"Why didn't she come to my house? I would have taken her in and showed her how I loved her in spite of all. But she never came; and I didn't go to her, and she died on the heath like an animal kicked out, nobody to help her till it was too late. If you could have seen her, Thomasin, as I saw her — a poor dying woman, lying in the dark upon the bare ground, moaning, nobody near, believing she was utterly deserted by all the world, it would have moved you to anguish, it would have moved a brute. And this poor woman my mother! No wonder she said to the child, 'You have seen a broken-hearted woman.' What a state she must have been brought to, to say that! and who can have done it but I? It is too dreadful to think of, and I wish I could be punished more heavily than I am. How long was I what they called out of my senses?"
"A week, I think."
"And then I became calm."
"Yes, for four days."
"And now I have left off being calm."
"But try to be quiet — please do, and you will soon be strong. If you could remove that impression from your mind — "
"Yes, yes," he said impatiently. "But I don't want to get strong. What's the use of my getting well? It would be better for me if I die, and it would certainly be better for Eustacia. Is Eustacia there?"
"It would be better for you, Eustacia, if I were to die?"
"Don't press such a question, dear Clym."
"Well, it really is but a shadowy supposition; for unfortunately I am going to live. I feel myself getting better. Thomasin, how long are you going to stay at the inn, now that all this money has come to your husband?"
"Another month or two, probably; until my illness is over. We cannot get off till then. I think it will be a month or more."
"Yes, yes. Of course. Ah, Cousin Tamsie, you will get over your trouble — one little month will take you through it, and bring something to console you; but I shall never get over mine, and no consolation will come!"
"Clym, you are unjust to yourself. Depend upon it, Aunt thought kindly of you. I know that, if she had lived, you would have been reconciled with her."
"But she didn't come to see me, though I asked her, before I married, if she would come. Had she come, or had I gone there, she would never have died saying, 'I am a broken-hearted woman, cast off by my son.' My door has always been open to her — a welcome here has always awaited her. But that she never came to see."
"You had better not talk any more now, Clym," said Eustacia faintly from the other part of the room, for the scene was growing intolerable to her.
"Let me talk to you instead for the little time I shall be here," Thomasin said soothingly. "Consider what a one-sided way you have of looking at the matter, Clym. When she said that to the little boy you had not found her and taken her into your arms; and it might have been uttered in a moment of bitterness. It was rather like Aunt to say things in haste. She sometimes used to speak so to me. Though she did not come I am convinced that she thought of coming to see you. Do you suppose a man's mother could live two or three months without one forgiving thought? She forgave me; and why should she not have forgiven you?"
"You laboured to win her round; I did nothing. I, who was going to teach people the higher secrets of happiness, did not know how to keep out of that gross misery which the most untaught are wise enough to avoid."
"How did you get here tonight, Thomasin?" said Eustacia.
"Damon set me down at the end of the lane. He has driven into East Egdon on business, and he will come and pick me up by-and-by."
Accordingly they soon after heard the noise of wheels. Wildeve had come, and was waiting outside with his horse and gig.
"Send out and tell him I will be down in two minutes," said Thomasin.
"I will run down myself," said Eustacia.
She went down. Wildeve had alighted, and was standing before the horse's head when Eustacia opened the door. He did not turn for a moment, thinking the comer Thomasin. Then he looked, startled ever so little, and said one word: "Well?"
"I have not yet told him," she replied in a whisper.
"Then don't do so till he is well — it will be fatal. You are ill yourself."
"I am wretched....O Damon," she said, bursting into tears, "I — I can't tell you how unhappy I am! I can hardly bear this. I can tell nobody of my trouble — nobody knows of it but you."
"Poor girl!" said Wildeve, visibly affected at her distress, and at last led on so far as to take her hand. "It is hard, when you have done nothing to deserve it, that you should have got involved in such a web as this. You were not made for these sad scenes. I am to blame most. If I could only have saved you from it all!"
"But, Damon, please pray tell me what I must do? To sit by him hour after hour, and hear him reproach himself as being the cause of her death, and to know that I am the sinner, if any human being is at all, drives me into cold despair. I don't know what to do. Should I tell him or should I not tell him? I always am asking myself that. O, I want to tell him; and yet I am afraid. If he find it out he must surely kill me, for nothing else will be in proportion to his feelings now. 'Beware the fury of a patient man' sounds day by day in my ears as I watch him."
"Well, wait till he is better, and trust to chance. And when you tell, you must only tell part — for his own sake."
"Which part should I keep back?"
Wildeve paused. "That I was in the house at the time," he said in a low tone.
"Yes; it must be concealed, seeing what has been whispered. How much easier are hasty actions than speeches that will excuse them!"
"If he were only to die — " Wildeve murmured.
"Do not think of it! I would not buy hope of immunity by so cowardly a desire even if I hated him. Now I am going up to him again. Thomasin bade me tell you she would be down in a few minutes. Good-bye."
She returned, and Thomasin soon appeared. When she was seated in the gig with her husband, and the horse was turning to go off, Wildeve lifted his eyes to the bedroom windows. Looking from one of them he could discern a pale, tragic face watching him drive away. It was Eustacia's.