Return of the Native, by Thomas Hardy

Part 8 out of 10

"From here to Paris, where I shall pass the winter and spring.
Then I shall go to Italy, Greece, Egypt, and Palestine,
before the hot weather comes on. In the summer I shall
go to America; and then, by a plan not yet settled,
I shall go to Australia and round to India. By that time
I shall have begun to have had enough of it. Then I shall
probably come back to Paris again, and there I shall stay
as long as I can afford to."

"Back to Paris again," she murmured in a voice that was
nearly a sigh. She had never once told Wildeve of the
Parisian desires which Clym's description had sown in her;
yet here was he involuntarily in a position to gratify them.
"You think a good deal of Paris?" she added.

"Yes. In my opinion it is the central beauty-spot
of the world."

"And in mine! And Thomasin will go with you?"

"Yes, if she cares to. She may prefer to stay at home."

"So you will be going about, and I shall be staying here!"

"I suppose you will. But we know whose fault that is."

"I am not blaming you," she said quickly.

"Oh, I thought you were. If ever you SHOULD be inclined
to blame me, think of a certain evening by Rainbarrow,
when you promised to meet me and did not. You sent me
a letter; and my heart ached to read that as I hope
yours never will. That was one point of divergence.
I then did something in haste....But she is a good woman,
and I will say no more."

"I know that the blame was on my side that time,"
said Eustacia. "But it had not always been so.
However, it is my misfortune to be too sudden in feeling.
O, Damon, don't reproach me any more--I can't bear that."

They went on silently for a distance of two or three miles,
when Eustacia said suddenly, "Haven't you come out of
your way, Mr. Wildeve?"

"My way is anywhere tonight. I will go with you as far
as the hill on which we can see Blooms-End, as it
is getting late for you to be alone."

"Don't trouble. I am not obliged to be out at all.
I think I would rather you did not accompany me further.
This sort of thing would have an odd look if known."

"Very well, I will leave you." He took her hand unexpectedly,
and kissed it--for the first time since her marriage.
"What light is that on the hill?" he added, as it were to
hide the caress.

She looked, and saw a flickering firelight proceeding
from the open side of a hovel a little way before them.
The hovel, which she had hitherto always found empty,
seemed to be inhabited now.

"Since you have come so far," said Eustacia, "will you
see me safely past that hut? I thought I should have met
Clym somewhere about here, but as he doesn't appear I
will hasten on and get to Blooms-End before he leaves."

They advanced to the turf-shed, and when they got near it
the firelight and the lantern inside showed distinctly enough
the form of a woman reclining on a bed of fern, a group
of heath men and women standing around her. Eustacia did
not recognize Mrs. Yeobright in the reclining figure,
nor Clym as one of the standers-by till she came close.
Then she quickly pressed her hand up on Wildeve's arm
and signified to him to come back from the open side
of the shed into the shadow.

"It is my husband and his mother," she whispered in an
agitated voice. "What can it mean? Will you step forward
and tell me?"

Wildeve left her side and went to the back wall of the hut.
Presently Eustacia perceived that he was beckoning to her,
and she advanced and joined him.

"It is a serious case," said Wildeve.

From their position they could hear what was proceeding inside.

"I cannot think where she could have been going,"
said Clym to someone. "She had evidently walked a long way,
but even when she was able to speak just now she would
not tell me where. What do you really think of her?"

"There is a great deal to fear," was gravely answered,
in a voice which Eustacia recognized as that of the only
surgeon in the district. "She has suffered somewhat from
the bite of the adder; but it is exhaustion which has
overpowered her. My impression is that her walk must
have been exceptionally long."

"I used to tell her not to overwalk herself this weather,"
said Clym, with distress. "Do you think we did well in
using the adder's fat?"

"Well, it is a very ancient remedy--the old remedy
of the viper-catchers, I believe," replied the doctor.
"It is mentioned as an infallible ointment by Hoffman,
Mead, and I think the Abbe Fontana. Undoubtedly it
was as good a thing as you could do; though I question
if some other oils would not have been equally efficacious."

"Come here, come here!" was then rapidly said in anxious
female tones, and Clym and the doctor could be heard
rushing forward from the back part of the shed to where
Mrs. Yeobright lay.

"Oh, what is it?" whispered Eustacia.

"'Twas Thomasin who spoke," said Wildeve. "Then they
have fetched her. I wonder if I had better go in--yet
it might do harm."

For a long time there was utter silence among the
group within; and it was broken at last by Clym saying,
in an agonized voice, "O Doctor, what does it mean?"

The doctor did not reply at once; ultimately he said,
"She is sinking fast. Her heart was previously affected,
and physical exhaustion has dealt the finishing blow."

Then there was a weeping of women, then waiting,
then hushed exclamations, then a strange gasping sound,
then a painful stillness.

"It is all over," said the doctor.

Further back in the hut the cotters whispered,
"Mrs. Yeobright is dead."

Almost at the same moment the two watchers observed the
form of a small old-fashioned child entering at the open
side of the shed. Susan Nunsuch, whose boy it was,
went forward to the opening and silently beckoned to him
to go back.

"I've got something to tell 'ee, Mother," he cried in a
shrill tone. "That woman asleep there walked along with
me today; and she said I was to say that I had seed her,
and she was a broken-hearted woman and cast off by her son,
and then I came on home."

A confused sob as from a man was heard within,
upon which Eustacia gasped faintly, "That's Clym--I
must go to him--yet dare I do it? No--come away!"

When they had withdrawn from the neighbourhood of
the shed she said huskily, "I am to blame for this.
There is evil in store for me."

"Was she not admitted to your house after all?"
Wildeve inquired.

"No, and that's where it all lies! Oh, what shall I do! I
shall not intrude upon them--I shall go straight home.
Damon, good-bye! I cannot speak to you any more now."

They parted company; and when Eustacia had reached
the next hill she looked back. A melancholy procession
was wending its way by the light of the lantern from
the hut towards Blooms-End. Wildeve was nowhere to be seen.

book five


1 - "Wherefore Is Light Given to Him That Is in Misery"

One evening, about three weeks after the funeral of
Mrs. Yeobright, when the silver face of the moon sent
a bundle of beams directly upon the floor of Clym's house
at Alderworth, a woman came forth from within. She reclined
over the garden gate as if to refresh herself awhile.
The pale lunar touches which make beauties of hags lent
divinity to this face, already beautiful.

She had not long been there when a man came up the road
and with some hesitation said to her, "How is he tonight,
ma'am, if you please?"

"He is better, though still very unwell, Humphrey,"
replied Eustacia.

"Is he light-headed, ma'am?"

"No. He is quite sensible now."

"Do he rave about his mother just the same, poor fellow?"
continued Humphrey.

"Just as much, though not quite so wildly," she said
in a low voice.

"It was very unfortunate, ma'am, that the boy Johnny
should ever ha' told him his mother's dying words,
about her being broken-hearted and cast off by her son.
'Twas enough to upset any man alive."

Eustacia made no reply beyond that of a slight catch in
her breath, as of one who fain would speak but could not;
and Humphrey, declining her invitation to come in,
went away.

Eustacia turned, entered the house, and ascended to
the front bedroom, where a shaded light was burning.
In the bed lay Clym, pale, haggard, wide awake, tossing to
one side and to the other, his eyes lit by a hot light,
as if the fire in their pupils were burning up their substance.

"Is it you, Eustacia?" he said as she sat down.

"Yes, Clym. I have been down to the gate. The moon
is shining beautifully, and there is not a leaf stirring."

"Shining, is it? What's the moon to a man like me? Let
it shine--let anything be, so that I never see another
day!...Eustacia, I don't know where to look--my thoughts
go through me like swords. O, if any man wants to make
himself immortal by painting a picture of wretchedness,
let him come here!"

"Why do you say so?"

"I cannot help feeling that I did my best to kill her."

"No, Clym."

"Yes, it was so; it is useless to excuse me! My conduct
to her was too hideous--I made no advances; and she
could not bring herself to forgive me. Now she is dead!
If I had only shown myself willing to make it up with
her sooner, and we had been friends, and then she had died,
it wouldn't be so hard to bear. But I never went near
her house, so she never came near mine, and didn't know
how welcome she would have been--that's what troubles me.
She did not know I was going to her house that very night,
for she was too insensible to understand me. If she
had only come to see me! I longed that she would.
But it was not to be."

