Return of the Native, by Thomas Hardy

Part 9 out of 10

hollow stalks, curled dead leaves, and other crannies
wherein breezes, worms, and insects can work their will,
he fancied that they were Eustacia, standing without and
breathing wishes of reconciliation.

Up to this hour he had persevered in his resolve not to invite
her back. At the same time the severity with which he
had treated her lulled the sharpness of his regret for
his mother, and awoke some of his old solicitude for his
mother's supplanter. Harsh feelings produce harsh usage,
and this by reaction quenches the sentiments that gave
it birth. The more he reflected the more he softened.
But to look upon his wife as innocence in distress
was impossible, though he could ask himself whether he
had given her quite time enough--if he had not come
a little too suddenly upon her on that sombre morning.

Now that the first flush of his anger had paled he was
disinclined to ascribe to her more than an indiscreet
friendship with Wildeve, for there had not appeared in her
manner the signs of dishonour. And this once admitted,
an absolutely dark interpretation of her act towards
his mother was no longer forced upon him.

On the evening of the fifth November his thoughts
of Eustacia were intense. Echoes from those past times
when they had exchanged tender words all the day long came
like the diffused murmur of a seashore left miles behind.
"Surely," he said, "she might have brought herself
to communicate with me before now, and confess honestly
what Wildeve was to her."

Instead of remaining at home that night he determined to go
and see Thomasin and her husband. If he found opportunity
he would allude to the cause of the separation between
Eustacia and himself, keeping silence, however, on the
fact that there was a third person in his house when his
mother was turned away. If it proved that Wildeve was
innocently there he would doubtless openly mention it.
If he were there with unjust intentions Wildeve,
being a man of quick feeling, might possibly say something
to reveal the extent to which Eustacia was compromised.

But on reaching his cousin's house he found that only
Thomasin was at home, Wildeve being at that time on his way
towards the bonfire innocently lit by Charley at Mistover.
Thomasin then, as always, was glad to see Clym, and took
him to inspect the sleeping baby, carefully screening
the candlelight from the infant's eyes with her hand.

"Tamsin, have you heard that Eustacia is not with me.
now?" he said when they had sat down again.

"No," said Thomasin, alarmed.

"And not that I have left Alderworth?"

"No. I never hear tidings from Alderworth unless you
bring them. What is the matter?"

Clym in a disturbed voice related to her his visit
to Susan Nunsuch's boy, the revelation he had made,
and what had resulted from his charging Eustacia
with having wilfully and heartlessly done the deed.
He suppressed all mention of Wildeve's presence with her.

"All this, and I not knowing it!" murmured Thomasin
in an awestruck tone, "Terrible! What could have made
her--O, Eustacia! And when you found it out you went
in hot haste to her? Were you too cruel?--or is she
really so wicked as she seems?"

"Can a man be too cruel to his mother's enemy?"

"I can fancy so."

"Very well, then--I'll admit that he can. But now
what is to be done?"

"Make it up again--if a quarrel so deadly can ever
be made up. I almost wish you had not told me.
But do try to be reconciled. There are ways, after all,
if you both wish to."

"I don't know that we do both wish to make it up,"
said Clym. "If she had wished it, would she not have sent
to me by this time?"

"You seem to wish to, and yet you have not sent to her."

"True; but I have been tossed to and fro in doubt
if I ought, after such strong provocation. To see
me now, Thomasin, gives you no idea of what I have been;
of what depths I have descended to in these few last days.
O, it was a bitter shame to shut out my mother like that!
Can I ever forget it, or even agree to see her again?"

"She might not have known that anything serious would
come of it, and perhaps she did not mean to keep Aunt
out altogether."

"She says herself that she did not. But the fact remains
that keep her out she did."

"Believe her sorry, and send for her."

"How if she will not come?"

"It will prove her guilty, by showing that it is her habit
to nourish enmity. But I do not think that for a moment."

"I will do this. I will wait for a day or two longer--
not longer than two days certainly; and if she does
not send to me in that time I will indeed send to her.
I thought to have seen Wildeve here tonight. Is he
from home?"

Thomasin blushed a little. "No," she said. "He is merely
gone out for a walk."

"Why didn't he take you with him? The evening is fine.
You want fresh air as well as he."

"Oh, I don't care for going anywhere; besides, there is baby."

"Yes, yes. Well, I have been thinking whether I should
not consult your husband about this as well as you,"
said Clym steadily.

"I fancy I would not," she quickly answered. "It can
do no good."

Her cousin looked her in the face. No doubt Thomasin was
ignorant that her husband had any share in the events of
that tragic afternoon; but her countenance seemed to signify
that she concealed some suspicion or thought of the reputed
tender relations between Wildeve and Eustacia in days gone by.

Clym, however, could make nothing of it, and he rose
to depart, more in doubt than when he came.

"You will write to her in a day or two?" said the young
woman earnestly. "I do so hope the wretched separation
may come to an end."

"I will," said Clym; "I don't rejoice in my present state
at all."

And he left her and climbed over the hill to Blooms-End.
Before going to bed he sat down and wrote the following

MY DEAR EUSTACIA,--I must obey my heart without consulting
my reason too closely. Will you come back to me? Do so,
and the past shall never be mentioned. I was too severe;
but O, Eustacia, the provocation! You don't know,
you never will know, what those words of anger cost me
which you drew down upon yourself. All that an honest
man can promise you I promise now, which is that from me
you shall never suffer anything on this score again.
After all the vows we have made, Eustacia, I think we
had better pass the remainder of our lives in trying
to keep them. Come to me, then, even if you reproach me.
I have thought of your sufferings that morning on which I
parted from you; I know they were genuine, and they are as
much as you ought to bear. Our love must still continue.
Such hearts as ours would never have been given us but
to be concerned with each other. I could not ask you
back at first, Eustacia, for I was unable to persuade
myself that he who was with you was not there as a lover.
But if you will come and explain distracting appearances
I do not question that you can show your honesty to me.
Why have you not come before? Do you think I will
not listen to you? Surely not, when you remember the
kisses and vows we exchanged under the summer moon.
Return then, and you shall be warmly welcomed.
I can no longer think of you to your prejudice--I am
but too much absorbed in justifying you.--Your husband
as ever,


"There," he said, as he laid it in his desk, "that's a
good thing done. If she does not come before tomorrow
night I will send it to her."

Meanwhile, at the house he had just left Thomasin sat
sighing uneasily. Fidelity to her husband had that evening
induced her to conceal all suspicion that Wildeve's
interest in Eustacia had not ended with his marriage.
But she knew nothing positive; and though Clym was her
well-beloved cousin there was one nearer to her still.

When, a little later, Wildeve returned from his walk
to Mistover, Thomasin said, "Damon, where have you been? I
was getting quite frightened, and thought you had fallen
into the river. I dislike being in the house by myself."

"Frightened?" he said, touching her cheek as if she were
some domestic animal. "Why, I thought nothing could
frighten you. It is that you are getting proud, I am sure,
and don't like living here since we have risen above
our business. Well, it is a tedious matter, this getting
a new house; but I couldn't have set about it sooner,
unless our ten thousand pounds had been a hundred thousand,
when we could have afforded to despise caution."

"No--I don't mind waiting--I would rather stay here
twelve months longer than run any risk with baby.
But I don't like your vanishing so in the evenings.
There's something on your mind--I know there is, Damon.
You go about so gloomily, and look at the heath as if it
were somebody's gaol instead of a nice wild place to
walk in."

He looked towards her with pitying surprise. "What, do
you like Egdon Heath?" he said.

"I like what I was born near to; I admire its grim old face."

"Pooh, my dear. You don't know what you like."

"I am sure I do. There's only one thing unpleasant
about Egdon."

"What's that?"

"You never take me with you when you walk there. Why do
you wander so much in it yourself if you so dislike it?"

The inquiry, though a simple one, was plainly disconcerting,
and he sat down before replying. "I don't think you
often see me there. Give an instance."

"I will," she answered triumphantly. "When you went
out this evening I thought that as baby was asleep I
would see where you were going to so mysteriously without
telling me. So I ran out and followed behind you.
You stopped at the place where the road forks,
looked round at the bonfires, and then said, 'Damn it,
I'll go!' And you went quickly up the left-hand road.
Then I stood and watched you."

Wildeve frowned, afterwards saying, with a forced smile,
"Well, what wonderful discovery did you make?"

"There--now you are angry, and we won't talk of this
any more." She went across to him, sat on a footstool,
and looked up in his face.

"Nonsense!" he said, "that's how you always back out.
We will go on with it now we have begun. What did you
next see? I particularly want to know."

"Don't be like that, Damon!" she murmured. "I didn't
see anything. You vanished out of sight, and then I
looked round at the bonfires and came in."

"Perhaps this is not the only time you have dogged my steps.
Are you trying to find out something bad about me?"

"Not at all! I have never done such a thing before,
and I shouldn't have done it now if words had not sometimes
been dropped about you."

"What DO you mean?" he impatiently asked.

"They say--they say you used to go to Alderworth in
the evenings, and it puts into my mind what I have heard about--"

Wildeve turned angrily and stood up in front of her.
"Now," he said, flourishing his hand in the air,
"just out with it, madam! I demand to know what remarks
you have heard."

