The Return of the Native By Thomas Hardy Book 3: Chapters 3-4

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.

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