A few steps further, and she looked back. "Did you call me, Aunt?" she tremulously inquired. "Good-bye!"
Moved by an uncontrollable feeling as she looked upon Mrs. Yeobright's worn, wet face, she ran back, when her aunt came forward, and they met again. "O — Tamsie," said the elder, weeping, "I don't like to let you go."
"I — I am — " Thomasin began, giving way likewise. But, quelling her grief, she said "Good-bye!" again and went on.
Then Mrs. Yeobright saw a little figure wending its way between the scratching furze-bushes, and diminishing far up the valley — a pale-blue spot in a vast field of neutral brown, solitary and undefended except by the power of her own hope.
But the worst feature in the case was one which did not appear in the landscape; it was the man.
The hour chosen for the ceremony by Thomasin and Wildeve had been so timed as to enable her to escape the awkwardness of meeting her cousin Clym, who was returning the same morning. To own to the partial truth of what he had heard would be distressing as long as the humiliating position resulting from the event was unimproved. It was only after a second and successful journey to the altar that she could lift up her head and prove the failure of the first attempt a pure accident.
She had not been gone from Blooms-End more than half an hour when Yeobright came by the meads from the other direction and entered the house.
"I had an early breakfast," he said to his mother after greeting her. "Now I could eat a little more."
They sat down to the repeated meal, and he went on in a low, anxious voice, apparently imagining that Thomasin had not yet come downstairs, "What's this I have heard about Thomasin and Mr. Wildeve?"
"It is true in many points," said Mrs. Yeobright quietly; "but it is all right now, I hope." She looked at the clock.
"Thomasin is gone to him today."
Clym pushed away his breakfast. "Then there is a scandal of some sort, and that's what's the matter with Thomasin. Was it this that made her ill?"
"Yes. Not a scandal — a misfortune. I will tell you all about it, Clym. You must not be angry, but you must listen, and you'll find that what we have done has been done for the best."
She then told him the circumstances. All that he had known of the affair before he returned from Paris was that there had existed an attachment between Thomasin and Wildeve, which his mother had at first discountenanced, but had since, owing to the arguments of Thomasin, looked upon in a little more favourable light. When she, therefore, proceeded to explain all he was greatly surprised and troubled.
"And she determined that the wedding should be over before you came back," said Mrs. Yeobright, "that there might be no chance of her meeting you, and having a very painful time of it. That's why she has gone to him; they have arranged to be married this morning."
"But I can't understand it," said Yeobright, rising. "'Tis so unlike her. I can see why you did not write to me after her unfortunate return home. But why didn't you let me know when the wedding was going to be — the first time?"
"Well, I felt vexed with her just then. She seemed to me to be obstinate; and when I found that you were nothing in her mind I vowed that she should be nothing in yours. I felt that she was only my niece after all; I told her she might marry, but that I should take no interest in it, and should not bother you about it either."
"It wouldn't have been bothering me. Mother, you did wrong."
"I thought it might disturb you in your business, and that you might throw up your situation, or injure your prospects in some way because of it, so I said nothing. Of course, if they had married at that time in a proper manner, I should have told you at once."
"Tamsin actually being married while we are sitting here!"
"Yes. Unless some accident happens again, as it did the first time. It may, considering he's the same man."
"Yes, and I believe it will. Was it right to let her go? Suppose Wildeve is really a bad fellow?"
"Then he won't come, and she'll come home again."
"You should have looked more into it."
"It is useless to say that," his mother answered with an impatient look of sorrow. "You don't know how bad it has been here with us all these weeks, Clym. You don't know what a mortification anything of that sort is to a woman. You don't know the sleepless nights we've had in this house, and the almost bitter words that have passed between us since that Fifth of November. I hope never to pass seven such weeks again. Tamsin has not gone outside the door, and I have been ashamed to look anybody in the face; and now you blame me for letting her do the only thing that can be done to set that trouble straight."
"No," he said slowly. "Upon the whole I don't blame you. But just consider how sudden it seems to me. Here was I, knowing nothing; and then I am told all at once that Tamsie is gone to be married. Well, I suppose there was nothing better to do. Do you know, Mother," he continued after a moment or two, looking suddenly interested in his own past history, "I once thought of Tamsin as a sweetheart? Yes, I did. How odd boys are! And when I came home and saw her this time she seemed so much more affectionate than usual, that I was quite reminded of those days, particularly on the night of the party, when she was unwell. We had the party just the same — was not that rather cruel to her?"
"It made no difference. I had arranged to give one, and it was not worth while to make more gloom than necessary. To begin by shutting ourselves up and telling you of Tamsin's misfortunes would have been a poor sort of welcome."
Clym remained thinking. "I almost wish you had not had that party," he said; "and for other reasons. But I will tell you in a day or two. We must think of Tamsin now."
They lapsed into silence. "I'll tell you what," said Yeobright again, in a tone which showed some slumbering feeling still. "I don't think it kind to Tamsin to let her be married like this, and neither of us there to keep up her spirits or care a bit about her. She hasn't disgraced herself, or done anything to deserve that. It is bad enough that the wedding should be so hurried and unceremonious, without our keeping away from it in addition. Upon my soul, 'tis almost a shame. I'll go."
"It is over by this time," said his mother with a sigh; "unless they were late, or he — "
"Then I shall be soon enough to see them come out. I don't quite like your keeping me in ignorance, Mother, after all. Really, I half hope he has failed to meet her!"
"And ruined her character?"
"Nonsense — that wouldn't ruin Thomasin."
He took up his hat and hastily left the house. Mrs. Yeobright looked rather unhappy, and sat still, deep in thought. But she was not long left alone. A few minutes later Clym came back again, and in his company came Diggory Venn.
"I find there isn't time for me to get there," said Clym.
"Is she married?" Mrs. Yeobright inquired, turning to the reddleman a face in which a strange strife of wishes, for and against, was apparent.
Venn bowed. "She is, ma'am."
"How strange it sounds," murmured Clym.
"And he didn't disappoint her this time?" said Mrs. Yeobright.
"He did not. And there is now no slight on her name. I was hastening ath'art to tell you at once, as I saw you were not there."
"How came you to be there? How did you know it?" she asked.
"I have been in that neighbourhood for some time, and I saw them go in," said the reddleman. "Wildeve came up to the door, punctual as the clock. I didn't expect it of him." He did not add, as he might have added, that how he came to be in that neighbourhood was not by accident; that, since Wildeve's resumption of his right to Thomasin, Venn, with the thoroughness which was part of his character, had determined to see the end of the episode.
"Who was there?" said Mrs. Yeobright.