Part 2 out of 11
love rarely coincides with the hour for loving. Nature
does not often say "See!" to her poor creature at a
time when seeing can lead to happy doing; or reply
"Here!" to a body's cry of "Where?" till the
hide-and-seek has become an irksome, outworn game. We
may wonder whether at the acme and summit of the human
progress these anachronisms will be corrected by a
finer intuition, a close interaction of the social
machinery than that which now jolts us round and along;
but such completeness is not to be prophesied, or even
conceived as possible. Enough that in the present
case, as in millions, it was not the two halves of a
perfect whole that confronted each other at the perfect
moment; a missing counterpart wandered independently
about the earth waiting in crass obtuseness till the
late time came. Out of which maladroit delay sprang
anxieties, disappointments, shocks, catastrophes, and
When d'Urberville got back to the tent he sat down
astride on a chair reflecting, with a pleased gleam in
his face. Then he broke into a loud laugh.
"Well, I'm damned! What a funny thing! Ha-ha-ha!
And what a crumby girl!"
Tess went down the hill to Trantridge Cross, and
inattentively waited to take her seat in the van
returning from Chaseborough to Shaston. She did not
know what the other occupants said to her as she
entered, though she answered them; and when they had
started anew she rode along with an inward and not an
One among her fellow-travellers addressed her more
pointedly than any had spoken before: "Why, you be
quite a posy! And such roses in early June!"
Then she became aware of the spectacle she presented to
their surprised vision: roses at her breasts; roses in
her hat; roses and strawberries in her basket to the
brim. She blushed, and said confusedly that the
flowers had been given to her. When the passengers
were not looking she stealthily removed the more
prominent blooms from her hat and placed them in
basket, where she covered them with her handkerchief.
Then she fell to reflecting again, and in looking
downwards a thorn of the rose remaining in her breast
accidentally pricked her chin. Like all the cottagers
in Blackmoor Vale, Tess was steeped in fancies and
prefigurative superstitions; she thought this an ill
omen--the first she had noticed that day.
The van travelled only so far as Shaston, and there
were several miles of pedestrian descent from that
mountain-town into the vale of Marlott. Her mother had
advised her to stay here for the night, at the house of
a cottage-woman they knew, if she should feel too tired
to come on; and this Tess did, not descending to her
home till the following afternoon.
When she entered the house she perceived in a moment
from her mother's triumphant manner that something had
occurred in the interim.
"Oh yes; I know all about it! I told 'ee it would be
all right, and now 'tis proved!"
"Since I've been away? What has?" said Tess rather
Her mother surveyed the girl up and down with arch
approval, and went on banteringly: "So you've brought
"How do you know, mother?"
"I've had a letter."
Tess then remembered that there would have been time
"They say--Mrs d'Urberville says--that she wants you to
look after a little fowl-farm which is her hobby. But
this is only her artful way of getting 'ee there
without raising your hopes. She's going to own 'ee as
kin--that's the meaning o't."
"But I didn't see her."
"You zid somebody, I suppose?"
"I saw her son."
"And did he own 'ee?"
"Well--he called me Coz."
"An' I knew it! Jacky--he called her Coz!" cried Joan
to her husband. "Well, he spoke to his mother, of
course, and she do want 'ee there."
"But I don't know that I am apt at tending fowls," said
the dubious Tess.
"Then I don't know who is apt. You've be'n born in the
business, and brought up in it. They that be born in a
business always know more about it than any 'prentice.
Besides, that's only just a show of something for you
to do, that you midn't feel beholden."
"I don't altogether think I ought to go," said Tess
thoughtfully. "Who wrote the letter? Will you let me
look at it?"
"Mrs d'Urberville wrote it. Here it is."
The letter was in the third person, and briefly
informed Mrs Durbeyfield that her daughter's services
would be useful to that lady in the management of her
poultry-farm, that a comfortable room would be provided
for her if she could come, and that the wages would be
on a liberal scale if they liked her.
"Oh--that's all!" said Tess.
"You couldn't expect her to throw her arms round 'ee,
an' to kiss and to coll 'ee all at once."
Tess looked out of the window.
"I would rather stay here with father and you," she said.
"I'd rather not tell you why, mother; indeed, I don't
quite know why."
A week afterwards she came in one evening from an
unavailing search for some light occupation in the
immediate neighbourhood. Her idea had been to get
together sufficient money during the summer to purchase
another horse. Hardly had she crossed the threshold
before one of the children danced across the room,
saying, "The gentleman's been here!"
Her mother hastened to explain, smiles breaking from
every inch of her person. Mrs d'Urberville's son had
called on horseback, having been riding by chance in
the direction of Marlott. He had wished to know,
finally, in the name of his mother, if Tess could
really come to manage the old lady's fowl-farm or not;
the lad who had hitherto superintended the birds having
proved untrustworthy. "Mr d'Urberville says you must be
a good girl if you are at all as you appear; he knows
you must be worth your weight in gold. He is very much
interested in 'ee--truth to tell."
Tess seemed for the moment really pleased to hear that
she had won such high opinion from a stranger when, in
her own esteem, she had sunk so low.
"It is very good of him to think that," she murmured;
"and if I was quite sure how it would be living there,
I would go any-when."
"He is a mighty handsome man!"
"I don't think so," said Tess coldly.
"Well, there's your chance, whether or no; and I'm sure
he wears a beautiful diamond ring!"
"Yes," said little Abraham, brightly, from the
window-bench; "and I seed it! and it did twinkle when
he put his hand up to his mistarshers. Mother, why did
our grand relation keep on putting his hand up to his
"Hark at that child!" cried Mrs Durbeyfield, with
"Perhaps to show his diamond ring," murmured Sir John,
dreamily, from his chair.
"I'll think it over," said Tess, leaving the room.
"Well, she's made a conquest o' the younger branch of
us, straight off," continued the matron to her husband,
"and she's a fool if she don't follow it up."
"I don't quite like my children going away from home,"
said the haggler. "As the head of the family, the rest
ought to come to me."
"But do let her go, Jacky," coaxed his poor witless
wife. "He's struck wi' her--you can see that. He
called her Coz! He'll marry her, most likely, and make
a lady of her; and then she'll be what her forefathers
John Durbeyfield had more conceit than energy or
health, and this supposition was pleasant to him.
"Well, perhaps, that's what young Mr d'Urberville
means," he admitted; "and sure enough he mid have
serious thoughts about improving his blood by linking
on to the old line. Tess, the little rogue! And have
she really paid 'em a visit to such an end as this?"
Meanwhile Tess was walking thoughtfully among the
gooseberry-bushes in the garden, and over Prince's
grave. When she came in her mother pursued her
"Well, what be you going to do?" she asked.
"I wish I had seen Mrs d'Urberville," said Tess.
"I think you mid as well settle it. Then you'll see her
Her father coughed in his chair.
"I don't know what to say!" answered the girl
restlessly. "It is for you to decide. I killed the
old horse, and I suppose I ought to do something to get
ye a new one. But--but--I don't quite like Mr
d'Urberville being there!"
The children, who had made use of this idea of Tess
being taken up by their wealthy kinsfolk (which they
imagined the other family to be) as a species of
dolorifuge after the death of the horse, began to cry
at Tess's reluctance, and teased and reproached her for
"Tess won't go--o--o and be made a la--a--dy of!--no,
she says she wo--o--on't!" they wailed, with square
mouths. "And we shan't have a nice new horse, and lots
o' golden money to buy fairlings! And Tess won't look
pretty in her best cloze no mo--o--ore!"
Her mother chimed in to the same tune: a certain way
she had of making her labours in the house seem heavier
than they were by prolonging them indefinitely, also
weighed in the argument. Her father alone preserved an
attitude of neutrality.
"I will go," said Tess at last.
Her mother could not repress her consciousness of the
nuptial Vision conjured up by the girl's consent.
"That's right! For such a pretty maid as 'tis, this is
a fine chance!"
Tess smiled crossly.
