The Return of the Native 3; 0104

1–“My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is”

In Clym Yeobright’s face could be dimly seen the typical countenance
of the future. Should there be a classic period to art hereafter, its
Pheidias may produce such faces. The view of life as a thing to be put
up with, replacing that zest for existence which was so intense in early
civilizations, must ultimately enter so thoroughly into the constitution
of the advanced races that its facial expression will become accepted
as a new artistic departure. People already feel that a man who lives
without disturbing a curve of feature, or setting a mark of mental
concern anywhere upon himself, is too far removed from modern
perceptiveness to be a modern type. Physically beautiful men–the glory
of the race when it was young–are almost an anachronism now; and we may
wonder whether, at some time or other, physically beautiful women may
not be an anachronism likewise.

The truth seems to be that a long line of disillusive centuries has
permanently displaced the Hellenic idea of life, or whatever it may
be called. What the Greeks only suspected we know well; what their
Aeschylus imagined our nursery children feel. That old-fashioned
revelling in the general situation grows less and less possible as we
uncover the defects of natural laws, and see the quandary that man is in
by their operation.

The lineaments which will get embodied in ideals based upon this new
recognition will probably be akin to those of Yeobright. The observer’s
eye was arrested, not by his face as a picture, but by his face as a
page; not by what it was, but by what it recorded. His features were
attractive in the light of symbols, as sounds intrinsically common
become attractive in language, and as shapes intrinsically simple become
interesting in writing.

He had been a lad of whom something was expected. Beyond this all had
been chaos. That he would be successful in an original way, or that he
would go to the dogs in an original way, seemed equally probable. The
only absolute certainty about him was that he would not stand still in
the circumstances amid which he was born.

Hence, when his name was casually mentioned by neighbouring yeomen,
the listener said, “Ah, Clym Yeobright–what is he doing now?” When the
instinctive question about a person is, What is he doing? it is
felt that he will be found to be, like most of us, doing nothing in
particular. There is an indefinite sense that he must be invading some
region of singularity, good or bad. The devout hope is that he is doing
well. The secret faith is that he is making a mess of it. Half a dozen
comfortable market-men, who were habitual callers at the Quiet Woman
as they passed by in their carts, were partial to the topic. In fact,
though they were not Egdon men, they could hardly avoid it while they
sucked their long clay tubes and regarded the heath through the window.
Clym had been so inwoven with the heath in his boyhood that hardly
anybody could look upon it without thinking of him. So the subject
recurred: if he were making a fortune and a name, so much the better
for him; if he were making a tragical figure in the world, so much the
better for a narrative.

The fact was that Yeobright’s fame had spread to an awkward extent
before he left home. “It is bad when your fame outruns your means,” said
the Spanish Jesuit Gracian. At the age of six he had asked a Scripture
riddle: “Who was the first man known to wear breeches?” and applause
had resounded from the very verge of the heath. At seven he painted the
Battle of Waterloo with tiger-lily pollen and black-currant juice, in
the absence of water-colours. By the time he reached twelve he had in
this manner been heard of as artist and scholar for at least two miles
round. An individual whose fame spreads three or four thousand yards in
the time taken by the fame of others similarly situated to travel six or
eight hundred, must of necessity have something in him. Possibly Clym’s
fame, like Homer’s, owed something to the accidents of his situation;
nevertheless famous he was.

He grew up and was helped out in life. That waggery of fate which
started Clive as a writing clerk, Gay as a linen-draper, Keats as a
surgeon, and a thousand others in a thousand other odd ways, banished
the wild and ascetic heath lad to a trade whose sole concern was with
the especial symbols of self-indulgence and vainglory.

The details of this choice of a business for him it is not necessary
to give. At the death of his father a neighbouring gentleman had kindly
undertaken to give the boy a start, and this assumed the form of sending
him to Budmouth. Yeobright did not wish to go there, but it was the only
feasible opening. Thence he went to London; and thence, shortly after,
to Paris, where he had remained till now.

Something being expected of him, he had not been at home many days
before a great curiosity as to why he stayed on so long began to arise
in the heath. The natural term of a holiday had passed, yet he still
remained. On the Sunday morning following the week of Thomasin’s
marriage a discussion on this subject was in progress at a hair-cutting
before Fairway’s house. Here the local barbering was always done at
this hour on this day, to be followed by the great Sunday wash of the
inhabitants at noon, which in its turn was followed by the great Sunday
dressing an hour later. On Egdon Heath Sunday proper did not begin till
dinner-time, and even then it was a somewhat battered specimen of the
day.

These Sunday-morning hair-cuttings were performed by Fairway; the victim
sitting on a chopping-block in front of the house, without a coat, and
the neighbours gossiping around, idly observing the locks of hair as
they rose upon the wind after the snip, and flew away out of sight to
the four quarters of the heavens. Summer and winter the scene was the
same, unless the wind were more than usually blusterous, when the stool
was shifted a few feet round the corner. To complain of cold in sitting
out of doors, hatless and coatless, while Fairway told true stories
between the cuts of the scissors, would have been to pronounce yourself
no man at once. To flinch, exclaim, or move a muscle of the face at
the small stabs under the ear received from those instruments, or at
scarifications of the neck by the comb, would have been thought a gross
breach of good manners, considering that Fairway did it all for nothing.
A bleeding about the poll on Sunday afternoons was amply accounted for
by the explanation. “I have had my hair cut, you know.”

The conversation on Yeobright had been started by a distant view of the
young man rambling leisurely across the heath before them.

“A man who is doing well elsewhere wouldn’t bide here two or three weeks
for nothing,” said Fairway. “He’s got some project in ‘s head–depend
upon that.”

“Well, ‘a can’t keep a diment shop here,” said Sam.

“I don’t see why he should have had them two heavy boxes home if he had
not been going to bide; and what there is for him to do here the Lord in
heaven knows.”

Before many more surmises could be indulged in Yeobright had come near;
and seeing the hair-cutting group he turned aside to join them. Marching
up, and looking critically at their faces for a moment, he said, without
introduction, “Now, folks, let me guess what you have been talking
about.”

“Ay, sure, if you will,” said Sam.

“About me.”

“Now, it is a thing I shouldn’t have dreamed of doing, otherwise,” said
Fairway in a tone of integrity; “but since you have named it, Master
Yeobright, I’ll own that we was talking about ‘ee. We were wondering
what could keep you home here mollyhorning about when you have made such
a world-wide name for yourself in the nick-nack trade–now, that’s the
truth o’t.”

“I’ll tell you,” said Yeobright with unexpected earnestness. “I am
not sorry to have the opportunity. I’ve come home because, all things
considered, I can be a trifle less useless here than anywhere else. But
I have only lately found this out. When I first got away from home I
thought this place was not worth troubling about. I thought our life
here was contemptible. To oil your boots instead of blacking them, to
dust your coat with a switch instead of a brush–was there ever anything
more ridiculous? I said.”

“So ’tis; so ’tis!”

“No, no–you are wrong; it isn’t.”

“Beg your pardon, we thought that was your maning?”

“Well, as my views changed my course became very depressing. I found
that I was trying to be like people who had hardly anything in common
with myself. I was endeavouring to put off one sort of life for another
sort of life, which was not better than the life I had known before. It
was simply different.”

“True; a sight different,” said Fairway.

