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easily imagine the light necessarily shining in
them as the culmination of the luminous work-
manship around. The groundwork of the
face was hopefulness ; but over It now lay
like a foreign substance a film of anxiety and
grief. The grief had been there so shortly
as to have abstracted nothing of the bloom :
It had as yet but given a dignity to what it
might eventually undermine. The scarlet of
her lips had not had time to abate, and just
now It appeared still more intense by the
absence of the neighbouring and more tran-
sient colour of her cheek. The lips fre-
quendy parted, with a murmur of words. She
seemed to belong rightly to a madrigal —
to require viewing through rhyme and har-
mony.

One thine at least was obvious : she was
not made to be looked at thus. The reddle-
man had appeared conscious of as much,
and, while Mrs. Yeobrlght looked in upon



THE THREE WOMEN. 8 1

her, he cast his eyes aside with a deh'cacy
which well became him. The sleeper appa-
rently thought so too, for the next moment
she opened her eyes.

The lips then parted with something of
anticipation, something more of doubt ; and
her several thoughts and fractions of thoughts,
as signalled by the changes on her face du-
ring those first few instants, were exhibited by
the light to the utmost nicety. An ingenuous,
transparent life was disclosed : it was as if the
flow of her existence could be seen passing
within. She understood the scene in a mo-
ment.

' O yes, it is I, aunt,' she cried. * I know
how frightened you are, and how you cannot
believe it ; but all the same, it is I who have
come home like this.'

' Tamsin, Tamsin ! ' said Mrs. Yeobright,
stooping over the young woman and kissing
hen ' O my dear girl ! '

Thomasin was now on the verge of a sob ;

VOL. T. G



82 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

but by an unexpected self-command she
uttered no sound. With a gentle panting
breath she sat upright.

* I did not expect to see you in this state,
anymore than you me/ she went on quickly.
' Where am I, aunt ? '

' Nearly home, my dear. In Egdon
Bottom. What dreadful thing is it ? '

' ril tell you in a moment. So near are
we ? Then I will get out and walk. I want
to go home by the path.'

* But this kind man who has done so much
will, I am sure, take you right on to my
house ? ' said the aunt, turning to the reddle-
man, who had withdrawn from the front of the
van on the awakening of the girl, and stood
in the road.

' Why should you think it necessary to
ask me ? — I will, of course,' said he.

' He is indeed kind,' murmured Thomasin.
* I was once acquainted with him, aunt, and
when I saw him to-day I thought I should
prefer his van to any conveyance of a



THE THREE WOMEN. 83

Stranger. But I'll walk now. Redclleman,
stop the horses, please.'

The man regarded her with tender reluc-
tance, but stopped them.

Aunt and niece then descended from the
van, Mrs. Yeobright saying to its ow^ner, ' I
quite recognise you now. What made you
change from the nice business your father left,
you ? '

'Well, I did,' he said, and looked at
Thomasin, who blushed a little. ' Then
you'll not be wanting me any more to-
night, ma'am ? '

Mrs. Yeobright glanced around at the
dark sky, at the hills, at the perishing bon-
fires, and at the lighted wdndow of the inn
they had neared. ' I think not,' she said,
' since Thomasin wishes to walk. We can
soon run up the path and reach home : we
know it well.'

And after a few further words they
parted, the reddleman moving onwards wath
his van, and the two women remaining

G 2



84 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

Standing in the road. As soon as the vehicle
and its driver had withdrawn so far as to be
beyond all possible reach of her voice Mrs.
Yeobright turned to her niece.

' Now, Thomasin/ she said sternly,
* what's the meaning of this disgraceful per-
formance ? '



8^



CHAPTER V.

PERPLEXITY AMONG HONEST PEOPLE.

TiiOMASiN looked as if quite overcome by
her aunt's change of manner. * It means just
what it seems to mean : I am — not married/
she rephed faintly. ' Excuse me — for humi-
liating you, aunt, by this mishap : I am sorry
for it. But I cannot help it.'

* Me ? Think of yourself first.'

* It was nobody's fault. When we got
there the parson wouldn't marry us because
of some trifling irregularity in the licence.'

' What irregularity } '

* I don't know. Mr. Wildeve can explain.
I did not think when I went away this morn-
ing that I should come back like this.' It
being dark, Thomasin allowed her emotion



86 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

to escape her by the silent way of tears,
which could roll down her cheek unseen.