"I hope it is a chance for earning money. It is no
other kind of chance. You had better say nothing of
that silly sort about parish." Mrs Durbeyfield did not
promise. She was not quite sure that she did not feel
proud enough, after the visitor's remarks, to say a
Thus it was arranged; and the young girl wrote,
agreeing to be ready to set out on any day on which she
might be required. She was duly informed that Mrs
d'Urberville was glad of her decision, and that a
spring-cart should be sent to meet her and her luggage
at the top of the Vale on the day after the morrow,
when she must hold herself prepared to start. Mrs
d'Urberville's handwriting seemed rather masculine.
"A cart?" murmured Joan Durbeyfield doubtingly.
"It might have been a carriage for her own kin!"
Having at last taken her course Tess was less restless
and abstracted, going about her business with some
self-assurance in the thought of acquiring another
horse for her father by an occupation which would not
be onerous. She had hoped to be a teacher at the
school, but the fates seemed to decide otherwise. Being
mentally older than her mother she did not regard Mrs
Durbeyfield's matrimonial hopes for her in a serious
aspect for a moment. The light-minded woman had been
discovering good matches for her daughter almost from
the year of her birth.
On the morning appointed for her departure Tess was
awake before dawn--at the marginal minute of the dark
when the grove is still mute, save for one prophetic
bird who sings with a clear-voiced conviction that he
at least knows the correct time of day, the rest
preserving silence as if equally convinced that he is
mistaken. She remained upstairs packing till
breakfast-time, and then came down in her ordinary
week-day clothes, her Sunday apparel being carefully
folded in her box.
Her mother expostulated. "You will never set out to see
your folks without dressing up more the dand than
"But I am going to work!" said Tess.
"Well, yes," said Mrs Durbeyfield; and in a private
tone, "at first there mid be a little pretence o't....
But I think it will be wiser of 'ee to put your best
side outward," she added.
"Very well; I suppose you know best," replied Tess with
And to please her parent the girl put herself quite in
Joan's hands, saying serenely--"Do what you like with
Mrs Durbeyfield was only too delighted at this
tractability. First she fetched a great basin, and
washed Tess's hair with such thoroughness that when
dried and brushed it looked twice as much as at other
times. She tied it with a broader pink ribbon than
usual. Then she put upon her the white frock that Tess
had worn at the club-walking, the airy fulness of
which, supplementing her enlarged COIFFURE, imparted to
her developing figure an amplitude which belied her
age, and might cause her to be estimated as a woman
when she was not much more than a child.
"I declare there's a hole in my stocking-heel!" said
"Never mind holes in your stockings--they don't speak!
When I was a maid, so long as I had a pretty bonnet the
devil might ha' found me in heels."
Her mother's pride in the girl's appearance led her to
step back, like a painter from his easel, and survey
her work as a whole.
"You must zee yourself!" she cried. "It is much better
than you was t'other day."
As the looking-glass was only large enough to reflect a
very small portion of Tess's person at one time, Mrs
Durbeyfield hung a black cloak outside the casement,
and so made a large reflector of the panes, as it is
the wont of bedecking cottagers to do. After this she
went downstairs to her husband, who was sitting in the
"I'll tell 'ee what 'tis, Durbeyfield," said she
exultingly; "he'll never have the heart not to love
her. But whatever you do, don't zay too much to Tess
of his fancy for her, and this chance she has got. She
is such an odd maid that it mid zet her against him, or
against going there, even now. If all goes well, I
shall certainly be for making some return to pa'son at
Stagfoot Lane for telling us--dear, good man!"
However, as the moment for the girl's setting out drew
nigh, when the first excitement of the dressing had
passed off, a slight misgiving found place in Joan
Durbeyfield's mind. It prompted the matron to say that
she would walk a little way--as far as to the point
where the acclivity from the valley began its first
steep ascent to the outer world. At the top Tess was
going to be met with the spring-cart sent by the
Stoke-d'Urbervilles, and her box had already been
wheeled ahead towards this summit by a lad with trucks,
to be in readiness.
Seeing their mother put on her bonnet the younger
children clamoured to go with her.
"I do want to walk a little-ways wi' Sissy, now she's
going to marry our gentleman-cousin, and wear fine
"Now," said Tess, flushing and turning quickly, "I'll
hear no more o' that! Mother, how could you ever put
such stuff into their heads?"
"Going to work, my dears, for our rich relation, and
help get enough money for a new horse," said Mrs
"Goodbye, father," said Tess, with a lumpy throat.
"Goodbye, my maid," said Sir John, raising his head
from his breast as he suspended his nap, induced by a
slight excess this morning in honour of the occasion.
"Well, I hope my young friend will like such a comely
sample of his own blood. And tell'n, Tess, that being
sunk, quite, from our former grandeur, I'll sell him
the title--yes, sell it--and at no onreasonable
"Not for less than a thousand pound!" cried Lady
"Tell'n--I'll take a thousand pound. Well, I'll take
less, when I come to think o't. He'll adorn it better
than a poor lammicken feller like myself can. Tell'n
he shall hae it for a hundred. But I won't stand upon
trifles--tell'n he shall hae it for fifty--for twenty
pound! Yes, twenty pound--that's the lowest. Dammy,
family honour is family honour, and I won't take a
Tess's eyes were too full and her voice too choked to
utter the sentiments that were in her. She turned
quickly, and went out.
So the girls and their mother all walked together,
a child on each side of Tess, holding her hand, and
looking at her meditatively from time to time, as at
one who was about to do great things; her mother just
behind with the smallest; the group forming a picture
of honest beauty flanked by innocence, and backed by
simple-souled vanity. They followed the way till they
reached the beginning of the ascent, on the crest of
which the vehicle from Trantridge was to receive her,
this limit having been fixed to save the horse the
labour of the last slope. Far away behind the first
hills the cliff-like dwellings of Shaston broke the
line of the ridge. Nobody was visible in the elevated
road which skirted the ascent save the lad whom they
had sent on before them, sitting on the handle of the
barrow that contained all Tess's worldly possessions.
"Bide here a bit, and the cart will soon come, no
doubt," said Mrs Durbeyfield. "Yes, I see it yonder!"
It had come--appearing suddenly from behind the
forehead of the nearest upland, and stopping beside the
boy with the barrow. Her mother and the children
thereupon decided to go no farther, and bidding them a
hasty goodbye Tess bent her steps up the hill.
They saw her white shape draw near to the spring-cart,
on which her box was already placed. But before she
had quite reached it another vehicle shot out from a
clump of trees on the summit, came round the bend of
the road there, passed the luggage-cart, and halted
beside Tess, who looked up as if in great surprise.
Her mother perceived, for the first time, that the
second vehicle was not a humble conveyance like the
first, but a spick-and-span gig or dog-cart, highly
varnished and equipped. The driver was a young man of
three-or four-and-twenty, with a cigar between his
teeth; wearing a dandy cap, drab jacket, breeches of
the same hue, white neckcloth, stick-up collar, and
brown driving-gloves--in short, he was the handsome,
horsey young buck who had visited Joan a week or two
before to get her answer about Tess.
Mrs Durbeyfield clapped her hands like a child. Then
she looked down, then stared again. Could she be
deceived as to the meaning of this?
"Is dat the gentleman-kinsman who'll make Sissy a
lady?" asked the youngest child.
Meanwhile the muslined form of Tess could be seen
standing still, undecided, beside this turn-out, whose
owner was talking to her. Her seeming indecision was,
in fact, more than indecision: it was misgiving. She
would have preferred the humble cart. The young man
dismounted, and appeared to urge her to ascend. She
turned her face down the hill to her relatives, and
regarded the little group. Something seemed to quicken
her to a determination; possibly the thought that she
had killed Prince. She suddenly stepped up; he mounted
beside her, and immediately whipped on the horse. In a
moment they had passed the slow cart with the box, and
disappeared behind the shoulder of the hill.
Directly Tess was out of sight, and the interest of the
matter as a drama was at an end, the little ones' eyes
filled with tears. The youngest child said, "I wish
poor, poor Tess wasn't gone away to be a lady!" and,
lowering the corners of his lips, burst out crying.
The new point of view was infectious, and the next
child did likewise, and then the next, till the whole
three of them wailed loud.
There were tears also in Joan Durbeyfield's eyes as she
turned to go home. But by the time she had got back to
the village she was passively trusting to the favour of
accident. However, in bed that night she sighed, and
her husband asked her what was the matter.
