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Title: Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Author: Thomas Hardy




TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES

A Pure Woman

Faithfully presented by

THOMAS HARDY







CONTENTS

   Phase the First:    The Maiden, I-XI
   Phase the Second:   Maiden No More, XII-XV
   Phase the Third:    The Rally, XVI-XXIV
   Phase the Fourth:   The Consequence, XXV-XXXIV
   Phase the Fifth:    The Woman Pays, XXXV-XLIV
   Phase the Sixth:    The Convert, XLV-LII
   Phase the Seventh:  Fulfilment, LIII-LIX





Phase the First: The Maiden


I


On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking
homeward from Shaston to the village of Marlott, in the adjoining
Vale of Blakemore, or Blackmoor.  The pair of legs that carried him
were rickety, and there was a bias in his gait which inclined him
somewhat to the left of a straight line.  He occasionally gave a
smart nod, as if in confirmation of some opinion, though he was not
thinking of anything in particular.  An empty egg-basket was slung
upon his arm, the nap of his hat was ruffled, a patch being quite
worn away at its brim where his thumb came in taking it off.
Presently he was met by an elderly parson astride on a gray mare,
who, as he rode, hummed a wandering tune.

"Good night t'ee," said the man with the basket.

"Good night, Sir John," said the parson.

The pedestrian, after another pace or two, halted, and turned round.

"Now, sir, begging your pardon; we met last market-day on this road
about this time, and I said 'Good night,' and you made reply '_Good
night, Sir John_,' as now."

"I did," said the parson.

"And once before that--near a month ago."

"I may have."

"Then what might your meaning be in calling me 'Sir John' these
different times, when I be plain Jack Durbeyfield, the haggler?"

The parson rode a step or two nearer.

"It was only my whim," he said; and, after a moment's hesitation: "It
was on account of a discovery I made some little time ago, whilst I
was hunting up pedigrees for the new county history.  I am Parson
Tringham, the antiquary, of Stagfoot Lane.  Don't you really know,
Durbeyfield, that you are the lineal representative of the ancient
and knightly family of the d'Urbervilles, who derive their descent
from Sir Pagan d'Urberville, that renowned knight who came from
Normandy with William the Conqueror, as appears by Battle Abbey
Roll?"

"Never heard it before, sir!"

"Well it's true.  Throw up your chin a moment, so that I may catch
the profile of your face better.  Yes, that's the d'Urberville nose
and chin--a little debased.  Your ancestor was one of the twelve
knights who assisted the Lord of Estremavilla in Normandy in his
conquest of Glamorganshire.  Branches of your family held manors over
all this part of England; their names appear in the Pipe Rolls in the
time of King Stephen.  In the reign of King John one of them was rich
enough to give a manor to the Knights Hospitallers; and in Edward the
Second's time your forefather Brian was summoned to Westminster to
attend the great Council there.  You declined a little in Oliver
Cromwell's time, but to no serious extent, and in Charles the
Second's reign you were made Knights of the Royal Oak for your
loyalty.  Aye, there have been generations of Sir Johns among
you, and if knighthood were hereditary, like a baronetcy, as it
practically was in old times, when men were knighted from father
to son, you would be Sir John now."

"Ye don't say so!"

"In short," concluded the parson, decisively smacking his leg with
his switch, "there's hardly such another family in England."

"Daze my eyes, and isn't there?" said Durbeyfield.  "And here have I
been knocking about, year after year, from pillar to post, as if I
was no more than the commonest feller in the parish...  And how long
hev this news about me been knowed, Pa'son Tringham?"

The clergyman explained that, as far as he was aware, it had quite
died out of knowledge, and could hardly be said to be known at all.
His own investigations had begun on a day in the preceding spring
when, having been engaged in tracing the vicissitudes of the
d'Urberville family, he had observed Durbeyfield's name on his
waggon, and had thereupon been led to make inquiries about his
father and grandfather till he had no doubt on the subject.

"At first I resolved not to disturb you with such a useless piece of
information," said he.  "However, our impulses are too strong for our
judgement sometimes.  I thought you might perhaps know something of
it all the while."

"Well, I have heard once or twice, 'tis true, that my family had seen
better days afore they came to Blackmoor.  But I took no notice o't,
thinking it to mean that we had once kept two horses where we now
keep only one.  I've got a wold silver spoon, and a wold graven seal
at home, too; but, Lord, what's a spoon and seal? ...  And to think
that I and these noble d'Urbervilles were one flesh all the time.
'Twas said that my gr't-granfer had secrets, and didn't care to talk
of where he came from...  And where do we raise our smoke, now,
parson, if I may make so bold; I mean, where do we d'Urbervilles
live?"

"You don't live anywhere. You are extinct--as a county family."

"That's bad."

"Yes--what the mendacious family chronicles call extinct in the male
line--that is, gone down--gone under."

"Then where do we lie?"

"At Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill: rows and rows of you in your vaults,
with your effigies under Purbeck-marble canopies."

"And where be our family mansions and estates?"

"You haven't any."

"Oh?  No lands neither?"

"None; though you once had 'em in abundance, as I said, for you
family consisted of numerous branches.  In this county there was a
seat of yours at Kingsbere, and another at Sherton, and another in
Millpond, and another at Lullstead, and another at Wellbridge."

"And shall we ever come into our own again?"

"Ah--that I can't tell!"

"And what had I better do about it, sir?" asked Durbeyfield, after a
pause.

"Oh--nothing, nothing; except chasten yourself with the thought of
'how are the mighty fallen.'  It is a fact of some interest to the
local historian and genealogist, nothing more.  There are several
families among the cottagers of this county of almost equal lustre.
Good night."

"But you'll turn back and have a quart of beer wi' me on the strength
o't, Pa'son Tringham?  There's a very pretty brew in tap at The Pure
Drop--though, to be sure, not so good as at Rolliver's."

"No, thank you--not this evening, Durbeyfield.  You've had enough
already."  Concluding thus, the parson rode on his way, with doubts
as to his discretion in retailing this curious bit of lore.

When he was gone, Durbeyfield walked a few steps in a profound
reverie, and then sat down upon the grassy bank by the roadside,
depositing his basket before him.  In a few minutes a youth appeared
in the distance, walking in the same direction as that which had been
pursued by Durbeyfield.  The latter, on seeing him, held up his hand,
and the lad quickened his pace and came near.

"Boy, take up that basket!  I want 'ee to go on an errand for me."

The lath-like stripling frowned.  "Who be you, then, John
Durbeyfield, to order me about and call me 'boy'?  You know my
name as well as I know yours!"

"Do you, do you?  That's the secret--that's the secret! Now obey my
orders, and take the message I'm going to charge 'ee wi'...  Well,
Fred, I don't mind telling you that the secret is that I'm one of a
noble race--it has been just found out by me this present afternoon,
P.M."  And as he made the announcement, Durbeyfield, declining from
his sitting position, luxuriously stretched himself out upon the bank
among the daisies.

The lad stood before Durbeyfield, and contemplated his length from
crown to toe.

"Sir John d'Urberville--that's who I am," continued the prostrate
man.  "That is if knights were baronets--which they be.  'Tis
recorded in history all about me.  Dost know of such a place, lad,
as Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill?"

"Ees.  I've been there to Greenhill Fair."

"Well, under the church of that city there lie--"

"'Tisn't a city, the place I mean; leastwise 'twaddn' when I was
there--'twas a little one-eyed, blinking sort o' place."

"Never you mind the place, boy, that's not the question before us.
Under the church of that there parish lie my ancestors--hundreds of
'em--in coats of mail and jewels, in gr't lead coffins weighing tons
and tons.  There's not a man in the county o' South-Wessex that's
got grander and nobler skillentons in his family than I."

"Oh?"

"Now take up that basket, and goo on to Marlott, and when you've come
to The Pure Drop Inn, tell 'em to send a horse and carriage to me
immed'ately, to carry me hwome.  And in the bottom o' the carriage
they be to put a noggin o' rum in a small bottle, and chalk it up
to my account.  And when you've done that goo on to my house with
the basket, and tell my wife to put away that washing, because she
needn't finish it, and wait till I come hwome, as I've news to tell
her."

As the lad stood in a dubious attitude, Durbeyfield put his hand in
his pocket, and produced a shilling, one of the chronically few that
he possessed.

"Here's for your labour, lad."

This made a difference in the young man's estimate of the position.

"Yes, Sir John.  Thank 'ee.  Anything else I can do for 'ee, Sir
John?"

"Tell 'em at hwome that I should like for supper,--well, lamb's fry
if they can get it; and if they can't, black-pot; and if they can't
get that, well chitterlings will do."

"Yes, Sir John."

The boy took up the basket, and as he set out the notes of a brass
band were heard from the direction of the village.

"What's that?" said Durbeyfield.  "Not on account o' I?"

"'Tis the women's club-walking, Sir John.  Why, your da'ter is one o'
the members."

"To be sure--I'd quite forgot it in my thoughts of greater things!
Well, vamp on to Marlott, will ye, and order that carriage, and
maybe I'll drive round and inspect the club."

The lad departed, and Durbeyfield lay waiting on the grass and
daisies in the evening sun.  Not a soul passed that way for a long
while, and the faint notes of the band were the only human sounds
audible within the rim of blue hills.



II


The village of Marlott lay amid the north-eastern undulations of the
beautiful Vale of Blakemore, or Blackmoor, aforesaid, an engirdled
and secluded region, for the most part untrodden as yet by tourist or
landscape-painter, though within a four hours' journey from London.

It is a vale whose acquaintance is best made by viewing it from the
summits of the hills that surround it--except perhaps during the
droughts of summer.  An unguided ramble into its recesses in bad
weather is apt to engender dissatisfaction with its narrow, tortuous,
and miry ways.

This fertile and sheltered tract of country, in which the fields are
never brown and the springs never dry, is bounded on the south by the
bold chalk ridge that embraces the prominences of Hambledon Hill,
Bulbarrow, Nettlecombe-Tout, Dogbury, High Stoy, and Bubb Down.  The
traveller from the coast, who, after plodding northward for a score
of miles over calcareous downs and corn-lands, suddenly reaches
the verge of one of these escarpments, is surprised and delighted
to behold, extended like a map beneath him, a country differing
absolutely from that which he has passed through.  Behind him the
hills are open, the sun blazes down upon fields so large as to give
an unenclosed character to the landscape, the lanes are white, the
hedges low and plashed, the atmosphere colourless.  Here, in the
valley, the world seems to be constructed upon a smaller and more
delicate scale; the fields are mere paddocks, so reduced that from
this height their hedgerows appear a network of dark green threads
overspreading the paler green of the grass.  The atmosphere beneath
is languorous, and is so tinged with azure that what artists call the
middle distance partakes also of that hue, while the horizon beyond
is of the deepest ultramarine.  Arable lands are few and limited;
with but slight exceptions the prospect is a broad rich mass of grass
and trees, mantling minor hills and dales within the major.  Such is
the Vale of Blackmoor.

The district is of historic, no less than of topographical interest.
The Vale was known in former times as the Forest of White Hart, from
a curious legend of King Henry III's reign, in which the killing by
a certain Thomas de la Lynd of a beautiful white hart which the king
had run down and spared, was made the occasion of a heavy fine.
In those days, and till comparatively recent times, the country was
densely wooded.  Even now, traces of its earlier condition are to be
found in the old oak copses and irregular belts of timber that yet
survive upon its slopes, and the hollow-trunked trees that shade so
many of its pastures.

The forests have departed, but some old customs of their shades
remain.  Many, however, linger only in a metamorphosed or disguised
form.  The May-Day dance, for instance, was to be discerned on
the afternoon under notice, in the guise of the club revel, or
"club-walking," as it was there called.

It was an interesting event to the younger inhabitants of Marlott,
though its real interest was not observed by the participators in the
ceremony.  Its singularity lay less in the retention of a custom of
walking in procession and dancing on each anniversary than in the
members being solely women.  In men's clubs such celebrations were,
though expiring, less uncommon; but either the natural shyness of the
softer sex, or a sarcastic attitude on the part of male relatives,
had denuded such women's clubs as remained (if any other did) or this
their glory and consummation.  The club of Marlott alone lived to
uphold the local Cerealia.  It had walked for hundreds of years, if
not as benefit-club, as votive sisterhood of some sort; and it walked
still.

The banded ones were all dressed in white gowns--a gay survival from
Old Style days, when cheerfulness and May-time were synonyms--days
before the habit of taking long views had reduced emotions to a
monotonous average.  Their first exhibition of themselves was in a
processional march of two and two round the parish.  Ideal and real
clashed slightly as the sun lit up their figures against the green
hedges and creeper-laced house-fronts; for, though the whole troop
wore white garments, no two whites were alike among them.  Some
approached pure blanching; some had a bluish pallor; some worn by the
older characters (which had possibly lain by folded for many a year)
inclined to a cadaverous tint, and to a Georgian style.

In addition to the distinction of a white frock, every woman and girl
carried in her right hand a peeled willow wand, and in her left a
bunch of white flowers.  The peeling of the former, and the selection
of the latter, had been an operation of personal care.

There were a few middle-aged and even elderly women in the train,
their silver-wiry hair and wrinkled faces, scourged by time and
trouble, having almost a grotesque, certainly a pathetic, appearance
in such a jaunty situation.  In a true view, perhaps, there was more
to be gathered and told of each anxious and experienced one, to whom
the years were drawing nigh when she should say, "I have no pleasure
in them," than of her juvenile comrades.  But let the elder be passed
over here for those under whose bodices the life throbbed quick and
warm.

The young girls formed, indeed, the majority of the band, and their
heads of luxuriant hair reflected in the sunshine every tone of gold,
and black, and brown.  Some had beautiful eyes, others a beautiful
nose, others a beautiful mouth and figure: few, if any, had all.  A
difficulty of arranging their lips in this crude exposure to public
scrutiny, an inability to balance their heads, and to dissociate
self-consciousness from their features, was apparent in them, and
showed that they were genuine country girls, unaccustomed to many
eyes.

And as each and all of them were warmed without by the sun, so each
had a private little sun for her soul to bask in; some dream, some
affection, some hobby, at least some remote and distant hope which,
though perhaps starving to nothing, still lived on, as hopes will.
They were all cheerful, and many of them merry.

They came round by The Pure Drop Inn, and were turning out of the
high road to pass through a wicket-gate into the meadows, when one of
the women said--

"The Load-a-Lord!  Why, Tess Durbeyfield, if there isn't thy father
riding hwome in a carriage!"

A young member of the band turned her head at the exclamation.
She was a fine and handsome girl--not handsomer than some others,
possibly--but her mobile peony mouth and large innocent eyes added
eloquence to colour and shape.  She wore a red ribbon in her hair,
and was the only one of the white company who could boast of such
a pronounced adornment.  As she looked round Durbeyfield was seen
moving along the road in a chaise belonging to The Pure Drop, driven
by a frizzle-headed brawny damsel with her gown-sleeves rolled above
her elbows.  This was the cheerful servant of that establishment,
who, in her part of factotum, turned groom and ostler at times.
Durbeyfield, leaning back, and with his eyes closed luxuriously, was
waving his hand above his head, and singing in a slow recitative--

"I've-got-a-gr't-family-vault-at-Kingsbere--and
knighted-forefathers-in-lead-coffins-there!"

The clubbists tittered, except the girl called Tess--in whom a slow
heat seemed to rise at the sense that her father was making himself
foolish in their eyes.

"He's tired, that's all," she said hastily, "and he has got a lift
home, because our own horse has to rest to-day."

"Bless thy simplicity, Tess," said her companions.  "He's got his
market-nitch.  Haw-haw!"

"Look here; I won't walk another inch with you, if you say any jokes
about him!" Tess cried, and the colour upon her cheeks spread over
her face and neck.  In a moment her eyes grew moist, and her glance
drooped to the ground.  Perceiving that they had really pained her
they said no more, and order again prevailed.  Tess's pride would not
allow her to turn her head again, to learn what her father's meaning
was, if he had any; and thus she moved on with the whole body to the
enclosure where there was to be dancing on the green.  By the time
the spot was reached she has recovered her equanimity, and tapped her
neighbour with her wand and talked as usual.

Tess Durbeyfield at this time of her life was a mere vessel of
emotion untinctured by experience.  The dialect was on her tongue
to some extent, despite the village school: the characteristic
intonation of that dialect for this district being the voicing
approximately rendered by the syllable UR, probably as rich an
utterance as any to be found in human speech.  The pouted-up deep red
mouth to which this syllable was native had hardly as yet settled
into its definite shape, and her lower lip had a way of thrusting the
middle of her top one upward, when they closed together after a word.

Phases of her childhood lurked in her aspect still.  As she walked
along to-day, for all her bouncing handsome womanliness, you could
sometimes see her twelfth year in her cheeks, or her ninth sparkling
from her eyes; and even her fifth would flit over the curves of her
mouth now and then.

Yet few knew, and still fewer considered this.  A small minority,
mainly strangers, would look long at her in casually passing by, and
grow momentarily fascinated by her freshness, and wonder if they
would ever see her again: but to almost everybody she was a fine and
picturesque country girl, and no more.

Nothing was seen or heard further of Durbeyfield in his triumphal
chariot under the conduct of the ostleress, and the club having
entered the allotted space, dancing began.  As there were no men in
the company, the girls danced at first with each other, but when the
hour for the close of labour drew on, the masculine inhabitants of
the village, together with other idlers and pedestrians, gathered
round the spot, and appeared inclined to negotiate for a partner.

Among these on-lookers were three young men of a superior class,
carrying small knapsacks strapped to their shoulders, and stout
sticks in their hands.  Their general likeness to each other, and
their consecutive ages, would almost have suggested that they might
be, what in fact they were, brothers.  The eldest wore the white tie,
high waistcoat, and thin-brimmed hat of the regulation curate; the
second was the normal undergraduate; the appearance of the third and
youngest would hardly have been sufficient to characterize him; there
was an uncribbed, uncabined aspect in his eyes and attire, implying
that he had hardly as yet found the entrance to his professional
groove.  That he was a desultory tentative student of something and
everything might only have been predicted of him.

These three brethren told casual acquaintance that they were spending
their Whitsun holidays in a walking tour through the Vale of
Blackmoor, their course being south-westerly from the town of Shaston
on the north-east.

They leant over the gate by the highway, and inquired as to the
meaning of the dance and the white-frocked maids.  The two elder of
the brothers were plainly not intending to linger more than a moment,
but the spectacle of a bevy of girls dancing without male partners
seemed to amuse the third, and make him in no hurry to move on.  He
unstrapped his knapsack, put it, with his stick, on the hedge-bank,
and opened the gate.

"What are you going to do, Angel?" asked the eldest.

"I am inclined to go and have a fling with them.  Why not all of
us--just for a minute or two--it will not detain us long?"

"No--no; nonsense!" said the first.  "Dancing in public with a troop
of country hoydens--suppose we should be seen!  Come along, or it
will be dark before we get to Stourcastle, and there's no place we
can sleep at nearer than that; besides, we must get through another
chapter of _A Counterblast to Agnosticism_ before we turn in, now I
have taken the trouble to bring the book."

"All right--I'll overtake you and Cuthbert in five minutes; don't
stop; I give my word that I will, Felix."

The two elder reluctantly left him and walked on, taking their
brother's knapsack to relieve him in following, and the youngest
entered the field.

"This is a thousand pities," he said gallantly, to two or three of
the girls nearest him, as soon as there was a pause in the dance.
"Where are your partners, my dears?"

"They've not left off work yet," answered one of the boldest.
"They'll be here by and by.  Till then, will you be one, sir?"

"Certainly.  But what's one among so many!"

"Better than none.  'Tis melancholy work facing and footing it to one
of your own sort, and no clipsing and colling at all.  Now, pick and
choose."

"'Ssh--don't be so for'ard!" said a shyer girl.

The young man, thus invited, glanced them over, and attempted some
discrimination; but, as the group were all so new to him, he could
not very well exercise it.  He took almost the first that came to
hand, which was not the speaker, as she had expected; nor did it
happen to be Tess Durbeyfield.  Pedigree, ancestral skeletons,
monumental record, the d'Urberville lineaments, did not help Tess in
her life's battle as yet, even to the extent of attracting to her a
dancing-partner over the heads of the commonest peasantry.  So much
for Norman blood unaided by Victorian lucre.

The name of the eclipsing girl, whatever it was, has not been handed
down; but she was envied by all as the first who enjoyed the luxury
of a masculine partner that evening.  Yet such was the force of
example that the village young men, who had not hastened to enter
the gate while no intruder was in the way, now dropped in quickly,
and soon the couples became leavened with rustic youth to a marked
extent, till at length the plainest woman in the club was no longer
compelled to foot it on the masculine side of the figure.

The church clock struck, when suddenly the student said that he must
leave--he had been forgetting himself--he had to join his companions.
As he fell out of the dance his eyes lighted on Tess Durbeyfield,
whose own large orbs wore, to tell the truth, the faintest aspect of
reproach that he had not chosen her.  He, too, was sorry then that,
owing to her backwardness, he had not observed her; and with that in
his mind he left the pasture.

On account of his long delay he started in a flying-run down the lane
westward, and had soon passed the hollow and mounted the next rise.
He had not yet overtaken his brothers, but he paused to get breath,
and looked back.  He could see the white figures of the girls in the
green enclosure whirling about as they had whirled when he was among
them.  They seemed to have quite forgotten him already.

All of them, except, perhaps, one.  This white shape stood apart
by the hedge alone.  From her position he knew it to be the pretty
maiden with whom he had not danced.  Trifling as the matter was, he
yet instinctively felt that she was hurt by his oversight.  He wished
that he had asked her; he wished that he had inquired her name.  She
was so modest, so expressive, she had looked so soft in her thin
white gown that he felt he had acted stupidly.

However, it could not be helped, and turning, and bending himself to
a rapid walk, he dismissed the subject from his mind.



III


As for Tess Durbeyfield, she did not so easily dislodge the incident
from her consideration.  She had no spirit to dance again for a long
time, though she might have had plenty of partners; but ah! they did
not speak so nicely as the strange young man had done.  It was not
till the rays of the sun had absorbed the young stranger's retreating
figure on the hill that she shook off her temporary sadness and
answered her would-be partner in the affirmative.

She remained with her comrades till dusk, and participated with a
certain zest in the dancing; though, being heart-whole as yet, she
enjoyed treading a measure purely for its own sake; little divining
when she saw "the soft torments, the bitter sweets, the pleasing
pains, and the agreeable distresses" of those girls who had been
wooed and won, what she herself was capable of in that kind.  The
struggles and wrangles of the lads for her hand in a jig were an
amusement to her--no more; and when they became fierce she rebuked
them.

She might have stayed even later, but the incident of her father's
odd appearance and manner returned upon the girl's mind to make her
anxious, and wondering what had become of him she dropped away from
the dancers and bent her steps towards the end of the village at
which the parental cottage lay.

While yet many score yards off, other rhythmic sounds than those she
had quitted became audible to her; sounds that she knew well--so
well.  They were a regular series of thumpings from the interior of
the house, occasioned by the violent rocking of a cradle upon a stone
floor, to which movement a feminine voice kept time by singing, in a
vigorous gallopade, the favourite ditty of "The Spotted Cow"--


   I saw her lie do'-own in yon'-der green gro'-ove;
        Come, love!' and I'll tell' you where!'


The cradle-rocking and the song would cease simultaneously for a
moment, and an exclamation at highest vocal pitch would take the
place of the melody.

"God bless thy diment eyes!  And thy waxen cheeks!  And thy cherry
mouth!  And thy Cubit's thighs!  And every bit o' thy blessed body!"

After this invocation the rocking and the singing would recommence,
and the "Spotted Cow" proceed as before.  So matters stood when Tess
opened the door and paused upon the mat within it, surveying the
scene.

The interior, in spite of the melody, struck upon the girl's senses
with an unspeakable dreariness.  From the holiday gaieties of the
field--the white gowns, the nosegays, the willow-wands, the whirling
movements on the green, the flash of gentle sentiment towards the
stranger--to the yellow melancholy of this one-candled spectacle,
what a step!  Besides the jar of contrast there came to her a chill
self-reproach that she had not returned sooner, to help her mother
in these domesticities, instead of indulging herself out-of-doors.

There stood her mother amid the group of children, as Tess had left
her, hanging over the Monday washing-tub, which had now, as always,
lingered on to the end of the week.  Out of that tub had come the day
before--Tess felt it with a dreadful sting of remorse--the very white
frock upon her back which she had so carelessly greened about the
skirt on the damping grass--which had been wrung up and ironed by her
mother's own hands.

As usual, Mrs Durbeyfield was balanced on one foot beside the tub,
the other being engaged in the aforesaid business of rocking her
youngest child.  The cradle-rockers had done hard duty for so many
years, under the weight of so many children, on that flagstone floor,
that they were worn nearly flat, in consequence of which a huge jerk
accompanied each swing of the cot, flinging the baby from side to
side like a weaver's shuttle, as Mrs Durbeyfield, excited by her
song, trod the rocker with all the spring that was left in her after
a long day's seething in the suds.

Nick-knock, nick-knock, went the cradle; the candle-flame stretched
itself tall, and began jigging up and down; the water dribbled from
the matron's elbows, and the song galloped on to the end of the
verse, Mrs Durbeyfield regarding her daughter the while.  Even now,
when burdened with a young family, Joan Durbeyfield was a passionate
lover of tune.  No ditty floated into Blackmoor Vale from the outer
world but Tess's mother caught up its notation in a week.

There still faintly beamed from the woman's features something of
the freshness, and even the prettiness, of her youth; rendering it
probable that the personal charms which Tess could boast of were in
main part her mother's gift, and therefore unknightly, unhistorical.

"I'll rock the cradle for 'ee, mother," said the daughter gently.
"Or I'll take off my best frock and help you wring up?  I thought you
had finished long ago."

Her mother bore Tess no ill-will for leaving the housework to her
single-handed efforts for so long; indeed, Joan seldom upbraided
her thereon at any time, feeling but slightly the lack of Tess's
assistance whilst her instinctive plan for relieving herself of her
labours lay in postponing them.  To-night, however, she was even in a
blither mood than usual.  There was a dreaminess, a pre-occupation,
an exaltation, in the maternal look which the girl could not
understand.

"Well, I'm glad you've come," her mother said, as soon as the last
note had passed out of her.  "I want to go and fetch your father;
but what's more'n that, I want to tell 'ee what have happened.  Y'll
be fess enough, my poppet, when th'st know!"  (Mrs Durbeyfield
habitually spoke the dialect; her daughter, who had passed the Sixth
Standard in the National School under a London-trained mistress,
spoke two languages: the dialect at home, more or less; ordinary
English abroad and to persons of quality.)

"Since I've been away?" Tess asked.

"Ay!"

"Had it anything to do with father's making such a mommet of himself
in thik carriage this afternoon?  Why did 'er?  I felt inclined to
sink into the ground with shame!"

"That wer all a part of the larry!  We've been found to be the
greatest gentlefolk in the whole county--reaching all back long
before Oliver Grumble's time--to the days of the Pagan Turks--with
monuments, and vaults, and crests, and 'scutcheons, and the Lord
knows what all.  In Saint Charles's days we was made Knights o' the
Royal Oak, our real name being d'Urberville! ...  Don't that make
your bosom plim?  'Twas on this account that your father rode home
in the vlee; not because he'd been drinking, as people supposed."

"I'm glad of that.  Will it do us any good, mother?"

"O yes!  'Tis thoughted that great things may come o't.  No doubt a
mampus of volk of our own rank will be down here in their carriages
as soon as 'tis known.  Your father learnt it on his way hwome
from Shaston, and he has been telling me the whole pedigree of the
matter."

"Where is father now?" asked Tess suddenly.

Her mother gave irrelevant information by way of answer: "He called
to see the doctor to-day in Shaston.  It is not consumption at all,
it seems.  It is fat round his heart, 'a says.  There, it is like
this."  Joan Durbeyfield, as she spoke, curved a sodden thumb
and forefinger to the shape of the letter C, and used the other
forefinger as a pointer.  "'At the present moment,' he says to your
father, 'your heart is enclosed all round there, and all round
there; this space is still open,' 'a says.  'As soon as it do
meet, so,'"--Mrs Durbeyfield closed her fingers into a circle
complete--"'off you will go like a shadder, Mr Durbeyfield,' 'a says.
'You mid last ten years; you mid go off in ten months, or ten days.'"

Tess looked alarmed.  Her father possibly to go behind the eternal
cloud so soon, notwithstanding this sudden greatness!

"But where IS father?" she asked again.

Her mother put on a deprecating look.  "Now don't you be bursting out
angry!  The poor man--he felt so rafted after his uplifting by the
pa'son's news--that he went up to Rolliver's half an hour ago.  He do
want to get up his strength for his journey to-morrow with that load
of beehives, which must be delivered, family or no.  He'll have to
start shortly after twelve to-night, as the distance is so long."

"Get up his strength!" said Tess impetuously, the tears welling to
her eyes.  "O my God!  Go to a public-house to get up his strength!
And you as well agreed as he, mother!"

Her rebuke and her mood seemed to fill the whole room, and to impart
a cowed look to the furniture, and candle, and children playing
about, and to her mother's face.

"No," said the latter touchily, "I be not agreed.  I have been
waiting for 'ee to bide and keep house while I go fetch him."

"I'll go."

"O no, Tess.  You see, it would be no use."

Tess did not expostulate.  She knew what her mother's objection
meant.  Mrs Durbeyfield's jacket and bonnet were already hanging
slily upon a chair by her side, in readiness for this contemplated
jaunt, the reason for which the matron deplored more than its
necessity.

"And take the _Compleat Fortune-Teller_ to the outhouse," Joan
continued, rapidly wiping her hands, and donning the garments.

The _Compleat Fortune-Teller_ was an old thick volume, which lay on a
table at her elbow, so worn by pocketing that the margins had reached
the edge of the type.  Tess took it up, and her mother started.

This going to hunt up her shiftless husband at the inn was one of
Mrs Durbeyfield's still extant enjoyments in the muck and muddle of
rearing children.  To discover him at Rolliver's, to sit there for
an hour or two by his side and dismiss all thought and care of the
children during the interval, made her happy.  A sort of halo, an
occidental glow, came over life then.  Troubles and other realities
took on themselves a metaphysical impalpability, sinking to mere
mental phenomena for serene contemplation, and no longer stood as
pressing concretions which chafed body and soul.  The youngsters,
not immediately within sight, seemed rather bright and desirable
appurtenances than otherwise; the incidents of daily life were not
without humorousness and jollity in their aspect there.  She felt a
little as she had used to feel when she sat by her now wedded husband
in the same spot during his wooing, shutting her eyes to his defects
of character, and regarding him only in his ideal presentation as
lover.

Tess, being left alone with the younger children, went first to the
outhouse with the fortune-telling book, and stuffed it into the
thatch.  A curious fetishistic fear of this grimy volume on the part
of her mother prevented her ever allowing it to stay in the house all
night, and hither it was brought back whenever it had been consulted.
Between the mother, with her fast-perishing lumber of superstitions,
folk-lore, dialect, and orally transmitted ballads, and the daughter,
with her trained National teachings and Standard knowledge under an
infinitely Revised Code, there was a gap of two hundred years as
ordinarily understood.  When they were together the Jacobean and the
Victorian ages were juxtaposed.

Returning along the garden path Tess mused on what the mother could
have wished to ascertain from the book on this particular day.  She
guessed the recent ancestral discovery to bear upon it, but did not
divine that it solely concerned herself.  Dismissing this, however,
she busied herself with sprinkling the linen dried during the
day-time, in company with her nine-year-old brother Abraham, and her
sister Eliza-Louisa of twelve and a half, called "'Liza-Lu," the
youngest ones being put to bed.  There was an interval of four years
and more between Tess and the next of the family, the two who had
filled the gap having died in their infancy, and this lent her a
deputy-maternal attitude when she was alone with her juniors.  Next
in juvenility to Abraham came two more girls, Hope and Modesty; then
a boy of three, and then the baby, who had just completed his first
year.

All these young souls were passengers in the Durbeyfield
ship--entirely dependent on the judgement of the two Durbeyfield
adults for their pleasures, their necessities, their health, even
their existence.  If the heads of the Durbeyfield household chose
to sail into difficulty, disaster, starvation, disease, degradation,
death, thither were these half-dozen little captives under hatches
compelled to sail with them--six helpless creatures, who had never
been asked if they wished for life on any terms, much less if they
wished for it on such hard conditions as were involved in being of
the shiftless house of Durbeyfield.  Some people would like to know
whence the poet whose philosophy is in these days deemed as profound
and trustworthy as his song is breezy and pure, gets his authority
for speaking of "Nature's holy plan."

It grew later, and neither father nor mother reappeared.  Tess looked
out of the door, and took a mental journey through Marlott.  The
village was shutting its eyes.  Candles and lamps were being put
out everywhere: she could inwardly behold the extinguisher and the
extended hand.

Her mother's fetching simply meant one more to fetch.  Tess began to
perceive that a man in indifferent health, who proposed to start on a
journey before one in the morning, ought not to be at an inn at this
late hour celebrating his ancient blood.

"Abraham," she said to her little brother, "do you put on your
hat--you bain't afraid?--and go up to Rolliver's, and see what has
gone wi' father and mother."

The boy jumped promptly from his seat, and opened the door, and the
night swallowed him up.  Half an hour passed yet again; neither man,
woman, nor child returned.  Abraham, like his parents, seemed to have
been limed and caught by the ensnaring inn.

"I must go myself," she said.

'Liza-Lu then went to bed, and Tess, locking them all in, started on
her way up the dark and crooked lane or street not made for hasty
progress; a street laid out before inches of land had value, and when
one-handed clocks sufficiently subdivided the day.



IV


Rolliver's inn, the single alehouse at this end of the long and
broken village, could only boast of an off-licence; hence, as
nobody could legally drink on the premises, the amount of overt
accommodation for consumers was strictly limited to a little board
about six inches wide and two yards long, fixed to the garden palings
by pieces of wire, so as to form a ledge.  On this board thirsty
strangers deposited their cups as they stood in the road and drank,
and threw the dregs on the dusty ground to the pattern of Polynesia,
and wished they could have a restful seat inside.

Thus the strangers.  But there were also local customers who felt the
same wish; and where there's a will there's a way.

In a large bedroom upstairs, the window of which was thickly
curtained with a great woollen shawl lately discarded by the
landlady, Mrs Rolliver, were gathered on this evening nearly a dozen
persons, all seeking beatitude; all old inhabitants of the nearer
end of Marlott, and frequenters of this retreat. Not only did the
distance to the The Pure Drop, the fully-licensed tavern at the
further part of the dispersed village, render its accommodation
practically unavailable for dwellers at this end; but the far more
serious question, the quality of the liquor, confirmed the prevalent
opinion that it was better to drink with Rolliver in a corner of the
housetop than with the other landlord in a wide house.

A gaunt four-post bedstead which stood in the room afforded
sitting-space for several persons gathered round three of its sides;
a couple more men had elevated themselves on a chest of drawers;
another rested on the oak-carved "cwoffer"; two on the wash-stand;
another on the stool; and thus all were, somehow, seated at their
ease.  The stage of mental comfort to which they had arrived at this
hour was one wherein their souls expanded beyond their skins, and
spread their personalities warmly through the room.  In this process
the chamber and its furniture grew more and more dignified and
luxurious; the shawl hanging at the window took upon itself the
richness of tapestry; the brass handles of the chest of drawers were
as golden knockers; and the carved bedposts seemed to have some
kinship with the magnificent pillars of Solomon's temple.

Mrs Durbeyfield, having quickly walked hitherward after parting from
Tess, opened the front door, crossed the downstairs room, which was
in deep gloom, and then unfastened the stair-door like one whose
fingers knew the tricks of the latches well.  Her ascent of the
crooked staircase was a slower process, and her face, as it rose into
the light above the last stair, encountered the gaze of all the party
assembled in the bedroom.

"--Being a few private friends I've asked in to keep up club-walking
at my own expense," the landlady exclaimed at the sound of footsteps,
as glibly as a child repeating the Catechism, while she peered over
the stairs.  "Oh, 'tis you, Mrs Durbeyfield--Lard--how you frightened
me!--I thought it might be some gaffer sent by Gover'ment."

Mrs Durbeyfield was welcomed with glances and nods by the remainder
of the conclave, and turned to where her husband sat.  He was humming
absently to himself, in a low tone: "I be as good as some folks here
and there!  I've got a great family vault at Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill,
and finer skillentons than any man in Wessex!"

"I've something to tell 'ee that's come into my head about that--a
grand projick!" whispered his cheerful wife.  "Here, John, don't 'ee
see me?"  She nudged him, while he, looking through her as through a
window-pane, went on with his recitative.

"Hush!  Don't 'ee sing so loud, my good man," said the landlady; "in
case any member of the Gover'ment should be passing, and take away my
licends."

"He's told 'ee what's happened to us, I suppose?" asked Mrs
Durbeyfield.

"Yes--in a way.  D'ye think there's any money hanging by it?"

"Ah, that's the secret," said Joan Durbeyfield sagely.  "However,
'tis well to be kin to a coach, even if you don't ride in 'en."  She
dropped her public voice, and continued in a low tone to her husband:
"I've been thinking since you brought the news that there's a great
rich lady out by Trantridge, on the edge o' The Chase, of the name of
d'Urberville."

"Hey--what's that?" said Sir John.

She repeated the information.  "That lady must be our relation," she
said.  "And my projick is to send Tess to claim kin."

"There IS a lady of the name, now you mention it," said Durbeyfield.
"Pa'son Tringham didn't think of that.  But she's nothing beside
we--a junior branch of us, no doubt, hailing long since King Norman's
day."

While this question was being discussed neither of the pair noticed,
in their preoccupation, that little Abraham had crept into the room,
and was awaiting an opportunity of asking them to return.

"She is rich, and she'd be sure to take notice o' the maid,"
continued Mrs Durbeyfield; "and 'twill be a very good thing.  I don't
see why two branches o' one family should not be on visiting terms."

"Yes; and we'll all claim kin!" said Abraham brightly from under the
bedstead.  "And we'll all go and see her when Tess has gone to live
with her; and we'll ride in her coach and wear black clothes!"

"How do you come here, child?  What nonsense be ye talking!  Go away,
and play on the stairs till father and mother be ready! ...  Well,
Tess ought to go to this other member of our family.  She'd be sure
to win the lady--Tess would; and likely enough 'twould lead to some
noble gentleman marrying her.  In short, I know it."

"How?"

"I tried her fate in the _Fortune-Teller_, and it brought out that
very thing! ...  You should ha' seen how pretty she looked to-day;
her skin is as sumple as a duchess'."

"What says the maid herself to going?"

"I've not asked her.  She don't know there is any such lady-relation
yet.  But it would certainly put her in the way of a grand marriage,
and she won't say nay to going."

"Tess is queer."

"But she's tractable at bottom.  Leave her to me."

Though this conversation had been private, sufficient of its import
reached the understandings of those around to suggest to them that
the Durbeyfields had weightier concerns to talk of now than common
folks had, and that Tess, their pretty eldest daughter, had fine
prospects in store.

"Tess is a fine figure o' fun, as I said to myself to-day when I zeed
her vamping round parish with the rest," observed one of the elderly
boozers in an undertone.  "But Joan Durbeyfield must mind that she
don't get green malt in floor."  It was a local phrase which had a
peculiar meaning, and there was no reply.

The conversation became inclusive, and presently other footsteps were
heard crossing the room below.

"--Being a few private friends asked in to-night to keep up
club-walking at my own expense."  The landlady had rapidly re-used
the formula she kept on hand for intruders before she recognized that
the newcomer was Tess.

Even to her mother's gaze the girl's young features looked sadly
out of place amid the alcoholic vapours which floated here as
no unsuitable medium for wrinkled middle-age; and hardly was a
reproachful flash from Tess's dark eyes needed to make her father
and mother rise from their seats, hastily finish their ale, and
descend the stairs behind her, Mrs Rolliver's caution following
their footsteps.

"No noise, please, if ye'll be so good, my dears; or I mid lose my
licends, and be summons'd, and I don't know what all!  'Night t'ye!"

They went home together, Tess holding one arm of her father, and Mrs
Durbeyfield the other.  He had, in truth, drunk very little--not a
fourth of the quantity which a systematic tippler could carry to
church on a Sunday afternoon without a hitch in his eastings or
genuflections; but the weakness of Sir John's constitution made
mountains of his petty sins in this kind.  On reaching the fresh
air he was sufficiently unsteady to incline the row of three at one
moment as if they were marching to London, and at another as if they
were marching to Bath--which produced a comical effect, frequent
enough in families on nocturnal homegoings; and, like most comical
effects, not quite so comic after all.  The two women valiantly
disguised these forced excursions and countermarches as well as they
could from Durbeyfield, their cause, and from Abraham, and from
themselves; and so they approached by degrees their own door, the
head of the family bursting suddenly into his former refrain as he
drew near, as if to fortify his soul at sight of the smallness of
his present residence--

"I've got a fam--ily vault at Kingsbere!"

"Hush--don't be so silly, Jacky," said his wife.  "Yours is not the
only family that was of 'count in wold days.  Look at the Anktells,
and Horseys, and the Tringhams themselves--gone to seed a'most as
much as you--though you was bigger folks than they, that's true.
Thank God, I was never of no family, and have nothing to be ashamed
of in that way!"

"Don't you be so sure o' that.  From you nater 'tis my belief you've
disgraced yourselves more than any o' us, and was kings and queens
outright at one time."

Tess turned the subject by saying what was far more prominent in her
own mind at the moment than thoughts of her ancestry--"I am afraid
father won't be able to take the journey with the beehives to-morrow
so early."

"I? I shall be all right in an hour or two," said Durbeyfield.


It was eleven o'clock before the family were all in bed, and
two o'clock next morning was the latest hour for starting with
the beehives if they were to be delivered to the retailers in
Casterbridge before the Saturday market began, the way thither lying
by bad roads over a distance of between twenty and thirty miles, and
the horse and waggon being of the slowest.  At half-past one Mrs
Durbeyfield came into the large bedroom where Tess and all her
little brothers and sisters slept.

"The poor man can't go," she said to her eldest daughter, whose great
eyes had opened the moment her mother's hand touched the door.

Tess sat up in bed, lost in a vague interspace between a dream and
this information.

"But somebody must go," she replied.  "It is late for the hives
already.  Swarming will soon be over for the year; and it we put off
taking 'em till next week's market the call for 'em will be past, and
they'll be thrown on our hands."

Mrs Durbeyfield looked unequal to the emergency.  "Some young feller,
perhaps, would go?  One of them who were so much after dancing with
'ee yesterday," she presently suggested.

"O no--I wouldn't have it for the world!" declared Tess proudly.
"And letting everybody know the reason--such a thing to be ashamed
of!  I think _I_ could go if Abraham could go with me to kip me
company."

Her mother at length agreed to this arrangement.  Little Abraham was
aroused from his deep sleep in a corner of the same apartment, and
made to put on his clothes while still mentally in the other world.
Meanwhile Tess had hastily dressed herself; and the twain, lighting
a lantern, went out to the stable.  The rickety little waggon was
already laden, and the girl led out the horse, Prince, only a degree
less rickety than the vehicle.

The poor creature looked wonderingly round at the night, at the
lantern, at their two figures, as if he could not believe that at
that hour, when every living thing was intended to be in shelter and
at rest, he was called upon to go out and labour.  They put a stock
of candle-ends into the lantern, hung the latter to the off-side of
the load, and directed the horse onward, walking at his shoulder at
first during the uphill parts of the way, in order not to overload
an animal of so little vigour.  To cheer themselves as well as they
could, they made an artificial morning with the lantern, some bread
and butter, and their own conversation, the real morning being far
from come.  Abraham, as he more fully awoke (for he had moved in a
sort of trance so far), began to talk of the strange shapes assumed
by the various dark objects against the sky; of this tree that looked
like a raging tiger springing from a lair; of that which resembled a
giant's head.

When they had passed the little town of Stourcastle, dumbly somnolent
under its thick brown thatch, they reached higher ground.  Still
higher, on their left, the elevation called Bulbarrow, or Bealbarrow,
well-nigh the highest in South Wessex, swelled into the sky,
engirdled by its earthen trenches.  From hereabout the long road was
fairly level for some distance onward.  They mounted in front of the
waggon, and Abraham grew reflective.

"Tess!" he said in a preparatory tone, after a silence.

"Yes, Abraham."

"Bain't you glad that we've become gentlefolk?"

"Not particular glad."

"But you be glad that you 'm going to marry a gentleman?"

"What?" said Tess, lifting her face.

"That our great relation will help 'ee to marry a gentleman."

"I?  Our great relation?  We have no such relation.  What has put
that into your head?"

"I heard 'em talking about it up at Rolliver's when I went to find
father.  There's a rich lady of our family out at Trantridge, and
mother said that if you claimed kin with the lady, she'd put 'ee in
the way of marrying a gentleman."

His sister became abruptly still, and lapsed into a pondering
silence.  Abraham talked on, rather for the pleasure of utterance
than for audition, so that his sister's abstraction was of no
account.  He leant back against the hives, and with upturned face
made observations on the stars, whose cold pulses were beating
amid the black hollows above, in serene dissociation from these two
wisps of human life.  He asked how far away those twinklers were,
and whether God was on the other side of them.  But ever and anon
his childish prattle recurred to what impressed his imagination
even more deeply than the wonders of creation.  If Tess were made
rich by marrying a gentleman, would she have money enough to buy a
spyglass so large that it would draw the stars as near to her as
Nettlecombe-Tout?

The renewed subject, which seemed to have impregnated the whole
family, filled Tess with impatience.

"Never mind that now!" she exclaimed.

"Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?"

"Yes."

"All like ours?"

"I don't know; but I think so.  They sometimes seem to be like the
apples on our stubbard-tree.  Most of them splendid and sound--a few
blighted."

"Which do we live on--a splendid one or a blighted one?"

"A blighted one."

"'Tis very unlucky that we didn't pitch on a sound one, when there
were so many more of 'em!"

"Yes."

"Is it like that REALLY, Tess?" said Abraham, turning to her much
impressed, on reconsideration of this rare information.  "How would
it have been if we had pitched on a sound one?"

"Well, father wouldn't have coughed and creeped about as he does,
and wouldn't have got too tipsy to go on this journey; and mother
wouldn't have been always washing, and never getting finished."

"And you would have been a rich lady ready-made, and not have had to
be made rich by marrying a gentleman?"

"O Aby, don't--don't talk of that any more!"

Left to his reflections Abraham soon grew drowsy.  Tess was not
skilful in the management of a horse, but she thought that she could
take upon herself the entire conduct of the load for the present and
allow Abraham to go to sleep if he wished to do so.  She made him a
sort of nest in front of the hives, in such a manner that he could
not fall, and, taking the reins into her own hands, jogged on as
before.

Prince required but slight attention, lacking energy for superfluous
movements of any sort.  With no longer a companion to distract her,
Tess fell more deeply into reverie than ever, her back leaning
against the hives.  The mute procession past her shoulders of trees
and hedges became attached to fantastic scenes outside reality, and
the occasional heave of the wind became the sigh of some immense sad
soul, conterminous with the universe in space, and with history in
time.

Then, examining the mesh of events in her own life, she seemed to see
the vanity of her father's pride; the gentlemanly suitor awaiting
herself in her mother's fancy; to see him as a grimacing personage,
laughing at her poverty and her shrouded knightly ancestry.
Everything grew more and more extravagant, and she no longer knew how
time passed.  A sudden jerk shook her in her seat, and Tess awoke
from the sleep into which she, too, had fallen.

They were a long way further on than when she had lost consciousness,
and the waggon had stopped.  A hollow groan, unlike anything she had
ever heard in her life, came from the front, followed by a shout of
"Hoi there!"

The lantern hanging at her waggon had gone out, but another was
shining in her face--much brighter than her own had been.  Something
terrible had happened.  The harness was entangled with an object
which blocked the way.

In consternation Tess jumped down, and discovered the dreadful truth.
The groan had proceeded from her father's poor horse Prince.  The
morning mail-cart, with its two noiseless wheels, speeding along
these lanes like an arrow, as it always did, had driven into her slow
and unlighted equipage.  The pointed shaft of the cart had entered
the breast of the unhappy Prince like a sword, and from the wound his
life's blood was spouting in a stream, and falling with a hiss into
the road.

In her despair Tess sprang forward and put her hand upon the hole,
with the only result that she became splashed from face to skirt with
the crimson drops.  Then she stood helplessly looking on.  Prince
also stood firm and motionless as long as he could; till he suddenly
sank down in a heap.

By this time the mail-cart man had joined her, and began dragging and
unharnessing the hot form of Prince.  But he was already dead, and,
seeing that nothing more could be done immediately, the mail-cart man
returned to his own animal, which was uninjured.

"You was on the wrong side," he said.  "I am bound to go on with the
mail-bags, so that the best thing for you to do is bide here with
your load.  I'll send somebody to help you as soon as I can.  It is
getting daylight, and you have nothing to fear."

He mounted and sped on his way; while Tess stood and waited.  The
atmosphere turned pale, the birds shook themselves in the hedges,
arose, and twittered; the lane showed all its white features, and
Tess showed hers, still whiter.  The huge pool of blood in front of
her was already assuming the iridescence of coagulation; and when the
sun rose a hundred prismatic hues were reflected from it.  Prince lay
alongside, still and stark; his eyes half open, the hole in his chest
looking scarcely large enough to have let out all that had animated
him.

"'Tis all my doing--all mine!" the girl cried, gazing at the
spectacle.  "No excuse for me--none.  What will mother and father
live on now?  Aby, Aby!"  She shook the child, who had slept soundly
through the whole disaster.  "We can't go on with our load--Prince
is killed!"

When Abraham realized all, the furrows of fifty years were
extemporized on his young face.

"Why, I danced and laughed only yesterday!" she went on to herself.
"To think that I was such a fool!"

"'Tis because we be on a blighted star, and not a sound one, isn't
it, Tess?" murmured Abraham through his tears.

In silence they waited through an interval which seemed endless.  At
length a sound, and an approaching object, proved to them that the
driver of the mail-car had been as good as his word.  A farmer's
man from near Stourcastle came up, leading a strong cob.  He was
harnessed to the waggon of beehives in the place of Prince, and the
load taken on towards Casterbridge.

The evening of the same day saw the empty waggon reach again the
spot of the accident.  Prince had lain there in the ditch since the
morning; but the place of the blood-pool was still visible in the
middle of the road, though scratched and scraped over by passing
vehicles.  All that was left of Prince was now hoisted into the
waggon he had formerly hauled, and with his hoofs in the air, and his
shoes shining in the setting sunlight, he retraced the eight or nine
miles to Marlott.

Tess had gone back earlier.  How to break the news was more than she
could think.  It was a relief to her tongue to find from the faces of
her parents that they already knew of their loss, though this did not
lessen the self-reproach which she continued to heap upon herself for
her negligence.

But the very shiftlessness of the household rendered the misfortune
a less terrifying one to them than it would have been to a thriving
family, though in the present case it meant ruin, and in the other it
would only have meant inconvenience.  In the Durbeyfield countenances
there was nothing of the red wrath that would have burnt upon the
girl from parents more ambitious for her welfare.  Nobody blamed Tess
as she blamed herself.

When it was discovered that the knacker and tanner would give only a
very few shillings for Prince's carcase because of his decrepitude,
Durbeyfield rose to the occasion.

"No," said he stoically, "I won't sell his old body.  When we
d'Urbervilles was knights in the land, we didn't sell our chargers
for cat's meat.  Let 'em keep their shillings!  He've served me well
in his lifetime, and I won't part from him now."

He worked harder the next day in digging a grave for Prince in the
garden than he had worked for months to grow a crop for his family.
When the hole was ready, Durbeyfield and his wife tied a rope round
the horse and dragged him up the path towards it, the children
following in funeral train.  Abraham and 'Liza-Lu sobbed, Hope and
Modesty discharged their griefs in loud blares which echoed from the
walls; and when Prince was tumbled in they gathered round the grave.
The bread-winner had been taken away from them; what would they do?

"Is he gone to heaven?" asked Abraham, between the sobs.

Then Durbeyfield began to shovel in the earth, and the children cried
anew.  All except Tess.  Her face was dry and pale, as though she
regarded herself in the light of a murderess.



V


The haggling business, which had mainly depended on the horse, became
disorganized forthwith.  Distress, if not penury, loomed in the
distance.  Durbeyfield was what was locally called a slack-twisted
fellow; he had good strength to work at times; but the times could
not be relied on to coincide with the hours of requirement; and,
having been unaccustomed to the regular toil of the day-labourer,
he was not particularly persistent when they did so coincide.

Tess, meanwhile, as the one who had dragged her parents into this
quagmire, was silently wondering what she could do to help them out
of it; and then her mother broached her scheme.

"We must take the ups wi' the downs, Tess," said she; "and never
could your high blood have been found out at a more called-for
moment.  You must try your friends.  Do ye know that there is a very
rich Mrs d'Urberville living on the outskirts o' The Chase, who must
be our relation?  You must go to her and claim kin, and ask for some
help in our trouble."

"I shouldn't care to do that," says Tess.  "If there is such a lady,
'twould be enough for us if she were friendly--not to expect her to
give us help."

"You could win her round to do anything, my dear.  Besides, perhaps
there's more in it than you know of. I've heard what I've heard,
good-now."

The oppressive sense of the harm she had done led Tess to be more
deferential than she might otherwise have been to the maternal
wish; but she could not understand why her mother should find such
satisfaction in contemplating an enterprise of, to her, such doubtful
profit.  Her mother might have made inquiries, and have discovered
that this Mrs d'Urberville was a lady of unequalled virtues and
charity.  But Tess's pride made the part of poor relation one of
particular distaste to her.

"I'd rather try to get work," she murmured.

"Durbeyfield, you can settle it," said his wife, turning to where he
sat in the background.  "If you say she ought to go, she will go."

"I don't like my children going and making themselves beholden to
strange kin," murmured he.  "I'm the head of the noblest branch o'
the family, and I ought to live up to it."

His reasons for staying away were worse to Tess than her own
objections to going.  "Well, as I killed the horse, mother," she said
mournfully, "I suppose I ought to do something.  I don't mind going
and seeing her, but you must leave it to me about asking for help.
And don't go thinking about her making a match for me--it is silly."

"Very well said, Tess!" observed her father sententiously.

"Who said I had such a thought?" asked Joan.

"I fancy it is in your mind, mother.  But I'll go."

Rising early next day she walked to the hill-town called Shaston,
and there took advantage of a van which twice in the week ran from
Shaston eastward to Chaseborough, passing near Trantridge, the parish
in which the vague and mysterious Mrs d'Urberville had her residence.

Tess Durbeyfield's route on this memorable morning lay amid the
north-eastern undulations of the Vale in which she had been born, and
in which her life had unfolded.  The Vale of Blackmoor was to her the
world, and its inhabitants the races thereof.  From the gates and
stiles of Marlott she had looked down its length in the wondering
days of infancy, and what had been mystery to her then was not
much less than mystery to her now.  She had seen daily from her
chamber-window towers, villages, faint white mansions; above all,
the town of Shaston standing majestically on its height; its windows
shining like lamps in the evening sun.  She had hardly ever visited
the place, only a small tract even of the Vale and its environs being
known to her by close inspection.  Much less had she been far outside
the valley.  Every contour of the surrounding hills was as personal
to her as that of her relatives' faces; but for what lay beyond, her
judgment was dependent on the teaching of the village school, where
she had held a leading place at the time of her leaving, a year or
two before this date.

In those early days she had been much loved by others of her own
sex and age, and had used to be seen about the village as one of
three--all nearly of the same year--walking home from school side
by side; Tess the middle one--in a pink print pinafore, of a finely
reticulated pattern, worn over a stuff frock that had lost its
original colour for a nondescript tertiary--marching on upon long
stalky legs, in tight stockings which had little ladder-like holes
at the knees, torn by kneeling in the roads and banks in search of
vegetable and mineral treasures; her then earth-coloured hair hanging
like pot-hooks; the arms of the two outside girls resting round the
waist of Tess; her arms on the shoulders of the two supporters.

As Tess grew older, and began to see how matters stood, she felt
quite a Malthusian towards her mother for thoughtlessly giving her so
many little sisters and brothers, when it was such a trouble to nurse
and provide for them.  Her mother's intelligence was that of a happy
child: Joan Durbeyfield was simply an additional one, and that not
the eldest, to her own long family of waiters on Providence.

However, Tess became humanely beneficent towards the small ones,
and to help them as much as possible she used, as soon as she left
school, to lend a hand at haymaking or harvesting on neighbouring
farms; or, by preference, at milking or butter-making processes,
which she had learnt when her father had owned cows; and being
deft-fingered it was a kind of work in which she excelled.

Every day seemed to throw upon her young shoulders more of the
family burdens, and that Tess should be the representative of the
Durbeyfields at the d'Urberville mansion came as a thing of course.
In this instance it must be admitted that the Durbeyfields were
putting their fairest side outward.

She alighted from the van at Trantridge Cross, and ascended on foot
a hill in the direction of the district known as The Chase, on the
borders of which, as she had been informed, Mrs d'Urberville's seat,
The Slopes, would be found.  It was not a manorial home in the
ordinary sense, with fields, and pastures, and a grumbling farmer,
out of whom the owner had to squeeze an income for himself and his
family by hook or by crook.  It was more, far more; a country-house
built for enjoyment pure and simple, with not an acre of troublesome
land attached to it beyond what was required for residential
purposes, and for a little fancy farm kept in hand by the owner, and
tended by a bailiff.

The crimson brick lodge came first in sight, up to its eaves in dense
evergreens.  Tess thought this was the mansion itself till, passing
through the side wicket with some trepidation, and onward to a point
at which the drive took a turn, the house proper stood in full view.
It was of recent erection--indeed almost new--and of the same rich
red colour that formed such a contrast with the evergreens of the
lodge.  Far behind the corner of the house--which rose like a
geranium bloom against the subdued colours around--stretched the soft
azure landscape of The Chase--a truly venerable tract of forest land,
one of the few remaining woodlands in England of undoubted primaeval
date, wherein Druidical mistletoe was still found on aged oaks, and
where enormous yew-trees, not planted by the hand of man grew as
they had grown when they were pollarded for bows.  All this sylvan
antiquity, however, though visible from The Slopes, was outside the
immediate boundaries of the estate.

Everything on this snug property was bright, thriving, and well kept;
acres of glass-houses stretched down the inclines to the copses at
their feet.  Everything looked like money--like the last coin issued
from the Mint.  The stables, partly screened by Austrian pines
and evergreen oaks, and fitted with every late appliance, were
as dignified as Chapels-of-Ease.  On the extensive lawn stood an
ornamental tent, its door being towards her.

Simple Tess Durbeyfield stood at gaze, in a half-alarmed attitude,
on the edge of the gravel sweep.  Her feet had brought her onward to
this point before she had quite realized where she was; and now all
was contrary to her expectation.

"I thought we were an old family; but this is all new!" she said, in
her artlessness.  She wished that she had not fallen in so readily
with her mother's plans for "claiming kin," and had endeavoured to
gain assistance nearer home.


The d'Urbervilles--or Stoke-d'Urbervilles, as they at first called
themselves--who owned all this, were a somewhat unusual family to
find in such an old-fashioned part of the country.  Parson Tringham
had spoken truly when he said that our shambling John Durbeyfield was
the only really lineal representative of the old d'Urberville family
existing in the county, or near it; he might have added, what he knew
very well, that the Stoke-d'Urbervilles were no more d'Urbervilles of
the true tree then he was himself.  Yet it must be admitted that this
family formed a very good stock whereon to regraft a name which sadly
wanted such renovation.

When old Mr Simon Stoke, latterly deceased, had made his fortune as
an honest merchant (some said money-lender) in the North, he decided
to settle as a county man in the South of England, out of hail of
his business district; and in doing this he felt the necessity of
recommencing with a name that would not too readily identify him with
the smart tradesman of the past, and that would be less commonplace
than the original bald, stark words.  Conning for an hour in the
British Museum the pages of works devoted to extinct, half-extinct,
obscured, and ruined families appertaining to the quarter of England
in which he proposed to settle, he considered that _d'Urberville_
looked and sounded as well as any of them: and d'Urberville
accordingly was annexed to his own name for himself and his heirs
eternally.  Yet he was not an extravagant-minded man in this, and in
constructing his family tree on the new basis was duly reasonable in
framing his inter-marriages and aristocratic links, never inserting
a single title above a rank of strict moderation.

Of this work of imagination poor Tess and her parents were naturally
in ignorance--much to their discomfiture; indeed, the very
possibility of such annexations was unknown to them; who supposed
that, though to be well-favoured might be the gift of fortune, a
family name came by nature.

Tess still stood hesitating like a bather about to make his plunge,
hardly knowing whether to retreat or to persevere, when a figure came
forth from the dark triangular door of the tent.  It was that of a
tall young man, smoking.

He had an almost swarthy complexion, with full lips, badly moulded,
though red and smooth, above which was a well-groomed black moustache
with curled points, though his age could not be more than three- or
four-and-twenty.  Despite the touches of barbarism in his contours,
there was a singular force in the gentleman's face, and in his bold
rolling eye.

"Well, my Beauty, what can I do for you?" said he, coming forward.
And perceiving that she stood quite confounded: "Never mind me. I am
Mr d'Urberville.  Have you come to see me or my mother?"

This embodiment of a d'Urberville and a namesake differed even more
from what Tess had expected than the house and grounds had differed.
She had dreamed of an aged and dignified face, the sublimation of
all the d'Urberville lineaments, furrowed with incarnate memories
representing in hieroglyphic the centuries of her family's and
England's history.  But she screwed herself up to the work in hand,
since she could not get out of it, and answered--

"I came to see your mother, sir."

"I am afraid you cannot see her--she is an invalid," replied the
present representative of the spurious house; for this was Mr Alec,
the only son of the lately deceased gentleman.  "Cannot I answer your
purpose? What is the business you wish to see her about?"

"It isn't business--it is--I can hardly say what!"

"Pleasure?"

"Oh no.  Why, sir, if I tell you, it will seem--"

Tess's sense of a certain ludicrousness in her errand was now
so strong that, notwithstanding her awe of him, and her general
discomfort at being here, her rosy lips curved towards a smile,
much to the attraction of the swarthy Alexander.

"It is so very foolish," she stammered; "I fear can't tell you!"

"Never mind; I like foolish things.  Try again, my dear," said he
kindly.

"Mother asked me to come," Tess continued; "and, indeed, I was in the
mind to do so myself likewise.  But I did not think it would be like
this.  I came, sir, to tell you that we are of the same family as
you."

"Ho!  Poor relations?"

"Yes."

"Stokes?"

"No; d'Urbervilles."

"Ay, ay; I mean d'Urbervilles."

"Our names are worn away to Durbeyfield; but we have several proofs
that we are d'Urbervilles.  Antiquarians hold we are,--and--and we
have an old seal, marked with a ramping lion on a shield, and a
castle over him.  And we have a very old silver spoon, round in the
bowl like a little ladle, and marked with the same castle.  But it
is so worn that mother uses it to stir the pea-soup."

"A castle argent is certainly my crest," said he blandly.  "And my
arms a lion rampant."

"And so mother said we ought to make ourselves beknown to you--as
we've lost our horse by a bad accident, and are the oldest branch o'
the family."

"Very kind of your mother, I'm sure.  And I, for one, don't regret
her step."  Alec looked at Tess as he spoke, in a way that made her
blush a little.  "And so, my pretty girl, you've come on a friendly
visit to us, as relations?"

"I suppose I have," faltered Tess, looking uncomfortable again.

"Well--there's no harm in it.  Where do you live?  What are you?"

She gave him brief particulars; and responding to further inquiries
told him that she was intending to go back by the same carrier who
had brought her.

"It is a long while before he returns past Trantridge Cross.
Supposing we walk round the grounds to pass the time, my pretty Coz?"

Tess wished to abridge her visit as much as possible; but the young
man was pressing, and she consented to accompany him.  He conducted
her about the lawns, and flower-beds, and conservatories; and thence
to the fruit-garden and greenhouses, where he asked her if she liked
strawberries.

"Yes," said Tess, "when they come."

"They are already here."  D'Urberville began gathering specimens
of the fruit for her, handing them back to her as he stooped; and,
presently, selecting a specially fine product of the "British Queen"
variety, he stood up and held it by the stem to her mouth.

"No--no!" she said quickly, putting her fingers between his hand and
her lips.  "I would rather take it in my own hand."

"Nonsense!" he insisted; and in a slight distress she parted her lips
and took it in.

They had spent some time wandering desultorily thus, Tess eating in
a half-pleased, half-reluctant state whatever d'Urberville offered
her.  When she could consume no more of the strawberries he filled
her little basket with them; and then the two passed round to the
rose-trees, whence he gathered blossoms and gave her to put in her
bosom. She obeyed like one in a dream, and when she could affix no
more he himself tucked a bud or two into her hat, and heaped her
basket with others in the prodigality of his bounty.  At last,
looking at his watch, he said, "Now, by the time you have had
something to eat, it will be time for you to leave, if you want to
catch the carrier to Shaston.  Come here, and I'll see what grub I
can find."

Stoke d'Urberville took her back to the lawn and into the tent, where
he left her, soon reappearing with a basket of light luncheon, which
he put before her himself.  It was evidently the gentleman's wish not
to be disturbed in this pleasant _tête-à-tête_ by the servantry.

"Do you mind my smoking?" he asked.

"Oh, not at all, sir."

He watched her pretty and unconscious munching through the skeins of
smoke that pervaded the tent, and Tess Durbeyfield did not divine,
as she innocently looked down at the roses in her bosom, that there
behind the blue narcotic haze was potentially the "tragic mischief"
of her drama--one who stood fair to be the blood-red ray in the
spectrum of her young life.  She had an attribute which amounted
to a disadvantage just now; and it was this that caused Alec
d'Urberville's eyes to rivet themselves upon her.  It was a
luxuriance of aspect, a fulness of growth, which made her appear more
of a woman than she really was.  She had inherited the feature from
her mother without the quality it denoted.  It had troubled her mind
occasionally, till her companions had said that it was a fault which
time would cure.

She soon had finished her lunch.  "Now I am going home, sir," she
said, rising.

"And what do they call you?" he asked, as he accompanied her along
the drive till they were out of sight of the house.

"Tess Durbeyfield, down at Marlott."

"And you say your people have lost their horse?"

"I--killed him!" she answered, her eyes filling with tears as she
gave particulars of Prince's death.  "And I don't know what to do
for father on account of it!"

"I must think if I cannot do something.  My mother must find a berth
for you.  But, Tess, no nonsense about 'd'Urberville';--'Durbeyfield'
only, you know--quite another name."

"I wish for no better, sir," said she with something of dignity.

For a moment--only for a moment--when they were in the turning of the
drive, between the tall rhododendrons and conifers, before the lodge
became visible, he inclined his face towards her as if--but, no: he
thought better of it, and let her go.

Thus the thing began.  Had she perceived this meeting's import she
might have asked why she was doomed to be seen and coveted that day
by the wrong man, and not by some other man, the right and desired
one in all respects--as nearly as humanity can supply the right
and desired; yet to him who amongst her acquaintance might have
approximated to this kind, she was but a transient impression, half
forgotten.

In the ill-judged execution of the well-judged plan of things the
call seldom produces the comer, the man to love rarely coincides with
the hour for loving.  Nature does not often say "See!" to her poor
creature at a time when seeing can lead to happy doing; or reply
"Here!" to a body's cry of "Where?" till the hide-and-seek has become
an irksome, outworn game.  We may wonder whether at the acme and
summit of the human progress these anachronisms will be corrected by
a finer intuition, a closer interaction of the social machinery than
that which now jolts us round and along; but such completeness is not
to be prophesied, or even conceived as possible.  Enough that in the
present case, as in millions, it was not the two halves of a perfect
whole that confronted each other at the perfect moment; a missing
counterpart wandered independently about the earth waiting in
crass obtuseness till the late time came.  Out of which maladroit
delay sprang anxieties, disappointments, shocks, catastrophes, and
passing-strange destinies.

When d'Urberville got back to the tent he sat down astride on a
chair, reflecting, with a pleased gleam in his face.  Then he broke
into a loud laugh.

"Well, I'm damned!  What a funny thing!  Ha-ha-ha!  And what a crumby
girl!"



VI


Tess went down the hill to Trantridge Cross, and inattentively waited
to take her seat in the van returning from Chaseborough to Shaston.
She did not know what the other occupants said to her as she entered,
though she answered them; and when they had started anew she rode
along with an inward and not an outward eye.

One among her fellow-travellers addressed her more pointedly than
any had spoken before: "Why, you be quite a posy!  And such roses in
early June!"

Then she became aware of the spectacle she presented to their
surprised vision: roses at her breasts; roses in her hat; roses
and strawberries in her basket to the brim.  She blushed, and
said confusedly that the flowers had been given to her.  When the
passengers were not looking she stealthily removed the more prominent
blooms from her hat and placed them in the basket, where she covered
them with her handkerchief.  Then she fell to reflecting again, and
in looking downwards a thorn of the rose remaining in her breast
accidentally pricked her chin. Like all the cottagers in Blackmoor
Vale, Tess was steeped in fancies and prefigurative superstitions;
she thought this an ill omen--the first she had noticed that day.

The van travelled only so far as Shaston, and there were several
miles of pedestrian descent from that mountain-town into the vale to
Marlott.  Her mother had advised her to stay here for the night, at
the house of a cottage-woman they knew, if she should feel too tired
to come on; and this Tess did, not descending to her home till the
following afternoon.

When she entered the house she perceived in a moment from her
mother's triumphant manner that something had occurred in the
interim.

"Oh yes; I know all about it!  I told 'ee it would be all right, and
now 'tis proved!"

"Since I've been away?  What has?" said Tess rather wearily.

Her mother surveyed the girl up and down with arch approval, and went
on banteringly: "So you've brought 'em round!"

"How do you know, mother?"

"I've had a letter."

Tess then remembered that there would have been time for this.

"They say--Mrs d'Urberville says--that she wants you to look after a
little fowl-farm which is her hobby.  But this is only her artful way
of getting 'ee there without raising your hopes.  She's going to own
'ee as kin--that's the meaning o't."

"But I didn't see her."

"You zid somebody, I suppose?"

"I saw her son."

"And did he own 'ee?"

"Well--he called me Coz."

"An' I knew it!  Jacky--he called her Coz!" cried Joan to her
husband.  "Well, he spoke to his mother, of course, and she do want
'ee there."

"But I don't know that I am apt at tending fowls," said the dubious
Tess.

"Then I don't know who is apt.  You've be'n born in the business, and
brought up in it.  They that be born in a business always know more
about it than any 'prentice.  Besides, that's only just a show of
something for you to do, that you midn't feel beholden."

"I don't altogether think I ought to go," said Tess thoughtfully.
"Who wrote the letter?  Will you let me look at it?"

"Mrs d'Urberville wrote it.  Here it is."

The letter was in the third person, and briefly informed Mrs
Durbeyfield that her daughter's services would be useful to that lady
in the management of her poultry-farm, that a comfortable room would
be provided for her if she could come, and that the wages would be on
a liberal scale if they liked her.

"Oh--that's all!" said Tess.

"You couldn't expect her to throw her arms round 'ee, an' to kiss and
to coll 'ee all at once."

Tess looked out of the window.

"I would rather stay here with father and you," she said.

"But why?"

"I'd rather not tell you why, mother; indeed, I don't quite know
why."

A week afterwards she came in one evening from an unavailing search
for some light occupation in the immediate neighbourhood.  Her idea
had been to get together sufficient money during the summer to
purchase another horse.  Hardly had she crossed the threshold before
one of the children danced across the room, saying, "The gentleman's
been here!"

Her mother hastened to explain, smiles breaking from every inch of
her person.  Mrs d'Urberville's son had called on horseback, having
been riding by chance in the direction of Marlott.  He had wished
to know, finally, in the name of his mother, if Tess could really
come to manage the old lady's fowl-farm or not; the lad who had
hitherto superintended the birds having proved untrustworthy.  "Mr
d'Urberville says you must be a good girl if you are at all as you
appear; he knows you must be worth your weight in gold.  He is very
much interested in 'ee--truth to tell."

Tess seemed for the moment really pleased to hear that she had won
such high opinion from a stranger when, in her own esteem, she had
sunk so low.

"It is very good of him to think that," she murmured; "and if I was
quite sure how it would be living there, I would go any-when."

"He is a mighty handsome man!"

"I don't think so," said Tess coldly.

"Well, there's your chance, whether or no; and I'm sure he wears a
beautiful diamond ring!"

"Yes," said little Abraham, brightly, from the window-bench; "and
I seed it! and it did twinkle when he put his hand up to his
mistarshers.  Mother, why did our grand relation keep on putting his
hand up to his mistarshers?"

"Hark at that child!" cried Mrs Durbeyfield, with parenthetic
admiration.

"Perhaps to show his diamond ring," murmured Sir John, dreamily, from
his chair.

"I'll think it over," said Tess, leaving the room.

"Well, she's made a conquest o' the younger branch of us, straight
off," continued the matron to her husband, "and she's a fool if she
don't follow it up."

"I don't quite like my children going away from home," said the
haggler.  "As the head of the family, the rest ought to come to me."

"But do let her go, Jacky," coaxed his poor witless wife.  "He's
struck wi' her--you can see that. He called her Coz!  He'll marry
her, most likely, and make a lady of her; and then she'll be what
her forefathers was."

John Durbeyfield had more conceit than energy or health, and this
supposition was pleasant to him.

"Well, perhaps that's what young Mr d'Urberville means," he admitted;
"and sure enough he mid have serious thoughts about improving his
blood by linking on to the old line.  Tess, the little rogue!  And
have she really paid 'em a visit to such an end as this?"

Meanwhile Tess was walking thoughtfully among the gooseberry-bushes
in the garden, and over Prince's grave.  When she came in her mother
pursued her advantage.

"Well, what be you going to do?" she asked.

"I wish I had seen Mrs d'Urberville," said Tess.

"I think you mid as well settle it.  Then you'll see her soon
enough."

Her father coughed in his chair.

"I don't know what to say!" answered the girl restlessly.  "It is for
you to decide.  I killed the old horse, and I suppose I ought to do
something to get ye a new one.  But--but--I don't quite like Mr
d'Urberville being there!"

The children, who had made use of this idea of Tess being taken up by
their wealthy kinsfolk (which they imagined the other family to be)
as a species of dolorifuge after the death of the horse, began to cry
at Tess's reluctance, and teased and reproached her for hesitating.

"Tess won't go-o-o and be made a la-a-dy of!--no, she says she
wo-o-on't!" they wailed, with square mouths.  "And we shan't have a
nice new horse, and lots o' golden money to buy fairlings!  And Tess
won't look pretty in her best cloze no mo-o-ore!"

Her mother chimed in to the same tune: a certain way she had of
making her labours in the house seem heavier than they were by
prolonging them indefinitely, also weighed in the argument.  Her
father alone preserved an attitude of neutrality.

"I will go," said Tess at last.

Her mother could not repress her consciousness of the nuptial vision
conjured up by the girl's consent.

"That's right!  For such a pretty maid as 'tis, this is a fine
chance!"

Tess smiled crossly.

"I hope it is a chance for earning money.  It is no other kind of
chance.  You had better say nothing of that silly sort about parish."

Mrs Durbeyfield did not promise.  She was not quite sure that she did
not feel proud enough, after the visitor's remarks, to say a good
deal.

Thus it was arranged; and the young girl wrote, agreeing to be ready
to set out on any day on which she might be required.  She was duly
informed that Mrs d'Urberville was glad of her decision, and that a
spring-cart should be sent to meet her and her luggage at the top
of the Vale on the day after the morrow, when she must hold herself
prepared to start.  Mrs d'Urberville's handwriting seemed rather
masculine.

"A cart?" murmured Joan Durbeyfield doubtingly.  "It might have been
a carriage for her own kin!"

Having at last taken her course Tess was less restless and
abstracted, going about her business with some self-assurance in the
thought of acquiring another horse for her father by an occupation
which would not be onerous.  She had hoped to be a teacher at the
school, but the fates seemed to decide otherwise.  Being mentally
older than her mother she did not regard Mrs Durbeyfield's
matrimonial hopes for her in a serious aspect for a moment.  The
light-minded woman had been discovering good matches for her daughter
almost from the year of her birth.



VII


On the morning appointed for her departure Tess was awake before
dawn--at the marginal minute of the dark when the grove is still
mute, save for one prophetic bird who sings with a clear-voiced
conviction that he at least knows the correct time of day, the rest
preserving silence as if equally convinced that he is mistaken.  She
remained upstairs packing till breakfast-time, and then came down in
her ordinary week-day clothes, her Sunday apparel being carefully
folded in her box.

Her mother expostulated. "You will never set out to see your folks
without dressing up more the dand than that?"

"But I am going to work!" said Tess.

"Well, yes," said Mrs Durbeyfield; and in a private tone, "at first
there mid be a little pretence o't ...  But I think it will be wiser
of 'ee to put your best side outward," she added.

"Very well; I suppose you know best," replied Tess with calm
abandonment.

And to please her parent the girl put herself quite in Joan's hands,
saying serenely--"Do what you like with me, mother."

Mrs Durbeyfield was only too delighted at this tractability.
First she fetched a great basin, and washed Tess's hair with such
thoroughness that when dried and brushed it looked twice as much as
at other times.  She tied it with a broader pink ribbon than usual.
Then she put upon her the white frock that Tess had worn at the
club-walking, the airy fulness of which, supplementing her enlarged
_coiffure_, imparted to her developing figure an amplitude which
belied her age, and might cause her to be estimated as a woman when
she was not much more than a child.

"I declare there's a hole in my stocking-heel!" said Tess.

"Never mind holes in your stockings--they don't speak!  When I was a
maid, so long as I had a pretty bonnet the devil might ha' found me
in heels."

Her mother's pride in the girl's appearance led her to step back,
like a painter from his easel, and survey her work as a whole.

"You must zee yourself!" she cried.  "It is much better than you was
t'other day."

As the looking-glass was only large enough to reflect a very small
portion of Tess's person at one time, Mrs Durbeyfield hung a black
cloak outside the casement, and so made a large reflector of the
panes, as it is the wont of bedecking cottagers to do.  After this
she went downstairs to her husband, who was sitting in the lower
room.

"I'll tell 'ee what 'tis, Durbeyfield," said she exultingly; "he'll
never have the heart not to love her.  But whatever you do, don't zay
too much to Tess of his fancy for her, and this chance she has got.
She is such an odd maid that it mid zet her against him, or against
going there, even now.  If all goes well, I shall certainly be for
making some return to pa'son at Stagfoot Lane for telling us--dear,
good man!"

However, as the moment for the girl's setting out drew nigh, when the
first excitement of the dressing had passed off, a slight misgiving
found place in Joan Durbeyfield's mind.  It prompted the matron to
say that she would walk a little way--as far as to the point where
the acclivity from the valley began its first steep ascent to
the outer world.  At the top Tess was going to be met with the
spring-cart sent by the Stoke-d'Urbervilles, and her box had already
been wheeled ahead towards this summit by a lad with trucks, to be in
readiness.

Seeing their mother put on her bonnet, the younger children clamoured
to go with her.

"I do want to walk a little-ways wi' Sissy, now she's going to marry
our gentleman-cousin, and wear fine cloze!"

"Now," said Tess, flushing and turning quickly, "I'll hear no more o'
that!  Mother, how could you ever put such stuff into their heads?"

"Going to work, my dears, for our rich relation, and help get enough
money for a new horse," said Mrs Durbeyfield pacifically.

"Goodbye, father," said Tess, with a lumpy throat.

"Goodbye, my maid," said Sir John, raising his head from his breast
as he suspended his nap, induced by a slight excess this morning in
honour of the occasion.  "Well, I hope my young friend will like such
a comely sample of his own blood.  And tell'n, Tess, that being sunk,
quite, from our former grandeur, I'll sell him the title--yes, sell
it--and at no onreasonable figure."

"Not for less than a thousand pound!" cried Lady Durbeyfield.

"Tell'n--I'll take a thousand pound.  Well, I'll take less, when
I come to think o't.  He'll adorn it better than a poor lammicken
feller like myself can.  Tell'n he shall hae it for a hundred.  But
I won't stand upon trifles--tell'n he shall hae it for fifty--for
twenty pound!  Yes, twenty pound--that's the lowest.  Dammy, family
honour is family honour, and I won't take a penny less!"

Tess's eyes were too full and her voice too choked to utter the
sentiments that were in her.  She turned quickly, and went out.

So the girls and their mother all walked together, a child on each
side of Tess, holding her hand and looking at her meditatively from
time to time, as at one who was about to do great things; her mother
just behind with the smallest; the group forming a picture of honest
beauty flanked by innocence, and backed by simple-souled vanity.
They followed the way till they reached the beginning of the ascent,
on the crest of which the vehicle from Trantridge was to receive her,
this limit having been fixed to save the horse the labour of the last
slope.  Far away behind the first hills the cliff-like dwellings
of Shaston broke the line of the ridge. Nobody was visible in the
elevated road which skirted the ascent save the lad whom they had
sent on before them, sitting on the handle of the barrow that
contained all Tess's worldly possessions.

"Bide here a bit, and the cart will soon come, no doubt," said Mrs
Durbeyfield.  "Yes, I see it yonder!"

It had come--appearing suddenly from behind the forehead of the
nearest upland, and stopping beside the boy with the barrow.  Her
mother and the children thereupon decided to go no farther, and
bidding them a hasty goodbye, Tess bent her steps up the hill.

They saw her white shape draw near to the spring-cart, on which her
box was already placed.  But before she had quite reached it another
vehicle shot out from a clump of trees on the summit, came round the
bend of the road there, passed the luggage-cart, and halted beside
Tess, who looked up as if in great surprise.

Her mother perceived, for the first time, that the second vehicle was
not a humble conveyance like the first, but a spick-and-span gig or
dog-cart, highly varnished and equipped.  The driver was a young man
of three- or four-and-twenty, with a cigar between his teeth; wearing
a dandy cap, drab jacket, breeches of the same hue, white neckcloth,
stick-up collar, and brown driving-gloves--in short, he was the
handsome, horsey young buck who had visited Joan a week or two before
to get her answer about Tess.

Mrs Durbeyfield clapped her hands like a child.  Then she looked
down, then stared again.  Could she be deceived as to the meaning of
this?

"Is dat the gentleman-kinsman who'll make Sissy a lady?" asked the
youngest child.

Meanwhile the muslined form of Tess could be seen standing still,
undecided, beside this turn-out, whose owner was talking to her.
Her seeming indecision was, in fact, more than indecision: it was
misgiving.  She would have preferred the humble cart.  The young
man dismounted, and appeared to urge her to ascend.  She turned her
face down the hill to her relatives, and regarded the little group.
Something seemed to quicken her to a determination; possibly the
thought that she had killed Prince.  She suddenly stepped up; he
mounted beside her, and immediately whipped on the horse.  In a
moment they had passed the slow cart with the box, and disappeared
behind the shoulder of the hill.

Directly Tess was out of sight, and the interest of the matter as a
drama was at an end, the little ones' eyes filled with tears.  The
youngest child said, "I wish poor, poor Tess wasn't gone away to be a
lady!" and, lowering the corners of his lips, burst out crying.  The
new point of view was infectious, and the next child did likewise,
and then the next, till the whole three of them wailed loud.

There were tears also in Joan Durbeyfield's eyes as she turned to
go home.  But by the time she had got back to the village she was
passively trusting to the favour of accident.  However, in bed that
night she sighed, and her husband asked her what was the matter.

"Oh, I don't know exactly," she said.  "I was thinking that perhaps
it would ha' been better if Tess had not gone."

"Oughtn't ye to have thought of that before?"

"Well, 'tis a chance for the maid--Still, if 'twere the doing again,
I wouldn't let her go till I had found out whether the gentleman
is really a good-hearted young man and choice over her as his
kinswoman."

"Yes, you ought, perhaps, to ha' done that," snored Sir John.

Joan Durbeyfield always managed to find consolation somewhere: "Well,
as one of the genuine stock, she ought to make her way with 'en, if
she plays her trump card aright.  And if he don't marry her afore he
will after.  For that he's all afire wi' love for her any eye can
see."

"What's her trump card?  Her d'Urberville blood, you mean?"

"No, stupid; her face--as 'twas mine."



VIII


Having mounted beside her, Alec d'Urberville drove rapidly along
the crest of the first hill, chatting compliments to Tess as they
went, the cart with her box being left far behind.  Rising still, an
immense landscape stretched around them on every side; behind, the
green valley of her birth, before, a gray country of which she knew
nothing except from her first brief visit to Trantridge.  Thus they
reached the verge of an incline down which the road stretched in a
long straight descent of nearly a mile.

Ever since the accident with her father's horse Tess Durbeyfield,
courageous as she naturally was, had been exceedingly timid on
wheels; the least irregularity of motion startled her.  She began to
get uneasy at a certain recklessness in her conductor's driving.

"You will go down slow, sir, I suppose?" she said with attempted
unconcern.

D'Urberville looked round upon her, nipped his cigar with the tips of
his large white centre-teeth, and allowed his lips to smile slowly of
themselves.

"Why, Tess," he answered, after another whiff or two, "it isn't a
brave bouncing girl like you who asks that?  Why, I always go down at
full gallop.  There's nothing like it for raising your spirits."

"But perhaps you need not now?"

"Ah," he said, shaking his head, "there are two to be reckoned with.
It is not me alone.  Tib has to be considered, and she has a very
queer temper."

"Who?"

"Why, this mare.  I fancy she looked round at me in a very grim way
just then.  Didn't you notice it?"

"Don't try to frighten me, sir," said Tess stiffly.

"Well, I don't.  If any living man can manage this horse I can: I
won't say any living man can do it--but if such has the power, I am
he."

"Why do you have such a horse?"

"Ah, well may you ask it!  It was my fate, I suppose. Tib has killed
one chap; and just after I bought her she nearly killed me.  And
then, take my word for it, I nearly killed her.  But she's touchy
still, very touchy; and one's life is hardly safe behind her
sometimes."

They were just beginning to descend; and it was evident that the
horse, whether of her own will or of his (the latter being the more
likely), knew so well the reckless performance expected of her that
she hardly required a hint from behind.