There escaped from Eustacia one of those shivering
sighs which used to shake her like a pestilent blast.
She had not yet told.

But Yeobright was too deeply absorbed in the ramblings
incidental to his remorseful state to notice her.
During his illness he had been continually talking thus.
Despair had been added to his original grief by the
unfortunate disclosure of the boy who had received the
last words of Mrs. Yeobright--words too bitterly uttered
in an hour of misapprehension. Then his distress had
overwhelmed him, and he longed for death as a field labourer
longs for the shade. It was the pitiful sight of a man
standing in the very focus of sorrow. He continually
bewailed his tardy journey to his mother's house,
because it was an error which could never be rectified,
and insisted that he must have been horribly perverted
by some fiend not to have thought before that it was his
duty to go to her, since she did not come to him. He would
ask Eustacia to agree with him in his self-condemnation;
and when she, seared inwardly by a secret she dared not tell,
declared that she could not give an opinion, he would say,
"That's because you didn't know my mother's nature.
She was always ready to forgive if asked to do so;
but I seemed to her to be as an obstinate child, and that
made her unyielding. Yet not unyielding--she was proud
and reserved, no more....Yes, I can understand why she
held out against me so long. She was waiting for me.
I dare say she said a hundred times in her sorrow, 'What a
return he makes for all the sacrifices I have made for him!'
I never went to her! When I set out to visit her it was
too late. To think of that is nearly intolerable!"

Sometimes his condition had been one of utter remorse,
unsoftened by a single tear of pure sorrow: and then
he writhed as he lay, fevered far more by thought than
by physical ills. "If I could only get one assurance
that she did not die in a belief that I was resentful,"
he said one day when in this mood, "it would be better to
think of than a hope of heaven. But that I cannot do."

"You give yourself up too much to this wearying despair,"
said Eustacia. "Other men's mothers have died."

"That doesn't make the loss of mine less. Yet it
is less the loss than the circumstances of the loss.
I sinned against her, and on that account there is no
light for me."

"She sinned against you, I think."

"No, she did not. I committed the guilt; and may
the whole burden be upon my head!"

"I think you might consider twice before you say that,"
Eustacia replied. "Single men have, no doubt, a right
to curse themselves as much as they please; but men with
wives involve two in the doom they pray down."

"I am in too sorry a state to understand what you are
refining on," said the wretched man. "Day and night shout
at me, 'You have helped to kill her.' But in loathing
myself I may, I own, be unjust to you, my poor wife.
Forgive me for it, Eustacia, for I scarcely know what I do."

Eustacia was always anxious to avoid the sight of her
husband in such a state as this, which had become as
dreadful to her as the trial scene was to Judas Iscariot.
It brought before her eyes the spectre of a worn-out
woman knocking at a door which she would not open;
and she shrank from contemplating it. Yet it was better
for Yeobright himself when he spoke openly of his
sharp regret, for in silence he endured infinitely more,
and would sometimes remain so long in a tense, brooding mood,
consuming himself by the gnawing of his thought, that it
was imperatively necessary to make him talk aloud, that his
grief might in some degree expend itself in the effort.

Eustacia had not been long indoors after her look at
the moonlight when a soft footstep came up to the house,
and Thomasin was announced by the woman downstairs.

"Ah, Thomasin! Thank you for coming tonight," said Clym
when she entered the room. "Here am I, you see.
Such a wretched spectacle am I, that I shrink from being
seen by a single friend, and almost from you."

"You must not shrink from me, dear Clym," said Thomasin
earnestly, in that sweet voice of hers which came
to a sufferer like fresh air into a Black Hole.
"Nothing in you can ever shock me or drive me away.
I have been here before, but you don't remember it."

"Yes, I do; I am not delirious, Thomasin, nor have I
been so at all. Don't you believe that if they say so.
I am only in great misery at what I have done, and that,
with the weakness, makes me seem mad. But it has not upset
my reason. Do you think I should remember all about my
mother's death if I were out of my mind? No such good luck.
Two months and a half, Thomasin, the last of her life, did my
poor mother live alone, distracted and mourning because of me;
yet she was unvisited by me, though I was living only six
miles off. Two months and a half--seventy-five days did
the sun rise and set upon her in that deserted state
which a dog didn't deserve! Poor people who had nothing
in common with her would have cared for her, and visited
her had they known her sickness and loneliness; but I,
who should have been all to her, stayed away like a cur.
If there is any justice in God let Him kill me now.
He has nearly blinded me, but that is not enough.
If He would only strike me with more pain I would believe in
Him forever!"

"Hush, hush! O, pray, Clym, don't, don't say it!"
implored Thomasin, affrighted into sobs and tears;
while Eustacia, at the other side of the room,
though her pale face remained calm, writhed in her chair.
Clym went on without heeding his cousin.

"But I am not worth receiving further proof even of
Heaven's reprobation. Do you think, Thomasin, that she
knew me--that she did not die in that horrid mistaken
notion about my not forgiving her, which I can't
tell you how she acquired? If you could only assure
me of that! Do you think so, Eustacia? Do speak to me."

"I think I can assure you that she knew better at last,"
said Thomasin. The pallid Eustacia said nothing.

"Why didn't she come to my house? I would have taken
her in and showed her how I loved her in spite of all.
But she never came; and I didn't go to her, and she died
on the heath like an animal kicked out, nobody to help
her till it was too late. If you could have seen her,
Thomasin, as I saw her--a poor dying woman, lying in
the dark upon the bare ground, moaning, nobody near,
believing she was utterly deserted by all the world,
it would have moved you to anguish, it would have moved
a brute. And this poor woman my mother! No wonder she
said to the child, 'You have seen a broken-hearted woman.'
What a state she must have been brought to, to say that! and
who can have done it but I? It is too dreadful to think of,
and I wish I could be punished more heavily than I am.
How long was I what they called out of my senses?"

"A week, I think."

"And then I became calm."

"Yes, for four days."

"And now I have left off being calm."

"But try to be quiet--please do, and you will soon be strong.
If you could remove that impression from your mind--"

"Yes, yes," he said impatiently. "But I don't want
to get strong. What's the use of my getting well? It
would be better for me if I die, and it would certainly
be better for Eustacia. Is Eustacia there?"


"It would be better for you, Eustacia, if I were to die?"

"Don't press such a question, dear Clym."

"Well, it really is but a shadowy supposition;
for unfortunately I am going to live. I feel myself
getting better. Thomasin, how long are you going to stay
at the inn, now that all this money has come to your husband?"

"Another month or two, probably; until my illness is over.
We cannot get off till then. I think it will be a month
or more."

"Yes, yes. Of course. Ah, Cousin Tamsie, you will get over
your trouble--one little month will take you through it,
and bring something to console you; but I shall never get
over mine, and no consolation will come!"

"Clym, you are unjust to yourself. Depend upon it,
Aunt thought kindly of you. I know that, if she had lived,
you would have been reconciled with her."

"But she didn't come to see me, though I asked her,
before I married, if she would come. Had she come,
or had I gone there, she would never have died saying,
'I am a broken-hearted woman, cast off by my son.' My door
has always been open to her--a welcome here has always
awaited her. But that she never came to see."

"You had better not talk any more now, Clym," said Eustacia
faintly from the other part of the room, for the scene
was growing intolerable to her.

"Let me talk to you instead for the little time I shall
be here," Thomasin said soothingly. "Consider what a
one-sided way you have of looking at the matter, Clym.
When she said that to the little boy you had not found her
and taken her into your arms; and it might have been uttered
in a moment of bitterness. It was rather like Aunt to say
things in haste. She sometimes used to speak so to me.
Though she did not come I am convinced that she thought
of coming to see you. Do you suppose a man's mother could
live two or three months without one forgiving thought?
She forgave me; and why should she not have forgiven you?"

"You laboured to win her round; I did nothing. I, who was
going to teach people the higher secrets of happiness,
did not know how to keep out of that gross misery which
the most untaught are wise enough to avoid."

"How did you get here tonight, Thomasin?" said Eustacia.

"Damon set me down at the end of the lane. He has driven
into East Egdon on business, and he will come and pick
me up by-and-by."

Accordingly they soon after heard the noise of wheels.
Wildeve had come, and was waiting outside with his horse
and gig.