“Yes, Paris must be a taking place,” said Humphrey. “Grand shop-winders,
trumpets, and drums; and here be we out of doors in all winds and
weathers–”

“But you mistake me,” pleaded Clym. “All this was very depressing. But
not so depressing as something I next perceived–that my business was
the idlest, vainest, most effeminate business that ever a man could
be put to. That decided me–I would give it up and try to follow some
rational occupation among the people I knew best, and to whom I could
be of most use. I have come home; and this is how I mean to carry out
my plan. I shall keep a school as near to Egdon as possible, so as to be
able to walk over here and have a night-school in my mother’s house.
But I must study a little at first, to get properly qualified. Now,
neighbours, I must go.”

And Clym resumed his walk across the heath.

“He’ll never carry it out in the world,” said Fairway. “In a few weeks
he’ll learn to see things otherwise.”

“‘Tis good-hearted of the young man,” said another. “But, for my part, I
think he had better mind his business.”

2–The New Course Causes Disappointment

Yeobright loved his kind. He had a conviction that the want of most men
was knowledge of a sort which brings wisdom rather than affluence. He
wished to raise the class at the expense of individuals rather than
individuals at the expense of the class. What was more, he was ready at
once to be the first unit sacrificed.

In passing from the bucolic to the intellectual life the intermediate
stages are usually two at least, frequently many more; and one of those
stages is almost sure to be worldly advanced. We can hardly imagine
bucolic placidity quickening to intellectual aims without imagining
social aims as the transitional phase. Yeobright’s local peculiarity was
that in striving at high thinking he still cleaved to plain living–nay,
wild and meagre living in many respects, and brotherliness with clowns.

He was a John the Baptist who took ennoblement rather than repentance
for his text. Mentally he was in a provincial future, that is, he was in
many points abreast with the central town thinkers of his date. Much of
this development he may have owed to his studious life in Paris, where
he had become acquainted with ethical systems popular at the time.

In consequence of this relatively advanced position, Yeobright might
have been called unfortunate. The rural world was not ripe for him. A
man should be only partially before his time–to be completely to the
vanward in aspirations is fatal to fame. Had Philip’s warlike son been
intellectually so far ahead as to have attempted civilization without
bloodshed, he would have been twice the godlike hero that he seemed, but
nobody would have heard of an Alexander.

In the interests of renown the forwardness should lie chiefly in the
capacity to handle things. Successful propagandists have succeeded
because the doctrine they bring into form is that which their listeners
have for some time felt without being able to shape. A man who advocates
aesthetic effort and deprecates social effort is only likely to be
understood by a class to which social effort has become a stale matter.
To argue upon the possibility of culture before luxury to the bucolic
world may be to argue truly, but it is an attempt to disturb a sequence
to which humanity has been long accustomed. Yeobright preaching to
the Egdon eremites that they might rise to a serene comprehensiveness
without going through the process of enriching themselves was not unlike
arguing to ancient Chaldeans that in ascending from earth to the pure
empyrean it was not necessary to pass first into the intervening heaven
of ether.

Was Yeobright’s mind well-proportioned? No. A well proportioned mind is
one which shows no particular bias; one of which we may safely say that
it will never cause its owner to be confined as a madman, tortured as a
heretic, or crucified as a blasphemer. Also, on the other hand, that it
will never cause him to be applauded as a prophet, revered as a priest,
or exalted as a king. Its usual blessings are happiness and mediocrity.
It produces the poetry of Rogers, the paintings of West, the statecraft
of North, the spiritual guidance of Tomline; enabling its possessors to
find their way to wealth, to wind up well, to step with dignity off the
stage, to die comfortably in their beds, and to get the decent monument
which, in many cases, they deserve. It never would have allowed
Yeobright to do such a ridiculous thing as throw up his business to
benefit his fellow-creatures.

He walked along towards home without attending to paths. If anyone knew
the heath well it was Clym. He was permeated with its scenes, with its
substance, and with its odours. He might be said to be its product. His
eyes had first opened thereon; with its appearance all the first images
of his memory were mingled, his estimate of life had been coloured by
it: his toys had been the flint knives and arrow-heads which he found
there, wondering why stones should “grow” to such odd shapes; his
flowers, the purple bells and yellow furze: his animal kingdom, the
snakes and croppers; his society, its human haunters. Take all the
varying hates felt by Eustacia Vye towards the heath, and translate
them into loves, and you have the heart of Clym. He gazed upon the wide
prospect as he walked, and was glad.

To many persons this Egdon was a place which had slipped out of its
century generations ago, to intrude as an uncouth object into this.
It was an obsolete thing, and few cared to study it. How could this
be otherwise in the days of square fields, plashed hedges, and meadows
watered on a plan so rectangular that on a fine day they looked like
silver gridirons? The farmer, in his ride, who could smile at artificial
grasses, look with solicitude at the coming corn, and sigh with sadness
at the fly-eaten turnips, bestowed upon the distant upland of heath
nothing better than a frown. But as for Yeobright, when he looked
from the heights on his way he could not help indulging in a barbarous
satisfaction at observing that, in some of the attempts at reclamation
from the waste, tillage, after holding on for a year or two, had receded
again in despair, the ferns and furze-tufts stubbornly reasserting
themselves.

He descended into the valley, and soon reached his home at Blooms-End.
His mother was snipping dead leaves from the window-plants. She looked
up at him as if she did not understand the meaning of his long stay with
her; her face had worn that look for several days. He could perceive
that the curiosity which had been shown by the hair-cutting group
amounted in his mother to concern. But she had asked no question with
her lips, even when the arrival of his trunk suggested that he was not
going to leave her soon. Her silence besought an explanation of him more
loudly than words.

“I am not going back to Paris again, Mother,” he said. “At least, in my
old capacity. I have given up the business.”

Mrs. Yeobright turned in pained surprise. “I thought something was
amiss, because of the boxes. I wonder you did not tell me sooner.”

“I ought to have done it. But I have been in doubt whether you would be
pleased with my plan. I was not quite clear on a few points myself. I am
going to take an entirely new course.”

“I am astonished, Clym. How can you want to do better than you’ve been
doing?”

“Very easily. But I shall not do better in the way you mean; I suppose
it will be called doing worse. But I hate that business of mine, and I
want to do some worthy thing before I die. As a schoolmaster I think
to do it–a school-master to the poor and ignorant, to teach them what
nobody else will.”

“After all the trouble that has been taken to give you a start, and when
there is nothing to do but to keep straight on towards affluence, you
say you will be a poor man’s schoolmaster. Your fancies will be your
ruin, Clym.”

Mrs. Yeobright spoke calmly, but the force of feeling behind the words
was but too apparent to one who knew her as well as her son did. He did
not answer. There was in his face that hopelessness of being understood
which comes when the objector is constitutionally beyond the reach of
a logic that, even under favouring conditions, is almost too coarse a
vehicle for the subtlety of the argument.

No more was said on the subject till the end of dinner. His mother then
began, as if there had been no interval since the morning. “It disturbs
me, Clym, to find that you have come home with such thoughts as those. I
hadn’t the least idea that you meant to go backward in the world by your
own free choice. Of course, I have always supposed you were going to
push straight on, as other men do–all who deserve the name–when they
have been put in a good way of doing well.”