Down, down, they sped, the wheels humming like a top, the dog-cart
rocking right and left, its axis acquiring a slightly oblique set
in relation to the line of progress; the figure of the horse rising
and falling in undulations before them.  Sometimes a wheel was off
the ground, it seemed, for many yards; sometimes a stone was sent
spinning over the hedge, and flinty sparks from the horse's hoofs
outshone the daylight.  The aspect of the straight road enlarged with
their advance, the two banks dividing like a splitting stick; one
rushing past at each shoulder.

The wind blew through Tess's white muslin to her very skin, and her
washed hair flew out behind.  She was determined to show no open
fear, but she clutched d'Urberville's rein-arm.

"Don't touch my arm!  We shall be thrown out if you do!  Hold on
round my waist!"

She grasped his waist, and so they reached the bottom.

"Safe, thank God, in spite of your fooling!" said she, her face on
fire.

"Tess--fie! that's temper!" said d'Urberville.

"'Tis truth."

"Well, you need not let go your hold of me so thanklessly the moment
you feel yourself our of danger."

She had not considered what she had been doing; whether he were man
or woman, stick or stone, in her involuntary hold on him.  Recovering
her reserve, she sat without replying, and thus they reached the
summit of another declivity.

"Now then, again!" said d'Urberville.

"No, no!" said Tess.  "Show more sense, do, please."

"But when people find themselves on one of the highest points in the
county, they must get down again," he retorted.

He loosened rein, and away they went a second time.  D'Urberville
turned his face to her as they rocked, and said, in playful raillery:
"Now then, put your arms round my waist again, as you did before, my
Beauty."

"Never!" said Tess independently, holding on as well as she could
without touching him.

"Let me put one little kiss on those holmberry lips, Tess, or even on
that warmed cheek, and I'll stop--on my honour, I will!"

Tess, surprised beyond measure, slid farther back still on her seat,
at which he urged the horse anew, and rocked her the more.

"Will nothing else do?" she cried at length, in desperation, her
large eyes staring at him like those of a wild animal.  This dressing
her up so prettily by her mother had apparently been to lamentable
purpose.

"Nothing, dear Tess," he replied.

"Oh, I don't know--very well; I don't mind!" she panted miserably.

He drew rein, and as they slowed he was on the point of imprinting
the desired salute, when, as if hardly yet aware of her own modesty,
she dodged aside.  His arms being occupied with the reins there was
left him no power to prevent her manoeuvre.

"Now, damn it--I'll break both our necks!" swore her capriciously
passionate companion.  "So you can go from your word like that, you
young witch, can you?"

"Very well," said Tess, "I'll not move since you be so determined!
But I--thought you would be kind to me, and protect me, as my
kinsman!"

"Kinsman be hanged!  Now!"

"But I don't want anybody to kiss me, sir!" she implored, a big
tear beginning to roll down her face, and the corners of her mouth
trembling in her attempts not to cry.  "And I wouldn't ha' come if
I had known!"

He was inexorable, and she sat still, and d'Urberville gave her the
kiss of mastery.  No sooner had he done so than she flushed with
shame, took out her handkerchief, and wiped the spot on her cheek
that had been touched by his lips.  His ardour was nettled at the
sight, for the act on her part had been unconsciously done.

"You are mighty sensitive for a cottage girl!" said the young man.

Tess made no reply to this remark, of which, indeed, she did not
quite comprehend the drift, unheeding the snub she had administered
by her instinctive rub upon her cheek.  She had, in fact, undone the
kiss, as far as such a thing was physically possible.  With a dim
sense that he was vexed she looked steadily ahead as they trotted on
near Melbury Down and Wingreen, till she saw, to her consternation,
that there was yet another descent to be undergone.

"You shall be made sorry for that!" he resumed, his injured tone
still remaining, as he flourished the whip anew.  "Unless, that is,
you agree willingly to let me do it again, and no handkerchief."

She sighed. "Very well, sir!" she said.  "Oh--let me get my hat!"

At the moment of speaking her hat had blown off into the road, their
present speed on the upland being by no means slow.  D'Urberville
pulled up, and said he would get it for her, but Tess was down on the
other side.

She turned back and picked up the article.

"You look prettier with it off, upon my soul, if that's possible," he
said, contemplating her over the back of the vehicle.  "Now then, up
again!  What's the matter?"

The hat was in place and tied, but Tess had not stepped forward.

"No, sir," she said, revealing the red and ivory of her mouth as her
eye lit in defiant triumph; "not again, if I know it!"

"What--you won't get up beside me?"

"No; I shall walk."

"'Tis five or six miles yet to Trantridge."

"I don't care if 'tis dozens.  Besides, the cart is behind."

"You artful hussy!  Now, tell me--didn't you make that hat blow off
on purpose?  I'll swear you did!"

Her strategic silence confirmed his suspicion.

Then d'Urberville cursed and swore at her, and called her everything
he could think of for the trick.  Turning the horse suddenly he tried
to drive back upon her, and so hem her in between the gig and the
hedge.  But he could not do this short of injuring her.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself for using such wicked words!"
cried Tess with spirit, from the top of the hedge into which she had
scrambled.  "I don't like 'ee at all!  I hate and detest you!  I'll
go back to mother, I will!"

D'Urberville's bad temper cleared up at sight of hers; and he laughed
heartily.

"Well, I like you all the better," he said.  "Come, let there be
peace.  I'll never do it any more against your will.  My life upon
it now!"

Still Tess could not be induced to remount.  She did not, however,
object to his keeping his gig alongside her; and in this manner, at
a slow pace, they advanced towards the village of Trantridge.  From
time to time d'Urberville exhibited a sort of fierce distress at
the sight of the tramping he had driven her to undertake by his
misdemeanour.  She might in truth have safely trusted him now; but he
had forfeited her confidence for the time, and she kept on the ground
progressing thoughtfully, as if wondering whether it would be wiser
to return home.  Her resolve, however, had been taken, and it seemed
vacillating even to childishness to abandon it now, unless for graver
reasons.  How could she face her parents, get back her box, and
disconcert the whole scheme for the rehabilitation of her family on
such sentimental grounds?

A few minutes later the chimneys of The Slopes appeared in view, and
in a snug nook to the right the poultry-farm and cottage of Tess'
destination.



IX


The community of fowls to which Tess had been appointed as
supervisor, purveyor, nurse, surgeon, and friend made its
headquarters in an old thatched cottage standing in an enclosure that
had once been a garden, but was now a trampled and sanded square.
The house was overrun with ivy, its chimney being enlarged by the
boughs of the parasite to the aspect of a ruined tower.  The lower
rooms were entirely given over to the birds, who walked about them
with a proprietary air, as though the place had been built by
themselves, and not by certain dusty copyholders who now lay east
and west in the churchyard.  The descendants of these bygone owners
felt it almost as a slight to their family when the house which had
so much of their affection, had cost so much of their forefathers'
money, and had been in their possession for several generations
before the d'Urbervilles came and built here, was indifferently
turned into a fowl-house by Mrs Stoke-d'Urberville as soon as the
property fell into hand according to law.  "'Twas good enough for
Christians in grandfather's time," they said.

The rooms wherein dozens of infants had wailed at their nursing now
resounded with the tapping of nascent chicks.  Distracted hens in
coops occupied spots where formerly stood chairs supporting sedate
agriculturists.  The chimney-corner and once-blazing hearth was now
filled with inverted beehives, in which the hens laid their eggs;
while out of doors the plots that each succeeding householder had
carefully shaped with his spade were torn by the cocks in wildest
fashion.

The garden in which the cottage stood was surrounded by a wall, and
could only be entered through a door.

When Tess had occupied herself about an hour the next morning in
altering and improving the arrangements, according to her skilled
ideas as the daughter of a professed poulterer, the door in the wall
opened and a servant in white cap and apron entered.  She had come
from the manor-house.

"Mrs d'Urberville wants the fowls as usual," she said; but perceiving
that Tess did not quite understand, she explained, "Mis'ess is a old
lady, and blind."

"Blind!" said Tess.

Almost before her misgiving at the news could find time to shape
itself she took, under her companion's direction, two of the
most beautiful of the Hamburghs in her arms, and followed the
maid-servant, who had likewise taken two, to the adjacent mansion,
which, though ornate and imposing, showed traces everywhere on this
side that some occupant of its chambers could bend to the love of
dumb creatures--feathers floating within view of the front, and
hen-coops standing on the grass.

In a sitting-room on the ground-floor, ensconced in an armchair with
her back to the light, was the owner and mistress of the estate, a
white-haired woman of not more than sixty, or even less, wearing a
large cap.  She had the mobile face frequent in those whose sight
has decayed by stages, has been laboriously striven after, and
reluctantly let go, rather than the stagnant mien apparent in persons
long sightless or born blind.  Tess walked up to this lady with her
feathered charges--one sitting on each arm.

"Ah, you are the young woman come to look after my birds?" said Mrs
d'Urberville, recognizing a new footstep.  "I hope you will be kind
to them.  My bailiff tells me you are quite the proper person.
Well, where are they?  Ah, this is Strut!  But he is hardly so
lively to-day, is he?  He is alarmed at being handled by a stranger,
I suppose. And Phena too--yes, they are a little frightened--aren't
you, dears? But they will soon get used to you."

While the old lady had been speaking Tess and the other maid, in
obedience to her gestures, had placed the fowls severally in her lap,
and she had felt them over from head to tail, examining their beaks,
their combs, the manes of the cocks, their wings, and their claws.
Her touch enabled her to recognize them in a moment, and to discover
if a single feather were crippled or draggled.  She handled their
crops, and knew what they had eaten, and if too little or too much;
her face enacting a vivid pantomime of the criticisms passing in her
mind.

The birds that the two girls had brought in were duly returned to the
yard, and the process was repeated till all the pet cocks and hens
had been submitted to the old woman--Hamburghs, Bantams, Cochins,
Brahmas, Dorkings, and such other sorts as were in fashion just
then--her perception of each visitor being seldom at fault as she
received the bird upon her knees.

It reminded Tess of a Confirmation, in which Mrs d'Urberville was the
bishop, the fowls the young people presented, and herself and the
maid-servant the parson and curate of the parish bringing them up.
At the end of the ceremony Mrs d'Urberville abruptly asked Tess,
wrinkling and twitching her face into undulations, "Can you whistle?"

"Whistle, Ma'am?"

"Yes, whistle tunes."

Tess could whistle like most other country-girls, though the
accomplishment was one which she did not care to profess in genteel
company.  However, she blandly admitted that such was the fact.

"Then you will have to practise it every day.  I had a lad who did it
very well, but he has left.  I want you to whistle to my bullfinches;
as I cannot see them, I like to hear them, and we teach 'em airs
that way.  Tell her where the cages are, Elizabeth.  You must begin
to-morrow, or they will go back in their piping. They have been
neglected these several days."

"Mr d'Urberville whistled to 'em this morning, ma'am," said
Elizabeth.

"He!  Pooh!"

The old lady's face creased into furrows of repugnance, and she made
no further reply.

Thus the reception of Tess by her fancied kinswoman terminated, and
the birds were taken back to their quarters.  The girl's surprise at
Mrs d'Urberville's manner was not great; for since seeing the size of
the house she had expected no more.  But she was far from being aware
that the old lady had never heard a word of the so-called kinship.
She gathered that no great affection flowed between the blind woman
and her son.  But in that, too, she was mistaken.  Mrs d'Urberville
was not the first mother compelled to love her offspring resentfully,
and to be bitterly fond.


In spite of the unpleasant initiation of the day before, Tess
inclined to the freedom and novelty of her new position in the
morning when the sun shone, now that she was once installed there;
and she was curious to test her powers in the unexpected direction
asked of her, so as to ascertain her chance of retaining her post.
As soon as she was alone within the walled garden she sat herself
down on a coop, and seriously screwed up her mouth for the
long-neglected practice.  She found her former ability to have
degenerated to the production of a hollow rush of wind through the
lips, and no clear note at all.

She remained fruitlessly blowing and blowing, wondering how she
could have so grown out of the art which had come by nature, till
she became aware of a movement among the ivy-boughs which cloaked
the garden-wall no less then the cottage.  Looking that way she
beheld a form springing from the coping to the plot.  It was Alec
d'Urberville, whom she had not set eyes on since he had conducted
her the day before to the door of the gardener's cottage where she
had lodgings.

"Upon my honour!" cried he, "there was never before such a beautiful
thing in Nature or Art as you look, 'Cousin' Tess ('Cousin' had a
faint ring of mockery).  I have been watching you from over the
wall--sitting like IM-patience on a monument, and pouting up that
pretty red mouth to whistling shape, and whooing and whooing, and
privately swearing, and never being able to produce a note.  Why,
you are quite cross because you can't do it."

"I may be cross, but I didn't swear."

"Ah!  I understand why you are trying--those bullies!  My mother
wants you to carry on their musical education.  How selfish of her!
As if attending to these curst cocks and hens here were not enough
work for any girl.  I would flatly refuse, if I were you."

"But she wants me particularly to do it, and to be ready by to-morrow
morning."

"Does she?  Well then--I'll give you a lesson or two."

"Oh no, you won't!" said Tess, withdrawing towards the door.

"Nonsense; I don't want to touch you.  See--I'll stand on this side
of the wire-netting, and you can keep on the other; so you may feel
quite safe.  Now, look here; you screw up your lips too harshly.
There 'tis--so."

He suited the action to the word, and whistled a line of "Take, O
take those lips away."  But the allusion was lost upon Tess.

"Now try," said d'Urberville.

She attempted to look reserved; her face put on a sculptural
severity.  But he persisted in his demand, and at last, to get rid of
him, she did put up her lips as directed for producing a clear note;
laughing distressfully, however, and then blushing with vexation that
she had laughed.

He encouraged her with "Try again!"

Tess was quite serious, painfully serious by this time; and she
tried--ultimately and unexpectedly emitting a real round sound.
The momentary pleasure of success got the better of her; her eyes
enlarged, and she involuntarily smiled in his face.

"That's it!  Now I have started you--you'll go on beautifully.
There--I said I would not come near you; and, in spite of such
temptation as never before fell to mortal man, I'll keep my
word...  Tess, do you think my mother a queer old soul?"

"I don't know much of her yet, sir."

"You'll find her so; she must be, to make you learn to whistle to her
bullfinches.  I am rather out of her books just now, but you will be
quite in favour if you treat her live-stock well.  Good morning.  If
you meet with any difficulties and want help here, don't go to the
bailiff, come to me."


It was in the economy of this _régime_ that Tess Durbeyfield had
undertaken to fill a place.  Her first day's experiences were fairly
typical of those which followed through many succeeding days.  A
familiarity with Alec d'Urberville's presence--which that young man
carefully cultivated in her by playful dialogue, and by jestingly
calling her his cousin when they were alone--removed much of her
original shyness of him, without, however, implanting any feeling
which could engender shyness of a new and tenderer kind.  But she was
more pliable under his hands than a mere companionship would have
made her, owing to her unavoidable dependence upon his mother, and,
through that lady's comparative helplessness, upon him.

She soon found that whistling to the bullfinches in Mrs
d'Urberville's room was no such onerous business when she had
regained the art, for she had caught from her musical mother numerous
airs that suited those songsters admirably.  A far more satisfactory
time than when she practised in the garden was this whistling by the
cages each morning.  Unrestrained by the young man's presence she
threw up her mouth, put her lips near the bars, and piped away in
easeful grace to the attentive listeners.

Mrs d'Urberville slept in a large four-post bedstead hung with heavy
damask curtains, and the bullfinches occupied the same apartment,
where they flitted about freely at certain hours, and made little
white spots on the furniture and upholstery.  Once while Tess was at
the window where the cages were ranged, giving her lesson as usual,
she thought she heard a rustling behind the bed.  The old lady was
not present, and turning round the girl had an impression that
the toes of a pair of boots were visible below the fringe of the
curtains.  Thereupon her whistling became so disjointed that the
listener, if such there were, must have discovered her suspicion of
his presence.  She searched the curtains every morning after that,
but never found anybody within them.  Alec d'Urberville had evidently
thought better of his freak to terrify her by an ambush of that kind.



X


Every village has its idiosyncrasy, its constitution, often its own
code of morality.  The levity of some of the younger women in and
about Trantridge was marked, and was perhaps symptomatic of the
choice spirit who ruled The Slopes in that vicinity.  The place had
also a more abiding defect; it drank hard.  The staple conversation
on the farms around was on the uselessness of saving money; and
smock-frocked arithmeticians, leaning on their ploughs or hoes, would
enter into calculations of great nicety to prove that parish relief
was a fuller provision for a man in his old age than any which could
result from savings out of their wages during a whole lifetime.

The chief pleasure of these philosophers lay in going every Saturday
night, when work was done, to Chaseborough, a decayed market-town two
or three miles distant; and, returning in the small hours of the next
morning, to spend Sunday in sleeping off the dyspeptic effects of the
curious compounds sold to them as beer by the monopolizers of the
once-independent inns.

For a long time Tess did not join in the weekly pilgrimages.  But
under pressure from matrons not much older than herself--for a
field-man's wages being as high at twenty-one as at forty, marriage
was early here--Tess at length consented to go.  Her first experience
of the journey afforded her more enjoyment than she had expected,
the hilariousness of the others being quite contagious after her
monotonous attention to the poultry-farm all the week. She went again
and again.  Being graceful and interesting, standing moreover on the
momentary threshold of womanhood, her appearance drew down upon her
some sly regards from loungers in the streets of Chaseborough; hence,
though sometimes her journey to the town was made independently, she
always searched for her fellows at nightfall, to have the protection
of their companionship homeward.

This had gone on for a month or two when there came a Saturday in
September, on which a fair and a market coincided; and the pilgrims
from Trantridge sought double delights at the inns on that account.
Tess's occupations made her late in setting out, so that her comrades
reached the town long before her.  It was a fine September evening,
just before sunset, when yellow lights struggle with blue shades in
hairlike lines, and the atmosphere itself forms a prospect without
aid from more solid objects, except the innumerable winged insects
that dance in it.  Through this low-lit mistiness Tess walked
leisurely along.

She did not discover the coincidence of the market with the fair till
she had reached the place, by which time it was close upon dusk.  Her
limited marketing was soon completed; and then as usual she began to
look about for some of the Trantridge cottagers.

At first she could not find them, and she was informed that most of
them had gone to what they called a private little jig at the house
of a hay-trusser and peat-dealer who had transactions with their
farm.  He lived in an out-of-the-way nook of the townlet, and in
trying to find her course thither her eyes fell upon Mr d'Urberville
standing at a street corner.

"What--my Beauty?  You here so late?" he said.

She told him that she was simply waiting for company homeward.

"I'll see you again," said he over her shoulder as she went on down
the back lane.

Approaching the hay-trussers, she could hear the fiddled notes of
a reel proceeding from some building in the rear; but no sound of
dancing was audible--an exceptional state of things for these parts,
where as a rule the stamping drowned the music.  The front door being
open she could see straight through the house into the garden at the
back as far as the shades of night would allow; and nobody appearing
to her knock, she traversed the dwelling and went up the path to the
outhouse whence the sound had attracted her.

It was a windowless erection used for storage, and from the open door
there floated into the obscurity a mist of yellow radiance, which at
first Tess thought to be illuminated smoke.  But on drawing nearer
she perceived that it was a cloud of dust, lit by candles within the
outhouse, whose beams upon the haze carried forward the outline of
the doorway into the wide night of the garden.

When she came close and looked in she beheld indistinct forms
racing up and down to the figure of the dance, the silence of their
footfalls arising from their being overshoe in "scroff"--that is
to say, the powdery residuum from the storage of peat and other
products, the stirring of which by their turbulent feet created the
nebulosity that involved the scene.  Through this floating, fusty
_debris_ of peat and hay, mixed with the perspirations and warmth of
the dancers, and forming together a sort of vegeto-human pollen, the
muted fiddles feebly pushed their notes, in marked contrast to the
spirit with which the measure was trodden out.  They coughed as
they danced, and laughed as they coughed.  Of the rushing couples
there could barely be discerned more than the high lights--the
indistinctness shaping them to satyrs clasping nymphs--a multiplicity
of Pans whirling a multiplicity of Syrinxes; Lotis attempting to
elude Priapus, and always failing.

At intervals a couple would approach the doorway for air, and
the haze no longer veiling their features, the demigods resolved
themselves into the homely personalities of her own next-door
neighbours.  Could Trantridge in two or three short hours have
metamorphosed itself thus madly!

Some Sileni of the throng sat on benches and hay-trusses by the wall;
and one of them recognized her.

"The maids don't think it respectable to dance at The Flower-de-Luce,"
he explained.  "They don't like to let everybody see which be their
fancy-men.  Besides, the house sometimes shuts up just when their
jints begin to get greased.  So we come here and send out for
liquor."

"But when be any of you going home?" asked Tess with some anxiety.

"Now--a'most directly.  This is all but the last jig."

She waited.  The reel drew to a close, and some of the party were in
the mind of starting.  But others would not, and another dance was
formed.  This surely would end it, thought Tess.  But it merged in
yet another.  She became restless and uneasy; yet, having waited so
long, it was necessary to wait longer; on account of the fair the
roads were dotted with roving characters of possibly ill intent; and,
though not fearful of measurable dangers, she feared the unknown.
Had she been near Marlott she would have had less dread.

"Don't ye be nervous, my dear good soul," expostulated, between his
coughs, a young man with a wet face and his straw hat so far back
upon his head that the brim encircled it like the nimbus of a saint.
"What's yer hurry?  To-morrow is Sunday, thank God, and we can sleep
it off in church-time.  Now, have a turn with me?"

She did not abhor dancing, but she was not going to dance here.  The
movement grew more passionate: the fiddlers behind the luminous
pillar of cloud now and then varied the air by playing on the wrong
side of the bridge or with the back of the bow.  But it did not
matter; the panting shapes spun onwards.

They did not vary their partners if their inclination were to stick
to previous ones.  Changing partners simply meant that a satisfactory
choice had not as yet been arrived at by one or other of the pair,
and by this time every couple had been suitably matched.  It was then
that the ecstasy and the dream began, in which emotion was the matter
of the universe, and matter but an adventitious intrusion likely to
hinder you from spinning where you wanted to spin.

Suddenly there was a dull thump on the ground: a couple had fallen,
and lay in a mixed heap.  The next couple, unable to check its
progress, came toppling over the obstacle.  An inner cloud of dust
rose around the prostrate figures amid the general one of the room,
in which a twitching entanglement of arms and legs was discernible.

"You shall catch it for this, my gentleman, when you get home!" burst
in female accents from the human heap--those of the unhappy partner
of the man whose clumsiness had caused the mishap; she happened
also to be his recently married wife, in which assortment there was
nothing unusual at Trantridge as long as any affection remained
between wedded couples; and, indeed, it was not uncustomary in their
later lives, to avoid making odd lots of the single people between
whom there might be a warm understanding.

A loud laugh from behind Tess's back, in the shade of the garden,
united with the titter within the room.  She looked round, and saw
the red coal of a cigar: Alec d'Urberville was standing there alone.
He beckoned to her, and she reluctantly retreated towards him.

"Well, my Beauty, what are you doing here?"

She was so tired after her long day and her walk that she confided
her trouble to him--that she had been waiting ever since he saw her
to have their company home, because the road at night was strange to
her.  "But it seems they will never leave off, and I really think I
will wait no longer."

"Certainly do not.  I have only a saddle-horse here to-day; but come
to The Flower-de-Luce, and I'll hire a trap, and drive you home with
me."

Tess, though flattered, had never quite got over her original
mistrust of him, and, despite their tardiness, she preferred to walk
home with the work-folk.  So she answered that she was much obliged
to him, but would not trouble him.  "I have said that I will wait for
'em, and they will expect me to now."

"Very well, Miss Independence.  Please yourself...  Then I shall not
hurry...  My good Lord, what a kick-up they are having there!"

He had not put himself forward into the light, but some of them
had perceived him, and his presence led to a slight pause and a
consideration of how the time was flying.  As soon as he had re-lit
a cigar and walked away the Trantridge people began to collect
themselves from amid those who had come in from other farms, and
prepared to leave in a body.  Their bundles and baskets were gathered
up, and half an hour later, when the clock-chime sounded a quarter
past eleven, they were straggling along the lane which led up the
hill towards their homes.

It was a three-mile walk, along a dry white road, made whiter
to-night by the light of the moon.

Tess soon perceived as she walked in the flock, sometimes with this
one, sometimes with that, that the fresh night air was producing
staggerings and serpentine courses among the men who had partaken too
freely; some of the more careless women also were wandering in their
gait--to wit, a dark virago, Car Darch, dubbed Queen of Spades, till
lately a favourite of d'Urberville's; Nancy, her sister, nicknamed
the Queen of Diamonds; and the young married woman who had already
tumbled down.  Yet however terrestrial and lumpy their appearance
just now to the mean unglamoured eye, to themselves the case was
different.  They followed the road with a sensation that they were
soaring along in a supporting medium, possessed of original and
profound thoughts, themselves and surrounding nature forming
an organism of which all the parts harmoniously and joyously
interpenetrated each other.  They were as sublime as the moon and
stars above them, and the moon and stars were as ardent as they.

Tess, however, had undergone such painful experiences of this kind in
her father's house that the discovery of their condition spoilt the
pleasure she was beginning to feel in the moonlight journey.  Yet she
stuck to the party, for reasons above given.

In the open highway they had progressed in scattered order; but now
their route was through a field-gate, and the foremost finding a
difficulty in opening it, they closed up together.

This leading pedestrian was Car the Queen of Spades, who carried a
wicker-basket containing her mother's groceries, her own draperies,
and other purchases for the week.  The basket being large and heavy,
Car had placed it for convenience of porterage on the top of her
head, where it rode on in jeopardized balance as she walked with
arms akimbo.

"Well--whatever is that a-creeping down thy back, Car Darch?" said
one of the group suddenly.

All looked at Car.  Her gown was a light cotton print, and from the
back of her head a kind of rope could be seen descending to some
distance below her waist, like a Chinaman's queue.

"'Tis her hair falling down," said another.

No; it was not her hair: it was a black stream of something oozing
from her basket, and it glistened like a slimy snake in the cold
still rays of the moon.

"'Tis treacle," said an observant matron.

Treacle it was.  Car's poor old grandmother had a weakness for the
sweet stuff.  Honey she had in plenty out of her own hives, but
treacle was what her soul desired, and Car had been about to give her
a treat of surprise.  Hastily lowering the basket the dark girl found
that the vessel containing the syrup had been smashed within.

By this time there had arisen a shout of laughter at the
extraordinary appearance of Car's back, which irritated the dark
queen into getting rid of the disfigurement by the first sudden means
available, and independently of the help of the scoffers.  She rushed
excitedly into the field they were about to cross, and flinging
herself flat on her back upon the grass, began to wipe her gown
as well as she could by spinning horizontally on the herbage and
dragging herself over it upon her elbows.

The laughter rang louder; they clung to the gate, to the posts,
rested on their staves, in the weakness engendered by their
convulsions at the spectacle of Car.  Our heroine, who had hitherto
held her peace, at this wild moment could not help joining in with
the rest.

It was a misfortune--in more ways than one.  No sooner did the dark
queen hear the soberer richer note of Tess among those of the other
work-people than a long-smouldering sense of rivalry inflamed her to
madness.  She sprang to her feet and closely faced the object of her
dislike.

"How darest th' laugh at me, hussy!" she cried.

"I couldn't really help it when t'others did," apologized Tess,
still tittering.

"Ah, th'st think th' beest everybody, dostn't, because th' beest
first favourite with He just now!  But stop a bit, my lady, stop a
bit!  I'm as good as two of such! Look here--here's at 'ee!"

To Tess's horror the dark queen began stripping off the bodice of
her gown--which for the added reason of its ridiculed condition she
was only too glad to be free of--till she had bared her plump neck,
shoulders, and arms to the moonshine, under which they looked as
luminous and beautiful as some Praxitelean creation, in their
possession of the faultless rotundities of a lusty country-girl.
She closed her fists and squared up at Tess.

"Indeed, then, I shall not fight!" said the latter majestically; "and
if I had know you was of that sort, I wouldn't have so let myself
down as to come with such a whorage as this is!"

The rather too inclusive speech brought down a torrent of
vituperation from other quarters upon fair Tess's unlucky head,
particularly from the Queen of Diamonds, who having stood in the
relations to d'Urberville that Car had also been suspected of, united
with the latter against the common enemy.  Several other women also
chimed in, with an animus which none of them would have been so
fatuous as to show but for the rollicking evening they had passed.
Thereupon, finding Tess unfairly browbeaten, the husbands and lovers
tried to make peace by defending her; but the result of that attempt
was directly to increase the war.

Tess was indignant and ashamed.  She no longer minded the loneliness
of the way and the lateness of the hour; her one object was to get
away from the whole crew as soon as possible.  She knew well enough
that the better among them would repent of their passion next day.
They were all now inside the field, and she was edging back to rush
off alone when a horseman emerged almost silently from the corner of
the hedge that screened the road, and Alec d'Urberville looked round
upon them.

"What the devil is all this row about, work-folk?" he asked.

The explanation was not readily forthcoming; and, in truth, he did
not require any.  Having heard their voices while yet some way off he
had ridden creepingly forward, and learnt enough to satisfy himself.

Tess was standing apart from the rest, near the gate.  He bent over
towards her.  "Jump up behind me," he whispered, "and we'll get shot
of the screaming cats in a jiffy!"

She felt almost ready to faint, so vivid was her sense of the crisis.
At almost any other moment of her life she would have refused such
proffered aid and company, as she had refused them several times
before; and now the loneliness would not of itself have forced her
to do otherwise.  But coming as the invitation did at the particular
juncture when fear and indignation at these adversaries could be
transformed by a spring of the foot into a triumph over them, she
abandoned herself to her impulse, climbed the gate, put her toe upon
his instep, and scrambled into the saddle behind him.  The pair were
speeding away into the distant gray by the time that the contentious
revellers became aware of what had happened.

The Queen of Spades forgot the stain on her bodice, and stood
beside the Queen of Diamonds and the new-married, staggering young
woman--all with a gaze of fixity in the direction in which the
horse's tramp was diminishing into silence on the road.

"What be ye looking at?" asked a man who had not observed the
incident.

"Ho-ho-ho!" laughed dark Car.

"Hee-hee-hee!" laughed the tippling bride, as she steadied herself on
the arm of her fond husband.

"Heu-heu-heu!" laughed dark Car's mother, stroking her moustache as
she explained laconically: "Out of the frying-pan into the fire!"

Then these children of the open air, whom even excess of alcohol
could scarce injure permanently, betook themselves to the field-path;
and as they went there moved onward with them, around the shadow of
each one's head, a circle of opalized light, formed by the moon's
rays upon the glistening sheet of dew.  Each pedestrian could see
no halo but his or her own, which never deserted the head-shadow,
whatever its vulgar unsteadiness might be; but adhered to it, and
persistently beautified it; till the erratic motions seemed an
inherent part of the irradiation, and the fumes of their breathing
a component of the night's mist; and the spirit of the scene, and
of the moonlight, and of Nature, seemed harmoniously to mingle with
the spirit of wine.



XI


The twain cantered along for some time without speech, Tess as she
clung to him still panting in her triumph, yet in other respects
dubious.  She had perceived that the horse was not the spirited one
he sometimes rose, and felt no alarm on that score, though her seat
was precarious enough despite her tight hold of him.  She begged him
to slow the animal to a walk, which Alec accordingly did.

"Neatly done, was it not, dear Tess?" he said by and by.

"Yes!" said she.  "I am sure I ought to be much obliged to you."

"And are you?"

She did not reply.

"Tess, why do you always dislike my kissing you?"

"I suppose--because I don't love you."

"You are quite sure?"

"I am angry with you sometimes!"

"Ah, I half feared as much."  Nevertheless, Alec did not object to
that confession.  He knew that anything was better then frigidity.
"Why haven't you told me when I have made you angry?"

"You know very well why.  Because I cannot help myself here."

"I haven't offended you often by love-making?"

"You have sometimes."

"How many times?"

"You know as well as I--too many times."

"Every time I have tried?"

She was silent, and the horse ambled along for a considerable
distance, till a faint luminous fog, which had hung in the hollows
all the evening, became general and enveloped them.  It seemed to
hold the moonlight in suspension, rendering it more pervasive than in
clear air.  Whether on this account, or from absent-mindedness, or
from sleepiness, she did not perceive that they had long ago passed
the point at which the lane to Trantridge branched from the highway,
and that her conductor had not taken the Trantridge track.

She was inexpressibly weary.  She had risen at five o'clock every
morning of that week, had been on foot the whole of each day, and on
this evening had in addition walked the three miles to Chaseborough,
waited three hours for her neighbours without eating or drinking,
her impatience to start them preventing either; she had then walked
a mile of the way home, and had undergone the excitement of the
quarrel, till, with the slow progress of their steed, it was now
nearly one o'clock.  Only once, however, was she overcome by actual
drowsiness.  In that moment of oblivion her head sank gently against
him.

D'Urberville stopped the horse, withdrew his feet from the stirrups,
turned sideways on the saddle, and enclosed her waist with his arm to
support her.

This immediately put her on the defensive, and with one of those
sudden impulses of reprisal to which she was liable she gave him a
little push from her.  In his ticklish position he nearly lost his
balance and only just avoided rolling over into the road, the horse,
though a powerful one, being fortunately the quietest he rode.

"That is devilish unkind!" he said.  "I mean no harm--only to keep
you from falling."

She pondered suspiciously, till, thinking that this might after all
be true, she relented, and said quite humbly, "I beg your pardon,
sir."

"I won't pardon you unless you show some confidence in me.  Good
God!" he burst out, "what am I, to be repulsed so by a mere chit like
you?  For near three mortal months have you trifled with my feelings,
eluded me, and snubbed me; and I won't stand it!"

"I'll leave you to-morrow, sir."

"No, you will not leave me to-morrow!  Will you, I ask once more,
show your belief in me by letting me clasp you with my arm?  Come,
between us two and nobody else, now.  We know each other well; and
you know that I love you, and think you the prettiest girl in the
world, which you are.  Mayn't I treat you as a lover?"

She drew a quick pettish breath of objection, writhing uneasily on
her seat, looked far ahead, and murmured, "I don't know--I wish--how
can I say yes or no when--"

He settled the matter by clasping his arm round her as he desired,
and Tess expressed no further negative.  Thus they sidled
slowly onward till it struck her they had been advancing for an
unconscionable time--far longer than was usually occupied by the
short journey from Chaseborough, even at this walking pace, and
that they were no longer on hard road, but in a mere trackway.

"Why, where be we?" she exclaimed.

"Passing by a wood."

"A wood--what wood?  Surely we are quite out of the road?"

"A bit of The Chase--the oldest wood in England.  It is a lovely
night, and why should we not prolong our ride a little?"

"How could you be so treacherous!" said Tess, between archness and
real dismay, and getting rid of his arm by pulling open his fingers
one by one, though at the risk of slipping off herself.  "Just when
I've been putting such trust in you, and obliging you to please you,
because I thought I had wronged you by that push!  Please set me
down, and let me walk home."

"You cannot walk home, darling, even if the air were clear.  We are
miles away from Trantridge, if I must tell you, and in this growing
fog you might wander for hours among these trees."

"Never mind that," she coaxed.  "Put me down, I beg you.  I don't
mind where it is; only let me get down, sir, please!"

"Very well, then, I will--on one condition.  Having brought you
here to this out-of-the-way place, I feel myself responsible for
your safe-conduct home, whatever you may yourself feel about it.
As to your getting to Trantridge without assistance, it is quite
impossible; for, to tell the truth, dear, owing to this fog, which so
disguises everything, I don't quite know where we are myself.  Now,
if you will promise to wait beside the horse while I walk through the
bushes till I come to some road or house, and ascertain exactly our
whereabouts, I'll deposit you here willingly.  When I come back I'll
give you full directions, and if you insist upon walking you may; or
you may ride--at your pleasure."

She accepted these terms, and slid off on the near side, though not
till he had stolen a cursory kiss.  He sprang down on the other side.

"I suppose I must hold the horse?" said she.

"Oh no; it's not necessary," replied Alec, patting the panting
creature.  "He's had enough of it for to-night."

He turned the horse's head into the bushes, hitched him on to a
bough, and made a sort of couch or nest for her in the deep mass of
dead leaves.

"Now, you sit there," he said.  "The leaves have not got damp as yet.
Just give an eye to the horse--it will be quite sufficient."

He took a few steps away from her, but, returning, said, "By the bye,
Tess, your father has a new cob to-day.  Somebody gave it to him."

"Somebody?  You!"

D'Urberville nodded.

"O how very good of you that is!" she exclaimed, with a painful sense
of the awkwardness of having to thank him just then.

"And the children have some toys."

"I didn't know--you ever sent them anything!" she murmured, much
moved.  "I almost wish you had not--yes, I almost wish it!"

"Why, dear?"

"It--hampers me so."

"Tessy--don't you love me ever so little now?"

"I'm grateful," she reluctantly admitted.  "But I fear I do not--"
The sudden vision of his passion for herself as a factor in this
result so distressed her that, beginning with one slow tear, and
then following with another, she wept outright.

"Don't cry, dear, dear one!  Now sit down here, and wait till I
come."  She passively sat down amid the leaves he had heaped, and
shivered slightly.  "Are you cold?" he asked.

"Not very--a little."

He touched her with his fingers, which sank into her as into down.
"You have only that puffy muslin dress on--how's that?"

"It's my best summer one.  'Twas very warm when I started, and I
didn't know I was going to ride, and that it would be night."

"Nights grow chilly in September.  Let me see."  He pulled off a
light overcoat that he had worn, and put it round her tenderly.
"That's it--now you'll feel warmer," he continued.  "Now, my pretty,
rest there; I shall soon be back again."

Having buttoned the overcoat round her shoulders he plunged into the
webs of vapour which by this time formed veils between the trees.
She could hear the rustling of the branches as he ascended the
adjoining slope, till his movements were no louder than the hopping
of a bird, and finally died away.  With the setting of the moon the
pale light lessened, and Tess became invisible as she fell into
reverie upon the leaves where he had left her.

In the meantime Alec d'Urberville had pushed on up the slope to clear
his genuine doubt as to the quarter of The Chase they were in.  He
had, in fact, ridden quite at random for over an hour, taking any
turning that came to hand in order to prolong companionship with her,
and giving far more attention to Tess's moonlit person than to any
wayside object.  A little rest for the jaded animal being desirable,
he did not hasten his search for landmarks.  A clamber over the
hill into the adjoining vale brought him to the fence of a highway
whose contours he recognized, which settled the question of their
whereabouts.  D'Urberville thereupon turned back; but by this time
the moon had quite gone down, and partly on account of the fog The
Chase was wrapped in thick darkness, although morning was not far
off.  He was obliged to advance with outstretched hands to avoid
contact with the boughs, and discovered that to hit the exact spot
from which he had started was at first entirely beyond him.  Roaming
up and down, round and round, he at length heard a slight movement of
the horse close at hand; and the sleeve of his overcoat unexpectedly
caught his foot.

"Tess!" said d'Urberville.

There was no answer.  The obscurity was now so great that he could
see absolutely nothing but a pale nebulousness at his feet, which
represented the white muslin figure he had left upon the dead leaves.
Everything else was blackness alike.  D'Urberville stooped; and heard
a gentle regular breathing.  He knelt and bent lower, till her breath
warmed his face, and in a moment his cheek was in contact with hers.
She was sleeping soundly, and upon her eyelashes there lingered
tears.

Darkness and silence ruled everywhere around.  Above them rose the
primeval yews and oaks of The Chase, in which there poised gentle
roosting birds in their last nap; and about them stole the hopping
rabbits and hares.  But, might some say, where was Tess's guardian
angel? where was the providence of her simple faith?  Perhaps, like
that other god of whom the ironical Tishbite spoke, he was talking,
or he was pursuing, or he was in a journey, or he was sleeping and
not to be awaked.

Why it was that upon this beautiful feminine tissue, sensitive as
gossamer, and practically blank as snow as yet, there should have
been traced such a coarse pattern as it was doomed to receive; why
so often the coarse appropriates the finer thus, the wrong man the
woman, the wrong woman the man, many thousand years of analytical
philosophy have failed to explain to our sense of order.  One may,
indeed, admit the possibility of a retribution lurking in the present
catastrophe.  Doubtless some of Tess d'Urberville's mailed ancestors
rollicking home from a fray had dealt the same measure even more
ruthlessly towards peasant girls of their time.  But though to visit
the sins of the fathers upon the children may be a morality good
enough for divinities, it is scorned by average human nature; and it
therefore does not mend the matter.

As Tess's own people down in those retreats are never tired of saying
among each other in their fatalistic way: "It was to be."  There
lay the pity of it.  An immeasurable social chasm was to divide our
heroine's personality thereafter from that previous self of hers
who stepped from her mother's door to try her fortune at Trantridge
poultry-farm.


END OF PHASE THE FIRST





Phase the Second: Maiden No More



XII


The basket was heavy and the bundle was large, but she lugged them
along like a person who did not find her especial burden in material
things.  Occasionally she stopped to rest in a mechanical way by some
gate or post; and then, giving the baggage another hitch upon her
full round arm, went steadily on again.

It was a Sunday morning in late October, about four months after Tess
Durbeyfield's arrival at Trantridge, and some few weeks subsequent to
the night ride in The Chase.  The time was not long past daybreak,
and the yellow luminosity upon the horizon behind her back lighted
the ridge towards which her face was set--the barrier of the vale
wherein she had of late been a stranger--which she would have to
climb over to reach her birthplace.  The ascent was gradual on this
side, and the soil and scenery differed much from those within
Blakemore Vale.  Even the character and accent of the two peoples
had shades of difference, despite the amalgamating effects of a
roundabout railway; so that, though less than twenty miles from the
place of her sojourn at Trantridge, her native village had seemed a
far-away spot.  The field-folk shut in there traded northward and
westward, travelled, courted, and married northward and westward,
thought northward and westward; those on this side mainly directed
their energies and attention to the east and south.

The incline was the same down which d'Urberville had driven her so
wildly on that day in June.  Tess went up the remainder of its length
without stopping, and on reaching the edge of the escarpment gazed
over the familiar green world beyond, now half-veiled in mist.  It
was always beautiful from here; it was terribly beautiful to Tess
to-day, for since her eyes last fell upon it she had learnt that the
serpent hisses where the sweet birds sing, and her views of life had
been totally changed for her by the lesson.  Verily another girl than
the simple one she had been at home was she who, bowed by thought,
stood still here, and turned to look behind her. She could not bear
to look forward into the Vale.

Ascending by the long white road that Tess herself had just laboured
up, she saw a two-wheeled vehicle, beside which walked a man, who
held up his hand to attract her attention.

She obeyed the signal to wait for him with unspeculative repose, and
in a few minutes man and horse stopped beside her.

"Why did you slip away by stealth like this?" said d'Urberville, with
upbraiding breathlessness; "on a Sunday morning, too, when people
were all in bed!  I only discovered it by accident, and I have been
driving like the deuce to overtake you.  Just look at the mare.  Why
go off like this?  You know that nobody wished to hinder your going.
And how unnecessary it has been for you to toil along on foot, and
encumber yourself with this heavy load!  I have followed like a
madman, simply to drive you the rest of the distance, if you won't
come back."

"I shan't come back," said she.

"I thought you wouldn't--I said so!  Well, then, put up your basket,
and let me help you on."

She listlessly placed her basket and bundle within the dog-cart, and
stepped up, and they sat side by side.  She had no fear of him now,
and in the cause of her confidence her sorrow lay.

D'Urberville mechanically lit a cigar, and the journey was continued
with broken unemotional conversation on the commonplace objects by
the wayside.  He had quite forgotten his struggle to kiss her when,
in the early summer, they had driven in the opposite direction along
the same road.  But she had not, and she sat now, like a puppet,
replying to his remarks in monosyllables.  After some miles they came
in view of the clump of trees beyond which the village of Marlott
stood.  It was only then that her still face showed the least
emotion, a tear or two beginning to trickle down.

"What are you crying for?" he coldly asked.

"I was only thinking that I was born over there," murmured Tess.

"Well--we must all be born somewhere."

"I wish I had never been born--there or anywhere else!"

"Pooh!  Well, if you didn't wish to come to Trantridge why did you
come?"

She did not reply.

"You didn't come for love of me, that I'll swear."

"'Tis quite true.  If I had gone for love o' you, if I had ever
sincerely loved you, if I loved you still, I should not so loathe and
hate myself for my weakness as I do now! ...  My eyes were dazed by
you for a little, and that was all."

He shrugged his shoulders.  She resumed--

"I didn't understand your meaning till it was too late."

"That's what every woman says."

"How can you dare to use such words!" she cried, turning impetuously
upon him, her eyes flashing as the latent spirit (of which he was to
see more some day) awoke in her.  "My God!  I could knock you out of
the gig!  Did it never strike your mind that what every woman says
some women may feel?"

"Very well," he said, laughing; "I am sorry to wound you.  I did
wrong--I admit it."  He dropped into some little bitterness as he
continued: "Only you needn't be so everlastingly flinging it in my
face.  I am ready to pay to the uttermost farthing.  You know you
need not work in the fields or the dairies again.  You know you may
clothe yourself with the best, instead of in the bald plain way you
have lately affected, as if you couldn't get a ribbon more than you
earn."

Her lip lifted slightly, though there was little scorn, as a rule,
in her large and impulsive nature.

"I have said I will not take anything more from you, and I will
not--I cannot!  I SHOULD be your creature to go on doing that, and
I won't!"

"One would think you were a princess from your manner, in addition
to a true and original d'Urberville--ha! ha!  Well, Tess, dear, I
can say no more.  I suppose I am a bad fellow--a damn bad fellow.
I was born bad, and I have lived bad, and I shall die bad in all
probability.  But, upon my lost soul, I won't be bad towards you
again, Tess.  And if certain circumstances should arise--you
understand--in which you are in the least need, the least difficulty,
send me one line, and you shall have by return whatever you require.
I may not be at Trantridge--I am going to London for a time--I can't
stand the old woman.  But all letters will be forwarded."

She said that she did not wish him to drive her further, and they
stopped just under the clump of trees.  D'Urberville alighted, and
lifted her down bodily in his arms, afterwards placing her articles
on the ground beside her.  She bowed to him slightly, her eye just
lingering in his; and then she turned to take the parcels for
departure.

Alec d'Urberville removed his cigar, bent towards her, and said--

"You are not going to turn away like that, dear!  Come!"

"If you wish," she answered indifferently.  "See how you've mastered
me!"

She thereupon turned round and lifted her face to his, and remained
like a marble term while he imprinted a kiss upon her cheek--half
perfunctorily, half as if zest had not yet quite died out.  Her eyes
vaguely rested upon the remotest trees in the lane while the kiss was
given, as though she were nearly unconscious of what he did.

"Now the other side, for old acquaintance' sake."

She turned her head in the same passive way, as one might turn at the
request of a sketcher or hairdresser, and he kissed the other side,
his lips touching cheeks that were damp and smoothly chill as the
skin of the mushrooms in the fields around.

"You don't give me your mouth and kiss me back.  You never willingly
do that--you'll never love me, I fear."

"I have said so, often.  It is true.  I have never really and truly
loved you, and I think I never can."  She added mournfully, "Perhaps,
of all things, a lie on this thing would do the most good to me now;
but I have honour enough left, little as 'tis, not to tell that lie.
If I did love you, I may have the best o' causes for letting you know
it.  But I don't."

He emitted a laboured breath, as if the scene were getting rather
oppressive to his heart, or to his conscience, or to his gentility.

"Well, you are absurdly melancholy, Tess.  I have no
reason for flattering you now, and I can say plainly
that you need not be so sad.  You can hold your own for
beauty against any woman of these parts, gentle or
simple; I say it to you as a practical man and
well-wisher.  If you are wise you will show it to the
world more than you do before it fades...  And yet,
Tess, will you come back to me!  Upon my soul, I don't
like to let you go like this!"

"Never, never!  I made up my mind as soon as I saw--what I ought to
have seen sooner; and I won't come."

"Then good morning, my four months' cousin--good-bye!"

He leapt up lightly, arranged the reins, and was gone between the
tall red-berried hedges.

Tess did not look after him, but slowly wound along the crooked lane.
It was still early, and though the sun's lower limb was just free of
the hill, his rays, ungenial and peering, addressed the eye rather
than the touch as yet.  There was not a human soul near.  Sad October
and her sadder self seemed the only two existences haunting that
lane.

As she walked, however, some footsteps approached behind her, the
footsteps of a man; and owing to the briskness of his advance he was
close at her heels and had said "Good morning" before she had been
long aware of his propinquity.  He appeared to be an artisan of some
sort, and carried a tin pot of red paint in his hand.  He asked
in a business-like manner if he should take her basket, which she
permitted him to do, walking beside him.

"It is early to be astir this Sabbath morn!" he said cheerfully.

"Yes," said Tess.

"When most people are at rest from their week's work."

She also assented to this.

"Though I do more real work to-day than all the week besides."

"Do you?"

"All the week I work for the glory of man, and on Sunday for the
glory of God.  That's more real than the other--hey?  I have a little
to do here at this stile."  The man turned, as he spoke, to an
opening at the roadside leading into a pasture.  "If you'll wait a
moment," he added, "I shall not be long."

As he had her basket she could not well do otherwise; and she waited,
observing him.  He set down her basket and the tin pot, and stirring
the paint with the brush that was in it began painting large square
letters on the middle board of the three composing the stile, placing
a comma after each word, as if to give pause while that word was
driven well home to the reader's heart--


      THY, DAMNATION, SLUMBERETH, NOT.
                         2 Pet. ii. 3.


Against the peaceful landscape, the pale, decaying tints of the
copses, the blue air of the horizon, and the lichened stile-boards,
these staring vermilion words shone forth.  They seemed to shout
themselves out and make the atmosphere ring.  Some people might have
cried "Alas, poor Theology!" at the hideous defacement--the last
grotesque phase of a creed which had served mankind well in its time.
But the words entered Tess with accusatory horror.  It was as if this
man had known her recent history; yet he was a total stranger.

Having finished his text he picked up her basket, and she
mechanically resumed her walk beside him.

"Do you believe what you paint?" she asked in low tones.

"Believe that tex?  Do I believe in my own existence!"

"But," said she tremulously, "suppose your sin was not of your own
seeking?"

He shook his head.

"I cannot split hairs on that burning query," he said.  "I have
walked hundreds of miles this past summer, painting these texes on
every wall, gate, and stile the length and breadth of this district.
I leave their application to the hearts of the people who read 'em."

"I think they are horrible," said Tess.  "Crushing!  Killing!"

"That's what they are meant to be!" he replied in a trade voice.
"But you should read my hottest ones--them I kips for slums and
seaports.  They'd make ye wriggle!  Not but what this is a very good
tex for rural districts. ...  Ah--there's a nice bit of blank wall up
by that barn standing to waste.  I must put one there--one that it
will be good for dangerous young females like yerself to heed.  Will
ye wait, missy?"

"No," said she; and taking her basket Tess trudged on. A little way
forward she turned her head.  The old gray wall began to advertise
a similar fiery lettering to the first, with a strange and unwonted
mien, as if distressed at duties it had never before been called upon
to perform.  It was with a sudden flush that she read and realized
what was to be the inscription he was now halfway through--


      THOU, SHALT, NOT, COMMIT--


Her cheerful friend saw her looking, stopped his brush, and shouted--

"If you want to ask for edification on these things of moment,
there's a very earnest good man going to preach a charity-sermon
to-day in the parish you are going to--Mr Clare of Emminster.  I'm
not of his persuasion now, but he's a good man, and he'll expound as
well as any parson I know.  'Twas he began the work in me."

But Tess did not answer; she throbbingly resumed her walk, her eyes
fixed on the ground.  "Pooh--I don't believe God said such things!"
she murmured contemptuously when her flush had died away.

A plume of smoke soared up suddenly from her father's chimney, the
sight of which made her heart ache.  The aspect of the interior, when
she reached it, made her heart ache more.  Her mother, who had just
come down stairs, turned to greet her from the fireplace, where she
was kindling barked-oak twigs under the breakfast kettle.  The young
children were still above, as was also her father, it being Sunday
morning, when he felt justified in lying an additional half-hour.

"Well!--my dear Tess!" exclaimed her surprised mother, jumping up and
kissing the girl. "How be ye?  I didn't see you till you was in upon
me!  Have you come home to be married?"

"No, I have not come for that, mother."

"Then for a holiday?"

"Yes--for a holiday; for a long holiday," said Tess.

"What, isn't your cousin going to do the handsome thing?"

"He's not my cousin, and he's not going to marry me."

Her mother eyed her narrowly.

"Come, you have not told me all," she said.

Then Tess went up to her mother, put her face upon Joan's neck, and
told.

"And yet th'st not got him to marry 'ee!" reiterated her mother. "Any
woman would have done it but you, after that!"

"Perhaps any woman would except me."

"It would have been something like a story to come back with, if
you had!" continued Mrs Durbeyfield, ready to burst into tears of
vexation.  "After all the talk about you and him which has reached
us here, who would have expected it to end like this!  Why didn't ye
think of doing some good for your family instead o' thinking only of
yourself?  See how I've got to teave and slave, and your poor weak
father with his heart clogged like a dripping-pan.  I did hope for
something to come out o' this!  To see what a pretty pair you and he
made that day when you drove away together four months ago!  See what
he has given us--all, as we thought, because we were his kin.  But if
he's not, it must have been done because of his love for 'ee.  And
yet you've not got him to marry!"

Get Alec d'Urberville in the mind to marry her!  He marry HER!  On
matrimony he had never once said a word.  And what if he had?  How a
convulsive snatching at social salvation might have impelled her to
answer him she could not say.  But her poor foolish mother little
knew her present feeling towards this man.  Perhaps it was unusual
in the circumstances, unlucky, unaccountable; but there it was; and
this, as she had said, was what made her detest herself.  She had
never wholly cared for him; she did not at all care for him now.  She
had dreaded him, winced before him, succumbed to adroit advantages
he took of her helplessness; then, temporarily blinded by his ardent
manners, had been stirred to confused surrender awhile: had suddenly
despised and disliked him, and had run away.  That was all.  Hate him
she did not quite; but he was dust and ashes to her, and even for her
name's sake she scarcely wished to marry him.

"You ought to have been more careful if you didn't mean to get him to
make you his wife!"

"O mother, my mother!" cried the agonized girl, turning passionately
upon her parent as if her poor heart would break.  "How could I be
expected to know?  I was a child when I left this house four months
ago.  Why didn't you tell me there was danger in men-folk?  Why
didn't you warn me?  Ladies know what to fend hands against, because
they read novels that tell them of these tricks; but I never had the
chance o' learning in that way, and you did not help me!"

Her mother was subdued.

"I thought if I spoke of his fond feelings and what they might lead
to, you would be hontish wi' him and lose your chance," she murmured,
wiping her eyes with her apron.  "Well, we must make the best of it,
I suppose.  'Tis nater, after all, and what do please God!"



XIII


The event of Tess Durbeyfield's return from the manor of her bogus
kinsfolk was rumoured abroad, if rumour be not too large a word for
a space of a square mile.  In the afternoon several young girls of
Marlott, former schoolfellows and acquaintances of Tess, called to
see her, arriving dressed in their best starched and ironed, as
became visitors to a person who had made a transcendent conquest (as
they supposed), and sat round the room looking at her with great
curiosity.  For the fact that it was this said thirty-first cousin,
Mr d'Urberville, who had fallen in love with her, a gentleman
not altogether local, whose reputation as a reckless gallant and
heartbreaker was beginning to spread beyond the immediate boundaries
of Trantridge, lent Tess's supposed position, by its fearsomeness, a
far higher fascination that it would have exercised if unhazardous.

Their interest was so deep that the younger ones whispered when her
back was turned--

"How pretty she is; and how that best frock do set her off!  I
believe it cost an immense deal, and that it was a gift from him."

Tess, who was reaching up to get the tea-things from the
corner-cupboard, did not hear these commentaries.  If she had heard
them, she might soon have set her friends right on the matter.  But
her mother heard, and Joan's simple vanity, having been denied the
hope of a dashing marriage, fed itself as well as it could upon
the sensation of a dashing flirtation.  Upon the whole she felt
gratified, even though such a limited and evanescent triumph should
involve her daughter's reputation; it might end in marriage yet, and
in the warmth of her responsiveness to their admiration she invited
her visitors to stay to tea.

Their chatter, their laughter, their good-humoured innuendoes, above
all, their flashes and flickerings of envy, revived Tess's spirits
also; and, as the evening wore on, she caught the infection of their
excitement, and grew almost gay.  The marble hardness left her face,
she moved with something of her old bounding step, and flushed in all
her young beauty.

At moments, in spite of thought, she would reply to their inquiries
with a manner of superiority, as if recognizing that her experiences
in the field of courtship had, indeed, been slightly enviable.  But
so far was she from being, in the words of Robert South, "in love
with her own ruin," that the illusion was transient as lightning;
cold reason came back to mock her spasmodic weakness; the ghastliness
of her momentary pride would convict her, and recall her to reserved
listlessness again.

And the despondency of the next morning's dawn, when it was no longer
Sunday, but Monday; and no best clothes; and the laughing visitors
were gone, and she awoke alone in her old bed, the innocent younger
children breathing softly around her.  In place of the excitement of
her return, and the interest it had inspired, she saw before her a
long and stony highway which she had to tread, without aid, and with
little sympathy.  Her depression was then terrible, and she could
have hidden herself in a tomb.

In the course of a few weeks Tess revived sufficiently to show
herself so far as was necessary to get to church one Sunday morning.
She liked to hear the chanting--such as it was--and the old Psalms,
and to join in the Morning Hymn.  That innate love of melody, which
she had inherited from her ballad-singing mother, gave the simplest
music a power over her which could well-nigh drag her heart out of
her bosom at times.

To be as much out of observation as possible for reasons of her own,
and to escape the gallantries of the young men, she set out before
the chiming began, and took a back seat under the gallery, close to
the lumber, where only old men and women came, and where the bier
stood on end among the churchyard tools.

Parishioners dropped in by twos and threes, deposited themselves
in rows before her, rested three-quarters of a minute on their
foreheads as if they were praying, though they were not; then sat up,
and looked around. When the chants came on, one of her favourites
happened to be chosen among the rest--the old double chant
"Langdon"--but she did not know what it was called, though she would
much have liked to know.  She thought, without exactly wording the
thought, how strange and god-like was a composer's power, who from
the grave could lead through sequences of emotion, which he alone had
felt at first, a girl like her who had never heard of his name, and
never would have a clue to his personality.

The people who had turned their heads turned them again as the
service proceeded; and at last observing her, they whispered to each
other.  She knew what their whispers were about, grew sick at heart,
and felt that she could come to church no more.

The bedroom which she shared with some of the children formed her
retreat more continually than ever.  Here, under her few square yards
of thatch, she watched winds, and snows, and rains, gorgeous sunsets,
and successive moons at their full.  So close kept she that at length
almost everybody thought she had gone away.

The only exercise that Tess took at this time was after dark; and it
was then, when out in the woods, that she seemed least solitary.  She
knew how to hit to a hair's-breadth that moment of evening when the
light and the darkness are so evenly balanced that the constraint of
day and the suspense of night neutralize each other, leaving absolute
mental liberty.  It is then that the plight of being alive becomes
attenuated to its least possible dimensions.  She had no fear of the
shadows; her sole idea seemed to be to shun mankind--or rather that
cold accretion called the world, which, so terrible in the mass, is
so unformidable, even pitiable, in its units.

On these lonely hills and dales her quiescent glide was of a piece
with the element she moved in.  Her flexuous and stealthy figure
became an integral part of the scene.  At times her whimsical fancy
would intensify natural processes around her till they seemed a part
of her own story.  Rather they became a part of it; for the world is
only a psychological phenomenon, and what they seemed they were.  The
midnight airs and gusts, moaning amongst the tightly-wrapped buds and
bark of the winter twigs, were formulae of bitter reproach.  A wet
day was the expression of irremediable grief at her weakness in the
mind of some vague ethical being whom she could not class definitely
as the God of her childhood, and could not comprehend as any other.

But this encompassment of her own characterization, based on shreds
of convention, peopled by phantoms and voices antipathetic to her,
was a sorry and mistaken creation of Tess's fancy--a cloud of moral
hobgoblins by which she was terrified without reason.  It was they
that were out of harmony with the actual world, not she.  Walking
among the sleeping birds in the hedges, watching the skipping rabbits
on a moonlit warren, or standing under a pheasant-laden bough, she
looked upon herself as a figure of Guilt intruding into the haunts
of Innocence.  But all the while she was making a distinction where
there was no difference.  Feeling herself in antagonism, she was
quite in accord.  She had been made to break an accepted social law,
but no law known to the environment in which she fancied herself such
an anomaly.



XIV


It was a hazy sunrise in August.  The denser nocturnal vapours,
attacked by the warm beams, were dividing and shrinking into isolated
fleeces within hollows and coverts, where they waited till they
should be dried away to nothing.

The sun, on account of the mist, had a curious sentient, personal
look, demanding the masculine pronoun for its adequate expression.
His present aspect, coupled with the lack of all human forms in the
scene, explained the old-time heliolatries in a moment.  One could
feel that a saner religion had never prevailed under the sky.  The
luminary was a golden-haired, beaming, mild-eyed, God-like creature,
gazing down in the vigour and intentness of youth upon an earth that
was brimming with interest for him.

His light, a little later, broke though chinks of cottage shutters,
throwing stripes like red-hot pokers upon cupboards, chests of
drawers, and other furniture within; and awakening harvesters who
were not already astir.

But of all ruddy things that morning the brightest were two broad
arms of painted wood, which rose from the margin of yellow cornfield
hard by Marlott village.  They, with two others below, formed the
revolving Maltese cross of the reaping-machine, which had been
brought to the field on the previous evening to be ready for
operations this day.  The paint with which they were smeared,
intensified in hue by the sunlight, imparted to them a look of
having been dipped in liquid fire.

The field had already been "opened"; that is to say, a lane a few
feet wide had been hand-cut through the wheat along the whole
circumference of the field for the first passage of the horses and
machine.

Two groups, one of men and lads, the other of women, had come down
the lane just at the hour when the shadows of the eastern hedge-top
struck the west hedge midway, so that the heads of the groups were
enjoying sunrise while their feet were still in the dawn.  They
disappeared from the lane between the two stone posts which flanked
the nearest field-gate.

Presently there arose from within a ticking like the love-making of
the grasshopper.  The machine had begun, and a moving concatenation
of three horses and the aforesaid long rickety machine was visible
over the gate, a driver sitting  upon one of the hauling horses,
and an attendant on the seat of the implement.  Along one side of
the field the whole wain went, the arms of the mechanical reaper
revolving slowly, till it passed down the hill quite out of sight.
In a minute it came up on the other side of the field at the same
equable pace; the glistening brass star in the forehead of the fore
horse first catching the eye as it rose into view over the stubble,
then the bright arms, and then the whole machine.

The narrow lane of stubble encompassing the field grew wider with
each circuit, and the standing corn was reduced to a smaller area as
the morning wore on.  Rabbits, hares, snakes, rats, mice, retreated
inwards as into a fastness, unaware of the ephemeral nature of their
refuge, and of the doom that awaited them later in the day when,
their covert shrinking to a more and more horrible narrowness, they
were huddled together, friends and foes, till the last few yards of
upright wheat fell also under the teeth of the unerring reaper, and
they were every one put to death by the sticks and stones of the
harvesters.

The reaping-machine left the fallen corn behind it in little heaps,
each heap being of the quantity for a sheaf; and upon these the
active binders in the rear laid their hands--mainly women, but some
of them men in print shirts, and trousers supported round their
waists by leather straps, rendering useless the two buttons behind,
which twinkled and bristled with sunbeams at every movement of each
wearer, as if they were a pair of eyes in the small of his back.

But those of the other sex were the most interesting of this company
of binders, by reason of the charm which is acquired by woman when
she becomes part and parcel of outdoor nature, and is not merely
an object set down therein as at ordinary times.  A field-man is a
personality afield; a field-woman is a portion of the field; she had
somehow lost her own margin, imbibed the essence of her surrounding,
and assimilated herself with it.

The women--or rather girls, for they were mostly young--wore drawn
cotton bonnets with great flapping curtains to keep off the sun, and
gloves to prevent their hands being wounded by the stubble.  There
was one wearing a pale pink jacket, another in a cream-coloured
tight-sleeved gown, another in a petticoat as red as the arms of the
reaping-machine; and others, older, in the brown-rough "wropper"
or over-all--the old-established and most appropriate dress of the
field-woman, which the young ones were abandoning.  This morning the
eye returns involuntarily to the girl in the pink cotton jacket, she
being the most flexuous and finely-drawn figure of them all.  But
her bonnet is pulled so far over her brow that none of her face is
disclosed while she binds, though her complexion may be guessed from
a stray twine or two of dark brown hair which extends below the
curtain of her bonnet.  Perhaps one reason why she seduces casual
attention is that she never courts it, though the other women often
gaze around them.

Her binding proceeds with clock-like monotony.  From the sheaf last
finished she draws a handful of ears, patting their tips with her
left palm to bring them even.  Then, stooping low, she moves forward,
gathering the corn with both hands against her knees, and pushing
her left gloved hand under the bundle to meet the right on the other
side, holding the corn in an embrace like that of a lover.  She
brings the ends of the bond together, and kneels on the sheaf while
she ties it, beating back her skirts now and then when lifted by the
breeze.  A bit of her naked arm is visible between the buff leather
of the gauntlet and the sleeve of her gown; and as the day wears on
its feminine smoothness becomes scarified by the stubble and bleeds.

At intervals she stands up to rest, and to retie her disarranged
apron, or to pull her bonnet straight.  Then one can see the oval
face of a handsome young woman with deep dark eyes and long heavy
clinging tresses, which seem to clasp in a beseeching way anything
they fall against.  The cheeks are paler, the teeth more regular,
the red lips thinner than is usual in a country-bred girl.

It is Tess Durbeyfield, otherwise d'Urberville, somewhat changed--the
same, but not the same; at the present stage of her existence living
as a stranger and an alien here, though it was no strange land that
she was in.  After a long seclusion she had come to a resolve to
undertake outdoor work in her native village, the busiest season of
the year in the agricultural world having arrived, and nothing that
she could do within the house being so remunerative for the time as
harvesting in the fields.

The movements of the other women were more or less similar to Tess's,
the whole bevy of them drawing together like dancers in a quadrille
at the completion of a sheaf by each, every one placing her sheaf on
end against those of the rest, till a shock, or "stitch" as it was
here called, of ten or a dozen was formed.

They went to breakfast, and came again, and the work proceeded as
before.  As the hour of eleven drew near a person watching her might
have noticed that every now and then Tess's glance flitted wistfully
to the brow of the hill, though she did not pause in her sheafing.
On the verge of the hour the heads of a group of children, of ages
ranging from six to fourteen, rose over the stubbly convexity of the
hill.

The face of Tess flushed slightly, but still she did not pause.

The eldest of the comers, a girl who wore a triangular shawl, its
corner draggling on the stubble, carried in her arms what at first
sight seemed to be a doll, but proved to be an infant in long
clothes.  Another brought some lunch.  The harvesters ceased working,
took their provisions, and sat down against one of the shocks.  Here
they fell to, the men plying a stone jar freely, and passing round a
cup.

Tess Durbeyfield had been one of the last to suspend her labours.
She sat down at the end of the shock, her face turned somewhat away
from her companions.  When she had deposited herself a man in a
rabbit-skin cap, and with a red handkerchief tucked into his belt,
held the cup of ale over the top of the shock for her to drink.  But
she did not accept his offer.  As soon as her lunch was spread she
called up the big girl, her sister, and took the baby of her, who,
glad to be relieved of the burden, went away to the next shock and
joined the other children playing there.  Tess, with a curiously
stealthy yet courageous movement, and with a still rising colour,
unfastened her frock and began suckling the child.

The men who sat nearest considerately turned their faces towards the
other end of the field, some of them beginning to smoke; one, with
absent-minded fondness, regretfully stroking the jar that would no
longer yield a stream.  All the women but Tess fell into animated
talk, and adjusted the disarranged knots of their hair.

When the infant had taken its fill, the young mother sat it upright
in her lap, and looking into the far distance, dandled it with a
gloomy indifference that was almost dislike; then all of a sudden she
fell to violently kissing it some dozens of times, as if she could
never leave off, the child crying at the vehemence of an onset which
strangely combined passionateness with contempt.

"She's fond of that there child, though she mid pretend to hate en,
and say she wishes the baby and her too were in the churchyard,"
observed the woman in the red petticoat.

"She'll soon leave off saying that," replied the one in buff. "Lord,
'tis wonderful what a body can get used to o' that sort in time!"

"A little more than persuading had to do wi' the coming o't, I
reckon.  There were they that heard a sobbing one night last year in
The Chase; and it mid ha' gone hard wi' a certain party if folks had
come along."

"Well, a little more, or a little less, 'twas a thousand pities that
it should have happened to she, of all others.  But 'tis always the
comeliest!  The plain ones be as safe as churches--hey, Jenny?"  The
speaker turned to one of the group who certainly was not ill-defined
as plain.

It was a thousand pities, indeed; it was impossible for even an enemy
to feel otherwise on looking at Tess as she sat there, with her
flower-like mouth and large tender eyes, neither black nor blue nor
grey nor violet; rather all those shades together, and a hundred
others, which could be seen if one looked into their irises--shade
behind shade--tint beyond tint--around pupils that had no bottom; an
almost standard woman, but for the slight incautiousness of character
inherited from her race.

A resolution which had surprised herself had brought her into the
fields this week for the first time during many months.  After
wearing and wasting her palpitating heart with every engine of regret
that lonely inexperience could devise, common sense had illuminated
her.  She felt that she would do well to be useful again--to taste
anew sweet independence at any price.  The past was past; whatever
it had been, it was no more at hand.  Whatever its consequences,
time would close over them; they would all in a few years be as if
they had never been, and she herself grassed down and forgotten.
Meanwhile the trees were just as green as before; the birds sang and
the sun shone as clearly now as ever.  The familiar surroundings had
not darkened because of her grief, nor sickened because of her pain.

She might have seen that what had bowed her head so profoundly--the
thought of the world's concern at her situation--was founded on an
illusion.  She was not an existence, an experience, a passion, a
structure of sensations, to anybody but herself.  To all humankind
besides, Tess was only a passing thought.  Even to friends she was
no more than a frequently passing thought.  If she made herself
miserable the livelong night and day it was only this much to
them--"Ah, she makes herself unhappy."  If she tried to be cheerful,
to dismiss all care, to take pleasure in the daylight, the flowers,
the baby, she could only be this idea to them--"Ah, she bears it
very well."  Moreover, alone in a desert island would she have been
wretched at what had happened to her?  Not greatly.  If she could
have been but just created, to discover herself as a spouseless
mother, with no experience of life except as the parent of a nameless
child, would the position have caused her to despair?  No, she would
have taken it calmly, and found pleasure therein. Most of the misery
had been generated by her conventional aspect, and not by her innate
sensations.

Whatever Tess's reasoning, some spirit had induced her to dress
herself up neatly as she had formerly done, and come out into the
fields, harvest-hands being greatly in demand just then.  This was
why she had borne herself with dignity, and had looked people calmly
in the face at times, even when holding the baby in her arms.

The harvest-men rose from the shock of corn, and stretched their
limbs, and extinguished their pipes.  The horses, which had been
unharnessed and fed, were again attached to the scarlet machine.
Tess, having quickly eaten her own meal, beckoned to her eldest
sister to come and take away the baby, fastened her dress, put on
the buff gloves again, and stooped anew to draw a bond from the last
completed sheaf for the tying of the next.

In the afternoon and evening the proceedings of the morning were
continued, Tess staying on till dusk with the body of harvesters.
Then they all rode home in one of the largest wagons, in the company
of a broad tarnished moon that had risen from the ground to the
eastwards, its face resembling the outworn gold-leaf halo of some
worm-eaten Tuscan saint.  Tess's female companions sang songs, and
showed themselves very sympathetic and glad at her reappearance out
of doors, though they could not refrain from mischievously throwing
in a few verses of the ballad about the maid who went to the merry
green wood and came back a changed state.  There are counterpoises
and compensations in life; and the event which had made of her a
social warning had also for the moment made her the most interesting
personage in the village to many.  Their friendliness won her still
farther away from herself, their lively spirits were contagious, and
she became almost gay.

But now that her moral sorrows were passing away a fresh one arose on
the natural side of her which knew no social law.  When she reached
home it was to learn to her grief that the baby had been suddenly
taken ill since the afternoon.  Some such collapse had been probable,
so tender and puny was its frame; but the event came as a shock
nevertheless.

The baby's offence against society in coming into the world was
forgotten by the girl-mother; her soul's desire was to continue that
offence by preserving the life of the child.  However, it soon grew
clear that the hour of emancipation for that little prisoner of the
flesh was to arrive earlier than her worst misgiving had conjectured.
And when she had discovered this she was plunged into a misery which
transcended that of the child's simple loss.  Her baby had not been
baptized.

Tess had drifted into a frame of mind which accepted passively the
consideration that if she should have to burn for what she had done,
burn she must, and there was an end of it.  Like all village girls,
she was well grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and had dutifully
studied the histories of Aholah and Aholibah, and knew the inferences
to be drawn therefrom.  But when the same question arose with regard
to the baby, it had a very different colour.  Her darling was about
to die, and no salvation.

It was nearly bedtime, but she rushed downstairs and asked if she
might send for the parson.  The moment happened to be one at which
her father's sense of the antique nobility of his family was highest,
and his sensitiveness to the smudge which Tess had set upon that
nobility most pronounced, for he had just returned from his weekly
booze at Rolliver's Inn.  No parson should come inside his door, he
declared, prying into his affairs, just then, when, by her shame, it
had become more necessary than ever to hide them.  He locked the door
and put the key in his pocket.

The household went to bed, and, distressed beyond measure, Tess
retired also.  She was continually waking as she lay, and in the
middle of the night found that the baby was still worse.  It was
obviously dying--quietly and painlessly, but none the less surely.

In her misery she rocked herself upon the bed.  The clock struck the
solemn hour of one, that hour when fancy stalks outside reason, and
malignant possibilities stand rock-firm as facts.  She thought of
the child consigned to the nethermost corner of hell, as its double
doom for lack of baptism and lack of legitimacy; saw the arch-fiend
tossing it with his three-pronged fork, like the one they used for
heating the oven on baking days; to which picture she added many
other quaint and curious details of torment sometimes taught the
young in this Christian country.  The lurid presentment so powerfully
affected her imagination in the silence of the sleeping house that
her nightgown became damp with perspiration, and the bedstead shook
with each throb of her heart.

The infant's breathing grew more difficult, and the mother's mental
tension increased.  It was useless to devour the little thing with
kisses; she could stay in bed no longer, and walked feverishly about
the room.

"O merciful God, have pity; have pity upon my poor baby!" she cried.
"Heap as much anger as you want to upon me, and welcome; but pity the
child!"

She leant against the chest of drawers, and murmured incoherent
supplications for a long while, till she suddenly started up.

"Ah! perhaps baby can be saved!  Perhaps it will be just the same!"

She spoke so brightly that it seemed as though her face might have
shone in the gloom surrounding her.  She lit a candle, and went to
a second and a third bed under the wall, where she awoke her young
sisters and brothers, all of whom occupied the same room.  Pulling
out the washing-stand so that she could get behind it, she poured
some water from a jug, and made them kneel around, putting their
hands together with fingers exactly vertical.  While the children,
scarcely awake, awe-stricken at her manner, their eyes growing larger
and larger, remained in this position, she took the baby from her
bed--a child's child--so immature as scarce to seem a sufficient
personality to endow its producer with the maternal title.  Tess then
stood erect with the infant on her arm beside the basin; the next
sister held the Prayer-Book open before her, as the clerk at church
held it before the parson; and thus the girl set about baptizing her
child.

Her figure looked singularly tall and imposing as she stood in her
long white nightgown, a thick cable of twisted dark hair hanging
straight down her back to her waist.  The kindly dimness of the weak
candle abstracted from her form and features the little blemishes
which sunlight might have revealed--the stubble scratches upon her
wrists, and the weariness of her eyes--her high enthusiasm having
a transfiguring effect upon the face which had been her undoing,
showing it as a thing of immaculate beauty, with a touch of dignity
which was almost regal.  The little ones kneeling round, their sleepy
eyes blinking and red, awaited her preparations full of a suspended
wonder which their physical heaviness at that hour would not allow to
become active.

The most impressed of them said:

"Be you really going to christen him, Tess?"

The girl-mother replied in a grave affirmative.

"What's his name going to be?"

She had not thought of that, but a name suggested by a phrase in
the book of Genesis came into her head as she proceeded with the
baptismal service, and now she pronounced it:

"SORROW, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Ghost."

She sprinkled the water, and there was silence.

"Say 'Amen,' children."

The tiny voices piped in obedient response, "Amen!"

Tess went on:

"We receive this child"--and so forth--"and do sign him with the sign
of the Cross."

Here she dipped her hand into the basin, and fervently drew an
immense cross upon the baby with her forefinger, continuing with
the customary sentences as to his manfully fighting against sin,
the world, and the devil, and being a faithful soldier and servant
unto his life's end.  She duly went on with the Lord's Prayer, the
children lisping it after her in a thin gnat-like wail, till, at the
conclusion, raising their voices to clerk's pitch, they again piped
into silence, "Amen!"

Then their sister, with much augmented confidence in the efficacy
of the sacrament, poured forth from the bottom of her heart the
thanksgiving that follows, uttering it boldly and triumphantly in the
stopt-diapason note which her voice acquired when her heart was in
her speech, and which will never be forgotten by those who knew her.
The ecstasy of faith almost apotheosized her; it set upon her face a
glowing irradiation, and brought a red spot into the middle of each
cheek; while the miniature candle-flame inverted in her eye-pupils
shone like a diamond.  The children gazed up at her with more and
more reverence, and no longer had a will for questioning.  She did
not look like Sissy to them now, but as a being large, towering, and
awful--a divine personage with whom they had nothing in common.

Poor Sorrow's campaign against sin, the world, and the devil was
doomed to be of limited brilliancy--luckily perhaps for himself,
considering his beginnings.  In the blue of the morning that fragile
soldier and servant breathed his last, and when the other children
awoke they cried bitterly, and begged Sissy to have another pretty
baby.

The calmness which had possessed Tess since the christening remained
with her in the infant's loss.  In the daylight, indeed, she felt her
terrors about his soul to have been somewhat exaggerated; whether
well founded or not, she had no uneasiness now, reasoning that
if Providence would not ratify such an act of approximation
she, for one, did not value the kind of heaven lost by the
irregularity--either for herself or for her child.

So passed away Sorrow the Undesired--that intrusive creature, that
bastard gift of shameless Nature, who respects not the social law;
a waif to whom eternal Time had been a matter of days merely, who
knew not that such things as years and centuries ever were; to whom
the cottage interior was the universe, the week's weather climate,
new-born babyhood human existence, and the instinct to suck human
knowledge.

Tess, who mused on the christening a good deal, wondered if it were
doctrinally sufficient to secure a Christian burial for the child.
Nobody could tell this but the parson of the parish, and he was a
new-comer, and did not know her.  She went to his house after dusk,
and stood by the gate, but could not summon courage to go in.  The
enterprise would have been abandoned if she had not by accident met
him coming homeward as she turned away.  In the gloom she did not
mind speaking freely.

"I should like to ask you something, sir."

He expressed his willingness to listen, and she told the story of the
baby's illness and the extemporized ordinance.  "And now, sir," she
added earnestly, "can you tell me this--will it be just the same for
him as if you had baptized him?"

Having the natural feelings of a tradesman at finding that a job he
should have been called in for had been unskilfully botched by his
customers among themselves, he was disposed to say no.  Yet the
dignity of the girl, the strange tenderness in her voice, combined
to affect his nobler impulses--or rather those that he had left in
him after ten years of endeavour to graft technical belief on actual
scepticism.  The man and the ecclesiastic fought within him, and the
victory fell to the man.

"My dear girl," he said, "it will be just the same."

"Then will you give him a Christian burial?" she asked quickly.

The Vicar felt himself cornered. Hearing of the baby's illness, he
had conscientiously gone to the house after nightfall to perform the
rite, and, unaware that the refusal to admit him had come from Tess's
father and not from Tess, he could not allow the plea of necessity
for its irregular administration.

"Ah--that's another matter," he said.

"Another matter--why?" asked Tess, rather warmly.

"Well--I would willingly do so if only we two were concerned.  But I
must not--for certain reasons."

"Just for once, sir!"

"Really I must not."

"O sir!"  She seized his hand as she spoke.

He withdrew it, shaking his head.

"Then I don't like you!" she burst out, "and I'll never come to your
church no more!"

"Don't talk so rashly."

"Perhaps it will be just the same to him if you don't? ...  Will it
be just the same?  Don't for God's sake speak as saint to sinner, but
as you yourself to me myself--poor me!"

How the Vicar reconciled his answer with the strict notions he
supposed himself to hold on these subjects it is beyond a layman's
power to tell, though not to excuse.  Somewhat moved, he said in
this case also--

"It will be just the same."

So the baby was carried in a small deal box, under an ancient woman's
shawl, to the churchyard that night, and buried by lantern-light,
at the cost of a shilling and a pint of beer to the sexton, in that
shabby corner of God's allotment where He lets the nettles grow,
and where all unbaptized infants, notorious drunkards, suicides,
and others of the conjecturally damned are laid.  In spite of the
untoward surroundings, however, Tess bravely made a little cross of
two laths and a piece of string, and having bound it with flowers,
she stuck it up at the head of the grave one evening when she could
enter the churchyard without being seen, putting at the foot also
a bunch of the same flowers in a little jar of water to keep them
alive.  What matter was it that on the outside of the jar the eye of
mere observation noted the words "Keelwell's Marmalade"?  The eye of
maternal affection did not see them in its vision of higher things.



XV


"By experience," says Roger Ascham, "we find out a short way by
a long wandering."  Not seldom that long wandering unfits us for
further travel, and of what use is our experience to us then?  Tess
Durbeyfield's experience was of this incapacitating kind.  At last
she had learned what to do; but who would now accept her doing?

If before going to the d'Urbervilles' she had vigorously moved under
the guidance of sundry gnomic texts and phrases known to her and to
the world in general, no doubt she would never have been imposed on.
But it had not been in Tess's power--nor is it in anybody's power--to
feel the whole truth of golden opinions while it is possible to
profit by them.  She--and how many more--might have ironically said
to God with Saint Augustine: "Thou hast counselled a better course
than Thou hast permitted."

She remained at her father's house during the winter months, plucking
fowls, or cramming turkeys and geese, or making clothes for her
sisters and brothers out of some finery which d'Urberville had given
her, and she had put by with contempt.  Apply to him she would not.
But she would often clasp her hands behind her head and muse when she
was supposed to be working hard.

She philosophically noted dates as they came past in the revolution
of the year; the disastrous night of her undoing at Trantridge with
its dark background of The Chase; also the dates of the baby's birth
and death; also her own birthday; and every other day individualized
by incidents in which she had taken some share.  She suddenly thought
one afternoon, when looking in the glass at her fairness, that there
was yet another date, of greater importance to her than those; that
of her own death, when all these charms would have disappeared; a day
which lay sly and unseen among all the other days of the year, giving
no sign or sound when she annually passed over it; but not the less
surely there.  When was it?  Why did she not feel the chill of each
yearly encounter with such a cold relation?  She had Jeremy Taylor's
thought that some time in the future those who had known her would
say: "It is the ----th, the day that poor Tess Durbeyfield died"; and
there would be nothing singular to their minds in the statement.  Of
that day, doomed to be her terminus in time through all the ages, she
did not know the place in month, week, season or year.

Almost at a leap Tess thus changed from simple girl to complex woman.
Symbols of reflectiveness passed into her face, and a note of tragedy
at times into her voice.  Her eyes grew larger and more eloquent.
She became what would have been called a fine creature; her aspect
was fair and arresting; her soul that of a woman whom the turbulent
experiences of the last year or two had quite failed to demoralize.
But for the world's opinion those experiences would have been simply
a liberal education.

She had held so aloof of late that her trouble, never generally
known, was nearly forgotten in Marlott.  But it became evident to her
that she could never be really comfortable again in a place which
had seen the collapse of her family's attempt to "claim kin"--and,
through her, even closer union--with the rich d'Urbervilles.  At
least she could not be comfortable there till long years should have
obliterated her keen consciousness of it.  Yet even now Tess felt the
pulse of hopeful life still warm within her; she might be happy in
some nook which had no memories.  To escape the past and all that
appertained thereto was to annihilate it, and to do that she would
have to get away.

Was once lost always lost really true of chastity? she would ask
herself.  She might prove it false if she could veil bygones.  The
recuperative power which pervaded organic nature was surely not
denied to maidenhood alone.

She waited a long time without finding opportunity for a new
departure.  A particularly fine spring came round, and the stir of
germination was almost audible in the buds; it moved her, as it moved
the wild animals, and made her passionate to go.  At last, one day in
early May, a letter reached her from a former friend of her mother's,
to whom she had addressed inquiries long before--a person whom she
had never seen--that a skilful milkmaid was required at a dairy-house
many miles to the southward, and that the dairyman would be glad to
have her for the summer months.

It was not quite so far off as could have been wished; but it was
probably far enough, her radius of movement and repute having been
so small.  To persons of limited spheres, miles are as geographical
degrees, parishes as counties, counties as provinces and kingdoms.

On one point she was resolved: there should be no more d'Urberville
air-castles in the dreams and deeds of her new life.  She would be
the dairymaid Tess, and nothing more.  Her mother knew Tess's feeling
on this point so well, though no words had passed between them on the
subject, that she never alluded to the knightly ancestry now.

Yet such is human inconsistency that one of the interests of the
new place to her was the accidental virtues of its lying near her
forefathers' country (for they were not Blakemore men, though her
mother was Blakemore to the bone).  The dairy called Talbothays,
for which she was bound, stood not remotely from some of the former
estates of the d'Urbervilles, near the great family vaults of her
granddames and their powerful husbands.  She would be able to look at
them, and think not only that d'Urberville, like Babylon, had fallen,
but that the individual innocence of a humble descendant could lapse
as silently.  All the while she wondered if any strange good thing
might come of her being in her ancestral land; and some spirit within
her rose  automatically as the sap in the twigs.  It was unexpected
youth, surging up anew after its temporary check, and bringing with
it hope, and the invincible instinct towards self-delight.


