Meanwhile Venn had left the heath and gone to call upon Mrs. Yeobright, with whom he had been on friendly terms since she had learnt what a providential countermove he had made towards the restitution of the family guineas. She wondered at the lateness of his call, but had no objection to see him.
He gave her a full account of Clym's affliction, and of the state in which he was living; then, referring to Thomasin, touched gently upon the apparent sadness of her days. "Now, ma'am, depend upon it," he said, "you couldn't do a better thing for either of 'em than to make yourself at home in their houses, even if there should be a little rebuff at first."
"Both she and my son disobeyed me in marrying; therefore I have no interest in their households. Their troubles are of their own making." Mrs. Yeobright tried to speak severely; but the account of her son's state had moved her more than she cared to show.
"Your visits would make Wildeve walk straighter than he is inclined to do, and might prevent unhappiness down the heath."
"What do you mean?"
"I saw something tonight out there which I didn't like at all. I wish your son's house and Mr. Wildeve's were a hundred miles apart instead of four or five."
"Then there WAS an understanding between him and Clym's wife when he made a fool of Thomasin!"
"We'll hope there's no understanding now."
"And our hope will probably be very vain. O Clym! O Thomasin!"
"There's no harm done yet. In fact, I've persuaded Wildeve to mind his own business."
"O, not by talking — by a plan of mine called the silent system."
"I hope you'll succeed."
"I shall if you help me by calling and making friends with your son. You'll have a chance then of using your eyes."
"Well, since it has come to this," said Mrs. Yeobright sadly, "I will own to you, reddleman, that I thought of going. I should be much happier if we were reconciled. The marriage is unalterable, my life may be cut short, and I should wish to die in peace. He is my only son; and since sons are made of such stuff I am not sorry I have no other. As for Thomasin, I never expected much from her; and she has not disappointed me. But I forgave her long ago; and I forgive him now. I'll go."
At this very time of the reddleman's conversation with Mrs. Yeobright at Blooms-End another conversation on the same subject was languidly proceeding at Alderworth.
All the day Clym had borne himself as if his mind were too full of its own matter to allow him to care about outward things, and his words now showed what had occupied his thoughts. It was just after the mysterious knocking that he began the theme. "Since I have been away today, Eustacia, I have considered that something must be done to heal up this ghastly breach between my dear mother and myself. It troubles me."
"What do you propose to do?" said Eustacia abstractedly, for she could not clear away from her the excitement caused by Wildeve's recent manoeuvre for an interview.
"You seem to take a very mild interest in what I propose, little or much," said Clym, with tolerable warmth.
"You mistake me," she answered, reviving at his reproach. "I am only thinking."
"Partly of that moth whose skeleton is getting burnt up in the wick of the candle," she said slowly. "But you know I always take an interest in what you say."
"Very well, dear. Then I think I must go and call upon her."...He went on with tender feeling: "It is a thing I am not at all too proud to do, and only a fear that I might irritate her has kept me away so long. But I must do something. It is wrong in me to allow this sort of thing to go on."
"What have you to blame yourself about?"
"She is getting old, and her life is lonely, and I am her only son."
"She has Thomasin."
"Thomasin is not her daughter; and if she were that would not excuse me. But this is beside the point. I have made up my mind to go to her, and all I wish to ask you is whether you will do your best to help me — that is, forget the past; and if she shows her willingness to be reconciled, meet her halfway by welcoming her to our house, or by accepting a welcome to hers?"
At first Eustacia closed her lips as if she would rather do anything on the whole globe than what he suggested. But the lines of her mouth softened with thought, though not so far as they might have softened, and she said, "I will put nothing in your way; but after what has passed it, is asking too much that I go and make advances."
"You never distinctly told me what did pass between you."
"I could not do it then, nor can I now. Sometimes more bitterness is sown in five minutes than can be got rid of in a whole life; and that may be the case here." She paused a few moments, and added, "If you had never returned to your native place, Clym, what a blessing it would have been for you!... It has altered the destinies of — — "
"Five," Eustacia thought; but she kept that in.