"Well, I heard that you used to be very fond of
Eustacia--nothing more than that, though dropped
in a bit-by-bit way. You ought not to be angry!"

He observed that her eyes were brimming with tears.
"Well," he said, "there is nothing new in that, and of
course I don't mean to be rough towards you, so you need
not cry. Now, don't let us speak of the subject any more."

And no more was said, Thomasin being glad enough of a reason
for not mentioning Clym's visit to her that evening,
and his story.

7 - The Night of the Sixth of November

Having resolved on flight Eustacia at times seemed
anxious that something should happen to thwart her
own intention. The only event that could really change
her position was the appearance of Clym. The glory
which had encircled him as her lover was departed now;
yet some good simple quality of his would occasionally
return to her memory and stir a momentary throb of hope
that he would again present himself before her. But calmly
considered it was not likely that such a severance as
now existed would ever close up--she would have to live
on as a painful object, isolated, and out of place.
She had used to think of the heath alone as an uncongenial
spot to be in; she felt it now of the whole world.

Towards evening on the sixth her determination to go away
again revived. About four o'clock she packed up anew
the few small articles she had brought in her flight
from Alderworth, and also some belonging to her which had
been left here; the whole formed a bundle not too large
to be carried in her hand for a distance of a mile or two.
The scene without grew darker; mud-coloured clouds bellied
downwards from the sky like vast hammocks slung across it,
and with the increase of night a stormy wind arose;
but as yet there was no rain.

Eustacia could not rest indoors, having nothing more to do,
and she wandered to and fro on the hill, not far from the
house she was soon to leave. In these desultory ramblings
she passed the cottage of Susan Nunsuch, a little lower
down than her grandfather's. The door was ajar, and a
riband of bright firelight fell over the ground without.
As Eustacia crossed the firebeams she appeared for an
instant as distinct as a figure in a phantasmagoria--a
creature of light surrounded by an area of darkness;
the moment passed, and she was absorbed in night again.

A woman who was sitting inside the cottage had seen and
recognized her in that momentary irradiation. This was
Susan herself, occupied in preparing a posset for her
little boy, who, often ailing, was now seriously unwell.
Susan dropped the spoon, shook her fist at the vanished figure,
and then proceeded with her work in a musing, absent way.

At eight o'clock, the hour at which Eustacia had promised
to signal Wildeve if ever she signalled at all, she looked
around the premises to learn if the coast was clear,
went to the furze-rick, and pulled thence a long-stemmed
bough of that fuel. This she carried to the corner of
the bank, and, glancing behind to see if the shutters were
all closed, she struck a light, and kindled the furze.
When it was thoroughly ablaze Eustacia took it by the stem
and waved it in the air above her head till it had burned
itself out.

She was gratified, if gratification were possible
to such a mood, by seeing a similar light in the
vicinity of Wildeve's residence a minute or two later.
Having agreed to keep watch at this hour every night,
in case she should require assistance, this promptness
proved how strictly he had held to his word.
Four hours after the present time, that is, at midnight,
he was to be ready to drive her to Budmouth, as prearranged.

Eustacia returned to the house. Supper having been got
over she retired early, and sat in her bedroom waiting for
the time to go by. The night being dark and threatening,
Captain Vye had not strolled out to gossip in any cottage or
to call at the inn, as was sometimes his custom on these long
autumn nights; and he sat sipping grog alone downstairs.
About ten o'clock there was a knock at the door.
When the servant opened it the rays of the candle fell
upon the form of Fairway.

"I was a-forced to go to Lower Mistover tonight,"
he said, "and Mr. Yeobright asked me to leave this here
on my way; but, faith, I put it in the lining of my hat,
and thought no more about it till I got back and was
hasping my gate before going to bed. So I have run back
with it at once."

He handed in a letter and went his way. The girl brought
it to the captain, who found that it was directed
to Eustacia. He turned it over and over, and fancied
that the writing was her husband's, though he could not
be sure. However, he decided to let her have it at once
if possible, and took it upstairs for that purpose;
but on reaching the door of her room and looking
in at the keyhole he found there was no light within,
the fact being that Eustacia, without undressing,
had flung herself upon the bed, to rest and gather a
little strength for her coming journey. Her grandfather
concluded from what he saw that he ought not to disturb her;
and descending again to the parlour he placed the letter
on the mantelpiece to give it to her in the morning.

At eleven o'clock he went to bed himself, smoked for
some time in his bedroom, put out his light at half-
past eleven, and then, as was his invariable custom,
pulled up the blind before getting into bed, that he
might see which way the wind blew on opening his eyes
in the morning, his bedroom window commanding a view
of the flagstaff and vane. Just as he had lain down he
was surprised to observe the white pole of the staff flash
into existence like a streak of phosphorus drawn downwards
across the shade of night without. Only one explanation
met this--a light had been suddenly thrown upon the pole
from the direction of the house. As everybody had retired
to rest the old man felt it necessary to get out of bed,
open the window softly, and look to the right and left.
Eustacia's bedroom was lighted up, and it was the shine
from her window which had lighted the pole. Wondering what
had aroused her, he remained undecided at the window,
and was thinking of fetching the letter to slip it under
her door, when he heard a slight brushing of garments
on the partition dividing his room from the passage.

The captain concluded that Eustacia, feeling wakeful,
had gone for a book, and would have dismissed the matter
as unimportant if he had not also heard her distinctly
weeping as she passed.

"She is thinking of that husband of hers," he said to himself.
"Ah, the silly goose! she had no business to marry him.
I wonder if that letter is really his?"

He arose, threw his boat-cloak round him, opened the door,
and said, "Eustacia!" There was no answer. "Eustacia!" he
repeated louder, "there is a letter on the mantelpiece
for you."

But no response was made to this statement save an imaginary
one from the wind, which seemed to gnaw at the corners of
the house, and the stroke of a few drops of rain upon the windows.

He went on to the landing, and stood waiting nearly
five minutes. Still she did not return. He went back
for a light, and prepared to follow her; but first he looked
into her bedroom. There, on the outside of the quilt,
was the impression of her form, showing that the bed
had not been opened; and, what was more significant,
she had not taken her candlestick downstairs.
He was now thoroughly alarmed; and hastily putting on
his clothes he descended to the front door, which he
himself had bolted and locked. It was now unfastened.
There was no longer any doubt that Eustacia had left
the house at this midnight hour; and whither could
she have gone? To follow her was almost impossible.
Had the dwelling stood in an ordinary road, two persons
setting out, one in each direction, might have made sure
of overtaking her; but it was a hopeless task to seek
for anybody on a heath in the dark, the practicable
directions for flight across it from any point being
as numerous as the meridians radiating from the pole.
Perplexed what to do, he looked into the parlour, and was
vexed to find that the letter still lay there untouched.

At half-past eleven, finding that the house was silent,
Eustacia had lighted her candle, put on some warm
outer wrappings, taken her bag in her hand, and,
extinguishing the light again, descended the staircase.
When she got into the outer air she found that it had begun
to rain, and as she stood pausing at the door it increased,
threatening to come on heavily. But having committed
herself to this line of action there was no retreating
for bad weather. Even the receipt of Clym's letter
would not have stopped her now. The gloom of the night
was funereal; all nature seemed clothed in crape.
The spiky points of the fir trees behind the house rose
into the sky like the turrets and pinnacles of an abbey.
Nothing below the horizon was visible save a light
which was still burning in the cottage of Susan Nunsuch.

Eustacia opened her umbrella and went out from the enclosure
by the steps over the bank, after which she was beyond
all danger of being perceived. Skirting the pool,
she followed the path towards Rainbarrow, occasionally
stumbling over twisted furze roots, tufts of rushes,
or oozing lumps of fleshy fungi, which at this season lay
scattered about the heath like the rotten liver and lungs
of some colossal animal. The moon and stars were closed
up by cloud and rain to the degree of extinction.
It was a night which led the traveller's thoughts
instinctively to dwell on nocturnal scenes of disaster
in the chronicles of the world, on all that is terrible
and dark in history and legend--the last plague of Egypt,
the destruction of Sennacherib's host, the agony in Gethsemane.

Eustacia at length reached Rainbarrow, and stood still there
to think. Never was harmony more perfect than that between
the chaos of her mind and the chaos of the world without.
A sudden recollection had flashed on her this moment--she
had not money enough for undertaking a long journey.
Amid the fluctuating sentiments of the day her
unpractical mind had not dwelt on the necessity of being
well-provided, and now that she thoroughly realized the
conditions she sighed bitterly and ceased to stand erect,
gradually crouching down under the umbrella as if she
were drawn into the Barrow by a hand from beneath.
Could it be that she was to remain a captive still?
Money--she had never felt its value before. Even to
efface herself from the country means were required.
To ask Wildeve for pecuniary aid without allowing him
to accompany her was impossible to a woman with a shadow
of pride left in her; to fly as his mistress--and she
knew that he loved her--was of the nature of humiliation.

