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happiness ; but he was awakened to the fact
that one other channel remained untried by
seeing, as he followed the way to his van,
the form of Mrs. Yeobright slowly walking
towards the Quiet Woman. He went across
to her ; and could almost perceive in her
anxious face that this journey of hers to
Wildeve was undertaken with the same ob-
ject as his own to Eustacia.

She did not conceal the fact. ' Then,'
said the reddleman, ' you may as well leave
it alone, Mrs. Yeobright.'

* I half-think so myself she said. ' But


nothing else remains to be done besides
pressing the question upon him.'

* I should like to say a word first,' said
Venn firmly. * Mr. Wildeve is not the only
man who has asked Thomasin to marry him ;
and why should not another have a chance ?
Mrs. Yeobright, I would be glad to marry
your niece, and would have done it any time
these last two years. There, now it is out,
and I have never told anybody before but

Mrs. Yeobright was not demonstrative,
but her eyes involuntarily glanced towards
his singular though shapely figure.

' Looks are not everything,' said the red-
dleman, noticing the glance. ' There's many
a calling that don't bring in so much as mine,
if it comes to money ; and perhaps I am not
so much worse off than Wildeve. There is
nobody so poor as these professional fellows
who have failed ; and if you shouldn't like
my redness — well, I am not red by birth, you
know ; I only took to this business for a


freak ; and I might turn my hand to some-
thing else in good time.'

' I am much obHged to you for your
interest in my niece ; but I fear there would
be objections. More than that, she is devoted
to this man.'

' True ; or I shouldn't have done what I
have this morning.'

' Otherwise there would be no pain in the
case, and you would not see me going to his
house now. What was Thomasin's answer
when you told her of your feelings ? '

' She wrote that you would object to me ;
and other things.'

' She was in a measure right. You must
not take this unkindly : I merely state it as a
truth. You have been good to her, and we
do not forget it. But as she was unwilling
on her own account to be your wife, that
settles the point without my wishes being

' Yes. But there is a difference between
then and now, ma'am. She is distressed


now, and I have thought that if you were to
talk to her about me, and think favourably of
me yourself, there might be a chance of win-
ning her round, and getting her quite inde-
pendent of this Wildeve's backward and
forward play, and his not knowing whether
he'll have her or no.'

Mrs. Yeobright shook her head. ' Tho-
masin thinks, and I think with her, that she
ought to be Wildeve's wife, if she means to
appear before the world without a slur upon
her name. If they marry soon, everybody
will believe that an accident did really prevent
the wedding. If not, it may cast a shade
upon her character — at any rate make her
ridiculous. In short, if it is anyhow possible
they must marry now.'

' I thought that till half an hour ago.
But, after all, why should her going off with
him to Southerton for a few hours do her
any harm ? Anybody who knows how pure
she is will feel any such thought to be quite
unjust. I have been trying this morning to


help on this marriage with Wildeve — yes, I,
ma'am — in the beHef that I ought to do it,
because she was so wrapped up in him. But
I much question if I was right, after all.
However, nothing came of it. And now I
offer myself.'

Mrs. Yeobright appeared disinclined to
enter further into the question. ' I fear I
must go on,' she said. ' I 'do not see that
anything else can be done.'

And she went on. But though this con-
versation did not divert Thomasin's aunt
from her purposed interview with Wildeve
it made a considerable difference in her mode
of conductinor that interview. She knew
enough of the male heart to see that with
Wildeve, and indeed with the majority of
men, the being .ible to state^ at such a critical
juncture, that another lover had eagerly bid
for the hand that he was disposed to decline
would immensely alter the situation. Few
are the engagements which would be ruptured
could the man be surprised by the discovery


that another Is ready to jump at what he is
indined to throw away. Mrs. Yeobrlght
accordingly resolved that her system of pro-
cedure should be changed. She had left
home intent upon straightforwardness ; she
reached the Inn determined to finesse. To
influence Wlldeve by piquing him rather than
by appealing to his generosity was obviously
the wise course with such a man. She
thanked God for the weapon which the red-
dleman had put into her hands.

