The Return of the Native 5; 0508

5–An Old Move Inadvertently Repeated

Charley’s attentions to his former mistress were unbounded. The only
solace to his own trouble lay in his attempts to relieve hers. Hour
after hour he considered her wants; he thought of her presence there
with a sort of gratitude, and, while uttering imprecations on the cause
of her unhappiness, in some measure blessed the result. Perhaps she
would always remain there, he thought, and then he would be as happy as
he had been before. His dread was lest she should think fit to return to
Alderworth, and in that dread his eyes, with all the inquisitiveness of
affection, frequently sought her face when she was not observing him,
as he would have watched the head of a stockdove to learn if it
contemplated flight. Having once really succoured her, and possibly
preserved her from the rashest of acts, he mentally assumed in addition
a guardian’s responsibility for her welfare.

For this reason he busily endeavoured to provide her with pleasant
distractions, bringing home curious objects which he found in the heath,
such as white trumpet-shaped mosses, redheaded lichens, stone arrowheads
used by the old tribes on Egdon, and faceted crystals from the hollows
of flints. These he deposited on the premises in such positions that she
should see them as if by accident.

A week passed, Eustacia never going out of the house. Then she walked
into the enclosed plot and looked through her grandfather’s spyglass, as
she had been in the habit of doing before her marriage. One day she
saw, at a place where the highroad crossed the distant valley, a heavily
laden wagon passing along. It was piled with household furniture. She
looked again and again, and recognized it to be her own. In the evening
her grandfather came indoors with a rumour that Yeobright had removed
that day from Alderworth to the old house at Blooms-End.

On another occasion when reconnoitring thus she beheld two female
figures walking in the vale. The day was fine and clear; and the persons
not being more than half a mile off she could see their every detail
with the telescope. The woman walking in front carried a white bundle
in her arms, from one end of which hung a long appendage of drapery; and
when the walkers turned, so that the sun fell more directly upon them,
Eustacia could see that the object was a baby. She called Charley, and
asked him if he knew who they were, though she well guessed.

“Mrs. Wildeve and the nurse-girl,” said Charley.

“The nurse is carrying the baby?” said Eustacia.

“No, ’tis Mrs. Wildeve carrying that,” he answered, “and the nurse walks
behind carrying nothing.”

The lad was in good spirits that day, for the Fifth of November had
again come round, and he was planning yet another scheme to divert her
from her too absorbing thoughts. For two successive years his
mistress had seemed to take pleasure in lighting a bonfire on the bank
overlooking the valley; but this year she had apparently quite forgotten
the day and the customary deed. He was careful not to remind her, and
went on with his secret preparations for a cheerful surprise, the more
zealously that he had been absent last time and unable to assist. At
every vacant minute he hastened to gather furze-stumps, thorn-tree
roots, and other solid materials from the adjacent slopes, hiding them
from cursory view.

The evening came, and Eustacia was still seemingly unconscious of the
anniversary. She had gone indoors after her survey through the glass,
and had not been visible since. As soon as it was quite dark Charley
began to build the bonfire, choosing precisely that spot on the bank
which Eustacia had chosen at previous times.

When all the surrounding bonfires had burst into existence Charley
kindled his, and arranged its fuel so that it should not require tending
for some time. He then went back to the house, and lingered round the
door and windows till she should by some means or other learn of his
achievement and come out to witness it. But the shutters were closed,
the door remained shut, and no heed whatever seemed to be taken of his
performance. Not liking to call her he went back and replenished the
fire, continuing to do this for more than half an hour. It was not till
his stock of fuel had greatly diminished that he went to the back door
and sent in to beg that Mrs. Yeobright would open the window-shutters
and see the sight outside.

Eustacia, who had been sitting listlessly in the parlour, started up
at the intelligence and flung open the shutters. Facing her on the bank
blazed the fire, which at once sent a ruddy glare into the room where
she was, and overpowered the candles.

“Well done, Charley!” said Captain Vye from the chimney-corner. “But I
hope it is not my wood that he’s burning….Ah, it was this time last
year that I met with that man Venn, bringing home Thomasin Yeobright–to
be sure it was! Well, who would have thought that girl’s troubles would
have ended so well? What a snipe you were in that matter, Eustacia! Has
your husband written to you yet?”

“No,” said Eustacia, looking vaguely through the window at the fire,
which just then so much engaged her mind that she did not resent her
grandfather’s blunt opinion. She could see Charley’s form on the bank,
shovelling and stirring the fire; and there flashed upon her imagination
some other form which that fire might call up.

She left the room, put on her garden bonnet and cloak, and went out.
Reaching the bank, she looked over with a wild curiosity and misgiving,
when Charley said to her, with a pleased sense of himself, “I made it o’
purpose for you, ma’am.”

“Thank you,” she said hastily. “But I wish you to put it out now.”

“It will soon burn down,” said Charley, rather disappointed. “Is it not
a pity to knock it out?”

“I don’t know,” she musingly answered.

They stood in silence, broken only by the crackling of the flames,
till Charley, perceiving that she did not want to talk to him, moved
reluctantly away.

Eustacia remained within the bank looking at the fire, intending to go
indoors, yet lingering still. Had she not by her situation been inclined
to hold in indifference all things honoured of the gods and of men she
would probably have come away. But her state was so hopeless that she
could play with it. To have lost is less disturbing than to wonder if we
may possibly have won; and Eustacia could now, like other people at such
a stage, take a standing-point outside herself, observe herself as a
disinterested spectator, and think what a sport for Heaven this woman
Eustacia was.

While she stood she heard a sound. It was the splash of a stone in the
pond.

Had Eustacia received the stone full in the bosom her heart could not
have given a more decided thump. She had thought of the possibility
of such a signal in answer to that which had been unwittingly given by
Charley; but she had not expected it yet. How prompt Wildeve was! Yet
how could he think her capable of deliberately wishing to renew their
assignations now? An impulse to leave the spot, a desire to stay,
struggled within her; and the desire held its own. More than that it did
not do, for she refrained even from ascending the bank and looking over.
She remained motionless, not disturbing a muscle of her face or raising
her eyes; for were she to turn up her face the fire on the bank would
shine upon it, and Wildeve might be looking down.

There was a second splash into the pond.

Why did he stay so long without advancing and looking over? Curiosity
had its way–she ascended one or two of the earth-steps in the bank and
glanced out.

Wildeve was before her. He had come forward after throwing the last
pebble, and the fire now shone into each of their faces from the bank
stretching breast-high between them.

“I did not light it!” cried Eustacia quickly. “It was lit without my
knowledge. Don’t, don’t come over to me!”