Anyone who had stood by now would have pitied her,
not so much on account of her exposure to weather,
and isolation from all of humanity except the mouldered
remains inside the tumulus; but for that other form
of misery which was denoted by the slightly rocking
movement that her feelings imparted to her person.
Extreme unhappiness weighed visibly upon her. Between the
drippings of the rain from her umbrella to her mantle,
from her mantle to the heather, from the heather to the earth,
very similar sounds could be heard coming from her lips;
and the tearfulness of the outer scene was repeated upon
her face. The wings of her soul were broken by the cruel
obstructiveness of all about her; and even had she seen
herself in a promising way of getting to Budmouth,
entering a steamer, and sailing to some opposite port,
she would have been but little more buoyant, so fearfully
malignant were other things. She uttered words aloud.
When a woman in such a situation, neither old, deaf, crazed,
nor whimsical, takes upon herself to sob and soliloquize
aloud there is something grievous the matter.

"Can I go, can I go?" she moaned. "He's not GREAT
enough for me to give myself to--he does not suffice
for my desire!...If he had been a Saul or a Bonaparte--
ah! But to break my marriage vow for him--it is too poor
a luxury!...And I have no money to go alone! And if I could,
what comfort to me? I must drag on next year, as I have
dragged on this year, and the year after that as before.
How I have tried and tried to be a splendid woman,
and how destiny has been against me!...I do not deserve
my lot!" she cried in a frenzy of bitter revolt.
"O, the cruelty of putting me into this ill-conceived
world! I was capable of much; but I have been injured
and blighted and crushed by things beyond my control! O,
how hard it is of Heaven to devise such tortures for me,
who have done no harm to Heaven at all!"

The distant light which Eustacia had cursorily observed in
leaving the house came, as she had divined, from the cottage
window of Susan Nunsuch. What Eustacia did not divine
was the occupation of the woman within at that moment.
Susan's sight of her passing figure earlier in the evening,
not five minutes after the sick boy's exclamation,
"Mother, I do feel so bad!" persuaded the matron that an evil
influence was certainly exercised by Eustacia's propinquity.

On this account Susan did not go to bed as soon as the
evening's work was over, as she would have done at
ordinary times. To counteract the malign spell which she
imagined poor Eustacia to be working, the boy's mother
busied herself with a ghastly invention of superstition,
calculated to bring powerlessness, atrophy, and annihilation
on any human being against whom it was directed.
It was a practice well known on Egdon at that date,
and one that is not quite extinct at the present day.

She passed with her candle into an inner room, where,
among other utensils, were two large brown pans,
containing together perhaps a hundredweight of liquid honey,
the produce of the bees during the foregoing summer.
On a shelf over the pans was a smooth and solid yellow
mass of a hemispherical form, consisting of beeswax
from the same take of honey. Susan took down the lump,
and cutting off several thin slices, heaped them in an
iron ladle, with which she returned to the living-room,
and placed the vessel in the hot ashes of the fireplace.
As soon as the wax had softened to the plasticity
of dough she kneaded the pieces together. And now her
face became more intent. She began moulding the wax;
and it was evident from her manner of manipulation that
she was endeavouring to give it some preconceived form.
The form was human.

By warming and kneading, cutting and twisting,
dismembering and re-joining the incipient image she had in
about a quarter of an hour produced a shape which tolerably
well resembled a woman, and was about six inches high.
She laid it on the table to get cold and hard. Meanwhile she
took the candle and went upstairs to where the little boy was lying.

"Did you notice, my dear, what Mrs. Eustacia wore this
afternoon besides the dark dress?"

"A red ribbon round her neck."

"Anything else?"

"No--except sandal-shoes."

"A red ribbon and sandal-shoes," she said to herself.

Mrs. Nunsuch went and searched till she found a fragment
of the narrowest red ribbon, which she took downstairs
and tied round the neck of the image. Then fetching
ink and a quilt from the rickety bureau by the window,
she blackened the feet of the image to the extent presumably
covered by shoes; and on the instep of each foot marked
cross-lines in the shape taken by the sandalstrings
of those days. Finally she tied a bit of black thread
round the upper part of the head, in faint resemblance
to a snood worn for confining the hair.

Susan held the object at arm's length and contemplated
it with a satisfaction in which there was no smile.
To anybody acquainted with the inhabitants of Egdon Heath
the image would have suggested Eustacia Yeobright.

From her workbasket in the window-seat the woman took
a paper of pins, of the old long and yellow sort,
whose heads were disposed to come off at their first usage.
These she began to thrust into the image in all directions,
with apparently excruciating energy. Probably as many
as fifty were thus inserted, some into the head of the
wax model, some into the shoulders, some into the trunk,
some upwards through the soles of the feet, till the figure
was completely permeated with pins.

She turned to the fire. It had been of turf; and though
the high heap of ashes which turf fires produce was
somewhat dark and dead on the outside, upon raking it
abroad with the shovel the inside of the mass showed a glow
of red heat. She took a few pieces of fresh turf from
the chimney-corner and built them together over the glow,
upon which the fire brightened. Seizing with the tongs
the image that she had made of Eustacia, she held it in
the heat, and watched it as it began to waste slowly away.
And while she stood thus engaged there came from between
her lips a murmur of words.

It was a strange jargon--the Lord's Prayer repeated
backwards--the incantation usual in proceedings for obtaining
unhallowed assistance against an enemy. Susan uttered
the lugubrious discourse three times slowly, and when it
was completed the image had considerably diminished.
As the wax dropped into the fire a long flame arose from
the spot, and curling its tongue round the figure ate still
further into its substance. A pin occasionally dropped
with the wax, and the embers heated it red as it lay.

8 - Rain, Darkness, and Anxious Wanderers

While the effigy of Eustacia was melting to nothing,
and the fair woman herself was standing on Rainbarrow,
her soul in an abyss of desolation seldom plumbed by one
so young, Yeobright sat lonely at Blooms-End. He had
fulfilled his word to Thomasin by sending off Fairway
with the letter to his wife, and now waited with increased
impatience for some sound or signal of her return.
Were Eustacia still at Mistover the very least he expected
was that she would send him back a reply tonight by the
same hand; though, to leave all to her inclination,
he had cautioned Fairway not to ask for an answer.
If one were handed to him he was to bring it immediately;
if not, he was to go straight home without troubling to come
round to Blooms-End again that night.

But secretly Clym had a more pleasing hope. Eustacia might
possibly decline to use her pen--it was rather her way to
work silently--and surprise him by appearing at his door.
How fully her mind was made up to do otherwise he did
not know.

To Clym's regret it began to rain and blow hard as the
evening advanced. The wind rasped and scraped at the
corners of the house, and filliped the eavesdroppings
like peas against the panes. He walked restlessly about
the untenanted rooms, stopping strange noises in windows
and doors by jamming splinters of wood into the casements
and crevices, and pressing together the leadwork of the
quarries where it had become loosened from the glass.
It was one of those nights when cracks in the walls of
old churches widen, when ancient stains on the ceilings
of decayed manor houses are renewed and enlarged from
the size of a man's hand to an area of many feet.
The little gate in the palings before his dwelling
continually opened and clicked together again, but when he
looked out eagerly nobody was there; it was as if invisible
shapes of the dead were passing in on their way to visit him.

Between ten and eleven o'clock, finding that neither
Fairway nor anybody else came to him, he retired
to rest, and despite his anxieties soon fell asleep.
His sleep, however, was not very sound, by reason of
the expectancy he had given way to, and he was easily
awakened by a knocking which began at the door about an
hour after. Clym arose and looked out of the window.
Rain was still falling heavily, the whole expanse of heath
before him emitting a subdued hiss under the downpour.
It was too dark to see anything at all.

"Who's there?" he cried.

Light footsteps shifted their position in the porch,
and he could just distinguish in a plaintive female voice
the words, "O Clym, come down and let me in!"

He flushed hot with agitation. "Surely it is Eustacia!"
he murmured. If so, she had indeed come to him unawares.

He hastily got a light, dressed himself, and went down.
On his flinging open the door the rays of the candle fell
upon a woman closely wrapped up, who at once came forward.

"Thomasin!" he exclaimed in an indescribable tone
of disappointment. "It is Thomasin, and on such a night
as this! O, where is Eustacia?"

Thomasin it was, wet, frightened, and panting.

"Eustacia? I don't know, Clym; but I can think," she said
with much perturbation. "Let me come in and rest--I
will explain this. There is a great trouble brewing--my
husband and Eustacia!"

"What, what?"

"I think my husband is going to leave me or do something
dreadful--I don't know what--Clym, will you go and see?
I have nobody to help me but you; Eustacia has not yet
come home?"


She went on breathlessly: "Then they are going to run off
together! He came indoors tonight about eight o'clock and
said in an off-hand way, 'Tamsie, I have just found that I
must go a journey.' 'When?' I said. 'Tonight,' he said.
'Where?' I asked him. 'I cannot tell you at present,'
he said; 'I shall be back again tomorrow.' He then went
and busied himself in looking up his things, and took no
notice of me at all. I expected to see him start, but he
did not, and then it came to be ten o'clock, when he said,
'You had better go to bed.' I didn't know what to do,
and I went to bed. I believe he thought I fell asleep,
for half an hour after that he came up and unlocked the oak
chest we keep money in when we have much in the house and
took out a roll of something which I believe was banknotes,
though I was not aware that he had 'em there. These he must
have got from the bank when he went there the other day.
What does he want banknotes for, if he is only going off
for a day? When he had gone down I thought of Eustacia,
and how he had met her the night before--I know he did
meet her, Clym, for I followed him part of the way; but I
did not like to tell you when you called, and so make you
think ill of him, as I did not think it was so serious.
Then I could not stay in bed; I got up and dressed myself,
and when I heard him out in the stable I thought I would come
and tell you. So I came downstairs without any noise and
slipped out."