Wlldeve was at home when she reached
the Inn. He showed her silently into the
parlour, and closed the door. Mrs. Yeo-
brlght began :

' I have thought It my duty to call to-day.
A new proposal has been made to me, which
has rather astonished me. It will affect
Thomasin greatly ; and I have decided that
It should at least be mentioned to you.'

* Yes ? What is it ? ' he said civilly.

' It Is, of course, in reference to her future.
You may not be aware that another man has


shown himself anxious to marry Thomasin.
Now, though I have not encouraged him yet,
I cannot conscientiously refuse him a chance
any longer. I don't wish to be short with
you ; but I must be fair to him and to

' Who is the man ? ' said Wildeve with

' One who has been in love with her
longer than she has with you. He proposed
to her two years ago. At that time she re-
fused him.'

* Well ? '

' He has seen her lately, and has asked
me for permission to pay his addresses to her.
She may not refuse him twice.'

' What is his name ? '

* That I decline to say at present. He is
a man she likes, and one whose constancy
she respects at least. It seems to me that
what she refused then she would be glad to
get now. She is much annoyed at her awk-
ward position.'


' She never once told me of this old lover.'
' The gentlest women are not such fools
as to show every card.'

* Well, if she wants him I suppose she
must have him.'

* It is easy enough to say that ; but you
don't see the difficulty. He wants her much
more than she wants him ; and before I can
encourage anything of the sort I must have
a clear understanding from you that you will
not interfere to injure an arrangement which
I promote in the belief that it is for the
best. Suppose, when they are engaged, and
everything is smoothly arranged for their
marriage, that you should step between them
and renew your suit ? You might not win her
back, but you might cause much unhappiness.'

' Of course I should do no such thing,'
said Wildeve, in some perplexity as to what
his feelings were about this matter. * But
they are not engaged yet. How do you
know that Thomasin would accept him ? '

' That's a question I have carefully put


to myself; and upon the whole the proba-
bilities are in favour of her accepting him
in time. I flatter myself that I have some
influence over her. She is pliable, and I can
be strong in my recommendations of him.'

' And in your disparagement of me at the
same time.'

* Well, you may depend upon my not
praising you,' she said drily. * And if this
seems like manoeuvring, you must remember
that her position is peculiar, and that she
has been hardly used. I shall also be helped
in making the match by her own desire to
escape from the humiliation of her present
state ; and a woman's pride in these cases
will lead her a very great way. A little
managing may be required to bring her
round ; but I am equal to that, provided that
you agree to the one thing indispensable ;
that is, to make a distinct declaration that
she is to think no more of you as a possible
husband. That will pique her into accepting


' I can hardly say that just now, Mrs.
Yeobrlght. It is so sudden.'

' And so my whole plan is interfered
with ! It is very inconvenient that you
refuse to help my family even to the small
extent of saying distinctly you will have
nothing to do with us.'

Wildeve reflected uncomfortably. ' I con-
fess I was not prepared for this,' he said.
' Of course I'll give her up if you wish, if
it is necessary. But I thought I might be
her husband.'

' We have heard that before.'

' Now, Mrs. Yeobright, don't let us dis-
agree. Give me a fair time. I don't want
to stand in the way of any better chance she
may have ; only I wish you had let me know
earlier. I will write to you or call in a day
or two. Will that suffice ? '

* Yes,' she replied, ' provided you promise
not to communicate with Thomasin without
my knowledge.'

' I promise that,' he s;aid. And the inter-


view then terminated, Mrs. Yeobright return-
ing homeward as she had come.

By far the greatest effect of her strategy
on that day was, as often happens, in a
quarter quite outside her view when arrang-
ing it. In the first place, her visit sent
Wildeve the same evening after dark to
Eustacia's house at Mistover.

At this hour the lonely dwelling was
closely blinded and shuttered from the chill
and darkness without. Wildeve's clandestine
plan with her was to take a little gravel in
his hand and hold it to the crevice at the
top of the window-shutter, which was on the
outside, so that it should fall with a gentle
rustle, resembling that of a mouse, between
shutter and glass. This precaution in attract-
inor her attention was to avoid arousing the
suspicions of her grandfather.

The soft words, ' I hear ; w^ait for me,'
in Eustacia's voice from within told him that
she was alone.