' I could almost say that it serves you
right — if I did not feel that you don't deserve
it,' continued Mrs. Yeobright, who, possess-
ing two distinct moods in close contiguity, a
gentle mood and an angry, flew from one to
the other without the least warning. ' Re-
member, Thomasin, this business was none of
my seeking ; from the very first, when you
began to feel foolish about that man, I warned
you he would not make you happy. I felt it
so strongly that I did what I would never
have believed myself capable of doing — stood
up In the church, and made myself the public
talk for weeks. But having once consented,
I don't submit to these fancies without good
reason. Marry him you must after this.'

' Do you think I wish to do otherwise for
one moment ? ' said Thomasin, with a heavy
sigh. ' I know how wTong it was of me to
love him, but don't pain me by talking like
that, aunt ! You would not have had me



THE THREE WOMEN. Sy

Stay there with him, would you ? — and your
house is the only home I have to return to.
He says we can be married in a day or two.'
' I wish he had never seen you.'
' Very well ; then I will be the miserablest
woman in the world, and not let him see me
again. No, I won't have him!'

' It is too late to speak so. Come with
me. I am going to the inn to see if he has
returned. Of course I shall get to the bottom
of this story at once. Mr. Wildeve must
not suppose he can play tricks upon me, or
any belonging to me.'

' It was not that. The licence was wTong,
and he couldn't get another the same day.
He will tell you in a moment how it was, if
he's come.'

' Why didn't he bring you back ? '
' That was me,' again sobbed Thomasin.
' When I found we could not be married I
didn't like to come back with him, and I was
very ill. Then I saw Diggory Venn, and
was oflad to o^et him to take me home. I



88 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

cannot explain it any better, and you must be
angry with me if you will.'

' I shall see about that,' said Mrs. Yeo-
bright ; and they turned towards the inn,
known in the neiMibourhood as the Ouiet
Woman, the sign of which represented the
figure of a matron carrying her head under
her arm. The front of the house was towards
the heath and Blackbarrow, whose dark shape
seemed to threaten it from the sky. Upon
the door was a neglected brass plate, bearing
the unexpected inscription, 'Mr. Wildeve,
Engineer ' — a useless yet cherished relic from
the time when he had been started in that
profession in an office at Budmouth by those
who had hoped much from him, and had been
disappointed. The garden was at the back,
and behind this ran a still deep stream, form-
ing the margin of the heath in this direction,
meadow-land appearing beyond the stream.

But the thick obscurity permitted only
sky-lines to be visible of any scene at present.
The water at the back of the house could be



THE THREE WOMEN. 89

heard, idly spinning whirlpools in its creep
between the rows of dry feather-headed reeds
which formed a stockade along each bank.
Their presence was denoted by sounds as
of a congregation praying humbly, produced
by their rubbing against each other in the
slow wind.

The window, whence the candlelight had
shone up the vale to the eyes of the bonfire
group, was uncurtained, but the sill lay too
high for a pedestrian on the outside to look
over it into the room. A vast shadow, in
which could be dimly traced portions of a
masculine contour, blotted half the ceiling.

' He seems to be at home,' said Mrs.
Yeobright.

' Must I come in too, aunt ? ' asked
Thomasin faintly. ' I suppose not ; it would
be wrong.'

* You must come, certainly — to confront
him, so that he may make no false representa-
tions to me. We shall not be five minutes
in the house, and then we'll walk home.'



90 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

Entering the open passage, she tapped
at the door of the private parlour, unfastened
it, and looked in.

The back and shoulders of a man came
between Mrs. Yeobright's eyes and the fire.
Wildeve, whose form it w^as, immediately
turned, arose, and advanced to meet his
visitors.

He was quite a young man, and of the
two properties, form and motion, the latter
first attracted the eye in him. The grace
of his movement was singular : it was the
pantomimic expression of a lady-killing ca-
reer. Next came into notice the more
material qualities, among which was a pro-
fuse crop of hair impending over the top
of his face, lending to his forehead the
high-cornered outline of an Early Gothic
shield; and a neck which was smooth and
round as a cylinder. The lower half of
his figure was of light build. Altogether
he was one in whom no man would have
seen anything to admire, and in whom no



THE THREE WOMEN. 9 1

woman would have seen anything to dis-
like.

He discerned the young girl's form in
the passage, and said, ' Thomasin, then,
has reached home. How could you leave
me in that way, darling?' And turning
to Mrs. Yeobright: 'It was useless to
argue w^ith her. She would go, and go
alone.'

' But what's the meaning of it all ? '
demanded Mrs. Yeobright haughtily.

