Tess of the d'Urbervilles, A Pure Woman, by Thomas Hardy
Part 10 out of 11
opalescence of the lower sky. Above, Jupiter hung like
a full-blown jonquil, so bright as almost to throw a
shade. A few small nondescript stars were appearing
elsewhere. In the distance a dog barked, and wheels
occasionally rattled along the dry road.
Still the prongs continued to click assiduously, for it
was not late; and though the air was fresh and keen
there was a whisper of spring in it that cheered the
workers on. Something in the place, the hours, the
crackling fires, the fantastic mysteries of light and
shade, made others as well as Tess enjoy being there.
Nightfall, which in the frost of winter comes as a
fiend and in the warmth of summer as a lover, came as a
tranquillizer on this March day.
Nobody looked at his or her companions. The eyes of
all were on the soil as its turned surface was revealed
by the fires. Hence as Tess stirred the clods and sang
her foolish little songs with scarce now a hope that
Clare would ever hear them, she did not for a long time
notice the person who worked nearest to her--a man in a
long smockfrock who, she found, was forking the same
plot as herself, and whom she supposed her father had
sent there to advance the work. She became more
conscious of him when the direction of his digging
brought him closer. Sometimes the smoke divided them;
then it swerved, and the two were visible to each other
but divided from all the rest.
Tess did not speak to her fellow-worker, nor did he
speak to her. Nor did she think of him further than to
recollect that he had not been there when it was broad
daylight, and that she did not know him as any one of
the Marlott labourers, which was no wonder, her
absences having been so long and frequent of late
years. By-and-by he dug so close to her that the
fire-beams were reflected as distinctly from the steel
prongs of his fork as from her own. On going up to the
fire to throw a pitch of dead weeds upon it, she found
that he did the same on the other side. The fire flared
up, and she beheld the face of d'Urberville.
The unexpectedness of his presence, the grotesqueness
of his appearance in a gathered smockfrock, such as was
now worn only by the most old-fashioned of the
labourers, had a ghastly comicality that chilled her as
to its bearing. D'Urberville emitted a low long laugh.
"If I were inclined to joke I should say, How much this
seems like Paradise!" he remarked whimsically, looking
at her with an inclined head.
"What do you say?" she weakly asked.
"A jester might say this is just like Paradise. You
are Eve, and I am the old Other One come to tempt you
in the disguise of an inferior animal. I used to be
quite up in that scene of Milton's when I was
theological. Some of it goes----
"Empress, the way is ready, and not long,
Beyond a row of myrtles....
... If thou accept
My conduct, I can bring thee thither soon."
"Lead then," said Eve.
And so on. My dear Tess, I am only putting this to you
as a thing that you might have supposed or said quite
untruly, because you think so badly of me."
"I never said you were Satan, or thought it. I don't
think of you in that way at all. My thoughts of you
are quite cold, except when you affront me. What, did
you come digging here entirely because of me?"
"Entirely. To see you; nothing more. The smockfrock,
which I saw hanging for sale as I came along, was an
afterthought, that I mightn't be noticed. I come to
protest against your working like this."
"But I like doing it--it is for my father."
"Your engagement at the other place is ended?"
"Where are you going to next? To join your dear
She could not bear the humiliating reminder.
"O--I don't know!" she said bitterly. "I have no
"It is quite true--in the sense you mean. But you have
a friend, and I have determined that you shall be
comfortable in suite of yourself. When you get down to
your house you will see what I have sent there for
"O, Alec, I wish you wouldn't give me anything at all!
I cannot take it from you! I don't like--it is not
"It IS right!" he cried lightly. "I am not going to
see a woman whom I feel so tenderly for as I do for
you, in trouble without trying to help her."
"But I am very well off! I am only in trouble
about--about--not about living at all!"
She turned, and desperately resumed her digging, tears
dripping upon the fork-handle and upon the clods.
"About the children--your brothers and sisters,"
he resumed. "I've been thinking of them."
Tess's heart quivered--he was touching her in a weak
place. He had divined her chief anxiety. Since
returning home her soul had gone out to those children
with an affection that was passionate.
"If your mother does not recover, somebody ought to do
something for them; since your father will not be able
to do much, I suppose?"
"He can with my assistance. He must!"
"And with mine."
"No, sir!" "How damned foolish this is!" burst out
d'Urberville. "Why, he thinks we are the same family;
and will be quite satisfied!"
"He don't. I've undeceived him."
"The more fool you!"
D'Urberville in anger retreated from her to the hedge,
where he pulled off the long smockfrock which had
disguised him; and rolling it up and pushing it into
the couch-fire, went away.
Tess could not get on with her digging after this; she
felt restless; she wondered if he had gone back to her
father's house; and taking the fork in her hand
Some twenty yards from the house she was met by one of
"O, Tessy--what do you think! 'Liza-Lu is a-crying,
and there's a lot of folk in the house, and mother is a
good deal better, but they think father is dead!"
The child realized the grandeur of the news; but not as
yet its sadness; and stood looking at Tess with
round-eyed importance, till, beholding the effect
produced upon her, she said--
"What, Tess, shan't we talk to father never no more?"
"But father was only a little bit ill!" exclaimed Tess
'Liza-Lu came up.
"He dropped down just now, and the doctor who was there
for mother said there was no chance for him, because
his heart was growed in."
Yes; the Durbeyfield couple had changed places; the
dying one was out of danger, and the indisposed one was
dead. The news meant even more than it sounded. Her
father's life had a value apart from his personal
achievements, or perhaps it would not have had much.
It was the last of the three lives for whose duration
the house and premises were held under a lease; and it
had long been coveted by the tenant-farmer for his
regular labourers, who were stinted in cottage
accommodation. Moreover, "liviers" were disapproved of
in villages almost as much as little freeholders,
because of their independence of manner, and when a
lease determined it was never renewed.
