Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Phase the First: The Maiden

Hardy Phase the First: The Maiden
Phase the Second: Maiden no More
Phase the Third: The Rally
Phase the Fourth: The Consequence
Phase the Fifth: The Woman Pays
Phase the Sixth: The Convert
Phase the Seventh: Fulfilment

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy.
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[1]         
[2]         Phase the First: The Maiden
[3]         
[4]         
[5]         I
[6]         
[7]         
[8]         On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking
[9]         homeward from Shaston to the village of Marlott, in the adjoining
[10]        Vale of Blakemore, or Blackmoor. The pair of legs that carried him
[11]        were rickety, and there was a bias in his gait which inclined him
[12]        somewhat to the left of a straight line. He occasionally gave a
[13]        smart nod, as if in confirmation of some opinion, though he was not
[14]        thinking of anything in particular. An empty egg-basket was slung
[15]        upon his arm, the nap of his hat was ruffled, a patch being quite
[16]        worn away at its brim where his thumb came in taking it off.
[17]        Presently he was met by an elderly parson astride on a gray mare,
[18]        who, as he rode, hummed a wandering tune.
[19]        
[20]        "Good night t'ee," said the man with the basket.
[21]        
[22]        "Good night, Sir John," said the parson.
[23]        
[24]        The pedestrian, after another pace or two, halted, and turned round.
[25]        
[26]        "Now, sir, begging your pardon; we met last market-day on this road
[27]        about this time, and I said 'Good night,' and you made reply '_Good
[28]        night, Sir John_,' as now."
[29]        
[30]        "I did," said the parson.
[31]        
[32]        "And once before that--near a month ago."
[33]        
[34]        "I may have."
[35]        
[36]        "Then what might your meaning be in calling me 'Sir John' these
[37]        different times, when I be plain Jack Durbeyfield, the haggler?"
[38]        
[39]        The parson rode a step or two nearer.
[40]        
[41]        "It was only my whim," he said; and, after a moment's hesitation: "It
[42]        was on account of a discovery I made some little time ago, whilst I
[43]        was hunting up pedigrees for the new county history. I am Parson
[44]        Tringham, the antiquary, of Stagfoot Lane. Don't you really know,
[45]        Durbeyfield, that you are the lineal representative of the ancient
[46]        and knightly family of the d'Urbervilles, who derive their descent
[47]        from Sir Pagan d'Urberville, that renowned knight who came from
[48]        Normandy with William the Conqueror, as appears by Battle Abbey
[49]        Roll?"
[50]        
[51]        "Never heard it before, sir!"
[52]        
[53]        "Well it's true. Throw up your chin a moment, so that I may catch
[54]        the profile of your face better. Yes, that's the d'Urberville nose
[55]        and chin--a little debased. Your ancestor was one of the twelve
[56]        knights who assisted the Lord of Estremavilla in Normandy in his
[57]        conquest of Glamorganshire. Branches of your family held manors over
[58]        all this part of England; their names appear in the Pipe Rolls in the
[59]        time of King Stephen. In the reign of King John one of them was rich
[60]        enough to give a manor to the Knights Hospitallers; and in Edward the
[61]        Second's time your forefather Brian was summoned to Westminster to
[62]        attend the great Council there. You declined a little in Oliver
[63]        Cromwell's time, but to no serious extent, and in Charles the
[64]        Second's reign you were made Knights of the Royal Oak for your
[65]        loyalty. Aye, there have been generations of Sir Johns among
[66]        you, and if knighthood were hereditary, like a baronetcy, as it
[67]        practically was in old times, when men were knighted from father
[68]        to son, you would be Sir John now."
[69]        
[70]        "Ye don't say so!"
[71]        
[72]        "In short," concluded the parson, decisively smacking his leg with
[73]        his switch, "there's hardly such another family in England."
[74]        
[75]        "Daze my eyes, and isn't there?" said Durbeyfield. "And here have I
[76]        been knocking about, year after year, from pillar to post, as if I
[77]        was no more than the commonest feller in the parish... And how long
[78]        hev this news about me been knowed, Pa'son Tringham?"
[79]        
[80]        The clergyman explained that, as far as he was aware, it had quite
[81]        died out of knowledge, and could hardly be said to be known at all.
[82]        His own investigations had begun on a day in the preceding spring
[83]        when, having been engaged in tracing the vicissitudes of the
[84]        d'Urberville family, he had observed Durbeyfield's name on his
[85]        waggon, and had thereupon been led to make inquiries about his
[86]        father and grandfather till he had no doubt on the subject.
[87]        
[88]        "At first I resolved not to disturb you with such a useless piece of
[89]        information," said he. "However, our impulses are too strong for our
[90]        judgement sometimes. I thought you might perhaps know something of
[91]        it all the while."
[92]        
[93]        "Well, I have heard once or twice, 'tis true, that my family had seen
[94]        better days afore they came to Blackmoor. But I took no notice o't,
[95]        thinking it to mean that we had once kept two horses where we now
[96]        keep only one. I've got a wold silver spoon, and a wold graven seal
[97]        at home, too; but, Lord, what's a spoon and seal? ... And to think
[98]        that I and these noble d'Urbervilles were one flesh all the time.
[99]        'Twas said that my gr't-granfer had secrets, and didn't care to talk
[100]       of where he came from... And where do we raise our smoke, now,
[101]       parson, if I may make so bold; I mean, where do we d'Urbervilles
[102]       live?"
[103]       
[104]       "You don't live anywhere. You are extinct--as a county family."
[105]       
[106]       "That's bad."
[107]       
[108]       "Yes--what the mendacious family chronicles call extinct in the male
[109]       line--that is, gone down--gone under."
[110]       
[111]       "Then where do we lie?"
[112]       
[113]       "At Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill: rows and rows of you in your vaults,
[114]       with your effigies under Purbeck-marble canopies."
[115]       
[116]       "And where be our family mansions and estates?"
[117]       
[118]       "You haven't any."
[119]       
[120]       "Oh? No lands neither?"
[121]       
[122]       "None; though you once had 'em in abundance, as I said, for you
[123]       family consisted of numerous branches. In this county there was a
[124]       seat of yours at Kingsbere, and another at Sherton, and another in
[125]       Millpond, and another at Lullstead, and another at Wellbridge."
[126]       
[127]       "And shall we ever come into our own again?"
[128]       
[129]       "Ah--that I can't tell!"
[130]       
[131]       "And what had I better do about it, sir?" asked Durbeyfield, after a
[132]       pause.
[133]       
[134]       "Oh--nothing, nothing; except chasten yourself with the thought of
[135]       'how are the mighty fallen.' It is a fact of some interest to the
[136]       local historian and genealogist, nothing more. There are several
[137]       families among the cottagers of this county of almost equal lustre.
[138]       Good night."
[139]       
[140]       "But you'll turn back and have a quart of beer wi' me on the strength
[141]       o't, Pa'son Tringham? There's a very pretty brew in tap at The Pure
[142]       Drop--though, to be sure, not so good as at Rolliver's."
[143]       
[144]       "No, thank you--not this evening, Durbeyfield. You've had enough
[145]       already." Concluding thus, the parson rode on his way, with doubts
[146]       as to his discretion in retailing this curious bit of lore.
[147]       
[148]       When he was gone, Durbeyfield walked a few steps in a profound
[149]       reverie, and then sat down upon the grassy bank by the roadside,
[150]       depositing his basket before him. In a few minutes a youth appeared
[151]       in the distance, walking in the same direction as that which had been
[152]       pursued by Durbeyfield. The latter, on seeing him, held up his hand,
[153]       and the lad quickened his pace and came near.
[154]       
[155]       "Boy, take up that basket! I want 'ee to go on an errand for me."
[156]       
[157]       The lath-like stripling frowned. "Who be you, then, John
[158]       Durbeyfield, to order me about and call me 'boy'? You know my
[159]       name as well as I know yours!"
