B2 High-Intermediate UK 7570 Folder Collection
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CHAPTER I
On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking homeward from
Shaston to the village of Marlott, in the adjoining Vale of Blakemore, or Blackmoor.
The pair of legs that carried him were rickety, and there was a bias in his gait
which inclined him somewhat to the left of a straight line.
He occasionally gave a smart nod, as if in confirmation of some opinion, though he was
not thinking of anything in particular.
An empty egg-basket was slung upon his arm, the nap of his hat was ruffled, a patch
being quite worn away at its brim where his thumb came in taking it off.
Presently he was met by an elderly parson astride on a gray mare, who, as he rode,
hummed a wandering tune. "Good night t'ee," said the man with the
basket.
"Good night, Sir John," said the parson. The pedestrian, after another pace or two,
halted, and turned round.
"Now, sir, begging your pardon; we met last market-day on this road about this time,
and I said 'Good night,' and you made reply 'Good night, Sir John,' as now."
"I did," said the parson.
"And once before that--near a month ago." "I may have."
"Then what might your meaning be in calling me 'Sir John' these different times, when I
be plain Jack Durbeyfield, the haggler?"
The parson rode a step or two nearer.
"It was only my whim," he said; and, after a moment's hesitation: "It was on account
of a discovery I made some little time ago, whilst I was hunting up pedigrees for the
new county history.
I am Parson Tringham, the antiquary, of Stagfoot Lane.
Don't you really know, Durbeyfield, that you are the lineal representative of the
ancient and knightly family of the d'Urbervilles, who derive their descent
from Sir Pagan d'Urberville, that renowned
knight who came from Normandy with William the Conqueror, as appears by Battle Abbey
Roll?" "Never heard it before, sir!"
"Well it's true.
Throw up your chin a moment, so that I may catch the profile of your face better.
Yes, that's the d'Urberville nose and chin- -a little debased.
Your ancestor was one of the twelve knights who assisted the Lord of Estremavilla in
Normandy in his conquest of Glamorganshire.
Branches of your family held manors over all this part of England; their names
appear in the Pipe Rolls in the time of King Stephen.
In the reign of King John one of them was rich enough to give a manor to the Knights
Hospitallers; and in Edward the Second's time your forefather Brian was summoned to
Westminster to attend the great Council there.
You declined a little in Oliver Cromwell's time, but to no serious extent, and in
Charles the Second's reign you were made Knights of the Royal Oak for your loyalty.
Aye, there have been generations of Sir Johns among you, and if knighthood were
hereditary, like a baronetcy, as it practically was in old times, when men were
knighted from father to son, you would be Sir John now."
"Ye don't say so!"
"In short," concluded the parson, decisively smacking his leg with his
switch, "there's hardly such another family in England."
"Daze my eyes, and isn't there?" said Durbeyfield.
"And here have I been knocking about, year after year, from pillar to post, as if I
was no more than the commonest feller in the parish...
And how long hev this news about me been knowed, Pa'son Tringham?"
The clergyman explained that, as far as he was aware, it had quite died out of
knowledge, and could hardly be said to be known at all.
His own investigations had begun on a day in the preceding spring when, having been
engaged in tracing the vicissitudes of the d'Urberville family, he had observed
Durbeyfield's name on his waggon, and had
thereupon been led to make inquiries about his father and grandfather till he had no
doubt on the subject.
"At first I resolved not to disturb you with such a useless piece of information,"
said he. "However, our impulses are too strong for
our judgement sometimes.
I thought you might perhaps know something of it all the while."
"Well, I have heard once or twice, 'tis true, that my family had seen better days
afore they came to Blackmoor.
But I took no notice o't, thinking it to mean that we had once kept two horses where
we now keep only one.
I've got a wold silver spoon, and a wold graven seal at home, too; but, Lord, what's
a spoon and seal?... And to think that I and these noble
d'Urbervilles were one flesh all the time.
'Twas said that my gr't-granfer had secrets, and didn't care to talk of where
he came from...
And where do we raise our smoke, now, parson, if I may make so bold; I mean,
where do we d'Urbervilles live?" "You don't live anywhere.
You are extinct--as a county family."
"That's bad." "Yes--what the mendacious family chronicles
call extinct in the male line--that is, gone down--gone under."
"Then where do we lie?"
"At Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill: rows and rows of you in your vaults, with your effigies
under Purbeck-marble canopies." "And where be our family mansions and
estates?"
"You haven't any." "Oh?
No lands neither?"
"None; though you once had 'em in abundance, as I said, for you family
consisted of numerous branches.
In this county there was a seat of yours at Kingsbere, and another at Sherton, and
another in Millpond, and another at Lullstead, and another at Wellbridge."
"And shall we ever come into our own again?"
"Ah--that I can't tell!" "And what had I better do about it, sir?"
asked Durbeyfield, after a pause.
"Oh--nothing, nothing; except chasten yourself with the thought of 'how are the
mighty fallen.' It is a fact of some interest to the local
historian and genealogist, nothing more.
There are several families among the cottagers of this county of almost equal
lustre. Good night."
"But you'll turn back and have a quart of beer wi' me on the strength o't, Pa'son
Tringham?
There's a very pretty brew in tap at The Pure Drop--though, to be sure, not so good
as at Rolliver's." "No, thank you--not this evening,
Durbeyfield.
You've had enough already." Concluding thus, the parson rode on his
way, with doubts as to his discretion in retailing this curious bit of lore.
When he was gone, Durbeyfield walked a few steps in a profound reverie, and then sat
down upon the grassy bank by the roadside, depositing his basket before him.
In a few minutes a youth appeared in the distance, walking in the same direction as
that which had been pursued by Durbeyfield.
The latter, on seeing him, held up his hand, and the lad quickened his pace and
came near. "Boy, take up that basket!
I want 'ee to go on an errand for me."
The lath-like stripling frowned. "Who be you, then, John Durbeyfield, to
order me about and call me 'boy'? You know my name as well as I know yours!"
"Do you, do you?
That's the secret--that's the secret! Now obey my orders, and take the message
I'm going to charge 'ee wi'...
Well, Fred, I don't mind telling you that the secret is that I'm one of a noble race-
-it has been just found out by me this present afternoon, P.M."
And as he made the announcement, Durbeyfield, declining from his sitting
position, luxuriously stretched himself out upon the bank among the daisies.
The lad stood before Durbeyfield, and contemplated his length from crown to toe.
"Sir John d'Urberville--that's who I am," continued the prostrate man.
"That is if knights were baronets--which they be.
'Tis recorded in history all about me. Dost know of such a place, lad, as
Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill?"
"Ees. I've been there to Greenhill Fair."
"Well, under the church of that city there lie--"
"'Tisn't a city, the place I mean; leastwise 'twaddn' when I was there--'twas
a little one-eyed, blinking sort o' place." "Never you mind the place, boy, that's not
the question before us.
Under the church of that there parish lie my ancestors--hundreds of 'em--in coats of
mail and jewels, in gr't lead coffins weighing tons and tons.
There's not a man in the county o' South- Wessex that's got grander and nobler
skillentons in his family than I." "Oh?"
"Now take up that basket, and goo on to Marlott, and when you've come to The Pure
Drop Inn, tell 'em to send a horse and carriage to me immed'ately, to carry me
hwome.
And in the bottom o' the carriage they be to put a noggin o' rum in a small bottle,
and chalk it up to my account.
And when you've done that goo on to my house with the basket, and tell my wife to
put away that washing, because she needn't finish it, and wait till I come hwome, as
I've news to tell her."
As the lad stood in a dubious attitude, Durbeyfield put his hand in his pocket, and
produced a shilling, one of the chronically few that he possessed.
"Here's for your labour, lad."
This made a difference in the young man's estimate of the position.
"Yes, Sir John. Thank 'ee.
Anything else I can do for 'ee, Sir John?"
"Tell 'em at hwome that I should like for supper,--well, lamb's fry if they can get
it; and if they can't, black-pot; and if they can't get that, well chitterlings will
do."
"Yes, Sir John." The boy took up the basket, and as he set
out the notes of a brass band were heard from the direction of the village.
"What's that?" said Durbeyfield.
"Not on account o' I?" "'Tis the women's club-walking, Sir John.
Why, your da'ter is one o' the members." "To be sure--I'd quite forgot it in my
thoughts of greater things!
Well, vamp on to Marlott, will ye, and order that carriage, and maybe I'll drive
round and inspect the club."
The lad departed, and Durbeyfield lay waiting on the grass and daisies in the
evening sun.
Not a soul passed that way for a long while, and the faint notes of the band were
the only human sounds audible within the rim of blue hills.
>
CHAPTER II
The village of Marlott lay amid the north- eastern undulations of the beautiful Vale
of Blakemore, or Blackmoor, aforesaid, an engirdled and secluded region, for the most
part untrodden as yet by tourist or
landscape-painter, though within a four hours' journey from London.
It is a vale whose acquaintance is best made by viewing it from the summits of the
hills that surround it--except perhaps during the droughts of summer.
An unguided ramble into its recesses in bad weather is apt to engender dissatisfaction
with its narrow, tortuous, and miry ways.
This fertile and sheltered tract of country, in which the fields are never
brown and the springs never dry, is bounded on the south by the bold chalk ridge that
embraces the prominences of Hambledon Hill,
Bulbarrow, Nettlecombe-Tout, Dogbury, High Stoy, and Bubb Down.
The traveller from the coast, who, after plodding northward for a score of miles
over calcareous downs and corn-lands, suddenly reaches the verge of one of these
escarpments, is surprised and delighted to
behold, extended like a map beneath him, a country differing absolutely from that
which he has passed through.
Behind him the hills are open, the sun blazes down upon fields so large as to give
an unenclosed character to the landscape, the lanes are white, the hedges low and
plashed, the atmosphere colourless.
Here, in the valley, the world seems to be constructed upon a smaller and more
delicate scale; the fields are mere paddocks, so reduced that from this height
their hedgerows appear a network of dark
green threads overspreading the paler green of the grass.
The atmosphere beneath is languorous, and is so tinged with azure that what artists
call the middle distance partakes also of that hue, while the horizon beyond is of
the deepest ultramarine.
Arable lands are few and limited; with but slight exceptions the prospect is a broad
rich mass of grass and trees, mantling minor hills and dales within the major.
Such is the Vale of Blackmoor.
The district is of historic, no less than of topographical interest.
The Vale was known in former times as the Forest of White Hart, from a curious legend
of King Henry III's reign, in which the killing by a certain Thomas de la Lynd of a
beautiful white hart which the king had run
down and spared, was made the occasion of a heavy fine.