Thus the Durbeyfields, once d'Urbervilles, saw
descending upon them the destiny which, no doubt, when
they were among the Olympians of the county, they had
caused to descend many a time, and severely enough,
upon the heads of such landless ones as they themselves
were not. So do flux and reflux--the rhythm of
change--alternate and persist in everything under the
At length it was the eve of Old Lady-Day, and the
agricultural world was in a fever of mobility such as
only occurs at that particular date of the year. It is
a day of fulfilment; agreements for outdoor service
during the ensuing year, entered into at Candlemas, are
to be now carried out. The labourers--or "work-folk",
as they used to call themselves immemorially till the
other word was introduced from without--who wish to
remain no longer in old places are removing to the new
These annual migrations from farm to farm were on the
increase here. When Tess's mother was a child the
majority of the field-folk about Marlott had remained
all their lives on one farm, which had been the home
also of their fathers and grandfathers; but latterly
the desire for yearly removal had risen to a high
pitch. With the younger families it was a pleasant
excitement which might possibly be an advantage. The
Egypt of one family was the Land of Promise to the
family who saw it from a distance, till by residence
there it became it turn their Egypt also; and so they
changed and changed.
However, all the mutations so increasingly discernible
in village life did not originate entirely in the
agricultural unrest. A depopulation was also going on.
The village had formerly contained, side by side with
the argicultural labourers, an interesting and
better-informed class, ranking distinctly above the
former--the class to which Tess's father and mother had
belonged--and including the carpenter, the smith, the
shoemaker, the huckster, together with nondescript
workers other than farm-labourers; a set of people who
owed a certain stability of aim and conduct to the fact
of their being lifeholders like Tess's father, or
copyholders, or occasionally, small freeholders. But
as the long holdings fell in they were seldom again let
to similar tenants, and were mostly pulled down, if not
absolutely required by the farmer for his hands.
Cottagers who were not directly employed on the land
were looked upon with disfavour, and the banishment of
some starved the trade of others, who were thus obliged
to follow. These families, who had formed the backbone
of the village life in the past who were the
depositaries of the village traditions, had to seek
refuge in the large centres; the process, humorously
designated by statisticians as "the tendency of the
rural population towards the large towns", being really
the tendency of water to flow uphill when forced by
The cottage accommodation at Marlott having been in
this manner considerably curtailed by demolitions,
every house which remained standing was required by the
agriculturist for his work-people. Ever since the
occurrence of the event which had cast such a shadow
over Tess's life, the Durbeyfield family (whose descent
was not credited) had been tacitly looked on as one
which would have to go when their lease ended, if only
in the interests of morality. It was, indeed, quite
true that the household had not been shining examples
either of temperance, soberness, or chastity. The
father, and even the mother, had got drunk at times,
the younger children seldom had gone to church, and the
eldest daughter had made queer unions. By some means
the village had to be kept pure. So on this, the first
Lady-Day on which the Durbeyfields were expellable, the
house, being roomy, was required for a carter with a
large family; and Widow Joan, her daughters Tess and
'Liza-Lu, the boy Abraham and the younger children, had
to go elsewhere.
On the evening preceding their removal it was getting
dark betimes by reason of a drizzling rain which
blurred the sky. As it was the last night they would
spend in the village which had been their home and
birthplace, Mrs Durbeyfield, 'Liza-Lu, and Abraham had
gone out to bid some friends goodbye, and Tess was
keeping house till they should return.
She was kneeling in the window-bench, her face close to
the casement, where an outer pane of rain-water was
sliding down the inner pane of glass. Her eyes rested
on the web of a spider, probably starved long ago,
which had been mistakenly placed in a corner where no
flies ever came, and shivered in the slight draught
through the casement. Tess was reflecting on the
position of the household, in which she perceived her
own evil influence. Had she not come home her mother
and the children might probably have been allowed to
stay on as weekly tenants. But she had been observed
almost immediately on her return by some people of
scrupulous character and great influence: they had seen
her idling in the churchyard, restoring as well as she
could with a little trowel a baby's obliterated grave.
By this means they had found that she was living here
again; her mother was scolded for "harbouring" her;
sharp retorts had ensued from Joan, who had
independently offered to leave at once; she had been
taken at her word; and here was the result.
"I ought never to have come home," said Tess to
She was so intent upon these thoughts that she hardly
at first took note of a man in a white mackintosh whom
she saw riding down the street. Possibly it was owing
to her face being near to the pane that he saw her so
quickly, and directed his horse so close to the
cottage-front that his hoofs were almost upon the
narrow border for plants growing under the wall. It
was not till he touched the window with his riding-crop
that she observed him. The rain had nearly ceased, and
she opened the casement in obedience to his gesture.
"Didn't you see me?" asked d'Urberville.
"I was not attending," she said. "I heard you, I
believe, though I fancied it was a carriage and horses.
I was in a sort of dream."
"Ah! you heard the d'Urberville Coach, perhaps.
You know the legend, I suppose?"
"No. My--somebody was going to tell it me once, but
"If you are a genuine d'Urberville I ought not to tell
you either, I suppose. As for me, I'm a sham one, so
it doesn't matter. It is rather dismal. It is that
this sound of a non-existent coach can only be heard
by one of d'Urberville blood, and it is held to be of
ill-omen to the one who hears it. It has to do with a
murder, committed by one of the family, centuries ago."
"Now you have begun it, finish it."
"Very well. One of the family is said to have abducted
some beautiful woman, who tried to escape from the
coach in which he was carrying her off, and in the
struggle he killed her--or she killed him--I forget
which. Such is one version of the tale.... I see that
your tubs and buckets are packed. Going away, aren't
"Yes, tomorrow--Old Lady Day."
"I heard you were, but could hardly believe it; it
seems so sudden. Why is it?"
"Father's was the last life on the property, and when
that dropped we had no further right to stay. Though
we might, perhaps, have stayed as weekly tenants--if it
had not been for me."
"What about you?"
"I am not a--proper woman."
D'Urberville's face flushed.
"What a blasted shame! Miserable snobs! May their
dirty souls be burnt to cinders!" he exclaimed in tones
of ironic resentment. "That's why you are going, is it?
"We are not turned out exactly; but as they said we
should have to go soon, it was best to go now everybody
was moving because there are better chances."
"Where are you going to?"
"Kingsbere. We have taken rooms there. Mother is so
foolish about father's people that she will go there."
