The Return of the Native By Thomas Hardy Book 5: Chapter 6

"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.

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