He could not afford to wait till the next day before seeing Thomasin and detailing his plan. He speedily plunged himself into toilet operations, pulled a suit of cloth clothes from a box, and in about twenty minutes stood before the van-lantern as a reddleman in nothing but his face, the vermilion shades of which were not to be removed in a day. Closing the door and fastening it with a padlock, Venn set off towards Blooms-End.
He had reached the white palings and laid his hand upon the gate when the door of the house opened, and quickly closed again. A female form had glided in. At the same time a man, who had seemingly been standing with the woman in the porch, came forward from the house till he was face to face with Venn. It was Wildeve again.
“Man alive, you’ve been quick at it,” said Diggory sarcastically.
“And you slow, as you will find,” said Wildeve. “And,” lowering his voice, “you may as well go back again now. I’ve claimed her, and got her. Good night, reddleman!” Thereupon Wildeve walked away.
Venn’s heart sank within him, though it had not risen unduly high. He stood leaning over the palings in an indecisive mood for nearly a quarter of an hour. Then he went up the garden path, knocked, and asked for Mrs. Yeobright.
Instead of requesting him to enter she came to the porch. A discourse was carried on between them in low measured tones for the space of ten minutes or more. At the end of the time Mrs. Yeobright went in, and Venn sadly retraced his steps into the heath. When he had again regained his van he lit the lantern, and with an apathetic face at once began to pull off his best clothes, till in the course of a few minutes he reappeared as the confirmed and irretrievable reddleman that he had seemed before.
Firmness Is Discovered in a Gentle Heart
On that evening the interior of Blooms-End, though cosy and comfortable, had been rather silent. Clym Yeobright was not at home. Since the Christmas party he had gone on a few days’ visit to a friend about ten miles off.
The shadowy form seen by Venn to part from Wildeve in the porch, and quickly withdraw into the house, was Thomasin’s. On entering she threw down a cloak which had been carelessly wrapped round her, and came forward to the light, where Mrs. Yeobright sat at her work-table, drawn up within the settle, so that part of it projected into the chimney-corner.
“I don’t like your going out after dark alone, Tamsin,” said her aunt quietly, without looking up from her work.
“I have only been just outside the door.”
“Well?” inquired Mrs. Yeobright, struck by a change in the tone of Thomasin’s voice, and observing her. Thomasin’s cheek was flushed to a pitch far beyond that which it had reached before her troubles, and her eyes glittered.
“It was he who knocked,” she said.