"But your mother's family are not fit for lodgings, and
in a little hole of a town like that. Now why not come
to my garden-house at Trantridge? There are hardly
any poultry now, since my mother's death; but there's
the house, as you know it, and the garden. It can be
whitewashed in a day, and your mother can live there
quite comfortably; and I will put the children to a
good school. Really I ought to do something for you!"
"But we have already taken the rooms at Kingsbere!" she
declared. "And we can wait there----"
"Wait--what for? For that nice husband, no doubt. Now
look here, Tess, I know what men are, and, bearing in
mind the GROUNDS of your separation, I am quite
positive he will never make it up with you. Now,
though I have been your enemy, I am your friend, even
if you won't believe it. Come to this cottage of mine.
We'll get up a regular colony of fowls, and your mother
can attend to them excellently; and the children can go
Tess breathed more and more quickly, and at length she
"How do I know that you would do all this? Your views
may change--and then--we should be--my mother would
"O no----no. I would guarantee you against such as
that in writing, if necessary. Think it over.
Tess shook her head. But d'Urberville persisted; she
had seldom seen him so determined; he would not take a
"Please just tell your mother," he said, in emphatic
tones. "It is her business to judge--not yours. I
shall get the house swept out and whitened tomorrow
morning, and fires lit; and it will be dry by the
evening, so that you can come straight there. Now
mind, I shall expect you."
Tess again shook her head; her throat swelling with
complicated emotion. She could not look up at
"I owe you something for the past, you know," he
resumed. "And you cured me, too, of that craze; so I
"I would rather you had kept the craze, so that you had
kept the practice which went with it!"
"I am glad of this opportunity of repaying you a
little. Tomorrow I shall expect to hear your mother's
goods unloading.... Give me your hand on it now--dear,
With the last sentence he had dropped his voice to a
murmur, and put his hand in at the half-open casement.
With stormy eyes she pulled the stay-bar quickly, and,
in doing so, caught his arm between the casement and
the stone mullion.
"Damnation--you are very cruel!" he said, snatching out
his arm. "No, no!--I know you didn't do it on purpose.
Well I shall expect you, or your mother and children at
"I shall not come--I have plenty of money!" she cried.
"At my father-in-law's, if I ask for it."
"IF you ask for it. But you won't, Tess; I know you;
you'll never ask for it--you'll starve first!"
With these words he rode off. Just at the corner of
the street he met the man with the paint-pot, who asked
him if he had deserted the brethren.
"You go to the devil!" said d'Urberville.
Tess remained where she was a long while, till a sudden
rebellious sense of injustice caused the region of her
eyes to swell with the rush of hot tears thither. Her
husband, Angel Clare himself, had, like others, dealt
out hard measure to her, surely he had! She had never
before admitted such a thought; but he had surely!
Never in her life--she could swear it from the bottom
of her soul--had she ever intended to do wrong; yet
these hard judgements had come. Whatever her sins,
they were not sins of intention, but of inadvertence,
and why should she have been punished so persistently?
She passionately seized the first piece of paper that
came to hand, and scribbled the following lines:
O why have you treated me so monstrously, Angel! I do
not deserve it. I have thought it all over carefully,
and I can never, never forgive you! You know that I
did not intend to wrong you--why have you so wronged
me? You are cruel, cruel indeed! I will try to forget
you. It is all injustice I have received at your
She watched till the postman passed by, ran out to him
with her epistle, and then again took her listless
place inside the window-panes.
It was just as well to write like that as to write
tenderly. How could he give way to entreaty? The
facts had not changed: there was no new event to alter
It grew darker, the fire-light shining over the room.
The two biggest of the younger children had gone out
with their mother; the four smallest, their ages
ranging from three-and-a-half years to eleven, all in
black frocks, were gathered round the hearth babbling
their own little subjects. Tess at length joined them,
without lighting a candle.
"This is the last night that we shall sleep here,
dears, in the house where we were born," she said
quickly. "We ought to think of it, oughtn't we?"
They all became silent; with the impressibility of
their age they were ready to burst into tears at the
picture of finality she had conjured up, though all the
day hitherto they had been rejoicing in the idea of a
new place. Tess changed the subject.
"Sing to me, dears," she said.
"What shall we sing?"
"Anything you know; I don't mind."
There was a momentary pause; it was broken, first,
in one little tentative note; then a second voice
strengthened it, and a third and a fourth chimed in
unison, with words they had learnt at the
Here we suffer grief and pain,
Here we meet to part again;
In Heaven we part no more.
The four sang on with the phlegmatic passivity of
persons who had long ago settled the question, and
there being no mistake about it, felt that further
thought was not required. With features strained hard
to enunciate the syllables they continued to regard the
centre of the flickering fire, the notes of the
youngest straying over into the pauses of the rest.
Tess turned from them, and went to the window again.
Darkness had now fallen without, but she put her face
to the pane as though to peer into the gloom. It was
really to hide her tears. If she could only believe
what the children were singing; if she were only sure,
how different all would now be; how confidently she
would leave them to Providence and their future
kingdom! But, in default of that, it behoved her to do
something; to be their Providence; for to Tess, as to
not a few millions of others, there was ghastly satire
in the poet's lines----
Not in utter nakedness
But trailing clouds of glory do we come.
To her and her like, birth itself was an ordeal of
degrading personal compulsion, whose gratuitousness
nothing in the result seemed to justify, and at best
could only palliate.
In the shades of the wet road she soon discerned her
mother with tall 'Liza-Lu and Abraham. Mrs
Durbeyfield's pattens clicked up to the door, and Tess
"I see the tracks of a horse outside the window," said
Joan. "Hev somebody called?"
"No," said Tess.
The children by the fire looked gravely at her, and one
"Why, Tess, the gentleman a-horseback!"
"He didn't call," said Tess. "He spoke to me in
"Who was the gentleman?" asked the mother. "Your husband?"
"No. He'll never, never come," answered Tess in stony
"Then who was it?"
"Oh, you needn't ask. You've seen him before, and so
"Ah! What did he say?" said Joan curiously.
"I will tell you when we are settled in our lodging at
Kingsbere tomorrow--every word."
