Part 7 out of 11
don't know what you say."
"I am only a peasant by position, not by nature!"
She spoke with an impulse to anger, but it went as it came.
"So much the worse for you. I think that parson who
unearthed your pedigree would have done better if he
had held his tongue. I cannot help associating your
decline as a family with this other fact--of your want
of firmness. Decrepit families imply decrepit wills,
decrepit conduct. Heaven, why did you give me a handle
for despising you more by informing me of your descent!
Here was I thinking you a new-sprung child of nature;
there were you, the belated seedling of an effete
"Lots of families are as bad as mine in that! Retty's
family were once large landowners, and so were Dairyman
Billett's. And the Debbyhouses, who now are carters,
were once the De Bayeux family. You find such as I
everywhere; 'tis a feature of our county, and I can't
"So much the worse for the county."
She took these reproaches in their bulk simply, not in
their particulars; he did not love her as he had loved
her hitherto, and to all else she was indifferent.
They wandered on again in silence. It was said
afterwards that a cottager of Wellbridge, who went out
late that night for a doctor, met two lovers in the
pastures, walking very slowly, without converse, one
behind the other, as in a funeral procession, and the
glimpse that he obtained of their faces seemed to
denote that they were anxious and sad. Returning later,
he passed them again in the same field, progressing
just as slowly, and as regardless of the hour and of
the cheerless night as before. It was only on account
of his preoccupation with his own affairs, and the
illness in his house, that he did not bear in mind the
curious incident, which, however, he recalled a long
During the interval of the cottager's going and coming,
she had said to her husband----
"I don't see how I can help being the cause of much
misery to you all your life. The river is down there.
I can put an end to myself in it. I am not afraid."
"I don't wish to add murder to my other follies," he
"I will leave something to show that I did it
myself--on account of my shame. They will not blame
"Don't speak so absurdly--I wish not to hear it. It is
nonsense to have such thoughts in this kind of case,
which is rather one for satirical laughter than for
tragedy. You don't in the least understand the quality
of the mishap. It would be viewed in the light of a
joke by nine-tenths of the world if it were known.
Please oblige me by returning to the house, and going
"I will," said she dutifully.
They had rambled round by a road which led to the
well-known ruins of the Cistercian abbey behind the
mill, the latter having, in centuries past, been
attached to the monastic establishment. The mill still
worked on, food being a perennial necessity; the abbey
had perished, creeds being transient. One continually
sees the ministration of the temporary outlasting the
ministration of the eternal. Their walk having been
circuitous they were still not far from the house, and
in obeying his direction she only had to reach the
large stone bridge across the main river, and follow
the road for a few yards. When she got back everything
remained as she had left it, the fire being still
burning. She did not stay downstairs for more than a
minute, but proceeded to her chamber, whither the
luggage had been taken. Here she sat down on the edge
of the bed, looking blankly around, and presently began
to undress. In removing the light towards the bedstead
its rays fell upon the tester of white dimity;
something was hanging beneath it, and she lifted the
candle to see what it was. A bough of mistletoe.
Angel had put it there; she knew that in an instant.
This was the explanation of that mysterious parcel
which it had been so difficult to pack and bring; whose
contents he would not explain to her, saying that time
would soon show her the purpose thereof. In his zest
and his gaiety he had hung it there. How foolish and
inopportune that mistletoe looked now.
Having nothing more to fear, having scarce anything to
hope, for that he would relent there seemed no promise
whatever, she lay down dully. When sorrow ceases to be
speculative sleep sees her opportunity. Among so many
happier moods which forbid repose this was a mood which
welcomed it, and in a few minutes the lonely Tess
forgot existence, surrounded by the aromatic stillness
of the chamber that had once, possibly, been the
bride-chamber of her own ancestry.
Later on that night Clare also retraced his steps to
the house. Entering softly to the sitting-room he
obtained a light, and with the manner of one who had
considered his course he spread his rugs upon the old
horse-hair sofa which stood there, and roughly shaped
it to a sleeping-couch. Before lying down he crept
shoeless upstairs, and listened at the door of her
apartment. Her measured breathing told that she was
"Thank God!" murmured Clare; and yet he was conscious
of a pang of bitterness at the thought--approximately
true, though not wholly so--that having shifted the
burden of her life to his shoulders she was now
reposing without care.
He turned away to descend; then, irresolute, faced
round to her door again. In the act he caught sight of
one of the d'Urberville dames, whose portrait was
immediately over the entrance to Tess's bedchamber. In
the candlelight the painting was more than unpleasant.
Sinister design lurked in the woman's features, a
concentrated purpose of revenge on the other sex--so it
seemed to him then. The Caroline bodice of the
portrait was low--precisely as Tess's had been when he
tucked it in to show the necklace; and again he
experienced the distressing sensation of a resemblance
The check was sufficient. He resumed his retreat and
His air remained calm and cold, his small compressed
mouth indexing his powers of self-control; his face
wearing still that terrible sterile expression which
had spread thereon since her disclosure. It was the
face of a man who was no longer passion's slave, yet
who found no advantage in his enfranchisement. He was
simply regarding the harrowing contingencies of human
experience, the unexpectedness of things. Nothing so
pure, so sweet, so virginal as Tess had seemed possible
all the long while that he had adored her, up to an
hour ago; but
The little less, and what worlds away!
He argued erroneously when he said to himself that her
heart was not indexed in the honest freshness of her
face; but Tess had no advocate to set him right. Could
it be possible, he continued, that eyes which as they
gazed never expressed any divergence from what the
tongue was telling, were yet ever seeing another world
behind her ostensible one, discordant and contrasting?
He reclined on his couch in the sitting-room, and
extinguished the light. The night came in, and took up
its place there, unconcerned and indifferent; the night
which had already swallowed up his happiness, and was
now digesting it listlessly; and was ready to swallow
up the happiness of a thousand other people with as
little disturbance or change of mien.
Clare arose in the light of a dawn that was ashy and
furtive, as though associated with crime. The
fireplace confronted him with its extinct embers; the
spread supper-table, whereon stood the two full
glasses of untasted wine, now flat and filmy; her
vacated seat and his own; the other articles of
furniture, with their eternal look of not being able to
help it, their intolerable inquiry what was to be done?
From above there was no sound; but in a few minutes
there came a knock at the door. He remembered that it
would be the neighbouring cottager's wife, who was to
minister to their wants while they remained here.
The presence of a third person in the house would be
extremely awkward just now, and, being already dressed,
he opened the window and informed her that they could
manage to shift for themselves that morning. She had a
milk-can in her hand, which he told her to leave at the
door. When the dame had gone away he searched in the
back quarters of the house for fuel, and speedily lit a
fire. There was plenty of eggs, butter, bread, and so
on in the larder, and Clare soon had breakfast laid,
his experiences at the dairy having rendered him facile
in domestic preparations. The smoke of the kindled
wood rose from the chimney without like a lotus-headed
column; local people who were passing by saw it, and
thought of the newly-married couple, and envied their
Angel cast a final glance round, and then going to the
foot of the stairs, called in a conventional voice----
"Breakfast is ready!"
He opened the front door, and took a few steps in the
morning air. When, after a short space, he came back
she was already in the sitting-room mechanically
readjusting the breakfast things. As she was fully
attired, and the interval since his calling her had
been but two or three minutes, she must have been
dressed or nearly so before he went to summon her. Her
hair was twisted up in a large round mass at the back
of her head, and she had put on one of the new frocks--
a pale blue woollen garment with neck-frillings of
white. Her hands and face appeared to be cold, and she
had possibly been sitting dressed in the bedroom a long
time without any fire. The marked civility of Clare's
tone in calling her seemed to have inspired her, for
the moment, with a new glimmer of hope. But it soon
died when she looked at him.
The pair were, in truth, but the ashes of their former
fires. To the hot sorrow of the previous night had
succeeded heaviness; it seemed as if nothing could
kindle either of them to fervour of sensation any more.
He spoke gently to her, and she replied with a like
undemonstrativeness. At last she came up to him,
looking in his sharply-defined face as one who had no
consciousness that her own formed a visible object also.
