The Dishonesty of an Honest Woman
The reddleman had left Eustacia’s presence with desponding views on Thomasin’s future happiness; but he was awakened to the fact that one other channel remained untried by seeing, as he followed the way to his van, the form of Mrs. Yeobright slowly walking towards the Quiet Woman. He went across to her; and could almost perceive in her anxious face that this journey of hers to Wildeve was undertaken with the same object as his own to Eustacia.
She did not conceal the fact. “Then,” said the reddleman, “you may as well leave it alone, Mrs. Yeobright.”
“I half think so myself,” she said. “But nothing else remains to be done besides pressing the question upon him.”
“I should like to say a word first,” said Venn firmly. “Mr. Wildeve is not the only man who has asked Thomasin to marry him; and why should not another have a chance? Mrs. Yeobright, I should be glad to marry your niece, and would have done it any time these last two years. There, now it is out, and I have never told anybody before but herself.”
Mrs. Yeobright was not demonstrative, but her eyes involuntarily glanced towards his singular though shapely figure.
“Looks are not everything,” said the reddleman, noticing the glance. “There’s many a calling that don’t bring in so much as mine, if it comes to money; and perhaps I am not so much worse off than Wildeve. There is nobody so poor as these professional fellows who have failed; and if you shouldn’t like my redness—well, I am not red by birth, you know; I only took to this business for a freak; and I might turn my hand to something else in good time.”
“I am much obliged to you for your interest in my niece; but I fear there would be objections. More than that, she is devoted to this man.”
“True; or I shouldn’t have done what I have this morning.”
“Otherwise there would be no pain in the case, and you would not see me going to his house now. What was Thomasin’s answer when you told her of your feelings?”
“She wrote that you would object to me; and other things.”
“She was in a measure right. You must not take this unkindly: I merely state it as a truth. You have been good to her, and we do not forget it. But as she was unwilling on her own account to be your wife, that settles the point without my wishes being concerned.”
“Yes. But there is a difference between then and now, ma’am. She is distressed now, and I have thought that if you were to talk to her about me, and think favourably of me yourself, there might be a chance of winning her round, and getting her quite independent of this Wildeve’s backward and forward play, and his not knowing whether he’ll have her or no.”
Mrs. Yeobright shook her head. “Thomasin thinks, and I think with her, that she ought to be Wildeve’s wife, if she means to appear before the world without a slur upon her name. If they marry soon, everybody will believe that an accident did really prevent the wedding. If not, it may cast a shade upon her character—at any rate make her ridiculous. In short, if it is anyhow possible they must marry now.”