It was not her husband, she had said. Yet a
consciousness that in a physical sense this man alone
was her husband seemed to weigh on her more and more.
During the small hours of the next morning, while it
was still dark, dwellers near the highways were
conscious of a disturbance of their night's rest by
rumbling noises, intermittently continuing till
daylight--noises as certain to recur in this particular
first week of the month as the voice of the cuckoo in
the third week of the same. They were the
preliminaries of the general removal, the passing of
the empty waggons and teams to fetch the goods of the
migrating families; for it was always by the vehicle of
the farmer who required his services that the hired man
was conveyed to his destination. That this might be
accomplished within the day was the explanation of the
reverberation occurring so soon after midnight, the aim
of the carters being to reach the door of the outgoing
households by six o'clock, when the loading of their
movables at once began.
But to Tess and her mother's household no such anxious
farmer sent his team. They were only women; they were
not regular labourers; they were not particularly
required anywhere; hence they had to hire a waggon at
their own expense, and got nothing sent gratuitously.
It was a relief to Tess, when she looked out of the
window that morning, to find that though the weather
was windy and louring, it did not rain, and that the
waggon had come. A wet Lady-Day was a spectre which
removing families never forgot; damp furniture, damp
bedding, damp clothing accompanied it, and left a train
Her mother, 'Liza-Lu, and Abraham were also awake, but
the younger children were let sleep on. The four
breakfasted by the thin light, and the "house-ridding"
was taken in hand.
It proceeded with some cheerfulness, a friendly
neighbour or two assisting. When the large articles of
furniture had been packed in position a circular nest
was made of the beds and bedding, in which Joan
Durbeyfield and the young children were to sit through
the journey. After loading there was a long delay
before the horses were brought, these having been
unharnessed during the ridding; but at length, about
two o'clock, the whole was under way, the cooking-pot
swinging from the axle of the waggon, Mrs Durbeyfield
and family at the top, the matron having in her lap, to
prevent injury to its works, the head of the clock,
which, at any exceptional lurch of the waggon, struck
one, or one-and-a-half, in hurt tones. Tess and the
next eldest girl walked alongside till they were out of
They had called on a few neighbours that morning and
the previous evening, and some came to see them off,
all wishing them well, though, in their secret hearts,
hardly expecting welfare possible to such a family,
harmless as the Durbeyfields were to all except
themselves. Soon the equipage began to ascend to
higher ground, and the wind grew keener with the change
of level and soil.
The day being the sixth of April, the Durbeyfield
waggon met many other waggons with families on the
summit of the load, which was built on a wellnigh
unvarying principle, as peculiar, probably, to the
rural labourer as the hexagon to the bee. The
groundwork of the arrangement was the family dresser,
which, with its shining handles, and finger-marks, and
domestic evidences thick upon it, stood importantly in
front, over the tails of the shaft-horses, in its erect
and natural position, like some Ark of the Covenant
that they were bound to carry reverently.
Some of the households were lively, some mournful; some
were stopping at the doors of wayside inns; where, in
due time, the Durbeyfield menagerie also drew up to
bait horses and refresh the travellers.
During the halt Tess's eyes fell upon a three-pint blue
mug, which was ascending and descending through the air
to and from the feminine section of a household,
sitting on the summit of a load that had also drawn up
at a little distance from the same inn. She followed
one of the mug's journeys upward, and perceived it to
be clasped by hands whose owner she well knew. Tess
went towards the waggon.
"Marian and Izz!" she cried to the girls, for it was
they, sitting with the moving family at whose house
they had lodged. "Are you house-ridding today, like
They were, they said. It had been too rough a life for
them at Flintcomb-Ash, and they had come away, almost
without notice, leaving Groby to prosecute them if he
chose. They told Tess their destination, and Tess told
Marian leant over the load, and lowered her voice.
"Do you know that the gentleman who follows 'ee--you'll
guess who I mean--came to ask for 'ee at Flintcomb
after you had gone? We didn't tell'n where you was,
knowing you wouldn't wish to see him."
"Ah--but I did see him!" Tess murmured. "He found me."
"And do he know where you be going?"
"I think so."
"Husband come back?"
She bade her acquaintance goodbye--for the respective
carters had now come out from the inn--and the two
waggons resumed their journey in opposite directions;
the vehicle whereon sat Marian, Izz, and the
ploughman's family with whom they had thrown in their
lot, being brightly painted, and drawn by three
powerful horses with shining brass ornaments on their
harness; while the waggon on which Mrs Durbeyfield and
her family rode was a creaking erection that would
scarcely bear the weight of the superincumbent load;
one which had known no paint since it was made, and
drawn by two horses only. The contrast well marked the
difference between being fetched by a thriving farmer
and conveying oneself whither no hirer waited one's
The distance was great--too great for a day's
journey--and it was with the utmost difficulty that the
horses performed it. Though they had started so early
it was quite late in the afternoon when they turned the
flank of an eminence which formed part of the upland
called Greenhill. While the horses stood to stale and
breathe themselves Tess looked around. Under the hill,
and just ahead of them, was the half-dead townlet of
their pilgrimage, Kingsbere, where lay those ancestors
of whom her father had spoken and sung to painfulness:
Kingsbere, the spot of all spots in the world which
could be considered the d'Urbervilles' home, since they
had resided there for full five hundred years. A man
could be seen advancing from the outskirts towards
them, and when he beheld the nature of their
waggon-load he quickened his steps.
"You be the woman they call Mrs Durbeyfield, I reckon?"
he said to Tess's mother, who had descended to walk the
remainder of the way.
She nodded. "Though widow of the late Sir John
d'Urberville, poor nobleman, if I cared for my rights;
and returning to the domain of his forefathers."
"Oh? Well, I know nothing about that; but if you be
Mrs Durbeyfield, I am sent to tell 'ee that the rooms
you wanted be let. We didn't know that you was coming
till we got your letter this morning--when 'twas too
late. But no doubt you can get other lodgings
The man had noticed the face of Tess, which had become
ash-pale at his intelligence. Her mother looked
hopelessly at fault. "What shall we do now, Tess?" she
said bitterly. "Here's a welcome to your ancestors'
lands! However, let's try further."
