
wifely qualities?"

"You mock me to say that now. On that point at least
the only noble course would be to hold your tongue,
for you are still queen of me, Eustacia, though I may no
longer be king of you."

"You are my husband. Does not that content you?"

"Not unless you are my wife without regret."

"I cannot answer you. I remember saying that I should
be a serious matter on your hands."

"Yes, I saw that."

"Then you were too quick to see! No true lover would
have seen any such thing; you are too severe upon me,
Clym--I won't like your speaking so at all."

"Well, I married you in spite of it, and don't regret
doing so. How cold you seem this afternoon! and yet I
used to think there never was a warmer heart than yours."

"Yes, I fear we are cooling--I see it as well as you,"
she sighed mournfully. "And how madly we loved two months
ago! You were never tired of contemplating me, nor I
of contemplating you. Who could have thought then that by
this time my eyes would not seem so very bright to yours,
nor your lips so very sweet to mine? Two months--is it
possible? Yes, 'tis too true!"

"You sigh, dear, as if you were sorry for it; and that's
a hopeful sign."

"No. I don't sigh for that. There are other things
for me to sigh for, or any other woman in my place."

"That your chances in life are ruined by marrying in haste
an unfortunate man?"

"Why will you force me, Clym, to say bitter things? I
deserve pity as much as you. As much?--I think I deserve
it more. For you can sing! It would be a strange hour
which should catch me singing under such a cloud as this!
Believe me, sweet, I could weep to a degree that would
astonish and confound such an elastic mind as yours.
Even had you felt careless about your own affliction,
you might have refrained from singing out of sheer pity
for mine. God! if I were a man in such a position I would
curse rather than sing."

Yeobright placed his hand upon her arm. "Now, don't
you suppose, my inexperienced girl, that I cannot rebel,
in high Promethean fashion, against the gods and fate
as well as you. I have felt more steam and smoke of
that sort than you have ever heard of. But the more I
see of life the more do I perceive that there is nothing
particularly great in its greatest walks, and therefore
nothing particularly small in mine of furze-cutting.
If I feel that the greatest blessings vouchsafed to us
are not very valuable, how can I feel it to be any great
hardship when they are taken away? So I sing to pass
the time. Have you indeed lost all tenderness for me,
that you begrudge me a few cheerful moments?"

"I have still some tenderness left for you."

"Your words have no longer their old flavour. And so love
dies with good fortune!"

"I cannot listen to this, Clym--it will end bitterly,"
she said in a broken voice. "I will go home."

3 - She Goes Out to Battle against Depression

A few days later, before the month of August has expired,
Eustacia and Yeobright sat together at their early dinner.

Eustacia's manner had become of late almost apathetic.
There was a forlorn look about her beautiful eyes which,
whether she deserved it or not, would have excited
pity in the breast of anyone who had known her during
the full flush of her love for Clym. The feelings of
husband and wife varied, in some measure, inversely with
their positions. Clym, the afflicted man, was cheerful;
and he even tried to comfort her, who had never felt a
moment of physical suffering in her whole life.

"Come, brighten up, dearest; we shall be all right again.
Some day perhaps I shall see as well as ever.
And I solemnly promise that I'll leave off cutting furze
as soon as I have the power to do anything better.
You cannot seriously wish me to stay idling at home
all day?"

"But it is so dreadful--a furze-cutter! and you a man who
have lived about the world, and speak French, and German,
and who are fit for what is so much better than this."

"I suppose when you first saw me and heard about me I
was wrapped in a sort of golden halo to your eyes--a man
who knew glorious things, and had mixed in brilliant
scenes--in short, an adorable, delightful, distracting hero?"

"Yes," she said, sobbing.

"And now I am a poor fellow in brown leather."

"Don't taunt me. But enough of this. I will not be
depressed any more. I am going from home this afternoon,
unless you greatly object. There is to be a village
picnic--a gipsying, they call it--at East Egdon, and I
shall go."

"To dance?"

"Why not? You can sing."

"Well, well, as you will. Must I come to fetch you?"

