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remained in their friends' chimney-corners
drinking mead and other comforting liquors
till they left again for good and all. Rain,
snow, ice, mud everywhere around, they did
not care to trudge two or three miles to sit
wet-footed and splashed to the nape of their
necks among those who, though in some mea-
sure neighbours, lived close to the church,
and entered it clean and dry. Eustacia knew
it was ten to one that Clym Yeobright would
go to no church at all during his few days of



THE ARRIVAL. 269

leave, and that It would be a waste of labour
for her to go driving the pony and gig over
a bad road in hope to see him there.

It was dusk, and she was sitting by the
fire in the dining-room or hall, which they
occupied at this time of the year in prefer-
ence to the parlour, because of its large
hearth, constructed for turf-fires, a fuel the
Captain was partial to in the winter season.
The only visible articles in the room were
those on the window-sill, which showed their
shapes against the low sky : the middle
article being the old hour-glass, and the other
two a pair of ancient British urns which had
been dug from a barrow near, and were used
as flower-pots for two razor-leaved cactuses.
Somebody knocked at the door. The ser-
vant was out ; so was her grandfather. The
person, after waiting a minute, came in and
tapped at the door of the room.

' Who's there ?' said Eustacia.

' Please, Cap'n Drew, will you let us '

Eustacia arose and went to the door. ' I



270 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

cannot allow you to come in so boldly. You
should have waited.'

' The Cap'n said I might come in without
any fuss,' was answered in a lad's pleasant
voice.

* Oh, did he ? ' said Eustacia more gently.
* What do you want, Charley ? '

* Please will your grandfather lend us his
fuel-house to try over our parts in, to-night at
seven o'clock ? '

' What, are you one of the Egdon
mummers for this year ? '

' Yes, miss. The Cap'n used to let the
old mummers practise here.'

* I know it. Yes, you may use the fuel-
house if you like,' said Eustacia languidly.

The choice of Captain Drew's fuel-house
as the scene of rehearsal was dictated by the
fact that his dwelling was nearly in the centre
of the heath. The fuel-house was as roomy
as a barn, and w^as a most desirable place for
such a purpose. The lads who formed the
company of players lived at different scattered



THE ARRIVAL. 27 I

points around, and by meeting in this spot
the distances to be traversed by all the
comers would be about equally proportioned.

Of mummers and mumming Eustacia had
the greatest contempt. The mummers them-
selves were not afflicted with any such feel-
ing for their art, though at the same tim.e they
were not enthusiastic. A traditional pastime
is to be distinguished from a mere revival in
no more striking feature than in this, that
while in the revival all is excitement and
fervour, the survival is carried on with a
stolidity and absence of stir which sets one
wondering why a thing that is done so per-
functorily should be kept up at all. Like
Balaam and other unwilling prophets, the
agents seem moved by an inner compul-
sion to say and do their allotted parts whether
they will or no. This unweeting manner of
performance is the true ring by which, in
this refurbishincr as'e, a fossilized survival
may be known from a spurious reproduction.

The piece was the well-known play of



272 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

' Saint George,' and all who were behind the
scenes assisted in the preparations, including
the females of each household. Without the
co-operations of sisters and sweethearts the
dresses were likely to be a failure ; but, on
the other hand, this class of assistance was
not without its drawbracks. The girls
could never be brought to respect tradition in
designing and decorating the armour : they
insisted on attaching loops and bows of silk
and velvet in any situation pleasing to their
taste. Gorget, gusset, basinet, cuirass, gaunt-
let, sleeve, all alike in the view of these fe-
minine eyes were practicable spaces where-
on to sew scraps of fluttering colour.

It might be that Joe, who fought on the
side of Christendom, had a sweetheart, and
that Jim, who fought on the side of the Mos-
lem, had one likewise. During the making
of the costumes it would come to the know-
ledge of Joe's sweetheart that Jim's was put-
ting brilliant silk scallops at the bottom of her
lover's surcoat, in addition to the ribbons of



THE ARRIVAL. 273

the visor, the bars of which, being invariably
formed of coloured strips about half-an-inch
wide hanging before the face, were mostly
of that material. Joe's sweetheart straight-
way placed brilliant silk on the scallops
of the hem in question, and, going a little
further, added ribbon tufts to the shoulder-
pieces. Jim's, not to be outdone, would
affix bows and rosettes everywhere.