[160]       
[161]       "Do you, do you? That's the secret--that's the secret! Now obey my
[162]       orders, and take the message I'm going to charge 'ee wi'... Well,
[163]       Fred, I don't mind telling you that the secret is that I'm one of a
[164]       noble race--it has been just found out by me this present afternoon,
[165]       P.M." And as he made the announcement, Durbeyfield, declining from
[166]       his sitting position, luxuriously stretched himself out upon the bank
[167]       among the daisies.
[168]       
[169]       The lad stood before Durbeyfield, and contemplated his length from
[170]       crown to toe.
[171]       
[172]       "Sir John d'Urberville--that's who I am," continued the prostrate
[173]       man. "That is if knights were baronets--which they be. 'Tis
[174]       recorded in history all about me. Dost know of such a place, lad,
[175]       as Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill?"
[176]       
[177]       "Ees. I've been there to Greenhill Fair."
[178]       
[179]       "Well, under the church of that city there lie--"
[180]       
[181]       "'Tisn't a city, the place I mean; leastwise 'twaddn' when I was
[182]       there--'twas a little one-eyed, blinking sort o' place."
[183]       
[184]       "Never you mind the place, boy, that's not the question before us.
[185]       Under the church of that there parish lie my ancestors--hundreds of
[186]       'em--in coats of mail and jewels, in gr't lead coffins weighing tons
[187]       and tons. There's not a man in the county o' South-Wessex that's
[188]       got grander and nobler skillentons in his family than I."
[189]       
[190]       "Oh?"
[191]       
[192]       "Now take up that basket, and goo on to Marlott, and when you've come
[193]       to The Pure Drop Inn, tell 'em to send a horse and carriage to me
[194]       immed'ately, to carry me hwome. And in the bottom o' the carriage
[195]       they be to put a noggin o' rum in a small bottle, and chalk it up
[196]       to my account. And when you've done that goo on to my house with
[197]       the basket, and tell my wife to put away that washing, because she
[198]       needn't finish it, and wait till I come hwome, as I've news to tell
[199]       her."
[200]       
[201]       As the lad stood in a dubious attitude, Durbeyfield put his hand in
[202]       his pocket, and produced a shilling, one of the chronically few that
[203]       he possessed.
[204]       
[205]       "Here's for your labour, lad."
[206]       
[207]       This made a difference in the young man's estimate of the position.
[208]       
[209]       "Yes, Sir John. Thank 'ee. Anything else I can do for 'ee, Sir
[210]       John?"
[211]       
[212]       "Tell 'em at hwome that I should like for supper,--well, lamb's fry
[213]       if they can get it; and if they can't, black-pot; and if they can't
[214]       get that, well chitterlings will do."
[215]       
[216]       "Yes, Sir John."
[217]       
[218]       The boy took up the basket, and as he set out the notes of a brass
[219]       band were heard from the direction of the village.
[220]       
[221]       "What's that?" said Durbeyfield. "Not on account o' I?"
[222]       
[223]       "'Tis the women's club-walking, Sir John. Why, your da'ter is one o'
[224]       the members."
[225]       
[226]       "To be sure--I'd quite forgot it in my thoughts of greater things!
[227]       Well, vamp on to Marlott, will ye, and order that carriage, and
[228]       maybe I'll drive round and inspect the club."
[229]       
[230]       The lad departed, and Durbeyfield lay waiting on the grass and
[231]       daisies in the evening sun. Not a soul passed that way for a long
[232]       while, and the faint notes of the band were the only human sounds
[233]       audible within the rim of blue hills.
[234]       
[235]       
[236]       
[237]       II
[238]       
[239]       
[240]       The village of Marlott lay amid the north-eastern undulations of the
[241]       beautiful Vale of Blakemore, or Blackmoor, aforesaid, an engirdled
[242]       and secluded region, for the most part untrodden as yet by tourist or
[243]       landscape-painter, though within a four hours' journey from London.
[244]       
[245]       It is a vale whose acquaintance is best made by viewing it from the
[246]       summits of the hills that surround it--except perhaps during the
[247]       droughts of summer. An unguided ramble into its recesses in bad
[248]       weather is apt to engender dissatisfaction with its narrow, tortuous,
[249]       and miry ways.
[250]       
[251]       This fertile and sheltered tract of country, in which the fields are
[252]       never brown and the springs never dry, is bounded on the south by the
[253]       bold chalk ridge that embraces the prominences of Hambledon Hill,
[254]       Bulbarrow, Nettlecombe-Tout, Dogbury, High Stoy, and Bubb Down. The
[255]       traveller from the coast, who, after plodding northward for a score
[256]       of miles over calcareous downs and corn-lands, suddenly reaches
[257]       the verge of one of these escarpments, is surprised and delighted
[258]       to behold, extended like a map beneath him, a country differing
[259]       absolutely from that which he has passed through. Behind him the
[260]       hills are open, the sun blazes down upon fields so large as to give
[261]       an unenclosed character to the landscape, the lanes are white, the
[262]       hedges low and plashed, the atmosphere colourless. Here, in the
[263]       valley, the world seems to be constructed upon a smaller and more
[264]       delicate scale; the fields are mere paddocks, so reduced that from
[265]       this height their hedgerows appear a network of dark green threads
[266]       overspreading the paler green of the grass. The atmosphere beneath
[267]       is languorous, and is so tinged with azure that what artists call the
[268]       middle distance partakes also of that hue, while the horizon beyond
[269]       is of the deepest ultramarine. Arable lands are few and limited;
[270]       with but slight exceptions the prospect is a broad rich mass of grass
[271]       and trees, mantling minor hills and dales within the major. Such is
[272]       the Vale of Blackmoor.
[273]       
[274]       The district is of historic, no less than of topographical interest.
[275]       The Vale was known in former times as the Forest of White Hart, from
[276]       a curious legend of King Henry III's reign, in which the killing by
[277]       a certain Thomas de la Lynd of a beautiful white hart which the king
[278]       had run down and spared, was made the occasion of a heavy fine.
[279]       In those days, and till comparatively recent times, the country was
[280]       densely wooded. Even now, traces of its earlier condition are to be
[281]       found in the old oak copses and irregular belts of timber that yet
[282]       survive upon its slopes, and the hollow-trunked trees that shade so
[283]       many of its pastures.
[284]       
[285]       The forests have departed, but some old customs of their shades
[286]       remain. Many, however, linger only in a metamorphosed or disguised
[287]       form. The May-Day dance, for instance, was to be discerned on
[288]       the afternoon under notice, in the guise of the club revel, or
[289]       "club-walking," as it was there called.
[290]       
[291]       It was an interesting event to the younger inhabitants of Marlott,
[292]       though its real interest was not observed by the participators in the
[293]       ceremony. Its singularity lay less in the retention of a custom of
[294]       walking in procession and dancing on each anniversary than in the
[295]       members being solely women. In men's clubs such celebrations were,
[296]       though expiring, less uncommon; but either the natural shyness of the
[297]       softer sex, or a sarcastic attitude on the part of male relatives,
[298]       had denuded such women's clubs as remained (if any other did) or this
[299]       their glory and consummation. The club of Marlott alone lived to
[300]       uphold the local Cerealia. It had walked for hundreds of years, if
[301]       not as benefit-club, as votive sisterhood of some sort; and it walked
[302]       still.
[303]       
[304]       The banded ones were all dressed in white gowns--a gay survival from
[305]       Old Style days, when cheerfulness and May-time were synonyms--days
[306]       before the habit of taking long views had reduced emotions to a
[307]       monotonous average. Their first exhibition of themselves was in a
[308]       processional march of two and two round the parish. Ideal and real
[309]       clashed slightly as the sun lit up their figures against the green
[310]       hedges and creeper-laced house-fronts; for, though the whole troop
[311]       wore white garments, no two whites were alike among them. Some
[312]       approached pure blanching; some had a bluish pallor; some worn by the
[313]       older characters (which had possibly lain by folded for many a year)
[314]       inclined to a cadaverous tint, and to a Georgian style.
