Part 1 out of 11
Tess of the d'Urbervilles
A Pure Woman
By Thomas Hardy
Transcribed by Steve Menyhert (phred sit.sps.mot.com)
Proofread by Meredith Ricker
Phase the First: The Maiden, I-XI
Phase the Second: Maiden No More, XII-XV
Phase the Third: The Rally, XVI-XXIV
Phase the Fourth: The Consequence, XXV-XXXIV
Phase the Fifth: The Woman Pays, XXXV-XLIV
Phase the Sixth: The Convert, XLV-LII
Phase the Seventh: Fulfillment, LIII-LIX
Phase the First: The Maiden
On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged
man was walking homeward from Shaston to the village of
Marlott, in the adjoining Vale of Blakemore or
Blackmoor. The pair of legs that carried him were
rickety, and there was a bias in his gait which
inclined him somewhat to the left of a straight line.
He occasionally gave a smart nod, as if in confirmation
of some opinion, though he was not thinking of anything
in particular. An empty egg-basket was slung upon his
arm, the nap of his hat was ruffled, a patch being
quite worn away at its brim where his thumb came in
taking it off. Presently he was met by an elderly
parson astride on a gray mare, who, as he rode, hummed
a wandering tune.
"Good night t'ee," said the man with the basket.
"Good night, Sir John," said the parson.
The pedestrian, after another pace or two, halted,
and turned round.
"Now, sir, begging your pardon; we met last market-day
on this road about this time, and I said "Good night,"
and you made reply 'GOOD NIGHT, SIR JOHN,' as now."
"I did," said the parson.
"And once before that--near a month ago."
"I may have."
"Then what might your meaning be in calling me
'Sir John' these different times, when I be plain Jack
Durbeyfield, the haggler?"
The parson rode a step or two nearer.
"It was only my whim," he said; and, after a moment's
hesitation: "It was on account of a discovery I made
some little time ago, whilst I was hunting up pedigrees
for the new county history. I am Parson Tringham, the
antiquary, of Stagfoot Lane. Don't you really know,
Durbeyfield, that you are the lineal representative of
the ancient and knightly family of the d'Urbervilles,
who derive their descent from Sir Pagan d'Urberville,
that renowned knight who came from Normandy with
William the Conqueror, as appears by Battle Abbey
"Never heard it before, sir!"
"Well it's true. Throw up your chin a moment, so that
I may catch the profile of your face better. Yes,
that's the d'Urberville nose and chin--a little
debased. Your ancestor was one of the twelve knights
who assisted the Lord of Estremavilla in Normandy in
his conquest of Glamorganshire. Branches of your
family held manors over all this part of England; their
names appear in the Pipe Rolls in the time of King
Stephen. In the reign of King John one of them was
rich enough to give a manor to the Knights
Hospitallers; and in Edward the Second's time your
forefather Brian was summoned to Westminster to attend
the great Council there. You declined a little in
Oliver Cromwell's time, but to no serious extent, and
in Charles the Second's reign you were made Knights of
the Royal Oak for your loyalty. Aye, there have been
generations of Sir Johns among you, and if knighthood
were hereditary, like a baronetcy, as it practically
was in old times, when men were knighted from father to
son, you would be Sir John now."
"Ye don't say so!"
"In short," concluded the parson, decisively smacking
his leg with his switch, "there's hardly such another
family in England."
"Daze my eyes, and isn't there?" said Durbeyfield.
"And here have I been knocking about, year after year,
from pillar to post, as if I was no more than the
commonest feller in the parish....And how long hev this
news about me been knowed, Pa'son Tringham?"
The clergyman explained that, as far as he was aware,
it had quite died out of knowledge, and could hardly be
said to be known at all. His own investigations had
begun on a day in the preceding spring when, having
been engaged in tracing the vicissitudes of the
d'Urberville family, he had observed Durbeyfield's name
on his waggon, and had thereupon been led to make
inquiries about his father and grandfather till he had
no doubt on the subject.
"At first I resolved not to disturb you with such a
useless piece of information," said he. "However, our
impulses are too strong for our judgement sometimes.
I thought you might perhaps know something of it all the
"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
"Yes--what the mendacious family chronicles call
extinct in the male line--that is, gone down--gone
"Then where do we lie?"