END OF PHASE THE SECOND





Phase the Third: The Rally



XVI


On a thyme-scented, bird-hatching morning in May, between two and
three years after the return from Trantridge--silent, reconstructive
years for Tess Durbeyfield--she left her home for the second time.

Having packed up her luggage so that it could be sent to her later,
she started in a hired trap for the little town of Stourcastle,
through which it was necessary to pass on her journey, now in a
direction almost opposite to that of her first adventuring.  On the
curve of the nearest hill she looked back regretfully at Marlott and
her father's house, although she had been so anxious to get away.

Her kindred dwelling there would probably continue their daily
lives as heretofore, with no great diminution of pleasure in their
consciousness, although she would be far off, and they deprived of
her smile.  In a few days the children would engage in their games as
merrily as ever, without the sense of any gap left by her departure.
This leaving of the younger children she had decided to be for the
best; were she to remain they would probably gain less good by her
precepts than harm by her example.

She went through Stourcastle without pausing and onward to a junction
of highways, where she could await a carrier's van that ran to the
south-west; for the railways which engirdled this interior tract of
country had never yet struck across it.  While waiting, however,
there came along a farmer in his spring cart, driving approximately
in the direction that she wished to pursue.  Though he was a stranger
to her she accepted his offer of a seat beside him, ignoring that
its motive was a mere tribute to her countenance.  He was going to
Weatherbury, and by accompanying him thither she could walk the
remainder of the distance instead of travelling in the van by way of
Casterbridge.

Tess did not stop at Weatherbury, after this long drive, further than
to make a slight nondescript meal at noon at a cottage to which the
farmer recommended her.  Thence she started on foot, basket in hand,
to reach the wide upland of heath dividing this district from the
low-lying meads of a further valley in which the dairy stood that was
the aim and end of her day's pilgrimage.

Tess had never before visited this part of the country, and yet she
felt akin to the landscape.  Not so very far to the left of her she
could discern a dark patch in the scenery, which inquiry confirmed
her in supposing to be trees marking the environs of Kingsbere--in
the church of which parish the bones of her ancestors--her useless
ancestors--lay entombed.

She had no admiration for them now; she almost hated them for the
dance they had led her; not a thing of all that had been theirs did
she retain but the old seal and spoon.  "Pooh--I have as much of
mother as father in me!" she said.  "All my prettiness comes from
her, and she was only a dairymaid."

The journey over the intervening uplands and lowlands of Egdon,
when she reached them, was a more troublesome walk than she had
anticipated, the distance being actually but a few miles.  It was
two hours, owing to sundry wrong turnings, ere she found herself
on a summit commanding the long-sought-for vale, the Valley of the
Great Dairies, the valley in which milk and butter grew to rankness,
and were produced more profusely, if less delicately, than at her
home--the verdant plain so well watered by the river Var or Froom.

It was intrinsically different from the Vale of Little Dairies,
Blackmoor Vale, which, save during her disastrous sojourn at
Trantridge, she had exclusively known till now.  The world was drawn
to a larger pattern here.  The enclosures numbered fifty acres
instead of ten, the farmsteads were more extended, the groups of
cattle formed tribes hereabout; there only families.  These myriads
of cows stretching under her eyes from the far east to the far west
outnumbered any she had ever seen at one glance before. The green
lea was speckled as thickly with them as a canvas by Van Alsloot
or Sallaert with burghers.  The ripe hue of the red and dun kine
absorbed the evening sunlight, which the white-coated animals
returned to the eye in rays almost dazzling, even at the distant
elevation on which she stood.

The bird's-eye perspective before her was not so luxuriantly
beautiful, perhaps, as that other one which she knew so well; yet it
was more cheering.  It lacked the intensely blue atmosphere of the
rival vale, and its heavy soils and scents; the new air was clear,
bracing, ethereal.  The river itself, which nourished the grass
and cows of these renowned dairies, flowed not like the streams in
Blackmoor.  Those were slow, silent, often turbid; flowing over
beds of mud into which the incautious wader might sink and vanish
unawares.  The Froom waters were clear as the pure River of Life
shown to the Evangelist, rapid as the shadow of a cloud, with
pebbly shallows that prattled to the sky all day long.  There the
water-flower was the lily; the crow-foot here.

Either the change in the quality of the air from heavy to light, or
the sense of being amid new scenes where there were no invidious eyes
upon her, sent up her spirits wonderfully.  Her hopes mingled with
the sunshine in an ideal photosphere which surrounded her as she
bounded along against the soft south wind.  She heard a pleasant
voice in every breeze, and in every bird's note seemed to lurk a
joy.

Her face had latterly changed with changing states of mind,
continually fluctuating between beauty and ordinariness, according as
the thoughts were gay or grave.  One day she was pink and flawless;
another pale and tragical.  When she was pink she was feeling less
than when pale; her more perfect beauty accorded with her less
elevated mood; her more intense mood with her less perfect beauty.
It was her best face physically that was now set against the south
wind.

The irresistible, universal, automatic tendency to find sweet
pleasure somewhere, which pervades all life, from the meanest to the
highest, had at length mastered Tess.  Being even now only a young
woman of twenty, one who mentally and sentimentally had not finished
growing, it was impossible that any event should have left upon her
an impression that was not in time capable of transmutation.

And thus her spirits, and her thankfulness, and her hopes, rose
higher and higher.  She tried several ballads, but found them
inadequate; till, recollecting the psalter that her eyes had so often
wandered over of a Sunday morning before she had eaten of the tree
of knowledge, she chanted: "O ye Sun and Moon ... O ye Stars ... ye
Green Things upon the Earth ... ye Fowls of the Air ... Beasts and
Cattle ... Children of Men ... bless ye the Lord, praise Him and
magnify Him for ever!"

She suddenly stopped and murmured: "But perhaps I don't quite know
the Lord as yet."

And probably the half-unconscious rhapsody was a Fetishistic
utterance in a Monotheistic setting; women whose chief companions
are the forms and forces of outdoor Nature retain in their souls far
more of the Pagan fantasy of their remote forefathers than of the
systematized religion taught their race at later date.  However, Tess
found at least approximate expression for her feelings in the old
_Benedicite_ that she had lisped from infancy; and it was enough.
Such high contentment with such a slight initial performance as that
of having started towards a means of independent living was a part of
the Durbeyfield temperament.  Tess really wished to walk uprightly,
while her father did nothing of the kind; but she resembled him in
being content with immediate and small achievements, and in having no
mind for laborious effort towards such petty social advancement as
could alone be effected by a family so heavily handicapped as the
once powerful d'Urbervilles were now.

There was, it might be said, the energy of her mother's unexpended
family, as well as the natural energy of Tess's years, rekindled
after the experience which had so overwhelmed her for the time. Let
the truth be told--women do as a rule live through such humiliations,
and regain their spirits, and again look about them with an
interested eye.  While there's life there's hope is a conviction not
so entirely unknown to the "betrayed" as some amiable theorists would
have us believe.

Tess Durbeyfield, then, in good heart, and full of zest for life,
descended the Egdon slopes lower and lower towards the dairy of her
pilgrimage.

The marked difference, in the final particular, between the rival
vales now showed itself.  The secret of Blackmoor was best discovered
from the heights around; to read aright the valley before her it was
necessary to descend into its midst.  When Tess had accomplished this
feat she found herself to be standing on a carpeted level, which
stretched to the east and west as far as the eye could reach.

The river had stolen from the higher tracts and brought in particles
to the vale all this horizontal land; and now, exhausted, aged, and
attenuated, lay serpentining along through the midst of its former
spoils.

Not quite sure of her direction, Tess stood still upon the hemmed
expanse of verdant flatness, like a fly on a billiard-table of
indefinite length, and of no more consequence to the surroundings
than that fly.  The sole effect of her presence upon the placid
valley so far had been to excite the mind of a solitary heron, which,
after descending to the ground not far from her path, stood with neck
erect, looking at her.

Suddenly there arose from all parts of the lowland a prolonged and
repeated call--"Waow! waow! waow!"

From the furthest east to the furthest west the cries spread as if by
contagion, accompanied in some cases by the barking of a dog.  It was
not the expression of the valley's consciousness that beautiful Tess
had arrived, but the ordinary announcement of milking-time--half-past
four o'clock, when the dairymen set about getting in the cows.

The red and white herd nearest at hand, which had been phlegmatically
waiting for the call, now trooped towards the steading in the
background, their great bags of milk swinging under them as they
walked.  Tess followed slowly in their rear, and entered the barton
by the open gate through which they had entered before her.  Long
thatched sheds stretched round the enclosure, their slopes encrusted
with vivid green moss, and their eaves supported by wooden posts
rubbed to a glossy smoothness by the flanks of infinite cows
and calves of bygone years, now passed to an oblivion almost
inconceivable in its profundity.  Between the post were ranged
the milchers, each exhibiting herself at the present moment to a
whimsical eye in the rear as a circle on two stalks, down the centre
of which a switch moved pendulum-wise; while the sun, lowering itself
behind this patient row, threw their shadows accurately inwards upon
the wall.  Thus it threw shadows of these obscure and homely figures
every evening with as much care over each contour as if it had been
the profile of a court beauty on a palace wall; copied them as
diligently as it had copied Olympian shapes on marble _façades_ long
ago, or the outline of Alexander, Caesar, and the Pharaohs.

They were the less restful cows that were stalled.  Those that would
stand still of their own will were milked in the middle of the yard,
where many of such better behaved ones stood waiting now--all prime
milchers, such as were seldom seen out of this valley, and not always
within it; nourished by the succulent feed which the water-meads
supplied at this prime season of the year.  Those of them that were
spotted with white reflected the sunshine in dazzling brilliancy,
and the polished brass knobs of their horns glittered with something
of military display.  Their large-veined udders hung ponderous as
sandbags, the teats sticking out like the legs of a gipsy's crock;
and as each animal lingered for her turn to arrive the milk oozed
forth and fell in drops to the ground.



XVII


The dairymaids and men had flocked down from their cottages and out
of the dairy-house with the arrival of the cows from the meads; the
maids walking in pattens, not on account of the weather, but to keep
their shoes above the mulch of the barton.  Each girl sat down on
her three-legged stool, her face sideways, her right cheek resting
against the cow, and looked musingly along the animal's flank at Tess
as she approached.  The male milkers, with hat-brims turned down,
resting flat on their foreheads and gazing on the ground, did not
observe her.

One of these was a sturdy middle-aged man--whose long white "pinner"
was somewhat finer and cleaner than the wraps of the others, and
whose jacket underneath had a presentable marketing aspect--the
master-dairyman, of whom she was in quest, his double character as
a working milker and butter maker here during six days, and on the
seventh as a man in shining broad-cloth in his family pew at church,
being so marked as to have inspired a rhyme:


             Dairyman Dick
             All the week:--
     On Sundays Mister Richard Crick.


Seeing Tess standing at gaze he went across to her.

The majority of dairymen have a cross manner at milking time, but it
happened that Mr Crick was glad to get a new hand--for the days were
busy ones now--and he received her warmly; inquiring for her mother
and the rest of the family--(though this as a matter of form merely,
for in reality he had not been aware of Mrs Durbeyfield's existence
till apprised of the fact by a brief business-letter about Tess).

"Oh--ay, as a lad I knowed your part o' the country very well," he
said terminatively.  "Though I've never been there since.  And a aged
woman of ninety that use to live nigh here, but is dead and gone long
ago, told me that a family of some such name as yours in Blackmoor
Vale came originally from these parts, and that 'twere a old ancient
race that had all but perished off the earth--though the new
generations didn't know it.  But, Lord, I took no notice of the old
woman's ramblings, not I."

"Oh no--it is nothing," said Tess.

Then the talk was of business only.

"You can milk 'em clean, my maidy? I don't want my cows going azew at
this time o' year."

She reassured him on that point, and he surveyed her up and down.
She had been staying indoors a good deal, and her complexion had
grown delicate.

"Quite sure you can stand it?  'Tis comfortable enough here for rough
folk; but we don't live in a cowcumber frame."

She declared that she could stand it, and her zest and willingness
seemed to win him over.

"Well, I suppose you'll want a dish o' tay, or victuals of some sort,
hey?  Not yet?  Well, do as ye like about it.  But faith, if 'twas I,
I should be as dry as a kex wi' travelling so far."

"I'll begin milking now, to get my hand in," said Tess.

She drank a little milk as temporary refreshment--to the
surprise--indeed, slight contempt--of Dairyman Crick, to whose mind
it had apparently never occurred that milk was good as a beverage.

"Oh, if ye can swaller that, be it so," he said indifferently, while
holding up the pail that she sipped from.  "'Tis what I hain't
touched for years--not I.  Rot the stuff; it would lie in my innerds
like lead.  You can try your hand upon she," he pursued, nodding to
the nearest cow.  "Not but what she do milk rather hard.  We've hard
ones and we've easy ones, like other folks.  However, you'll find out
that soon enough."

When Tess had changed her bonnet for a hood, and was really on her
stool under the cow, and the milk was squirting from her fists
into the pail, she appeared to feel that she really had laid a new
foundation for her future.  The conviction bred serenity, her pulse
slowed, and she was able to look about her.

The milkers formed quite a little battalion of men and maids, the
men operating on the hard-teated animals, the maids on the kindlier
natures.  It was a large dairy.  There were nearly a hundred
milchers under Crick's management, all told; and of the herd the
master-dairyman milked six or eight with his own hands, unless away
from home.  These were the cows that milked hardest of all; for his
journey-milkmen being more or less casually hired, he would not
entrust this half-dozen to their treatment, lest, from indifference,
they should not milk them fully; nor to the maids, lest they should
fail in the same way for lack of finger-grip; with the result that in
course of time the cows would "go azew"--that is, dry up.  It was not
the loss for the moment that made slack milking so serious, but that
with the decline of demand there came decline, and ultimately
cessation, of supply.

After Tess had settled down to her cow there was for a time no talk
in the barton, and not a sound interfered with the purr of the
milk-jets into the numerous pails, except a momentary exclamation
to one or other of the beasts requesting her to turn round or stand
still. The only movements were those of the milkers' hands up and
down, and the swing of the cows' tails.  Thus they all worked on,
encompassed by the vast flat mead which extended to either slope
of the valley--a level landscape compounded of old landscapes long
forgotten, and, no doubt, differing in character very greatly from
the landscape they composed now.

"To my thinking," said the dairyman, rising suddenly from a cow
he had just finished off, snatching up his three-legged stool in
one hand and the pail in the other, and moving on to the next
hard-yielder in his vicinity, "to my thinking, the cows don't gie
down their milk to-day as usual.  Upon my life, if Winker do begin
keeping back like this, she'll not be worth going under by
midsummer."

"'Tis because there's a new hand come among us," said Jonathan Kail.
"I've noticed such things afore."

"To be sure.  It may be so.  I didn't think o't."

"I've been told that it goes up into their horns at such times," said
a dairymaid.

"Well, as to going up into their horns," replied Dairyman Crick
dubiously, as though even witchcraft might be limited by anatomical
possibilities, "I couldn't say; I certainly could not.  But as nott
cows will keep it back as well as the horned ones, I don't quite
agree to it.  Do ye know that riddle about the nott cows, Jonathan?
Why do nott cows give less milk in a year than horned?"

"I don't!" interposed the milkmaid, "Why do they?"

"Because there bain't so many of 'em," said the dairyman.
"Howsomever, these gam'sters do certainly keep back their milk
to-day.  Folks, we must lift up a stave or two--that's the only cure
for't."

Songs were often resorted to in dairies hereabout as an enticement
to the cows when they showed signs of withholding their usual yield;
and the band of milkers at this request burst into melody--in purely
business-like tones, it is true, and with no great spontaneity; the
result, according to their own belief, being a decided improvement
during the song's continuance.  When they had gone through fourteen
or fifteen verses of a cheerful ballad about a murderer who was
afraid to go to bed in the dark because he saw certain brimstone
flames around him, one of the male milkers said--

"I wish singing on the stoop didn't use up so much of a man's wind!
You should get your harp, sir; not but what a fiddle is best."

Tess, who had given ear to this, thought the words were addressed to
the dairyman, but she was wrong.  A reply, in the shape of "Why?"
came as it were out of the belly of a dun cow in the stalls; it had
been spoken by a milker behind the animal, whom she had not hitherto
perceived.

"Oh yes; there's nothing like a fiddle," said the dairyman. "Though
I do think that bulls are more moved by a tune than cows--at least
that's my experience.  Once there was an old aged man over at
Mellstock--William Dewy by name--one of the family that used to do
a good deal of business as tranters over there--Jonathan, do ye
mind?--I knowed the man by sight as well as I know my own brother, in
a manner of speaking.  Well, this man was a coming home along from a
wedding, where he had been playing his fiddle, one fine moonlight
night, and for shortness' sake he took a cut across Forty-acres, a
field lying that way, where a bull was out to grass.  The bull seed
William, and took after him, horns aground, begad; and though William
runned his best, and hadn't MUCH drink in him (considering 'twas a
wedding, and the folks well off), he found he'd never reach the fence
and get over in time to save himself.  Well, as a last thought, he
pulled out his fiddle as he runned, and struck up a jig, turning to
the bull, and backing towards the corner.  The bull softened down,
and stood still, looking hard at William Dewy, who fiddled on and on;
till a sort of a smile stole over the bull's face.  But no sooner
did William stop his playing and turn to get over hedge than the
bull would stop his smiling and lower his horns towards the seat of
William's breeches.  Well, William had to turn about and play on,
willy-nilly; and 'twas only three o'clock in the world, and 'a knowed
that nobody would come that way for hours, and he so leery and tired
that 'a didn't know what to do.  When he had scraped till about four
o'clock he felt that he verily would have to give over soon, and he
said to himself, 'There's only this last tune between me and eternal
welfare! Heaven save me, or I'm a done man.'  Well, then he called to
mind how he'd seen the cattle kneel o' Christmas Eves in the dead o'
night.  It was not Christmas Eve then, but it came into his head to
play a trick upon the bull.  So he broke into the 'Tivity Hymm, just
as at Christmas carol-singing; when, lo and behold, down went the
bull on his bended knees, in his ignorance, just as if 'twere the
true 'Tivity night and hour.  As soon as his horned friend were down,
William turned, clinked off like a long-dog, and jumped safe over
hedge, before the praying bull had got on his feet again to take
after him.  William used to say that he'd seen a man look a fool
a good many times, but never such a fool as that bull looked when
he found his pious feelings had been played upon, and 'twas not
Christmas Eve. ...  Yes, William Dewy, that was the man's name; and
I can tell you to a foot where's he a-lying in Mellstock Churchyard
at this very moment--just between the second yew-tree and the north
aisle."

"It's a curious story; it carries us back to medieval times, when
faith was a living thing!"

The remark, singular for a dairy-yard, was murmured by the voice
behind the dun cow; but as nobody understood the reference, no notice
was taken, except that the narrator seemed to think it might imply
scepticism as to his tale.

"Well, 'tis quite true, sir, whether or no.  I knowed the man well."

"Oh yes; I have no doubt of it," said the person behind the dun cow.

Tess's attention was thus attracted to the dairyman's interlocutor,
of whom she could see but the merest patch, owing to his burying his
head so persistently in the flank of the milcher.  She could not
understand why he should be addressed as "sir" even by the dairyman
himself.  But no explanation was discernible; he remained under the
cow long enough to have milked three, uttering a private ejaculation
now and then, as if he could not get on.

"Take it gentle, sir; take it gentle," said the dairyman.  "'Tis
knack, not strength, that does it."

"So I find," said the other, standing up at last and stretching his
arms.  "I think I have finished her, however, though she made my
fingers ache."

Tess could then see him at full length.  He wore the ordinary white
pinner and leather leggings of a dairy-farmer when milking, and his
boots were clogged with the mulch of the yard; but this was all his
local livery.  Beneath it was something educated, reserved, subtle,
sad, differing.

But the details of his aspect were temporarily thrust aside by
the discovery that he was one whom she had seen before.  Such
vicissitudes had Tess passed through since that time that for a
moment she could not remember where she had met him; and then it
flashed upon her that he was the pedestrian who had joined in the
club-dance at Marlott--the passing stranger who had come she knew
not whence, had danced with others but not with her, and slightingly
left her, and gone on his way with his friends.

The flood of memories brought back by this revival of an incident
anterior to her troubles produced a momentary dismay lest,
recognizing her also, he should by some means discover her story.
But it passed away when she found no sign of remembrance in him.  She
saw by degrees that since their first and only encounter his mobile
face had grown more thoughtful, and had acquired a young man's
shapely moustache and beard--the latter of the palest straw colour
where it began upon his cheeks, and deepening to a warm brown farther
from its root.  Under his linen milking-pinner he wore a dark
velveteen jacket, cord breeches and gaiters, and a starched white
shirt.  Without the milking-gear nobody could have guessed what
he was.  He might with equal probability have been an eccentric
landowner or a gentlemanly ploughman.  That he was but a novice at
dairy work she had realized in a moment, from the time he had spent
upon the milking of one cow.

Meanwhile many of the milkmaids had said to one another of the
newcomer, "How pretty she is!" with something of real generosity and
admiration, though with a half hope that the auditors would qualify
the assertion--which, strictly speaking, they might have done,
prettiness being an inexact definition of what struck the eye in
Tess.  When the milking was finished for the evening they straggled
indoors, where Mrs Crick, the dairyman's wife--who was too
respectable to go out milking herself, and wore a hot stuff gown in
warm weather because the dairymaids wore prints--was giving an eye
to the leads and things.

Only two or three of the maids, Tess learnt, slept in the dairy-house
besides herself, most of the helpers going to their homes.  She saw
nothing at supper-time of the superior milker who had commented on
the story, and asked no questions about him, the remainder of the
evening being occupied in arranging her place in the bed-chamber.
It was a large room over the milk-house, some thirty feet long; the
sleeping-cots of the other three indoor milkmaids being in the same
apartment.  They were blooming young women, and, except one, rather
older than herself.  By bedtime Tess was thoroughly tired, and fell
asleep immediately.

But one of the girls, who occupied an adjoining bed, was more wakeful
than Tess, and would insist upon relating to the latter various
particulars of the homestead into which she had just entered.  The
girl's whispered words mingled with the shades, and, to Tess's drowsy
mind, they seemed to be generated by the darkness in which they
floated.

"Mr Angel Clare--he that is learning milking, and that plays
the harp--never says much to us.  He is a pa'son's son, and is
too much taken up wi' his own thoughts to notice girls.  He is
the dairyman's pupil--learning farming in all its branches.  He
has learnt sheep-farming at another place, and he's now mastering
dairy-work....  Yes, he is quite the gentleman-born.  His father is
the Reverent Mr Clare at Emminster--a good many miles from here."

"Oh--I have heard of him," said her companion, now awake.  "A very
earnest clergyman, is he not?"

"Yes--that he is--the earnestest man in all Wessex, they say--the
last of the old Low Church sort, they tell me--for all about here be
what they call High.  All his sons, except our Mr Clare, be made
pa'sons too."

Tess had not at this hour the curiosity to ask why the present Mr
Clare was not made a parson like his brethren, and gradually fell
asleep again, the words of her informant coming to her along with the
smell of the cheeses in the adjoining cheeseloft, and the measured
dripping of the whey from the wrings downstairs.



XVIII


Angel Clare rises out of the past not altogether as a distinct
figure, but as an appreciative voice, a long regard of fixed,
abstracted eyes, and a mobility of mouth somewhat too small and
delicately lined for a man's, though with an unexpectedly firm close
of the lower lip now and then; enough to do away with any inference
of indecision.  Nevertheless, something nebulous, preoccupied, vague,
in his bearing and regard, marked him as one who probably had no very
definite aim or concern about his material future.  Yet as a lad
people had said of him that he was one who might do anything if he
tried.

He was the youngest son of his father, a poor parson at the other end
of the county, and had arrived at Talbothays Dairy as a six months'
pupil, after going the round of some other farms, his object being
to acquire a practical skill in the various processes of farming,
with a view either to the Colonies or the tenure of a home-farm, as
circumstances might decide.

His entry into the ranks of the agriculturists and breeders was a
step in the young man's career which had been anticipated neither
by himself nor by others.

Mr Clare the elder, whose first wife had died and left him a
daughter, married a second late in life.  This lady had somewhat
unexpectedly brought him three sons, so that between Angel, the
youngest, and his father the Vicar there seemed to be almost a
missing generation.  Of these boys the aforesaid Angel, the child of
his old age, was the only son who had not taken a University degree,
though he was the single one of them whose early promise might have
done full justice to an academical training.

Some two or three years before Angel's appearance at the Marlott
dance, on a day when he had left school and was pursuing his studies
at home, a parcel came to the Vicarage from the local bookseller's,
directed to the Reverend James Clare.  The Vicar having opened it and
found it to contain a book, read a few pages; whereupon he jumped up
from his seat and went straight to the shop with the book under his
arm.

"Why has this been sent to my house?" he asked peremptorily, holding
up the volume.

"It was ordered, sir."

"Not by me, or any one belonging to me, I am happy to say."

The shopkeeper looked into his order-book.

"Oh, it has been misdirected, sir," he said.  "It was ordered by Mr
Angel Clare, and should have been sent to him."

Mr Clare winced as if he had been struck.  He went home pale and
dejected, and called Angel into his study.

"Look into this book, my boy," he said.  "What do you know about it?"

"I ordered it," said Angel simply.

"What for?"

"To read."

"How can you think of reading it?"

"How can I?  Why--it is a system of philosophy.  There is no more
moral, or even religious, work published."

"Yes--moral enough; I don't deny that.  But religious!--and for YOU,
who intend to be a minister of the Gospel!"

"Since you have alluded to the matter, father," said the son, with
anxious thought upon his face, "I should like to say, once for
all, that I should prefer not to take Orders.  I fear I could not
conscientiously do so.  I love the Church as one loves a parent.
I shall always have the warmest affection for her.  There is no
institution for whose history I have a deeper admiration; but I
cannot honestly be ordained her minister, as my brothers are, while
she refuses to liberate her mind from an untenable redemptive
theolatry."

It had never occurred to the straightforward and simple-minded Vicar
that one of his own flesh and blood could come to this!  He was
stultified, shocked, paralysed.  And if Angel were not going to
enter the Church, what was the use of sending him to Cambridge?  The
University as a step to anything but ordination seemed, to this man
of fixed ideas, a preface without a volume.  He was a man not merely
religious, but devout; a firm believer--not as the phrase is now
elusively construed by theological thimble-riggers in the Church and
out of it, but in the old and ardent sense of the Evangelical school:
one who could


              Indeed opine
        That the Eternal and Divine
        Did, eighteen centuries ago
        In very truth...


Angel's father tried argument, persuasion, entreaty.

"No, father; I cannot underwrite Article Four (leave alone the rest),
taking it 'in the literal and grammatical sense' as required by the
Declaration; and, therefore, I can't be a parson in the present state
of affairs," said Angel.  "My whole instinct in matters of religion
is towards reconstruction; to quote your favorite Epistle to the
Hebrews, 'the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things
that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.'"

His father grieved so deeply that it made Angel quite ill to see him.

"What is the good of your mother and me economizing and stinting
ourselves to give you a University education, if it is not to be used
for the honour and glory of God?" his father repeated.

"Why, that it may be used for the honour and glory of man, father."

Perhaps if Angel had persevered he might have gone to Cambridge like
his brothers.  But the Vicar's view of that seat of learning as a
stepping-stone to Orders alone was quite a family tradition; and so
rooted was the idea in his mind that perseverance began to appear to
the sensitive son akin to an intent to misappropriate a trust, and
wrong the pious heads of the household, who had been and were, as his
father had hinted, compelled to exercise much thrift to carry out
this uniform plan of education for the three young men.

"I will do without Cambridge," said Angel at last.  "I feel that I
have no right to go there in the circumstances."

The effects of this decisive debate were not long in showing
themselves.  He spent years and years in desultory studies,
undertakings, and meditations; he began to evince considerable
indifference to social forms and observances.  The material
distinctions of rank and wealth he increasingly despised.  Even the
"good old family" (to use a favourite phrase of a late local worthy)
had no aroma for him unless there were good new resolutions in its
representatives.  As a balance to these austerities, when he went to
live in London to see what the world was like, and with a view to
practising a profession or business there, he was carried off his
head, and nearly entrapped by a woman much older than himself, though
luckily he escaped not greatly the worse for the experience.

Early association with country solitudes had bred in him an
unconquerable, and almost unreasonable, aversion to modern town life,
and shut him out from such success as he might have aspired to by
following a mundane calling in the impracticability of the spiritual
one.  But something had to be done; he had wasted many valuable
years; and having an acquaintance who was starting on a thriving life
as a Colonial farmer, it occurred to Angel that this might be a lead
in the right direction.  Farming, either in the Colonies, America, or
at home--farming, at any rate, after becoming well qualified for the
business by a careful apprenticeship--that was a vocation which would
probably afford an independence without the sacrifice of what he
valued even more than a competency--intellectual liberty.

So we find Angel Clare at six-and-twenty here at Talbothays as a
student of kine, and, as there were no houses near at hand in which
he could get a comfortable lodging, a boarder at the dairyman's.

His room was an immense attic which ran the whole length of the
dairy-house.  It could only be reached by a ladder from the
cheese-loft, and had been closed up for a long time till he arrived
and selected it as his retreat.  Here Clare had plenty of space, and
could often be heard by the dairy-folk pacing up and down when the
household had gone to rest.  A portion was divided off at one end by
a curtain, behind which was his bed, the outer part being furnished
as a homely sitting-room.

At first he lived up above entirely, reading a good deal, and
strumming upon an old harp which he had bought at a sale, saying when
in a bitter humour that he might have to get his living by it in the
streets some day.  But he soon preferred to read human nature by
taking his meals downstairs in the general dining-kitchen, with the
dairyman and his wife, and the maids and men, who all together formed
a lively assembly; for though but few milking hands slept in the
house, several joined the family at meals.  The longer Clare resided
here the less objection had he to his company, and the more did he
like to share quarters with them in common.

Much to his surprise he took, indeed, a real delight in their
companionship.  The conventional farm-folk of his imagination--
personified in the newspaper-press by the pitiable dummy known as
Hodge--were obliterated after a few days' residence.  At close
quarters no Hodge was to be seen.  At first, it is true, when Clare's
intelligence was fresh from a contrasting society, these friends with
whom he now hobnobbed seemed a little strange.  Sitting down as a
level member of the dairyman's household seemed at the outset an
undignified proceeding.  The ideas, the modes, the surroundings,
appeared retrogressive and unmeaning.  But with living on there,
day after day, the acute sojourner became conscious of a new aspect
in the spectacle.  Without any objective change whatever, variety
had taken the place of monotonousness.  His host and his host's
household, his men and his maids, as they became intimately known to
Clare, began to differentiate themselves as in a chemical process.
The thought of Pascal's was brought home to him: "_A mesure qu'on a
plus d'esprit, on trouve qu'il y a plus d'hommes originaux.  Les
gens du commun ne trouvent pas de différence entre les hommes._"
The typical and unvarying Hodge ceased to exist.  He had been
disintegrated into a number of varied fellow-creatures--beings of
many minds, beings infinite in difference; some happy, many serene, a
few depressed, one here and there bright even to genius, some stupid,
others wanton, others austere; some mutely Miltonic, some potentially
Cromwellian--into men who had private views of each other, as he had
of his friends; who could applaud or condemn each other, amuse or
sadden themselves by the contemplation of each other's foibles or
vices; men every one of whom walked in his own individual way the
road to dusty death.

Unexpectedly he began to like the outdoor life for its own sake,
and for what it brought, apart from its bearing on his own proposed
career.  Considering his position he became wonderfully free from the
chronic melancholy which is taking hold of the civilized races with
the decline of belief in a beneficent Power.  For the first time of
late years he could read as his musings inclined him, without any eye
to cramming for a profession, since the few farming handbooks which
he deemed it desirable to master occupied him but little time.

He grew away from old associations, and saw something new in life and
humanity.  Secondarily, he made close acquaintance with phenomena
which he had before known but darkly--the seasons in their moods,
morning and evening, night and noon, winds in their different
tempers, trees, waters and mists, shades and silences, and the voices
of inanimate things.


The early mornings were still sufficiently cool to render a fire
acceptable in the large room wherein they breakfasted; and, by
Mrs Crick's orders, who held that he was too genteel to mess at
their table, it was Angel Clare's custom to sit in the yawning
chimney-corner during the meal, his cup-and-saucer and plate being
placed on a hinged flap at his elbow.  The light from the long, wide,
mullioned window opposite shone in upon his nook, and, assisted by a
secondary light of cold blue quality which shone down the chimney,
enabled him to read there easily whenever disposed to do so.  Between
Clare and the window was the table at which his companions sat, their
munching profiles rising sharp against the panes; while to the side
was the milk-house door, through which were visible the rectangular
leads in rows, full to the brim with the morning's milk.  At the
further end the great churn could be seen revolving, and its
slip-slopping heard--the moving power being discernible through the
window in the form of a spiritless horse walking in a circle and
driven by a boy.

For several days after Tess's arrival Clare, sitting abstractedly
reading from some book, periodical, or piece of music just come by
post, hardly noticed that she was present at table.  She talked so
little, and the other maids talked so much, that the babble did not
strike him as possessing a new note, and he was ever in the habit
of neglecting the particulars of an outward scene for the general
impression.  One day, however, when he had been conning one of his
music-scores, and by force of imagination was hearing the tune in
his head, he lapsed into listlessness, and the music-sheet rolled
to the hearth.  He looked at the fire of logs, with its one flame
pirouetting on the top in a dying dance after the breakfast-cooking
and boiling, and it seemed to jig to his inward tune; also at the two
chimney crooks dangling down from the cotterel, or cross-bar, plumed
with soot, which quivered to the same melody; also at the half-empty
kettle whining an accompaniment.  The conversation at the table mixed
in with his phantasmal orchestra till he thought: "What a fluty voice
one of those milkmaids has!  I suppose it is the new one."

Clare looked round upon her, seated with the others.

She was not looking towards him.  Indeed, owing to his long silence,
his presence in the room was almost forgotten.

"I don't know about ghosts," she was saying; "but I do know that our
souls can be made to go outside our bodies when we are alive."

The dairyman turned to her with his mouth full, his eyes charged
with serious inquiry, and his great knife and fork (breakfasts were
breakfasts here) planted erect on the table, like the beginning of
a gallows.

"What--really now?  And is it so, maidy?" he said.

"A very easy way to feel 'em go," continued Tess, "is to lie on the
grass at night and look straight up at some big bright star; and, by
fixing your mind upon it, you will soon find that you are hundreds
and hundreds o' miles away from your body, which you don't seem to
want at all."

The dairyman removed his hard gaze from Tess, and fixed it on his
wife.

"Now that's a rum thing, Christianer--hey?  To think o' the miles
I've vamped o' starlight nights these last thirty year, courting, or
trading, or for doctor, or for nurse, and yet never had the least
notion o' that till now, or feeled my soul rise so much as an inch
above my shirt-collar."

The general attention being drawn to her, including that of the
dairyman's pupil, Tess flushed, and remarking evasively that it was
only a fancy, resumed her breakfast.

Clare continued to observe her.  She soon finished her eating, and
having a consciousness that Clare was regarding her, began to trace
imaginary patterns on the tablecloth with her forefinger with the
constraint of a domestic animal that perceives itself to be watched.

"What a fresh and virginal daughter of Nature that milkmaid is!" he
said to himself.

And then he seemed to discern in her something that was familiar,
something which carried him back into a joyous and unforeseeing past,
before the necessity of taking thought had made the heavens gray.  He
concluded that he had beheld her before; where he could not tell.  A
casual encounter during some country ramble it certainly had been,
and he was not greatly curious about it.  But the circumstance was
sufficient to lead him to select Tess in preference to the other
pretty milkmaids when he wished to contemplate contiguous womankind.



XIX


In general the cows were milked as they presented themselves, without
fancy or choice.  But certain cows will show a fondness for a
particular pair of hands, sometimes carrying this predilection so far
as to refuse to stand at all except to their favourite, the pail of a
stranger being unceremoniously kicked over.

It was Dairyman Crick's rule to insist on breaking down these
partialities and aversions by constant interchange, since otherwise,
in the event of a milkman or maid going away from the dairy, he was
placed in a difficulty.  The maids' private aims, however, were the
reverse of the dairyman's rule, the daily selection by each damsel of
the eight or ten cows to which she had grown accustomed rendering the
operation on their willing udders surprisingly easy and effortless.

Tess, like her compeers, soon discovered which of the cows had a
preference for her style of manipulation, and her fingers having
become delicate from the long domiciliary imprisonments to which
she had subjected herself at intervals during the last two or three
years, she would have been glad to meet the milchers' views in
this respect.  Out of the whole ninety-five there were eight in
particular--Dumpling, Fancy, Lofty, Mist, Old Pretty, Young Pretty,
Tidy, and Loud--who, though the teats of one or two were as hard as
carrots, gave down to her with a readiness that made her work on them
a mere touch of the fingers.  Knowing, however, the dairyman's wish,
she endeavoured conscientiously to take the animals just as they
came, expecting the very hard yielders which she could not yet
manage.

But she soon found a curious correspondence between the ostensibly
chance position of the cows and her wishes in this matter, till she
felt that their order could not be the result of accident.  The
dairyman's pupil had lent a hand in getting the cows together of
late, and at the fifth or sixth time she turned her eyes, as she
rested against the cow, full of sly inquiry upon him.

"Mr Clare, you have ranged the cows!" she said, blushing; and in
making the accusation, symptoms of a smile gently lifted her upper
lip in spite of her, so as to show the tips of her teeth, the lower
lip remaining severely still.

"Well, it makes no difference," said he.  "You will always be here to
milk them."

"Do you think so?  I HOPE I shall!  But I don't KNOW."

She was angry with herself afterwards, thinking that he, unaware of
her grave reasons for liking this seclusion, might have mistaken her
meaning.  She had spoken so earnestly to him, as if his presence
were somehow a factor in her wish.  Her misgiving was such that at
dusk, when the milking was over, she walked in the garden alone, to
continue her regrets that she had disclosed to him her discovery of
his considerateness.

It was a typical summer evening in June, the atmosphere being in
such delicate equilibrium and so transmissive that inanimate objects
seemed endowed with two or three senses, if not five.  There was no
distinction between the near and the far, and an auditor felt close
to everything within the horizon.  The soundlessness impressed her as
a positive entity rather than as the mere negation of noise.  It was
broken by the strumming of strings.

Tess had heard those notes in the attic above her head.  Dim,
flattened, constrained by their confinement, they had never appealed
to her as now, when they wandered in the still air with a stark
quality like that of nudity.  To speak absolutely, both instrument
and execution were poor; but the relative is all, and as she listened
Tess, like a fascinated bird, could not leave the spot.  Far from
leaving she drew up towards the performer, keeping behind the hedge
that he might not guess her presence.

The outskirt of the garden in which Tess found herself had been
left uncultivated for some years, and was now damp and rank with
juicy grass which sent up mists of pollen at a touch; and with tall
blooming weeds emitting offensive smells--weeds whose red and yellow
and purple hues formed a polychrome as dazzling as that of cultivated
flowers.  She went stealthily as a cat through this profusion of
growth, gathering cuckoo-spittle on her skirts, cracking snails that
were underfoot, staining her hands with thistle-milk and slug-slime,
and rubbing off upon her naked arms sticky blights which, though
snow-white on the apple-tree trunks, made madder stains on her skin;
thus she drew quite near to Clare, still unobserved of him.

Tess was conscious of neither time nor space.  The exaltation which
she had described as being producible at will by gazing at a star
came now without any determination of hers; she undulated upon the
thin notes of the second-hand harp, and their harmonies passed like
breezes through her, bringing tears into her eyes.  The floating
pollen seemed to be his notes made visible, and the dampness of
the garden the weeping of the garden's sensibility.  Though near
nightfall, the rank-smelling weed-flowers glowed as if they would not
close for intentness, and the waves of colour mixed with the waves of
sound.

The light which still shone was derived mainly from a large hole in
the western bank of cloud; it was like a piece of day left behind
by accident, dusk having closed in elsewhere.  He concluded his
plaintive melody, a very simple performance, demanding no great
skill; and she waited, thinking another might be begun.  But, tired
of playing, he had desultorily come round the fence, and was rambling
up behind her.  Tess, her cheeks on fire, moved away furtively, as if
hardly moving at all.

Angel, however, saw her light summer gown, and he spoke; his low
tones reaching her, though he was some distance off.

"What makes you draw off in that way, Tess?" said he.  "Are you
afraid?"

"Oh no, sir--not of outdoor things; especially just now when the
apple-blooth is falling, and everything is so green."

"But you have your indoor fears--eh?"

"Well--yes, sir."

"What of?"

"I couldn't quite say."

"The milk turning sour?"

"No."

"Life in general?"

"Yes, sir."

"Ah--so have I, very often.  This hobble of being alive is rather
serious, don't you think so?"

"It is--now you put it that way."

"All the same, I shouldn't have expected a young girl like you to see
it so just yet.  How is it you do?"

She maintained a hesitating silence.

"Come, Tess, tell me in confidence."

She thought that he meant what were the aspects of things to her, and
replied shyly--

"The trees have inquisitive eyes, haven't they?--that is, seem as
if they had.  And the river says,--'Why do ye trouble me with your
looks?'  And you seem to see numbers of to-morrows just all in a
line, the first of them the biggest and clearest, the others getting
smaller and smaller as they stand farther away; but they all seem
very fierce and cruel and as if they said, 'I'm coming!  Beware of
me!  Beware of me!' ...  But YOU, sir, can raise up dreams with your
music, and drive all such horrid fancies away!"

He was surprised to find this young woman--who though but a milkmaid
had just that touch of rarity about her which might make her the
envied of her housemates--shaping such sad imaginings.  She was
expressing in her own native phrases--assisted a little by her Sixth
Standard training--feelings which might almost have been called those
of the age--the ache of modernism.  The perception arrested him less
when he reflected that what are called advanced ideas are really in
great part but the latest fashion in definition--a more accurate
expression, by words in _logy_ and _ism_, of sensations which men and
women have vaguely grasped for centuries.

Still, it was strange that they should have come to her while yet so
young; more than strange; it was impressive, interesting, pathetic.
Not guessing the cause, there was nothing to remind him that
experience is as to intensity, and not as to duration.  Tess's
passing corporeal blight had been her mental harvest.

Tess, on her part, could not understand why a man of clerical family
and good education, and above physical want, should look upon it as a
mishap to be alive.  For the unhappy pilgrim herself there was very
good reason.  But how could this admirable and poetic man ever have
descended into the Valley of Humiliation, have felt with the man of
Uz--as she herself had felt two or three years ago--"My soul chooseth
strangling and death rather than my life.  I loathe it; I would not
live alway."

It was true that he was at present out of his class.  But she knew
that was only because, like Peter the Great in a shipwright's yard,
he was studying what he wanted to know.  He did not milk cows because
he was obliged to milk cows, but because he was learning to be a
rich and prosperous dairyman, landowner, agriculturist, and breeder
of cattle.  He would become an American or Australian Abraham,
commanding like a monarch his flocks and his herds, his spotted
and his ring-straked, his men-servants and his maids.  At times,
nevertheless, it did seem unaccountable to her that a decidedly
bookish, musical, thinking young man should have chosen deliberately
to be a farmer, and not a clergyman, like his father and brothers.

Thus, neither having the clue to the other's secret, they were
respectively puzzled at what each revealed, and awaited new knowledge
of each other's character and mood without attempting to pry into
each other's history.


Every day, every hour, brought to him one more little stroke of
her nature, and to her one more of his.  Tess was trying to lead a
repressed life, but she little divined the strength of her own
vitality.

At first Tess seemed to regard Angel Clare as an intelligence rather
than as a man.  As such she compared him with herself; and at every
discovery of the abundance of his illuminations, of the distance
between her own modest mental standpoint and the unmeasurable, Andean
altitude of his, she became quite dejected, disheartened from all
further effort on her own part whatever.

He observed her dejection one day, when he had casually mentioned
something to her about pastoral life in ancient Greece.  She was
gathering the buds called "lords and ladies" from the bank while he
spoke.

"Why do you look so woebegone all of a sudden?" he asked.

"Oh, 'tis only--about my own self," she said, with a frail laugh of
sadness, fitfully beginning to peel "a lady" meanwhile.  "Just a
sense of what might have been with me!  My life looks as if it had
been wasted for want of chances!  When I see what you know, what you
have read, and seen, and thought, I feel what a nothing I am!  I'm
like the poor Queen of Sheba who lived in the Bible.  There is no
more spirit in me."

"Bless my soul, don't go troubling about that!  Why," he said with
some enthusiasm, "I should be only too glad, my dear Tess, to help
you to anything in the way of history, or any line of reading you
would like to take up--"

"It is a lady again," interrupted she, holding out the bud she had
peeled.

"What?"

"I meant that there are always more ladies than lords when you come
to peel them."

"Never mind about the lords and ladies.  Would you like to take up
any course of study--history, for example?"

"Sometimes I feel I don't want to know anything more about it than I
know already."

"Why not?"

"Because what's the use of learning that I am one of a long row
only--finding out that there is set down in some old book somebody
just like me, and to know that I shall only act her part; making me
sad, that's all.  The best is not to remember that your nature and
your past doings have been just like thousands' and thousands', and
that your coming life and doings 'll be like thousands's and
thousands'."

"What, really, then, you don't want to learn anything?"

"I shouldn't mind learning why--why the sun do shine on the just and
the unjust alike," she answered, with a slight quaver in her voice.
"But that's what books will not tell me."

"Tess, fie for such bitterness!"  Of course he spoke with a
conventional sense of duty only, for that sort of wondering had not
been unknown to himself in bygone days.  And as he looked at the
unpracticed mouth and lips, he thought that such a daughter of the
soil could only have caught up the sentiment by rote.  She went on
peeling the lords and ladies till Clare, regarding for a moment the
wave-like curl of her lashes as they dropped with her bent gaze on
her soft cheek, lingeringly went away.  When he was gone she stood
awhile, thoughtfully peeling the last bud; and then, awakening
from her reverie, flung it and all the crowd of floral nobility
impatiently on the ground, in an ebullition of displeasure with
herself for her _niaiserie_, and with a quickening warmth in her
heart of hearts.

How stupid he must think her!  In an access of hunger for his good
opinion she bethought herself of what she had latterly endeavoured to
forget, so unpleasant had been its issues--the identity of her family
with that of the knightly d'Urbervilles.  Barren attribute as it was,
disastrous as its discovery had been in many ways to her, perhaps
Mr Clare, as a gentleman and a student of history, would respect
her sufficiently to forget her childish conduct with the lords and
ladies if he knew that those Purbeck-marble and alabaster people in
Kingsbere Church really represented her own lineal forefathers; that
she was no spurious d'Urberville, compounded of money and ambition
like those at Trantridge, but true d'Urberville to the bone.

But, before venturing to make the revelation, dubious Tess indirectly
sounded the dairyman as to its possible effect upon Mr Clare, by
asking the former if Mr Clare had any great respect for old county
families when they had lost all their money and land.

"Mr Clare," said the dairyman emphatically, "is one of the most
rebellest rozums you ever knowed--not a bit like the rest of his
family; and if there's one thing that he do hate more than another
'tis the notion of what's called a' old family.  He says that it
stands to reason that old families have done their spurt of work in
past days, and can't have anything left in 'em now.  There's the
Billets and the Drenkhards and the Greys and the St Quintins and
the Hardys and the Goulds, who used to own the lands for miles down
this valley; you could buy 'em all up now for an old song a'most.
Why, our little Retty Priddle here, you know, is one of the
Paridelles--the old family that used to own lots o' the lands out by
King's Hintock, now owned by the Earl o' Wessex, afore even he or
his was heard of.  Well, Mr Clare found this out, and spoke quite
scornful to the poor girl for days.  'Ah!' he says to her, 'you'll
never make a good dairymaid!  All your skill was used up ages ago
in Palestine, and you must lie fallow for a thousand years to git
strength for more deeds!'  A boy came here t'other day asking for
a job, and said his name was Matt, and when we asked him his surname
he said he'd never heard that 'a had any surname, and when we asked
why, he said he supposed his folks hadn't been 'stablished long
enough.  'Ah! you're the very boy I want!' says Mr Clare, jumping
up and shaking hands wi'en; 'I've great hopes of you;' and gave him
half-a-crown.  O no! he can't stomach old families!"

After hearing this caricature of Clare's opinion poor Tess was glad
that she had not said a word in a weak moment about her family--even
though it was so unusually old almost to have gone round the circle
and become a new one.  Besides, another diary-girl was as good as
she, it seemed, in that respect.  She held her tongue about the
d'Urberville vault and the Knight of the Conqueror whose name she
bore.  The insight afforded into Clare's character suggested to her
that it was largely owing to her supposed untraditional newness that
she had won interest in his eyes.



XX


The season developed and matured.  Another year's instalment of
flowers, leaves, nightingales, thrushes, finches, and such ephemeral
creatures, took up their positions where only a year ago others had
stood in their place when these were nothing more than germs and
inorganic particles.  Rays from the sunrise drew forth the buds and
stretched them into long stalks, lifted up sap in noiseless streams,
opened petals, and sucked out scents in invisible jets and
breathings.

Dairyman Crick's household of maids and men lived on comfortably,
placidly, even merrily.  Their position was perhaps the happiest of
all positions in the social scale, being above the line at which
neediness ends, and below the line at which the _convenances_ begin
to cramp natural feelings, and the stress of threadbare modishness
makes too little of enough.

Thus passed the leafy time when arborescence seems to be the one
thing aimed at out of doors.  Tess and Clare unconsciously studied
each other, ever balanced on the edge of a passion, yet apparently
keeping out of it.  All the while they were converging, under an
irresistible law, as surely as two streams in one vale.

Tess had never in her recent life been so happy as she was now,
possibly never would be so happy again.  She was, for one thing,
physically and mentally suited among these new surroundings.  The
sapling which had rooted down to a poisonous stratum on the spot of
its sowing had been transplanted to a deeper soil.  Moreover she, and
Clare also, stood as yet on the debatable land between predilection
and love; where no profundities have been reached; no reflections
have set in, awkwardly inquiring, "Whither does this new current tend
to carry me?  What does it mean to my future?  How does it stand
towards my past?"

Tess was the merest stray phenomenon to Angel Clare as yet--a rosy,
warming apparition which had only just acquired the attribute of
persistence in his consciousness.  So he allowed his mind to be
occupied with her, deeming his preoccupation to be no more than a
philosopher's regard of an exceedingly novel, fresh, and interesting
specimen of womankind.

They met continually; they could not help it.  They met daily in that
strange and solemn interval, the twilight of the morning, in the
violet or pink dawn; for it was necessary to rise early, so very
early, here.  Milking was done betimes; and before the milking came
the skimming, which began at a little past three.  It usually fell
to the lot of some one or other of them to wake the rest, the first
being aroused by an alarm-clock; and, as Tess was the latest arrival,
and they soon discovered that she could be depended upon not to sleep
though the alarm as others did, this task was thrust most frequently
upon her.  No sooner had the hour of three struck and whizzed,
than she left her room and ran to the dairyman's door; then up the
ladder to Angel's, calling him in a loud whisper; then woke her
fellow-milkmaids.  By the time that Tess was dressed Clare was
downstairs and out in the humid air.  The remaining maids and the
dairyman usually gave themselves another turn on the pillow, and did
not appear till a quarter of an hour later.

The gray half-tones of daybreak are not the gray half-tones of the
day's close, though the degree of their shade may be the same.  In
the twilight of the morning, light seems active, darkness passive;
in the twilight of evening it is the darkness which is active and
crescent, and the light which is the drowsy reverse.

Being so often--possibly not always by chance--the first two persons
to get up at the dairy-house, they seemed to themselves the first
persons up of all the world.  In these early days of her residence
here Tess did not skim, but went out of doors at once after rising,
where he was generally awaiting her.  The spectral, half-compounded,
aqueous light which pervaded the open mead impressed them with
a feeling of isolation, as if they were Adam and Eve.  At this
dim inceptive stage of the day Tess seemed to Clare to exhibit a
dignified largeness both of disposition and physique, an almost
regnant power, possibly because he knew that at that preternatural
time hardly any woman so well endowed in person as she was likely to
be walking in the open air within the boundaries of his horizon; very
few in all England.  Fair women are usually asleep at mid-summer
dawns.  She was close at hand, and the rest were nowhere.

The mixed, singular, luminous gloom in which they walked along
together to the spot where the cows lay often made him think of the
Resurrection hour.  He little thought that the Magdalen might be
at his side.  Whilst all the landscape was in neutral shade his
companion's face, which was the focus of his eyes, rising above the
mist stratum, seemed to have a sort of phosphorescence upon it.  She
looked ghostly, as if she were merely a soul at large.  In reality
her face, without appearing to do so, had caught the cold gleam of
day from the north-east; his own face, though he did not think of
it, wore the same aspect to her.

It was then, as has been said, that she impressed him most deeply.
She was no longer the milkmaid, but a visionary essence of woman--a
whole sex condensed into one typical form.  He called her Artemis,
Demeter, and other fanciful names half teasingly, which she did not
like because she did not understand them.

"Call me Tess," she would say askance; and he did.

Then it would grow lighter, and her features would become simply
feminine; they had changed from those of a divinity who could confer
bliss to those of a being who craved it.

At these non-human hours they could get quite close to the waterfowl.
Herons came, with a great bold noise as of opening doors and
shutters, out of the boughs of a plantation which they frequented at
the side of the mead; or, if already on the spot, hardily maintained
their standing in the water as the pair walked by, watching them by
moving their heads round in a slow, horizontal, passionless wheel,
like the turn of puppets by clockwork.

They could then see the faint summer fogs in layers, woolly, level,
and apparently no thicker than counterpanes, spread about the meadows
in detached remnants of small extent.  On the gray moisture of the
grass were marks where the cows had lain through the night--dark-green
islands of dry herbage the size of their carcasses, in the general
sea of dew. From each island proceeded a serpentine trail, by which
the cow had rambled away to feed after getting up, at the end of
which trail they found her; the snoring puff from her nostrils, when
she recognized them, making an intenser little fog of her own amid
the prevailing one.  Then they drove the animals back to the barton,
or sat down to milk them on the spot, as the case might require.

Or perhaps the summer fog was more general, and the meadows lay like
a white sea, out of which the scattered trees rose like dangerous
rocks.  Birds would soar through it into the upper radiance, and
hang on the wing sunning themselves, or alight on the wet rails
subdividing the mead, which now shone like glass rods.  Minute
diamonds of moisture from the mist hung, too, upon Tess's eyelashes,
and drops upon her hair, like seed pearls.  When the day grew quite
strong and commonplace these dried off her; moreover, Tess then
lost her strange and ethereal beauty; her teeth, lips, and eyes
scintillated in the sunbeams and she was again the dazzlingly fair
dairymaid only, who had to hold her own against the other women of
the world.

About this time they would hear Dairyman Crick's voice, lecturing the
non-resident milkers for arriving late, and speaking sharply to old
Deborah Fyander for not washing her hands.

"For Heaven's sake, pop thy hands under the pump, Deb!  Upon my soul,
if the London folk only knowed of thee and thy slovenly ways, they'd
swaller their milk and butter more mincing than they do a'ready; and
that's saying a good deal."

The milking progressed, till towards the end Tess and Clare, in
common with the rest, could hear the heavy breakfast table dragged
out from the wall in the kitchen by Mrs Crick, this being the
invariable preliminary to each meal; the same horrible scrape
accompanying its return journey when the table had been cleared.



XXI


There was a great stir in the milk-house just after breakfast.  The
churn revolved as usual, but the butter would not come.  Whenever
this happened the dairy was paralyzed.  Squish, squash echoed the
milk in the great cylinder, but never arose the sound they waited
for.

Dairyman Crick and his wife, the milkmaids Tess, Marian, Retty
Priddle, Izz Huett, and the married ones from the cottages; also
Mr Clare, Jonathan Kail, old Deborah, and the rest, stood gazing
hopelessly at the churn; and the boy who kept the horse going outside
put on moon-like eyes to show his sense of the situation.  Even the
melancholy horse himself seemed to look in at the window in inquiring
despair at each walk round.

"'Tis years since I went to Conjuror Trendle's son in Egdon--years!"
said the dairyman bitterly.  "And he was nothing to what his father
had been.  I have said fifty times, if I have said once, that I DON'T
believe in en; though 'a do cast folks' waters very true.  But I
shall have to go to 'n if he's alive.  O yes, I shall have to go to
'n, if this sort of thing continnys!"

Even Mr Clare began to feel tragical at the dairyman's desperation.

"Conjuror Fall, t'other side of Casterbridge, that they used to call
'Wide-O', was a very good man when I was a boy," said Jonathan Kail.
"But he's rotten as touchwood by now."

"My grandfather used to go to Conjuror Mynterne, out at Owlscombe,
and a clever man a' were, so I've heard grandf'er say," continued Mr
Crick.  "But there's no such genuine folk about nowadays!"

Mrs Crick's mind kept nearer to the matter in hand.

"Perhaps somebody in the house is in love," she said tentatively.
"I've heard tell in my younger days that that will cause it.  Why,
Crick--that maid we had years ago, do ye mind, and how the butter
didn't come then--"

"Ah yes, yes!--but that isn't the rights o't.  It had nothing to do
with the love-making.  I can mind all about it--'twas the damage to
the churn."

He turned to Clare.

"Jack Dollop, a 'hore's-bird of a fellow we had here as milker at one
time, sir, courted a young woman over at Mellstock, and deceived her
as he had deceived many afore.  But he had another sort o' woman to
reckon wi' this time, and it was not the girl herself.  One Holy
Thursday of all days in the almanack, we was here as we mid be now,
only there was no churning in hand, when we zid the girl's mother
coming up to the door, wi' a great brass-mounted umbrella in her
hand that would ha' felled an ox, and saying 'Do Jack Dollop work
here?--because I want him!  I have a big bone to pick with he, I
can assure 'n!'  And some way behind her mother walked Jack's young
woman, crying bitterly into her handkercher.  'O Lard, here's a
time!' said Jack, looking out o' winder at 'em.  'She'll murder me!
Where shall I get--where shall I--?  Don't tell her where I be!'
And with that he scrambled into the churn through the trap-door, and
shut himself inside, just as the young woman's mother busted into
the milk-house.  'The villain--where is he?' says she.  'I'll claw
his face for'n, let me only catch him!'  Well, she hunted about
everywhere, ballyragging Jack by side and by seam, Jack lying
a'most stifled inside the churn, and the poor maid--or young woman
rather--standing at the door crying her eyes out.  I shall never
forget it, never! 'Twould have melted a marble stone!  But she
couldn't find him nowhere at all."

The dairyman paused, and one or two words of comment came from the
listeners.

Dairyman Crick's stories often seemed to be ended when they were not
really so, and strangers were betrayed into premature interjections
of finality; though old friends knew better.  The narrator went on--

"Well, how the old woman should have had the wit to guess it I could
never tell, but she found out that he was inside that there churn.
Without saying a word she took hold of the winch (it was turned by
handpower then), and round she swung him, and Jack began to flop
about inside.  'O Lard! stop the churn! let me out!' says he, popping
out his head.  'I shall be churned into a pummy!'  (He was a cowardly
chap in his heart, as such men mostly be).  'Not till ye make amends
for ravaging her virgin innocence!' says the old woman.  'Stop the
churn you old witch!' screams he.  'You call me old witch, do ye, you
deceiver!' says she, 'when ye ought to ha' been calling me mother-law
these last five months!'  And on went the churn, and Jack's bones
rattled round again.  Well, none of us ventured to interfere; and at
last 'a promised to make it right wi' her.  'Yes--I'll be as good as
my word!' he said.  And so it ended that day."

While the listeners were smiling their comments there was a
quick movement behind their backs, and they looked round.  Tess,
pale-faced, had gone to the door.

"How warm 'tis to-day!" she said, almost inaudibly.

It was warm, and none of them connected her withdrawal with the
reminiscences of the dairyman.  He went forward and opened the door
for her, saying with tender raillery--

"Why, maidy" (he frequently, with unconscious irony, gave her this
pet name), "the prettiest milker I've got in my dairy; you mustn't
get so fagged as this at the first breath of summer weather, or we
shall be finely put to for want of 'ee by dog-days, shan't we, Mr
Clare?"

"I was faint--and--I think I am better out o' doors," she said
mechanically; and disappeared outside.

Fortunately for her the milk in the revolving churn at that moment
changed its squashing for a decided flick-flack.

"'Tis coming!" cried Mrs Crick, and the attention of all was called
off from Tess.

That fair sufferer soon recovered herself externally; but she
remained much depressed all the afternoon. When the evening milking
was done she did not care to be with the rest of them, and went out
of doors, wandering along she knew not whither.  She was wretched--O
so wretched--at the perception that to her companions the dairyman's
story had been rather a humorous narration than otherwise; none of
them but herself seemed to see the sorrow of it; to a certainty, not
one knew how cruelly it touched the tender place in her experience.
The evening sun was now ugly to her, like a great inflamed wound in
the sky.  Only a solitary cracked-voice reed-sparrow greeted her from
the bushes by the river, in a sad, machine-made tone, resembling that
of a past friend whose friendship she had outworn.

In these long June days the milkmaids, and, indeed, most of the
household, went to bed at sunset or sooner, the morning work before
milking being so early and heavy at a time of full pails.  Tess
usually accompanied her fellows upstairs.  To-night, however, she was
the first to go to their common chamber; and she had dozed when the
other girls came in.  She saw them undressing in the orange light
of the vanished sun, which flushed their forms with its colour; she
dozed again, but she was reawakened by their voices, and quietly
turned her eyes towards them.

Neither of her three chamber-companions had got into bed.  They were
standing in a group, in their nightgowns, barefooted, at the window,
the last red rays of the west still warming their faces and necks and
the walls around them.  All were watching somebody in the garden with
deep interest, their three faces close together: a jovial and round
one, a pale one with dark hair, and a fair one whose tresses were
auburn.

"Don't push!  You can see as well as I," said Retty, the
auburn-haired and youngest girl, without removing her eyes from the
window.

"'Tis no use for you to be in love with him any more than me, Retty
Priddle," said jolly-faced Marian, the eldest, slily.  "His thoughts
be of other cheeks than thine!"

Retty Priddle still looked, and the others looked again.

"There he is again!" cried Izz Huett, the pale girl with dark damp
hair and keenly cut lips.

"You needn't say anything, Izz," answered Retty.  "For I zid you
kissing his shade."

"WHAT did you see her doing?" asked Marian.

"Why--he was standing over the whey-tub to let off the whey, and the
shade of his face came upon the wall behind, close to Izz, who was
standing there filling a vat.  She put her mouth against the wall and
kissed the shade of his mouth; I zid her, though he didn't."

"O Izz Huett!" said Marian.

A rosy spot came into the middle of Izz Huett's cheek.

"Well, there was no harm in it," she declared, with attempted
coolness.  "And if I be in love wi'en, so is Retty, too; and so be
you, Marian, come to that."

Marian's full face could not blush past its chronic pinkness.

"I!" she said.  "What a tale!  Ah, there he is again!  Dear
eyes--dear face--dear Mr Clare!"

"There--you've owned it!"

"So have you--so have we all," said Marian, with the dry frankness of
complete indifference to opinion.  "It is silly to pretend otherwise
amongst ourselves, though we need not own it to other folks.  I would
just marry 'n to-morrow!"

"So would I--and more," murmured Izz Huett.

"And I too," whispered the more timid Retty.

The listener grew warm.

"We can't all marry him," said Izz.

"We shan't, either of us; which is worse still," said the eldest.
"There he is again!"

They all three blew him a silent kiss.

"Why?" asked Retty quickly.

"Because he likes Tess Durbeyfield best," said Marian, lowering her
voice.  "I have watched him every day, and have found it out."

There was a reflective silence.

"But she don't care anything for 'n?" at length breathed Retty.

"Well--I sometimes think that too."

"But how silly all this is!" said Izz Huett impatiently.  "Of course
he won't marry any one of us, or Tess either--a gentleman's son,
who's going to be a great landowner and farmer abroad!  More likely
to ask us to come wi'en as farm-hands at so much a year!"

One sighed, and another sighed, and Marian's plump figure sighed
biggest of all.  Somebody in bed hard by sighed too.  Tears came into
the eyes of Retty Priddle, the pretty red-haired youngest--the last
bud of the Paridelles, so important in the county annals.  They
watched silently a little longer, their three faces still close
together as before, and the triple hues of their hair mingling.  But
the unconscious Mr Clare had gone indoors, and they saw him no more;
and, the shades beginning to deepen, they crept into their beds.
In a few minutes they heard him ascend the ladder to his own room.
Marian was soon snoring, but Izz did not drop into forgetfulness for
a long time.  Retty Priddle cried herself to sleep.

The deeper-passioned Tess was very far from sleeping even then.  This
conversation was another of the bitter pills she had been obliged to
swallow that day.  Scarce the least feeling of jealousy arose in her
breast.  For that matter she knew herself to have the preference.
Being more finely formed, better educated, and, though the youngest
except Retty, more woman than either, she perceived that only the
slightest ordinary care was necessary for holding her own in Angel
Clare's heart against these her candid friends.  But the grave
question was, ought she to do this?  There was, to be sure, hardly a
ghost of a chance for either of them, in a serious sense; but there
was, or had been, a chance of one or the other inspiring him with a
passing fancy for her, and enjoying the pleasure of his attentions
while he stayed here.  Such unequal attachments had led to marriage;
and she had heard from Mrs Crick that Mr Clare had one day asked, in
a laughing way, what would be the use of his marrying a fine lady,
and all the while ten thousand acres of Colonial pasture to feed,
and cattle to rear, and corn to reap.  A farm-woman would be the
only sensible kind of wife for him.  But whether Mr Clare had spoken
seriously or not, why should she, who could never conscientiously
allow any man to marry her now, and who had religiously determined
that she never would be tempted to do so, draw off Mr Clare's
attention from other women, for the brief happiness of sunning
herself in his eyes while he remained at Talbothays?



XXII


They came downstairs yawning next morning; but skimming and milking
were proceeded with as usual, and they went indoors to breakfast.
Dairyman Crick was discovered stamping about the house.  He had
received a letter, in which a customer had complained that the butter
had a twang.

"And begad, so 't have!" said the dairyman, who held in his left hand
a wooden slice on which a lump of butter was stuck. "Yes--taste for
yourself!"

Several of them gathered round him; and Mr Clare tasted, Tess tasted,
also the other indoor milkmaids, one or two of the milking-men, and
last of all Mrs Crick, who came out from the waiting breakfast-table.
There certainly was a twang.

The dairyman, who had thrown himself into abstraction to better
realize the taste, and so divine the particular species of noxious
weed to which it appertained, suddenly exclaimed--

"'Tis garlic! and I thought there wasn't a blade left in that mead!"

Then all the old hands remembered that a certain dry mead, into which
a few of the cows had been admitted of late, had, in years gone by,
spoilt the butter in the same way.  The dairyman had not recognized
the taste at that time, and thought the butter bewitched.

"We must overhaul that mead," he resumed; "this mustn't continny!"

All having armed themselves with old pointed knives, they went out
together.  As the inimical plant could only be present in very
microscopic dimensions to have escaped ordinary observation, to
find it seemed rather a hopeless attempt in the stretch of rich
grass before them.  However, they formed themselves into line, all
assisting, owing to the importance of the search; the dairyman at
the upper end with Mr Clare, who had volunteered to help; then
Tess, Marian, Izz Huett, and Retty; then Bill Lewell, Jonathan, and
the married dairywomen--Beck Knibbs, with her wooly black hair and
rolling eyes; and flaxen Frances, consumptive from the winter damps
of the water-meads--who lived in their respective cottages.

With eyes fixed upon the ground they crept slowly across a strip of
the field, returning a little further down in such a manner that,
when they should have finished, not a single inch of the pasture but
would have fallen under the eye of some one of them.  It was a most
tedious business, not more than half a dozen shoots of garlic being
discoverable in the whole field; yet such was the herb's pungency
that probably one bite of it by one cow had been sufficient to season
the whole dairy's produce for the day.

Differing one from another in natures and moods so greatly as they
did, they yet formed, bending, a curiously uniform row--automatic,
noiseless; and an alien observer passing down the neighbouring lane
might well have been excused for massing them as "Hodge".  As they
crept along, stooping low to discern the plant, a soft yellow gleam
was reflected from the buttercups into their shaded faces, giving
them an elfish, moonlit aspect, though the sun was pouring upon their
backs in all the strength of noon.

Angel Clare, who communistically stuck to his rule of taking part
with the rest in everything, glanced up now and then.  It was not,
of course, by accident that he walked next to Tess.

"Well, how are you?" he murmured.

"Very well, thank you, sir," she replied demurely.

As they had been discussing a score of personal matters only
half-an-hour before, the introductory style seemed a little
superfluous.  But they got no further in speech just then.  They
crept and crept, the hem of her petticoat just touching his gaiter,
and his elbow sometimes brushing hers.  At last the dairyman, who
came next, could stand it no longer.

"Upon my soul and body, this here stooping do fairly make my back
open and shut!" he exclaimed, straightening himself slowly with an
excruciated look till quite upright.  "And you, maidy Tess, you
wasn't well a day or two ago--this will make your head ache finely!
Don't do any more, if you feel fainty; leave the rest to finish it."

Dairyman Crick withdrew, and Tess dropped behind.  Mr Clare also
stepped out of line, and began privateering about for the weed.  When
she found him near her, her very tension at what she had heard the
night before made her the first to speak.

"Don't they look pretty?" she said.

"Who?"

"Izzy Huett and Retty."

Tess had moodily decided that either of these maidens would make a
good farmer's wife, and that she ought to recommend them, and obscure
her own wretched charms.

"Pretty?  Well, yes--they are pretty girls--fresh looking.  I have
often thought so."

"Though, poor dears, prettiness won't last long!"

"O no, unfortunately."

"They are excellent dairywomen."

"Yes: though not better than you."

"They skim better than I."

"Do they?"

Clare remained observing them--not without their observing him.

"She is colouring up," continued Tess heroically.

"Who?"

"Retty Priddle."

"Oh!  Why it that?"

"Because you are looking at her."

Self-sacrificing as her mood might be, Tess could not well go further
and cry, "Marry one of them, if you really do want a dairywoman and
not a lady; and don't think of marrying me!"  She followed Dairyman
Crick, and had the mournful satisfaction of seeing that Clare
remained behind.

From this day she forced herself to take pains to avoid him--never
allowing herself, as formerly, to remain long in his company, even if
their juxtaposition were purely accidental.  She gave the other three
every chance.

Tess was woman enough to realize from their avowals to herself that
Angel Clare had the honour of all the dairymaids in his keeping, and
her perception of his care to avoid compromising the happiness of
either in the least degree bred a tender respect in Tess for what she
deemed, rightly or wrongly, the self-controlling sense of duty shown
by him, a quality which she had never expected to find in one of the
opposite sex, and in the absence of which more than one of the simple
hearts who were his house-mates might have gone weeping on her
pilgrimage.



XXIII


The hot weather of July had crept upon them unawares, and the
atmosphere of the flat vale hung heavy as an opiate over the
dairy-folk, the cows, and the trees.  Hot steaming rains fell
frequently, making the grass where the cows fed yet more rank, and
hindering the late hay-making in the other meads.

It was Sunday morning; the milking was done; the outdoor milkers
had gone home.  Tess and the other three were dressing themselves
rapidly, the whole bevy having agreed to go together to Mellstock
Church, which lay some three or four miles distant from the
dairy-house.  She had now been two months at Talbothays, and this
was her first excursion.

All the preceding afternoon and night heavy thunderstorms had hissed
down upon the meads, and washed some of the hay into the river; but
this morning the sun shone out all the more brilliantly for the
deluge, and the air was balmy and clear.

The crooked lane leading from their own parish to Mellstock ran along
the lowest levels in a portion of its length, and when the girls
reached the most depressed spot they found that the result of the
rain had been to flood the lane over-shoe to a distance of some fifty
yards.  This would have been no serious hindrance on a week-day; they
would have clicked through it in their high patterns and boots quite
unconcerned; but on this day of vanity, this Sun's-day, when flesh
went forth to coquet with flesh while hypocritically affecting
business with spiritual things; on this occasion for wearing their
white stockings and thin shoes, and their pink, white, and lilac
gowns, on which every mud spot would be visible, the pool was an
awkward impediment.  They could hear the church-bell calling--as yet
nearly a mile off.

"Who would have expected such a rise in the river in summer-time!"
said Marian, from the top of the roadside bank on which they had
climbed, and were maintaining a precarious footing in the hope of
creeping along its slope till they were past the pool.

"We can't get there anyhow, without walking right through it, or else
going round the Turnpike way; and that would make us so very late!"
said Retty, pausing hopelessly.

"And I do colour up so hot, walking into church late, and all the
people staring round," said Marian, "that I hardly cool down again
till we get into the That-it-may-please-Thees."

While they stood clinging to the bank they heard a splashing round
the bend of the road, and presently appeared Angel Clare, advancing
along the lane towards them through the water.

Four hearts gave a big throb simultaneously.

His aspect was probably as un-Sabbatarian a one as a dogmatic
parson's son often presented; his attire being his dairy clothes,
long wading boots, a cabbage-leaf inside his hat to keep his head
cool, with a thistle-spud to finish him off.  "He's not going to
church," said Marian.

"No--I wish he was!" murmured Tess.

Angel, in fact, rightly or wrongly (to adopt the safe phrase of
evasive controversialists), preferred sermons in stones to sermons in
churches and chapels on fine summer days.  This morning, moreover,
he had gone out to see if the damage to the hay by the flood was
considerable or not.  On his walk he observed the girls from a long
distance, though they had been so occupied with their difficulties of
passage as not to notice him.  He knew that the water had risen at
that spot, and that it would quite check their progress.  So he had
hastened on, with a dim idea of how he could help them--one of them
in particular.

The rosy-cheeked, bright-eyed quartet looked so charming in their
light summer attire, clinging to the roadside bank like pigeons on a
roof-slope, that he stopped a moment to regard them before coming
close.  Their gauzy skirts had brushed up from the grass innumerable
flies and butterflies which, unable to escape, remained caged in
the transparent tissue as in an aviary.  Angel's eye at last fell
upon Tess, the hindmost of the four; she, being full of suppressed
laughter at their dilemma, could not help meeting his glance
radiantly.

He came beneath them in the water, which did not rise over his long
boots; and stood looking at the entrapped flies and butterflies.

"Are you trying to get to church?" he said to Marian, who was in
front, including the next two in his remark, but avoiding Tess.

"Yes, sir; and 'tis getting late; and my colour do come up so--"

"I'll carry you through the pool--every Jill of you."

The whole four flushed as if one heart beat through them.

"I think you can't, sir," said Marian.

"It is the only way for you to get past.  Stand still.  Nonsense--you
are not too heavy!  I'd carry you all four together.  Now, Marian,
attend," he continued, "and put your arms round my shoulders, so.
Now!  Hold on. That's well done."

Marian had lowered herself upon his arm and shoulder as directed, and
Angel strode off with her, his slim figure, as viewed from behind,
looking like the mere stem to the great nosegay suggested by hers.
They disappeared round the curve of the road, and only his sousing
footsteps and the top ribbon of Marian's bonnet told where they were.
In a few minutes he reappeared.  Izz Huett was the next in order upon
the bank.

"Here he comes," she murmured, and they could hear that her lips were
dry with emotion.  "And I have to put my arms round his neck and look
into his face as Marian did."

"There's nothing in that," said Tess quickly.

"There's a time for everything," continued Izz, unheeding.  "A time
to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; the first is now
going to be mine."

"Fie--it is Scripture, Izz!"

"Yes," said Izz, "I've always a' ear at church for pretty verses."

Angel Clare, to whom three-quarters of this performance was a
commonplace act of kindness, now approached Izz.  She quietly and
dreamily lowered herself into his arms, and Angel methodically
marched off with her.  When he was heard returning for the third time
Retty's throbbing heart could be almost seen to shake her.  He went
up to the red-haired girl, and while he was seizing her he glanced at
Tess.  His lips could not have pronounced more plainly, "It will soon
be you and I."  Her comprehension appeared in her face; she could not
help it.  There was an understanding between them.

Poor little Retty, though by far the lightest weight, was the most
troublesome of Clare's burdens.  Marian had been like a sack of meal,
a dead weight of plumpness under which he has literally staggered.
Izz had ridden sensibly and calmly.  Retty was a bunch of hysterics.

However, he got through with the disquieted creature, deposited her,
and returned.  Tess could see over the hedge the distant three in a
group, standing as he had placed them on the next rising ground.  It
was now her turn.  She was embarrassed to discover that excitement at
the proximity of Mr Clare's breath and eyes, which she had contemned
in her companions, was intensified in herself; and as if fearful of
betraying her secret, she paltered with him at the last moment.

"I may be able to clim' along the bank perhaps--I can clim' better
than they.  You must be so tired, Mr Clare!"

"No, no, Tess," said he quickly.  And almost before she was aware,
she was seated in his arms and resting against his shoulder.

"Three Leahs to get one Rachel," he whispered.

"They are better women than I," she replied, magnanimously sticking
to her resolve.

"Not to me," said Angel.

He saw her grow warm at this; and they went some steps in silence.

"I hope I am not too heavy?" she said timidly.

"O no.  You should lift Marian!  Such a lump.  You are like an
undulating billow warmed by the sun.  And all this fluff of muslin
about you is the froth."

"It is very pretty--if I seem like that to you."

"Do you know that I have undergone three-quarters of this labour
entirely for the sake of the fourth quarter?"

"No."

"I did not expect such an event to-day."

"Nor I...  The water came up so sudden."

That the rise in the water was what she understood him to refer to,
the state of breathing belied.  Clare stood still and inclinced his
face towards hers.

"O Tessy!" he exclaimed.

The girl's cheeks burned to the breeze, and she could not look into
his eyes for her emotion.  It reminded Angel that he was somewhat
unfairly taking advantage of an accidental position; and he went no
further with it.  No definite words of love had crossed their lips
as yet, and suspension at this point was desirable now. However,
he walked slowly, to make the remainder of the distance as long as
possible; but at last they came to the bend, and the rest of their
progress was in full view of the other three.  The dry land was
reached, and he set her down.

Her friends were looking with round thoughtful eyes at her and him,
and she could see that they had been talking of her.  He hastily bade
them farewell, and splashed back along the stretch of submerged road.

The four moved on together as before, till Marian broke the silence
by saying--

"No--in all truth; we have no chance against her!"  She looked
joylessly at Tess.

"What do you mean?" asked the latter.

"He likes 'ee best--the very best!  We could see it as he brought
'ee.  He would have kissed 'ee, if you had encouraged him to do it,
ever so little."

"No, no," said she.

The gaiety with which they had set out had somehow vanished; and
yet there was no enmity or malice between them.  They were generous
young souls; they had been reared in the lonely country nooks where
fatalism is a strong sentiment, and they did not blame her.  Such
supplanting was to be.

Tess's heart ached.  There was no concealing from herself the fact
that she loved Angel Clare, perhaps all the more passionately from
knowing that the others had also lost their hearts to him.  There is
contagion in this sentiment, especially among women.  And yet that
same hungry nature had fought against this, but too feebly, and the
natural result had followed.

"I will never stand in your way, nor in the way of either of you!"
she declared to Retty that night in the bedroom (her tears running
down).  "I can't help this, my dear!  I don't think marrying is in
his mind at all; but if he were ever to ask me I should refuse him,
as I should refuse any man."

"Oh! would you?  Why?" said wondering Retty.

"It cannot be!  But I will be plain.  Putting myself quite on one
side, I don't think he will choose either of you."

"I have never expected it--thought of it!" moaned Retty.  "But O! I
wish I was dead!"

The poor child, torn by a feeling which she hardly understood, turned
to the other two girls who came upstairs just then.

"We be friends with her again," she said to them.  "She thinks no
more of his choosing her than we do."

So the reserve went off, and they were confiding and warm.

"I don't seem to care what I do now," said Marian, whose mood was
turned to its lowest bass.  "I was going to marry a dairyman at
Stickleford, who's asked me twice; but--my soul--I would put an end
to myself rather'n be his wife now!  Why don't ye speak, Izz?"

"To confess, then," murmured Izz, "I made sure to-day that he was
going to kiss me as he held me; and I lay still against his breast,
hoping and hoping, and never moved at all.  But he did not.  I don't
like biding here at Talbothays any longer!  I shall go hwome."

The air of the sleeping-chamber seemed to palpitate with the
hopeless passion of the girls.  They writhed feverishly under the
oppressiveness of an emotion thrust on them by cruel Nature's law--an
emotion which they had neither expected nor desired.  The incident
of the day had fanned the flame that was burning the inside of their
hearts out, and the torture was almost more than they could endure.
The differences which distinguished them as individuals were
abstracted by this passion, and each was but portion of one organism
called sex.  There was so much frankness and so little jealousy
because there was no hope.  Each one was a girl of fair common sense,
and she did not delude herself with any vain conceits, or deny her
love, or give herself airs, in the idea of outshining the others.
The full recognition of the futility of their infatuation, from a
social point of view; its purposeless beginning; its self-bounded
outlook; its lack of everything to justify its existence in the eye
of civilization (while lacking nothing in the eye of Nature); the one
fact that it did exist, ecstasizing them to a killing joy--all this
imparted to them a resignation, a dignity, which a practical and
sordid expectation of winning him as a husband would have destroyed.

They tossed and turned on their little beds, and the cheese-wring
dripped monotonously downstairs.

"B' you awake, Tess?" whispered one, half-an-hour later.

It was Izz Huett's voice.

Tess replied in the affirmative, whereupon also Retty and Marian
suddenly flung the bedclothes off them, and sighed--

"So be we!"

"I wonder what she is like--the lady they say his family have looked
out for him!"

"I wonder," said Izz.

"Some lady looked out for him?" gasped Tess, starting.  "I have never
heard o' that!"

"O yes--'tis whispered; a young lady of his own rank, chosen by his
family; a Doctor of Divinity's daughter near his father's parish of
Emminster; he don't much care for her, they say.  But he is sure to
marry her."

They had heard so very little of this; yet it was enough to build up
wretched dolorous dreams upon, there in the shade of the night.  They
pictured all the details of his being won round to consent, of the
wedding preparations, of the bride's happiness, of her dress and
veil, of her blissful home with him, when oblivion would have fallen
upon themselves as far as he and their love were concerned.  Thus
they talked, and ached, and wept till sleep charmed their sorrow
away.

After this disclosure Tess nourished no further foolish thought that
there lurked any grave and deliberate import in Clare's attentions
to her.  It was a passing summer love of her face, for love's own
temporary sake--nothing more. And the thorny crown of this sad
conception was that she whom he really did prefer in a cursory way
to the rest, she who knew herself to be more impassioned in nature,
cleverer, more beautiful than they, was in the eyes of propriety far
less worthy of him than the homelier ones whom he ignored.



XXIV


Amid the oozing fatness and warm ferments of the Froom Vale, at a
season when the rush of juices could almost be heard below the hiss
of fertilization, it was impossible that the most fanciful love
should not grow passionate.  The ready bosoms existing there were
impregnated by their surroundings.

July passed over their heads, and the Thermidorean weather which came
in its wake seemed an effort on the part of Nature to match the state
of hearts at Talbothays Dairy.  The air of the place, so fresh in the
spring and early summer, was stagnant and enervating now.  Its heavy
scents weighed upon them, and at mid-day the landscape seemed lying
in a swoon. Ethiopic scorchings browned the upper slopes of the
pastures, but there was still bright green herbage here where the
watercourses purled.  And as Clare was oppressed by the outward
heats, so was he burdened inwardly by waxing fervour of passion for
the soft and silent Tess.

The rains having passed, the uplands were dry.  The wheels of the
dairyman's spring-cart, as he sped home from market, licked up the
pulverized surface of the highway, and were followed by white ribands
of dust, as if they had set a thin powder-train on fire.  The cows
jumped wildly over the five-barred barton-gate, maddened by the
gad-fly; Dairyman Crick kept his shirt-sleeves permanently rolled up
from Monday to Saturday; open windows had no effect in ventilation
without open doors, and in the dairy-garden the blackbirds and
thrushes crept about under the currant-bushes, rather in the manner
of quadrupeds than of winged creatures.  The flies in the kitchen
were lazy, teasing, and familiar, crawling about in the unwonted
places, on the floors, into drawers, and over the backs of the
milkmaids' hands. Conversations were concerning sunstroke; while
butter-making, and still more butter-keeping, was a despair.

They milked entirely in the meads for coolness and convenience,
without driving in the cows.  During the day the animals obsequiously
followed the shadow of the smallest tree as it moved round the stem
with the diurnal roll; and when the milkers came they could hardly
stand still for the flies.

On one of these afternoons four or five unmilked cows chanced to
stand apart from the general herd, behind the corner of a hedge,
among them being Dumpling and Old Pretty, who loved Tess's hands
above those of any other maid.  When she rose from her stool under a
finished cow, Angel Clare, who had been observing her for some time,
asked her if she would take the aforesaid creatures next.  She
silently assented, and with her stool at arm's length, and the pail
against her knee, went round to where they stood.  Soon the sound of
Old Pretty's milk fizzing into the pail came through the hedge, and
then Angel felt inclined to go round the corner also, to finish off a
hard-yielding milcher who had strayed there, he being now as capable
of this as the dairyman himself.

All the men, and some of the women, when milking, dug their foreheads
into the cows and gazed into the pail.  But a few--mainly the younger
ones--rested their heads sideways.  This was Tess Durbeyfield's
habit, her temple pressing the milcher's flank, her eyes fixed on
the far end of the meadow with the quiet of one lost in meditation.
She was milking Old Pretty thus, and the sun chancing to be on the
milking-side, it shone flat upon her pink-gowned form and her white
curtain-bonnet, and upon her profile, rendering it keen as a cameo
cut from the dun background of the cow.

She did not know that Clare had followed her round, and that he sat
under his cow watching her.  The stillness of her head and features
was remarkable: she might have been in a trance, her eyes open, yet
unseeing.  Nothing in the picture moved but Old Pretty's tail and
Tess's pink hands, the latter so gently as to be a rhythmic pulsation
only, as if they were obeying a reflex stimulus, like a beating
heart.