In those days, and till comparatively recent times, the country was densely
wooded.
Even now, traces of its earlier condition are to be found in the old oak copses and
irregular belts of timber that yet survive upon its slopes, and the hollow-trunked
trees that shade so many of its pastures.
The forests have departed, but some old customs of their shades remain.
Many, however, linger only in a metamorphosed or disguised form.
The May-Day dance, for instance, was to be discerned on the afternoon under notice, in
the guise of the club revel, or "club- walking," as it was there called.
It was an interesting event to the younger inhabitants of Marlott, though its real
interest was not observed by the participators in the ceremony.
Its singularity lay less in the retention of a custom of walking in procession and
dancing on each anniversary than in the members being solely women.
In men's clubs such celebrations were, though expiring, less uncommon; but either
the natural shyness of the softer sex, or a sarcastic attitude on the part of male
relatives, had denuded such women's clubs
as remained (if any other did) or this their glory and consummation.
The club of Marlott alone lived to uphold the local Cerealia.
It had walked for hundreds of years, if not as benefit-club, as votive sisterhood of
some sort; and it walked still.
The banded ones were all dressed in white gowns--a gay survival from Old Style days,
when cheerfulness and May-time were synonyms--days before the habit of taking
long views had reduced emotions to a monotonous average.
Their first exhibition of themselves was in a processional march of two and two round
the parish.
Ideal and real clashed slightly as the sun lit up their figures against the green
hedges and creeper-laced house-fronts; for, though the whole troop wore white garments,
no two whites were alike among them.
Some approached pure blanching; some had a bluish pallor; some worn by the older
characters (which had possibly lain by folded for many a year) inclined to a
cadaverous tint, and to a Georgian style.
In addition to the distinction of a white frock, every woman and girl carried in her
right hand a peeled willow wand, and in her left a bunch of white flowers.
The peeling of the former, and the selection of the latter, had been an
operation of personal care.
There were a few middle-aged and even elderly women in the train, their silver-
wiry hair and wrinkled faces, scourged by time and trouble, having almost a
grotesque, certainly a pathetic, appearance in such a jaunty situation.
In a true view, perhaps, there was more to be gathered and told of each anxious and
experienced one, to whom the years were drawing nigh when she should say, "I have
no pleasure in them," than of her juvenile comrades.
But let the elder be passed over here for those under whose bodices the life throbbed
quick and warm.
The young girls formed, indeed, the majority of the band, and their heads of
luxuriant hair reflected in the sunshine every tone of gold, and black, and brown.
Some had beautiful eyes, others a beautiful nose, others a beautiful mouth and figure:
few, if any, had all.
A difficulty of arranging their lips in this crude exposure to public scrutiny, an
inability to balance their heads, and to dissociate self-consciousness from their
features, was apparent in them, and showed
that they were genuine country girls, unaccustomed to many eyes.
And as each and all of them were warmed without by the sun, so each had a private
little sun for her soul to bask in; some dream, some affection, some hobby, at least
some remote and distant hope which, though
perhaps starving to nothing, still lived on, as hopes will.
They were all cheerful, and many of them merry.
They came round by The Pure Drop Inn, and were turning out of the high road to pass
through a wicket-gate into the meadows, when one of the women said--
"The Load-a-Lord!
Why, Tess Durbeyfield, if there isn't thy father riding hwome in a carriage!"
A young member of the band turned her head at the exclamation.
She was a fine and handsome girl--not handsomer than some others, possibly--but
her mobile peony mouth and large innocent eyes added eloquence to colour and shape.
She wore a red ribbon in her hair, and was the only one of the white company who could
boast of such a pronounced adornment.
As she looked round Durbeyfield was seen moving along the road in a chaise belonging
to The Pure Drop, driven by a frizzle- headed brawny damsel with her gown-sleeves
rolled above her elbows.
This was the cheerful servant of that establishment, who, in her part of
factotum, turned groom and ostler at times.
Durbeyfield, leaning back, and with his eyes closed luxuriously, was waving his
hand above his head, and singing in a slow recitative--
"I've-got-a-gr't-family-vault-at-Kingsbere- -and knighted-forefathers-in-lead-coffins-
there!"
The clubbists tittered, except the girl called Tess--in whom a slow heat seemed to
rise at the sense that her father was making himself foolish in their eyes.
"He's tired, that's all," she said hastily, "and he has got a lift home, because our
own horse has to rest to-day." "Bless thy simplicity, Tess," said her
companions.
"He's got his market-nitch. Haw-haw!"
"Look here; I won't walk another inch with you, if you say any jokes about him!"
Tess cried, and the colour upon her cheeks spread over her face and neck.
In a moment her eyes grew moist, and her glance drooped to the ground.
Perceiving that they had really pained her they said no more, and order again
prevailed.
Tess's pride would not allow her to turn her head again, to learn what her father's
meaning was, if he had any; and thus she moved on with the whole body to the
enclosure where there was to be dancing on the green.
By the time the spot was reached she has recovered her equanimity, and tapped her
neighbour with her wand and talked as usual.
Tess Durbeyfield at this time of her life was a mere vessel of emotion untinctured by
experience.
The dialect was on her tongue to some extent, despite the village school: the
characteristic intonation of that dialect for this district being the voicing
approximately rendered by the syllable UR,
probably as rich an utterance as any to be found in human speech.
The pouted-up deep red mouth to which this syllable was native had hardly as yet
settled into its definite shape, and her lower lip had a way of thrusting the middle
of her top one upward, when they closed together after a word.
Phases of her childhood lurked in her aspect still.
As she walked along to-day, for all her bouncing handsome womanliness, you could
sometimes see her twelfth year in her cheeks, or her ninth sparkling from her
eyes; and even her fifth would flit over the curves of her mouth now and then.
Yet few knew, and still fewer considered this.
A small minority, mainly strangers, would look long at her in casually passing by,
and grow momentarily fascinated by her freshness, and wonder if they would ever
see her again: but to almost everybody she
was a fine and picturesque country girl, and no more.
Nothing was seen or heard further of Durbeyfield in his triumphal chariot under
the conduct of the ostleress, and the club having entered the allotted space, dancing
began.
As there were no men in the company, the girls danced at first with each other, but
when the hour for the close of labour drew on, the masculine inhabitants of the
village, together with other idlers and
pedestrians, gathered round the spot, and appeared inclined to negotiate for a
partner.
Among these on-lookers were three young men of a superior class, carrying small
knapsacks strapped to their shoulders, and stout sticks in their hands.
Their general likeness to each other, and their consecutive ages, would almost have
suggested that they might be, what in fact they were, brothers.
The eldest wore the white tie, high waistcoat, and thin-brimmed hat of the
regulation curate; the second was the normal undergraduate; the appearance of the
third and youngest would hardly have been
sufficient to characterize him; there was an uncribbed, uncabined aspect in his eyes
and attire, implying that he had hardly as yet found the entrance to his professional
groove.
That he was a desultory tentative student of something and everything might only have
been predicted of him.
These three brethren told casual acquaintance that they were spending their
Whitsun holidays in a walking tour through the Vale of Blackmoor, their course being
south-westerly from the town of Shaston on the north-east.
They leant over the gate by the highway, and inquired as to the meaning of the dance
and the white-frocked maids.
The two elder of the brothers were plainly not intending to linger more than a moment,
but the spectacle of a bevy of girls dancing without male partners seemed to
amuse the third, and make him in no hurry to move on.
He unstrapped his knapsack, put it, with his stick, on the hedge-bank, and opened
the gate.
"What are you going to do, Angel?" asked the eldest.
"I am inclined to go and have a fling with them.
Why not all of us--just for a minute or two--it will not detain us long?"
"No--no; nonsense!" said the first. "Dancing in public with a troop of country
hoydens--suppose we should be seen!
Come along, or it will be dark before we get to Stourcastle, and there's no place we
can sleep at nearer than that; besides, we must get through another chapter of A
Counterblast to Agnosticism before we turn
in, now I have taken the trouble to bring the book."
"All right--I'll overtake you and Cuthbert in five minutes; don't stop; I give my word
that I will, Felix."
The two elder reluctantly left him and walked on, taking their brother's knapsack
to relieve him in following, and the youngest entered the field.
"This is a thousand pities," he said gallantly, to two or three of the girls
nearest him, as soon as there was a pause in the dance.
"Where are your partners, my dears?"
"They've not left off work yet," answered one of the boldest.
"They'll be here by and by. Till then, will you be one, sir?"
"Certainly.
But what's one among so many!" "Better than none.
'Tis melancholy work facing and footing it to one of your own sort, and no clipsing
and colling at all.
Now, pick and choose." "'Ssh--don't be so for'ard!" said a shyer
girl.
The young man, thus invited, glanced them over, and attempted some discrimination;
but, as the group were all so new to him, he could not very well exercise it.
He took almost the first that came to hand, which was not the speaker, as she had
expected; nor did it happen to be Tess Durbeyfield.
Pedigree, ancestral skeletons, monumental record, the d'Urberville lineaments, did
not help Tess in her life's battle as yet, even to the extent of attracting to her a
dancing-partner over the heads of the commonest peasantry.
So much for Norman blood unaided by Victorian lucre.
The name of the eclipsing girl, whatever it was, has not been handed down; but she was
envied by all as the first who enjoyed the luxury of a masculine partner that evening.
Yet such was the force of example that the village young men, who had not hastened to
enter the gate while no intruder was in the way, now dropped in quickly, and soon the
couples became leavened with rustic youth
to a marked extent, till at length the plainest woman in the club was no longer
compelled to foot it on the masculine side of the figure.
The church clock struck, when suddenly the student said that he must leave--he had
been forgetting himself--he had to join his companions.
As he fell out of the dance his eyes lighted on Tess Durbeyfield, whose own
large orbs wore, to tell the truth, the faintest aspect of reproach that he had not
chosen her.
He, too, was sorry then that, owing to her backwardness, he had not observed her; and
with that in his mind he left the pasture.
On account of his long delay he started in a flying-run down the lane westward, and
had soon passed the hollow and mounted the next rise.
He had not yet overtaken his brothers, but he paused to get breath, and looked back.
He could see the white figures of the girls in the green enclosure whirling about as
they had whirled when he was among them.
They seemed to have quite forgotten him already.
All of them, except, perhaps, one. This white shape stood apart by the hedge
alone.
From her position he knew it to be the pretty maiden with whom he had not danced.