“I cannot help it,” said Clym, in a troubled tone. “Mother, I hate
the flashy business. Talk about men who deserve the name, can any man
deserving the name waste his time in that effeminate way, when he sees
half the world going to ruin for want of somebody to buckle to and teach
them how to breast the misery they are born to? I get up every morning
and see the whole creation groaning and travailing in pain, as St. Paul
says, and yet there am I, trafficking in glittering splendours with
wealthy women and titled libertines, and pandering to the meanest
vanities–I, who have health and strength enough for anything. I have
been troubled in my mind about it all the year, and the end is that I
cannot do it any more.”

“Why can’t you do it as well as others?”

“I don’t know, except that there are many things other people care for
which I don’t; and that’s partly why I think I ought to do this. For one
thing, my body does not require much of me. I cannot enjoy delicacies;
good things are wasted upon me. Well, I ought to turn that defect to
advantage, and by being able to do without what other people require I
can spend what such things cost upon anybody else.”

Now, Yeobright, having inherited some of these very instincts from the
woman before him, could not fail to awaken a reciprocity in her through
her feelings, if not by arguments, disguise it as she might for his
good. She spoke with less assurance. “And yet you might have been a
wealthy man if you had only persevered. Manager to that large diamond
establishment–what better can a man wish for? What a post of trust
and respect! I suppose you will be like your father; like him, you are
getting weary of doing well.”

“No,” said her son, “I am not weary of that, though I am weary of what
you mean by it. Mother, what is doing well?”

Mrs. Yeobright was far too thoughtful a woman to be content with ready
definitions, and, like the “What is wisdom?” of Plato’s Socrates, and
the “What is truth?” of Pontius Pilate, Yeobright’s burning question
received no answer.

The silence was broken by the clash of the garden gate, a tap at the
door, and its opening. Christian Cantle appeared in the room in his
Sunday clothes.

It was the custom on Egdon to begin the preface to a story before
absolutely entering the house, so as to be well in for the body of the
narrative by the time visitor and visited stood face to face. Christian
had been saying to them while the door was leaving its latch, “To think
that I, who go from home but once in a while, and hardly then, should
have been there this morning!”

“‘Tis news you have brought us, then, Christian?” said Mrs. Yeobright.

“Ay, sure, about a witch, and ye must overlook my time o’ day; for, says
I, ‘I must go and tell ’em, though they won’t have half done dinner.’ I
assure ye it made me shake like a driven leaf. Do ye think any harm will
come o’t?”

“Well–what?”

“This morning at church we was all standing up, and the pa’son said,
‘Let us pray.’ ‘Well,’ thinks I, ‘one may as well kneel as stand’; so
down I went; and, more than that, all the rest were as willing to oblige
the man as I. We hadn’t been hard at it for more than a minute when a
most terrible screech sounded through church, as if somebody had just
gied up their heart’s blood. All the folk jumped up and then we found
that Susan Nunsuch had pricked Miss Vye with a long stocking-needle, as
she had threatened to do as soon as ever she could get the young lady to
church, where she don’t come very often. She’ve waited for this chance
for weeks, so as to draw her blood and put an end to the bewitching of
Susan’s children that has been carried on so long. Sue followed her into
church, sat next to her, and as soon as she could find a chance in went
the stocking-needle into my lady’s arm.”

“Good heaven, how horrid!” said Mrs. Yeobright.

“Sue pricked her that deep that the maid fainted away; and as I was
afeard there might be some tumult among us, I got behind the bass viol
and didn’t see no more. But they carried her out into the air, ’tis
said; but when they looked round for Sue she was gone. What a scream
that girl gied, poor thing! There were the pa’son in his surplice
holding up his hand and saying, ‘Sit down, my good people, sit down!’
But the deuce a bit would they sit down. O, and what d’ye think I
found out, Mrs. Yeobright? The pa’son wears a suit of clothes under his
surplice!–I could see his black sleeves when he held up his arm.”

“‘Tis a cruel thing,” said Yeobright.

“Yes,” said his mother.

“The nation ought to look into it,” said Christian. “Here’s Humphrey
coming, I think.”

In came Humphrey. “Well, have ye heard the news? But I see you have.
‘Tis a very strange thing that whenever one of Egdon folk goes to church
some rum job or other is sure to be doing. The last time one of us was
there was when neighbour Fairway went in the fall; and that was the day
you forbad the banns, Mrs. Yeobright.”

“Has this cruelly treated girl been able to walk home?” said Clym.

“They say she got better, and went home very well. And now I’ve told it
I must be moving homeward myself.”

“And I,” said Humphrey. “Truly now we shall see if there’s anything in
what folks say about her.”

When they were gone into the heath again Yeobright said quietly to his
mother, “Do you think I have turned teacher too soon?”

“It is right that there should be schoolmasters, and missionaries, and
all such men,” she replied. “But it is right, too, that I should try to
lift you out of this life into something richer, and that you should not
come back again, and be as if I had not tried at all.”

Later in the day Sam, the turf-cutter, entered. “I’ve come a-borrowing,
Mrs. Yeobright. I suppose you have heard what’s been happening to the
beauty on the hill?”

“Yes, Sam: half a dozen have been telling us.”

“Beauty?” said Clym.

“Yes, tolerably well-favoured,” Sam replied. “Lord! all the country owns
that ’tis one of the strangest things in the world that such a woman
should have come to live up there.”

“Dark or fair?”

“Now, though I’ve seen her twenty times, that’s a thing I cannot call to
mind.”

“Darker than Tamsin,” murmured Mrs. Yeobright.

“A woman who seems to care for nothing at all, as you may say.”

“She is melancholy, then?” inquired Clym.

“She mopes about by herself, and don’t mix in with the people.”

“Is she a young lady inclined for adventures?”

“Not to my knowledge.”

“Doesn’t join in with the lads in their games, to get some sort of
excitement in this lonely place?”

“No.”

“Mumming, for instance?”

“No. Her notions be different. I should rather say her thoughts were far
away from here, with lords and ladies she’ll never know, and mansions
she’ll never see again.”

Observing that Clym appeared singularly interested Mrs. Yeobright said
rather uneasily to Sam, “You see more in her than most of us do. Miss
Vye is to my mind too idle to be charming. I have never heard that
she is of any use to herself or to other people. Good girls don’t get
treated as witches even on Egdon.”

“Nonsense–that proves nothing either way,” said Yeobright.

“Well, of course I don’t understand such niceties,” said Sam,
withdrawing from a possibly unpleasant argument; “and what she is we
must wait for time to tell us. The business that I have really called
about is this, to borrow the longest and strongest rope you have. The
captain’s bucket has dropped into the well, and they are in want of
water; and as all the chaps are at home today we think we can get it out
for him. We have three cart-ropes already, but they won’t reach to the
bottom.”

Mrs. Yeobright told him that he might have whatever ropes he could find
in the outhouse, and Sam went out to search. When he passed by the door
Clym joined him, and accompanied him to the gate.

“Is this young witch-lady going to stay long at Mistover?” he asked.

“I should say so.”

“What a cruel shame to ill-use her, She must have suffered greatly–more
in mind than in body.”

“‘Twas a graceless trick–such a handsome girl, too. You ought to see
her, Mr. Yeobright, being a young man come from far, and with a little
more to show for your years than most of us.”