"Oh, I don't know exactly," she said. "I was thinking
that perhaps it would ha' been better if Tess had not
"Oughtn't ye to have thought of that before?"
"Well, 'tis a chance for the maid ---- Still, if 'twere
the doing again, I wouldn't let her go till I had found
out whether the gentleman is really a good-hearted
young man and choice over her as his kinswoman."
"Yes, you ought, perhaps, to ha' done that," snored Sir
Joan Durbeyfield always managed to find consolation
somewhere: "Well, as one of the genuine stock, she
ought to make her way with 'en, if she plays her trump
card aright. And if he don't marry her afore he will
after. For that he's all afire wi' love for her any
eye can see."
"What's her trump card? Her d'Urberville blood, you
"No, stupid; her face--as 'twas mine."
Having mounted beside her, Alec d'Urberville drove
rapidly along the crest of the first hill, chatting
compliments to Tess as they went, the cart with her box
being left far behind. Rising still, an immense
landscape stretched around them on every side; behind,
the green valley of her birth, before, a gray country
of which she knew nothing except from her first brief
visit to Trantridge. Thus they reached the verge of an
incline down which the road stretched in a long
straight descent of nearly a mile.
Ever since the accident with her father's horse Tess
Durbeyfield, courageous as she naturally was, had been
exceedingly timid on wheels; the least irregularity of
motion startled her. She began to get uneasy at a
certain recklessness in her conductor's driving.
"You will go down slow, sir, I suppose?" she said with
D'Urberville looked round upon her, nipped his cigar
with the tips of his large white centre-teeth, and
allowed his lips to smile slowly of themselves.
"Why, Tess," he answered, after another whiff or two,
"it isn't a brave bouncing girl like you who asks that?
Why, I always go down at full gallop. There's nothing
like it for raising your spirits."
"But perhaps you need not now?"
"Ah," he said, shaking his head, "there are two to be
reckoned with. It is not me alone. Tib had to be
considered, and she has a very queer temper."
"Why, this mare. I fancy she looked round at me in a
very grim way just then. Didn't you notice it?"
"Don't try to frighten me, sir," said Tess stiffly.
"Well, I don't. If any living man can manage this
horse I can: I won't say any living man can do it--but
if such has the power, I am he."
"Why do you have such a horse?"
"Ah, well may you ask it! It was my fate, I suppose.
Tib has killed one chap; and just after I bought her
she nearly killed me. And then, take my word for it,
I nearly killed her. But she's touchy still, very
touchy; and one's life is hardly safe behind her
They were just beginning to descend; and it was evident
that the horse, whether of her own will or of his (the
latter being the more likely), knew so well the
reckless performance expected of her that she hardly
required a hint from behind.
Down, down, they sped, the wheels humming like a top,
the dog-cart rocking right and left, its axis acquiring
a slightly oblique set in relation to the line of
progress; the figure of the horse rising and falling in
undulations before them. Sometimes a wheel was off the
ground, it seemed, for many yards; sometimes a stone
was sent spinning over the hedge, and flinty sparks
from the horse's hoofs outshone the daylight. The
aspect of the straight road enlarged with their
advance, the two banks dividing like a splitting stick;
one rushing past at each shoulder.
The wind blew through Tess's white muslin to her very
skin, and her washed hair flew out behind. She was
determined to show no open fear, but she clutched
"Don't touch my arm! We shall be thrown out if you do!
Hold on round my waist!"
She grasped his waist, and so they reached the bottom.
"Safe, thank God, in spite of your fooling!" said she,
her face on fire.
"Tess--fie! that's temper!" said d'Urberville.
"Well, you need not let go your hold of me so
thanklessly the moment you feel yourself our of
She had not considered what she had been doing; whether
he were man or woman, stick or stone, in her
involuntary hold on him. Recovering her reserve she sat
without replying, and thus they reached the summit of
"Now then, again!" said d'Urberville.
"No, no!" said Tess. "Show more sense, do, please."
"But when people find themselves on one of the highest
points in the county, they must get down again," he
He loosened rein, and away they went a second time.
D'Urberville turned his face to her as they rocked, and
said, in playful raillery: "Now then, put your arms
round my waist again, as you did before, my Beauty."
"Never!" said Tess independently, holding on as well as
she could without touching him.
"Let me put one little kiss on those holmberry lips,
Tess, or even on that warmed cheek, and I'll stop--on
my honour, I will!"
Tess, surprised beyond measure, slid farther back still
on her seat, at which he urged the horse anew, and
rocked her the more.
"Will nothing else do?" she cried at length, in
desperation, her large eyes staring at him like those
of a wild animal. This dressing her up so prettily by
her mother had apparently been to lamentable purpose.
"Nothing, dear Tess," he replied.
"Oh, I don't know--very well; I don't mind!" she panted
He drew rein, and as they slowed he was on the point of
imprinting the desired salute, when, as if hardly yet
aware of her own modesty, she dodged aside. His arms
being occupied with the reins there was left him no
power to prevent her manoeuvre.
"Now, damn it--I'll break both our necks!" swore her
capriciously passionate companion. "So you can go from
your word like that, you young witch, can you?"
"Very well," said Tess, "I'll not more since you be so
determined! But I--thought you would be kind to me, and
protect me, as my kinsman!"
"Kinsman be hanged! Now!"
"But I don't want anybody to kiss me, sir!" she
implored, a big tear beginning to roll down her face,
and the corners of her mouth trembling in her attempts
not to cry. "And I wouldn't ha' come if I had known!"
He was inexorable, and she sat still, and d'Urberville
gave her the kiss of mastery. No sooner had he done so
than she flushed with shame, took out her handkerchief,
and wiped the spot on her cheek that had been touched
by his lips. His ardour was nettled at the sight, for
the act on her part had been unconsciously done.
"You are mighty sensitive for a cottage girl!" said the
Tess made no reply to this remark, of which, indeed,
she did not quite comprehend the drift, unheeding the
snub she had administered by her instinctive rub upon
her cheek. She had, in fact, undone the kiss, as far
as such a thing was physically possible. With a dim
sense that he was vexed she looked steadily ahead as
they trotted on near Melbury Down and Wingreen, till
she saw, to her consternation, that there was yet
another descent to be undergone.
"You shall be made sorry for that!" he resumed, his
injured tone still remaining, as he flourished the whip
anew. "Unless, that is, you agree willingly to let me
do it again, and no handkerchief."
She sighed. "Very well, sir!" she said. "Oh--let me
get my hat!"
At the moment of speaking her hat had blown off into
the road, their present speed on the upland being by no
means slow. D'Urberville pulled up, and said he would
get it for her, but Tess was down on the other side.
She turned back and picked up the article.
"You look prettier with it off, upon my soul, if that's
possible," he said, contemplating her over the back of
the vehicle. "Now then, up again! What's the matter?"
The hat was in place and tied, but Tess had not stepped
"No, sir," she said, revealing the red and ivory of her
mouth as her eye lit in defiant triumph; "not again, if
I know it!"
"What--you won't get up beside me?"
"No; I shall walk."
"'Tis five or six miles yet to Trantridge."
"I don't care if 'tis dozens. Besides, the cart is
"You artful hussy! Now, tell me--didn't you make that
hat blow off on purpose? I'll swear you did!"
Her strategic silence confirmed his suspicion.
Then d'Urberville cursed and swore at her, and called
her everything he could think of for the trick.
Turning the horse suddenly he tried to drive back upon
her, and so hem her in between the gig and the hedge.
But he could not do this short of injuring her.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself for using such
wicked words!" cried Tess with spirit, from the top of
the hedge into which she had scrambled. "I don't like
'ee at all! I hate and detest you! I'll go back to
mother, I will!"
D'Urberville's bad temper cleared up at sight of hers;
and he laughed heartily.
"Well, I like you all the better," he said. "Come, let
there be peace. I'll never do it any more against your
will. My life upon it now!"
