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fellow as Clym likes to come home Into it.
What a nunny watch we were in, to be sure,
when we heard they weren't married at all,
after sineine to 'em as man and wife that

o o

nieht ! Be dazed if I should like a relation of
mine to have been made such a fool of by a
man. It makes the family look small.'

' Yes. Poor maid, her heart has ached
enoueh about it. Her health is suffering
from it, I hear, for she will bide entirely
indoors. We never see her out now,
scampering over the furze with a face as
red as a rose, as she used to do.'

' I've heard she wouldn't have Wildeve
now if he asked her.'

' You have ? 'Tis news to me.'

While the furze-gatherers had desultorily
conversed thus Eustacia's face gradually bent
to the hearth in a profound reverie, her toe
unconsciously tapping the dry turf which lay
burning at her feet.

The subject of their discourse had been


keenly interesting to her. A young and clever
man was coming into that lonely heath from,
of all contrasting places in the world, Paris.
It was like a man coming from heaven.
More singular still, the heathmen had in-
stinctively coupled her and this man together
in their minds as a pair born for each other.

That five minutes of overhearine fur-
nished Eustacia w^ith visions enough to fill
the whole blank afternoon. Such sudden
alterations from mental vacuity do sometimes
occur thus quietly. She could never have
believed in the morning that her colourless
inner world would before night become as
animated as water under a microscope, and
that without the arrival of a single visitor.
The words of Sam and Humphrey on the
harmony between the unknown and herself
had on her mind the effect of the invadino-
Bard's prelude in the ' Castle of Indolence,' at
which myriads of imprisoned shapes arose
where had previously appeared the stillness
of a void.

R 2


Involved In these Imaginings, she knew
nothino- of time. When she became con-
scions of externals it was dusk. The furze-
rick was finished ; the men had gone home.
Eustacia went up stairs, thinking that she
would take a walk at this her usual time ;
and she determined that her walk should be
in the direction of Blooms-End, the birth-
place of young Yeobright and the present
home of his mother. She had no reason for
walking elsewhere, and why should she not
go that way ? The scene of a daydream is
sufficient for a pilgrimage at nineteen. To
look at the palings before the Yeobrights'
house had the dignity of a necessar)^ per-
formance. Strange that such a piece of
idling should have seemed an important

She put on her bonnet, and, leaving the
house, descended the hill on the side towards
Blooms- End, where she walked slowly along
the valley for a distance of a mile and a half.
This brought her to a spot in which the


green bottom of the dale began to widen,
the furze bushes to recede yet further from
the path on each side, till they were dim-
inished to an isolated one here and there
by the increasing fertility of the soil. Be-
yond the irregular carpet of grass was a row
of white palings, which marked the verge of
the heath in this latitude. They showed
upon the dusky scene that they bordered as
distinctly as white lace on velvet. Behind
the white palings was a little garden ; behind
the garden an old, irregular, thatched house,
facing the heath, and commanding a full view
of the valley. This was the obscure, re-
moved spot to which was about to return a
man whose latter life had been passed in the
French capital — the centre and vortex of the
fashionable world.




All that afternoon the expected arrival of
the subject of Eustacia's ruminations created
a bustle of preparation at Blooms-End. Tho-
masin had been persuaded by her aunt, and
by an instinctive impulse of loyalty towards
her cousin Clym, to bestir herself on his ac-
count with an alacrity unusual in her during
these most sorrowful days of her life. At
the time that Eustacia was listening to the
rick-makers' conversation on Clym's return,
Thomasin was climbing into a loft over
her aunt's fuel-house, where the store-apples
were kept, to search out the best and largest
of them for the coming holiday-time.

The loft was lighted by a semicircular
hole, through which the pigeons crept to


their lodgings in the same high quarters of
the premises ; and from this hole the sun
shone in a bright yellow patch upon the
fioure of the maiden as she knelt and
plunged her naked arms into the soft brown
fern, which, from its abundance, was used on
Egdon in packing away stores of all kinds.
The pigeons were flying about her head with
the greatest unconcern, and the face of her
aunt was just visible above the floor of the
loft, lit by a few stray motes of light, as she
stood halfway up the ladder, looking at a
spot into which she was not climber enough
to venture.