“Do you think she would like to teach children?” said Clym.

Sam shook his head. “Quite a different sort of body from that, I
reckon.”

“O, it was merely something which occurred to me. It would of course be
necessary to see her and talk it over–not an easy thing, by the way,
for my family and hers are not very friendly.”

“I’ll tell you how you mid see her, Mr. Yeobright,” said Sam. “We are
going to grapple for the bucket at six o’clock tonight at her house, and
you could lend a hand. There’s five or six coming, but the well is deep,
and another might be useful, if you don’t mind appearing in that shape.
She’s sure to be walking round.”

“I’ll think of it,” said Yeobright; and they parted.

He thought of it a good deal; but nothing more was said about Eustacia
inside the house at that time. Whether this romantic martyr to
superstition and the melancholy mummer he had conversed with under the
full moon were one and the same person remained as yet a problem.

3–The First Act in a Timeworn Drama

The afternoon was fine, and Yeobright walked on the heath for an hour
with his mother. When they reached the lofty ridge which divided the
valley of Blooms-End from the adjoining valley they stood still and
looked round. The Quiet Woman Inn was visible on the low margin of the
heath in one direction, and afar on the other hand rose Mistover Knap.

“You mean to call on Thomasin?” he inquired.

“Yes. But you need not come this time,” said his mother.

“In that case I’ll branch off here, Mother. I am going to Mistover.”

Mrs. Yeobright turned to him inquiringly.

“I am going to help them get the bucket out of the captain’s well,” he
continued. “As it is so very deep I may be useful. And I should like
to see this Miss Vye–not so much for her good looks as for another
reason.”

“Must you go?” his mother asked.

“I thought to.”

And they parted. “There is no help for it,” murmured Clym’s mother
gloomily as he withdrew. “They are sure to see each other. I wish Sam
would carry his news to other houses than mine.”

Clym’s retreating figure got smaller and smaller as it rose and
fell over the hillocks on his way. “He is tender-hearted,” said Mrs.
Yeobright to herself while she watched him; “otherwise it would matter
little. How he’s going on!”

He was, indeed, walking with a will over the furze, as straight as a
line, as if his life depended upon it. His mother drew a long breath,
and, abandoning the visit to Thomasin, turned back. The evening films
began to make nebulous pictures of the valleys, but the high lands still
were raked by the declining rays of the winter sun, which glanced on
Clym as he walked forward, eyed by every rabbit and field-fare around, a
long shadow advancing in front of him.

On drawing near to the furze-covered bank and ditch which fortified
the captain’s dwelling he could hear voices within, signifying that
operations had been already begun. At the side-entrance gate he stopped
and looked over.

Half a dozen able-bodied men were standing in a line from the
well-mouth, holding a rope which passed over the well-roller into the
depths below. Fairway, with a piece of smaller rope round his body, made
fast to one of the standards, to guard against accidents, was leaning
over the opening, his right hand clasping the vertical rope that
descended into the well.

“Now, silence, folks,” said Fairway.

The talking ceased, and Fairway gave a circular motion to the rope,
as if he were stirring batter. At the end of a minute a dull splashing
reverberated from the bottom of the well; the helical twist he had
imparted to the rope had reached the grapnel below.

“Haul!” said Fairway; and the men who held the rope began to gather it
over the wheel.

“I think we’ve got sommat,” said one of the haulers-in.

“Then pull steady,” said Fairway.

They gathered up more and more, till a regular dripping into the well
could be heard below. It grew smarter with the increasing height of the
bucket, and presently a hundred and fifty feet of rope had been pulled
in.

Fairway then lit a lantern, tied it to another cord, and began lowering
it into the well beside the first: Clym came forward and looked down.
Strange humid leaves, which knew nothing of the seasons of the year,
and quaint-natured mosses were revealed on the wellside as the lantern
descended; till its rays fell upon a confused mass of rope and bucket
dangling in the dank, dark air.

“We’ve only got en by the edge of the hoop–steady, for God’s sake!”
said Fairway.

They pulled with the greatest gentleness, till the wet bucket appeared
about two yards below them, like a dead friend come to earth again.
Three or four hands were stretched out, then jerk went the rope, whizz
went the wheel, the two foremost haulers fell backward, the beating of
a falling body was heard, receding down the sides of the well, and a
thunderous uproar arose at the bottom. The bucket was gone again.

“Damn the bucket!” said Fairway.

“Lower again,” said Sam.

“I’m as stiff as a ram’s horn stooping so long,” said Fairway, standing
up and stretching himself till his joints creaked.

“Rest a few minutes, Timothy,” said Yeobright. “I’ll take your place.”

The grapnel was again lowered. Its smart impact upon the distant water
reached their ears like a kiss, whereupon Yeobright knelt down, and
leaning over the well began dragging the grapnel round and round as
Fairway had done.

“Tie a rope round him–it is dangerous!” cried a soft and anxious voice
somewhere above them.

Everybody turned. The speaker was a woman, gazing down upon the group
from an upper window, whose panes blazed in the ruddy glare from the
west. Her lips were parted and she appeared for the moment to forget
where she was.

The rope was accordingly tied round his waist, and the work proceeded.
At the next haul the weight was not heavy, and it was discovered that
they had only secured a coil of the rope detached from the bucket. The
tangled mass was thrown into the background. Humphrey took Yeobright’s
place, and the grapnel was lowered again.

Yeobright retired to the heap of recovered rope in a meditative mood. Of
the identity between the lady’s voice and that of the melancholy
mummer he had not a moment’s doubt. “How thoughtful of her!” he said to
himself.

Eustacia, who had reddened when she perceived the effect of her
exclamation upon the group below, was no longer to be seen at the
window, though Yeobright scanned it wistfully. While he stood there the
men at the well succeeded in getting up the bucket without a mishap. One
of them went to inquire for the captain, to learn what orders he wished
to give for mending the well-tackle. The captain proved to be away from
home, and Eustacia appeared at the door and came out. She had lapsed
into an easy and dignified calm, far removed from the intensity of life
in her words of solicitude for Clym’s safety.

“Will it be possible to draw water here tonight?” she inquired.

“No, miss; the bottom of the bucket is clean knocked out. And as we can
do no more now we’ll leave off, and come again tomorrow morning.”

“No water,” she murmured, turning away.

“I can send you up some from Blooms-End,” said Clym, coming forward and
raising his hat as the men retired.

Yeobright and Eustacia looked at each other for one instant, as if each
had in mind those few moments during which a certain moonlight scene was
common to both. With the glance the calm fixity of her features sublimed
itself to an expression of refinement and warmth; it was like garish
noon rising to the dignity of sunset in a couple of seconds.

“Thank you; it will hardly be necessary,” she replied.

“But if you have no water?”

“Well, it is what I call no water,” she said, blushing, and lifting
her long-lashed eyelids as if to lift them were a work requiring
consideration. “But my grandfather calls it water enough. I’ll show you
what I mean.”

She moved away a few yards, and Clym followed. When she reached the
corner of the enclosure, where the steps were formed for mounting the
boundary bank, she sprang up with a lightness which seemed strange after
her listless movement towards the well. It incidentally showed that her
apparent languor did not arise from lack of force.

Clym ascended behind her, and noticed a circular burnt patch at the top
of the bank. “Ashes?” he said.