They moved on into the town, and tried with all their
might, Tess remaining with the waggon to take care of
the children whilst her mother and 'Liza-Lu made
inquiries. At the last return of Joan to the vehicle,
an hour later, when her search for accommodation had
still been fruitless, the driver of the waggon said the
goods must be unloaded, as the horses were half-dead,
and he was bound to return part of the way at least
"Very well--unload it here," said Joan recklessly.
"I'll get shelter somewhere."
The waggon had drawn up under the churchyard wall, in a
spot screened from view, and the driver, nothing loth,
soon hauled down the poor heap of household goods.
This done she paid him, reducing herself to almost her
last shilling thereby, and he moved off and left them,
only too glad to get out of further dealings with such
a family. It was a dry night, and he guessed that they
would come to no harm.
Tess gazed desperately at the pile of furniture. The
cold sunlight of this spring evening peered invidiously
upon the crocks and kettles, upon the bunches of dried
herbs shivering in the breeze, upon the brass handles
of the dresser, upon the wicker-cradle they had all
been rocked in, and upon the well-rubbed clock-case,
all of which gave out the reproachful gleam of indoor
articles abandoned to the vicissitudes of a roofless
exposure for which they were never made. Round about
were deparked hills and slopes--now cut up into little
paddocks--and the green foundations that showed where
the d'Urberville mansion once had stood; also an
outlying stretch of Egdon Heath that had always
belonged to the estate. Hard by, the aisle of the
church called the d'Urberville Aisle looked on
"Isn't your family vault your own freehold?" said
Tess's mother, as she returned from a reconnoitre of
the church and graveyard. "Why, of course 'tis, and
that's where we will camp, girls, till the place of
your ancestors finds us a roof! Now, Tess and 'Liza
and Abraham, you help me. We'll make a nest for these
children, and then we'll have another look round."
Tess listlessly lent a hand, and in a quarter of an
hour the old four-post bedstead was dissociated from
the heap of goods, and erected under the south wall of
the church, the part of the building know as the
d'Urberville Aisle, beneath which the huge vaults lay.
Over the tester of the bedstead was a beautiful
traceried window, of many lights, its date being the
fifteenth century. It was called the d'Urberville
Window, and in the upper part could be discerned
heraldic emblems like those on Durbeyfield's old seal
Joan drew the curtains round the bed so as to make an
excellent tent of it, and put the smaller children
inside. "If it comes to the worst we can sleep there
too, for one night," she said. "But let us try further
on, and get something for the dears to eat! O, Tess,
what's the use of your playing at marrying gentlemen,
if it leaves us like this!"
Accompanied by 'Liza-Lu and the boy she again ascended
the little lane which secluded the church from the
townlet. As soon as they got into the street they
beheld a man on horseback gazing up and down. "Ah--
I'm looking for you!" he said, riding up to them.
"This is indeed a family gathering on the historic spot!"
It was Alec d'Urberville. "Where is Tess?" he asked.
Personally Joan had no liking for Alec. She cursorily
signified the direction of the church, and went on,
d'Urberville saying that he would see them again, in
case they should be still unsuccessful in their search
for shelter, of which he had just heard. When they had
gone d'Urberville rode to the inn, and shortly after
came out on foot.
In the interim Tess, left with the children inside the
bedstead, remained talking with them awhile, till,
seeing that no more could be done to make them
comfortable just then, she walked about the churchyard,
now beginning to be embrowned by the shades of
nightfall. The door of the church was unfastened, and
she entered it for the first time in her life.
Within the window under which the bedstead stood were
the tombs of the family, covering in their dates
several centuries. They were canopied, alter-shaped,
and plain; their carvings being defaced and broken;
their brasses torn from the matrices, the rivet-holes
remaining like martin-holes in a sandcliff. Of all the
reminders that she had ever received that her people
were socially extinct there was none so forcible as
She drew near to a dark stone on which was inscribed:
OSTIUM SEPULCHRI ANTIQUAE FAMILIAE D'URBERVILLE
Tess did not read Church-Latin like a Cardinal, but she
knew that this was the door of her ancestral sepulchre,
and that the tall knights of whom her father had
chanted in his cups lay inside.
She musingly turned to withdraw, passing near an
altertomb, the oldest of them all, on which was a
recumbent figure. In the dusk she had not noticed it
before, and would hardly have noticed it now but for an
odd fancy that the effigy moved. As soon as she drew
close to it she discovered all in a moment that the
figure was a living person; and the shock to her sense
of not having been alone was so violent that she was
quite overcome, and sank down nigh to fainting, not,
however, till she had recognized Alec d'Urberville in
He leapt off the slab and supported her.
"I saw you come in," he said smiling, "and got up there
not to interrupt your meditations. A family gathering,
is it not, with these old fellows under us here?
He stamped with his heel heavily on the floor;
whereupon there arose a hollow echo from below.
"That shook them a bit, I'll warrant!" he continued.
"And you thought I was the mere stone reproduction of
one of them. But no. The old order changeth. The
little finger of the sham d'Urberville can do more for
you than the whole dynasty of the real underneath....
Now command me. What shall I do?"
"Go away!" she murmured.
"I will--I'll look for your mother," said he blandly.
But in passing her he whispered: "Mind this; you'll be
When he was gone she bent down upon the entrance to the
vaults, and said--
"Why am I on the wrong side of this door!"
In the meantime Marian and Izz Huett had journeyed
onward with the chattels of the ploughman in the
direction of their land of Canaan--the Egypt of some
other family who had left it only that morning. But
the girls did not for a long time think of where they
were going. Their talk was of Angel Clare and Tess,
and Tess's persistent lover, whose connection with her
previous history they had partly heard and partly
guessed ere this.
"'Tisn't as though she had never known him afore," said
Marian. "His having won her once makes all the
difference in the world. 'Twould be a thousand pities
if he were to tole her away again. Mr Clare can never
be anything to us, Izz; and why should we grudge him to
her, and not try to mend this quarrel? If he could
on'y know what straits she's put to, and what's
hovering round, he might come to take care of his own."
"Could we let him know?"