' Now a few russets, Tamsin. He used
to like them almost as well as ribstones.'

Thomasin turned and rolled aside the
fern from another nook, where more mellow
fruit greeted her with its ripe smell. Before
picking them out she stopped a moment.

' Dear Clym, I wonder how your face
looks now ? ' she said, gazing abtractedly at
the pigeon-hole, which admitted the sunlight


SO directly upon her brown hair and trans-
parent tissues that it ahnost seemed to shine
throuoh her.

' If he could have been dear to you in
another way/ said Mrs. Yeobright from the
ladder, ' this might have been a happy meet-

' Is there any use in saying what can do
no good, aunt ? '

' Yes,' said her aunt, with some warmth.
' To thoroughly fill the air with the past mis-
fortune, so that other girls may take warning
and keep clear of it.'

Thomasin lowered her face to the apples
again. ' I am a warning to others, just as
thieves and drunkards and gamblers are,' she
said in a low voice. ' What a class to be-
long to ! Do I really belong to them ? 'Tis
absurd ! Yet why, aunt, does everybody
keep on making me think that I do, by the
way they behave towards me ? Why don't
people judge me by my acts ? Now, look at
me as I kneel here, picking up these apples


— do I look like a lost woman ? . . . I wish
all good women were as good as I !' she
added vehemently.

' Strangers don't see you as I do/ said
Mrs. Yeobright ; ' they judge from false re-
port. Well, it is a silly job, and I am partly
to blame.'

' How quickly a rash thing can be done !'
replied the girl. Her lips were quivering, and
tears so crowded themselves into her eyes
that she could hardly distinguish apples from
fern as she continued industriously searching
to hide her weakness.

' As soon as you have finished getting
the apples,' her aunt said, descending the
ladder, * come down, and we'll go for the
holly. There is nobody on the heath this
afternoon, and you need not fear being
stared at. We must get some berries, or
Clym will never believe In our preparations.'

Thomasin came down when the apples
were collected, and together they went
through the white palings to the heath be-


yond. The open hills were airy and clear,
and the remote atmosphere appeared, as it
often appears on a fine winter day, in distinct
planes of illumination independently toned,
the rays which lit the nearer tracts of land-
scape streaming visibly across those further
off: a stratum of ensaffroned light was im-
posed on a stratum of deep blue, and behind
these lay still remoter scenes wrapped in
frigid grey.

They reached the place where the hollies
grew, which was in a conical pit, so that the
tops of the trees were not much above the
ofeneral level of the o^round. Thomasin
stepped up into a fork of one of the bushes,
as she had done under happier circumstances
on many similar occasions, and with a small
chopper that they had brought she began to
lop off the heavily-berried boughs.

' Don't scratch your face,' said her aunt,
who stood at the edge of the pit, regarding
the girl as she held on amid the glistening
ereen and scarlet masses of the tree. ' Will


you walk with me to meet him this even-

' I should like to. Else it would seem as
if I had forofotten him,' said Thomasin, toss-
ine out a bou^h. ' Not that that would
matter much ; I belong to one man ; nothing-
can alter that. And that man I must marry,
for my pride s sake.'

* I am afraid ' began Mrs. Yeobright.

* Ah, you think, " That weak girl — how
is she going to get a man to marry her when
she chooses?" But let me tell you one
thing, aunt : Mr. Wildeve is not a profligate
man, any more than I am an improper
woman. He has an unfortunate manner, and
doesn't try to make people like him if the}*
don't wish to do it of their own accord.'

' Thomasin,' said Mrs. Yeobright quietly,
fixing her eye upon her niece, ' do you think
you deceive me in your defence of Mr.
Wildeve ? '

* How do you mean ? '

* I have long had a suspicion that your


love for him has changed its colour since you
have found him not to be the saint you
thought him, and that you act a part to me.'

' He wished to marry me, and I wish to
marry him.'

* Now, I put it to you : would you at this
present moment agree to be his wife if that
had not happened to entangle you with him ? '

Thomasin looked into the tree and ap-
peared much disturbed. ,. 'Aunt,' she said
presently, ' I have, I think, a right to refuse
to answer that question.'

* Yes, you have.'