[315]       
[316]       In addition to the distinction of a white frock, every woman and girl
[317]       carried in her right hand a peeled willow wand, and in her left a
[318]       bunch of white flowers. The peeling of the former, and the selection
[319]       of the latter, had been an operation of personal care.
[320]       
[321]       There were a few middle-aged and even elderly women in the train,
[322]       their silver-wiry hair and wrinkled faces, scourged by time and
[323]       trouble, having almost a grotesque, certainly a pathetic, appearance
[324]       in such a jaunty situation. In a true view, perhaps, there was more
[325]       to be gathered and told of each anxious and experienced one, to whom
[326]       the years were drawing nigh when she should say, "I have no pleasure
[327]       in them," than of her juvenile comrades. But let the elder be passed
[328]       over here for those under whose bodices the life throbbed quick and
[329]       warm.
[330]       
[331]       The young girls formed, indeed, the majority of the band, and their
[332]       heads of luxuriant hair reflected in the sunshine every tone of gold,
[333]       and black, and brown. Some had beautiful eyes, others a beautiful
[334]       nose, others a beautiful mouth and figure: few, if any, had all. A
[335]       difficulty of arranging their lips in this crude exposure to public
[336]       scrutiny, an inability to balance their heads, and to dissociate
[337]       self-consciousness from their features, was apparent in them, and
[338]       showed that they were genuine country girls, unaccustomed to many
[339]       eyes.
[340]       
[341]       And as each and all of them were warmed without by the sun, so each
[342]       had a private little sun for her soul to bask in; some dream, some
[343]       affection, some hobby, at least some remote and distant hope which,
[344]       though perhaps starving to nothing, still lived on, as hopes will.
[345]       They were all cheerful, and many of them merry.
[346]       
[347]       They came round by The Pure Drop Inn, and were turning out of the
[348]       high road to pass through a wicket-gate into the meadows, when one of
[349]       the women said--
[350]       
[351]       "The Load-a-Lord! Why, Tess Durbeyfield, if there isn't thy father
[352]       riding hwome in a carriage!"
[353]       
[354]       A young member of the band turned her head at the exclamation.
[355]       She was a fine and handsome girl--not handsomer than some others,
[356]       possibly--but her mobile peony mouth and large innocent eyes added
[357]       eloquence to colour and shape. She wore a red ribbon in her hair,
[358]       and was the only one of the white company who could boast of such
[359]       a pronounced adornment. As she looked round Durbeyfield was seen
[360]       moving along the road in a chaise belonging to The Pure Drop, driven
[361]       by a frizzle-headed brawny damsel with her gown-sleeves rolled above
[362]       her elbows. This was the cheerful servant of that establishment,
[363]       who, in her part of factotum, turned groom and ostler at times.
[364]       Durbeyfield, leaning back, and with his eyes closed luxuriously, was
[365]       waving his hand above his head, and singing in a slow recitative--
[366]       
[367]       "I've-got-a-gr't-family-vault-at-Kingsbere--and
[368]       knighted-forefathers-in-lead-coffins-there!"
[369]       
[370]       The clubbists tittered, except the girl called Tess--in whom a slow
[371]       heat seemed to rise at the sense that her father was making himself
[372]       foolish in their eyes.
[373]       
[374]       "He's tired, that's all," she said hastily, "and he has got a lift
[375]       home, because our own horse has to rest to-day."
[376]       
[377]       "Bless thy simplicity, Tess," said her companions. "He's got his
[378]       market-nitch. Haw-haw!"
[379]       
[380]       "Look here; I won't walk another inch with you, if you say any jokes
[381]       about him!" Tess cried, and the colour upon her cheeks spread over
[382]       her face and neck. In a moment her eyes grew moist, and her glance
[383]       drooped to the ground. Perceiving that they had really pained her
[384]       they said no more, and order again prevailed. Tess's pride would not
[385]       allow her to turn her head again, to learn what her father's meaning
[386]       was, if he had any; and thus she moved on with the whole body to the
[387]       enclosure where there was to be dancing on the green. By the time
[388]       the spot was reached she has recovered her equanimity, and tapped her
[389]       neighbour with her wand and talked as usual.
[390]       
[391]       Tess Durbeyfield at this time of her life was a mere vessel of
[392]       emotion untinctured by experience. The dialect was on her tongue
[393]       to some extent, despite the village school: the characteristic
[394]       intonation of that dialect for this district being the voicing
[395]       approximately rendered by the syllable UR, probably as rich an
[396]       utterance as any to be found in human speech. The pouted-up deep red
[397]       mouth to which this syllable was native had hardly as yet settled
[398]       into its definite shape, and her lower lip had a way of thrusting the
[399]       middle of her top one upward, when they closed together after a word.
[400]       
[401]       Phases of her childhood lurked in her aspect still. As she walked
[402]       along to-day, for all her bouncing handsome womanliness, you could
[403]       sometimes see her twelfth year in her cheeks, or her ninth sparkling
[404]       from her eyes; and even her fifth would flit over the curves of her
[405]       mouth now and then.
[406]       
[407]       Yet few knew, and still fewer considered this. A small minority,
[408]       mainly strangers, would look long at her in casually passing by, and
[409]       grow momentarily fascinated by her freshness, and wonder if they
[410]       would ever see her again: but to almost everybody she was a fine and
[411]       picturesque country girl, and no more.
[412]       
[413]       Nothing was seen or heard further of Durbeyfield in his triumphal
[414]       chariot under the conduct of the ostleress, and the club having
[415]       entered the allotted space, dancing began. As there were no men in
[416]       the company, the girls danced at first with each other, but when the
[417]       hour for the close of labour drew on, the masculine inhabitants of
[418]       the village, together with other idlers and pedestrians, gathered
[419]       round the spot, and appeared inclined to negotiate for a partner.
[420]       
[421]       Among these on-lookers were three young men of a superior class,
[422]       carrying small knapsacks strapped to their shoulders, and stout
[423]       sticks in their hands. Their general likeness to each other, and
[424]       their consecutive ages, would almost have suggested that they might
[425]       be, what in fact they were, brothers. The eldest wore the white tie,
[426]       high waistcoat, and thin-brimmed hat of the regulation curate; the
[427]       second was the normal undergraduate; the appearance of the third and
[428]       youngest would hardly have been sufficient to characterize him; there
[429]       was an uncribbed, uncabined aspect in his eyes and attire, implying
[430]       that he had hardly as yet found the entrance to his professional
[431]       groove. That he was a desultory tentative student of something and
[432]       everything might only have been predicted of him.
[433]       
[434]       These three brethren told casual acquaintance that they were spending
[435]       their Whitsun holidays in a walking tour through the Vale of
[436]       Blackmoor, their course being south-westerly from the town of Shaston
[437]       on the north-east.
[438]       
[439]       They leant over the gate by the highway, and inquired as to the
[440]       meaning of the dance and the white-frocked maids. The two elder of
[441]       the brothers were plainly not intending to linger more than a moment,
[442]       but the spectacle of a bevy of girls dancing without male partners
[443]       seemed to amuse the third, and make him in no hurry to move on. He
[444]       unstrapped his knapsack, put it, with his stick, on the hedge-bank,
[445]       and opened the gate.
[446]       
[447]       "What are you going to do, Angel?" asked the eldest.
[448]       
[449]       "I am inclined to go and have a fling with them. Why not all of
[450]       us--just for a minute or two--it will not detain us long?"
[451]       
[452]       "No--no; nonsense!" said the first. "Dancing in public with a troop
[453]       of country hoydens--suppose we should be seen! Come along, or it
[454]       will be dark before we get to Stourcastle, and there's no place we
[455]       can sleep at nearer than that; besides, we must get through another
[456]       chapter of _A Counterblast to Agnosticism_ before we turn in, now I
[457]       have taken the trouble to bring the book."