"Then he was not absolutely gone when you left?"

"No. Will you, dear Cousin Clym, go and try to persuade
him not to go? He takes no notice of what I say, and puts
me off with the story of his going on a journey, and will
be home tomorrow, and all that; but I don't believe it.
I think you could influence him."

"I'll go," said Clym. "O, Eustacia!"

Thomasin carried in her arms a large bundle; and having
by this time seated herself she began to unroll it,
when a baby appeared as the kernel to the husks--dry,
warm, and unconscious of travel or rough weather.
Thomasin briefly kissed the baby, and then found
time to begin crying as she said, "I brought baby,
for I was afraid what might happen to her. I suppose
it will be her death, but I couldn't leave her with Rachel!"

Clym hastily put together the logs on the hearth,
raked abroad the embers, which were scarcely yet extinct,
and blew up a flame with the bellows.

"Dry yourself," he said. "I'll go and get some more wood."

"No, no--don't stay for that. I'll make up the fire.
Will you go at once--please will you?"

Yeobright ran upstairs to finish dressing himself.
While he was gone another rapping came to the door.
This time there was no delusion that it might be Eustacia's--the
footsteps just preceding it had been heavy and slow.
Yeobright thinking it might possibly be Fairway with a note
in answer, descended again and opened the door.

"Captain Vye?" he said to a dripping figure.

"Is my granddaughter here?" said the captain.


"Then where is she?".

"I don't know."

"But you ought to know--you are her husband."

"Only in name apparently," said Clym with rising excitement.
"I believe she means to elope tonight with Wildeve.
I am just going to look to it."

"Well, she has left my house; she left about half an hour ago.
Who's sitting there?"

"My cousin Thomasin."

The captain bowed in a preoccupied way to her.
"I only hope it is no worse than an elopement," he said.

"Worse? What's worse than the worst a wife can do?"

"Well, I have been told a strange tale. Before starting
in search of her I called up Charley, my stable lad.
I missed my pistols the other day."


"He said at the time that he took them down to clean.
He has now owned that he took them because he saw Eustacia
looking curiously at them; and she afterwards owned to him
that she was thinking of taking her life, but bound him
to secrecy, and promised never to think of such a thing again.
I hardly suppose she will ever have bravado enough to use
one of them; but it shows what has been lurking in her mind;
and people who think of that sort of thing once think
of it again."

"Where are the pistols?"

"Safely locked up. O no, she won't touch them again.
But there are more ways of letting out life than through
a bullet-hole. What did you quarrel about so bitterly
with her to drive her to all this? You must have treated
her badly indeed. Well, I was always against the marriage,
and I was right."

"Are you going with me?" said Yeobright, paying no
attention to the captain's latter remark. "If so
I can tell you what we quarrelled about as we walk along."

"Where to?"

"To Wildeve's--that was her destination, depend upon it."

Thomasin here broke in, still weeping: "He said he
was only going on a sudden short journey; but if so why
did he want so much money? O, Clym, what do you think
will happen? I am afraid that you, my poor baby,
will soon have no father left to you!"

"I am off now," said Yeobright, stepping into the porch.

"I would fain go with 'ee," said the old man doubtfully.
"But I begin to be afraid that my legs will hardly carry me
there such a night as this. I am not so young as I was.
If they are interrupted in their flight she will be sure to come
back to me, and I ought to be at the house to receive her.
But be it as 'twill I can't walk to the Quiet Woman,
and that's an end on't. I'll go straight home."

"It will perhaps be best," said Clym. "Thomasin, dry
yourself, and be as comfortable as you can."

With this he closed the door upon her, and left the house
in company with Captain Vye, who parted from him outside
the gate, taking the middle path, which led to Mistover.
Clym crossed by the right-hand track towards the inn.

Thomasin, being left alone, took off some of her
wet garments, carried the baby upstairs to Clym's bed,
and then came down to the sitting-room again,
where she made a larger fire, and began drying herself.
The fire soon flared up the chimney, giving the room
an appearance of comfort that was doubled by contrast
with the drumming of the storm without, which snapped
at the windowpanes and breathed into the chimney strange
low utterances that seemed to be the prologue to some tragedy.

But the least part of Thomasin was in the house,
for her heart being at ease about the little girl
upstairs she was mentally following Clym on his journey.
Having indulged in this imaginary peregrination for some
considerable interval, she became impressed with a sense
of the intolerable slowness of time. But she sat on.
The moment then came when she could scarcely sit longer,
and it was like a satire on her patience to remember
that Clym could hardly have reached the inn as yet.
At last she went to the baby's bedside. The child was
sleeping soundly; but her imagination of possibly disastrous
events at her home, the predominance within her of the
unseen over the seen, agitated her beyond endurance.
She could not refrain from going down and opening the door.
The rain still continued, the candlelight falling upon the
nearest drops and making glistening darts of them as they
descended across the throng of invisible ones behind.
To plunge into that medium was to plunge into water
slightly diluted with air. But the difficulty of returning
to her house at this moment made her all the more
desirous of doing so--anything was better than suspense.
"I have come here well enough," she said, "and why
shouldn't I go back again? It is a mistake for me to
be away."

She hastily fetched the infant, wrapped it up, cloaked
herself as before, and shoveling the ashes over the fire,
to prevent accidents, went into the open air. Pausing first
to put the door key in its old place behind the shutter,
she resolutely turned her face to the confronting pile
of firmamental darkness beyond the palings, and stepped into
its midst. But Thomasin's imagination being so actively
engaged elsewhere, the night and the weather had for her
no terror beyond that of their actual discomfort and difficulty.

She was soon ascending Blooms-End valley and traversing
the undulations on the side of the hill. The noise
of the wind over the heath was shrill, and as if it
whistled for joy at finding a night so congenial as this.
Sometimes the path led her to hollows between thickets of
tall and dripping bracken, dead, though not yet prostrate,
which enclosed her like a pool. When they were more than
usually tall she lifted the baby to the top of her head,
that it might be out of the reach of their drenching fronds.
On higher ground, where the wind was brisk and sustained,
the rain flew in a level flight without sensible descent,
so that it was beyond all power to imagine the remoteness
of the point at which it left the bosoms of the clouds.
Here self-defence was impossible, and individual drops
stuck into her like the arrows into Saint Sebastian.
She was enabled to avoid puddles by the nebulous paleness
which signified their presence, though beside anything less
dark than the heath they themselves would have appeared
as blackness.

Yet in spite of all this Thomasin was not sorry that she
had started. To her there were not, as to Eustacia,
demons in the air, and malice in every bush and bough.
The drops which lashed her face were not scorpions,
but prosy rain; Egdon in the mass was no monster whatever,
but impersonal open ground. Her fears of the place
were rational, her dislikes of its worst moods reasonable.
At this time it was in her view a windy, wet place, in which
a person might experience much discomfort, lose the path
without care, and possibly catch cold.

If the path is well known the difficulty at such
times of keeping therein is not altogether great,
from its familiar feel to the feet; but once lost it
is irrecoverable. Owing to her baby, who somewhat impeded
Thomasin's view forward and distracted her mind, she did
at last lose the track. This mishap occurred when she
was descending an open slope about two-thirds home.
Instead of attempting, by wandering hither and thither,
the hopeless task of finding such a mere thread,
she went straight on, trusting for guidance to her general
knowledge of the contours, which was scarcely surpassed
by Clym's or by that of the heath-croppers themselves.

At length Thomasin reached a hollow and began to
discern through the rain a faint blotted radiance,
which presently assumed the oblong form of an open door.
She knew that no house stood hereabouts, and was soon aware
of the nature of the door by its height above the ground.

"Why, it is Diggory Venn's van, surely!" she said.

A certain secluded spot near Rainbarrow was, she knew,
often Venn's chosen centre when staying in this neighbourhood;
and she guessed at once that she had stumbled upon this
mysterious retreat. The question arose in her mind whether
or not she should ask him to guide her into the path.
In her anxiety to reach home she decided that she would
appeal to him, notwithstanding the strangeness of appearing
before his eyes at this place and season. But when,
in pursuance of this resolve, Thomasin reached the van
and looked in she found it to be untenanted; though there
was no doubt that it was the reddleman's. The fire was
burning in the stove, the lantern hung from the nail.
Round the doorway the floor was merely sprinkled with rain,
and not saturated, which told her that the door had not long
been opened.

While she stood uncertainly looking in Thomasin heard
a footstep advancing from the darkness behind her,
and turning, beheld the well-known form in corduroy,
lurid from head to foot, the lantern beams falling upon
him through an intervening gauze of raindrops.