How very lovable her face was to him.  Yet there was nothing ethereal
about it; all was real vitality, real warmth, real incarnation.  And
it was in her mouth that this culminated.  Eyes almost as deep and
speaking he had seen before, and cheeks perhaps as fair; brows as
arched, a chin and throat almost as shapely; her mouth he had seen
nothing to equal on the face of the earth.  To a young man with the
least fire in him that little upward lift in the middle of her red
top lip was distracting, infatuating, maddening.  He had never before
seen a woman's lips and teeth which forced upon his mind with such
persistent iteration the old Elizabethan simile of roses filled with
snow.  Perfect, he, as a lover, might have called them off-hand.  But
no--they were not perfect.  And it was the touch of the imperfect
upon the would-be perfect that gave the sweetness, because it was
that which gave the humanity.

Clare had studied the curves of those lips so many times that he
could reproduce them mentally with ease: and now, as they again
confronted him, clothed with colour and life, they sent an _aura_
over his flesh, a breeze through his nerves, which well nigh produced
a qualm; and actually produced, by some mysterious physiological
process, a prosaic sneeze.

She then became conscious that he was observing her; but she would
not show it by any change of position, though the curious dream-like
fixity disappeared, and a close eye might easily have discerned that
the rosiness of her face deepened, and then faded till only a tinge
of it was left.

The influence that had passed into Clare like an excitation from the
sky did not die down.  Resolutions, reticences, prudences, fears,
fell back like a defeated battalion.  He jumped up from his seat,
and, leaving his pail to be kicked over if the milcher had such a
mind, went quickly towards the desire of his eyes, and, kneeling down
beside her, clasped her in his arms.

Tess was taken completely by surprise, and she yielded to his embrace
with unreflecting inevitableness.  Having seen that it was really her
lover who had advanced, and no one else, her lips parted, and she
sank upon him in her momentary joy, with something very like an
ecstatic cry.

He had been on the point of kissing that too tempting mouth, but he
checked himself, for tender conscience' sake.

"Forgive me, Tess dear!" he whispered.  "I ought to have asked.
I--did not know what I was doing.  I do not mean it as a liberty.
I am devoted to you, Tessy, dearest, in all sincerity!"

Old Pretty by this time had looked round, puzzled; and seeing two
people crouching under her where, by immemorial custom, there should
have been only one, lifted her hind leg crossly.

"She is angry--she doesn't know what we mean--she'll kick over the
milk!" exclaimed Tess, gently striving to free herself, her eyes
concerned with the quadruped's actions, her heart more deeply
concerned with herself and Clare.

She slipped up from her seat, and they stood together, his arm still
encircling her.  Tess's eyes, fixed on distance, began to fill.

"Why do you cry, my darling?" he said.

"O--I don't know!" she murmured.

As she saw and felt more clearly the position she was in she became
agitated and tried to withdraw.

"Well, I have betrayed my feeling, Tess, at last," said he, with a
curious sigh of desperation, signifying unconsciously that his heart
had outrun his judgement.  "That I--love you dearly and truly I need
not say.  But I--it shall go no further now--it distresses you--I am
as surprised as you are.  You will not think I have presumed upon
your defencelessness--been too quick and unreflecting, will you?"

"N'--I can't tell."

He had allowed her to free herself; and in a minute or two the
milking of each was resumed.  Nobody had beheld the gravitation of
the two into one; and when the dairyman came round by that screened
nook a few minutes later, there was not a sign to reveal that
the markedly sundered pair were more to each other than mere
acquaintance.  Yet in the interval since Crick's last view of them
something had occurred which changed the pivot of the universe for
their two natures; something which, had he known its quality, the
dairyman would have despised, as a practical man; yet which was based
upon a more stubborn and resistless tendency than a whole heap of
so-called practicalities.  A veil had been whisked aside; the tract
of each one's outlook was to have a new horizon thenceforward--for a
short time or for a long.


END OF PHASE THE THIRD





Phase the Fourth: The Consequence



XXV


Clare, restless, went out into the dusk when evening drew on, she who
had won him having retired to her chamber.

The night was as sultry as the day.  There was no coolness after dark
unless on the grass.  Roads, garden-paths, the house-fronts, the
barton-walls were warm as hearths, and reflected the noontime
temperature into the noctambulist's face.

He sat on the east gate of the dairy-yard, and knew not what to think
of himself.  Feeling had indeed smothered judgement that day.

Since the sudden embrace, three hours before, the twain had kept
apart.  She seemed stilled, almost alarmed, at what had occurred,
while the novelty, unpremeditation, mastery of circumstance
disquieted him--palpitating, contemplative being that he was.  He
could hardly realize their true relations to each other as yet, and
what their mutual bearing should be before third parties
thenceforward.

Angel had come as pupil to this dairy in the idea that his temporary
existence here was to be the merest episode in his life, soon passed
through and early forgotten; he had come as to a place from which
as from a screened alcove he could calmly view the absorbing world
without, and, apostrophizing it with Walt Whitman--


  Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes,
  How curious you are to me!--


resolve upon a plan for plunging into that world anew.  But behold,
the absorbing scene had been imported hither.  What had been the
engrossing world had dissolved into an uninteresting outer dumb-show;
while here, in this apparently dim and unimpassioned place, novelty
had volcanically started up, as it had never, for him, started up
elsewhere.

Every window of the house being open, Clare could hear across the
yard each trivial sound of the retiring household.  The dairy-house,
so humble, so insignificant, so purely to him a place of constrained
sojourn that he had never hitherto deemed it of sufficient importance
to be reconnoitred as an object of any quality whatever in the
landscape; what was it now?  The aged and lichened brick gables
breathed forth "Stay!"  The windows smiled, the door coaxed and
beckoned, the creeper blushed confederacy.  A personality within
it was so far-reaching in her influence as to spread into and make
the bricks, mortar, and whole overhanging sky throb with a burning
sensibility.  Whose was this mighty personality? A milkmaid's.

It was amazing, indeed, to find how great a matter the life of the
obscure dairy had become to him.  And though new love was to be held
partly responsible for this, it was not solely so.  Many besides
Angel have learnt that the magnitude of lives is not as to their
external displacements, but as to their subjective experiences.  The
impressionable peasant leads a larger, fuller, more dramatic life
than the pachydermatous king.  Looking at it thus, he found that life
was to be seen of the same magnitude here as elsewhere.

Despite his heterodoxy, faults, and weaknesses, Clare was a man with
a conscience.  Tess was no insignificant creature to toy with and
dismiss; but a woman living her precious life--a life which, to
herself who endured or enjoyed it, possessed as great a dimension
as the life of the mightiest to himself.  Upon her sensations
the whole world depended to Tess; through her existence all her
fellow-creatures existed, to her.  The universe itself only came into
being for Tess on the particular day in the particular year in which
she was born.

This consciousness upon which he had intruded was the single
opportunity of existence ever vouchsafed to Tess by an unsympathetic
First Cause--her all; her every and only chance.  How then should he
look upon her as of less consequence than himself; as a pretty trifle
to caress and grow weary of; and not deal in the greatest seriousness
with the affection which he knew that he had awakened in her--so
fervid and so impressionable as she was under her reserve--in order
that it might not agonize and wreck her?

To encounter her daily in the accustomed manner would be to develop
what had begun.  Living in such close relations, to meet meant to
fall into endearment; flesh and blood could not resist it; and,
having arrived at no conclusion as to the issue of such a tendency,
he decided to hold aloof for the present from occupations in which
they would be mutually engaged.  As yet the harm done was small.

But it was not easy to carry out the resolution never to approach
her.  He was driven towards her by every heave of his pulse.

He thought he would go and see his friends.  It might be possible
to sound them upon this.  In less than five months his term here
would have ended, and after a few additional months spent upon other
farms he would be fully equipped in agricultural knowledge and in
a position to start on his own account.  Would not a farmer want a
wife, and should a farmer's wife be a drawing-room wax-figure, or a
woman who understood farming?  Notwithstanding the pleasing answer
returned to him by the silence, he resolved to go his journey.

One morning when they sat down to breakfast at Talbothays Dairy some
maid observed that she had not seen anything of Mr Clare that day.

"O no," said Dairyman Crick.  "Mr Clare has gone hwome to Emminster
to spend a few days wi' his kinsfolk."

For four impassioned ones around that table the sunshine of the
morning went out at a stroke, and the birds muffled their song.
But neither girl by word or gesture revealed her blankness.  "He's
getting on towards the end of his time wi' me," added the dairyman,
with a phlegm which unconsciously was brutal; "and so I suppose he
is beginning to see about his plans elsewhere."

"How much longer is he to bide here?" asked Izz Huett, the only
one of the gloom-stricken bevy who could trust her voice with the
question.

The others waited for the dairyman's answer as if their lives hung
upon it; Retty, with parted lips, gazing on the tablecloth, Marian
with heat added to her redness, Tess throbbing and looking out at
the meads.

"Well, I can't mind the exact day without looking at my
memorandum-book," replied Crick, with the same intolerable unconcern.
"And even that may be altered a bit.  He'll bide to get a little
practice in the calving out at the straw-yard, for certain.  He'll
hang on till the end of the year I should say."

Four months or so of torturing ecstasy in his society--of "pleasure
girdled about with pain".  After that the blackness of unutterable
night.


At this moment of the morning Angel Clare was riding along a narrow
lane ten miles distant from the breakfasters, in the direction of
his father's Vicarage at Emminster, carrying, as well as he could,
a little basket which contained some black-puddings and a bottle of
mead, sent by Mrs Crick, with her kind respects, to his parents.  The
white lane stretched before him, and his eyes were upon it; but they
were staring into next year, and not at the lane.  He loved her;
ought he to marry her?  Dared he to marry her?  What would his mother
and his brothers say?  What would he himself say a couple of years
after the event?  That would depend upon whether the germs of staunch
comradeship underlay the temporary emotion, or whether it were a
sensuous joy in her form only, with no substratum of everlastingness.

His father's hill-surrounded little town, the Tudor church-tower of
red stone, the clump of trees near the Vicarage, came at last into
view beneath him, and he rode down towards the well-known gate.
Casting a glance in the direction of the church before entering his
home, he beheld standing by the vestry-door a group of girls, of
ages between twelve and sixteen, apparently awaiting the arrival of
some other one, who in a moment became visible; a figure somewhat
older than the school-girls, wearing a broad-brimmed hat and
highly-starched cambric morning-gown, with a couple of books in her
hand.

Clare knew her well.  He could not be sure that she observed him; he
hoped she did not, so as to render it unnecessary that he should go
and speak to her, blameless creature that she was.  An overpowering
reluctance to greet her made him decide that she had not seen him.
The young lady was Miss Mercy Chant, the only daughter of his
father's neighbour and friend, whom it was his parents' quiet hope
that he might wed some day.  She was great at Antinomianism and
Bible-classes, and was plainly going to hold a class now.  Clare's
mind flew to the impassioned, summer-steeped heathens in the Var
Vale, their rosy faces court-patched with cow-droppings; and to one
the most impassioned of them all.

It was on the impulse of the moment that he had resolved to trot
over to Emminster, and hence had not written to apprise his mother
and father, aiming, however, to arrive about the breakfast hour,
before they should have gone out to their parish duties.  He was
a little late, and they had already sat down to the morning meal.
The group at the table jumped up to welcome him as soon as he
entered.  They were his father and mother, his brother the Reverend
Felix--curate at a town in the adjoining county, home for the inside
of a fortnight--and his other brother, the Reverend Cuthbert, the
classical scholar, and Fellow and Dean of his College, down from
Cambridge for the long vacation.  His mother appeared in a cap and
silver spectacles, and his father looked what in fact he was--an
earnest, God-fearing man, somewhat gaunt, in years about sixty-five,
his pale face lined with thought and purpose.  Over their heads hung
the picture of Angel's sister, the eldest of the family, sixteen
years his senior, who had married a missionary and gone out to
Africa.

Old Mr Clare was a clergyman of a type which, within the last twenty
years, has well nigh dropped out of contemporary life.  A spiritual
descendant in the direct line from Wycliff, Huss, Luther, Calvin; an
Evangelical of the Evangelicals, a Conversionist, a man of Apostolic
simplicity in life and thought, he had in his raw youth made up his
mind once for all in the deeper questions of existence, and admitted
no further reasoning on them thenceforward.  He was regarded even by
those of his own date and school of thinking as extreme; while, on
the other hand, those totally opposed to him were unwillingly won
to admiration for his thoroughness, and for the remarkable power he
showed in dismissing all question as to principles in his energy for
applying them.  He loved Paul of Tarsus, liked St John, hated St
James as much as he dared, and regarded with mixed feelings Timothy,
Titus, and Philemon.  The New Testament was less a Christiad then a
Pauliad to his intelligence--less an argument than an intoxication.
His creed of determinism was such that it almost amounted to a
vice, and quite amounted, on its negative side, to a renunciative
philosophy which had cousinship with that of Schopenhauer and
Leopardi.  He despised the Canons and Rubric, swore by the Articles,
and deemed himself consistent through the whole category--which in a
way he might have been.  One thing he certainly was--sincere.

To the aesthetic, sensuous, pagan pleasure in natural life and lush
womanhood which his son Angel had lately been experiencing in Var
Vale, his temper would have been antipathetic in a high degree, had
he either by inquiry or imagination been able to apprehend it.  Once
upon a time Angel had been so unlucky as to say to his father, in
a moment of irritation, that it might have resulted far better for
mankind if Greece had been the source of the religion of modern
civilization, and not Palestine; and his father's grief was of that
blank description which could not realize that there might lurk a
thousandth part of a truth, much less a half truth or a whole truth,
in such a proposition.  He had simply preached austerely at Angel for
some time after.  But the kindness of his heart was such that he
never resented anything for long, and welcomed his son to-day with a
smile which was as candidly sweet as a child's.

Angel sat down, and the place felt like home; yet he did not so much
as formerly feel himself one of the family gathered there.  Every
time that he returned hither he was conscious of this divergence,
and since he had last shared in the Vicarage life it had grown even
more distinctly foreign to his own than usual.  Its transcendental
aspirations--still unconsciously based on the geocentric view of
things, a zenithal paradise, a nadiral hell--were as foreign to his
own as if they had been the dreams of people on another planet.
Latterly he had seen only Life, felt only the great passionate pulse
of existence, unwarped, uncontorted, untrammelled by those creeds
which futilely attempt to check what wisdom would be content to
regulate.

On their part they saw a great difference in him, a growing
divergence from the Angel Clare of former times.  It was chiefly a
difference in his manner that they noticed just now, particularly
his brothers.  He was getting to behave like a farmer; he flung his
legs about; the muscles of his face had grown more expressive; his
eyes looked as much information as his tongue spoke, and more.  The
manner of the scholar had nearly disappeared; still more the manner
of the drawing-room young man.  A prig would have said that he had
lost culture, and a prude that he had become coarse.  Such was the
contagion of domiciliary fellowship with the Talbothays nymphs and
swains.

After breakfast he walked with his two brothers, non-evangelical,
well-educated, hall-marked young men, correct to their remotest
fibre, such unimpeachable models as are turned out yearly by
the lathe of a systematic tuition.  They were both somewhat
short-sighted, and when it was the custom to wear a single eyeglass
and string they wore a single eyeglass and string; when it was the
custom to wear a double glass they wore a double glass; when it was
the custom to wear spectacles they wore spectacles straightway, all
without reference to the particular variety of defect in their own
vision.  When Wordsworth was enthroned they carried pocket copies;
and when Shelley was belittled they allowed him to grow dusty on
their shelves.  When Correggio's Holy Families were admired, they
admired Correggio's Holy Families; when he was decried in favour
of Velasquez, they sedulously followed suit without any personal
objection.

If these two noticed Angel's growing social ineptness, he noticed
their growing mental limitations.  Felix seemed to him all Church;
Cuthbert all College.  His Diocesan Synod and Visitations were the
mainsprings of the world to the one; Cambridge to the other.  Each
brother candidly recognized that there were a few unimportant score
of millions of outsiders in civilized society, persons who were
neither University men nor churchmen; but they were to be tolerated
rather than reckoned with and respected.

They were both dutiful and attentive sons, and were regular in their
visits to their parents.  Felix, though an offshoot from a far more
recent point in the devolution of theology than his father, was less
self-sacrificing and disinterested.  More tolerant than his father of
a contradictory opinion, in its aspect as a danger to its holder, he
was less ready than his father to pardon it as a slight to his own
teaching.  Cuthbert was, upon the whole, the more liberal-minded,
though, with greater subtlety, he had not so much heart.

As they walked along the hillside Angel's former feeling revived
in him--that whatever their advantages by comparison with himself,
neither saw or set forth life as it really was lived.  Perhaps, as
with many men, their opportunities of observation were not so good
as their opportunities of expression.  Neither had an adequate
conception of the complicated forces at work outside the smooth and
gentle current in which they and their associates floated.  Neither
saw the difference between local truth and universal truth; that what
the inner world said in their clerical and academic hearing was quite
a different thing from what the outer world was thinking.

"I suppose it is farming or nothing for you now, my dear fellow,"
Felix was saying, among other things, to his youngest brother, as
he looked through his spectacles at the distant fields with sad
austerity.  "And, therefore, we must make the best of it.  But I do
entreat you to endeavour to keep as much as possible in touch with
moral ideals.  Farming, of course, means roughing it externally; but
high thinking may go with plain living, nevertheless."

"Of course it may," said Angel.  "Was it not proved nineteen hundred
years ago--if I may trespass upon your domain a little?  Why should
you think, Felix, that I am likely to drop my high thinking and my
moral ideals?"

"Well, I fancied, from the tone of your letters and our
conversation--it may be fancy only--that you were somehow losing
intellectual grasp.  Hasn't it struck you, Cuthbert?"

"Now, Felix," said Angel drily, "we are very good friends, you
know; each of us treading our allotted circles; but if it comes to
intellectual grasp, I think you, as a contented dogmatist, had
better leave mine alone, and inquire what has become of yours."

They returned down the hill to dinner, which was fixed at any time at
which their father's and mother's morning work in the parish usually
concluded.  Convenience as regarded afternoon callers was the last
thing to enter into the consideration of unselfish Mr and Mrs Clare;
though the three sons were sufficiently in unison on this matter to
wish that their parents would conform a little to modern notions.

The walk had made them hungry, Angel in particular, who was now
an outdoor man, accustomed to the profuse _dapes inemptae_ of the
dairyman's somewhat coarsely-laden table.  But neither of the old
people had arrived, and it was not till the sons were almost tired of
waiting that their parents entered.  The self-denying pair had been
occupied in coaxing the appetites of some of their sick parishioners,
whom they, somewhat inconsistently, tried to keep imprisoned in the
flesh, their own appetites being quite forgotten.

The family sat down to table, and a frugal meal of cold viands
was deposited before them.  Angel looked round for Mrs Crick's
black-puddings, which he had directed to be nicely grilled as they
did them at the dairy, and of which he wished his father and mother
to appreciate the marvellous herbal savours as highly as he did
himself.

"Ah! you are looking for the black-puddings, my dear boy," observed
Clare's mother.  "But I am sure you will not mind doing without them
as I am sure your father and I shall not, when you know the reason.
I suggested to him that we should take Mrs Crick's kind present to
the children of the man who can earn nothing just now because of his
attacks of delirium tremens; and he agreed that it would be a great
pleasure to them; so we did."

"Of course," said Angel cheerfully, looking round for the mead.

"I found the mead so extremely alcoholic," continued his mother,
"that it was quite unfit for use as a beverage, but as valuable
as rum or brandy in an emergency; so I have put it in my
medicine-closet."

"We never drink spirits at this table, on principle," added his
father.

"But what shall I tell the dairyman's wife?" said Angel.

"The truth, of course," said his father.

"I rather wanted to say we enjoyed the mead and the black-puddings
very much.  She is a kind, jolly sort of body, and is sure to ask me
directly I return."

"You cannot, if we did not," Mr Clare answered lucidly.

"Ah--no; though that mead was a drop of pretty tipple."

"A what?" said Cuthbert and Felix both.

"Oh--'tis an expression they use down at Talbothays," replied Angel,
blushing.  He felt that his parents were right in their practice if
wrong in their want of sentiment, and said no more.



XXVI


It was not till the evening, after family prayers, that Angel found
opportunity of broaching to his father one or two subjects near his
heart.  He had strung himself up to the purpose while kneeling behind
his brothers on the carpet, studying the little nails in the heels of
their walking boots.  When the service was over they went out of the
room with their mother, and Mr Clare and himself were left alone.

The young man first discussed with the elder his plans for the
attainment of his position as a farmer on an extensive scale--either
in England or in the Colonies.  His father then told him that, as he
had not been put to the expense of sending Angel up to Cambridge, he
had felt it his duty to set by a sum of money every year towards the
purchase or lease of land for him some day, that he might not feel
himself unduly slighted.

"As far as worldly wealth goes," continued his father, "you will no
doubt stand far superior to your brothers in a few years."

This considerateness on old Mr Clare's part led Angel onward to the
other and dearer subject.  He observed to his father that he was
then six-and-twenty, and that when he should start in the farming
business he would require eyes in the back of his head to see to all
matters--some one would be necessary to superintend the domestic
labours of his establishment whilst he was afield.  Would it not be
well, therefore, for him to marry?

His father seemed to think this idea not unreasonable; and then Angel
put the question--

"What kind of wife do you think would be best for me as a thrifty
hard-working farmer?"

"A truly Christian woman, who will be a help and a comfort to you in
your goings-out and your comings-in.  Beyond that, it really matters
little.  Such an one can be found; indeed, my earnest-minded friend
and neighbour, Dr Chant--"

"But ought she not primarily to be able to milk cows, churn good
butter, make immense cheeses; know how to sit hens and turkeys and
rear chickens, to direct a field of labourers in an emergency, and
estimate the value of sheep and calves?"

"Yes; a farmer's wife; yes, certainly.  It would be desirable."  Mr
Clare, the elder, had plainly never thought of these points before.
"I was going to add," he said, "that for a pure and saintly woman you
will not find one more to your true advantage, and certainly not more
to your mother's mind and my own, than your friend Mercy, whom you
used to show a certain interest in.  It is true that my neighbour
Chant's daughter had lately caught up the fashion of the younger
clergy round about us for decorating the Communion-table--altar, as I
was shocked to hear her call it one day--with flowers and other stuff
on festival occasions.  But her father, who is quite as opposed to
such flummery as I, says that can be cured.  It is a mere girlish
outbreak which, I am sure, will not be permanent."

"Yes, yes; Mercy is good and devout, I know.  But, father, don't you
think that a young woman equally pure and virtuous as Miss Chant,
but one who, in place of that lady's ecclesiastical accomplishments,
understands the duties of farm life as well as a farmer himself,
would suit me infinitely better?"

His father persisted in his conviction that a knowledge of a farmer's
wife's duties came second to a Pauline view of humanity; and the
impulsive Angel, wishing to honour his father's feelings and to
advance the cause of his heart at the same time, grew specious.
He said that fate or Providence had thrown in his way a woman who
possessed every qualification to be the helpmate of an agriculturist,
and was decidedly of a serious turn of mind.  He would not say
whether or not she had attached herself to the sound Low Church
School of his father; but she would probably be open to conviction
on that point; she was a regular church-goer of simple faith;
honest-hearted, receptive, intelligent, graceful to a degree, chaste
as a vestal, and, in personal appearance, exceptionally beautiful.

"Is she of a family such as you would care to marry into--a lady, in
short?" asked his startled mother, who had come softly into the study
during the conversation.

"She is not what in common parlance is called a lady," said Angel,
unflinchingly, "for she is a cottager's daughter, as I am proud to
say.  But she IS a lady, nevertheless--in feeling and nature."

"Mercy Chant is of a very good family."

"Pooh!--what's the advantage of that, mother?" said Angel quickly.
"How is family to avail the wife of a man who has to rough it as I
have, and shall have to do?"

"Mercy is accomplished.  And accomplishments have their charm,"
returned his mother, looking at him through her silver spectacles.

"As to external accomplishments, what will be the use of them in the
life I am going to lead?--while as to her reading, I can take that
in hand.  She'll be apt pupil enough, as you would say if you knew
her. She's brim full of poetry--actualized poetry, if I may use the
expression.  She LIVES what paper-poets only write...  And she is an
unimpeachable Christian, I am sure; perhaps of the very tribe, genus,
and species you desire to propagate."

"O Angel, you are mocking!"

"Mother, I beg pardon.  But as she really does attend Church almost
every Sunday morning, and is a good Christian girl, I am sure you
will tolerate any social shortcomings for the sake of that quality,
and feel that I may do worse than choose her."  Angel waxed quite
earnest on that rather automatic orthodoxy in his beloved Tess which
(never dreaming that it might stand him in such good stead) he had
been prone to slight when observing it practised by her and the other
milkmaids, because of its obvious unreality amid beliefs essentially
naturalistic.

In their sad doubts as to whether their son had himself any right
whatever to the title he claimed for the unknown young woman, Mr and
Mrs Clare began to feel it as an advantage not to be overlooked that
she at least was sound in her views; especially as the conjunction of
the pair must have arisen by an act of Providence; for Angel never
would have made orthodoxy a condition of his choice.  They said
finally that it was better not to act in a hurry, but that they would
not object to see her.

Angel therefore refrained from declaring more particulars now.
He felt that, single-minded and self-sacrificing as his parents
were, there yet existed certain latent prejudices of theirs, as
middle-class people, which it would require some tact to overcome.
For though legally at liberty to do as he chose, and though their
daughter-in-law's qualifications could make no practical difference
to their lives, in the probability of her living far away from them,
he wished for affection's sake not to wound their sentiment in the
most important decision of his life.

He observed his own inconsistencies in dwelling upon accidents in
Tess's life as if they were vital features.  It was for herself that
he loved Tess; her soul, her heart, her substance--not for her skill
in the dairy, her aptness as his scholar, and certainly not for
her simple formal faith-professions.  Her unsophisticated open-air
existence required no varnish of conventionality to make it palatable
to him.  He held that education had as yet but little affected the
beats of emotion and impulse on which domestic happiness depends.  It
was probable that, in the lapse of ages, improved systems of moral
and intellectual training would appreciably, perhaps considerably,
elevate the involuntary and even the unconscious instincts of human
nature; but up to the present day, culture, as far as he could see,
might be said to have affected only the mental epiderm of those
lives which had been brought under its influence.  This belief was
confirmed by his experience of women, which, having latterly been
extended from the cultivated middle-class into the rural community,
had taught him how much less was the intrinsic difference between the
good and wise woman of one social stratum and the good and wise woman
of another social stratum, than between the good and bad, the wise
and the foolish, of the same stratum or class.

It was the morning of his departure.  His brothers had already left
the Vicarage to proceed on a walking tour in the north, whence one
was to return to his college, and the other to his curacy.  Angel
might have accompanied them, but preferred to rejoin his sweetheart
at Talbothays.  He would have been an awkward member of the
party; for, though the most appreciative humanist, the most ideal
religionist, even the best-versed Christologist of the three, there
was alienation in the standing consciousness that his squareness
would not fit the round hole that had been prepared for him.  To
neither Felix nor Cuthbert had he ventured to mention Tess.

His mother made him sandwiches, and his father accompanied him,
on his own mare, a little way along the road.  Having fairly well
advanced his own affairs, Angel listened in a willing silence, as
they jogged on together through the shady lanes, to his father's
account of his parish difficulties, and the coldness of brother
clergymen whom he loved, because of his strict interpretations of
the New Testament by the light of what they deemed a pernicious
Calvinistic doctrine.

"Pernicious!" said Mr Clare, with genial scorn; and he proceeded to
recount experiences which would show the absurdity of that idea.
He told of wondrous conversions of evil livers of which he had been
the instrument, not only amongst the poor, but amongst the rich and
well-to-do; and he also candidly admitted many failures.

As an instance of the latter, he mentioned the case of a young
upstart squire named d'Urberville, living some forty miles off, in
the neighbourhood of Trantridge.

"Not one of the ancient d'Urbervilles of Kingsbere and other places?"
asked his son.  "That curiously historic worn-out family with its
ghostly legend of the coach-and-four?"

"O no.  The original d'Urbervilles decayed and disappeared sixty
or eighty years ago--at least, I believe so.  This seems to be a
new family which had taken the name; for the credit of the former
knightly line I hope they are spurious, I'm sure.  But it is odd
to hear you express interest in old families.  I thought you set less
store by them even than I."

"You misapprehend me, father; you often do," said Angel with a
little impatience.  "Politically I am sceptical as to the virtue of
their being old.  Some of the wise even among themselves 'exclaim
against their own succession,' as Hamlet puts it; but lyrically,
dramatically, and even historically, I am tenderly attached to them."

This distinction, though by no means a subtle one, was yet too
subtle for Mr Clare the elder, and he went on with the story he had
been about to relate; which was that after the death of the senior
so-called d'Urberville, the young man developed the most culpable
passions, though he had a blind mother, whose condition should have
made him know better.  A knowledge of his career having come to
the ears of Mr Clare, when he was in that part of the country
preaching missionary sermons, he boldly took occasion to speak to
the delinquent on his spiritual state.  Though he was a stranger,
occupying another's pulpit, he had felt this to be his duty, and
took for his text the words from St Luke: "Thou fool, this night thy
soul shall be required of thee!"  The young man much resented this
directness of attack, and in the war of words which followed when
they met he did not scruple publicly to insult Mr Clare, without
respect for his gray hairs.

Angel flushed with distress.

"Dear father," he said sadly, "I wish you would not expose yourself
to such gratuitous pain from scoundrels!"

"Pain?" said his father, his rugged face shining in the ardour of
self-abnegation.  "The only pain to me was pain on his account, poor,
foolish young man.  Do you suppose his incensed words could give
me any pain, or even his blows?  'Being reviled we bless; being
persecuted we suffer it; being defamed we entreat; we are made as the
filth of the world, and as the offscouring of all things unto this
day.'  Those ancient and noble words to the Corinthians are strictly
true at this present hour."

"Not blows, father?  He did not proceed to blows?"

"No, he did not.  Though I have borne blows from men in a mad state
of intoxication."

"No!"

"A dozen times, my boy.  What then?  I have saved them from the guilt
of murdering their own flesh and blood thereby; and they have lived
to thank me, and praise God."

"May this young man do the same!" said Angel fervently.  "But I fear
otherwise, from what you say."

"We'll hope, nevertheless," said Mr Clare.  "And I continue to pray
for him, though on this side of the grave we shall probably never
meet again.  But, after all, one of those poor words of mine may
spring up in his heart as a good seed some day."

Now, as always, Clare's father was sanguine as a child; and though
the younger could not accept his parent's narrow dogma, he revered
his practice and recognized the hero under the pietist.  Perhaps he
revered his father's practice even more now than ever, seeing that,
in the question of making Tessy his wife, his father had not once
thought of inquiring whether she were well provided or penniless.
The same unworldliness was what had necessitated Angel's getting
a living as a farmer, and would probably keep his brothers in the
position of poor parsons for the term of their activities; yet Angel
admired it none the less.  Indeed, despite his own heterodoxy, Angel
often felt that he was nearer to his father on the human side than
was either of his brethren.



XXVII


An up-hill and down-hill ride of twenty-odd miles through a garish
mid-day atmosphere brought him in the afternoon to a detached knoll
a mile or two west of Talbothays, whence he again looked into that
green trough of sappiness and humidity, the valley of the Var or
Froom.  Immediately he began to descend from the upland to the fat
alluvial soil below, the atmosphere grew heavier; the languid perfume
of the summer fruits, the mists, the hay, the flowers, formed therein
a vast pool of odour which at this hour seemed to make the animals,
the very bees and butterflies drowsy. Clare was now so familiar with
the spot that he knew the individual cows by their names when, a long
distance off, he saw them dotted about the meads.  It was with a
sense of luxury that he recognized his power of viewing life here
from its inner side, in a way that had been quite foreign to him in
his student-days; and, much as he loved his parents, he could not
help being aware that to come here, as now, after an experience of
home-life, affected him like throwing off splints and bandages; even
the one customary curb on the humours of English rural societies
being absent in this place, Talbothays having no resident landlord.

Not a human being was out of doors at the dairy.  The denizens were
all enjoying the usual afternoon nap of an hour or so which the
exceedingly early hours kept in summer-time rendered a necessity.
At the door the wood-hooped pails, sodden and bleached by infinite
scrubbings, hung like hats on a stand upon the forked and peeled limb
of an oak fixed there for that purpose; all of them ready and dry
for the evening milking.  Angel entered, and went through the silent
passages of the house to the back quarters, where he listened for a
moment.  Sustained snores came from the cart-house, where some of
the men were lying down; the grunt and squeal of sweltering pigs
arose from the still further distance.  The large-leaved rhubarb and
cabbage plants slept too, their broad limp surfaces hanging in the
sun like half-closed umbrellas.

He unbridled and fed his horse, and as he re-entered the house the
clock struck three.  Three was the afternoon skimming-hour; and, with
the stroke, Clare heard the creaking of the floor-boards above, and
then the touch of a descending foot on the stairs.  It was Tess's,
who in another moment came down before his eyes.

She had not heard him enter, and hardly realized his presence there.
She was yawning, and he saw the red interior of her mouth as if it
had been a snake's.  She had stretched one arm so high above her
coiled-up cable of hair that he could see its satin delicacy above
the sunburn; her face was flushed with sleep, and her eyelids hung
heavy over their pupils.  The brim-fulness of her nature breathed
from her.  It was a moment when a woman's soul is more incarnate than
at any other time; when the most spiritual beauty bespeaks itself
flesh; and sex takes the outside place in the presentation.

Then those eyes flashed brightly through their filmy heaviness,
before the remainder of her face was well awake.  With an oddly
compounded look of gladness, shyness, and surprise, she exclaimed--"O
Mr Clare!  How you frightened me--I--"

There had not at first been time for her to think of the changed
relations which his declaration had introduced; but the full sense of
the matter rose up in her face when she encountered Clare's tender
look as he stepped forward to the bottom stair.

"Dear, darling Tessy!" he whispered, putting his arm round her, and
his face to her flushed cheek.  "Don't, for Heaven's sake, Mister me
any more.  I have hastened back so soon because of you!"

Tess's excitable heart beat against his by way of reply; and there
they stood upon the red-brick floor of the entry, the sun slanting in
by the window upon his back, as he held her tightly to his breast;
upon her inclining face, upon the blue veins of her temple, upon her
naked arm, and her neck, and into the depths of her hair.  Having
been lying down in her clothes she was warm as a sunned cat.  At
first she would not look straight up at him, but her eyes soon
lifted, and his plumbed the deepness of the ever-varying pupils, with
their radiating fibrils of blue, and black, and gray, and violet,
while she regarded him as Eve at her second waking might have
regarded Adam.

"I've got to go a-skimming," she pleaded, "and I have on'y old Deb to
help me to-day.  Mrs Crick is gone to market with Mr Crick, and Retty
is not well, and the others are gone out somewhere, and won't be home
till milking."

As they retreated to the milk-house Deborah Fyander appeared on the
stairs.

"I have come back, Deborah," said Mr Clare, upwards.  "So I can help
Tess with the skimming; and, as you are very tired, I am sure, you
needn't come down till milking-time."

Possibly the Talbothays milk was not very thoroughly skimmed that
afternoon.  Tess was in a dream wherein familiar objects appeared
as having light and shade and position, but no particular outline.
Every time she held the skimmer under the pump to cool it for the
work her hand trembled, the ardour of his affection being so palpable
that she seemed to flinch under it like a plant in too burning a sun.

Then he pressed her again to his side, and when she had done running
her forefinger round the leads to cut off the cream-edge, he cleaned
it in nature's way; for the unconstrained manners of Talbothays dairy
came convenient now.

"I may as well say it now as later, dearest," he resumed gently.  "I
wish to ask you something of a very practical nature, which I have
been thinking of ever since that day last week in the meads.  I shall
soon want to marry, and, being a farmer, you see I shall require for
my wife a woman who knows all about the management of farms.  Will
you be that woman, Tessy?"

He put it that way that she might not think he had yielded to an
impulse of which his head would disapprove.

She turned quite careworn.  She had bowed to the inevitable result of
proximity, the necessity of loving him; but she had not calculated
upon this sudden corollary, which, indeed, Clare had put before her
without quite meaning himself to do it so soon.  With pain that was
like the bitterness of dissolution she murmured the words of her
indispensable and sworn answer as an honourable woman.

"O Mr Clare--I cannot be your wife--I cannot be!"

The sound of her own decision seemed to break Tess's very heart, and
she bowed her face in her grief.

"But, Tess!" he said, amazed at her reply, and holding her still more
greedily close.  "Do you say no?  Surely you love me?"

"O yes, yes!  And I would rather be yours than anybody's in the
world," returned the sweet and honest voice of the distressed girl.
"But I CANNOT marry you!"

"Tess," he said, holding her at arm's length, "you are engaged to
marry some one else!"

"No, no!"

"Then why do you refuse me?"

"I don't want to marry!  I have not thought of doing it.  I cannot!
I only want to love you."

"But why?"

Driven to subterfuge, she stammered--

"Your father is a parson, and your mother wouldn' like you to marry
such as me.  She will want you to marry a lady."

"Nonsense--I have spoken to them both.  That was partly why I went
home."

"I feel I cannot--never, never!" she echoed.

"Is it too sudden to be asked thus, my Pretty?"

"Yes--I did not expect it."

"If you will let it pass, please, Tessy, I will give you time," he
said.  "It was very abrupt to come home and speak to you all at once.
I'll not allude to it again for a while."

She again took up the shining skimmer, held it beneath the pump, and
began anew.  But she could not, as at other times, hit the exact
under-surface of the cream with the delicate dexterity required, try
as she might; sometimes she was cutting down into the milk, sometimes
in the air.  She could hardly see, her eyes having filled with two
blurring tears drawn forth by a grief which, to this her best friend
and dear advocate, she could never explain.

"I can't skim--I can't!" she said, turning away from him.

Not to agitate and hinder her longer, the considerate Clare began
talking in a more general way:

You quite misapprehend my parents.  They are the most simple-mannered
people alive, and quite unambitious.  They are two of the few
remaining Evangelical school.  Tessy, are you an Evangelical?"

"I don't know."

"You go to church very regularly, and our parson here is not very
High, they tell me."

Tess's ideas on the views of the parish clergyman, whom she heard
every week, seemed to be rather more vague than Clare's, who had
never heard him at all.

"I wish I could fix my mind on what I hear there more firmly than I
do," she remarked as a safe generality.  "It is often a great sorrow
to me."

She spoke so unaffectedly that Angel was sure in his heart that his
father could not object to her on religious grounds, even though she
did not know whether her principles were High, Low or Broad.  He
himself knew that, in reality, the confused beliefs which she held,
apparently imbibed in childhood, were, if anything, Tractarian as to
phraseology, and Pantheistic as to essence.  Confused or otherwise,
to disturb them was his last desire:


      Leave thou thy sister, when she prays,
         Her early Heaven, her happy views;
         Nor thou with shadow'd hint confuse
      A life that leads melodious days.


He had occasionally thought the counsel less honest than musical; but
he gladly conformed to it now.

He spoke further of the incidents of his visit, of his father's mode
of life, of his zeal for his principles; she grew serener, and the
undulations disappeared from her skimming; as she finished one lead
after another he followed her, and drew the plugs for letting down
the milk.

"I fancied you looked a little downcast when you came in," she
ventured to observe, anxious to keep away from the subject of
herself.

"Yes--well, my father had been talking a good deal to me of his
troubles and difficulties, and the subject always tends to depress
me.  He is so zealous that he gets many snubs and buffetings from
people of a different way of thinking from himself, and I don't
like to hear of such humiliations to a man of his age, the more
particularly as I don't think earnestness does any good when carried
so far.  He has been telling me of a very unpleasant scene in
which he took part quite recently.  He went as the deputy of some
missionary society to preach in the neighbourhood of Trantridge, a
place forty miles from here, and made it his business to expostulate
with a lax young cynic he met with somewhere about there--son of some
landowner up that way--and who has a mother afflicted with blindness.
My father addressed himself to the gentleman point-blank, and there
was quite a disturbance.  It was very foolish of my father, I
must say, to intrude his conversation upon a stranger when the
probabilities were so obvious that it would be useless.  But whatever
he thinks to be his duty, that he'll do, in season or out of season;
and, of course, he makes many enemies, not only among the absolutely
vicious, but among the easy-going, who hate being bothered.  He says
he glories in what happened, and that good may be done indirectly;
but I wish he would not wear himself out now he is getting old, and
would leave such pigs to their wallowing."

Tess's look had grown hard and worn, and her ripe mouth tragical; but
she no longer showed any tremulousness.  Clare's revived thoughts of
his father prevented his noticing her particularly; and so they went
on down the white row of liquid rectangles till they had finished
and drained them off, when the other maids returned, and took their
pails, and Deb came to scald out the leads for the new milk.  As
Tess withdrew to go afield to the cows he said to her softly--

"And my question, Tessy?"

"O no--no!" replied she with grave hopelessness, as one who had
heard anew the turmoil of her own past in the allusion to Alec
d'Urberville. "It CAN'T be!"

She went out towards the mead, joining the other milkmaids with
a bound, as if trying to make the open air drive away her sad
constraint.  All the girls drew onward to the spot where the cows
were grazing in the farther mead, the bevy advancing with the bold
grace of wild animals--the reckless, unchastened motion of women
accustomed to unlimited space--in which they abandoned themselves to
the air as a swimmer to the wave.  It seemed natural enough to him
now that Tess was again in sight to choose a mate from unconstrained
Nature, and not from the abodes of Art.



XXVIII


Her refusal, though unexpected, did not permanently daunt Clare.
His experience of women was great enough for him to be aware that
the negative often meant nothing more than the preface to the
affirmative; and it was little enough for him not to know that in
the manner of the present negative there lay a great exception to
the dallyings of coyness.  That she had already permitted him to
make love to her he read as an additional assurance, not fully
trowing that in the fields and pastures to "sigh gratis" is by no
means deemed waste; love-making being here more often accepted
inconsiderately and for its own sweet sake than in the carking,
anxious homes of the ambitious, where a girl's craving for an
establishment paralyzes her healthy thought of a passion as an end.

"Tess, why did you say 'no' in such a positive way?" he asked her in
the course of a few days.

She started.

"Don't ask me.  I told you why--partly.  I am not good enough--not
worthy enough."

"How?  Not fine lady enough?"

"Yes--something like that," murmured she.  "Your friends would scorn
me."

"Indeed, you mistake them--my father and mother.  As for my brothers,
I don't care--"  He clasped his fingers behind her back to keep her
from slipping away.  "Now--you did not mean it, sweet?--I am sure you
did not!  You have made me so restless that I cannot read, or play,
or do anything.  I am in no hurry, Tess, but I want to know--to hear
from your own warm lips--that you will some day be mine--any time you
may choose; but some day?"

She could only shake her head and look away from him.

Clare regarded her attentively, conned the characters of her face as
if they had been hieroglyphics.  The denial seemed real.

"Then I ought not to hold you in this way--ought I?  I have no
right to you--no right to seek out where you are, or walk with you!
Honestly, Tess, do you love any other man?"

"How can you ask?" she said, with continued self-suppression.

"I almost know that you do not.  But then, why do you repulse me?"

"I don't repulse you.  I like you to--tell me you love me; and you
may always tell me so as you go about with me--and never offend me."

"But you will not accept me as a husband?"

"Ah--that's different--it is for your good, indeed, my dearest!
O, believe me, it is only for your sake!  I don't like to give
myself the great happiness o' promising to be yours in that
way--because--because I am SURE I ought not to do it."

"But you will make me happy!"

"Ah--you think so, but you don't know!"

At such times as this, apprehending the grounds of her refusal to be
her modest sense of incompetence in matters social and polite, he
would say that she was wonderfully well-informed and versatile--which
was certainly true, her natural quickness and her admiration for him
having led her to pick up his vocabulary, his accent, and fragments
of his knowledge, to a surprising extent.  After these tender
contests and her victory she would go away by herself under the
remotest cow, if at milking-time, or into the sedge or into her room,
if at a leisure interval, and mourn silently, not a minute after an
apparently phlegmatic negative.

The struggle was so fearful; her own heart was so strongly on the
side of his--two ardent hearts against one poor little conscience--
that she tried to fortify her resolution by every means in her power.
She had come to Talbothays with a made-up mind.  On no account could
she agree to a step which might afterwards cause bitter rueing to her
husband for his blindness in wedding her.  And she held that what her
conscience had decided for her when her mind was unbiassed ought not
to be overruled now.

"Why don't somebody tell him all about me?" she said.  "It was only
forty miles off--why hasn't it reached here?  Somebody must know!"

Yet nobody seemed to know; nobody told him.

For two or three days no more was said.  She guessed from the sad
countenances of her chamber companions that they regarded her not
only as the favourite, but as the chosen; but they could see for
themselves that she did not put herself in his way.

Tess had never before known a time in which the thread of her life
was so distinctly twisted of two strands, positive pleasure and
positive pain.  At the next cheese-making the pair were again left
alone together.  The dairyman himself had been lending a hand; but
Mr Crick, as well as his wife, seemed latterly to have acquired a
suspicion of mutual interest between these two; though they walked
so circumspectly that suspicion was but of the faintest. Anyhow, the
dairyman left them to themselves.

They were breaking up the masses of curd before putting them into
the vats.  The operation resembled the act of crumbling bread on a
large scale; and amid the immaculate whiteness of the curds Tess
Durbeyfield's hands showed themselves of the pinkness of the rose.
Angel, who was filling the vats with his handful, suddenly ceased,
and laid his hands flat upon hers.  Her sleeves were rolled far above
the elbow, and bending lower he kissed the inside vein of her soft
arm.

Although the early September weather was sultry, her arm, from
her dabbling in the curds, was as cold and damp to his mouth as a
new-gathered mushroom, and tasted of the whey.  But she was such
a sheaf of susceptibilities that her pulse was accelerated by the
touch, her blood driven to her finder-ends, and the cool arms
flushed hot.  Then, as though her heart had said, "Is coyness longer
necessary? Truth is truth between man and woman, as between man and
man," she lifted her eyes and they beamed devotedly into his, as her
lip rose in a tender half-smile.

"Do you know why I did that, Tess?" he said.

"Because you love me very much!"

"Yes, and as a preliminary to a new entreaty."

"Not AGAIN!"

She looked a sudden fear that her resistance might break down under
her own desire.

"O, Tessy!" he went on, "I CANNOT think why you are so tantalizing.
Why do you disappoint me so?  You seem almost like a coquette, upon
my life you do--a coquette of the first urban water!  They blow
hot and blow cold, just as you do, and it is the very last sort of
thing to expect to find in a retreat like Talbothays. ...  And yet,
dearest," he quickly added, observing now the remark had cut her, "I
know you to be the most honest, spotless creature that ever lived.
So how can I suppose you a flirt?  Tess, why don't you like the idea
of being my wife, if you love me as you seem to do?"

"I have never said I don't like the idea, and I never could say it;
because--it isn't true!"

The stress now getting beyond endurance, her lip quivered, and she
was obliged to go away.  Clare was so pained and perplexed that he
ran after and caught her in the passage.

"Tell me, tell me!" he said, passionately clasping her, in
forgetfulness of his curdy hands: "do tell me that you won't belong
to anybody but me!"

"I will, I will tell you!" she exclaimed.  "And I will give you a
complete answer, if you will let me go now. I will tell you my
experiences--all about myself--all!"

"Your experiences, dear; yes, certainly; any number."  He expressed
assent in loving satire, looking into her face.  "My Tess, no doubt,
almost as many experiences as that wild convolvulus out there on the
garden hedge, that opened itself this morning for the first time.
Tell me anything, but don't use that wretched expression any more
about not being worthy of me."

"I will try--not!  And I'll give you my reasons to-morrow--next
week."

"Say on Sunday?"

"Yes, on Sunday."

At last she got away, and did not stop in her retreat till she was in
the thicket of pollard willows at the lower side of the barton, where
she could be quite unseen.  Here Tess flung herself down upon the
rustling undergrowth of spear-grass, as upon a bed, and remained
crouching in palpitating misery broken by momentary shoots of joy,
which her fears about the ending could not altogether suppress.

In reality, she was drifting into acquiescence.  Every see-saw of her
breath, every wave of her blood, every pulse singing in her ears, was
a voice that joined with nature in revolt against her scrupulousness.
Reckless, inconsiderate acceptance of him; to close with him at the
altar, revealing nothing, and chancing discovery; to snatch ripe
pleasure before the iron teeth of pain could have time to shut upon
her: that was what love counselled; and in almost a terror of ecstasy
Tess divined that, despite her many months of lonely self-chastisement,
wrestlings, communings, schemes to lead a future of austere
isolation, love's counsel would prevail.

The afternoon advanced, and still she remained among the willows.
She heard the rattle of taking down the pails from the forked stands;
the "waow-waow!" which accompanied the getting together of the cows.
But she did not go to the milking.  They would see her agitation;
and the dairyman, thinking the cause to be love alone, would
good-naturedly tease her; and that harassment could not be borne.

Her lover must have guessed her overwrought state, and invented some
excuse for her non-appearance, for no inquiries were made or calls
given.  At half-past six the sun settled down upon the levels with
the aspect of a great forge in the heavens; and presently a monstrous
pumpkin-like moon arose on the other hand.  The pollard willows,
tortured out of their natural shape by incessant choppings, became
spiny-haired monsters as they stood up against it.  She went in and
upstairs without a light.

It was now Wednesday.  Thursday came, and Angel looked thoughtfully
at her from a distance, but intruded in no way upon her.  The indoor
milkmaids, Marian and the rest, seemed to guess that something
definite was afoot, for they did not force any remarks upon her in
the bedchamber.  Friday passed; Saturday.  To-morrow was the day.

"I shall give way--I shall say yes--I shall let myself marry
him--I cannot help it!" she jealously panted, with her hot face to
the pillow that night, on hearing one of the other girls sigh his
name in her sleep.  "I can't bear to let anybody have him but me!
Yet it is a wrong to him, and may kill him when he knows!  O my
heart--O--O--O!"



XXIX


"Now, who mid ye think I've heard news o' this morning?" said
Dairyman Crick, as he sat down to breakfast next day, with a riddling
gaze round upon the munching men and maids. "Now, just who mid ye
think?"

One guessed, and another guessed.  Mrs Crick did not guess, because
she knew already.

"Well," said the dairyman, "'tis that slack-twisted 'hore's-bird of a
feller, Jack Dollop.  He's lately got married to a widow-woman."

"Not Jack Dollop?  A villain--to think o' that!" said a milker.

The name entered quickly into Tess Durbeyfield's consciousness, for
it was the name of the lover who had wronged his sweetheart, and had
afterwards been so roughly used by the young woman's mother in the
butter-churn.

"And had he married the valiant matron's daughter, as he promised?"
asked Angel Clare absently, as he turned over the newspaper he was
reading at the little table to which he was always banished by Mrs
Crick, in her sense of his gentility.

"Not he, sir.  Never meant to," replied the dairyman. "As I say, 'tis
a widow-woman, and she had money, it seems--fifty poun' a year or so;
and that was all he was after.  They were married in a great hurry;
and then she told him that by marrying she had lost her fifty poun'
a year.  Just fancy the state o' my gentleman's mind at that news!
Never such a cat-and-dog life as they've been leading ever since!
Serves him well beright.  But onluckily the poor woman gets the worst
o't."

"Well, the silly body should have told en sooner that the ghost of
her first man would trouble him," said Mrs Crick.

"Ay, ay," responded the dairyman indecisively.  "Still, you can see
exactly how 'twas.  She wanted a home, and didn't like to run the
risk of losing him.  Don't ye think that was something like it,
maidens?"

He glanced towards the row of girls.

"She ought to ha' told him just before they went to church, when he
could hardly have backed out," exclaimed Marian.

"Yes, she ought," agreed Izz.

"She must have seen what he was after, and should ha' refused him,"
cried Retty spasmodically.

"And what do you say, my dear?" asked the dairyman of Tess.

"I think she ought--to have told him the true state of things--or
else refused him--I don't know," replied Tess, the bread-and-butter
choking her.

"Be cust if I'd have done either o't," said Beck Knibbs, a married
helper from one of the cottages.  "All's fair in love and war.  I'd
ha' married en just as she did, and if he'd said two words to me
about not telling him beforehand anything whatsomdever about my first
chap that I hadn't chose to tell, I'd ha' knocked him down wi' the
rolling-pin--a scram little feller like he!  Any woman could do it."

The laughter which followed this sally was supplemented only by a
sorry smile, for form's sake, from Tess.  What was comedy to them was
tragedy to her; and she could hardly bear their mirth.  She soon rose
from table, and, with an impression that Clare would soon follow her,
went along a little wriggling path, now stepping to one side of the
irrigating channels, and now to the other, till she stood by the main
stream of the Var.  Men had been cutting the water-weeds higher up
the river, and masses of them were floating past her--moving islands
of green crow-foot, whereon she might almost have ridden; long locks
of which weed had lodged against the piles driven to keep the cows
from crossing.

Yes, there was the pain of it.  This question of a woman telling her
story--the heaviest of crosses to herself--seemed but amusement to
others.  It was as if people should laugh at martyrdom.

"Tessy!" came from behind her, and Clare sprang across the gully,
alighting beside her feet.  "My wife--soon!"

"No, no; I cannot.  For your sake, O Mr Clare; for your sake, I say
no!"

"Tess!"

"Still I say no!" she repeated.

Not expecting this, he had put his arm lightly round her waist the
moment after speaking, beneath her hanging tail of hair.  (The
younger dairymaids, including Tess, breakfasted with their hair loose
on Sunday mornings before building it up extra high for attending
church, a style they could not adopt when milking with their heads
against the cows.)  If she had said "Yes" instead of "No" he
would have kissed her; it had evidently been his intention; but
her determined negative deterred his scrupulous heart.  Their
condition of domiciliary comradeship put her, as the woman, to such
disadvantage by its enforced intercourse, that he felt it unfair to
her to exercise any pressure of blandishment which he might have
honestly employed had she been better able to avoid him.  He released
her momentarily-imprisoned waist, and withheld the kiss.

It all turned on that release.  What had given her strength to refuse
him this time was solely the tale of the widow told by the dairyman;
and that would have been overcome in another moment.  But Angel said
no more; his face was perplexed; he went away.

Day after day they met--somewhat less constantly than before; and
thus two or three weeks went by.  The end of September drew near, and
she could see in his eye that he might ask her again.

His plan of procedure was different now--as though he had made up
his mind that her negatives were, after all, only coyness and youth
startled by the novelty of the proposal.  The fitful evasiveness of
her manner when the subject was under discussion countenanced the
idea.  So he played a more coaxing game; and while never going beyond
words, or attempting the renewal of caresses, he did his utmost
orally.

In this way Clare persistently wooed her in undertones like that of
the purling milk--at the cow's side, at skimmings, at butter-makings,
at cheese-makings, among broody poultry, and among farrowing pigs--as
no milkmaid was ever wooed before by such a man.

Tess knew that she must break down.  Neither a religious sense of a
certain moral validity in the previous union nor a conscientious wish
for candour could hold out against it much longer.  She loved him so
passionately, and he was so godlike in her eyes; and being, though
untrained, instinctively refined, her nature cried for his tutelary
guidance.  And thus, though Tess kept repeating to herself, "I can
never be his wife," the words were vain.  A proof of her weakness lay
in the very utterance of what calm strength would not have taken the
trouble to formulate.  Every sound of his voice beginning on the old
subject stirred her with a terrifying bliss, and she coveted the
recantation she feared.

His manner was--what man's is not?--so much that of one who would
love and cherish and defend her under any conditions, changes,
charges, or revelations, that her gloom lessened as she basked in it.
The season meanwhile was drawing onward to the equinox, and though
it was still fine, the days were much shorter.  The dairy had again
worked by morning candlelight for a long time; and a fresh renewal
of Clare's pleading occurred one morning between three and four.

She had run up in her bedgown to his door to call him as usual;
then had gone back to dress and call the others; and in ten minutes
was walking to the head of the stairs with the candle in her
hand.  At the same moment he came down his steps from above in his
shirt-sleeves and put his arm across the stairway.

"Now, Miss Flirt, before you go down," he said peremptorily. "It is a
fortnight since I spoke, and this won't do any longer.  You MUST tell
me what you mean, or I shall have to leave this house.  My door was
ajar just now, and I saw you.  For your own safety I must go.  You
don't know.  Well?  Is it to be yes at last?"

"I am only just up, Mr Clare, and it is too early to take me to
task!" she pouted.  "You need not call me Flirt.  'Tis cruel and
untrue.  Wait till by and by.  Please wait till by and by!  I will
really think seriously about it between now and then.  Let me go
downstairs!"

She looked a little like what he said she was as, holding the candle
sideways, she tried to smile away the seriousness of her words.

"Call me Angel, then, and not Mr Clare."

"Angel."

"Angel dearest--why not?"

"'Twould mean that I agree, wouldn't it?"

"It would only mean that you love me, even if you cannot marry me;
and you were so good as to own that long ago."

"Very well, then, 'Angel dearest', if I MUST," she murmured, looking
at her candle, a roguish curl coming upon her mouth, notwithstanding
her suspense.

Clare had resolved never to kiss her until he had obtained her
promise; but somehow, as Tess stood there in her prettily tucked-up
milking gown, her hair carelessly heaped upon her head till there
should be leisure to arrange it when skimming and milking were done,
he broke his resolve, and brought his lips to her cheek for one
moment.  She passed downstairs very quickly, never looking back at
him or saying another word.  The other maids were already down,
and the subject was not pursued.  Except Marian, they all looked
wistfully and suspiciously at the pair, in the sad yellow rays which
the morning candles emitted in contrast with the first cold signals
of the dawn without.

When skimming was done--which, as the milk diminished with the
approach of autumn, was a lessening process day by day--Retty and
the rest went out.  The lovers followed them.

"Our tremulous lives are so different from theirs, are they not?" he
musingly observed to her, as he regarded the three figures tripping
before him through the frigid pallor of opening day.

"Not so very different, I think," she said.

"Why do you think that?"

"There are very few women's lives that are not--tremulous," Tess
replied, pausing over the new word as if it impressed her.  "There's
more in those three than you think."

"What is in them?"

"Almost either of 'em," she began, "would make--perhaps would
make--a properer wife than I.  And perhaps they love you as well
as I--almost."

"O, Tessy!"

There were signs that it was an exquisite relief to her to hear the
impatient exclamation, though she had resolved so intrepidly to let
generosity make one bid against herself.  That was now done, and she
had not the power to attempt self-immolation a second time then.
They were joined by a milker from one of the cottages, and no more
was said on that which concerned them so deeply.  But Tess knew that
this day would decide it.

In the afternoon several of the dairyman's household and assistants
went down to the meads as usual, a long way from the dairy, where
many of the cows were milked without being driven home.  The
supply was getting less as the animals advanced in calf, and the
supernumerary milkers of the lush green season had been dismissed.

The work progressed leisurely.  Each pailful was poured into tall
cans that stood in a large spring-waggon which had been brought
upon the scene; and when they were milked, the cows trailed away.
Dairyman Crick, who was there with the rest, his wrapper gleaming
miraculously white against a leaden evening sky, suddenly looked
at his heavy watch.

"Why, 'tis later than I thought," he said.  "Begad!  We shan't be
soon enough with this milk at the station, if we don't mind.  There's
no time to-day to take it home and mix it with the bulk afore sending
off.  It must go to station straight from here.  Who'll drive it
across?"

Mr Clare volunteered to do so, though it was none of his business,
asking Tess to accompany him.  The evening, though sunless, had
been warm and muggy for the season, and Tess had come out with
her milking-hood only, naked-armed and jacketless; certainly not
dressed for a drive.  She therefore replied by glancing over her
scant habiliments; but Clare gently urged her.  She assented by
relinquishing her pail and stool to the dairyman to take home, and
mounted the spring-waggon beside Clare.



XXX


In the diminishing daylight they went along the level roadway through
the meads, which stretched away into gray miles, and were backed in
the extreme edge of distance by the swarthy and abrupt slopes of
Egdon Heath.  On its summit stood clumps and stretches of fir-trees,
whose notched tips appeared like battlemented towers crowning
black-fronted castles of enchantment.

They were so absorbed in the sense of being close to each other that
they did not begin talking for a long while, the silence being broken
only by the clucking of the milk in the tall cans behind them.
The lane they followed was so solitary that the hazel nuts had
remained on the boughs till they slipped from their shells, and the
blackberries hung in heavy clusters.  Every now and then Angel would
fling the lash of his whip round one of these, pluck it off, and give
it to his companion.

The dull sky soon began to tell its meaning by sending down
herald-drops of rain, and the stagnant air of the day changed into
a fitful breeze which played about their faces.  The quick-silvery
glaze on the rivers and pools vanished; from broad mirrors of light
they changed to lustreless sheets of lead, with a surface like a
rasp.  But that spectacle did not affect her preoccupation.  Her
countenance, a natural carnation slightly embrowned by the season,
had deepened its tinge with the beating of the rain-drops; and her
hair, which the pressure of the cows' flanks had, as usual, caused to
tumble down from its fastenings and stray beyond the curtain of her
calico bonnet, was made clammy by the moisture, till it hardly was
better than seaweed.

"I ought not to have come, I suppose," she murmured, looking at the
sky.

"I am sorry for the rain," said he.  "But how glad I am to have you
here!"

Remote Egdon disappeared by degree behind the liquid gauze.  The
evening grew darker, and the roads being crossed by gates, it was
not safe to drive faster than at a walking pace.  The air was rather
chill.

"I am so afraid you will get cold, with nothing upon your arms and
shoulders," he said.  "Creep close to me, and perhaps the drizzle
won't hurt you much.  I should be sorrier still if I did not think
that the rain might be helping me."

She imperceptibly crept closer, and he wrapped round them both a
large piece of sail-cloth, which was sometimes used to keep the sun
off the milk-cans.  Tess held it from slipping off him as well as
herself, Clare's hands being occupied.

"Now we are all right again.  Ah--no we are not!  It runs down into
my neck a little, and it must still more into yours.  That's better.
Your arms are like wet marble, Tess.  Wipe them in the cloth.  Now,
if you stay quiet, you will not get another drop.  Well, dear--about
that question of mine--that long-standing question?"

The only reply that he could hear for a little while was the smack of
the horse's hoofs on the moistening road, and the cluck of the milk
in the cans behind them.

"Do you remember what you said?"

"I do," she replied.

"Before we get home, mind."

"I'll try."

He said no more then.  As they drove on, the fragment of an old manor
house of Caroline date rose against the sky, and was in due course
passed and left behind.

"That," he observed, to entertain her, "is an interesting old
place--one of the several seats which belonged to an ancient Norman
family formerly of great influence in this county, the d'Urbervilles.
I never pass one of their residences without thinking of them.  There
is something very sad in the extinction of a family of renown, even
if it was fierce, domineering, feudal renown."

"Yes," said Tess.

They crept along towards a point in the expanse of shade just at hand
at which a feeble light was beginning to assert its presence, a spot
where, by day, a fitful white streak of steam at intervals upon the
dark green background denoted intermittent moments of contact between
their secluded world and modern life.  Modern life stretched out its
steam feeler to this point three or four times a day, touched the
native existences, and quickly withdrew its feeler again, as if what
it touched had been uncongenial.

They reached the feeble light, which came from the smoky lamp of a
little railway station; a poor enough terrestrial star, yet in one
sense of more importance to Talbothays Dairy and mankind than the
celestial ones to which it stood in such humiliating contrast.  The
cans of new milk were unladen in the rain, Tess getting a little
shelter from a neighbouring holly tree.

Then there was the hissing of a train, which drew up almost silently
upon the wet rails, and the milk was rapidly swung can by can into
the truck.  The light of the engine flashed for a second upon Tess
Durbeyfield's figure, motionless under the great holly tree.  No
object could have looked more foreign to the gleaming cranks and
wheels than this unsophisticated girl, with the round bare arms, the
rainy face and hair, the suspended attitude of a friendly leopard at
pause, the print gown of no date or fashion, and the cotton bonnet
drooping on her brow.

She mounted again beside her lover, with a mute obedience
characteristic of impassioned natures at times, and when they had
wrapped themselves up over head and ears in the sailcloth again, they
plunged back into the now thick night.  Tess was so receptive that
the few minutes of contact with the whirl of material progress
lingered in her thought.

"Londoners will drink it at their breakfasts to-morrow, won't they?"
she asked.  "Strange people that we have never seen."

"Yes--I suppose they will.  Though not as we send it.  When its
strength has been lowered, so that it may not get up into their
heads."

"Noble men and noble women, ambassadors and centurions, ladies and
tradeswomen, and babies who have never seen a cow."

"Well, yes; perhaps; particularly centurions."

"Who don't know anything of us, and where it comes from; or think how
we two drove miles across the moor to-night in the rain that it might
reach 'em in time?"

"We did not drive entirely on account of these precious Londoners; we
drove a little on our own--on account of that anxious matter which
you will, I am sure, set at rest, dear Tess.  Now, permit me to put
it in this way.  You belong to me already, you know; your heart, I
mean. Does it not?"

"You know as well as I.  O yes--yes!"

"Then, if your heart does, why not your hand?"

"My only reason was on account of you--on account of a question.  I
have something to tell you--"

"But suppose it to be entirely for my happiness, and my worldly
convenience also?"

"O yes; if it is for your happiness and worldly convenience.  But my
life before I came here--I want--"

"Well, it is for my convenience as well as my happiness.  If I have a
very large farm, either English or colonial, you will be invaluable
as a wife to me; better than a woman out of the largest mansion in
the country.  So please--please, dear Tessy, disabuse your mind of
the feeling that you will stand in my way."

"But my history.  I want you to know it--you must let me tell
you--you will not like me so well!"

"Tell it if you wish to, dearest.  This precious history then.  Yes,
I was born at so and so, Anno Domini--"

"I was born at Marlott," she said, catching at his words as a help,
lightly as they were spoken.  "And I grew up there. And I was in the
Sixth Standard when I left school, and they said I had great aptness,
and should make a good teacher, so it was settled that I should
be one.  But there was trouble in my family; father was not very
industrious, and he drank a little."

"Yes, yes.  Poor child!  Nothing new."  He pressed her more closely
to his side.

"And then--there is something very unusual about it--about me.  I--I
was--"

Tess's breath quickened.

"Yes, dearest.  Never mind."

"I--I--am not a Durbeyfield, but a d'Urberville--a descendant of the
same family as those that owned the old house we passed.  And--we are
all gone to nothing!"

"A d'Urberville!--Indeed!  And is that all the trouble, dear Tess?"

"Yes," she answered faintly.

"Well--why should I love you less after knowing this?"

"I was told by the dairyman that you hated old families."

He laughed.

"Well, it is true, in one sense.  I do hate the aristocratic
principle of blood before everything, and do think that as reasoners
the only pedigrees we ought to respect are those spiritual ones of
the wise and virtuous, without regard to corporal paternity.  But
I am extremely interested in this news--you can have no idea how
interested I am!  Are you not interested yourself in being one of
that well-known line?"

"No.  I have thought it sad--especially since coming here, and
knowing that many of the hills and fields I see once belonged to
my father's people.  But other hills and field belonged to Retty's
people, and perhaps others to Marian's, so that I don't value it
particularly."

"Yes--it is surprising how many of the present tillers of the soil
were once owners of it, and I sometimes wonder that a certain school
of politicians don't make capital of the circumstance; but they don't
seem to know it...  I wonder that I did not see the resemblance of
your name to d'Urberville, and trace the manifest corruption.  And
this was the carking secret!"

She had not told.  At the last moment her courage had failed her;
she feared his blame for not telling him sooner; and her instinct
of self-preservation was stronger than her candour.

"Of course," continued the unwitting Clare, "I should have been glad
to know you to be descended exclusively from the long-suffering,
dumb, unrecorded rank and file of the English nation, and not from
the self-seeking few who made themselves powerful at the expense of
the rest.  But I am corrupted away from that by my affection for you,
Tess (he laughed as he spoke), and made selfish likewise.  For your
own sake I rejoice in your descent.  Society is hopelessly snobbish,
and this fact of your extraction may make an appreciable difference
to its acceptance of you as my wife, after I have made you the
well-read woman that I mean to make you.  My mother too, poor soul,
will think so much better of you on account of it.  Tess, you must
spell your name correctly--d'Urberville--from this very day."

"I like the other way rather best."

"But you MUST, dearest!  Good heavens, why dozens of mushroom
millionaires would jump at such a possession!  By the bye, there's
one of that kidney who has taken the name--where have I heard of
him?--Up in the neighbourhood of The Chase, I think.  Why, he is the
very man who had that rumpus with my father I told you of.  What an
odd coincidence!"

"Angel, I think I would rather not take the name!  It is unlucky,
perhaps!"

She was agitated.

"Now then, Mistress Teresa d'Urberville, I have you.  Take my name,
and so you will escape yours!  The secret is out, so why should you
any longer refuse me?"

"If it is SURE to make you happy to have me as your wife, and you
feel that you do wish to marry me, VERY, VERY much--"

"I do, dearest, of course!"

"I mean, that it is only your wanting me very much, and being hardly
able to keep alive without me, whatever my offences, that would make
me feel I ought to say I will."

"You will--you do say it, I know!  You will be mine for ever and
ever."

He clasped her close and kissed her.

"Yes!"

She had no sooner said it than she burst into a dry hard sobbing, so
violent that it seemed to rend her.  Tess was not a hysterical girl
by any means, and he was surprised.

"Why do you cry, dearest?"

"I can't tell--quite!--I am so glad to think--of being yours, and
making you happy!"

"But this does not seem very much like gladness, my Tessy!"

"I mean--I cry because I have broken down in my vow!  I said I would
die unmarried!"

"But, if you love me you would like me to be your husband?"

"Yes, yes, yes!  But O, I sometimes wish I had never been born!"

"Now, my dear Tess, if I did not know that you are very much excited,
and very inexperienced, I should say that remark was not very
complimentary.  How came you to wish that if you care for me?  Do you
care for me?  I wish you would prove it in some way."

"How can I prove it more than I have done?" she cried, in a
distraction of tenderness.  "Will this prove it more?"

She clasped his neck, and for the first time Clare learnt what an
impassioned woman's kisses were like upon the lips of one whom she
loved with all her heart and soul, as Tess loved him.

"There--now do you believe?" she asked, flushed, and wiping her eyes.

"Yes. I never really doubted--never, never!"

So they drove on through the gloom, forming one bundle inside the
sail-cloth, the horse going as he would, and the rain driving against
them.  She had consented.  She might as well have agreed at first.
The "appetite for joy" which pervades all creation, that tremendous
force which sways humanity to its purpose, as the tide sways the
helpless weed, was not to be controlled by vague lucubrations over
the social rubric.

"I must write to my mother," she said.  "You don't mind my doing
that?"

"Of course not, dear child.  You are a child to me, Tess, not to know
how very proper it is to write to your mother at such a time, and how
wrong it would be in me to object.  Where does she live?"

"At the same place--Marlott.  On the further side of Blackmoor Vale."

"Ah, then I HAVE seen you before this summer--"

"Yes; at that dance on the green; but you would not dance with me.
O, I hope that is of no ill-omen for us now!"



XXXI


Tess wrote a most touching and urgent letter to her mother the very
next day, and by the end of the week a response to her communication
arrived in Joan Durbeyfield's wandering last-century hand.


   DEAR TESS,--

   J write these few lines Hoping they will find you well,
   as they leave me at Present, thank God for it.  Dear
   Tess, we are all glad to Hear that you are going really
   to be married soon.  But with respect to your question,
   Tess, J say between ourselves, quite private but very
   strong, that on no account do you say a word of your
   Bygone Trouble to him.  J did not tell everything
   to your Father, he being so Proud on account of his
   Respectability, which, perhaps, your Intended is
   the same.  Many a woman--some of the Highest in the
   Land--have had a Trouble in their time; and why should
   you Trumpet yours when others don't Trumpet theirs?  No
   girl would be such a Fool, specially as it is so long
   ago, and not your Fault at all.  J shall answer the
   same if you ask me fifty times.  Besides, you must bear
   in mind that, knowing it to be your Childish Nature to
   tell all that's in your heart--so simple!--J made you
   promise me never to let it out by Word or Deed, having
   your Welfare in my Mind; and you most solemnly did
   promise it going from this Door.  J have not named
   either that Question or your coming marriage to your
   Father, as he would blab it everywhere, poor Simple
   Man.

   Dear Tess, keep up your Spirits, and we mean to send
   you a Hogshead of Cyder for you Wedding, knowing there
   is not much in your parts, and thin Sour Stuff what
   there is.  So no more at present, and with kind love
   to your Young Man.--From your affectte. Mother,

   J. DURBEYFIELD


"O mother, mother!" murmured Tess.

She was recognizing how light was the touch of events the most
oppressive upon Mrs Durbeyfield's elastic spirit.  Her mother did not
see life as Tess saw it.  That haunting episode of bygone days was
to her mother but a passing accident.  But perhaps her mother was
right as to the course to be followed, whatever she might be in her
reasons.  Silence seemed, on the face of it, best for her adored
one's happiness: silence it should be.

Thus steadied by a command from the only person in the world who had
any shadow of right to control her action, Tess grew calmer.  The
responsibility was shifted, and her heart was lighter than it had
been for weeks.  The days of declining autumn which followed her
assent, beginning with the month of October, formed a season through
which she lived in spiritual altitudes more nearly approaching
ecstasy than any other period of her life.

There was hardly a touch of earth in her love for Clare.  To her
sublime trustfulness he was all that goodness could be--knew all that
a guide, philosopher, and friend should know.  She thought every line
in the contour of his person the perfection of masculine beauty, his
soul the soul of a saint, his intellect that of a seer.  The wisdom
of her love for him, as love, sustained her dignity; she seemed to be
wearing a crown.  The compassion of his love for her, as she saw it,
made her lift up her heart to him in devotion.  He would sometimes
catch her large, worshipful eyes, that had no bottom to them looking
at him from their depths, as if she saw something immortal before
her.

She dismissed the past--trod upon it and put it out, as one treads on
a coal that is smouldering and dangerous.

She had not known that men could be so disinterested, chivalrous,
protective, in their love for women as he.  Angel Clare was far from
all that she thought him in this respect; absurdly far, indeed;
but he was, in truth, more spiritual than animal; he had himself
well in hand, and was singularly free from grossness.  Though not
cold-natured, he was rather bright than hot--less Byronic than
Shelleyan; could love desperately, but with a love more especially
inclined to the imaginative and ethereal; it was a fastidious emotion
which could jealously guard the loved one against his very self.
This amazed and enraptured Tess, whose slight experiences had been so
infelicitous till now; and in her reaction from indignation against
the male sex she swerved to excess of honour for Clare.

They unaffectedly sought each other's company; in her honest faith
she did not disguise her desire to be with him.  The sum of her
instincts on this matter, if clearly stated, would have been that the
elusive quality of her sex which attracts men in general might be
distasteful to so perfect a man after an avowal of love, since it
must in its very nature carry with it a suspicion of art.

The country custom of unreserved comradeship out of doors during
betrothal was the only custom she knew, and to her it had no
strangeness; though it seemed oddly anticipative to Clare till he
saw how normal a thing she, in common with all the other dairy-folk,
regarded it.  Thus, during this October month of wonderful afternoons
they roved along the meads by creeping paths which followed the
brinks of trickling tributary brooks, hopping across by little wooden
bridges to the other side, and back again.  They were never out of
the sound of some purling weir, whose buzz accompanied their own
murmuring, while the beams of the sun, almost as horizontal as the
mead itself, formed a pollen of radiance over the landscape.  They
saw tiny blue fogs in the shadows of trees and hedges, all the time
that there was bright sunshine elsewhere.  The sun was so near the
ground, and the sward so flat, that the shadows of Clare and Tess
would stretch a quarter of a mile ahead of them, like two long
fingers pointing afar to where the green alluvial reaches abutted
against the sloping sides of the vale.

Men were at work here and there--for it was the season for "taking
up" the meadows, or digging the little waterways clear for the winter
irrigation, and mending their banks where trodden down by the cows.
The shovelfuls of loam, black as jet, brought there by the river
when it was as wide as the whole valley, were an essence of soils,
pounded champaigns of the past, steeped, refined, and subtilized to
extraordinary richness, out of which came all the fertility of the
mead, and of the cattle grazing there.

Clare hardily kept his arm round her waist in sight of these
watermen, with the air of a man who was accustomed to public
dalliance, though actually as shy as she who, with lips parted and
eyes askance on the labourers, wore the look of a wary animal the
while.

"You are not ashamed of owning me as yours before them!" she said
gladly.

"O no!"

"But if it should reach the ears of your friends at Emminster that
you are walking about like this with me, a milkmaid--"

"The most bewitching milkmaid ever seen."

"They might feel it a hurt to their dignity."

"My dear girl--a d'Urberville hurt the dignity of a Clare!  It is a
grand card to play--that of your belonging to such a family, and I
am reserving it for a grand effect when we are married, and have
the proofs of your descent from Parson Tringham.  Apart from that,
my future is to be totally foreign to my family--it will not affect
even the surface of their lives.  We shall leave this part of
England--perhaps England itself--and what does it matter how people
regard us here?  You will like going, will you not?"

She could answer no more than a bare affirmative, so great was the
emotion aroused in her at the thought of going through the world with
him as his own familiar friend.  Her feelings almost filled her ears
like a babble of waves, and surged up to her eyes.  She put her hand
in his, and thus they went on, to a place where the reflected sun
glared up from the river, under a bridge, with a molten-metallic glow
that dazzled their eyes, though the sun itself was hidden by the
bridge.  They stood still, whereupon little furred and feathered
heads popped up from the smooth surface of the water; but, finding
that the disturbing presences had paused, and not passed by, they
disappeared again.  Upon this river-brink they lingered till the fog
began to close round them--which was very early in the evening at
this time of the year--settling on the lashes of her eyes, where it
rested like crystals, and on his brows and hair.

They walked later on Sundays, when it was quite dark.  Some of the
dairy-people, who were also out of doors on the first Sunday evening
after their engagement, heard her impulsive speeches, ecstasized to
fragments, though they were too far off to hear the words discoursed;
noted the spasmodic catch in her remarks, broken into syllables by
the leapings of her heart, as she walked leaning on his arm; her
contented pauses, the occasional little laugh upon which her soul
seemed to ride--the laugh of a woman in company with the man she
loves and has won from all other women--unlike anything else in
nature.  They marked the buoyancy of her tread, like the skim of a
bird which has not quite alighted.

Her affection for him was now the breath and life of Tess's being;
it enveloped her as a photosphere, irradiated her into forgetfulness
of her past sorrows, keeping back the gloomy spectres that would
persist in their attempts to touch her--doubt, fear, moodiness, care,
shame. She knew that they were waiting like wolves just outside the
circumscribing light, but she had long spells of power to keep them
in hungry subjection there.

A spiritual forgetfulness co-existed with an intellectual
remembrance.  She walked in brightness, but she knew that in the
background those shapes of darkness were always spread.  They might
be receding, or they might be approaching, one or the other, a little
every day.


One evening Tess and Clare were obliged to sit indoors keeping house,
all the other occupants of the domicile being away.  As they talked
she looked thoughtfully up at him, and met his two appreciative eyes.

"I am not worthy of you--no, I am not!" she burst out, jumping up
from her low stool as though appalled at his homage, and the fulness
of her own joy thereat.

Clare, deeming the whole basis of her excitement to be that which was
only the smaller part of it, said--

"I won't have you speak like it, dear Tess!  Distinction does not
consist in the facile use of a contemptible set of conventions, but
in being numbered among those who are true, and honest, and just, and
pure, and lovely, and of good report--as you are, my Tess."

She struggled with the sob in her throat.  How often had that string
of excellences made her young heart ache in church of late years, and
how strange that he should have cited them now.

"Why didn't you stay and love me when I--was sixteen; living with my
little sisters and brothers, and you danced on the green?  O, why
didn't you, why didn't you!" she said, impetuously clasping her
hands.

Angel began to comfort and reassure her, thinking to himself, truly
enough, what a creature of moods she was, and how careful he would
have to be of her when she depended for her happiness entirely on
him.

"Ah--why didn't I stay!" he said.  "That is just what I feel.  If I
had only known!  But you must not be so bitter in your regret--why
should you be?"

With the woman's instinct to hide she diverged hastily--

"I should have had four years more of your heart than I can ever have
now.  Then I should not have wasted my time as I have done--I should
have had so much longer happiness!"

It was no mature woman with a long dark vista of intrigue behind her
who was tormented thus, but a girl of simple life, not yet one-and
twenty, who had been caught during her days of immaturity like a bird
in a springe.  To calm herself the more completely, she rose from her
little stool and left the room, overturning the stool with her skirts
as she went.

He sat on by the cheerful firelight thrown from a bundle of green
ash-sticks laid across the dogs; the sticks snapped pleasantly, and
hissed out bubbles of sap from their ends.  When she came back she
was herself again.

"Do you not think you are just a wee bit capricious, fitful, Tess?"
he said, good-humouredly, as he spread a cushion for her on the
stool, and seated himself in the settle beside her.  "I wanted to
ask you something, and just then you ran away."

"Yes, perhaps I am capricious," she murmured.  She suddenly
approached him, and put a hand upon each of his arms.  "No, Angel,
I am not really so--by nature, I mean!"  The more particularly to
assure him that she was not, she placed herself close to him in the
settle, and allowed her head to find a resting-place against Clare's
shoulder.  "What did you want to ask me--I am sure I will answer it,"
she continued humbly.

"Well, you love me, and have agreed to marry me, and hence there
follows a thirdly, 'When shall the day be?'"

"I like living like this."

"But I must think of starting in business on my own hook with the
new year, or a little later.  And before I get involved in the
multifarious details of my new position, I should like to have
secured my partner."

"But," she timidly answered, "to talk quite practically, wouldn't it
be best not to marry till after all that?--Though I can't bear the
thought o' your going away and leaving me here!"

"Of course you cannot--and it is not best in this case.  I want you
to help me in many ways in making my start. When shall it be?  Why
not a fortnight from now?"

"No," she said, becoming grave: "I have so many things to think of
first."

"But--"

He drew her gently nearer to him.

The reality of marriage was startling when it loomed so near.  Before
discussion of the question had proceeded further there walked round
the corner of the settle into the full firelight of the apartment Mr
Dairyman Crick, Mrs Crick, and two of the milkmaids.

Tess sprang like an elastic ball from his side to her feet, while her
face flushed and her eyes shone in the firelight.

"I knew how it would be if I sat so close to him!" she cried, with
vexation.  "I said to myself, they are sure to come and catch us!
But I wasn't really sitting on his knee, though it might ha' seemed
as if I was almost!"

"Well--if so be you hadn't told us, I am sure we shouldn't ha'
noticed that ye had been sitting anywhere at all in this light,"
replied the dairyman.  He continued to his wife, with the stolid
mien of a man who understood nothing of the emotions relating to
matrimony--"Now, Christianer, that shows that folks should never
fancy other folks be supposing things when they bain't.  O no, I
should never ha' thought a word of where she was a sitting to, if
she hadn't told me--not I."

"We are going to be married soon," said Clare, with improvised
phlegm.

"Ah--and be ye!  Well, I am truly glad to hear it, sir.  I've
thought you mid do such a thing for some time.  She's too good for a
dairymaid--I said so the very first day I zid her--and a prize for
any man; and what's more, a wonderful woman for a gentleman-farmer's
wife; he won't be at the mercy of his baily wi' her at his side."

Somehow Tess disappeared.  She had been even more struck with the
look of the girls who followed Crick than abashed by Crick's blunt
praise.

After supper, when she reached her bedroom, they were all present.  A
light was burning, and each damsel was sitting up whitely in her bed,
awaiting Tess, the whole like a row of avenging ghosts.

But she saw in a few moments that there was no malice in their mood.
They could scarcely feel as a loss what they had never expected to
have.  Their condition was objective, contemplative.

"He's going to marry her!" murmured Retty, never taking eyes off
Tess.  "How her face do show it!"

"You BE going to marry him?" asked Marian.

"Yes," said Tess.

"When?"

"Some day."

They thought that this was evasiveness only.

"YES--going to MARRY him--a gentleman!" repeated Izz Huett.

And by a sort of fascination the three girls, one after another,
crept out of their beds, and came and stood barefooted round Tess.
Retty put her hands upon Tess's shoulders, as if to realize her
friend's corporeality after such a miracle, and the other two laid
their arms round her waist, all looking into her face.

"How it do seem!  Almost more than I can think of!" said Izz Huett.

Marian kissed Tess.  "Yes," she murmured as she withdrew her lips.

"Was that because of love for her, or because other lips have touched
there by now?" continued Izz drily to Marian.

"I wasn't thinking o' that," said Marian simply.  "I was on'y feeling
all the strangeness o't--that she is to be his wife, and nobody else.
I don't say nay to it, nor either of us, because we did not think
of it--only loved him.  Still, nobody else is to marry'n in the
world--no fine lady, nobody in silks and satins; but she who do live
like we."

"Are you sure you don't dislike me for it?" said Tess in a low voice.

They hung about her in their white nightgowns before replying, as if
they considered their answer might lie in her look.

"I don't know--I don't know," murmured Retty Priddle.  "I want to
hate 'ee; but I cannot!"

"That's how I feel," echoed Izz and Marian.  "I can't hate her.
Somehow she hinders me!"

"He ought to marry one of you," murmured Tess.

"Why?"

"You are all better than I."

"We better than you?" said the girls in a low, slow whisper.  "No,
no, dear Tess!"

"You are!" she contradicted impetuously.  And suddenly tearing away
from their clinging arms she burst into a hysterical fit of tears,
bowing herself on the chest of drawers and repeating incessantly,
"O yes, yes, yes!"

Having once given way she could not stop her weeping.

"He ought to have had one of you!" she cried.  "I think I ought to
make him even now!  You would be better for him than--I don't know
what I'm saying!  O!  O!"

They went up to her and clasped her round, but still her sobs tore
her.

"Get some water," said Marian,  "She's upset by us, poor thing, poor
thing!"

They gently led her back to the side of her bed, where they kissed
her warmly.

"You are best for'n," said Marian.  "More ladylike, and a better
scholar than we, especially since he had taught 'ee so much.  But
even you ought to be proud.  You BE proud, I'm sure!"