' Take a seat,' said Wildeve, placing
chairs for the two women. ' Well, it was
a very stupid mistake, but such mistakes
will happen. The licence was useless at
Southerton. It was made out for Bud-
mouth, but as I didn't read it I wasn't
aw^are of that'

' But you had been staying at South-
erton ? '

' No. I had been at Budmouth — till
two days ago — and that was where I had
intended to take her : but w^hen I came to



92 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

fetch her we decided upon Southerton,
forgetting that a new Hcence would be
necessary. There was not time to get to
Budmouth afterwards.'

* I think you are ver}' much to blame/
said Mrs. Yeobrieht.

' It was quite my fault we chose South
erton,' Thomasin pleaded. ' I proposed it
because I was not known there.'

' I know so well that I am to blame
that you need not remind me of it,' replied
Wildeve shortly.

' Such things don't happen for nothing/
said the aunt. ' It is a great slight to me
and my family; and when it gets known
there will be a very unpleasant time for
us. How can she look her friends in the
face to-morrow.^ It is a very great injury,
and one I cannot easily forgive. It may
even reflect on her character.'

' Nonsense,' said Wildeve, with some
anger.

Thomasin's large eyes had flown from



THE THREE WOMEN. 93

the face of one to the face of the other
during this discussion, and she now said
anxiously, ' Will you allow me, aunt, to
talk it over alone with Damon for five
minutes ? Will you, Damon ? '

* Certainly, dear,' said Wildeve, ' if your
aunt will excuse us.' He led her into an
adjoining room, leaving Mrs. Yeobright by
the fire.

As soon as they were alone, and the
door closed, Thomasin said, turning up her
pale, tearful face to him, ' It is killing me,
this, Damon ! I did not mean to part
from you in anger at Southerton this
morning ; but I was frightened, and hardly
knew what I said. I do not let aunt know
how much I have suffered to-day ; and it
is so hard to command my face and voice,
and to smile as if it were a slio^ht thine
to me ; but I try to do so, that she may
not be still more indignant with you. I
know you could not help it, dear, what-
ever aunt may think.'



94 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

' She is very unpleasant.'

' Yes,' Thomasin murmured, ' and I sup-
pose I seem so now Damon, what

do you mean to do about me ? '

' Do about you ? '

' Yes. Those who don't like you whis-
per things which at moments make me
doubt you. We mean to marry, I suppose,
don't we ? '

' Of course we do. We have only to
go to Budmouth on Monday, and we may
marry at once.'

' Then do let us go ! — Oh, Damon, what
you make me say ! ' She hid her blush-
ing face in her handkerchief. ' Here am
I, asking you to marry me ; when by
rights you ought to be on your knees im-
ploring me, your cruel mistress, not to
refuse you, and saying it would break
your heart if I did. I used to think it
would be pretty and sweet like that ; but
how different ! '

' Yes, real life is never at all like that.'



THE THREE WOMEN. 95

' But I don't care personally if it never
takes place,' she added, with a little dignity ;
' no, I can live without you. It is aunt I
think of. She is so proud, and thinks so
much of her family respectability, that she
v/ill be cut down with mortification if this
story should get abroad before — it is
done. My cousin Clym, too, will be much
wounded.'

* Then he will be very unreasonable. In
fact, you are all rather unreasonable.'

' Thomasin coloured a little, and not with
love. But w^hatever the momentary feeling
which caused that flush in her, it w^ent as it
came, and she humbly said, ' I never mean to
be, if I can help it. I merely feel that you
have my aunt to some extent in your power
at last.'

' As a matter of justice it is almost due
to me,' said Wildeve. ' Think what I have
ofone throuo^h to win her consent ; the insult
that it is to any man to have the banns for-
bidden : the double insult to a man unlucky



96 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

enough to be cursed with sensitiveness, and
blue demons, and heaven knows what, as
T am. I can never forget those banns. A
harsher man would rejoice now in the power
I have of turning upon your aunt by going
no further in the business.'

She looked wistfully at him with her
sorrowful eyes as he said those words, and
her aspect showed that more than one person
in the room could deplore the possession of
sensitiveness. Seeing that she was really
suffering, he seemed disturbed and added,
' This is merely a reflection, you know. I
have not the least intention to refuse to
complete the marriage, Tamsie mine — I
could not bear it/

' You could not, I know ! ' said the fair
girl, brightening. ' You, who cannot bear the
sight of pain in even an insect, or any dis-
agreeable sound, or unpleasant smell even,
Avill not long cause pain to me and mine.'

' I will not, if I can help it.'

* Your hand upon it, Damon.'



THE THREE WOMEN. 97

He carelessly gave her his hand.

* Ah, by my crown, what's that ? ' he said
suddenly.