[458]       
[459]       "All right--I'll overtake you and Cuthbert in five minutes; don't
[460]       stop; I give my word that I will, Felix."
[461]       
[462]       The two elder reluctantly left him and walked on, taking their
[463]       brother's knapsack to relieve him in following, and the youngest
[464]       entered the field.
[465]       
[466]       "This is a thousand pities," he said gallantly, to two or three of
[467]       the girls nearest him, as soon as there was a pause in the dance.
[468]       "Where are your partners, my dears?"
[469]       
[470]       "They've not left off work yet," answered one of the boldest.
[471]       "They'll be here by and by. Till then, will you be one, sir?"
[472]       
[473]       "Certainly. But what's one among so many!"
[474]       
[475]       "Better than none. 'Tis melancholy work facing and footing it to one
[476]       of your own sort, and no clipsing and colling at all. Now, pick and
[477]       choose."
[478]       
[479]       "'Ssh--don't be so for'ard!" said a shyer girl.
[480]       
[481]       The young man, thus invited, glanced them over, and attempted some
[482]       discrimination; but, as the group were all so new to him, he could
[483]       not very well exercise it. He took almost the first that came to
[484]       hand, which was not the speaker, as she had expected; nor did it
[485]       happen to be Tess Durbeyfield. Pedigree, ancestral skeletons,
[486]       monumental record, the d'Urberville lineaments, did not help Tess in
[487]       her life's battle as yet, even to the extent of attracting to her a
[488]       dancing-partner over the heads of the commonest peasantry. So much
[489]       for Norman blood unaided by Victorian lucre.
[490]       
[491]       The name of the eclipsing girl, whatever it was, has not been handed
[492]       down; but she was envied by all as the first who enjoyed the luxury
[493]       of a masculine partner that evening. Yet such was the force of
[494]       example that the village young men, who had not hastened to enter
[495]       the gate while no intruder was in the way, now dropped in quickly,
[496]       and soon the couples became leavened with rustic youth to a marked
[497]       extent, till at length the plainest woman in the club was no longer
[498]       compelled to foot it on the masculine side of the figure.
[499]       
[500]       The church clock struck, when suddenly the student said that he must
[501]       leave--he had been forgetting himself--he had to join his companions.
[502]       As he fell out of the dance his eyes lighted on Tess Durbeyfield,
[503]       whose own large orbs wore, to tell the truth, the faintest aspect of
[504]       reproach that he had not chosen her. He, too, was sorry then that,
[505]       owing to her backwardness, he had not observed her; and with that in
[506]       his mind he left the pasture.
[507]       
[508]       On account of his long delay he started in a flying-run down the lane
[509]       westward, and had soon passed the hollow and mounted the next rise.
[510]       He had not yet overtaken his brothers, but he paused to get breath,
[511]       and looked back. He could see the white figures of the girls in the
[512]       green enclosure whirling about as they had whirled when he was among
[513]       them. They seemed to have quite forgotten him already.
[514]       
[515]       All of them, except, perhaps, one. This white shape stood apart
[516]       by the hedge alone. From her position he knew it to be the pretty
[517]       maiden with whom he had not danced. Trifling as the matter was, he
[518]       yet instinctively felt that she was hurt by his oversight. He wished
[519]       that he had asked her; he wished that he had inquired her name. She
[520]       was so modest, so expressive, she had looked so soft in her thin
[521]       white gown that he felt he had acted stupidly.
[522]       
[523]       However, it could not be helped, and turning, and bending himself to
[524]       a rapid walk, he dismissed the subject from his mind.
[525]       
[526]       
[527]       
[528]       III
[529]       
[530]       
[531]       As for Tess Durbeyfield, she did not so easily dislodge the incident
[532]       from her consideration. She had no spirit to dance again for a long
[533]       time, though she might have had plenty of partners; but ah! they did
[534]       not speak so nicely as the strange young man had done. It was not
[535]       till the rays of the sun had absorbed the young stranger's retreating
[536]       figure on the hill that she shook off her temporary sadness and
[537]       answered her would-be partner in the affirmative.
[538]       
[539]       She remained with her comrades till dusk, and participated with a
[540]       certain zest in the dancing; though, being heart-whole as yet, she
[541]       enjoyed treading a measure purely for its own sake; little divining
[542]       when she saw "the soft torments, the bitter sweets, the pleasing
[543]       pains, and the agreeable distresses" of those girls who had been
[544]       wooed and won, what she herself was capable of in that kind. The
[545]       struggles and wrangles of the lads for her hand in a jig were an
[546]       amusement to her--no more; and when they became fierce she rebuked
[547]       them.
[548]       
[549]       She might have stayed even later, but the incident of her father's
[550]       odd appearance and manner returned upon the girl's mind to make her
[551]       anxious, and wondering what had become of him she dropped away from
[552]       the dancers and bent her steps towards the end of the village at
[553]       which the parental cottage lay.
[554]       
[555]       While yet many score yards off, other rhythmic sounds than those she
[556]       had quitted became audible to her; sounds that she knew well--so
[557]       well. They were a regular series of thumpings from the interior of
[558]       the house, occasioned by the violent rocking of a cradle upon a stone
[559]       floor, to which movement a feminine voice kept time by singing, in a
[560]       vigorous gallopade, the favourite ditty of "The Spotted Cow"--
[561]       
[562]       
[563]          I saw her lie do'-own in yon'-der green gro'-ove;
[564]               Come, love!' and I'll tell' you where!'
[565]       
[566]       
[567]       The cradle-rocking and the song would cease simultaneously for a
[568]       moment, and an exclamation at highest vocal pitch would take the
[569]       place of the melody.
[570]       
[571]       "God bless thy diment eyes! And thy waxen cheeks! And thy cherry
[572]       mouth! And thy Cubit's thighs! And every bit o' thy blessed body!"
[573]       
[574]       After this invocation the rocking and the singing would recommence,
[575]       and the "Spotted Cow" proceed as before. So matters stood when Tess
[576]       opened the door and paused upon the mat within it, surveying the
[577]       scene.
[578]       
[579]       The interior, in spite of the melody, struck upon the girl's senses
[580]       with an unspeakable dreariness. From the holiday gaieties of the
[581]       field--the white gowns, the nosegays, the willow-wands, the whirling
[582]       movements on the green, the flash of gentle sentiment towards the
[583]       stranger--to the yellow melancholy of this one-candled spectacle,
[584]       what a step! Besides the jar of contrast there came to her a chill
[585]       self-reproach that she had not returned sooner, to help her mother
[586]       in these domesticities, instead of indulging herself out-of-doors.
[587]       
[588]       There stood her mother amid the group of children, as Tess had left
[589]       her, hanging over the Monday washing-tub, which had now, as always,
[590]       lingered on to the end of the week. Out of that tub had come the day
[591]       before--Tess felt it with a dreadful sting of remorse--the very white
[592]       frock upon her back which she had so carelessly greened about the
[593]       skirt on the damping grass--which had been wrung up and ironed by her
[594]       mother's own hands.
[595]       
[596]       As usual, Mrs Durbeyfield was balanced on one foot beside the tub,
[597]       the other being engaged in the aforesaid business of rocking her
[598]       youngest child. The cradle-rockers had done hard duty for so many
[599]       years, under the weight of so many children, on that flagstone floor,
[600]       that they were worn nearly flat, in consequence of which a huge jerk
[601]       accompanied each swing of the cot, flinging the baby from side to
[602]       side like a weaver's shuttle, as Mrs Durbeyfield, excited by her
[603]       song, trod the rocker with all the spring that was left in her after
[604]       a long day's seething in the suds.