"Angel!" she said, and paused, touching him with her
fingers lightly as a breeze, as though she could hardly
believe to be there in the flesh the man who was once
her lover. Her eyes were bright, her pale cheek still
showed its wonted roundness, though half-dried tears
had left glistening traces thereon; and the usually
ripe red mouth was almost as pale as her cheek.
Throbbingly alive as she was still, under the stress of
her mental grief the life beat so brokenly, that a
little further pull upon it would cause real illness,
dull her characteristic eyes, and make her mouth thin.
She looked absolutely pure. Nature, in her fantastic
trickery, had set such a seal of maidenhood upon Tess's
countenance that he gazed at her with a stupefied air.
"Tess! Say it is not true! No, it is not true!"
"It is true."
He looked at her imploringly, as if he would willingly
have taken a lie from her lips, knowing it to be one,
and have made of it, by some sort of sophistry, a valid
denial. However, she only repeated----
"It is true."
"Is he living?" Angel then asked.
"The baby died."
"But the man?"
"He is alive."
A last despair passed over Clare's face.
"Is he in England?"
He took a few vague steps.
"My position--is this," he said abruptly. "I thought--
any man would have thought--that by giving up
all ambition to win a wife with social standing, with
fortune, with knowledge of the world, I should secure
rustic innocence as surely as I should secure pink
cheeks; but----However, I am no man to reproach you,
and I will not."
Tess felt his position so entirely that the remainder
had not been needed. Therein lay just the distress of
it; she saw that he had lost all round.
"Angel--I should not have let it go on to marriage with
you if I had not known that, after all, there was a
last way out of it for you; though I hoped you would
Her voice grew husky.
"A last way?"
"I mean, to get rid of me. You CAN get rid of me."
"By divorcing me."
"Good heavens--how can you be so simple! How can I
"Can't you--now I have told you? I thought my
confession would give you grounds for that."
"O Tess--you are too, too--childish--unformed--crude,
I suppose! I don't know what you are. You don't
understand the law--you don't understand!"
"Indeed I cannot."
A quick shame mixed with the misery upon his listener's
"I thought--I thought," she whispered. "O, now I see
how wicked I seem to you! Believe me--believe me, on
my soul, I never thought but that you could! I hoped
you would not; yet I believed, without a doubt, that
you could cast me off if you were determined, and
didn't love me at--at--all!"
"You were mistaken," he said.
"O, then I ought to have done it, to have done it last
night! But I hadn't the courage. That's just like
"The courage to do what?"
As she did not answer he took her by the hand.
"What were you thinking of doing?" he inquired.
"Of putting an end to myself."
She writhed under this inquisitorial manner of his.
"Last night," she answered.
"Under your mistletoe."
"My good----! How?" he asked sternly.
"I'll tell you, if you won't be angry with me!" she
said, shrinking. "It was with the cord of my box. But
I could not--do the last thing! I was afraid that it
might cause a scandal to your name."
The unexpected quality of this confession, wrung from
her, and not volunteered, shook him perceptibly. But
he still held her, and, letting his glance fall from
her face downwards, he said, "Now, listen to this.
You must not dare to think of such a horrible thing!
How could you! You will promise me as your husband to
attempt that no more."
"I am ready to promise. I saw how wicked it was."
"Wicked! The idea was unworthy of you beyond
"But, Angel," she pleaded, enlarging her eyes in calm
unconcern upon him, "it was thought of entirely on your
account--to set you free without the scandal of the
divorce that I thought you would have to get. I should
never have dreamt of doing it on mine. However, to do
it with my own hand is too good for me, after all.
It is you, my ruined husband, who ought to strike the
blow. I think I should love you more, if that were
possible, if you could bring yourself to do it, since
there's no other way of escape for 'ee. I feel I am so
utterly worthless! So very greatly in the way!"
"Well, since you say no, I won't. I have no wish
opposed to yours."
He knew this to be true enough. Since the desperation
of the night her activities had dropped to zero, and
there was no further rashness to be feared.
Tess tried to busy herself again over the
breakfast-table with more or less success, and they sat
down both on the same side, so that their glances did
not meet. There was at first something awkward in
hearing each other eat and drink, but this could not be
escaped; moreover, the amount of eating done was small
on both sides. Breakfast over he rose, and telling her
the hour at which he might be expected to dinner, went
off to the miller's in a mechanical pursuance of the
plan of studying that business, which had been his only
practical reason for coming here.
When he was gone Tess stood at the window, and
presently saw his form crossing the great stone bridge
which conducted to the mill premises. He sank behind
it, crossed the railway beyond, and disappeared. Then,
without a sigh, she turned her attention to the room,
and began clearing the table and setting it in order.
The charwoman soon came. Her presence was at first a
strain upon Tess, but afterwards an alleviation. At
half-past twelve she left her assistant alone in the
kitchen, and, returning to the sitting-room, waited for
the reappearance of Angel's form behind the bridge.
About one he showed himself. Her face flushed,
although he was a quarter of a mile off. She ran to
the kitchen to get the dinner served by the time he
should enter. He went first to the room where they had
washed their hands together the day before, and as he
entered the sitting-room the dish-covers rose from the
dishes as if by his own motion.
"How punctual!" he said.
"Yes. I saw you coming over the bridge," said she.
The meal was passed in commonplace talk of what he had
been doing during the morning at the Abbey Mill, of the
methods of bolting and the old-fashioned machinery,
which he feared would not enlighten him greatly on
modern improved methods, some of it seeming to have
been in use ever since the days it ground for the monks
in the adjoining conventual buildings--now a heap of
ruins. He left the house again in the course of an
hour, coming home at dusk, and occupying himself
through the evening with his papers. She feared she
was in the way, and, when the old woman was gone,
retired to the kitchen, where she made herself busy as
well as she could for more than an hour.
Clare's shape appeared at the door. "You must not work
like this," he said. "You are not my servant; you are
She raised her eyes, and brightened somewhat. "I may
think myself that--indeed?" she murmured, in piteous
raillery. "You mean in name! Well, I don't want to be
"You MAY think so, Tess! You are. What do you mean?"
"I don't know," she said hastily, with tears in her
accents. "I thought I--because I am not respectable,
I mean. I told you I thought I was not respectable
enough long ago--and on that account I didn't want to
marry you, only--only you urged me!"
She broke into sobs, and turned her back to him. It
would almost have won round any man but Angel Clare.
Within the remote depths of his constitution, so gentle
and affectionate as he was in general, there lay hidden
a hard logical deposit, like a vein of metal in a soft
loam, which turned the edge of everything that
attempted to traverse it. It had blocked his acceptance
of the Church; it blocked his acceptance of Tess.
Moreover, his affection itself was less fire than
radiance, and, with regard to the other sex, when he
ceased to believe he ceased to follow: contrasting in
this with many impressionable natures, who remain
sensuously infatuated with what they intellectually
despise. He waited till her sobbing ceased.
"I wish half the women in England were as respectable
as you," he said, in an ebullition of bitterness
against womankind in general. "It isn't a question of
respectability, but one of principle!"
He spoke such things as these and more of a kindred
sort to her, being still swayed by the antipathetic
wave which warps direct souls with such persistence
when once their vision finds itself mocked by
appearances. There was, it is true, underneath, a back
current of sympathy through which a woman of the world
might have conquered him. But Tess did not think of
this; she took everything as her deserts, and hardly
opened her mouth. The firmness of her devotion to him
was indeed almost pitiful; quick-tempered as she
naturally was, nothing that he could say made her
unseemly; she sought not her own; was not provoked;
thought no evil of his treatment of her. She might
just now have been Apostolic Charity herself returned
to a self-seeking modern world.
This evening, night, and morning were passed precisely
as the preceding ones had been passed. On one, and
only one, occasion did she--the formerly free and
independent Tess--venture to make any advances. It
was on the third occasion of his starting after a meal
to go out to the flour-mill. As he was leaving the
table he said "Goodbye," and she replied in the same
words, at the same time inclining her mouth in the way
of his. He did not avail himself of the invitation,
saying, as he turned hastily aside----
"I shall be home punctually."
Tess shrank into herself as if she had been struck.
Often enough had he tried to reach those lips against
her consent--often had he said gaily that her mouth
and breath tasted of the butter and eggs and milk and
honey on which she mainly lived, that he drew
sustenance from them, and other follies of that sort.