"At Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill: rows and rows of you in
your vaults, with your effigies under Purbeck-marble
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
The village of Marlott lay amid the north-eastern
undulations of the beautiful Vale of Blakemore or
Blackmoor aforesaid, and engirdled and secluded region,
for the most part untrodden as yet by tourist or
landscape-painter, though within a four hours' journey
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
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
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
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
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
"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 today, 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
southwesterly from the town of Shaston on the
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,
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
"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, clanged 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
On account of his long delay he started in a flying-run
down the lane westward, and had soon passed the hollow
and mounted the next rise. He had not yet overtaken
his brothers, but he paused to get breath, and looked
back. He could see the white figures of the girls in
the green enclosure whirling about as they had whirled
when he was among them. They seemed to have quite
forgotten him already.
All of them, except, perhaps, one. This white shape
stood apart by the hedge alone. From her position he
knew it to be the pretty maiden with whom he had not
danced. Trifling as the matter was, he yet
instinctively felt that she was hurt by his oversight.
He wished that he had asked her; he wished that he had
inquired her name. She was so modest, so expressive,
she had looked so soft in her thin white gown that he
felt he had acted stupidly.
However, it could not be helped, and turning, and
bending himself to a rapid walk, he dismissed the
subject from his mind.
As for Tess Durbeyfield, she did not so easily dislodge
the incident from her consideration. She had no spirit
to dance again for a long time, though she might have
had plenty of partners; but ah! they did not speak so
nicely as the strange young man had done. It was not
till the rays of the sun had absorbed the young
stranger's retreating figure on the hill that she shook
off her temporary sadness and answered her would-be
partner in the affirmative.
She remained with her comrades till dusk, and
participated with a certain zest in the dancing;
though, being heart-whole as yet, she enjoyed treading
a measure purely for its own sake; little divining when
she saw "the soft torments, the bitter sweets, the
pleasing pains, and the agreeable distresses" of those
girls who had been wooed and won, what she herself was
capable of in that kind. The struggles and wrangles of
the lads for her hand in a jig were an amusement to
her--no more; and when they became fierce she rebuked 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 explanation 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
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
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. Tonight, 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.
"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
"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
"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 today 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
"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 tomorrow with that load of
beehives, which must be delivered, family or no. He'll
have to start shortly after twelve tonight, 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
"No," said the latter touchily, "I be not agreed.
I have been waiting for 'ee to bide and keep house while
I go fetch him."
"O no, Tess. You see, it would be no use."
Tess did not expostulate. She knew what her mother's
objection meant. Mrs Durbeyfield's jacket and bonnet
were already hanging slily upon a chair by her side, in
readiness for this contemplated jaunt, the reason for
which the matron deplored more than its necessity.
"And take the COMPLEAT FORTUNE-TELLER to the outhouse,"
Joan continued, rapidly wiping her hands, and donning
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
meta-physical impalpability, sinking to mere mental
phenomena for serene contemplation, and no longer stood
as pressing concretions which chafed body and soul.
The youngsters, not immediately within sight, seemed
rather bright and desirable appurtenances than
otherwise; the incidents of daily life were not without
humorousness and jollity in their aspect there. She
felt a little as she had used to feel when she sat by
her now wedded husband in the same spot during his
wooing, shutting her eyes to his defects of character,
and regarding him only in his ideal presentation as
Tess, being left alone with the younger children, went
first to the outhouse with the fortune-telling book,
and stuffed it into the thatch. A curious fetichistic
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 daytime, in company with her nine-year-old
brother Abraham, and her sister Eliza-Louisa of twelve
and a half, call "'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
The boy jumped promptly from his seat, and opened the
door, and the night swallowed him up. Half an hour
passed yet again; neither man, woman, nor child
returned. Abraham, like his parents, seemed to have
been limed and caught by the ensnaring inn.
"I must go myself," she said.
'Liza-Lu then went to bed, and Tess, locking them all
in, started on her way up the dark and crooked lane or
street not made for hasty progress; a street laid out
before inches of land had value, and when one-handed
clocks sufficiently subdivided the day.
Rolliver's inn, the single alehouse at this end of the
long and broken village, could only boast of an
off-licence; hence, as nobody could legally drink on
the premises, the amount of overt accommodation for
consumers was strictly limited to a little board about
six inches wide and two yards long, fixed to the garden
palings by pieces of wire, so as to form a ledge. On
this board thirsty strangers deposited their cups as
they stood in the road and drank, and threw the dregs
on the dusty ground to the pattern of Polynesia, and
wished they could have a restful seat inside.
Thus the strangers. But there were also local
customers who felt the same wish; and where there's a
will there's a way.