"Yes, I am," she said; "and I am ashamed at so breaking down."

When they were all in bed, and the light was out, Marian whispered
across to her--

"You will think of us when you be his wife, Tess, and of how we told
'ee that we loved him, and how we tried not to hate you, and did not
hate you, and could not hate you, because you were his choice, and
we never hoped to be chose by him."

They were not aware that, at these words, salt, stinging tears
trickled down upon Tess's pillow anew, and how she resolved, with a
bursting heart, to tell all her history to Angel Clare, despite her
mother's command--to let him for whom she lived and breathed despise
her if he would, and her mother regard her as a fool, rather then
preserve a silence which might be deemed a treachery to him, and
which somehow seemed a wrong to these.



XXXII


This penitential mood kept her from naming the wedding-day. The
beginning of November found its date still in abeyance, though he
asked her at the most tempting times.  But Tess's desire seemed to be
for a perpetual betrothal in which everything should remain as it was
then.

The meads were changing now; but it was still warm enough in early
afternoons before milking to idle there awhile, and the state of
dairy-work at this time of year allowed a spare hour for idling.
Looking over the damp sod in the direction of the sun, a glistening
ripple of gossamer webs was visible to their eyes under the luminary,
like the track of moonlight on the sea.  Gnats, knowing nothing
of their brief glorification, wandered across the shimmer of this
pathway, irradiated as if they bore fire within them, then passed out
of its line, and were quite extinct.  In the presence of these things
he would remind her that the date was still the question.

Or he would ask her at night, when he accompanied her on some mission
invented by Mrs Crick to give him the opportunity.  This was mostly a
journey to the farmhouse on the slopes above the vale, to inquire how
the advanced cows were getting on in the straw-barton to which they
were relegated.  For it was a time of the year that brought great
changes to the world of kine.  Batches of the animals were sent away
daily to this lying-in hospital, where they lived on straw till their
calves were born, after which event, and as soon as the calf could
walk, mother and offspring were driven back to the dairy.  In the
interval which elapsed before the calves were sold there was, of
course, little milking to be done, but as soon as the calf had been
taken away the milkmaids would have to set to work as usual.

Returning from one of these dark walks they reached a great
gravel-cliff immediately over the levels, where they stood still and
listened.  The water was now high in the streams, squirting through
the weirs, and tinkling under culverts; the smallest gullies were all
full; there was no taking short cuts anywhere, and foot-passengers
were compelled to follow the permanent ways.  From the whole extent
of the invisible vale came a multitudinous intonation; it forced upon
their fancy that a great city lay below them, and that the murmur was
the vociferation of its populace.

"It seems like tens of thousands of them," said Tess; "holding
public-meetings in their market-places, arguing, preaching,
quarrelling, sobbing, groaning, praying, and cursing."

Clare was not particularly heeding.

"Did Crick speak to you to-day, dear, about his not wanting much
assistance during the winter months?"

"No."

"The cows are going dry rapidly."

"Yes.  Six or seven went to the straw-barton yesterday, and three the
day before, making nearly twenty in the straw already.  Ah--is it
that the farmer don't want my help for the calving?  O, I am not
wanted here any more!  And I have tried so hard to--"

"Crick didn't exactly say that he would no longer require you.  But,
knowing what our relations were, he said in the most good-natured
and respectful manner possible that he supposed on my leaving at
Christmas I should take you with me, and on my asking what he would
do without you he merely observed that, as a matter of fact, it was a
time of year when he could do with a very little female help.  I am
afraid I was sinner enough to feel rather glad that he was in this
way forcing your hand."

"I don't think you ought to have felt glad, Angel.  Because 'tis
always mournful not to be wanted, even if at the same time 'tis
convenient."

"Well, it is convenient--you have admitted that."  He put his finger
upon her cheek.  "Ah!" he said.

"What?"

"I feel the red rising up at her having been caught!  But why should
I trifle so!  We will not trifle--life is too serious."

"It is.  Perhaps I saw that before you did."

She was seeing it then.  To decline to marry him after all--in
obedience to her emotion of last night--and leave the dairy, meant
to go to some strange place, not a dairy; for milkmaids were not in
request now calving-time was coming on; to go to some arable farm
where no divine being like Angel Clare was.  She hated the thought,
and she hated more the thought of going home.

"So that, seriously, dearest Tess," he continued, "since you will
probably have to leave at Christmas, it is in every way desirable and
convenient that I should carry you off then as my property.  Besides,
if you were not the most uncalculating girl in the world you would
know that we could not go on like this for ever."

"I wish we could.  That it would always be summer and autumn, and you
always courting me, and always thinking as much of me as you have
done through the past summer-time!"

"I always shall."

"O, I know you will!" she cried, with a sudden fervour of faith
in him.  "Angel, I will fix the day when I will become yours for
always!"

Thus at last it was arranged between them, during that dark walk
home, amid the myriads of liquid voices on the right and left.

When they reached the dairy Mr and Mrs Crick were promptly told--with
injunctions of secrecy; for each of the lovers was desirous that the
marriage should be kept as private as possible.  The dairyman, though
he had thought of dismissing her soon, now made a great concern about
losing her.  What should he do about his skimming?  Who would make
the ornamental butter-pats for the Anglebury and Sandbourne ladies?
Mrs Crick congratulated Tess on the shilly-shallying having at last
come to an end, and said that directly she set eyes on Tess she
divined that she was to be the chosen one of somebody who was no
common outdoor man; Tess had looked so superior as she walked across
the barton on that afternoon of her arrival; that she was of a good
family she could have sworn.  In point of fact Mrs Crick did remember
thinking that Tess was graceful and good-looking as she approached;
but the superiority might have been a growth of the imagination aided
by subsequent knowledge.

Tess was now carried along upon the wings of the hours, without the
sense of a will.  The word had been given; the number of the day
written down.  Her naturally bright intelligence had begun to admit
the fatalistic convictions common to field-folk and those who
associate more extensively with natural phenomena than with their
fellow-creatures; and she accordingly drifted into that passive
responsiveness to all things her lover suggested, characteristic of
the frame of mind.

But she wrote anew to her mother, ostensibly to notify the
wedding-day; really to again implore her advice.  It was a gentleman
who had chosen her, which perhaps her mother had not sufficiently
considered.  A post-nuptial explanation, which might be accepted with
a light heart by a rougher man, might not be received with the same
feeling by him.  But this communication brought no reply from Mrs
Durbeyfield.

Despite Angel Clare's plausible representation to himself and to Tess
of the practical need for their immediate marriage, there was in
truth an element of precipitancy in the step, as became apparent at a
later date.  He loved her dearly, though perhaps rather ideally and
fancifully than with the impassioned thoroughness of her feeling for
him.  He had entertained no notion, when doomed as he had thought to
an unintellectual bucolic life, that such charms as he beheld in this
idyllic creature would be found behind the scenes.  Unsophistication
was a thing to talk of; but he had not known how it really struck one
until he came here.  Yet he was very far from seeing his future track
clearly, and it might be a year or two before he would be able to
consider himself fairly started in life.  The secret lay in the tinge
of recklessness imparted to his career and character by the sense
that he had been made to miss his true destiny through the prejudices
of his family.

"Don't you think 'twould have been better for us to wait till you
were quite settled in your midland farm?" she once asked timidly.
(A midland farm was the idea just then.)

"To tell the truth, my Tess, I don't like you to be left anywhere
away from my protection and sympathy."

The reason was a good one, so far as it went.  His influence over her
had been so marked that she had caught his manner and habits, his
speech and phrases, his likings and his aversions.  And to leave her
in farmland would be to let her slip back again out of accord with
him.  He wished to have her under his charge for another reason.
His parents had naturally desired to see her once at least before he
carried her off to a distant settlement, English or colonial; and
as no opinion of theirs was to be allowed to change his intention,
he judged that a couple of months' life with him in lodgings
whilst seeking for an advantageous opening would be of some social
assistance to her at what she might feel to be a trying ordeal--her
presentation to his mother at the Vicarage.

Next, he wished to see a little of the working of a flour-mill,
having an idea that he might combine the use of one with
corn-growing.  The proprietor of a large old water-mill at
Wellbridge--once the mill of an Abbey--had offered him the inspection
of his time-honoured mode of procedure, and a hand in the operations
for a few days, whenever he should choose to come.  Clare paid a
visit to the place, some few miles distant, one day at this time,
to inquire particulars, and returned to Talbothays in the evening.
She found him determined to spend a short time at the Wellbridge
flour-mills. And what had determined him?  Less the opportunity of an
insight into grinding and bolting than the casual fact that lodgings
were to be obtained in that very farmhouse which, before its
mutilation, had been the mansion of a branch of the d'Urberville
family.  This was always how Clare settled practical questions; by
a sentiment which had nothing to do with them.  They decided to go
immediately after the wedding, and remain for a fortnight, instead
of journeying to towns and inns.

"Then we will start off to examine some farms on the other side of
London that I have heard of," he said, "and by March or April we will
pay a visit to my father and mother."

Questions of procedure such as these arose and passed, and the day,
the incredible day, on which she was to become his, loomed large in
the near future.  The thirty-first of December, New Year's Eve, was
the date.  His wife, she said to herself.  Could it ever be?  Their
two selves together, nothing to divide them, every incident shared
by them; why not?  And yet why?

One Sunday morning Izz Huett returned from church, and spoke
privately to Tess.

"You was not called home this morning."

"What?"

"It should ha' been the first time of asking to-day," she answered,
looking quietly at Tess.  "You meant to be married New Year's Eve,
deary?"

The other returned a quick affirmative.

"And there must be three times of asking.  And now there be only two
Sundays left between."

Tess felt her cheek paling; Izz was right; of course there must be
three.  Perhaps he had forgotten!  If so, there must be a week's
postponement, and that was unlucky.  How could she remind her lover?
She who had been so backward was suddenly fired with impatience and
alarm lest she should lose her dear prize.

A natural incident relieved her anxiety.  Izz mentioned the omission
of the banns to Mrs Crick, and Mrs Crick assumed a matron's privilege
of speaking to Angel on the point.

"Have ye forgot 'em, Mr Clare?  The banns, I mean."

"No, I have not forgot 'em," says Clare.

As soon as he caught Tess alone he assured her:

"Don't let them tease you about the banns.  A licence will be quieter
for us, and I have decided on a licence without consulting you.
So if you go to church on Sunday morning you will not hear your own
name, if you wished to."

"I didn't wish to hear it, dearest," she said proudly.

But to know that things were in train was an immense relief to Tess
notwithstanding, who had well-nigh feared that somebody would stand
up and forbid the banns on the ground of her history.  How events
were favouring her!

"I don't quite feel easy," she said to herself.  "All this good
fortune may be scourged out of me afterwards by a lot of ill.  That's
how Heaven mostly does.  I wish I could have had common banns!"

But everything went smoothly.  She wondered whether he would like her
to be married in her present best white frock, or if she ought to
buy a new one.  The question was set at rest by his forethought,
disclosed by the arrival of some large packages addressed to her.
Inside them she found a whole stock of clothing, from bonnet to
shoes, including a perfect morning costume, such as would well suit
the simple wedding they planned.  He entered the house shortly after
the arrival of the packages, and heard her upstairs undoing them.

A minute later she came down with a flush on her face and tears in
her eyes.

"How thoughtful you've been!" she murmured, her cheek upon his
shoulder.  "Even to the gloves and handkerchief!  My own love--how
good, how kind!"

"No, no, Tess; just an order to a tradeswoman in London--nothing
more."

And to divert her from thinking too highly of him, he told her to go
upstairs, and take her time, and see if it all fitted; and, if not,
to get the village sempstress to make a few alterations.

She did return upstairs, and put on the gown.  Alone, she stood for a
moment before the glass looking at the effect of her silk attire; and
then there came into her head her mother's ballad of the mystic
robe--


     That never would become that wife
       That had once done amiss,


which Mrs Durbeyfield had used to sing to her as a child, so blithely
and so archly, her foot on the cradle, which she rocked to the tune.
Suppose this robe should betray her by changing colour, as her robe
had betrayed Queen Guinevere.  Since she had been at the dairy she
had not once thought of the lines till now.



XXXIII


Angel felt that he would like to spend a day with her before the
wedding, somewhere away from the dairy, as a last jaunt in her
company while there were yet mere lover and mistress; a romantic day,
in circumstances that would never be repeated; with that other and
greater day beaming close ahead of them.  During the preceding week,
therefore, he suggested making a few purchases in the nearest town,
and they started together.

Clare's life at the dairy had been that of a recluse in respect the
world of his own class.  For months he had never gone near a town,
and, requiring no vehicle, had never kept one, hiring the dairyman's
cob or gig if he rode or drove.  They went in the gig that day.

And then for the first time in their lives they shopped as partners
in one concern.  It was Christmas Eve, with its loads a holly and
mistletoe, and the town was very full of strangers who had come in
from all parts of the country on account of the day.  Tess paid the
penalty of walking about with happiness superadded to beauty on her
countenance by being much stared at as she moved amid them on his
arm.

In the evening they returned to the inn at which they had put up, and
Tess waited in the entry while Angel went to see the horse and gig
brought to the door.  The general sitting-room was full of guests,
who were continually going in and out.  As the door opened and shut
each time for the passage of these, the light within the parlour fell
full upon Tess's face.  Two men came out and passed by her among the
rest.  One of them had stared her up and down in surprise, and she
fancied he was a Trantridge man, though that village lay so many
miles off that Trantridge folk were rarities here.

"A comely maid that," said the other.

"True, comely enough.  But unless I make a great mistake--"  And he
negatived the remainder of the definition forthwith.

Clare had just returned from the stable-yard, and, confronting the
man on the threshold, heard the words, and saw the shrinking of
Tess.  The insult to her stung him to the quick, and before he had
considered anything at all he struck the man on the chin with the
full force of his fist, sending him staggering backwards into the
passage.

The man recovered himself, and seemed inclined to come on, and Clare,
stepping outside the door, put himself in a posture of defence.  But
his opponent began to think better of the matter.  He looked anew at
Tess as he passed her, and said to Clare--

"I beg pardon, sir; 'twas a complete mistake.  I thought she was
another woman, forty miles from here."

Clare, feeling then that he had been too hasty, and that he was,
moreover, to blame for leaving her standing in an inn-passage, did
what he usually did in such cases, gave the man five shillings to
plaster the blow; and thus they parted, bidding each other a pacific
good night.  As soon as Clare had taken the reins from the ostler,
and the young couple had driven off, the two men went in the other
direction.

"And was it a mistake?" said the second one.

"Not a bit of it.  But I didn't want to hurt the gentleman's
feelings--not I."

In the meantime the lovers were driving onward.

"Could we put off our wedding till a little later?" Tess asked in a
dry dull voice.  "I mean if we wished?"

"No, my love.  Calm yourself.  Do you mean that the fellow may have
time to summon me for assault?" he asked good-humouredly.

"No--I only meant--if it should have to be put off."

What she meant was not very clear, and he directed her to dismiss
such fancies from her mind, which she obediently did as well as she
could.  But she was grave, very grave, all the way home; till she
thought, "We shall go away, a very long distance, hundreds of miles
from these parts, and such as this can never happen again, and no
ghost of the past reach there."

They parted tenderly that night on the landing, and Clare ascended to
his attic.  Tess sat up getting on with some little requisites, lest
the few remaining days should not afford sufficient time.  While she
sat she heard a noise in Angel's room overhead, a sound of thumping
and struggling.  Everybody else in the house was asleep, and in her
anxiety lest Clare should be ill she ran up and knocked at his door,
and asked him what was the matter.

"Oh, nothing, dear," he said from within.  "I am so sorry I disturbed
you!  But the reason is rather an amusing one: I fell asleep and
dreamt that I was fighting that fellow again who insulted you,
and the noise you heard was my pummelling away with my fists at
my portmanteau, which I pulled out to-day for packing.  I am
occasionally liable to these freaks in my sleep. Go to bed and
think of it no more."

This was the last drachm required to turn the scale of her
indecision.  Declare the past to him by word of mouth she could not;
but there was another way.  She sat down and wrote on the four pages
of a note-sheet a succinct narrative of those events of three or four
years ago, put it into an envelope, and directed it to Clare.  Then,
lest the flesh should again be weak, she crept upstairs without any
shoes and slipped the note under his door.

Her night was a broken one, as it well might be, and she listened for
the first faint noise overhead.  It came, as usual; he descended, as
usual.  She descended.  He met her at the bottom of the stairs and
kissed her. Surely it was as warmly as ever!

He looked a little disturbed and worn, she thought.  But he said not
a word to her about her revelation, even when they were alone.  Could
he have had it?  Unless he began the subject she felt that she could
say nothing.  So the day passed, and it was evident that whatever
he thought he meant to keep to himself.  Yet he was frank and
affectionate as before.  Could it be that her doubts were childish?
that he forgave her; that he loved her for what she was, just as she
was, and smiled at her disquiet as at a foolish nightmare?  Had he
really received her note?  She glanced into his room, and could see
nothing of it.  It might be that he forgave her.  But even if he had
not received it she had a sudden enthusiastic trust that he surely
would forgive her.

Every morning and night he was the same, and thus New Year's Eve
broke--the wedding day.

The lovers did not rise at milking-time, having through the whole of
this last week of their sojourn at the dairy been accorded something
of the position of guests, Tess being honoured with a room of her
own.  When they arrived downstairs at breakfast-time they were
surprised to see what effects had been produced in the large
kitchen for their glory since they had last beheld it.  At some
unnatural hour of the morning the dairyman had caused the yawning
chimney-corner to be whitened, and the brick hearth reddened, and a
blazing yellow damask blower to be hung across the arch in place of
the old grimy blue cotton one with a black sprig pattern which had
formerly done duty there.  This renovated aspect of what was the
focus indeed of the room on a full winter morning threw a smiling
demeanour over the whole apartment.

"I was determined to do summat in honour o't", said the dairyman.
"And as you wouldn't hear of my gieing a rattling good randy wi'
fiddles and bass-viols complete, as we should ha' done in old times,
this was all I could think o' as a noiseless thing."

Tess's friends lived so far off that none could conveniently have
been present at the ceremony, even had any been asked; but as a fact
nobody was invited from Marlott.  As for Angel's family, he had
written and duly informed them of the time, and assured them that he
would be glad to see one at least of them there for the day if he
would like to come.  His brothers had not replied at all, seeming
to be indignant with him; while his father and mother had written
a rather sad letter, deploring his precipitancy in rushing into
marriage, but making the best of the matter by saying that, though
a dairywoman was the last daughter-in-law they could have expected,
their son had arrived at an age which he might be supposed to be the
best judge.

This coolness in his relations distressed Clare less than it would
have done had he been without the grand card with which he meant to
surprise them ere long.  To produce Tess, fresh from the dairy, as
a d'Urberville and a lady, he had felt to be temerarious and risky;
hence he had concealed her lineage till such time as, familiarized
with worldly ways by a few months' travel and reading with him, he
could take her on a visit to his parents and impart the knowledge
while triumphantly producing her as worthy of such an ancient line.
It was a pretty lover's dream, if no more.  Perhaps Tess's lineage
had more value for himself than for anybody in the world beside.

Her perception that Angel's bearing towards her still remained in no
whit altered by her own communication rendered Tess guiltily doubtful
if he could have received it.  She rose from breakfast before he had
finished, and hastened upstairs.  It had occurred to her to look once
more into the queer gaunt room which had been Clare's den, or rather
eyrie, for so long, and climbing the ladder she stood at the open
door of the apartment, regarding and pondering.  She stooped to the
threshold of the doorway, where she had pushed in the note two or
three days earlier in such excitement.  The carpet reached close to
the sill, and under the edge of the carpet she discerned the faint
white margin of the envelope containing her letter to him, which he
obviously had never seen, owing to her having in her haste thrust it
beneath the carpet as well as beneath the door.

With a feeling of faintness she withdrew the letter. There it
was--sealed up, just as it had left her hands.  The mountain had
not yet been removed.  She could not let him read it now, the house
being in full bustle of preparation; and descending to her own room
she destroyed the letter there.

She was so pale when he saw her again that he felt quite anxious.
The incident of the misplaced letter she had jumped at as if it
prevented a confession; but she knew in her conscience that it need
not; there was still time.  Yet everything was in a stir; there
was coming and going; all had to dress, the dairyman and Mrs Crick
having been asked to accompany them as witnesses; and reflection or
deliberate talk was well-nigh impossible.  The only minute Tess could
get to be alone with Clare was when they met upon the landing.

"I am so anxious to talk to you--I want to confess all my faults and
blunders!" she said with attempted lightness.

"No, no--we can't have faults talked of--you must be deemed perfect
to-day at least, my Sweet!" he cried.  "We shall have plenty of time,
hereafter, I hope, to talk over our failings.  I will confess mine at
the same time."

"But it would be better for me to do it now, I think, so that you
could not say--"

"Well, my quixotic one, you shall tell me anything--say, as soon as
we are settled in our lodging; not now.  I, too, will tell you my
faults then.  But do not let us spoil the day with them; they will
be excellent matter for a dull time."

"Then you don't wish me to, dearest?"

"I do not, Tessy, really."

The hurry of dressing and starting left no time for more than this.
Those words of his seemed to reassure her on further reflection.
She was whirled onward through the next couple of critical hours by
the mastering tide of her devotion to him, which closed up further
meditation.  Her one desire, so long resisted, to make herself his,
to call him her lord, her own--then, if necessary, to die--had
at last lifted her up from her plodding reflective pathway.  In
dressing, she moved about in a mental cloud of many-coloured
idealities, which eclipsed all sinister contingencies by its
brightness.

The church was a long way off, and they were obliged to drive,
particularly as it was winter.  A closed carriage was ordered from
a roadside inn, a vehicle which had been kept there ever since the
old days of post-chaise travelling.  It had stout wheel-spokes, and
heavy felloes a great curved bed, immense straps and springs, and a
pole like a battering-ram.  The postilion was a venerable "boy" of
sixty--a martyr to rheumatic gout, the result of excessive exposure
in youth, counter-acted by strong liquors--who had stood at inn-doors
doing nothing for the whole five-and-twenty years that had elapsed
since he had no longer been required to ride professionally, as if
expecting the old times to come back again.  He had a permanent
running wound on the outside of his right leg, originated by the
constant bruisings of aristocratic carriage-poles during the many
years that he had been in regular employ at the King's Arms,
Casterbridge.

Inside this cumbrous and creaking structure, and behind this decayed
conductor, the _partie carrée_ took their seats--the bride and
bridegroom and Mr and Mrs Crick.  Angel would have liked one at least
of his brothers to be present as groomsman, but their silence after
his gentle hint to that effect by letter had signified that they did
not care to come.  They disapproved of the marriage, and could not be
expected to countenance it.  Perhaps it was as well that they could
not be present. They were not worldly young fellows, but fraternizing
with dairy-folk would have struck unpleasantly upon their biased
niceness, apart from their views of the match.

Upheld by the momentum of the time, Tess knew nothing of this, did
not see anything, did not know the road they were taking to the
church.  She knew that Angel was close to her; all the rest was
a luminous mist.  She was a sort of celestial person, who owed
her being to poetry--one of those classical divinities Clare was
accustomed to talk to her about when they took their walks together.

The marriage being by licence there were only a dozen or so of people
in the church; had there been a thousand they would have produced
no more effect upon her.  They were at stellar distances from her
present world.  In the ecstatic solemnity with which she swore her
faith to him the ordinary sensibilities of sex seemed a flippancy.
At a pause in the service, while they were kneeling together, she
unconsciously inclined herself towards him, so that her shoulder
touched his arm; she had been frightened by a passing thought, and
the movement had been automatic, to assure herself that he was really
there, and to fortify her belief that his fidelity would be proof
against all things.

Clare knew that she loved him--every curve of her form showed that--
but he did not know at that time the full depth of her devotion, its
single-mindedness, its meekness; what long-suffering it guaranteed,
what honesty, what endurance, what good faith.

As they came out of church the ringers swung the bells off their
rests, and a modest peal of three notes broke forth--that limited
amount of expression having been deemed sufficient by the church
builders for the joys of such a small parish.  Passing by the tower
with her husband on the path to the gate she could feel the vibrant
air humming round them from the louvred belfry in the circle of
sound, and it matched the highly-charged mental atmosphere in which
she was living.

This condition of mind, wherein she felt glorified by an irradiation
not her own, like the angel whom St John saw in the sun, lasted till
the sound of the church bells had died away, and the emotions of the
wedding-service had calmed down.  Her eyes could dwell upon details
more clearly now, and Mr and Mrs Crick having directed their own gig
to be sent for them, to leave the carriage to the young couple, she
observed the build and character of that conveyance for the first
time.  Sitting in silence she regarded it long.

"I fancy you seem oppressed, Tessy," said Clare.

"Yes," she answered, putting her hand to her brow.  "I tremble at
many things.  It is all so serious, Angel.  Among other things I seem
to have seen this carriage before, to be very well acquainted with
it.  It is very odd--I must have seen it in a dream."

"Oh--you have heard the legend of the d'Urberville Coach--that
well-known superstition of this county about your family when they
were very popular here; and this lumbering old thing reminds you of
it."

"I have never heard of it to my knowledge," said she.  "What is the
legend--may I know it?"

"Well--I would rather not tell it in detail just now.  A certain
d'Urberville of the sixteenth or seventeenth century committed a
dreadful crime in his family coach; and since that time members of
the family see or hear the old coach whenever--But I'll tell you
another day--it is rather gloomy.  Evidently some dim knowledge of
it has been brought back to your mind by the sight of this venerable
caravan."

"I don't remember hearing it before," she murmured.  "Is it when we
are going to die, Angel, that members of my family see it, or is it
when we have committed a crime?"

"Now, Tess!"

He silenced her by a kiss.

By the time they reached home she was contrite and spiritless.  She
was Mrs Angel Clare, indeed, but had she any moral right to the name?
Was she not more truly Mrs Alexander d'Urberville?  Could intensity
of love justify what might be considered in upright souls as culpable
reticence?  She knew not what was expected of women in such cases;
and she had no counsellor.

However, when she found herself alone in her room for a few
minutes--the last day this on which she was ever to enter it--she
knelt down and prayed.  She tried to pray to God, but it was her
husband who really had her supplication.  Her idolatry of this man
was such that she herself almost feared it to be ill-omened.  She was
conscious of the notion expressed by Friar Laurence: "These violent
delights have violent ends."  It might be too desperate for human
conditions--too rank, to wild, too deadly.

"O my love, why do I love you so!" she whispered there alone; "for
she you love is not my real self, but one in my image; the one I
might have been!"

Afternoon came, and with it the hour for departure. They had decided
to fulfil the plan of going for a few days to the lodgings in the old
farmhouse near Wellbridge Mill, at which he meant to reside during
his investigation of flour processes.  At two o'clock there was
nothing left to do but to start.  All the servantry of the dairy were
standing in the red-brick entry to see them go out, the dairyman and
his wife following to the door.  Tess saw her three chamber-mates
in a row against the wall, pensively inclining their heads.  She
had much questioned if they would appear at the parting moment; but
there they were, stoical and staunch to the last.  She knew why the
delicate Retty looked so fragile, and Izz so tragically sorrowful,
and Marian so blank; and she forgot her own dogging shadow for a
moment in contemplating theirs.

She impulsively whispered to him--

"Will you kiss 'em all, once, poor things, for the first and last
time?"

Clare had not the least objection to such a farewell formality--which
was all that it was to him--and as he passed them he kissed them in
succession where they stood, saying "Goodbye" to each as he did so.
When they reached the door Tess femininely glanced back to discern
the effect of that kiss of charity; there was no triumph in her
glance, as there might have been.  If there had it would have
disappeared when she saw how moved the girls all were.  The kiss had
obviously done harm by awakening feelings they were trying to subdue.

Of all this Clare was unconscious.  Passing on to the wicket-gate he
shook hands with the dairyman and his wife, and expressed his last
thanks to them for their attentions; after which there was a moment
of silence before they had moved off.  It was interrupted by the
crowing of a cock.  The white one with the rose comb had come and
settled on the palings in front of the house, within a few yards of
them, and his notes thrilled their ears through, dwindling away like
echoes down a valley of rocks.

"Oh?" said Mrs Crick.  "An afternoon crow!"

Two men were standing by the yard gate, holding it open.

"That's bad," one murmured to the other, not thinking that the words
could be heard by the group at the door-wicket.

The cock crew again--straight towards Clare.

"Well!" said the dairyman.

"I don't like to hear him!" said Tess to her husband.  "Tell the man
to drive on.  Goodbye, goodbye!"

The cock crew again.

"Hoosh!  Just you be off, sir, or I'll twist your neck!" said the
dairyman with some irritation, turning to the bird and driving him
away.  And to his wife as they went indoors: "Now, to think o' that
just to-day!  I've not heard his crow of an afternoon all the year
afore."

"It only means a change in the weather," said she; "not what you
think: 'tis impossible!"



XXXIV


They drove by the level road along the valley to a distance of a few
miles, and, reaching Wellbridge, turned away from the village to the
left, and over the great Elizabethan bridge which gives the place
half its name.  Immediately behind it stood the house wherein they
had engaged lodgings, whose exterior features are so well known to
all travellers through the Froom Valley; once portion of a fine
manorial residence, and the property and seat of a d'Urberville, but
since its partial demolition a farmhouse.

"Welcome to one of your ancestral mansions!" said Clare as he handed
her down.  But he regretted the pleasantry; it was too near a satire.

On entering they found that, though they had only engaged a couple
of rooms, the farmer had taken advantage of their proposed presence
during the coming days to pay a New Year's visit to some friends,
leaving a woman from a neighbouring cottage to minister to their
few wants.  The absoluteness of possession pleased them, and they
realized it as the first moment of their experience under their own
exclusive roof-tree.

But he found that the mouldy old habitation somewhat depressed his
bride.  When the carriage was gone they ascended the stairs to wash
their hands, the charwoman showing the way.  On the landing Tess
stopped and started.

"What's the matter?" said he.

"Those horrid women!" she answered with a smile.  "How they
frightened me."

He looked up, and perceived two life-size portraits on panels built
into the masonry.  As all visitors to the mansion are aware, these
paintings represent women of middle age, of a date some two hundred
years ago, whose lineaments once seen can never be forgotten.
The long pointed features, narrow eye, and smirk of the one, so
suggestive of merciless treachery; the bill-hook nose, large
teeth, and bold eye of the other suggesting arrogance to the point
of ferocity, haunt the beholder afterwards in his dreams.

"Whose portraits are those?" asked Clare of the charwoman.

"I have been told by old folk that they were ladies of the
d'Urberville family, the ancient lords of this manor," she said,
"Owing to their being builded into the wall they can't be moved
away."

The unpleasantness of the matter was that, in addition to their
effect upon Tess, her fine features were unquestionably traceable
in these exaggerated forms.  He said nothing of this, however, and,
regretting that he had gone out of his way to choose the house for
their bridal time, went on into the adjoining room.  The place having
been rather hastily prepared for them, they washed their hands in one
basin.  Clare touched hers under the water.

"Which are my fingers and which are yours?" he said, looking up.
"They are very much mixed."

"They are all yours," said she, very prettily, and endeavoured
to be gayer than she was.  He had not been displeased with her
thoughtfulness on such an occasion; it was what every sensible woman
would show: but Tess knew that she had been thoughtful to excess,
and struggled against it.

The sun was so low on that short last afternoon of the year that it
shone in through a small opening and formed a golden staff which
stretched across to her skirt, where it made a spot like a paint-mark
set upon her.  They went into the ancient parlour to tea, and
here they shared their first common meal alone.  Such was their
childishness, or rather his, that he found it interesting to use the
same bread-and-butter plate as herself, and to brush crumbs from her
lips with his own.  He wondered a little that she did not enter into
these frivolities with his own zest.

Looking at her silently for a long time; "She is a dear dear Tess,"
he thought to himself, as one deciding on the true construction of
a difficult passage.  "Do I realize solemnly enough how utterly and
irretrievably this little womanly thing is the creature of my good
or bad faith and fortune?  I think not.  I think I could not, unless
I were a woman myself.  What I am in worldly estate, she is.  What I
become, she must become.  What I cannot be, she cannot be.  And shall
I ever neglect her, or hurt her, or even forget to consider her?  God
forbid such a crime!"

They sat on over the tea-table waiting for their luggage, which the
dairyman had promised to send before it grew dark.  But evening began
to close in, and the luggage did not arrive, and they had brought
nothing more than they stood in.  With the departure of the sun the
calm mood of the winter day changed.  Out of doors there began noises
as of silk smartly rubbed; the restful dead leaves of the preceding
autumn were stirred to irritated resurrection, and whirled about
unwillingly, and tapped against the shutters.  It soon began to rain.

"That cock knew the weather was going to change," said Clare.

The woman who had attended upon them had gone home for the night, but
she had placed candles upon the table, and now they lit them.  Each
candle-flame drew towards the fireplace.

"These old houses are so draughty," continued Angel, looking at the
flames, and at the grease guttering down the sides.  "I wonder where
that luggage is.  We haven't even a brush and comb."

"I don't know," she answered, absent-minded.

"Tess, you are not a bit cheerful this evening--not at all as you
used to be.  Those harridans on the panels upstairs have unsettled
you.  I am sorry I brought you here.  I wonder if you really love me,
after all?"

He knew that she did, and the words had no serious intent; but she
was surcharged with emotion, and winced like a wounded animal.
Though she tried not to shed tears, she could not help showing one
or two.

"I did not mean it!" said he, sorry.  "You are worried at not having
your things, I know.  I cannot think why old Jonathan has not come
with them.  Why, it is seven o'clock?  Ah, there he is!"

A knock had come to the door, and, there being nobody else to answer
it, Clare went out.  He returned to the room with a small package in
his hand.

"It is not Jonathan, after all," he said.

"How vexing!" said Tess.

The packet had been brought by a special messenger, who had arrived
at Talbothays from Emminster Vicarage immediately after the departure
of the married couple, and had followed them hither, being under
injunction to deliver it into nobody's hands but theirs.  Clare
brought it to the light.  It was less than a foot long, sewed up in
canvas, sealed in red wax with his father's seal, and directed in his
father's hand to "Mrs Angel Clare."

"It is a little wedding-present for you, Tess," said he, handing it
to her.  "How thoughtful they are!"

Tess looked a little flustered as she took it.

"I think I would rather have you open it, dearest," said she, turning
over the parcel.  "I don't like to break those great seals; they look
so serious.  Please open it for me!"

He undid the parcel.  Inside was a case of morocco leather, on the
top of which lay a note and a key.

The note was for Clare, in the following words:


   MY DEAR SON--

   Possibly you have forgotten that on the death of your
   godmother, Mrs Pitney, when you were a lad, she--vain,
   kind woman that she was--left to me a portion of the
   contents of her jewel-case in trust for your wife, if
   you should ever have one, as a mark of her affection
   for you and whomsoever you should choose.  This trust
   I have fulfilled, and the diamonds have been locked up
   at my banker's ever since.  Though I feel it to be a
   somewhat incongruous act in the circumstances, I am, as
   you will see, bound to hand over the articles to the
   woman to whom the use of them for her lifetime will now
   rightly belong, and they are therefore promptly sent.
   They become, I believe, heirlooms, strictly speaking,
   according to the terms of your godmother's will.  The
   precise words of the clause that refers to this matter
   are enclosed.


"I do remember," said Clare; "but I had quite forgotten."

Unlocking the case, they found it to contain a necklace, with
pendant, bracelets, and ear-rings; and also some other small
ornaments.

Tess seemed afraid to touch them at first, but her eyes sparkled for
a moment as much as the stones when Clare spread out the set.

"Are they mine?" she asked incredulously.

"They are, certainly," said he.

He looked into the fire.  He remembered how, when he was a lad of
fifteen, his godmother, the Squire's wife--the only rich person
with whom he had ever come in contact--had pinned her faith to his
success; had prophesied a wondrous career for him.  There had seemed
nothing at all out of keeping with such a conjectured career in the
storing up of these showy ornaments for his wife and the wives of
her descendants.  They gleamed somewhat ironically now.  "Yet why?"
he asked himself.  It was but a question of vanity throughout; and
if that were admitted into one side of the equation it should be
admitted into the other.  His wife was a d'Urberville: whom could
they become better than her?

Suddenly he said with enthusiasm--

"Tess, put them on--put them on!"  And he turned from the fire to
help her.

But as if by magic she had already donned them--necklace, ear-rings,
bracelets, and all.

"But the gown isn't right, Tess," said Clare.  "It ought to be a low
one for a set of brilliants like that."

"Ought it?" said Tess.

"Yes," said he.

He suggested to her how to tuck in the upper edge of her bodice, so
as to make it roughly approximate to the cut for evening wear; and
when she had done this, and the pendant to the necklace hung isolated
amid the whiteness of her throat, as it was designed to do, he
stepped back to survey her.

"My heavens," said Clare, "how beautiful you are!"

As everybody knows, fine feathers make fine birds; a peasant girl but
very moderately prepossessing to the casual observer in her simple
condition and attire will bloom as an amazing beauty if clothed as a
woman of fashion with the aids that Art can render; while the beauty
of the midnight crush would often cut but a sorry figure if placed
inside the field-woman's wrapper upon a monotonous acreage of
turnips on a dull day.  He had never till now estimated the artistic
excellence of Tess's limbs and features.

"If you were only to appear in a ball-room!" he said.  "But
no--no, dearest; I think I love you best in the wing-bonnet and
cotton-frock--yes, better than in this, well as you support these
dignities."

Tess's sense of her striking appearance had given her a flush of
excitement, which was yet not happiness.

"I'll take them off," she said, "in case Jonathan should see me.
They are not fit for me, are they?  They must be sold, I suppose?"

"Let them stay a few minutes longer.  Sell them?  Never. It would be
a breach of faith."

Influenced by a second thought she readily obeyed.  She had something
to tell, and there might be help in these.  She sat down with the
jewels upon her; and they again indulged in conjectures as to where
Jonathan could possibly be with their baggage.  The ale they had
poured out for his consumption when he came had gone flat with long
standing.

Shortly after this they began supper, which was already laid on
a side-table.  Ere they had finished there was a jerk in the
fire-smoke, the rising skein of which bulged out into the room, as if
some giant had laid his hand on the chimney-top for a moment.  It had
been caused by the opening of the outer door.  A heavy step was now
heard in the passage, and Angel went out.

"I couldn' make nobody hear at all by knocking," apologized Jonathan
Kail, for it was he at last; "and as't was raining out I opened the
door.  I've brought the things, sir."

"I am very glad to see them.  But you are very late."

"Well, yes, sir."

There was something subdued in Jonathan Kail's tone which had not
been there in the day, and lines of concern were ploughed upon his
forehead in addition to the lines of years.  He continued--

"We've all been gallied at the dairy at what might ha' been a most
terrible affliction since you and your Mis'ess--so to name her
now--left us this a'ternoon.  Perhaps you ha'nt forgot the cock's
afternoon crow?"

"Dear me;--what--"

"Well, some says it do mane one thing, and some another; but what's
happened is that poor little Retty Priddle hev tried to drown
herself."

"No! Really!  Why, she bade us goodbye with the rest--"

"Yes.  Well, sir, when you and your Mis'ess--so to name what she
lawful is--when you two drove away, as I say, Retty and Marian put on
their bonnets and went out; and as there is not much doing now, being
New Year's Eve, and folks mops and brooms from what's inside 'em,
nobody took much notice.  They went on to Lew-Everard, where they
had summut to drink, and then on they vamped to Dree-armed Cross,
and there they seemed to have parted, Retty striking across the
water-meads as if for home, and Marian going on to the next village,
where there's another public-house.  Nothing more was zeed or heard
o' Retty till the waterman, on his way home, noticed something by the
Great Pool; 'twas her bonnet and shawl packed up.  In the water he
found her.  He and another man brought her home, thinking a' was
dead; but she fetched round by degrees."

Angel, suddenly recollecting that Tess was overhearing this gloomy
tale, went to shut the door between the passage and the ante-room
to the inner parlour where she was; but his wife, flinging a shawl
round her, had come to the outer room and was listening to the man's
narrative, her eyes resting absently on the luggage and the drops of
rain glistening upon it.

"And, more than this, there's Marian; she's been found dead drunk
by the withy-bed--a girl who hev never been known to touch anything
before except shilling ale; though, to be sure, 'a was always a good
trencher-woman, as her face showed.  It seems as if the maids had
all gone out o' their minds!"

"And Izz?" asked Tess.

"Izz is about house as usual; but 'a do say 'a can guess how it
happened; and she seems to be very low in mind about it, poor maid,
as well she mid be.  And so you see, sir, as all this happened just
when we was packing your few traps and your Mis'ess's night-rail and
dressing things into the cart, why, it belated me."

"Yes.  Well, Jonathan, will you get the trunks upstairs, and drink a
cup of ale, and hasten back as soon as you can, in case you should be
wanted?"

Tess had gone back to the inner parlour, and sat down by the fire,
looking wistfully into it.  She heard Jonathan Kail's heavy footsteps
up and down the stairs till he had done placing the luggage, and
heard him express his thanks for the ale her husband took out to him,
and for the gratuity he received.  Jonathan's footsteps then died
from the door, and his cart creaked away.

Angel slid forward the massive oak bar which secured the door, and
coming in to where she sat over the hearth, pressed her cheeks
between his hands from behind.  He expected her to jump up gaily and
unpack the toilet-gear that she had been so anxious about, but as she
did not rise he sat down with her in the firelight, the candles on
the supper-table being too thin and glimmering to interfere with its
glow.

"I am so sorry you should have heard this sad story about the girls,"
he said.  "Still, don't let it depress you.  Retty was naturally
morbid, you know."

"Without the least cause," said Tess.  "While they who have cause to
be, hide it, and pretend they are not."

This incident had turned the scale for her.  They were simple and
innocent girls on whom the unhappiness of unrequited love had fallen;
they had deserved better at the hands of Fate.  She had deserved
worse--yet she was the chosen one.  It was wicked of her to take all
without paying.  She would pay to the uttermost farthing; she would
tell, there and then.  This final determination she came to when she
looked into the fire, he holding her hand.

A steady glare from the now flameless embers painted the sides
and back of the fireplace with its colour, and the well-polished
andirons, and the old brass tongs that would not meet.  The underside
of the mantel-shelf was flushed with the high-coloured light, and
the legs of the table nearest the fire.  Tess's face and neck
reflected the same warmth, which each gem turned into an Aldebaran
or a Sirius--a constellation of white, red, and green flashes, that
interchanged their hues with her every pulsation.

"Do you remember what we said to each other this morning about
telling our faults?" he asked abruptly, finding that she still
remained immovable.  "We spoke lightly perhaps, and you may well
have done so.  But for me it was no light promise.  I want to make
a confession to you, Love."

This, from him, so unexpectedly apposite, had the effect upon her of
a Providential interposition.

"You have to confess something?" she said quickly, and even with
gladness and relief.

"You did not expect it?  Ah--you thought too highly of me.  Now
listen.  Put your head there, because I want you to forgive me, and
not to be indignant with me for not telling you before, as perhaps
I ought to have done."

How strange it was!  He seemed to be her double.  She did not speak,
and Clare went on--

"I did not mention it because I was afraid of endangering my chance
of you, darling, the great prize of my life--my Fellowship I call
you.  My brother's Fellowship was won at his college, mine at
Talbothays Dairy.  Well, I would not risk it.  I was going to tell
you a month ago--at the time you agreed to be mine, but I could not;
I thought it might frighten you away from me.  I put it off; then I
thought I would tell you yesterday, to give you a chance at least of
escaping me.  But I did not.  And I did not this morning, when you
proposed our confessing our faults on the landing--the sinner that I
was!  But I must, now I see you sitting there so solemnly.  I wonder
if you will forgive me?"

"O yes!  I am sure that--"

"Well, I hope so.  But wait a minute.  You don't know. To begin at
the beginning.  Though I imagine my poor father fears that I am one
of the eternally lost for my doctrines, I am of course, a believer in
good morals, Tess, as much as you.  I used to wish to be a teacher of
men, and it was a great disappointment to me when I found I could not
enter the Church.  I admired spotlessness, even though I could lay no
claim to it, and hated impurity, as I hope I do now.  Whatever one
may think of plenary inspiration, one must heartily subscribe to
these words of Paul: 'Be thou an example--in word, in conversation,
in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.'  It is the only
safeguard for us poor human beings.  '_Integer vitae_,' says a Roman
poet, who is strange company for St Paul--


  "The man of upright life, from frailties free,
   Stands not in need of Moorish spear or bow.


"Well, a certain place is paved with good intentions, and having felt
all that so strongly, you will see what a terrible remorse it bred
in me when, in the midst of my fine aims for other people, I myself
fell."

He then told her of that time of his life to which allusion has been
made when, tossed about by doubts and difficulties in London, like a
cork on the waves, he plunged into eight-and-forty hours' dissipation
with a stranger.

"Happily I awoke almost immediately to a sense of my folly," he
continued.  "I would have no more to say to her, and I came home.  I
have never repeated the offence.  But I felt I should like to treat
you with perfect frankness and honour, and I could not do so without
telling this.  Do you forgive me?"

She pressed his hand tightly for an answer.

"Then we will dismiss it at once and for ever!--too painful as it is
for the occasion--and talk of something lighter."

"O, Angel--I am almost glad--because now YOU can forgive ME!  I have
not made my confession.  I have a confession, too--remember, I said
so."

"Ah, to be sure!  Now then for it, wicked little one."

"Perhaps, although you smile, it is as serious as yours, or more so."

"It can hardly be more serious, dearest."

"It cannot--O no, it cannot!"  She jumped up joyfully at the hope.
"No, it cannot be more serious, certainly," she cried, "because 'tis
just the same! I will tell you now."

She sat down again.

Their hands were still joined.  The ashes under the grate were lit
by the fire vertically, like a torrid waste.  Imagination might have
beheld a Last Day luridness in this red-coaled glow, which fell on
his face and hand, and on hers, peering into the loose hair about her
brow, and firing the delicate skin underneath.  A large shadow of her
shape rose upon the wall and ceiling.  She bent forward, at which
each diamond on her neck gave a sinister wink like a toad's; and
pressing her forehead against his temple she entered on her story of
her acquaintance with Alec d'Urberville and its results, murmuring
the words without flinching, and with her eyelids drooping down.


END OF PHASE THE FOURTH





Phase the Fifth: The Woman Pays



XXXV


Her narrative ended; even its re-assertions and secondary
explanations were done.  Tess's voice throughout had hardly risen
higher than its opening tone; there had been no exculpatory phrase of
any kind, and she had not wept.

But the complexion even of external things seemed to suffer
transmutation as her announcement progressed.  The fire in the grate
looked impish--demoniacally funny, as if it did not care in the least
about her strait.  The fender grinned idly, as if it too did not
care.  The light from the water-bottle was merely engaged in a
chromatic problem.  All material objects around announced their
irresponsibility with terrible iteration.  And yet nothing had
changed since the moments when he had been kissing her; or rather,
nothing in the substance of things.  But the essence of things had
changed.

When she ceased, the auricular impressions from their previous
endearments seemed to hustle away into the corner of their brains,
repeating themselves as echoes from a time of supremely purblind
foolishness.

Clare performed the irrelevant act of stirring the fire; the
intelligence had not even yet got to the bottom of him.  After
stirring the embers he rose to his feet; all the force of her
disclosure had imparted itself now.  His face had withered.  In the
strenuousness of his concentration he treadled fitfully on the floor.
He could not, by any contrivance, think closely enough; that was the
meaning of his vague movement.  When he spoke it was in the most
inadequate, commonplace voice of the many varied tones she had heard
from him.

"Tess!"

"Yes, dearest."

"Am I to believe this?  From your manner I am to take it as true.
O you cannot be out of your mind!  You ought to be!  Yet you are
not...  My wife, my Tess--nothing in you warrants such a supposition
as that?"

"I am not out of my mind," she said.

"And yet--"  He looked vacantly at her, to resume with dazed senses:
"Why didn't you tell me before? Ah, yes, you would have told me, in a
way--but I hindered you, I remember!"

These and other of his words were nothing but the perfunctory babble
of the surface while the depths remained paralyzed.  He turned away,
and bent over a chair.  Tess followed him to the middle of the room,
where he was, and stood there staring at him with eyes that did not
weep.  Presently she slid down upon her knees beside his foot, and
from this position she crouched in a heap.

"In the name of our love, forgive me!" she whispered with a dry
mouth.  "I have forgiven you for the same!"

And, as he did not answer, she said again--

"Forgive me as you are forgiven!  _I_ forgive YOU, Angel."

"You--yes, you do."

"But you do not forgive me?"

"O Tess, forgiveness does not apply to the case!  You were one
person; now you are another.  My God--how can forgiveness meet such
a grotesque--prestidigitation as that!"

He paused, contemplating this definition; then suddenly broke into
horrible laughter--as unnatural and ghastly as a laugh in hell.

"Don't--don't!  It kills me quite, that!" she shrieked.  "O have
mercy upon me--have mercy!"

He did not answer; and, sickly white, she jumped up.

"Angel, Angel! what do you mean by that laugh?" she cried out.  "Do
you know what this is to me?"

He shook his head.

"I have been hoping, longing, praying, to make you happy!  I have
thought what joy it will be to do it, what an unworthy wife I shall
be if I do not!  That's what I have felt, Angel!"

"I know that."

"I thought, Angel, that you loved me--me, my very self!  If it is
I you do love, O how can it be that you look and speak so?  It
frightens me!  Having begun to love you, I love you for ever--in all
changes, in all disgraces, because you are yourself.  I ask no more.
Then how can you, O my own husband, stop loving me?"

"I repeat, the woman I have been loving is not you."

"But who?"

"Another woman in your shape."

She perceived in his words the realization of her own apprehensive
foreboding in former times.  He looked upon her as a species of
imposter; a guilty woman in the guise of an innocent one.  Terror was
upon her white face as she saw it; her cheek was flaccid, and her
mouth had almost the aspect of a round little hole. The horrible
sense of his view of her so deadened her that she staggered, and he
stepped forward, thinking she was going to fall.

"Sit down, sit down," he said gently.  "You are ill; and it is
natural that you should be."

She did sit down, without knowing where she was, that strained look
still upon her face, and her eyes such as to make his flesh creep.

"I don't belong to you any more, then; do I, Angel?" she asked
helplessly.  "It is not me, but another woman like me that he loved,
he says."

The image raised caused her to take pity upon herself as one who was
ill-used.  Her eyes filled as she regarded her position further; she
turned round and burst into a flood of self-sympathetic tears.

Clare was relieved at this change, for the effect on her of what had
happened was beginning to be a trouble to him only less than the
woe of the disclosure itself.  He waited patiently, apathetically,
till the violence of her grief had worn itself out, and her rush of
weeping had lessened to a catching gasp at intervals.

"Angel," she said suddenly, in her natural tones, the insane, dry
voice of terror having left her now.  "Angel, am I too wicked for
you and me to live together?"

"I have not been able to think what we can do."

"I shan't ask you to let me live with you, Angel, because I have
no right to!  I shall not write to mother and sisters to say we be
married, as I said I would do; and I shan't finish the good-hussif'
I cut out and meant to make while we were in lodgings."

"Shan't you?"

"No, I shan't do anything, unless you order me to; and if you go away
from me I shall not follow 'ee; and if you never speak to me any more
I shall not ask why, unless you tell me I may."

"And if I order you to do anything?"

"I will obey you like your wretched slave, even if it is to lie down
and die."

"You are very good.  But it strikes me that there is a want of
harmony between your present mood of self-sacrifice and your past
mood of self-preservation."

These were the first words of antagonism.  To fling elaborate
sarcasms at Tess, however, was much like flinging them at a dog or
cat.  The charms of their subtlety passed by her unappreciated, and
she only received them as inimical sounds which meant that anger
ruled.  She remained mute, not knowing that he was smothering his
affection for her.  She hardly observed that a tear descended slowly
upon his cheek, a tear so large that it magnified the pores of the
skin over which it rolled, like the object lens of a microscope.
Meanwhile reillumination as to the terrible and total change that her
confession had wrought in his life, in his universe, returned to him,
and he tried desperately to advance among the new conditions in which
he stood.  Some consequent action was necessary; yet what?

"Tess," he said, as gently as he could speak, "I cannot stay--in this
room--just now. I will walk out a little way."

He quietly left the room, and the two glasses of wine that he had
poured out for their supper--one for her, one for him--remained on
the table untasted.  This was what their _agape_ had come to.  At
tea, two or three hours earlier, they had, in the freakishness of
affection, drunk from one cup.

The closing of the door behind him, gently as it had been pulled
to, roused Tess from her stupor.  He was gone; she could not stay.
Hastily flinging her cloak around her she opened the door and
followed, putting out the candles as if she were never coming back.
The rain was over and the night was now clear.

She was soon close at his heels, for Clare walked slowly and without
purpose.  His form beside her light gray figure looked black,
sinister, and forbidding, and she felt as sarcasm the touch of the
jewels of which she had been momentarily so proud.  Clare turned at
hearing her footsteps, but his recognition of her presence seemed
to make no difference to him, and he went on over the five yawning
arches of the great bridge in front of the house.

The cow and horse tracks in the road were full of water, the rain
having been enough to charge them, but not enough to wash them away.
Across these minute pools the reflected stars flitted in a quick
transit as she passed; she would not have known they were shining
overhead if she had not seen them there--the vastest things of the
universe imaged in objects so mean.

The place to which they had travelled to-day was in the same
valley as Talbothays, but some miles lower down the river; and the
surroundings being open, she kept easily in sight of him.  Away from
the house the road wound through the meads, and along these she
followed Clare without any attempt to come up with him or to attract
him, but with dumb and vacant fidelity.

At last, however, her listless walk brought her up alongside him, and
still he said nothing.  The cruelty of fooled honesty is often great
after enlightenment, and it was mighty in Clare now.  The outdoor air
had apparently taken away from him all tendency to act on impulse;
she knew that he saw her without irradiation--in all her bareness;
that Time was chanting his satiric psalm at her then--


   Behold, when thy face is made bare, he that loved thee
      shall hate;
   Thy face shall be no more fair at the fall of thy fate.
   For thy life shall fall as a leaf and be shed as the rain;
   And the veil of thine head shall be grief, and the crown
      shall be pain.


He was still intently thinking, and her companionship had now
insufficient power to break or divert the strain of thought.  What a
weak thing her presence must have become to him!  She could not help
addressing Clare.

"What have I done--what HAVE I done!  I have not told of anything
that interferes with or belies my love for you.  You don't think I
planned it, do you?  It is in your own mind what you are angry at,
Angel; it is not in me.  O, it is not in me, and I am not that
deceitful woman you think me!"

"H'm--well.  Not deceitful, my wife; but not the same.  No, not the
same.  But do not make me reproach you.  I have sworn that I will
not; and I will do everything to avoid it."

But she went on pleading in her distraction; and perhaps said things
that would have been better left to silence.

"Angel!--Angel!  I was a child--a child when it happened!  I knew
nothing of men."

"You were more sinned against than sinning, that I admit."

"Then will you not forgive me?"

"I do forgive you, but forgiveness is not all."

"And love me?"

To this question he did not answer.

"O Angel--my mother says that it sometimes happens so!--she knows
several cases where they were worse than I, and the husband has not
minded it much--has got over it at least.  And yet the woman had not
loved him as I do you!"

"Don't, Tess; don't argue.  Different societies, different manners.
You almost make me say you are an unapprehending peasant woman, who
have never been initiated into the proportions of social things.
You don't know what you say."

"I am only a peasant by position, not by nature!"

She spoke with an impulse to anger, but it went as it came.

"So much the worse for you.  I think that parson who unearthed your
pedigree would have done better if he had held his tongue.  I cannot
help associating your decline as a family with this other fact--of
your want of firmness.  Decrepit families imply decrepit wills,
decrepit conduct.  Heaven, why did you give me a handle for despising
you more by informing me of your descent!  Here was I thinking you a
new-sprung child of nature; there were you, the belated seedling of
an effete aristocracy!"

"Lots of families are as bad as mine in that!  Retty's family were
once large landowners, and so were Dairyman Billett's.  And the
Debbyhouses, who now are carters, were once the De Bayeux family.
You find such as I everywhere; 'tis a feature of our county, and I
can't help it."

"So much the worse for the county."

She took these reproaches in their bulk simply, not in their
particulars; he did not love her as he had loved her hitherto, and
to all else she was indifferent.

They wandered on again in silence.  It was said afterwards that a
cottager of Wellbridge, who went out late that night for a doctor,
met two lovers in the pastures, walking very slowly, without
converse, one behind the other, as in a funeral procession, and the
glimpse that he obtained of their faces seemed to denote that they
were anxious and sad.  Returning later, he passed them again in the
same field, progressing just as slowly, and as regardless of the hour
and of the cheerless night as before.  It was only on account of his
preoccupation with his own affairs, and the illness in his house,
that he did not bear in mind the curious incident, which, however, he
recalled a long while after.

During the interval of the cottager's going and coming, she had said
to her husband--

"I don't see how I can help being the cause of much misery to you all
your life.  The river is down there.  I can put an end to myself in
it.  I am not afraid."

"I don't wish to add murder to my other follies," he said.

"I will leave something to show that I did it myself--on account of
my shame.  They will not blame you then."

"Don't speak so absurdly--I wish not to hear it.  It is nonsense
to have such thoughts in this kind of case, which is rather one
for satirical laughter than for tragedy.  You don't in the least
understand the quality of the mishap.  It would be viewed in the
light of a joke by nine-tenths of the world if it were known. Please
oblige me by returning to the house, and going to bed."

"I will," said she dutifully.

They had rambled round by a road which led to the well-known ruins of
the Cistercian abbey behind the mill, the latter having, in centuries
past, been attached to the monastic establishment.  The mill still
worked on, food being a perennial necessity; the abbey had perished,
creeds being transient.  One continually sees the ministration of the
temporary outlasting the ministration of the eternal.  Their walk
having been circuitous, they were still not far from the house, and
in obeying his direction she only had to reach the large stone bridge
across the main river and follow the road for a few yards.  When she
got back, everything remained as she had left it, the fire being
still burning.  She did not stay downstairs for more than a minute,
but proceeded to her chamber, whither the luggage had been taken.
Here she sat down on the edge of the bed, looking blankly around,
and presently began to undress.  In removing the light towards the
bedstead its rays fell upon the tester of white dimity; something was
hanging beneath it, and she lifted the candle to see what it was.
A bough of mistletoe.  Angel had put it there; she knew that in an
instant. This was the explanation of that mysterious parcel which it
had been so difficult to pack and bring; whose contents he would not
explain to her, saying that time would soon show her the purpose
thereof.  In his zest and his gaiety he had hung it there.  How
foolish and inopportune that mistletoe looked now.

Having nothing more to fear, having scarce anything to hope, for that
he would relent there seemed no promise whatever, she lay down dully.
When sorrow ceases to be speculative, sleep sees her opportunity.
Among so many happier moods which forbid repose this was a mood which
welcomed it, and in a few minutes the lonely Tess forgot existence,
surrounded by the aromatic stillness of the chamber that had once,
possibly, been the bride-chamber of her own ancestry.

Later on that night Clare also retraced his steps to the house.
Entering softly to the sitting-room he obtained a light, and with the
manner of one who had considered his course he spread his rugs upon
the old horse-hair sofa which stood there, and roughly shaped it to
a sleeping-couch.  Before lying down he crept shoeless upstairs, and
listened at the door of her apartment.  Her measured breathing told
that she was sleeping profoundly.

"Thank God!" murmured Clare; and yet he was conscious of a pang of
bitterness at the thought--approximately true, though not wholly
so--that having shifted the burden of her life to his shoulders, she
was now reposing without care.

He turned away to descend; then, irresolute, faced round to her
door again.  In the act he caught sight of one of the d'Urberville
dames, whose portrait was immediately over the entrance to Tess's
bedchamber.  In the candlelight the painting was more than
unpleasant.  Sinister design lurked in the woman's features, a
concentrated purpose of revenge on the other sex--so it seemed to
him then.  The Caroline bodice of the portrait was low--precisely as
Tess's had been when he tucked it in to show the necklace; and again
he experienced the distressing sensation of a resemblance between
them.

The check was sufficient.  He resumed his retreat and descended.

His air remained calm and cold, his small compressed mouth indexing
his powers of self-control; his face wearing still that terrible
sterile expression which had spread thereon since her disclosure.
It was the face of a man who was no longer passion's slave, yet who
found no advantage in his enfranchisement.  He was simply regarding
the harrowing contingencies of human experience, the unexpectedness
of things.  Nothing so pure, so sweet, so virginal as Tess had seemed
possible all the long while that he had adored her, up to an hour
ago; but


       The little less, and what worlds away!


He argued erroneously when he said to himself that her heart was not
indexed in the honest freshness of her face; but Tess had no advocate
to set him right.  Could it be possible, he continued, that eyes
which as they gazed never expressed any divergence from what the
tongue was telling, were yet ever seeing another world behind her
ostensible one, discordant and contrasting?

He reclined on his couch in the sitting-room, and extinguished the
light.  The night came in, and took up its place there, unconcerned
and indifferent; the night which had already swallowed up his
happiness, and was now digesting it listlessly; and was ready to
swallow up the happiness of a thousand other people with as little
disturbance or change of mien.



XXXVI


Clare arose in the light of a dawn that was ashy and furtive, as
though associated with crime.  The fireplace confronted him with its
extinct embers; the spread supper-table, whereon stood the two full
glasses of untasted wine, now flat and filmy; her vacated seat and
his own; the other articles of furniture, with their eternal look of
not being able to help it, their intolerable inquiry what was to be
done?  From above there was no sound; but in a few minutes there came
a knock at the door.  He remembered that it would be the neighbouring
cottager's wife, who was to minister to their wants while they
remained here.

The presence of a third person in the house would be extremely
awkward just now, and, being already dressed, he opened the window
and informed her that they could manage to shift for themselves that
morning.  She had a milk-can in her hand, which he told her to leave
at the door.  When the dame had gone away he searched in the back
quarters of the house for fuel, and speedily lit a fire.  There was
plenty of eggs, butter, bread, and so on in the larder, and Clare
soon had breakfast laid, his experiences at the dairy having rendered
him facile in domestic preparations.  The smoke of the kindled wood
rose from the chimney without like a lotus-headed column; local
people who were passing by saw it, and thought of the newly-married
couple, and envied their happiness.

Angel cast a final glance round, and then going to the foot of the
stairs, called in a conventional voice--

"Breakfast is ready!"

He opened the front door, and took a few steps in the morning air.
When, after a short space, he came back she was already in the
sitting-room mechanically readjusting the breakfast things.  As she
was fully attired, and the interval since his calling her had been
but two or three minutes, she must have been dressed or nearly so
before he went to summon her.  Her hair was twisted up in a large
round mass at the back of her head, and she had put on one of the
new frocks--a pale blue woollen garment with neck-frillings of
white.  Her hands and face appeared to be cold, and she had possibly
been sitting dressed in the bedroom a long time without any fire.
The marked civility of Clare's tone in calling her seemed to have
inspired her, for the moment, with a new glimmer of hope.  But it
soon died when she looked at him.

The pair were, in truth, but the ashes of their former fires.  To the
hot sorrow of the previous night had succeeded heaviness; it seemed
as if nothing could kindle either of them to fervour of sensation any
more.

He spoke gently to her, and she replied with a like
undemonstrativeness.  At last she came up to him, looking in his
sharply-defined face as one who had no consciousness that her own
formed a visible object also.

"Angel!" she said, and paused, touching him with her fingers lightly
as a breeze, as though she could hardly believe to be there in the
flesh the man who was once her lover.  Her eyes were bright, her pale
cheek still showed its wonted roundness, though half-dried tears had
left glistening traces thereon; and the usually ripe red mouth was
almost as pale as her cheek.  Throbbingly alive as she was still,
under the stress of her mental grief the life beat so brokenly that
a little further pull upon it would cause real illness, dull her
characteristic eyes, and make her mouth thin.

She looked absolutely pure.  Nature, in her fantastic trickery, had
set such a seal of maidenhood upon Tess's countenance that he gazed
at her with a stupefied air.

"Tess!  Say it is not true!  No, it is not true!"

"It is true."

"Every word?"

"Every word."

He looked at her imploringly, as if he would willingly have taken a
lie from her lips, knowing it to be one, and have made of it, by some
sort of sophistry, a valid denial. However, she only repeated--

"It is true."

"Is he living?" Angel then asked.

"The baby died."

"But the man?"

"He is alive."

A last despair passed over Clare's face.

"Is he in England?"

"Yes."

He took a few vague steps.

"My position--is this," he said abruptly.  "I thought--any man would
have thought--that by giving up all ambition to win a wife with
social standing, with fortune, with knowledge of the world, I should
secure rustic innocence as surely as I should secure pink cheeks;
but--However, I am no man to reproach you, and I will not."

Tess felt his position so entirely that the remainder had not been
needed.  Therein lay just the distress of it; she saw that he had
lost all round.

"Angel--I should not have let it go on to marriage with you if I had
not known that, after all, there was a last way out of it for you;
though I hoped you would never--"

Her voice grew husky.

"A last way?"

"I mean, to get rid of me.  You CAN get rid of me."

"How?"

"By divorcing me."

"Good heavens--how can you be so simple!  How can I divorce you?"

"Can't you--now I have told you?  I thought my confession would give
you grounds for that."

"O Tess--you are too, too--childish--unformed--crude, I suppose!  I
don't know what you are.  You don't understand the law--you don't
understand!"

"What--you cannot?"

"Indeed I cannot."

A quick shame mixed with the misery upon his listener's face.

"I thought--I thought," she whispered.  "O, now I see how wicked I
seem to you!  Believe me--believe me, on my soul, I never thought but
that you could!  I hoped you would not; yet I believed, without a
doubt, that you could cast me off if you were determined, and didn't
love me at--at--all!"

"You were mistaken," he said.

"O, then I ought to have done it, to have done it last night!  But I
hadn't the courage.  That's just like me!"

"The courage to do what?"

As she did not answer he took her by the hand.

"What were you thinking of doing?" he inquired.

"Of putting an end to myself."

"When?"

She writhed under this inquisitorial manner of his.  "Last night,"
she answered.

"Where?"

"Under your mistletoe."

"My good--!  How?" he asked sternly.

"I'll tell you, if you won't be angry with me!" she said, shrinking.
"It was with the cord of my box.  But I could not--do the last thing!
I was afraid that it might cause a scandal to your name."

The unexpected quality of this confession, wrung from her, and not
volunteered, shook him perceptibly.  But he still held her, and,
letting his glance fall from her face downwards, he said,  "Now,
listen to this.  You must not dare to think of such a horrible thing!
How could you!  You will promise me as your husband to attempt that
no more."

"I am ready to promise.  I saw how wicked it was."

"Wicked!  The idea was unworthy of you beyond description."

"But, Angel," she pleaded, enlarging her eyes in calm unconcern upon
him, "it was thought of entirely on your account--to set you free
without the scandal of the divorce that I thought you would have to
get.  I should never have dreamt of doing it on mine.  However, to
do it with my own hand is too good for me, after all.  It is you, my
ruined husband, who ought to strike the blow.  I think I should love
you more, if that were possible, if you could bring yourself to do
it, since there's no other way of escape for 'ee.  I feel I am so
utterly worthless!  So very greatly in the way!"

"Ssh!"

"Well, since you say no, I won't.  I have no wish opposed to yours."

He knew this to be true enough.  Since the desperation of the night
her activities had dropped to zero, and there was no further rashness
to be feared.

Tess tried to busy herself again over the breakfast-table with more
or less success, and they sat down both on the same side, so that
their glances did not meet.  There was at first something awkward
in hearing each other eat and drink, but this could not be escaped;
moreover, the amount of eating done was small on both sides.
Breakfast over, he rose, and telling her the hour at which he might
be expected to dinner, went off to the miller's in a mechanical
pursuance of the plan of studying that business, which had been his
only practical reason for coming here.

When he was gone Tess stood at the window, and presently saw his form
crossing the great stone bridge which conducted to the mill premises.
He sank behind it, crossed the railway beyond, and disappeared.
Then, without a sigh, she turned her attention to the room, and began
clearing the table and setting it in order.

The charwoman soon came.  Her presence was at first a strain upon
Tess, but afterwards an alleviation.  At half-past twelve she
left her assistant alone in the kitchen, and, returning to the
sitting-room, waited for the reappearance of Angel's form behind the
bridge.

About one he showed himself.  Her face flushed, although he was a
quarter of a mile off.  She ran to the kitchen to get the dinner
served by the time he should enter.  He went first to the room where
they had washed their hands together the day before, and as he
entered the sitting-room the dish-covers rose from the dishes as if
by his own motion.

"How punctual!" he said.

"Yes.  I saw you coming over the bridge," said she.

The meal was passed in commonplace talk of what he had been doing
during the morning at the Abbey Mill, of the methods of bolting and
the old-fashioned machinery, which he feared would not enlighten him
greatly on modern improved methods, some of it seeming to have been
in use ever since the days it ground for the monks in the adjoining
conventual buildings--now a heap of ruins.  He left the house again
in the course of an hour, coming home at dusk, and occupying himself
through the evening with his papers.  She feared she was in the way
and, when the old woman was gone, retired to the kitchen, where she
made herself busy as well as she could for more than an hour.

Clare's shape appeared at the door. "You must not work like this," he
said.  "You are not my servant; you are my wife."

She raised her eyes, and brightened somewhat.  "I may think myself
that--indeed?" she murmured, in piteous raillery.  "You mean in name!
Well, I don't want to be anything more."

"You MAY think so, Tess!  You are.  What do you mean?"

"I don't know," she said hastily, with tears in her accents.  "I
thought I--because I am not respectable, I mean.  I told you I
thought I was not respectable enough long ago--and on that account
I didn't want to marry you, only--only you urged me!"

She broke into sobs, and turned her back to him.  It would almost
have won round any man but Angel Clare.  Within the remote depths of
his constitution, so gentle and affectionate as he was in general,
there lay hidden a hard logical deposit, like a vein of metal in a
soft loam, which turned the edge of everything that attempted to
traverse it.  It had blocked his acceptance of the Church; it blocked
his acceptance of Tess.  Moreover, his affection itself was less fire
than radiance, and, with regard to the other sex, when he ceased
to believe he ceased to follow: contrasting in this with many
impressionable natures, who remain sensuously infatuated with what
they intellectually despise.  He waited till her sobbing ceased.

"I wish half the women in England were as respectable as you," he
said, in an ebullition of bitterness against womankind in general.
"It isn't a question of respectability, but one of principle!"

He spoke such things as these and more of a kindred sort to her,
being still swayed by the antipathetic wave which warps direct souls
with such persistence when once their vision finds itself mocked by
appearances.  There was, it is true, underneath, a back current of
sympathy through which a woman of the world might have conquered him.
But Tess did not think of this; she took everything as her deserts,
and hardly opened her mouth.  The firmness of her devotion to him was
indeed almost pitiful; quick-tempered as she naturally was, nothing
that he could say made her unseemly; she sought not her own; was not
provoked; thought no evil of his treatment of her.  She might just
now have been Apostolic Charity herself returned to a self-seeking
modern world.

This evening, night, and morning were passed precisely as the
preceding ones had been passed.  On one, and only one, occasion did
she--the formerly free and independent Tess--venture to make any
advances.  It was on the third occasion of his starting after a meal
to go out to the flour-mill.  As he was leaving the table he said
"Goodbye," and she replied in the same words, at the same time
inclining her mouth in the way of his.  He did not avail himself of
the invitation, saying, as he turned hastily aside--

"I shall be home punctually."

Tess shrank into herself as if she had been struck.  Often enough had
he tried to reach those lips against her consent--often had he said
gaily that her mouth and breath tasted of the butter and eggs and
milk and honey on which she mainly lived, that he drew sustenance
from them, and other follies of that sort.  But he did not care for
them now.  He observed her sudden shrinking, and said gently--

"You know, I have to think of a course.  It was imperative that we
should stay together a little while, to avoid the scandal to you that
would have resulted from our immediate parting.  But you must see it
is only for form's sake."

"Yes," said Tess absently.

He went out, and on his way to the mill stood still, and wished for a
moment that he had responded yet more kindly, and kissed her once at
least.

Thus they lived through this despairing day or two; in the same
house, truly; but more widely apart than before they were lovers.  It
was evident to her that he was, as he had said, living with paralyzed
activities in his endeavour to think of a plan of procedure.  She
was awe-stricken to discover such determination under such apparent
flexibility.  His consistency was, indeed, too cruel.  She no longer
expected forgiveness now.  More than once she thought of going away
from him during his absence at the mill; but she feared that this,
instead of benefiting him, might be the means of hampering and
humiliating him yet more if it should become known.

Meanwhile Clare was meditating, verily.  His thought had been
unsuspended; he was becoming ill with thinking; eaten out with
thinking, withered by thinking; scourged out of all his former
pulsating, flexuous domesticity.  He walked about saying to himself,
"What's to be done--what's to be done?" and by chance she overheard
him.  It caused her to break the reserve about their future which had
hitherto prevailed.

"I suppose--you are not going to live with me--long, are you, Angel?"
she asked, the sunk corners of her mouth betraying how purely
mechanical were the means by which she retained that expression of
chastened calm upon her face.

"I cannot" he said, "without despising myself, and what is worse,
perhaps, despising you.  I mean, of course, cannot live with you
in the ordinary sense.  At present, whatever I feel, I do not
despise you.  And, let me speak plainly, or you may not see all my
difficulties.  How can we live together while that man lives?--he
being your husband in nature, and not I.  If he were dead it might
be different...  Besides, that's not all the difficulty; it lies in
another consideration--one bearing upon the future of other people
than ourselves.  Think of years to come, and children being born to
us, and this past matter getting known--for it must get known.  There
is not an uttermost part of the earth but somebody comes from it or
goes to it from elsewhere.  Well, think of wretches of our flesh and
blood growing up under a taunt which they will gradually get to feel
the full force of with their expanding years.  What an awakening
for them!  What a prospect!  Can you honestly say 'Remain' after
contemplating this contingency?  Don't you think we had better
endure the ills we have than fly to others?"

Her eyelids, weighted with trouble, continued drooping as before.

"I cannot say 'Remain,'" she answered, "I cannot; I had not thought
so far."

Tess's feminine hope--shall we confess it?--had been so obstinately
recuperative as to revive in her surreptitious visions of a
domiciliary intimacy continued long enough to break down his coldness
even against his judgement.  Though unsophisticated in the usual
sense, she was not incomplete; and it would have denoted deficiency
of womanhood if she had not instinctively known what an argument lies
in propinquity.  Nothing else would serve her, she knew, if this
failed.  It was wrong to hope in what was of the nature of strategy,
she said to herself: yet that sort of hope she could not extinguish.
His last representation had now been made, and it was, as she said,
a new view.  She had truly never thought so far as that, and his
lucid picture of possible offspring who would scorn her was one that
brought deadly convictions to an honest heart which was humanitarian
to its centre.  Sheer experience had already taught her that in some
circumstances there was one thing better than to lead a good life,
and that was to be saved from leading any life whatever.  Like all
who have been previsioned by suffering, she could, in the words of
M. Sully-Prudhomme, hear a penal sentence in the fiat, "You shall be
born," particularly if addressed to potential issue of hers.

Yet such is the vulpine slyness of Dame Nature, that, till now, Tess
had been hoodwinked by her love for Clare into forgetting it might
result in vitalizations that would inflict upon others what she had
bewailed as misfortune to herself.

She therefore could not withstand his argument.  But with the
self-combating proclivity of the supersensitive, an answer thereto
arose in Clare's own mind, and he almost feared it.  It was based
on her exceptional physical nature; and she might have used it
promisingly. She might have added besides: "On an Australian upland
or Texan plain, who is to know or care about my misfortunes, or to
reproach me or you?"  Yet, like the majority of women, she accepted
the momentary presentment as if it were the inevitable.  And she
may have been right.  The intuitive heart of woman knoweth not only
its own bitterness, but its husband's, and even if these assumed
reproaches were not likely to be addressed to him or to his by
strangers, they might have reached his ears from his own fastidious
brain.

It was the third day of the estrangement.  Some might risk the odd
paradox that with more animalism he would have been the nobler man.
We do not say it.  Yet Clare's love was doubtless ethereal to a
fault, imaginative to impracticability.  With these natures, corporal
presence is something less appealing than corporal absence; the
latter creating an ideal presence that conveniently drops the defects
of the real.  She found that her personality did not plead her cause
so forcibly as she had anticipated.  The figurative phrase was true:
she was another woman than the one who had excited his desire.

"I have thought over what you say," she remarked to him, moving her
forefinger over the tablecloth, her other hand, which bore the ring
that mocked them both, supporting her forehead.  "It is quite true,
all of it; it must be.  You must go away from me."

"But what can you do?"

"I can go home."

Clare had not thought of that.

"Are you sure?" he inquired.

"Quite sure.  We ought to part, and we may as well get it past and
done.  You once said that I was apt to win men against their better
judgement; and if I am constantly before your eyes I may cause you
to change your plans in opposition to your reason and wish; and
afterwards your repentance and my sorrow will be terrible."

"And you would like to go home?" he asked.

"I want to leave you, and go home."

"Then it shall be so."

Though she did not look up at him, she started.  There was a
difference between the proposition and the covenant, which she had
felt only too quickly.

"I feared it would come to this," she murmured, her countenance
meekly fixed.  "I don't complain, Angel, I--I think it best.  What
you said has quite convinced me.  Yes, though nobody else should
reproach me if we should stay together, yet somewhen, years hence,
you might get angry with me for any ordinary matter, and knowing what
you do of my bygones, you yourself might be tempted to say words, and
they might be overheard, perhaps by my own children.  O, what only
hurts me now would torture and kill me then! I will go--to-morrow."

"And I shall not stay here.  Though I didn't like to initiate it, I
have seen that it was advisable we should part--at least for a while,
till I can better see the shape that things have taken, and can write
to you."

Tess stole a glance at her husband.  He was pale, even tremulous;
but, as before, she was appalled by the determination revealed in the
depths of this gentle being she had married--the will to subdue the
grosser to the subtler emotion, the substance to the conception, the
flesh to the spirit.  Propensities, tendencies, habits, were as dead
leaves upon the tyrannous wind of his imaginative ascendency.

He may have observed her look, for he explained--

"I think of people more kindly when I am away from them"; adding
cynically, "God knows; perhaps we will shake down together some day,
for weariness; thousands have done it!"

That day he began to pack up, and she went upstairs and began to pack
also.  Both knew that it was in their two minds that they might part
the next morning for ever, despite the gloss of assuaging conjectures
thrown over their proceeding because they were of the sort to whom
any parting which has an air of finality is a torture.  He knew,
and she knew, that, though the fascination which each had exercised
over the other--on her part independently of accomplishments--would
probably in the first days of their separation be even more potent
than ever, time must attenuate that effect; the practical arguments
against accepting her as a housemate might pronounce themselves more
strongly in the boreal light of a remoter view.  Moreover, when two
people are once parted--have abandoned a common domicile and a common
environment--new growths insensibly bud upward to fill each vacated
place; unforeseen accidents hinder intentions, and old plans are
forgotten.



XXXVII


Midnight came and passed silently, for there was nothing to announce
it in the Valley of the Froom.

Not long after one o'clock there was a slight creak in the darkened
farmhouse once the mansion of the d'Urbervilles.  Tess, who used the
upper chamber, heard it and awoke.  It had come from the corner step
of the staircase, which, as usual, was loosely nailed.  She saw the
door of her bedroom open, and the figure of her husband crossed the
stream of moonlight with a curiously careful tread.  He was in his
shirt and trousers only, and her first flush of joy died when she
perceived that his eyes were fixed in an unnatural stare on vacancy.
When he reached the middle of the room he stood still and murmured in
tones of indescribable sadness--

"Dead! dead! dead!"

Under the influence of any strongly-disturbing force, Clare would
occasionally walk in his sleep, and even perform strange feats, such
as he had done on the night of their return from market just before
their marriage, when he re-enacted in his bedroom his combat with the
man who had insulted her.  Tess saw that continued mental distress
had wrought him into that somnambulistic state now.

Her loyal confidence in him lay so deep down in her heart, that,
awake or asleep, he inspired her with no sort of personal fear.  If
he had entered with a pistol in his hand he would scarcely have
disturbed her trust in his protectiveness.

Clare came close, and bent over her. "Dead, dead, dead!" he murmured.

After fixedly regarding her for some moments with the same gaze of
unmeasurable woe, he bent lower, enclosed her in his arms, and rolled
her in the sheet as in a shroud.  Then lifting her from the bed with
as much respect as one would show to a dead body, he carried her
across the room, murmuring--

"My poor, poor Tess--my dearest, darling Tess!  So sweet, so good, so
true!"

The words of endearment, withheld so severely in his waking hours,
were inexpressibly sweet to her forlorn and hungry heart.  If it had
been to save her weary life she would not, by moving or struggling,
have put an end to the position she found herself in.  Thus she lay
in absolute stillness, scarcely venturing to breathe, and, wondering
what he was going to do with her, suffered herself to be borne out
upon the landing.

"My wife--dead, dead!" he said.

He paused in his labours for a moment to lean with her against the
banister.  Was he going to throw her down?  Self-solicitude was near
extinction in her, and in the knowledge that he had planned to depart
on the morrow, possibly for always, she lay in his arms in this
precarious position with a sense rather of luxury than of terror.  If
they could only fall together, and both be dashed to pieces, how fit,
how desirable.

However, he did not let her fall, but took advantage of the support
of the handrail to imprint a kiss upon her lips--lips in the day-time
scorned.  Then he clasped her with a renewed firmness of hold, and
descended the staircase.  The creak of the loose stair did not awaken
him, and they reached the ground-floor safely.  Freeing one of his
hands from his grasp of her for a moment, he slid back the door-bar
and passed out, slightly striking his stockinged toe against the edge
of the door.  But this he seemed not to mind, and, having room for
extension in the open air, he lifted her against his shoulder, so
that he could carry her with ease, the absence of clothes taking much
from his burden.  Thus he bore her off the premises in the direction
of the river a few yards distant.

His ultimate intention, if he had any, she had not yet divined; and
she found herself conjecturing on the matter as a third person might
have done.  So easefully had she delivered her whole being up to him
that it pleased her to think he was regarding her as his absolute
possession, to dispose of as he should choose.  It was consoling,
under the hovering terror of to-morrow's separation, to feel that he
really recognized her now as his wife Tess, and did not cast her off,
even if in that recognition he went so far as to arrogate to himself
the right of harming her.

Ah! now she knew what he was dreaming of--that Sunday morning when he
had borne her along through the water with the other dairymaids, who
had loved him nearly as much as she, if that were possible, which
Tess could hardly admit.  Clare did not cross the bridge with her,
but proceeding several paces on the same side towards the adjoining
mill, at length stood still on the brink of the river.

Its waters, in creeping down these miles of meadowland, frequently
divided, serpentining in purposeless curves, looping themselves
around little islands that had no name, returning and re-embodying
themselves as a broad main stream further on.  Opposite the spot to
which he had brought her was such a general confluence, and the river
was proportionately voluminous and deep.  Across it was a narrow
foot-bridge; but now the autumn flood had washed the handrail away,
leaving the bare plank only, which, lying a few inches above the
speeding current, formed a giddy pathway for even steady heads; and
Tess had noticed from the window of the house in the day-time young
men walking across upon it as a feat in balancing.  Her husband had
possibly observed the same performance; anyhow, he now mounted the
plank, and, sliding one foot forward, advanced along it.

Was he going to drown her?  Probably he was.  The spot was lonely,
the river deep and wide enough to make such a purpose easy of
accomplishment.  He might drown her if he would; it would be better
than parting to-morrow to lead severed lives.

The swift stream raced and gyrated under them, tossing, distorting,
and splitting the moon's reflected face.  Spots of froth travelled
past, and intercepted weeds waved behind the piles.  If they could
both fall together into the current now, their arms would be so
tightly clasped together that they could not be saved; they would
go out of the world almost painlessly, and there would be no more
reproach to her, or to him for marrying her.  His last half-hour with
her would have been a loving one, while if they lived till he awoke,
his day-time aversion would return, and this hour would remain to be
contemplated only as a transient dream.

The impulse stirred in her, yet she dared not indulge it, to make a
movement that would have precipitated them both into the gulf.  How
she valued her own life had been proved; but his--she had no right to
tamper with it.  He reached the other side with her in safety.

Here they were within a plantation which formed the Abbey grounds,
and taking a new hold of her he went onward a few steps till they
reached the ruined choir of the Abbey-church.  Against the north wall
was the empty stone coffin of an abbot, in which every tourist with
a turn for grim humour was accustomed to stretch himself.  In this
Clare carefully laid Tess.  Having kissed her lips a second time he
breathed deeply, as if a greatly desired end were attained.  Clare
then lay down on the ground alongside, when he immediately fell into
the deep dead slumber of exhaustion, and remained motionless as a
log.  The spurt of mental excitement which had produced the effort
was now over.

Tess sat up in the coffin.  The night, though dry and mild for the
season, was more than sufficiently cold to make it dangerous for him
to remain here long, in his half-clothed state.  If he were left to
himself he would in all probability stay there till the morning, and
be chilled to certain death.  She had heard of such deaths after
sleep-walking.  But how could she dare to awaken him, and let him
know what he had been doing, when it would mortify him to discover
his folly in respect of her?  Tess, however, stepping out of her
stone confine, shook him slightly, but was unable to arouse him
without being violent.  It was indispensable to do something, for she
was beginning to shiver, the sheet being but a poor protection.  Her
excitement had in a measure kept her warm during the few minutes'
adventure; but that beatific interval was over.

It suddenly occurred to her to try persuasion; and accordingly she
whispered in his ear, with as much firmness and decision as she could
summon--

"Let us walk on, darling," at the same time taking him suggestively
by the arm.  To her relief, he unresistingly acquiesced; her words
had apparently thrown him back into his dream, which thenceforward
seemed to enter on a new phase, wherein he fancied she had risen as a
spirit, and was leading him to Heaven. Thus she conducted him by the
arm to the stone bridge in front of their residence, crossing which
they stood at the manor-house door.  Tess's feet were quite bare, and
the stones hurt her, and chilled her to the bone; but Clare was in
his woollen stockings, and appeared to feel no discomfort.