“Why have you been living here all these days without telling me? You
have left your home. I fear I am something to blame in this?”

“I did not let in his mother; that’s how it is!”

“You do not deserve what you have got, Eustacia; you are in great
misery; I see it in your eyes, your mouth, and all over you. My poor,
poor girl!” He stepped over the bank. “You are beyond everything
unhappy!”

“No, no; not exactly–”

“It has been pushed too far–it is killing you–I do think it!”

Her usually quiet breathing had grown quicker with his words. “I–I–”
she began, and then burst into quivering sobs, shaken to the very heart
by the unexpected voice of pity–a sentiment whose existence in relation
to herself she had almost forgotten.

This outbreak of weeping took Eustacia herself so much by surprise that
she could not leave off, and she turned aside from him in some shame,
though turning hid nothing from him. She sobbed on desperately; then
the outpour lessened, and she became quieter. Wildeve had resisted the
impulse to clasp her, and stood without speaking.

“Are you not ashamed of me, who used never to be a crying animal?” she
asked in a weak whisper as she wiped her eyes. “Why didn’t you go away?
I wish you had not seen quite all that; it reveals too much by half.”

“You might have wished it, because it makes me as sad as you,” he said
with emotion and deference. “As for revealing–the word is impossible
between us two.”

“I did not send for you–don’t forget it, Damon; I am in pain, but I did
not send for you! As a wife, at least, I’ve been straight.”

“Never mind–I came. O, Eustacia, forgive me for the harm I have done
you in these two past years! I see more and more that I have been your
ruin.”

“Not you. This place I live in.”

“Ah, your generosity may naturally make you say that. But I am the
culprit. I should either have done more or nothing at all.”

“In what way?”

“I ought never to have hunted you out, or, having done it, I ought to
have persisted in retaining you. But of course I have no right to talk
of that now. I will only ask this–can I do anything for you? Is there
anything on the face of the earth that a man can do to make you happier
than you are at present? If there is, I will do it. You may command
me, Eustacia, to the limit of my influence; and don’t forget that I am
richer now. Surely something can be done to save you from this! Such
a rare plant in such a wild place it grieves me to see. Do you want
anything bought? Do you want to go anywhere? Do you want to escape the
place altogether? Only say it, and I’ll do anything to put an end to
those tears, which but for me would never have been at all.”

“We are each married to another person,” she said faintly; “and
assistance from you would have an evil sound–after–after–”

“Well, there’s no preventing slanderers from having their fill at any
time; but you need not be afraid. Whatever I may feel I promise you on
my word of honour never to speak to you about–or act upon–until you
say I may. I know my duty to Thomasin quite as well as I know my duty to
you as a woman unfairly treated. What shall I assist you in?”

“In getting away from here.”

“Where do you wish to go to?”

“I have a place in my mind. If you could help me as far as Budmouth I
can do all the rest. Steamers sail from there across the Channel, and
so I can get to Paris, where I want to be. Yes,” she pleaded earnestly,
“help me to get to Budmouth harbour without my grandfather’s or my
husband’s knowledge, and I can do all the rest.”

“Will it be safe to leave you there alone?”

“Yes, yes. I know Budmouth well.”

“Shall I go with you? I am rich now.”

She was silent.

“Say yes, sweet!”

She was silent still.

“Well, let me know when you wish to go. We shall be at our present
house till December; after that we remove to Casterbridge. Command me in
anything till that time.”

“I will think of this,” she said hurriedly. “Whether I can honestly make
use of you as a friend, or must close with you as a lover–that is what
I must ask myself. If I wish to go and decide to accept your company I
will signal to you some evening at eight o’clock punctually, and this
will mean that you are to be ready with a horse and trap at twelve
o’clock the same night to drive me to Budmouth harbour in time for the
morning boat.”

“I will look out every night at eight, and no signal shall escape me.”

“Now please go away. If I decide on this escape I can only meet you
once more unless–I cannot go without you. Go–I cannot bear it longer.
Go–go!”

Wildeve slowly went up the steps and descended into the darkness on the
other side; and as he walked he glanced back, till the bank blotted out
her form from his further view.

6–Thomasin Argues with Her Cousin, and He Writes a Letter

Yeobright was at this time at Blooms-End, hoping that Eustacia would
return to him. The removal of furniture had been accomplished only that
day, though Clym had lived in the old house for more than a week. He had
spent the time in working about the premises, sweeping leaves from the
garden paths, cutting dead stalks from the flower beds, and nailing
up creepers which had been displaced by the autumn winds. He took no
particular pleasure in these deeds, but they formed a screen between
himself and despair. Moreover, it had become a religion with him to
preserve in good condition all that had lapsed from his mother’s hands
to his own.

During these operations he was constantly on the watch for Eustacia.
That there should be no mistake about her knowing where to find him
he had ordered a notice board to be affixed to the garden gate at
Alderworth, signifying in white letters whither he had removed. When a
leaf floated to the earth he turned his head, thinking it might be her
foot-fall. A bird searching for worms in the mould of the flower-beds
sounded like her hand on the latch of the gate; and at dusk, when soft,
strange ventriloquisms came from holes in the ground, hollow stalks,
curled dead leaves, and other crannies wherein breezes, worms, and
insects can work their will, he fancied that they were Eustacia,
standing without and breathing wishes of reconciliation.

Up to this hour he had persevered in his resolve not to invite her back.
At the same time the severity with which he had treated her lulled
the sharpness of his regret for his mother, and awoke some of his old
solicitude for his mother’s supplanter. Harsh feelings produce harsh
usage, and this by reaction quenches the sentiments that gave it birth.
The more he reflected the more he softened. But to look upon his wife
as innocence in distress was impossible, though he could ask himself
whether he had given her quite time enough–if he had not come a little
too suddenly upon her on that sombre morning.

Now that the first flush of his anger had paled he was disinclined to
ascribe to her more than an indiscreet friendship with Wildeve, for
there had not appeared in her manner the signs of dishonour. And this
once admitted, an absolutely dark interpretation of her act towards his
mother was no longer forced upon him.

On the evening of the fifth November his thoughts of Eustacia were
intense. Echoes from those past times when they had exchanged tender
words all the day long came like the diffused murmur of a seashore left
miles behind. “Surely,” he said, “she might have brought herself to
communicate with me before now, and confess honestly what Wildeve was to
her.”

Instead of remaining at home that night he determined to go and see
Thomasin and her husband. If he found opportunity he would allude to the
cause of the separation between Eustacia and himself, keeping silence,
however, on the fact that there was a third person in his house when his
mother was turned away. If it proved that Wildeve was innocently there
he would doubtless openly mention it. If he were there with unjust
intentions Wildeve, being a man of quick feeling, might possibly say
something to reveal the extent to which Eustacia was compromised.