He waited in his customary manner by


walking round the enclosure and Idling by
the pool, for Wildeve was never asked into
the house by his proud though condescending
mistress. She showed no sign of coming
out in a hurry. The time wore on, and he
began to grow impatient. In the course of
twenty minutes she appeared from round the
corner, and advanced as if merely taking an

' You would not have kept me so long
had you known what I come about,' he said
with bitterness. * Still, you are worth wait-
ing for.' His depression was evident.

' What has happened?' said Eustacia. ' I
did not know you were In trouble. I too am
gloomy enough.'

* I am not in trouble,' said he. 'It is
merely that affairs have come to a head, and
I must take a clear course.'

' What course is that ? ' she asked with
attentive interest.

* And can you forget so soon what I pro-
posed to you the other night ? Why, take


you from this place, make you mine, and
carry you away with me abroad.'

' I have not forgotten. But why have
you come so unexpectedly to repeat the
question, when you only promised to come
next Saturday ? I thought I was to have
plenty of time to consider.'

' Yes, but the situation is different now.'

' Explain to me.'

* I don't want to explain, for I may pain

' But I must know the reason of this

' It is simply my ardour, dear Eustacia.
Everything is smooth now.'

' Then why are you so ruffled ? '

* I am not aware of it. All is as it should
be. Mrs. YeobnVht — but she is nothing to

' Ah, I knew she had something to do
with it ! Come, I don't like reserve.'

'No — she has nothing. She only says
she wishes me to give up Thomasin because



another man is anxious to marry her. The
woman, now she no longer needs me, actually
shows off ! ' Wildeve's vexation had escaped
him in spite of himself.

Eustacia was silent a long while. ' You
are in the awkward position of an official
who is no longer wanted,' she said in a
chano^ed tone.

' It seems so. But I have not yet seen

* And that irritates you. Don't deny it,
Damon. You are actually nettled by this
slight from an unexpected quarter.'


' And you come to get me because you
cannot get her. This is certainly a new
position altogether. I am to be a stop-

' Please remember that I proposed the
same thing the other day.'

Eustacia again remained in a sort of
stupefied silence. What curious feeling was
this coming over her ? Was it really pos-


sible that her interest in Wildeve had been so
entirely the result of antagonism that the
glory and the dream departed from the man
with the first sound that he was no loneer
coveted by her rival ? She was, then, secure
of him at last. Thomasin no longer required
him. What a humiliating victory ! He
loved her best, she thought ; and yet — dared
she to murmur such treacherous criticism ever
so softly ? — what was the man worth whom
a woman inferior to herself did not value ?
The sentiment which lurks more or less in all
animate nature — that of not desiring the un-
desired of others — was lively as a passion in
the supersubtle, epicurean heart of Eustacia.
Her social superiority over him, which
hitherto had scarcely ever impressed her,
became unpleasantly insistent, and for the
first time she felt that she had stooped in
loving him.

' Well, darling, you agree ? ' said Wildeve.

' If it could be Budmouth instead of
America,' she murmured languidly.



* Budmouth Is nonsense. It is not far
enough away.'

* Yes, I see,' she said ; ' I will think. It
is too great a thing for me to decide off-hand.
I wish I hated the heath less — or loved you

* You can be painfully frank. You loved
me a month ago warmly enough to go any-
w^here with me.'

' And you loved Thomasin.'

* Yes, perhaps that was where the reason
lay,' he returned, with almost a sneer. ' I
don't hate her now.'

' Exactly. The only thing is that you
can no longer get her.'

' Come — no taunts, Eustacia, or we shall
quarrel. If you don't agree to go with me,
and agree shortly, I shall go by myself.'

* Or try Thomasin again. Damon, how
strange it seems that you could have married
her or me indifferently, and only have come
to me because I am — cheapest ! Yes, yes —
it is true. There was a time when I should


have exclaimed against a man of that sort,
and been quite wild ; but it is all past

* Will you go, dearest ? Come secretly
with me to Bristol, marry me, and turn our
backs upon this doghole of England for ever ?
Say yes.'

' I want to get aw^ay from here at almost
any cost,' she said with w^eariness, ' but I
don't like to go with you. Give me more
time to decide.'

' I have already,' said Wildeve. ' Well, I
give you one more w^eek.'

