The Return of the Native By Thomas Hardy Book 1: Chapters 4-5

As soon as they were alone, and the door closed, Thomasin said, turning up her pale, tearful face to him, "It is killing me, this, Damon! I did not mean to part from you in anger at Anglebury this morning; but I was frightened and hardly knew what I said. I've not let Aunt know how much I suffered today; and it is so hard to command my face and voice, and to smile as if it were a slight thing to me; but I try to do so, that she may not be still more indignant with you. I know you could not help it, dear, whatever Aunt may think."

As soon as they were alone, and the door closed, Thomasin said, turning up her pale, tearful face to him, "It is killing me, this, Damon! I did not mean to part from you in anger at Anglebury this morning; but I was frightened and hardly knew what I said. I've not let Aunt know how much I suffered today; and it is so hard to command my face and voice, and to smile as if it were a slight thing to me; but I try to do so, that she may not be still more indignant with you. I know you could not help it, dear, whatever Aunt may think."

"She is very unpleasant."

"Yes," Thomasin murmured, "and I suppose I seem so now....Damon, what do you mean to do about me?"

"Do about you?"

"Yes. Those who don't like you whisper things which at moments make me doubt you. We mean to marry, I suppose, don't we?"

"Of course we do. We have only to go to Budmouth on Monday, and we marry at once."

"Then do let us go! — O Damon, what you make me say!" She hid her face in her handkerchief. "Here am I asking you to marry me, when by rights you ought to be on your knees imploring me, your cruel mistress, not to refuse you, and saying it would break your heart if I did. I used to think it would be pretty and sweet like that; but how different!"

"Yes, real life is never at all like that."

"But I don't care personally if it never takes place," she added with a little dignity; "no, I can live without you. It is Aunt I think of. She is so proud, and thinks so much of her family respectability, that she will be cut down with mortification if this story should get abroad before — it is done. My cousin Clym, too, will be much wounded."

"Then he will be very unreasonable. In fact, you are all rather unreasonable."

Thomasin coloured a little, and not with love. But whatever the momentary feeling which caused that flush in her, it went as it came, and she humbly said, "I never mean to be, if I can help it. I merely feel that you have my aunt to some extent in your power at last."

"As a matter of justice it is almost due to me," said Wildeve. "Think what I have gone through to win her consent; the insult that it is to any man to have the banns forbidden — the double insult to a man unlucky enough to be cursed with sensitiveness, and blue demons, and Heaven knows what, as I am. I can never forget those banns. A harsher man would rejoice now in the power I have of turning upon your aunt by going no further in the business."

She looked wistfully at him with her sorrowful eyes as he said those words, and her aspect showed that more than one person in the room could deplore the possession of sensitiveness. Seeing that she was really suffering he seemed disturbed and added, "This is merely a reflection you know. I have not the least intention to refuse to complete the marriage, Tamsie mine — I could not bear it."

"You could not, I know!" said the fair girl, brightening. "You, who cannot bear the sight of pain in even an insect, or any disagreeable sound, or unpleasant smell even, will not long cause pain to me and mine."

"I will not, if I can help it."

"Your hand upon it, Damon."

He carelessly gave her his hand.

"Ah, by my crown, what's that?" he said suddenly.

There fell upon their ears the sound of numerous voices singing in front of the house. Among these, two made themselves prominent by their peculiarity: one was a very strong bass, the other a wheezy thin piping. Thomasin recognized them as belonging to Timothy Fairway and Grandfer Cantle respectively.

"What does it mean — it is not skimmity-riding, I hope?" she said, with a frightened gaze at Wildeve.

"Of course not; no, it is that the heath-folk have come to sing to us a welcome. This is intolerable!" He began pacing about, the men outside singing cheerily —

"He told' her that she' was the joy' of his life', And if' she'd con-sent' he would make her his wife'; She could' not refuse' him; to church' so they went', Young Will was forgot', and young Sue' was content'; And then' was she kiss'd' and set down' on his knee', No man' in the world' was so lov'-ing as he'!"

Mrs. Yeobright burst in from the outer room. "Thomasin, Thomasin!" she said, looking indignantly at Wildeve; "here's a pretty exposure! Let us escape at once. Come!"

It was, however, too late to get away by the passage. A rugged knocking had begun upon the door of the front room. Wildeve, who had gone to the window, came back.

"Stop!" he said imperiously, putting his hand upon Mrs. Yeobright's arm. "We are regularly besieged. There are fifty of them out there if there's one. You stay in this room with Thomasin; I'll go out and face them. You must stay now, for my sake, till they are gone, so that it may seem as if all was right. Come, Tamsie dear, don't go making a scene — we must marry after this; that you can see as well as I. Sit still, that's all — and don't speak much. I'll manage them. Blundering fools!"

He pressed the agitated girl into a seat, returned to the outer room and opened the door. Immediately outside, in the passage, appeared Grandfer Cantle singing in concert with those still standing in front of the house. He came into the room and nodded abstractedly to Wildeve, his lips still parted, and his features excruciatingly strained in the emission of the chorus. This being ended, he said heartily, "Here's welcome to the new-made couple, and God bless 'em!"

"Thank you," said Wildeve, with dry resentment, his face as gloomy as a thunderstorm.

At the Grandfer's heels now came the rest of the group, which included Fairway, Christian, Sam the turf-cutter, Humphrey, and a dozen others. All smiled upon Wildeve, and upon his tables and chairs likewise, from a general sense of friendliness towards the articles as well as towards their owner.

"We be not here afore Mrs. Yeobright after all," said Fairway, recognizing the matron's bonnet through the glass partition which divided the public apartment they had entered from the room where the women sat. "We struck down across, d'ye see, Mr. Wildeve, and she went round by the path."

"And I see the young bride's little head!" said Grandfer, peeping in the same direction, and discerning Thomasin, who was waiting beside her aunt in a miserable and awkward way. "Not quite settled in yet — well, well, there's plenty of time."

Wildeve made no reply; and probably feeling that the sooner he treated them the sooner they would go, he produced a stone jar, which threw a warm halo over matters at once.

"That's a drop of the right sort, I can see," said Grandfer Cantle, with the air of a man too well-mannered to show any hurry to taste it.

"Yes," said Wildeve, "'tis some old mead. I hope you will like it."

"O ay!" replied the guests, in the hearty tones natural when the words demanded by politeness coincide with those of deepest feeling. "There isn't a prettier drink under the sun."

"I'll take my oath there isn't," added Grandfer Cantle. "All that can be said against mead is that 'tis rather heady, and apt to lie about a man a good while. But tomorrow's Sunday, thank God."

"I feel'd for all the world like some bold soldier after I had had some once," said Christian.

"You shall feel so again," said Wildeve, with condescension, "Cups or glasses, gentlemen?"

"Well, if you don't mind, we'll have the beaker, and pass 'en round; 'tis better than heling it out in dribbles."

"Jown the slippery glasses," said Grandfer Cantle. "What's the good of a thing that you can't put down in the ashes to warm, hey, neighbours; that's what I ask?"

"Right, Grandfer," said Sam; and the mead then circulated.

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