“Tell me; I will know it!”
“I do, and I do not,” said he mischievously. “That is, I have my times and my seasons. One moment you are too tall, another moment you are too do-nothing, another too melancholy, another too dark, another I don’t know what, except—that you are not the whole world to me that you used to be, my dear. But you are a pleasant lady to know, and nice to meet, and I dare say as sweet as ever—almost.”
Eustacia was silent, and she turned from him, till she said, in a voice of suspended mightiness, “I am for a walk, and this is my way.”
“Well, I can do worse than follow you.”
“You know you can’t do otherwise, for all your moods and changes!” she answered defiantly. “Say what you will; try as you may; keep away from me all that you can—you will never forget me. You will love me all your life long. You would jump to marry me!”
“So I would!” said Wildeve. “Such strange thoughts as I’ve had from time to time, Eustacia; and they come to me this moment. You hate the heath as much as ever; that I know.”
“I do,” she murmured deeply. “’Tis my cross, my shame, and will be my death!”
“I abhor it too,” said he. “How mournfully the wind blows round us now!”
She did not answer. Its tone was indeed solemn and pervasive. Compound utterances addressed themselves to their senses, and it was possible to view by ear the features of the neighbourhood. Acoustic pictures were returned from the darkened scenery; they could hear where the tracts of heather began and ended; where the furze was growing stalky and tall; where it had been recently cut; in what direction the fir-clump lay, and how near was the pit in which the hollies grew; for these differing features had their voices no less than their shapes and colours.
“God, how lonely it is!” resumed Wildeve. “What are picturesque ravines and mists to us who see nothing else? Why should we stay here? Will you go with me to America? I have kindred in Wisconsin.”
“That wants consideration.”
“It seems impossible to do well here, unless one were a wild bird or a landscape-painter. Well?”
“Give me time,” she softly said, taking his hand. “America is so far away. Are you going to walk with me a little way?”
As Eustacia uttered the latter words she retired from the base of the barrow, and Wildeve followed her, so that the reddleman could hear no more.
He lifted the turves and arose. Their black figures sank and disappeared from against the sky. They were as two horns which the sluggish heath had put forth from its crown, like a mollusc, and had now again drawn in.
The reddleman’s walk across the vale, and over into the next where his cart lay, was not sprightly for a slim young fellow of twenty-four. His spirit was perturbed to aching. The breezes that blew around his mouth in that walk carried off upon them the accents of a commination.