*You may think what you choose. I
have never implied to you by word or deed
that I have grown to think otherwise of him,
and I never will. And I shall marry him.'

'Well, wait till he repeats his offer. I
think he may do it, now that he knows —
something I told him. I don't for a moment
dispute that it is the most proper thing for
you to marry him. Much as I have objected
to him in bygone days, I agree with 30U


now, you maybe sure. It Is the only wa)'
out of a false position, and a very galling- one.'
' What did you tell him ? '

* That he was standing in the wa}' of
another lover of yours.'

* Aunt,' said Thomasin, with round eyes,
' what do you mean ? '

' Don't be alarmed ; it was my duty. I
can say no more about it now, but Avhen it
is over I will tell you exactly what I said,
and why I said it.'

Thomasin was perforce content.

' And you will keep the secret of my
would-be marriage from Clym for the pre-
sent ? ' she next asked.

' I have given my word to. But what is
the use of it ? He must soon know what
has happened. A mere look at your face
will show him that somethinqf is wrone.'

Thomasin turned and regarded her aunt
from the tree. * Now, hearken to me,' she
said, her delicate voice expanding into firm-
ness by a force which was other than ph) -


sical. ' Tell him nothing. If he finds out
that I am not worthy to be his cousin, let
him. But, since he loved me once, we will
not pain him by telling him my trouble too
soon. The air is full of the story, I know ;
but gossips will not dare to speak of it to
him for the first few days. His closeness
to me is the very thing that will hinder the
tale from reaching him early. If I am not
made safe from sneers in a week or two I
will tell him myself.'

The earnestness with which Thomasin
spoke prevented further objections. Her
aunt simply said, ' Very well. He should
by rights have been told at the time that
the wedding was going to be. He will never
forgive you for your secresy.'

' Yes, he will, when he knows it was
because I wished to spare him, and that I
did not expect him home so soon. And you
must not let me stand in the way of your
Christmas party. Putting it off would only
make matters worse.'


' Of course I shall not. I don't wish to
show myself beaten before all Egdon, and
the sport of a man like Wilde\^e. We have
enough berries now, I think, and w^e had
better take them home. By the time w^e
have decked the house w^ith this, and hung
up the mistletoe, we must think of starting
to meet him.'

Thomasin came out of the tree, shook
from her hair and dress the loose berries
which had fallen thereon, and went down
the hill w^ith her aunt, each woman bearing
half the gathered boughs. It w^as now nearly
four o'clock, and the sunlight w^as leaving
the vales. When the west grew^ red the
two relatives came again from the house and
plunged into the heath in a different direction
from the first, tow^ards a point in the distant
highway along wmich the expected man w^as
to return.





EusTACiA Stood just within the heath, strain-
ing her eyes in the direction of Mrs. Yeo-
bright's house and premises. No hght,
sound, or movement was perceptible there.
The evening was chilly ; the spot was dark
and lonely. She inferred that the guest had
not yet come ; and after lingering ten or
fifteen minutes she turned again towards

She had not far retraced her steps when
sounds in front of her betokened the ap-
proach of persons in conversation along the
same path. Soon their heads became visible
against the sky. They were walking slowly ;
and thouQ^h it was too dark for much dis-


covery of character from aspect, the gait of
them showed that they were not workers on
the heath. Eustacia stepped a Httle out of
the foot-track to let them pass. They were
two women and a man ; and the voices of
the women were those of Mrs. Yeobrleht
and Thomasin.

They went by her, and at the moment of
passing appeared to discern her dusky form.
There came to her ears in a mascuHne voice,
' Good-night'

She murmured a reply, glided by them,
and turned round. She could not, for a
moment, believe that chance, unrequested,
had brought into her presence the soul of the
house she had gone to inspect, the man with-
out whom her inspection would not have
been thought of.

She strained her eyes to see them, but
was unable. Such was her intentness, how-
ever, that it seemed as if her ears were per-
forminof the functions of seeine^ as well as
hearing. This extension of power can almost

VOL. L s


be believed in at such moments. The deaf
Dr. Kitto was probably under the influence
of a parallel fancy when he described his
body as having become, by long endeavour,
so sensitive to vibrations that he had gained
the power of perceiving by it as by ears.