There fell upon their ears the sound of
numerous voices singing in front of the house.
Among these, two made themselves promi-
nent by their peculiarity : one was a very
strong bass, the other a wheezy thin piping.
Thomasin recognised them as belonging to
Timothy Fairway and Grandfer Cantle re-
spectively.

' What does it mean — it is not skimmity-
riding, I hope ? ' she said, with a frightened
gaze at Wildeve.

' Of course not ; no, it is that the heath-
folk have come to sing to us a welcome.
This is intolerable ! ' He began pacing
about, the men outside singing cheerily : —

He told' her that she' was the joy' of his Hfe',
And if she'd con-sent' he would make' her his wife' ;
She could' not refuse' him ; to church' so they went',
Young Will' was for-got', and young Sue' was con-tent';
And then' was she kiss'd' and set down' on his knee',
No man' in the world' was so lov'-ing as he' !

VOL. I. H



98 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

Mrs. Yeob right burst In from the outer
room. ' Thomasin, Thomasln ! ' she said,
looking Indignantly at Wildeve ; ' here's a
pretty exposure ! let us escape at once.
Come ! '

It ^vas, however, too late to get away by
the passage. A rugged knocking had begun
upon the door of the front room. Wildeve,
w^ho had gone to the window, came back.

* Stop ! ' he said imperiously, putting his
hand upon Mrs. Yeobrlght s arm. ' We are
regularly besieged. There are fifty of them
out there if there's one. You stay in this
room with Thomasln ; I'll go out and face
them. You must stay now, for my sake, till
they are gone, so that it may seem as If all
was right. Come, Tamsie, dear, don't go
making a scene — we must marry after this ;
that you can see as well as I. Sit still, that's
all — and don't speak much. I'll manage
them. Blundering fools ! '

He pressed the agitated girl into a seat,
returned to the outer room and opened the



THE THREE WOMEN. 99

door. Immediately outside, in the passage,
appeared Grandfer Cantle singing in concert
with those still standing in front of the house.
He came into the room and nodded ab-
stractedly to Wildeve, his lips still parted,
and his features excruciatingly strained in
the emission of the chorus. This being
ended, he said heartily, ' Here's welcome to
the new-made couple, and God bless 'em ! '

' Thank you,' said Wildeve, with dry
resentment, his face as gloomy as a thunder-
storm.

At the Grandfer's heels now came the
rest of the group, which included Fairway,
Christian, Sam the turf-cutter, Humphrey, and
a dozen others. All smiled upon Wildeve,
and upon his tables and chairs likewise, from
a general sense of friendliness towards the
articles as well as towards their owner.

'We be not here afore Mrs. Yeobright

after all,' said Fairway, recognising the

matron's bonnet through the glass partition

which divided the public apartment they had

H 2



lOO THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

entered from the room where the women
sat. ' We struck down across, d'ye see, Mr.
Wildeve, and she went round by the path.'

' And I see the young bride's Httle head ! '
said Grandfer Cantle, peeping in the same
direction, and discerning Thomasin, who was
waiting beside her aunt in a miserable and
awkward way. ' Not quite settled down yet
— well, well there's plenty of time.'

Wildeve made no reply ; and probably
feeling that the sooner he treated them the
sooner they would go, he produced a stone
jar which threw a warm halo over matters at
once.

' That's a drop of the right sort, I can
see,' said Grandfer Cantle, with the air of a
man too well-mannered to show any hurry to
taste it.

' Yes,' said Wildeve, ' 'tis some old mead.
I hope you will like it.'

' O ay,' replied the guests in the hearty
tones natural when the words demanded by
politeness coincide with those of deepest



THE THREE WOMEN. lOI

feeling. * There isn't a prettier drink under
the sun.'

' I'll take my oath there isn't,' added
Grandfer Cantle. ' All that can be said
against mead is that 'tis rather heady, and
apt to lie about a man a good while. But to-
morrow's Sunday, thank God.'

' I feel'd for all the world like some bold
soldier after I had had some once,' said
Christian.

* You shall feel so again,' said Wildeve,
with condescension. ' Cups or glasses, gen-
tlemen ? '

* Well, if you don't mind, we'll have the
beaker, and pass 'en round : 'tis better than
heling it out in dribbles.'

' J own the slippery glasses,' said Grandfer
Cantle. ' What's the good of a thing that
you can't put down in the ashes to warm,
hey, neighbours, that's what I ask ? '

' Right, Grandfer,' said Sam ; and the
mead then circulated.