' A little longer, so that I may tell you
decisively. I have to consider so many
things. Fancy Thomasin being anxious to
get of rid you ! I cannot forget it.'

' Never mind that. Say Monday w^eek.
I will be here precisely at this time.'

* Let It be at Blackbarrow,' said she.
' This Is too near home ; my grandfather
may be walking out.'

' Thank you, dear. On INIonday week at


this time I will be at the Barrow. Till then

' Good-bye. No, no, you must not touch
my lips. Shaking hands is enough till I have
made up my mind.'

Eustacia watched his shadowy form till it
had disappeared. She placed her hand to
her forehead and breathed heavily ; and then
her rich, romantic lips parted under that
homely impulse — a yawn. She was imme-
diately angry at having betrayed even to her-
self the possible evanescence of her passion
for him. She could not admit at once that
she might have over-estimated Wildeve, for
to perceive his mediocrity now was to admit
her own great folly heretofore. And the
discovery that she was the owner of a dispo-
sition so purely that of the dog in the manger
had something in it which at first made her

The fruits of Mrs. Yeobright's diplomacy
were indeed remarkable, though not as yet
of the kind she had anticipated. It had ap-


preciably influenced Wildeve, but it was in-
fluencinof Eustacia far more. Her lover was
no longer to her an exciting man whom many
women strove for, and herself could only win
by striving with them. He was a superfluity.

She went indoors in that peculiar state of
misery which is not exactly grief, and which
specially attends the dawnings of reason in
the latter days of an ill-judged, transient love.
To be conscious that the end of the dream is
approaching, and yet has not absolutely come,
is one of the most wearisome as well as the
most curious situations along the whole course
between the beginning of a passion and its

Her grandfather had returned, and was
busily engaged in pouring some gallons of
newly-arrived rum into the square bottles of
his square cellaret. Whenever these home
supplies were exhausted he would go to the
Ouiet Woman, and, standinof with his back
to the fire, grog in hand, tell remarkable
stories of how he had lived seven years


under the water-line of his ship, and other
naval wonders, to the natives, who hoped
too earnestly for a treat of ale from the teller
to exhibit any doubts of his truth.

He had been there this evening. * I sup-
pose you have heard the Egdon news,
Eustacia ? ' he said, without looking up from
the bottles. ' The men have been talking
about it at the Woman as if it were of
national importance.'

* I have heard none,' she said.

' Young Clym Yeobright, as they call him,
is coming home next week to spend Christ-
mas with his mother. He is a fine fellow by
this time, it seems. I suppose you remem-
ber him ? '

* I never saw him in my life.'

* Ah, true ; he left before you came here.
I well remember him as a promising boy.'

' Where has he been living all these
years ? '

* In that rookery of pomp and vanity,
Paris, I believe.'





On fine days at this time of the }'ear, and
earlier, certain ephemeral operations were apt
to disturb, in their trifling way, the majestic
calm of Egdon Heath. They were activities
which, beside those of a town, a village, or
even a farm, would have appeared as the
ferment of stagnation merely, a creeping of
the flesh of somnolence. But here, away
from comparisons, shut in by the stable hills,
among which mere walking had the novelty
of pageantry, and where any man could
imagine himself to be Adam without the
least difficulty, they attracted the attention of
every bird within eyeshot, every reptile not
yet asleep, and set the surrounding rabbits


curiously watching from hillocks at a safe

The performance was that of bringing"
together and building into a stack the furze-
faggots which Humphrey had been cutting
for the Captain s use during the foregoing fine
days. The stack was at the end of the dwell-
ing, and the men engaged in building it were
Humphrey and Sam, the old man looking on.

It was a fine and quiet afternoon, about
three o'clock ; but the winter solstice having
stealthily come on, the lowness of the sun
caused the hour to seem later than it actually
was, there being little here to remind an
inhabitant that he must unlearn his summxcr
experience of the sky as a dial. In the
course of many days and weeks sunrise had
advanced its quarters from north-east to
south-east, sunset had receded from north-
west to south-west ; but Egdon had hardly
heeded the change.