Still Tess could not be induced to remount. She did
not, however, object to his keeping his gig alongside
her; and in this manner, at a slow pace, they advanced
towards the village of Trantridge. From time to time
d'Urberville exhibited a sort of fierce distress at the
sight of the tramping he had driven her to undertake by
his misdemeanour. She might in truth have safely
trusted him now; but he had forfeited her confidence
for the time, and she kept on the ground progressing
thoughtfully, as if wondering whether it would be wiser
to return home. Her resolve, however, had been taken,
and it seemed vacillating even to childishness to
abandon it now, unless for graver reasons. How could
she face her parents, get back her box, and disconcert
the whole scheme for the rehabilitation of her family
on such sentimental grounds?
A few minutes later the chimneys of The Slopes appeared
in view, and in a snug nook to the right the
poultry-farm and cottage of Tess' destination.
The community of fowls to which Tess had been appointed
as supervisor, purveyor, nurse, surgeon, and friend,
made its headquarters in an old thatched cottage
standing in an enclosure that had once been a garden,
but was now a trampled and sanded square. The house
was overrun with ivy, its chimney being enlarged by the
boughs of the parasite to the aspect of a ruined tower.
The lower rooms were entirely given over to the birds,
who walked about them with a proprietary air, as though
the place had been built by themselves, and not by
certain dusty copyholders who now lay east and west in
the churchyard. The descendants of these bygone owners
felt it almost as a slight to their family when the
house which had so much of their affection, had cost so
much of their forefathers' money, and had been in their
possession for several generations before the
d'Urbervilles came and built here, was indifferently
turned into a fowl-house by Mrs Stoke-d'Urberville as
soon as the property fell into hand according to law.
"'Twas good enough for Christians in grandfather's
time," they said.
The rooms wherein dozens of infants had wailed at their
nursing now resounded with the tapping of nascent
chicks. Distracted hens in coops occupied spots where
formerly stood chairs supporting sedate agriculturists.
The chimney-corner and once blazing hearth was now
filled with inverted beehives, in which the hens laid
their eggs; while out of doors the plots that each
succeeding householder had carefully shaped with his
spade were torn by the cocks in wildest fashion.
The garden in which the cottage stood was surrounded by
a wall, and could only be entered through a door.
When Tess had occupied herself about an hour the next
morning in altering and improving the arrangements,
according to her skilled ideas as the daughter of a
professed poulterer, the door in the wall opened and a
servant in white cap and apron entered. She had come
from the manor-house.
"Mrs d'Urberville wants the fowls as usual," she said;
but perceiving that Tess did not quite understand, she
explained, "Mis'ess is a old lady, and blind."
"Blind!" said Tess.
Almost before her misgiving at the news could find time
to shape itself she took, under her companion's
direction, two of the most beautiful of the Hamburghs
in her arms, and followed the maid-servant, who had
likewise taken two, to the adjacent mansion, which,
though ornate and imposing, showed traces everywhere on
this side that some occupant of its chambers could bend
to the love of dumb creatures--feathers floating within
view of the front, and hen-coops standing on the grass.
In a sitting-room on the ground-floor, ensconced in an
armchair with her back to the light, was the owner and
mistress of the estate, a white-haired woman of not
more than sixty, or even less, wearing a large cap.
She had the mobile face frequent in those whose sight
has decayed by stages, has been laboriously striven
after, and reluctantly let go, rather than the stagnant
mien apparent in persons long sightless or born blind.
Tess walked up to this lady with her feathered
charges--one sitting on each arm.
"Ah, you are the young woman come to look after my
birds?" said Mrs d'Urberville, recognizing a new
footstep. "I hope you will be kind to them. My
bailiff tells me you are quite the proper person. Well,
where are they? Ah, this is Strut! But he is hardly
so lively today, is he? He is alarmed at being handled
by a stranger, I suppose. And Phena too--yes, they are
a little frightened--aren't you, dears? But they will
soon get used to you."
While the old lady had been speaking Tess and the other
maid, in obedience to her gestures, had placed the
fowls severally in her lap, and she had felt them over
from head to tail, examining their beaks, their combs,
the manes of the cocks, their winds, and their claws.
Her touch enabled her to recognize them in a moment,
and to discover if a single feather were crippled or
draggled. She handled their crops, and knew what they
had eaten, and if too little or too much; her face
enacting a vivid pantomime of the criticisms passing in
The birds that the two girls had brought in were duly
returned to the yard, and the process was repeated till
all the pet cocks and hens had been submitted to the
old woman--Hamburghs, Bantams, Cochins, Brahmas,
Dorkings, and such other sorts as were in fashion just
then--her perception of each visitor being seldom at
fault as she received the bird upon her knees.
It reminded Tess of a Confirmation, in which Mrs
d'Urberville was the bishop, the fowls the young people
presented, and herself and the maid-servant the parson
and curate of the parish bringing them up. At the end
of the ceremony Mrs d'Urberville abruptly asked Tess,
wrinkling and twitching her face into undulations,
"Can you whistle?"
"Yes, whistled tunes."
Tess could whistle like most other country girls,
though the accomplishment was one which she did not
care to profess in genteel company. However, she
blandly admitted that such was the fact.
"Then you will have to practise it every day. I had a
lad who did it very well, but he has left. I want you
to whistle to my bullfinches; as I cannot see them I
like to hear them, and we teach 'em airs that way.
Tell her where the cages are, Elizabeth. You must
begin tomorrow, or they will go back in their piping.
They have been neglected these several days."
"Mr d'Urberville whistled to 'em this morning, ma'am,"
The old lady's face creased into furrows of repugnance,
and she made no further reply.
Thus the reception of Tess by her fancied kinswoman
terminated, and the birds were taken back to their
quarters. The girl's surprise at Mrs d'Urberville's
manner was not great; for since seeing the size of the
house she had expected no more. But she was far from
being aware that the old lady had never heard a word of
the so-called kinship. She gathered that no great
affection flowed between the blind woman and her son.
But in that, too, she was mistaken. Mrs d'Urberville
was not the first mother compelled to love her
offspring resentfully, and to be bitterly fond.
In spite of the unpleasant initiation of the day
before, Tess inclined to the freedom and novelty of her
new position in the morning when the sun shone, now
that she was once installed there; and she was curious
to test her powers in the unexpected direction asked of
her, so as to ascertain her chance of retaining her
post. As soon as she was alone within the walled garden
she sat herself down on a coop, and seriously screwed
up her mouth for the long-neglected practice. She
found her former ability to have generated to the
production of a hollow rush of wind through the lips,
and no clear note at all.
She remained fruitlessly blowing and blowing, wondering
how she could have so grown out of the art which had
come by nature, till she became aware of a movement
among the ivy-boughs which cloaked the garden-wall no
less then the cottage. Looking that way she beheld a
form springing from the coping to the plot. It was
Alec d'Urberville, whom she had not set eyes on since
he had conducted her the day before to the door of the
gardener's cottage where she had lodgings.
"Upon my honour!" cried he, "there was never before
such a beautiful thing in Nature or Art as you look,
'Cousin' Tess ('Cousin' had a faint ring of mockery).
I have been watching you from over the wall--sitting
like IM-patience on a monument, and pouting up that
pretty red mouth to whistling shape, and whooing and
whooing, and privately swearing, and never being able
to produce a note. Why, you are quite cross because
you can't do it."
"I may be cross, but I didn't swear."
"Ah! I understand why you are trying--those bullies!
My mother wants you to carry on their musical
education. How selfish of her! As if attending to
these curst cocks and hens here were not enough work
for any girl. I would flatly refuse, if I were you."
"But she wants me particularly to do it, and to be
ready by tomorrow morning."
"Does she? Well then--I'll give you a lesson or two."
"Oh no, you won't!" said Tess, withdrawing towards the
"Nonsense; I don't want to touch you. See--I'll stand
on this side of the wire-netting, and you can keep on
the other; so you may feel quite safe. Now, look here;
you screw up your lips too harshly. There 'tis--so."
He suited the action to the word, and whistled a line
of "Take, O take those lips away." But the allusion
was lost upon Tess.
"Now try," said d'Urberville.
She attempted to look reserved; her face put on a
sculptural severity. But he persisted in his demand,
and at last, to get rid of him, she did put up her lips
as directed for producing a clear note; laughing
distressfully, however, and then blushing with vexation
that she had laughed.
He encouraged her with "Try again!"