[605]       
[606]       Nick-knock, nick-knock, went the cradle; the candle-flame stretched
[607]       itself tall, and began jigging up and down; the water dribbled from
[608]       the matron's elbows, and the song galloped on to the end of the
[609]       verse, Mrs Durbeyfield regarding her daughter the while. Even now,
[610]       when burdened with a young family, Joan Durbeyfield was a passionate
[611]       lover of tune. No ditty floated into Blackmoor Vale from the outer
[612]       world but Tess's mother caught up its notation in a week.
[613]       
[614]       There still faintly beamed from the woman's features something of
[615]       the freshness, and even the prettiness, of her youth; rendering it
[616]       probable that the personal charms which Tess could boast of were in
[617]       main part her mother's gift, and therefore unknightly, unhistorical.
[618]       
[619]       "I'll rock the cradle for 'ee, mother," said the daughter gently.
[620]       "Or I'll take off my best frock and help you wring up? I thought you
[621]       had finished long ago."
[622]       
[623]       Her mother bore Tess no ill-will for leaving the housework to her
[624]       single-handed efforts for so long; indeed, Joan seldom upbraided
[625]       her thereon at any time, feeling but slightly the lack of Tess's
[626]       assistance whilst her instinctive plan for relieving herself of her
[627]       labours lay in postponing them. To-night, however, she was even in a
[628]       blither mood than usual. There was a dreaminess, a pre-occupation,
[629]       an exaltation, in the maternal look which the girl could not
[630]       understand.
[631]       
[632]       "Well, I'm glad you've come," her mother said, as soon as the last
[633]       note had passed out of her. "I want to go and fetch your father;
[634]       but what's more'n that, I want to tell 'ee what have happened. Y'll
[635]       be fess enough, my poppet, when th'st know!" (Mrs Durbeyfield
[636]       habitually spoke the dialect; her daughter, who had passed the Sixth
[637]       Standard in the National School under a London-trained mistress,
[638]       spoke two languages: the dialect at home, more or less; ordinary
[639]       English abroad and to persons of quality.)
[640]       
[641]       "Since I've been away?" Tess asked.
[642]       
[643]       "Ay!"
[644]       
[645]       "Had it anything to do with father's making such a mommet of himself
[646]       in thik carriage this afternoon? Why did 'er? I felt inclined to
[647]       sink into the ground with shame!"
[648]       
[649]       "That wer all a part of the larry! We've been found to be the
[650]       greatest gentlefolk in the whole county--reaching all back long
[651]       before Oliver Grumble's time--to the days of the Pagan Turks--with
[652]       monuments, and vaults, and crests, and 'scutcheons, and the Lord
[653]       knows what all. In Saint Charles's days we was made Knights o' the
[654]       Royal Oak, our real name being d'Urberville! ... Don't that make
[655]       your bosom plim? 'Twas on this account that your father rode home
[656]       in the vlee; not because he'd been drinking, as people supposed."
[657]       
[658]       "I'm glad of that. Will it do us any good, mother?"
[659]       
[660]       "O yes! 'Tis thoughted that great things may come o't. No doubt a
[661]       mampus of volk of our own rank will be down here in their carriages
[662]       as soon as 'tis known. Your father learnt it on his way hwome
[663]       from Shaston, and he has been telling me the whole pedigree of the
[664]       matter."
[665]       
[666]       "Where is father now?" asked Tess suddenly.
[667]       
[668]       Her mother gave irrelevant information by way of answer: "He called
[669]       to see the doctor to-day in Shaston. It is not consumption at all,
[670]       it seems. It is fat round his heart, 'a says. There, it is like
[671]       this." Joan Durbeyfield, as she spoke, curved a sodden thumb
[672]       and forefinger to the shape of the letter C, and used the other
[673]       forefinger as a pointer. "'At the present moment,' he says to your
[674]       father, 'your heart is enclosed all round there, and all round
[675]       there; this space is still open,' 'a says. 'As soon as it do
[676]       meet, so,'"--Mrs Durbeyfield closed her fingers into a circle
[677]       complete--"'off you will go like a shadder, Mr Durbeyfield,' 'a says.
[678]       'You mid last ten years; you mid go off in ten months, or ten days.'"
[679]       
[680]       Tess looked alarmed. Her father possibly to go behind the eternal
[681]       cloud so soon, notwithstanding this sudden greatness!
[682]       
[683]       "But where IS father?" she asked again.
[684]       
[685]       Her mother put on a deprecating look. "Now don't you be bursting out
[686]       angry! The poor man--he felt so rafted after his uplifting by the
[687]       pa'son's news--that he went up to Rolliver's half an hour ago. He do
[688]       want to get up his strength for his journey to-morrow with that load
[689]       of beehives, which must be delivered, family or no. He'll have to
[690]       start shortly after twelve to-night, as the distance is so long."
[691]       
[692]       "Get up his strength!" said Tess impetuously, the tears welling to
[693]       her eyes. "O my God! Go to a public-house to get up his strength!
[694]       And you as well agreed as he, mother!"
[695]       
[696]       Her rebuke and her mood seemed to fill the whole room, and to impart
[697]       a cowed look to the furniture, and candle, and children playing
[698]       about, and to her mother's face.
[699]       
[700]       "No," said the latter touchily, "I be not agreed. I have been
[701]       waiting for 'ee to bide and keep house while I go fetch him."
[702]       
[703]       "I'll go."
[704]       
[705]       "O no, Tess. You see, it would be no use."
[706]       
[707]       Tess did not expostulate. She knew what her mother's objection
[708]       meant. Mrs Durbeyfield's jacket and bonnet were already hanging
[709]       slily upon a chair by her side, in readiness for this contemplated
[710]       jaunt, the reason for which the matron deplored more than its
[711]       necessity.
[712]       
[713]       "And take the _Compleat Fortune-Teller_ to the outhouse," Joan
[714]       continued, rapidly wiping her hands, and donning the garments.
[715]       
[716]       The _Compleat Fortune-Teller_ was an old thick volume, which lay on a
[717]       table at her elbow, so worn by pocketing that the margins had reached
[718]       the edge of the type. Tess took it up, and her mother started.
[719]       
[720]       This going to hunt up her shiftless husband at the inn was one of
[721]       Mrs Durbeyfield's still extant enjoyments in the muck and muddle of
[722]       rearing children. To discover him at Rolliver's, to sit there for
[723]       an hour or two by his side and dismiss all thought and care of the
[724]       children during the interval, made her happy. A sort of halo, an
[725]       occidental glow, came over life then. Troubles and other realities
[726]       took on themselves a metaphysical impalpability, sinking to mere
[727]       mental phenomena for serene contemplation, and no longer stood as
[728]       pressing concretions which chafed body and soul. The youngsters,
[729]       not immediately within sight, seemed rather bright and desirable
[730]       appurtenances than otherwise; the incidents of daily life were not
[731]       without humorousness and jollity in their aspect there. She felt a
[732]       little as she had used to feel when she sat by her now wedded husband
[733]       in the same spot during his wooing, shutting her eyes to his defects
[734]       of character, and regarding him only in his ideal presentation as
[735]       lover.
[736]       
[737]       Tess, being left alone with the younger children, went first to the
[738]       outhouse with the fortune-telling book, and stuffed it into the
[739]       thatch. A curious fetishistic fear of this grimy volume on the part
[740]       of her mother prevented her ever allowing it to stay in the house all
[741]       night, and hither it was brought back whenever it had been consulted.
[742]       Between the mother, with her fast-perishing lumber of superstitions,
[743]       folk-lore, dialect, and orally transmitted ballads, and the daughter,
[744]       with her trained National teachings and Standard knowledge under an
[745]       infinitely Revised Code, there was a gap of two hundred years as
[746]       ordinarily understood. When they were together the Jacobean and the
[747]       Victorian ages were juxtaposed.
