“I must part from you here, Clym,” said Eustacia.
They stood still and prepared to bid each other farewell. Everything before them was on a perfect level. The sun, resting on the horizon line, streamed across the ground from between copper-coloured and lilac clouds, stretched out in flats beneath a sky of pale soft green. All dark objects on the earth that lay towards the sun were overspread by a purple haze, against which groups of wailing gnats shone out, rising upwards and dancing about like sparks of fire.
“O! this leaving you is too hard to bear!” exclaimed Eustacia in a sudden whisper of anguish. “Your mother will influence you too much; I shall not be judged fairly, it will get afloat that I am not a good girl, and the witch story will be added to make me blacker!”
“They cannot. Nobody dares to speak disrespectfully of you or of me.”
“Oh how I wish I was sure of never losing you—that you could not be able to desert me anyhow!”
Clym stood silent a moment. His feelings were high, the moment was passionate, and he cut the knot.
“You shall be sure of me, darling,” he said, folding her in his arms. “We will be married at once.”
“Do you agree to it?”
“If—if we can.”
“We certainly can, both being of full age. And I have not followed my occupation all these years without having accumulated money; and if you will agree to live in a tiny cottage somewhere on the heath, until I take a house in Budmouth for the school, we can do it at a very little expense.”
“How long shall we have to live in the tiny cottage, Clym?”
“About six months. At the end of that time I shall have finished my reading—yes, we will do it, and this heartaching will be over. We shall, of course, live in absolute seclusion, and our married life will only begin to outward view when we take the house in Budmouth, where I have already addressed a letter on the matter. Would your grandfather allow you?”
“I think he would—on the understanding that it should not last longer than six months.”
“I will guarantee that, if no misfortune happens.”
“If no misfortune happens,” she repeated slowly.
“Which is not likely. Dearest, fix the exact day.”
And then they consulted on the question, and the day was chosen. It was to be a fortnight from that time.
This was the end of their talk, and Eustacia left him. Clym watched her as she retired towards the sun. The luminous rays wrapped her up with her increasing distance, and the rustle of her dress over the sprouting sedge and grass died away. As he watched, the dead flat of the scenery overpowered him, though he was fully alive to the beauty of that untarnished early summer green which was worn for the nonce by the poorest blade. There was something in its oppressive horizontality which too much reminded him of the arena of life; it gave him a sense of bare equality with, and no superiority to, a single living thing under the sun.