The Return of the Native 2; 0105

1–Tidings of the Comer

On the fine days at this time of the year, 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 distance.

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
dwelling, 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 summer experience of the
sky as a dial. In the course of many days and weeks sunrise had advanced
its quarters from northeast to southeast, sunset had receded from
northwest to southwest; 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
conversation came to her ears directly down the chimney. She entered
the recess, and, listening, looked up the old irregular shaft, with its
cavernous hollows, where the smoke blundered 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 seaweed 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 conversation. “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 living 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
maid then, and as I was at home ironing 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 Triumph, seeing men brought down
to the cockpit with their legs and arms blown to Jericho….And so the
young man has settled in Paris. Manager to a diamond merchant, or some
such thing, is he not?”

“Yes, sir, that’s it. ‘Tis a blazing great business that he belongs to,
so I’ve heard his mother say–like a king’s palace, as far as diments
go.”

“I can well mind when he left home,” said Sam.

“‘Tis a good thing for the feller,” said Humphrey. “A sight of times
better to be selling diments than nobbling about here.”

“It must cost a good few shillings to deal at such a place.”

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

“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 was.”

“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 villainy. 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 together, 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 coming I’d stroll
out three or four miles to meet him and help carry anything 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
we 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 how he’s coming from Budmouth I don’t know.”

“That’s a bad trouble about his cousin Thomasin. I wonder such a
nice-notioned fellow as Clym likes to come home into it. What a
nunnywatch we were in, to be sure, when we heard they weren’t married
at all, after singing to ’em as man and wife that night! 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 enough 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 instinctively coupled her
and this man together in their minds as a pair born for each other.

That five minutes of overhearing furnished Eustacia with visions enough
to fill the whole blank afternoon. Such sudden alternations 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 invading
Bard’s prelude in the Castle of Indolence, at which myriads of
imprisoned shapes arose where had previously appeared the stillness of a
void.

Involved in these imaginings she knew nothing of time. When she became
conscious of externals it was dusk. The furze-rick was finished; the men
had gone home. Eustacia went upstairs, 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 birthplace 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 the daydream is
sufficient for a pilgrimage at nineteen. To look at the palings before
the Yeobrights’ house had the dignity of a necessary performance.
Strange that such a piece of idling should have seemed an important
errand.

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 diminished to
an isolated one here and there by the increasing fertility of the soil.
Beyond 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, removed 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.

2–The People at Blooms-End Make Ready

All that afternoon the expected arrival of the subject of Eustacia’s
ruminations created a bustle of preparation at Blooms-End. Thomasin had
been persuaded by her aunt, and by an instinctive impulse of loyalty
towards her cousin Clym, to bestir herself on his account 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
fuelhouse, 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 figure 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
abstractedly at the pigeon-hole, which admitted the sunlight so directly
upon her brown hair and transparent tissues that it almost seemed to
shine through her.

“If he could have been dear to you in another way,” said Mrs. Yeobright
from the ladder, “this might have been a happy meeting.”

“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 misfortune, 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 belong 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 report. 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 beyond. 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 landscape streaming
visibly across those further off; a stratum of ensaffroned light was
imposed 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 general level
of the ground. 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 green and
scarlet masses of the tree. “Will you walk with me to meet him this
evening?”

“I should like to. Else it would seem as if I had forgotten him,” said
Thomasin, tossing out a bough. “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 they
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 appeared 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 you now, you may be sure. It is the only
way out of a false position, and a very galling one.”

“What did you tell him?”

“That he was standing in the way 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
when 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
present?” 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 something
is wrong.”

Thomasin turned and regarded her aunt from the tree. “Now, hearken to
me,” she said, her delicate voice expanding into firmness by a force
which was other than physical. “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 secrecy.”

“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 do not wish to show myself beaten before all
Egdon, and the sport of a man like Wildeve. We have enough berries now,
I think, and we had better take them home. By the time we have decked
the house with 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 with her aunt,
each woman bearing half the gathered boughs. It was now nearly four
o’clock, and the sunlight was 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, towards a point in the distant
highway along which the expected man was to return.

3–How a Little Sound Produced a Great Dream

Eustacia stood just within the heath, straining her eyes in the
direction of Mrs. Yeobright’s house and premises. No light, 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 home.

She had not far retraced her steps when sounds in front of her betokened
the approach of persons in conversation along the same path. Soon their
heads became visible against the sky. They were walking slowly; and
though it was too dark for much discovery of character from aspect, the
gait of them showed that they were not workers on the heath. Eustacia
stepped a little 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.
Yeobright 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 masculine 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 without
whom her inspection would not have been thought of.

She strained her eyes to see them, but was unable. Such was her
intentness, however, that it seemed as if her ears were performing the
functions of seeing as well as hearing. This extension of power can
almost 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 gave 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 profuse 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–startling 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 COULD the tastes of that man be who saw friendliness and
geniality in these shaggy hills?

