The Return of the Native HTML version
BOOK VI: Aftercourses
1 - The Inevitable Movement Onward
The story of the deaths of Eustacia and Wildeve was told throughout Egdon, and
far beyond, for many weeks and months. All the known incidents of their love
were enlarged, distorted, touched up, and modified, till the original reality bore
but a slight resemblance to the counterfeit presentation by surrounding tongues.
Yet, upon the whole, neither the man nor the woman lost dignity by sudden
death. Misfortune had struck them gracefully, cutting off their erratic histories with
a catastrophic dash, instead of, as with many, attenuating each life to an
uninteresting meagreness, through long years of wrinkles, neglect, and decay.
On those most nearly concerned the effect was somewhat different. Strangers
who had heard of many such cases now merely heard of one more; but
immediately where a blow falls no previous imaginings amount to appreciable
preparation for it. The very suddenness of her bereavement dulled, to some
extent, Thomasin's feelings; yet irrationally enough, a consciousness that the
husband she had lost ought to have been a better man did not lessen her
mourning at all. On the contrary, this fact seemed at first to set off the dead
husband in his young wife's eyes, and to be the necessary cloud to the rainbow.
But the horrors of the unknown had passed. Vague misgivings about her future
as a deserted wife were at an end. The worst had once been matter of trembling
conjecture; it was now matter of reason only, a limited badness. Her chief
interest, the little Eustacia, still remained. There was humility in her grief, no
defiance in her attitude; and when this is the case a shaken spirit is apt to be
Could Thomasin's mournfulness now and Eustacia's serenity during life have
been reduced to common measure, they would have touched the same mark
nearly. But Thomasin's former brightness made shadow of that which in a
sombre atmosphere was light itself.
The spring came and calmed her; the summer came and soothed her; the
autumn arrived, and she began to be comforted, for her little girl was strong and
happy, growing in size and knowledge every day. Outward events flattered
Thomasin not a little. Wildeve had died intestate, and she and the child were his
only relatives. When administration had been granted, all the debts paid, and the
residue of her husband's uncle's property had come into her hands, it was found
that the sum waiting to be invested for her own and the child's benefit was little
less than ten thousand pounds.