"Send out and tell him I will be down in two minutes,"
said Thomasin.

"I will run down myself," said Eustacia.

She went down. Wildeve had alighted, and was standing
before the horse's head when Eustacia opened the door.
He did not turn for a moment, thinking the comer Thomasin.
Then he looked, startled ever so little, and said one word:

"I have not yet told him," she replied in a whisper.

"Then don't do so till he is well--it will be fatal.
You are ill yourself."

"I am wretched....O Damon," she said, bursting into tears,
"I--I can't tell you how unhappy I am! I can hardly
bear this. I can tell nobody of my trouble--nobody
knows of it but you."

"Poor girl!" said Wildeve, visibly affected at her distress,
and at last led on so far as to take her hand.
"It is hard, when you have done nothing to deserve it,
that you should have got involved in such a web as this.
You were not made for these sad scenes. I am to blame most.
If I could only have saved you from it all!"

"But, Damon, please pray tell me what I must do? To
sit by him hour after hour, and hear him reproach
himself as being the cause of her death, and to know
that I am the sinner, if any human being is at all,
drives me into cold despair. I don't know what to do.
Should I tell him or should I not tell him? I always am
asking myself that. O, I want to tell him; and yet I
am afraid. If he find it out he must surely kill me,
for nothing else will be in proportion to his feelings now.
'Beware the fury of a patient man' sounds day by day in my
ears as I watch him."

"Well, wait till he is better, and trust to chance.
And when you tell, you must only tell part--for his
own sake."

"Which part should I keep back?"

Wildeve paused. "That I was in the house at the time,"
he said in a low tone.

"Yes; it must be concealed, seeing what has been whispered.
How much easier are hasty actions than speeches that will
excuse them!"

"If he were only to die--" Wildeve murmured.

"Do not think of it! I would not buy hope of immunity
by so cowardly a desire even if I hated him. Now I am
going up to him again. Thomasin bade me tell you she
would be down in a few minutes. Good-bye."

She returned, and Thomasin soon appeared. When she was
seated in the gig with her husband, and the horse was turning
to go off, Wildeve lifted his eyes to the bedroom windows.
Looking from one of them he could discern a pale,
tragic face watching him drive away. It was Eustacia's.

2 - A Lurid Light Breaks in upon a Darkened Understanding

Clym's grief became mitigated by wearing itself out.
His strength returned, and a month after the visit of
Thomasin he might have been seen walking about the garden.
Endurance and despair, equanimity and gloom, the tints of
health and the pallor of death, mingled weirdly in his face.
He was now unnaturally silent upon all of the past that
related to his mother; and though Eustacia knew that he
was thinking of it none the less, she was only too glad
to escape the topic ever to bring it up anew. When his
mind had been weaker his heart had led him to speak out;
but reason having now somewhat recovered itself he sank
into taciturnity.

One evening when he was thus standing in the garden,
abstractedly spudding up a weed with his stick, a bony
figure turned the corner of the house and came up to him.

"Christian, isn't it?" said Clym. "I am glad you have
found me out. I shall soon want you to go to Blooms-
End and assist me in putting the house in order.
I suppose it is all locked up as I left it?"

"Yes, Mister Clym."

"Have you dug up the potatoes and other roots?"

"Yes, without a drop o' rain, thank God. But I was
coming to tell 'ee of something else which is quite
different from what we have lately had in the family.
I am sent by the rich gentleman at the Woman, that we
used to call the landlord, to tell 'ee that Mrs. Wildeve
is doing well of a girl, which was born punctually
at one o'clock at noon, or a few minutes more or less;
and 'tis said that expecting of this increase is what have
kept 'em there since they came into their money."

"And she is getting on well, you say?"

"Yes, sir. Only Mr. Wildeve is twanky because 'tisn't
a boy--that's what they say in the kitchen, but I was
not supposed to notice that."

"Christian, now listen to me."

"Yes, sure, Mr. Yeobright."

"Did you see my mother the day before she died?"

"No, I did not."

Yeobright's face expressed disappointment.

"But I zeed her the morning of the same day she died."

Clym's look lighted up. "That's nearer still to my meaning,"
he said.

"Yes, I know 'twas the same day; for she said, 'I be going
to see him, Christian; so I shall not want any vegetables
brought in for dinner.'"

"See whom?"

"See you. She was going to your house, you understand."

Yeobright regarded Christian with intense surprise.
"Why did you never mention this?" he said. "Are you sure
it was my house she was coming to?"

"O yes. I didn't mention it because I've never zeed
you lately. And as she didn't get there it was all nought,
and nothing to tell."

"And I have been wondering why she should have walked in
the heath on that hot day! Well, did she say what she was
coming for? It is a thing, Christian, I am very anxious to know."

"Yes, Mister Clym. She didn't say it to me, though I
think she did to one here and there."

"Do you know one person to whom she spoke of it?"

"There is one man, please, sir, but I hope you won't mention
my name to him, as I have seen him in strange places,
particular in dreams. One night last summer he glared
at me like Famine and Sword, and it made me feel so low
that I didn't comb out my few hairs for two days.
He was standing, as it might be, Mister Yeobright, in the
middle of the path to Mistover, and your mother came up,
looking as pale--"

"Yes, when was that?"

"Last summer, in my dream."

"Pooh! Who's the man?"

"Diggory, the reddleman. He called upon her and sat
with her the evening before she set out to see you.
I hadn't gone home from work when he came up to the gate."

"I must see Venn--I wish I had known it before,"
said Clym anxiously. "I wonder why he has not come
to tell me?"

"He went out of Egdon Heath the next day, so would not
be likely to know you wanted him."

"Christian," said Clym, "you must go and find Venn.
I am otherwise engaged, or I would go myself. Find him
at once, and tell him I want to speak to him."

"I am a good hand at hunting up folk by day," said Christian,
looking dubiously round at the declining light;
"but as to night-time, never is such a bad hand as I,
Mister Yeobright."

"Search the heath when you will, so that you bring him soon.
Bring him tomorrow, if you can."

Christian then departed. The morrow came, but no Venn.
In the evening Christian arrived, looking very weary.
He had been searching all day, and had heard nothing of
the reddleman.

"Inquire as much as you can tomorrow without neglecting
your work," said Yeobright. "Don't come again till you
have found him."

The next day Yeobright set out for the old house at
Blooms-End, which, with the garden, was now his own.
His severe illness had hindered all preparations for his
removal thither; but it had become necessary that he
should go and overlook its contents, as administrator
to his mother's little property; for which purpose he
decided to pass the next night on the premises.

He journeyed onward, not quickly or decisively, but in the slow
walk of one who has been awakened from a stupefying sleep.
It was early afternoon when he reached the valley.
The expression of the place, the tone of the hour,
were precisely those of many such occasions in days gone by;
and these antecedent similarities fostered the illusion that she,
who was there no longer, would come out to welcome him.
The garden gate was locked and the shutters were closed,
just as he himself had left them on the evening after
the funeral. He unlocked the gate, and found that a spider
had already constructed a large web, tying the door
to the lintel, on the supposition that it was never to be
opened again. When he had entered the house and flung
back the shutters he set about his task of overhauling
the cupboards and closets, burning papers, and considering
how best to arrange the place for Eustacia's reception,
until such time as he might be in a position to carry
out his long-delayed scheme, should that time ever arrive.

As he surveyed the rooms he felt strongly disinclined
for the alterations which would have to be made in the
time-honoured furnishing of his parents and grandparents,
to suit Eustacia's modern ideas. The gaunt oak-cased clock,
with the picture of the Ascension on the door panel
and the Miraculous Draught of Fishes on the base;
his grandmother's corner cupboard with the glass door,
through which the spotted china was visible; the dumb-waiter;
the wooden tea trays; the hanging fountain with the brass
tap--whither would these venerable articles have to be

He noticed that the flowers in the window had died for
want of water, and he placed them out upon the ledge,
that they might be taken away. While thus engaged he
heard footsteps on the gravel without, and somebody
knocked at the door.

Yeobright opened it, and Venn was standing before him.

"Good morning," said the reddleman. "Is Mrs. Yeobright
at home?"

Yeobright looked upon the ground. "Then you have not
seen Christian or any of the Egdon folks?" he said.

"No. I have only just returned after a long stay away.
I called here the day before I left."