The result was that in the end The
Valiant Soldier, of the Christian army, was
distinguished by no peculiarity of accoutre-
ment from the Turkish Knight ; and what was
worse, on a casual view Saint George him-
self might be mistaken for his deadly enemy,
The Saracen. The guisers themselves,
though inwardly regretting this confusion of
persons, could not afford to offend those by
whose assistance they so largely profited,
and the innovations were allowed to stand.

There was, it is true, a limit to this ten-
dency to uniformity. The Leech or Doctor
preserved his character intact : his darker

VOL. I. T



2 74 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

habiliments, peculiar hat, and the bottle of
physic slung under his arm, could never be
mistaken. And the same might be said of
the conventional figure of Father Christmas,
with his gigantic club, who accompanied the
band as general protector in long night
journeys from parish to parish, aud was
bearer of the purse.

Seven o'clock, the hour of the rehearsal,
came round, and In a short time Eustacia
could hear voices in the fuel-house. To
dissipate in some trifling measure her abid-
inof sense of the murkiness of human life
she went to the Mlnhay' or lean-to shed,
which formed the root-store of their dwelling
and abutted on the fuel-house. Here was
a small rough hole in the mud wall, originally
made for pigeons, through which the Interior
of the next shed could be viewed. A light
came from it now ; and Eustacia stepped
upon a stool to look in upon the scene.

On a ledge in the fuel-house stood three
tall rushlights, and by the light of them seven



THE ARRIVAL. 275

or eight lads were marching about, harangu-
ing, and confusing each other, in endeavours
to perfect themselves in the play. Humphrey
and Sam, the furze and turf cutters, were
there looking on, so also was Timothy
Fairway, who leant against the wall and
prompted the boys from memory, inter-
spersing among the set words remarks and
anecdotes of the superior days when he and
others were the Egdon mummers-elect that
these lads were now.

* Well, ye be as well up to it as ever ye
will be,' he said. ' Not that such mumming
would have passed in our time. Harry as
the Saracen should strut a bit more, and
John needn't holler his inside out. Beyond
that perhaps you'll do. Have you got all
your clothes ready ? '

'We shall by Monday.'

' Your first outing will be Monday night,
I suppose?'

'Yes. At Mrs. Yeobricrht's.'

'Oh, Mrs. Yeobright's. What makes her

T 2



276 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

want to see ye ? I should think a middle-
aged woman was tired of mumming.'

' She's got up a bit of a party, because
'tis the first Christmas that her son Clym
has been home for a long time.'

* To be sure, to be sure — her party ! I
am going myself I almost forgot it, upon
my life.'

Eustacia's face flagged. There was to
be a party at the Yeobrights' ; she, naturally,
had nothing to do with it. She was a
stranger to all such local gatherings, and had
always held them as scarcely appertaining to
her sphere. But had she been going, what
an opportunity would have been afforded her
of seeing the man whose influence was pene-
trating her like summer sun ! To increase
that influence was coveted excitement ; to
cast it off might be to regain serenity ; to
leave it as it stood was tantalising.

The lads and men prepared to leave the
premises, and Eustacia returned to her fire-
side. She was immersed in thought, but not



THE ARRIVAL. 277

for long. In a few minutes the lad Charley,
who had come to ask permission to use the
place, returned with the key to the kitchen.
Eustacia heard him, and opening the door
into the passage said, ' Charley, come here.'

The lad was surprised. He entered the
front room., not without blushing ; for he, like
many, had felt the power of this girl's face
and form.

She pointed to a seat by the fire, and
entered the other side of the chimney-corner
herself. It could be seen in her face that
whatever motive she might have had in
asking the youth indoors would soon ap-
pear.

'Which part do you play, Charley — the
Turkish Knight, do you not ? ' inquired the
beauty, looking across the smoke of the fire
to him on the other side.

* Yes, miss, the Turkish Knight,' he re-
plied diffidently.

' Is yours a long part ? '

' Nine speeches, about.'



278 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

' Can you repeat them to me ? If so I
should hke to hear them.'

The lad smiled into the glowing turf and

began :

' Here come I, a Turkish Knight,
Who learnt in Turkish land to fight,'

continuing the discourse throughout the scenes
to the concluding catastrophe of his fall by
the hand of Saint George.

Eustacia had heard the part recited many
times before. When the lad ended she
began, precisely in the same words, and
ranted on without hitch or divergence till
she too reached the end. It was the same
thing, yet how different. Like in form, it
had the added softness and finish of a Raf-
faelle after Perugino, which, while faithfully
reproducing the original subject, entirely dis-
tances the original art.