'Well,' said Timothy Fairway, feeling



I02 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

demands upon his praise in some form or
other, ' 'tis a worthy thing to be married, Mr.
Wildeve ; and the woman you've got is a
dimant, so says I. Yes,' he continued, to
Grandfer Cantle, raising his voice so as to be
heard through the partition ; ' her father
[incHning his head towards the inner room]
was as gfood a feller as ever lived. He
always had his great indignation ready against
anything underhand.'

' Is that sort of firearm very dangerous ? '
said Christian.

' And there were few in these parts that
were up-sides with him,' said Sam. ' When-
ever a club walked he'd play the clarinet in
the band that marched before 'em as if he'd
never touched anything but a clarinet all his
life. And then, when they got to church-
door he'd throw down the clarinet, mount the
gallery, snatch up the bass-viol, and rozum
away as if he'd never played anything but a
bass-viol. Folk would say — folk that knowed
what a true stave was — " Surely, surely that's



THE THREE WOMEN. IO3

never the same man that I seed hanclHng the
clarinet so masterly by now ! " '

' I can mind it,' said the furze- cutter.
* 'Twas a wonderful thing that one body
could hold it all and never mix the fin-
o-erinQ^.'

o o

* There Avas Flychett church likewise/
F'airway recommenced, as one opening a new
vein of the same mine of interest.

Wildeve breathed the breath of one in-
tolerably bored, and glanced through the
partition at the prisoners.

' He used to walk over there of a Sunday
afternoon to visit his old acquaintance An-
drew Brown, the first clarinet there ; a good
man enough, but rather screechy in his music,
if you can mind ? '

' 'A was.'

* And neio^hbour Yeobrieht would take
Andrey s place for some part of the service,
to let Andrey have a bit of a nap, as any
friend would naturally do.'

* As any friend would,' said Grandfer



I04 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

Cantle, the other Hsteners expressing the
same accord by the shorter way of nodding
their heads.

' No sooner was Andrey asleep and the
first whiff of neighbour Yeobright's wind had
got inside Andrey's clarinet than everyone in
church feeled in a moment there was a great
soul among 'em. All heads would turn, and
they'd say, '* Ah, I thought 'twas he ! " One
Sunday I can well mind — a bass-viol day
that time, and Yeobright had brought his
own. 'Twas the Hundred-and-thirty- third to
'* Lydia ; " and when they'd come to, " Ran
down his beard and o'er his robes its costly
moisture shed," neighbour Yeobright, who
had just warmed to his work, drove his bow
into them strings that glorious grand that he
e'en a'most sawed the bass-viol into two
pieces. Every winder in church rattled as if
'twere a thunder-storm. Old Passon Gibbons
lifted his hands in his great holy surplice as
natural as if he'd been in human clothes, and
seemed to say to hisself, *' O for such a man



THE THREE WOMEN. IO5

in our parish ! " But not a soul In Flychett
could hold a candle to Yeobrlght.'

' Was It quite safe when the winders
shook ? ' Christian inquired.

He received no answer ; all for the
moment sitting rapt In admiration of the
performance described. As with Farinelli's
singing before the princesses, Sheridan's
renowned Begum Speech, and other such
examples, the fortunate condition of its being
for ever lost to the world invested the
deceased Mr. Yeobright's toicr de force on
that memorable afternoon with a cumulative
glory which comparative criticism, had that
been possible, might considerably have shorn
down.

' He was the last you'd have expected to
drop off in the prime of life,' said Hum-
phrey.

* Ah, well : he was looking for the earth
some months afore he went. At that time
women used to run for smocks and gown-
pieces at Greenhlll Fair, and my wife that



I06 THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE.

is now, being a long-legged slittering maid
hardly husband-high, went with the rest of
the maidens, for 'a was a good runner afore
she got so heavy. When she came home I
said — we were then just beginning to walk
together — *' What have ye got, my honey ? "
" I've won — well, I've won — a gown-piece,"
says she, her colours coming up in a moment.
'Tis t'other thing for a crown, I thought ;
and so it turned out. Ay, when I think
what she'll say to me now without a mossel
of red in her face, it do seem strange that 'a
wouldn't say such a little thing then.
However, then she went on, and that's what
made me bring up the story, ''Well, what-
ever clothes I've won, white or figured, for
eyes to see or for eyes not to see," ('a could
do a pretty stroke of modesty in those days),
*' I'd sooner have lost it than have seen what
I have. Poor Mr. Yeobright was took ill
directly he reached the fair ground, and was
forced to m home a^ain." That was the last

o o

time he ever went out of the parish.'



THE THREE WOMEN. IO7

' 'A faltered on from one day to another,
and then we heard he was gone.'

' D'ye think he had great pain when 'a
died ? ' said Christian.

* O no : quite different. Nor any pain of


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