They thought of this all the way to their destination;
but the bustle of re-establishment in their new place
took up all their attention then. But when they were
settled, a month later, they heard of Clare's
approaching return, though they had learnt nothing more
of Tess. Upon that, agitated anew by their attachment
to him, yet honourably disposed to her, Marian uncorked
the penny ink-bottle they shared, and a few lines were
concocted between the two girls.
HONOUR'D SIR--Look to your Wife if you do love her as
much as she do love you. For she is sore put to by an
Enemy in the shape of a Friend. Sir, there is one near
her who ought to be Away. A woman should not be try'd
beyond her Strength, and continual dropping will wear
away a Stone--ay, more--a Diamond.
FROM TWO WELL-WISHERS
This was addressed to Angel Clare at the only place
they had ever heard him to be connected with, Emminster
Vicarage; after which they continued in a mood of
emotional exaltation at their own generosity, which
made them sing in hysterical snatches and weep at the
END OF PHASE THE SIXTH
Phase the Seventh: Fulfilment
It was evening at Emminster Vicarage. The two
customary candles were burning under their green shades
in the Vicar's study, but he had not been sitting
there. Occasionally he came in, stirred the small fire
which sufficed for the increasing mildness of the
spring, and went out again; sometimes pausing at the
front door, going on to the drawing-room, then
returning again to the front door.
It faced westward, and though gloom prevailed inside,
there was still light enough without to see with
distinctness. Mrs Clare, who had been sitting in the
drawing-room, followed him hither.
"Plenty of time yet," said the Vicar. "He doesn't
reach Chalk-Newton till six, even if the train should
be punctual, and ten miles of country-road, five of
them in Crimmercrock Lane, are not jogged over in a
hurry by our old horse."
"But he has done it in an hour with us, my dear."
Thus they passed the minutes, each well knowing that
this was only waste of breath, the one essential being
simply to wait.
At length there was a slight noise in the lane, and the
old pony-chaise appeared indeed outside the railings.
They saw alight therefrom a form which they affected to
recognize, but would actually have passed by in the
street without identifying had he not got out of their
carriage at the particular moment when a particular
person was due.
Mrs Clare rushed through the dark passage to the door,
and her husband came more slowly after her.
The new arrival, who was just about to enter, saw their
anxious faces in the doorway and the gleam of the west
in their spectacles because they confronted the last
rays of day; but they could only see his shape against
"O, my boy, my boy--home again at last!" cried Mrs
Clare, who cared no more at that moment for the stains
of heterodoxy which has caused all this separation than
for the dust upon his clothes. What woman, indeed,
among the most faithful adherents of the truth,
believes the promises and threats of the Word in the
sense in which she believes in her own children, or
would not throw her theology to the wind if weighed
against their happiness? As soon as they reached the
room where the candles were lighted she looked at his
"O, it is not Angel--not my son--the Angel who went
away!" she cried in all the irony of sorrow, as she
turned herself aside.
His father, too, was shocked to see him, so reduced was
that figure from its former contours by worry and the
bad season that Clare had experienced, in the climate
to which he had so rashly hurried in his first aversion
to the mockery of events at home. You could see the
skeleton behind the man, and almost the ghost behind
the skeleton. He matched Crivelli's dead CHRISTUS.
His sunken eye-pits were of morbid hue, and the light
in his eyes had waned. The angular hollows and lines
of his aged ancestors had succeeded to their reign in
his face twenty years before their time.
"I was ill over there, you know," he said. "I am all
As if, however, to falsify this assertion, his legs
seemed to give way, and he suddenly sat down to save
himself from falling. It was only a slight attack of
faintness, resulting from the tedious day's journey,
and the excitement of arrival.
"Has any letter come for me lately?" he asked.
"I received the last you sent on by the merest chance,
and after considerable delay through being inland;
or I might have come sooner."
"It was from your wife, we supposed?"
Only one other had recently come. They had not sent it
on to him, knowing he would start for home so soon.
He hastily opened the letter produced, and was much
disturbed to read in Tess's handwriting the sentiments
expressed in her last hurried scrawl to him.
O why have you treated me so monstrously, Angel! I do
not deserve it. I have thought it all over carefully,
and I can never, never forgive you! You know that I
did not intend to wrong you--why have you so wronged
me? You are cruel, cruel indeed! I will try to forget
you. It is all injustice I have received at your
hands. -- T
"It is quite true!" said Angel, throwing down the
letter. "Perhaps she will never be reconciled to me!"
"Don't, Angel, be so anxious about a mere child of the
soil!" said his mother.
"Child of the soil! Well, we all are children of the
soil. I wish she were so in the sense you mean; but
let me now explain to you what I have never explained
before, that her father is a descendant in the male
line of one of the oldest Norman houses, like a good
many others who lead obscure agricultural lives in our
villages, and are dubbed 'sons of the soil.'"
He soon retired to bed; and the next morning, feeling
exceedingly unwell, he remained in his room pondering.
The circumstances amid which he had left Tess were such
that though, while on the south of the Equator and just
in receipt of her loving epistle, it had seemed the
easiest thing in the world to rush back into her arms
the moment he chose to forgive her, now that he had
arrived it was not so easy as it had seemed. She was
passionate, and her present letter, showing that her
estimate of him had changed under his delay--too justly
changed, he sadly owned,--made him ask himself if it
would be wise to confront her unannounced in the
presence of her parents. Supposing that her love had
indeed turned to dislike during the last weeks of
separation, a sudden meeting might lead to bitter
Clare therefore thought it would be best to prepare
Tess and her family by sending a line to Marlott
announcing his return, and his hope that she was still
living with them there, as he had arranged for her to
do when he left England. He despatched the inquiry
that very day, and before the week was out there came a
short reply from Mrs Durbeyfield which did not remove
his embarrassment, for it bore no address, though to
his surprise it was not written from Marlott.
J write these few lines to say that my Daughter is away
from me at present, and J am not sure when she will
return, but J will let you know as Soon as she do.