"And you have heard nothing?"


"My mother is--dead."

"Dead!" said Venn mechanically.

"Her home now is where I shouldn't mind having mine."

Venn regarded him, and then said, "If I didn't see your
face I could never believe your words. Have you been ill?"

"I had an illness."

"Well, the change! When I parted from her a month ago
everything seemed to say that she was going to begin
a new life."

"And what seemed came true."

"You say right, no doubt. Trouble has taught you a deeper
vein of talk than mine. All I meant was regarding
her life here. She has died too soon."

"Perhaps through my living too long. I have had a bitter
experience on that score this last month, Diggory.
But come in; I have been wanting to see you."

He conducted the reddleman into the large room where
the dancing had taken place the previous Christmas,
and they sat down in the settle together. "There's the
cold fireplace, you see," said Clym. "When that half-
burnt log and those cinders were alight she was alive!
Little has been changed here yet. I can do nothing.
My life creeps like a snail."

"How came she to die?" said Venn.

Yeobright gave him some particulars of her illness
and death, and continued: "After this no kind of pain
will ever seem more than an indisposition to me.
I began saying that I wanted to ask you something, but I
stray from subjects like a drunken man. I am anxious
to know what my mother said to you when she last saw you.
You talked with her a long time, I think?"

"I talked with her more than half an hour."

"About me?"

"Yes. And it must have been on account of what we said
that she was on the heath. Without question she was
coming to see you."

"But why should she come to see me if she felt so bitterly
against me? There's the mystery."

"Yet I know she quite forgave 'ee."

"But, Diggory--would a woman, who had quite forgiven her son,
say, when she felt herself ill on the way to his house,
that she was broken-hearted because of his ill-usage? Never!"

"What I know is that she didn't blame you at all.
She blamed herself for what had happened, and only herself.
I had it from her own lips."

"You had it from her lips that I had NOT ill-treated her;
and at the same time another had it from her lips that I
HAD ill-treated her? My mother was no impulsive woman
who changed her opinion every hour without reason.
How can it be, Venn, that she should have told such
different stories in close succession?"

"I cannot say. It is certainly odd, when she had
forgiven you, and had forgiven your wife, and was going
to see ye on purpose to make friends."

"If there was one thing wanting to bewilder me it was this
incomprehensible thing!...Diggory, if we, who remain alive,
were only allowed to hold conversation with the dead--just
once, a bare minute, even through a screen of iron bars,
as with persons in prison--what we might learn! How many
who now ride smiling would hide their heads! And this
mystery--I should then be at the bottom of it at once.
But the grave has forever shut her in; and how shall it
be found out now?"

No reply was returned by his companion, since none could
be given; and when Venn left, a few minutes later,
Clym had passed from the dullness of sorrow to the
fluctuation of carking incertitude.

He continued in the same state all the afternoon.
A bed was made up for him in the same house by a neighbour,
that he might not have to return again the next day;
and when he retired to rest in the deserted place it
was only to remain awake hour after hour thinking the
same thoughts. How to discover a solution to this riddle
of death seemed a query of more importance than highest
problems of the living. There was housed in his memory
a vivid picture of the face of a little boy as he entered
the hovel where Clym's mother lay. The round eyes,
eager gaze, the piping voice which enunciated the words,
had operated like stilettos on his brain.

A visit to the boy suggested itself as a means of gleaning
new particulars; though it might be quite unproductive.
To probe a child's mind after the lapse of six weeks,
not for facts which the child had seen and understood,
but to get at those which were in their nature beyond him,
did not promise much; yet when every obvious channel
is blocked we grope towards the small and obscure.
There was nothing else left to do; after that he would allow
the enigma to drop into the abyss of undiscoverable things.

It was about daybreak when he had reached this decision,
and he at once arose. He locked up the house and went out
into the green patch which merged in heather further on.
In front of the white garden-palings the path branched
into three like a broad arrow. The road to the right led
to the Quiet Woman and its neighbourhood; the middle track
led to Mistover Knap; the left-hand track led over the hill
to another part of Mistover, where the child lived.
On inclining into the latter path Yeobright felt
a creeping chilliness, familiar enough to most people,
and probably caused by the unsunned morning air. In after
days he thought of it as a thing of singular significance.

When Yeobright reached the cottage of Susan Nunsuch,
the mother of the boy he sought, he found that the inmates
were not yet astir. But in upland hamlets the transition
from a-bed to abroad is surprisingly swift and easy.
There no dense partition of yawns and toilets divides
humanity by night from humanity by day. Yeobright tapped
at the upper windowsill, which he could reach with his
walking stick; and in three or four minutes the woman
came down.

It was not till this moment that Clym recollected her to be
the person who had behaved so barbarously to Eustacia.
It partly explained the insuavity with which the woman
greeted him. Moreover, the boy had been ailing again;
and Susan now, as ever since the night when he had
been pressed into Eustacia's service at the bonfire,
attributed his indispositions to Eustacia's influence
as a witch. It was one of those sentiments which lurk
like moles underneath the visible surface of manners,
and may have been kept alive by Eustacia's entreaty to
the captain, at the time that he had intended to prosecute
Susan for the pricking in church, to let the matter drop;
which he accordingly had done.

Yeobright overcame his repugnance, for Susan had at least
borne his mother no ill-will. He asked kindly for the boy;
but her manner did not improve.

"I wish to see him," continued Yeobright, with some hesitation,
"to ask him if he remembers anything more of his walk
with my mother than what he has previously told."

She regarded him in a peculiar and criticizing manner.
To anybody but a half-blind man it would have said,
"You want another of the knocks which have already laid you
so low."

She called the boy downstairs, asked Clym to sit down on
a stool, and continued, "Now, Johnny, tell Mr. Yeobright
anything you can call to mind."

"You have not forgotten how you walked with the poor lady
on that hot day?" said Clym.

"No," said the boy.

"And what she said to you?"

The boy repeated the exact words he had used on entering the hut.
Yeobright rested his elbow on the table and shaded his face
with his hand; and the mother looked as if she wondered
how a man could want more of what had stung him so deeply.

"She was going to Alderworth when you first met her?"

"No; she was coming away."

"That can't be."

"Yes; she walked along with me. I was coming away, too."

"Then where did you first see her?"

"At your house."

"Attend, and speak the truth!" said Clym sternly.

"Yes, sir; at your house was where I seed her first."

Clym started up, and Susan smiled in an expectant way
which did not embellish her face; it seemed to mean,
"Something sinister is coming!"

"What did she do at my house?"

"She went and sat under the trees at the Devil's Bellows."

"Good God! this is all news to me!"

"You never told me this before?" said Susan.

"No, Mother; because I didn't like to tell 'ee I had been
so far. I was picking blackhearts, and went further
than I meant."

"What did she do then?" said Yeobright.

"Looked at a man who came up and went into your house."

"That was myself--a furze-cutter, with brambles in his hand."

"No; 'twas not you. 'Twas a gentleman. You had gone
in afore."

"Who was he?"

"I don't know."

"Now tell me what happened next."

"The poor lady went and knocked at your door, and the lady
with black hair looked out of the side window at her."

The boy's mother turned to Clym and said, "This is
something you didn't expect?"

Yeobright took no more notice of her than if he had been
of stone. "Go on, go on," he said hoarsely to the boy.

"And when she saw the young lady look out of the window
the old lady knocked again; and when nobody came she took
up the furze-hook and looked at it, and put it down again,
and then she looked at the faggot-bonds; and then she
went away, and walked across to me, and blowed her breath
very hard, like this. We walked on together, she and I,
and I talked to her and she talked to me a bit, but not much,
because she couldn't blow her breath."

"O!" murmured Clym, in a low tone, and bowed his head.
"Let's have more," he said.

"She couldn't talk much, and she couldn't walk; and her
face was, O so queer!"

"How was her face?"

"Like yours is now."

The woman looked at Yeobright, and beheld him colourless,
in a cold sweat. "Isn't there meaning in it?"
she said stealthily. "What do you think of her now?"

"Silence!" said Clym fiercely. And, turning to the boy,
"And then you left her to die?"

"No," said the woman, quickly and angrily. "He did
not leave her to die! She sent him away. Whoever says
he forsook her says what's not true."