“Yes,” said Eustacia. “We had a little bonfire here last Fifth of
November, and those are the marks of it.”

On that spot had stood the fire she had kindled to attract Wildeve.

“That’s the only kind of water we have,” she continued, tossing a stone
into the pool, which lay on the outside of the bank like the white of
an eye without its pupil. The stone fell with a flounce, but no Wildeve
appeared on the other side, as on a previous occasion there. “My
grandfather says he lived for more than twenty years at sea on water
twice as bad as that,” she went on, “and considers it quite good enough
for us here on an emergency.”

“Well, as a matter of fact there are no impurities in the water of these
pools at this time of the year. It has only just rained into them.”

She shook her head. “I am managing to exist in a wilderness, but I
cannot drink from a pond,” she said.

Clym looked towards the well, which was now deserted, the men having
gone home. “It is a long way to send for spring-water,” he said, after a
silence. “But since you don’t like this in the pond, I’ll try to get you
some myself.” He went back to the well. “Yes, I think I could do it by
tying on this pail.”

“But, since I would not trouble the men to get it, I cannot in
conscience let you.”

“I don’t mind the trouble at all.”

He made fast the pail to the long coil of rope, put it over the wheel,
and allowed it to descend by letting the rope slip through his hands.
Before it had gone far, however, he checked it.

“I must make fast the end first, or we may lose the whole,” he said to
Eustacia, who had drawn near. “Could you hold this a moment, while I do
it–or shall I call your servant?”

“I can hold it,” said Eustacia; and he placed the rope in her hands,
going then to search for the end.

“I suppose I may let it slip down?” she inquired.

“I would advise you not to let it go far,” said Clym. “It will get much
heavier, you will find.”

However, Eustacia had begun to pay out. While he was tying she cried, “I
cannot stop it!”

Clym ran to her side, and found he could only check the rope by twisting
the loose part round the upright post, when it stopped with a jerk. “Has
it hurt you?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“Very much?”

“No; I think not.” She opened her hands. One of them was bleeding; the
rope had dragged off the skin. Eustacia wrapped it in her handkerchief.

“You should have let go,” said Yeobright. “Why didn’t you?”

“You said I was to hold on….This is the second time I have been
wounded today.”

“Ah, yes; I have heard of it. I blush for my native Egdon. Was it a
serious injury you received in church, Miss Vye?”

There was such an abundance of sympathy in Clym’s tone that Eustacia
slowly drew up her sleeve and disclosed her round white arm. A bright
red spot appeared on its smooth surface, like a ruby on Parian marble.

“There it is,” she said, putting her finger against the spot.

“It was dastardly of the woman,” said Clym. “Will not Captain Vye get
her punished?”

“He is gone from home on that very business. I did not know that I had
such a magic reputation.”

“And you fainted?” said Clym, looking at the scarlet little puncture as
if he would like to kiss it and make it well.

“Yes, it frightened me. I had not been to church for a long time. And
now I shall not go again for ever so long–perhaps never. I cannot face
their eyes after this. Don’t you think it dreadfully humiliating? I
wished I was dead for hours after, but I don’t mind now.”

“I have come to clean away these cobwebs,” said Yeobright. “Would you
like to help me–by high-class teaching? We might benefit them much.”

“I don’t quite feel anxious to. I have not much love for my
fellow-creatures. Sometimes I quite hate them.”

“Still I think that if you were to hear my scheme you might take an
interest in it. There is no use in hating people–if you hate anything,
you should hate what produced them.”

“Do you mean Nature? I hate her already. But I shall be glad to hear
your scheme at any time.”

The situation had now worked itself out, and the next natural thing was
for them to part. Clym knew this well enough, and Eustacia made a move
of conclusion; yet he looked at her as if he had one word more to say.
Perhaps if he had not lived in Paris it would never have been uttered.

“We have met before,” he said, regarding her with rather more interest
than was necessary.

“I do not own it,” said Eustacia, with a repressed, still look.

“But I may think what I like.”

“Yes.”

“You are lonely here.”

“I cannot endure the heath, except in its purple season. The heath is a
cruel taskmaster to me.”

“Can you say so?” he asked. “To my mind it is most exhilarating, and
strengthening, and soothing. I would rather live on these hills than
anywhere else in the world.”

“It is well enough for artists; but I never would learn to draw.”

“And there is a very curious druidical stone just out there.” He threw a
pebble in the direction signified. “Do you often go to see it?”

“I was not even aware there existed any such curious druidical stone. I
am aware that there are boulevards in Paris.”

Yeobright looked thoughtfully on the ground. “That means much,” he said.

“It does indeed,” said Eustacia.

“I remember when I had the same longing for town bustle. Five years of a
great city would be a perfect cure for that.”

“Heaven send me such a cure! Now, Mr. Yeobright, I will go indoors and
plaster my wounded hand.”

They separated, and Eustacia vanished in the increasing shade. She
seemed full of many things. Her past was a blank, her life had begun.
The effect upon Clym of this meeting he did not fully discover till some
time after. During his walk home his most intelligible sensation was
that his scheme had somehow become glorified. A beautiful woman had been
intertwined with it.

On reaching the house he went up to the room which was to be made his
study, and occupied himself during the evening in unpacking his books
from the boxes and arranging them on shelves. From another box he drew
a lamp and a can of oil. He trimmed the lamp, arranged his table, and
said, “Now, I am ready to begin.”

He rose early the next morning, read two hours before breakfast by the
light of his lamp–read all the morning, all the afternoon. Just when
the sun was going down his eyes felt weary, and he leant back in his
chair.

His room overlooked the front of the premises and the valley of the
heath beyond. The lowest beams of the winter sun threw the shadow of the
house over the palings, across the grass margin of the heath, and far
up the vale, where the chimney outlines and those of the surrounding
tree-tops stretched forth in long dark prongs. Having been seated at
work all day, he decided to take a turn upon the hills before it got
dark; and, going out forthwith, he struck across the heath towards
Mistover.

It was an hour and a half later when he again appeared at the garden
gate. The shutters of the house were closed, and Christian Cantle, who
had been wheeling manure about the garden all day, had gone home. On
entering he found that his mother, after waiting a long time for him,
had finished her meal.

“Where have you been, Clym?” she immediately said. “Why didn’t you tell
me that you were going away at this time?”

“I have been on the heath.”

“You’ll meet Eustacia Vye if you go up there.”

Clym paused a minute. “Yes, I met her this evening,” he said, as though
it were spoken under the sheer necessity of preserving honesty.

“I wondered if you had.”

“It was no appointment.”

“No; such meetings never are.”

“But you are not angry, Mother?”

“I can hardly say that I am not. Angry? No. But when I consider the
usual nature of the drag which causes men of promise to disappoint the
world I feel uneasy.”

“You deserve credit for the feeling, Mother. But I can assure you that
you need not be disturbed by it on my account.”

“When I think of you and your new crotchets,” said Mrs. Yeobright,
with some emphasis, “I naturally don’t feel so comfortable as I did a
twelvemonth ago. It is incredible to me that a man accustomed to the
attractive women of Paris and elsewhere should be so easily worked upon
by a girl in a heath. You could just as well have walked another way.”

“I had been studying all day.”