But he did not care for them now. He observed her
sudden shrinking, and said gently--
"You know, I have to think of a course. It was
imperative that we should stay together a little while,
to avoid the scandal to you that would have resulted
from our immediate parting. But you must see it is
only for form's sake."
"Yes," said Tess absently.
He went out, and on his way to the mill stood still,
and wished for a moment that he had responded yet more
kindly, and kissed her once at least.
Thus they lived through this despairing day or two; in
the same house, truly; but more widely apart than
before they were lovers. It was evident to her that he
was, as he had said, living with paralyzed activities,
in his endeavour to think of a plan of procedure. She
was awe-strikin to discover such determination under
such apparent flexibility. His consistency was, indeed,
too cruel. She no longer expected forgiveness now.
More than once she thought of going away from him
during his absence at the mill; but she feared that
this, instead of benefiting him, might be the means of
hampering and humiliating him yet more if it should
Meanwhile Clare was meditating, verily. His thought
had been unsuspended; he was becoming ill with
thinking; eaten out with thinking, withered by
thinking; scourged out of all his former pulsating
flexuous domesticity. He walked about saying to
himself, "What's to be done--what's to be done?" and
by chance she overheard him. It caused her to break
the reserve about their future which had hitherto
"I suppose--you are not going to live with me--long,
are you, Angel?" she asked, the sunk corners of her
mouth betraying how purely mechanical were the means by
which she retained that expression of chastened calm
upon her face.
"I cannot" he said, "without despising myself, and what
is worse, perhaps, despising you. I mean, of course,
cannot live with you in the ordinary sense. At
present, whatever I feel, I do not despise you. And,
let me speak plainly, or you may not see all my
difficulties. How can we live together while that man
lives?--he being your husband in nature, and not I.
If he were dead it might be different.... Besides, that's
not all the difficulty; it lies in another
consideration--one bearing upon the future of other
people than ourselves. Think of years to come, and
children being born to us, and this past matter getting
known--for it must get known. There is not an
uttermost part of the earth but somebody comes from it
or goes to it from elsewhere. Well, think of wretches
of our flesh and blood growing up under a taunt which
they will gradually get to feel the full force of with
their expanding years. What an awakening for them!
What a prospect! Can you honestly say 'Remain' after
contemplating this contingency? Don't you think we had
better endure the ills we have than fly to others?"
Her eyelids, weighted with trouble, continued drooping
"I cannot say 'Remain,'" she answered, "I cannot; I had
not thought so far."
Tess's feminine hope--shall we confess it?--had been so
obstinately recuperative as to revive in her
surreptitious visions of a domiciliary intimacy
continued long enough to break down his coldness even
against his judgement. Though unsophisticated in the
usual sense, she was not incomplete; and it would have
denoted deficiency of womanhood if she had not
instinctively known what an argument lies in
propinquity. Nothing else would serve her, she knew,
if this failed. It was wrong to hope in what was of
the nature of strategy, she said to herself: yet that
sort of hope she could not extinguish. His last
representation had now been made, and it was, as she
said, a new view. She had truly never thought so far
as that, and his lucid picture of possible offspring
who would scorn her was one that brought deadly
convictions to an honest heart which was humanitarian
to its centre. Sheer experience had already taught her
that, in some circumstances, there was one thing better
than to lead a good life, and that was to be saved from
leading any life whatever. Like all who have been
previsioned by suffering, she could, in the words of
M. Sully-Prudhomme, hear a penal sentence in the fiat,
"You shall be born," particularly if addressed to
potential issue of hers.
Yet such is the vulpine slyness of Dame Nature, that,
till now, Tess had been hoodwinked by her love for
Clare into forgetting it might result in vitalizations
that would inflict upon others what she had bewailed as
misfortune to herself.
She therefore could not withstand his argument. But
with the self-combating proclivity of the
supersensitive, an answer thereto arose in Clare's own
mind, and he almost feared it. It was based on her
exceptional physical nature; and she might have used it
promisingly. She might have added besides: "On an
Australian upland or Texan plain, who is to know or
care about my misfortunes, or to reproach me or you?"
Yet, like the majority of women, she accepted the
momentary presentment as if it were the inevitable.
And she may have been right. The intuitive heart of
woman knoweth not only its own bitterness, but its
husband's, and even if these assumed reproaches were
not likely to be addressed to him or to his by
strangers, they might have reached his ears from his
own fastidious brain.
It was the third day of the estrangement. Some might
risk the odd paradox that with more animalism he would
have been the nobler man. We do not say it. Yet
Clare's love was doubtless ethereal to a fault,
imaginative to impracticability. With these natures,
corporal presence is something less appealing than
corporal absence; the latter creating an ideal presence
that conveniently drops the defects of the real. She
found that her personality did not plead her cause so
forcibly as she had anticipated. The figurative phrase
was true: she was another woman than the one who had
excited his desire.
"I have thought over what you say," she remarked to
him, moving her forefinger over the tablecloth, her
other hand, which bore the ring that mocked them both,
supporting her forehead. "It is quite true all of it;
it must be. You must go away from me."
"But what can you do?"'
"I can go home."
Clare had not thought of that.
"Are you sure?" he inquired.
"Quite sure. We ought to part, and we may as well get
it past and done. You once said that I was apt to win
men against their better judgement; and if I am
constantly before your eyes I may cause you to change
your plans in opposition to your reason and wish; and
afterwards your repentance and my sorrow will be
"And you would like to go home?" he asked.
"I want to leave you, and go home."
"Then it shall be so."
Though she did not look up at him, she started. There
was a difference between the proposition and the
covenant which she had felt only too quickly.
"I feared it would come to this," she murmured, her
countenance meekly fixed. "I don't complain, Angel,
I--I think it best. What you said has quite convinced
me. Yes, though nobody else should reproach me if we
should stay together, yet somewhen, years hence, you
might get angry with me for any ordinary matter, and
knowing what you do of my bygones you yourself might be
tempted to say words, and they might be overheard,
perhaps by my own children. O, what only hurts me now
would torture and kill me then! I will go--tomorrow."
"And I shall not stay here. Though I didn't like to
initiate it, I have seen that it was advisable we
should part--at least for a while, till I can better
see the shape that things have taken, and can write to
Tess stole a glance at her husband. He was pale, even
tremulous; but, as before, she was appalled by the
determination revealed in the depths of this gentle
being she had married--the will to subdue the grosser
to the subtler emotion, the substance to the
conception, the flesh to the spirit. Propensities,
tendencies, habits, were as dead leaves upon the
tyrannous wind of his imaginative ascendency.
He may have observed her look, for he explained--
"I think of people more kindly when I am away from
them"; adding cynically, "God knows; perhaps we will
shake down together some day, for weariness; thousands
have done it!"
That day he began to pack up, and she went upstairs and
began to pack also. Both knew that it was in their two
minds that they might part the next morning for ever,
despite the gloss of assuaging conjectures thrown over
their processing because they were of the sort to whom
any parting which has an air of finality is a torture.
He knew, and she knew, that, though the fascination
which each had exercised over the other--on her part
independently of accomplishments--would probably in
the first days of their separation be even more potent
than ever, time must attenuate that effect; the
practical arguments against accepting her as a
housemate might pronounce themselves more strongly in
the boreal light of a remoter view. Moreover, when two
people are once parted--have abandoned a common
domicile and a common environment--new growths
insensibly bud upward to fill each vacated place;
unforeseen accidents hinder intentions, and old plans
Midnight came and passed silently, for there was
nothing to announce it in the Valley of the Froom.
Not long after one o'clock there was a slight creak in
the darkened farmhouse once the mansion of the
d'Urbervilles. Tess, who used the upper chamber, heard
it and awoke. It had come from the corner step of the
staircase, which, as usual, was loosely nailed. She
saw the door of her bedroom open, and the figure of her
husband crossed the stream of moonlight with a
curiously careful tread. He was in his shirt and
trousers only, and her first flush of joy died when she
perceived that his eyes were fixed in an unnatural
stare on vacancy. When he reached the middle of the
room he stood still and murmured in tones of
"Dead! dead! dead!"
