On the door being opened she perceived at the end of the van an extemporized couch, around which was hung apparently all the drapery that the reddleman possessed, to keep the occupant of the little couch from contact with the red materials of his trade. A young girl lay thereon, covered with a cloak. She was asleep, and the light of the lantern fell upon her features.
I wish you could tell me of some secret plan that would help me to keep him home at my will in the evenings." "I will consider if I know of one," replied Venn in that same light tone which meant no lightness. And then he bowed in a manner of his own invention and moved to go. Thomasin offered him her hand; and without a sigh, though with food for many, the reddleman went out.
The man finished tying up the gash, and the boy said, "I think I'll go home now, master." "You are rather afraid of me. Do you know what I be?" The child surveyed his vermilion figure up and down with much misgiving and finally said, "Yes." "Well, what?" "The reddleman!" he faltered. "Yes, that's what I be. Though there's more than one.
Altogether, the experience of that evening had had a cooling, not to say a chilling, effect on misdirected tenderness, and Wildeve was in no mood to ramble again to Alderworth after nightfall in hope of a stray glance from Eustacia. Thus far the reddleman had been tolerably successful in his rude contrivances for keeping down Wildeve's inclination to rove in the evening.
Still more brilliant is the gambling scene in The Return of the Native, where Wildeve and Diggory Venn, out on the heath in the night, throw dice by the light of a lantern for Thomasin's money. Venn, the reddleman, in the Mephistophelian garb of his profession, is the incarnation of a good spirit, and wins the guineas from the clutch of the spendthrift husband.
No slight to your looks, reddleman, for ye bain't bad-looking in the groundwork, though the finish is queer. My meaning is just to say how curious I felt. I half thought it 'twas the devil or the red ghost the boy told of." "It gied me a turn likewise," said Susan Nunsuch, "for I had a dream last night of a death's head." "Don't ye talk o't no more," said Christian.
The reddleman put the ring of the lantern between his teeth, seized the floating man by the collar, and, holding on to the hatch with his remaining arm, struck out into the strongest race, by which the unconscious man, the hatch, and himself were carried down the stream.
Venn looked coolly towards Wildeve, and, without a word being spoken, he deliberately sat himself down where Christian had been seated, thrust his hand into his pocket, drew out a sovereign, and laid it on the stone. "You have been watching us from behind that bush?" said Wildeve. The reddleman nodded. "Down with your stake," he said. "Or haven't you pluck enough to go on?"
"I thought you were the ghost of yourself." Clym was curious enough to advance a little further and look in at the window. To his astonishment there stood within the room Diggory Venn, no longer a reddleman, but exhibiting the strangely altered hues of an ordinary Christian countenance, white shirt-front, light flowered waistcoat, blue-spotted neckerchief, and bottle-green coat.
Now, as they thus pursued their way, the reddleman occasionally left his companion's side, and, stepping behind the van, looked into its interior through a small window. The look was always anxious. He would then return to the old man, who made another remark about the state of the country and so on, to which the reddleman again abstractedly replied, and then again they would lapse into silence.