“Well, yes,” she added more hopefully, “I have been thinking that you
might get on as a schoolmaster, and rise that way, since you really are
determined to hate the course you were pursuing.”

Yeobright was unwilling to disturb this idea, though his scheme was far
enough removed from one wherein the education of youth should be made
a mere channel of social ascent. He had no desires of that sort. He had
reached the stage in a young man’s life when the grimness of the general
human situation first becomes clear; and the realization of this causes
ambition to halt awhile. In France it is not uncustomary to commit
suicide at this stage; in England we do much better, or much worse, as
the case may be.

The love between the young man and his mother was strangely invisible
now. Of love it may be said, the less earthly the less demonstrative. In
its absolutely indestructible form it reaches a profundity in which all
exhibition of itself is painful. It was so with these. Had conversations
between them been overheard, people would have said, “How cold they are
to each other!”

His theory and his wishes about devoting his future to teaching had made
an impression on Mrs. Yeobright. Indeed, how could it be otherwise
when he was a part of her–when their discourses were as if carried on
between the right and the left hands of the same body? He had despaired
of reaching her by argument; and it was almost as a discovery to him
that he could reach her by a magnetism which was as superior to words as
words are to yells.

Strangely enough he began to feel now that it would not be so hard
to persuade her who was his best friend that comparative poverty was
essentially the higher course for him, as to reconcile to his feelings
the act of persuading her. From every provident point of view his mother
was so undoubtedly right, that he was not without a sickness of heart in
finding he could shake her.

She had a singular insight into life, considering that she had never
mixed with it. There are instances of persons who, without clear ideas
of the things they criticize have yet had clear ideas of the relations
of those things. Blacklock, a poet blind from his birth, could describe
visual objects with accuracy; Professor Sanderson, who was also blind,
gave excellent lectures on colour, and taught others the theory of ideas
which they had and he had not. In the social sphere these gifted ones
are mostly women; they can watch a world which they never saw, and
estimate forces of which they have only heard. We call it intuition.

What was the great world to Mrs. Yeobright? A multitude whose tendencies
could be perceived, though not its essences. Communities were seen by
her as from a distance; she saw them as we see the throngs which cover
the canvases of Sallaert, Van Alsloot, and others of that school–vast
masses of beings, jostling, zigzagging, and processioning in definite
directions, but whose features are indistinguishable by the very
comprehensiveness of the view.

One could see that, as far as it had gone, her life was very complete on
its reflective side. The philosophy of her nature, and its limitation by
circumstances, was almost written in her movements. They had a majestic
foundation, though they were far from being majestic; and they had a
ground-work of assurance, but they were not assured. As her once elastic
walk had become deadened by time, so had her natural pride of life been
hindered in its blooming by her necessities.

The next slight touch in the shaping of Clym’s destiny occurred a few
days after. A barrow was opened on the heath, and Yeobright attended the
operation, remaining away from his study during several hours. In the
afternoon Christian returned from a journey in the same direction, and
Mrs. Yeobright questioned him.

“They have dug a hole, and they have found things like flowerpots upside
down, Mis’ess Yeobright; and inside these be real charnel bones. They
have carried ’em off to men’s houses; but I shouldn’t like to sleep
where they will bide. Dead folks have been known to come and claim their
own. Mr. Yeobright had got one pot of the bones, and was going to bring
’em home–real skellington bones–but ’twas ordered otherwise. You’ll be
relieved to hear that he gave away his pot and all, on second thoughts;
and a blessed thing for ye, Mis’ess Yeobright, considering the wind o’
nights.”

“Gave it away?”

“Yes. To Miss Vye. She has a cannibal taste for such churchyard
furniture seemingly.”

“Miss Vye was there too?”

“Ay, ‘a b’lieve she was.”

When Clym came home, which was shortly after, his mother said, in a
curious tone, “The urn you had meant for me you gave away.”

Yeobright made no reply; the current of her feeling was too pronounced
to admit it.

The early weeks of the year passed on. Yeobright certainly studied at
home, but he also walked much abroad, and the direction of his walk was
always towards some point of a line between Mistover and Rainbarrow.

The month of March arrived, and the heath showed its first signs of
awakening from winter trance. The awakening was almost feline in its
stealthiness. The pool outside the bank by Eustacia’s dwelling, which
seemed as dead and desolate as ever to an observer who moved and made
noises in his observation, would gradually disclose a state of great
animation when silently watched awhile. A timid animal world had come to
life for the season. Little tadpoles and efts began to bubble up through
the water, and to race along beneath it; toads made noises like very
young ducks, and advanced to the margin in twos and threes; overhead,
bumblebees flew hither and thither in the thickening light, their drone
coming and going like the sound of a gong.

On an evening such as this Yeobright descended into the Blooms-End
valley from beside that very pool, where he had been standing with
another person quite silently and quite long enough to hear all this
puny stir of resurrection in nature; yet he had not heard it. His walk
was rapid as he came down, and he went with a springy trend. Before
entering upon his mother’s premises he stopped and breathed. The light
which shone forth on him from the window revealed that his face was
flushed and his eye bright. What it did not show was something which
lingered upon his lips like a seal set there. The abiding presence of
this impress was so real that he hardly dared to enter the house, for it
seemed as if his mother might say, “What red spot is that glowing upon
your mouth so vividly?”

But he entered soon after. The tea was ready, and he sat down opposite
his mother. She did not speak many words; and as for him, something
had been just done and some words had been just said on the hill which
prevented him from beginning a desultory chat. His mother’s taciturnity
was not without ominousness, but he appeared not to care. He knew why
she said so little, but he could not remove the cause of her bearing
towards him. These half-silent sittings were far from uncommon with them
now. At last Yeobright made a beginning of what was intended to strike
at the whole root of the matter.

“Five days have we sat like this at meals with scarcely a word. What’s
the use of it, Mother?”

“None,” said she, in a heart-swollen tone. “But there is only too good a
reason.”

“Not when you know all. I have been wanting to speak about this, and I
am glad the subject is begun. The reason, of course, is Eustacia Vye.
Well, I confess I have seen her lately, and have seen her a good many
times.”

“Yes, yes; and I know what that amounts to. It troubles me, Clym. You
are wasting your life here; and it is solely on account of her. If
it had not been for that woman you would never have entertained this
teaching scheme at all.”

Clym looked hard at his mother. “You know that is not it,” he said.

“Well, I know you had decided to attempt it before you saw her; but
that would have ended in intentions. It was very well to talk of, but
ridiculous to put in practice. I fully expected that in the course of a
month or two you would have seen the folly of such self-sacrifice, and
would have been by this time back again to Paris in some business or
other. I can understand objections to the diamond trade–I really was
thinking that it might be inadequate to the life of a man like you even
though it might have made you a millionaire. But now I see how mistaken
you are about this girl I doubt if you could be correct about other
things.”

“How am I mistaken in her?”

“She is lazy and dissatisfied. But that is not all of it. Supposing her
to be as good a woman as any you can find, which she certainly is not,
why do you wish to connect yourself with anybody at present?”

“Well, there are practical reasons,” Clym began, and then almost broke
off under an overpowering sense of the weight of argument which could be
brought against his statement.

“If I take a school an educated woman would be invaluable as a help to
me.”

“What! you really mean to marry her?”