Under the influence of any strongly-disturbing force
Clare would occasionally walk in his sleep, and even
perform strange feats, such as he had done on the night
of their return from market just before their marriage,
when he re-enacted in his bedroom his combat with the
man who had insulted her. Tess saw that continued
mental distress had wrought him into that
somnambulistic state now.
Her loyal confidence in him lay so deep down in her
heart, that, awake or asleep, he inspired her with no
sort of personal fear. If he had entered with a pistol
in his hand he would scarcely have disturbed her trust
in his protectiveness.
Clare came close, and bent over her. "Dead, dead,
dead!" he murmured.
After fixedly regarding her for some moments with the
same gaze of unmeasurable woe he bent lower, enclosed
her in his arms, and rolled her in the sheet as in a
shroud. Then lifting her from the bed with as much
respect as one would show to a dead body, he carried
her across the room, murmuring----
"My poor, poor Tess--my dearest, darling Tess! So
sweet, so good, so true!"
The words of endearment, withheld so severely in his
waking hours, were inexpressibly sweet to her forlorn
and hungry heart. If it had been to save her weary
life she would not, by moving or struggling, have put
an end to the position she found herself in. Thus she
lay in absolute stillness, scarcely venturing to
breathe, and, wondering what he was going to do with
her, suffered herself to be borne out upon the landing.
"My wife--dead, dead!" he said.
He paused in his labours for a moment to lean with her
against the banister. Was he going to throw her down?
Self-solicitude was near extinction in her, and in the
knowledge that he had planned to depart on the morrow,
possibly for always, she lay in his arms in this
precarious position with a sense rather of luxury than
of terror. If they could only fall together, and both
be dashed to pieces, how fit, how desirable.
However, he did not let her fall, but took advantage of
the support of the handrail to imprint a kiss upon her
lips--lips in the daytime scorned. Then he clasped
her with a renewed firmness of hold, and descended the
staircase. The creak of the loose stair did not awaken
him, and they reached the ground-floor safely. Freeing
one of his hands from his grasp of her for a moment, he
slid back the door-bar and passed out, slightly
striking his stockinged toe against the edge of the
door. But this he seemed not to mind, and, having room
for extension in the open air, he lifted her against
his shoulder, so that he could carry her with ease, the
absence of clothes taking much from his burden. Thus
he bore her off the premises in the direction of the
river a few yards distant.
His ultimate intention, if he had any, she had not yet
divined; and she found herself conjecturing on the
matter as a third person might have done. So easefully
had she delivered her whole being up to him that it
pleased her to think he was regarding her as his
absolute possession, to dispose of as he should choose.
It was consoling, under the hovering terror of
tomorrow's separation, to feel that he really
recognized her now as his wife Tess, and did not cast
her off, even if in that recognition he went so far as
to arrogate to himself the right of harming her.
Ah! now she knew what he was dreaming of--that Sunday
morning when he had borne her along through the water
with the other dairymaids, who had loved him nearly as
much as she, if that were possible, which Tess could
hardly admit. Clare did not cross the bridge with her,
but proceeding several paces on the same side towards
the adjoining mill, at length stood still on the brink
of the river.
Its waters, in creeping down these miles of meadowland,
frequently divided, serpentining in purposeless curves,
looping themselves around little islands that had no
name, returning and re-embodying themselves as a broad
main stream further on. Opposite the spot to which he
had brought her was such a general confluence, and the
river was proportionately voluminous and deep. Across
it was a narrow foot-bridge; but now the autumn flood
had washed the handrail away, leaving the bare plank
only, which, lying a few inches above the speeding
current, formed a giddy pathway for even steady heads;
and Tess had noticed from the window of the house in
the daytime young men walking across upon it as a feat
in balancing. Her husband had possibly observed the
same performance; anyhow, he now mounted the plank,
and, sliding one foot forward, advanced along it.
Was he going to drown her? Probably he was. The spot
was lonely, the river deep and wide enough to make such
a purpose easy of accomplishment. He might drown her
if he would; it would be better than parting tomorrow
to lead severed lives.
The swift stream raced and gyrated under them, tossing,
distorting, and splitting the moon's reflected face.
Spots of froth travelled past, and intercepted weeds
waved behind the piles. If they could both fall
together into the current now, their arms would be so
tightly clasped together that they could not be saved;
they would go out of the world almost painlessly, and
there would be no more reproach to her, or to him for
marrying her. His last half-hour with her would have
been a loving one, while if they lived till he awoke
his daytime aversion would return, and this hour would
remain to be contemplated only as a transient dream.
The impulse stirred in her, yet she dared not indulge
it, to make a movement that would have precipitated
them both into the gulf. How she valued her own life
had been proved; but his--she had no right to tamper
with it. He reached the other side with her in safety.
Here they were within a plantation which formed the
Abbey grounds, and taking a new hold of her he went
onward a few steps till they reached the ruined choir
of the Abbey-church. Against the north wall was the
empty stone coffin of an abbot, in which every tourist
with a turn for grim humour was accustomed to stretch
himself. In this Clare carefully laid Tess. Having
kissed her lips a second time he breathed deeply, as if
a greatly desired end were attained. Clare then lay
down on the ground alongside, when he immediately fell
into the deep dead slumber of exhaustion, and remained
motionless as a log. The spurt of mental excitement
which had produced the effort was now over.
Tess sat up in the coffin. The night, though dry and
mild for the season, was more than sufficiently cold to
make it dangerous for him to remain here long, in his
half-clothed state. If he were left to himself he
would in all probability stay there till the morning,
and be chilled to certain death. She had heard of such
deaths after sleep-walking. But how could she dare to
awaken him, and let him know what he had been doing,
when it would mortify him to discover his folly in
respect of her? Tess, however, stepping out of her
stone confine, shook him slightly, but was unable to
arouse him without being violent. It was indispensable
to do something, for she was beginning to shiver, the
sheet being but a poor protection. Her excitement had
in a measure kept her warm during the few minutes'
adventure; but that beatific interval was over.
It suddenly occurred to her to try persuasion; and
accordingly she whispered in his ear, with as much
firmness and decision as she could summon----
"Let us walk on, darling," at the same time taking him
suggestively by the arm. To her relief, he
unresistingly acquiesced; her words had apparently
thrown him back into his dream, which thenceforward
seemed to enter on a new phase, wherein he fancied she
had risen as a spirit, and was leading him to Heaven.
Thus she conducted him by the arm to the stone bridge
in front of their residence, crossing which they stood
at the manor-house door. Tess's feet were quite bare,
and the stones hurt her, and chilled her to the bone;
but Clare was in his woollen stockings, and appeared to
feel no discomfort.
There was no further difficulty. She induced him to
lie down on his own sofa bed, and covered him up
warmly, lighting a temporary fire of wood, to dry any
dampness out of him. The noise of these attentions she
thought might awaken him, and secretly wished that they
might. But the exhaustion of his mind and body was
such that he remained undisturbed.
As soon as they met the next morning Tess divined that
Angel knew little or nothing of how far she had been
concerned in the night's excursion, though, as regarded
himself, he may have been aware that he had not lain
still. In truth, he had awakened that morning from a
sleep deep as annihilation; and during those first few
moments in which the brain, like a Samson shaking
himself, is trying its strength, he had some dim notion
of an unusual nocturnal proceeding. But the realities
of his situation soon displaced conjecture on the other
He waited in expectancy to discern some mental
pointing; he knew that if any intention of his,
concluded over-night, did not vanish in the light of
morning, it stood on a basis approximating to one of
pure reason, even if initiated by impulse of feeling;
that it was so far, therefore, to be trusted. He thus
beheld in the pale morning light the resolve to
separate from her; not as a hot and indignant instinct,
but denuded of the passionateness which had made it
scorch and burn; standing in its bones; nothing but a
skeleton, but none the less there. Clare no longer
At breakfast, and while they were packing the few
remaining articles, he showed his weariness from the
night's effort so unmistakeably that Tess was on the
point of revealing all that had happened; but the
reflection that it would anger him, grieve him,
stultify him, to know that he had instinctively
manifested a fondness for her of which his common-sense
did not approve; that his inclination had compromised
his dignity when reason slept, again deterred her. It
was too much like laughing at a man when sober for his
erratic deeds during intoxication.
