Had only Yeobright’s own future been involved he would have proposed to Thomasin with a ready heart. He had nothing to lose by carrying out a dead mother’s hope. But he dreaded to contemplate Thomasin wedded to the mere corpse of a lover that he now felt himself to be. He had but three activities alive in him. One was his almost daily walk to the little graveyard wherein his mother lay; another, his just as frequent visits by night to the more distant enclosure, which numbered his Eustacia among its dead; the third was self-preparation for a vocation which alone seemed likely to satisfy his cravings—that of an itinerant preacher of the eleventh commandment. It was difficult to believe that Thomasin would be cheered by a husband with such tendencies as these.
Yet he resolved to ask her, and let her decide for herself. It was even with a pleasant sense of doing his duty that he went downstairs to her one evening for this purpose, when the sun was printing on the valley the same long shadow of the housetop that he had seen lying there times out of number while his mother lived.
Thomasin was not in her room, and he found her in the front garden. “I have long been wanting, Thomasin,” he began, “to say something about a matter that concerns both our futures.”
“And you are going to say it now?” she remarked quickly, colouring as she met his gaze. “Do stop a minute, Clym, and let me speak first, for oddly enough, I have been wanting to say something to you.”
“By all means say on, Tamsie.”
“I suppose nobody can overhear us?” she went on, casting her eyes around and lowering her voice. “Well, first you will promise me this—that you won’t be angry and call me anything harsh if you disagree with what I propose?”
Yeobright promised, and she continued: “What I want is your advice, for you are my relation—I mean, a sort of guardian to me—aren’t you, Clym?”
“Well, yes, I suppose I am; a sort of guardian. In fact, I am, of course,” he said, altogether perplexed as to her drift.
“I am thinking of marrying,” she then observed blandly. “But I shall not marry unless you assure me that you approve of such a step. Why don’t you speak?”
“I was taken rather by surprise. But, nevertheless, I am very glad to hear such news. I shall approve, of course, dear Tamsie. Who can it be? I am quite at a loss to guess. No I am not—’tis the old doctor!—not that I mean to call him old, for he is not very old after all. Ah—I noticed when he attended you last time!”
“No, no,” she said hastily. “’Tis Mr. Venn.”
Clym’s face suddenly became grave.
“There, now, you don’t like him, and I wish I hadn’t mentioned him!” she exclaimed almost petulantly. “And I shouldn’t have done it, either, only he keeps on bothering me so till I don’t know what to do!”
Clym looked at the heath. “I like Venn well enough,” he answered at last. “He is a very honest and at the same time astute man. He is clever too, as is proved by his having got you to favour him. But really, Thomasin, he is not quite—”