Charley's eyes rounded with surprise.
' Well, you be a clever lady ! ' he said, in
admiration. ' I've been three weeks learning
mine.'



THE ARRIVAL. 279

' I have heard it before,' she quietly ob-
served. ' Now, would you do anything to
please me, Charley ? '

' I'd do a good deal, miss.'

' Would you let me play your part for one
niorht ? '

' O miss ! But your woman's gown — you
couldn't.'

' I can get boy's clothes — at least all that
would be wanted besides the mumming
dress. What should I have to give you to
lend me your things, to let me take your
place for an hour or two on Monday night,
and on no account to say a word about who
or what I am ? You would, of course, have
to excuse yourself from playing that night,
and to say that somebody — a cousin of Miss
Vye's — would act for you. The other mum-
mers have never spoken to me in their lives,
so that it would be safe enough ; and if it
were not I should not mind. Now, what
must I give you to agree to this ? Half-a-
crown ? '



28o THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

The youth shook his head.

' Five shIlHngs ? '

He shook his head again. * Money
won't do it,' he said, brushing the iron
head of the fire-dog with the hollow of his
hand.

'What will, then, Charley ?' said Eustacia
in a disappointed tone.

* You know what you forbade me at the
maypoling, miss,' murmured the lad, without
looking at her, and still stroking the fire-dog's
head.

* Yes,' said Eustacia, with a little more
hauteitr. ' You wanted to join hands with
me in the ring, if I recollect ? '

' Half an hour of that, and I'll agree,
miss.'

Eustacia regarded the youth steadfastly.
He was three years younger than herself, but
apparently not backward for his age. ' Half
an hour of what '^. ' she said, though she
guessed what.

* Holding your hand in mine.'



THE ARRIVAL. 2S1

She was silent. ' Make it a quarter of
an hour,' she said.

'Yes, Miss Eustacia — I will. A quar-
ter of an hour. And I'll swear to do the
best I can to let you take my place without
anybody knowing. Don't you think some-
body might know your tongue ? '

' It is possible. But I will put a pebble
in my mouth to make it less likely. Very
well ; you shall be allowed to hold my hand
as soon as you bring the dress and your
sword and staff. I don't want you any longer
now.'

Charley departed, and Eustacia felt more
and more interest in life. Here was some-
thing to do : here was some one to see, and
a charmingly adventurous way to see him.
' Ah,' she said to herself, * want of an object
to live for — that's all is the matter with
me ! '

Eustacia's manner was as a rule of a slum-
berous sort, her passions being of the massive
rather than the vivacious kind. But when



282 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

aroused she would make a dash which, just
for the time, was not unHke the move of a
naturally lively person.

On the question of recognition she was
somewhat indifferent. By the acting lads
themselves she was not likely to be known.
With the guests who might be assembled
she was hardly so secure. Yet detection,
after all, would be no such dreadful thing.
The fact only could be detected, her true
motive never. It would be instantly set
down as the passing freak of a girl whose
ways were already considered singular.
That she was doing for an earnest reason
what would most naturally be done in jest
was at any rate a safe secret.

The next evening Eustacia stood punc-
tually at the fuel-house door, waiting for the
dusk which was to bring Charley with the
trappings. Her grandfather was at home
to-night, and she would be unable to ask her
confederate indoors.



THE ARRIVAL. v 283

He appeared on the dark ridge of heath-
land, Hke a fly on a negro, bearing the
articles with him, and came up breathless
with his walk.

* Here are the things,' he whispered,
placing them upon the threshold. ' And
now, Miss Eustacia '

'The payment. It is quite ready. lam
as good as my word.'

She leant against the door-post, and
gave him her hand. Charley took it in
both his own with a tenderness beyond de
scription, unless it was like that of a child
holding a captured sparrow.

' Why, there's a glove on it ! ' he said in
a deprecating way.

' I have been walking,' she observed.

' But, miss ! '

' Well — it is hardly fair.' She pulled off
the glove, and gave him her bare hand.

They stood together without further
speech, each looking at the blackening scene,
and each thinking his and her own thoughts.



284 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

' I think I won't use it all up to-night,'
said Charley when six or eight minutes had
been passed by them hand-in-hand. * May
I have the other few minutes another time ?'