It just crossed her mind, too, that he might have a
faint recollection of his tender vagary, and was
disinclined to allude to it from a conviction that she
would take amatory advantage of the opportunity it gave
her of appealing to him anew not to go.
He had ordered by letter a vehicle from the nearest
town, and soon after breakfast it arrived. She saw in
it the beginning of the end--the temporary end, at
least, for the revelation of his tenderness by the
incident of the night raised dreams of a possible
future with him. The luggage was put on the top, and
the man drove them off, the miller and the old
waiting-woman expressing some surprise at their
precipitate departure, which Clare attributed to his
discovery that the mill-work was not of the modern kind
which he wished to investigate, a statement that was
true so far as it went. Beyond this there was nothing
in the manner of their leaving to suggest a FIASCO, or
that they were not going together to visit friends.
Their route lay near the dairy from which they had
started with such solemn joy in each other a few days
back, and as Clare wished to wind up his business with
Mr Crick, Tess could hardly avoid paying Mrs Crick a
call at the same time, unless she would excite
suspicion of their unhappy state.
To make the call as unobtrusive as possible they left
the carriage by the wicket leading down from the high
road to the dairy-house, and descended the track on
foot, side by side. The withy-bed had been cut, and
they could see over the stumps the spot to which Clare
had followed her when he pressed her to be his wife; to
the left the enclosure in which she had been fascinated
by his harp; and far away behind the cowstalls the mead
which had been the scene of their first embrace. The
gold of the summer picture was now gray, the colours
mean, the rich soil mud, and the river cold.
Over the barton-gate the dairyman saw them, and came
forward, throwing into his face the kind of jocularity
deemed appropriate in Talbothays and its vicinity on
the re-appearance of the newly-married. Then Mrs
Crick emerged from the house, and several others of
their old acquaintance, though Marian and Retty did not
seem to be there.
Tess valiantly bore their sly attacks and friendly
humours, which affected her far otherwise than they
supposed. In the tacit agreement of husband and wife
to keep their estrangement a secret they behaved as
would have been ordinary. And then, although she would
rather there had been no word spoken on the subject,
Tess had to hear in detail the story of Marian and
Retty. The later had gone home to her father's and
Marian had left to look for employment elsewhere.
They feared she would come to no good.
To dissipate the sadness of this recital Tess went and
bade all her favourite cows goodbye, touching each of
them with her hand, and as she and Clare stood side by
side at leaving, as if united body and soul, there
would have been something peculiarly sorry in their
aspect to one who should have seen it truly; two limbs
of one life, as they outwardly were, his arm touching
hers, her skirts touching him, facing one way, as
against all the dairy facing the other, speaking in
their adieux as "we", and yet sundered like the poles.
Perhaps something unusually stiff and embarrassed in
their attitude, some awkwardness in acting up to their
profession of unity, different from the natural shyness
of young couples, may have been apparent, for when they
were gone Mrs Crick said to her husband----
"How onnatural the brightness of her eyes did seem, and
how they stood like waxen images and talked as if they
were in a dream! Didn't it strike 'ee that 'twas so?
Tess had always sommat strange in her, and she's not
now quite like the proud young bride of a well-be-doing
They re-entered the vehicle, and were driven along the
roads towards Weatherbury and Stagfoot Lane, till they
reached the Lane inn, where Clare dismissed the fly and
man. They rested here a while, and entering the Vale
were next driven onward towards her home by a stranger
who did not know their relations. At a midway point,
when Nuttlebury had been passed, and where there were
cross-roads, Clare stopped the conveyance and said to
Tess that if she meant to return to her mother's house
it was here that he would leave her. As they could not
talk with freedom in the driver's presence he asked her
to accompany him for a few steps on foot along one of
the branch roads; she assented, and directing the man
to wait a few minutes they strolled away.
"Now, let us understand each other," he said gently.
"There is no anger between us, though there is that
which I cannot endure at present. I will try to bring
myself to endure it. I will let you know where I go to
as soon as I know myself. And if I can bring myself to
bear it--if it is desirable, possible--I will come to
you. But until I come to you it will be better that
you should not try to come to me."
The severity of the decree seemed deadly to Tess; she
saw his view of her clearly enough; he could regard her
in no other light than that of one who had practised
gross deceit upon him. Yet could a woman who had done
even what she had done deserve all this? But she could
contest the point with him no further. She simply
repeated after him his own words.
"Until you come to me I must not try to come to you?"
"May I write to you?"
"O yes--if you are ill, or want anything at all.
I hope that will not be the case; so that it may happen
that I write first to you."
"I agree to the conditions, Angel; because you know
best what my punishment ought to be; only--only--don't
make it more than I can bear!"
That was all she said on the matter. If Tess had been
artful, had she made a scene, fainted, wept
hysterically, in that lonely lane, notwithstanding the
fury of fastidiousness with which he was possessed, he
would probably not have withstood her. But her mood of
long-suffering made his way easy for him, and she
herself was his best advocate. Pride, too, entered
into her submission--which perhaps was a symptom of
that reckless acquiescence in chance too apparent in
the whole d'Urberville family--and the many effective
chords which she could have stirred by an appeal were
The remainder of their discourse was on practical
matters only. He now handed her a packet containing a
fairly good sum of money, which he had obtained from
his bankers for the purpose. The brilliants, the
interest in which seemed to be Tess's for her life only
(if he understood the wording of the will), he advised
her to let him send to a bank for safety; and to this
she readily agreed.
These things arranged he walked with Tess back to the
carriage, and handed her in. The coachman was paid and
told where to drive her. Taking next his own bag and
umbrella--the sole articles he had brought with him
hitherwards--he bade her goodbye; and they parted there
The fly moved creepingly up a hill, and Clare watched
it go with an unpremeditated hope that Tess would look
out of the window for one moment. But that she never
thought of doing, would not have ventured to do, lying
in a half-dead faint inside. Thus he beheld her
recede, and in the anguish of his heart quoted a line
from a poet, with peculiar emendations of his own--
God's NOT in his heaven: all's WRONG with the world!
When Tess had passed over the crest of the hill he
turned to go his own way, and hardly knew that he loved
As she drove on through Blackmoor Vale, and the
landscape of her youth began to open around her, Tess
aroused herself from her stupor. Her first thought was
how would she be able to face her parents?
She reached a turnpike-gate which stood upon the
highway to the village. It was thrown open by a
stranger, not by the old man who had kept it for many
years, and to whom she had been known; he had probably
left on New Year's Day, the date when such changes were
made. Having received no intelligence lately from her
home, she asked the turnpike-keeper for news.
"Oh--nothing, miss," he answered. "Marlott is Marlott
still. Folks have died and that. John Durbeyfield,
too, hev had a daughter married this week to a
gentleman-farmer; not from John's own house, you know;
they was married elsewhere; the gentleman being of that
high standing that John's own folk was not considered
well-be-doing enough to have any part in it, the
bridegroom seeming not to know how't have been
discovered that John is a old and ancient nobleman
himself by blood, with family skillentons in their own
vaults to this day, but done out of his property in the
time o' the Romans. However, Sir John, as we call 'n
now, kept up the wedding-day as well as he could, and
stood treat to everybody in the parish; and John's wife
sung songs at The Pure Drop till past eleven o'clock."
Hearing this, Tess felt so sick at heart that she could
not decide to go home publicly in the fly with her
luggage and belongings. She asked the turnpike-keeper
if she might deposit her things at his house for a
while, and, on his offering no objection, she dismissed
her carriage, and went on to the village alone by a
At sight of her father's chimney she asked herself how
she could possibly enter the house? Inside that
cottage her relations were calmly supposing her far
away on a wedding-tour with a comparatively rich man,
who was to conduct her to bouncing prosperity; while
here she was, friendless, creeping up to the old door
quite by herself, with no better place to go to in the
She did not reach the house unobserved. Just by the
garden-hedge she was met by a girl who knew her--one
of the two or three with whom she had been intimate at
school. After making a few inquiries as to how Tess
came there, her friend, unheeding her tragic look,
"But where's thy gentleman, Tess?"