J do not feel at liberty to tell you Where she is
temperly biding. J should say that me and my Family
have left Marlott for some Time.----
Yours, J. DURBEYFIELD
It was such a relief to Clare to learn that Tess was at
least apparently well that her mother's stiff reticence
as to her whereabouts did not long distress him. They
were all angry with him, evidently. He would wait till
Mrs Durbeyfield could inform him of Tess's return,
which her letter implied to be soon. He deserved no
more. His had been a love "which alters when it
alteration finds". He had undergone some strange
experiences in his absence; he had seen the virtual
Faustina in the literal Cornelia, a spiritual Lucretia
in a corporeal Phryne; he had thought of the woman
taken and set in the midst as one deserving to be
stoned, and of the wife of Uriah being made a queen;
and he had asked himself why he had not judged Tess
constructively rather than biographically, by the will
rather than by the deed?
A day or two passed while he waited at his father's
house for the promised second note from Joan
Durbeyfield, and indirectly to recover a little more
strength. The strength showed signs of coming back,
but there was no sign of Joan's letter. Then he hunted
up the old letter sent on to him in Brazil, which Tess
had written from Flintcomb-Ash, and re-read it. The
sentences touched him now as much as when he had first
I must cry to you in my trouble--I have no one else....
I think I must die if you do not come soon, or tell me
to come to you.... Please, please, not to be just--only
a little kind to me! ... If you would come, I could die
in your arms! I would be well content to do that if so
be you had forgiven me! ... If you will send me one
little line and say, "I AM COMING SOON," I will bide
on, Angel--O so cheerfully! ... Think how it do hurt my
heart not to see you ever--ever! Ah, if I could only
make your dear heart ache one little minute of each day
as mine does every day and all day long. It might lead
you to show pity to your poor lonely one....I would be
content, ay, glad, to live with you as your servant, if
I may not as your wife; so that I could only be near
you, and get glimpses of you, and think of you as mine.
... I long for only one thing in heaven or earth or
under the earth, to meet you, my own dear! Come to
me--come to me, and save me from what threatens me.
Clare determined that he would no longer believe in her
more recent and severer regard of him; but would go and
find her immediately. He asked his father if she had
applied for any money during his absence. His father
returned a negative, and then for the first time it
occurred to Angel that her pride had stood in her way,
and that she had suffered privation. From his remarks
his parents now gathered the real reason of the
separation; and their Christianity was such that,
reprobates being their especial care, the tenderness
towards Tess which her blood, her simplicity, even her
poverty, had not engendered, was instantly excited by
Whilst he was hastily packing together a few articles
for his journey he glanced over a poor plain missive
also lately come to hand--the one from Marian and Izz
"HONOUR'D SIR----Look to your Wife if you do love her
as much as she do love you," and signed, "FROM TWO
In a quarter of an hour Clare was leaving the house,
whence his mother watched his thin figure as it
disappeared into the street. He had declined to borrow
his father's old mare, well knowing of its necessity to
the household. He went to the inn, where he hired a
trap, and could hardly wait during the harnessing. In
a very few minutes after he was driving up the hill out
of the town which, three or four months earlier in the
year, Tess had descended with such hopes and ascended
with such shattered purposes.
Benvill Lane soon stretched before him, its hedges and
trees purple with buds; but he was looking at other
things, and only recalled himself to the scene
sufficiently to enable him to keep the way. In
something less than an hour-and-a-half he had skirted
the south of the King's Hintock estates and ascended to
the untoward solitude of Cross-in-Hand, the unholy
stone whereon Tess had been compelled by Alec
d'Urberville, in his whim of reformation, to swear the
strange oath that she would never wilfully tempt him
again. The pale and blasted nettle-stems of the
preceding year even now lingered nakedly in the banks,
young green nettles of the present spring growing from
Thence he went along the verge of the upland
overhanging the other Hintocks, and, turning to the
right, plunged into the bracing calcareous region of
Flintcomb-Ash, the address from which she had written
to him in one of the letters, and which he supposed to
be the place of sojourn referred to by her mother.
Here, of course, he did not find her; and what added to
his depression was the discovery that no "Mrs Clare"
had ever been heard of by the cottagers or by the
farmer himself, though Tess was remembered well enough
by her Christian name. His name she had obviously
never used during their separation, and her dignified
sense of their total severance was shown not much less
by this abstention than by the hardships she had chosen
to undergo (of which he now learnt for the first time)
rather than apply to his father for more funds.
From this place they told him Tess Durbeyfield had
gone, without due notice, to the home of her parents on
the other side of Blackmoor, and it therefore became
necessary to find Mrs Durbeyfield. She had told him
she was not now at Marlott, but had been curiously
reticent as to her actual address, and the only course
was to go to Marlott and inquire for it. The farmer
who had been so churlish with Tess was quite
smooth-tongued to Clare, and lent him a horse and man
to drive him towards Marlott, the gig he had arrived in
being sent back to Emminster; for the limit of a day's
journey with that horse was reached.
Clare would not accept the loan of the farmer's vehicle
for a further distance than to the outskirts of the
Vale, and, sending it back with the man who had driven
him, he put up at an inn, and next day entered on foot
the region wherein was the spot of his dear Tess's
birth. It was as yet too early in the year for much
colour to appear in the gardens and foliage; the
so-called spring was but winter overlaid with a thin
coat of greenness, and it was of a parcel with his
The house in which Tess had passed the years of her
childhood was now inhabited by another family who had
never known her. The new residents were in the garden,
taking as much interest in their own doings as if the
homestead had never passed its primal time in
conjunction with the histories of others, beside which
the histories of these were but as a tale told by an
idiot. They walked about the garden paths with
thoughts of their own concerns entirely uppermost,
bringing their actions at every moment in jarring
collision with the dim ghosts behind them, talking as
though the time when Tess lived there were not one whit
intenser in story than now. Even the spring birds sang
over their heads as if they thought there was nobody
missing in particular.
On inquiry of these precious innocents, to whom even
the name of their predecessors was a failing memory,
Clare learned that John Durbeyfield was dead; that his
widow and children had left Marlott, declaring that
they were going to live at Kingsbere, but instead of
doing so had gone on to another place they mentioned.
By this time Clare abhorred the house for ceasing to
contain Tess, and hastened away from its hated presence
without once looking back.