But on reaching his cousin’s house he found that only Thomasin was
at home, Wildeve being at that time on his way towards the bonfire
innocently lit by Charley at Mistover. Thomasin then, as always, was
glad to see Clym, and took him to inspect the sleeping baby, carefully
screening the candlelight from the infant’s eyes with her hand.

“Tamsin, have you heard that Eustacia is not with me now?” he said when
they had sat down again.

“No,” said Thomasin, alarmed.

“And not that I have left Alderworth?”

“No. I never hear tidings from Alderworth unless you bring them. What is
the matter?”

Clym in a disturbed voice related to her his visit to Susan Nunsuch’s
boy, the revelation he had made, and what had resulted from his
charging Eustacia with having wilfully and heartlessly done the deed. He
suppressed all mention of Wildeve’s presence with her.

“All this, and I not knowing it!” murmured Thomasin in an awestruck
tone, “Terrible! What could have made her–O, Eustacia! And when you
found it out you went in hot haste to her? Were you too cruel?–or is
she really so wicked as she seems?”

“Can a man be too cruel to his mother’s enemy?”

“I can fancy so.”

“Very well, then–I’ll admit that he can. But now what is to be done?”

“Make it up again–if a quarrel so deadly can ever be made up. I almost
wish you had not told me. But do try to be reconciled. There are ways,
after all, if you both wish to.”

“I don’t know that we do both wish to make it up,” said Clym. “If she
had wished it, would she not have sent to me by this time?”

“You seem to wish to, and yet you have not sent to her.”

“True; but I have been tossed to and fro in doubt if I ought, after such
strong provocation. To see me now, Thomasin, gives you no idea of what I
have been; of what depths I have descended to in these few last days. O,
it was a bitter shame to shut out my mother like that! Can I ever forget
it, or even agree to see her again?”

“She might not have known that anything serious would come of it, and
perhaps she did not mean to keep Aunt out altogether.”

“She says herself that she did not. But the fact remains that keep her
out she did.”

“Believe her sorry, and send for her.”

“How if she will not come?”

“It will prove her guilty, by showing that it is her habit to nourish
enmity. But I do not think that for a moment.”

“I will do this. I will wait for a day or two longer–not longer than
two days certainly; and if she does not send to me in that time I will
indeed send to her. I thought to have seen Wildeve here tonight. Is he
from home?”

Thomasin blushed a little. “No,” she said. “He is merely gone out for a
walk.”

“Why didn’t he take you with him? The evening is fine. You want fresh
air as well as he.”

“Oh, I don’t care for going anywhere; besides, there is baby.”

“Yes, yes. Well, I have been thinking whether I should not consult your
husband about this as well as you,” said Clym steadily.

“I fancy I would not,” she quickly answered. “It can do no good.”

Her cousin looked her in the face. No doubt Thomasin was ignorant that
her husband had any share in the events of that tragic afternoon; but
her countenance seemed to signify that she concealed some suspicion or
thought of the reputed tender relations between Wildeve and Eustacia in
days gone by.

Clym, however, could make nothing of it, and he rose to depart, more in
doubt than when he came.

“You will write to her in a day or two?” said the young woman earnestly.
“I do so hope the wretched separation may come to an end.”

“I will,” said Clym; “I don’t rejoice in my present state at all.”

And he left her and climbed over the hill to Blooms-End. Before going to
bed he sat down and wrote the following letter:–

MY DEAR EUSTACIA,–I must obey my heart without consulting my reason too
closely. Will you come back to me? Do so, and the past shall never be
mentioned. I was too severe; but O, Eustacia, the provocation! You don’t
know, you never will know, what those words of anger cost me which
you drew down upon yourself. All that an honest man can promise you I
promise now, which is that from me you shall never suffer anything on
this score again. After all the vows we have made, Eustacia, I think we
had better pass the remainder of our lives in trying to keep them. Come
to me, then, even if you reproach me. I have thought of your sufferings
that morning on which I parted from you; I know they were genuine, and
they are as much as you ought to bear. Our love must still continue.
Such hearts as ours would never have been given us but to be concerned
with each other. I could not ask you back at first, Eustacia, for I was
unable to persuade myself that he who was with you was not there as a
lover. But if you will come and explain distracting appearances I do
not question that you can show your honesty to me. Why have you not
come before? Do you think I will not listen to you? Surely not, when you
remember the kisses and vows we exchanged under the summer moon. Return
then, and you shall be warmly welcomed. I can no longer think of you
to your prejudice–I am but too much absorbed in justifying you.–Your
husband as ever,

CLYM.

“There,” he said, as he laid it in his desk, “that’s a good thing done.
If she does not come before tomorrow night I will send it to her.”

Meanwhile, at the house he had just left Thomasin sat sighing uneasily.
Fidelity to her husband had that evening induced her to conceal all
suspicion that Wildeve’s interest in Eustacia had not ended with
his marriage. But she knew nothing positive; and though Clym was her
well-beloved cousin there was one nearer to her still.

When, a little later, Wildeve returned from his walk to Mistover,
Thomasin said, “Damon, where have you been? I was getting quite
frightened, and thought you had fallen into the river. I dislike being
in the house by myself.”

“Frightened?” he said, touching her cheek as if she were some domestic
animal. “Why, I thought nothing could frighten you. It is that you are
getting proud, I am sure, and don’t like living here since we have risen
above our business. Well, it is a tedious matter, this getting a new
house; but I couldn’t have set about it sooner, unless our ten thousand
pounds had been a hundred thousand, when we could have afforded to
despise caution.”

“No–I don’t mind waiting–I would rather stay here twelve months longer
than run any risk with baby. But I don’t like your vanishing so in the
evenings. There’s something on your mind–I know there is, Damon. You go
about so gloomily, and look at the heath as if it were somebody’s gaol
instead of a nice wild place to walk in.”

He looked towards her with pitying surprise. “What, do you like Egdon
Heath?” he said.

“I like what I was born near to; I admire its grim old face.”

“Pooh, my dear. You don’t know what you like.”

“I am sure I do. There’s only one thing unpleasant about Egdon.”

“What’s that?”

“You never take me with you when you walk there. Why do you wander so
much in it yourself if you so dislike it?”

The inquiry, though a simple one, was plainly disconcerting, and he sat
down before replying. “I don’t think you often see me there. Give an
instance.”

