“You have not forgotten how you walked with the poor lady on that hot day?” said Clym.
“No,” said the boy.
“And what she said to you?”
The boy repeated the exact words he had used on entering the hut. Yeobright rested his elbow on the table and shaded his face with his hand; and the mother looked as if she wondered how a man could want more of what had stung him so deeply.
“She was going to Alderworth when you first met her?”
“No; she was coming away.”
“That can’t be.”
“Yes; she walked along with me. I was coming away too.”
“Then where did you first see her?”
“At your house.”
“Attend, and speak the truth!” said Clym sternly.
“Yes, sir; at your house was where I seed her first.”
Clym started up, and Susan smiled in an expectant way which did not embellish her face; it seemed to mean, “Something sinister is coming!”
“What did she do at my house?”
“She went and sat under the trees at the Devil’s Bellows.”
“Good God! this is all news to me!”
“You never told me this before?” said Susan.
“No, mother; because I didn’t like to tell ’ee I had been so far. I was picking black-hearts, and went further than I meant.”
“What did she do then?” said Yeobright.
“Looked at a man who came up and went into your house.”
“That was myself—a furze-cutter, with brambles in his hand.”
“No; ’twas not you. ’Twas a gentleman. You had gone in afore.”
“Who was he?”
“I don’t know.”
“Now tell me what happened next.”
“The poor lady went and knocked at your door, and the lady with black hair looked out of the side window at her.”
The boy’s mother turned to Clym and said, “This is something you didn’t expect?”
Yeobright took no more notice of her than if he had been of stone. “Go on, go on,” he said hoarsely to the boy.
“And when she saw the young lady look out of the window the old lady knocked again; and when nobody came she took up the furze-hook and looked at it, and put it down again, and then she looked at the faggot-bonds; and then she went away, and walked across to me, and blowed her breath very hard, like this. We walked on together, she and I, and I talked to her and she talked to me a bit, but not much, because she couldn’t blow her breath.”
“O!” murmured Clym, in a low tone, and bowed his head. “Let’s have more,” he said.
“She couldn’t talk much, and she couldn’t walk; and her face was, O so queer!”
“How was her face?”
“Like yours is now.”
The woman looked at Yeobright, and beheld him colourless, in a cold sweat. “Isn’t there meaning in it?” she said stealthily. “What do you think of her now?”
“Silence!” said Clym fiercely. And, turning to the boy, “And then you left her to die?”