Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES.
by THOMAS HARDY.
Phase the First: The Maiden.
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
"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
"You don't live anywhere. You are extinct--as a county family."
"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
"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.
"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,
"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."
"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
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
"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
"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'
"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.
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
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
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
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--
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
"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
"'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.
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
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
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
"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.
"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
"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."
"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
"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
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
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
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.
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
"He's told 'ee what's happened to us, I suppose?" asked Mrs
"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
"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
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."
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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.
"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
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?"
"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
"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!"
"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
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
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
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
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
"'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
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
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.
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,
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
"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!"
"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
"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
"Ho! Poor relations?"
"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'
"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
"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
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 "tete-a-tete" 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
"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
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
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
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
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
When she entered the house she perceived in a moment from her
mother's triumphant manner that something had occurred in the
"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
"But I don't know that I am apt at tending fowls," said the dubious
"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.
"I'd rather not tell you why, mother; indeed, I don't quite know
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
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
"Perhaps to show his diamond ring," murmured Sir John, dreamily, from
"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
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
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
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
"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.
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
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
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
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
"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,
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
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
"Is dat the gentleman-kinsman who'll make Sissy a lady?" asked the
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
"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
"What's her trump card? Her d'Urberville blood, you mean?"
"No, stupid; her face--as 'twas mine."
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"Tess--fie! that's temper!" said d'Urberville.
"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
"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
"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 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
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
"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
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'
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
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
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?"
"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
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
"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
"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.
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 "regime" 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.
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"How darest th' laugh at me, hussy!" she cried.
"I couldn't really help it when t'others did," apologized Tess,
"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
"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
"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.
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
D'Urberville stopped the horse, withdrew his feet from the stirrups,
turned sideways on the saddle, and enclosed her waist with his arm to
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,
"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
"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."
"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!"
"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
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
END OF PHASE THE FIRST
Phase the Second: Maiden No More
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
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."
"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
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
"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!"
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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.
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 "facades" 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.
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
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:
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
"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
"'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
"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
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
"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
"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
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,
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
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
"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
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.
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
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
"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.
"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
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
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 difference 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
"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
"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.
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
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
"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
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
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
"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?"
"I couldn't quite say."
"The milk turning sour?"
"Life in general?"
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
"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
"Don't push! You can see as well as I," said Retty, the
auburn-haired and youngest girl, without removing her eyes from the
"'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?
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
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.
"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."
Clare remained observing them--not without their observing him.
"She is colouring up," continued Tess heroically.
"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
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
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
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
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
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
"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?"
"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 h
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