"I thought you went down the slope," he said,
without noticing her face. "How do you come back here again?"

"Diggory?" said Thomasin faintly.

"Who are you?" said Venn, still unperceiving. "And why
were you crying so just now?"

"O, Diggory! don't you know me?" said she. "But of course
you don't, wrapped up like this. What do you mean? I
have not been crying here, and I have not been here before."

Venn then came nearer till he could see the illuminated
side of her form.

"Mrs. Wildeve!" he exclaimed, starting. "What a time
for us to meet! And the baby too! What dreadful thing
can have brought you out on such a night as this?"

She could not immediately answer; and without asking her
permission he hopped into his van, took her by the arm,
and drew her up after him.

"What is it?" he continued when they stood within.

"I have lost my way coming from Blooms-End, and I am
in a great hurry to get home. Please show me as quickly
as you can! It is so silly of me not to know Egdon better,
and I cannot think how I came to lose the path.
Show me quickly, Diggory, please."

"Yes, of course. I will go with 'ee. But you came to me
before this, Mrs. Wildeve?"

"I only came this minute."

"That's strange. I was lying down here asleep about five
minutes ago, with the door shut to keep out the weather,
when the brushing of a woman's clothes over the heath-bushes
just outside woke me up, for I don't sleep heavy,
and at the same time I heard a sobbing or crying from
the same woman. I opened my door and held out my lantern,
and just as far as the light would reach I saw a woman;
she turned her head when the light sheened on her,
and then hurried on downhill. I hung up the lantern,
and was curious enough to pull on my things and dog her
a few steps, but I could see nothing of her any more.
That was where I had been when you came up; and when I saw you
I thought you were the same one."

"Perhaps it was one of the heathfolk going home?"

"No, it couldn't be. 'Tis too late. The noise of her
gown over the he'th was of a whistling sort that nothing
but silk will make."

"It wasn't I, then. My dress is not silk, you see....Are
we anywhere in a line between Mistover and the inn?"

"Well, yes; not far out."

"Ah, I wonder if it was she! Diggory, I must go at once!"

She jumped down from the van before he was aware,
when Venn unhooked the lantern and leaped down after her.
"I'll take the baby, ma'am," he said. "You must be tired
out by the weight."

Thomasin hesitated a moment, and then delivered the baby
into Venn's hands. "Don't squeeze her, Diggory," she said,
"or hurt her little arm; and keep the cloak close over
her like this, so that the rain may not drop in her face."

"I will," said Venn earnestly. "As if I could hurt
anything belonging to you!"

"I only meant accidentally," said Thomasin.

"The baby is dry enough, but you are pretty wet,"
said the reddleman when, in closing the door of his cart
to padlock it, he noticed on the floor a ring of water
drops where her cloak had hung from her.

Thomasin followed him as he wound right and left to avoid
the larger bushes, stopping occasionally and covering
the lantern, while he looked over his shoulder to gain
some idea of the position of Rainbarrow above them,
which it was necessary to keep directly behind their backs
to preserve a proper course.

"You are sure the rain does not fall upon baby?"

"Quite sure. May I ask how old he is, ma'am?"

"He!" said Thomasin reproachfully. "Anybody can see better
than that in a moment. She is nearly two months old.
How far is it now to the inn?"

"A little over a quarter of a mile."

"Will you walk a little faster?"

"I was afraid you could not keep up."

"I am very anxious to get there. Ah, there is a light
from the window!"

"'Tis not from the window. That's a gig-lamp, to the best
of my belief."

"O!" said Thomasin in despair. "I wish I had been there
sooner--give me the baby, Diggory--you can go back now."

"I must go all the way," said Venn. "There is a quag
between us and that light, and you will walk into it up
to your neck unless I take you round."

"But the light is at the inn, and there is no quag
in front of that."

"No, the light is below the inn some two or three hundred yards."

"Never mind," said Thomasin hurriedly. "Go towards
the light, and not towards the inn."

"Yes," answered Venn, swerving round in obedience; and,
after a pause, "I wish you would tell me what this great
trouble is. I think you have proved that I can be trusted."

"There are some things that cannot be--cannot be told to--"
And then her heart rose into her throat, and she could say
no more.

9 - Sights and Sounds Draw the Wanderers Together

Having seen Eustacia's signal from the hill at eight
o'clock, Wildeve immediately prepared to assist her
in her flight, and, as he hoped, accompany her. He was
somewhat perturbed, and his manner of informing Thomasin
that he was going on a journey was in itself sufficient
to rouse her suspicions. When she had gone to bed he
collected the few articles he would require, and went
upstairs to the money-chest, whence he took a tolerably
bountiful sum in notes, which had been advanced to him
on the property he was so soon to have in possession,
to defray expenses incidental to the removal.

He then went to the stable and coach-house to assure
himself that the horse, gig, and harness were in a fit
condition for a long drive. Nearly half an hour
was spent thus, and on returning to the house Wildeve
had no thought of Thomasin being anywhere but in bed.
He had told the stable lad not to stay up, leading the boy
to understand that his departure would be at three or four
in the morning; for this, though an exceptional hour,
was less strange than midnight, the time actually agreed on,
the packet from Budmouth sailing between one and two.

At last all was quiet, and he had nothing to do but to wait.
By no effort could he shake off the oppression of spirits
which he had experienced ever since his last meeting
with Eustacia, but he hoped there was that in his
situation which money could cure. He had persuaded
himself that to act not ungenerously towards his gentle
wife by settling on her the half of his property,
and with chivalrous devotion towards another and greater
woman by sharing her fate, was possible. And though he
meant to adhere to Eustacia's instructions to the letter,
to deposit her where she wished and to leave her,
should that be her will, the spell that she had cast
over him intensified, and his heart was beating fast
in the anticipated futility of such commands in the face
of a mutual wish that they should throw in their lot together.

He would not allow himself to dwell long upon these conjectures,
maxims, and hopes, and at twenty minutes to twelve he
again went softly to the stable, harnessed the horse,
and lit the lamps; whence, taking the horse by the head,
he led him with the covered car out of the yard
to a spot by the roadside some quarter of a mile below the inn.

Here Wildeve waited, slightly sheltered from the driving
rain by a high bank that had been cast up at this place.
Along the surface of the road where lit by the lamps
the loosened gravel and small stones scudded and clicked
together before the wind, which, leaving them in heaps,
plunged into the heath and boomed across the bushes
into darkness. Only one sound rose above this din
of weather, and that was the roaring of a ten-hatch weir
to the southward, from a river in the meads which formed
the boundary of the heath in this direction.

He lingered on in perfect stillness till he began to fancy
that the midnight hour must have struck. A very strong
doubt had arisen in his mind if Eustacia would venture
down the hill in such weather; yet knowing her nature he
felt that she might. "Poor thing! 'tis like her ill-luck,"
he murmured.

At length he turned to the lamp and looked at his watch.
To his surprise it was nearly a quarter past midnight.
He now wished that he had driven up the circuitous road
to Mistover, a plan not adopted because of the enormous
length of the route in proportion to that of the pedestrian's
path down the open hillside, and the consequent increase
of labour for the horse.

At this moment a footstep approached; but the light
of the lamps being in a different direction the comer
was not visible. The step paused, then came on again.

"Eustacia?" said Wildeve.

The person came forward, and the light fell upon
the form of Clym, glistening with wet, whom Wildeve
immediately recognized; but Wildeve, who stood behind
the lamp, was not at once recognized by Yeobright.

He stopped as if in doubt whether this waiting vehicle could
have anything to do with the flight of his wife or not.
The sight of Yeobright at once banished Wildeve's
sober feelings, who saw him again as the deadly rival
from whom Eustacia was to be kept at all hazards.
Hence Wildeve did not speak, in the hope that Clym would
pass by without particular inquiry.

While they both hung thus in hesitation a dull sound
became audible above the storm and wind. Its origin was
unmistakable--it was the fall of a body into the stream
in the adjoining mead, apparently at a point near the weir.

Both started. "Good God! can it be she?" said Clym.

"Why should it be she?" said Wildeve, in his alarm
forgetting that he had hitherto screened himself.

"Ah!--that's you, you traitor, is it?" cried Yeobright.
"Why should it be she? Because last week she would have
put an end to her life if she had been able. She ought
to have been watched! Take one of the lamps and come
with me."

Yeobright seized the one on his side and hastened on;
Wildeve did not wait to unfasten the other, but followed
at once along the meadow track to the weir, a little in
the rear of Clym.

Shadwater Weir had at its foot a large circular pool,
fifty feet in diameter, into which the water flowed
through ten huge hatches, raised and lowered by a winch
and cogs in the ordinary manner. The sides of the pool
were of masonry, to prevent the water from washing away
the bank; but the force of the stream in winter was
sometimes such as to undermine the retaining wall and
precipitate it into the hole. Clym reached the hatches,
the framework of which was shaken to its foundations
by the velocity of the current. Nothing but the froth
of the waves could be discerned in the pool below.
He got upon the plank bridge over the race, and holding
to the rail, that the wind might not blow him off,
crossed to the other side of the river. There he leant
over the wall and lowered the lamp, only to behold the
vortex formed at the curl of the returning current.