She could follow every word that the
ramblers uttered. They were talking no
secrets. They were merely Indulging in the
ordinary vivacious chat of relatives who have
long been parted in person though not in
soul. But it was not to the words that
Eustacia listened ; she could not even have
recalled, a few minutes later, what the words
were. It was to the alternating voice that
eave out about one-tenth of them — the voice
that had wished her good-night. Sometimes
this throat uttered Yes, sometimes it uttered
No ; sometimes it made inquiries about a
time-worn denizen of the place. Once it
surprised her notions by remarking upon the
friendliness and geniality written in the faces
of the hills around.


The three voices passed on, and decayed
and died out upon her ear. Thus much had
been granted her ; and all besides withheld.
No event could have been more exciting.
During the greater part of the afternoon she
had been entrancing herself by imagining the
fascination which must attend a man come
direct from beautiful Paris — laden with its
atmosphere, familiar with its charms. And
this man had greeted her.

With the departure of the figures the pro-
fuse articulations of the women wasted away
from her memory ; but the accents of the
other stayed on. Was there anything in the
voice of Mrs. Yeobright's son — for Clym it
was — phenomenal as a sound ? No : it was
simply comprehensive. All emotional things
were possible to the speaker of that good-
night. Eustacia's imagination supplied the
rest — except the solution to one riddle. What
coitldth^ tastes of that man be who saw friend-
liness and geniality in these shaggy hills ?

On such occasions as this a thousand

s 2


ideas pass through a highly charged woman's
head ; and they indicate themselves on her
face ; but the changes, though actual, are
minute. Eustacia's features went through a
rhythmical succession of them. She glowed ;
remembering the mendacity of the imagina- »
tion, she flagged ; then she freshened ; then
she fired ; then she cooled again. It was a
cycle of aspects, produced by a cycle of visions.

Eustacia entered her own house ; she was
excited. Her grandfather was enjoying him-
self over the fire, raking about the ashes and
exposing the red-hot surface of the turves, so
that their lurid glare irradiated the chimney-
corner with the hues of a furnace.

' Why Is It that we are never friendly with
the Yeobrlghts ? ' she said, coming forward
and stretching her soft hands over the warmth.
' I wish we were. They seem to be very
nice people.'

* Be hanged If I know why,' said the
Captain. ' I liked the old man well enough,
though he was as rough as a hedge. But


you would never have cared to go there, even
if you might have, I am well sure.'

' Why shouldn't I ? '

' Your town tastes would find them far
too countrified. They sit in the kitchen,
drink mead and elder wine, and sand the floor
to keep it clean. A sensible way of life ; but
how would you like it ? '

* I thought Mrs. Yeobright was a ladylike
woman ? A curate's daughter, was she not? '

* Yes ; but she was obliged to live as her
husband did ; and I suppose she has taken
kindly to it by this time. Ah, I recollect that
I once accidentally offended her, and I have
never seen her since.'

That night was an eventful one to Eusta-
cia's brain, and one which she hardly ever
forgot. She dreamt a dream ; and few human
beings, from Nebuchadnezzar to the S waff ham
tinker, ever dreamed a more remarkable one.
Such an elaborately developed, perplexing,
exciting dream was certainly never dreamed
by a girl in Eustacia's situation before. It


had as many ramifications as the Cretan
labyrinth, as many fluctuations as the North-
ern Lights, as much colour as a parterre in
June, was as crowded with figures as a coro-
nation. To Oueen Scheherezade the dream
might have seemed not far removed from
commonplace. To a girl just returned from
all the Courts of Europe it might have
seemed not more than interesting. But amid
the circumstances of Eustacia's life it was as
wonderful as a dream could be.

There was, however, gradually evolved
from its transformation scenes a less extrava-
gant episode, in v/hich the heath dimly ap-
peared behind the general brilliancy of the
action. She was dancing to wondrous music,
and her partner was the man in silver armour,
who had accompanied her through the pre-
vious fantastic changes, the visor of his hel-
met being closed. The mazes of the dance
were ecstatic. Soft whispering came into
her ear from under the radiant helmet, and
she felt like a woman in Paradise. Sud-


denly these two wheeled out from the mass
of dancers, dived into one of the pools of the
heath, and came out somewhere beneath into
an iridescent hollow, arched with rainbows.
* It must be here,' said the voice by her
side, and blushingly looking- up she saw him
removing his casque to kiss her. At that
moment there was a cracking noise, and his
figure fell into fragments like a pack of cards.