There was no further difficulty.  She induced him to lie down on his
own sofa bed, and covered him up warmly, lighting a temporary fire of
wood, to dry any dampness out of him.  The noise of these attentions
she thought might awaken him, and secretly wished that they might.
But the exhaustion of his mind and body was such that he remained
undisturbed.

As soon as they met the next morning Tess divined that Angel knew
little or nothing of how far she had been concerned in the night's
excursion, though, as regarded himself, he may have been aware that
he had not lain still.  In truth, he had awakened that morning from
a sleep deep as annihilation; and during those first few moments
in which the brain, like a Samson shaking himself, is trying its
strength, he had some dim notion of an unusual nocturnal proceeding.
But the realities of his situation soon displaced conjecture on the
other subject.

He waited in expectancy to discern some mental pointing; he knew that
if any intention of his, concluded over-night, did not vanish in the
light of morning, it stood on a basis approximating to one of pure
reason, even if initiated by impulse of feeling; that it was so
far, therefore, to be trusted.  He thus beheld in the pale morning
light the resolve to separate from her; not as a hot and indignant
instinct, but denuded of the passionateness which had made it scorch
and burn; standing in its bones; nothing but a skeleton, but none the
less there.  Clare no longer hesitated.

At breakfast, and while they were packing the few remaining articles,
he showed his weariness from the night's effort so unmistakeably that
Tess was on the point of revealing all that had happened; but the
reflection that it would anger him, grieve him, stultify him, to know
that he had instinctively manifested a fondness for her of which his
common-sense did not approve, that his inclination had compromised
his dignity when reason slept, again deterred her.  It was too much
like laughing at a man when sober for his erratic deeds during
intoxication.

It just crossed her mind, too, that he might have a faint
recollection of his tender vagary, and was disinclined to allude to
it from a conviction that she would take amatory advantage of the
opportunity it gave her of appealing to him anew not to go.

He had ordered by letter a vehicle from the nearest town, and
soon after breakfast it arrived.  She saw in it the beginning of
the end--the temporary end, at least, for the revelation of his
tenderness by the incident of the night raised dreams of a possible
future with him.  The luggage was put on the top, and the man drove
them off, the miller and the old waiting-woman expressing some
surprise at their precipitate departure, which Clare attributed to
his discovery that the mill-work was not of the modern kind which he
wished to investigate, a statement that was true so far as it went.
Beyond this there was nothing in the manner of their leaving to
suggest a fiasco, or that they were not going together to visit
friends.

Their route lay near the dairy from which they had started with such
solemn joy in each other a few days back, and as Clare wished to wind
up his business with Mr Crick, Tess could hardly avoid paying Mrs
Crick a call at the same time, unless she would excite suspicion of
their unhappy state.

To make the call as unobtrusive as possible, they left the carriage
by the wicket leading down from the high road to the dairy-house, and
descended the track on foot, side by side.  The withy-bed had been
cut, and they could see over the stumps the spot to which Clare had
followed her when he pressed her to be his wife; to the left the
enclosure in which she had been fascinated by his harp; and far away
behind the cow-stalls the mead which had been the scene of their
first embrace.  The gold of the summer picture was now gray, the
colours mean, the rich soil mud, and the river cold.

Over the barton-gate the dairyman saw them, and came forward,
throwing into his face the kind of jocularity deemed appropriate
in Talbothays and its vicinity on the re-appearance of the
newly-married.  Then Mrs Crick emerged from the house, and several
others of their old acquaintance, though Marian and Retty did not
seem to be there.

Tess valiantly bore their sly attacks and friendly humours, which
affected her far otherwise than they supposed.  In the tacit
agreement of husband and wife to keep their estrangement a secret
they behaved as would have been ordinary.  And then, although she
would rather there had been no word spoken on the subject, Tess had
to hear in detail the story of Marian and Retty.  The later had gone
home to her father's, and Marian had left to look for employment
elsewhere.  They feared she would come to no good.

To dissipate the sadness of this recital Tess went and bade all her
favourite cows goodbye, touching each of them with her hand, and as
she and Clare stood side by side at leaving, as if united body and
soul, there would have been something peculiarly sorry in their
aspect to one who should have seen it truly; two limbs of one life,
as they outwardly were, his arm touching hers, her skirts touching
him, facing one way, as against all the dairy facing the other,
speaking in their adieux as "we", and yet sundered like the poles.
Perhaps something unusually stiff and embarrassed in their attitude,
some awkwardness in acting up to their profession of unity, different
from the natural shyness of young couples, may have been apparent,
for when they were gone Mrs Crick said to her husband--

"How onnatural the brightness of her eyes did seem, and how they
stood like waxen images and talked as if they were in a dream!
Didn't it strike 'ee that 'twas so?  Tess had always sommat strange
in her, and she's not now quite like the proud young bride of a
well-be-doing man."

They re-entered the vehicle, and were driven along the roads towards
Weatherbury and Stagfoot Lane, till they reached the Lane inn, where
Clare dismissed the fly and man.  They rested here a while, and
entering the Vale were next driven onward towards her home by a
stranger who did not know their relations.  At a midway point, when
Nuttlebury had been passed, and where there were cross-roads, Clare
stopped the conveyance and said to Tess that if she meant to return
to her mother's house it was here that he would leave her.  As they
could not talk with freedom in the driver's presence he asked her to
accompany him for a few steps on foot along one of the branch roads;
she assented, and directing the man to wait a few minutes they
strolled away.

"Now, let us understand each other," he said gently.  "There is no
anger between us, though there is that which I cannot endure at
present.  I will try to bring myself to endure it.  I will let you
know where I go to as soon as I know myself.  And if I can bring
myself to bear it--if it is desirable, possible--I will come to you.
But until I come to you it will be better that you should not try to
come to me."

The severity of the decree seemed deadly to Tess; she saw his view of
her clearly enough; he could regard her in no other light than that
of one who had practised gross deceit upon him.  Yet could a woman
who had done even what she had done deserve all this?  But she could
contest the point with him no further.  She simply repeated after him
his own words.

"Until you come to me I must not try to come to you?"

"Just so."

"May I write to you?"

"O yes--if you are ill, or want anything at all.  I hope that will
not be the case; so that it may happen that I write first to you."

"I agree to the conditions, Angel; because you know best what my
punishment ought to be; only--only--don't make it more than I can
bear!"

That was all she said on the matter.  If Tess had been artful, had
she made a scene, fainted, wept hysterically, in that lonely lane,
notwithstanding the fury of fastidiousness with which he was
possessed, he would probably not have withstood her.  But her mood
of long-suffering made his way easy for him, and she herself was
his best advocate.  Pride, too, entered into her submission--which
perhaps was a symptom of that reckless acquiescence in chance too
apparent in the whole d'Urberville family--and the many effective
chords which she could have stirred by an appeal were left untouched.

The remainder of their discourse was on practical matters only.  He
now handed her a packet containing a fairly good sum of money, which
he had obtained from his bankers for the purpose.  The brilliants,
the interest in which seemed to be Tess's for her life only (if he
understood the wording of the will), he advised her to let him send
to a bank for safety; and to this she readily agreed.

These things arranged, he walked with Tess back to the carriage,
and handed her in.  The coachman was paid and told where to drive
her.  Taking next his own bag and umbrella--the sole articles he had
brought with him hitherwards--he bade her goodbye; and they parted
there and then.

The fly moved creepingly up a hill, and Clare watched it go with an
unpremeditated hope that Tess would look out of the window for one
moment.  But that she never thought of doing, would not have ventured
to do, lying in a half-dead faint inside.  Thus he beheld her recede,
and in the anguish of his heart quoted a line from a poet, with
peculiar emendations of his own--


    God's NOT in his heaven:
    All's WRONG with the world!


When Tess had passed over the crest of the hill he turned to go his
own way, and hardly knew that he loved her still.



XXXVIII


As she drove on through Blackmoor Vale, and the landscape of her
youth began to open around her, Tess aroused herself from her stupor.
Her first thought was how would she be able to face her parents?

She reached a turnpike-gate which stood upon the highway to the
village.  It was thrown open by a stranger, not by the old man who
had kept it for many years, and to whom she had been known; he had
probably left on New Year's Day, the date when such changes were
made.  Having received no intelligence lately from her home, she
asked the turnpike-keeper for news.

"Oh--nothing, miss," he answered.  "Marlott is Marlott still.  Folks
have died and that.  John Durbeyfield, too, hev had a daughter
married this week to a gentleman-farmer; not from John's own house,
you know; they was married elsewhere; the gentleman being of that
high standing that John's own folk was not considered well-be-doing
enough to have any part in it, the bridegroom seeming not to know
how't have been discovered that John is a old and ancient nobleman
himself by blood, with family skillentons in their own vaults to
this day, but done out of his property in the time o' the Romans.
However, Sir John, as we call 'n now, kept up the wedding-day as well
as he could, and stood treat to everybody in the parish; and John's
wife sung songs at The Pure Drop till past eleven o'clock."

Hearing this, Tess felt so sick at heart that she could not decide
to go home publicly in the fly with her luggage and belongings.  She
asked the turnpike-keeper if she might deposit her things at his
house for a while, and, on his offering no objection, she dismissed
her carriage, and went on to the village alone by a back lane.

At sight of her father's chimney she asked herself how she could
possibly enter the house?  Inside that cottage her relations were
calmly supposing her far away on a wedding-tour with a comparatively
rich man, who was to conduct her to bouncing prosperity; while here
she was, friendless, creeping up to the old door quite by herself,
with no better place to go to in the world.

She did not reach the house unobserved.  Just by the garden-hedge she
was met by a girl who knew her--one of the two or three with whom she
had been intimate at school.  After making a few inquiries as to how
Tess came there, her friend, unheeding her tragic look, interrupted
with--

"But where's thy gentleman, Tess?"

Tess hastily explained that he had been called away on business, and,
leaving her interlocutor, clambered over the garden-hedge, and thus
made her way to the house.

As she went up the garden-path she heard her mother singing by the
back door, coming in sight of which she perceived Mrs Durbeyfield on
the doorstep in the act of wringing a sheet.  Having performed this
without observing Tess, she went indoors, and her daughter followed
her.

The washing-tub stood in the same old place on the same old
quarter-hogshead, and her mother, having thrown the sheet aside, was
about to plunge her arms in anew.

"Why--Tess!--my chil'--I thought you was married!--married really and
truly this time--we sent the cider--"

"Yes, mother; so I am."

"Going to be?"

"No--I am married."

"Married!  Then where's thy husband?"

"Oh, he's gone away for a time."

"Gone away!  When was you married, then?  The day you said?"

"Yes, Tuesday, mother."

"And now 'tis on'y Saturday, and he gone away?"

"Yes, he's gone."

"What's the meaning o' that?  'Nation seize such husbands as you seem
to get, say I!"

"Mother!"  Tess went across to Joan Durbeyfield, laid her face upon
the matron's bosom, and burst into sobs.  "I don't know how to tell
'ee, mother!  You said to me, and wrote to me, that I was not to tell
him.  But I did tell him--I couldn't help it--and he went away!"

"O you little fool--you little fool!" burst out Mrs Durbeyfield,
splashing Tess and herself in her agitation.  "My good God! that ever
I should ha' lived to say it, but I say it again, you little fool!"

Tess was convulsed with weeping, the tension of so many days having
relaxed at last.

"I know it--I know--I know!" she gasped through her sobs.  "But,
O my mother, I could not help it!  He was so good--and I felt
the wickedness of trying to blind him as to what had happened!
If--if--it were to be done again--I should do the same.  I could
not--I dared not--so sin--against him!"

"But you sinned enough to marry him first!"

"Yes, yes; that's where my misery do lie!  But I thought he could get
rid o' me by law if he were determined not to overlook it.  And O, if
you knew--if you could only half know how I loved him--how anxious I
was to have him--and how wrung I was between caring so much for him
and my wish to be fair to him!"

Tess was so shaken that she could get no further, and sank, a
helpless thing, into a chair.

"Well, well; what's done can't be undone!  I'm sure I don't know why
children o' my bringing forth should all be bigger simpletons than
other people's--not to know better than to blab such a thing as
that, when he couldn't ha' found it out till too late!"  Here Mrs
Durbeyfield began shedding tears on her own account as a mother to
be pitied.  "What your father will say I don't know," she continued;
"for he's been talking about the wedding up at Rolliver's and The
Pure Drop every day since, and about his family getting back to their
rightful position through you--poor silly man!--and now you've made
this mess of it!  The Lord-a-Lord!"

As if to bring matters to a focus, Tess's father was heard
approaching at that moment.  He did not, however, enter immediately,
and Mrs Durbeyfield said that she would break the bad news to him
herself, Tess keeping out of sight for the present.  After her first
burst of disappointment Joan began to take the mishap as she had
taken Tess's original trouble, as she would have taken a wet holiday
or failure in the potato-crop; as a thing which had come upon them
irrespective of desert or folly; a chance external impingement to be
borne with; not a lesson.

Tess retreated upstairs and beheld casually that the beds had been
shifted, and new arrangements made.  Her old bed had been adapted for
two younger children.  There was no place here for her now.

The room below being unceiled she could hear most of what went on
there.  Presently her father entered, apparently carrying in a live
hen.  He was a foot-haggler now, having been obliged to sell his
second horse, and he travelled with his basket on his arm.  The hen
had been carried about this morning as it was often carried, to show
people that he was in his work, though it had lain, with its legs
tied, under the table at Rolliver's for more than an hour.

"We've just had up a story about--" Durbeyfield began, and thereupon
related in detail to his wife a discussion which had arisen at the
inn about the clergy, originated by the fact of his daughter having
married into a clerical family. "They was formerly styled 'sir',
like my own ancestry," he said, "though nowadays their true style,
strictly speaking, is 'clerk' only."  As Tess had wished that no
great publicity should be given to the event, he had mentioned no
particulars.  He hoped she would remove that prohibition soon.  He
proposed that the couple should take Tess's own name, d'Urberville,
as uncorrupted.  It was better than her husbands's.  He asked if any
letter had come from her that day.

Then Mrs Durbeyfield informed him that no letter had come, but Tess
unfortunately had come herself.

When at length the collapse was explained to him, a sullen
mortification, not usual with Durbeyfield, overpowered the influence
of the cheering glass.  Yet the intrinsic quality of the event moved
his touchy sensitiveness less than its conjectured effect upon the
minds of others.

"To think, now, that this was to be the end o't!" said Sir John.
"And I with a family vault under that there church of Kingsbere as
big as Squire Jollard's ale-cellar, and my folk lying there in sixes
and sevens, as genuine county bones and marrow as any recorded in
history.  And now to be sure what they fellers at Rolliver's and The
Pure Drop will say to me!  How they'll squint and glane, and say,
'This is yer mighty match is it; this is yer getting back to the true
level of yer forefathers in King Norman's time!' I feel this is too
much, Joan; I shall put an end to myself, title and all--I can bear
it no longer! ...  But she can make him keep her if he's married
her?"

"Why, yes. But she won't think o' doing that."

"D'ye think he really have married her?--or is it like the first--"

Poor Tess, who had heard as far as this, could not bear to hear more.
The perception that her word could be doubted even here, in her own
parental house, set her mind against the spot as nothing else could
have done.  How unexpected were the attacks of destiny!  And if her
father doubted her a little, would not neighbours and acquaintance
doubt her much?  O, she could not live long at home!

A few days, accordingly, were all that she allowed herself here, at
the end of which time she received a short note from Clare, informing
her that he had gone to the North of England to look at a farm.  In
her craving for the lustre of her true position as his wife, and to
hide from her parents the vast extent of the division between them,
she made use of this letter as her reason for again departing,
leaving them under the impression that she was setting out to join
him.  Still further to screen her husband from any imputation of
unkindness to her, she took twenty-five of the fifty pounds Clare
had given her, and handed the sum over to her mother, as if the wife
of a man like Angel Clare could well afford it, saying that it was a
slight return for the trouble and humiliation she had brought upon
them in years past.  With this assertion of her dignity she bade them
farewell; and after that there were lively doings in the Durbeyfield
household for some time on the strength of Tess's bounty, her mother
saying, and, indeed, believing, that the rupture which had arisen
between the young husband and wife had adjusted itself under their
strong feeling that they could not live apart from each other.



XXXIX


It was three weeks after the marriage that Clare found himself
descending the hill which led to the well-known parsonage of his
father.  With his downward course the tower of the church rose into
the evening sky in a manner of inquiry as to why he had come; and no
living person in the twilighted town seemed to notice him, still less
to expect him.  He was arriving like a ghost, and the sound of his
own footsteps was almost an encumbrance to be got rid of.

The picture of life had changed for him.  Before this time he had
known it but speculatively; now he thought he knew it as a practical
man; though perhaps he did not, even yet.  Nevertheless humanity
stood before him no longer in the pensive sweetness of Italian art,
but in the staring and ghastly attitudes of a Wiertz Museum, and with
the leer of a study by Van Beers.

His conduct during these first weeks had been desultory beyond
description.  After mechanically attempting to pursue his
agricultural plans as though nothing unusual had happened, in
the manner recommended by the great and wise men of all ages, he
concluded that very few of those great and wise men had ever gone so
far outside themselves as to test the feasibility of their counsel.
"This is the chief thing: be not perturbed," said the Pagan moralist.
That was just Clare's own opinion.  But he was perturbed.  "Let not
your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid," said the Nazarene.
Clare chimed in cordially; but his heart was troubled all the same.
How he would have liked to confront those two great thinkers, and
earnestly appeal to them as fellow-man to fellow-men, and ask them
to tell him their method!

His mood transmuted itself into a dogged indifference till at length
he fancied he was looking on his own existence with the passive
interest of an outsider.

He was embittered by the conviction that all this desolation had been
brought about by the accident of her being a d'Urberville.  When he
found that Tess came of that exhausted ancient line, and was not of
the new tribes from below, as he had fondly dreamed, why had he not
stoically abandoned her in fidelity to his principles?  This was what
he had got by apostasy, and his punishment was deserved.

Then he became weary and anxious, and his anxiety increased.  He
wondered if he had treated her unfairly.  He ate without knowing that
he ate, and drank without tasting.  As the hours dropped past, as the
motive of each act in the long series of bygone days presented itself
to his view, he perceived how intimately the notion of having Tess as
a dear possession was mixed up with all his schemes and words and
ways.

In going hither and thither he observed in the outskirts of a small
town a red-and-blue placard setting forth the great advantages of
the Empire of Brazil as a field for the emigrating agriculturist.
Land was offered there on exceptionally advantageous terms.  Brazil
somewhat attracted him as a new idea.  Tess could eventually join him
there, and perhaps in that country of contrasting scenes and notions
and habits the conventions would not be so operative which made life
with her seem impracticable to him here.  In brief he was strongly
inclined to try Brazil, especially as the season for going thither
was just at hand.

With this view he was returning to Emminster to disclose his plan
to his parents, and to make the best explanation he could make of
arriving without Tess, short of revealing what had actually separated
them.  As he reached the door the new moon shone upon his face, just
as the old one had done in the small hours of that morning when he
had carried his wife in his arms across the river to the graveyard
of the monks; but his face was thinner now.

Clare had given his parents no warning of his visit, and his arrival
stirred the atmosphere of the Vicarage as the dive of the kingfisher
stirs a quiet pool.  His father and mother were both in the
drawing-room, but neither of his brothers was now at home.  Angel
entered, and closed the door quietly behind him.

"But--where's your wife, dear Angel?" cried his mother.  "How you
surprise us!"

"She is at her mother's--temporarily.  I have come home rather in a
hurry because I've decided to go to Brazil."

"Brazil!  Why they are all Roman Catholics there surely!"

"Are they?  I hadn't thought of that."

But even the novelty and painfulness of his going to a Papistical
land could not displace for long Mr and Mrs Clare's natural interest
in their son's marriage.

"We had your brief note three weeks ago announcing that it had taken
place," said Mrs Clare, "and your father sent your godmother's gift
to her, as you know.  Of course it was best that none of us should be
present, especially as you preferred to marry her from the dairy, and
not at her home, wherever that may be.  It would have embarrassed
you, and given us no pleasure.  Your bothers felt that very strongly.
Now it is done we do not complain, particularly if she suits you for
the business you have chosen to follow instead of the ministry of the
Gospel. ...  Yet I wish I could have seen her first, Angel, or have
known a little more about her.  We sent her no present of our own,
not knowing what would best give her pleasure, but you must suppose
it only delayed.  Angel, there is no irritation in my mind or your
father's against you for this marriage; but we have thought it much
better to reserve our liking for your wife till we could see her.
And now you have not brought her.  It seems strange.  What has
happened?"

He replied that it had been thought best by them that she should to
go her parents' home for the present, whilst he came there.

"I don't mind telling you, dear mother," he said, "that I always
meant to keep her away from this house till I should feel she could
some with credit to you.  But this idea of Brazil is quite a recent
one.  If I do go it will be unadvisable for me to take her on this my
first journey.  She will remain at her mother's till I come back."

"And I shall not see her before you start?"

He was afraid they would not.  His original plan had been, as he had
said, to refrain from bringing her there for some little while--not
to wound their prejudices--feelings--in any way; and for other
reasons he had adhered to it.  He would have to visit home in the
course of a year, if he went out at once; and it would be possible
for them to see her before he started a second time--with her.

A hastily prepared supper was brought in, and Clare made further
exposition of his plans.  His mother's disappointment at not seeing
the bride still remained with her.  Clare's late enthusiasm for Tess
had infected her through her maternal sympathies, till she had almost
fancied that a good thing could come out of Nazareth--a charming
woman out of Talbothays Dairy. She watched her son as he ate.

"Cannot you describe her?  I am sure she is very pretty, Angel."

"Of that there can be no question!" he said, with a zest which
covered its bitterness.

"And that she is pure and virtuous goes without question?"

"Pure and virtuous, of course, she is."

"I can see her quite distinctly.  You said the other day that she was
fine in figure; roundly built; had deep red lips like Cupid's bow;
dark eyelashes and brows, an immense rope of hair like a ship's
cable; and large eyes violety-bluey-blackish."

"I did, mother."

"I quite see her.  And living in such seclusion she naturally had
scarce ever seen any young man from the world without till she saw
you."

"Scarcely."

"You were her first love?"

"Of course."

"There are worse wives than these simple, rosy-mouthed, robust girls
of the farm.  Certainly I could have wished--well, since my son is to
be an agriculturist, it is perhaps but proper that his wife should
have been accustomed to an outdoor life."

His father was less inquisitive; but when the time came for the
chapter from the Bible which was always read before evening prayers,
the Vicar observed to Mrs Clare--

"I think, since Angel has come, that it will be more appropriate to
read the thirty-first of Proverbs than the chapter which we should
have had in the usual course of our reading?"

"Yes, certainly," said Mrs Clare.  "The words of King Lemuel" (she
could cite chapter and verse as well as her husband).  "My dear son,
your father has decided to read us the chapter in Proverbs in praise
of a virtuous wife.  We shall not need to be reminded to apply the
words to the absent one.  May Heaven shield her in all her ways!"

A lump rose in Clare's throat.  The portable lectern was taken out
from the corner and set in the middle of the fireplace, the two old
servants came in, and Angel's father began to read at the tenth verse
of the aforesaid chapter--


   "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far
   above rubies.  She riseth while it is yet night, and
   giveth meat to her household.  She girdeth her loins
   with strength and strengtheneth her arms.  She
   perceiveth that her merchandise is good; her candle
   goeth not out by night.  She looketh well to the ways
   of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
   Her children arise up and call her blessed; her husband
   also, and he praiseth her.  Many daughters have done
   virtuously, but thou excellest them all."


When prayers were over, his mother said--

"I could not help thinking how very aptly that chapter your dear
father read applied, in some of its particulars, to the woman you
have chosen.  The perfect woman, you see, was a working woman; not an
idler; not a fine lady; but one who used her hands and her head and
her heart for the good of others.  'Her children arise up and call
her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.  Many daughters
have done virtuously, but she excelleth them all.'  Well, I wish I
could have seen her, Angel.  Since she is pure and chaste, she would
have been refined enough for me."

Clare could bear this no longer.  His eyes were full of tears, which
seemed like drops of molten lead.  He bade a quick good night to
these sincere and simple souls whom he loved so well; who knew
neither the world, the flesh, nor the devil in their own hearts, only
as something vague and external to themselves.  He went to his own
chamber.

His mother followed him, and tapped at his door.  Clare opened it to
discover her standing without, with anxious eyes.

"Angel," she asked, "is there something wrong that you go away so
soon?  I am quite sure you are not yourself."

"I am not, quite, mother," said he.

"About her?  Now, my son, I know it is that--I know it is about her!
Have you quarrelled in these three weeks?"

"We have not exactly quarrelled," he said.  "But we have had a
difference--"

"Angel--is she a young woman whose history will bear investigation?"

With a mother's instinct Mrs Clare had put her finger on the kind of
trouble that would cause such a disquiet as seemed to agitate her
son.

"She is spotless!" he replied; and felt that if it had sent him to
eternal hell there and then he would have told that lie.

"Then never mind the rest.  After all, there are few purer things in
nature then an unsullied country maid. Any crudeness of manner which
may offend your more educated sense at first, will, I am sure,
disappear under the influence or your companionship and tuition."

Such terrible sarcasm of blind magnanimity brought home to Clare the
secondary perception that he had utterly wrecked his career by this
marriage, which had not been among his early thoughts after the
disclosure.  True, on his own account he cared very little about his
career; but he had wished to make it at least a respectable one on
account of his parents and brothers.  And now as he looked into the
candle its flame dumbly expressed to him that it was made to shine on
sensible people, and that it abhorred lighting the face of a dupe and
a failure.

When his agitation had cooled he would be at moments incensed with
his poor wife for causing a situation in which he was obliged to
practise deception on his parents.  He almost talked to her in his
anger, as if she had been in the room.  And then her cooing voice,
plaintive in expostulation, disturbed the darkness, the velvet touch
of her lips passed over his brow, and he could distinguish in the air
the warmth of her breath.

This night the woman of his belittling deprecations was thinking how
great and good her husband was.  But over them both there hung a
deeper shade than the shade which Angel Clare perceived, namely, the
shade of his own limitations.  With all his attempted independence of
judgement this advanced and well-meaning young man, a sample product
of the last five-and-twenty years, was yet the slave to custom and
conventionality when surprised back into his early teachings.  No
prophet had told him, and he was not prophet enough to tell himself,
that essentially this young wife of his was as deserving of the
praise of King Lemuel as any other woman endowed with the same
dislike of evil, her moral value having to be reckoned not by
achievement but by tendency.  Moreover, the figure near at hand
suffers on such occasion, because it shows up its sorriness without
shade; while vague figures afar off are honoured, in that their
distance makes artistic virtues of their stains.  In considering
what Tess was not, he overlooked what she was, and forgot that the
defective can be more than the entire.



XL


At breakfast Brazil was the topic, and all endeavoured to take a
hopeful view of Clare's proposed experiment with that country's soil,
notwithstanding the discouraging reports of some farm-labourers who
had emigrated thither and returned home within the twelve months.
After breakfast Clare went into the little town to wind up such
trifling matters as he was concerned with there, and to get from
the local bank all the money he possessed.  On his way back he
encountered Miss Mercy Chant by the church, from whose walls she
seemed to be a sort of emanation.  She was carrying an armful of
Bibles for her class, and such was her view of life that events which
produced heartache in others wrought beatific smiles upon her--an
enviable result, although, in the opinion of Angel, it was obtained
by a curiously unnatural sacrifice of humanity to mysticism.

She had learnt that he was about to leave England, and observed what
an excellent and promising scheme it seemed to be.

"Yes; it is a likely scheme enough in a commercial sense, no doubt,"
he replied.  "But, my dear Mercy, it snaps the continuity of
existence.  Perhaps a cloister would be preferable."

"A cloister!  O, Angel Clare!"

"Well?"

"Why, you wicked man, a cloister implies a monk, and a monk Roman
Catholicism."

"And Roman Catholicism sin, and sin damnation.  Thou art in a parlous
state, Angel Clare."

"_I_ glory in my Protestantism!" she said severely.

Then Clare, thrown by sheer misery into one of the demoniacal moods
in which a man does despite to his true principles, called her close
to him, and fiendishly whispered in her ear the most heterodox ideas
he could think of.  His momentary laughter at the horror which
appeared on her fair face ceased when it merged in pain and anxiety
for his welfare.

"Dear Mercy," he said, "you must forgive me.  I think I am going
crazy!"

She thought that he was; and thus the interview ended, and Clare
re-entered the Vicarage.  With the local banker he deposited the
jewels till happier days should arise.  He also paid into the bank
thirty pounds--to be sent to Tess in a few months, as she might
require; and wrote to her at her parents' home in Blackmoor Vale to
inform her of what he had done.  This amount, with the sum he had
already placed in her hands--about fifty pounds--he hoped would be
amply sufficient for her wants just at present, particularly as in
an emergency she had been directed to apply to his father.

He deemed it best not to put his parents into communication with her
by informing them of her address; and, being unaware of what had
really happened to estrange the two, neither his father nor his
mother suggested that he should do so.  During the day he left the
parsonage, for what he had to complete he wished to get done quickly.

As the last duty before leaving this part of England it was necessary
for him to call at the Wellbridge farmhouse, in which he had spent
with Tess the first three days of their marriage, the trifle of rent
having to be paid, the key given up of the rooms they had occupied,
and two or three small articles fetched away that they had left
behind.  It was under this roof that the deepest shadow ever thrown
upon his life had stretched its gloom over him.  Yet when he had
unlocked the door of the sitting-room and looked into it, the memory
which returned first upon him was that of their happy arrival on a
similar afternoon, the first fresh sense of sharing a habitation
conjointly, the first meal together, the chatting by the fire with
joined hands.

The farmer and his wife were in the field at the moment of his visit,
and Clare was in the rooms alone for some time.  Inwardly swollen
with a renewal of sentiment that he had not quite reckoned with, he
went upstairs to her chamber, which had never been his.  The bed
was smooth as she had made it with her own hands on the morning of
leaving.  The mistletoe hung under the tester just as he had placed
it.  Having been there three or four weeks it was turning colour, and
the leaves and berries were wrinkled.  Angel took it down and crushed
it into the grate.  Standing there, he for the first time doubted
whether his course in this conjecture had been a wise, much less
a generous, one.  But had he not been cruelly blinded?  In the
incoherent multitude of his emotions he knelt down at the bedside
wet-eyed.  "O Tess!  If you had only told me sooner, I would have
forgiven you!" he mourned.

Hearing a footstep below, he rose and went to the top of the stairs.
At the bottom of the flight he saw a woman standing, and on her
turning up her face recognized the pale, dark-eyed Izz Huett.

"Mr Clare," she said, "I've called to see you and Mrs Clare, and to
inquire if ye be well.  I thought you might be back here again."

This was a girl whose secret he had guessed, but who had not yet
guessed his; an honest girl who loved him--one who would have made as
good, or nearly as good, a practical farmer's wife as Tess.

"I am here alone," he said; "we are not living here now."  Explaining
why he had come, he asked, "Which way are you going home, Izz?"

"I have no home at Talbothays Dairy now, sir," she said.

"Why is that?"

Izz looked down.

"It was so dismal there that I left!  I am staying out this way."
She pointed in a contrary direction, the direction in which he was
journeying.

"Well--are you going there now?  I can take you if you
wish for a lift."

Her olive complexion grew richer in hue.

"Thank 'ee, Mr Clare," she said.

He soon found the farmer, and settled the account for his rent and
the few other items which had to be considered by reason of the
sudden abandonment of the lodgings.  On Clare's return to his horse
and gig, Izz jumped up beside him.

"I am going to leave England, Izz," he said, as they drove on.
"Going to Brazil."

"And do Mrs Clare like the notion of such a journey?" she asked.

"She is not going at present--say for a year or so.  I am going out
to reconnoitre--to see what life there is like."

They sped along eastward for some considerable distance, Izz making
no observation.

"How are the others?" he inquired.  "How is Retty?"

"She was in a sort of nervous state when I zid her last; and so thin
and hollow-cheeked that 'a do seem in a decline.  Nobody will ever
fall in love wi' her any more," said Izz absently.

"And Marian?"

Izz lowered her voice.

"Marian drinks."

"Indeed!"

"Yes.  The dairyman has got rid of her."

"And you!"

"I don't drink, and I bain't in a decline.  But--I am no great things
at singing afore breakfast now!"

"How is that?  Do you remember how neatly you used to turn ''Twas
down in Cupid's Gardens' and 'The Tailor's Breeches' at morning
milking?"

"Ah, yes!  When you first came, sir, that was.  Not when you had been
there a bit."

"Why was that falling-off?"

Her black eyes flashed up to his face for one moment by way of
answer.

"Izz!--how weak of you--for such as I!" he said, and fell into
reverie.  "Then--suppose I had asked YOU to marry me?"

"If you had I should have said 'Yes', and you would have married a
woman who loved 'ee!"

"Really!"

"Down to the ground!" she whispered vehemently.  "O my God! did you
never guess it till now!"

By-and-by they reached a branch road to a village.

"I must get down.  I live out there," said Izz abruptly, never having
spoken since her avowal.

Clare slowed the horse.  He was incensed against his fate, bitterly
disposed towards social ordinances; for they had cooped him up in a
corner, out of which there was no legitimate pathway.  Why not be
revenged on society by shaping his future domesticities loosely,
instead of kissing the pedagogic rod of convention in this ensnaring
manner?

"I am going to Brazil alone, Izz," said he.  "I have separated from
my wife for personal, not voyaging, reasons.  I may never live with
her again.  I may not be able to love you; but--will you go with me
instead of her?"

"You truly wish me to go?"

"I do.  I have been badly used enough to wish for relief.  And you at
least love me disinterestedly."

"Yes--I will go," said Izz, after a pause.

"You will?  You know what it means, Izz?"

"It means that I shall live with you for the time you are over
there--that's good enough for me."

"Remember, you are not to trust me in morals now.  But I ought
to remind you that it will be wrong-doing in the eyes of
civilization--Western civilization, that is to say."

"I don't mind that; no woman do when it comes to agony-point, and
there's no other way!"

"Then don't get down, but sit where you are."

He drove past the cross-roads, one mile, two miles, without showing
any signs of affection.

"You love me very, very much, Izz?" he suddenly asked.

"I do--I have said I do!  I loved you all the time we was at the
dairy together!"

"More than Tess?"

She shook her head.

"No," she murmured, "not more than she."

"How's that?"

"Because nobody could love 'ee more than Tess did! ...  She would
have laid down her life for 'ee.  I could do no more."

Like the prophet on the top of Peor, Izz Huett would fain have spoken
perversely at such a moment, but the fascination exercised over her
rougher nature by Tess's character compelled her to grace.

Clare was silent; his heart had risen at these straightforward words
from such an unexpected unimpeachable quarter.  In his throat was
something as if a sob had solidified there.  His ears repeated, "SHE
WOULD HAVE LAID DOWN HER LIFE FOR 'EE.  I COULD DO NO MORE!"

"Forget our idle talk, Izz," he said, turning the horse's head
suddenly.  "I don't know what I've been saying!  I will now drive
you back to where your lane branches off."

"So much for honesty towards 'ee!  O--how can I bear it--how can
I--how can I!"

Izz Huett burst into wild tears, and beat her forehead as she saw
what she had done.

"Do you regret that poor little act of justice to an absent one?
O, Izz, don't spoil it by regret!"

She stilled herself by degrees.

"Very well, sir.  Perhaps I didn't know what I was saying, either,
wh--when I agreed to go!  I wish--what cannot be!"

"Because I have a loving wife already."

"Yes, yes!  You have!"

They reached the corner of the lane which they had passed half an
hour earlier, and she hopped down.

"Izz--please, please forget my momentary levity!" he cried.  "It was
so ill-considered, so ill-advised!"

"Forget it?  Never, never!  O, it was no levity to me!"

He felt how richly he deserved the reproach that the wounded cry
conveyed, and, in a sorrow that was inexpressible, leapt down and
took her hand.

"Well, but, Izz, we'll part friends, anyhow?  You don't know what
I've had to bear!"

She was a really generous girl, and allowed no further bitterness to
mar their adieux.

"I forgive 'ee, sir!" she said.

"Now, Izz," he said, while she stood beside him there, forcing
himself to the mentor's part he was far from feeling; "I want you to
tell Marian when you see her that she is to be a good woman, and not
to give way to folly.  Promise that, and tell Retty that there are
more worthy men than I in the world, that for my sake she is to act
wisely and well--remember the words--wisely and well--for my sake.
I send this message to them as a dying man to the dying; for I shall
never see them again.  And you, Izzy, you have saved me by your
honest words about my wife from an incredible impulse towards folly
and treachery.  Women may be bad, but they are not so bad as men in
these things!  On that one account I can never forget you.  Be always
the good and sincere girl you have hitherto been; and think of me as
a worthless lover, but a faithful friend.  Promise."

She gave the promise.

"Heaven bless and keep you, sir.  Goodbye!"

He drove on; but no sooner had Izz turned into the lane, and Clare
was out of sight, than she flung herself down on the bank in a fit of
racking anguish; and it was with a strained unnatural face that she
entered her mother's cottage late that night.  Nobody ever was told
how Izz spent the dark hours that intervened between Angel Clare's
parting from her and her arrival home.

Clare, too, after bidding the girl farewell, was wrought to aching
thoughts and quivering lips.  But his sorrow was not for Izz.  That
evening he was within a feather-weight's turn of abandoning his road
to the nearest station, and driving across that elevated dorsal line
of South Wessex which divided him from his Tess's home.  It was
neither a contempt for her nature, nor the probable state of her
heart, which deterred him.

No; it was a sense that, despite her love, as corroborated by Izz's
admission, the facts had not changed.  If he was right at first,
he was right now.  And the momentum of the course on which he
had embarked tended to keep him going in it, unless diverted by
a stronger, more sustained force than had played upon him this
afternoon.  He could soon come back to her.  He took the train that
night for London, and five days after shook hands in farewell of his
brothers at the port of embarkation.



XLI


From the foregoing events of the winter-time let us press on to
an October day, more than eight months subsequent to the parting
of Clare and Tess.  We discover the latter in changed conditions;
instead of a bride with boxes and trunks which others bore, we see
her a lonely woman with a basket and a bundle in her own porterage,
as at an earlier time when she was no bride; instead of the ample
means that were projected by her husband for her comfort through
this probationary period, she can produce only a flattened purse.

After again leaving Marlott, her home, she had got through the
spring and summer without any great stress upon her physical powers,
the time being mainly spent in rendering light irregular service
at dairy-work near Port-Bredy to the west of the Blackmoor Valley,
equally remote from her native place and from Talbothays.  She
preferred this to living on his allowance.  Mentally she remained in
utter stagnation, a condition which the mechanical occupation rather
fostered than checked.  Her consciousness was at that other dairy,
at that other season, in the presence of the tender lover who had
confronted her there--he who, the moment she had grasped him to keep
for her own, had disappeared like a shape in a vision.

The dairy-work lasted only till the milk began to lessen, for she
had not met with a second regular engagement as at Talbothays, but
had done duty as a supernumerary only.  However, as harvest was now
beginning, she had simply to remove from the pasture to the stubble
to find plenty of further occupation, and this continued till harvest
was done.

Of the five-and-twenty pounds which had remained to her of Clare's
allowance, after deducting the other half of the fifty as a
contribution to her parents for the trouble and expense to which
she had put them, she had as yet spent but little.  But there now
followed an unfortunate interval of wet weather, during which she was
obliged to fall back upon her sovereigns.

She could not bear to let them go.  Angel had put them into her hand,
had obtained them bright and new from his bank for her; his touch had
consecrated them to souvenirs of himself--they appeared to have had
as yet no other history than such as was created by his and her own
experiences--and to disperse them was like giving away relics.  But
she had to do it, and one by one they left her hands.

She had been compelled to send her mother her address from time to
time, but she concealed her circumstances.  When her money had almost
gone a letter from her mother reached her.  Joan stated that they
were in dreadful difficulty; the autumn rains had gone through the
thatch of the house, which required entire renewal; but this could
not be done because the previous thatching had never been paid for.
New rafters and a new ceiling upstairs also were required, which,
with the previous bill, would amount to a sum of twenty pounds.  As
her husband was a man of means, and had doubtless returned by this
time, could she not send them the money?

Tess had thirty pounds coming to her almost immediately from Angel's
bankers, and, the case being so deplorable, as soon as the sum was
received she sent the twenty as requested.  Part of the remainder
she was obliged to expend in winter clothing, leaving only a nominal
sum for the whole inclement season at hand.  When the last pound
had gone, a remark of Angel's that whenever she required further
resources she was to apply to his father, remained to be considered.

But the more Tess thought of the step, the more reluctant was she to
take it.  The same delicacy, pride, false shame, whatever it may be
called, on Clare's account, which had led her to hide from her own
parents the prolongation of the estrangement, hindered her owning to
his that she was in want after the fair allowance he had left her.
They probably despised her already; how much more they would despise
her in the character of a mendicant!  The consequence was that by no
effort could the parson's daughter-in-law bring herself to let him
know her state.

Her reluctance to communicate with her husband's parents might,
she thought, lessen with the lapse of time; but with her own the
reverse obtained.  On her leaving their house after the short visit
subsequent to her marriage they were under the impression that she
was ultimately going to join her husband; and from that time to the
present she had done nothing to disturb their belief that she was
awaiting his return in comfort, hoping against hope that his journey
to Brazil would result in a short stay only, after which he would
come to fetch her, or that he would write for her to join him; in any
case that they would soon present a united front to their families
and the world.  This hope she still fostered.  To let her parents
know that she was a deserted wife, dependent, now that she had
relieved their necessities, on her own hands for a living, after the
_éclat_ of a marriage which was to nullify the collapse of the first
attempt, would be too much indeed.

The set of brilliants returned to her mind.  Where Clare had
deposited them she did not know, and it mattered little, if it were
true that she could only use and not sell them.  Even were they
absolutely hers it would be passing mean to enrich herself by a legal
title to them which was not essentially hers at all.

Meanwhile her husband's days had been by no means free from trial.
At this moment he was lying ill of fever in the clay lands near
Curitiba in Brazil, having been drenched with thunder-storms and
persecuted by other hardships, in common with all the English farmers
and farm-labourers who, just at this time, were deluded into going
thither by the promises of the Brazilian Government, and by the
baseless assumption that those frames which, ploughing and sowing on
English uplands, had resisted all the weathers to whose moods they
had been born, could resist equally well all the weathers by which
they were surprised on Brazilian plains.

To return.  Thus it happened that when the last of Tess's sovereigns
had been spent she was unprovided with others to take their place,
while on account of the season she found it increasingly difficult
to get employment.  Not being aware of the rarity of intelligence,
energy, health, and willingness in any sphere of life, she refrained
from seeking an indoor occupation; fearing towns, large houses,
people of means and social sophistication, and of manners other
than rural.  From that direction of gentility Black Care had come.
Society might be better than she supposed from her slight experience
of it.  But she had no proof of this, and her instinct in the
circumstances was to avoid its purlieus.

The small dairies to the west, beyond Port-Bredy, in which she
had served as supernumerary milkmaid during the spring and summer
required no further aid.  Room would probably have been made for her
at Talbothays, if only out of sheer compassion; but comfortable as
her life had been there, she could not go back.  The anti-climax
would be too intolerable; and her return might bring reproach upon
her idolized husband.  She could not have borne their pity, and their
whispered remarks to one another upon her strange situation; though
she would almost have faced a knowledge of her circumstances by every
individual there, so long as her story had remained isolated in the
mind of each.  It was the interchange of ideas about her that made
her sensitiveness wince.  Tess could not account for this
distinction; she simply knew that she felt it.

She was now on her way to an upland farm in the centre of the county,
to which she had been recommended by a wandering letter which had
reached her from Marian.  Marian had somehow heard that Tess was
separated from her husband--probably through Izz Huett--and the
good-natured and now tippling girl, deeming Tess in trouble, had
hastened to notify to her former friend that she herself had gone to
this upland spot after leaving the dairy, and would like to see her
there, where there was room for other hands, if it was really true
that she worked again as of old.

With the shortening of the days all hope of obtaining her husband's
forgiveness began to leave her; and there was something of the
habitude of the wild animal in the unreflecting instinct with which
she rambled on--disconnecting herself by littles from her eventful
past at every step, obliterating her identity, giving no thought to
accidents or contingencies which might make a quick discovery of her
whereabouts by others of importance to her own happiness, if not to
theirs.

Among the difficulties of her lonely position not the least was
the attention she excited by her appearance, a certain bearing of
distinction, which she had caught from Clare, being superadded to her
natural attractiveness.  Whilst the clothes lasted which had been
prepared for her marriage, these casual glances of interest caused
her no inconvenience, but as soon as she was compelled to don the
wrapper of a fieldwoman, rude words were addressed to her more than
once; but nothing occurred to cause her bodily fear till a particular
November afternoon.

She had preferred the country west of the River Brit to the upland
farm for which she was now bound, because, for one thing, it was
nearer to the home of her husband's father; and to hover about that
region unrecognized, with the notion that she might decide to call at
the Vicarage some day, gave her pleasure.  But having once decided to
try the higher and drier levels, she pressed back eastward, marching
afoot towards the village of Chalk-Newton, where she meant to pass
the night.

The lane was long and unvaried, and, owing to the rapid shortening of
the days, dusk came upon her before she was aware.  She had reached
the top of a hill down which the lane stretched its serpentine length
in glimpses, when she heard footsteps behind her back, and in a few
moments she was overtaken by a man.  He stepped up alongside Tess and
said--

"Good night, my pretty maid": to which she civilly replied.

The light still remaining in the sky lit up her face, though the
landscape was nearly dark.  The man turned and stared hard at her.

"Why, surely, it is the young wench who was at Trantridge awhile--
young Squire d'Urberville's friend?  I was there at that time, though
I don't live there now."

She recognized in him the well-to-do boor whom Angel had knocked down
at the inn for addressing her coarsely.  A spasm of anguish shot
through her, and she returned him no answer.

"Be honest enough to own it, and that what I said in the town was
true, though your fancy-man was so up about it--hey, my sly one?  You
ought to beg my pardon for that blow of his, considering."

Still no answer came from Tess.  There seemed only one escape for her
hunted soul.  She suddenly took to her heels with the speed of the
wind, and, without looking behind her, ran along the road till she
came to a gate which opened directly into a plantation.  Into this
she plunged, and did not pause till she was deep enough in its shade
to be safe against any possibility of discovery.

Under foot the leaves were dry, and the foliage of some holly bushes
which grew among the deciduous trees was dense enough to keep off
draughts.  She scraped together the dead leaves till she had formed
them into a large heap, making a sort of nest in the middle.  Into
this Tess crept.

Such sleep as she got was naturally fitful; she fancied she heard
strange noises, but persuaded herself that they were caused by the
breeze.  She thought of her husband in some vague warm clime on the
other side of the globe, while she was here in the cold.  Was there
another such a wretched being as she in the world?  Tess asked
herself; and, thinking of her wasted life, said, "All is vanity."
She repeated the words mechanically, till she reflected that this
was a most inadequate thought for modern days.  Solomon had thought
as far as that more than two thousand years ago; she herself,
though not in the van of thinkers, had got much further.  If all
were only vanity, who would mind it?  All was, alas, worse than
vanity--injustice, punishment, exaction, death.  The wife of Angel
Clare put her hand to her brow, and felt its curve, and the edges of
her eye-sockets perceptible under the soft skin, and thought as she
did so that a time would come when that bone would be bare.  "I wish
it were now," she said.

In the midst of these whimsical fancies she heard a new strange sound
among the leaves.  It might be the wind; yet there was scarcely any
wind.  Sometimes it was a palpitation, sometimes a flutter; sometimes
it was a sort of gasp or gurgle.  Soon she was certain that the
noises came from wild creatures of some kind, the more so when,
originating in the boughs overhead, they were followed by the fall
of a heavy body upon the ground.  Had she been ensconced here under
other and more pleasant conditions she would have become alarmed;
but, outside humanity, she had at present no fear.

Day at length broke in the sky.  When it had been day aloft for some
little while it became day in the wood.

Directly the assuring and prosaic light of the world's active hours
had grown strong, she crept from under her hillock of leaves, and
looked around boldly.  Then she perceived what had been going on to
disturb her.  The plantation wherein she had taken shelter ran down
at this spot into a peak, which ended it hitherward, outside the
hedge being arable ground.  Under the trees several pheasants lay
about, their rich plumage dabbled with blood; some were dead, some
feebly twitching a wing, some staring up at the sky, some pulsating
quickly, some contorted, some stretched out--all of them writhing in
agony, except the fortunate ones whose tortures had ended during the
night by the inability of nature to bear more.

Tess guessed at once the meaning of this.  The birds had been driven
down into this corner the day before by some shooting-party; and
while those that had dropped dead under the shot, or had died before
nightfall, had been searched for and carried off, many badly wounded
birds had escaped and hidden themselves away, or risen among the
thick boughs, where they had maintained their position till they grew
weaker with loss of blood in the night-time, when they had fallen one
by one as she had heard them.

She had occasionally caught glimpses of these men in girlhood,
looking over hedges, or peeping through bushes, and pointing their
guns, strangely accoutred, a bloodthirsty light in their eyes.  She
had been told that, rough and brutal as they seemed just then, they
were not like this all the year round, but were, in fact, quite civil
persons save during certain weeks of autumn and winter, when, like
the inhabitants of the Malay Peninsula, they ran amuck, and made
it their purpose to destroy life--in this case harmless feathered
creatures, brought into being by artificial means solely to gratify
these propensities--at once so unmannerly and so unchivalrous towards
their weaker fellows in Nature's teeming family.

With the impulse of a soul who could feel for kindred sufferers as
much as for herself, Tess's first thought was to put the still living
birds out of their torture, and to this end with her own hands she
broke the necks of as many as she could find, leaving them to lie
where she had found them till the game-keepers should come--as they
probably would come--to look for them a second time.

"Poor darlings--to suppose myself the most miserable being on earth
in the sight o' such misery as yours!" she exclaimed, her tears
running down as she killed the birds tenderly.  "And not a twinge of
bodily pain about me!  I be not mangled, and I be not bleeding, and
I have two hands to feed and clothe me."  She was ashamed of herself
for her gloom of the night, based on nothing more tangible than a
sense of condemnation under an arbitrary law of society which had no
foundation in Nature.



XLII


It was now broad day, and she started again, emerging cautiously upon
the highway.  But there was no need for caution; not a soul was at
hand, and Tess went onward with fortitude, her recollection of the
birds' silent endurance of their night of agony impressing upon her
the relativity of sorrows and the tolerable nature of her own, if she
could once rise high enough to despise opinion.  But that she could
not do so long as it was held by Clare.

She reached Chalk-Newton, and breakfasted at an inn, where several
young men were troublesomely complimentary to her good looks.
Somehow she felt hopeful, for was it not possible that her husband
also might say these same things to her even yet?  She was bound to
take care of herself on the chance of it, and keep off these casual
lovers.  To this end Tess resolved to run no further risks from her
appearance.  As soon as she got out of the village she entered a
thicket and took from her basket one of the oldest field-gowns, which
she had never put on even at the dairy--never since she had worked
among the stubble at Marlott.  She also, by a felicitous thought,
took a handkerchief from her bundle and tied it round her face under
her bonnet, covering her chin and half her cheeks and temples, as if
she were suffering from toothache. Then with her little scissors,
by the aid of a pocket looking-glass, she mercilessly nipped her
eyebrows off, and thus insured against aggressive admiration, she
went on her uneven way.

"What a mommet of a maid!" said the next man who met her to a
companion.

Tears came into her eyes for very pity of herself as she heard him.

"But I don't care!" she said.  "O no--I don't care!  I'll always be
ugly now, because Angel is not here, and I have nobody to take care
of me.  My husband that was is gone away, and never will love me any
more; but I love him just the same, and hate all other men, and like
to make 'em think scornfully of me!"

Thus Tess walks on; a figure which is part of the landscape; a
fieldwoman pure and simple, in winter guise; a gray serge cape, a
red woollen cravat, a stuff skirt covered by a whitey-brown rough
wrapper, and buff-leather gloves.  Every thread of that old attire
has become faded and thin under the stroke of raindrops, the burn of
sunbeams, and the stress of winds.  There is no sign of young passion
in her now--


     The maiden's mouth is cold
     . . .
     Fold over simple fold
     Binding her head.


Inside this exterior, over which the eye might have roved as over a
thing scarcely percipient, almost inorganic, there was the record of
a pulsing life which had learnt too well, for its years, of the dust
and ashes of things, of the cruelty of lust and the fragility of
love.

Next day the weather was bad, but she trudged on, the honesty,
directness, and impartiality of elemental enmity disconcerting her
but little.  Her object being a winter's occupation and a winter's
home, there was no time to lose.  Her experience of short hirings
had been such that she was determined to accept no more.

Thus she went forward from farm to farm in the direction of the place
whence Marian had written to her, which she determined to make use of
as a last shift only, its rumoured stringencies being the reverse of
tempting.  First she inquired for the lighter kinds of employment,
and, as acceptance in any variety of these grew hopeless, applied
next for the less light, till, beginning with the dairy and poultry
tendance that she liked best, she ended with the heavy and course
pursuits which she liked least--work on arable land: work of such
roughness, indeed, as she would never have deliberately voluteered
for.

Towards the second evening she reached the irregular chalk table-land
or plateau, bosomed with semi-globular tumuli--as if Cybele the
Many-breasted were supinely extended there--which stretched between
the valley of her birth and the valley of her love.

Here the air was dry and cold, and the long cart-roads were blown
white and dusty within a few hours after rain.  There were few trees,
or none, those that would have grown in the hedges being mercilessly
plashed down with the quickset by the tenant-farmers, the natural
enemies of tree, bush, and brake.  In the middle distance ahead of
her she could see the summits of Bulbarrow and of Nettlecombe Tout,
and they seemed friendly.  They had a low and unassuming aspect from
this upland, though as approached on the other side from Blackmoor
in her childhood they were as lofty bastions against the sky.
Southerly, at many miles' distance, and over the hills and ridges
coastward, she could discern a surface like polished steel: it was
the English Channel at a point far out towards France.

Before her, in a slight depression, were the remains of a village.
She had, in fact, reached Flintcomb-Ash, the place of Marian's
sojourn.  There seemed to be no help for it; hither she was doomed to
come.  The stubborn soil around her showed plainly enough that the
kind of labour in demand here was of the roughest kind; but it was
time to rest from searching, and she resolved to stay, particularly
as it began to rain.  At the entrance to the village was a cottage
whose gable jutted into the road, and before applying for a lodging
she stood under its shelter, and watched the evening close in.

"Who would think I was Mrs Angel Clare!" she said.

The wall felt warm to her back and shoulders, and she found that
immediately within the gable was the cottage fireplace, the heat of
which came through the bricks.  She warmed her hands upon them, and
also put her cheek--red and moist with the drizzle--against their
comforting surface.  The wall seemed to be the only friend she had.
She had so little wish to leave it that she could have stayed there
all night.

Tess could hear the occupants of the cottage--gathered together after
their day's labour--talking to each other within, and the rattle of
their supper-plates was also audible.  But in the village-street she
had seen no soul as yet.  The solitude was at last broken by the
approach of one feminine figure, who, though the evening was cold,
wore the print gown and the tilt-bonnet of summer time.  Tess
instinctively thought it might be Marian, and when she came near
enough to be distinguishable in the gloom, surely enough it was
she.  Marian was even stouter and redder in the face than formerly,
and decidedly shabbier in attire.  At any previous period of her
existence Tess would hardly have cared to renew the acquaintance in
such conditions; but her loneliness was excessive, and she responded
readily to Marian's greeting.

Marian was quite respectful in her inquiries, but seemed much moved
by the fact that Tess should still continue in no better condition
than at first; though she had dimly heard of the separation.

"Tess--Mrs Clare--the dear wife of dear he!  And is it really so bad
as this, my child?  Why is your cwomely face tied up in such a way?
Anybody been beating 'ee?  Not HE?"

"No, no, no!  I merely did it not to be clipsed or colled, Marian."

She pulled off in disgust a bandage which could suggest such wild
thoughts.

"And you've got no collar on" (Tess had been accustomed to wear a
little white collar at the dairy).

"I know it, Marian."

"You've lost it travelling."

"I've not lost it.  The truth is, I don't care anything about my
looks; and so I didn't put it on."

"And you don't wear your wedding-ring?"

"Yes, I do; but not in public.  I wear it round my neck on a ribbon.
I don't wish people to think who I am by marriage, or that I am
married at all; it would be so awkward while I lead my present life."

Marian paused.

"But you BE a gentleman's wife; and it seems hardly fair that you
should live like this!"

"O yes it is, quite fair; though I am very unhappy."

"Well, well.  HE married you--and you can be unhappy!"

"Wives are unhappy sometimes; from no fault of their husbands--from
their own."

"You've no faults, deary; that I'm sure of.  And he's none.  So it
must be something outside ye both."

"Marian, dear Marian, will you do me a good turn without asking
questions?  My husband has gone abroad, and somehow I have overrun my
allowance, so that I have to fall back upon my old work for a time.
Do not call me Mrs Clare, but Tess, as before.  Do they want a hand
here?"

"O yes; they'll take one always, because few care to come.  'Tis a
starve-acre place.  Corn and swedes are all they grow.  Though I be
here myself, I feel 'tis a pity for such as you to come."

"But you used to be as good a dairywoman as I."

"Yes; but I've got out o' that since I took to drink.  Lord, that's
the only comfort I've got now!  If you engage, you'll be set
swede-hacking.  That's what I be doing; but you won't like it."

"O--anything!  Will you speak for me?"

"You will do better by speaking for yourself."

"Very well.  Now, Marian, remember--nothing about HIM if I get the
place.  I don't wish to bring his name down to the dirt."

Marian, who was really a trustworthy girl though of coarser grain
than Tess, promised anything she asked.

"This is pay-night," she said, "and if you were to come with me you
would know at once.  I be real sorry that you are not happy; but 'tis
because he's away, I know.  You couldn't be unhappy if he were here,
even if he gie'd ye no money--even if he used you like a drudge."

"That's true; I could not!"

They walked on together and soon reached the farmhouse, which was
almost sublime in its dreariness. There was not a tree within sight;
there was not, at this season, a green pasture--nothing but fallow
and turnips everywhere, in large fields divided by hedges plashed to
unrelieved levels.

Tess waited outside the door of the farmhouse till the group of
workfolk had received their wages, and then Marian introduced her.
The farmer himself, it appeared, was not at home, but his wife, who
represented him this evening, made no objection to hiring Tess, on
her agreeing to remain till Old Lady-Day.  Female field-labour was
seldom offered now, and its cheapness made it profitable for tasks
which women could perform as readily as men.

Having signed the agreement, there was nothing more for Tess to do
at present than to get a lodging, and she found one in the house at
whose gable-wall she had warmed herself.  It was a poor subsistence
that she had ensured, but it would afford a shelter for the winter
at any rate.

That night she wrote to inform her parents of her new address, in
case a letter should arrive at Marlott from her husband.  But she
did not tell them of the sorriness of her situation: it might have
brought reproach upon him.



XLIII


There was no exaggeration in Marian's definition of Flintcomb-Ash
farm as a starve-acre place.  The single fat thing on the soil was
Marian herself; and she was an importation.  Of the three classes of
village, the village cared for by its lord, the village cared for by
itself, and the village uncared for either by itself or by its lord
(in other words, the village of a resident squires's tenantry, the
village of free- or copy-holders, and the absentee-owner's village,
farmed with the land) this place, Flintcomb-Ash, was the third.

But Tess set to work.  Patience, that blending of moral courage with
physical timidity, was now no longer a minor feature in Mrs Angel
Clare; and it sustained her.

The swede-field in which she and her companion were set hacking was
a stretch of a hundred odd acres in one patch, on the highest ground
of the farm, rising above stony lanchets or lynchets--the outcrop of
siliceous veins in the chalk formation, composed of myriads of loose
white flints in bulbous, cusped, and phallic shapes.  The upper half
of each turnip had been eaten off by the live-stock, and it was the
business of the two women to grub up the lower or earthy half of the
root with a hooked fork called a hacker, that it might be eaten also.
Every leaf of the vegetable having already been consumed, the whole
field was in colour a desolate drab; it was a complexion without
features, as if a face, from chin to brow, should be only an expanse
of skin.  The sky wore, in another colour, the same likeness; a white
vacuity of countenance with the lineaments gone.  So these two upper
and nether visages confronted each other all day long, the white face
looking down on the brown face, and the brown face looking up at the
white face, without anything standing between them but the two girls
crawling over the surface of the former like flies.

Nobody came near them, and their movements showed a mechanical
regularity; their forms standing enshrouded in Hessian "wroppers"--
sleeved brown pinafores, tied behind to the bottom, to keep their
gowns from blowing about--scant skirts revealing boots that reached
high up the ankles, and yellow sheepskin gloves with gauntlets.  The
pensive character which the curtained hood lent to their bent heads
would have reminded the observer of some early Italian conception of
the two Marys.

They worked on hour after hour, unconscious of the forlorn aspect
they bore in the landscape, not thinking of the justice or injustice
of their lot.  Even in such a position as theirs it was possible
to exist in a dream.  In the afternoon the rain came on again, and
Marian said that they need not work any more.  But if they did not
work they would not be paid; so they worked on.  It was so high a
situation, this field, that the rain had no occasion to fall, but
raced along horizontally upon the yelling wind, sticking into them
like glass splinters till they were wet through.  Tess had not
known till now what was really meant by that.  There are degrees of
dampness, and a very little is called being wet through in common
talk.  But to stand working slowly in a field, and feel the creep of
rain-water, first in legs and shoulders, then on hips and head, then
at back, front, and sides, and yet to work on till the leaden light
diminishes and marks that the sun is down, demands a distinct modicum
of stoicism, even of valour.

Yet they did not feel the wetness so much as might be supposed.  They
were both young, and they were talking of the time when they lived
and loved together at Talbothays Dairy, that happy green tract of
land where summer had been liberal in her gifts; in substance to
all, emotionally to these.  Tess would fain not have conversed with
Marian of the man who was legally, if not actually, her husband;
but the irresistible fascination of the subject betrayed her into
reciprocating Marian's remarks.  And thus, as has been said, though
the damp curtains of their bonnets flapped smartly into their faces,
and their wrappers clung about them to wearisomeness, they lived all
this afternoon in memories of green, sunny, romantic Talbothays.

"You can see a gleam of a hill within a few miles o' Froom Valley
from here when 'tis fine," said Marian.

"Ah!  Can you?" said Tess, awake to the new value of this locality.

So the two forces were at work here as everywhere, the inherent will
to enjoy, and the circumstantial will against enjoyment.  Marian's
will had a method of assisting itself by taking from her pocket as
the afternoon wore on a pint bottle corked with white rag, from which
she invited Tess to drink.  Tess's unassisted power of dreaming,
however, being enough for her sublimation at present, she declined
except the merest sip, and then Marian took a pull from the spirits.

"I've got used to it," she said, "and can't leave it off now.  'Tis
my only comfort--You see I lost him: you didn't; and you can do
without it perhaps."

Tess thought her loss as great as Marian's, but upheld by the dignity
of being Angel's wife, in the letter at least, she accepted Marian's
differentiation.

Amid this scene Tess slaved in the morning frosts and in
the afternoon rains.  When it was not swede-grubbing it was
swede-trimming, in which process they sliced off the earth and the
fibres with a bill-hook before storing the roots for future use.  At
this occupation they could shelter themselves by a thatched hurdle if
it rained; but if it was frosty even their thick leather gloves could
not prevent the frozen masses they handled from biting their fingers.
Still Tess hoped.  She had a conviction that sooner or later the
magnanimity which she persisted in reckoning as a chief ingredient
of Clare's character would lead him to rejoin her.

Marian, primed to a humorous mood, would discover the queer-shaped
flints aforesaid, and shriek with laughter, Tess remaining severely
obtuse.  They often looked across the country to where the Var or
Froom was know to stretch, even though they might not be able to see
it; and, fixing their eyes on the cloaking gray mist, imagined the
old times they had spent out there.

"Ah," said Marian, "how I should like another or two of our old set
to come here!  Then we could bring up Talbothays every day here
afield, and talk of he, and of what nice times we had there, and o'
the old things we used to know, and make it all come back a'most, in
seeming!"  Marian's eyes softened, and her voice grew vague as the
visions returned.  "I'll write to Izz Huett," she said.  "She's
biding at home doing nothing now, I know, and I'll tell her we be
here, and ask her to come; and perhaps Retty is well enough now."

Tess had nothing to say against the proposal, and the next she heard
of this plan for importing old Talbothays' joys was two or three days
later, when Marian informed her that Izz had replied to her inquiry,
and had promised to come if she could.

There had not been such a winter for years.  It came on in stealthy
and measured glides, like the moves of a chess-player.  One morning
the few lonely trees and the thorns of the hedgerows appeared as if
they had put off a vegetable for an animal integument.  Every twig
was covered with a white nap as of fur grown from the rind during the
night, giving it four times its usual stoutness; the whole bush or
tree forming a staring sketch in white lines on the mournful gray
of the sky and horizon.  Cobwebs revealed their presence on sheds
and walls where none had ever been observed till brought out into
visibility by the crystallizing atmosphere, hanging like loops of
white worsted from salient points of the out-houses, posts, and
gates.

After this season of congealed dampness came a spell of dry frost,
when strange birds from behind the North Pole began to arrive
silently on the upland of Flintcomb-Ash; gaunt spectral creatures
with tragical eyes--eyes which had witnessed scenes of cataclysmal
horror in inaccessible polar regions of a magnitude such as no human
being had ever conceived, in curdling temperatures that no man could
endure; which had beheld the crash of icebergs and the slide of
snow-hills by the shooting light of the Aurora; been half blinded
by the whirl of colossal storms and terraqueous distortions; and
retained the expression of feature that such scenes had engendered.
These nameless birds came quite near to Tess and Marian, but of
all they had seen which humanity would never see, they brought no
account.  The traveller's ambition to tell was not theirs, and, with
dumb impassivity, they dismissed experiences which they did not
value for the immediate incidents of this homely upland--the trivial
movements of the two girls in disturbing the clods with their hackers
so as to uncover something or other that these visitants relished as
food.

Then one day a peculiar quality invaded the air of this open country.
There came a moisture which was not of rain, and a cold which was not
of frost.  It chilled the eyeballs of the twain, made their brows
ache, penetrated to their skeletons, affecting the surface of the
body less than its core.  They knew that it meant snow, and in the
night the snow came.  Tess, who continued to live at the cottage with
the warm gable that cheered any lonely pedestrian who paused beside
it, awoke in the night, and heard above the thatch noises which
seemed to signify that the roof had turned itself into a gymnasium
of all the winds.  When she lit her lamp to get up in the morning
she found that the snow had blown through a chink in the casement,
forming a white cone of the finest powder against the inside, and had
also come down the chimney, so that it lay sole-deep upon the floor,
on which her shoes left tracks when she moved about.  Without, the
storm drove so fast as to create a snow-mist in the kitchen; but as
yet it was too dark out-of-doors to see anything.

Tess knew that it was impossible to go on with the swedes; and by
the time she had finished breakfast beside the solitary little lamp,
Marian arrived to tell her that they were to join the rest of the
women at reed-drawing in the barn till the weather changed.  As soon,
therefore, as the uniform cloak of darkness without began to turn
to a disordered medley of grays, they blew out the lamp, wrapped
themselves up in their thickest pinners, tied their woollen cravats
round their necks and across their chests, and started for the barn.
The snow had followed the birds from the polar basin as a white
pillar of a cloud, and individual flakes could not be seen.  The
blast smelt of icebergs, arctic seas, whales, and white bears,
carrying the snow so that it licked the land but did not deepen on
it.  They trudged onwards with slanted bodies through the flossy
fields, keeping as well as they could in the shelter of hedges,
which, however, acted as strainers rather than screens.  The air,
afflicted to pallor with the hoary multitudes that infested it,
twisted and spun them eccentrically, suggesting an achromatic chaos
of things.  But both the young women were fairly cheerful; such
weather on a dry upland is not in itself dispiriting.

"Ha-ha! the cunning northern birds knew this was coming," said
Marian.  "Depend upon't, they keep just in front o't all the way from
the North Star.  Your husband, my dear, is, I make no doubt, having
scorching weather all this time.  Lord, if he could only see his
pretty wife now!  Not that this weather hurts your beauty at all--in
fact, it rather does it good."

"You mustn't talk about him to me, Marian," said Tess severely.

"Well, but--surely you care for'n!  Do you?"

Instead of answering, Tess, with tears in her eyes, impulsively faced
in the direction in which she imagined South America to lie, and,
putting up her lips, blew out a passionate kiss upon the snowy wind.

"Well, well, I know you do.  But 'pon my body, it is a rum life for
a married couple!  There--I won't say another word!  Well, as for
the weather, it won't hurt us in the wheat-barn; but reed-drawing is
fearful hard work--worse than swede-hacking.  I can stand it because
I'm stout; but you be slimmer than I.  I can't think why maister
should have set 'ee at it."

They reached the wheat-barn and entered it.  One end of the long
structure was full of corn; the middle was where the reed-drawing was
carried on, and there had already been placed in the reed-press the
evening before as many sheaves of wheat as would be sufficient for
the women to draw from during the day.

"Why, here's Izz!" said Marian.

Izz it was, and she came forward.  She had walked all the way from
her mother's home on the previous afternoon, and, not deeming the
distance so great, had been belated, arriving, however, just before
the snow began, and sleeping at the alehouse.  The farmer had agreed
with her mother at market to take her on if she came to-day, and she
had been afraid to disappoint him by delay.

In addition to Tess, Marian, and Izz, there were two women from a
neighbouring village; two Amazonian sisters, whom Tess with a start
remembered as Dark Car, the Queen of Spades, and her junior, the
Queen of Diamonds--those who had tried to fight with her in the
midnight quarrel at Trantridge.  They showed no recognition of her,
and possibly had none, for they had been under the influence of
liquor on that occasion, and were only temporary sojourners there
as here.  They did all kinds of men's work by preference, including
well-sinking, hedging, ditching, and excavating, without any sense of
fatigue.  Noted reed-drawers were they too, and looked round upon the
other three with some superciliousness.

Putting on their gloves, all set to work in a row in front of the
press, an erection formed of two posts connected by a cross-beam,
under which the sheaves to be drawn from were laid ears outward, the
beam being pegged down by pins in the uprights, and lowered as the
sheaves diminished.

The day hardened in colour, the light coming in at the barndoors
upwards from the snow instead of downwards from the sky.  The girls
pulled handful after handful from the press; but by reason of the
presence of the strange women, who were recounting scandals, Marian
and Izz could not at first talk of old times as they wished to do.
Presently they heard the muffled tread of a horse, and the farmer
rode up to the barndoor.  When he had dismounted he came close to
Tess, and remained looking musingly at the side of her face.  She had
not turned at first, but his fixed attitude led her to look round,
when she perceived that her employer was the native of Trantridge
from whom she had taken flight on the high-road because of his
allusion to her history.

He waited till she had carried the drawn bundles to the pile outside,
when he said, "So you be the young woman who took my civility in such
ill part?  Be drowned if I didn't think you might be as soon as I
heard of your being hired!  Well, you thought you had got the better
of me the first time at the inn with your fancy-man, and the second
time on the road, when you bolted; but now I think I've got the
better you."  He concluded with a hard laugh.

Tess, between the Amazons and the farmer, like a bird caught in a
clap-net, returned no answer, continuing to pull the straw.  She
could read character sufficiently well to know by this time that she
had nothing to fear from her employer's gallantry; it was rather the
tyranny induced by his mortification at Clare's treatment of him.
Upon the whole she preferred that sentiment in man and felt brave
enough to endure it.

"You thought I was in love with 'ee I suppose?  Some women are such
fools, to take every look as serious earnest.  But there's nothing
like a winter afield for taking that nonsense out o' young wenches'
heads; and you've signed and agreed till Lady-Day.  Now, are you
going to beg my pardon?"

"I think you ought to beg mine."

"Very well--as you like.  But we'll see which is master here.  Be
they all the sheaves you've done to-day?"

"Yes, sir."

"'Tis a very poor show.  Just see what they've done over there"
(pointing to the two stalwart women).  "The rest, too, have done
better than you."

"They've all practised it before, and I have not.  And I thought it
made no difference to you as it is task work, and we are only paid
for what we do."

"Oh, but it does.  I want the barn cleared."

"I am going to work all the afternoon instead of leaving at two as
the others will do."

He looked sullenly at her and went away.  Tess felt that she could
not have come to a much worse place; but anything was better than
gallantry.  When two o'clock arrived the professional reed-drawers
tossed off the last half-pint in their flagon, put down their hooks,
tied their last sheaves, and went away.  Marian and Izz would have
done likewise, but on hearing that Tess meant to stay, to make up
by longer hours for her lack of skill, they would not leave her.
Looking out at the snow, which still fell, Marian exclaimed, "Now,
we've got it all to ourselves."  And so at last the conversation
turned to their old experiences at the dairy; and, of course, the
incidents of their affection for Angel Clare.

"Izz and Marian," said Mrs Angel Clare, with a dignity which was
extremely touching, seeing how very little of a wife she was: "I
can't join in talk with you now, as I used to do, about Mr Clare; you
will see that I cannot; because, although he is gone away from me for
the present, he is my husband."

Izz was by nature the sauciest and most caustic of all the four girls
who had loved Clare.  "He was a very splendid lover, no doubt," she
said; "but I don't think he is a too fond husband to go away from you
so soon."

"He had to go--he was obliged to go, to see about the land over
there!" pleaded Tess.

"He might have tided 'ee over the winter."

"Ah--that's owing to an accident--a misunderstanding; and we won't
argue it," Tess answered, with tearfulness in her words.  "Perhaps
there's a good deal to be said for him!  He did not go away, like
some husbands, without telling me; and I can always find out where
he is."

After this they continued for some long time in a reverie, as they
went on seizing the ears of corn, drawing out the straw, gathering
it under their arms, and cutting off the ears with their bill-hooks,
nothing sounding in the barn but the swish of the straw and the
crunch of the hook.  Then Tess suddenly flagged, and sank down upon
the heap of wheat-ears at her feet.

"I knew you wouldn't be able to stand it!" cried Marian.  "It wants
harder flesh than yours for this work."

Just then the farmer entered.  "Oh, that's how you get on when I am
away," he said to her.

"But it is my own loss," she pleaded.  "Not yours."

"I want it finished," he said doggedly, as he crossed the barn and
went out at the other door.

"Don't 'ee mind him, there's a dear," said Marian.  "I've worked here
before.  Now you go and lie down there, and Izz and I will make up
your number."

"I don't like to let you do that.  I'm taller than you, too."

However, she was so overcome that she consented to lie down awhile,
and reclined on a heap of pull-tails--the refuse after the straight
straw had been drawn--thrown up at the further side of the barn.  Her
succumbing had been as largely owning to agitation at the re-opening
the subject of her separation from her husband as to the hard work.
She lay in a state of percipience without volition, and the rustle of
the straw and the cutting of the ears by the others had the weight of
bodily touches.

She could hear from her corner, in addition to these noises, the
murmur of their voices.  She felt certain that they were continuing
the subject already broached, but their voices were so low that she
could not catch the words.  At last Tess grew more and more anxious
to know what they were saying, and, persuading herself that she felt
better, she got up and resumed work.

Then Izz Huett broke down.  She had walked more than a dozen miles
the previous evening, had gone to bed at midnight, and had risen
again at five o'clock.  Marian alone, thanks to her bottle of liquor
and her stoutness of build, stood the strain upon back and arms
without suffering.  Tess urged Izz to leave off, agreeing, as she
felt better, to finish the day without her, and make equal division
of the number of sheaves.

Izz accepted the offer gratefully, and disappeared through the great
door into the snowy track to her lodging.  Marian, as was the case
every afternoon at this time on account of the bottle, began to feel
in a romantic vein.

"I should not have thought it of him--never!" she said in a dreamy
tone.  "And I loved him so!  I didn't mind his having YOU.  But this
about Izz is too bad!"

Tess, in her start at the words, narrowly missed cutting off a finger
with the bill-hook.

"Is it about my husband?" she stammered.

"Well, yes.  Izz said, 'Don't 'ee tell her'; but I am sure I can't
help it!  It was what he wanted Izz to do.  He wanted her to go off
to Brazil with him."

Tess's face faded as white as the scene without, and its curves
straightened.  "And did Izz refuse to go?" she asked.

"I don't know.  Anyhow he changed his mind."

"Pooh--then he didn't mean it!  'Twas just a man's jest!"

"Yes he did; for he drove her a good-ways towards the station."

"He didn't take her!"

They pulled on in silence till Tess, without any premonitory
symptoms, burst out crying.

"There!" said Marian.  "Now I wish I hadn't told 'ee!"

"No.  It is a very good thing that you have done!  I have been living
on in a thirtover, lackaday way, and have not seen what it may lead
to!  I ought to have sent him a letter oftener.  He said I could not
go to him, but he didn't say I was not to write as often as I liked.
I won't dally like this any longer!  I have been very wrong and
neglectful in leaving everything to be done by him!"

The dim light in the barn grew dimmer, and they could see to work no
longer.  When Tess had reached home that evening, and had entered
into the privacy of her little white-washed chamber, she began
impetuously writing a letter to Clare.  But falling into doubt, she
could not finish it.  Afterwards she took the ring from the ribbon on
which she wore it next her heart, and retained it on her finger all
night, as if to fortify herself in the sensation that she was really
the wife of this elusive lover of hers, who could propose that Izz
should go with him abroad, so shortly after he had left her.  Knowing
that, how could she write entreaties to him, or show that she cared
for him any more?



XLIV


By the disclosure in the barn her thoughts were led anew in the
direction which they had taken more than once of late--to the distant
Emminster Vicarage.  It was through her husband's parents that she
had been charged to send a letter to Clare if she desired; and to
write to them direct if in difficulty.  But that sense of her having
morally no claim upon him had always led Tess to suspend her impulse
to send these notes; and to the family at the Vicarage, therefore,
as to her own parents since her marriage, she was virtually
non-existent.  This self-effacement in both directions had been quite
in consonance with her independent character of desiring nothing
by way of favour or pity to which she was not entitled on a fair
consideration of her deserts.  She had set herself to stand or fall
by her qualities, and to waive such merely technical claims upon a
strange family as had been established for her by the flimsy fact of
a member of that family, in a season of impulse, writing his name in
a church-book beside hers.

But now that she was stung to a fever by Izz's tale, there was a
limit to her powers of renunciation.  Why had her husband not written
to her?  He had distinctly implied that he would at least let her
know of the locality to which he had journeyed; but he had not sent a
line to notify his address.  Was he really indifferent?  But was he
ill?  Was it for her to make some advance?  Surely she might summon
the courage of solicitude, call at the Vicarage for intelligence, and
express her grief at his silence.  If Angel's father were the good
man she had heard him represented to be, he would be able to enter
into her heart-starved situation.  Her social hardships she could
conceal.

To leave the farm on a week-day was not in her power; Sunday was
the only possible opportunity.  Flintcomb-Ash being in the middle
of the cretaceous tableland over which no railway had climbed as
yet, it would be necessary to walk.  And the distance being fifteen
miles each way she would have to allow herself a long day for the
undertaking by rising early.

A fortnight later, when the snow had gone, and had been followed by
a hard black frost, she took advantage of the state of the roads to
try the experiment.  At four o'clock that Sunday morning she came
downstairs and stepped out into the starlight.  The weather was still
favourable, the ground ringing under her feet like an anvil.

Marian and Izz were much interested in her excursion, knowing that
the journey concerned her husband.  Their lodgings were in a cottage
a little further along the lane, but they came and assisted Tess
in her departure, and argued that she should dress up in her very
prettiest guise to captivate the hearts of her parents-in-law; though
she, knowing of the austere and Calvinistic tenets of old Mr Clare,
was indifferent, and even doubtful.  A year had now elapsed since
her sad marriage, but she had preserved sufficient draperies from
the wreck of her then full wardrobe to clothe her very charmingly as
a simple country girl with no pretensions to recent fashion; a soft
gray woollen gown, with white crape quilling against the pink skin of
her face and neck, and a black velvet jacket and hat.

"'Tis a thousand pities your husband can't see 'ee now--you do look
a real beauty!" said Izz Huett, regarding Tess as she stood on
the threshold between the steely starlight without and the yellow
candlelight within.  Izz spoke with a magnanimous abandonment of
herself to the situation; she could not be--no woman with a heart
bigger than a hazel-nut could be--antagonistic to Tess in her
presence, the influence which she exercised over those of her own sex
being of a warmth and strength quite unusual, curiously overpowering
the less worthy feminine feelings of spite and rivalry.

With a final tug and touch here, and a slight brush there, they let
her go; and she was absorbed into the pearly air of the fore-dawn.
They heard her footsteps tap along the hard road as she stepped out
to her full pace.  Even Izz hoped she would win, and, though without
any particular respect for her own virtue, felt glad that she had
been prevented wronging her friend when momentarily tempted by Clare.

It was a year ago, all but a day, that Clare had married Tess, and
only a few days less than a year that he had been absent from her.
Still, to start on a brisk walk, and on such an errand as hers, on a
dry clear wintry morning, through the rarefied air of these chalky
hogs'-backs, was not depressing; and there is no doubt that her dream
at starting was to win the heart of her mother-in-law, tell her whole
history to that lady, enlist her on her side, and so gain back the
truant.

In time she reached the edge of the vast escarpment below which
stretched the loamy Vale of Blackmoor, now lying misty and still
in the dawn.  Instead of the colourless air of the uplands, the
atmosphere down there was a deep blue.  Instead of the great
enclosures of a hundred acres in which she was now accustomed to
toil, there were little fields below her of less than half-a-dozen
acres, so numerous that they looked from this height like the meshes
of a net.  Here the landscape was whitey-brown; down there, as in
Froom Valley, it was always green.  Yet it was in that vale that her
sorrow had taken shape, and she did not love it as formerly.  Beauty
to her, as to all who have felt, lay not in the thing, but in what
the thing symbolized.

Keeping the Vale on her right, she steered steadily westward; passing
above the Hintocks, crossing at right-angles the high-road from
Sherton-Abbas to Casterbridge, and skirting Dogbury Hill and
High-Stoy, with the dell between them called "The Devil's Kitchen".
Still following the elevated way she reached Cross-in-Hand, where
the stone pillar stands desolate and silent, to mark the site of a
miracle, or murder, or both.  Three miles further she cut across the
straight and deserted Roman road called Long-Ash Lane; leaving which
as soon as she reached it she dipped down a hill by a transverse lane
into the small town or village of Evershead, being now about halfway
over the distance.  She made a halt here, and breakfasted a second
time, heartily enough--not at the Sow-and-Acorn, for she avoided
inns, but at a cottage by the church.

The second half of her journey was through a more gentle country, by
way of Benvill Lane.  But as the mileage lessened between her and the
spot of her pilgrimage, so did Tess's confidence decrease, and her
enterprise loom out more formidably.  She saw her purpose in such
staring lines, and the landscape so faintly, that she was sometimes
in danger of losing her way.  However, about noon she paused by a
gate on the edge of the basin in which Emminster and its Vicarage
lay.

The square tower, beneath which she knew that at that moment the
Vicar and his congregation were gathered, had a severe look in
her eyes.  She wished that she had somehow contrived to come on a
week-day.  Such a good man might be prejudiced against a woman who
had chosen Sunday, never realizing the necessities of her case.
But it was incumbent upon her to go on now.  She took off the thick
boots in which she had walked thus far, put on her pretty thin ones
of patent leather, and, stuffing the former into the hedge by the
gatepost where she might readily find them again, descended the hill;
the freshness of colour she had derived from the keen air thinning
away in spite of her as she drew near the parsonage.

Tess hoped for some accident that might favour her, but nothing
favoured her.  The shrubs on the Vicarage lawn rustled uncomfortably
in the frosty breeze; she could not feel by any stretch of
imagination, dressed to her highest as she was, that the house was
the residence of near relations; and yet nothing essential, in nature
or emotion, divided her from them: in pains, pleasures, thoughts,
birth, death, and after-death, they were the same.

She nerved herself by an effort, entered the swing-gate, and rang
the door-bell.  The thing was done; there could be no retreat.  No;
the thing was not done.  Nobody answered to her ringing.  The effort
had to be risen to and made again.  She rang a second time, and the
agitation of the act, coupled with her weariness after the fifteen
miles' walk, led her support herself while she waited by resting her
hand on her hip, and her elbow against the wall of the porch.  The
wind was so nipping that the ivy-leaves had become wizened and gray,
each tapping incessantly upon its neighbour with a disquieting stir
of her nerves.  A piece of blood-stained paper, caught up from some
meat-buyer's dust-heap, beat up and down the road without the gate;
too flimsy to rest, too heavy to fly away; and a few straws kept it
company.

The second peal had been louder, and still nobody came.  Then she
walked out of the porch, opened the gate, and passed through.  And
though she looked dubiously at the house-front as if inclined to
return, it was with a breath of relied that she closed the gate.  A
feeling haunted her that she might have been recognized (though how
she could not tell), and orders been given not to admit her.

Tess went as far as the corner.  She had done all she could do; but
determined not to escape present trepidation at the expense of future
distress, she walked back again quite past the house, looking up at
all the windows.

Ah--the explanation was that they were all at church, every one.  She
remembered her husband saying that his father always insisted upon
the household, servants included, going to morning-service, and,
as a consequence, eating cold food when they came home.  It was,
therefore, only necessary to wait till the service was over.  She
would not make herself conspicuous by waiting on the spot, and she
started to get past the church into the lane.  But as she reached the
churchyard-gate the people began pouring out, and Tess found herself
in the midst of them.

The Emminster congregation looked at her as only a congregation of
small country-townsfolk walking home at its leisure can look at a
woman out of the common whom it perceives to be a stranger.  She
quickened her pace, and ascended the the road by which she had come,
to find a retreat between its hedges till the Vicar's family should
have lunched, and it might be convenient for them to receive her.
She soon distanced the churchgoers, except two youngish men, who,
linked arm-in-arm, were beating up behind her at a quick step.