Wildeve meanwhile had arrived on the former side, and the
light from Yeobright's lamp shed a flecked and agitated
radiance across the weir pool, revealing to the ex-engineer
the tumbling courses of the currents from the hatches above.
Across this gashed and puckered mirror a dark body
was slowly borne by one of the backward currents.

"O, my darling!" exclaimed Wildeve in an agonized voice;
and, without showing sufficient presence of mind even
to throw off his greatcoat, he leaped into the boiling caldron.

Yeobright could now also discern the floating body,
though but indistinctly; and imagining from Wildeve's
plunge that there was life to be saved he was about
to leap after. Bethinking himself of a wiser plan,
he placed the lamp against a post to make it stand upright,
and running round to the lower part of the pool,
where there was no wall, he sprang in and boldly waded
upwards towards the deeper portion. Here he was taken
off his legs, and in swimming was carried round into the
centre of the basin, where he perceived Wildeve struggling.

While these hasty actions were in progress here,
Venn and Thomasin had been toiling through the lower
corner of the heath in the direction of the light.
They had not been near enough to the river to hear
the plunge, but they saw the removal of the carriage lamp,
and watched its motion into the mead. As soon as they
reached the car and horse Venn guessed that something
new was amiss, and hastened to follow in the course
of the moving light. Venn walked faster than Thomasin,
and came to the weir alone.

The lamp placed against the post by Clym still shone
across the water, and the reddleman observed something
floating motionless. Being encumbered with the infant,
he ran back to meet Thomasin.

"Take the baby, please, Mrs. Wildeve," he said hastily.
"Run home with her, call the stable lad, and make him send
down to me any men who may be living near. Somebody has
fallen into the weir."

Thomasin took the child and ran. When she came to the
covered car the horse, though fresh from the stable,
was standing perfectly still, as if conscious of misfortune.
She saw for the first time whose it was. She nearly fainted,
and would have been unable to proceed another step
but that the necessity of preserving the little girl
from harm nerved her to an amazing self-control. In this
agony of suspense she entered the house, put the baby
in a place of safety, woke the lad and the female domestic,
and ran out to give the alarm at the nearest cottage.

Diggory, having returned to the brink of the pool, observed
that the small upper hatches or floats were withdrawn.
He found one of these lying upon the grass, and taking
it under one arm, and with his lantern in his hand,
entered at the bottom of the pool as Clym had done.
As soon as he began to be in deep water he flung himself
across the hatch; thus supported he was able to keep
afloat as long as he chose, holding the lantern aloft
with his disengaged hand. Propelled by his feet,
he steered round and round the pool, ascending each time
by one of the back streams and descending in the middle
of the current.

At first he could see nothing. Then amidst the
glistening of the whirlpools and the white clots of foam
he distinguished a woman's bonnet floating alone.
His search was now under the left wall, when something
came to the surface almost close beside him. It was not,
as he had expected, a woman, but a man. The reddleman
put the ring of the lantern between his teeth, seized the
floating man by the collar, and, holding on to the hatch
with his remaining arm, struck out into the strongest race,
by which the unconscious man, the hatch, and himself were
carried down the stream. As soon as Venn found his feet
dragging over the pebbles of the shallower part below
he secured his footing and waded towards the brink.
There, where the water stood at about the height of
his waist, he flung away the hatch, and attempted to drag
forth the man. This was a matter of great difficulty,
and he found as the reason that the legs of the unfortunate
stranger were tightly embraced by the arms of another man,
who had hitherto been entirely beneath the surface.

At this moment his heart bounded to hear footsteps
running towards him, and two men, roused by Thomasin,
appeared at the brink above. They ran to where Venn was,
and helped him in lifting out the apparently drowned persons,
separating them, and laying them out upon the grass.
Venn turned the light upon their faces. The one who had
been uppermost was Yeobright; he who had been completely
submerged was Wildeve.

"Now we must search the hole again," said Venn.
"A woman is in there somewhere. Get a pole."

One of the men went to the footbridge and tore off the handrail.
The reddleman and the two others then entered the water
together from below as before, and with their united
force probed the pool forwards to where it sloped down
to its central depth. Venn was not mistaken in supposing
that any person who had sunk for the last time would
be washed down to this point, for when they had examined
to about halfway across something impeded their thrust.

"Pull it forward," said Venn, and they raked it in with
the pole till it was close to their feet.

Venn vanished under the stream, and came up with an
armful of wet drapery enclosing a woman's cold form,
which was all that remained of the desperate Eustacia.

When they reached the bank there stood Thomasin, in a
stress of grief, bending over the two unconscious ones
who already lay there. The horse and cart were brought
to the nearest point in the road, and it was the work
of a few minutes only to place the three in the vehicle.
Venn led on the horse, supporting Thomasin upon his arm,
and the two men followed, till they reached the inn.

The woman who had been shaken out of her sleep by Thomasin
had hastily dressed herself and lighted a fire, the other
servant being left to snore on in peace at the back
of the house. The insensible forms of Eustacia, Clym,
and Wildeve were then brought in and laid on the carpet,
with their feet to the fire, when such restorative
processes as could be thought of were adopted at once,
the stableman being in the meantime sent for a doctor.
But there seemed to be not a whiff of life in either
of the bodies. Then Thomasin, whose stupor of grief
had been thrust off awhile by frantic action, applied a
bottle of hartshorn to Clym's nostrils, having tried
it in vain upon the other two. He sighed.

"Clym's alive!" she exclaimed.

He soon breathed distinctly, and again and again did
she attempt to revive her husband by the same means;
but Wildeve gave no sign. There was too much reason
to think that he and Eustacia both were for ever beyond
the reach of stimulating perfumes. Their exertions did
not relax till the doctor arrived, when one by one,
the senseless three were taken upstairs and put into
warm beds.

Venn soon felt himself relieved from further attendance,
and went to the door, scarcely able yet to realize the strange
catastrophe that had befallen the family in which he took
so great an interest. Thomasin surely would be broken
down by the sudden and overwhelming nature of this event.
No firm and sensible Mrs. Yeobright lived now to support
the gentle girl through the ordeal; and, whatever an
unimpassioned spectator might think of her loss
of such a husband as Wildeve, there could be no doubt
that for the moment she was distracted and horrified
by the blow. As for himself, not being privileged to go
to her and comfort her, he saw no reason for waiting
longer in a house where he remained only as a stranger.

He returned across the heath to his van. The fire was
not yet out, and everything remained as he had left it.
Venn now bethought himself of his clothes, which were
saturated with water to the weight of lead. He changed them,
spread them before the fire, and lay down to sleep.
But it was more than he could do to rest here while excited
by a vivid imagination of the turmoil they were in at the
house he had quitted, and, blaming himself for coming away,
he dressed in another suit, locked up the door, and again
hastened across to the inn. Rain was still falling heavily
when he entered the kitchen. A bright fire was shining
from the hearth, and two women were bustling about,
one of whom was Olly Dowden.

"Well, how is it going on now?" said Venn in a whisper.

"Mr. Yeobright is better; but Mrs. Yeobright
and Mr. Wildeve are dead and cold. The doctor
says they were quite gone before they were out of the water."

"Ah! I thought as much when I hauled 'em up. And Mrs. Wildeve?"

"She is as well as can be expected. The doctor had
her put between blankets, for she was almost as wet
as they that had been in the river, poor young thing.
You don't seem very dry, reddleman."

"Oh, 'tis not much. I have changed my things. This is
only a little dampness I've got coming through the rain again."

"Stand by the fire. Mis'ess says you be to have whatever
you want, and she was sorry when she was told that you'd
gone away."

Venn drew near to the fireplace, and looked into the flames
in an absent mood. The steam came from his leggings
and ascended the chimney with the smoke, while he thought
of those who were upstairs. Two were corpses, one had barely
escaped the jaws of death, another was sick and a widow.
The last occasion on which he had lingered by that fireplace
was when the raffle was in progress; when Wildeve was alive
and well; Thomasin active and smiling in the next room;
Yeobright and Eustacia just made husband and wife,
and Mrs. Yeobright living at Blooms-End. It had seemed at that
time that the then position of affairs was good for at least
twenty years to come. Yet, of all the circle, he himself
was the only one whose situation had not materially changed.

While he ruminated a footstep descended the stairs.
It was the nurse, who brought in her hand a rolled mass
of wet paper. The woman was so engrossed with her occupation
that she hardly saw Venn. She took from a cupboard some
pieces of twine, which she strained across the fireplace,
tying the end of each piece to the firedog, previously pulled
forward for the purpose, and, unrolling the wet papers,
she began pinning them one by one to the strings in a
manner of clothes on a line.

"What be they?" said Venn.

"Poor master's banknotes," she answered. "They were found
in his pocket when they undressed him."

"Then he was not coming back again for some time?"
said Venn.

"That we shall never know," said she.