On such occasions as this a thousand 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
imagination, 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 himself 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 Yeobrights?” 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 Eustacia’s brain, and one which she
hardly ever forgot. She dreamt a dream; and few human beings, from
Nebuchadnezzar to the Swaffham tinker, ever dreamt 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 northern lights, as much colour as a parterre in June, and was as
crowded with figures as a coronation. To Queen Scheherazade the dream
might have seemed not far removed from commonplace; and 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 extravagant episode, in which the heath dimly appeared 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 previous fantastic changes, the visor of his helmet 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.
Suddenly these two wheeled out from the mass of dancers, dived into one
of the pools of the heath, and came out somewhere 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 indifference 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
will.

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 Yeobrights’ 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 airing 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, walking 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 heart-sickness 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 coquettish; and no sooner had Eustacia
formed this resolve than the opportunity came which, while sought, had
been entirely withholden.

4–Eustacia Is Led on to an Adventure

In the evening of this last day of expectation, which was the
twenty-third of December, Eustacia was at home alone. She had passed
the recent hour in lamenting over a rumour newly come to her ears–that
Yeobright’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 swing of his activities in a gay 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 environs of his mother’s house
like a robin, to do which was difficult and unseemly.

The customary expedient of provincial girls and men in such
circumstances is churchgoing. In an ordinary village or country town
one can safely calculate that, either on Christmas day or the Sunday
contiguous, any native home for the holidays, who has not through age or
ennui lost the appetite 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
scrutinize 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 feasible among the scattered
inhabitants of Egdon Heath. In name they were parishioners, but
virtually they belonged to no parish at all. People who came to these
few isolated houses to keep Christmas with their friends 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 measure 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 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 preference 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 hourglass,
and the other two a pair of ancient British urns which had been dug
from a barrow near, and were used as flowerpots for two razor-leaved
cactuses. Somebody knocked at the door. The servant 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 Vye, will you let us—-”

Eustacia arose and went to the door. “I 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 fuelhouse to try over our
parts in, tonight 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 fuelhouse if you like,” said Eustacia
languidly.

The choice of Captain Vye’s fuelhouse as the scene of rehearsal was
dictated by the fact that his dwelling was nearly in the centre of the
heath. The fuelhouse was as roomy as a barn, and was a most desirable
place for such a purpose. The lads who formed the company of players
lived at different scattered points around, and by meeting in this spot
the distances to be traversed by all the comers would be about equally
proportioned.

For mummers and mumming Eustacia had the greatest contempt. The mummers
themselves were not afflicted with any such feeling for their art,
though at the same time 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 perfunctorily
should be kept up at all. Like Balaam and other unwilling prophets, the
agents seem moved by an inner compulsion 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 refurbishing age, a fossilized survival
may be known from a spurious reproduction.

The piece was the well-known play of Saint George, and all who were
behind the scenes assisted in the preparations, including the women of
each household. Without the co-operation 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 drawbacks. 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,
gauntlet, sleeve, all alike in the view of these feminine eyes were
practicable spaces whereon 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 Moslem, had
one likewise. During the making of the costumes it would come to the
knowledge of Joe’s sweetheart that Jim’s was putting brilliant silk
scallops at the bottom of her lover’s surcoat, in addition to the
ribbons of 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 accoutrement from the
Turkish Knight; and what was worse, on a casual view Saint George
himself 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 tendency to uniformity. The
Leech or Doctor preserved his character intact–his darker 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, an older man, who accompanied
the band as general protector in long night journeys from parish to
parish, and 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 fuelhouse. To dissipate in some
trifling measure her abiding sense of the murkiness of human life she
went to the “linhay” or lean-to shed, which formed the root-store of
their dwelling and abutted on the fuelhouse. 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 fuelhouse stood three tall rushlights and by the
light of them seven or eight lads were marching about, haranguing, 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, interspersing 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. Yeobright’s.”

“Oh, Mrs. Yeobright’s. What makes her 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 penetrating 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
tantalizing.

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

“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 replied diffidently.

“Is yours a long part?”

“Nine speeches, about.”

“Can you repeat them to me? If so I should like 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 occasionally heard the part recited 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 Raffaelle after Perugino, which, while faithfully reproducing the
original subject, entirely distances 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.”

“I have heard it before,” she quietly observed. “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 night?”

“Oh, 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 mummers 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?”

The youth shook his head

“Five shillings?”

He shook his head again. “Money won’t do it,” he said, brushing the iron
head of the firedog 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 firedog’s head.

“Yes,” said Eustacia, with a little more hauteur. “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.”

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

“Yes, Miss Eustacia–I will, if I may kiss it too. A quarter 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 somebody might know your tongue, miss?”