Tess hastily explained that he had been called away on
business, and, leaving her interlocutor, clambered over
the garden-hedge, and thus made her way to the house.
As she went up the garden-path she heard her mother
singing by the back door, coming in sight of which she
perceived Mrs Durbeyfield on the doorstep in the act of
wringing a sheet. Having performed this without
observing Tess, she went indoors, and her daughter
The washing-tub stood in the same old place on the same
old quarter-hogshead, and her mother, having thrown the
sheet aside, was about to plunge her arms in anew.
"Why--Tess!--my chil'--I thought you was
married!--married really and truly this time--we sent
"Yes, mother; so I am."
"Going to be?"
"No--I am married."
"Married! Then where's thy husband?"
"Oh, he's gone away for a time."
"Gone away! When was you married, then? The day you
"Yes, Tuesday, mother."
"And now 'tis on'y Saturday, and he gone away?"
"Yes, he's gone."
"What's the meaning o' that? 'Nation seize such
husbands as you seem to get, say I!"
"Mother!" Tess went across to Joan Durbeyfield, laid
her face upon the matron's bosom, and burst into sobs.
"I don't know how to tell 'ee, mother! You said to me,
and wrote to me, that I was not to tell him. But I did
tell him--I couldn't help it--and he went away!"
"O you little fool--you little fool!" burst out Mrs
Durbeyfield, splashing Tess and herself in her
agitation. "My good God! that ever I should ha' lived
to say it, but I say it again, you little fool!"
Tess was convulsed with weeping, the tension of so many
days having relaxed at last.
"I know it--I know--I know!" she gasped through her
sobs. "But, O my mother, I could not help it! He was
so good--and I felt the wickedness of trying to blind
him as to what had happened! If--if--it were to be
done again--I should do the same. I could not--I dared
not--so sin--against him!"
"But you sinned enough to marry him first!"
"Yes, yes; that's where my misery do lie! But I
thought he could get rid o' me by law if he were
determined not to overlook it. And O, if you knew--if
you could only half know how I loved him--how anxious I
was to have him--and how wrung I was between caring so
much for him and my wish to be fair to him!"
Tess was so shaken that she could get no further, and
sank a helpless thing into a chair.
"Well, well; what's done can't be undone! I'm sure I
don't know why children o' my bringing forth should all
be bigger simpletons than other people's--not to know
better than to blab such a thing as that, when he
couldn't ha' found it out till too late!" Here Mrs
Durbeyfield began shedding tears on her own account as
a mother to be pitied. "What your father will say I
don't know," she continued; "for he's been talking
about the wedding up at Rolliver's and The Pure Drop
every day since, and about his family getting back to
their rightful position through you--poor silly
man!--and now you've made this mess of it! The
As if to bring matters to a focus, Tess's father was
heard approaching at that moment. He did not, however,
enter immediately, and Mrs Durbeyfield said that she
would break the bad news to him herself, Tess keeping
out of sight for the present. After her first burst of
disappointment Joan began to take the mishap as she had
taken Tess's original trouble, as she would have taken
a wet holiday or failure in the potato-crop; as a thing
which had come upon them irrespective of desert or
folly; a chance external impingement to be borne with;
not a lesson.
Tess retreated upstairs and beheld casually that the
beds had been shifted, and new arrangements made. Her
old bed had been adapted for two younger children.
There was no place here for her now.
The room below being unceiled she could hear most of
what went on there. Presently her father entered,
apparently carrying in a live hen. He was a
foot-haggler now, having been obliged to sell his
second horse, and he travelled with his basket on his
arm. The hen had been carried about this morning as it
was often carried, to show people that he was in his
work, though it had lain, with its legs tied, under the
table at Rolliver's for more than an hour.
"We've just had up a story about----" Durbeyfield
began, and thereupon related in detail to his wife a
discussion which had arisen at the inn about the
clergy, originated by the fact of his daughter having
married into a clerical family. "They was formerly
styled 'sir', like my own ancestry," he said, "though
nowadays their true style, strictly speaking, is
'clerk' only." As Tess had wished that no great
publicity should be given to the event, he had
mentioned no particulars. He hoped she would remove
that prohibition soon. He proposed that the couple
should take Tess's own name, d'Urberville, as
uncorrupted. It was better than her husbands's. He
asked if any letter had come from her that day.
Then Mrs Durbeyfield informed him that no letter had
come, but Tess unfortunately had come herself.
When at length the collapse was explained to him a
sullen mortification, not usual with Durbeyfield,
overpowered the influence of the cheering glass.
Yet the intrinsic quality of the event moved his touchy
sensitiveness less than its conjectured effect upon the
minds of others.
"To think, now, that this was to be the end o't!" said
Sir John. "And I with a family vault under that there
church of Kingsbere as big as Squire Jollard's
ale-cellar, and my folk lying there in sixes and
sevens, as genuine county bones and marrow as any
recorded in history. And now to be sure what they
fellers at Rolliver's and The Pure Drop will say to me!
How they'll squint and glane, and say, 'This is yer
mighty match is it; this is yer getting back to the
true level of yer forefathers in King Norman's time!'
I feel this is too much, Joan; I shall put an end to
myself, title and all--I can bear it no longer! ... But
she can make him keep her if he's married her?"
"Why, yes. But she won't think o' doing that."
"D'ye think he really have married her?--or is it like
Poor Tess, who had heard as far as this, could not bear
to hear more. The perception that her word could be
doubted even here, in her own parental house, set her
mind against the spot as nothing else could have done.
How unexpected were the attacks of destiny! And if her
father doubted her a little, would not neighbours and
acquaintance doubt her much? O, she could not live
long at home!
A few days, accordingly, were all that she allowed
herself here, at the end of which time she received a
short note from Clare, informing her that he had gone
to the North of England to look at a farm. In her
craving for the lustre of her true position as his
wife, and to hide from her parents the vast extent of
the division between them, she made use of this letter
as her reason for again departing, leaving them under
the impression that she was setting out to join him.
Still further to screen her husband from any imputation
on unkindness to her, she took twenty-five of the fifty
pounds Clare had given her, and handed the sum over to
her mother, as if the wife of a man like Angel Clare
could well afford it, saying that it was a slight
return for the trouble and humiliation she had brought
upon them in years past. With this assertion of her
dignity she bade them farewell; and after that there
were lively doing in the Durbeyfield household for some
time on the strength of Tess's bounty, her mother
saying, and, indeed, believing, that the rupture which
had arisen between the young husband and wife had
adjusted itself under their strong feeling that they
could not live apart from each other.
It was three weeks after the marriage that Clare found
himself descending the hill which led to the well-known
parsonage of his father. With his downward course the
tower of the church rose into the evening sky in a
manner of inquiry as to why he had come; and no living
person in the twilighted town seemed to notice him,
still less to expect him. He was arriving like a
ghost, and the sound of his own footsteps was almost an
encumbrance to be got rid of.
The picture of life had changed for him. Before this
time he had known it but speculatively; now he thought
he knew it as a practical man; though perhaps he did
not, even yet. Nevertheless humanity stood before him
no longer in the pensive sweetness of Italian art, but
in the staring and ghastly attitudes of a Wiertz
Museum, and with the leer of a study by Van Beers.
His conduct during these first weeks had been desultory
beyond description. After mechanically attempting to
pursue his agricultural plans as though nothing unusual
had happened, in the manner recommended by the great
and wise men of all ages, he concluded that very few of
those great and wise men had ever gone so far outside
themselves as to test the feasibility of their counsel.
"This is the chief thing: be not perturbed," said the
Pagan moralist. That was just Clare's own opinion.
But he was perturbed. "Let not your heart be troubled,
neither let it be afraid," said the Nazarene. Clare
chimed in cordially; but his heart was troubled all the
same. How he would have liked to confront those two
great thinkers, and earnestly appeal to them as
fellow-man to fellow-men, and ask them to tell him
His mood transmuted itself into a dogged indifference
till at length he fancied he was looking on his own
existence with the passive interest of an outsider.
He was embittered by the conviction that all this
desolation had been brought about by the accident of
her being a d'Urberville. When he found that Tess came
of that exhausted ancient line, and was not of the new
tribes from below, as he had fondly dreamed, why had he
not stoically abandoned her, in fidelity to his
principles? This was what he had got by apostasy, and
his punishment was deserved.