"Trouble no more about that," answered Clym, with a
quivering mouth. "What he did is a trifle in comparison
with what he saw. Door kept shut, did you say? Kept shut,
she looking out of window? Good heart of God!--what
does it mean?"

The child shrank away from the gaze of his questioner.

"He said so," answered the mother, "and Johnny's a God-
fearing boy and tells no lies."

"'Cast off by my son!' No, by my best life, dear mother,
it is not so! But by your son's, your son's--May all
murderesses get the torment they deserve!"

With these words Yeobright went forth from the little dwelling.
The pupils of his eyes, fixed steadfastly on blankness,
were vaguely lit with an icy shine; his mouth had passed
into the phase more or less imaginatively rendered in studies
of Oedipus. The strangest deeds were possible to his mood.
But they were not possible to his situation. Instead of there
being before him the pale face of Eustacia, and a masculine
shape unknown, there was only the imperturbable countenance
of the heath, which, having defied the cataclysmal onsets
of centuries, reduced to insignificance by its seamed
and antique features the wildest turmoil of a single man.

3 - Eustacia Dresses Herself on a Black Morning

A consciousness of a vast impassivity in all which lay
around him took possession even of Yeobright in his wild
walk towards Alderworth. He had once before felt in his own
person this overpowering of the fervid by the inanimate;
but then it had tended to enervate a passion far sweeter
than that which at present pervaded him. It was once
when he stood parting from Eustacia in the moist still
levels beyond the hills.

But dismissing all this he went onward home, and came to
the front of his house. The blinds of Eustacia's bedroom
were still closely drawn, for she was no early riser.
All the life visible was in the shape of a solitary thrush
cracking a small snail upon the door-stone for his breakfast,
and his tapping seemed a loud noise in the general
silence which prevailed; but on going to the door Clym
found it unfastened, the young girl who attended upon
Eustacia being astir in the back part of the premises.
Yeobright entered and went straight to his wife's room.

The noise of his arrival must have aroused her, for when
he opened the door she was standing before the looking
glass in her nightdress, the ends of her hair gathered
into one hand, with which she was coiling the whole mass
round her head, previous to beginning toilette operations.
She was not a woman given to speaking first at a meeting,
and she allowed Clym to walk across in silence,
without turning her head. He came behind her, and she saw
his face in the glass. It was ashy, haggard, and terrible.
Instead of starting towards him in sorrowful surprise,
as even Eustacia, undemonstrative wife as she was, would have
done in days before she burdened herself with a secret,
she remained motionless, looking at him in the glass.
And while she looked the carmine flush with which warmth
and sound sleep had suffused her cheeks and neck dissolved
from view, and the deathlike pallor in his face flew across
into hers. He was close enough to see this, and the sight
instigated his tongue.

"You know what is the matter," he said huskily.
"I see it in your face."

Her hand relinquished the rope of hair and dropped to
her side, and the pile of tresses, no longer supported,
fell from the crown of her head about her shoulders
and over the white nightgown. She made no reply.

"Speak to me," said Yeobright peremptorily.

The blanching process did not cease in her, and her lips
now became as white as her face. She turned to him
and said, "Yes, Clym, I'll speak to you. Why do you
return so early? Can I do anything for you?"

"Yes, you can listen to me. It seems that my wife
is not very well?"


"Your face, my dear; your face. Or perhaps it is
the pale morning light which takes your colour away?
Now I am going to reveal a secret to you. Ha-ha!"

"O, that is ghastly!"


"Your laugh."

"There's reason for ghastliness. Eustacia, you have held
my happiness in the hollow of your hand, and like a devil
you have dashed it down!"

She started back from the dressing-table, retreated a few
steps from him, and looked him in the face. "Ah! you
think to frighten me," she said, with a slight laugh.
"Is it worth while? I am undefended, and alone."

"How extraordinary!"

"What do you mean?"

"As there is ample time I will tell you, though you know
well enough. I mean that it is extraordinary that you
should be alone in my absence. Tell me, now, where is
he who was with you on the afternoon of the thirty-
first of August? Under the bed? Up the chimney?"

A shudder overcame her and shook the light fabric of her
nightdress throughout. "I do not remember dates so exactly,"
she said. "I cannot recollect that anybody was with me
besides yourself."

"The day I mean," said Yeobright, his voice growing louder
and harsher, "was the day you shut the door against my
mother and killed her. O, it is too much--too bad!"
He leant over the footpiece of the bedstead for a few moments,
with his back towards her; then rising again--"Tell me,
tell me! tell me--do you hear?" he cried, rushing up to
her and seizing her by the loose folds of her sleeve.

The superstratum of timidity which often overlies those who
are daring and defiant at heart had been passed through,
and the mettlesome substance of the woman was reached.
The red blood inundated her face, previously so pale.

"What are you going to do?" she said in a low voice,
regarding him with a proud smile. "You will not alarm
me by holding on so; but it would be a pity to tear
my sleeve."

Instead of letting go he drew her closer to him. "Tell me
the particulars of--my mother's death," he said in a hard,
panting whisper; "or--I'll--I'll--"

"Clym," she answered slowly, "do you think you dare
do anything to me that I dare not bear? But before you
strike me listen. You will get nothing from me by a blow,
even though it should kill me, as it probably will.
But perhaps you do not wish me to speak--killing may be all
you mean?"

"Kill you! Do you expect it?"

"I do."


"No less degree of rage against me will match your previous
grief for her."

"Phew--I shall not kill you," he said contemptuously,
as if under a sudden change of purpose. "I did think of it;
but--I shall not. That would be making a martyr of you,
and sending you to where she is; and I would keep
you away from her till the universe come to an end,
if I could."

"I almost wish you would kill me," said she with gloomy
bitterness. "It is with no strong desire, I assure you,
that I play the part I have lately played on earth.
You are no blessing, my husband."

"You shut the door--you looked out of the window upon
her--you had a man in the house with you--you sent her
away to die. The inhumanity--the treachery--I will not
touch you--stand away from me--and confess every word!"

"Never! I'll hold my tongue like the very death that I
don't mind meeting, even though I can clear myself
of half you believe by speaking. Yes. I will! Who
of any dignity would take the trouble to clear cobwebs
from a wild man's mind after such language as this? No;
let him go on, and think his narrow thoughts, and run
his head into the mire. I have other cares."

"'Tis too much--but I must spare you."

"Poor charity."

"By my wretched soul you sting me, Eustacia! I can keep
it up, and hotly too. Now, then, madam, tell me his name!"

"Never, I am resolved."

"How often does he write to you? Where does he put his
letters--when does he meet you? Ah, his letters! Do you
tell me his name?"

"I do not."

"Then I'll find it myself." His eyes had fallen upon
a small desk that stood near, on which she was accustomed
to write her letters. He went to it. It was locked.

"Unlock this!"

"You have no right to say it. That's mine."

Without another word he seized the desk and dashed
it to the floor. The hinge burst open, and a number
of letters tumbled out.

"Stay!" said Eustacia, stepping before him with more
excitement than she had hitherto shown.

"Come, come! stand away! I must see them."

She looked at the letters as they lay, checked her feeling
and moved indifferently aside; when he gathered them up,
and examined them.

By no stretch of meaning could any but a harmless construction
be placed upon a single one of the letters themselves.
The solitary exception was an empty envelope directed to her,
and the handwriting was Wildeve's. Yeobright held it up.
Eustacia was doggedly silent.

"Can you read, madam? Look at this envelope. Doubtless we
shall find more soon, and what was inside them.
I shall no doubt be gratified by learning in good time
what a well-finished and full-blown adept in a certain
trade my lady is."

"Do you say it to me--do you?" she gasped.

He searched further, but found nothing more. "What was
in this letter?" he said.

"Ask the writer. Am I your hound that you should talk
to me in this way?"

"Do you brave me? do you stand me out, mistress? Answer.
Don't look at me with those eyes if you would bewitch me
again! Sooner than that I die. You refuse to answer?"

"I wouldn't tell you after this, if I were as innocent
as the sweetest babe in heaven!"

"Which you are not."

"Certainly I am not absolutely," she replied. "I have not
done what you suppose; but if to have done no harm at all
is the only innocence recognized, I am beyond forgiveness.
But I require no help from your conscience."