“It would be premature to state that plainly. But consider what obvious
advantages there would be in doing it. She—-”

“Don’t suppose she has any money. She hasn’t a farthing.”

“She is excellently educated, and would make a good matron in a
boarding-school. I candidly own that I have modified my views a little,
in deference to you; and it should satisfy you. I no longer adhere to
my intention of giving with my own mouth rudimentary education to the
lowest class. I can do better. I can establish a good private school
for farmers’ sons, and without stopping the school I can manage to
pass examinations. By this means, and by the assistance of a wife like
her—-”

“Oh, Clym!”

“I shall ultimately, I hope, be at the head of one of the best schools
in the county.”

Yeobright had enunciated the word “her” with a fervour which, in
conversation with a mother, was absurdly indiscreet. Hardly a maternal
heart within the four seas could in such circumstances, have helped
being irritated at that ill-timed betrayal of feeling for a new woman.

“You are blinded, Clym,” she said warmly. “It was a bad day for you when
you first set eyes on her. And your scheme is merely a castle in the
air built on purpose to justify this folly which has seized you, and to
salve your conscience on the irrational situation you are in.”

“Mother, that’s not true,” he firmly answered.

“Can you maintain that I sit and tell untruths, when all I wish to do
is to save you from sorrow? For shame, Clym! But it is all through that
woman–a hussy!”

Clym reddened like fire and rose. He placed his hand upon his mother’s
shoulder and said, in a tone which hung strangely between entreaty and
command, “I won’t hear it. I may be led to answer you in a way which we
shall both regret.”

His mother parted her lips to begin some other vehement truth, but on
looking at him she saw that in his face which led her to leave the
words unsaid. Yeobright walked once or twice across the room, and then
suddenly went out of the house. It was eleven o’clock when he came in,
though he had not been further than the precincts of the garden. His
mother was gone to bed. A light was left burning on the table, and
supper was spread. Without stopping for any food he secured the doors
and went upstairs.

4–An Hour of Bliss and Many Hours of Sadness

The next day was gloomy enough at Blooms-End. Yeobright remained in
his study, sitting over the open books; but the work of those hours was
miserably scant. Determined that there should be nothing in his conduct
towards his mother resembling sullenness, he had occasionally spoken to
her on passing matters, and would take no notice of the brevity of her
replies. With the same resolve to keep up a show of conversation he
said, about seven o’clock in the evening, “There’s an eclipse of the
moon tonight. I am going out to see it.” And, putting on his overcoat,
he left her.

The low moon was not as yet visible from the front of the house, and
Yeobright climbed out of the valley until he stood in the full flood
of her light. But even now he walked on, and his steps were in the
direction of Rainbarrow.

In half an hour he stood at the top. The sky was clear from verge to
verge, and the moon flung her rays over the whole heath, but without
sensibly lighting it, except where paths and water-courses had laid bare
the white flints and glistening quartz sand, which made streaks upon the
general shade. After standing awhile he stooped and felt the heather. It
was dry, and he flung himself down upon the barrow, his face towards the
moon, which depicted a small image of herself in each of his eyes.

He had often come up here without stating his purpose to his mother;
but this was the first time that he had been ostensibly frank as to
his purpose while really concealing it. It was a moral situation which,
three months earlier, he could hardly have credited of himself. In
returning to labour in this sequestered spot he had anticipated an
escape from the chafing of social necessities; yet behold they were
here also. More than ever he longed to be in some world where personal
ambition was not the only recognized form of progress–such, perhaps, as
might have been the case at some time or other in the silvery globe then
shining upon him. His eye travelled over the length and breadth of that
distant country–over the Bay of Rainbows, the sombre Sea of Crises,
the Ocean of Storms, the Lake of Dreams, the vast Walled Plains, and
the wondrous Ring Mountains–till he almost felt himself to be voyaging
bodily through its wild scenes, standing on its hollow hills, traversing
its deserts, descending its vales and old sea bottoms, or mounting to
the edges of its craters.

While he watched the far-removed landscape a tawny stain grew into being
on the lower verge–the eclipse had begun. This marked a preconcerted
moment–for the remote celestial phenomenon had been pressed into
sublunary service as a lover’s signal. Yeobright’s mind flew back to
earth at the sight; he arose, shook himself and listened. Minute after
minute passed by, perhaps ten minutes passed, and the shadow on the moon
perceptibly widened. He heard a rustling on his left hand, a cloaked
figure with an upturned face appeared at the base of the Barrow, and
Clym descended. In a moment the figure was in his arms, and his lips
upon hers.

“My Eustacia!”

“Clym, dearest!”

Such a situation had less than three months brought forth.

They remained long without a single utterance, for no language could
reach the level of their condition–words were as the rusty implements
of a by-gone barbarous epoch, and only to be occasionally tolerated.

“I began to wonder why you did not come,” said Yeobright, when she had
withdrawn a little from his embrace.

“You said ten minutes after the first mark of shade on the edge of the
moon, and that’s what it is now.”

“Well, let us only think that here we are.”

Then, holding each other’s hand, they were again silent, and the shadow
on the moon’s disc grew a little larger.

“Has it seemed long since you last saw me?” she asked.

“It has seemed sad.”

“And not long? That’s because you occupy yourself, and so blind yourself
to my absence. To me, who can do nothing, it has been like living under
stagnant water.”

“I would rather bear tediousness, dear, than have time made short by
such means as have shortened mine.”

“In what way is that? You have been thinking you wished you did not love
me.”

“How can a man wish that, and yet love on? No, Eustacia.”

“Men can, women cannot.”

“Well, whatever I may have thought, one thing is certain–I do love
you–past all compass and description. I love you to oppressiveness–I,
who have never before felt more than a pleasant passing fancy for any
woman I have ever seen. Let me look right into your moonlit face and
dwell on every line and curve in it! Only a few hairbreadths make the
difference between this face and faces I have seen many times before I
knew you; yet what a difference–the difference between everything and
nothing at all. One touch on that mouth again! there, and there, and
there. Your eyes seem heavy, Eustacia.”

“No, it is my general way of looking. I think it arises from my feeling
sometimes an agonizing pity for myself that I ever was born.”

“You don’t feel it now?”

“No. Yet I know that we shall not love like this always. Nothing can
ensure the continuance of love. It will evaporate like a spirit, and so
I feel full of fears.”

“You need not.”

“Ah, you don’t know. You have seen more than I, and have been into
cities and among people that I have only heard of, and have lived more
years than I; but yet I am older at this than you. I loved another man
once, and now I love you.”

“In God’s mercy don’t talk so, Eustacia!”

“But I do not think I shall be the one who wearies first. It will, I
fear, end in this way: your mother will find out that you meet me, and
she will influence you against me!”

“That can never be. She knows of these meetings already.”

“And she speaks against me?”

“I will not say.”

“There, go away! Obey her. I shall ruin you. It is foolish of you
to meet me like this. Kiss me, and go away forever. Forever–do you
hear?–forever!”

“Not I.”

“It is your only chance. Many a man’s love has been a curse to him.”

“You are desperate, full of fancies, and wilful; and you misunderstand.
I have an additional reason for seeing you tonight besides love of you.
For though, unlike you, I feel our affection may be eternal. I feel with
you in this, that our present mode of existence cannot last.”

“Oh! ’tis your mother. Yes, that’s it! I knew it.”