“I will,” she answered triumphantly. “When you went out this evening I
thought that as baby was asleep I would see where you were going to so
mysteriously without telling me. So I ran out and followed behind you.
You stopped at the place where the road forks, looked round at the
bonfires, and then said, ‘Damn it, I’ll go!’ And you went quickly up the
left-hand road. Then I stood and watched you.”

Wildeve frowned, afterwards saying, with a forced smile, “Well, what
wonderful discovery did you make?”

“There–now you are angry, and we won’t talk of this any more.” She went
across to him, sat on a footstool, and looked up in his face.

“Nonsense!” he said, “that’s how you always back out. We will go on
with it now we have begun. What did you next see? I particularly want to
know.”

“Don’t be like that, Damon!” she murmured. “I didn’t see anything. You
vanished out of sight, and then I looked round at the bonfires and came
in.”

“Perhaps this is not the only time you have dogged my steps. Are you
trying to find out something bad about me?”

“Not at all! I have never done such a thing before, and I shouldn’t have
done it now if words had not sometimes been dropped about you.”

“What DO you mean?” he impatiently asked.

“They say–they say you used to go to Alderworth in the evenings, and it
puts into my mind what I have heard about–”

Wildeve turned angrily and stood up in front of her. “Now,” he said,
flourishing his hand in the air, “just out with it, madam! I demand to
know what remarks you have heard.”

“Well, I heard that you used to be very fond of Eustacia–nothing more
than that, though dropped in a bit-by-bit way. You ought not to be
angry!”

He observed that her eyes were brimming with tears. “Well,” he said,
“there is nothing new in that, and of course I don’t mean to be rough
towards you, so you need not cry. Now, don’t let us speak of the subject
any more.”

And no more was said, Thomasin being glad enough of a reason for not
mentioning Clym’s visit to her that evening, and his story.

7–The Night of the Sixth of November

Having resolved on flight Eustacia at times seemed anxious that
something should happen to thwart her own intention. The only event that
could really change her position was the appearance of Clym. The glory
which had encircled him as her lover was departed now; yet some good
simple quality of his would occasionally return to her memory and stir a
momentary throb of hope that he would again present himself before her.
But calmly considered it was not likely that such a severance as now
existed would ever close up–she would have to live on as a painful
object, isolated, and out of place. She had used to think of the heath
alone as an uncongenial spot to be in; she felt it now of the whole
world.

Towards evening on the sixth her determination to go away again revived.
About four o’clock she packed up anew the few small articles she had
brought in her flight from Alderworth, and also some belonging to her
which had been left here; the whole formed a bundle not too large to be
carried in her hand for a distance of a mile or two. The scene without
grew darker; mud-coloured clouds bellied downwards from the sky like
vast hammocks slung across it, and with the increase of night a stormy
wind arose; but as yet there was no rain.

Eustacia could not rest indoors, having nothing more to do, and she
wandered to and fro on the hill, not far from the house she was soon
to leave. In these desultory ramblings she passed the cottage of Susan
Nunsuch, a little lower down than her grandfather’s. The door was
ajar, and a riband of bright firelight fell over the ground without. As
Eustacia crossed the firebeams she appeared for an instant as distinct
as a figure in a phantasmagoria–a creature of light surrounded by
an area of darkness; the moment passed, and she was absorbed in night
again.

A woman who was sitting inside the cottage had seen and recognized
her in that momentary irradiation. This was Susan herself, occupied
in preparing a posset for her little boy, who, often ailing, was
now seriously unwell. Susan dropped the spoon, shook her fist at the
vanished figure, and then proceeded with her work in a musing, absent
way.

At eight o’clock, the hour at which Eustacia had promised to signal
Wildeve if ever she signalled at all, she looked around the premises to
learn if the coast was clear, went to the furze-rick, and pulled thence
a long-stemmed bough of that fuel. This she carried to the corner of the
bank, and, glancing behind to see if the shutters were all closed, she
struck a light, and kindled the furze. When it was thoroughly ablaze
Eustacia took it by the stem and waved it in the air above her head till
it had burned itself out.

She was gratified, if gratification were possible to such a mood, by
seeing a similar light in the vicinity of Wildeve’s residence a minute
or two later. Having agreed to keep watch at this hour every night, in
case she should require assistance, this promptness proved how strictly
he had held to his word. Four hours after the present time, that is, at
midnight, he was to be ready to drive her to Budmouth, as prearranged.

Eustacia returned to the house. Supper having been got over she retired
early, and sat in her bedroom waiting for the time to go by. The night
being dark and threatening, Captain Vye had not strolled out to gossip
in any cottage or to call at the inn, as was sometimes his custom on
these long autumn nights; and he sat sipping grog alone downstairs.
About ten o’clock there was a knock at the door. When the servant opened
it the rays of the candle fell upon the form of Fairway.

“I was a-forced to go to Lower Mistover tonight,” he said, “and Mr.
Yeobright asked me to leave this here on my way; but, faith, I put it in
the lining of my hat, and thought no more about it till I got back and
was hasping my gate before going to bed. So I have run back with it at
once.”

He handed in a letter and went his way. The girl brought it to the
captain, who found that it was directed to Eustacia. He turned it over
and over, and fancied that the writing was her husband’s, though he
could not be sure. However, he decided to let her have it at once if
possible, and took it upstairs for that purpose; but on reaching the
door of her room and looking in at the keyhole he found there was no
light within, the fact being that Eustacia, without undressing, had
flung herself upon the bed, to rest and gather a little strength for her
coming journey. Her grandfather concluded from what he saw that he ought
not to disturb her; and descending again to the parlour he placed the
letter on the mantelpiece to give it to her in the morning.

At eleven o’clock he went to bed himself, smoked for some time in his
bedroom, put out his light at half-past eleven, and then, as was his
invariable custom, pulled up the blind before getting into bed, that he
might see which way the wind blew on opening his eyes in the morning,
his bedroom window commanding a view of the flagstaff and vane. Just as
he had lain down he was surprised to observe the white pole of the staff
flash into existence like a streak of phosphorus drawn downwards across
the shade of night without. Only one explanation met this–a light had
been suddenly thrown upon the pole from the direction of the house. As
everybody had retired to rest the old man felt it necessary to get
out of bed, open the window softly, and look to the right and left.
Eustacia’s bedroom was lighted up, and it was the shine from her window
which had lighted the pole. Wondering what had aroused her, he remained
undecided at the window, and was thinking of fetching the letter to slip
it under her door, when he heard a slight brushing of garments on the
partition dividing his room from the passage.

The captain concluded that Eustacia, feeling wakeful, had gone for a
book, and would have dismissed the matter as unimportant if he had not
also heard her distinctly weeping as she passed.