[748]       
[749]       Returning along the garden path Tess mused on what the mother could
[750]       have wished to ascertain from the book on this particular day. She
[751]       guessed the recent ancestral discovery to bear upon it, but did not
[752]       divine that it solely concerned herself. Dismissing this, however,
[753]       she busied herself with sprinkling the linen dried during the
[754]       day-time, in company with her nine-year-old brother Abraham, and her
[755]       sister Eliza-Louisa of twelve and a half, called "'Liza-Lu," the
[756]       youngest ones being put to bed. There was an interval of four years
[757]       and more between Tess and the next of the family, the two who had
[758]       filled the gap having died in their infancy, and this lent her a
[759]       deputy-maternal attitude when she was alone with her juniors. Next
[760]       in juvenility to Abraham came two more girls, Hope and Modesty; then
[761]       a boy of three, and then the baby, who had just completed his first
[762]       year.
[763]       
[764]       All these young souls were passengers in the Durbeyfield
[765]       ship--entirely dependent on the judgement of the two Durbeyfield
[766]       adults for their pleasures, their necessities, their health, even
[767]       their existence. If the heads of the Durbeyfield household chose
[768]       to sail into difficulty, disaster, starvation, disease, degradation,
[769]       death, thither were these half-dozen little captives under hatches
[770]       compelled to sail with them--six helpless creatures, who had never
[771]       been asked if they wished for life on any terms, much less if they
[772]       wished for it on such hard conditions as were involved in being of
[773]       the shiftless house of Durbeyfield. Some people would like to know
[774]       whence the poet whose philosophy is in these days deemed as profound
[775]       and trustworthy as his song is breezy and pure, gets his authority
[776]       for speaking of "Nature's holy plan."
[777]       
[778]       It grew later, and neither father nor mother reappeared. Tess looked
[779]       out of the door, and took a mental journey through Marlott. The
[780]       village was shutting its eyes. Candles and lamps were being put
[781]       out everywhere: she could inwardly behold the extinguisher and the
[782]       extended hand.
[783]       
[784]       Her mother's fetching simply meant one more to fetch. Tess began to
[785]       perceive that a man in indifferent health, who proposed to start on a
[786]       journey before one in the morning, ought not to be at an inn at this
[787]       late hour celebrating his ancient blood.
[788]       
[789]       "Abraham," she said to her little brother, "do you put on your
[790]       hat--you bain't afraid?--and go up to Rolliver's, and see what has
[791]       gone wi' father and mother."
[792]       
[793]       The boy jumped promptly from his seat, and opened the door, and the
[794]       night swallowed him up. Half an hour passed yet again; neither man,
[795]       woman, nor child returned. Abraham, like his parents, seemed to have
[796]       been limed and caught by the ensnaring inn.
[797]       
[798]       "I must go myself," she said.
[799]       
[800]       'Liza-Lu then went to bed, and Tess, locking them all in, started on
[801]       her way up the dark and crooked lane or street not made for hasty
[802]       progress; a street laid out before inches of land had value, and when
[803]       one-handed clocks sufficiently subdivided the day.
[804]       
[805]       
[806]       
[807]       IV
[808]       
[809]       
[810]       Rolliver's inn, the single alehouse at this end of the long and
[811]       broken village, could only boast of an off-licence; hence, as
[812]       nobody could legally drink on the premises, the amount of overt
[813]       accommodation for consumers was strictly limited to a little board
[814]       about six inches wide and two yards long, fixed to the garden palings
[815]       by pieces of wire, so as to form a ledge. On this board thirsty
[816]       strangers deposited their cups as they stood in the road and drank,
[817]       and threw the dregs on the dusty ground to the pattern of Polynesia,
[818]       and wished they could have a restful seat inside.
[819]       
[820]       Thus the strangers. But there were also local customers who felt the
[821]       same wish; and where there's a will there's a way.
[822]       
[823]       In a large bedroom upstairs, the window of which was thickly
[824]       curtained with a great woollen shawl lately discarded by the
[825]       landlady, Mrs Rolliver, were gathered on this evening nearly a dozen
[826]       persons, all seeking beatitude; all old inhabitants of the nearer
[827]       end of Marlott, and frequenters of this retreat. Not only did the
[828]       distance to the The Pure Drop, the fully-licensed tavern at the
[829]       further part of the dispersed village, render its accommodation
[830]       practically unavailable for dwellers at this end; but the far more
[831]       serious question, the quality of the liquor, confirmed the prevalent
[832]       opinion that it was better to drink with Rolliver in a corner of the
[833]       housetop than with the other landlord in a wide house.
[834]       
[835]       A gaunt four-post bedstead which stood in the room afforded
[836]       sitting-space for several persons gathered round three of its sides;
[837]       a couple more men had elevated themselves on a chest of drawers;
[838]       another rested on the oak-carved "cwoffer"; two on the wash-stand;
[839]       another on the stool; and thus all were, somehow, seated at their
[840]       ease. The stage of mental comfort to which they had arrived at this
[841]       hour was one wherein their souls expanded beyond their skins, and
[842]       spread their personalities warmly through the room. In this process
[843]       the chamber and its furniture grew more and more dignified and
[844]       luxurious; the shawl hanging at the window took upon itself the
[845]       richness of tapestry; the brass handles of the chest of drawers were
[846]       as golden knockers; and the carved bedposts seemed to have some
[847]       kinship with the magnificent pillars of Solomon's temple.
[848]       
[849]       Mrs Durbeyfield, having quickly walked hitherward after parting from
[850]       Tess, opened the front door, crossed the downstairs room, which was
[851]       in deep gloom, and then unfastened the stair-door like one whose
[852]       fingers knew the tricks of the latches well. Her ascent of the
[853]       crooked staircase was a slower process, and her face, as it rose into
[854]       the light above the last stair, encountered the gaze of all the party
[855]       assembled in the bedroom.
[856]       
[857]       "--Being a few private friends I've asked in to keep up club-walking
[858]       at my own expense," the landlady exclaimed at the sound of footsteps,
[859]       as glibly as a child repeating the Catechism, while she peered over
[860]       the stairs. "Oh, 'tis you, Mrs Durbeyfield--Lard--how you frightened
[861]       me!--I thought it might be some gaffer sent by Gover'ment."
[862]       
[863]       Mrs Durbeyfield was welcomed with glances and nods by the remainder
[864]       of the conclave, and turned to where her husband sat. He was humming
[865]       absently to himself, in a low tone: "I be as good as some folks here
[866]       and there! I've got a great family vault at Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill,
[867]       and finer skillentons than any man in Wessex!"
[868]       
[869]       "I've something to tell 'ee that's come into my head about that--a
[870]       grand projick!" whispered his cheerful wife. "Here, John, don't 'ee
[871]       see me?" She nudged him, while he, looking through her as through a
[872]       window-pane, went on with his recitative.
[873]       
[874]       "Hush! Don't 'ee sing so loud, my good man," said the landlady; "in
[875]       case any member of the Gover'ment should be passing, and take away my
[876]       licends."
[877]       
[878]       "He's told 'ee what's happened to us, I suppose?" asked Mrs
[879]       Durbeyfield.
[880]       
[881]       "Yes--in a way. D'ye think there's any money hanging by it?"
[882]       
[883]       "Ah, that's the secret," said Joan Durbeyfield sagely. "However,
[884]       'tis well to be kin to a coach, even if you don't ride in 'en." She
[885]       dropped her public voice, and continued in a low tone to her husband:
[886]       "I've been thinking since you brought the news that there's a great
[887]       rich lady out by Trantridge, on the edge o' The Chase, of the name of
[888]       d'Urberville."
[889]       
[890]       "Hey--what's that?" said Sir John.
[891]       
[892]       She repeated the information. "That lady must be our relation," she
[893]       said. "And my projick is to send Tess to claim kin."
[894]       
[895]       "There IS a lady of the name, now you mention it," said Durbeyfield.
[896]       "Pa'son Tringham didn't think of that. But she's nothing beside
[897]       we--a junior branch of us, no doubt, hailing long since King Norman's
[898]       day."