Trifling as the matter was, he yet instinctively felt that she was hurt by his
oversight.
He wished that he had asked her; he wished that he had inquired her name.
She was so modest, so expressive, she had looked so soft in her thin white gown that
he felt he had acted stupidly.
However, it could not be helped, and turning, and bending himself to a rapid
walk, he dismissed the subject from his mind.
>
CHAPTER III
As for Tess Durbeyfield, she did not so easily dislodge the incident from her
consideration.
She had no spirit to dance again for a long time, though she might have had plenty of
partners; but ah! they did not speak so nicely as the strange young man had done.
It was not till the rays of the sun had absorbed the young stranger's retreating
figure on the hill that she shook off her temporary sadness and answered her would-be
partner in the affirmative.
She remained with her comrades till dusk, and participated with a certain zest in the
dancing; though, being heart-whole as yet, she enjoyed treading a measure purely for
its own sake; little divining when she saw
"the soft torments, the bitter sweets, the pleasing pains, and the agreeable
distresses" of those girls who had been wooed and won, what she herself was capable
of in that kind.
The struggles and wrangles of the lads for her hand in a jig were an amusement to her-
-no more; and when they became fierce she rebuked them.
She might have stayed even later, but the incident of her father's odd appearance and
manner returned upon the girl's mind to make her anxious, and wondering what had
become of him she dropped away from the
dancers and bent her steps towards the end of the village at which the parental
cottage lay.
While yet many score yards off, other rhythmic sounds than those she had quitted
became audible to her; sounds that she knew well--so well.
They were a regular series of thumpings from the interior of the house, occasioned
by the violent rocking of a cradle upon a stone floor, to which movement a feminine
voice kept time by singing, in a vigorous
gallopade, the favourite ditty of "The Spotted Cow"--
I saw her lie do'-own in yon'-der green gro'-ove; Come, love!' and I'll tell' you
where!'
The cradle-rocking and the song would cease simultaneously for a moment, and an
exclamation at highest vocal pitch would take the place of the melody.
"God bless thy diment eyes!
And thy waxen cheeks! And thy cherry mouth!
And thy Cubit's thighs! And every bit o' thy blessed body!"
After this invocation the rocking and the singing would recommence, and the "Spotted
Cow" proceed as before.
So matters stood when Tess opened the door and paused upon the mat within it,
surveying the scene.
The interior, in spite of the melody, struck upon the girl's senses with an
unspeakable dreariness.
From the holiday gaieties of the field--the white gowns, the nosegays, the willow-
wands, the whirling movements on the green, the flash of gentle sentiment towards the
stranger--to the yellow melancholy of this one-candled spectacle, what a step!
Besides the jar of contrast there came to her a chill self-reproach that she had not
returned sooner, to help her mother in these domesticities, instead of indulging
herself out-of-doors.
There stood her mother amid the group of children, as Tess had left her, hanging
over the Monday washing-tub, which had now, as always, lingered on to the end of the
week.
Out of that tub had come the day before-- Tess felt it with a dreadful sting of
remorse--the very white frock upon her back which she had so carelessly greened about
the skirt on the damping grass--which had
been wrung up and ironed by her mother's own hands.
As usual, Mrs Durbeyfield was balanced on one foot beside the tub, the other being
engaged in the aforesaid business of rocking her youngest child.
The cradle-rockers had done hard duty for so many years, under the weight of so many
children, on that flagstone floor, that they were worn nearly flat, in consequence
of which a huge jerk accompanied each swing
of the cot, flinging the baby from side to side like a weaver's shuttle, as Mrs
Durbeyfield, excited by her song, trod the rocker with all the spring that was left in
her after a long day's seething in the suds.
Nick-knock, nick-knock, went the cradle; the candle-flame stretched itself tall, and
began jigging up and down; the water dribbled from the matron's elbows, and the
song galloped on to the end of the verse,
Mrs Durbeyfield regarding her daughter the while.
Even now, when burdened with a young family, Joan Durbeyfield was a passionate
lover of tune.
No ditty floated into Blackmoor Vale from the outer world but Tess's mother caught up
its notation in a week.
There still faintly beamed from the woman's features something of the freshness, and
even the prettiness, of her youth; rendering it probable that the personal
charms which Tess could boast of were in
main part her mother's gift, and therefore unknightly, unhistorical.
"I'll rock the cradle for 'ee, mother," said the daughter gently.
"Or I'll take off my best frock and help you wring up?
I thought you had finished long ago."
Her mother bore Tess no ill-will for leaving the housework to her single-handed
efforts for so long; indeed, Joan seldom upbraided her thereon at any time, feeling
but slightly the lack of Tess's assistance
whilst her instinctive plan for relieving herself of her labours lay in postponing
them. To-night, however, she was even in a
blither mood than usual.
There was a dreaminess, a pre-occupation, an exaltation, in the maternal look which
the girl could not understand.
"Well, I'm glad you've come," her mother said, as soon as the last note had passed
out of her.
"I want to go and fetch your father; but what's more'n that, I want to tell 'ee what
have happened. Y'll be fess enough, my poppet, when th'st
know!"
(Mrs Durbeyfield habitually spoke the dialect; her daughter, who had passed the
Sixth Standard in the National School under a London-trained mistress, spoke two
languages: the dialect at home, more or
less; ordinary English abroad and to persons of quality.)
"Since I've been away?" Tess asked.
"Ay!"
"Had it anything to do with father's making such a mommet of himself in thik carriage
this afternoon? Why did 'er?
I felt inclined to sink into the ground with shame!"
"That wer all a part of the larry!
We've been found to be the greatest gentlefolk in the whole county--reaching
all back long before Oliver Grumble's time- -to the days of the Pagan Turks--with
monuments, and vaults, and crests, and 'scutcheons, and the Lord knows what all.
In Saint Charles's days we was made Knights o' the Royal Oak, our real name being
d'Urberville!...
Don't that make your bosom plim? 'Twas on this account that your father rode
home in the vlee; not because he'd been drinking, as people supposed."
"I'm glad of that.
Will it do us any good, mother?" "O yes!
'Tis thoughted that great things may come o't.
No doubt a mampus of volk of our own rank will be down here in their carriages as
soon as 'tis known.
Your father learnt it on his way hwome from Shaston, and he has been telling me the
whole pedigree of the matter." "Where is father now?" asked Tess suddenly.
Her mother gave irrelevant information by way of answer: "He called to see the doctor
to-day in Shaston. It is not consumption at all, it seems.
It is fat round his heart, 'a says.
There, it is like this." Joan Durbeyfield, as she spoke, curved a
sodden thumb and forefinger to the shape of the letter C, and used the other forefinger
as a pointer.
"'At the present moment,' he says to your father, 'your heart is enclosed all round
there, and all round there; this space is still open,' 'a says.
'As soon as it do meet, so,'"--Mrs Durbeyfield closed her fingers into a
circle complete--"'off you will go like a shadder, Mr Durbeyfield,' 'a says.
'You mid last ten years; you mid go off in ten months, or ten days.'"
Tess looked alarmed.
Her father possibly to go behind the eternal cloud so soon, notwithstanding this
sudden greatness! "But where IS father?" she asked again.
Her mother put on a deprecating look.
"Now don't you be bursting out angry! The poor man--he felt so rafted after his
uplifting by the pa'son's news--that he went up to Rolliver's half an hour ago.
He do want to get up his strength for his journey to-morrow with that load of
beehives, which must be delivered, family or no.
He'll have to start shortly after twelve to-night, as the distance is so long."
"Get up his strength!" said Tess impetuously, the tears welling to her eyes.
"O my God!
Go to a public-house to get up his strength!
And you as well agreed as he, mother!"
Her rebuke and her mood seemed to fill the whole room, and to impart a cowed look to
the furniture, and candle, and children playing about, and to her mother's face.
"No," said the latter touchily, "I be not agreed.
I have been waiting for 'ee to bide and keep house while I go fetch him."
"I'll go."
"O no, Tess. You see, it would be no use."
Tess did not expostulate. She knew what her mother's objection meant.
Mrs Durbeyfield's jacket and bonnet were already hanging slily upon a chair by her
side, in readiness for this contemplated jaunt, the reason for which the matron
deplored more than its necessity.
"And take the Compleat Fortune-Teller to the outhouse," Joan continued, rapidly
wiping her hands, and donning the garments.
The Compleat Fortune-Teller was an old thick volume, which lay on a table at her
elbow, so worn by pocketing that the margins had reached the edge of the type.
Tess took it up, and her mother started.
This going to hunt up her shiftless husband at the inn was one of Mrs Durbeyfield's
still extant enjoyments in the muck and muddle of rearing children.
To discover him at Rolliver's, to sit there for an hour or two by his side and dismiss
all thought and care of the children during the interval, made her happy.
A sort of halo, an occidental glow, came over life then.
Troubles and other realities took on themselves a metaphysical impalpability,
sinking to mere mental phenomena for serene contemplation, and no longer stood as
pressing concretions which chafed body and soul.
The youngsters, not immediately within sight, seemed rather bright and desirable
appurtenances than otherwise; the incidents of daily life were not without humorousness
and jollity in their aspect there.
She felt a little as she had used to feel when she sat by her now wedded husband in
the same spot during his wooing, shutting her eyes to his defects of character, and
regarding him only in his ideal presentation as lover.
Tess, being left alone with the younger children, went first to the outhouse with
the fortune-telling book, and stuffed it into the thatch.
A curious fetishistic fear of this grimy volume on the part of her mother prevented
her ever allowing it to stay in the house all night, and hither it was brought back
whenever it had been consulted.
Between the mother, with her fast-perishing lumber of superstitions, folk-lore,
dialect, and orally transmitted ballads, and the daughter, with her trained National
teachings and Standard knowledge under an
infinitely Revised Code, there was a gap of two hundred years as ordinarily understood.
When they were together the Jacobean and the Victorian ages were juxtaposed.
Returning along the garden path Tess mused on what the mother could have wished to
ascertain from the book on this particular day.
She guessed the recent ancestral discovery to bear upon it, but did not divine that it
solely concerned herself.
Dismissing this, however, she busied herself with sprinkling the linen dried
during the day-time, in company with her nine-year-old brother Abraham, and her
sister Eliza-Louisa of twelve and a half,
called "'Liza-Lu," the youngest ones being put to bed.
There was an interval of four years and more between Tess and the next of the
family, the two who had filled the gap having died in their infancy, and this lent
her a deputy-maternal attitude when she was alone with her juniors.