“She is thinking of that husband of hers,” he said to himself. “Ah, the
silly goose! she had no business to marry him. I wonder if that letter
is really his?”

He arose, threw his boat-cloak round him, opened the door, and said,
“Eustacia!” There was no answer. “Eustacia!” he repeated louder, “there
is a letter on the mantelpiece for you.”

But no response was made to this statement save an imaginary one from
the wind, which seemed to gnaw at the corners of the house, and the
stroke of a few drops of rain upon the windows.

He went on to the landing, and stood waiting nearly five minutes. Still
she did not return. He went back for a light, and prepared to follow
her; but first he looked into her bedroom. There, on the outside of the
quilt, was the impression of her form, showing that the bed had not
been opened; and, what was more significant, she had not taken her
candlestick downstairs. He was now thoroughly alarmed; and hastily
putting on his clothes he descended to the front door, which he himself
had bolted and locked. It was now unfastened. There was no longer
any doubt that Eustacia had left the house at this midnight hour; and
whither could she have gone? To follow her was almost impossible. Had
the dwelling stood in an ordinary road, two persons setting out, one
in each direction, might have made sure of overtaking her; but it was
a hopeless task to seek for anybody on a heath in the dark, the
practicable directions for flight across it from any point being as
numerous as the meridians radiating from the pole. Perplexed what to do,
he looked into the parlour, and was vexed to find that the letter still
lay there untouched.

At half-past eleven, finding that the house was silent, Eustacia had
lighted her candle, put on some warm outer wrappings, taken her bag in
her hand, and, extinguishing the light again, descended the staircase.
When she got into the outer air she found that it had begun to rain, and
as she stood pausing at the door it increased, threatening to come on
heavily. But having committed herself to this line of action there was
no retreating for bad weather. Even the receipt of Clym’s letter would
not have stopped her now. The gloom of the night was funereal; all
nature seemed clothed in crape. The spiky points of the fir trees behind
the house rose into the sky like the turrets and pinnacles of an abbey.
Nothing below the horizon was visible save a light which was still
burning in the cottage of Susan Nunsuch.

Eustacia opened her umbrella and went out from the enclosure by the
steps over the bank, after which she was beyond all danger of being
perceived. Skirting the pool, she followed the path towards Rainbarrow,
occasionally stumbling over twisted furze roots, tufts of rushes, or
oozing lumps of fleshy fungi, which at this season lay scattered about
the heath like the rotten liver and lungs of some colossal animal.
The moon and stars were closed up by cloud and rain to the degree
of extinction. It was a night which led the traveller’s thoughts
instinctively to dwell on nocturnal scenes of disaster in the
chronicles of the world, on all that is terrible and dark in history and
legend–the last plague of Egypt, the destruction of Sennacherib’s host,
the agony in Gethsemane.

Eustacia at length reached Rainbarrow, and stood still there to think.
Never was harmony more perfect than that between the chaos of her mind
and the chaos of the world without. A sudden recollection had flashed
on her this moment–she had not money enough for undertaking a long
journey. Amid the fluctuating sentiments of the day her unpractical mind
had not dwelt on the necessity of being well-provided, and now that she
thoroughly realized the conditions she sighed bitterly and ceased to
stand erect, gradually crouching down under the umbrella as if she were
drawn into the Barrow by a hand from beneath. Could it be that she was
to remain a captive still? Money–she had never felt its value before.
Even to efface herself from the country means were required. To ask
Wildeve for pecuniary aid without allowing him to accompany her was
impossible to a woman with a shadow of pride left in her; to fly as
his mistress–and she knew that he loved her–was of the nature of
humiliation.

Anyone who had stood by now would have pitied her, not so much on
account of her exposure to weather, and isolation from all of humanity
except the mouldered remains inside the tumulus; but for that other form
of misery which was denoted by the slightly rocking movement that her
feelings imparted to her person. Extreme unhappiness weighed visibly
upon her. Between the drippings of the rain from her umbrella to her
mantle, from her mantle to the heather, from the heather to the earth,
very similar sounds could be heard coming from her lips; and the
tearfulness of the outer scene was repeated upon her face. The wings of
her soul were broken by the cruel obstructiveness of all about her; and
even had she seen herself in a promising way of getting to Budmouth,
entering a steamer, and sailing to some opposite port, she would have
been but little more buoyant, so fearfully malignant were other things.
She uttered words aloud. When a woman in such a situation, neither old,
deaf, crazed, nor whimsical, takes upon herself to sob and soliloquize
aloud there is something grievous the matter.

“Can I go, can I go?” she moaned. “He’s not GREAT enough for me to give
myself to–he does not suffice for my desire!… If he had been a Saul or
a Bonaparte–ah! But to break my marriage vow for him–it is too poor a
luxury!… And I have no money to go alone! And if I could, what comfort
to me? I must drag on next year, as I have dragged on this year, and the
year after that as before. How I have tried and tried to be a splendid
woman, and how destiny has been against me!… I do not deserve my lot!”
she cried in a frenzy of bitter revolt. “O, the cruelty of putting me
into this ill-conceived world! I was capable of much; but I have been
injured and blighted and crushed by things beyond my control! O, how
hard it is of Heaven to devise such tortures for me, who have done no
harm to Heaven at all!”

The distant light which Eustacia had cursorily observed in leaving
the house came, as she had divined, from the cottage window of Susan
Nunsuch. What Eustacia did not divine was the occupation of the woman
within at that moment. Susan’s sight of her passing figure earlier in
the evening, not five minutes after the sick boy’s exclamation, “Mother,
I do feel so bad!” persuaded the matron that an evil influence was
certainly exercised by Eustacia’s propinquity.

On this account Susan did not go to bed as soon as the evening’s work
was over, as she would have done at ordinary times. To counteract the
malign spell which she imagined poor Eustacia to be working, the
boy’s mother busied herself with a ghastly invention of superstition,
calculated to bring powerlessness, atrophy, and annihilation on any
human being against whom it was directed. It was a practice well known
on Egdon at that date, and one that is not quite extinct at the present
day.

She passed with her candle into an inner room, where, among other
utensils, were two large brown pans, containing together perhaps a
hundredweight of liquid honey, the produce of the bees during the
foregoing summer. On a shelf over the pans was a smooth and solid yellow
mass of a hemispherical form, consisting of beeswax from the same take
of honey. Susan took down the lump, and cutting off several thin
slices, heaped them in an iron ladle, with which she returned to the
living-room, and placed the vessel in the hot ashes of the fireplace. As
soon as the wax had softened to the plasticity of dough she kneaded the
pieces together. And now her face became more intent. She began moulding
the wax; and it was evident from her manner of manipulation that she was
endeavouring to give it some preconceived form. The form was human.