As they drew nearer she could hear their voices engaged in earnest
discourse, and, with the natural quickness of a woman in her
situation, did not fail to recognize in those noises the quality
of her husband's tones.  The pedestrians were his two brothers.
Forgetting all her plans, Tess's one dread was lest they should
overtake her now, in her disorganized condition, before she was
prepared to confront them; for though she felt that they could not
identify her, she instinctively dreaded their scrutiny.  The more
briskly they walked, the more briskly walked she.  They were plainly
bent upon taking a short quick stroll before going indoors to lunch
or dinner, to restore warmth to limbs chilled with sitting through a
long service.

Only one person had preceded Tess up the hill--a ladylike young
woman, somewhat interesting, though, perhaps, a trifle _guindée_
and prudish.  Tess had nearly overtaken her when the speed of her
brothers-in-law brought them so nearly behind her back that she could
hear every word of their conversation.  They said nothing, however,
which particularly interested her till, observing the young lady
still further in front, one of them remarked, "There is Mercy Chant.
Let us overtake her."

Tess knew the name.  It was the woman who had been destined for
Angel's life-companion by his and her parents, and whom he probably
would have married but for her intrusive self.  She would have known
as much without previous information if she had waited a moment, for
one of the brothers proceeded to say: "Ah! poor Angel, poor Angel!
I never see that nice girl without more and more regretting his
precipitancy in throwing himself away upon a dairymaid, or whatever
she may be.  It is a queer business, apparently.  Whether she has
joined him yet or not I don't know; but she had not done so some
months ago when I heard from him."

"I can't say.  He never tells me anything nowadays.  His
ill-considered marriage seems to have completed that estrangement
from me which was begun by his extraordinary opinions."

Tess beat up the long hill still faster; but she could not outwalk
them without exciting notice.  At last they outsped her altogether,
and passed her by.  The young lady still further ahead heard their
footsteps and turned.  Then there was a greeting and a shaking of
hands, and the three went on together.

They soon reached the summit of the hill, and, evidently intending
this point to be the limit of their promenade, slackened pace and
turned all three aside to the gate whereat Tess had paused an hour
before that time to reconnoitre the town before descending into it.
During their discourse one of the clerical brothers probed the hedge
carefully with his umbrella, and dragged something to light.

"Here's a pair of old boots," he said.  "Thrown away, I suppose, by
some tramp or other."

"Some imposter who wished to come into the town barefoot, perhaps,
and so excite our sympathies," said Miss Chant.  "Yes, it must have
been, for they are excellent walking-boots--by no means worn out.
What a wicked thing to do!  I'll carry them home for some poor
person."

Cuthbert Clare, who had been the one to find them, picked them up for
her with the crook of his stick; and Tess's boots were appropriated.

She, who had heard this, walked past under the screen of her woollen
veil till, presently looking back, she perceived that the church
party had left the gate with her boots and retreated down the hill.

Thereupon our heroine resumed her walk.  Tears, blinding tears, were
running down her face.  She knew that it was all sentiment, all
baseless impressibility, which had caused her to read the scene as
her own condemnation; nevertheless she could not get over it; she
could not contravene in her own defenceless person all those untoward
omens.  It was impossible to think of returning to the Vicarage.
Angel's wife felt almost as if she had been hounded up that hill like
a scorned thing by those--to her--superfine clerics.  Innocently
as the slight had been inflicted, it was somewhat unfortunate that
she had encountered the sons and not the father, who, despite his
narrowness, was far less starched and ironed than they, and had to
the full the gift of charity.  As she again thought of her dusty
boots she almost pitied those habiliments for the quizzing to which
they had been subjected, and felt how hopeless life was for their
owner.

"Ah!" she said, still sighing in pity of herself, "THEY didn't know
that I wore those over the roughest part of the road to save these
pretty ones HE bought for me--no--they did not know it!  And they
didn't think that HE chose the colour o' my pretty frock--no--how
could they?  If they had known perhaps they would not have cared,
for they don't care much for him, poor thing!"

Then she grieved for the beloved man whose conventional standard of
judgement had caused her all these latter sorrows; and she went her
way without knowing that the greatest misfortune of her life was this
feminine loss of courage at the last and critical moment through her
estimating her father-in-law by his sons.  Her present condition was
precisely one which would have enlisted the sympathies of old Mr and
Mrs Clare.  Their hearts went out of them at a bound towards extreme
cases, when the subtle mental troubles of the less desperate among
mankind failed to win their interest or regard.  In jumping at
Publicans and Sinners they would forget that a word might be said for
the worries of Scribes and Pharisees; and this defect or limitation
might have recommended their own daughter-in-law to them at this
moment as a fairly choice sort of lost person for their love.

Thereupon she began to plod back along the road by which she had come
not altogether full of hope, but full of a conviction that a crisis
in her life was approaching.  No crisis, apparently, had supervened;
and there was nothing left for her to do but to continue upon that
starve-acre farm till she could again summon courage to face the
Vicarage.  She did, indeed, take sufficient interest in herself to
throw up her veil on this return journey, as if to let the world see
that she could at least exhibit a face such as Mercy Chant could
not show.  But it was done with a sorry shake of the head. "It is
nothing--it is nothing!" she said.  "Nobody loves it; nobody sees it.
Who cares about the looks of a castaway like me!"

Her journey back was rather a meander than a march.  It had no
sprightliness, no purpose; only a tendency.  Along the tedious length
of Benvill Lane she began to grow tired, and she leant upon gates and
paused by milestones.

She did not enter any house till, at the seventh or eighth mile, she
descended the steep long hill below which lay the village or townlet
of Evershead, where in the morning she had breakfasted with such
contrasting expectations.  The cottage by the church, in which she
again sat down, was almost the first at that end of the village, and
while the woman fetched her some milk from the pantry, Tess, looking
down the street, perceived that the place seemed quite deserted.

"The people are gone to afternoon service, I suppose?" she said.

"No, my dear," said the old woman.  "'Tis too soon for that; the
bells hain't strook out yet.  They be all gone to hear the preaching
in yonder barn.  A ranter preaches there between the services--an
excellent, fiery, Christian man, they say.  But, Lord, I don't go to
hear'n!  What comes in the regular way over the pulpit is hot enough
for I."

Tess soon went onward into the village, her footsteps echoing against
the houses as though it were a place of the dead.  Nearing the
central part, her echoes were intruded on by other sounds; and seeing
the barn not far off the road, she guessed these to be the utterances
of the preacher.

His voice became so distinct in the still clear air that she could
soon catch his sentences, though she was on the closed side of
the barn.  The sermon, as might be expected, was of the extremest
antinomian type; on justification by faith, as expounded in the
theology of St Paul.  This fixed idea of the rhapsodist was delivered
with animated enthusiasm, in a manner entirely declamatory, for he
had plainly no skill as a dialectician.  Although Tess had not heard
the beginning of the address, she learnt what the text had been from
its constant iteration--


   "O foolish galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye
   should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ
   hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?"


Tess was all the more interested, as she stood listening behind, in
finding that the preacher's doctrine was a vehement form of the view
of Angel's father, and her interest intensified when the speaker
began to detail his own spiritual experiences of how he had come by
those views.  He had, he said, been the greatest of sinners.  He had
scoffed; he had wantonly associated with the reckless and the lewd.
But a day of awakening had come, and, in a human sense, it had been
brought about mainly by the influence of a certain clergyman, whom he
had at first grossly insulted; but whose parting words had sunk into
his heart, and had remained there, till by the grace of Heaven they
had worked this change in him, and made him what they saw him.

But more startling to Tess than the doctrine had been the voice,
which, impossible as it seemed, was precisely that of Alec
d'Urberville.  Her face fixed in painful suspense, she came round
to the front of the barn, and passed before it.  The low winter sun
beamed directly upon the great double-doored entrance on this side;
one of the doors being open, so that the rays stretched far in over
the threshing-floor to the preacher and his audience, all snugly
sheltered from the northern breeze.  The listeners were entirely
villagers, among them being the man whom she had seen carrying the
red paint-pot on a former memorable occasion.  But her attention
was given to the central figure, who stood upon some sacks of corn,
facing the people and the door.  The three o'clock sun shone full
upon him, and the strange enervating conviction that her seducer
confronted her, which had been gaining ground in Tess ever since she
had heard his words distinctly, was at last established as a fact
indeed.


END OF PHASE THE FIFTH





Phase the Sixth: The Convert



XLV


Till this moment she had never seen or heard from d'Urberville since
her departure from Trantridge.

The rencounter came at a heavy moment, one of all moments calculated
to permit its impact with the least emotional shock.  But such was
unreasoning memory that, though he stood there openly and palpably a
converted man, who was sorrowing for his past irregularities, a fear
overcame her, paralyzing her movement so that she neither retreated
nor advanced.

To think of what emanated from that countenance when she saw it last,
and to behold it now! ...  There was the same handsome unpleasantness
of mien, but now he wore neatly trimmed, old-fashioned whiskers, the
sable moustache having disappeared; and his dress was half-clerical,
a modification which had changed his expression sufficiently to
abstract the dandyism from his features, and to hinder for a second
her belief in his identity.

To Tess's sense there was, just at first, a ghastly _bizarrerie_,
a grim incongruity, in the march of these solemn words of Scripture
out of such a mouth.  This too familiar intonation, less than four
years earlier, had brought to her ears expressions of such divergent
purpose that her heart became quite sick at the irony of the
contrast.

It was less a reform than a transfiguration.  The former curves of
sensuousness were now modulated to lines of devotional passion.
The lip-shapes that had meant seductiveness were now made to
express supplication; the glow on the cheek that yesterday could be
translated as riotousness was evangelized to-day into the splendour
of pious rhetoric; animalism had become fanaticism; Paganism,
Paulinism; the bold rolling eye that had flashed upon her form in
the old time with such mastery now beamed with the rude energy of a
theolatry that was almost ferocious.  Those black angularities which
his face had used to put on when his wishes were thwarted now did
duty in picturing the incorrigible backslider who would insist upon
turning again to his wallowing in the mire.

The lineaments, as such, seemed to complain.  They had been diverted
from their hereditary connotation to signify impressions for which
Nature did not intend them.  Strange that their very elevation was a
misapplication, that to raise seemed to falsify.

Yet could it be so?  She would admit the ungenerous sentiment no
longer.  D'Urberville was not the first wicked man who had turned
away from his wickedness to save his soul alive, and why should she
deem it unnatural in him?  It was but the usage of thought which had
been jarred in her at hearing good new words in bad old notes.  The
greater the sinner, the greater the saint; it was not necessary to
dive far into Christian history to discover that.

Such impressions as these moved her vaguely, and without strict
definiteness.  As soon as the nerveless pause of her surprise would
allow her to stir, her impulse was to pass on out of his sight.  He
had obviously not discerned her yet in her position against the sun.

But the moment that she moved again he recognized her.  The effect
upon her old lover was electric, far stronger than the effect of his
presence upon her.  His fire, the tumultuous ring of his eloquence,
seemed to go out of him.  His lip struggled and trembled under the
words that lay upon it; but deliver them it could not as long as she
faced him.  His eyes, after their first glance upon her face, hung
confusedly in every other direction but hers, but came back in a
desperate leap every few seconds.  This paralysis lasted, however,
but a short time; for Tess's energies returned with the atrophy of
his, and she walked as fast as she was able past the barn and onward.

As soon as she could reflect, it appalled her, this change in their
relative platforms.  He who had wrought her undoing was now on the
side of the Spirit, while she remained unregenerate.  And, as in the
legend, it had resulted that her Cyprian image had suddenly appeared
upon his altar, whereby the fire of the priest had been well nigh
extinguished.

She went on without turning her head.  Her back seemed to be endowed
with a sensitiveness to ocular beams--even her clothing--so alive
was she to a fancied gaze which might be resting upon her from the
outside of that barn.  All the way along to this point her heart
had been heavy with an inactive sorrow; now there was a change in
the quality of its trouble.  That hunger for affection too long
withheld was for the time displaced by an almost physical sense
of an implacable past which still engirdled her.  It intensified
her consciousness of error to a practical despair; the break of
continuity between her earlier and present existence, which she had
hoped for, had not, after all, taken place.  Bygones would never be
complete bygones till she was a bygone herself.

Thus absorbed, she recrossed the northern part of Long-Ash Lane at
right angles, and presently saw before her the road ascending whitely
to the upland along whose margin the remainder of her journey lay.
Its dry pale surface stretched severely onward, unbroken by a single
figure, vehicle, or mark, save some occasional brown horse-droppings
which dotted its cold aridity here and there.  While slowly breasting
this ascent Tess became conscious of footsteps behind her, and
turning she saw approaching that well-known form--so strangely
accoutred as the Methodist--the one personage in all the world she
wished not to encounter alone on this side of the grave.

There was not much time, however, for thought or elusion, and she
yielded as calmly as she could to the necessity of letting him
overtake her.  She saw that he was excited, less by the speed of his
walk than by the feelings within him.

"Tess!" he said.

She slackened speed without looking round.

"Tess!" he repeated.  "It is I--Alec d'Urberville."

She then looked back at him, and he came up.

"I see it is," she answered coldly.

"Well--is that all?  Yet I deserve no more!  Of course," he added,
with a slight laugh, "there is something of the ridiculous to your
eyes in seeing me like this.  But--I must put up with that. ...  I
heard you had gone away; nobody knew where.  Tess, you wonder why I
have followed you?"

"I do, rather; and I would that you had not, with all my heart!"

"Yes--you may well say it," he returned grimly, as they moved onward
together, she with unwilling tread.  "But don't mistake me; I beg
this because you may have been led to do so in noticing--if you did
notice it--how your sudden appearance unnerved me down there.  It was
but a momentary faltering; and considering what you have been to me,
it was natural enough.  But will helped me through it--though perhaps
you think me a humbug for saying it--and immediately afterwards I
felt that of all persons in the world whom it was my duty and desire
to save from the wrath to come--sneer if you like--the woman whom I
had so grievously wronged was that person.  I have come with that
sole purpose in view--nothing more."

There was the smallest vein of scorn in her words of rejoinder: "Have
you saved yourself?  Charity begins at home, they say."

"_I_ have done nothing!" said he indifferently. "Heaven, as I have
been telling my hearers, has done all.  No amount of contempt that
you can pour upon me, Tess, will equal what I have poured upon
myself--the old Adam of my former years!  Well, it is a strange
story; believe it or not; but I can tell you the means by which my
conversion was brought about, and I hope you will be interested
enough at least to listen.  Have you ever heard the name of the
parson of Emminster--you must have done do?--old Mr Clare; one of the
most earnest of his school; one of the few intense men left in the
Church; not so intense as the extreme wing of Christian believers
with which I have thrown in my lot, but quite an exception among the
Established clergy, the younger of whom are gradually attenuating the
true doctrines by their sophistries, till they are but the shadow of
what they were.  I only differ from him on the question of Church and
State--the interpretation of the text, 'Come out from among them and
be ye separate, saith the Lord'--that's all.  He is one who, I firmly
believe, has been the humble means of saving more souls in this
country than any other man you can name.  You have heard of him?"

"I have," she said.

"He came to Trantridge two or three years ago to preach on behalf of
some missionary society; and I, wretched fellow that I was, insulted
him when, in his disinterestedness, he tried to reason with me and
show me the way.  He did not resent my conduct, he simply said that
some day I should receive the first-fruits of the Spirit--that those
who came to scoff sometimes remained to pray.  There was a strange
magic in his words.  They sank into my mind.  But the loss of my
mother hit me most; and by degrees I was brought to see daylight.
Since then my one desire has been to hand on the true view to others,
and that is what I was trying to do to-day; though it is only lately
that I have preached hereabout.  The first months of my ministry have
been spent in the North of England among strangers, where I preferred
to make my earliest clumsy attempts, so as to acquire courage before
undergoing that severest of all tests of one's sincerity, addressing
those who have known one, and have been one's companions in the days
of darkness.  If you could only know, Tess, the pleasure of having a
good slap at yourself, I am sure--"

"Don't go on with it!" she cried passionately, as she turned away
from him to a stile by the wayside, on which she bent herself.  "I
can't believe in such sudden things!  I feel indignant with you for
talking to me like this, when you know--when you know what harm
you've done me!  You, and those like you, take your fill of pleasure
on earth by making the life of such as me bitter and black with
sorrow; and then it is a fine thing, when you have had enough of
that, to think of securing your pleasure in heaven by becoming
converted!  Out upon such--I don't believe in you--I hate it!"

"Tess," he insisted; "don't speak so!  It came to me like a jolly new
idea!  And you don't believe me?  What don't you believe?"

"Your conversion.  Your scheme of religion."

"Why?"

She dropped her voice.  "Because a better man than you does not
believe in such."

"What a woman's reason!  Who is this better man?"

"I cannot tell you."

"Well," he declared, a resentment beneath his words seeming ready to
spring out at a moment's notice, "God forbid that I should say I am
a good man--and you know I don't say any such thing.  I am new to
goodness, truly; but newcomers see furthest sometimes."

"Yes," she replied sadly.  "But I cannot believe in your conversion
to a new spirit.  Such flashes as you feel, Alec, I fear don't last!"

Thus speaking she turned from the stile over which she had been
leaning, and faced him; whereupon his eyes, falling casually upon
the familiar countenance and form, remained contemplating her.  The
inferior man was quiet in him now; but it was surely not extracted,
nor even entirely subdued.

"Don't look at me like that!" he said abruptly.

Tess, who had been quite unconscious of her action and mien,
instantly withdrew the large dark gaze of her eyes, stammering with
a flush, "I beg your pardon!"  And there was revived in her the
wretched sentiment which had often come to her before, that in
inhabiting the fleshly tabernacle with which Nature had endowed her
she was somehow doing wrong.

"No, no!  Don't beg my pardon.  But since you wear a veil to hide
your good looks, why don't you keep it down?"

She pulled down the veil, saying hastily, "It was mostly to keep off
the wind."

"It may seem harsh of me to dictate like this," he went on; "but
it is better that I should not look too often on you.  It might be
dangerous."

"Ssh!" said Tess.

"Well, women's faces have had too much power over me already for me
not to fear them!  An evangelist has nothing to do with such as they;
and it reminds me of the old times that I would forget!"

After this their conversation dwindled to a casual remark now and
then as they rambled onward, Tess inwardly wondering how far he was
going with her, and not liking to send him back by positive mandate.
Frequently when they came to a gate or stile they found painted
thereon in red or blue letters some text of Scripture, and she
asked him if he knew who had been at the pains to blazon these
announcements.  He told her that the man was employed by himself and
others who were working with him in that district, to paint these
reminders that no means might be left untried which might move the
hearts of a wicked generation.

At length the road touched the spot called "Cross-in-Hand."  Of all
spots on the bleached and desolate upland this was the most forlorn.
It was so far removed from the charm which is sought in landscape by
artists and view-lovers as to reach a new kind of beauty, a negative
beauty of tragic tone.  The place took its name from a stone pillar
which stood there, a strange rude monolith, from a stratum unknown
in any local quarry, on which was roughly carved a human hand.
Differing accounts were given of its history and purport.  Some
authorities stated that a devotional cross had once formed the
complete erection thereon, of which the present relic was but the
stump; others that the stone as it stood was entire, and that it had
been fixed there to mark a boundary or place of meeting.  Anyhow,
whatever the origin of the relic, there was and is something
sinister, or solemn, according to mood, in the scene amid which it
stands; something tending to impress the most phlegmatic passer-by.

"I think I must leave you now," he remarked, as they drew near to
this spot.  "I have to preach at Abbot's-Cernel at six this evening,
and my way lies across to the right from here.  And you upset me
somewhat too, Tessy--I cannot, will not, say why.  I must go away and
get strength. ...  How is it that you speak so fluently now?  Who has
taught you such good English?"

"I have learnt things in my troubles," she said evasively.

"What troubles have you had?"

She told him of the first one--the only one that related to him.

D'Urberville was struck mute.  "I knew nothing of this till now!"
he next murmured.  "Why didn't you write to me when you felt your
trouble coming on?"

She did not reply; and he broke the silence by adding: "Well--you
will see me again."

"No," she answered.  "Do not again come near me!"

"I will think.  But before we part come here."  He stepped up to the
pillar.  "This was once a Holy Cross. Relics are not in my creed; but
I fear you at moments--far more than you need fear me at present; and
to lessen my fear, put your hand upon that stone hand, and swear that
you will never tempt me--by your charms or ways."

"Good God--how can you ask what is so unnecessary!  All that is
furthest from my thought!"

"Yes--but swear it."

Tess, half frightened, gave way to his importunity; placed her hand
upon the stone and swore.

"I am sorry you are not a believer," he continued; "that some
unbeliever should have got hold of you and unsettled your mind.  But
no more now.  At home at least I can pray for you; and I will; and
who knows what may not happen?  I'm off. Goodbye!"

He turned to a hunting-gate in the hedge and, without letting his
eyes again rest upon her, leapt over and struck out across the down
in the direction of Abbot's-Cernel.  As he walked his pace showed
perturbation, and by-and-by, as if instigated by a former thought,
he drew from his pocket a small book, between the leaves of which
was folded a letter, worn and soiled, as from much re-reading.
D'Urberville opened the letter.  It was dated several months before
this time, and was signed by Parson Clare.

The letter began by expressing the writer's unfeigned joy at
d'Urberville's conversion, and thanked him for his kindness in
communicating with the parson on the subject.  It expressed Mr
Clare's warm assurance of forgiveness for d'Urberville's former
conduct and his interest in the young man's plans for the future.
He, Mr Clare, would much have liked to see d'Urberville in the Church
to whose ministry he had devoted so many years of his own life, and
would have helped him to enter a theological college to that end; but
since his correspondent had possibly not cared to do this on account
of the delay it would have entailed, he was not the man to insist
upon its paramount importance.  Every man must work as he could best
work, and in the method towards which he felt impelled by the Spirit.

D'Urberville read and re-read this letter, and seemed to quiz himself
cynically.  He also read some passages from memoranda as he walked
till his face assumed a calm, and apparently the image of Tess no
longer troubled his mind.

She meanwhile had kept along the edge of the hill by which lay her
nearest way home.  Within the distance of a mile she met a solitary
shepherd.

"What is the meaning of that old stone I have passed?" she asked of
him.  "Was it ever a Holy Cross?"

"Cross--no; 'twer not a cross!  'Tis a thing of ill-omen, Miss.  It
was put up in wuld times by the relations of a malefactor who was
tortured there by nailing his hand to a post and afterwards hung.
The bones lie underneath.  They say he sold his soul to the devil,
and that he walks at times."

She felt the _petite mort_ at this unexpectedly gruesome information,
and left the solitary man behind her.  It was dusk when she drew near
to Flintcomb-Ash, and in the lane at the entrance to the hamlet she
approached a girl and her lover without their observing her.  They
were talking no secrets, and the clear unconcerned voice of the young
woman, in response to the warmer accents of the man, spread into the
chilly air as the one soothing thing within the dusky horizon, full
of a stagnant obscurity upon which nothing else intruded.  For a
moment the voices cheered the heart of Tess, till she reasoned that
this interview had its origin, on one side or the other, in the same
attraction which had been the prelude to her own tribulation.  When
she came close, the girl turned serenely and recognized her, the
young man walking off in embarrassment.  The woman was Izz Huett,
whose interest in Tess's excursion immediately superseded her own
proceedings.  Tess did not explain very clearly its results, and Izz,
who was a girl of tact, began to speak of her own little affair, a
phase of which Tess had just witnessed.

"He is Amby Seedling, the chap who used to sometimes come and help at
Talbothays," she explained indifferently.  "He actually inquired and
found out that I had come here, and has followed me.  He says he's
been in love wi' me these two years.  But I've hardly answered him."



XLVI


Several days had passed since her futile journey, and Tess was
afield.  The dry winter wind still blew, but a screen of thatched
hurdles erected in the eye of the blast kept its force away from her.
On the sheltered side was a turnip-slicing machine, whose bright blue
hue of new paint seemed almost vocal in the otherwise subdued scene.
Opposite its front was a long mound or "grave", in which the roots
had been preserved since early winter.  Tess was standing at the
uncovered end, chopping off with a bill-hook the fibres and earth
from each root, and throwing it after the operation into the slicer.
A man was turning the handle of the machine, and from its trough
came the newly-cut swedes, the fresh smell of whose yellow chips
was accompanied by the sounds of the snuffling wind, the smart swish
of the slicing-blades, and the choppings of the hook in Tess's
leather-gloved hand.

The wide acreage of blank agricultural brownness, apparent where
the swedes had been pulled, was beginning to be striped in wales of
darker brown, gradually broadening to ribands.  Along the edge of
each of these something crept upon ten legs, moving without haste
and without rest up and down the whole length of the field; it was
two horses and a man, the plough going between them, turning up the
cleared ground for a spring sowing.

For hours nothing relieved the joyless monotony of things. Then, far
beyond the ploughing-teams, a black speck was seen.  It had come from
the corner of a fence, where there was a gap, and its tendency was
up the incline, towards the swede-cutters.  From the proportions of
a mere point it advanced to the shape of a ninepin, and was soon
perceived to be a man in black, arriving from the direction of
Flintcomb-Ash.  The man at the slicer, having nothing else to do with
his eyes, continually observed the comer, but Tess, who was occupied,
did not perceive him till her companion directed her attention to his
approach.

It was not her hard taskmaster, Farmer Groby; it was one in a
semi-clerical costume, who now represented what had once been the
free-and-easy Alec d'Urberville.  Not being hot at his preaching
there was less enthusiasm about him now, and the presence of the
grinder seemed to embarrass him.  A pale distress was already on
Tess's face, and she pulled her curtained hood further over it.

D'Urberville came up and said quietly--

"I want to speak to you, Tess."

"You have refused my last request, not to come near me!" said she.

"Yes, but I have a good reason."

"Well, tell it."

"It is more serious than you may think."

He glanced round to see if he were overheard.  They were at some
distance from the man who turned the slicer, and the movement of the
machine, too, sufficiently prevented Alec's words reaching other
ears.  D'Urberville placed himself so as to screen Tess from the
labourer, turning his back to the latter.

"It is this," he continued, with capricious compunction.  "In
thinking of your soul and mine when we last met, I neglected to
inquire as to your worldly condition.  You were well dressed, and I
did not think of it.  But I see now that it is hard--harder than it
used to be when I--knew you--harder than you deserve.  Perhaps a good
deal of it is owning to me!"

She did not answer, and he watched her inquiringly, as, with bent
head, her face completely screened by the hood, she resumed her
trimming of the swedes.  By going on with her work she felt better
able to keep him outside her emotions.

"Tess," he added, with a sigh of discontent,--"yours was the very
worst case I ever was concerned in!  I had no idea of what had
resulted till you told me.  Scamp that I was to foul that innocent
life!  The whole blame was mine--the whole unconventional business
of our time at Trantridge.  You, too, the real blood of which I am
but the base imitation, what a blind young thing you were as to
possibilities!  I say in all earnestness that it is a shame for
parents to bring up their girls in such dangerous ignorance of the
gins and nets that the wicked may set for them, whether their motive
be a good one or the result of simple indifference."

Tess still did no more than listen, throwing down one globular root
and taking up another with automatic regularity, the pensive contour
of the mere fieldwoman alone marking her.

"But it is not that I came to say," d'Urberville went on.  "My
circumstances are these.  I have lost my mother since you were at
Trantridge, and the place is my own.  But I intend to sell it, and
devote myself to missionary work in Africa.  A devil of a poor hand
I shall make at the trade, no doubt.  However, what I want to ask
you is, will you put it in my power to do my duty--to make the only
reparation I can make for the trick played you: that is, will you be
my wife, and go with me? ...  I have already obtained this precious
document.  It was my old mother's dying wish."

He drew a piece of parchment from his pocket, with a slight fumbling
of embarrassment.

"What is it?" said she.

"A marriage licence."

"O no, sir--no!" she said quickly, starting back.

"You will not?  Why is that?"

And as he asked the question a disappointment which was not entirely
the disappointment of thwarted duty crossed d'Urberville's face.  It
was unmistakably a symptom that something of his old passion for her
had been revived; duty and desire ran hand-in-hand.

"Surely," he began again, in more impetuous tones, and then looked
round at the labourer who turned the slicer.

Tess, too, felt that the argument could not be ended there.
Informing the man that a gentleman had come to see her, with whom she
wished to walk a little way, she moved off with d'Urberville across
the zebra-striped field.  When they reached the first newly-ploughed
section he held out his hand to help her over it; but she stepped
forward on the summits of the earth-rolls as if she did not see him.

"You will not marry me, Tess, and make me a self-respecting man?" he
repeated, as soon as they were over the furrows.

"I cannot."

"But why?"

"You know I have no affection for you."

"But you would get to feel that in time, perhaps--as soon as you
really could forgive me?"

"Never!"

"Why so positive?"

"I love somebody else."

The words seemed to astonish him.

"You do?" he cried.  "Somebody else?  But has not a sense of what is
morally right and proper any weight with you?"

"No, no, no--don't say that!"

"Anyhow, then, your love for this other man may be only a passing
feeling which you will overcome--"

"No--no."

"Yes, yes!  Why not?"

"I cannot tell you."

"You must in honour!"

"Well then ... I have married him."

"Ah!" he exclaimed; and he stopped dead and gazed at
her.

"I did not wish to tell--I did not mean to!" she pleaded.  "It is a
secret here, or at any rate but dimly known.  So will you, PLEASE
will you, keep from questioning me?  You must remember that we are
now strangers."

"Strangers--are we?  Strangers!"

For a moment a flash of his old irony marked his face; but he
determinedly chastened it down.

"Is that man your husband?" he asked mechanically, denoting by a sign
the labourer who turned the machine.

"That man!" she said proudly.  "I should think not!"

"Who, then?"

"Do not ask what I do not wish to tell!" she begged, and flashed her
appeal to him from her upturned face and lash-shadowed eyes.

D'Urberville was disturbed.

"But I only asked for your sake!" he retorted hotly.  "Angels of
heaven!--God forgive me for such an expression--I came here, I swear,
as I thought for your good.  Tess--don't look at me so--I cannot
stand your looks!  There never were such eyes, surely, before
Christianity or since!  There--I won't lose my head; I dare not.
I own that the sight of you had waked up my love for you, which, I
believed, was extinguished with all such feelings.  But I thought
that our marriage might be a sanctification for us both.  'The
unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving
wife is sanctified by the husband,' I said to myself.  But my plan
is dashed from me; and I must bear the disappointment!"

He moodily reflected with his eyes on the ground.

"Married.  Married! ...  Well, that being so," he added, quite
calmly, tearing the licence slowly into halves and putting them in
his pocket; "that being prevented, I should like to do some good to
you and your husband, whoever he may be.  There are many questions
that I am tempted to ask, but I will not do so, of course, in
opposition to your wishes.  Though, if I could know your husband, I
might more easily benefit him and you.  Is he on this farm?"

"No," she murmured.  "He is far away."

"Far away?  From YOU?  What sort of husband can he be?"

"O, do not speak against him!  It was through you!  He found out--"

"Ah, is it so! ...  That's sad, Tess!"

"Yes."

"But to stay away from you--to leave you to work like this!"

"He does not leave me to work!" she cried, springing to the defence
of the absent one with all her fervour.  "He don't know it!  It is by
my own arrangement."

"Then, does he write?"

"I--I cannot tell you.  There are things which are private to
ourselves."

"Of course that means that he does not.  You are a deserted wife, my
fair Tess--"

In an impulse he turned suddenly to take her hand; the buff-glove was
on it, and he seized only the rough leather fingers which did not
express the life or shape of those within.

"You must not--you must not!" she cried fearfully, slipping her hand
from the glove as from a pocket, and leaving it in his grasp.  "O,
will you go away--for the sake of me and my husband--go, in the name
of your own Christianity!"

"Yes, yes; I will," he said abruptly, and thrusting the glove back to
her he turned to leave.  Facing round, however, he said, "Tess, as
God is my judge, I meant no humbug in taking your hand!"

A pattering of hoofs on the soil of the field, which they had not
noticed in their preoccupation, ceased close behind them; and a voice
reached her ear:

"What the devil are you doing away from your work at this time o'
day?"

Farmer Groby had espied the two figures from the distance, and had
inquisitively ridden across, to learn what was their business in his
field.

"Don't speak like that to her!" said d'Urberville, his face
blackening with something that was not Christianity.

"Indeed, Mister!  And what mid Methodist pa'sons have to do with
she?"

"Who is the fellow?" asked d'Urberville, turning to Tess.

She went close up to him.

"Go--I do beg you!" she said.

"What!  And leave you to that tyrant?  I can see in his face what a
churl he is."

"He won't hurt me.  HE'S not in love with me.  I can leave at
Lady-Day."

"Well, I have no right but to obey, I suppose.  But--well, goodbye!"

Her defender, whom she dreaded more than her assailant, having
reluctantly disappeared, the farmer continued his reprimand, which
Tess took with the greatest coolness, that sort of attack being
independent of sex.  To have as a master this man of stone, who would
have cuffed her if he had dared, was almost a relief after her former
experiences.  She silently walked back towards the summit of the
field that was the scene of her labour, so absorbed in the interview
which had just taken place that she was hardly aware that the nose of
Groby's horse almost touched her shoulders.

"If so be you make an agreement to work for me till Lady-Day, I'll
see that you carry it out," he growled.  "'Od rot the women--now
'tis one thing, and then 'tis another.  But I'll put up with it no
longer!"

Knowing very well that he did not harass the other women of the
farm as he harassed her out of spite for the flooring he had once
received, she did for one moment picture what might have been the
result if she had been free to accept the offer just made her of
being the monied Alec's wife.  It would have lifted her completely
out of subjection, not only to her present oppressive employer, but
to a whole world who seemed to despise her.  "But no, no!" she said
breathlessly; "I could not have married him now!  He is so unpleasant
to me."

That very night she began an appealing letter to Clare, concealing
from him her hardships, and assuring him of her undying affection.
Any one who had been in a position to read between the lines would
have seen that at the back of her great love was some monstrous
fear--almost a desperation--as to some secret contingencies which
were not disclosed.  But again she did not finish her effusion; he
had asked Izz to go with him, and perhaps he did not care for her at
all.  She put the letter in her box, and wondered if it would ever
reach Angel's hands.

After this her daily tasks were gone through heavily enough, and
brought on the day which was of great import to agriculturists--the
day of the Candlemas Fair.  It was at this fair that new engagements
were entered into for the twelve months following the ensuing
Lady-Day, and those of the farming population who thought of changing
their places duly attended at the county-town where the fair was
held.  Nearly all the labourers on Flintcomb-Ash farm intended
flight, and early in the morning there was a general exodus in the
direction of the town, which lay at a distance of from ten to a dozen
miles over hilly country.  Though Tess also meant to leave at the
quarter-day, she was one of the few who did not go to the fair,
having a vaguely-shaped hope that something would happen to render
another outdoor engagement unnecessary.

It was a peaceful February day, of wonderful softness for the time,
and one would almost have thought that winter was over.  She had
hardly finished her dinner when d'Urberville's figure darkened the
window of the cottage wherein she was a lodger, which she had all to
herself to-day.

Tess jumped up, but her visitor had knocked at the door, and she
could hardly in reason run away.  D'Urberville's knock, his walk up
to the door, had some indescribable quality of difference from his
air when she last saw him.  They seemed to be acts of which the doer
was ashamed.  She thought that she would not open the door; but, as
there was no sense in that either, she arose, and having lifted the
latch stepped back quickly.  He came in, saw her, and flung himself
down into a chair before speaking.

"Tess--I couldn't help it!" he began desperately, as he wiped his
heated face, which had also a superimposed flush of excitement.  "I
felt that I must call at least to ask how you are.  I assure you I
had not been thinking of you at all till I saw you that Sunday; now I
cannot get rid of your image, try how I may!  It is hard that a good
woman should do harm to a bad man; yet so it is.  If you would only
pray for me, Tess!"

The suppressed discontent of his manner was almost pitiable, and yet
Tess did not pity him.

"How can I pray for you," she said, "when I am forbidden to believe
that the great Power who moves the world would alter His plans on my
account?"

"You really think that?"

"Yes.  I have been cured of the presumption of thinking otherwise."

"Cured?  By whom?"

"By my husband, if I must tell."

"Ah--your husband--your husband!  How strange it seems!  I remember
you hinted something of the sort the other day.  What do you really
believe in these matters, Tess?" he asked.  "You seem to have no
religion--perhaps owing to me."

"But I have.  Though I don't believe in anything supernatural."

D'Urberville looked at her with misgiving.

"Then do you think that the line I take is all wrong?"

"A good deal of it."

"H'm--and yet I've felt so sure about it," he said uneasily.

"I believe in the SPIRIT of the Sermon on the Mount, and so did my
dear husband...  But I don't believe--"

Here she gave her negations.

"The fact is," said d'Urberville drily, "whatever your dear husband
believed you accept, and whatever he rejected you reject, without the
least inquiry or reasoning on your own part.  That's just like you
women.  Your mind is enslaved to his."

"Ah, because he knew everything!" said she, with a triumphant
simplicity of faith in Angel Clare that the most perfect man could
hardly have deserved, much less her husband.

"Yes, but you should not take negative opinions wholesale from
another person like that.  A pretty fellow he must be to teach you
such scepticism!"

"He never forced my judgement!  He would never argue on the subject
with me!  But I looked at it in this way; what he believed, after
inquiring deep into doctrines, was much more likely to be right than
what I might believe, who hadn't looked into doctrines at all."

"What used he to say?  He must have said something?"

She reflected; and with her acute memory for the letter of Angel
Clare's remarks, even when she did not comprehend their spirit, she
recalled a merciless polemical syllogism that she had heard him
use when, as it occasionally happened, he indulged in a species of
thinking aloud with her at his side.  In delivering it she gave also
Clare's accent and manner with reverential faithfulness.

"Say that again," asked d'Urberville, who had listened with the
greatest attention.

She repeated the argument, and d'Urberville thoughtfully murmured the
words after her.

"Anything else?" he presently asked.

"He said at another time something like this"; and she gave another,
which might possibly have been paralleled in many a work of the
pedigree ranging from the _Dictionnaire Philosophique_ to Huxley's
_Essays_.

"Ah--ha!  How do you remember them?"

"I wanted to believe what he believed, though he didn't wish me to;
and I managed to coax him to tell me a few of his thoughts.  I can't
say I quite understand that one; but I know it is right."

"H'm.  Fancy your being able to teach me what you don't know
yourself!"

He fell into thought.

"And so I threw in my spiritual lot with his," she resumed.  "I
didn't wish it to be different.  What's good enough for him is good
enough for me."

"Does he know that you are as big an infidel as he?"

"No--I never told him--if I am an infidel."

"Well--you are better off to-day that I am, Tess, after all!  You
don't believe that you ought to preach my doctrine, and, therefore,
do no despite to your conscience in abstaining.  I do believe I ought
to preach it, but, like the devils, I believe and tremble, for I
suddenly leave off preaching it, and give way to my passion for you."

"How?"

"Why," he said aridly; "I have come all the way here to see you
to-day!  But I started from home to go to Casterbridge Fair, where
I have undertaken to preach the Word from a waggon at half-past two
this afternoon, and where all the brethren are expecting me this
minute.  Here's the announcement."

He drew from his breast-pocket a poster whereon was printed the day,
hour, and place of meeting, at which he, d'Urberville, would preach
the Gospel as aforesaid.

"But how can you get there?" said Tess, looking at the clock.

"I cannot get there!  I have come here."

"What, you have really arranged to preach, and--"

"I have arranged to preach, and I shall not be there--by reason of my
burning desire to see a woman whom I once despised!--No, by my word
and truth, I never despised you; if I had I should not love you now!
Why I did not despise you was on account of your being unsmirched in
spite of all; you withdrew yourself from me so quickly and resolutely
when you saw the situation; you did not remain at my pleasure; so
there was one petticoat in the world for whom I had no contempt,
and you are she.  But you may well despise me now!  I thought I
worshipped on the mountains, but I find I still serve in the groves!
Ha! ha!"

"O Alec d'Urberville! what does this mean?  What have I done!"

"Done?" he said, with a soulless sneer in the word.  "Nothing
intentionally.  But you have been the means--the innocent means--of
my backsliding, as they call it.  I ask myself, am I, indeed, one of
those 'servants of corruption' who, 'after they have escaped the
pollutions of the world, are again entangled therein and overcome'--
whose latter end is worse than their beginning?"  He laid his hand on
her shoulder.  "Tess, my girl, I was on the way to, at least, social
salvation till I saw you again!" he said freakishly shaking her, as
if she were a child.  "And why then have you tempted me?  I was firm
as a man could be till I saw those eyes and that mouth again--surely
there never was such a maddening mouth since Eve's!"  His voice sank,
and a hot archness shot from his own black eyes.  "You temptress,
Tess; you dear damned witch of Babylon--I could not resist you as
soon as I met you again!"

"I couldn't help your seeing me again!" said Tess, recoiling.

"I know it--I repeat that I do not blame you.  But the fact remains.
When I saw you ill-used on the farm that day I was nearly mad to
think that I had no legal right to protect you--that I could not have
it; whilst he who has it seems to neglect you utterly!"

"Don't speak against him--he is absent!" she cried in much
excitement.  "Treat him honourably--he has never wronged you!  O
leave his wife before any scandal spreads that may do harm to his
honest name!"

"I will--I will," he said, like a man awakening from a luring dream.
"I have broken my engagement to preach to those poor drunken boobies
at the fair--it is the first time I have played such a practical
joke.  A month ago I should have been horrified at such a
possibility.  I'll go away--to swear--and--ah, can I! to keep away."
Then, suddenly: "One clasp, Tessy--one!  Only for old friendship--"

"I am without defence. Alec!  A good man's honour is in my keeping--
think--be ashamed!"

"Pooh!  Well, yes--yes!"

He clenched his lips, mortified with himself for his weakness.  His
eyes were equally barren of worldly and religious faith.  The corpses
of those old fitful passions which had lain inanimate amid the lines
of his face ever since his reformation seemed to wake and come
together as in a resurrection.  He went out indeterminately.

Though d'Urberville had declared that this breach of his engagement
to-day was the simple backsliding of a believer, Tess's words, as
echoed from Angel Clare, had made a deep impression upon him, and
continued to do so after he had left her.  He moved on in silence, as
if his energies were benumbed by the hitherto undreamt-of possibility
that his position was untenable.  Reason had had nothing to do with
his whimsical conversion, which was perhaps the mere freak of a
careless man in search of a new sensation, and temporarily impressed
by his mother's death.

The drops of logic Tess had let fall into the sea of his enthusiasm
served to chill its effervescence to stagnation.  He said to himself,
as he pondered again and again over the crystallized phrases that she
had handed on to him, "That clever fellow little thought that, by
telling her those things, he might be paving my way back to her!"



XLVII


It is the threshing of the last wheat-rick at Flintcomb-Ash farm. The
dawn of the March morning is singularly inexpressive, and there is
nothing to show where the eastern horizon lies.  Against the twilight
rises the trapezoidal top of the stack, which has stood forlornly
here through the washing and bleaching of the wintry weather.

When Izz Huett and Tess arrived at the scene of operations only a
rustling denoted that others had preceded them; to which, as the
light increased, there were presently added the silhouettes of two
men on the summit.  They were busily "unhaling" the rick, that
is, stripping off the thatch before beginning to throw down the
sheaves; and while this was in progress Izz and Tess, with the
other women-workers, in their whitey-brown pinners, stood waiting
and shivering, Farmer Groby having insisted upon their being on
the spot thus early to get the job over if possible by the end of
the day.  Close under the eaves of the stack, and as yet barely
visible, was the red tyrant that the women had come to serve--a
timber-framed construction, with straps and wheels appertaining--
the threshing-machine which, whilst it was going, kept up a
despotic demand upon the endurance of their muscles and nerves.

A little way off there was another indistinct figure; this one black,
with a sustained hiss that spoke of strength very much in reserve.
The long chimney running up beside an ash-tree, and the warmth which
radiated from the spot, explained without the necessity of much
daylight that here was the engine which was to act as the _primum
mobile_ of this little world.  By the engine stood a dark, motionless
being, a sooty and grimy embodiment of tallness, in a sort of trance,
with a heap of coals by his side: it was the engine-man.  The
isolation of his manner and colour lent him the appearance of a
creature from Tophet, who had strayed into the pellucid smokelessness
of this region of yellow grain and pale soil, with which he had
nothing in common, to amaze and to discompose its aborigines.

What he looked he felt.  He was in the agricultural world, but not of
it.  He served fire and smoke; these denizens of the fields served
vegetation, weather, frost, and sun.  He travelled with his engine
from farm to farm, from county to county, for as yet the steam
threshing-machine was itinerant in this part of Wessex.  He spoke in
a strange northern accent; his thoughts being turned inwards upon
himself, his eye on his iron charge, hardly perceiving the scenes
around him, and caring for them not at all: holding only strictly
necessary intercourse with the natives, as if some ancient doom
compelled him to wander here against his will in the service of his
Plutonic master.  The long strap which ran from the driving-wheel of
his engine to the red thresher under the rick was the sole tie-line
between agriculture and him.

While they uncovered the sheaves he stood apathetic beside his
portable repository of force, round whose hot blackness the morning
air quivered.  He had nothing to do with preparatory labour.  His
fire was waiting incandescent, his steam was at high pressure, in
a few seconds he could make the long strap move at an invisible
velocity.  Beyond its extent the environment might be corn, straw,
or chaos; it was all the same to him.  If any of the autochthonous
idlers asked him what he called himself, he replied shortly, "an
engineer."

The rick was unhaled by full daylight; the men then took their
places, the women mounted, and the work began.  Farmer Groby--or, as
they called him, "he"--had arrived ere this, and by his orders Tess
was placed on the platform of the machine, close to the man who fed
it, her business being to untie every sheaf of corn handed on to her
by Izz Huett, who stood next, but on the rick; so that the feeder
could seize it and spread it over the revolving drum, which whisked
out every grain in one moment.

They were soon in full progress, after a preparatory hitch or two,
which rejoiced the hearts of those who hated machinery.  The work
sped on till breakfast time, when the thresher was stopped for half
an hour; and on starting again after the meal the whole supplementary
strength of the farm was thrown into the labour of constructing the
straw-rick, which began to grow beside the stack of corn.  A hasty
lunch was eaten as they stood, without leaving their positions, and
then another couple of hours brought them near to dinner-time; the
inexorable wheel continuing to spin, and the penetrating hum of the
thresher to thrill to the very marrow all who were near the revolving
wire-cage.

The old men on the rising straw-rick talked of the past days
when they had been accustomed to thresh with flails on the oaken
barn-floor; when everything, even to winnowing, was effected by
hand-labour, which, to their thinking, though slow, produced better
results.  Those, too, on the corn-rick talked a little; but the
perspiring ones at the machine, including Tess, could not lighten
their duties by the exchange of many words.  It was the ceaselessness
of the work which tried her so severely, and began to make her
wish that she had never some to Flintcomb-Ash.  The women on the
corn-rick--Marian, who was one of them, in particular--could stop to
drink ale or cold tea from the flagon now and then, or to exchange
a few gossiping remarks while they wiped their faces or cleared the
fragments of straw and husk from their clothing; but for Tess there
was no respite; for, as the drum never stopped, the man who fed
it could not stop, and she, who had to supply the man with untied
sheaves, could not stop either, unless Marian changed places with
her, which she sometimes did for half an hour in spite of Groby's
objections that she was too slow-handed for a feeder.

For some probably economical reason it was usually a woman who was
chosen for this particular duty, and Groby gave as his motive in
selecting Tess that she was one of those who best combined strength
with quickness in untying, and both with staying power, and this may
have been true.  The hum of the thresher, which prevented speech,
increased to a raving whenever the supply of corn fell short of the
regular quantity.  As Tess and the man who fed could never turn their
heads she did not know that just before the dinner-hour a person had
come silently into the field by the gate, and had been standing under
a second rick watching the scene and Tess in particular.  He was
dressed in a tweed suit of fashionable pattern, and he twirled a gay
walking-cane.

"Who is that?" said Izz Huett to Marian.  She had at first addressed
the inquiry to Tess, but the latter could not hear it.

"Somebody's fancy-man, I s'pose," said Marian laconically.

"I'll lay a guinea he's after Tess."

"O no.  'Tis a ranter pa'son who's been sniffing after her lately;
not a dandy like this."

"Well--this is the same man."

"The same man as the preacher?  But he's quite different!"

"He hev left off his black coat and white neckercher, and hev cut off
his whiskers; but he's the same man for all that."

"D'ye really think so?  Then I'll tell her," said Marian.

"Don't.  She'll see him soon enough, good-now."

"Well, I don't think it at all right for him to join his preaching to
courting a married woman, even though her husband mid be abroad, and
she, in a sense, a widow."

"Oh--he can do her no harm," said Izz drily.  "Her mind can no more
be heaved from that one place where it do bide than a stooded waggon
from the hole he's in.  Lord love 'ee, neither court-paying, nor
preaching, nor the seven thunders themselves, can wean a woman when
'twould be better for her that she should be weaned."

Dinner-time came, and the whirling ceased; whereupon Tess left her
post, her knees trembling so wretchedly with the shaking of the
machine that she could scarcely walk.

"You ought to het a quart o' drink into 'ee, as I've done," said
Marian.  "You wouldn't look so white then.  Why, souls above us,
your face is as if you'd been hagrode!"

It occurred to the good-natured Marian that, as Tess was so tired,
her discovery of her visitor's presence might have the bad effect of
taking away her appetite; and Marian was thinking of inducing Tess
to descend by a ladder on the further side of the stack when the
gentleman came forward and looked up.

Tess uttered a short little "Oh!"  And a moment after she said,
quickly, "I shall eat my dinner here--right on the rick."

Sometimes, when they were so far from their cottages, they all did
this; but as there was rather a keen wind going to-day, Marian and
the rest descended, and sat under the straw-stack.

The newcomer was, indeed, Alec d'Urberville, the late Evangelist,
despite his changed attire and aspect.  It was obvious at a glance
that the original _Weltlust_ had come back; that he had restored
himself, as nearly as a man could do who had grown three or four
years older, to the old jaunty, slapdash guise under which Tess
had first known her admirer, and cousin so-called.  Having decided
to remain where she was, Tess sat down among the bundles, out of
sight of the ground, and began her meal; till, by-and-by, she heard
footsteps on the ladder, and immediately after Alec appeared upon the
stack--now an oblong and level platform of sheaves.  He strode across
them, and sat down opposite of her without a word.

Tess continued to eat her modest dinner, a slice of thick pancake
which she had brought with her.  The other workfolk were by this
time all gathered under the rick, where the loose straw formed a
comfortable retreat.

"I am here again, as you see," said d'Urberville.

"Why do you trouble me so!" she cried, reproach flashing from her
very finger-ends.

"I trouble YOU?  I think I may ask, why do you trouble me?"

"Sure, I don't trouble you any-when!"

"You say you don't?  But you do!  You haunt me.  Those very eyes that
you turned upon my with such a bitter flash a moment ago, they come
to me just as you showed them then, in the night and in the day!
Tess, ever since you told me of that child of ours, it is just as if
my feelings, which have been flowing in a strong puritanical stream,
had suddenly found a way open in the direction of you, and had all at
once gushed through.  The religious channel is left dry forthwith;
and it is you who have done it!"

She gazed in silence.

"What--you have given up your preaching entirely?" she asked.  She
had gathered from Angel sufficient of the incredulity of modern
thought to despise flash enthusiasm; but, as a woman, she was
somewhat appalled.

In affected severity d'Urberville continued--

"Entirely.  I have broken every engagement since that afternoon I was
to address the drunkards at Casterbridge Fair.  The deuce only knows
what I am thought of by the brethren.  Ah-ha!  The brethren!  No
doubt they pray for me--weep for me; for they are kind people in
their way.  But what do I care?  How could I go on with the thing
when I had lost my faith in it?--it would have been hypocrisy of
the basest kind!  Among them I should have stood like Hymenaeus and
Alexander, who were delivered over to Satan that they might learn
not to blaspheme.  What a grand revenge you have taken!  I saw you
innocent, and I deceived you.  Four years after, you find me a
Christian enthusiast; you then work upon me, perhaps to my complete
perdition!  But Tess, my coz, as I used to call you, this is only
my way of talking, and you must not look so horribly concerned.
Of course you have done nothing except retain your pretty face and
shapely figure.  I saw it on the rick before you saw me--that tight
pinafore-thing sets it off, and that wing-bonnet--you field-girls
should never wear those bonnets if you wish to keep out of danger."
He regarded her silently for a few moments, and with a short cynical
laugh resumed: "I believe that if the bachelor-apostle, whose deputy
I thought I was, had been tempted by such a pretty face, he would
have let go the plough for her sake as I do!"

Tess attempted to expostulate, but at this juncture all her fluency
failed her, and without heeding he added:

"Well, this paradise that you supply is perhaps as good as any other,
after all.  But to speak seriously, Tess."  D'Urberville rose and
came nearer, reclining sideways amid the sheaves, and resting upon
his elbow.  "Since I last saw you, I have been thinking of what
you said that HE said.  I have come to the conclusion that there
does seem rather a want of common-sense in these threadbare old
propositions; how I could have been so fired by poor Parson Clare's
enthusiasm, and have gone so madly to work, transcending even him, I
cannot make out!  As for what you said last time, on the strength of
your wonderful husband's intelligence--whose name you have never told
me--about having what they call an ethical system without any dogma,
I don't see my way to that at all."

"Why, you can have the religion of loving-kindness and purity at
least, if you can't have--what do you call it--dogma."

"O no!  I'm a different sort of fellow from that!  If there's nobody
to say, 'Do this, and it will be a good thing for you after you are
dead; do that, and if will be a bad thing for you,' I can't warm up.
Hang it, I am not going to feel responsible for my deeds and passions
if there's nobody to be responsible to; and if I were you, my dear,
I wouldn't either!"

She tried to argue, and tell him that he had mixed in his dull
brain two matters, theology and morals, which in the primitive days
of mankind had been quite distinct.  But owing to Angel Clare's
reticence, to her absolute want of training, and to her being a
vessel of emotions rather than reasons, she could not get on.

"Well, never mind," he resumed.  "Here I am, my love, as in the old
times!"

"Not as then--never as then--'tis different!" she entreated.  "And
there was never warmth with me!  O why didn't you keep your faith,
if the loss of it has brought you to speak to me like this!"

"Because you've knocked it out of me; so the evil be upon your sweet
head!  Your husband little thought how his teaching would recoil upon
him!  Ha-ha--I'm awfully glad you have made an apostate of me all the
same!  Tess, I am more taken with you than ever, and I pity you too.
For all your closeness, I see you are in a bad way--neglected by one
who ought to cherish you."

She could not get her morsels of food down her throat; her lips
were dry, and she was ready to choke.  The voices and laughs of the
workfolk eating and drinking under the rick came to her as if they
were a quarter of a mile off.

"It is cruelty to me!" she said.  "How--how can you treat me to this
talk, if you care ever so little for me?"

"True, true," he said, wincing a little.  "I did not come to reproach
you for my deeds.  I came Tess, to say that I don't like you to be
working like this, and I have come on purpose for you.  You say you
have a husband who is not I.  Well, perhaps you have; but I've never
seen him, and you've not told me his name; and altogether he seems
rather a mythological personage.  However, even if you have one, I
think I am nearer to you than he is.  I, at any rate, try to help you
out of trouble, but he does not, bless his invisible face!  The words
of the stern prophet Hosea that I used to read come back to me.
Don't you know them, Tess?--'And she shall follow after her lover,
but she shall not overtake him; and she shall seek him, but shall
not find him; then shall she say, I will go and return to my first
husband; for then was it better with me than now!' ...  Tess, my trap
is waiting just under the hill, and--darling mine, not his!--you know
the rest."

Her face had been rising to a dull crimson fire while he spoke; but
she did not answer.

"You have been the cause of my backsliding," he continued, stretching
his arm towards her waist; "you should be willing to share it, and
leave that mule you call husband for ever."

One of her leather gloves, which she had taken off to eat her
skimmer-cake, lay in her lap, and without the slightest warning she
passionately swung the glove by the gauntlet directly in his face.
It was heavy and thick as a warrior's, and it struck him flat on the
mouth.  Fancy might have regarded the act as the recrudescence of
a trick in which her armed progenitors were not unpractised.  Alec
fiercely started up from his reclining position.  A scarlet oozing
appeared where her blow had alighted, and in a moment the blood began
dropping from his mouth upon the straw.  But he soon controlled
himself, calmly drew his handkerchief from his pocket, and mopped
his bleeding lips.

She too had sprung up, but she sank down again. "Now, punish me!" she
said, turning up her eyes to him with the hopeless defiance of the
sparrow's gaze before its captor twists its neck.  "Whip me, crush
me; you need not mind those people under the rick!  I shall not cry
out.  Once victim, always victim--that's the law!"

"O no, no, Tess," he said blandly.  "I can make full allowance for
this.  Yet you most unjustly forget one thing, that I would have
married you if you had not put it out of my power to do so.  Did I
not ask you flatly to be my wife--hey?  Answer me."

"You did."

"And you cannot be.  But remember one thing!"  His voice hardened
as his temper got the better of him with the recollection of his
sincerity in asking her and her present ingratitude, and he stepped
across to her side and held her by the shoulders, so that she shook
under his grasp.  "Remember, my lady, I was your master once!  I will
be your master again.  If you are any man's wife you are mine!"

The threshers now began to stir below.

"So much for our quarrel," he said, letting her go.  "Now I shall
leave you, and shall come again for your answer during the afternoon.
You don't know me yet!  But I know you."

She had not spoken again, remaining as if stunned.  D'Urberville
retreated over the sheaves, and descended the ladder, while the
workers below rose and stretched their arms, and shook down the beer
they had drunk.  Then the threshing-machine started afresh; and amid
the renewed rustle of the straw Tess resumed her position by the
buzzing drum as one in a dream, untying sheaf after sheaf in endless
succession.



XLVIII


In the afternoon the farmer made it known that the rick was to be
finished that night, since there was a moon by which they could see
to work, and the man with the engine was engaged for another farm on
the morrow.  Hence the twanging and humming and rustling proceeded
with even less intermission than usual.

It was not till "nammet"-time, about three o-clock, that Tess raised
her eyes and gave a momentary glance round.  She felt but little
surprise at seeing that Alec d'Urberville had come back, and was
standing under the hedge by the gate.  He had seen her lift her
eyes, and waved his hand urbanely to her, while he blew her a kiss.
It meant that their quarrel was over.  Tess looked down again, and
carefully abstained from gazing in that direction.

Thus the afternoon dragged on.  The wheat-rick shrank lower, and the
straw-rick grew higher, and the corn-sacks were carted away.  At six
o'clock the wheat-rick was about shoulder-high from the ground.  But
the unthreshed sheaves remaining untouched seemed countless still,
notwithstanding the enormous numbers that had been gulped down by
the insatiable swallower, fed by the man and Tess, through whose two
young hands the greater part of them had passed.  And the immense
stack of straw where in the morning there had been nothing, appeared
as the faeces of the same buzzing red glutton.  From the west sky
a wrathful shine--all that wild March could afford in the way of
sunset--had burst forth after the cloudy day, flooding the tired and
sticky faces of the threshers, and dyeing them with a coppery light,
as also the flapping garments of the women, which clung to them like
dull flames.

A panting ache ran through the rick.  The man who fed was weary, and
Tess could see that the red nape of his neck was encrusted with dirt
and husks.  She still stood at her post, her flushed and perspiring
face coated with the corndust, and her white bonnet embrowned by it.
She was the only woman whose place was upon the machine so as to be
shaken bodily by its spinning, and the decrease of the stack now
separated her from Marian and Izz, and prevented their changing
duties with her as they had done.  The incessant quivering, in
which every fibre of her frame participated, had thrown her into a
stupefied reverie in which her arms worked on independently of her
consciousness.  She hardly knew where she was, and did not hear Izz
Huett tell her from below that her hair was tumbling down.

By degrees the freshest among them began to grow cadaverous and
saucer-eyed.  Whenever Tess lifted her head she beheld always the
great upgrown straw-stack, with the men in shirt-sleeves upon it,
against the gray north sky; in front of it the long red elevator
like a Jacob's ladder, on which a perpetual stream of threshed straw
ascended, a yellow river running uphill, and spouting out on the top
of the rick.

She knew that Alec d'Urberville was still on the scene, observing
her from some point or other, though she could not say where.  There
was an excuse for his remaining, for when the threshed rick drew
near its final sheaves a little ratting was always done, and men
unconnected with the threshing sometimes dropped in for that
performance--sporting characters of all descriptions, gents with
terriers and facetious pipes, roughs with sticks and stones.

But there was another hour's work before the layer of live rats at
the base of the stack would be reached; and as the evening light in
the direction of the Giant's Hill by Abbot's-Cernel dissolved away,
the white-faced moon of the season arose from the horizon that lay
towards Middleton Abbey and Shottsford on the other side.  For the
last hour or two Marian had felt uneasy about Tess, whom she could
not get near enough to speak to, the other women having kept up their
strength by drinking ale, and Tess having done without it through
traditionary dread, owing to its results at her home in childhood.
But Tess still kept going: if she could not fill her part she would
have to leave; and this contingency, which she would have regarded
with equanimity and even with relief a month or two earlier, had
become a terror since d'Urberville had begun to hover round her.

The sheaf-pitchers and feeders had now worked the rick so low that
people on the ground could talk to them.  To Tess's surprise Farmer
Groby came up on the machine to her, and said that if she desired to
join her friend he did not wish her to keep on any longer, and would
send somebody else to take her place.  The "friend" was d'Urberville,
she knew, and also that this concession had been granted in obedience
to the request of that friend, or enemy.  She shook her head and
toiled on.

The time for the rat-catching arrived at last, and the hunt began.
The creatures had crept downwards with the subsidence of the rick
till they were all together at the bottom, and being now uncovered
from their last refuge, they ran across the open ground in all
directions, a loud shriek from the by-this-time half-tipsy Marian
informing her companions that one of the rats had invaded her
person--a terror which the rest of the women had guarded against by
various schemes of skirt-tucking and self-elevation.  The rat was
at last dislodged, and, amid the barking of dogs, masculine shouts,
feminine screams, oaths, stampings, and confusion as of Pandemonium,
Tess untied her last sheaf; the drum slowed, the whizzing ceased,
and she stepped from the machine to the ground.

Her lover, who had only looked on at the rat-catching, was promptly
at her side.

"What--after all--my insulting slap, too!" said she in an
underbreath.  She was so utterly exhausted that she had not strength
to speak louder.

"I should indeed be foolish to feel offended at anything you say or
do," he answered, in the seductive voice of the Trantridge time.
"How the little limbs tremble!  You are as weak as a bled calf, you
know you are; and yet you need have done nothing since I arrived.
How could you be so obstinate?  However, I have told the farmer that
he has no right to employ women at steam-threshing.  It is not proper
work for them; and on all the better class of farms it has been given
up, as he knows very well.  I will walk with you as far as your
home."

"O yes," she answered with a jaded gait.  "Walk wi' me if you will!
I do bear in mind that you came to marry me before you knew o' my
state.  Perhaps--perhaps you are a little better and kinder than I
have been thinking you were.  Whatever is meant as kindness I am
grateful for; whatever is meant in any other way I am angered at.
I cannot sense your meaning sometimes."

"If I cannot legitimize our former relations at least I can assist
you.  And I will do it with much more regard for your feelings than
I formerly showed.  My religious mania, or whatever it was, is over.
But I retain a little good nature; I hope I do.  Now, Tess, by
all that's tender and strong between man and woman, trust me!  I
have enough and more than enough to put you out of anxiety, both
for yourself and your parents and sisters.  I can make them all
comfortable if you will only show confidence in me."

"Have you seen 'em lately?" she quickly inquired.

"Yes.  They didn't know where you were.  It was only by chance that I
found you here."

The cold moon looked aslant upon Tess's fagged face between the twigs
of the garden-hedge as she paused outside the cottage which was her
temporary home, d'Urberville pausing beside her.

"Don't mention my little brothers and sisters--don't make me break
down quite!" she said.  "If you want to help them--God knows they
need it--do it without telling me.  But no, no!" she cried.  "I will
take nothing from you, either for them or for me!"

He did not accompany her further, since, as she lived with the
household, all was public indoors.  No sooner had she herself
entered, laved herself in a washing-tub, and shared supper with the
family than she fell into thought, and withdrawing to the table under
the wall, by the light of her own little lamp wrote in a passionate
mood--


   MY OWN HUSBAND,--

   Let me call you so--I must--even if it makes you angry to
   think of such an unworthy wife as I.  I must cry to you
   in my trouble--I have no one else!  I am so exposed to
   temptation, Angel.  I fear to say who it is, and I do not
   like to write about it at all.  But I cling to you in a way
   you cannot think!  Can you not come to me now, at once,
   before anything terrible happens?  O, I know you cannot,
   because you are so far away!  I think I must die if you do
   not come soon, or tell me to come to you.  The punishment
   you have measured out to me is deserved--I do know that--
   well deserved--and you are right and just to be angry with
   me.  But, Angel, please, please, not to be just--only a
   little kind to me, even if I do not deserve it, and come to
   me!  If you would come, I could die in your arms!  I would
   be well content to do that if so be you had forgiven me!

   Angel, I live entirely for you.  I love you too much to
   blame you for going away, and I know it was necessary you
   should find a farm.  Do not think I shall say a word of
   sting or bitterness.  Only come back to me.  I am desolate
   without you, my darling, O, so desolate! I do not mind
   having to work: but if you will send me one little line,
   and say, "I am coming soon," I will bide on, Angel--O, so
   cheerfully!

   It has been so much my religion ever since we were married
   to be faithful to you in every thought and look, that even
   when a man speaks a compliment to me before I am aware, it
   seems wronging you.  Have you never felt one little bit of
   what you used to feel when we were at the dairy?  If you
   have, how can you keep away from me?  I am the same women,
   Angel, as you fell in love with; yes, the very same!--not
   the one you disliked but never saw.  What was the past to me
   as soon as I met you?  It was a dead thing altogether.  I
   became another woman, filled full of new life from you.  How
   could I be the early one?  Why do you not see this?  Dear,
   if you would only be a little more conceited, and believe
   in yourself so far as to see that you were strong enough to
   work this change in me, you would perhaps be in a mind to
   come to me, your poor wife.

   How silly I was in my happiness when I thought I could trust
   you always to love me!  I ought to have known that such as
   that was not for poor me.  But I am sick at heart, not only
   for old times, but for the present.  Think--think how it do
   hurt my heart not to see you ever--ever!  Ah, if I could
   only make your dear heart ache one little minute of each day
   as mine does every day and all day long, it might lead you
   to show pity to your poor lonely one.

   People still say that I am rather pretty, Angel (handsome is
   the word they use, since I wish to be truthful).  Perhaps I
   am what they say.  But I do not value my good looks; I only
   like to have them because they belong to you, my dear, and
   that there may be at least one thing about me worth your
   having.  So much have I felt this, that when I met with
   annoyance on account of the same, I tied up my face in a
   bandage as long as people would believe in it.  O Angel, I
   tell you all this not from vanity--you will certainly know
   I do not--but only that you may come to me!

   If you really cannot come to me, will you let me come to
   you?  I am, as I say, worried, pressed to do what I will
   not do.  It cannot be that I shall yield one inch, yet I am
   in terror as to what an accident might lead to, and I so
   defenceless on account of my first error. I cannot say more
   about this--it makes me too miserable.  But if I break down
   by falling into some fearful snare, my last state will be
   worse than my first.  O God, I cannot think of it!  Let me
   come at once, or at once come to me!

   I would be content, ay, glad, to live with you as your
   servant, if I may not as your wife; so that I could only be
   near you, and get glimpses of you, and think of you as mine.

   The daylight has nothing to show me, since you are not here,
   and I don't like to see the rooks and starlings in the
   field, because I grieve and grieve to miss you who used to
   see them with me.  I long for only one thing in heaven or
   earth or under the earth, to meet you, my own dear!  Come
   to me--come to me, and save me from what threatens me!--

   Your faithful heartbroken

   TESS



XLIX


The appeal duly found its way to the breakfast-table of the quiet
Vicarage to the westward, in that valley where the air is so soft and
the soil so rich that the effort of growth requires but superficial
aid by comparison with the tillage at Flintcomb-Ash, and where to
Tess the human world seemed so different (though it was much the
same).  It was purely for security that she had been requested by
Angel to send her communications through his father, whom he kept
pretty well informed of his changing addresses in the country he
had gone to exploit for himself with a heavy heart.

"Now," said old Mr Clare to his wife, when he had read the envelope,
"if Angel proposes leaving Rio for a visit home at the end of next
month, as he told us that he hoped to do, I think this may hasten his
plans; for I believe it to be from his wife."  He breathed deeply at
the thought of her; and the letter was redirected to be promptly sent
on to Angel.

"Dear fellow, I hope he will get home safely," murmured Mrs Clare.
"To my dying day I shall feel that he has been ill-used.  You should
have sent him to Cambridge in spite of his want of faith and given
him the same chance as the other boys had.  He would have grown out
of it under proper influence, and perhaps would have taken Orders
after all.  Church or no Church, it would have been fairer to him."

This was the only wail with which Mrs Clare ever disturbed her
husband's peace in respect to their sons.  And she did not vent this
often; for she was as considerate as she was devout, and knew that
his mind too was troubled by doubts as to his justice in this matter.
Only too often had she heard him lying awake at night, stifling sighs
for Angel with prayers.  But the uncompromising Evangelical did not
even now hold that he would have been justified in giving his son,
an unbeliever, the same academic advantages that he had given to the
two others, when it was possible, if not probable, that those very
advantages might have been used to decry the doctrines which he had
made it his life's mission and desire to propagate, and the mission
of his ordained sons likewise.  To put with one hand a pedestal
under the feet of the two faithful ones, and with the other to exalt
the unfaithful by the same artificial means, he deemed to be alike
inconsistent with his convictions, his position, and his hopes.
Nevertheless, he loved his misnamed Angel, and in secret mourned
over this treatment of him as Abraham might have mourned over the
doomed Isaac while they went up the hill together.  His silent
self-generated regrets were far bitterer than the reproaches which
his wife rendered audible.

They blamed themselves for this unlucky marriage.  If Angel had never
been destined for a farmer he would never have been thrown with
agricultural girls.  They did not distinctly know what had separated
him and his wife, nor the date on which the separation had taken
place.  At first they had supposed it must be something of the nature
of a serious aversion.  But in his later letters he occasionally
alluded to the intention of coming home to fetch her; from which
expressions they hoped the division might not owe its origin to
anything so hopelessly permanent as that.  He had told them that she
was with her relatives, and in their doubts they had decided not to
intrude into a situation which they knew no way of bettering.

The eyes for which Tess's letter was intended were gazing at this
time on a limitless expanse of country from the back of a mule which
was bearing him from the interior of the South-American Continent
towards the coast.  His experiences of this strange land had been
sad.  The severe illness from which he had suffered shortly after
his arrival had never wholly left him, and he had by degrees almost
decided to relinquish his hope of farming here, though, as long as
the bare possibility existed of his remaining, he kept this change
of view a secret from his parents.

The crowds of agricultural labourers who had come out to the country
in his wake, dazzled by representations of easy independence, had
suffered, died, and wasted away.  He would see mothers from English
farms trudging along with their infants in their arms, when the child
would be stricken with fever and would die; the mother would pause
to dig a hole in the loose earth with her bare hands, would bury the
babe therein with the same natural grave-tools, shed one tear, and
again trudge on.

Angel's original intention had not been emigration to Brazil but a
northern or eastern farm in his own country.  He had come to this
place in a fit of desperation, the Brazil movement among the English
agriculturists having by chance coincided with his desire to escape
from his past existence.

During this time of absence he had mentally aged a dozen years.
What arrested him now as of value in life was less its beauty than
its pathos.  Having long discredited the old systems of mysticism,
he now began to discredit the old appraisements of morality.  He
thought they wanted readjusting.  Who was the moral man?  Still more
pertinently, who was the moral woman?  The beauty or ugliness of
a character lay not only in its achievements, but in its aims and
impulses; its true history lay, not among things done, but among
things willed.

How, then, about Tess?

Viewing her in these lights, a regret for his hasty judgement began
to oppress him.  Did he reject her eternally, or did he not?  He
could no longer say that he would always reject her, and not to say
that was in spirit to accept her now.

This growing fondness for her memory coincided in point of time
with her residence at Flintcomb-Ash, but it was before she had felt
herself at liberty to trouble him with a word about her circumstances
or her feelings.  He was greatly perplexed; and in his perplexity as
to her motives in withholding intelligence, he did not inquire.  Thus
her silence of docility was misinterpreted.  How much it really said
if he had understood!--that she adhered with literal exactness to
orders which he had given and forgotten; that despite her natural
fearlessness she asserted no rights, admitted his judgement to be in
every respect the true one, and bent her head dumbly thereto.

In the before-mentioned journey by mules through the interior of the
country, another man rode beside him. Angel's companion was also an
Englishman, bent on the same errand, though he came from another part
of the island.  They were both in a state of mental depression, and
they spoke of home affairs.  Confidence begat confidence.  With that
curious tendency evinced by men, more especially when in distant
lands, to entrust to strangers details of their lives which they
would on no account mention to friends, Angel admitted to this man
as they rode along the sorrowful facts of his marriage.

The stranger had sojourned in many more lands and among many more
peoples than Angel; to his cosmopolitan mind such deviations from the
social norm, so immense to domesticity, were no more than are the
irregularities of vale and mountain-chain to the whole terrestrial
curve.  He viewed the matter in quite a different light from Angel;
thought that what Tess had been was of no importance beside what she
would be, and plainly told Clare that he was wrong in coming away
from her.

The next day they were drenched in a thunder-storm. Angel's companion
was struck down with fever, and died by the week's end.  Clare waited
a few hours to bury him, and then went on his way.

The cursory remarks of the large-minded stranger, of whom he knew
absolutely nothing beyond a commonplace name, were sublimed by his
death, and influenced Clare more than all the reasoned ethics of the
philosophers.  His own parochialism made him ashamed by its contrast.
His inconsistencies rushed upon him in a flood.  He had persistently
elevated Hellenic Paganism at the expense of Christianity; yet in
that civilization an illegal surrender was not certain disesteem.
Surely then he might have regarded that abhorrence of the un-intact
state, which he had inherited with the creed of mysticism, as at
least open to correction when the result was due to treachery.  A
remorse struck into him.  The words of Izz Huett, never quite stilled
in his memory, came back to him.  He had asked Izz if she loved him,
and she had replied in the affirmative.  Did she love him more than
Tess did?  No, she had replied; Tess would lay down her life for him,
and she herself could do no more.

He thought of Tess as she had appeared on the day of the wedding.
How her eyes had lingered upon him; how she had hung upon his words
as if they were a god's!  And during the terrible evening over the
hearth, when her simple soul uncovered itself to his, how pitiful her
face had looked by the rays of the fire, in her inability to realize
that his love and protection could possibly be withdrawn.

Thus from being her critic he grew to be her advocate.  Cynical
things he had uttered to himself about her; but no man can be always
a cynic and live; and he withdrew them.  The mistake of expressing
them had arisen from his allowing himself to be influenced by general
principles to the disregard of the particular instance.

But the reasoning is somewhat musty; lovers and husbands have gone
over the ground before to-day.  Clare had been harsh towards her;
there is no doubt of it.  Men are too often harsh with women they
love or have loved; women with men.  And yet these harshnesses are
tenderness itself when compared with the universal harshness out
of which they grow; the harshness of the position towards the
temperament, of the means towards the aims, of to-day towards
yesterday, of hereafter towards to-day.

The historic interest of her family--that masterful line of
d'Urbervilles--whom he had despised as a spent force, touched his
sentiments now.  Why had he not known the difference between the
political value and the imaginative value of these things?  In
the latter aspect her d'Urberville descent was a fact of great
dimensions; worthless to economics, it was a most useful ingredient
to the dreamer, to the moralizer on declines and falls.  It was a
fact that would soon be forgotten--that bit of distinction in poor
Tess's blood and name, and oblivion would fall upon her hereditary
link with the marble monuments and leaded skeletons at Kingsbere.  So
does Time ruthlessly destroy his own romances.  In recalling her face
again and again, he thought now that he could see therein a flash of
the dignity which must have graced her grand-dames; and the vision
sent that _aura_ through his veins which he had formerly felt, and
which left behind it a sense of sickness.

Despite her not-inviolate past, what still abode in such a woman as
Tess outvalued the freshness of her fellows.  Was not the gleaning
of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?

So spoke love renascent, preparing the way for Tess's devoted
outpouring, which was then just being forwarded to him by his father;
though owing to his distance inland it was to be a long time in
reaching him.

Meanwhile the writer's expectation that Angel would come in response
to the entreaty was alternately great and small.  What lessened it
was that the facts of her life which had led to the parting had
not changed--could never change; and that, if her presence had not
attenuated them, her absence could not.  Nevertheless she addressed
her mind to the tender question of what she could do to please him
best if he should arrive.  Sighs were expended on the wish that she
had taken more notice of the tunes he played on his harp, that she
had inquired more curiously of him which were his favourite ballads
among those the country-girls sang.  She indirectly inquired of Amby
Seedling, who had followed Izz from Talbothays, and by chance Amby
remembered that, amongst the snatches of melody in which they had
indulged at the dairyman's, to induce the cows to let down their
milk, Clare had seemed to like "Cupid's Gardens", "I have parks, I
have hounds", and "The break o' the day"; and had seemed not to care
for "The Tailor's Breeches" and "Such a beauty I did grow", excellent
ditties as they were.

To perfect the ballads was now her whimsical desire. She practised
them privately at odd moments, especially "The break o' the day":


   Arise, arise, arise!
   And pick your love a posy,
   All o' the sweetest flowers
   That in the garden grow.
   The turtle doves and sma' birds
   In every bough a-building,
   So early in the May-time
   At the break o' the day!


It would have melted the heart of a stone to hear her singing these
ditties whenever she worked apart from the rest of the girls in this
cold dry time; the tears running down her cheeks all the while at the
thought that perhaps he would not, after all, come to hear her, and
the simple silly words of the songs resounding in painful mockery of
the aching heart of the singer.

Tess was so wrapt up in this fanciful dream that she seemed not to
know how the season was advancing; that the days had lengthened, that
Lady-Day was at hand, and would soon be followed by Old Lady-Day, the
end of her term here.

But before the quarter-day had quite come, something happened which
made Tess think of far different matters.  She was at her lodging as
usual one evening, sitting in the downstairs room with the rest of
the family, when somebody knocked at the door and inquired for Tess.
Through the doorway she saw against the declining light a figure
with the height of a woman and the breadth of a child, a tall, thin,
girlish creature whom she did not recognize in the twilight till the
girl said "Tess!"

"What--is it 'Liza-Lu?" asked Tess, in startled accents.  Her sister,
whom a little over a year ago she had left at home as a child, had
sprung up by a sudden shoot to a form of this presentation, of which
as yet Lu seemed herself scarce able to understand the meaning.
Her thin legs, visible below her once-long frock, now short by her
growing, and her uncomfortable hands and arms revealed her youth and
inexperience.

"Yes, I have been traipsing about all day, Tess," said Lu, with
unemotional gravity, "a-trying to find 'ee; and I'm very tired."

"What is the matter at home?"

"Mother is took very bad, and the doctor says she's dying, and as
father is not very well neither, and says 'tis wrong for a man of
such a high family as his to slave and drave at common labouring
work, we don't know what to do."

Tess stood in reverie a long time before she thought of asking
'Liza-Lu to come in and sit down.  When she had done so, and 'Liza-Lu
was having some tea, she came to a decision.  It was imperative that
she should go home.  Her agreement did not end till Old Lady-Day, the
sixth of April, but as the interval thereto was not a long one she
resolved to run the risk of starting at once.

To go that night would be a gain of twelve-hours; but her sister
was too tired to undertake such a distance till the morrow.  Tess
ran down to where Marian and Izz lived, informed them of what had
happened, and begged them to make the best of her case to the farmer.
Returning, she got Lu a supper, and after that, having tucked the
younger into her own bed, packed up as many of her belongings as
would go into a withy basket, and started, directing Lu to follow
her next morning.



L


She plunged into the chilly equinoctial darkness as the clock struck
ten, for her fifteen miles' walk under the steely stars.  In lonely
districts night is a protection rather than a danger to a noiseless
pedestrian, and knowing this, Tess pursued the nearest course along
by-lanes that she would almost have feared in the day-time; but
marauders were wanting now, and spectral fears were driven out of
her mind by thoughts of her mother.  Thus she proceeded mile after
mile, ascending and descending till she came to Bulbarrow, and about
midnight looked from that height into the abyss of chaotic shade
which was all that revealed itself of the vale on whose further side
she was born.  Having already traversed about five miles on the
upland, she had now some ten or eleven in the lowland before her
journey would be finished.  The winding road downwards became just
visible to her under the wan starlight as she followed it, and
soon she paced a soil so contrasting with that above it that the
difference was perceptible to the tread and to the smell.  It was the
heavy clay land of Blackmoor Vale, and a part of the Vale to which
turnpike-roads had never penetrated.  Superstitions linger longest on
these heavy soils.  Having once been forest, at this shadowy time it
seemed to assert something of its old character, the far and the near
being blended, and every tree and tall hedge making the most of its
presence.  The harts that had been hunted here, the witches that had
been pricked and ducked, the green-spangled fairies that "whickered"
at you as you passed;--the place teemed with beliefs in them still,
and they formed an impish multitude now.

At Nuttlebury she passed the village inn, whose sign creaked in
response to the greeting of her footsteps, which not a human soul
heard but herself.  Under the thatched roofs her mind's eye beheld
relaxed tendons and flaccid muscles, spread out in the darkness
beneath coverlets made of little purple patchwork squares, and
undergoing a bracing process at the hands of sleep for renewed labour
on the morrow, as soon as a hint of pink nebulosity appeared on
Hambledon Hill.

At three she turned the last corner of the maze of lanes she had
threaded, and entered Marlott, passing the field in which as a
club-girl she had first seen Angel Clare, when he had not danced
with her; the sense of disappointment remained with her yet.  In the
direction of her mother's house she saw a light.  It came from the
bedroom window, and a branch waved in front of it and made it wink at
her.  As soon as she could discern the outline of the house--newly
thatched with her money--it had all its old effect upon Tess's
imagination.  Part of her body and life it ever seemed to be; the
slope of its dormers, the finish of its gables, the broken courses of
brick which topped the chimney, all had something in common with her
personal character.  A stupefaction had come into these features, to
her regard; it meant the illness of her mother.

She opened the door so softly as to disturb nobody; the lower room
was vacant, but the neighbour who was sitting up with her mother came
to the top of the stairs, and whispered that Mrs Durbeyfield was no
better, though she was sleeping just then.  Tess prepared herself a
breakfast, and then took her place as nurse in her mother's chamber.

In the morning, when she contemplated the children, they had all a
curiously elongated look; although she had been away little more than
a year, their growth was astounding; and the necessity of applying
herself heart and soul to their needs took her out of her own cares.

Her father's ill-health was the same indefinite kind, and he sat in
his chair as usual.  But the day after her arrival he was unusually
bright.  He had a rational scheme for living, and Tess asked him what
it was.

"I'm thinking of sending round to all the old antiqueerians in this
part of England," he said, "asking them to subscribe to a fund to
maintain me.  I'm sure they'd see it as a romantical, artistical,
and proper thing to do.  They spend lots o' money in keeping up old
ruins, and finding the bones o' things, and such like; and living
remains must be more interesting to 'em still, if they only knowed
of me.  Would that somebody would go round and tell 'em what there
is living among 'em, and they thinking nothing of him!  If Pa'son
Tringham, who discovered me, had lived, he'd ha' done it, I'm sure."

Tess postponed her arguments on this high project till she had
grappled with pressing matters in hand, which seemed little improved
by her remittances.  When indoor necessities had been eased, she
turned her attention to external things.  It was now the season for
planting and sowing; many gardens and allotments of the villagers
had already received their spring tillage; but the garden and the
allotment of the Durbeyfields were behindhand.  She found, to her
dismay, that this was owing to their having eaten all the seed
potatoes,--that last lapse of the improvident.  At the earliest
moment she obtained what others she could procure, and in a few
days her father was well enough to see to the garden, under Tess's
persuasive efforts: while she herself undertook the allotment-plot
which they rented in a field a couple of hundred yards out of the
village.

She liked doing it after the confinement of the sick chamber, where
she was not now required by reason of her mother's improvement.
Violent motion relieved thought.  The plot of ground was in a high,
dry, open enclosure, where there were forty or fifty such pieces,
and where labour was at its briskest when the hired labour of the
day had ended.  Digging began usually at six o'clock and extended
indefinitely into the dusk or moonlight.  Just now heaps of dead
weeds and refuse were burning on many of the plots, the dry weather
favouring their combustion.

One fine day Tess and 'Liza-Lu worked on here with their neighbours
till the last rays of the sun smote flat upon the white pegs that
divided the plots.  As soon as twilight succeeded to sunset the flare
of the couch-grass and cabbage-stalk fires began to light up the
allotments fitfully, their outlines appearing and disappearing under
the dense smoke as wafted by the wind.  When a fire glowed, banks
of smoke, blown level along the ground, would themselves become
illuminated to an opaque lustre, screening the workpeople from one
another; and the meaning of the "pillar of a cloud", which was a wall
by day and a light by night, could be understood.

As evening thickened, some of the gardening men and women gave over
for the night, but the greater number remained to get their planting
done, Tess being among them, though she sent her sister home.  It was
on one of the couch-burning plots that she laboured with her fork,
its four shining prongs resounding against the stones and dry clods
in little clicks.  Sometimes she was completely involved in the smoke
of her fire; then it would leave her figure free, irradiated by the
brassy glare from the heap.  She was oddly dressed to-night, and
presented a somewhat staring aspect, her attire being a gown bleached
by many washings, with a short black jacket over it, the effect of
the whole being that of a wedding and funeral guest in one.  The
women further back wore white aprons, which, with their pale faces,
were all that could be seen of them in the gloom, except when at
moments they caught a flash from the flames.

Westward, the wiry boughs of the bare thorn hedge which formed the
boundary of the field rose against the pale opalescence of the lower
sky.  Above, Jupiter hung like a full-blown jonquil, so bright
as almost to throw a shade.  A few small nondescript stars were
appearing elsewhere.  In the distance a dog barked, and wheels
occasionally rattled along the dry road.