“It is possible. But I will put a pebble in my mouth to make is less
likely. Very well; you shall be allowed to have 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 something 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 slumberous sort, her passions being
of the massive rather than the vivacious kind. But when aroused she
would make a dash which, just for the time, was not unlike 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 punctually at the fuelhouse door,
waiting for the dusk which was to bring Charley with the trappings.
Her grandfather was at home tonight, and she would be unable to ask her
confederate indoors.

He appeared on the dark ridge of heathland, like 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. I am 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 description, 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 minute after minute, without further speech, each
looking at the blackening scene, and each thinking his and her own
thoughts.

“I think I won’t use it all up tonight,” said Charley devotedly, when
six or eight minutes had been passed by him caressing her hand. “May I
have the other few minutes another time?”

“As you like,” said she without 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 returning, “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 whistle. He
returned to the fuelhouse door.

“Did you whistle, Miss Vye?”

“Yes; come in,” reached him in Eustacia’s voice from a back quarter.
“I must not strike a light till the door is shut, or it may be seen
shining. Push your hat into 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 at her male attire 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, striking 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 touch of Eustacia’s hand yet
remained with him.

“And now for your excuse to the others,” she said. “Where do you meet
before you go to Mrs. Yeobright’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, ready-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 heath-croppers are in the
habit of straying into the meads, and tomorrow 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 counted on till she reached seven or eight
minutes. 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, turning away.

“Yes, miss. Well, ’tis over, and now I’ll get home-along.”

5–Through the Moonlight

The next evening the mummers were assembled 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 captain’s clock.”

On Egdon there was no absolute hour of the day. The time at any moment
was a number of varying doctrines professed by the different hamlets,
some of them having originally grown up from a common root, and then
become divided by secession, some having been alien from the beginning.
West Egdon 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 mummers 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 fuelhouse 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 for the heath-croppers that have got into the
meads, and I agreed to take his place, as he knew he couldn’t come back
here again tonight. I know the part as well as he.”

Her graceful gait, elegant figure, and dignified manner in general won
the mummers to the opinion that they had gained by the exchange, if the
newcomer 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, whereupon the other mummers were
delighted with the new knight. They extinguished the candles at
half-past eight, and set out upon the heath in the direction of Mrs.
Yeobright’s house at Bloom’s-End.

There was a slight hoarfrost 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 autumn leaves. Their path was not over Rainbarrow
now, but down a valley which left that ancient elevation a little to
the east. 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 with 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 down to the front of the
house. At sight of the place Eustacia who had felt a few passing doubts
during 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 tonight.

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
instrument played at these times, advanced further into the heath than
the thin treble part, and reached their ears alone; and next a more
than usual loud tread from a dancer would come the same way. With nearer
approach 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
unknown woman, far beneath herself in culture, was by the 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 mumming company through the gate
in the white paling, and stood before the open porch. The house was
encrusted with heavy thatchings, which dropped between the upper
windows; the front, upon which the moonbeams 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 surface of the door, no apartment intervening. The brushing
of skirts and elbows, sometimes 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 Vye and the Yeobrights 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 Saracen. “The door opens right upon
the front sitting-room, where the spree’s going on.”

“So that we cannot open the door without stopping the dance.”

“That’s it. Here we must bide till they 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 without
any particular beginning, middle, or end, which perhaps, among all the
dances which throng an inspired fiddler’s fancy, best conveys the
idea of the interminable–the celebrated “Devil’s Dream.” The fury of
personal movement that was kindled by the fury of the notes could be
approximately imagined by these outsiders under the moon, from the
occasional kicks of toes and heels against the door, whenever the whirl
round had been of more than customary velocity.

The first five minutes of listening was interesting enough to the
mummers. The five minutes extended to ten minutes, and these to a
quarter of an hour; but no signs of ceasing were audible in the lively
“Dream.” The bumping against the door, the laughter, the stamping, were
all as vigorous as ever, and the pleasure in being outside lessened
considerably.

“Why does Mrs. Yeobright give parties of this sort?” Eustacia asked, a
little surprised to hear merriment so pronounced.

“It is not one of her bettermost parlour-parties. She’s asked the plain
neighbours and workpeople without drawing any lines, just to give ’em a
good supper and such like. Her son and she wait upon the folks.”

“I see,” said Eustacia.

“‘Tis the last strain, I think,” said Saint George, with his ear to the
panel. “A young man and woman have just swung into this corner, and he’s
saying to her, ‘Ah, the pity; ’tis over for us this time, my own.'”

“Thank God,” said the Turkish Knight, stamping, and taking from the wall
the conventional lance that each of the mummers carried. Her boots being
thinner than those of the young men, the hoar had damped her feet and
made them cold.

