The Return of the Native By Thomas Hardy Book 5: Chapters 2-3

He searched further, but found nothing more. "What was in this letter?" he said.

"Ask the writer. Am I your hound that you should talk to me in this way?"

"Do you brave me? do you stand me out, mistress? Answer. Don't look at me with those eyes if you would bewitch me again! Sooner than that I die. You refuse to answer?"

"I wouldn't tell you after this, if I were as innocent as the sweetest babe in heaven!"

"Which you are not."

"Certainly I am not absolutely," she replied. "I have not done what you suppose; but if to have done no harm at all is the only innocence recognized, I am beyond forgiveness. But I require no help from your conscience."

"You can resist, and resist again! Instead of hating you I could, I think, mourn for and pity you, if you were contrite, and would confess all. Forgive you I never can. I don't speak of your lover — I will give you the benefit of the doubt in that matter, for it only affects me personally. But the other — had you half-killed me, had it been that you wilfully took the sight away from these feeble eyes of mine, I could have forgiven you. But THAT'S too much for nature!"

"Say no more. I will do without your pity. But I would have saved you from uttering what you will regret."

"I am going away now. I shall leave you."

"You need not go, as I am going myself. You will keep just as far away from me by staying here."

"Call her to mind — think of her — what goodness there was in her — it showed in every line of her face! Most women, even when but slightly annoyed, show a flicker of evil in some curl of the mouth or some corner of the cheek; but as for her, never in her angriest moments was there anything malicious in her look. She was angered quickly, but she forgave just as readily, and underneath her pride there was the meekness of a child. What came of it? — what cared you? You hated her just as she was learning to love you. O! couldn't you see what was best for you, but must bring a curse upon me, and agony and death upon her, by doing that cruel deed! What was the fellow's name who was keeping you company and causing you to add cruelty to her to your wrong to me? Was it Wildeve? Was it poor Thomasin's husband? Heaven, what wickedness! Lost your voice, have you? It is natural after detection of that most noble trick....Eustacia, didn't any tender thought of your own mother lead you to think of being gentle to mine at such a time of weariness? Did not one grain of pity enter your heart as she turned away? Think what a vast opportunity was then lost of beginning a forgiving and honest course. Why did not you kick him out, and let her in, and say I'll be an honest wife and a noble woman from this hour? Had I told you to go and quench eternally our last flickering chance of happiness here you could have done no worse. Well, she's asleep now; and have you a hundred gallants, neither they nor you can insult her any more."

"You exaggerate fearfully," she said in a faint, weary voice; "but I cannot enter into my defence — it is not worth doing. You are nothing to me in future, and the past side of the story may as well remain untold. I have lost all through you, but I have not complained. Your blunders and misfortunes may have been a sorrow to you, but they have been a wrong to me. All persons of refinement have been scared away from me since I sank into the mire of marriage. Is this your cherishing — to put me into a hut like this, and keep me like the wife of a hind? You deceived me — not by words, but by appearances, which are less seen through than words. But the place will serve as well as any other — as somewhere to pass from — into my grave." Her words were smothered in her throat, and her head drooped down.

"I don't know what you mean by that. Am I the cause of your sin?" (Eustacia made a trembling motion towards him.) "What, you can begin to shed tears and offer me your hand? Good God! can you? No, not I. I'll not commit the fault of taking that." (The hand she had offered dropped nervelessly, but the tears continued flowing.) "Well, yes, I'll take it, if only for the sake of my own foolish kisses that were wasted there before I knew what I cherished. How bewitched I was! How could there be any good in a woman that everybody spoke ill of?"

"O, O, O!" she cried, breaking down at last; and, shaking with sobs which choked her, she sank upon her knees. "O, will you have done! O, you are too relentless — there's a limit to the cruelty of savages! I have held out long — but you crush me down. I beg for mercy — I cannot bear this any longer — it is inhuman to go further with this! If I had — killed your — mother with my own hand — I should not deserve such a scourging to the bone as this. O, O! God have mercy upon a miserable woman!... You have beaten me in this game — I beg you to stay your hand in pity!... I confess that I — wilfully did not undo the door the first time she knocked — but — I should have unfastened it the second — if I had not thought you had gone to do it yourself. When I found you had not I opened it, but she was gone. That's the extent of my crime — towards HER. Best natures commit bad faults sometimes, don't they? — I think they do. Now I will leave you — for ever and ever!"

"Tell all, and I WILL pity you. Was the man in the house with you Wildeve?"

"I cannot tell," she said desperately through her sobbing. "Don't insist further — I cannot tell. I am going from this house. We cannot both stay here."

"You need not go — I will go. You can stay here."

"No, I will dress, and then I will go."

"Where?"

"Where I came from, or ELSEWHERE."

She hastily dressed herself, Yeobright moodily walking up and down the room the whole of the time. At last all her things were on. Her little hands quivered so violently as she held them to her chin to fasten her bonnet that she could not tie the strings, and after a few moments she relinquished the attempt. Seeing this he moved forward and said, "Let me tie them."

She assented in silence, and lifted her chin. For once at least in her life she was totally oblivious of the charm of her attitude. But he was not, and he turned his eyes aside, that he might not be tempted to softness.

The strings were tied; she turned from him. "Do you still prefer going away yourself to my leaving you?" he inquired again.

"I do."

"Very well — let it be. And when you will confess to the man I may pity you."

She flung her shawl about her and went downstairs, leaving him standing in the room.

Eustacia had not long been gone when there came a knock at the door of the bedroom; and Yeobright said, "Well?"

It was the servant; and she replied, "Somebody from Mrs. Wildeve's have called to tell 'ee that the mis'ess and the baby are getting on wonderful well, and the baby's name is to be Eustacia Clementine." And the girl retired.

"What a mockery!" said Clym. "This unhappy marriage of mine to be perpetuated in that child's name!"

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