By warming and kneading, cutting and twisting, dismembering and
re-joining the incipient image she had in about a quarter of an hour
produced a shape which tolerably well resembled a woman, and was
about six inches high. She laid it on the table to get cold and hard.
Meanwhile she took the candle and went upstairs to where the little boy
was lying.

“Did you notice, my dear, what Mrs. Eustacia wore this afternoon besides
the dark dress?”

“A red ribbon round her neck.”

“Anything else?”

“No–except sandal-shoes.”

“A red ribbon and sandal-shoes,” she said to herself.

Mrs. Nunsuch went and searched till she found a fragment of the
narrowest red ribbon, which she took downstairs and tied round the neck
of the image. Then fetching ink and a quilt from the rickety bureau by
the window, she blackened the feet of the image to the extent presumably
covered by shoes; and on the instep of each foot marked cross-lines in
the shape taken by the sandalstrings of those days. Finally she tied
a bit of black thread round the upper part of the head, in faint
resemblance to a snood worn for confining the hair.

Susan held the object at arm’s length and contemplated it with a
satisfaction in which there was no smile. To anybody acquainted with
the inhabitants of Egdon Heath the image would have suggested Eustacia
Yeobright.

From her workbasket in the window-seat the woman took a paper of pins,
of the old long and yellow sort, whose heads were disposed to come off
at their first usage. These she began to thrust into the image in all
directions, with apparently excruciating energy. Probably as many as
fifty were thus inserted, some into the head of the wax model, some into
the shoulders, some into the trunk, some upwards through the soles of
the feet, till the figure was completely permeated with pins.

She turned to the fire. It had been of turf; and though the high heap
of ashes which turf fires produce was somewhat dark and dead on the
outside, upon raking it abroad with the shovel the inside of the mass
showed a glow of red heat. She took a few pieces of fresh turf from the
chimney-corner and built them together over the glow, upon which the
fire brightened. Seizing with the tongs the image that she had made of
Eustacia, she held it in the heat, and watched it as it began to waste
slowly away. And while she stood thus engaged there came from between
her lips a murmur of words.

It was a strange jargon–the Lord’s Prayer repeated backwards–the
incantation usual in proceedings for obtaining unhallowed assistance
against an enemy. Susan uttered the lugubrious discourse three times
slowly, and when it was completed the image had considerably diminished.
As the wax dropped into the fire a long flame arose from the spot,
and curling its tongue round the figure ate still further into its
substance. A pin occasionally dropped with the wax, and the embers
heated it red as it lay.

8–Rain, Darkness, and Anxious Wanderers

While the effigy of Eustacia was melting to nothing, and the fair woman
herself was standing on Rainbarrow, her soul in an abyss of desolation
seldom plumbed by one so young, Yeobright sat lonely at Blooms-End.
He had fulfilled his word to Thomasin by sending off Fairway with the
letter to his wife, and now waited with increased impatience for some
sound or signal of her return. Were Eustacia still at Mistover the very
least he expected was that she would send him back a reply tonight by
the same hand; though, to leave all to her inclination, he had cautioned
Fairway not to ask for an answer. If one were handed to him he was
to bring it immediately; if not, he was to go straight home without
troubling to come round to Blooms-End again that night.

But secretly Clym had a more pleasing hope. Eustacia might possibly
decline to use her pen–it was rather her way to work silently–and
surprise him by appearing at his door. How fully her mind was made up to
do otherwise he did not know.

To Clym’s regret it began to rain and blow hard as the evening advanced.
The wind rasped and scraped at the corners of the house, and filliped
the eavesdroppings like peas against the panes. He walked restlessly
about the untenanted rooms, stopping strange noises in windows and
doors by jamming splinters of wood into the casements and crevices,
and pressing together the leadwork of the quarries where it had become
loosened from the glass. It was one of those nights when cracks in the
walls of old churches widen, when ancient stains on the ceilings of
decayed manor houses are renewed and enlarged from the size of a man’s
hand to an area of many feet. The little gate in the palings before
his dwelling continually opened and clicked together again, but when he
looked out eagerly nobody was there; it was as if invisible shapes of
the dead were passing in on their way to visit him.

Between ten and eleven o’clock, finding that neither Fairway nor anybody
else came to him, he retired to rest, and despite his anxieties soon
fell asleep. His sleep, however, was not very sound, by reason of the
expectancy he had given way to, and he was easily awakened by a knocking
which began at the door about an hour after. Clym arose and looked out
of the window. Rain was still falling heavily, the whole expanse of
heath before him emitting a subdued hiss under the downpour. It was too
dark to see anything at all.

“Who’s there?” he cried.

Light footsteps shifted their position in the porch, and he could just
distinguish in a plaintive female voice the words, “O Clym, come down
and let me in!”

He flushed hot with agitation. “Surely it is Eustacia!” he murmured. If
so, she had indeed come to him unawares.

He hastily got a light, dressed himself, and went down. On his flinging
open the door the rays of the candle fell upon a woman closely wrapped
up, who at once came forward.

“Thomasin!” he exclaimed in an indescribable tone of disappointment. “It
is Thomasin, and on such a night as this! O, where is Eustacia?”

Thomasin it was, wet, frightened, and panting.

“Eustacia? I don’t know, Clym; but I can think,” she said with much
perturbation. “Let me come in and rest–I will explain this. There is a
great trouble brewing–my husband and Eustacia!”

“What, what?”

“I think my husband is going to leave me or do something dreadful–I
don’t know what–Clym, will you go and see? I have nobody to help me but
you; Eustacia has not yet come home?”

“No.”

She went on breathlessly: “Then they are going to run off together! He
came indoors tonight about eight o’clock and said in an off-hand way,
‘Tamsie, I have just found that I must go a journey.’ ‘When?’ I
said. ‘Tonight,’ he said. ‘Where?’ I asked him. ‘I cannot tell you at
present,’ he said; ‘I shall be back again tomorrow.’ He then went and
busied himself in looking up his things, and took no notice of me at
all. I expected to see him start, but he did not, and then it came to
be ten o’clock, when he said, ‘You had better go to bed.’ I didn’t know
what to do, and I went to bed. I believe he thought I fell asleep, for
half an hour after that he came up and unlocked the oak chest we keep
money in when we have much in the house and took out a roll of something
which I believe was banknotes, though I was not aware that he had ’em
there. These he must have got from the bank when he went there the other
day. What does he want banknotes for, if he is only going off for a day?
When he had gone down I thought of Eustacia, and how he had met her the
night before–I know he did meet her, Clym, for I followed him part of
the way; but I did not like to tell you when you called, and so make you
think ill of him, as I did not think it was so serious. Then I could not
stay in bed; I got up and dressed myself, and when I heard him out in
the stable I thought I would come and tell you. So I came downstairs
without any noise and slipped out.”

