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The Return of the Native
by Thomas Hardy
The Return of the Native Book 1, Chapter 3 Summary
The Custom of the Country A group of people are building bonfires on the heath, in celebration of Guy Fawkes Night. Want to read more about Guy Fawkes and Guy Fawkes Night? Well then check out his biography and perhaps a website on the history of the holiday as well. Enjoy! The bonfires and the heath are described in detail. Some old guy is dancing around a bonfire and singing. A group of people, locals of the heath, start gossiping. This group includes Grandfer Cantle, Timothy Fairway, a guy called Humphrey, Olly Dowden, and Susan Nunsuch. Fairway is a gossip and fills us in on the Yeobright family. Apparently Mrs. Yeobright publicly opposed her niece's engagement to a guy named Wildeve and so a big scandal ensued. But she finally caved and this Wildeve chap and Thomasin Yeobright (the niece) apparently went to get married today. Some people thought she'd marry her cousin Clym, but he tromped off to Paris a while ago and is still there working. The group continue to gossip and swap stories about marriage. A sadsack guy named Christian Cantle woefully says that no woman will marry him. Christian's dad is the dancing man, Grandfer Cantle. Timothy Fairway tries to bolster Christian's spirits, but Christian is so pathetic that he doesn't make Fairway's job easy. Since it's dark and they're gathered around a fire, the group begin telling ghost stories. Fairway has seen the reddleman recently and thought it was some sort of creepy, ghost/devil thing. Grandfer Cantle sings another song. The group then spies a nicely burning bonfire near Captain Vye's house. Captain Vye has a granddaughter and the group speculates that it's her bonfire. After gossiping and arguing some more the group starts dancing. Everyone except Christian, at least. Poor guy. The bonfire starts burning out, but everyone is still in high spirits. So they all decide to go over to Wildeve's place, the Quiet Woman Inn, and harass the newly-married couple. But first, the reddleman appears and asks for directions to Mrs. Yeobright's house. Then Mrs. Yeobright shows up. Mrs. Yeobright is about the richest person in Egdon Heath, so she's like heath royalty. Fairway tells her the reddleman was on his way to her house. Meanwhile, Mrs. Yeobright is heading towards Wildeve's place, to see her niece. We learn that her son Clym is coming home for Christmas. In fact, he is returning from some foreign place to his native home (the title is explained!). Mrs. Yeobright asks Olly to walk with her since it's dark and Olly agrees, saying she wanted to head home soon anyway.
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