Still the prongs continued to click assiduously, for it was not late;
and though the air was fresh and keen there was a whisper of spring
in it that cheered the workers on.  Something in the place, the
hours, the crackling fires, the fantastic mysteries of light and
shade, made others as well as Tess enjoy being there. Nightfall,
which in the frost of winter comes as a fiend and in the warmth of
summer as a lover, came as a tranquillizer on this March day.

Nobody looked at his or her companions.  The eyes of all were on the
soil as its turned surface was revealed by the fires.  Hence as Tess
stirred the clods and sang her foolish little songs with scarce
now a hope that Clare would ever hear them, she did not for a long
time notice the person who worked nearest to her--a man in a long
smockfrock who, she found, was forking the same plot as herself, and
whom she supposed her father had sent there to advance the work.
She became more conscious of him when the direction of his digging
brought him closer.  Sometimes the smoke divided them; then it
swerved, and the two were visible to each other but divided from all
the rest.

Tess did not speak to her fellow-worker, nor did he speak to her.
Nor did she think of him further than to recollect that he had not
been there when it was broad daylight, and that she did not know
him as any one of the Marlott labourers, which was no wonder, her
absences having been so long and frequent of late years.  By-and-by
he dug so close to her that the fire-beams were reflected as
distinctly from the steel prongs of his fork as from her own.  On
going up to the fire to throw a pitch of dead weeds upon it, she
found that he did the same on the other side. The fire flared up,
and she beheld the face of d'Urberville.

The unexpectedness of his presence, the grotesqueness of his
appearance in a gathered smockfrock, such as was now worn only by the
most old-fashioned of the labourers, had a ghastly comicality that
chilled her as to its bearing.  D'Urberville emitted a low, long
laugh.

"If I were inclined to joke, I should say, How much this seems like
Paradise!" he remarked whimsically, looking at her with an inclined
head.

"What do you say?" she weakly asked.

"A jester might say this is just like Paradise.  You are Eve, and I
am the old Other One come to tempt you in the disguise of an inferior
animal.  I used to be quite up in that scene of Milton's when I was
theological.  Some of it goes--


   "'Empress, the way is ready, and not long,
   Beyond a row of myrtles...
   ... If thou accept
   My conduct, I can bring thee thither soon.'
   'Lead then,' said Eve.


"And so on.  My dear Tess, I am only putting this to you as a thing
that you might have supposed or said quite untruly, because you think
so badly of me."

"I never said you were Satan, or thought it.  I don't think of you in
that way at all.  My thoughts of you are quite cold, except when you
affront me.  What, did you come digging here entirely because of me?"

"Entirely.  To see you; nothing more.  The smockfrock, which I
saw hanging for sale as I came along, was an afterthought, that I
mightn't be noticed.  I come to protest against your working like
this."

"But I like doing it--it is for my father."

"Your engagement at the other place is ended?"

"Yes."

"Where are you going to next?  To join your dear husband?"

She could not bear the humiliating reminder.

"O--I don't know!" she said bitterly.  "I have no husband!"

"It is quite true--in the sense you mean.  But you have a friend, and
I have determined that you shall be comfortable in spite of yourself.
When you get down to your house you will see what I have sent there
for you."

"O, Alec, I wish you wouldn't give me anything at all!  I cannot take
it from you!  I don't like--it is not right!"

"It IS right!" he cried lightly.  "I am not going to see a woman whom
I feel so tenderly for as I do for you in trouble without trying to
help her."

"But I am very well off!  I am only in trouble about--about--not
about living at all!"

She turned, and desperately resumed her digging, tears dripping upon
the fork-handle and upon the clods.

"About the children--your brothers and sisters," he resumed. "I've
been thinking of them."

Tess's heart quivered--he was touching her in a weak place.  He had
divined her chief anxiety.  Since returning home her soul had gone
out to those children with an affection that was passionate.

"If your mother does not recover, somebody ought to do something for
them; since your father will not be able to do much, I suppose?"

"He can with my assistance.  He must!"

"And with mine."

"No, sir!"

"How damned foolish this is!" burst out d'Urberville.  "Why, he
thinks we are the same family; and will be quite satisfied!"

"He don't.  I've undeceived him."

"The more fool you!"

D'Urberville in anger retreated from her to the hedge, where he
pulled off the long smockfrock which had disguised him; and rolling
it up and pushing it into the couch-fire, went away.

Tess could not get on with her digging after this; she felt restless;
she wondered if he had gone back to her father's house; and taking
the fork in her hand proceeded homewards.

Some twenty yards from the house she was met by one of her sisters.

"O, Tessy--what do you think!  'Liza-Lu is a-crying, and there's a
lot of folk in the house, and mother is a good deal better, but they
think father is dead!"

The child realized the grandeur of the news; but not as yet its
sadness, and stood looking at Tess with round-eyed importance till,
beholding the effect produced upon her, she said--

"What, Tess, shan't we talk to father never no more?"

"But father was only a little bit ill!" exclaimed Tess distractedly.

'Liza-Lu came up.

"He dropped down just now, and the doctor who was there for mother
said there was no chance for him, because his heart was growed in."

Yes; the Durbeyfield couple had changed places; the dying one was
out of danger, and the indisposed one was dead.  The news meant even
more than it sounded.  Her father's life had a value apart from his
personal achievements, or perhaps it would not have had much. It
was the last of the three lives for whose duration the house and
premises were held under a lease; and it had long been coveted by the
tenant-farmer for his regular labourers, who were stinted in cottage
accommodation.  Moreover, "liviers" were disapproved of in villages
almost as much as little freeholders, because of their independence
of manner, and when a lease determined it was never renewed.

Thus the Durbeyfields, once d'Urbervilles, saw descending upon them
the destiny which, no doubt, when they were among the Olympians of
the county, they had caused to descend many a time, and severely
enough, upon the heads of such landless ones as they themselves were
now.  So do flux and reflux--the rhythm of change--alternate and
persist in everything under the sky.



LI


At length it was the eve of Old Lady-Day, and the agricultural world
was in a fever of mobility such as only occurs at that particular
date of the year.  It is a day of fulfilment; agreements for outdoor
service during the ensuing year, entered into at Candlemas, are to
be now carried out.  The labourers--or "work-folk", as they used to
call themselves immemorially till the other word was introduced from
without--who wish to remain no longer in old places are removing to
the new farms.

These annual migrations from farm to farm were on the increase here.
When Tess's mother was a child the majority of the field-folk about
Marlott had remained all their lives on one farm, which had been the
home also of their fathers and grandfathers; but latterly the desire
for yearly removal had risen to a high pitch.  With the younger
families it was a pleasant excitement which might possibly be an
advantage.  The Egypt of one family was the Land of Promise to the
family who saw it from a distance, till by residence there it became
it turn their Egypt also; and so they changed and changed.

However, all the mutations so increasingly discernible in village
life did not originate entirely in the agricultural unrest.  A
depopulation was also going on.  The village had formerly contained,
side by side with the argicultural labourers, an interesting and
better-informed class, ranking distinctly above the former--the class
to which Tess's father and mother had belonged--and including the
carpenter, the smith, the shoemaker, the huckster, together with
nondescript workers other than farm-labourers; a set of people
who owed a certain stability of aim and conduct to the fact of
their being lifeholders like Tess's father, or copyholders, or
occasionally, small freeholders.  But as the long holdings fell
in, they were seldom again let to similar tenants, and were mostly
pulled down, if not absolutely required by the farmer for his hands.
Cottagers who were not directly employed on the land were looked
upon with disfavour, and the banishment of some starved the trade of
others, who were thus obliged to follow.  These families, who had
formed the backbone of the village life in the past, who were the
depositaries of the village traditions, had to seek refuge in the
large centres; the process, humorously designated by statisticians as
"the tendency of the rural population towards the large towns", being
really the tendency of water to flow uphill when forced by machinery.

The cottage accommodation at Marlott having been in this manner
considerably curtailed by demolitions, every house which remained
standing was required by the agriculturist for his work-people.  Ever
since the occurrence of the event which had cast such a shadow over
Tess's life, the Durbeyfield family (whose descent was not credited)
had been tacitly looked on as one which would have to go when their
lease ended, if only in the interests of morality.  It was, indeed,
quite true that the household had not been shining examples either of
temperance, soberness, or chastity.  The father, and even the mother,
had got drunk at times, the younger children seldom had gone to
church, and the eldest daughter had made queer unions.  By some means
the village had to be kept pure.  So on this, the first Lady-Day
on which the Durbeyfields were expellable, the house, being roomy,
was required for a carter with a large family; and Widow Joan,
her daughters Tess and 'Liza-Lu, the boy Abraham, and the younger
children had to go elsewhere.

On the evening preceding their removal it was getting dark betimes by
reason of a drizzling rain which blurred the sky.  As it was the last
night they would spend in the village which had been their home and
birthplace, Mrs Durbeyfield, 'Liza-Lu, and Abraham had gone out to
bid some friends goodbye, and Tess was keeping house till they should
return.

She was kneeling in the window-bench, her face close to the casement,
where an outer pane of rain-water was sliding down the inner pane of
glass.  Her eyes rested on the web of a spider, probably starved long
ago, which had been mistakenly placed in a corner where no flies
ever came, and shivered in the slight draught through the casement.
Tess was reflecting on the position of the household, in which she
perceived her own evil influence.  Had she not come home, her mother
and the children might probably have been allowed to stay on as
weekly tenants.  But she had been observed almost immediately on her
return by some people of scrupulous character and great influence:
they had seen her idling in the churchyard, restoring as well as she
could with a little trowel a baby's obliterated grave.  By this means
they had found that she was living here again; her mother was scolded
for "harbouring" her; sharp retorts had ensued from Joan, who had
independently offered to leave at once; she had been taken at her
word; and here was the result.

"I ought never to have come home," said Tess to herself, bitterly.

She was so intent upon these thoughts that she hardly at first took
note of a man in a white mackintosh whom she saw riding down the
street.  Possibly it was owing to her face being near to the pane
that he saw her so quickly, and directed his horse so close to the
cottage-front that his hoofs were almost upon the narrow border for
plants growing under the wall.  It was not till he touched the window
with his riding-crop that she observed him.  The rain had nearly
ceased, and she opened the casement in obedience to his gesture.

"Didn't you see me?" asked d'Urberville.

"I was not attending," she said.  "I heard you, I believe, though I
fancied it was a carriage and horses. I was in a sort of dream."

"Ah! you heard the d'Urberville Coach, perhaps.  You know the legend,
I suppose?"

"No.  My--somebody was going to tell it me once, but didn't."

"If you are a genuine d'Urberville I ought not to tell you either,
I suppose.  As for me, I'm a sham one, so it doesn't matter.  It is
rather dismal.  It is that this sound of a non-existent coach can
only be heard by one of d'Urberville blood, and it is held to be
of ill-omen to the one who hears it.  It has to do with a murder,
committed by one of the family, centuries ago."

"Now you have begun it, finish it."

"Very well.  One of the family is said to have abducted some
beautiful woman, who tried to escape from the coach in which he was
carrying her off, and in the struggle he killed her--or she killed
him--I forget which.  Such is one version of the tale...  I see that
your tubs and buckets are packed.  Going away, aren't you?"

"Yes, to-morrow--Old Lady Day."

"I heard you were, but could hardly believe it; it seems so sudden.
Why is it?"

"Father's was the last life on the property, and when that dropped we
had no further right to stay.  Though we might, perhaps, have stayed
as weekly tenants--if it had not been for me."

"What about you?"

"I am not a--proper woman."

D'Urberville's face flushed.

"What a blasted shame!  Miserable snobs!  May their dirty souls
be burnt to cinders!" he exclaimed in tones of ironic resentment.
"That's why you are going, is it?  Turned out?"

"We are not turned out exactly; but as they said we should have to go
soon, it was best to go now everybody was moving, because there are
better chances."

"Where are you going to?"

"Kingsbere.  We have taken rooms there.  Mother is so foolish about
father's people that she will go there."

"But your mother's family are not fit for lodgings, and in a little
hole of a town like that.  Now why not come to my garden-house at
Trantridge?  There are hardly any poultry now, since my mother's
death; but there's the house, as you know it, and the garden.  It
can be whitewashed in a day, and your mother can live there quite
comfortably; and I will put the children to a good school.  Really
I ought to do something for you!"

"But we have already taken the rooms at Kingsbere!" she declared.
"And we can wait there--"

"Wait--what for?  For that nice husband, no doubt.  Now look here,
Tess, I know what men are, and, bearing in mind the _grounds_ of
your separation, I am quite positive he will never make it up with
you.  Now, though I have been your enemy, I am your friend, even
if you won't believe it.  Come to this cottage of mine. We'll get
up a regular colony of fowls, and your mother can attend to them
excellently; and the children can go to school."

Tess breathed more and more quickly, and at length she said--

"How do I know that you would do all this?  Your views may
change--and then--we should be--my mother would be--homeless
again."

"O no--no.  I would guarantee you against such as that in writing, if
necessary.  Think it over."

Tess shook her head.  But d'Urberville persisted; she had seldom seen
him so determined; he would not take a negative.

"Please just tell your mother," he said, in emphatic tones.  "It is
her business to judge--not yours.  I shall get the house swept out
and whitened to-morrow morning, and fires lit; and it will be dry by
the evening, so that you can come straight there.  Now mind, I shall
expect you."

Tess again shook her head, her throat swelling with complicated
emotion.  She could not look up at d'Urberville.

"I owe you something for the past, you know," he resumed.  "And you
cured me, too, of that craze; so I am glad--"

"I would rather you had kept the craze, so that you had kept the
practice which went with it!"

"I am glad of this opportunity of repaying you a little.  To-morrow I
shall expect to hear your mother's goods unloading...  Give me your
hand on it now--dear, beautiful Tess!"

With the last sentence he had dropped his voice to a murmur, and put
his hand in at the half-open casement.  With stormy eyes she pulled
the stay-bar quickly, and, in doing so, caught his arm between the
casement and the stone mullion.

"Damnation--you are very cruel!" he said, snatching out his arm.
"No, no!--I know you didn't do it on purpose.  Well I shall expect
you, or your mother and children at least."

"I shall not come--I have plenty of money!" she cried.

"Where?"

"At my father-in-law's, if I ask for it."

"IF you ask for it.  But you won't, Tess; I know you; you'll never
ask for it--you'll starve first!"

With these words he rode off.  Just at the corner of the street he
met the man with the paint-pot, who asked him if he had deserted the
brethren.

"You go to the devil!" said d'Urberville.

Tess remained where she was a long while, till a sudden rebellious
sense of injustice caused the region of her eyes to swell with the
rush of hot tears thither.  Her husband, Angel Clare himself, had,
like others, dealt out hard measure to her; surely he had!  She had
never before admitted such a thought; but he had surely!  Never
in her life--she could swear it from the bottom of her soul--had
she ever intended to do wrong; yet these hard judgements had
come.  Whatever her sins, they were not sins of intention, but of
inadvertence, and why should she have been punished so persistently?

She passionately seized the first piece of paper that came to hand,
and scribbled the following lines:


   O why have you treated me so monstrously, Angel! I do
   not deserve it.  I have thought it all over carefully,
   and I can never, never forgive you!  You know that I
   did not intend to wrong you--why have you so wronged
   me?  You are cruel, cruel indeed!  I will try to forget
   you.  It is all injustice I have received at your
   hands!
                                  T.

She watched till the postman passed by, ran out to him with
her epistle, and then again took her listless place inside the
window-panes.

It was just as well to write like that as to write tenderly.  How
could he give way to entreaty?  The facts had not changed: there was
no new event to alter his opinion.

It grew darker, the fire-light shining over the room.  The two
biggest of the younger children had gone out with their mother; the
four smallest, their ages ranging from three-and-a-half years to
eleven, all in black frocks, were gathered round the hearth babbling
their own little subjects.  Tess at length joined them, without
lighting a candle.

"This is the last night that we shall sleep here, dears, in the house
where we were born," she said quickly.  "We ought to think of it,
oughtn't we?"

They all became silent; with the impressibility of their age they
were ready to burst into tears at the picture of finality she had
conjured up, though all the day hitherto they had been rejoicing in
the idea of a new place.  Tess changed the subject.

"Sing to me, dears," she said.

"What shall we sing?"

"Anything you know; I don't mind."

There was a momentary pause; it was broken, first, in one little
tentative note; then a second voice strengthened it, and a third
and a fourth chimed in unison, with words they had learnt at the
Sunday-school--


     Here we suffer grief and pain,
     Here we meet to part again;
       In Heaven we part no more.


The four sang on with the phlegmatic passivity of persons who had
long ago settled the question, and there being no mistake about it,
felt that further thought was not required.  With features strained
hard to enunciate the syllables they continued to regard the centre
of the flickering fire, the notes of the youngest straying over into
the pauses of the rest.

Tess turned from them, and went to the window again.  Darkness had
now fallen without, but she put her face to the pane as though to
peer into the gloom.  It was really to hide her tears.  If she could
only believe what the children were singing; if she were only sure,
how different all would now be; how confidently she would leave them
to Providence and their future kingdom!  But, in default of that, it
behoved her to do something; to be their Providence; for to Tess,
as to not a few millions of others, there was ghastly satire in the
poet's lines--


                      Not in utter nakedness
     But trailing clouds of glory do we come.


To her and her like, birth itself was an ordeal of degrading personal
compulsion, whose gratuitousness nothing in the result seemed to
justify, and at best could only palliate.

In the shades of the wet road she soon discerned her mother with tall
'Liza-Lu and Abraham.  Mrs Durbeyfield's pattens clicked up to the
door, and Tess opened it.

"I see the tracks of a horse outside the window," said Joan.  "Hev
somebody called?"

"No," said Tess.

The children by the fire looked gravely at her, and one murmured--

"Why, Tess, the gentleman a-horseback!"

"He didn't call," said Tess.  "He spoke to me in passing."

"Who was the gentleman?" asked the mother.  "Your husband?"

"No.  He'll never, never come," answered Tess in stony hopelessness.

"Then who was it?"

"Oh, you needn't ask.  You've seen him before, and so have I."

"Ah!  What did he say?" said Joan curiously.

"I will tell you when we are settled in our lodging at Kingsbere
to-morrow--every word."

It was not her husband, she had said.  Yet a consciousness that in a
physical sense this man alone was her husband seemed to weigh on her
more and more.



LII


During the small hours of the next morning, while it was still dark,
dwellers near the highways were conscious of a disturbance of their
night's rest by rumbling noises, intermittently continuing till
daylight--noises as certain to recur in this particular first week of
the month as the voice of the cuckoo in the third week of the same.
They were the preliminaries of the general removal, the passing of
the empty waggons and teams to fetch the goods of the migrating
families; for it was always by the vehicle of the farmer who required
his services that the hired man was conveyed to his destination.
That this might be accomplished within the day was the explanation
of the reverberation occurring so soon after midnight, the aim of
the carters being to reach the door of the outgoing households by
six o'clock, when the loading of their movables at once began.

But to Tess and her mother's household no such anxious farmer sent
his team.  They were only women; they were not regular labourers;
they were not particularly required anywhere; hence they had to hire
a waggon at their own expense, and got nothing sent gratuitously.

It was a relief to Tess, when she looked out of the window that
morning, to find that though the weather was windy and louring, it
did not rain, and that the waggon had come.  A wet Lady-Day was a
spectre which removing families never forgot; damp furniture, damp
bedding, damp clothing accompanied it, and left a train of ills.

Her mother, 'Liza-Lu, and Abraham were also awake, but the younger
children were let sleep on.  The four breakfasted by the thin light,
and the "house-ridding" was taken in hand.

It proceeded with some cheerfulness, a friendly neighbour or two
assisting.  When the large articles of furniture had been packed in
position, a circular nest was made of the beds and bedding, in which
Joan Durbeyfield and the young children were to sit through the
journey.  After loading there was a long delay before the horses were
brought, these having been unharnessed during the ridding; but at
length, about two o'clock, the whole was under way, the cooking-pot
swinging from the axle of the waggon, Mrs Durbeyfield and family
at the top, the matron having in her lap, to prevent injury to its
works, the head of the clock, which, at any exceptional lurch of the
waggon, struck one, or one-and-a-half, in hurt tones.  Tess and the
next eldest girl walked alongside till they were out of the village.

They had called on a few neighbours that morning and the previous
evening, and some came to see them off, all wishing them well,
though, in their secret hearts, hardly expecting welfare possible
to such a family, harmless as the Durbeyfields were to all except
themselves.  Soon the equipage began to ascend to higher ground,
and the wind grew keener with the change of level and soil.

The day being the sixth of April, the Durbeyfield waggon met many
other waggons with families on the summit of the load, which was
built on a wellnigh unvarying principle, as peculiar, probably, to
the rural labourer as the hexagon to the bee.  The groundwork of the
arrangement was the family dresser, which, with its shining handles,
and finger-marks, and domestic evidences thick upon it, stood
importantly in front, over the tails of the shaft-horses, in its
erect and natural position, like some Ark of the Covenant that they
were bound to carry reverently.

Some of the households were lively, some mournful; some were stopping
at the doors of wayside inns; where, in due time, the Durbeyfield
menagerie also drew up to bait horses and refresh the travellers.

During the halt Tess's eyes fell upon a three-pint blue mug, which
was ascending and descending through the air to and from the feminine
section of a household, sitting on the summit of a load that had also
drawn up at a little distance from the same inn.  She followed one of
the mug's journeys upward, and perceived it to be clasped by hands
whose owner she well knew.  Tess went towards the waggon.

"Marian and Izz!" she cried to the girls, for it was they, sitting
with the moving family at whose house they had lodged.  "Are you
house-ridding to-day, like everybody else?"

They were, they said.  It had been too rough a life for them at
Flintcomb-Ash, and they had come away, almost without notice,
leaving Groby to prosecute them if he chose.  They told Tess their
destination, and Tess told them hers.

Marian leant over the load, and lowered her voice.  "Do you know that
the gentleman who follows 'ee--you'll guess who I mean--came to ask
for 'ee at Flintcomb after you had gone?  We didn't tell'n where you
was, knowing you wouldn't wish to see him."

"Ah--but I did see him!" Tess murmured.  "He found me."

"And do he know where you be going?"

"I think so."

"Husband come back?"

"No."

She bade her acquaintance goodbye--for the respective carters had now
come out from the inn--and the two waggons resumed their journey in
opposite directions; the vehicle whereon sat Marian, Izz, and the
ploughman's family with whom they had thrown in their lot, being
brightly painted, and drawn by three powerful horses with shining
brass ornaments on their harness; while the waggon on which Mrs
Durbeyfield and her family rode was a creaking erection that would
scarcely bear the weight of the superincumbent load; one which had
known no paint since it was made, and drawn by two horses only.
The contrast well marked the difference between being fetched by a
thriving farmer and conveying oneself whither no hirer waited one's
coming.

The distance was great--too great for a day's journey--and it was
with the utmost difficulty that the horses performed it.  Though they
had started so early, it was quite late in the afternoon when they
turned the flank of an eminence which formed part of the upland
called Greenhill.  While the horses stood to stale and breathe
themselves Tess looked around.  Under the hill, and just ahead of
them, was the half-dead townlet of their pilgrimage, Kingsbere,
where lay those ancestors of whom her father had spoken and sung to
painfulness: Kingsbere, the spot of all spots in the world which
could be considered the d'Urbervilles' home, since they had resided
there for full five hundred years.

A man could be seen advancing from the outskirts towards them, and
when he beheld the nature of their waggon-load he quickened his
steps.

"You be the woman they call Mrs Durbeyfield, I reckon?" he said to
Tess's mother, who had descended to walk the remainder of the way.

She nodded.  "Though widow of the late Sir John d'Urberville, poor
nobleman, if I cared for my rights; and returning to the domain of
his forefathers."

"Oh?  Well, I know nothing about that; but if you be Mrs Durbeyfield,
I am sent to tell 'ee that the rooms you wanted be let.  We didn't
know that you was coming till we got your letter this morning--when
'twas too late.  But no doubt you can get other lodgings somewhere."

The man had noticed the face of Tess, which had become ash-pale at
his intelligence.  Her mother looked hopelessly at fault.  "What
shall we do now, Tess?" she said bitterly.  "Here's a welcome to
your ancestors' lands!  However, let's try further."

They moved on into the town, and tried with all their might, Tess
remaining with the waggon to take care of the children whilst her
mother and 'Liza-Lu made inquiries.  At the last return of Joan to
the vehicle, an hour later, when her search for accommodation had
still been fruitless, the driver of the waggon said the goods must be
unloaded, as the horses were half-dead, and he was bound to return
part of the way at least that night.

"Very well--unload it here," said Joan recklessly.  "I'll get shelter
somewhere."

The waggon had drawn up under the churchyard wall, in a spot screened
from view, and the driver, nothing loth, soon hauled down the poor
heap of household goods.  This done, she paid him, reducing herself
to almost her last shilling thereby, and he moved off and left them,
only too glad to get out of further dealings with such a family.  It
was a dry night, and he guessed that they would come to no harm.

Tess gazed desperately at the pile of furniture.  The cold sunlight
of this spring evening peered invidiously upon the crocks and
kettles, upon the bunches of dried herbs shivering in the breeze,
upon the brass handles of the dresser, upon the wicker-cradle they
had all been rocked in, and upon the well-rubbed clock-case, all of
which gave out the reproachful gleam of indoor articles abandoned to
the vicissitudes of a roofless exposure for which they were never
made.  Round about were deparked hills and slopes--now cut up
into little paddocks--and the green foundations that showed where
the d'Urberville mansion once had stood; also an outlying stretch
of Egdon Heath that had always belonged to the estate.  Hard by,
the aisle of the church called the d'Urberville Aisle looked on
imperturbably.

"Isn't your family vault your own freehold?" said Tess's mother, as
she returned from a reconnoitre of the church and graveyard.  "Why,
of course 'tis, and that's where we will camp, girls, till the place
of your ancestors finds us a roof!  Now, Tess and 'Liza and Abraham,
you help me.  We'll make a nest for these children, and then we'll
have another look round."

Tess listlessly lent a hand, and in a quarter of an hour the old
four-post bedstead was dissociated from the heap of goods, and
erected under the south wall of the church, the part of the building
known as the d'Urberville Aisle, beneath which the huge vaults lay.
Over the tester of the bedstead was a beautiful traceried window, of
many lights, its date being the fifteenth century.  It was called
the d'Urberville Window, and in the upper part could be discerned
heraldic emblems like those on Durbeyfield's old seal and spoon.

Joan drew the curtains round the bed so as to make an excellent tent
of it, and put the smaller children inside.  "If it comes to the
worst we can sleep there too, for one night," she said.  "But let us
try further on, and get something for the dears to eat!  O, Tess,
what's the use of your playing at marrying gentlemen, if it leaves
us like this!"

Accompanied by 'Liza-Lu and the boy, she again ascended the little
lane which secluded the church from the townlet.  As soon as they got
into the street they beheld a man on horseback gazing up and down.
"Ah--I'm looking for you!" he said, riding up to them.  "This is
indeed a family gathering on the historic spot!"

It was Alec d'Urberville.  "Where is Tess?" he asked.

Personally Joan had no liking for Alec.  She cursorily signified the
direction of the church, and went on, d'Urberville saying that he
would see them again, in case they should be still unsuccessful in
their search for shelter, of which he had just heard.  When they had
gone, d'Urberville rode to the inn, and shortly after came out on
foot.

In the interim Tess, left with the children inside the bedstead,
remained talking with them awhile, till, seeing that no more could
be done to make them comfortable just then, she walked about the
churchyard, now beginning to be embrowned by the shades of nightfall.
The door of the church was unfastened, and she entered it for the
first time in her life.

Within the window under which the bedstead stood were the tombs of
the family, covering in their dates several centuries.  They were
canopied, altar-shaped, and plain; their carvings being defaced
and broken; their brasses torn from the matrices, the rivet-holes
remaining like martin-holes in a sandcliff.  Of all the reminders
that she had ever received that her people were socially extinct,
there was none so forcible as this spoliation.

She drew near to a dark stone on which was inscribed:


   OSTIUM SEPULCHRI ANTIQUAE FAMILIAE D'URBERVILLE


Tess did not read Church-Latin like a Cardinal, but she knew that
this was the door of her ancestral sepulchre, and that the tall
knights of whom her father had chanted in his cups lay inside.

She musingly turned to withdraw, passing near an altar-tomb, the
oldest of them all, on which was a recumbent figure.  In the dusk she
had not noticed it before, and would hardly have noticed it now but
for an odd fancy that the effigy moved.  As soon as she drew close
to it she discovered all in a moment that the figure was a living
person; and the shock to her sense of not having been alone was so
violent that she was quite overcome, and sank down nigh to fainting,
not, however, till she had recognized Alec d'Urberville in the form.

He leapt off the slab and supported her.

"I saw you come in," he said smiling, "and got up there not to
interrupt your meditations.  A family gathering, is it not, with
these old fellows under us here?  Listen."

He stamped with his heel heavily on the floor; whereupon there arose
a hollow echo from below.

"That shook them a bit, I'll warrant!" he continued.  "And you
thought I was the mere stone reproduction of one of them.  But no.
The old order changeth.  The little finger of the sham d'Urberville
can do more for you than the whole dynasty of the real underneath...
Now command me.  What shall I do?"

"Go away!" she murmured.

"I will--I'll look for your mother," said he blandly.  But in passing
her he whispered: "Mind this; you'll be civil yet!"

When he was gone she bent down upon the entrance to the vaults, and
said--

"Why am I on the wrong side of this door!"


In the meantime Marian and Izz Huett had journeyed onward with the
chattels of the ploughman in the direction of their land of Canaan--
the Egypt of some other family who had left it only that morning.
But the girls did not for a long time think of where they were going.
Their talk was of Angel Clare and Tess, and Tess's persistent lover,
whose connection with her previous history they had partly heard and
partly guessed ere this.

"'Tisn't as though she had never known him afore," said Marian.  "His
having won her once makes all the difference in the world.  'Twould
be a thousand pities if he were to tole her away again.  Mr Clare can
never be anything to us, Izz; and why should we grudge him to her,
and not try to mend this quarrel?  If he could on'y know what straits
she's put to, and what's hovering round, he might come to take care
of his own."

"Could we let him know?"

They thought of this all the way to their destination; but the bustle
of re-establishment in their new place took up all their attention
then.  But when they were settled, a month later, they heard of
Clare's approaching return, though they had learnt nothing more of
Tess.  Upon that, agitated anew by their attachment to him, yet
honourably disposed to her, Marian uncorked the penny ink-bottle they
shared, and a few lines were concocted between the two girls.


   HONOUR'D SIR--

   Look to your Wife if you do love her as much as she do
   love you.  For she is sore put to by an Enemy in the shape
   of a Friend.  Sir, there is one near her who ought to be
   Away.  A woman should not be try'd beyond her Strength,
   and continual dropping will wear away a Stone--ay,
   more--a Diamond.

   FROM TWO WELL-WISHERS


This was addressed to Angel Clare at the only place they had ever
heard him to be connected with, Emminster Vicarage; after which they
continued in a mood of emotional exaltation at their own generosity,
which made them sing in hysterical snatches and weep at the same
time.


END OF PHASE THE SIXTH





Phase the Seventh: Fulfilment



LIII


It was evening at Emminster Vicarage.  The two customary candles were
burning under their green shades in the Vicar's study, but he had not
been sitting there.  Occasionally he came in, stirred the small fire
which sufficed for the increasing mildness of the spring, and went
out again; sometimes pausing at the front door, going on to the
drawing-room, then returning again to the front door.

It faced westward, and though gloom prevailed inside, there was still
light enough without to see with distinctness.  Mrs Clare, who had
been sitting in the drawing-room, followed him hither.

"Plenty of time yet," said the Vicar.  "He doesn't reach Chalk-Newton
till six, even if the train should be punctual, and ten miles of
country-road, five of them in Crimmercrock Lane, are not jogged over
in a hurry by our old horse."

"But he has done it in an hour with us, my dear."

"Years ago."

Thus they passed the minutes, each well knowing that this was only
waste of breath, the one essential being simply to wait.

At length there was a slight noise in the lane, and the old
pony-chaise appeared indeed outside the railings.  They saw alight
therefrom a form which they affected to recognize, but would actually
have passed by in the street without identifying had he not got out
of their carriage at the particular moment when a particular person
was due.

Mrs Clare rushed through the dark passage to the door, and her
husband came more slowly after her.

The new arrival, who was just about to enter, saw their anxious faces
in the doorway and the gleam of the west in their spectacles because
they confronted the last rays of day; but they could only see his
shape against the light.

"O, my boy, my boy--home again at last!" cried Mrs Clare, who cared
no more at that moment for the stains of heterodoxy which had caused
all this separation than for the dust upon his clothes.  What woman,
indeed, among the most faithful adherents of the truth, believes the
promises and threats of the Word in the sense in which she believes
in her own children, or would not throw her theology to the wind if
weighed against their happiness?  As soon as they reached the room
where the candles were lighted she looked at his face.

"O, it is not Angel--not my son--the Angel who went away!" she cried
in all the irony of sorrow, as she turned herself aside.

His father, too, was shocked to see him, so reduced was that figure
from its former contours by worry and the bad season that Clare had
experienced, in the climate to which he had so rashly hurried in his
first aversion to the mockery of events at home.  You could see the
skeleton behind the man, and almost the ghost behind the skeleton.
He matched Crivelli's dead _Christus_.  His sunken eye-pits were of
morbid hue, and the light in his eyes had waned.  The angular hollows
and lines of his aged ancestors had succeeded to their reign in his
face twenty years before their time.

"I was ill over there, you know," he said.  "I am all right now."

As if, however, to falsify this assertion, his legs seemed to give
way, and he suddenly sat down to save himself from falling.  It was
only a slight attack of faintness, resulting from the tedious day's
journey, and the excitement of arrival.

"Has any letter come for me lately?" he asked.  "I received the
last you sent on by the merest chance, and after considerable delay
through being inland; or I might have come sooner."

"It was from your wife, we supposed?"

"It was."

Only one other had recently come.  They had not sent it on to him,
knowing he would start for home so soon.

He hastily opened the letter produced, and was much disturbed to read
in Tess's handwriting the sentiments expressed in her last hurried
scrawl to him.


   O why have you treated me so monstrously, Angel! I do
   not deserve it.  I have thought it all over carefully,
   and I can never, never forgive you!  You know that I
   did not intend to wrong you--why have you so wronged
   me?  You are cruel, cruel indeed!  I will try to forget
   you.  It is all injustice I have received at your
   hands!
                                  T.

"It is quite true!" said Angel, throwing down the letter.  "Perhaps
she will never be reconciled to me!"

"Don't, Angel, be so anxious about a mere child of the soil!" said
his mother.

"Child of the soil!  Well, we all are children of the soil.  I wish
she were so in the sense you mean; but let me now explain to you what
I have never explained before, that her father is a descendant in the
male line of one of the oldest Norman houses, like a good many others
who lead obscure agricultural lives in our villages, and are dubbed
'sons of the soil.'"

He soon retired to bed; and the next morning, feeling exceedingly
unwell, he remained in his room pondering.  The circumstances amid
which he had left Tess were such that though, while on the south of
the Equator and just in receipt of her loving epistle, it had seemed
the easiest thing in the world to rush back into her arms the moment
he chose to forgive her, now that he had arrived it was not so easy
as it had seemed.  She was passionate, and her present letter,
showing that her estimate of him had changed under his delay--too
justly changed, he sadly owned,--made him ask himself if it would
be wise to confront her unannounced in the presence of her parents.
Supposing that her love had indeed turned to dislike during the last
weeks of separation, a sudden meeting might lead to bitter words.

Clare therefore thought it would be best to prepare Tess and her
family by sending a line to Marlott announcing his return, and his
hope that she was still living with them there, as he had arranged
for her to do when he left England.  He despatched the inquiry that
very day, and before the week was out there came a short reply from
Mrs Durbeyfield which did not remove his embarrassment, for it bore
no address, though to his surprise it was not written from Marlott.


   SIR,

   J write these few lines to say that my Daughter is away
   from me at present, and J am not sure when she will
   return, but J will let you know as Soon as she do.
   J do not feel at liberty to tell you Where she is
   temperly biding.  J should say that me and my Family
   have left Marlott for some Time.--

   Yours,

   J. DURBEYFIELD


It was such a relief to Clare to learn that Tess was at least
apparently well that her mother's stiff reticence as to her
whereabouts did not long distress him.  They were all angry with him,
evidently.  He would wait till Mrs Durbeyfield could inform him of
Tess's return, which her letter implied to be soon.  He deserved no
more.  His had been a love "which alters when it alteration finds".
He had undergone some strange experiences in his absence; he had seen
the virtual Faustina in the literal Cornelia, a spiritual Lucretia in
a corporeal Phryne; he had thought of the woman taken and set in the
midst as one deserving to be stoned, and of the wife of Uriah being
made a queen; and he had asked himself why he had not judged Tess
constructively rather than biographically, by the will rather than
by the deed?

A day or two passed while he waited at his father's house for the
promised second note from Joan Durbeyfield, and indirectly to recover
a little more strength.  The strength showed signs of coming back,
but there was no sign of Joan's letter.  Then he hunted up the
old letter sent on to him in Brazil, which Tess had written from
Flintcomb-Ash, and re-read it.  The sentences touched him now as
much as when he had first perused them.


   ... I must cry to you in my trouble--I have no one
   else! ...  I think I must die if you do not come
   soon, or tell me to come to you... please, please,
   not to be just--only a little kind to me ...  If
   you would come, I could die in your arms!  I would
   be well content to do that if so be you had forgiven
   me! ... if you will send me one little line, and say,
   "I am coming soon," I will bide on, Angel--O, so
   cheerfully! ... think how it do hurt my heart not to
   see you ever--ever!  Ah, if I could only make your
   dear heart ache one little minute of each day as mine
   does every day and all day long, it might lead you to
   show pity to your poor lonely one. ...  I would be
   content, ay, glad, to live with you as your servant,
   if I may not as your wife; so that I could only be
   near you, and get glimpses of you, and think of you
   as mine. ...  I long for only one thing in heaven
   or earth or under the earth, to meet you, my own
   dear!  Come to me--come to me, and save me from what
   threatens me!


Clare determined that he would no longer believe in her more recent
and severer regard of him, but would go and find her immediately.  He
asked his father if she had applied for any money during his absence.
His father returned a negative, and then for the first time it
occurred to Angel that her pride had stood in her way, and that she
had suffered privation.  From his remarks his parents now gathered
the real reason of the separation; and their Christianity was such
that, reprobates being their especial care, the tenderness towards
Tess which her blood, her simplicity, even her poverty, had not
engendered, was instantly excited by her sin.

Whilst he was hastily packing together a few articles for his journey
he glanced over a poor plain missive also lately come to hand--the
one from Marian and Izz Huett, beginning--

"Honour'd Sir, Look to your Wife if you do love her as much as she do
love you," and signed, "From Two Well-Wishers."



LIV


In a quarter of an hour Clare was leaving the house, whence his
mother watched his thin figure as it disappeared into the street.
He had declined to borrow his father's old mare, well knowing of
its necessity to the household.  He went to the inn, where he hired
a trap, and could hardly wait during the harnessing.  In a very few
minutes after, he was driving up the hill out of the town which,
three or four months earlier in the year, Tess had descended with
such hopes and ascended with such shattered purposes.

Benvill Lane soon stretched before him, its hedges and trees purple
with buds; but he was looking at other things, and only recalled
himself to the scene sufficiently to enable him to keep the way.  In
something less than an hour-and-a-half he had skirted the south of
the King's Hintock estates and ascended to the untoward solitude of
Cross-in-Hand, the unholy stone whereon Tess had been compelled by
Alec d'Urberville, in his whim of reformation, to swear the strange
oath that she would never wilfully tempt him again.  The pale and
blasted nettle-stems of the preceding year even now lingered nakedly
in the banks, young green nettles of the present spring growing from
their roots.

Thence he went along the verge of the upland overhanging the other
Hintocks, and, turning to the right, plunged into the bracing
calcareous region of Flintcomb-Ash, the address from which she had
written to him in one of the letters, and which he supposed to be
the place of sojourn referred to by her mother.  Here, of course, he
did not find her; and what added to his depression was the discovery
that no "Mrs Clare" had ever been heard of by the cottagers or by
the farmer himself, though Tess was remembered well enough by her
Christian name.  His name she had obviously never used during their
separation, and her dignified sense of their total severance was
shown not much less by this abstention than by the hardships she had
chosen to undergo (of which he now learnt for the first time) rather
than apply to his father for more funds.

From this place they told him Tess Durbeyfield had gone, without due
notice, to the home of her parents on the other side of Blackmoor,
and it therefore became necessary to find Mrs Durbeyfield.  She had
told him she was not now at Marlott, but had been curiously reticent
as to her actual address, and the only course was to go to Marlott
and inquire for it.  The farmer who had been so churlish with Tess
was quite smooth-tongued to Clare, and lent him a horse and man to
drive him towards Marlott, the gig he had arrived in being sent back
to Emminster; for the limit of a day's journey with that horse was
reached.

Clare would not accept the loan of the farmer's vehicle for a further
distance than to the outskirts of the Vale, and, sending it back with
the man who had driven him, he put up at an inn, and next day entered
on foot the region wherein was the spot of his dear Tess's birth.
It was as yet too early in the year for much colour to appear in the
gardens and foliage; the so-called spring was but winter overlaid
with a thin coat of greenness, and it was of a parcel with his
expectations.

The house in which Tess had passed the years of her childhood was
now inhabited by another family who had never known her.  The new
residents were in the garden, taking as much interest in their own
doings as if the homestead had never passed its primal time in
conjunction with the histories of others, beside which the histories
of these were but as a tale told by an idiot.  They walked about the
garden paths with thoughts of their own concerns entirely uppermost,
bringing their actions at every moment in jarring collision with the
dim ghosts behind them, talking as though the time when Tess lived
there were not one whit intenser in story than now.  Even the spring
birds sang over their heads as if they thought there was nobody
missing in particular.

On inquiry of these precious innocents, to whom even the name of
their predecessors was a failing memory, Clare learned that John
Durbeyfield was dead; that his widow and children had left Marlott,
declaring that they were going to live at Kingsbere, but instead of
doing so had gone on to another place they mentioned.  By this time
Clare abhorred the house for ceasing to contain Tess, and hastened
away from its hated presence without once looking back.

His way was by the field in which he had first beheld her at the
dance.  It was as bad as the house--even worse.  He passed on through
the churchyard, where, amongst the new headstones, he saw one of a
somewhat superior design to the rest.  The inscription ran thus:


  In memory of John Durbeyfield, rightly d'Urberville, of
  the once powerful family of that Name, and Direct
  Descendant through an illustrious Line from Sir Pagan
  d'Urberville, one of the Knights of the Conqueror.  Died
  March 10th, 18--

                HOW ARE THE MIGHTY FALLEN.


Some man, apparently the sexton, had observed Clare standing there,
and drew nigh.  "Ah, sir, now that's a man who didn't want to lie
here, but wished to be carried to Kingsbere, where his ancestors be."

"And why didn't they respect his wish?"

"Oh--no money.  Bless your soul, sir, why--there, I wouldn't wish to
say it everywhere, but--even this headstone, for all the flourish
wrote upon en, is not paid for."

"Ah, who put it up?"

The man told the name of a mason in the village, and, on leaving the
churchyard, Clare called at the mason's house.  He found that the
statement was true, and paid the bill.  This done, he turned in the
direction of the migrants.

The distance was too long for a walk, but Clare felt such a strong
desire for isolation that at first he would neither hire a conveyance
nor go to a circuitous line of railway by which he might eventually
reach the place.  At Shaston, however, he found he must hire; but
the way was such that he did not enter Joan's place till about seven
o'clock in the evening, having traversed a distance of over twenty
miles since leaving Marlott.

The village being small he had little difficulty in finding Mrs
Durbeyfield's tenement, which was a house in a walled garden,
remote from the main road, where she had stowed away her clumsy old
furniture as best she could.  It was plain that for some reason or
other she had not wished him to visit her, and he felt his call to
be somewhat of an intrusion.  She came to the door herself, and the
light from the evening sky fell upon her face.

This was the first time that Clare had ever met her, but he was too
preoccupied to observe more than that she was still a handsome woman,
in the garb of a respectable widow.  He was obliged to explain that
he was Tess's husband, and his object in coming there, and he did it
awkwardly enough.  "I want to see her at once," he added.  "You said
you would write to me again, but you have not done so."

"Because she've not come home," said Joan.

"Do you know if she is well?"

"I don't.  But you ought to, sir," said she.

"I admit it.  Where is she staying?"

From the beginning of the interview Joan had disclosed her
embarrassment by keeping her hand to the side of her cheek.

"I--don't know exactly where she is staying," she answered. "She
was--but--"

"Where was she?"

"Well, she is not there now."

In her evasiveness she paused again, and the younger children had by
this time crept to the door, where, pulling at his mother's skirts,
the youngest murmured--

"Is this the gentleman who is going to marry Tess?"

"He has married her," Joan whispered.  "Go inside."

Clare saw her efforts for reticence, and asked--

"Do you think Tess would wish me to try and find her?  If not, of
course--"

"I don't think she would."

"Are you sure?"

"I am sure she wouldn't."

He was turning away; and then he thought of Tess's tender letter.

"I am sure she would!" he retorted passionately.  "I know her better
than you do."

"That's very likely, sir; for I have never really known her."

"Please tell me her address, Mrs Durbeyfield, in kindness to a lonely
wretched man!"  Tess's mother again restlessly swept her cheek with
her vertical hand, and seeing that he suffered, she at last said, is
a low voice--

"She is at Sandbourne."

"Ah--where there?  Sandbourne has become a large place, they say."

"I don't know more particularly than I have said--Sandbourne.  For
myself, I was never there."

It was apparent that Joan spoke the truth in this, and he pressed her
no further.

"Are you in want of anything?" he said gently.

"No, sir," she replied.  "We are fairly well provided for."

Without entering the house Clare turned away.  There was a station
three miles ahead, and paying off his coachman, he walked thither.
The last train to Sandbourne left shortly after, and it bore Clare
on its wheels.



LV


At eleven o'clock that night, having secured a bed at one of the
hotels and telegraphed his address to his father immediately on his
arrival, he walked out into the streets of Sandbourne.  It was too
late to call on or inquire for any one, and he reluctantly postponed
his purpose till the morning.  But he could not retire to rest just
yet.

This fashionable watering-place, with its eastern and its western
stations, its piers, its groves of pines, its promenades, and its
covered gardens, was, to Angel Clare, like a fairy place suddenly
created by the stroke of a wand, and allowed to get a little dusty.
An outlying eastern tract of the enormous Egdon Waste was close at
hand, yet on the very verge of that tawny piece of antiquity such a
glittering novelty as this pleasure city had chosen to spring up.
Within the space of a mile from its outskirts every irregularity
of the soil was prehistoric, every channel an undisturbed British
trackway; not a sod having been turned there since the days of the
Caesars.  Yet the exotic had grown here, suddenly as the prophet's
gourd; and had drawn hither Tess.

By the midnight lamps he went up and down the winding way of this new
world in an old one, and could discern between the trees and against
the stars the lofty roofs, chimneys, gazebos, and towers of the
numerous fanciful residences of which the place was composed. It
was a city of detached mansions; a Mediterranean lounging-place on
the English Channel; and as seen now by night it seemed even more
imposing than it was.

The sea was near at hand, but not intrusive; it murmured, and he
thought it was the pines; the pines murmured in precisely the same
tones, and he thought they were the sea.

Where could Tess possibly be, a cottage-girl, his young wife, amidst
all this wealth and fashion?  The more he pondered, the more was he
puzzled.  Were there any cows to milk here?  There certainly were
no fields to till. She was most probably engaged to do something in
one of these large houses; and he sauntered along, looking at the
chamber-windows and their lights going out one by one, and wondered
which of them might be hers.

Conjecture was useless, and just after twelve o'clock he entered
and went to bed.   Before putting out his light he re-read Tess's
impassioned letter.  Sleep, however, he could not--so near her, yet
so far from her--and he continually lifted the window-blind and
regarded the backs of the opposite houses, and wondered behind which
of the sashes she reposed at that moment.

He might almost as well have sat up all night.  In the morning he
arose at seven, and shortly after went out, taking the direction of
the chief post-office.  At the door he met an intelligent postman
coming out with letters for the morning delivery.

"Do you know the address of a Mrs Clare?" asked Angel.  The postman
shook his head.

Then, remembering that she would have been likely to continue the use
of her maiden name, Clare said--

"Of a Miss Durbeyfield?"

"Durbeyfield?"

This also was strange to the postman addressed.

"There's visitors coming and going every day, as you know, sir," he
said; "and without the name of the house 'tis impossible to find
'em."

One of his comrades hastening out at that moment, the name was
repeated to him.

"I know no name of Durbeyfield; but there is the name of d'Urberville
at The Herons," said the second.

"That's it!" cried Clare, pleased to think that she had reverted to
the real pronunciation.  "What place is The Herons?"

"A stylish lodging-house.  'Tis all lodging-houses here, bless 'ee."

Clare received directions how to find the house, and hastened
thither, arriving with the milkman.  The Herons, though an ordinary
villa, stood in its own grounds, and was certainly the last place
in which one would have expected to find lodgings, so private was
its appearance.  If poor Tess was a servant here, as he feared, she
would go to the back-door to that milkman, and he was inclined to go
thither also.  However, in his doubts he turned to the front, and
rang.

The hour being early, the landlady herself opened the door.  Clare
inquired for Teresa d'Urberville or Durbeyfield.

"Mrs d'Urberville?"

"Yes."

Tess, then, passed as a married woman, and he felt glad, even though
she had not adopted his name.

"Will you kindly tell her that a relative is anxious to see her?"

"It is rather early.  What name shall I give, sir?"

"Angel."

"Mr Angel?"

"No; Angel.  It is my Christian name.  She'll understand."

"I'll see if she is awake."

He was shown into the front room--the dining-room--and looked out
through the spring curtains at the little lawn, and the rhododendrons
and other shrubs upon it.  Obviously her position was by no means so
bad as he had feared, and it crossed his mind that she must somehow
have claimed and sold the jewels to attain it.  He did not blame her
for one moment.  Soon his sharpened ear detected footsteps upon the
stairs, at which his heart thumped so painfully that he could hardly
stand firm.  "Dear me! what will she think of me, so altered as I
am!" he said to himself; and the door opened.

Tess appeared on the threshold--not at all as he had expected to
see her--bewilderingly otherwise, indeed.  Her great natural beauty
was, if not heightened, rendered more obvious by her attire.  She
was loosely wrapped in a cashmere dressing-gown of gray-white,
embroidered in half-mourning tints, and she wore slippers of the same
hue.  Her neck rose out of a frill of down, and her well-remembered
cable of dark-brown hair was partially coiled up in a mass at the
back of her head and partly hanging on her shoulder--the evident
result of haste.

He had held out his arms, but they had fallen again to his side;
for she had not come forward, remaining still in the opening of the
doorway.  Mere yellow skeleton that he was now, he felt the contrast
between them, and thought his appearance distasteful to her.

"Tess!" he said huskily, "can you forgive me for going away?  Can't
you--come to me?  How do you get to be--like this?"

"It is too late," said she, her voice sounding hard through the room,
her eyes shining unnaturally.

"I did not think rightly of you--I did not see you as you were!" he
continued to plead.  "I have learnt to since, dearest Tessy mine!"

"Too late, too late!" she said, waving her hand in the impatience of
a person whose tortures cause every instant to seem an hour.  "Don't
come close to me, Angel!  No--you must not.  Keep away."

"But don't you love me, my dear wife, because I have been so pulled
down by illness?  You are not so fickle--I am come on purpose for
you--my mother and father will welcome you now!"

"Yes--O, yes, yes!  But I say, I say it is too late."

She seemed to feel like a fugitive in a dream, who tries to move
away, but cannot.  "Don't you know all--don't you know it?  Yet how
do you come here if you do not know?"

"I inquired here and there, and I found the way."

"I waited and waited for you," she went on, her tones suddenly
resuming their old fluty pathos.  "But you did not come!  And I wrote
to you, and you did not come! He kept on saying you would never come
any more, and that I was a foolish woman.  He was very kind to me,
and to mother, and to all of us after father's death. He--"

"I don't understand."

"He has won me back to him."

Clare looked at her keenly, then, gathering her meaning, flagged
like one plague-stricken, and his glance sank; it fell on her hands,
which, once rosy, were now white and more delicate.

She continued--

"He is upstairs.  I hate him now, because he told me a lie--that you
would not come again; and you HAVE come!  These clothes are what he's
put upon me: I didn't care what he did wi' me!  But--will you go
away, Angel, please, and never come any more?"

They stood fixed, their baffled hearts looking out of their eyes with
a joylessness pitiful to see.  Both seemed to implore something to
shelter them from reality.

"Ah--it is my fault!" said Clare.

But he could not get on.  Speech was as inexpressive as silence.  But
he had a vague consciousness of one thing, though it was not clear
to him till later; that his original Tess had spiritually ceased to
recognize the body before him as hers--allowing it to drift, like a
corpse upon the current, in a direction dissociated from its living
will.

A few instants passed, and he found that Tess was gone.  His face
grew colder and more shrunken as he stood concentrated on the moment,
and a minute or two after, he found himself in the street, walking
along he did not know whither.



LVI


Mrs Brooks, the lady who was the householder at The Herons and owner
of all the handsome furniture, was not a person of an unusually
curious turn of mind. She was too deeply materialized, poor woman,
by her long and enforced bondage to that arithmetical demon
Profit-and-Loss, to retain much curiousity for its own sake, and
apart from possible lodgers' pockets.  Nevertheless, the visit of
Angel Clare to her well-paying tenants, Mr and Mrs d'Urberville, as
she deemed them, was sufficiently exceptional in point of time and
manner to reinvigorate the feminine proclivity which had been stifled
down as useless save in its bearings to the letting trade.

Tess had spoken to her husband from the doorway, without entering
the dining-room, and Mrs Brooks, who stood within the partly-closed
door of her own sitting-room at the back of the passage, could
hear fragments of the conversation--if conversation it could be
called--between those two wretched souls.  She heard Tess re-ascend
the stairs to the first floor, and the departure of Clare, and the
closing of the front door behind him.  Then the door of the room
above was shut, and Mrs Brooks knew that Tess had re-entered her
apartment.  As the young lady was not fully dressed, Mrs Brooks knew
that she would not emerge again for some time.

She accordingly ascended the stairs softly, and stood at the door of
the front room--a drawing-room, connected with the room immediately
behind it (which was a bedroom) by folding-doors in the common
manner.  This first floor, containing Mrs Brooks's best apartments,
had been taken by the week by the d'Urbervilles.  The back room was
now in silence; but from the drawing-room there came sounds.

All that she could at first distinguish of them was one syllable,
continually repeated in a low note of moaning, as if it came from a
soul bound to some Ixionian wheel--

"O--O--O!"

Then a silence, then a heavy sigh, and again--

"O--O--O!"

The landlady looked through the keyhole.  Only a small space of the
room inside was visible, but within that space came a corner of the
breakfast table, which was already spread for the meal, and also a
chair beside.  Over the seat of the chair Tess's face was bowed, her
posture being a kneeling one in front of it; her hands were clasped
over her head, the skirts of her dressing-gown and the embroidery of
her night-gown flowed upon the floor behind her, and her stockingless
feet, from which the slippers had fallen, protruded upon the carpet.
It was from her lips that came the murmur of unspeakable despair.

Then a man's voice from the adjoining bedroom--

"What's the matter?"

She did not answer, but went on, in a tone which was a soliloquy
rather than an exclamation, and a dirge rather than a soliloquy.
Mrs Brooks could only catch a portion:

"And then my dear, dear husband came home to me ... and I did not
know it! ...  And you had used your cruel persuasion upon me ... you
did not stop using it--no--you did not stop! My little sisters and
brothers and my mother's needs--they were the things you moved me
by ... and you said my husband would never come back--never; and you
taunted me, and said what a simpleton I was to expect him! ...  And
at last I believed you and gave way! ...  And then he came back!
Now he is gone.  Gone a second time, and I have lost him now
for ever ... and he will not love me the littlest bit ever any
more--only hate me! ... O yes, I have lost him now--again because
of--you!"  In writhing, with her head on the chair, she turned her
face towards the door, and Mrs Brooks could see the pain upon it,
and that her lips were bleeding from the clench of her teeth upon
them, and that the long lashes of her closed eyes stuck in wet tags
to her cheeks.  She continued: "And he is dying--he looks as if he
is dying! ...  And my sin will kill him and not kill me! ...  O, you
have torn my life all to pieces ... made me be what I prayed you in
pity not to make me be again! ...  My own true husband will never,
never--O God--I can't bear this!--I cannot!"

There were more and sharper words from the man; then a sudden rustle;
she had sprung to her feet.  Mrs Brooks, thinking that the speaker
was coming to rush out of the door, hastily retreated down the
stairs.

She need not have done so, however, for the door of the sitting-room
was not opened.  But Mrs Brooks felt it unsafe to watch on the
landing again, and entered her own parlour below.

She could hear nothing through the floor, although she listened
intently, and thereupon went to the kitchen to finish her interrupted
breakfast.  Coming up presently to the front room on the ground floor
she took up some sewing, waiting for her lodgers to ring that she
might take away the breakfast, which she meant to do herself, to
discover what was the matter if possible.  Overhead, as she sat, she
could now hear the floorboards slightly creak, as if some one were
walking about, and presently the movement was explained by the rustle
of garments against the banisters, the opening and the closing of
the front door, and the form of Tess passing to the gate on her way
into the street.  She was fully dressed now in the walking costume
of a well-to-do young lady in which she had arrived, with the sole
addition that over her hat and black feathers a veil was drawn.

Mrs Brooks had not been able to catch any word of farewell, temporary
or otherwise, between her tenants at the door above.  They might have
quarrelled, or Mr d'Urberville might still be asleep, for he was not
an early riser.

She went into the back room, which was more especially her own
apartment, and continued her sewing there.  The lady lodger did not
return, nor did the gentleman ring his bell.  Mrs Brooks pondered on
the delay, and on what probable relation the visitor who had called
so early bore to the couple upstairs.  In reflecting she leant back
in her chair.

As she did so her eyes glanced casually over the ceiling till they
were arrested by a spot in the middle of its white surface which she
had never noticed there before.  It was about the size of a wafer
when she first observed it, but it speedily grew as large as the palm
of her hand, and then she could perceive that it was red.  The oblong
white ceiling, with this scarlet blot in the midst, had the
appearance of a gigantic ace of hearts.

Mrs Brooks had strange qualms of misgiving.  She got upon the table,
and touched the spot in the ceiling with her fingers. It was damp,
and she fancied that it was a blood stain.

Descending from the table, she left the parlour, and went upstairs,
intending to enter the room overhead, which was the bedchamber at
the back of the drawing-room.  But, nerveless woman as she had now
become, she could not bring herself to attempt the handle.  She
listened.  The dead silence within was broken only by a regular beat.

Drip, drip, drip.

Mrs Brooks hastened downstairs, opened the front door, and ran into
the street.  A man she knew, one of the workmen employed at an
adjoining villa, was passing by, and she begged him to come in and go
upstairs with her; she feared something had happened to one of her
lodgers.  The workman assented, and followed her to the landing.

She opened the door of the drawing-room, and stood back for him
to pass in, entering herself behind him.  The room was empty; the
breakfast--a substantial repast of coffee, eggs, and a cold ham--lay
spread upon the table untouched, as when she had taken it up,
excepting that the carving-knife was missing.  She asked the man to
go through the folding-doors into the adjoining room.

He opened the doors, entered a step or two, and came back almost
instantly with a rigid face.  "My good God, the gentleman in bed is
dead!  I think he has been hurt with a knife--a lot of blood had run
down upon the floor!"

The alarm was soon given, and the house which had lately been so
quiet resounded with the tramp of many footsteps, a surgeon among the
rest.  The wound was small, but the point of the blade had touched
the heart of the victim, who lay on his back, pale, fixed, dead, as
if he had scarcely moved after the infliction of the blow.  In a
quarter of an hour the news that a gentleman who was a temporary
visitor to the town had been stabbed in his bed, spread through every
street and villa of the popular watering-place.



LVII


Meanwhile Angel Clare had walked automatically along the way by which
he had come, and, entering his hotel, sat down over the breakfast,
staring at nothingness.  He went on eating and drinking unconsciously
till on a sudden he demanded his bill; having paid which, he took his
dressing-bag in his hand, the only luggage he had brought with him,
and went out.

At the moment of his departure a telegram was handed to him--a few
words from his mother, stating that they were glad to know his
address, and informing him that his brother Cuthbert had proposed to
and been accepted by Mercy Chant.

Clare crumpled up the paper and followed the route to the station;
reaching it, he found that there would be no train leaving for an
hour and more.  He sat down to wait, and having waited a quarter of
an hour felt that he could wait there no longer.  Broken in heart and
numbed, he had nothing to hurry for; but he wished to get out of a
town which had been the scene of such an experience, and turned to
walk to the first station onward, and let the train pick him up
there.

The highway that he followed was open, and at a little distance
dipped into a valley, across which it could be seen running from edge
to edge.  He had traversed the greater part of this depression, and
was climbing the western acclivity when, pausing for breath, he
unconsciously looked back.  Why he did so he could not say, but
something seemed to impel him to the act.  The tape-like surface of
the road diminished in his rear as far as he could see, and as he
gazed a moving spot intruded on the white vacuity of its perspective.

It was a human figure running.  Clare waited, with a dim sense that
somebody was trying to overtake him.

The form descending the incline was a woman's, yet so entirely was
his mind blinded to the idea of his wife's following him that even
when she came nearer he did not recognize her under the totally
changed attire in which he now beheld her.  It was not till she was
quite close that he could believe her to be Tess.

"I saw you--turn away from the station--just before I got there--and
I have been following you all this way!"

She was so pale, so breathless, so quivering in every muscle, that he
did not ask her a single question, but seizing her hand, and pulling
it within his arm, he led her along.  To avoid meeting any possible
wayfarers he left the high road and took a footpath under some
fir-trees.  When they were deep among the moaning boughs he stopped
and looked at her inquiringly.

"Angel," she said, as if waiting for this, "do you know what I have
been running after you for?  To tell you that I have killed him!"
A pitiful white smile lit her face as she spoke.

"What!" said he, thinking from the strangeness of her manner that she
was in some delirium.

"I have done it--I don't know how," she continued.  "Still, I owed it
to you, and to myself, Angel.  I feared long ago, when I struck him
on the mouth with my glove, that I might do it some day for the trap
he set for me in my simple youth, and his wrong to you through me.
He has come between us and ruined us, and now he can never do it any
more.  I never loved him at all, Angel, as I loved you.  You know it,
don't you?  You believe it?  You didn't come back to me, and I was
obliged to go back to him.  Why did you go away--why did you--when I
loved you so?  I can't think why you did it.  But I don't blame you;
only, Angel, will you forgive me my sin against you, now I have
killed him?  I thought as I ran along that you would be sure to
forgive me now I have done that.  It came to me as a shining light
that I should get you back that way.  I could not bear the loss of
you any longer--you don't know how entirely I was unable to bear your
not loving me!  Say you do now, dear, dear husband; say you do, now I
have killed him!"

"I do love you, Tess--O, I do--it is all come back!" he said,
tightening his arms round her with fervid pressure.  "But how do you
mean--you have killed him?"

"I mean that I have," she murmured in a reverie.

"What, bodily?  Is he dead?"

"Yes.  He heard me crying about you, and he bitterly taunted me; and
called you by a foul name; and then I did it.  My heart could not
bear it.  He had nagged me about you before.  And then I dressed
myself and came away to find you."

By degrees he was inclined to believe that she had faintly attempted,
at least, what she said she had done; and his horror at her impulse
was mixed with amazement at the strength of her affection for
himself, and at the strangeness of its quality, which had apparently
extinguished her moral sense altogether.  Unable to realize the
gravity of her conduct, she seemed at last content; and he looked
at her as she lay upon his shoulder, weeping with happiness, and
wondered what obscure strain in the d'Urberville blood had led to
this aberration--if it were an aberration.  There momentarily flashed
through his mind that the family tradition of the coach and murder
might have arisen because the d'Urbervilles had been known to do
these things.  As well as his confused and excited ideas could
reason, he supposed that in the moment of mad grief of which she
spoke, her mind had lost its balance, and plunged her into this
abyss.

It was very terrible if true; if a temporary hallucination, sad.  But,
anyhow, here was this deserted wife of his, this passionately-fond
woman, clinging to him without a suspicion that he would be anything
to her but a protector.  He saw that for him to be otherwise was
not, in her mind, within the region of the possible.  Tenderness was
absolutely dominant in Clare at last.  He kissed her endlessly with
his white lips, and held her hand, and said--

"I will not desert you!  I will protect you by every means in my
power, dearest love, whatever you may have done or not have done!"

They then walked on under the trees, Tess turning her head every now
and then to look at him.  Worn and unhandsome as he had become, it
was plain that she did not discern the least fault in his appearance.
To her he was, as of old, all that was perfection, personally and
mentally.  He was still her Antinous, her Apollo even; his sickly
face was beautiful as the morning to her affectionate regard on
this day no less than when she first beheld him; for was it not the
face of the one man on earth who had loved her purely, and who had
believed in her as pure!

With an instinct as to possibilities, he did not now, as he had
intended, make for the first station beyond the town, but plunged
still farther under the firs, which here abounded for miles.  Each
clasping the other round the waist they promenaded over the dry bed
of fir-needles, thrown into a vague intoxicating atmosphere at the
consciousness of being together at last, with no living soul between
them; ignoring that there was a corpse.  Thus they proceeded for
several miles till Tess, arousing herself, looked about her, and
said, timidly--

"Are we going anywhere in particular?"

"I don't know, dearest.  Why?"

"I don't know."

"Well, we might walk a few miles further, and when it is evening find
lodgings somewhere or other--in a lonely cottage, perhaps.  Can you
walk well, Tessy?"

"O yes!  I could walk for ever and ever with your arm round me!"

Upon the whole it seemed a good thing to do.  Thereupon they
quickened their pace, avoiding high roads, and following obscure
paths tending more or less northward.  But there was an unpractical
vagueness in their movements throughout the day; neither one of them
seemed to consider any question of effectual escape, disguise, or
long concealment.  Their every idea was temporary and unforefending,
like the plans of two children.

At mid-day they drew near to a roadside inn, and Tess would have
entered it with him to get something to eat, but he persuaded
her to remain among the trees and bushes of this half-woodland,
half-moorland part of the country till he should come back.  Her
clothes were of recent fashion; even the ivory-handled parasol that
she carried was of a shape unknown in the retired spot to which they
had now wandered; and the cut of such articles would have attracted
attention in the settle of a tavern.  He soon returned, with food
enough for half-a-dozen people and two bottles of wine--enough to
last them for a day or more, should any emergency arise.

They sat down upon some dead boughs and shared their meal.  Between
one and two o'clock they packed up the remainder and went on again.

"I feel strong enough to walk any distance," said she.

"I think we may as well steer in a general way towards the interior
of the country, where we can hide for a time, and are less likely to
be looked for than anywhere near the coast," Clare remarked.  "Later
on, when they have forgotten us, we can make for some port."

She made no reply to this beyond that of grasping him more tightly,
and straight inland they went.  Though the season was an English May,
the weather was serenely bright, and during the afternoon it was
quite warm.  Through the latter miles of their walk their footpath
had taken them into the depths of the New Forest, and towards
evening, turning the corner of a lane, they perceived behind a brook
and bridge a large board on which was painted in white letters, "This
desirable Mansion to be Let Furnished"; particulars following, with
directions to apply to some London agents.  Passing through the gate
they could see the house, an old brick building of regular design and
large accommodation.

"I know it," said Clare.  "It is Bramshurst Court.  You can see that
it is shut up, and grass is growing on the drive."

"Some of the windows are open," said Tess.

"Just to air the rooms, I suppose."

"All these rooms empty, and we without a roof to our heads!"

"You are getting tired, my Tess!" he said.  "We'll stop soon."  And
kissing her sad mouth, he again led her onwards.

He was growing weary likewise, for they had wandered a dozen or
fifteen miles, and it became necessary to consider what they should
do for rest.  They looked from afar at isolated cottages and little
inns, and were inclined to approach one of the latter, when their
hearts failed them, and they sheered off.  At length their gait
dragged, and they stood still.

"Could we sleep under the trees?" she asked.

He thought the season insufficiently advanced.

"I have been thinking of that empty mansion we passed," he said.
"Let us go back towards it again."

They retraced their steps, but it was half an hour before they stood
without the entrance-gate as earlier.  He then requested her to stay
where she was, whilst he went to see who was within.

She sat down among the bushes within the gate, and Clare crept
towards the house.  His absence lasted some considerable time, and
when he returned Tess was wildly anxious, not for herself, but for
him.  He had found out from a boy that there was only an old woman in
charge as caretaker, and she only came there on fine days, from the
hamlet near, to open and shut the windows.  She would come to shut
them at sunset.  "Now, we can get in through one of the lower
windows, and rest there," said he.

Under his escort she went tardily forward to the main front, whose
shuttered windows, like sightless eyeballs, excluded the possibility
of watchers.  The door was reached a few steps further, and one of
the windows beside it was open. Clare clambered in, and pulled Tess
in after him.

Except the hall, the rooms were all in darkness, and they ascended
the staircase.  Up here also the shutters were tightly closed,
the ventilation being perfunctorily done, for this day at least,
by opening the hall-window in front and an upper window behind.
Clare unlatched the door of a large chamber, felt his way across
it, and parted the shutters to the width of two or three inches.
A shaft of dazzling sunlight glanced into the room, revealing heavy,
old-fashioned furniture, crimson damask hangings, and an enormous
four-post bedstead, along the head of which were carved running
figures, apparently Atalanta's race.

"Rest at last!" said he, setting down his bag and the parcel of
viands.

They remained in great quietness till the caretaker should have come
to shut the windows: as a precaution, putting themselves in total
darkness by barring the shutters as before, lest the woman should
open the door of their chamber for any casual reason.  Between six
and seven o'clock she came, but did not approach the wing they
were in.  They heard her close the windows, fasten them, lock the
door, and go away.  Then Clare again stole a chink of light from
the window, and they shared another meal, till by-and-by they
were enveloped in the shades of night which they had no candle to
disperse.



LVIII


The night was strangely solemn and still.  In the small hours she
whispered to him the whole story of how he had walked in his sleep
with her in his arms across the Froom stream, at the imminent risk of
both their lives, and laid her down in the stone coffin at the ruined
abbey.  He had never known of that till now.

"Why didn't you tell me next day?" he said.  "It might have prevented
much misunderstanding and woe."

"Don't think of what's past!" said she.  "I am not going to think
outside of now.  Why should we!  Who knows what to-morrow has in
store?"

But it apparently had no sorrow.  The morning was wet and foggy, and
Clare, rightly informed that the caretaker only opened the windows
on fine days, ventured to creep out of their chamber and explore the
house, leaving Tess asleep.  There was no food on the premises, but
there was water, and he took advantage of the fog to emerge from the
mansion and fetch tea, bread, and butter from a shop in a little
place two miles beyond, as also a small tin kettle and spirit-lamp,
that they might get fire without smoke.  His re-entry awoke her; and
they breakfasted on what he had brought.

They were indisposed to stir abroad, and the day passed, and the
night following, and the next, and next; till, almost without their
being aware, five days had slipped by in absolute seclusion, not a
sight or sound of a human being disturbing their peacefulness, such
as it was.  The changes of the weather were their only events, the
birds of the New Forest their only company.  By tacit consent they
hardly once spoke of any incident of the past subsequent to their
wedding-day.  The gloomy intervening time seemed to sink into chaos,
over which the present and prior times closed as if it never had
been.  Whenever he suggested that they should leave their shelter,
and go forwards towards Southampton or London, she showed a strange
unwillingness to move.

"Why should we put an end to all that's sweet and lovely!" she
deprecated.  "What must come will come."  And, looking through the
shutter-chink: "All is trouble outside there; inside here content."

He peeped out also.  It was quite true; within was affection, union,
error forgiven: outside was the inexorable.

"And--and," she said, pressing her cheek against his, "I fear that
what you think of me now may not last.  I do not wish to outlive your
present feeling for me. I would rather not.  I would rather be dead
and buried when the time comes for you to despise me, so that it may
never be known to me that you despised me."

"I cannot ever despise you."

"I also hope that.  But considering what my life has been, I cannot
see why any man should, sooner or later, be able to help despising
me....  How wickedly mad I was!  Yet formerly I never could bear to
hurt a fly or a worm, and the sight of a bird in a cage used often to
make me cry."

They remained yet another day.  In the night the dull sky cleared,
and the result was that the old caretaker at the cottage awoke early.
The brilliant sunrise made her unusually brisk; she decided to open
the contiguous mansion immediately, and to air it thoroughly on such
a day.  Thus it occurred that, having arrived and opened the lower
rooms before six o'clock, she ascended to the bedchambers, and was
about to turn the handle of the one wherein they lay.  At that moment
she fancied she could hear the breathing of persons within.  Her
slippers and her antiquity had rendered her progress a noiseless one
so far, and she made for instant retreat; then, deeming that her
hearing might have deceived her, she turned anew to the door and
softly tried the handle.  The lock was out of order, but a piece of
furniture had been moved forward on the inside, which prevented her
opening the door more than an inch or two.  A stream of morning light
through the shutter-chink fell upon the faces of the pair, wrapped in
profound slumber, Tess's lips being parted like a half-opened flower
near his cheek.  The caretaker was so struck with their innocent
appearance, and with the elegance of Tess's gown hanging across a
chair, her silk stockings beside it, the pretty parasol, and the
other habits in which she had arrived because she had none else, that
her first indignation at the effrontery of tramps and vagabonds gave
way to a momentary sentimentality over this genteel elopement, as it
seemed.  She closed the door, and withdrew as softly as she had come,
to go and consult with her neighbours on the odd discovery.

Not more than a minute had elapsed after her withdrawal when Tess
woke, and then Clare.  Both had a sense that something had disturbed
them, though they could not say what; and the uneasy feeling which
it engendered grew stronger.  As soon as he was dressed he narrowly
scanned the lawn through the two or three inches of shutter-chink.

"I think we will leave at once," said he.  "It is a fine day. And I
cannot help fancying somebody is about the house.  At any rate, the
woman will be sure to come to-day."

She passively assented, and putting the room in order, they took up
the few articles that belonged to them, and departed noiselessly.
When they had got into the Forest she turned to take a last look at
the house.

"Ah, happy house--goodbye!" she said.  "My life can only be a
question of a few weeks.  Why should we not have stayed there?"

"Don't say it, Tess!  We shall soon get out of this district
altogether.  We'll continue our course as we've begun it, and keep
straight north.  Nobody will think of looking for us there.  We shall
be looked for at the Wessex ports if we are sought at all.  When we
are in the north we will get to a port and away."

Having thus persuaded her, the plan was pursued, and they kept a
bee-line northward.  Their long repose at the manor-house lent them
walking power now; and towards mid-day they found that they were
approaching the steepled city of Melchester, which lay directly in
their way.  He decided to rest her in a clump of trees during the
afternoon, and push onward under cover of darkness.  At dusk Clare
purchased food as usual, and their night march began, the boundary
between Upper and Mid-Wessex being crossed about eight o'clock.

To walk across country without much regard to roads was not new
to Tess, and she showed her old agility in the performance.  The
intercepting city, ancient Melchester, they were obliged to pass
through in order to take advantage of the town bridge for crossing a
large river that obstructed them.  It was about midnight when they
went along the deserted streets, lighted fitfully by the few lamps,
keeping off the pavement that it might not echo their footsteps.
The graceful pile of cathedral architecture rose dimly on their left
hand, but it was lost upon them now.  Once out of the town they
followed the turnpike-road, which after a few miles plunged across an
open plain.

Though the sky was dense with cloud, a diffused light from some
fragment of a moon had hitherto helped them a little.  But the moon
had now sunk, the clouds seemed to settle almost on their heads, and
the night grew as dark as a cave.  However, they found their way
along, keeping as much on the turf as possible that their tread might
not resound, which it was easy to do, there being no hedge or fence
of any kind.  All around was open loneliness and black solitude, over
which a stiff breeze blew.

They had proceeded thus gropingly two or three miles further when
on a sudden Clare became conscious of some vast erection close in
his front, rising sheer from the grass.  They had almost struck
themselves against it.

"What monstrous place is this?" said Angel.

"It hums," said she.  "Hearken!"

He listened.  The wind, playing upon the edifice, produced a booming
tune, like the note of some gigantic one-stringed harp.  No other
sound came from it, and lifting his hand and advancing a step or
two, Clare felt the vertical surface of the structure.  It seemed to
be of solid stone, without joint or moulding.  Carrying his fingers
onward he found that what he had come in contact with was a colossal
rectangular pillar; by stretching out his left hand he could feel a
similar one adjoining.  At an indefinite height overhead something
made the black sky blacker, which had the semblance of a vast
architrave uniting the pillars horizontally.  They carefully entered
beneath and between; the surfaces echoed their soft rustle; but they
seemed to be still out of doors.  The place was roofless.  Tess drew
her breath fearfully, and Angel, perplexed, said--

"What can it be?"

Feeling sideways they encountered another tower-like pillar, square
and uncompromising as the first; beyond it another and another.  The
place was all doors and pillars, some connected above by continuous
architraves.

"A very Temple of the Winds," he said.

The next pillar was isolated; others composed a trilithon; others
were prostrate, their flanks forming a causeway wide enough for a
carriage; and it was soon obvious that they made up a forest of
monoliths grouped upon the grassy expanse of the plain.  The couple
advanced further into this pavilion of the night till they stood in
its midst.

"It is Stonehenge!" said Clare.

"The heathen temple, you mean?"

"Yes.  Older than the centuries; older than the d'Urbervilles!  Well,
what shall we do, darling?  We may find shelter further on."

But Tess, really tired by this time, flung herself upon an oblong
slab that lay close at hand, and was sheltered from the wind by a
pillar.  Owing to the action of the sun during the preceding day, the
stone was warm and dry, in comforting contrast to the rough and chill
grass around, which had damped her skirts and shoes.

"I don't want to go any further, Angel," she said, stretching out her
hand for his.  "Can't we bide here?"

"I fear not.  This spot is visible for miles by day, although it does
not seem so now."

"One of my mother's people was a shepherd hereabouts, now I think of
it.  And you used to say at Talbothays that I was a heathen.  So now
I am at home."

He knelt down beside her outstretched form, and put his lips upon
hers.

"Sleepy are you, dear?  I think you are lying on an altar."

"I like very much to be here," she murmured.  "It is so solemn and
lonely--after my great happiness--with nothing but the sky above my
face.  It seems as if there were no folk in the world but we two;
and I wish there were not--except 'Liza-Lu."

Clare though she might as well rest here till it should get a little
lighter, and he flung his overcoat upon her, and sat down by her
side.

"Angel, if anything happens to me, will you watch over 'Liza-Lu for
my sake?" she asked, when they had listened a long time to the wind
among the pillars.

"I will."

"She is so good and simple and pure.  O, Angel--I wish you would
marry her if you lose me, as you will do shortly.  O, if you would!"

"If I lose you I lose all!  And she is my sister-in-law."

"That's nothing, dearest.  People marry sister-laws continually about
Marlott; and 'Liza-Lu is so gentle and sweet, and she is growing
so beautiful.  O, I could share you with her willingly when we are
spirits!  If you would train her and teach her, Angel, and bring her
up for your own self! ...  She had all the best of me without the bad
of me; and if she were to become yours it would almost seem as if
death had not divided us...  Well, I have said it.  I won't mention
it again."

She ceased, and he fell into thought.  In the far north-east sky he
could see between the pillars a level streak of light.  The uniform
concavity of black cloud was lifting bodily like the lid of a pot,
letting in at the earth's edge the coming day, against which the
towering monoliths and trilithons began to be blackly defined.

"Did they sacrifice to God here?" asked she.

"No," said he.

"Who to?"

"I believe to the sun.  That lofty stone set away by itself is in the
direction of the sun, which will presently rise behind it."

"This reminds me, dear," she said.  "You remember you never would
interfere with any belief of mine before we were married?  But I knew
your mind all the same, and I thought as you thought--not from any
reasons of my own, but because you thought so.  Tell me now, Angel,
do you think we shall meet again after we are dead?  I want to know."

He kissed her to avoid a reply at such a time.

"O, Angel--I fear that means no!" said she, with a suppressed sob.
"And I wanted so to see you again--so much, so much!  What--not even
you and I, Angel, who love each other so well?"

Like a greater than himself, to the critical question at the critical
time he did not answer; and they were again silent.  In a minute or
two her breathing became more regular, her clasp of his hand relaxed,
and she fell asleep.  The band of silver paleness along the east
horizon made even the distant parts of the Great Plain appear dark
and near; and the whole enormous landscape bore that impress of
reserve, taciturnity, and hesitation which is usual just before day.
The eastward pillars and their architraves stood up blackly against
the light, and the great flame-shaped Sun-stone beyond them; and the
Stone of Sacrifice midway.  Presently the night wind died out, and
the quivering little pools in the cup-like hollows of the stones lay
still.  At the same time something seemed to move on the verge of the
dip eastward--a mere dot.  It was the head of a man approaching them
from the hollow beyond the Sun-stone.  Clare wished they had gone
onward, but in the circumstances decided to remain quiet.  The figure
came straight towards the circle of pillars in which they were.

He heard something behind him, the brush of feet.  Turning, he saw
over the prostrate columns another figure; then before he was aware,
another was at hand on the right, under a trilithon, and another on
the left.  The dawn shone full on the front of the man westward, and
Clare could discern from this that he was tall, and walked as if
trained.  They all closed in with evident purpose.  Her story then
was true!  Springing to his feet, he looked around for a weapon,
loose stone, means of escape, anything.  By this time the nearest
man was upon him.

"It is no use, sir," he said.  "There are sixteen of us on the Plain,
and the whole country is reared."

"Let her finish her sleep!" he implored in a whisper of the men as
they gathered round.

When they saw where she lay, which they had not done till then, they
showed no objection, and stood watching her, as still as the pillars
around.  He went to the stone and bent over her, holding one poor
little hand; her breathing now was quick and small, like that of a
lesser creature than a woman.  All waited in the growing light, their
faces and hands as if they were silvered, the remainder of their
figures dark, the stones glistening green-gray, the Plain still a
mass of shade.  Soon the light was strong, and a ray shone upon her
unconscious form, peering under her eyelids and waking her.

"What is it, Angel?" she said, starting up.  "Have they come for me?"

"Yes, dearest," he said.  "They have come."

"It is as it should be," she murmured.  "Angel, I am almost glad--yes,
glad!  This happiness could not have lasted.  It was too much.  I
have had enough; and now I shall not live for you to despise me!"

She stood up, shook herself, and went forward, neither of the men
having moved.

"I am ready," she said quietly.



LIX


The city of Wintoncester, that fine old city, aforetime capital
of Wessex, lay amidst its convex and concave downlands in all the
brightness and warmth of a July morning.  The gabled brick, tile, and
freestone houses had almost dried off for the season their integument
of lichen, the streams in the meadows were low, and in the sloping
High Street, from the West Gateway to the mediæval cross, and from
the mediæval cross to the bridge, that leisurely dusting and sweeping
was in progress which usually ushers in an old-fashioned market-day.

From the western gate aforesaid the highway, as every Wintoncestrian
knows, ascends a long and regular incline of the exact length of a
measured mile, leaving the houses gradually behind.  Up this road
from the precincts of the city two persons were walking rapidly,
as if unconscious of the trying ascent--unconscious through
preoccupation and not through buoyancy.  They had emerged upon this
road through a narrow, barred wicket in a high wall a little lower
down.  They seemed anxious to get out of the sight of the houses and
of their kind, and this road appeared to offer the quickest means
of doing so.  Though they were young, they walked with bowed heads,
which gait of grief the sun's rays smiled on pitilessly.

One of the pair was Angel Clare, the other a tall budding
creature--half girl, half woman--a spiritualized image of Tess,
slighter than she, but with the same beautiful eyes--Clare's
sister-in-law, 'Liza-Lu.  Their pale faces seemed to have shrunk
to half their natural size.  They moved on hand in hand, and never
spoke a word, the drooping of their heads being that of Giotto's
"Two Apostles".

When they had nearly reached the top of the great West Hill the
clocks in the town struck eight.  Each gave a start at the notes,
and, walking onward yet a few steps, they reached the first
milestone, standing whitely on the green margin of the grass, and
backed by the down, which here was open to the road.  They entered
upon the turf, and, impelled by a force that seemed to overrule their
will, suddenly stood still, turned, and waited in paralyzed suspense
beside the stone.

The prospect from this summit was almost unlimited.  In the valley
beneath lay the city they had just left, its more prominent buildings
showing as in an isometric drawing--among them the broad cathedral
tower, with its Norman windows and immense length of aisle and nave,
the spires of St Thomas's, the pinnacled tower of the College, and,
more to the right, the tower and gables of the ancient hospice,
where to this day the pilgrim may receive his dole of bread and ale.
Behind the city swept the rotund upland of St Catherine's Hill;
further off, landscape beyond landscape, till the horizon was lost
in the radiance of the sun hanging above it.

Against these far stretches of country rose, in front of the other
city edifices, a large red-brick building, with level gray roofs,
and rows of short barred windows bespeaking captivity, the whole
contrasting greatly by its formalism with the quaint irregularities
of the Gothic erections.  It was somewhat disguised from the road in
passing it by yews and evergreen oaks, but it was visible enough up
here.  The wicket from which the pair had lately emerged was in the
wall of this structure.  From the middle of the building an ugly
flat-topped octagonal tower ascended against the east horizon, and
viewed from this spot, on its shady side and against the light, it
seemed the one blot on the city's beauty.  Yet it was with this blot,
and not with the beauty, that the two gazers were concerned.

Upon the cornice of the tower a tall staff was fixed.  Their eyes
were riveted on it.  A few minutes after the hour had struck
something moved slowly up the staff, and extended itself upon the
breeze.  It was a black flag.

"Justice" was done, and the President of the Immortals, in Aeschylean
phrase, had ended his sport with Tess.  And the d'Urberville knights
and dames slept on in their tombs unknowing.  The two speechless
gazers bent themselves down to the earth, as if in prayer, and
remained thus a long time, absolutely motionless: the flag continued
to wave silently.  As soon as they had strength, they arose, joined
hands again, and went on.



THE END





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