Venn was loth to depart, for all on earth that interested
him lay under this roof. As nobody in the house had any
more sleep that night, except the two who slept for ever,
there was no reason why he should not remain. So he retired
into the niche of the fireplace where he had used to sit,
and there he continued, watching the steam from the double
row of banknotes as they waved backwards and forwards
in the draught of the chimney till their flaccidity
was changed to dry crispness throughout. Then the woman
came and unpinned them, and, folding them together,
carried the handful upstairs. Presently the doctor
appeared from above with the look of a man who could do
no more, and, pulling on his gloves, went out of the house,
the trotting of his horse soon dying away upon the road.

At four o'clock there was a gentle knock at the door.
It was from Charley, who had been sent by Captain Vye
to inquire if anything had been heard of Eustacia.
The girl who admitted him looked in his face as if she
did not know what answer to return, and showed him in to
where Venn was seated, saying to the reddleman, "Will you
tell him, please?"

Venn told. Charley's only utterance was a feeble,
indistinct sound. He stood quite still; then he burst
out spasmodically, "I shall see her once more?"

"I dare say you may see her," said Diggory gravely.
"But hadn't you better run and tell Captain Vye?"

"Yes, yes. Only I do hope I shall see her just once again."

"You shall," said a low voice behind; and starting
round they beheld by the dim light, a thin, pallid,
almost spectral form, wrapped in a blanket, and looking
like Lazarus coming from the tomb.

It was Yeobright. Neither Venn nor Charley spoke,
and Clym continued, "You shall see her. There will be
time enough to tell the captain when it gets daylight.
You would like to see her too--would you not, Diggory? She
looks very beautiful now."

Venn assented by rising to his feet, and with Charley
he followed Clym to the foot of the staircase,
where he took off his boots; Charley did the same.
They followed Yeobright upstairs to the landing, where there
was a candle burning, which Yeobright took in his hand,
and with it led the way into an adjoining room.
Here he went to the bedside and folded back the sheet.

They stood silently looking upon Eustacia, who, as she lay
there still in death, eclipsed all her living phases.
Pallor did not include all the quality of her complexion,
which seemed more than whiteness; it was almost light.
The expression of her finely carved mouth was pleasant,
as if a sense of dignity had just compelled her to leave
off speaking. Eternal rigidity had seized upon it in a
momentary transition between fervour and resignation.
Her black hair was looser now than either of them had ever
seen it before, and surrounded her brow like a forest.
The stateliness of look which had been almost too marked
for a dweller in a country domicile had at last found an
artistically happy background.

Nobody spoke, till at length Clym covered
her and turned aside. "Now come here," he said.

They went to a recess in the same room, and there,
on a smaller bed, lay another figure--Wildeve. Less repose
was visible in his face than in Eustacia's, but the same
luminous youthfulness overspread it, and the least
sympathetic observer would have felt at sight of him
now that he was born for a higher destiny than this.
The only sign upon him of his recent struggle for life
was in his fingertips, which were worn and sacrificed
in his dying endeavours to obtain a hold on the face
of the weir-wall.

Yeobright's manner had been so quiet, he had uttered so
few syllables since his reappearance, that Venn imagined
him resigned. It was only when they had left the room
and stood upon the landing that the true state of his
mind was apparent. Here he said, with a wild smile,
inclining his head towards the chamber in which Eustacia lay,
"She is the second woman I have killed this year.
I was a great cause of my mother's death, and I am
the chief cause of hers."

"How?" said Venn.

"I spoke cruel words to her, and she left my house.
I did not invite her back till it was too late. It is I who
ought to have drowned myself. It would have been a charity
to the living had the river overwhelmed me and borne her up.
But I cannot die. Those who ought to have lived lie dead;
and here am I alive!"

"But you can't charge yourself with crimes in that way,"
said Venn. "You may as well say that the parents be the
cause of a murder by the child, for without the parents
the child would never have been begot."

"Yes, Venn, that is very true; but you don't know
all the circumstances. If it had pleased God to put
an end to me it would have been a good thing for all.
But I am getting used to the horror of my existence.
They say that a time comes when men laugh at misery through
long acquaintance with it. Surely that time will soon
come to me!"

"Your aim has always been good," said Venn. "Why should
you say such desperate things?"

"No, they are not desperate. They are only hopeless;
and my great regret is that for what I have done no man
or law can punish me!"

book six


1 - The Inevitable Movement Onward

The story of the deaths of Eustacia and Wildeve was told
throughout Egdon, and far beyond, for many weeks and months.
All the known incidents of their love were enlarged,
distorted, touched up, and modified, till the original
reality bore but a slight resemblance to the counterfeit
presentation by surrounding tongues. Yet, upon the whole,
neither the man nor the woman lost dignity by sudden death.
Misfortune had struck them gracefully, cutting off their erratic
histories with a catastrophic dash, instead of, as with many,
attenuating each life to an uninteresting meagreness,
through long years of wrinkles, neglect, and decay.

On those most nearly concerned the effect was somewhat different.
Strangers who had heard of many such cases now merely
heard of one more; but immediately where a blow falls
no previous imaginings amount to appreciable preparation
for it. The very suddenness of her bereavement dulled,
to some extent, Thomasin's feelings; yet irrationally enough,
a consciousness that the husband she had lost ought
to have been a better man did not lessen her mourning
at all. On the contrary, this fact seemed at first
to set off the dead husband in his young wife's eyes,
and to be the necessary cloud to the rainbow.

But the horrors of the unknown had passed. Vague misgivings
about her future as a deserted wife were at an end.
The worst had once been matter of trembling conjecture;
it was now matter of reason only, a limited badness.
Her chief interest, the little Eustacia, still remained.
There was humility in her grief, no defiance in her attitude;
and when this is the case a shaken spirit is apt to
be stilled.

Could Thomasin's mournfulness now and Eustacia's serenity during
life have been reduced to common measure, they would have
touched the same mark nearly. But Thomasin's former brightness
made shadow of that which in a sombre atmosphere was light itself.

The spring came and calmed her; the summer came and soothed her;
the autumn arrived, and she began to be comforted,
for her little girl was strong and happy, growing in size
and knowledge every day. Outward events flattered Thomasin
not a little. Wildeve had died intestate, and she and
the child were his only relatives. When administration
had been granted, all the debts paid, and the residue
of her husband's uncle's property had come into her hands,
it was found that the sum waiting to be invested for her own
and the child's benefit was little less than ten thousand pounds.

Where should she live? The obvious place was Blooms-End.
The old rooms, it is true, were not much higher than the
between-decks of a frigate, necessitating a sinking in the
floor under the new clock-case she brought from the inn,
and the removal of the handsome brass knobs on its head,
before there was height for it to stand; but, such as
the rooms were, there were plenty of them, and the place
was endeared to her by every early recollection.
Clym very gladly admitted her as a tenant, confining his own
existence to two rooms at the top of the back staircase,
where he lived on quietly, shut off from Thomasin and
the three servants she had thought fit to indulge in now
that she was a mistress of money, going his own ways,
and thinking his own thoughts.

His sorrows had made some change in his outward appearance;
and yet the alteration was chiefly within. It might have
been said that he had a wrinkled mind. He had no enemies,
and he could get nobody to reproach him, which was why he
so bitterly reproached himself.

He did sometimes think he had been ill-used by fortune,
so far as to say that to be born is a palpable dilemma,
and that instead of men aiming to advance in life
with glory they should calculate how to retreat out
of it without shame. But that he and his had been
sarcastically and pitilessly handled in having such
irons thrust into their souls he did not maintain long.
It is usually so, except with the sternest of men.
Human beings, in their generous endeavour to construct
a hypothesis that shall not degrade a First Cause,
have always hesitated to conceive a dominant power of lower
moral quality than their own; and, even while they sit
down and weep by the waters of Babylon, invent excuses
for the oppression which prompts their tears.

Thus, though words of solace were vainly uttered in
his presence, he found relief in a direction of his own
choosing when left to himself. For a man of his habits
the house and the hundred and twenty pounds a year which he
had inherited from his mother were enough to supply all
worldly needs. Resources do not depend upon gross amounts,
but upon the proportion of spendings to takings.

He frequently walked the heath alone, when the past
seized upon him with its shadowy hand, and held him
there to listen to its tale. His imagination would then
people the spot with its ancient inhabitants--forgotten
Celtic tribes trod their tracks about him, and he could
almost live among them, look in their faces, and see
them standing beside the barrows which swelled around,
untouched and perfect as at the time of their erection.
Those of the dyed barbarians who had chosen the cultivable
tracts were, in comparison with those who had left their
marks here, as writers on paper beside writers on parchment.
Their records had perished long ago by the plough,
while the works of these remained. Yet they all had lived
and died unconscious of the different fates awaiting
their relics. It reminded him that unforeseen factors
operate in the evolution of immortality.

Winter again came round, with its winds, frosts, tame robins,
and sparkling starlight. The year previous Thomasin had
hardly been conscious of the season's advance; this year she
laid her heart open to external influences of every kind.
The life of this sweet cousin, her baby, and her servants,
came to Clym's senses only in the form of sounds through
a wood partition as he sat over books of exceptionally
large type; but his ear became at last so accustomed
to these slight noises from the other part of the house
that he almost could witness the scenes they signified.
A faint beat of half-seconds conjured up Thomasin rocking
the cradle, a wavering hum meant that she was singing the
baby to sleep, a crunching of sand as between millstones
raised the picture of Humphrey's, Fairway's, or Sam's
heavy feet crossing the stone floor of the kitchen;
a light boyish step, and a gay tune in a high key,
betokened a visit from Grandfer Cantle; a sudden break-off
in the Grandfer's utterances implied the application to
his lips of a mug of small beer, a bustling and slamming
of doors meant starting to go to market; for Thomasin,
in spite of her added scope of gentility, led a ludicrously
narrow life, to the end that she might save every possible
pound for her little daughter.