' As you like,' said she w^ithout the least
emotion. ' But it must be over in a week.
Now, there is only one thing I want you to
do : to wait while I put on the dress, and
then to see if I do my part properly. But
let me look first indoors.'

She vanished for a minute or two, and
went in. Her grandfather was safely asleep
in his chair. ' Now, then,' she said, on re-
turning, ' walk down the garden a little way,
and when I am ready I'll call you.'

Charley walked and waited, and presently
heard a soft Avhistle. He returned to the
fuel-house door.

* Did you whistle, Miss Vye?'

* Yes ; come in,' reached him in Eu-
stacia's voice from a back quarter. ' I must
no': strike a light till the door is shut, or it
may be seen shining. Push your hat into



THE ARRIVAL. 285

the hole through to the wash-house, if you
can feel your way across.'

Charley did as commanded, and she
struck the light, revealing herself to be
changed in sex, brilliant in colours, and
armed from top to toe. Perhaps she quailed
a little under Charley's vigorous gaze, but
whether any shyness appeared upon her
countenance could not be seen by reason of
the strips of ribbon which used to cover the
face in mumming costumes, representing the
barred visor of the mediaeval helmet.

' It fits pretty well,' she said, looking
down at the white overalls, * except that the
tunic, or whatever you call it, is long in the
sleeve. The bottom of the overalls I can
turn up inside. Now pay attention.'

Eustacia then proceeded in her delivery,
slapping the sword against the staff or lance
at the minatory phrases, in the orthodox
mumming manner, and strutting up and
down. Charley seasoned his admiration
with criticism of the gentlest kind, for the



286 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

touch of Eustacias hand yet remained with
him.

' And now for your excuse to the others/
she said. ' Where do you meet before you
o^o to Mrs. Yeobrio^ht's ? '

' We thought of meeting here, miss, if
you have nothing to say against it. At eight
o'clock, so as to get there by nine.'

* Yes. Well, you of course must not
appear. I will march in about five minutes
late, read3^-dressed, and tell them that you
can't come. I have decided that the best
plan will be for you to be sent somewhere by
me, to make a real thing of the excuse. Our
two heathcroppers are In the habit of straying
into the meads, and to-morrovV evening you
can go and see if they are gone there. I'll
manage the rest. Now you may leave me.'

' Yes, miss. But I think I'll have one
minute more of what I am owed, if you don't
mind.'

Eustacia gave him her hand as before.

' One minute,' she said, and at about the



THE ARRIVAL. 287

proper interval counted on till she reached
seven or eight. Hand and person she then
withdrew to a distance of several feet, and
recovered some of her old dignity. The
contract completed, she raised between them
a barrier impenetrable as a wall.

' There, 'tis all gone ; and I didn't mean
quite all,' he said, with a sigh.

' You had good measure,' said she, turn-
ing away.

* Yes, miss. Well 'tis over, and now I'll
get home-along.'



288 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.



CHAPTER V.

THROUGH THE MOONLIGHT.

The next evening the mummers were assem-
bled In the same spot, awaiting the entrance
of the Turkish Knight.

' Twenty minutes after eight by the
Quiet Woman, and Charley not come.'

' Ten minutes past by Blooms-End.'

' It wants ten minutes to, by Grandfer
Cantle's watch.'

' And 'tis five minutes past by the Cap-
tain's clock.'

On Eodon there was no absolute hour of

o

the day. The time at any moment was a
number of varying doctrines professed by the
different hamlets, some of them having origi-
nally grown up from a common root, and then



THE ARRIVAL. 289

become divided by secession, some having-
been alien from the becrinnincr. West Eedon
believed in Blooms-End time, East Egdon in
the time of the Quiet Woman Inn. Grandfer
Cantle's watch had numbered many followers
in years gone by, but since he had grown
older faiths were shaken. Thus, the mum-
mers having gathered hither from scattered
points, each came with his own tenets on
early and late ; and they waited a little
longer as a compromise.

Eustacia had watched the assemblage
through the hole ; and seeing that now was
the proper moment to enter, she went from
the ' linhay ' and boldly pulled the bobbin of
the fuel-house door. Her grandfather was
safe at the Quiet Woman.

* Here's Charley at last ! How late you
be, Charley.'

* 'Tis not Charley,' said the Turkish Knight
from within his visor. ' 'Tis a cousin of Miss
Vye's, come to take Charley's place from
curiosity. He was obliged to go and look

VOL. I, u



290 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

for the heathcroppers that have got into the
meads, and I agreed to take his place, as he
knew he couldn't come back here again to-
night. I know the part as well as he.'