Next in juvenility to Abraham came two more girls, Hope and Modesty; then a boy of
three, and then the baby, who had just completed his first year.
All these young souls were passengers in the Durbeyfield ship--entirely dependent on
the judgement of the two Durbeyfield adults for their pleasures, their necessities,
their health, even their existence.
If the heads of the Durbeyfield household chose to sail into difficulty, disaster,
starvation, disease, degradation, death, thither were these half-dozen little
captives under hatches compelled to sail
with them--six helpless creatures, who had never been asked if they wished for life on
any terms, much less if they wished for it on such hard conditions as were involved in
being of the shiftless house of Durbeyfield.
Some people would like to know whence the poet whose philosophy is in these days
deemed as profound and trustworthy as his song is breezy and pure, gets his authority
for speaking of "Nature's holy plan."
It grew later, and neither father nor mother reappeared.
Tess looked out of the door, and took a mental journey through Marlott.
The village was shutting its eyes.
Candles and lamps were being put out everywhere: she could inwardly behold the
extinguisher and the extended hand. Her mother's fetching simply meant one more
to fetch.
Tess began to perceive that a man in indifferent health, who proposed to start
on a journey before one in the morning, ought not to be at an inn at this late hour
celebrating his ancient blood.
"Abraham," she said to her little brother, "do you put on your hat--you bain't
afraid?--and go up to Rolliver's, and see what has gone wi' father and mother."
The boy jumped promptly from his seat, and opened the door, and the night swallowed
him up. Half an hour passed yet again; neither man,
woman, nor child returned.
Abraham, like his parents, seemed to have been limed and caught by the ensnaring inn.
"I must go myself," she said.
'Liza-Lu then went to bed, and Tess, locking them all in, started on her way up
the dark and crooked lane or street not made for hasty progress; a street laid out
before inches of land had value, and when
one-handed clocks sufficiently subdivided the day.
>
CHAPTER IV
Rolliver's inn, the single alehouse at this end of the long and broken village, could
only boast of an off-licence; hence, as nobody could legally drink on the premises,
the amount of overt accommodation for
consumers was strictly limited to a little board about six inches wide and two yards
long, fixed to the garden palings by pieces of wire, so as to form a ledge.
On this board thirsty strangers deposited their cups as they stood in the road and
drank, and threw the dregs on the dusty ground to the pattern of Polynesia, and
wished they could have a restful seat inside.
Thus the strangers.
But there were also local customers who felt the same wish; and where there's a
will there's a way.
In a large bedroom upstairs, the window of which was thickly curtained with a great
woollen shawl lately discarded by the landlady, Mrs Rolliver, were gathered on
this evening nearly a dozen persons, all
seeking beatitude; all old inhabitants of the nearer end of Marlott, and frequenters
of this retreat.
Not only did the distance to the The Pure Drop, the fully-licensed tavern at the
further part of the dispersed village, render its accommodation practically
unavailable for dwellers at this end; but
the far more serious question, the quality of the liquor, confirmed the prevalent
opinion that it was better to drink with Rolliver in a corner of the housetop than
with the other landlord in a wide house.
A gaunt four-post bedstead which stood in the room afforded sitting-space for several
persons gathered round three of its sides; a couple more men had elevated themselves
on a chest of drawers; another rested on
the oak-carved "cwoffer"; two on the wash- stand; another on the stool; and thus all
were, somehow, seated at their ease.
The stage of mental comfort to which they had arrived at this hour was one wherein
their souls expanded beyond their skins, and spread their personalities warmly
through the room.
In this process the chamber and its furniture grew more and more dignified and
luxurious; the shawl hanging at the window took upon itself the richness of tapestry;
the brass handles of the chest of drawers
were as golden knockers; and the carved bedposts seemed to have some kinship with
the magnificent pillars of Solomon's temple.
Mrs Durbeyfield, having quickly walked hitherward after parting from Tess, opened
the front door, crossed the downstairs room, which was in deep gloom, and then
unfastened the stair-door like one whose
fingers knew the tricks of the latches well.
Her ascent of the crooked staircase was a slower process, and her face, as it rose
into the light above the last stair, encountered the gaze of all the party
assembled in the bedroom.
"--Being a few private friends I've asked in to keep up club-walking at my own
expense," the landlady exclaimed at the sound of footsteps, as glibly as a child
repeating the Catechism, while she peered over the stairs.
"Oh, 'tis you, Mrs Durbeyfield--Lard--how you frightened me!--I thought it might be
some gaffer sent by Gover'ment."
Mrs Durbeyfield was welcomed with glances and nods by the remainder of the conclave,
and turned to where her husband sat.
He was humming absently to himself, in a low tone: "I be as good as some folks here
and there!
I've got a great family vault at Kingsbere- sub-Greenhill, and finer skillentons than
any man in Wessex!"
"I've something to tell 'ee that's come into my head about that--a grand projick!"
whispered his cheerful wife. "Here, John, don't 'ee see me?"
She nudged him, while he, looking through her as through a window-pane, went on with
his recitative. "Hush!
Don't 'ee sing so loud, my good man," said the landlady; "in case any member of the
Gover'ment should be passing, and take away my licends."
"He's told 'ee what's happened to us, I suppose?" asked Mrs Durbeyfield.
"Yes--in a way. D'ye think there's any money hanging by
it?"
"Ah, that's the secret," said Joan Durbeyfield sagely.
"However, 'tis well to be kin to a coach, even if you don't ride in 'en."
She dropped her public voice, and continued in a low tone to her husband: "I've been
thinking since you brought the news that there's a great rich lady out by
Trantridge, on the edge o' The Chase, of the name of d'Urberville."
"Hey--what's that?" said Sir John. She repeated the information.
"That lady must be our relation," she said.
"And my projick is to send Tess to claim kin."
"There IS a lady of the name, now you mention it," said Durbeyfield.
"Pa'son Tringham didn't think of that.
But she's nothing beside we--a junior branch of us, no doubt, hailing long since
King Norman's day."
While this question was being discussed neither of the pair noticed, in their
preoccupation, that little Abraham had crept into the room, and was awaiting an
opportunity of asking them to return.
"She is rich, and she'd be sure to take notice o' the maid," continued Mrs
Durbeyfield; "and 'twill be a very good thing.
I don't see why two branches o' one family should not be on visiting terms."
"Yes; and we'll all claim kin!" said Abraham brightly from under the bedstead.
"And we'll all go and see her when Tess has gone to live with her; and we'll ride in
her coach and wear black clothes!" "How do you come here, child?
What nonsense be ye talking!
Go away, and play on the stairs till father and mother be ready!...
Well, Tess ought to go to this other member of our family.
She'd be sure to win the lady--Tess would; and likely enough 'twould lead to some
noble gentleman marrying her. In short, I know it."
"How?"
"I tried her fate in the Fortune-Teller, and it brought out that very thing!...
You should ha' seen how pretty she looked to-day; her skin is as sumple as a
duchess'."
"What says the maid herself to going?" "I've not asked her.
She don't know there is any such lady- relation yet.
But it would certainly put her in the way of a grand marriage, and she won't say nay
to going." "Tess is queer."
"But she's tractable at bottom.
Leave her to me."
Though this conversation had been private, sufficient of its import reached the
understandings of those around to suggest to them that the Durbeyfields had weightier
concerns to talk of now than common folks
had, and that Tess, their pretty eldest daughter, had fine prospects in store.
"Tess is a fine figure o' fun, as I said to myself to-day when I zeed her vamping round
parish with the rest," observed one of the elderly boozers in an undertone.
"But Joan Durbeyfield must mind that she don't get green malt in floor."
It was a local phrase which had a peculiar meaning, and there was no reply.
The conversation became inclusive, and presently other footsteps were heard
crossing the room below.
"--Being a few private friends asked in to- night to keep up club-walking at my own
expense."
The landlady had rapidly re-used the formula she kept on hand for intruders
before she recognized that the newcomer was Tess.
Even to her mother's gaze the girl's young features looked sadly out of place amid the
alcoholic vapours which floated here as no unsuitable medium for wrinkled middle-age;
and hardly was a reproachful flash from
Tess's dark eyes needed to make her father and mother rise from their seats, hastily
finish their ale, and descend the stairs behind her, Mrs Rolliver's caution
following their footsteps.
"No noise, please, if ye'll be so good, my dears; or I mid lose my licends, and be
summons'd, and I don't know what all! 'Night t'ye!"
They went home together, Tess holding one arm of her father, and Mrs Durbeyfield the
other.
He had, in truth, drunk very little--not a fourth of the quantity which a systematic
tippler could carry to church on a Sunday afternoon without a hitch in his eastings
or genuflections; but the weakness of Sir
John's constitution made mountains of his petty sins in this kind.
On reaching the fresh air he was sufficiently unsteady to incline the row of
three at one moment as if they were marching to London, and at another as if
they were marching to Bath--which produced
a comical effect, frequent enough in families on nocturnal homegoings; and, like
most comical effects, not quite so comic after all.
The two women valiantly disguised these forced excursions and countermarches as
well as they could from Durbeyfield, their cause, and from Abraham, and from
themselves; and so they approached by
degrees their own door, the head of the family bursting suddenly into his former
refrain as he drew near, as if to fortify his soul at sight of the smallness of his
present residence--
"I've got a fam--ily vault at Kingsbere!" "Hush--don't be so silly, Jacky," said his
wife. "Yours is not the only family that was of
'count in wold days.
Look at the Anktells, and Horseys, and the Tringhams themselves--gone to seed a'most
as much as you--though you was bigger folks than they, that's true.
Thank God, I was never of no family, and have nothing to be ashamed of in that way!"
"Don't you be so sure o' that.
From you nater 'tis my belief you've disgraced yourselves more than any o' us,
and was kings and queens outright at one time."
Tess turned the subject by saying what was far more prominent in her own mind at the
moment than thoughts of her ancestry--"I am afraid father won't be able to take the
journey with the beehives to-morrow so early."
"I? I shall be all right in an hour or two,"
said Durbeyfield.
It was eleven o'clock before the family were all in bed, and two o'clock next
morning was the latest hour for starting with the beehives if they were to be
delivered to the retailers in Casterbridge
before the Saturday market began, the way thither lying by bad roads over a distance
of between twenty and thirty miles, and the horse and waggon being of the slowest.
At half-past one Mrs Durbeyfield came into the large bedroom where Tess and all her
little brothers and sisters slept.
"The poor man can't go," she said to her eldest daughter, whose great eyes had
opened the moment her mother's hand touched the door.