One summer day Clym was in the garden, immediately outside
the parlour window, which was as usual open. He was looking
at the pot-flowers on the sill; they had been revived
and restored by Thomasin to the state in which his mother
had left them. He heard a slight scream from Thomasin,
who was sitting inside the room.

"O, how you frightened me!" she said to someone who
had entered. "I thought you were the ghost of yourself."

Clym was curious enough to advance a little further
and look in at the window. To his astonishment
there stood within the room Diggory Venn, no longer
a reddleman, but exhibiting the strangely altered hues
of an ordinary Christian countenance, white shirt-front,
light flowered waistcoat, blue-spotted neckerchief,
and bottle-green coat. Nothing in this appearance was at
all singular but the fact of its great difference from
what he had formerly been. Red, and all approach to red,
was carefully excluded from every article of clothes upon him;
for what is there that persons just out of harness dread
so much as reminders of the trade which has enriched them?

Yeobright went round to the door and entered.

"I was so alarmed!" said Thomasin, smiling from one to
the other. "I couldn't believe that he had got white
of his own accord! It seemed supernatural."

"I gave up dealing in reddle last Christmas," said Venn.
"It was a profitable trade, and I found that by that
time I had made enough to take the dairy of fifty cows
that my father had in his lifetime. I always thought
of getting to that place again if I changed at all,
and now I am there."

"How did you manage to become white, Diggory?" Thomasin asked.

"I turned so by degrees, ma'am."

"You look much better than ever you did before."

Venn appeared confused; and Thomasin, seeing how
inadvertently she had spoken to a man who might possibly
have tender feelings for her still, blushed a little.
Clym saw nothing of this, and added good-humouredly--

"What shall we have to frighten Thomasin's baby with,
now you have become a human being again?"

"Sit down, Diggory," said Thomasin, "and stay to tea."

Venn moved as if he would retire to the kitchen,
when Thomasin said with pleasant pertness as she went
on with some sewing, "Of course you must sit down here.
And where does your fifty-cow dairy lie, Mr. Venn?"

"At Stickleford--about two miles to the right of Alderworth,
ma'am, where the meads begin. I have thought that if
Mr. Yeobright would like to pay me a visit sometimes he
shouldn't stay away for want of asking. I'll not bide
to tea this afternoon, thank'ee, for I've got something
on hand that must be settled. 'Tis Maypole-day tomorrow,
and the Shadwater folk have clubbed with a few of your
neighbours here to have a pole just outside your palings
in the heath, as it is a nice green place." Venn waved
his elbow towards the patch in front of the house.
"I have been talking to Fairway about it," he continued,
"and I said to him that before we put up the pole it would
be as well to ask Mrs. Wildeve."

"I can say nothing against it," she answered. "Our property
does not reach an inch further than the white palings."

"But you might not like to see a lot of folk going crazy
round a stick, under your very nose?"

"I shall have no objection at all."

Venn soon after went away, and in the evening Yeobright
strolled as far as Fairway's cottage. It was a lovely
May sunset, and the birch trees which grew on this margin
of the vast Egdon wilderness had put on their new leaves,
delicate as butterflies' wings, and diaphanous as amber.
Beside Fairway's dwelling was an open space recessed
from the road, and here were now collected all the young
people from within a radius of a couple of miles.
The pole lay with one end supported on a trestle, and women
were engaged in wreathing it from the top downwards with
wild-flowers. The instincts of merry England lingered on
here with exceptional vitality, and the symbolic customs
which tradition has attached to each season of the year
were yet a reality on Egdon. Indeed, the impulses of all
such outlandish hamlets are pagan still--in these spots
homage to nature, self-adoration, frantic gaieties,
fragments of Teutonic rites to divinities whose names
are forgotten, seem in some way or other to have survived
mediaeval doctrine.

Yeobright did not interrupt the preparations, and went
home again. The next morning, when Thomasin withdrew
the curtains of her bedroom window, there stood the Maypole
in the middle of the green, its top cutting into the sky.
It had sprung up in the night, or rather early morning,
like Jack's bean-stalk. She opened the casement to get
a better view of the garlands and posies that adorned it.
The sweet perfume of the flowers had already spread into
the surrounding air, which, being free from every taint,
conducted to her lips a full measure of the fragrance
received from the spire of blossom in its midst.
At the top of the pole were crossed hoops decked with
small flowers; beneath these came a milk-white zone
of Maybloom; then a zone of bluebells, then of cowslips,
then of lilacs, then of ragged-robins, daffodils, and so on,
till the lowest stage was reached. Thomasin noticed
all these, and was delighted that the May revel was to be
so near.

When afternoon came people began to gather on the green,
and Yeobright was interested enough to look out upon
them from the open window of his room. Soon after this
Thomasin walked out from the door immediately below and
turned her eyes up to her cousin's face. She was dressed
more gaily than Yeobright had ever seen her dressed
since the time of Wildeve's death, eighteen months before;
since the day of her marriage even she had not exhibited
herself to such advantage.

"How pretty you look today, Thomasin!" he said.
"Is it because of the Maypole?"

"Not altogether." And then she blushed and dropped her eyes,
which he did not specially observe, though her manner
seemed to him to be rather peculiar, considering that
she was only addressing himself. Could it be possible
that she had put on her summer clothes to please him?

He recalled her conduct towards him throughout
the last few weeks, when they had often been working
together in the garden, just as they had formerly done
when they were boy and girl under his mother's eye.
What if her interest in him were not so entirely that
of a relative as it had formerly been? To Yeobright any
possibility of this sort was a serious matter; and he
almost felt troubled at the thought of it. Every pulse
of loverlike feeling which had not been stilled during
Eustacia's lifetime had gone into the grave with her.
His passion for her had occurred too far on in his
manhood to leave fuel enough on hand for another fire
of that sort, as may happen with more boyish loves.
Even supposing him capable of loving again, that love
would be a plant of slow and laboured growth, and in
the end only small and sickly, like an autumn-hatched bird.

He was so distressed by this new complexity that when the
enthusiastic brass band arrived and struck up, which it
did about five o'clock, with apparently wind enough
among its members to blow down his house, he withdrew
from his rooms by the back door, went down the garden,
through the gate in the hedge, and away out of sight.
He could not bear to remain in the presence of enjoyment today,
though he had tried hard.

Nothing was seen of him for four hours. When he came back
by the same path it was dusk, and the dews were coating
every green thing. The boisterous music had ceased;
but, entering the premises as he did from behind, he could
not see if the May party had all gone till he had passed
through Thomasin's division of the house to the front door.
Thomasin was standing within the porch alone.

She looked at him reproachfully. "You went away just
when it began, Clym," she said.

"Yes. I felt I could not join in. You went out with them,
of course?"

"No, I did not."

"You appeared to be dressed on purpose."

"Yes, but I could not go out alone; so many people
were there. One is there now."

Yeobright strained his eyes across the dark-green patch
beyond the paling, and near the black form of the Maypole he
discerned a shadowy figure, sauntering idly up and down.
"Who is it?" he said.

"Mr. Venn," said Thomasin.

"You might have asked him to come in, I think, Tamsie.
He has been very kind to you first and last."

"I will now," she said; and, acting on the impulse,
went through the wicket to where Venn stood under the Maypole.

"It is Mr. Venn, I think?" she inquired.

Venn started as if he had not seen her--artful man that he
was--and said, "Yes."

"Will you come in?"

"I am afraid that I--"

"I have seen you dancing this evening, and you had
the very best of the girls for your partners. Is it
that you won't come in because you wish to stand here,
and think over the past hours of enjoyment?"

"Well, that's partly it," said Mr. Venn,
with ostentatious sentiment. "But the main reason
why I am biding here like this is that I want to wait till the
moon rises."

"To see how pretty the Maypole looks in the moonlight?"

"No. To look for a glove that was dropped by one of the maidens."

Thomasin was speechless with surprise. That a man who had
to walk some four or five miles to his home should wait
here for such a reason pointed to only one conclusion--the
man must be amazingly interested in that glove's owner.

"Were you dancing with her, Diggory?" she asked,
in a voice which revealed that he had made himself
considerably more interesting to her by this disclosure.

"No," he sighed.

"And you will not come in, then?"

"Not tonight, thank you, ma'am."

"Shall I lend you a lantern to look for the young
person's glove, Mr. Venn?"

"O no; it is not necessary, Mrs. Wildeve, thank you.
The moon will rise in a few minutes."

Thomasin went back to the porch. "Is he coming in?"
said Clym, who had been waiting where she had left him.

"He would rather not tonight," she said, and then passed
by him into the house; whereupon Clym too retired to his
own rooms.


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