“Is it you, Eustacia?” he said as she sat down.
“Yes, Clym. I have been down to the gate. The moon is shining beautifully, and there is not a leaf stirring.”
“Shining, is it? What’s the moon to a man like me? Let it shine—let anything be, so that I never see another day!... Eustacia, I don’t know where to look: my thoughts go through me like swords. O, if any man wants to make himself immortal by painting a picture of wretchedness, let him come here!”
“Why do you say so?”
“I cannot help feeling that I did my best to kill her.”
“Yes, it was so; it is useless to excuse me! My conduct to her was too hideous—I made no advances; and she could not bring herself to forgive me. Now she is dead! If I had only shown myself willing to make it up with her sooner, and we had been friends, and then she had died, it wouldn’t be so hard to bear. But I never went near her house, so she never came near mine, and didn’t know how welcome she would have been—that’s what troubles me. She did not know I was going to her house that very night, for she was too insensible to understand me. If she had only come to see me! I longed that she would. But it was not to be.”
There escaped from Eustacia one of those shivering sighs which used to shake her like a pestilent blast. She had not yet told.
But Yeobright was too deeply absorbed in the ramblings incidental to his remorseful state to notice her. During his illness he had been continually talking thus. Despair had been added to his original grief by the unfortunate disclosure of the boy who had received the last words of Mrs. Yeobright—words too bitterly uttered in an hour of misapprehension. Then his distress had overwhelmed him, and he longed for death as a field labourer longs for the shade. It was the pitiful sight of a man standing in the very focus of sorrow. He continually bewailed his tardy journey to his mother’s house, because it was an error which could never be rectified, and insisted that he must have been horribly perverted by some fiend not to have thought before that it was his duty to go to her, since she did not come to him. He would ask Eustacia to agree with him in his self-condemnation; and when she, seared inwardly by a secret she dared not tell, declared that she could not give an opinion, he would say, “That’s because you didn’t know my mother’s nature. She was always ready to forgive if asked to do so; but I seemed to her to be as an obstinate child, and that made her unyielding. Yet not unyielding: she was proud and reserved, no more... Yes, I can understand why she held out against me so long. She was waiting for me. I dare say she said a hundred times in her sorrow, ’What a return he makes for all the sacrifices I have made for him!’ I never went to her! When I set out to visit her it was too late. To think of that is nearly intolerable!”
Sometimes his condition had been one of utter remorse, unsoftened by a single tear of pure sorrow: and then he writhed as he lay, fevered far more by thought than by physical ills. “If I could only get one assurance that she did not die in a belief that I was resentful,” he said one day when in this mood, “it would be better to think of than a hope of heaven. But that I cannot do.”