"You can resist, and resist again! Instead of hating
you I could, I think, mourn for and pity you, if you
were contrite, and would confess all. Forgive you I
never can. I don't speak of your lover--I will give you
the benefit of the doubt in that matter, for it only affects
me personally. But the other--had you half-killed me,
had it been that you wilfully took the sight away from
these feeble eyes of mine, I could have forgiven you.
But THAT'S too much for nature!"

"Say no more. I will do without your pity. But I would
have saved you from uttering what you will regret."

"I am going away now. I shall leave you."

"You need not go, as I am going myself. You will keep
just as far away from me by staying here."

"Call her to mind--think of her--what goodness there was
in her--it showed in every line of her face! Most women,
even when but slightly annoyed, show a flicker of evil
in some curl of the mouth or some corner of the cheek;
but as for her, never in her angriest moments was there
anything malicious in her look. She was angered quickly,
but she forgave just as readily, and underneath her pride there
was the meekness of a child. What came of it.?--what cared
you? You hated her just as she was learning to love you.
O! couldn't you see what was best for you, but must
bring a curse upon me, and agony and death upon her,
by doing that cruel deed! What was the fellow's name
who was keeping you company and causing you to add cruelty
to her to your wrong to me? Was it Wildeve? Was it poor
Thomasin's husband? Heaven, what wickedness! Lost your voice,
have you? It is natural after detection of that most noble
trick....Eustacia, didn't any tender thought of your own
mother lead you to think of being gentle to mine at such
a time of weariness? Did not one grain of pity enter your
heart as she turned away? Think what a vast opportunity
was then lost of beginning a forgiving and honest course.
Why did not you kick him out, and let her in, and say I'll
be an honest wife and a noble woman from this hour? Had I
told you to go and quench eternally our last flickering
chance of happiness here you could have done no worse.
Well, she's asleep now; and have you a hundred gallants,
neither they nor you can insult her any more."

"You exaggerate fearfully," she said in a faint,
weary voice; "but I cannot enter into my defence--it
is not worth doing. You are nothing to me in future,
and the past side of the story may as well remain untold.
I have lost all through you, but I have not complained.
Your blunders and misfortunes may have been a sorrow to you,
but they have been a wrong to me. All persons of refinement
have been scared away from me since I sank into the mire
of marriage. Is this your cherishing--to put me into a hut
like this, and keep me like the wife of a hind? You deceived
me--not by words, but by appearances, which are less seen
through than words. But the place will serve as well
as any other--as somewhere to pass from--into my grave."
Her words were smothered in her throat, and her head
drooped down.

"I don't know what you mean by that. Am I the cause of
your sin?" (Eustacia made a trembling motion towards him.)
"What, you can begin to shed tears and offer me your
hand? Good God! can you? No, not I. I'll not commit
the fault of taking that." (The hand she had offered
dropped nervelessly, but the tears continued flowing.)
"Well, yes, I'll take it, if only for the sake of my own
foolish kisses that were wasted there before I knew
what I cherished. How bewitched I was! How could there
be any good in a woman that everybody spoke ill of?"

"O, O, O!" she cried, breaking down at last; and, shaking
with sobs which choked her, she sank upon her knees.
"O, will you have done! O, you are too relentless--there's
a limit to the cruelty of savages! I have held out long--but
you crush me down. I beg for mercy--I cannot bear this
any longer--it is inhuman to go further with this! If I
had--killed your--mother with my own hand--I should not
deserve such a scourging to the bone as this. O, O! God
have mercy upon a miserable woman!...You have beaten me in
this game--I beg you to stay your hand in pity!...I confess
that I--wilfully did not undo the door the first time she
knocked--but--I should have unfastened it the second--
if I had not thought you had gone to do it yourself.
When I found you had not I opened it, but she was gone.
That's the extent of my crime--towards HER. Best natures
commit bad faults sometimes, don't they?--I think they do.
Now I will leave you--for ever and ever!"

"Tell all, and I WILL pity you. Was the man
in the house with you Wildeve?"

"I cannot tell," she said desperately through her sobbing.
"Don't insist further--I cannot tell. I am going from
this house. We cannot both stay here."

"You need not go--I will go. You can stay here."

"No, I will dress, and then I will go."


"Where I came from, or ELSEWHERE."

She hastily dressed herself, Yeobright moodily
walking up and down the room the whole of the time.
At last all her things were on. Her little hands
quivered so violently as she held them to her chin
to fasten her bonnet that she could not tie the strings,
and after a few moments she relinquished the attempt.
Seeing this he moved forward and said, "Let me tie them."

She assented in silence, and lifted her chin. For once
at least in her life she was totally oblivious of the
charm of her attitude. But he was not, and he turned
his eyes aside, that he might not be tempted to softness.

The strings were tied; she turned from him. "Do you
still prefer going away yourself to my leaving you?"
he inquired again.

"I do."

"Very well--let it be. And when you will confess
to the man I may pity you."

She flung her shawl about her and went downstairs,
leaving him standing in the room.

Eustacia had not long been gone when there came a knock
at the door of the bedroom; and Yeobright said, "Well?"

It was the servant; and she replied, "Somebody from
Mrs. Wildeve's have called to tell 'ee that the mis'ess
and the baby are getting on wonderful well, and the baby's
name is to be Eustacia Clementine." And the girl retired.

"What a mockery!" said Clym. "This unhappy marriage
of mine to be perpetuated in that child's name!"

4 - The Ministrations of a Half-forgotten One

Eustacia's journey was at first as vague in direction as that
of thistledown on the wind. She did not know what to do.
She wished it had been night instead of morning, that she
might at least have borne her misery without the possibility
of being seen. Tracing mile after mile along between
the dying ferns and the wet white spiders' webs, she at
length turned her steps towards her grandfather's house.
She found the front door closed and locked. Mechanically she
went round to the end where the stable was, and on looking
in at the stable door she saw Charley standing within.

"Captain Vye is not at home?" she said.

"No, ma'am," said the lad in a flutter of feeling;
"he's gone to Weatherbury, and won't be home till night.
And the servant is gone home for a holiday. So the house
is locked up."

Eustacia's face was not visible to Charley as she stood
at the doorway, her back being to the sky, and the stable
but indifferently lighted; but the wildness of her manner
arrested his attention. She turned and walked away across
the enclosure to the gate, and was hidden by the bank.

When she had disappeared Charley, with misgiving
in his eyes, slowly came from the stable door,
and going to another point in the bank he looked over.
Eustacia was leaning against it on the outside,
her face covered with her hands, and her head pressing
the dewy heather which bearded the bank's outer side.
She appeared to be utterly indifferent to the circumstance
that her bonnet, hair, and garments were becoming wet
and disarranged by the moisture of her cold, harsh pillow.
Clearly something was wrong.

Charley had always regarded Eustacia as Eustacia had
regarded Clym when she first beheld him--as a romantic
and sweet vision, scarcely incarnate. He had been
so shut off from her by the dignity of her look and
the pride of her speech, except at that one blissful
interval when he was allowed to hold her hand, that he
had hardly deemed her a woman, wingless and earthly,
subject to household conditions and domestic jars.
The inner details of her life he had only conjectured.
She had been a lovely wonder, predestined to an orbit
in which the whole of his own was but a point; and this
sight of her leaning like a helpless, despairing creature
against a wild wet bank filled him with an amazed horror.
He could no longer remain where he was. Leaping over,
he came up, touched her with his finger, and said tenderly,
"You are poorly, ma'am. What can I do?"

Eustacia started up, and said, "Ah, Charley--you
have followed me. You did not think when I left
home in the summer that I should come back like this!"

"I did not, dear ma'am. Can I help you now?"

"I am afraid not. I wish I could get into the house.
I feel giddy--that's all."

"Lean on my arm, ma'am, till we get to the porch, and I
will try to open the door."

He supported her to the porch, and there depositing her on
a seat hastened to the back, climbed to a window by the
help of a ladder, and descending inside opened the door.
Next he assisted her into the room, where there was an
old-fashioned horsehair settee as large as a donkey wagon.
She lay down here, and Charley covered her with a cloak he
found in the hall.

"Shall I get you something to eat and drink?" he said.

"If you please, Charley. But I suppose there is no fire?"

"I can light it, ma'am."

He vanished, and she heard a splitting of wood and a blowing
of bellows; and presently he returned, saying, "I have
lighted a fire in the kitchen, and now I'll light one here."