“Upon my song ’tis another ten minutes for us,” said the Valiant
Soldier, looking through the keyhole as the tune modulated into another
without stopping. “Grandfer Cantle is standing in this corner, waiting
his turn.”

“‘Twon’t be long; ’tis a six-handed reel,” said the Doctor.

“Why not go in, dancing or no? They sent for us,” said the Saracen.

“Certainly not,” said Eustacia authoritatively, as she paced smartly up
and down from door to gate to warm herself. “We should burst into the
middle of them and stop the dance, and that would be unmannerly.”

“He thinks himself somebody because he has had a bit more schooling than
we,” said the Doctor.

“You may go to the deuce!” said Eustacia.

There was a whispered conversation between three or four of them, and
one turned to her.

“Will you tell us one thing?” he said, not without gentleness. “Be you
Miss Vye? We think you must be.”

“You may think what you like,” said Eustacia slowly. “But honourable
lads will not tell tales upon a lady.”

“We’ll say nothing, miss. That’s upon our honour.”

“Thank you,” she replied.

At this moment the fiddles finished off with a screech, and the
serpent emitted a last note that nearly lifted the roof. When, from the
comparative quiet within, the mummers judged that the dancers had taken
their seats, Father Christmas advanced, lifted the latch, and put his
head inside the door.

“Ah, the mummers, the mummers!” cried several guests at once. “Clear a
space for the mummers.”

Humpbacked Father Christmas then made a complete entry, swinging his
huge club, and in a general way clearing the stage for the actors
proper, while he informed the company in smart verse that he was come,
welcome or welcome not; concluding his speech with

“Make room, make room, my gallant boys,
And give us space to rhyme;
We’ve come to show Saint George’s play,
Upon this Christmas time.”

The guests were now arranging themselves at one end of the room, the
fiddler was mending a string, the serpent-player was emptying his
mouthpiece, and the play began. First of those outside the Valiant
Soldier entered, in the interest of Saint George–

“Here come I, the Valiant Soldier;
Slasher is my name”;

and so on. This speech concluded with a challenge to the infidel, at the
end of which it was Eustacia’s duty to enter as the Turkish Knight.
She, with the rest who were not yet on, had hitherto remained in the
moonlight which streamed under the porch. With no apparent effort or
backwardness she came in, beginning–

“Here come I, a Turkish Knight,
Who learnt in Turkish land to fight;
I’ll fight this man with courage bold:
If his blood’s hot I’ll make it cold!”

During her declamation Eustacia held her head erect, and spoke as
roughly as she could, feeling pretty secure from observation. But the
concentration upon her part necessary to prevent discovery, the newness
of the scene, the shine of the candles, and the confusing effect upon
her vision of the ribboned visor which hid her features, left her
absolutely unable to perceive who were present as spectators. On the
further side of a table bearing candles she could faintly discern faces,
and that was all.

Meanwhile Jim Starks as the Valiant Soldier had come forward, and, with
a glare upon the Turk, replied–

“If, then, thou art that Turkish Knight,
Draw out thy sword, and let us fight!”

And fight they did; the issue of the combat being that the Valiant
Soldier was slain by a preternaturally inadequate thrust from Eustacia,
Jim, in his ardour for genuine histrionic art, coming down like a log
upon the stone floor with force enough to dislocate his shoulder. Then,
after more words from the Turkish Knight, rather too faintly delivered,
and statements that he’d fight Saint George and all his crew, Saint
George himself magnificently entered with the well-known flourish–

“Here come I, Saint George, the valiant man,
With naked sword and spear in hand,
Who fought the dragon and brought him to the slaughter,
And by this won fair Sabra, the King of Egypt’s
daughter;
What mortal man would dare to stand
Before me with my sword in hand?”

This was the lad who had first recognized Eustacia; and when she now, as
the Turk, replied with suitable defiance, and at once began the combat,
the young fellow took especial care to use his sword as gently as
possible. Being wounded, the Knight fell upon one knee, according to the
direction. The Doctor now entered, restored the Knight by giving him
a draught from the bottle which he carried, and the fight was again
resumed, the Turk sinking by degrees until quite overcome–dying as hard
in this venerable drama as he is said to do at the present day.

This gradual sinking to the earth was, in fact, one reason why Eustacia
had thought that the part of the Turkish Knight, though not the
shortest, would suit her best. A direct fall from upright to horizontal,
which was the end of the other fighting characters, was not an elegant
or decorous part for a girl. But it was easy to die like a Turk, by a
dogged decline.

Eustacia was now among the number of the slain, though not on the
floor, for she had managed to sink into a sloping position against
the clock-case, so that her head was well elevated. The play proceeded
between Saint George, the Saracen, the Doctor, and Father Christmas;
and Eustacia, having no more to do, for the first time found leisure to
observe the scene round, and to search for the form that had drawn her
hither.

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