Tess sat up in bed, lost in a vague interspace between a dream and this
information. "But somebody must go," she replied.
"It is late for the hives already.
Swarming will soon be over for the year; and it we put off taking 'em till next
week's market the call for 'em will be past, and they'll be thrown on our hands."
Mrs Durbeyfield looked unequal to the emergency.
"Some young feller, perhaps, would go?
One of them who were so much after dancing with 'ee yesterday," she presently
suggested. "O no--I wouldn't have it for the world!"
declared Tess proudly.
"And letting everybody know the reason-- such a thing to be ashamed of!
I think I could go if Abraham could go with me to kip me company."
Her mother at length agreed to this arrangement.
Little Abraham was aroused from his deep sleep in a corner of the same apartment,
and made to put on his clothes while still mentally in the other world.
Meanwhile Tess had hastily dressed herself; and the twain, lighting a lantern, went out
to the stable.
The rickety little waggon was already laden, and the girl led out the horse,
Prince, only a degree less rickety than the vehicle.
The poor creature looked wonderingly round at the night, at the lantern, at their two
figures, as if he could not believe that at that hour, when every living thing was
intended to be in shelter and at rest, he was called upon to go out and labour.
They put a stock of candle-ends into the lantern, hung the latter to the off-side of
the load, and directed the horse onward, walking at his shoulder at first during the
uphill parts of the way, in order not to overload an animal of so little vigour.
To cheer themselves as well as they could, they made an artificial morning with the
lantern, some bread and butter, and their own conversation, the real morning being
far from come.
Abraham, as he more fully awoke (for he had moved in a sort of trance so far), began to
talk of the strange shapes assumed by the various dark objects against the sky; of
this tree that looked like a raging tiger
springing from a lair; of that which resembled a giant's head.
When they had passed the little town of Stourcastle, dumbly somnolent under its
thick brown thatch, they reached higher ground.
Still higher, on their left, the elevation called Bulbarrow, or Bealbarrow, well-nigh
the highest in South Wessex, swelled into the sky, engirdled by its earthen trenches.
From hereabout the long road was fairly level for some distance onward.
They mounted in front of the waggon, and Abraham grew reflective.
"Tess!" he said in a preparatory tone, after a silence.
"Yes, Abraham." "Bain't you glad that we've become
gentlefolk?"
"Not particular glad." "But you be glad that you 'm going to marry
a gentleman?" "What?" said Tess, lifting her face.
"That our great relation will help 'ee to marry a gentleman."
"I? Our great relation?
We have no such relation.
What has put that into your head?" "I heard 'em talking about it up at
Rolliver's when I went to find father.
There's a rich lady of our family out at Trantridge, and mother said that if you
claimed kin with the lady, she'd put 'ee in the way of marrying a gentleman."
His sister became abruptly still, and lapsed into a pondering silence.
Abraham talked on, rather for the pleasure of utterance than for audition, so that his
sister's abstraction was of no account.
He leant back against the hives, and with upturned face made observations on the
stars, whose cold pulses were beating amid the black hollows above, in serene
dissociation from these two wisps of human life.
He asked how far away those twinklers were, and whether God was on the other side of
them.
But ever and anon his childish prattle recurred to what impressed his imagination
even more deeply than the wonders of creation.
If Tess were made rich by marrying a gentleman, would she have money enough to
buy a spyglass so large that it would draw the stars as near to her as Nettlecombe-
Tout?
The renewed subject, which seemed to have impregnated the whole family, filled Tess
with impatience. "Never mind that now!" she exclaimed.
"Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?"
"Yes." "All like ours?"
"I don't know; but I think so. They sometimes seem to be like the apples
on our stubbard-tree.
Most of them splendid and sound--a few blighted."
"Which do we live on--a splendid one or a blighted one?"
"A blighted one."
"'Tis very unlucky that we didn't pitch on a sound one, when there were so many more
of 'em!" "Yes."
"Is it like that REALLY, Tess?" said Abraham, turning to her much impressed, on
reconsideration of this rare information. "How would it have been if we had pitched
on a sound one?"
"Well, father wouldn't have coughed and creeped about as he does, and wouldn't have
got too tipsy to go on this journey; and mother wouldn't have been always washing,
and never getting finished."
"And you would have been a rich lady ready- made, and not have had to be made rich by
marrying a gentleman?" "O Aby, don't--don't talk of that any
more!"
Left to his reflections Abraham soon grew drowsy.
Tess was not skilful in the management of a horse, but she thought that she could take
upon herself the entire conduct of the load for the present and allow Abraham to go to
sleep if he wished to do so.
She made him a sort of nest in front of the hives, in such a manner that he could not
fall, and, taking the reins into her own hands, jogged on as before.
Prince required but slight attention, lacking energy for superfluous movements of
any sort.
With no longer a companion to distract her, Tess fell more deeply into reverie than
ever, her back leaning against the hives.
The mute procession past her shoulders of trees and hedges became attached to
fantastic scenes outside reality, and the occasional heave of the wind became the
sigh of some immense sad soul, conterminous
with the universe in space, and with history in time.
Then, examining the mesh of events in her own life, she seemed to see the vanity of
her father's pride; the gentlemanly suitor awaiting herself in her mother's fancy; to
see him as a grimacing personage, laughing
at her poverty and her shrouded knightly ancestry.
Everything grew more and more extravagant, and she no longer knew how time passed.
A sudden jerk shook her in her seat, and Tess awoke from the sleep into which she,
too, had fallen.
They were a long way further on than when she had lost consciousness, and the waggon
had stopped.
A hollow groan, unlike anything she had ever heard in her life, came from the
front, followed by a shout of "Hoi there!"
The lantern hanging at her waggon had gone out, but another was shining in her face--
much brighter than her own had been. Something terrible had happened.
The harness was entangled with an object which blocked the way.
In consternation Tess jumped down, and discovered the dreadful truth.
The groan had proceeded from her father's poor horse Prince.
The morning mail-cart, with its two noiseless wheels, speeding along these
lanes like an arrow, as it always did, had driven into her slow and unlighted
equipage.
The pointed shaft of the cart had entered the breast of the unhappy Prince like a
sword, and from the wound his life's blood was spouting in a stream, and falling with
a hiss into the road.
In her despair Tess sprang forward and put her hand upon the hole, with the only
result that she became splashed from face to skirt with the crimson drops.
Then she stood helplessly looking on.
Prince also stood firm and motionless as long as he could; till he suddenly sank
down in a heap.
By this time the mail-cart man had joined her, and began dragging and unharnessing
the hot form of Prince.
But he was already dead, and, seeing that nothing more could be done immediately, the
mail-cart man returned to his own animal, which was uninjured.
"You was on the wrong side," he said.
"I am bound to go on with the mail-bags, so that the best thing for you to do is bide
here with your load. I'll send somebody to help you as soon as I
can.
It is getting daylight, and you have nothing to fear."
He mounted and sped on his way; while Tess stood and waited.
The atmosphere turned pale, the birds shook themselves in the hedges, arose, and
twittered; the lane showed all its white features, and Tess showed hers, still
whiter.
The huge pool of blood in front of her was already assuming the iridescence of
coagulation; and when the sun rose a hundred prismatic hues were reflected from
it.
Prince lay alongside, still and stark; his eyes half open, the hole in his chest
looking scarcely large enough to have let out all that had animated him.
"'Tis all my doing--all mine!" the girl cried, gazing at the spectacle.
"No excuse for me--none. What will mother and father live on now?
Aby, Aby!"
She shook the child, who had slept soundly through the whole disaster.
"We can't go on with our load--Prince is killed!"
When Abraham realized all, the furrows of fifty years were extemporized on his young
face. "Why, I danced and laughed only yesterday!"
she went on to herself.
"To think that I was such a fool!" "'Tis because we be on a blighted star, and
not a sound one, isn't it, Tess?" murmured Abraham through his tears.
In silence they waited through an interval which seemed endless.
At length a sound, and an approaching object, proved to them that the driver of
the mail-car had been as good as his word.
A farmer's man from near Stourcastle came up, leading a strong cob.
He was harnessed to the waggon of beehives in the place of Prince, and the load taken
on towards Casterbridge.
The evening of the same day saw the empty waggon reach again the spot of the
accident.
Prince had lain there in the ditch since the morning; but the place of the blood-
pool was still visible in the middle of the road, though scratched and scraped over by
passing vehicles.
All that was left of Prince was now hoisted into the waggon he had formerly hauled, and
with his hoofs in the air, and his shoes shining in the setting sunlight, he
retraced the eight or nine miles to Marlott.
Tess had gone back earlier. How to break the news was more than she
could think.
It was a relief to her tongue to find from the faces of her parents that they already
knew of their loss, though this did not lessen the self-reproach which she
continued to heap upon herself for her negligence.
But the very shiftlessness of the household rendered the misfortune a less terrifying
one to them than it would have been to a thriving family, though in the present case
it meant ruin, and in the other it would only have meant inconvenience.
In the Durbeyfield countenances there was nothing of the red wrath that would have
burnt upon the girl from parents more ambitious for her welfare.
Nobody blamed Tess as she blamed herself.
When it was discovered that the knacker and tanner would give only a very few shillings
for Prince's carcase because of his decrepitude, Durbeyfield rose to the
occasion.
"No," said he stoically, "I won't sell his old body.
When we d'Urbervilles was knights in the land, we didn't sell our chargers for cat's
meat.
Let 'em keep their shillings! He've served me well in his lifetime, and I
won't part from him now."
He worked harder the next day in digging a grave for Prince in the garden than he had
worked for months to grow a crop for his family.
When the hole was ready, Durbeyfield and his wife tied a rope round the horse and
dragged him up the path towards it, the children following in funeral train.
Abraham and 'Liza-Lu sobbed, Hope and Modesty discharged their griefs in loud
blares which echoed from the walls; and when Prince was tumbled in they gathered
round the grave.
The bread-winner had been taken away from them; what would they do?
"Is he gone to heaven?" asked Abraham, between the sobs.
Then Durbeyfield began to shovel in the earth, and the children cried anew.
All except Tess.
Her face was dry and pale, as though she regarded herself in the light of a
murderess.
>
CHAPTER V
The haggling business, which had mainly depended on the horse, became disorganized
forthwith. Distress, if not penury, loomed in the
distance.
Durbeyfield was what was locally called a slack-twisted fellow; he had good strength
to work at times; but the times could not be relied on to coincide with the hours of
requirement; and, having been unaccustomed
to the regular toil of the day-labourer, he was not particularly persistent when they
did so coincide.