Tess was quite serious, painfully serious by this time;
and she tried--ultimately and unexpectedly emitting a
real round sound. The momentary pleasure of success got
the better of her; her eyes enlarged, and she
involuntarily smiled in his face.
"That's it! Now I have started you--you'll go on
beautifully. There--I said I would not come near you;
and, in spite of such temptation as never before fell
to mortal man, I'll keep my word. ... Tess, do you
think my mother a queer old soul?"
"I don't know much of her yet, sir."
"You'll find her so; she must be, to make you learn to
whistle to her bullfinches. I am rather out of her
books just now, but you will be quite in favour if you
treat her live-stock well. Good morning. If you meet
with any difficulties and want help here, don't go to
the bailiff, come to me."
It was in the economy of this REGIME that Tess
Durbeyfield had undertaken to fill a place. Her first
day's experiences were fairly typical of those which
followed through many succeeding days. A familiarity
with Alec d'Urberville's presence--which that young man
carefully cultivated in her by playful dialogue, and by
jestingly calling her his cousin when they were
alone--removed much of her original shyness of him,
without, however, implanting any feeling which could
engender shyness of a new and tenderer kind. But she
was more pliable under his hands than a mere
companionship would have made her, owing to her
unavoidable dependence upon his mother, and, through
that lady's comparative helplessness, upon him.
She soon found that whistling to the bullfinches in Mrs
d'Urberville's room was no such onerous business when
she had regained the art, for she had caught from her
musical mother numerous airs that suited those
songsters admirably. A far more satisfactory time than
when she practised in the garden was this whistling by
the cages each morning. Unrestrained by the young
man's presence she threw up her mouth, put her lips
near the bars, and piped away in easeful grace to the
Mrs d'Urberville slept in a large four-post bedstead
hung with heavy damask curtains, and the bullfinches
occupied the same apartment, where they flitted about
freely at certain hours, and made little white spots on
the furniture and upholstery. Once while Tess was at
the window where the cages were ranged, giving her
lesson as usual, she thought she heard a rustling
behind the bed. The old lady was not present, and
turning round the girl had an impression that the toes
of a pair of boots were visible below the fringe of the
curtains. Thereupon her whistling became so disjointed
that the listener, if such there were, must have
discovered her suspicion of his presence. She searched
the curtains every morning after that, but never found
anybody within them. Alec d'Urberville had evidently
thought better of his freak to terrify her by an ambush
of that kind.
Every village has its idiosyncrasy, its constitution,
often its own code of morality. The levity of some of
the younger women in and about Trantridge was marked,
and was perhaps symptomatic of the choice spirit who
ruled The Slopes in that vicinity. The place had also
a more abiding defect; it drank hard. The staple
conversation on the farms around was on the uselessness
of saving money; and smockfrocked arithmeticians,
leaning on their ploughs or hoes, would enter into
calculations of great nicety to prove that parish
relief was a fuller provision for a man in his old age
than any which could result from savings out of their
wages during a whole lifetime.
The chief pleasure of these philosophers lay in going
every Saturday night, when work was done, to
Chaseborough, a decayed market-town two or three miles
distant; and, returning in the small hours of the next
morning, to spend Sunday in sleeping off the dyspeptic
effects of the curious compounds sold to them as beer
by the monopolizers of the once independent inns.
For a long time Tess did not join in the weekly
pilgrimages. But under pressure from matrons not much
older than herself--for a field-man's wages being as
high at twenty-one as at forty, marriage was early
here--Tess at length consented to go. Her first
experience of the journey afforded her more enjoyment
than she had expected, the hilariousness of the others
being quite contagious after her monotonous attention
to the poultry-farm all the week. She went again and
again. Being graceful and interesting, standing
moreover on the momentary threshold of womanhood, her
appearance drew down upon her some sly regards from
loungers in the streets of Chaseborough; hence, though
sometimes her journey to the town was made
independently, she always searched for her fellows at
nightfall, to have the protection of their
This had gone on for a month or two when there came a
Saturday in September, on which a fair and a market
coincided; and the pilgrims from Trantridge sought
double delights at the inns on that account. Tess's
occupations made her late in setting out, so that her
comrades reached the town long before her. It was a
fine September evening, just before sunset, when yellow
lights struggle with blue shades in hairlike lines, and
the atmosphere itself forms a prospect without aid from
more solid objects, except the innumerable winged
insects that dance in it. Through this low-lit
mistiness Tess walked leisurely along.
She did not discover the coincidence of the market with
the fair till she had reached the place, by which time
it was close upon dusk. Her limited marketing was soon
completed; and then as usual she began to look about
for some of the Trantridge cottagers.
At first she could not find them, and she was informed
that most of them had gone to what they called a
private little jig at the house of a hay-trusser and
peat-dealer who had transactions with their farm. He
lived in an out-of-the-way nook of the townlet, and in
trying to find her course thither her eyes fell upon
Mr d'Urberville standing at a street corner.
"What--my Beauty? You here so late?" he said.
She told him that she was simply waiting for company
"I'll see you again," said he over her shoulder as she
went on down the back lane.
Approaching the hay-trussers she could hear the fiddled
notes of a reel proceeding from some building in the
rear; but no sound of dancing was audible--an
exceptional state of things for these parts, where as a
rule the stamping drowned the music. The front door
being open she could see straight through the house
into the garden at the back as far as the shades of
night would allow; and nobody appearing to her knock
she traversed the dwelling and went up the path to the
outhouse whence the sound had attracted her.
It was a windowless erection used for storage, and from
the open door there floated into the obscurity a mist
of yellow radiance, which at first Tess thought to be
illuminated smoke. But on drawing nearer she perceived
that it was a cloud of dust, lit by candles within the
outhouse, whose beams upon the haze carried forward the
outline of the doorway into the wide night of the
When she came close and looked in she beheld indistinct
forms racing up and down to the figure of the dance,
the silence of their footfalls arising from their being
overshoe in "scroff"--that is to say, the powdery
residuum from the storage of peat and other products,
the stirring of which by their turbulent feet created
the nebulosity that involved the scene. Through this
floating, fusty DEBRIS of peat and hay, mixed with the
perspirations and warmth of the dancers, and forming
together a sort of vegeto-human pollen, the muted
fiddles feebly pushed their notes, in marked contrast
to the spirit with which the measure was trodden out.
They coughed as they danced, and laughed as they
coughed. Of the rushing couples there could barely be
discerned more than the high lights--the indistinctness
shaping them to satyrs clasping nymphs--a multiplicity
of Pans whirling a multiplicity of Syrinxes; Lotis
attempting to elude Priapus, and always failing.
At intervals a couple would approach the doorway for
air, and the haze no longer veiling their features, the
demigods resolved themselves into the homely
personalities of her own next-door neighbours.
Could Trantridge in two or three short hours have
metamorphosed itself thus madly!
Some Sileni of the throng sat on benches and
hay-trusses by the wall; and one of them recognized
"The maids don't think it respectable to dance at The
Flower-de-Luce," he explained. "They don't like to
let everybody see which be their fancy-men. Besides,
the house sometimes shuts up just when their jints
begin to get greased. So we come here and send out for
"But when be any of you going home?" asked Tess with
"Now--a'most directly. This is all but the last jig."
She waited. The reel drew to a close, and some of the
party were in the mind of starting. But others would
not, and another dance was formed. This surely would
end it, thought Tess. But it merged in yet another.
She became restless and uneasy; yet, having waited so
long, it was necessary to wait longer; on account of
the fair the roads were dotted with roving characters
of possibly ill intent; and, though not fearful of
measurable dangers, she feared the unknown. Had she
been near Marlott she would have had less dread.
"Don't ye be nervous, my dear good soul," expostulated,
between his coughs, a young man with a wet face, and
his straw hat so far back upon his head that the brim
encircled it like the nimbus of a saint. "What's yer
hurry? Tomorrow is Sunday, thank God, and we can sleep
it off in church-time. Now, have a turn with me?"
She did not abhor dancing, but she was not going to
dance here. The movement grew more passionate: the
fiddlers behind the luminous pillar of cloud now and
then varied the air by playing on the wrong side of the
bridge or with the back of the bow. But it did not
matter; the panting shapes spun onwards.
