The lips then parted with something of anticipation, something more of doubt; and her several thoughts and fractions of thoughts, as signalled by the changes on her face, were exhibited by the light to the utmost nicety. An ingenuous, transparent life was disclosed, as if the flow of her existence could be seen passing within her. She understood the scene in a moment.
“O yes, it is I, aunt,” she cried. “I know how frightened you are, and how you cannot believe it; but all the same, it is I who have come home like this!”
“Tamsin, Tamsin!” said Mrs. Yeobright, stooping over the young woman and kissing her. “O my dear girl!”
Thomasin was now on the verge of a sob, but by an unexpected self-command she uttered no sound. With a gentle panting breath she sat upright.
“I did not expect to see you in this state, any more than you me,” she went on quickly. “Where am I, aunt?”
“Nearly home, my dear. In Egdon Bottom. What dreadful thing is it?”
“I’ll tell you in a moment. So near, are we? Then I will get out and walk. I want to go home by the path.”
“But this kind man who has done so much will, I am sure, take you right on to my house?” said the aunt, turning to the reddleman, who had withdrawn from the front of the van on the awakening of the girl, and stood in the road.
“Why should you think it necessary to ask me? I will, of course,” said he.
“He is indeed kind,” murmured Thomasin. “I was once acquainted with him, aunt, and when I saw him today I thought I should prefer his van to any conveyance of a stranger. But I’ll walk now. Reddleman, stop the horses, please.”
The man regarded her with tender reluctance, but stopped them.
Aunt and niece then descended from the van, Mrs. Yeobright saying to its owner, “I quite recognize you now. What made you change from the nice business your father left you?”
“Well, I did,” he said, and looked at Thomasin, who blushed a little. “Then you’ll not be wanting me any more to-night, ma’am?”
Mrs. Yeobright glanced around at the dark sky, at the hills, at the perishing bonfires, and at the lighted window of the inn they had neared. “I think not,” she said, “since Thomasin wishes to walk. We can soon run up the path and reach home: we know it well.”
And after a few further words they parted, the reddleman moving onwards with his van, and the two women remaining standing in the road. As soon as the vehicle and its driver had withdrawn so far as to be beyond all possible reach of her voice, Mrs. Yeobright turned to her niece.
“Now, Thomasin,” she said sternly, “what’s the meaning of this disgraceful performance?”
Perplexity among Honest People
Thomasin looked as if quite overcome by her aunt’s change of manner. “It means just what it seems to mean: I am—not married,” she replied faintly. “Excuse me—for humiliating you, aunt, by this mishap: I am sorry for it. But I cannot help it.”