Tess, meanwhile, as the one who had dragged her parents into this quagmire, was
silently wondering what she could do to help them out of it; and then her mother
broached her scheme.
"We must take the ups wi' the downs, Tess," said she; "and never could your high blood
have been found out at a more called-for moment.
You must try your friends.
Do ye know that there is a very rich Mrs d'Urberville living on the outskirts o' The
Chase, who must be our relation? You must go to her and claim kin, and ask
for some help in our trouble."
"I shouldn't care to do that," says Tess. "If there is such a lady, 'twould be enough
for us if she were friendly--not to expect her to give us help."
"You could win her round to do anything, my dear.
Besides, perhaps there's more in it than you know of.
I've heard what I've heard, good-now."
The oppressive sense of the harm she had done led Tess to be more deferential than
she might otherwise have been to the maternal wish; but she could not understand
why her mother should find such
satisfaction in contemplating an enterprise of, to her, such doubtful profit.
Her mother might have made inquiries, and have discovered that this Mrs d'Urberville
was a lady of unequalled virtues and charity.
But Tess's pride made the part of poor relation one of particular distaste to her.
"I'd rather try to get work," she murmured.
"Durbeyfield, you can settle it," said his wife, turning to where he sat in the
background. "If you say she ought to go, she will go."
"I don't like my children going and making themselves beholden to strange kin,"
murmured he. "I'm the head of the noblest branch o' the
family, and I ought to live up to it."
His reasons for staying away were worse to Tess than her own objections to going.
"Well, as I killed the horse, mother," she said mournfully, "I suppose I ought to do
something.
I don't mind going and seeing her, but you must leave it to me about asking for help.
And don't go thinking about her making a match for me--it is silly."
"Very well said, Tess!" observed her father sententiously.
"Who said I had such a thought?" asked Joan.
"I fancy it is in your mind, mother.
But I'll go."
Rising early next day she walked to the hill-town called Shaston, and there took
advantage of a van which twice in the week ran from Shaston eastward to Chaseborough,
passing near Trantridge, the parish in
which the vague and mysterious Mrs d'Urberville had her residence.
Tess Durbeyfield's route on this memorable morning lay amid the north-eastern
undulations of the Vale in which she had been born, and in which her life had
unfolded.
The Vale of Blackmoor was to her the world, and its inhabitants the races thereof.
From the gates and stiles of Marlott she had looked down its length in the wondering
days of infancy, and what had been mystery to her then was not much less than mystery
to her now.
She had seen daily from her chamber-window towers, villages, faint white mansions;
above all, the town of Shaston standing majestically on its height; its windows
shining like lamps in the evening sun.
She had hardly ever visited the place, only a small tract even of the Vale and its
environs being known to her by close inspection.
Much less had she been far outside the valley.
Every contour of the surrounding hills was as personal to her as that of her
relatives' faces; but for what lay beyond, her judgment was dependent on the teaching
of the village school, where she had held a
leading place at the time of her leaving, a year or two before this date.
In those early days she had been much loved by others of her own sex and age, and had
used to be seen about the village as one of three--all nearly of the same year--walking
home from school side by side; Tess the
middle one--in a pink print pinafore, of a finely reticulated pattern, worn over a
stuff frock that had lost its original colour for a nondescript tertiary--marching
on upon long stalky legs, in tight
stockings which had little ladder-like holes at the knees, torn by kneeling in the
roads and banks in search of vegetable and mineral treasures; her then earth-coloured
hair hanging like pot-hooks; the arms of
the two outside girls resting round the waist of Tess; her arms on the shoulders of
the two supporters.
As Tess grew older, and began to see how matters stood, she felt quite a Malthusian
towards her mother for thoughtlessly giving her so many little sisters and brothers,
when it was such a trouble to nurse and provide for them.
Her mother's intelligence was that of a happy child: Joan Durbeyfield was simply an
additional one, and that not the eldest, to her own long family of waiters on
Providence.
However, Tess became humanely beneficent towards the small ones, and to help them as
much as possible she used, as soon as she left school, to lend a hand at haymaking or
harvesting on neighbouring farms; or, by
preference, at milking or butter-making processes, which she had learnt when her
father had owned cows; and being deft- fingered it was a kind of work in which she
excelled.
Every day seemed to throw upon her young shoulders more of the family burdens, and
that Tess should be the representative of the Durbeyfields at the d'Urberville
mansion came as a thing of course.
In this instance it must be admitted that the Durbeyfields were putting their fairest
side outward.
She alighted from the van at Trantridge Cross, and ascended on foot a hill in the
direction of the district known as The Chase, on the borders of which, as she had
been informed, Mrs d'Urberville's seat, The Slopes, would be found.
It was not a manorial home in the ordinary sense, with fields, and pastures, and a
grumbling farmer, out of whom the owner had to squeeze an income for himself and his
family by hook or by crook.
It was more, far more; a country-house built for enjoyment pure and simple, with
not an acre of troublesome land attached to it beyond what was required for residential
purposes, and for a little fancy farm kept
in hand by the owner, and tended by a bailiff.
The crimson brick lodge came first in sight, up to its eaves in dense evergreens.
Tess thought this was the mansion itself till, passing through the side wicket with
some trepidation, and onward to a point at which the drive took a turn, the house
proper stood in full view.
It was of recent erection--indeed almost new--and of the same rich red colour that
formed such a contrast with the evergreens of the lodge.
Far behind the corner of the house--which rose like a geranium bloom against the
subdued colours around--stretched the soft azure landscape of The Chase--a truly
venerable tract of forest land, one of the
few remaining woodlands in England of undoubted primaeval date, wherein Druidical
mistletoe was still found on aged oaks, and where enormous yew-trees, not planted by
the hand of man grew as they had grown when they were pollarded for bows.
All this sylvan antiquity, however, though visible from The Slopes, was outside the
immediate boundaries of the estate.
Everything on this snug property was bright, thriving, and well kept; acres of
glass-houses stretched down the inclines to the copses at their feet.
Everything looked like money--like the last coin issued from the Mint.
The stables, partly screened by Austrian pines and evergreen oaks, and fitted with
every late appliance, were as dignified as Chapels-of-Ease.
On the extensive lawn stood an ornamental tent, its door being towards her.
Simple Tess Durbeyfield stood at gaze, in a half-alarmed attitude, on the edge of the
gravel sweep.
Her feet had brought her onward to this point before she had quite realized where
she was; and now all was contrary to her expectation.
"I thought we were an old family; but this is all new!" she said, in her artlessness.
She wished that she had not fallen in so readily with her mother's plans for
"claiming kin," and had endeavoured to gain assistance nearer home.
The d'Urbervilles--or Stoke-d'Urbervilles, as they at first called themselves--who
owned all this, were a somewhat unusual family to find in such an old-fashioned
part of the country.
Parson Tringham had spoken truly when he said that our shambling John Durbeyfield
was the only really lineal representative of the old d'Urberville family existing in
the county, or near it; he might have
added, what he knew very well, that the Stoke-d'Urbervilles were no more
d'Urbervilles of the true tree then he was himself.
Yet it must be admitted that this family formed a very good stock whereon to regraft
a name which sadly wanted such renovation.
When old Mr Simon Stoke, latterly deceased, had made his fortune as an honest merchant
(some said money-lender) in the North, he decided to settle as a county man in the
South of England, out of hail of his
business district; and in doing this he felt the necessity of recommencing with a
name that would not too readily identify him with the smart tradesman of the past,
and that would be less commonplace than the original bald, stark words.
Conning for an hour in the British Museum the pages of works devoted to extinct,
half-extinct, obscured, and ruined families appertaining to the quarter of England in
which he proposed to settle, he considered
that d'Urberville looked and sounded as well as any of them: and d'Urberville
accordingly was annexed to his own name for himself and his heirs eternally.
Yet he was not an extravagant-minded man in this, and in constructing his family tree
on the new basis was duly reasonable in framing his inter-marriages and
aristocratic links, never inserting a
single title above a rank of strict moderation.
Of this work of imagination poor Tess and her parents were naturally in ignorance--
much to their discomfiture; indeed, the very possibility of such annexations was
unknown to them; who supposed that, though
to be well-favoured might be the gift of fortune, a family name came by nature.
Tess still stood hesitating like a bather about to make his plunge, hardly knowing
whether to retreat or to persevere, when a figure came forth from the dark triangular
door of the tent.
It was that of a tall young man, smoking.
He had an almost swarthy complexion, with full lips, badly moulded, though red and
smooth, above which was a well-groomed black moustache with curled points, though
his age could not be more than three- or four-and-twenty.
Despite the touches of barbarism in his contours, there was a singular force in the
gentleman's face, and in his bold rolling eye.
"Well, my Beauty, what can I do for you?" said he, coming forward.
And perceiving that she stood quite confounded: "Never mind me.
I am Mr d'Urberville.
Have you come to see me or my mother?" This embodiment of a d'Urberville and a
namesake differed even more from what Tess had expected than the house and grounds had
differed.
She had dreamed of an aged and dignified face, the sublimation of all the
d'Urberville lineaments, furrowed with incarnate memories representing in
hieroglyphic the centuries of her family's and England's history.
But she screwed herself up to the work in hand, since she could not get out of it,
and answered--
"I came to see your mother, sir."
"I am afraid you cannot see her--she is an invalid," replied the present
representative of the spurious house; for this was Mr Alec, the only son of the
lately deceased gentleman.
"Cannot I answer your purpose? What is the business you wish to see her
about?" "It isn't business--it is--I can hardly say
what!"
"Pleasure?" "Oh no.
Why, sir, if I tell you, it will seem--"
Tess's sense of a certain ludicrousness in her errand was now so strong that,
notwithstanding her awe of him, and her general discomfort at being here, her rosy
lips curved towards a smile, much to the attraction of the swarthy Alexander.
"It is so very foolish," she stammered; "I fear can't tell you!"
"Never mind; I like foolish things.
Try again, my dear," said he kindly. "Mother asked me to come," Tess continued;
"and, indeed, I was in the mind to do so myself likewise.
But I did not think it would be like this.
I came, sir, to tell you that we are of the same family as you."
"Ho! Poor relations?"
"Yes."
"Stokes?" "No; d'Urbervilles."
"Ay, ay; I mean d'Urbervilles."
"Our names are worn away to Durbeyfield; but we have several proofs that we are
d'Urbervilles.
Antiquarians hold we are,--and--and we have an old seal, marked with a ramping lion on
a shield, and a castle over him.