They did not vary their partners if their inclination
were to stick to previous ones. Changing partners
simply meant that a satisfactory choice had not as yet
been arrived at by one or other of the pair, and by
this time every couple had been suitable matched. It
was then that the ecstasy and the dream began, in which
emotion was the matter of the universe, and matter but
an adventitious intrusion likely to hinder you from
spinning where you wanted to spin.
Suddenly there was a dull thump on the ground: a couple
had fallen, and lay in a mixed heap. The next couple,
unable to check its progress, came toppling over the
obstacle. An inner cloud of dust rose around the
prostrate figures amid the general one of the room, in
which a twitching entanglement of arms and legs was
"You shall catch it for this, my gentleman, when you
get home!" burst in female accents from the human
heap--those of the unhappy partner of the man whose
clumsiness had caused the mishap; she happened also to
be his recently married wife, in which assortment there
was nothing unusual at Trantridge as long as any
affection remained between wedded couples; and, indeed,
it was not uncustomary in their later lives, to avoid
making odd lots of the single people between whom there
might be a warm understanding.
A loud laugh from behind Tess's back, in the shade of
the garden, united with the titter within the room.
She looked round, and saw the red coal of a cigar: Alec
d'Urberville was standing there alone. He beckoned to
her, and she reluctantly retreated towards him.
"Well, my Beauty, what are you doing here?"
She was so tired after her long day and her walk that
she confided her trouble to him--that she had been
waiting ever since he saw her to have their company
home, because the road at night was strange to her.
"But it seems they will never leave off, and I really
think I will wait no longer."
"Certainly do not. I have only a saddle-horse here
today; but come to The Flower-de-Luce, and I'll hire a
trap, and drive you home with me."
Tess, though flattered, had never quite got over her
original mistrust of him, and, despite their tardiness,
she preferred to walk home with the work-folk. So she
answered that she was much obliged to him, but would
not trouble him. "I have said that I will wait for
'em, and they will expect me to now."
"Very well, Miss Independence. Please yourself....
Then I shall not hurry.... My good Lord, what a kick-up
they are having there!"
He had not put himself forward into the light, but some
of them had perceived him, and his presence led to a
slight pause and a consideration of how the time was
flying. As soon as he had re-lit a cigar and walked
away the Trantridge people began to collect themselves
from amid those who had come in from other farms, and
prepared to leave in a body. Their bundles and baskets
were gathered up, and half an hour later, when the
clock-chime sounded a quarter past eleven, they were
straggling along the lane which led up the hill towards
It was a three-mile walk, along a dry white road, made
whiter tonight by the light of the moon.
Tess soon perceived as she walked in the flock,
sometimes with this one, sometimes with that, that the
fresh night air was producing staggerings and
serpentine courses among then men who had partaken too
freely; some of the more careless women also were
wandering in their gait--to wit, a dark virago, Car
Darch, dubbed Queen of Spades, till lately a favourite
of d'Urberville's; Nancy, her sister, nicknamed the
Queen of Diamonds; and the young married woman who had
already tumbled down. Yet however terrestrial and
lumpy their appearance just now to the mean unglamoured
eye, to themselves the case was different. They
followed the road with a sensation that they were
soaring along in a supporting medium, possessed of
original and profound thoughts, themselves and
surrounding nature forming an organism of which all the
parts harmoniously and joyously interpenetrated each
other. They were as sublime as the moon and stars
above them, and the moon and stars were as ardent as
Tess, however, had undergone such painful experiences
of this kind in her father's house, that the discovery
of their condition spoilt the pleasure she was
beginning to feel in the moonlight journey. Yet she
stuck to the party, for reasons above given.
In the open highway they had progressed in scattered
order; but now their route was through a field-gate,
and the foremost finding a difficulty in opening it
they closed up together.
This leading pedestrian was Car the Queen of Spades,
who carried a wicker-basket containing her mother's
groceries, her own draperies, and other purchases for
the week. The basket being large and heavy, Car had
placed it for convenience of porterage on the top of
her head, where it rode on in jeopardized balance as
she walked with arms akimbo.
"Well--whatever is that a-creeping down thy back, Car
Darch?" said one of the group suddenly.
All looked at Car. Her gown was a light cotton print,
and from the back of her head a kind of rope could be
seen descending to some distance below her waist, like
a Chinaman's queue.
"'Tis her hair falling down," said another.
No; it was not her hair: it was a black stream of
something oozing from her basket, and it glistened like
a slimy snake in the cold still rays of the moon.
"'Tis treacle," said an observant matron.
Treacle it was. Car's poor old grandmother had a
weakness for the sweet stuff. Honey she had in plenty
out of her own hives, but treacle was what her soul
desired, and Car had been about to give her a treat of
surprise. Hastily lowering the basket the dark girl
found that the vessel containing the syrup had been
By this time there had arisen a shout of laughter at
the extraordinary appearance of Car's back, which
irritated the dark queen into getting rid of the
disfigurement by the first sudden means available, and
independently of the help of the scoffers. She rushed
excitedly into the field they were about to cross, and
flinging herself flat on her back upon the grass, began
to wipe her gown as well as she could by spinning
horizontally on the herbage and dragging herself over
it upon her elbows.
The laughter rang louder; they clung to the gate, to
the posts, rested on their staves, in the weakness
engendered by their convulsions at the spectacle of
Car. Our heroine, who had hitherto held her peace, at
this wild moment could not help joining in with the
It was a misfortune--in more ways than one. No sooner
did the dark queen hear the soberer richer note of Tess
among those of the other work-people than a long
smouldering sense of rivalry inflamed her to madness.
She sprang to her feet and closely faced the object of
"How darest th' laugh at me, hussy!" she cried.
"I couldn't really help it when t'others did,"
apologized Tess, still tittering.
"Ah, th'st think th' beest everybody, dostn't, because
th' beest first favourite with He just now! But stop a
bit, my lady, stop a bit! I'm as good as two of such!
Look here--here's at 'ee!"
To Tess's horror the dark queen began stripping off the
bodice of her gown--which for the added reason of its
ridiculed condition she was only too glad to be free
of--till she had bared her plump neck, shoulders, and
arms to the moonshine, under which they looked as
luminous and beautiful as some Praxitelean creation, in
their possession of the faultless rotundities of a
lusty country girl. She closed her fists and squared up
"Indeed, then, I shall not fight!" said the latter
majestically; "and if I had know you was of that sort,
I wouldn't have so let myself down as to come with such
a whorage as this is!"
The rather too inclusive speech brought down a torrent
of vituperation from other quarters upon fair Tess's
unlucky head, particularly from the Queen of Diamonds,
who having stood in the relations to d'Urberville that
Car had also been suspected of, united with the latter
against the common enemy. Several other women also
chimed in, with an animus which none of them would have
been so fatuous as to show but for the rollicking
evening they had passed. Thereupon, finding Tess
unfairly browbeaten, the husbands and lovers tried to
make peace by defending her; but the result of that
attempt was directly to increase the war.
Tess was indignant and ashamed. She no longer minded
the loneliness of the way and the lateness of the hour;
her one object was to get away from the whole crew as
soon as possible. She knew well enough that the better
among them would repent of their passion next day.
They were all now inside the field, and she was edging
back to rush off alone when a horseman emerged almost
silently from the corner of the hedge that screened the
road, and Alec d'Urberville looked round upon them.
"What the devil is all this row about, work-folk?" he
The explanation was not readily forthcoming; and, in
truth, he did not require any. Having heard their
voices while yet some way off he had ridden creepingly
forward, and learnt enough to satisfy himself.
Tess was standing apart from the rest, near the gate.
He bent over towards her. "Jump up behind me," he
whispered, "and we'll get shot of the screaming cats in
She felt almost ready to faint, so vivid was her sense
of the crisis. At almost any other moment of her life
she would have refused such proffered aid and company,
as she had refused them several times before; and now
the loneliness would not of itself have forced her to
do otherwise. But coming as the invitation did at the
particular juncture when fear and indignation at these
adversaries could be transformed by a spring of the
foot into a triumph over them, she abandoned herself to
her impulse, climbed the gate, put her toe upon his
instep, and scrambled into the saddle behind him. The
pair were speeding away into the distant gray by the
time that the contentious revellers became aware of
what had happened.