“Never mind what it is. Believe this, I cannot let myself lose you. I
must have you always with me. This very evening I do not like to let
you go. There is only one cure for this anxiety, dearest–you must be my
wife.”

She started–then endeavoured to say calmly, “Cynics say that cures the
anxiety by curing the love.”

“But you must answer me. Shall I claim you some day–I don’t mean at
once?”

“I must think,” Eustacia murmured. “At present speak of Paris to me. Is
there any place like it on earth?”

“It is very beautiful. But will you be mine?”

“I will be nobody else’s in the world–does that satisfy you?”

“Yes, for the present.”

“Now tell me of the Tuileries, and the Louvre,” she continued evasively.

“I hate talking of Paris! Well, I remember one sunny room in the
Louvre which would make a fitting place for you to live in–the Galerie
d’Apollon. Its windows are mainly east; and in the early morning,
when the sun is bright, the whole apartment is in a perfect blaze of
splendour. The rays bristle and dart from the encrustations of gilding
to the magnificent inlaid coffers, from the coffers to the gold and
silver plate, from the plate to the jewels and precious stones, from
these to the enamels, till there is a perfect network of light which
quite dazzles the eye. But now, about our marriage—-”

“And Versailles–the King’s Gallery is some such gorgeous room, is it
not?”

“Yes. But what’s the use of talking of gorgeous rooms? By the way, the
Little Trianon would suit us beautifully to live in, and you might
walk in the gardens in the moonlight and think you were in some English
shrubbery; It is laid out in English fashion.”

“I should hate to think that!”

“Then you could keep to the lawn in front of the Grand Palace. All about
there you would doubtless feel in a world of historical romance.”

He went on, since it was all new to her, and described Fontainebleau,
St. Cloud, the Bois, and many other familiar haunts of the Parisians;
till she said–

“When used you to go to these places?”

“On Sundays.”

“Ah, yes. I dislike English Sundays. How I should chime in with their
manners over there! Dear Clym, you’ll go back again?”

Clym shook his head, and looked at the eclipse.

“If you’ll go back again I’ll–be something,” she said tenderly, putting
her head near his breast. “If you’ll agree I’ll give my promise, without
making you wait a minute longer.”

“How extraordinary that you and my mother should be of one mind about
this!” said Yeobright. “I have vowed not to go back, Eustacia. It is not
the place I dislike; it is the occupation.”

“But you can go in some other capacity.”

“No. Besides, it would interfere with my scheme. Don’t press that,
Eustacia. Will you marry me?”

“I cannot tell.”

“Now–never mind Paris; it is no better than other spots. Promise,
sweet!”

“You will never adhere to your education plan, I am quite sure; and then
it will be all right for me; and so I promise to be yours for ever and
ever.”

Clym brought her face towards his by a gentle pressure of the hand, and
kissed her.

“Ah! but you don’t know what you have got in me,” she said. “Sometimes I
think there is not that in Eustacia Vye which will make a good
homespun wife. Well, let it go–see how our time is slipping, slipping,
slipping!” She pointed towards the half-eclipsed moon.

“You are too mournful.”

“No. Only I dread to think of anything beyond the present. What is, we
know. We are together now, and it is unknown how long we shall be so;
the unknown always fills my mind with terrible possibilities, even
when I may reasonably expect it to be cheerful….Clym, the eclipsed
moonlight shines upon your face with a strange foreign colour, and shows
its shape as if it were cut out in gold. That means that you should be
doing better things than this.”

“You are ambitious, Eustacia–no, not exactly ambitious, luxurious. I
ought to be of the same vein, to make you happy, I suppose. And yet, far
from that, I could live and die in a hermitage here, with proper work to
do.”

There was that in his tone which implied distrust of his position as
a solicitous lover, a doubt if he were acting fairly towards one whose
tastes touched his own only at rare and infrequent points. She saw his
meaning, and whispered, in a low, full accent of eager assurance “Don’t
mistake me, Clym–though I should like Paris, I love you for yourself
alone. To be your wife and live in Paris would be heaven to me; but I
would rather live with you in a hermitage here than not be yours at all.
It is gain to me either way, and very great gain. There’s my too candid
confession.”

“Spoken like a woman. And now I must soon leave you. I’ll walk with you
towards your house.”

“But must you go home yet?” she asked. “Yes, the sand has nearly slipped
away, I see, and the eclipse is creeping on more and more. Don’t go yet!
Stop till the hour has run itself out; then I will not press you any
more. You will go home and sleep well; I keep sighing in my sleep! Do
you ever dream of me?”

“I cannot recollect a clear dream of you.”

“I see your face in every scene of my dreams, and hear your voice in
every sound. I wish I did not. It is too much what I feel. They say
such love never lasts. But it must! And yet once, I remember, I saw an
officer of the Hussars ride down the street at Budmouth, and though he
was a total stranger and never spoke to me, I loved him till I thought
I should really die of love–but I didn’t die, and at last I left off
caring for him. How terrible it would be if a time should come when I
could not love you, my Clym!”

“Please don’t say such reckless things. When we see such a time at hand
we will say, ‘I have outlived my faith and purpose,’ and die. There, the
hour has expired–now let us walk on.”

Hand in hand they went along the path towards Mistover. When they were
near the house he said, “It is too late for me to see your grandfather
tonight. Do you think he will object to it?”

“I will speak to him. I am so accustomed to be my own mistress that it
did not occur to me that we should have to ask him.”

Then they lingeringly separated, and Clym descended towards Blooms-End.

And as he walked further and further from the charmed atmosphere of his
Olympian girl his face grew sad with a new sort of sadness. A perception
of the dilemma in which his love had placed him came back in full force.
In spite of Eustacia’s apparent willingness to wait through the period
of an unpromising engagement, till he should be established in his new
pursuit, he could not but perceive at moments that she loved him rather
as a visitant from a gay world to which she rightly belonged than as
a man with a purpose opposed to that recent past of his which so
interested her. It meant that, though she made no conditions as to his
return to the French capital, this was what she secretly longed for in
the event of marriage; and it robbed him of many an otherwise pleasant
hour. Along with that came the widening breach between himself and his
mother. Whenever any little occurrence had brought into more prominence
than usual the disappointment that he was causing her it had sent him on
lone and moody walks; or he was kept awake a great part of the night
by the turmoil of spirit which such a recognition created. If Mrs.
Yeobright could only have been led to see what a sound and worthy
purpose this purpose of his was and how little it was being affected by
his devotions to Eustacia, how differently would she regard him!

Thus as his sight grew accustomed to the first blinding halo kindled
about him by love and beauty, Yeobright began to perceive what a
strait he was in. Sometimes he wished that he had never known Eustacia,
immediately to retract the wish as brutal. Three antagonistic growths
had to be kept alive: his mother’s trust in him, his plan for becoming a
teacher, and Eustacia’s happiness. His fervid nature could not afford
to relinquish one of these, though two of the three were as many as
he could hope to preserve. Though his love was as chaste as that of
Petrarch for his Laura, it had made fetters of what previously was
only a difficulty. A position which was not too simple when he stood
whole-hearted had become indescribably complicated by the addition of
Eustacia. Just when his mother was beginning to tolerate one scheme
he had introduced another still bitterer than the first, and the
combination was more than she could bear.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: