Return of the Native Book 2: The Arrival, Chapters 1 - 4
Two heath-men, Humphrey and Sam, are working with Captain Vye on furze-cutting outside the Vyes' home, talking about the imminent arrival of Clym Yeobright, which Eustacia overhears. They all recall when Clym left home for Paris. The two heath-men remark at how clever and intelligent Clym is and how he is more educated than the usual heath-man. They also remark that Eustacia has unconventional ideas in her head, like Clym does. Captain Vye replies that at age nineteen, Eustacia is too young to have strange ideas. Privately, Sam and Humphrey believe that Eustacia and Clym would make a good couple--both are smart, genteel and of good lineage. Eustacia dreams of marrying Clym, how he just might change her bleak, miserable life by taking her back to Paris.
She decides to take a walk to Blooms-End, where the Yeobrights' home will soon be occupied by the cosmopolitan Clym.
Thomasin and Mrs. Yeobright prepare for Clym's arrival, setting out his favorite foods and decorating the house for the holidays. Mrs. Yeobright wishes that Thomasin would love Clym in the romantic way he used to love her. Although Thomasin is more worried about how the rumors about her and Wildeve will affect Clym, she assures her aunt she will come along to see Clym arrive. Thomasin staunchly defends her desire to marry Wildeve, despite her aunt's skepticism. Mrs. Yeobright tries to get Thomasin to admit that her feelings for Wildeve have changed, but Thomasin remains firm in her desire to marry Wildeve. Mrs. Yeobright then confides to her niece that Wildeve may propose to her soon, now that Thomasin has another suitor. Thomasin begs her aunt not to tell Clym of her relationship with Wildeve, for she wants to tell him herself if the rumors do not die down.
Eustacia, standing near Mrs. Yeobright's cottage, awaits Clym's arrival. She hears the voices of Mrs. Yeobright, Thomasin, and an unfamiliar man. The voice of the man fascinates her; she tries to catch a glimpse of him but it is too dark to see. When the voice wishes her "good-night," her imagination and dreams are fired-up. She is drawn to the mystery of the man from Paris, and his voice feeds her wild dreams and fantasies. Eustacia immediately loves Clym for the mystery, the intrigue, and the romance he brings, even though she hardly knows him.
Eustacia asks her grandfather why they have never been friendly with the Yeobrights. He replies that she might have found them to be too "countrified" for her fancy taste--the Yeobrights are content with sitting at home on the heath, simply drinking and eating common heath favorites.
Captain Vye then recalls how he once offended Mrs, Yeobright and has never seen her since. After she hears Clym's mysterious voice, Eustacia takes daily walks in the direction of Blooms-End, hoping to encounter Clym again.
On the 23rd of December, Eustacia is home alone, thinking about the voice that has awakened her to new and exciting places. She tries thinking of a way to meet Clym, for a simple visit to the Yeobrights would be unlikely, and she doubts that Clym would attend church, for the heath inhabitants do not usually attend church during the holidays. Charley, a heath-boy, knocks on the door and asks if he and the other Egdon mummers (masked actors in a play) may practice their lines for the Christmas play in the Vyes' fuel-house, as they have done in previous years. Eustacia gives her consent and practice for "Saint George" begins at seven o'clock the next day. Eustacia does not care for mummers and mumming at all; in fact, she condemns it, as she condemns every heath activity.
Sam, Humphrey and Timothy Fairway discuss their upcoming first performance, and when Eustacia hears that it will be at the Yeobrights' (Clym's), she decides to think of a way to be at the Yeobrights' on that night. Naturally, she is not invited, as she never attends local gatherings, and she bemoans the fact that she'll miss the perfect opportunity to meet and talk to Clym. When Charley returns the key to the fuel-house, a shrewd Eustacia takes advantage of Charley's infatuation with her and, upon learning what the mummers' play is, asks him if she can play his role, the Turkish Knight, for one night--the performance at the Yeobrights'.
Eustacia offers him money in return for taking over his role, but all Charley wants is a half hour of holding her hand. He compromises to a quarter of an hour, but only if he may kiss her hand as well.
The next day, Charley brings his uniform and gear to Eustacia, who in turn gives her hand to the lovesick Charley. Charley tenderly holds her hand, and decides not to use up all his minutes that night. Eustacia then changes into the outfit and she goes over the role again with Charley. When Charley asks to hold her hand again, Eustacia gives it to him willingly--only she lets him hold it for longer than he intends. Charley is sorely disappointed when he learns his minutes are up.