The loft was lighted by a semicircular hole, through which the pigeons crept to their lodgings in the same high quarters of the premises; and from this hole the sun shone in a bright yellow patch upon the figure of the maiden as she knelt and plunged her naked arms into the soft brown fern, which, from its abundance, was used on Egdon in packing away stores of all kinds. The pigeons were flying about her head with the greatest unconcern, and the face of her aunt was just visible above the floor of the loft, lit by a few stray motes of light, as she stood half-way up the ladder, looking at a spot into which she was not climber enough to venture.
“Now a few russets, Tamsin. He used to like them almost as well as ribstones.”
Thomasin turned and rolled aside the fern from another nook, where more mellow fruit greeted her with its ripe smell. Before picking them out she stopped a moment.
“Dear Clym, I wonder how your face looks now?” she said, gazing abstractedly at the pigeon-hole, which admitted the sunlight so directly upon her brown hair and transparent tissues that it almost seemed to shine through her.
“If he could have been dear to you in another way,” said Mrs. Yeobright from the ladder, “this might have been a happy meeting.”
“Is there any use in saying what can do no good, aunt?”
“Yes,” said her aunt, with some warmth. “To thoroughly fill the air with the past misfortune, so that other girls may take warning and keep clear of it.”
Thomasin lowered her face to the apples again. “I am a warning to others, just as thieves and drunkards and gamblers are,” she said in a low voice. “What a class to belong to! Do I really belong to them? ’Tis absurd! Yet why, aunt, does everybody keep on making me think that I do, by the way they behave towards me? Why don’t people judge me by my acts? Now, look at me as I kneel here, picking up these apples—do I look like a lost woman?... I wish all good women were as good as I!” she added vehemently.
“Strangers don’t see you as I do,” said Mrs. Yeobright; “they judge from false report. Well, it is a silly job, and I am partly to blame.”
“How quickly a rash thing can be done!” replied the girl. Her lips were quivering, and tears so crowded themselves into her eyes that she could hardly distinguish apples from fern as she continued industriously searching to hide her weakness.
“As soon as you have finished getting the apples,” her aunt said, descending the ladder, “come down, and we’ll go for the holly. There is nobody on the heath this afternoon, and you need not fear being stared at. We must get some berries, or Clym will never believe in our preparations.”
Thomasin came down when the apples were collected, and together they went through the white palings to the heath beyond. The open hills were airy and clear, and the remote atmosphere appeared, as it often appears on a fine winter day, in distinct planes of illumination independently toned, the rays which lit the nearer tracts of landscape streaming visibly across those further off; a stratum of ensaffroned light was imposed on a stratum of deep blue, and behind these lay still remoter scenes wrapped in frigid grey.