[899]       
[900]       While this question was being discussed neither of the pair noticed,
[901]       in their preoccupation, that little Abraham had crept into the room,
[902]       and was awaiting an opportunity of asking them to return.
[903]       
[904]       "She is rich, and she'd be sure to take notice o' the maid,"
[905]       continued Mrs Durbeyfield; "and 'twill be a very good thing. I don't
[906]       see why two branches o' one family should not be on visiting terms."
[907]       
[908]       "Yes; and we'll all claim kin!" said Abraham brightly from under the
[909]       bedstead. "And we'll all go and see her when Tess has gone to live
[910]       with her; and we'll ride in her coach and wear black clothes!"
[911]       
[912]       "How do you come here, child? What nonsense be ye talking! Go away,
[913]       and play on the stairs till father and mother be ready! ... Well,
[914]       Tess ought to go to this other member of our family. She'd be sure
[915]       to win the lady--Tess would; and likely enough 'twould lead to some
[916]       noble gentleman marrying her. In short, I know it."
[917]       
[918]       "How?"
[919]       
[920]       "I tried her fate in the _Fortune-Teller_, and it brought out that
[921]       very thing! ... You should ha' seen how pretty she looked to-day;
[922]       her skin is as sumple as a duchess'."
[923]       
[924]       "What says the maid herself to going?"
[925]       
[926]       "I've not asked her. She don't know there is any such lady-relation
[927]       yet. But it would certainly put her in the way of a grand marriage,
[928]       and she won't say nay to going."
[929]       
[930]       "Tess is queer."
[931]       
[932]       "But she's tractable at bottom. Leave her to me."
[933]       
[934]       Though this conversation had been private, sufficient of its import
[935]       reached the understandings of those around to suggest to them that
[936]       the Durbeyfields had weightier concerns to talk of now than common
[937]       folks had, and that Tess, their pretty eldest daughter, had fine
[938]       prospects in store.
[939]       
[940]       "Tess is a fine figure o' fun, as I said to myself to-day when I zeed
[941]       her vamping round parish with the rest," observed one of the elderly
[942]       boozers in an undertone. "But Joan Durbeyfield must mind that she
[943]       don't get green malt in floor." It was a local phrase which had a
[944]       peculiar meaning, and there was no reply.
[945]       
[946]       The conversation became inclusive, and presently other footsteps were
[947]       heard crossing the room below.
[948]       
[949]       "--Being a few private friends asked in to-night to keep up
[950]       club-walking at my own expense." The landlady had rapidly re-used
[951]       the formula she kept on hand for intruders before she recognized that
[952]       the newcomer was Tess.
[953]       
[954]       Even to her mother's gaze the girl's young features looked sadly
[955]       out of place amid the alcoholic vapours which floated here as
[956]       no unsuitable medium for wrinkled middle-age; and hardly was a
[957]       reproachful flash from Tess's dark eyes needed to make her father
[958]       and mother rise from their seats, hastily finish their ale, and
[959]       descend the stairs behind her, Mrs Rolliver's caution following
[960]       their footsteps.
[961]       
[962]       "No noise, please, if ye'll be so good, my dears; or I mid lose my
[963]       licends, and be summons'd, and I don't know what all! 'Night t'ye!"
[964]       
[965]       They went home together, Tess holding one arm of her father, and Mrs
[966]       Durbeyfield the other. He had, in truth, drunk very little--not a
[967]       fourth of the quantity which a systematic tippler could carry to
[968]       church on a Sunday afternoon without a hitch in his eastings or
[969]       genuflections; but the weakness of Sir John's constitution made
[970]       mountains of his petty sins in this kind. On reaching the fresh
[971]       air he was sufficiently unsteady to incline the row of three at one
[972]       moment as if they were marching to London, and at another as if they
[973]       were marching to Bath--which produced a comical effect, frequent
[974]       enough in families on nocturnal homegoings; and, like most comical
[975]       effects, not quite so comic after all. The two women valiantly
[976]       disguised these forced excursions and countermarches as well as they
[977]       could from Durbeyfield, their cause, and from Abraham, and from
[978]       themselves; and so they approached by degrees their own door, the
[979]       head of the family bursting suddenly into his former refrain as he
[980]       drew near, as if to fortify his soul at sight of the smallness of
[981]       his present residence--
[982]       
[983]       "I've got a fam--ily vault at Kingsbere!"
[984]       
[985]       "Hush--don't be so silly, Jacky," said his wife. "Yours is not the
[986]       only family that was of 'count in wold days. Look at the Anktells,
[987]       and Horseys, and the Tringhams themselves--gone to seed a'most as
[988]       much as you--though you was bigger folks than they, that's true.
[989]       Thank God, I was never of no family, and have nothing to be ashamed
[990]       of in that way!"
[991]       
[992]       "Don't you be so sure o' that. From you nater 'tis my belief you've
[993]       disgraced yourselves more than any o' us, and was kings and queens
[994]       outright at one time."
[995]       
[996]       Tess turned the subject by saying what was far more prominent in her
[997]       own mind at the moment than thoughts of her ancestry--"I am afraid
[998]       father won't be able to take the journey with the beehives to-morrow
[999]       so early."
[1000]      
[1001]      "I? I shall be all right in an hour or two," said Durbeyfield.
[1002]      
[1003]      
[1004]      It was eleven o'clock before the family were all in bed, and
[1005]      two o'clock next morning was the latest hour for starting with
[1006]      the beehives if they were to be delivered to the retailers in
[1007]      Casterbridge before the Saturday market began, the way thither lying
[1008]      by bad roads over a distance of between twenty and thirty miles, and
[1009]      the horse and waggon being of the slowest. At half-past one Mrs
[1010]      Durbeyfield came into the large bedroom where Tess and all her
[1011]      little brothers and sisters slept.
[1012]      
[1013]      "The poor man can't go," she said to her eldest daughter, whose great
[1014]      eyes had opened the moment her mother's hand touched the door.
[1015]      
[1016]      Tess sat up in bed, lost in a vague interspace between a dream and
[1017]      this information.
[1018]      
[1019]      "But somebody must go," she replied. "It is late for the hives
[1020]      already. Swarming will soon be over for the year; and it we put off
[1021]      taking 'em till next week's market the call for 'em will be past, and
[1022]      they'll be thrown on our hands."
[1023]      
[1024]      Mrs Durbeyfield looked unequal to the emergency. "Some young feller,
[1025]      perhaps, would go? One of them who were so much after dancing with
[1026]      'ee yesterday," she presently suggested.
[1027]      
[1028]      "O no--I wouldn't have it for the world!" declared Tess proudly.
[1029]      "And letting everybody know the reason--such a thing to be ashamed
[1030]      of! I think _I_ could go if Abraham could go with me to kip me
[1031]      company."
[1032]      
[1033]      Her mother at length agreed to this arrangement. Little Abraham was
[1034]      aroused from his deep sleep in a corner of the same apartment, and
[1035]      made to put on his clothes while still mentally in the other world.
[1036]      Meanwhile Tess had hastily dressed herself; and the twain, lighting
[1037]      a lantern, went out to the stable. The rickety little waggon was
[1038]      already laden, and the girl led out the horse, Prince, only a degree
[1039]      less rickety than the vehicle.
[1040]      
[1041]      The poor creature looked wonderingly round at the night, at the
[1042]      lantern, at their two figures, as if he could not believe that at
[1043]      that hour, when every living thing was intended to be in shelter and
[1044]      at rest, he was called upon to go out and labour. They put a stock
[1045]      of candle-ends into the lantern, hung the latter to the off-side of
[1046]      the load, and directed the horse onward, walking at his shoulder at
[1047]      first during the uphill parts of the way, in order not to overload
[1048]      an animal of so little vigour. To cheer themselves as well as they
[1049]      could, they made an artificial morning with the lantern, some bread
[1050]      and butter, and their own conversation, the real morning being far
[1051]      from come. Abraham, as he more fully awoke (for he had moved in a
[1052]      sort of trance so far), began to talk of the strange shapes assumed
[1053]      by the various dark objects against the sky; of this tree that looked
[1054]      like a raging tiger springing from a lair; of that which resembled a
[1055]      giant's head.