And we have a very old silver spoon, round in the bowl like a little ladle, and marked
with the same castle. But it is so worn that mother uses it to
stir the pea-soup."
"A castle argent is certainly my crest," said he blandly.
"And my arms a lion rampant."
"And so mother said we ought to make ourselves beknown to you--as we've lost our
horse by a bad accident, and are the oldest branch o' the family."
"Very kind of your mother, I'm sure.
And I, for one, don't regret her step." Alec looked at Tess as he spoke, in a way
that made her blush a little. "And so, my pretty girl, you've come on a
friendly visit to us, as relations?"
"I suppose I have," faltered Tess, looking uncomfortable again.
"Well--there's no harm in it. Where do you live?
What are you?"
She gave him brief particulars; and responding to further inquiries told him
that she was intending to go back by the same carrier who had brought her.
"It is a long while before he returns past Trantridge Cross.
Supposing we walk round the grounds to pass the time, my pretty Coz?"
Tess wished to abridge her visit as much as possible; but the young man was pressing,
and she consented to accompany him.
He conducted her about the lawns, and flower-beds, and conservatories; and thence
to the fruit-garden and greenhouses, where he asked her if she liked strawberries.
"Yes," said Tess, "when they come."
"They are already here."
D'Urberville began gathering specimens of the fruit for her, handing them back to her
as he stooped; and, presently, selecting a specially fine product of the "British
Queen" variety, he stood up and held it by the stem to her mouth.
"No--no!" she said quickly, putting her fingers between his hand and her lips.
"I would rather take it in my own hand."
"Nonsense!" he insisted; and in a slight distress she parted her lips and took it
in.
They had spent some time wandering desultorily thus, Tess eating in a half-
pleased, half-reluctant state whatever d'Urberville offered her.
When she could consume no more of the strawberries he filled her little basket
with them; and then the two passed round to the rose-trees, whence he gathered blossoms
and gave her to put in her bosom.
She obeyed like one in a dream, and when she could affix no more he himself tucked a
bud or two into her hat, and heaped her basket with others in the prodigality of
his bounty.
At last, looking at his watch, he said, "Now, by the time you have had something to
eat, it will be time for you to leave, if you want to catch the carrier to Shaston.
Come here, and I'll see what grub I can find."
Stoke d'Urberville took her back to the lawn and into the tent, where he left her,
soon reappearing with a basket of light luncheon, which he put before her himself.
It was evidently the gentleman's wish not to be disturbed in this pleasant 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 said, rising.
"And what do they call you?" he asked, as he accompanied her along the drive till
they were out of sight of the house.
"Tess Durbeyfield, down at Marlott." "And you say your people have lost their
horse?"
"I--killed him!" she answered, her eyes filling with tears as she gave particulars
of Prince's death. "And I don't know what to do for father on
account of it!"
"I must think if I cannot do something. My mother must find a berth for you.
But, Tess, no nonsense about 'd'Urberville';--'Durbeyfield' only, you
know--quite another name."
"I wish for no better, sir," said she with something of dignity.
For a moment--only for a moment--when they were in the turning of the drive, between
the tall rhododendrons and conifers, before the lodge became visible, he inclined his
face towards her as if--but, no: he thought better of it, and let her go.
Thus the thing began.
Had she perceived this meeting's import she might have asked why she was doomed to be
seen and coveted that day by the wrong man, and not by some other man, the right and
desired one in all respects--as nearly as
humanity can supply the right and desired; yet to him who amongst her acquaintance
might have approximated to this kind, she was but a transient impression, half
forgotten.
In the ill-judged execution of the well- judged plan of things the call seldom
produces the comer, the man to love rarely coincides with the hour for loving.
Nature does not often say "See!" to her poor creature at a time when seeing can
lead to happy doing; or reply "Here!" to a body's cry of "Where?" till the hide-and-
seek has become an irksome, outworn game.
We may wonder whether at the acme and summit of the human progress these
anachronisms will be corrected by a finer intuition, a closer interaction of the
social machinery than that which now jolts
us round and along; but such completeness is not to be prophesied, or even conceived
as possible.
Enough that in the present case, as in millions, it was not the two halves of a
perfect whole that confronted each other at the perfect moment; a missing counterpart
wandered independently about the earth
waiting in crass obtuseness till the late time came.
Out of which maladroit delay sprang anxieties, disappointments, shocks,
catastrophes, and passing-strange destinies.
When d'Urberville got back to the tent he sat down astride on a chair, reflecting,
with a pleased gleam in his face. Then he broke into a loud laugh.
"Well, I'm damned!
What a funny thing! Ha-ha-ha!
And what a crumby girl!"
>
CHAPTER VI
Tess went down the hill to Trantridge Cross, and inattentively waited to take her
seat in the van returning from Chaseborough to Shaston.
She did not know what the other occupants said to her as she entered, though she
answered them; and when they had started anew she rode along with an inward and not
an outward eye.
One among her fellow-travellers addressed her more pointedly than any had spoken
before: "Why, you be quite a posy! And such roses in early June!"
Then she became aware of the spectacle she presented to their surprised vision: roses
at her breasts; roses in her hat; roses and strawberries in her basket to the brim.
She blushed, and said confusedly that the flowers had been given to her.
When the passengers were not looking she stealthily removed the more prominent
blooms from her hat and placed them in the basket, where she covered them with her
handkerchief.
Then she fell to reflecting again, and in looking downwards a thorn of the rose
remaining in her breast accidentally pricked her chin.
Like all the cottagers in Blackmoor Vale, Tess was steeped in fancies and
prefigurative superstitions; she thought this an ill omen--the first she had noticed
that day.
The van travelled only so far as Shaston, and there were several miles of pedestrian
descent from that mountain-town into the vale to Marlott.
Her mother had advised her to stay here for the night, at the house of a cottage-woman
they knew, if she should feel too tired to come on; and this Tess did, not descending
to her home till the following afternoon.
When she entered the house she perceived in a moment from her mother's triumphant
manner that something had occurred in the interim.
"Oh yes; I know all about it!
I told 'ee it would be all right, and now 'tis proved!"
"Since I've been away? What has?" said Tess rather wearily.
Her mother surveyed the girl up and down with arch approval, and went on
banteringly: "So you've brought 'em round!" "How do you know, mother?"
"I've had a letter."
Tess then remembered that there would have been time for this.
"They say--Mrs d'Urberville says--that she wants you to look after a little fowl-farm
which is her hobby.
But this is only her artful way of getting 'ee there without raising your hopes.
She's going to own 'ee as kin--that's the meaning o't."
"But I didn't see her."
"You zid somebody, I suppose?" "I saw her son."
"And did he own 'ee?" "Well--he called me Coz."
"An' I knew it!
Jacky--he called her Coz!" cried Joan to her husband.
"Well, he spoke to his mother, of course, and she do want 'ee there."
"But I don't know that I am apt at tending fowls," said the dubious Tess.
"Then I don't know who is apt. You've be'n born in the business, and
brought up in it.
They that be born in a business always know more about it than any 'prentice.
Besides, that's only just a show of something for you to do, that you midn't
feel beholden."
"I don't altogether think I ought to go," said Tess thoughtfully.
"Who wrote the letter? Will you let me look at it?"
"Mrs d'Urberville wrote it.
Here it is."
The letter was in the third person, and briefly informed Mrs Durbeyfield that her
daughter's services would be useful to that lady in the management of her poultry-farm,
that a comfortable room would be provided
for her if she could come, and that the wages would be on a liberal scale if they
liked her. "Oh--that's all!" said Tess.
"You couldn't expect her to throw her arms round 'ee, an' to kiss and to coll 'ee all
at once." Tess looked out of the window.
"I would rather stay here with father and you," she said.
"But why?" "I'd rather not tell you why, mother;
indeed, I don't quite know why."
A week afterwards she came in one evening from an unavailing search for some light
occupation in the immediate neighbourhood.
Her idea had been to get together sufficient money during the summer to
purchase another horse.
Hardly had she crossed the threshold before one of the children danced across the room,
saying, "The gentleman's been here!" Her mother hastened to explain, smiles
breaking from every inch of her person.
Mrs d'Urberville's son had called on horseback, having been riding by chance in
the direction of Marlott.
He had wished to know, finally, in the name of his mother, if Tess could really come to
manage the old lady's fowl-farm or not; the lad who had hitherto superintended the
birds having proved untrustworthy.
"Mr d'Urberville says you must be a good girl if you are at all as you appear; he
knows you must be worth your weight in gold.
He is very much interested in 'ee--truth to tell."
Tess seemed for the moment really pleased to hear that she had won such high opinion
from a stranger when, in her own esteem, she had sunk so low.
"It is very good of him to think that," she murmured; "and if I was quite sure how it
would be living there, I would go any- when."
"He is a mighty handsome man!"
"I don't think so," said Tess coldly. "Well, there's your chance, whether or no;
and I'm sure he wears a beautiful diamond ring!"
"Yes," said little Abraham, brightly, from the window-bench; "and I seed it! and it
did twinkle when he put his hand up to his mistarshers.
Mother, why did our grand relation keep on putting his hand up to his mistarshers?"
"Hark at that child!" cried Mrs Durbeyfield, with parenthetic admiration.
"Perhaps to show his diamond ring," murmured Sir John, dreamily, from his
chair. "I'll think it over," said Tess, leaving
the room.
"Well, she's made a conquest o' the younger branch of us, straight off," continued the
matron to her husband, "and she's a fool if she don't follow it up."
"I don't quite like my children going away from home," said the haggler.
"As the head of the family, the rest ought to come to me."
"But do let her go, Jacky," coaxed his poor witless wife.
"He's struck wi' her--you can see that. He called her Coz!
He'll marry her, most likely, and make a lady of her; and then she'll be what her
forefathers was."
John Durbeyfield had more conceit than energy or health, and this supposition was
pleasant to him.
"Well, perhaps that's what young Mr d'Urberville means," he admitted; "and sure
enough he mid have serious thoughts about improving his blood by linking on to the
old line.
Tess, the little rogue! And have she really paid 'em a visit to
such an end as this?"
Meanwhile Tess was walking thoughtfully among the gooseberry-bushes in the garden,
and over Prince's grave. When she came in her mother pursued her
advantage.
"Well, what be you going to do?" she asked. "I wish I had seen Mrs d'Urberville," said
Tess. "I think you mid as well settle it.
Then you'll see her soon enough."
Her father coughed in his chair. "I don't know what to say!" answered the
girl restlessly. "It is for you to decide.