Eustacia was indoors in the dining-room,
which was really more like a kitchen, having


a Stone floor and a gaping chimney-corner.
The air was still, and while she lingered a
moment here alone sounds of voices in con-
versation came to her ears directly down the
chimney. She entered the recess, and, lis-
tening, looked up the old irregular shaft, with
its cavernous hollows, where the smoke blun-
dered about on its way to the square bit of
sky at the top, from which the daylight struck
down with a pallid glare upon the tatters of
soot draping the flue as sea- weed drapes a
rocky fissure.

She remembered : the furze-stack was not
far from the chimney, and the voices were
those of the workers.

Her grandfather joined in the conversa-
tion. ' That lad ought never to have left
home. His father's occupation would have
suited him best, and the boy should have
followed on. I don't believe In these new
moves in families. My father was a sailor,
so was I, and so should my son have been if
I had had one.'


* The place he's been hving at is Paris/
said Humphrey, 'and they tell me 'tis where
the king's head was cut off years ago. My poor
mother used to tell me about that business.
'' Hummy," she used to say, " I was a young
eirl then, and as I was at home ironinof
mother's caps one afternoon the parson came
in and said, '' They've cut the king's head
off, Jane ; and what 'twill be next God
knows." '

' A good many of us knew as well as He
before long,' said the Captain, chuckling. ' I
lived seven years under water on account of
it in my boyhood — in that damned surgery
of the Trmmph, seeing men brought down to
the cockpit with their legs and arms blown
to Jericho. . . . And so the young man has
settled in Paris. A jeweller's manager, or
some such thing, is he not ? '

* Yes, sir, that's it. 'Tis a blazing great
shop that he belongs to, so I've heard his
mother say — like a king's palace as far as
diments go. Ear-drops and rings by hat-


fuls ; gold platters ; chains enough to hold
an ox, all washed in gold.'

' I can well mind when he left home,' said

' 'Tis a good thing for the feller,' said
Humphrey. ' A sight of times better to be
sellino: diments than nobblincr about here.'

' It must cost a good few shillings to deal
at such a shop.'

' A good few indeed, my man,' replied
the Captain. ' Yes, you may make away with
a deal of money and be neither drunkard nor

' They say, too, that Clym Yeobright is
become a real perusing man, with the strangest
notions about things. There, that's because
he went to school early, such as the school

* Strange notions has he,' said the old
man. * Ah, there's too much of that sending
to school in these days ! It only does harm.
Every gatepost and barn's door you come to
Is sure to have some bad word or other


chalked upon It by the young rascals : a
woman can hardly pass for shame sometimes.
If they'd never been taught how to write they
wouldn't have been able to scribble such
villany. Their fathers couldn't do it, and the
country was all the better for It.'

* Now, I should think, Cap'n, that Miss
Eustacia had about as much In her head that
comes from books as anybody about here ? '

' Perhaps if Miss Eustacia, too, had less
romantic nonsense in her head It would be
better for her,' said the Captain shortly ;
after which he walked away.

* I say, Sam,' observed Humphrey when
the old man was gone, ' she and Clym
Yeobright would make a very pretty pigeon
pair — hey ? If they wouldn't I'll be dazed !
Both of one mind about niceties for certain,
and learned In print, and always thinking
about high doctrine — there couldn't be a
better couple if they were made o' purpose.
Clym's family Is as good as hers. His father
was a farmer, that's true ; but his mother was


a sort of lady, as we know. Nothing would
please me better than to see them two man
and wife.'

' They'd look very natty, arm-in-crook
toeether, and their best clothes on, whether
or no, if he's at all the well-favoured fellow
he used to be.'

* They would, Humphrey. Well, I
should like to see the chap terrible much
after so many years. If I knew for certain
when he was cominof I'd stroll out three or
four miles to meet him and help carry any-
thing for'n ; though I suppose he's altered
from the boy he was. They say he can talk
French as fast as a maid can eat blackberries ;
and if so, depend upon it vre who have stayed
at home shall seem no more than scroff in
his eyes.'

' Coming across the water to Budmouth
by steamer, isn't he ? '

' Yes ; but hov/ he's coming from Bud-
mouth I don't know.'

* That's a bad trouble about his cousin



Thomasin. I wonder such a nice-notioned

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Online LibraryThomas HardyThe return of the native (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 12)