[1056]      
[1057]      When they had passed the little town of Stourcastle, dumbly somnolent
[1058]      under its thick brown thatch, they reached higher ground. Still
[1059]      higher, on their left, the elevation called Bulbarrow, or Bealbarrow,
[1060]      well-nigh the highest in South Wessex, swelled into the sky,
[1061]      engirdled by its earthen trenches. From hereabout the long road was
[1062]      fairly level for some distance onward. They mounted in front of the
[1063]      waggon, and Abraham grew reflective.
[1064]      
[1065]      "Tess!" he said in a preparatory tone, after a silence.
[1066]      
[1067]      "Yes, Abraham."
[1068]      
[1069]      "Bain't you glad that we've become gentlefolk?"
[1070]      
[1071]      "Not particular glad."
[1072]      
[1073]      "But you be glad that you 'm going to marry a gentleman?"
[1074]      
[1075]      "What?" said Tess, lifting her face.
[1076]      
[1077]      "That our great relation will help 'ee to marry a gentleman."
[1078]      
[1079]      "I? Our great relation? We have no such relation. What has put
[1080]      that into your head?"
[1081]      
[1082]      "I heard 'em talking about it up at Rolliver's when I went to find
[1083]      father. There's a rich lady of our family out at Trantridge, and
[1084]      mother said that if you claimed kin with the lady, she'd put 'ee in
[1085]      the way of marrying a gentleman."
[1086]      
[1087]      His sister became abruptly still, and lapsed into a pondering
[1088]      silence. Abraham talked on, rather for the pleasure of utterance
[1089]      than for audition, so that his sister's abstraction was of no
[1090]      account. He leant back against the hives, and with upturned face
[1091]      made observations on the stars, whose cold pulses were beating
[1092]      amid the black hollows above, in serene dissociation from these two
[1093]      wisps of human life. He asked how far away those twinklers were,
[1094]      and whether God was on the other side of them. But ever and anon
[1095]      his childish prattle recurred to what impressed his imagination
[1096]      even more deeply than the wonders of creation. If Tess were made
[1097]      rich by marrying a gentleman, would she have money enough to buy a
[1098]      spyglass so large that it would draw the stars as near to her as
[1099]      Nettlecombe-Tout?
[1100]      
[1101]      The renewed subject, which seemed to have impregnated the whole
[1102]      family, filled Tess with impatience.
[1103]      
[1104]      "Never mind that now!" she exclaimed.
[1105]      
[1106]      "Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?"
[1107]      
[1108]      "Yes."
[1109]      
[1110]      "All like ours?"
[1111]      
[1112]      "I don't know; but I think so. They sometimes seem to be like the
[1113]      apples on our stubbard-tree. Most of them splendid and sound--a few
[1114]      blighted."
[1115]      
[1116]      "Which do we live on--a splendid one or a blighted one?"
[1117]      
[1118]      "A blighted one."
[1119]      
[1120]      "'Tis very unlucky that we didn't pitch on a sound one, when there
[1121]      were so many more of 'em!"
[1122]      
[1123]      "Yes."
[1124]      
[1125]      "Is it like that REALLY, Tess?" said Abraham, turning to her much
[1126]      impressed, on reconsideration of this rare information. "How would
[1127]      it have been if we had pitched on a sound one?"
[1128]      
[1129]      "Well, father wouldn't have coughed and creeped about as he does,
[1130]      and wouldn't have got too tipsy to go on this journey; and mother
[1131]      wouldn't have been always washing, and never getting finished."
[1132]      
[1133]      "And you would have been a rich lady ready-made, and not have had to
[1134]      be made rich by marrying a gentleman?"
[1135]      
[1136]      "O Aby, don't--don't talk of that any more!"
[1137]      
[1138]      Left to his reflections Abraham soon grew drowsy. Tess was not
[1139]      skilful in the management of a horse, but she thought that she could
[1140]      take upon herself the entire conduct of the load for the present and
[1141]      allow Abraham to go to sleep if he wished to do so. She made him a
[1142]      sort of nest in front of the hives, in such a manner that he could
[1143]      not fall, and, taking the reins into her own hands, jogged on as
[1144]      before.
[1145]      
[1146]      Prince required but slight attention, lacking energy for superfluous
[1147]      movements of any sort. With no longer a companion to distract her,
[1148]      Tess fell more deeply into reverie than ever, her back leaning
[1149]      against the hives. The mute procession past her shoulders of trees
[1150]      and hedges became attached to fantastic scenes outside reality, and
[1151]      the occasional heave of the wind became the sigh of some immense sad
[1152]      soul, conterminous with the universe in space, and with history in
[1153]      time.
[1154]      
[1155]      Then, examining the mesh of events in her own life, she seemed to see
[1156]      the vanity of her father's pride; the gentlemanly suitor awaiting
[1157]      herself in her mother's fancy; to see him as a grimacing personage,
[1158]      laughing at her poverty and her shrouded knightly ancestry.
[1159]      Everything grew more and more extravagant, and she no longer knew how
[1160]      time passed. A sudden jerk shook her in her seat, and Tess awoke
[1161]      from the sleep into which she, too, had fallen.
[1162]      
[1163]      They were a long way further on than when she had lost consciousness,
[1164]      and the waggon had stopped. A hollow groan, unlike anything she had
[1165]      ever heard in her life, came from the front, followed by a shout of
[1166]      "Hoi there!"
[1167]      
[1168]      The lantern hanging at her waggon had gone out, but another was
[1169]      shining in her face--much brighter than her own had been. Something
[1170]      terrible had happened. The harness was entangled with an object
[1171]      which blocked the way.
[1172]      
[1173]      In consternation Tess jumped down, and discovered the dreadful truth.
[1174]      The groan had proceeded from her father's poor horse Prince. The
[1175]      morning mail-cart, with its two noiseless wheels, speeding along
[1176]      these lanes like an arrow, as it always did, had driven into her slow
[1177]      and unlighted equipage. The pointed shaft of the cart had entered
[1178]      the breast of the unhappy Prince like a sword, and from the wound his
[1179]      life's blood was spouting in a stream, and falling with a hiss into
[1180]      the road.
[1181]      
[1182]      In her despair Tess sprang forward and put her hand upon the hole,
[1183]      with the only result that she became splashed from face to skirt with
[1184]      the crimson drops. Then she stood helplessly looking on. Prince
[1185]      also stood firm and motionless as long as he could; till he suddenly
[1186]      sank down in a heap.
[1187]      
[1188]      By this time the mail-cart man had joined her, and began dragging and
[1189]      unharnessing the hot form of Prince. But he was already dead, and,
[1190]      seeing that nothing more could be done immediately, the mail-cart man
[1191]      returned to his own animal, which was uninjured.
[1192]      
[1193]      "You was on the wrong side," he said. "I am bound to go on with the
[1194]      mail-bags, so that the best thing for you to do is bide here with
[1195]      your load. I'll send somebody to help you as soon as I can. It is
[1196]      getting daylight, and you have nothing to fear."
[1197]      
[1198]      He mounted and sped on his way; while Tess stood and waited. The
[1199]      atmosphere turned pale, the birds shook themselves in the hedges,
[1200]      arose, and twittered; the lane showed all its white features, and
[1201]      Tess showed hers, still whiter. The huge pool of blood in front of
[1202]      her was already assuming the iridescence of coagulation; and when the
[1203]      sun rose a hundred prismatic hues were reflected from it. Prince lay
[1204]      alongside, still and stark; his