Then he became weary and anxious, and his anxiety
increased. He wondered if he had treated her unfairly.
He ate without knowing that he ate, and drank without
tasting. As the hours dropped past, as the motive of
each act in the long series of bygone days presented
itself to his view, he perceived how intimately the
notion of having Tess as a dear possession was mixed up
with all his schemes and words and ways.
In going hither and thither he observed in the
outskirts of a small town a red-and-blue placard
setting forth the great advantages of the Empire of
Brazil as a field for the emigrating agriculturist.
Land was offered there on exceptionally advantageous
terms. Brazil somewhat attracted him as a new idea.
Tess could eventually join him there, and perhaps in
that country of contrasting scenes and notions and
habits the conventions would not be so operative which
made life with her seem impracticable to him here.
In brief he was strongly inclined to try Brazil,
especially as the season for going thither was just at
With this view he was returning to Emminster to
disclose his plan to his parents, and to make the best
explanation he could make of arriving without Tess,
short of revealing what had actually separated them.
As he reached the door the new moon shone upon his
face, just as the old one had done in the small hours
of that morning when he had carried his wife in his
arms across the river to the graveyard of the monks;
but his face was thinner now.
Clare had given his parents no warning of his visit,
and his arrival stirred the atmosphere of the Vicarage
as the dive of the kingfisher stirs a quiet pool. His
father and mother were both in the drawing-room, but
neither of his brothers was now at home. Angel
entered, and closed the door quietly behind him.
"But--where's your wife, dear Angel?" cried his mother.
"How you surprise us!"
"She is at her mother's--temporarily. I have come home
rather in a hurry because I've decided to go to
"Brazil! Why they are all Roman Catholics there
"Are they? I hadn't thought of that."
But even the novelty and painfulness of his going to a
Papistical land could no displace for long Mr and Mrs
Clare's natural interest in their son's marriage.
"We had your brief note three weeks ago announcing that
it had taken place," said Mrs Clare, "and your father
sent your godmother's gift to her, as you know. Of
course it was best that none of us should be present,
especially as you preferred to marry her from the
dairy, and not at her home, wherever that may be. It
would have embarrassed you, and given us no pleasure.
Your bothers felt that very strongly. Now it is done we
do not complain, particularly if she suits you for the
business you have chosen to follow instead of the
ministry of the Gospel. ... Yet I wish I could have
seen her first, Angel, or have known a little more
about her. We sent her no present of our own, not
knowing what would best give her pleasure, but you must
suppose it only delayed. Angel, there is no irritation
in my mind or your father's against you for this
marriage; but we have thought it much better to reserve
our liking for your wife till we could see her. And
now you have not brought her. It seems strange. What
He replied that it had been thought best by them that
she should to go her parents' home for the present,
whilst he came there.
"I don't mind telling you, dear mother," he said, "that
I always meant to keep her away from this house till I
should feel she could some with credit to you. But
this idea of Brazil is quite a recent one. If I do go
it will be unadvisable for me to take her on this my
first journey. She will remain at her mother's till I
"And I shall not see her before you start?"
He was afraid they would not. His original plan had
been, as he had said, to refrain from bringing her
there for some little while--not to wound their
prejudices--feelings--in any way; and for other reasons
he had adhered to it. He would have to visit home in
the course of a year, if he went out at once; and it
would be possible for them to see her before he started
a second time--with her.
A hastily prepared supper was brought in, and Clare
made further exposition of his plans. His mother's
disappointment at not seeing the bride still remained
with her. Clare's late enthusiasm for Tess had
infected her through her maternal sympathies, till she
had almost fancied that a good thing could come out of
Nazareth--a charming woman out of Talbothays Dairy.
She watched her son as he ate.
"Cannot you describe her? I am sure she is very
"Of that there can be no question!" he said, with a
zest which covered its bitterness.
"And that she is pure and virtuous goes without
"Pure and virtuous, of course, she is."
"I can see her quite distinctly. You said the other
day that she was fine in figure; roundly built; had
deep red lips like Cupid's bow; dark eyelashes and
brows, an immense rope of hair like a ship's cable; and
large eyes violety-bluey-blackish."
"I did, mother."
"I quite see her. And living in such seclusion she
naturally had scarce ever seen any young man from the
world without till she saw you."
"You were her first love?"
"There are worse wives than these simple, rosy-mouthed,
robust girls of the farm. Certainly I could have
wished--well, since my son is to be an agriculturist,
it is perhaps but proper that his wife should have been
accustomed to an outdoor life."
His father was less inquisitive; but when the time came
for the chapter from the Bible which was always read
before evening prayers, the Vicar observed to Mrs
"I think, since Angel has come, that it will be more
appropriate to read the thirty-first of Proverbs than
the chapter which we should have had in the usual
course of our reading?"
"Yes, certainly," said Mrs Clare. "The words of King
Lemuel" (she could cite chapter and verse as well as
her husband). "My dear son, your father has decided to
read us the chapter in Proverbs in praise of a virtuous
wife. We shall not need to be reminded to apply the
words to the absent one. May Heaven shield her in all
A lump rose in Clare's throat. The portable lectern
was taken out from the corner and set in the middle of
the fireplace, the two old servants came in, and
Angel's father began to read at the tenth verse of the
"'Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far
above rubies. She riseth while it is yet night, and
giveth meat to her household. She girdeth her loins
with strength and strengtheneth her arms. She
perceiveth that her merchandise is good; her candle
goeth not out by night. She looketh well to the ways
of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
Her children arise up and call her blessed; her husband
also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done
virtuously, but thou excellest them all.'"
When prayers were over, his mother said----
"I could not help thinking how very aptly that chapter
your dear father read applied, in some of its
particulars, to the woman you have chosen. The perfect
woman, you see, was a working woman; not an idler; not
a fine lady; but one who used her hands and her head
and her heart for the good of others. 'Her children
arise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he
praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but
she excelleth them all.' Well, I wish I could have
seen her, Angel. Since she is pure and chaste she
would have been refined enough for me."
Clare could bear this no longer. His eyes were full of
tears, which seemed like drops of molten lead. He bade
a quick goodnight to these sincere and simple souls
whom he loved so well; who knew neither the world, the
flesh, nor the devil in their own hearts; only as
something vague and external to themselves. He went to
his own chamber.
His mother followed him, and tapped at his door.
Clare opened it to discover her standing without, with
"Angel," she asked, "is there something wrong that you
do away so soon? I am quite sure you are not
"I am not, quite, mother," said he.
"About her? Now, my son, I know it that--I know it is
about her! Have you quarrelled in these three weeks?"
"We have not exactly quarrelled," he said. "But we
have had a difference----"
"Angel--is she a young woman whose history will bear
With a mother's instinct Mrs Clare had put her finger
on the kind of trouble that would cause such a disquiet
as seemed to agitate her son.
"She is spotless!" he replied; and felt that if it had
sent him to eternal hell there and then he would have
told that lie.
"Then never mind the rest. After all, there are few
purer things in nature then an unsullied country maid.
Any crudeness of manner which may offend your more
educated sense at first, will, I am sure, disappear
under the influence or your companionship and tuition."
Such terrible sarcasm of blind magnanimity brought home
to Clare the secondary perception that he had utterly
wrecked his career by this marriage, which had not been
among his early thoughts after the disclosure. True,
on his own account he cared very little about his
career; but he had wished to make it at least a
respectable one on account of his parents and brothers.
And now as he looked into the candle its flame dumbly
expressed to him that it was made to shine on sensible
people, and that it abhorred lighting the face of a
dupe and a failure.
When his agitation had cooled he would be at moments
incensed with his poor wife for causing a situation in
which he was obliged to practise deception on his
parents. He almost talked to her in his anger, as if
she had been in the room. And then her cooing voice,
plaintive in expostulation, disturbed the darkness, the
velvet touch of her lips passed over his brow, and he
could distinguish in the air the warmth of her breath.