He lit the fire, Eustacia dreamily observing him from
her couch. When it was blazing up he said, "Shall I wheel
you round in front of it, ma'am, as the morning is chilly?"

"Yes, if you like."

"Shall I go and bring the victuals now?"

"Yes, do," she murmured languidly.

When he had gone, and the dull sounds occasionally
reached her ears of his movements in the kitchen,
she forgot where she was, and had for a moment to consider
by an effort what the sounds meant. After an interval
which seemed short to her whose thoughts were elsewhere,
he came in with a tray on which steamed tea and toast,
though it was nearly lunch-time.

"Place it on the table," she said. "I shall be ready soon."

He did so, and retired to the door; when, however,
he perceived that she did not move he came back a few steps.

"Let me hold it to you, if you don't wish to get up,"
said Charley. He brought the tray to the front of the couch,
where he knelt down, adding, "I will hold it for you."

Eustacia sat up and poured out a cup of tea. "You are
very kind to me, Charley," she murmured as she sipped.

"Well, I ought to be," said he diffidently, taking great
trouble not to rest his eyes upon her, though this was
their only natural position, Eustacia being immediately
before him. "You have been kind to me."

"How have I?" said Eustacia.

"You let me hold your hand when you were a maiden at home."

"Ah, so I did. Why did I do that? My mind is lost--it
had to do with the mumming, had it not?"

"Yes, you wanted to go in my place."

"I remember. I do indeed remember--too well!"

She again became utterly downcast; and Charley,
seeing that she was not going to eat or drink any more,
took away the tray.

Afterwards he occasionally came in to see if the fire
was burning, to ask her if she wanted anything, to tell
her that the wind had shifted from south to west, to ask
her if she would like him to gather her some blackberries;
to all which inquiries she replied in the negative or
with indifference.

She remained on the settee some time longer, when she
aroused herself and went upstairs. The room in which she
had formerly slept still remained much as she had left it,
and the recollection that this forced upon her of her
own greatly changed and infinitely worsened situation
again set on her face the undetermined and formless
misery which it had worn on her first arrival.
She peeped into her grandfather's room, through which
the fresh autumn air was blowing from the open window.
Her eye was arrested by what was a familiar sight enough,
though it broke upon her now with a new significance.

It was a brace of pistols, hanging near the head of her
grandfather's bed, which he always kept there loaded,
as a precaution against possible burglars, the house being
very lonely. Eustacia regarded them long, as if they
were the page of a book in which she read a new and a
strange matter. Quickly, like one afraid of herself,
she returned downstairs and stood in deep thought.

"If I could only do it!" she said. "It would be doing
much good to myself and all connected with me, and no
harm to a single one."

The idea seemed to gather force within her, and she
remained in a fixed attitude nearly ten minutes,
when a certain finality was expressed in her gaze,
and no longer the blankness of indecision.

She turned and went up the second time--softly and
stealthily now--and entered her grandfather's room, her eyes
at once seeking the head of the bed. The pistols were gone.

The instant quashing of her purpose by their absence
affected her brain as a sudden vacuum affects the
body--she nearly fainted. Who had done this? There
was only one person on the premises besides herself.
Eustacia involuntarily turned to the open window
which overlooked the garden as far as the bank that
bounded it. On the summit of the latter stood Charley,
sufficiently elevated by its height to see into the room.
His gaze was directed eagerly and solicitously upon her.

She went downstairs to the door and beckoned to him.

"You have taken them away?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Why did you do it?"

"I saw you looking at them too long."

"What has that to do with it?"

"You have been heart-broken all the morning, as if you
did not want to live."


"And I could not bear to leave them in your way.
There was meaning in your look at them."

"Where are they now?"

"Locked up."


"In the stable."

"Give them to me."

"No, ma'am."

"You refuse?"

"I do. I care too much for you to give 'em up."

She turned aside, her face for the first time softening
from the stony immobility of the earlier day, and the
corners of her mouth resuming something of that delicacy
of cut which was always lost in her moments of despair.
At last she confronted him again.

"Why should I not die if I wish?" she said tremulously.
"I have made a bad bargain with life, and I am weary
of it--weary. And now you have hindered my escape.
O, why did you, Charley! What makes death painful except
the thought of others' grief?--and that is absent in my case,
for not a sigh would follow me!"

"Ah, it is trouble that has done this! I wish in my very
soul that he who brought it about might die and rot,
even if 'tis transportation to say it!"

"Charley, no more of that. What do you mean to do about
this you have seen?"

"Keep it close as night, if you promise not to think
of it again."

"You need not fear. The moment has passed. I promise."
She then went away, entered the house, and lay down.

Later in the afternoon her grandfather returned.
He was about to question her categorically, but on looking
at her he withheld his words.

"Yes, it is too bad to talk of," she slowly returned
in answer to his glance. "Can my old room be got ready
for me tonight, Grandfather? I shall want to occupy
it again."

He did not ask what it all meant, or why she had left
her husband, but ordered the room to be prepared.

5 - An Old Move Inadvertently Repeated

Charley's attentions to his former mistress were unbounded.
The only solace to his own trouble lay in his attempts
to relieve hers. Hour after hour he considered her wants;
he thought of her presence there with a sort of gratitude,
and, while uttering imprecations on the cause of
her unhappiness, in some measure blessed the result.
Perhaps she would always remain there, he thought, and then
he would be as happy as he had been before. His dread
was lest she should think fit to return to Alderworth,
and in that dread his eyes, with all the inquisitiveness
of affection, frequently sought her face when she was
not observing him, as he would have watched the head
of a stockdove to learn if it contemplated flight.
Having once really succoured her, and possibly preserved
her from the rashest of acts, he mentally assumed
in addition a guardian's responsibility for her welfare.

For this reason he busily endeavoured to provide her with
pleasant distractions, bringing home curious objects which he
found in the heath, such as white trumpet-shaped mosses,
redheaded lichens, stone arrowheads used by the old tribes
on Egdon, and faceted crystals from the hollows of flints.
These he deposited on the premises in such positions
that she should see them as if by accident.

A week passed, Eustacia never going out of the house.
Then she walked into the enclosed plot and looked
through her grandfather's spyglass, as she had been in
the habit of doing before her marriage. One day she saw,
at a place where the highroad crossed the distant valley,
a heavily laden wagon passing along. It was piled
with household furniture. She looked again and again,
and recognized it to be her own. In the evening her
grandfather came indoors with a rumour that Yeobright
had removed that day from Alderworth to the old house at

On another occasion when reconnoitring thus she beheld
two female figures walking in the vale. The day was fine
and clear; and the persons not being more than half a mile
off she could see their every detail with the telescope.
The woman walking in front carried a white bundle in her arms,
from one end of which hung a long appendage of drapery;
and when the walkers turned, so that the sun fell more directly
upon them, Eustacia could see that the object was a baby.
She called Charley, and asked him if he knew who they were,
though she well guessed.

"Mrs. Wildeve and the nurse-girl," said Charley.

"The nurse is carrying the baby?" said Eustacia.

"No, 'tis Mrs. Wildeve carrying that," he answered,
"and the nurse walks behind carrying nothing."

The lad was in good spirits that day, for the Fifth
of November had again come round, and he was planning yet
another scheme to divert her from her too absorbing thoughts.
For two successive years his mistress had seemed
to take pleasure in lighting a bonfire on the bank
overlooking the valley; but this year she had apparently
quite forgotten the day and the customary deed.
He was careful not to remind her, and went on with his
secret preparations for a cheerful surprise, the more
zealously that he had been absent last time and unable
to assist. At every vacant minute he hastened to gather
furze-stumps, thorn-tree roots, and other solid materials
from the adjacent slopes, hiding them from cursory view.

The evening came, and Eustacia was still seemingly
unconscious of the anniversary. She had gone indoors
after her survey through the glass, and had not been
visible since. As soon as it was quite dark Charley
began to build the bonfire, choosing precisely that spot
on the bank which Eustacia had chosen at previous times.