“Then he was not absolutely gone when you left?”

“No. Will you, dear Cousin Clym, go and try to persuade him not to go?
He takes no notice of what I say, and puts me off with the story of his
going on a journey, and will be home tomorrow, and all that; but I don’t
believe it. I think you could influence him.”

“I’ll go,” said Clym. “O, Eustacia!”

Thomasin carried in her arms a large bundle; and having by this time
seated herself she began to unroll it, when a baby appeared as the
kernel to the husks–dry, warm, and unconscious of travel or rough
weather. Thomasin briefly kissed the baby, and then found time to begin
crying as she said, “I brought baby, for I was afraid what might happen
to her. I suppose it will be her death, but I couldn’t leave her with
Rachel!”

Clym hastily put together the logs on the hearth, raked abroad the
embers, which were scarcely yet extinct, and blew up a flame with the
bellows.

“Dry yourself,” he said. “I’ll go and get some more wood.”

“No, no–don’t stay for that. I’ll make up the fire. Will you go at
once–please will you?”

Yeobright ran upstairs to finish dressing himself. While he was gone
another rapping came to the door. This time there was no delusion that
it might be Eustacia’s–the footsteps just preceding it had been heavy
and slow. Yeobright thinking it might possibly be Fairway with a note in
answer, descended again and opened the door.

“Captain Vye?” he said to a dripping figure.

“Is my granddaughter here?” said the captain.

“No.”

“Then where is she?”.

“I don’t know.”

“But you ought to know–you are her husband.”

“Only in name apparently,” said Clym with rising excitement. “I believe
she means to elope tonight with Wildeve. I am just going to look to it.”

“Well, she has left my house; she left about half an hour ago. Who’s
sitting there?”

“My cousin Thomasin.”

The captain bowed in a preoccupied way to her. “I only hope it is no
worse than an elopement,” he said.

“Worse? What’s worse than the worst a wife can do?”

“Well, I have been told a strange tale. Before starting in search of her
I called up Charley, my stable lad. I missed my pistols the other day.”

“Pistols?”

“He said at the time that he took them down to clean. He has now owned
that he took them because he saw Eustacia looking curiously at them; and
she afterwards owned to him that she was thinking of taking her life,
but bound him to secrecy, and promised never to think of such a thing
again. I hardly suppose she will ever have bravado enough to use one
of them; but it shows what has been lurking in her mind; and people who
think of that sort of thing once think of it again.”

“Where are the pistols?”

“Safely locked up. O no, she won’t touch them again. But there are
more ways of letting out life than through a bullet-hole. What did you
quarrel about so bitterly with her to drive her to all this? You must
have treated her badly indeed. Well, I was always against the marriage,
and I was right.”

“Are you going with me?” said Yeobright, paying no attention to the
captain’s latter remark. “If so I can tell you what we quarrelled about
as we walk along.”

“Where to?”

“To Wildeve’s–that was her destination, depend upon it.”

Thomasin here broke in, still weeping: “He said he was only going on a
sudden short journey; but if so why did he want so much money? O, Clym,
what do you think will happen? I am afraid that you, my poor baby, will
soon have no father left to you!”

“I am off now,” said Yeobright, stepping into the porch.

“I would fain go with ‘ee,” said the old man doubtfully. “But I begin to
be afraid that my legs will hardly carry me there such a night as this.
I am not so young as I was. If they are interrupted in their flight
she will be sure to come back to me, and I ought to be at the house to
receive her. But be it as ’twill I can’t walk to the Quiet Woman, and
that’s an end on’t. I’ll go straight home.”

“It will perhaps be best,” said Clym. “Thomasin, dry yourself, and be as
comfortable as you can.”

With this he closed the door upon her, and left the house in company
with Captain Vye, who parted from him outside the gate, taking the
middle path, which led to Mistover. Clym crossed by the right-hand track
towards the inn.

Thomasin, being left alone, took off some of her wet garments, carried
the baby upstairs to Clym’s bed, and then came down to the sitting-room
again, where she made a larger fire, and began drying herself. The fire
soon flared up the chimney, giving the room an appearance of comfort
that was doubled by contrast with the drumming of the storm without,
which snapped at the windowpanes and breathed into the chimney strange
low utterances that seemed to be the prologue to some tragedy.

But the least part of Thomasin was in the house, for her heart being at
ease about the little girl upstairs she was mentally following Clym on
his journey. Having indulged in this imaginary peregrination for
some considerable interval, she became impressed with a sense of the
intolerable slowness of time. But she sat on. The moment then came when
she could scarcely sit longer, and it was like a satire on her patience
to remember that Clym could hardly have reached the inn as yet. At last
she went to the baby’s bedside. The child was sleeping soundly; but her
imagination of possibly disastrous events at her home, the predominance
within her of the unseen over the seen, agitated her beyond endurance.
She could not refrain from going down and opening the door. The rain
still continued, the candlelight falling upon the nearest drops and
making glistening darts of them as they descended across the throng of
invisible ones behind. To plunge into that medium was to plunge into
water slightly diluted with air. But the difficulty of returning to
her house at this moment made her all the more desirous of doing
so–anything was better than suspense. “I have come here well enough,”
she said, “and why shouldn’t I go back again? It is a mistake for me to
be away.”

She hastily fetched the infant, wrapped it up, cloaked herself as
before, and shoveling the ashes over the fire, to prevent accidents,
went into the open air. Pausing first to put the door key in its
old place behind the shutter, she resolutely turned her face to the
confronting pile of firmamental darkness beyond the palings, and stepped
into its midst. But Thomasin’s imagination being so actively engaged
elsewhere, the night and the weather had for her no terror beyond that
of their actual discomfort and difficulty.

She was soon ascending Blooms-End valley and traversing the undulations
on the side of the hill. The noise of the wind over the heath was
shrill, and as if it whistled for joy at finding a night so congenial as
this. Sometimes the path led her to hollows between thickets of tall
and dripping bracken, dead, though not yet prostrate, which enclosed her
like a pool. When they were more than usually tall she lifted the baby
to the top of her head, that it might be out of the reach of their
drenching fronds. On higher ground, where the wind was brisk and
sustained, the rain flew in a level flight without sensible descent, so
that it was beyond all power to imagine the remoteness of the point
at which it left the bosoms of the clouds. Here self-defence was
impossible, and individual drops stuck into her like the arrows into
Saint Sebastian. She was enabled to avoid puddles by the nebulous
paleness which signified their presence, though beside anything less
dark than the heath they themselves would have appeared as blackness.