In a large bedroom upstairs, the window of which was
thickly curtained with a great woollen shawl lately
discarded by the landlady Mrs Rolliver, were gathered
on this evening nearly a dozen persons, all seeking
beatitude; all old inhabitants of the nearer end of
Marlott, and frequenters of this retreat. Not only did
the distance to the The Pure Drop, the fully-licensed
tavern at the further part of the dispersed village,
render its accommodation practically unavailable for
dwellers at this end; but the far more serious
question, the quality of the liquor, confirmed the
prevalent opinion that it was better to drink with
Rolliver in a corner of the housetop than with the
other landlord in a wide house.
A gaunt four-post bedstead which stood in the room
afforded sitting-space for several persons gathered
round three of its sides; a couple more men had
elevated themselves on a chest of drawers; another
rested on the oak-carved "cwoffer"; two on the
wash-stand; another on the stool; and thus all were,
somehow, seated at their ease. The stage of mental
comfort to which they had arrived at this hour was one
wherein their souls expanded beyond their skins, and
spread their personalities warmly through the room.
In this process the chamber and its furniture grew more
and more dignified and luxurious; the shawl hanging at
the window took upon itself the richness of tapestry;
the brass handles of the chest of drawers were as
golden knockers; and the carved bedposts seemed to have
some kinship with the magnificent pillars of Solomon's
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
"----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
"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
"Yes--in a way. D'ye think there's any money hanging by
"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
"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."
"I tried her fate in the FORTUNE-TELLER, and it brought
out that very thing! ... You should ha' seen how pretty
she looked today; her skin is as sumple as a
"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
"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
today 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 tonight 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
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 of
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
"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 then 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 tomorrow so early."
"I? I shall be all right in an hour or two," said
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
"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
"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
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
"Tess!" he said in a preparatory tone, after a silence.
"Bain't you glad that we've become gentlefolk?"
"Not particular glad."
"But you be glad that you 'm going to marry a
"What?" said Tess, lifting her face.
"That our great relation will help 'ee to marry a
"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
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?"
"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
"A blighted one."
"'Tis very unlucky that we didn't pitch on a sound one,
when there were so many more of 'em!"
"Is it like that REALLY, Tess?" said Abraham, turning
to her much impressed, on reconsideration of this rare
information. "How would it have been if we had pitched
on a sound one?"
"Well, father wouldn't have coughed and creeped about
as he does, and wouldn't have got too tipsy to go on
this journey; and mother wouldn't have been always
washing, and never getting finished."
"And you would have been a rich lady ready-made, and
not have had to be made rich by marrying a gentleman?"
"O Aby, don't--don't talk of that any more!"
Left to his reflections Abraham soon grew drowsy. Tess
was not skilful in the management of a horse, but she
thought that she could take upon herself the entire
conduct of the load for the present, and allow Abraham
to go to sleep if he wished to do so. She made him a
sort of nest in front of the hives, in such a manner
that he could not fall, and, taking the reins into her
own hands, jogged on as 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
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 has 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
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
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
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 retracted 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
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
"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 Modest 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
"Is he gone to heaven?" asked Abraham, between the
Then Durbeyfield began to shovel in the earth, and the
children cried anew. All except Tess. Her face was
dry and pale, as though she regarded herself in the
light of a murderess.
The haggling business, which had mainly depended on the
horse, became disorganized forthwith. Distress, if not
penury, loomed in the distance. Durbeyfield was what
was locally called a slack-twisted fellow; he had good
strength to work at times; but the times could not be
relied on to coincide with the hours of requirement;
and, having been unaccustomed to the regular toil of
the day-labourer, he was not particularly persistent
when they did so coincide.
Tess, meanwhile, as the one who had dragged her parents
into this quagmire, was silently wondering what she
could do to help them out of it; and then her mother
broached her scheme.
"We must take the ups wi' the downs, Tess," said she;
"and never could your high blood have been found out at
a more called-for moment. You must try your friends.
Do ye know that there is a very rich Mrs d'Urberville
living on the outskirts o' The Chase, who must be our
relation? You must go to her and claim kin, and ask
for some help in our trouble."
"I shouldn't care to do that," says Tess. "If there is
such a lady, 'twould be enough for us if she were
friendly--not to expect her to give us help."
"You could win her round to do anything, my dear.
Besides, perhaps there's more in it than you know of.
I've heard what I've heard, 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
"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
"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
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 handing 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
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
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
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
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
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!"
"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
"It is so very foolish," she stammered; "I fear can't
"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?"
"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
"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,
"I suppose I have," faltered Tess, looking
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"I wish for no better, sir," said she with something of
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