"If you return soon enough from your work. But do not
inconvenience yourself about it. I know the way home,
and the heath has no terror for me."

"And can you cling to gaiety so eagerly as to walk all
the way to a village festival in search of it?"

"Now, you don't like my going alone! Clym, you are
not jealous?"

"No. But I would come with you if it could give you
any pleasure; though, as things stand, perhaps you
have too much of me already. Still, I somehow wish
that you did not want to go. Yes, perhaps I am jealous;
and who could be jealous with more reason than I,
a half-blind man, over such a woman as you?"

"Don't think like it. Let me go, and don't take all
my spirits away!"

"I would rather lose all my own, my sweet wife. Go and
do whatever you like. Who can forbid your indulgence
in any whim? You have all my heart yet, I believe;
and because you bear with me, who am in truth a drag
upon you, I owe you thanks. Yes, go alone and shine.
As for me, I will stick to my doom. At that kind of
meeting people would shun me. My hook and gloves are like
the St. Lazarus rattle of the leper, warning the world
to get out of the way of a sight that would sadden them."
He kissed her, put on his leggings, and went out.

When he was gone she rested her head upon her hands
and said to herself, "Two wasted lives--his and mine.
And I am come to this! Will it drive me out of my mind?"

She cast about for any possible course which offered
the least improvement on the existing state of things,
and could find none. She imagined how all those Budmouth
ones who should learn what had become of her would say,
"Look at the girl for whom nobody was good enough!"
To Eustacia the situation seemed such a mockery of her hopes
that death appeared the only door of relief if the satire
of Heaven should go much further.

Suddenly she aroused herself and exclaimed, "But I'll shake
it off. Yes, I WILL shake it off! No one shall know
my suffering. I'll be bitterly merry, and ironically gay,
and I'll laugh in derision. And I'll begin by going
to this dance on the green."

She ascended to her bedroom and dressed herself with
scrupulous care. To an onlooker her beauty would have
made her feelings almost seem reasonable. The gloomy
corner into which accident as much as indiscretion
had brought this woman might have led even a moderate
partisan to feel that she had cogent reasons for asking
the Supreme Power by what right a being of such exquisite
finish had been placed in circumstances calculated
to make of her charms a curse rather than a blessing.

It was five in the afternoon when she came out from the
house ready for her walk. There was material enough in the
picture for twenty new conquests. The rebellious sadness
that was rather too apparent when she sat indoors without
a bonnet was cloaked and softened by her outdoor attire,
which always had a sort of nebulousness about it,
devoid of harsh edges anywhere; so that her face looked
from its environment as from a cloud, with no noticeable
lines of demarcation between flesh and clothes. The heat
of the day had scarcely declined as yet, and she went
along the sunny hills at a leisurely pace, there being
ample time for her idle expedition. Tall ferns buried
her in their leafage whenever her path lay through them,
which now formed miniature forests, though not one stem
of them would remain to bud the next year.

The site chosen for the village festivity was one of the
lawnlike oases which were occasionally, yet not often,
met with on the plateaux of the heath district. The brakes
of furze and fern terminated abruptly round the margin,
and the grass was unbroken. A green cattletrack skirted
the spot, without, however, emerging from the screen of fern,
and this path Eustacia followed, in order to reconnoitre
the group before joining it. The lusty notes of the East
Egdon band had directed her unerringly, and she now
beheld the musicians themselves, sitting in a blue wagon
with red wheels scrubbed as bright as new, and arched
with sticks, to which boughs and flowers were tied.
In front of this was the grand central dance of fifteen
or twenty couples, flanked by minor dances of inferior
individuals whose gyrations were not always in strict
keeping with the tune.

The young men wore blue and white rosettes, and with a
flush on their faces footed it to the girls, who, with the
excitement and the exercise, blushed deeper than the pink
of their numerous ribbons. Fair ones with long curls,
fair ones with short curls, fair ones with lovelocks,
fair ones with braids, flew round and round; and a beholder


Back to Full Books