Yet in spite of all this Thomasin was not sorry that she had started.
To her there were not, as to Eustacia, demons in the air, and malice
in every bush and bough. The drops which lashed her face were not
scorpions, but prosy rain; Egdon in the mass was no monster whatever,
but impersonal open ground. Her fears of the place were rational, her
dislikes of its worst moods reasonable. At this time it was in her view
a windy, wet place, in which a person might experience much discomfort,
lose the path without care, and possibly catch cold.

If the path is well known the difficulty at such times of keeping
therein is not altogether great, from its familiar feel to the feet; but
once lost it is irrecoverable. Owing to her baby, who somewhat impeded
Thomasin’s view forward and distracted her mind, she did at last lose
the track. This mishap occurred when she was descending an open slope
about two-thirds home. Instead of attempting, by wandering hither and
thither, the hopeless task of finding such a mere thread, she went
straight on, trusting for guidance to her general knowledge of the
contours, which was scarcely surpassed by Clym’s or by that of the
heath-croppers themselves.

At length Thomasin reached a hollow and began to discern through the
rain a faint blotted radiance, which presently assumed the oblong form
of an open door. She knew that no house stood hereabouts, and was soon
aware of the nature of the door by its height above the ground.

“Why, it is Diggory Venn’s van, surely!” she said.

A certain secluded spot near Rainbarrow was, she knew, often Venn’s
chosen centre when staying in this neighbourhood; and she guessed at
once that she had stumbled upon this mysterious retreat. The question
arose in her mind whether or not she should ask him to guide her into
the path. In her anxiety to reach home she decided that she would appeal
to him, notwithstanding the strangeness of appearing before his eyes at
this place and season. But when, in pursuance of this resolve, Thomasin
reached the van and looked in she found it to be untenanted; though
there was no doubt that it was the reddleman’s. The fire was burning in
the stove, the lantern hung from the nail. Round the doorway the floor
was merely sprinkled with rain, and not saturated, which told her that
the door had not long been opened.

While she stood uncertainly looking in Thomasin heard a footstep
advancing from the darkness behind her, and turning, beheld the
well-known form in corduroy, lurid from head to foot, the lantern beams
falling upon him through an intervening gauze of raindrops.

“I thought you went down the slope,” he said, without noticing her face.
“How do you come back here again?”

“Diggory?” said Thomasin faintly.

“Who are you?” said Venn, still unperceiving. “And why were you crying
so just now?”

“O, Diggory! don’t you know me?” said she. “But of course you don’t,
wrapped up like this. What do you mean? I have not been crying here, and
I have not been here before.”

Venn then came nearer till he could see the illuminated side of her
form.

“Mrs. Wildeve!” he exclaimed, starting. “What a time for us to meet!
And the baby too! What dreadful thing can have brought you out on such a
night as this?”

She could not immediately answer; and without asking her permission he
hopped into his van, took her by the arm, and drew her up after him.

“What is it?” he continued when they stood within.

“I have lost my way coming from Blooms-End, and I am in a great hurry to
get home. Please show me as quickly as you can! It is so silly of me not
to know Egdon better, and I cannot think how I came to lose the path.
Show me quickly, Diggory, please.”

“Yes, of course. I will go with ‘ee. But you came to me before this,
Mrs. Wildeve?”

“I only came this minute.”

“That’s strange. I was lying down here asleep about five minutes ago,
with the door shut to keep out the weather, when the brushing of a
woman’s clothes over the heath-bushes just outside woke me up, for I
don’t sleep heavy, and at the same time I heard a sobbing or crying from
the same woman. I opened my door and held out my lantern, and just as
far as the light would reach I saw a woman; she turned her head when
the light sheened on her, and then hurried on downhill. I hung up the
lantern, and was curious enough to pull on my things and dog her a few
steps, but I could see nothing of her any more. That was where I had
been when you came up; and when I saw you I thought you were the same
one.”

“Perhaps it was one of the heathfolk going home?”

“No, it couldn’t be. ‘Tis too late. The noise of her gown over the he’th
was of a whistling sort that nothing but silk will make.”

“It wasn’t I, then. My dress is not silk, you see….Are we anywhere in
a line between Mistover and the inn?”

“Well, yes; not far out.”

“Ah, I wonder if it was she! Diggory, I must go at once!”

She jumped down from the van before he was aware, when Venn unhooked the
lantern and leaped down after her. “I’ll take the baby, ma’am,” he said.
“You must be tired out by the weight.”

Thomasin hesitated a moment, and then delivered the baby into Venn’s
hands. “Don’t squeeze her, Diggory,” she said, “or hurt her little arm;
and keep the cloak close over her like this, so that the rain may not
drop in her face.”

“I will,” said Venn earnestly. “As if I could hurt anything belonging to
you!”

“I only meant accidentally,” said Thomasin.

“The baby is dry enough, but you are pretty wet,” said the reddleman
when, in closing the door of his cart to padlock it, he noticed on the
floor a ring of water drops where her cloak had hung from her.

Thomasin followed him as he wound right and left to avoid the larger
bushes, stopping occasionally and covering the lantern, while he looked
over his shoulder to gain some idea of the position of Rainbarrow above
them, which it was necessary to keep directly behind their backs to
preserve a proper course.

“You are sure the rain does not fall upon baby?”

“Quite sure. May I ask how old he is, ma’am?”

“He!” said Thomasin reproachfully. “Anybody can see better than that in
a moment. She is nearly two months old. How far is it now to the inn?”

“A little over a quarter of a mile.”

“Will you walk a little faster?”

“I was afraid you could not keep up.”

“I am very anxious to get there. Ah, there is a light from the window!”

“‘Tis not from the window. That’s a gig-lamp, to the best of my belief.”

“O!” said Thomasin in despair. “I wish I had been there sooner–give me
the baby, Diggory–you can go back now.”

“I must go all the way,” said Venn. “There is a quag between us and
that light, and you will walk into it up to your neck unless I take you
round.”

“But the light is at the inn, and there is no quag in front of that.”

“No, the light is below the inn some two or three hundred yards.”

“Never mind,” said Thomasin hurriedly. “Go towards the light, and not
towards the inn.”

“Yes,” answered Venn, swerving round in obedience; and, after a pause,
“I wish you would tell me what this great trouble is. I think you have
proved that I can be trusted.”

“There are some things that cannot be–cannot be told to–” And then her
heart rose into her throat, and she could say no more.

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