Study Guide

The Return of the Native Book 2, Chapter 4

By Thomas Hardy

Book 2, Chapter 4

Eustacia Is Led On to an Adventure

  • It's December 23rd and Eustacia is home alone.
  • We learn that in most small towns the local church becomes a social hotspot during the holiday season since everyone decides to go for once.
  • But this isn't the case in Egdon Heath. Everyone is so spread out and isolated that gatherings at the local parish aren't the norm. People usually celebrate the holidays at their own homes, with friends and family.
  • So Eustacia sits home alone and stares out the window. She has some items on the windowsill: an hourglass, two urns, and two cactuses.
  • Some men come to the door and ask to use the their fuel-house for rehearsals for a Christmas play. Eustacia says whatever.
  • The "mummers" perform the pageant "Saint George" every year, without fail. ("Mummer" is a term used to refer to performers in a traditional folk play.)
  • The play is a Christmas tradition, like the yearly Christmas Story marathon and watching that claymation Rudolph movie for the 800th time.
  • The local boys are the ones who get to perform this annual play, while the local girls design the over-the-top costumes.
  • Eustacia eavesdrops on the mummers. She's pretty nosey.
  • The mummers include Timothy Fairway, Humphrey, and Sam. They gossip about the Yeobrights and talk about the Yeobrights' upcoming Christmas party, where they will perform their play.
  • Eustacia hasn't been invited.
  • Charley, the fellow who asked to use the fuel-house, comes to return the key to Eustacia since rehearsal is over.
  • Eustacia has a plan, though. She invites Charley in and grills him about his role. He's playing the Turkish Knight.
  • She has Charley recite his speeches to her and she memorizes them on the spot. Nice job, Eustacia.
  • Charley is super impressed and wants to call Mensa.
  • So Eustacia strikes up a bargain. She tells Charley that she'll pay him in return for letting her take over his role, secretly, the night of the Yeobrights' Christmas party.
  • But Charley doesn't want money – he wants to hold Eustacia's hand for half an hour.
  • Eustacia rolls her eyes, but agrees. She also negotiates him down to a quarter of an hour.
  • At least he didn't want her underwear, like in Sixteen Candles.
  • Eustacia gets all contemplative and moody after Charley leaves. So, nothing out of the ordinary.
  • The next evening Charley comes over with his costume. Eustacia gives him her hand to hold, but she's wearing a glove.
  • Charley says this is a rip-off, and Eustacia takes off her glove.
  • Charley only holds her hand for about eight minutes and then asks to use the rest of his time up later.
  • Eustacia agrees and goes off to put on her costume.
  • Charley holds her hand again for a bit, but he loses track of time and uses up all his minutes, just like with a GoPhone or something.
  • Eustacia is relieved. She and Charley say good-bye.