The Queen of Spades forgot the stain on her bodice, and
stood beside the Queen of Diamonds and the new-married,
staggering young woman--all with a gaze of fixity in
the direction in which the horse's tramp was
diminishing into silence on the road.
"What be ye looking at?" asked a man who had not
observed the incident.
"Ho-ho-ho!" laughed dark Car.
"Hee-hee-hee!" laughed the tippling bride, as she
steadied herself on the arm of her fond husband.
"Heu-heu-heu!" laughed dark Car's mother, stroking her
moustache as she explained laconically: "Out of the
frying-pan into the fire!"
Then these children of the open air, whom even excess
of alcohol could scarce injure permanently, betook
themselves to the field-path; and as they went there
moved onward with them, around the shadow of each one's
head, a circle of opalized light, formed by the moon's
rays upon the glistening sheet of dew. Each pedestrian
could see no halo but his or her own, which never
deserted the head-shadow, whatever its vulgar
unsteadiness might be; but adhered to it, and
persistently beautified it; till the erratic motions
seemed an inherent part of the irradiation, and the
fumes of their breathing a component of the night's
mist; and the spirit of the scene, and of the
moonlight, and of Nature, seemed harmoniously to mingle
with the spirit of wine.
The twain cantered along for some time without speech,
Tess as she clung to him still panting in her triumph,
yet in other respects dubious. She had perceived that
the horse was not the spirited one he sometimes rose,
and felt no alarm on that score, though her seat was
precarious enough despite her tight hold of him. She
begged him to slow the animal to a walk which Alec
"Neatly done, was it not, dear Tess?" he said by and
"Yes!" said she. "I am sure I ought to be much obliged
"And are you?"
She did not reply.
"Tess, why do you always dislike my kissing you?"
"I suppose--because I don't love you."
"You are quite sure?"
"I am angry with you sometimes!"
"Ah, I half feared as much." Nevertheless, Alec did
not object to that confession. He knew that anything
was better then frigidity. "Why haven't you told me
when I have made you angry?"
"You know very well why. Because I cannot help myself
"I haven't offended you often by love-making?"
"You have sometimes."
"How many times?"
"You know as well as I--too many times."
"Every time I have tried?"
She was silent, and the horse ambled along for a
considerable distance, till a faint luminous fog, which
had hung in the hollows all the evening, became general
and enveloped them. It seemed to hold the moonlight in
suspension, rendering it more pervasive than in clear
air. Whether on this account, or from
absent-mindedness, or from sleepiness, she did not
perceive that they had long ago passed the point at
which the lane to Trantridge branched from the highway,
and that her conductor had not taken the Trantridge
She was inexpressibly weary. She had risen at five
o'clock every morning of that week, had been on foot
the whole of each day, and on this evening had in
addition walked the three miles to Chaseborough, waited
three hours for her neighbours without eating or
drinking, her impatience to start them preventing
either; she had then walked a mile of the way home, and
had undergone the excitement of the quarrel, till, with
the slow progress of their steed, it was now nearly one
o'clock. Only once, however, was she overcome by
actual drowsiness. In that moment of oblivion her head
sank gently against him.
D'Urberville stopped the horse, withdrew his feet from
the stirrups, turned sideways on the saddle, and
enclosed her waist with his arm to support her.
This immediately put her on the defensive, and with one
of those sudden impulses of reprisal to which she was
liable she gave him a little push from her. In his
ticklish position he nearly lost his balance and only
just avoided rolling over into the road, the horse,
though a powerful one, being fortunately the quietest
"That is devilish unkind!" he said. "I mean no
harm--only to keep you from falling."
She pondered suspiciously; till, thinking that this
might after all be true, she relented, and said quite
humbly, "I beg your pardon, sir."
"I won't pardon you unless you show some confidence in
me. Good God!" he burst out, "what am I, to be
repulsed so by a mere chit like you? For near three
mortal months have you trifled with my feelings, eluded
me, and snubbed me; and I won't stand it!"
"I"ll leave you tomorrow, sir."
"No, you will not leave me tomorrow! Will you, I ask
once more, show your belief in me by letting me clasp
you with my arm? Come, between us two and nobody else,
now. We know each other well; and you know that I love
you, and think you the prettiest girl in the world,
which you are. Mayn't I treat you as a lover?"
She drew a quick pettish breath of objection, writhing
uneasily on her seat, looked far ahead, and murmured,
"I don't know--I wish--how can I say yes or no when--"
He settled the matter by clasping his arm round her as
he desired, and Tess expressed no further negative.
Thus they sidled slowly onward till it struck her they
had been advancing for an unconscionable time--far
longer than was usually occupied by the short journey
from Chaseborough, even at this walking pace, and that
they were no longer on hard road, but in a mere
"Why, where be we?" she exclaimed.
"Passing by a wood."
"A wood--what wood? Surely we are quite out of the
"A bit of The Chase--the oldest wood in England. It is
a lovely night, and why should we not prolong our ride
"How could you be so treacherous!" said Tess, between
archness and real dismay, and getting rid of his arm by
pulling open his fingers one by one, though at the risk
of slipping off herself. "Just when I've been putting
such trust in you, and obliging you to please you,
because I thought I had wronged you by that push!
Please set me down, and let me walk home."
"You cannot walk home, darling, even if the air were
clear. We are miles away from Trantridge, if I must
tell you, and in this growing fog you might wander for
hours among these trees."
"Never mind that," she coaxed. "Put me down, I beg
you. I don't mind where it is; only let me get down,
"Very well, then, I will--on one condition. Having
brought you here to this out-of-the-way place, I feel
myself responsible for your safe-conduct home, whatever
you may yourself feel about it. As to your getting to
Trantridge without assistance, it is quite impossible;
for, to tell the truth, dear, owing to this fog, which
so disguises everything, I don't quite know where we
are myself. Now, if you will promise to wait beside the
horse while I walk through the bushes till I come to
some road or house, and ascertain exactly our
whereabouts, I'll deposit you here willingly. When I
come back I'll give you full directions, and if you
insist upon walking you may; or you may ride--at your
She accepted these terms, and slid off on the near
side, though not till he had stolen a cursory kiss.
He sprang down on the other side.
"I suppose I must hold the horse?" said she.
"Oh no; it's not necessary," replied Alec, patting the
panting creature. "He's had enough of it for tonight."
He turned the horse's head into the bushes, hitched him
on to a bough, and made a sort of couch or nest for her
in the deep mass of dead leaves.
"Now, you sit there," he said. "The leaves have not
got damp as yet. Just give an eye to the horse--it
will be quite sufficient."
He took a few steps away from her, but, returning,
said, "By the bye, Tess, your father has a new cob
today. Somebody gave it to him."
"O how very good of you that is!" she exclaimed, with a
painful sense of the awkwardness of having to thank him
"And the children have some toys."
"I didn't know--you ever sent them anything!" she
murmured, much moved. "I almost wish you had not--yes,
I almost with it!"
"It--hampers me so."
"Tessy--don't you love me ever so little now?"
"I'm grateful," she reluctantly admitted. "But I fear
I do not---" The sudden vision of his passion for
herself as a factor in this result so distressed her
that, beginning with one slow tear, and then following
with another, she wept outright.
"Don't cry, dear, dear one! Now sit down here, and
wait till I come." She passively sat down amid the
leaves he had heaped, and shivered slightly. "Are you
cold?" he asked.
"Not very--a little."
He touched her with his fingers, which sank into her as
into down. "You have only that puffy muslin dress
"It's my best summer one. 'Twas very warm when I
started, and I didn't know I was going to ride, and
that it would be night."
"Nights grow chilly in September. Let me see." He
pulled off a light overcoat that he had worn, and put
it round her tenderly. "That's it--now you'll feel
warmer," he continued. "Now, my pretty, rest there; I
shall soon be back again."
Having buttoned the overcoat round her shoulders he
plunged into the webs of vapour which by this time
formed veils between the trees. She could hear the
rustling of the branches as he ascended the adjoining
slope, till his movements were no louder than the
hopping of a bird, and finally died away. With the
setting of the moon the pale light lessened, and Tess
became invisible as she fell into reverie upon the
leaves where he had left her.