When all the surrounding bonfires had burst into
existence Charley kindled his, and arranged its fuel
so that it should not require tending for some time.
He then went back to the house, and lingered round the
door and windows till she should by some means or other
learn of his achievement and come out to witness it.
But the shutters were closed, the door remained shut,
and no heed whatever seemed to be taken of his performance.
Not liking to call her he went back and replenished the fire,
continuing to do this for more than half an hour.
It was not till his stock of fuel had greatly diminished
that he went to the back door and sent in to beg that
Mrs. Yeobright would open the window-shutters and see
the sight outside.

Eustacia, who had been sitting listlessly in the parlour,
started up at the intelligence and flung open the shutters.
Facing her on the bank blazed the fire, which at once sent
a ruddy glare into the room where she was, and overpowered
the candles.

"Well done, Charley!" said Captain Vye from the chimney-corner.
"But I hope it is not my wood that he's burning....Ah, it
was this time last year that I met with that man Venn,
bringing home Thomasin Yeobright--to be sure it was! Well,
who would have thought that girl's troubles would have
ended so well? What a snipe you were in that matter,
Eustacia! Has your husband written to you yet?"

"No," said Eustacia, looking vaguely through the window
at the fire, which just then so much engaged her mind
that she did not resent her grandfather's blunt opinion.
She could see Charley's form on the bank, shovelling and
stirring the fire; and there flashed upon her imagination
some other form which that fire might call up.

She left the room, put on her garden bonnet and cloak,
and went out. Reaching the bank, she looked over
with a wild curiosity and misgiving, when Charley said
to her, with a pleased sense of himself, "I made it o'
purpose for you, ma'am."

"Thank you," she said hastily. "But I wish you to put
it out now."

"It will soon burn down," said Charley, rather disappointed.
"Is it not a pity to knock it out?"

"I don't know," she musingly answered.

They stood in silence, broken only by the crackling
of the flames, till Charley, perceiving that she did
not want to talk to him, moved reluctantly away.

Eustacia remained within the bank looking at the fire,
intending to go indoors, yet lingering still. Had she
not by her situation been inclined to hold in indifference
all things honoured of the gods and of men she would
probably have come away. But her state was so hopeless
that she could play with it. To have lost is less
disturbing than to wonder if we may possibly have won;
and Eustacia could now, like other people at such a stage,
take a standing-point outside herself, observe herself
as a disinterested spectator, and think what a sport for
Heaven this woman Eustacia was.

While she stood she heard a sound. It was the splash
of a stone in the pond.

Had Eustacia received the stone full in the bosom
her heart could not have given a more decided thump.
She had thought of the possibility of such a signal in
answer to that which had been unwittingly given by Charley;
but she had not expected it yet. How prompt Wildeve
was! Yet how could he think her capable of deliberately
wishing to renew their assignations now? An impulse to
leave the spot, a desire to stay, struggled within her;
and the desire held its own. More than that it did
not do, for she refrained even from ascending the bank
and looking over. She remained motionless, not disturbing
a muscle of her face or raising her eyes; for were she to
turn up her face the fire on the bank would shine upon it,
and Wildeve might be looking down.

There was a second splash into the pond.

Why did he stay so long without advancing and looking
over? Curiosity had its way--she ascended one or two
of the earth-steps in the bank and glanced out.

Wildeve was before her. He had come forward after throwing
the last pebble, and the fire now shone into each of their
faces from the bank stretching breast-high between them.

"I did not light it!" cried Eustacia quickly. "It was
lit without my knowledge. Don't, don't come over to me!"

"Why have you been living here all these days without
telling me? You have left your home. I fear I am something
to blame in this?"

"I did not let in his mother; that's how it is!"

"You do not deserve what you have got, Eustacia; you are
in great misery; I see it in your eyes, your mouth, and all
over you. My poor, poor girl!" He stepped over the bank.
"You are beyond everything unhappy!"

"No, no; not exactly--"

"It has been pushed too far--it is killing you--I do think it!"

Her usually quiet breathing had grown quicker with his words.
"I--I--" she began, and then burst into quivering sobs,
shaken to the very heart by the unexpected voice of pity--a
sentiment whose existence in relation to herself she had
almost forgotten.

This outbreak of weeping took Eustacia herself so much by
surprise that she could not leave off, and she turned aside
from him in some shame, though turning hid nothing from him.
She sobbed on desperately; then the outpour lessened,
and she became quieter. Wildeve had resisted the impulse
to clasp her, and stood without speaking.

"Are you not ashamed of me, who used never to be
a crying animal?" she asked in a weak whisper as she
wiped her eyes. "Why didn't you go away? I wish you
had not seen quite all that; it reveals too much by half."

"You might have wished it, because it makes me
as sad as you," he said with emotion and deference.
"As for revealing--the word is impossible between us two."

"I did not send for you--don't forget it, Damon; I am
in pain, but I did not send for you! As a wife, at least,
I've been straight."

"Never mind--I came. O, Eustacia, forgive me for the harm
I have done you in these two past years! I see more and more
that I have been your ruin."

"Not you. This place I live in."

"Ah, your generosity may naturally make you say that.
But I am the culprit. I should either have done more or
nothing at all."

"In what way?"

"I ought never to have hunted you out, or, having done it,
I ought to have persisted in retaining you.
But of course I have no right to talk of that now.
I will only ask this--can I do anything for you? Is there
anything on the face of the earth that a man can do to
make you happier than you are at present? If there is,
I will do it. You may command me, Eustacia, to the limit
of my influence; and don't forget that I am richer now.
Surely something can be done to save you from this! Such
a rare plant in such a wild place it grieves me to see.
Do you want anything bought? Do you want to go anywhere?
Do you want to escape the place altogether? Only say it,
and I'll do anything to put an end to those tears, which but
for me would never have been at all."

"We are each married to another person," she said faintly;
"and assistance from you would have an evil sound--after--after--"

"Well, there's no preventing slanderers from having
their fill at any time; but you need not be afraid.
Whatever I may feel I promise you on my word of honour never
to speak to you about--or act upon--until you say I may.
I know my duty to Thomasin quite as well as I know my duty
to you as a woman unfairly treated. What shall I assist
you in?"

"In getting away from here."

"Where do you wish to go to?"

"I have a place in my mind. If you could help me as far
as Budmouth I can do all the rest. Steamers sail from
there across the Channel, and so I can get to Paris,
where I want to be. Yes," she pleaded earnestly, "help me
to get to Budmouth harbour without my grandfather's
or my husband's knowledge, and I can do all the rest."

"Will it be safe to leave you there alone?"

"Yes, yes. I know Budmouth well."

"Shall I go with you? I am rich now."

She was silent.

"Say yes, sweet!"

She was silent still.

"Well, let me know when you wish to go. We shall be at
our present house till December; after that we remove
to Casterbridge. Command me in anything till that time."

"I will think of this," she said hurriedly. "Whether I
can honestly make use of you as a friend, or must close
with you as a lover--that is what I must ask myself.
If I wish to go and decide to accept your company I will
signal to you some evening at eight o'clock punctually,
and this will mean that you are to be ready with a horse
and trap at twelve o'clock the same night to drive me to
Budmouth harbour in time for the morning boat."

"I will look out every night at eight, and no signal
shall escape me."

"Now please go away. If I decide on this escape I can
only meet you once more unless--I cannot go without you.
Go--I cannot bear it longer. Go--go!"

Wildeve slowly went up the steps and descended into the
darkness on the other side; and as he walked he glanced back,
till the bank blotted out her form from his further view.

6 - Thomasin Argues with Her Cousin, and He Writes a Letter

Yeobright was at this time at Blooms-End, hoping that
Eustacia would return to him. The removal of furniture
had been accomplished only that day, though Clym
had lived in the old house for more than a week.
He had spent the time in working about the premises,
sweeping leaves from the garden paths, cutting dead
stalks from the flower beds, and nailing up creepers
which had been displaced by the autumn winds. He took
no particular pleasure in these deeds, but they formed
a screen between himself and despair. Moreover, it had
become a religion with him to preserve in good condition
all that had lapsed from his mother's hands to his own.

During these operations he was constantly on the watch
for Eustacia. That there should be no mistake about
her knowing where to find him he had ordered a notice
board to be affixed to the garden gate at Alderworth,
signifying in white letters whither he had removed.
When a leaf floated to the earth he turned his head,
thinking it might be her foot-fall. A bird searching
for worms in the mould of the flower-beds sounded like her
hand on the latch of the gate; and at dusk, when soft,
strange ventriloquisms came from holes in the ground,


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