Her flexuous gait, elegant figure, and
dignified manner in general won the mum-
mers to the opinion that they had gained by
the exchange, if the new comer were perfect
in his part.

* It don't matter — if you be not too young,'
said Saint George. Eustacia's voice had
sounded somewhat more juvenile and fluty
than Charley's.

' I know every word of it, I tell you,' said
Eustacia decisively. Dash being all that was
required to carry her triumphantly through,
she adopted as much as was necessary. ' Go
ahead, lads, with the try-over. I'll challenge
any of you to find a mistake in me.'

The play was hastily rehearsed, where-
upon the other mummers were delighted with
the new knight. They extinguished the
candles at half-past eight, and set out upon



THE ARRIVAL. 29 I

the heath In the direction of Mrs. Yeobrlght s
house at Blooms- End.

There was a sHght hoar-frost that night,
and the moon, though not more than half-full,
threw a spirited and enticing brightness upon
the fantastic figures of the mumming band,
whose plumes and ribbons rustled in their
walk like autumnal leaves. Their path was not
•over Blackbarrow now, but down a valley
which left that ancient elevation far to the
south. The bottom of the vale was green to
a width of ten yards or thereabouts, and the
shining facets of frost upon the blades of grass
seemed to move on w^ith the shadows of those
they surrounded. The masses of furze and
heath to the right and left were dark as ever ;
a mere half-moon was powerless to silver such
sable features as theirs.

Half an hour of walking and talking
brought them to the spot in the valley where
the grass riband widened and led up to the front
of the house. At sight of the place Eustacia,

who had felt a few passing doubts during

u 2



292 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

her walk with the youths, again was glad that
the adventure had been undertaken. She had
come out to see a. man who might possibly
have the power to deliver her soul from a
most deadly oppression. What was Wildeve ?
Interesting, but inadequate. Perhaps she
would see a sufficient hero to-night.

As they drew nearer to the front of the
house the mummers became aware that music
and dancing were briskly flourishing within.
Every now and then a long low note from
the serpent, wHich was the chief wind instru-
ment played at these times, advanced further
into the heath than the thin treble part, and
reached their ears alone ; and next a more
than usually loud tread from a dancer
would come the same way. With nearer ap-
proach these fragmentary sounds became
pieced together, and were found to be the
salient points of the tune called ' Nancy's
Fancy.'

He was there, of course. Who was she
that he danced with ? Perhaps some un-



THE ARRIVAL. 293

known woman, far beneath herself in culture,
was by that most subtle of lures sealing his
fate this very instant. To dance with a man
is to concentrate a twelvemonth's regulation
fire upon him in the fragment of an hour.
To pass to courtship without acquaintance,
to pass to marriage without courtship, is a
skipping of terms reserved for those alone
who tread this royal road. She would see
how his heart lay by keen observation of
them all.

The enterprising lady followed the mum-
ming company through the gate in the white
paling, and stood before the open porch.
The house was encrusted with heavy thatch-
ings, which dropped between the upper
windows : the front, upon which the moon-
beams directly played, had originally been
white ; but a huge pyracanth now darkened
the greater portion.

It became at once evident that the dance
was proceeding immediately within the sur-
face of the door, no apartment intervening.



294 'THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

The brushing of skirts and elbows, some-
times the bumping of shoulders, could be
heard against the very panels. Eustacia^
though living within two miles of the place,
had never seen the interior of this quaint
old habitation. Between Captain Drew and
the Yeobriehts there had never existed much
acquaintance, the former having come as a
stranger and purchased the long-empty house
at Mistover Knap not long before the death
of Mrs. Yeobright's husband ; and with that
event and the departure of her son such
friendship as had grown up became quite
broken off.

' Is there no passage inside the door^
then ? ' asked Eustacia as they stood within
the porch.

* No,' said the lad who played the Sara-
cen. ' The door opens right upon the front
sitting-room, where the spree's going on.'

' So that we cannot open the door with-
out stopping the dance.'

' That's it. Here we must bide till they



THE ARRIVAL. 295

have done, for they always bolt the back
door after dark.'

* They won't be much longer,' said Father
Christmas.

This assertion, however, was hardly borne
out by the event. Again the instruments
ended the tune ; again they recommenced
with as much fire and pathos as if it were
the first strain. The air was now that one


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