In the meantime Alec d'Urberville had pushed on up the
slope to clear his genuine doubt as to the quarter of
The Chase they were in. He had, in fact, ridden quite
at random for over an hour, taking any turning that
came to hand in order to prolong companionship with
her, and giving far more attention to Tess's moonlit
person than to any wayside object. A little rest for
the jaded animal being desirable, he did not hasten his
search for landmarks. A clamber over the hill into the
adjoining vale brought him to the fence of a highway
whose contours he recognized, which settled the
question of their whereabouts. D'Urberville thereupon
turned back; but by this time the moon had quite gone
down, and partly on account of the fog The Chase was
wrapped in thick darkness, although morning was not far
off. He was obliged to advance with outstretched hands
to avoid contact with the boughs, and discovered that
to hit the exact spot from which he had started was at
first entirely beyond him. Roaming up and down, round
and round, he at length heard a slight movement of the
horse close at hand; and the sleeve of his overcoat
unexpectedly caught his foot.
"Tess!" said d'Urberville.
There was no answer. The obscurity was now so great
that he could see absolutely nothing but a pale
nebulousness at his feet, which represented the white
muslin figure he had left upon the dead leaves.
Everything else was blackness alike. D'Urberville
stooped; and heard a gentle regular breathing. He
knelt and bent lower, till her breath warmed his face,
and in a moment his cheek was in contact with hers.
She was sleeping soundly, and upon her eyelashes there
Darkness and silence ruled everywhere around. Above
them rose the primeval yews and oaks of The Chase, in
which there poised gentle roosting birds in their last
nap; and about them stole the hopping rabbits and
hares. But, might some say, where was Tess's guardian
angel? where was the providence of her simple faith?
Perhaps, like that other god of whom the ironical
Tishbite spoke, he was talking, or he was pursuing, or
he was in a journey, or he was sleeping and not to be
Why it was that upon this beautiful feminine tissue,
sensitive as gossamer, and practically blank as snow as
yet, there should have been traced such a coarse
pattern as it was doomed to receive; why so often the
coarse appropriates the finer thus, the wrong man the
woman, the wrong woman the man, many thousand years of
analytical philosophy have failed to explain to our
sense of order. One may, indeed, admit the possibility
of a retribution lurking in the present catastrophe.
Doubtless some of Tess d'Urberville's mailed ancestors
rollicking home from a fray had dealt the same measure
even more ruthlessly towards peasant girls of their
time. But though to visit the sins of the fathers upon
the children may be a morality good enough for
divinities, it is scorned by average human nature; and
it therefore does not mend the matter.
As Tess's own people down in those retreats are never
tired of saying among each other in their fatalistic
way: "It was to be." There lay the pity of it. An
immeasurable social chasm was to divide our heroine's
personality thereafter from that previous self of hers
who stepped from her mother's door to try her fortune
at Trantridge poultry-farm.
END OF PHASE THE FIRST
Phase the Second: Maiden No More
The basket was heavy and the bundle was large, but she
lugged them along like a person who did not find her
especial burden in material things. Occasionally she
stopped to rest in a mechanical way by some gate or
post; and then, giving the baggage another hitch upon
her full round arm, went steadily on again.
It was a Sunday morning in late October, about four
months after Tess Durbeyfield's arrival at Trantridge,
and some few weeks subsequent to the night ride in The
Chase. The time was not long past daybreak, and the
yellow luminosity upon the horizon behind her back
lighted the ridge towards which her face was set--the
barrier of the vale wherein she had of late been a
stranger--which she would have to climb over to reach
her birthplace. The ascent was gradual on this side,
and the soil and scenery differed much from those
within Blackmore Vale. Even the character and accent
of the two peoples had shades of difference, despite
the amalgamating effects of a roundabout railway; so
that, though less than twenty miles from the place of
her sojourn at Trantridge, her native village had
seemed a far-away spot. The field-folk shut in there
traded northward and westward, travelled, courted, and
married northward and westward, thought northward and
westward; those on this side mainly directed their
energies and attention to the east and south.
The incline was the same down which d'Urberville had
driven her so wildly on that day in June. Tess went up
the remainder of its length without stopping, and on
reaching the edge of the escarpment gazed over the
familiar green world beyond, now half-veiled in mist.
It was always beautiful from here; it was terribly
beautiful to Tess today, for since her eyes last fell
upon it she had learnt that the serpent hisses where
the sweet birds sing, and her views of life had been
totally changed for her by the lesson. Verily another
girl than the simple one she had been at home was she
who, bowed by thought, stood still here, and turned to
look behind her. She could not bear to look forward
into the Vale.
Ascending by the long white road that Tess herself had
just laboured up, she saw a two-wheeled vehicle, beside
which walked a man, who held up his hand to attract her
She obeyed the signal to wait for him with
unspeculative repose, and in a few minutes man and
horse stopped beside her.
"Why did you slip away by stealth like this?" said
d'Urberville, with upbraiding breathlessness; "on a
Sunday morning, too, when people were all in bed! I
only discovered it by accident, and I have been driving
like the deuce to overtake you. Just look at the mare.
Why go off like this? You know that nobody wished to
hinder your going. And how unnecessary it has been for
you to toil along on foot, and encumber yourself with
this heavy load! I have followed like a madman, simply
to drive you the rest of the distance, if you won't
"I shan't come back," said she.
"I thought you wouldn't--I said so! Well, then, put up
your basket, and let me help you on."
She listlessly placed her basket and bundle within the
dog-cart, and stepped up, and they sat side by side.
She had no fear of him now, and in the cause of her
confidence her sorrow lay.
D'Urberville mechanically lit a cigar, and the journey
was continued with broken unemotional conversation on
the commonplace objects by the wayside. He had quite
forgotten his struggle to kiss her when, in the early
summer, they had driven in the opposite direction along
the same road. But she had not, and she sat now, like
a puppet, replying to his remarks in monosyllables.
After some miles they came in view of the clump of
trees beyond which the village of Marlott stood.
It was only then that her still face showed the least
emotion, a tear or two beginning to trickle down.
"What are you crying for?" he coldly asked.
"I was only thinking that I was born over there,"
"Well--we must all be born somewhere."
"I wish I had never been born--there or anywhere else!"
"Pooh! Well, if you didn't wish to come to Trantridge
why did you come?"
She did not reply.
"You didn't come for love of me, that I'll swear."
"'Tis quite true. If I had gone for love o' you, if I
had ever sincerely loved you, if I loved you still, I
should not so loathe and hate myself for my weakness as
I do now! ... My eyes were dazed by you for a little,
and that was all."
He shrugged his shoulders. She resumed--
"I didn't understand your meaning till it was too
"That"s what every woman says."
"How can you dare to use such words!" she cried,
turning impetuously upon him, her eyes flashing as the
latent spirit (of which he was to see more some day)
awoke in her. "My God! I could knock you out of the
gig! Did it never strike your mind that what every
woman says some women may feel?"
"Very well," he said, laughing; "I am sorry to wound
you. I did wrong--I admit it." He dropped into some
little bitterness as he continued: "Only you needn't be
so everlastingly flinging it in my face. I am ready to
pay to the uttermost farthing. You know you need not
work in the fields or the dairies again. You know you
may clothe yourself with the best, instead of in the
bald plain way you have lately affected, as if you
couldn't get a ribbon more than you earn."
Her lip lifted slightly, though there was little scorn,
as a rule, in her large and impulsive nature.
"I have said I will not take anything more from you,
and I will not--I cannot! I SHOULD be your creature to
go on doing that, and I won't!"
"One would think you were a princess from your manner,
in addition to a true and original d'Urberville--ha!
ha! Well, Tess, dear, I can say no more. I suppose I
am a bad fellow--a damn bad fellow. I was born bad, and
I have lived bad, and I shall die bad in all
probability. But, upon my lost soul, I won't be bad
towards you again, Tess. And if certain circumstances
should arise--you understand--in which you are in the
least need, the least difficulty, send me one line, and
you shall have by return whatever you require. I may
not be at Trantridge--I am going to London for a
time--I can't stand the old woman. But all letters
will be forwarded."