She cried aloud, * O that I had seen his
face ! '

Eustacia awoke. The cracking had been
that of the window-shutter downstairs, which
the maid-servant was opening to let in the
day, now slowly increasing to Nature's
meagre allowance at this sickly time of the
year. ' O that I had seen his face ! ' she said
again. ' 'Twas meant for Mr. Yeobright ! '

When she became cooler she perceived
that many of the phases of the dream had
naturally arisen out of the images and fancies
of the day before. But this detracted little
from its interest, which lay in the excellent


fuel It provided for newly-kindled fervour.
She was at the modulating point between In-
difference and love, at the stage called having
a fancy for. It occurs once in the history of
the most gigantic passions, and It Is a period
when they are in the hands of the weakest

The perfervid woman was by this time
half In love with a vision. The fantastic
nature of her passion, which lowered her as
an intellect, raised her as a soul. If she had
had a little more self-control she would have
attenuated the emotion to nothing by sheer
reasoning, and so have killed It off. If she
had had a little less pride she might have
gone and circumambulated the Yeobrlghts'
premises at Blooms-End at any maidenly
sacrifice until she had seen him. But
Eustacia did neither of these things. She
acted as the most exemplary might have
acted, being so Influenced ; she took an air-
ing twice or thrice a day upon the Egdon
hills, and kept her eyes employed.


The first occasion passed, and he did not
come that way.

She promenaded a second time, and was
again the sole wanderer there.

The third time there was a dense fog :
she looked around, but without much hope.
Even if he had been walking within twenty
yards of her she could not have seen him.

At the fourth attempt to encounter him it
began to rain in torrents, and she turned back.

The fifth sally was in the afternoon : it
was fine, and she remained out long, walk-
ing to the very top of the valley in which
Blooms-End lay. She saw the white paling
about half-a-mile off; but he did not appear.
It was almost with heartsickness that she
came home, and with a sense of shame at
her weakness. She resolved to look for the
man from Paris no more.

But Providence is nothing if not coquet-
tish ; and no sooner had Eustacia formed
this resolve than the opportunity came which,
while sought, had been entirely withholden.




In the evening of this last day of expecta-
tion, which was the twenty-third of Decem-
ber, Eustacia was at home alone. She had
passed the recent hour in lamenting over a
rumour newly come to her ears — that Yeo-
bright's visit to his mother was to be of short
duration, and would end some time the next
week. ' Naturally,' she said to herself A
man in the full swinof of his activities in a
great city could not afford to linger long on
Egdon Heath. That she would behold face
to face the owner of the awakening voice
within the limits of such a holiday was most
unlikely, unless she were to haunt the en-


virons of his mother's house Hke a robin, to
do which was difficult and unseemly.

The customary expedient of provincial
eirls and men under such circumstances Is
churchgolng. In an ordinary village or
country-town one can safely calculate that,
either on Christmas-day or the Sunday con-
tiguous, any native home for the holidays, who
has not through age or emiui lost the appe-
tite for seeing and being seen, will turn up in
some pew or other, shining with hope, self-
consciousness, and new clothes. Thus the
congregation on Christmas morning Is mostly
a Tussaud collection of celebrities who have
been born In the neighbourhood. Hither the
mistress, left neglected at home all the year,
can steal and observe the development of the
returned lover who has forgotten her, and
think as she watches him over her prayer-
book that he may throb with a renewed
fidelity when novelties have lost their charm.
And hither a comparatively recent settler
like Eustacia may betake herself to scruti-


nise the person of a native son who left
home before her advent upon the scene,
and consider if the friendship of his parents
be worth cultivating during his next absence
in order to secure a knowledge of him on his
next return.

But these tender schemes were not fea-
sible among the scattered inhabitants of
Egdon Heath. In name they were parish-
ioners, but virtually they belonged to no parish
at all. People who came to these few isolated
houses to keep Christmas with their friends

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