I killed the old horse, and I suppose I ought to do something to get ye a new one.
But--but--I don't quite like Mr d'Urberville being there!"
The children, who had made use of this idea of Tess being taken up by their wealthy
kinsfolk (which they imagined the other family to be) as a species of dolorifuge
after the death of the horse, began to cry
at Tess's reluctance, and teased and reproached her for hesitating.
"Tess won't go-o-o and be made a la-a-dy of!--no, she says she wo-o-on't!" they
wailed, with square mouths.
"And we shan't have a nice new horse, and lots o' golden money to buy fairlings!
And Tess won't look pretty in her best cloze no mo-o-ore!"
Her mother chimed in to the same tune: a certain way she had of making her labours
in the house seem heavier than they were by prolonging them indefinitely, also weighed
in the argument.
Her father alone preserved an attitude of neutrality.
"I will go," said Tess at last.
Her mother could not repress her consciousness of the nuptial vision
conjured up by the girl's consent. "That's right!
For such a pretty maid as 'tis, this is a fine chance!"
Tess smiled crossly. "I hope it is a chance for earning money.
It is no other kind of chance.
You had better say nothing of that silly sort about parish."
Mrs Durbeyfield did not promise.
She was not quite sure that she did not feel proud enough, after the visitor's
remarks, to say a good deal.
Thus it was arranged; and the young girl wrote, agreeing to be ready to set out on
any day on which she might be required.
She was duly informed that Mrs d'Urberville was glad of her decision, and that a
spring-cart should be sent to meet her and her luggage at the top of the Vale on the
day after the morrow, when she must hold herself prepared to start.
Mrs d'Urberville's handwriting seemed rather masculine.
"A cart?" murmured Joan Durbeyfield doubtingly.
"It might have been a carriage for her own kin!"
Having at last taken her course Tess was less restless and abstracted, going about
her business with some self-assurance in the thought of acquiring another horse for
her father by an occupation which would not be onerous.
She had hoped to be a teacher at the school, but the fates seemed to decide
otherwise.
Being mentally older than her mother she did not regard Mrs Durbeyfield's
matrimonial hopes for her in a serious aspect for a moment.
The light-minded woman had been discovering good matches for her daughter almost from
the year of her birth.
>
CHAPTER VII
On the morning appointed for her departure Tess was awake before dawn--at the marginal
minute of the dark when the grove is still mute, save for one prophetic bird who sings
with a clear-voiced conviction that he at
least knows the correct time of day, the rest preserving silence as if equally
convinced that he is mistaken.
She remained upstairs packing till breakfast-time, and then came down in her
ordinary week-day clothes, her Sunday apparel being carefully folded in her box.
Her mother expostulated.
"You will never set out to see your folks without dressing up more the dand than
that?" "But I am going to work!" said Tess.
"Well, yes," said Mrs Durbeyfield; and in a private tone, "at first there mid be a
little pretence o't ... But I think it will be wiser of 'ee to put
your best side outward," she added.
"Very well; I suppose you know best," replied Tess with calm abandonment.
And to please her parent the girl put herself quite in Joan's hands, saying
serenely--"Do what you like with me, mother."
Mrs Durbeyfield was only too delighted at this tractability.
First she fetched a great basin, and washed Tess's hair with such thoroughness that
when dried and brushed it looked twice as much as at other times.
She tied it with a broader pink ribbon than usual.
Then she put upon her the white frock that Tess had worn at the club-walking, the airy
fulness of which, supplementing her enlarged coiffure, imparted to her
developing figure an amplitude which belied
her age, and might cause her to be estimated as a woman when she was not much
more than a child. "I declare there's a hole in my stocking-
heel!" said Tess.
"Never mind holes in your stockings--they don't speak!
When I was a maid, so long as I had a pretty bonnet the devil might ha' found me
in heels."
Her mother's pride in the girl's appearance led her to step back, like a painter from
his easel, and survey her work as a whole. "You must zee yourself!" she cried.
"It is much better than you was t'other day."
As the looking-glass was only large enough to reflect a very small portion of Tess's
person at one time, Mrs Durbeyfield hung a black cloak outside the casement, and so
made a large reflector of the panes, as it is the wont of bedecking cottagers to do.
After this she went downstairs to her husband, who was sitting in the lower room.
"I'll tell 'ee what 'tis, Durbeyfield," said she exultingly; "he'll never have the
heart not to love her.
But whatever you do, don't zay too much to Tess of his fancy for her, and this chance
she has got.
She is such an odd maid that it mid zet her against him, or against going there, even
now.
If all goes well, I shall certainly be for making some return to pa'son at Stagfoot
Lane for telling us--dear, good man!"
However, as the moment for the girl's setting out drew nigh, when the first
excitement of the dressing had passed off, a slight misgiving found place in Joan
Durbeyfield's mind.
It prompted the matron to say that she would walk a little way--as far as to the
point where the acclivity from the valley began its first steep ascent to the outer
world.
At the top Tess was going to be met with the spring-cart sent by the Stoke-
d'Urbervilles, and her box had already been wheeled ahead towards this summit by a lad
with trucks, to be in readiness.
Seeing their mother put on her bonnet, the younger children clamoured to go with her.
"I do want to walk a little-ways wi' Sissy, now she's going to marry our gentleman-
cousin, and wear fine cloze!"
"Now," said Tess, flushing and turning quickly, "I'll hear no more o' that!
Mother, how could you ever put such stuff into their heads?"
"Going to work, my dears, for our rich relation, and help get enough money for a
new horse," said Mrs Durbeyfield pacifically.
"Goodbye, father," said Tess, with a lumpy throat.
"Goodbye, my maid," said Sir John, raising his head from his breast as he suspended
his nap, induced by a slight excess this morning in honour of the occasion.
"Well, I hope my young friend will like such a comely sample of his own blood.
And tell'n, Tess, that being sunk, quite, from our former grandeur, I'll sell him the
title--yes, sell it--and at no onreasonable figure."
"Not for less than a thousand pound!" cried Lady Durbeyfield.
"Tell'n--I'll take a thousand pound. Well, I'll take less, when I come to think
o't.
He'll adorn it better than a poor lammicken feller like myself can.
Tell'n he shall hae it for a hundred. But I won't stand upon trifles--tell'n he
shall hae it for fifty--for twenty pound!
Yes, twenty pound--that's the lowest. Dammy, family honour is family honour, and
I won't take a penny less!"
Tess's eyes were too full and her voice too choked to utter the sentiments that were in
her. She turned quickly, and went out.
So the girls and their mother all walked together, a child on each side of Tess,
holding her hand and looking at her meditatively from time to time, as at one
who was about to do great things; her
mother just behind with the smallest; the group forming a picture of honest beauty
flanked by innocence, and backed by simple- souled vanity.
They followed the way till they reached the beginning of the ascent, on the crest of
which the vehicle from Trantridge was to receive her, this limit having been fixed
to save the horse the labour of the last slope.
Far away behind the first hills the cliff- like dwellings of Shaston broke the line of
the ridge.
Nobody was visible in the elevated road which skirted the ascent save the lad whom
they had sent on before them, sitting on the handle of the barrow that contained all
Tess's worldly possessions.
"Bide here a bit, and the cart will soon come, no doubt," said Mrs Durbeyfield.
"Yes, I see it yonder!"
It had come--appearing suddenly from behind the forehead of the nearest upland, and
stopping beside the boy with the barrow.
Her mother and the children thereupon decided to go no farther, and bidding them
a hasty goodbye, Tess bent her steps up the hill.
They saw her white shape draw near to the spring-cart, on which her box was already
placed.
But before she had quite reached it another vehicle shot out from a clump of trees on
the summit, came round the bend of the road there, passed the luggage-cart, and halted
beside Tess, who looked up as if in great surprise.
Her mother perceived, for the first time, that the second vehicle was not a humble
conveyance like the first, but a spick-and- span gig or dog-cart, highly varnished and
equipped.
The driver was a young man of three- or four-and-twenty, with a cigar between his
teeth; wearing a dandy cap, drab jacket, breeches of the same hue, white neckcloth,
stick-up collar, and brown driving-gloves--
in short, he was the handsome, horsey young buck who had visited Joan a week or two
before to get her answer about Tess. Mrs Durbeyfield clapped her hands like a
child.
Then she looked down, then stared again. Could she be deceived as to the meaning of
this? "Is dat the gentleman-kinsman who'll make
Sissy a lady?" asked the youngest child.
Meanwhile the muslined form of Tess could be seen standing still, undecided, beside
this turn-out, whose owner was talking to her.
Her seeming indecision was, in fact, more than indecision: it was misgiving.
She would have preferred the humble cart. The young man dismounted, and appeared to
urge her to ascend.
She turned her face down the hill to her relatives, and regarded the little group.
Something seemed to quicken her to a determination; possibly the thought that
she had killed Prince.
She suddenly stepped up; he mounted beside her, and immediately whipped on the horse.
In a moment they had passed the slow cart with the box, and disappeared behind the
shoulder of the hill.
Directly Tess was out of sight, and the interest of the matter as a drama was at an
end, the little ones' eyes filled with tears.
The youngest child said, "I wish poor, poor Tess wasn't gone away to be a lady!" and,
lowering the corners of his lips, burst out crying.
The new point of view was infectious, and the next child did likewise, and then the
next, till the whole three of them wailed loud.
There were tears also in Joan Durbeyfield's eyes as she turned to go home.
But by the time she had got back to the village she was passively trusting to the
favour of accident.
However, in bed that night she sighed, and her husband asked her what was the matter.
"Oh, I don't know exactly," she said. "I was thinking that perhaps it would ha'
been better if Tess had not gone."
"Oughtn't ye to have thought of that before?"
"Well, 'tis a chance for the maid--Still, if 'twere the doing again, I wouldn't let
her go till I had found out whether the gentleman is really a good-hearted young
man and choice over her as his kinswoman."
"Yes, you ought, perhaps, to ha' done that," snored Sir John.
Joan Durbeyfield always managed to find consolation somewhere: "Well, as one of the
genuine stock, she ought to make her way with 'en, if she plays her trump card
aright.
And if he don't marry her afore he will after.
For that he's all afire wi' love for her any eye can see."
"What's her trump card?
Her d'Urberville blood, you mean?" "No, stupid; her face--as 'twas mine."
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Part 1 - Tess of the d'Urbervilles Audiobook by Thomas Hardy (Chs 01-07)

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李桂蘭 published on December 27, 2015
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