A Conjuncture, and Its Result upon the Pedestrian
Wildeve, as has been stated, was determined to visit Eustacia boldly, by day, and on the easy terms of a relation, since the reddleman had spied out and spoilt his walks to her by night. The spell that she had thrown over him in the moonlight dance made it impossible for a man having no strong puritanic force within him to keep away altogether. He merely calculated on meeting her and her husband in an ordinary manner, chatting a little while, and leaving again. Every outward sign was to be conventional; but the one great fact would be there to satisfy him: he would see her. He did not even desire Clym’s absence, since it was just possible that Eustacia might resent any situation which could compromise her dignity as a wife, whatever the state of her heart towards him. Women were often so.
He went accordingly; and it happened that the time of his arrival coincided with that of Mrs. Yeobright’s pause on the hill near the house. When he had looked round the premises in the manner she had noticed he went and knocked at the door. There was a few minutes’ interval, and then the key turned in the lock, the door opened, and Eustacia herself confronted him.
Nobody could have imagined from her bearing now that here stood the woman who had joined with him in the impassioned dance of the week before, unless indeed he could have penetrated below the surface and gauged the real depth of that still stream.
“I hope you reached home safely?” said Wildeve.
“O yes,” she carelessly returned.
“And were you not tired the next day? I feared you might be.”
“I was rather. You need not speak low—nobody will overhear us. My small servant is gone on an errand to the village.”
“Then Clym is not at home?”
“Yes, he is.”
“O! I thought that perhaps you had locked the door because you were alone and were afraid of tramps.”
“No—here is my husband.”
They had been standing in the entry. Closing the front door and turning the key, as before, she threw open the door of the adjoining room and asked him to walk in. Wildeve entered, the room appearing to be empty; but as soon as he had advanced a few steps he started. On the hearth rug lay Clym asleep. Beside him were the leggings, thick boots, leather gloves, and sleeve-waistcoat in which he worked.
“You may go in; you will not disturb him,” she said, following behind. “My reason for fastening the door is that he may not be intruded upon by any chance comer while lying here, if I should be in the garden or upstairs.”
“Why is he sleeping there?” said Wildeve in low tones.