This night the woman of his belittling deprecations was
thinking how great and good her husband was. But over
them both there hung a deeper shade than the shade
which Angel Clare perceived, namely, the shade of his
own limitations. With all his attempted independence of
judgement this advanced and well-meaning young man, a
sample product of the last five-and-twenty years, was
yet the slave to custom and conventionality when
surprised back into her early teachings. No prophet
had told him, and he was not prophet enough to tell
himself, that essentially this young wife of his was as
deserving of the praise of King Lemuel as any other
woman endowed with the same dislike of evil, her moral
value having to be reckoned not by achievement but by
tendency. Moreover, the figure near at hand suffers on
such occasion, because it shows up its sorriness
without shade; while vague figures afar off are
honoured, in that their distance makes artistic virtues
of their stains. In considering what Tess was not, he
overlooked what she was, and forgot that the defective
can be more than the entire.
At breakfast Brazil was the topic, and all endeavoured
to take a hopeful view of Clare's proposed experiment
with that country's soil, notwithstanding the
discouraging reports of some farm-labourers who had
emigrated thither and returned home within the twelve
months. After breakfast Clare went into the little
town to wind up such trifling matters as he was
concerned with there, and to get from the local bank
all the money he possessed. On his way back he
encountered Miss Mercy Chant by the church, from whose
walls she seemed to be a sort of emanation. She was
carrying an armful of Bibles for her class, and such
was her view of life that events which produced
heartache in others wrought beatific smiles upon
her--an enviable result, although, in the opinion of
Angel, it was obtained by a curiously unnatural
sacrifice of humanity to mysticism.
She had learnt that he was about to leave England, and
observed what an excellent and promising scheme it
seemed to be.
"Yes; it is a likely scheme enough in a commercial
sense, no doubt," he replied. "But, my dear Mercy, it
snaps the continuity of existence. Perhaps a cloister
would be preferable."
"A cloister! O, Angel Clare!"
"Why, you wicked man, a cloister implies a monk, and a
monk Roman Catholicism."
"And Roman Catholicism sin, and sin damnation. Thou
are in a parlous state, Angel Clare."
"I glory in my Protestantism!" she said severely.
Then Clare, thrown by sheer misery into one of the
demoniacal moods in which a man does despite to his
true principles, called her close to him, and
fiendishly whispered in her ear the most heterodox
ideas he could think of. His momentary laughter at the
horror which appeared on her fair face ceased when it
merged in pain and anxiety for his welfare.
"Dear Mercy," he said, "you must forgive me. I think I
am going crazy!"
She thought that he was; and thus the interview ended,
and Clare re-entered the Vicarage. With the local
banker he deposited the jewels till happier days should
arise. He also paid into the bank thirty pounds--to be
sent to Tess in a few months, as she might require; and
wrote to her at her parents' home in Blackmoor Vale to
inform her of what he had done. This amount, with the
sum he had already placed in her hands--about fifty
pounds--he hoped would be amply sufficient for her
wants just at present, particularly as in an emergency
she had been directed to apply to his father.
He deemed it best not to put his parents into
communication with her by informing them of her
address; and, being unaware of what had really happened
to estrange the two, neither his father nor his mother
suggested that he should do so. During the day he left
the parsonage, for what he had to complete he wished to
get done quickly.
As the last duty before leaving this part of England it
was necessary for him to call at the Wellbridge
farmhouse, in which he had spent with Tess the first
three days of their marriage, the trifle of rent having
to be paid, the key given up of the rooms they had
occupied, and two or three small articles fetched away
that they had left behind. It was under this roof that
the deepest shadow ever thrown upon his life had
stretched its gloom over him. Yet when he had unlocked
the door of the sitting-room and looked into it, the
memory which returned first upon him was that of their
happy arrival on a similar afternoon, the first fresh
sense of sharing a habitation conjointly, the first
meal together, the chatting by the fire with joined
The farmer and his wife were in the field at the moment
of his visit, and Clare was in the rooms alone for some
time. Inwardly swollen with a renewal of sentiment that
he had not quite reckoned with, he went upstairs to her
chamber, which had never been his. The bed was smooth
as she had made it with her own hands on the morning of
leaving. The mistletoe hung under the tester just as
he had placed it. Having been there three or four
weeks it was turning colour, and the leaves and berries
were wrinkled. Angel took it down and crushed it into
the grate. Standing there he for the first time
doubted whether his course in this conjecture had been
a wise, much less a generous, one. But had he not been
cruelly blinded? In the incoherent multitude of his
emotions he knelt down at the bedside wet-eyed. "O
Tess! If you had only told me sooner, I would have
forgiven you!" he mourned.
Hearing a footstep below he rose and went to the top of
the stairs. At the bottom of the flight he saw a woman
standing, and on her turning up her face recognized the
pale, dark-eyed Izz Huett.
"Mr Clare," she said, "I've called to see you and Mrs
Clare, and to inquire if ye be well. I thought you
might be back here again."
This was a girl whose secret he had guessed, but who
had not yet guessed his; an honest girl who loved
him--one who would have made as good, or nearly as
good, a practical farmer's wife as Tess.
"I am here alone," he said; "we are not living here
now." Explaining why he had come, he asked, "Which way
are you going home, Izz?"
"I have no home at Talbothays Dairy now, sir," she
"Why is that?"
Izz looked down.
"It was so dismal there that I left! I am staying out
this way." She pointed in a contrary direction, the
direction in which he was journeying.
"Well--are you going there now? I can take you if you
wish for a lift." Her olive complexion grew richer in
"Thank 'ee, Mr Clare," she said.
He soon found the farmer, and settled the account for
his rent and the few other items which had to be
considered by reason of the sudden abandonment of the
lodgings. On Clare's return to his horse and gig Izz
jumped up beside him.
"I am going to leave England, Izz," he said, as they
drove on. "Going to Brazil."
"And do Mrs Clare like the notion of such a journey?"
"She is not going at present--say for a year or so.
I am going out to reconnoitre--to see what life there
They sped along eastward for some considerable
distance, Izz making no observation.
"How are the others?" he inquired. "How is Retty?"
"She was in a sort of nervous state when I zid her
last; and so thin and hollow-cheeked that 'a do seem in
a decline. Nobody will ever fall in love wi' her any
more," said Izz absently.
Izz lowered her voice.
"Yes. The dairyman has got rid of her."
"I don't drink, and I bain't in a decline. But--I am
no great things at singing afore breakfast now!"
"How is that? Do you remember how neatly you used to
turn ''Twas down in Cupid's Gardens' and 'The Tailor's
Breeches' at morning milking?"
"Ah, yes! When you first came, sir, that was. Not
when you had been there a bit."
"Why was that falling-off?"
Her black eyes flashed up to his face for one moment by
way of answer.
"Izz!--how weak of you--for such as I!" he said, and
fell into reverie. "Then--suppose I had asked YOU to
"If you had I should have said 'Yes', and you would
have married a woman who loved 'ee!"
"Down to the ground!" she whispered vehemently. "O my
God! did you never guess it till now!" By-and-by they
reached a branch road to a village.
"I must get down. I live out there," said Izz abruptly,
never having spoken since her avowal.
Clare slowed the horse. He was incensed against his
fate, bitterly disposed towards social ordinances; for
they had cooped him up in a corner, out of which there
was no legitimate pathway. Why not be revenged on
society by shaping his future domesticities loosely,
instead of kissing the pedagogic rod of convention in
this ensnaring manner?
"I am going to Brazil alone, Izz," said he. "I have
separated from my wife for personal, not voyaging,
reason. I may never live with her again. I may not be
able to love you; but--will you go with me instead of
"You truly wish me to go?"
"I do. I have been badly used enough to wish for
relief. And you at least love me disinterestedly."
"Yes--I will go," said Izz, after a pause.
"You will? You know what it means, Izz?"
"It means that I shall live with you for the time you
are over there--that's good enough for me."
"Remember, you are not to trust me in morals now. But
I ought to remind you that it will be wrong-doing in
the eyes of civilization--Western civilization, that is
"I don't mind that; no woman do when it comes to agony-
point, and there's no other way!"
"Then don't get down, but sit where you are."
He drove past the cross-roads, one mile, two miles,
without showing any signs of affection.
"You love me very, very much, Izz?" he suddenly asked.
"I do--I have said I do! I loved you all the time we
was at the dairy together!"
"More than Tess?"
She shook her head.