The Return of the Native By Thomas Hardy Book 3: Chapters 5-6

"It is indeed."

"Poor Clym!" she continued, looking tenderly into his face. "You are sad. Something has happened at your home. Never mind what is — let us only look at what seems."

"But, darling, what shall we do?" said he.

"It is indeed."

"Poor Clym!" she continued, looking tenderly into his face. "You are sad. Something has happened at your home. Never mind what is — let us only look at what seems."

"But, darling, what shall we do?" said he.

"Still go on as we do now — just live on from meeting to meeting, never minding about another day. You, I know, are always thinking of that — I can see you are. But you must not — will you, dear Clym?"

"You are just like all women. They are ever content to build their lives on any incidental position that offers itself; whilst men would fain make a globe to suit them. Listen to this, Eustacia. There is a subject I have determined to put off no longer. Your sentiment on the wisdom of Carpe diem does not impress me today. Our present mode of life must shortly be brought to an end."

"It is your mother!"

"It is. I love you none the less in telling you; it is only right you should know."

"I have feared my bliss," she said, with the merest motion of her lips. "It has been too intense and consuming."

"There is hope yet. There are forty years of work in me yet, and why should you despair? I am only at an awkward turning. I wish people wouldn't be so ready to think that there is no progress without uniformity."

"Ah — your mind runs off to the philosophical side of it. Well, these sad and hopeless obstacles are welcome in one sense, for they enable us to look with indifference upon the cruel satires that Fate loves to indulge in. I have heard of people, who, upon coming suddenly into happiness, have died from anxiety lest they should not live to enjoy it. I felt myself in that whimsical state of uneasiness lately; but I shall be spared it now. Let us walk on."

Clym took the hand which was already bared for him — it was a favourite way with them to walk bare hand in bare hand — and led her through the ferns. They formed a very comely picture of love at full flush, as they walked along the valley that late afternoon, the sun sloping down on their right, and throwing their thin spectral shadows, tall as poplar trees, far out across the furze and fern. Eustacia went with her head thrown back fancifully, a certain glad and voluptuous air of triumph pervading her eyes at having won by her own unaided self a man who was her perfect complement in attainment, appearance, and age. On the young man's part, the paleness of face which he had brought with him from Paris, and the incipient marks of time and thought, were less perceptible than when he returned, the healthful and energetic sturdiness which was his by nature having partially recovered its original proportions. They wandered onward till they reached the nether margin of the heath, where it became marshy and merged in moorland.

"I must part from you here, Clym," said Eustacia.

They stood still and prepared to bid each other farewell. Everything before them was on a perfect level. The sun, resting on the horizon line, streamed across the ground from between copper-coloured and lilac clouds, stretched out in flats beneath a sky of pale soft green. All dark objects on the earth that lay towards the sun were overspread by a purple haze, against which groups of wailing gnats shone out, rising upwards and dancing about like sparks of fire.

"O! this leaving you is too hard to bear!" exclaimed Eustacia in a sudden whisper of anguish. "Your mother will influence you too much; I shall not be judged fairly, it will get afloat that I am not a good girl, and the witch story will be added to make me blacker!"

"They cannot. Nobody dares to speak disrespectfully of you or of me."

"Oh how I wish I was sure of never losing you — that you could not be able to desert me anyhow!"

Clym stood silent a moment. His feelings were high, the moment was passionate, and he cut the knot.

"You shall be sure of me, darling," he said, folding her in his arms. "We will be married at once."

"O Clym!"

"Do you agree to it?"

"If — if we can."

"We certainly can, both being of full age. And I have not followed my occupation all these years without having accumulated money; and if you will agree to live in a tiny cottage somewhere on the heath, until I take a house in Budmouth for the school, we can do it at a very little expense."

"How long shall we have to live in the tiny cottage, Clym?"

"About six months. At the end of that time I shall have finished my reading — yes, we will do it, and this heart-aching will be over. We shall, of course, live in absolute seclusion, and our married life will only begin to outward view when we take the house in Budmouth, where I have already addressed a letter on the matter. Would your grandfather allow you?"

"I think he would — on the understanding that it should not last longer than six months."

"I will guarantee that, if no misfortune happens."

"If no misfortune happens," she repeated slowly.

"Which is not likely. Dearest, fix the exact day."

And then they consulted on the question, and the day was chosen. It was to be a fortnight from that time.

This was the end of their talk, and Eustacia left him. Clym watched her as she retired towards the sun. The luminous rays wrapped her up with her increasing distance, and the rustle of her dress over the sprouting sedge and grass died away. As he watched, the dead flat of the scenery overpowered him, though he was fully alive to the beauty of that untarnished early summer green which was worn for the nonce by the poorest blade. There was something in its oppressive horizontality which too much reminded him of the arena of life; it gave him a sense of bare equality with, and no superiority to, a single living thing under the sun.

Eustacia was now no longer the goddess but the woman to him, a being to fight for, support, help, be maligned for. Now that he had reached a cooler moment he would have preferred a less hasty marriage; but the card was laid, and he determined to abide by the game. Whether Eustacia was to add one other to the list of those who love too hotly to love long and well, the forthcoming event was certainly a ready way of proving.

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