“I was quite strook to hear you’d agreed to it, ma’am, that I was,” continued the besom-maker.
“You were not more struck by it than I should have been last year this time, Olly. There are a good many sides to that wedding. I could not tell you all of them, even if I tried.”
“I felt myself that he was hardly solid-going enough to mate with your family. Keeping an inn—what is it? But ’a’s clever, that’s true, and they say he was an engineering gentleman once, but has come down by being too outwardly given.”
“I saw that, upon the whole, it would be better she should marry where she wished.”
“Poor little thing, her feelings got the better of her, no doubt. ’Tis nature. Well, they may call him what they will—he’ve several acres of heth-ground broke up here, besides the public house, and the heth-croppers, and his manners be quite like a gentleman’s. And what’s done cannot be undone.”
“It cannot,” said Mrs. Yeobright. “See, here’s the waggon-track at last. Now we shall get along better.”
The wedding subject was no further dwelt upon; and soon a faint diverging path was reached, where they parted company, Olly first begging her companion to remind Mr. Wildeve that he had not sent her sick husband the bottle of wine promised on the occasion of his marriage. The besom-maker turned to the left towards her own house, behind a spur of the hill, and Mrs. Yeobright followed the straight track, which further on joined the highway by the Quiet Woman Inn, whither she supposed her niece to have returned with Wildeve from their wedding at Anglebury that day.
She first reached Wildeve’s Patch, as it was called, a plot of land redeemed from the heath, and after long and laborious years brought into cultivation. The man who had discovered that it could be tilled died of the labour; the man who succeeded him in possession ruined himself in fertilizing it. Wildeve came like Amerigo Vespucci, and received the honours due to those who had gone before.
When Mrs. Yeobright had drawn near to the inn, and was about to enter, she saw a horse and vehicle some two hundred yards beyond it, coming towards her, a man walking alongside with a lantern in his hand. It was soon evident that this was the reddleman who had inquired for her. Instead of entering the inn at once, she walked by it and towards the van.
The conveyance came close, and the man was about to pass her with little notice, when she turned to him and said, “I think you have been inquiring for me? I am Mrs. Yeobright of Blooms-End.”
The reddleman started, and held up his finger. He stopped the horses, and beckoned to her to withdraw with him a few yards aside, which she did, wondering.
“You don’t know me, ma’am, I suppose?” he said.
“I do not,” said she. “Why, yes, I do! You are young Venn—your father was a dairyman somewhere here?”
“Yes; and I knew your niece, Miss Tamsin, a little. I have something bad to tell you.”