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Eustacia feels quite weighed down by depression. With Clym's consent she dresses herself with great care and goes to East Egdon where a dance is to be held. She is desperately fond of dancing and feels quite envious of the dancing couples. Unexpectedly she comes upon Wildeve who invites her to dance. She accepts and has a wonderful time. Escorting Eustacia part of the way home, Wildeve sees Clym and Venn coming towards them. Wildeve prudently withdraws.
Clym's weakened vision has not allowed him to see that someone is walking with his wife; but Venn has spied the gentleman. Although he is not sure who the man is, he suspects it is Wildeve. Venn hurries to the inn and questions Thomasin about Wildeve's absence, and her answers confirm his suspicions. Venn decides he will try and thwart any development in the relationship between Eustacia and Wildeve. He watches Eustacia's house on a regular basis in order to prevent Wildeve from communicating with her.
Venn also persuades Mrs. Yeobright to reconcile herself with her son, daughter-in-law, and niece. Clym also tells Eustacia that she needs to improve her relationship with his mother.
Like the bonfire and the mumming, the dance is also a tradition of the heath. Unlike the first two events that are continued without thought or emotion, the heath folk look forward to the dance from year to year. This is perhaps the only chance they have to forget the more mundane concerns of daily living, and the people of the heath totally throw themselves in the activity. "For the time, paganism was revived in their hearts, the pride of life was all in all."
It is not surprising that Eustacia wants to go to the dance, for with her "pagan eyes," she fits perfectly into the wild and festive atmosphere. Clym chooses not to accompany his wife because of his poor vision. Before leaving, Eustacia imagines how her former acquaintances in Budmouth must be laughing at her. She finds the thought intolerable and thinks of dying for the first time in the book. "To Eustacia, the situation seemed such a mockery of her hopes that death appeared the only door of relief, if the satire of heaven should go much futher." This is both a grim foreshadowing of her coming suicide and her realization that one is powerless before the vagaries of an indifferent and sometimes merciless fate: "Like flies to wanton boys / Are we to the Gods / They kill us for their sport."
Eustacia arrives at the dance with mixed emotions. She is depressed by her life on the heath and longing to be a part of the festivities. Her heart lifts when she spies Wildeve. She agrees to dance with him and totally enjoys the dancing and his company. She allows Wildeve to walk with her towards home. On the way, they encounter Clym and Venn approaching, so Wildeve quickly takes his leave, but not before Venn has spied him. Once again fate has come into play.