His way was by the field in which he had first beheld
her at the dance. It was as bad as the house--even
worse. He passed on through the churchyard, where,
amongst the new headstones, he saw one of a somewhat
superior design to the rest. The inscription ran thus:
In memory of John Durbeyfield, rightly d'Urberville, of
the once powerful family of that Name, and Direct
Descendant through an illustrious Line from Sir Pagan
d'Urberville, one of the Knights of the Conqueror. Died
March 10th, 18--
HOW ARE THE MIGHTY FALLEN.
Some man, apparently the sexton, had observed Clare
standing there, and drew nigh. "Ah, sir, now that's a
man who didn't want to lie here, but wished to be
carried to Kingsbere, where his ancestors be."
"And why didn't they respect his wish?"
"Oh--no money. Bless your soul, sir, why--there,
I wouldn't wish to say it everywhere, but--even this
headstone, for all the flourish wrote upon en, is not
"Ah, who put it up?"
The man told the name of a mason in the village, and,
on leaving the churchyard, Clare called at the mason's
house. He found that the statement was true, and paid
the bill. This done he turned in the direction of the
The distance was too long for a walk, but Clare felt
such a strong desire for isolation that at first he
would neither hire a conveyance nor go to a circuitous
line of railway by which he might eventually reach the
place. At Shaston, however, he found he must hire; but
the way was such that he did not enter Joan's place
till about seven o'clock in the evening, having
traversed a distance of over twenty miles since leaving
Marlott. The village being small he had little
difficulty in finding Mrs Durbeyfield's tenement, which
was a house in a walled garden, remote from the main
road, where she had stowed away her clumsy old
furniture as best she could. It was plain that for
some reason or other she had not wished him to visit
her, and he felt his call to be somewhat of an
intrusion. She came to the door herself, and the light
from the evening sky fell upon her face.
This was the first time that Clare had ever met her,
but he was too preoccupied to observe more than that
she was still a handsome woman, in the garb of a
respectable widow. He was obliged to explain that he
was Tess's husband, and his object in coming there, and
he did it awkwardly enough. "I want to see her at
once," he added. "You said you would write to me
again, but you have not done so."
"Because she've not come home," said Joan.
"Do you know if she is well?"
"I don't. But you ought to, sir," said she.
"I admit it. Where is she staying?"
From the beginning of the interview Joan had disclosed
her embarrassment by keeping her hand to the side of
"I--don't know exactly where she is staying," she
answered. "She was--but----"
"Where was she?"
"Well, she is not there now."
In her evasiveness she paused again, and the younger
children had by this time crept to the door, where,
pulling at his mother's skirts, the youngest
"Is this the gentleman who is going to marry Tess?"
"He has married her," Joan whispered. "Go inside."
Clare saw her efforts for reticence, and asked----
"Do you think Tess would wish me to try and find her?
If not, of course----"
"I don't think she would."
"Are you sure?"
"I am sure she wouldn't."
He was turning away; and then he thought of Tess's
"I am sure she would!" he retorted passionately.
"I know her better than you do."
"That's very likely, sir; for I have never really known
"Please tell me her address, Mrs Durbeyfield, in
kindness to a lonely wretched man!" Tess's mother again
restlessly swept her cheek with her vertical hand, and
seeing that he suffered, she at last said, is a low
"She is at Sandbourne."
"Ah--where there? Sandbourne has become a large place,
"I don't know more particularly than I have said--
Sandbourne. For myself, I was never there."
It was apparent that Joan spoke the truth in this, and
he pressed her no further.
"Are you in want of anything?" he said gently.
"No, sir," she replied. "We are fairly well provided
Without entering the house Clare turned away. There
was a station three miles ahead, and paying off his
coachman, he walked thither. The last train to
Sandbourne left shortly after, and it bore Clare on its
At eleven o'clock that night, having secured a bed at
one of the hotels and telegraphed his address to his
father immediately on his arrival, he walked out into
the streets of Sandbourne. It was too late to call on
or inquire for any one, and he reluctantly postponed
his purpose till the morning. But he could not retire
to rest just yet.
This fashionable watering-place, with its eastern and
its western stations, its piers, its groves of pines,
its promenades, and its covered gardens, was, to Angel
Clare, like a fairy place suddenly created by the
stroke of a wand, and allowed to get a little dusty.
An outlying eastern tract of the enormous Egdon Waste
was close at hand, yet on the very verge of that tawny
piece of antiquity such a glittering novelty as this
pleasure city had chosen to spring up. Within the
space of a mile from its outskirts every irregularity
of the soil was prehistoric, every channel an
undisturbed British trackway; not a sod having been
turned there since the days of the Caesars. Yet the
exotic had grown here, suddenly as the prophet's gourd;
and had drawn hither Tess.
By the midnight lamps he went up and down the winding
way of this new world in an old one, and could discern
between the trees and against the stars the lofty
roofs, chimneys, gazebos, and towers of the numerous
fanciful residences of which the place was composed.
It was a city of detached mansions; a Mediterranean
lounging-place on the English Channel; and as seen now
by night it seemed even more imposing than it was.
The sea was near at hand, but not intrusive; it
murmured, and he thought it was the pines; the pines
murmured in precisely the same tones, and he thought
they were the sea.
Where could Tess possibly be, a cottage-girl, his young
wife, amidst all this wealth and fashion? The more he
pondered the more was he puzzled. Were there any cows
to milk here? There certainly were no fields to till.
She was most probably engaged to do something in one of
these large houses; and he sauntered along, looking at
the chamber-windows and their lights going out one by
one; and wondered which of them might be hers.
Conjecture was useless, and just after twelve o'clock
he entered and went to bed. Before putting out his
light he re-read Tess's impassioned letter. Sleep,
however, he could not--so near her, yet so far from
her--and he continually lifted the window-blind and
regarded the backs of the opposite houses, and wondered
behind which of the sashes she reposed at that moment.
He might almost as well have sat up all night. In the
morning he arose at seven, and shortly after went out,
taking the direction of the chief post-office. At the
door he met an intelligent postman coming out with
letters for the morning delivery.
"Do you know the address of a Mrs Clare?" asked Angel.
The postman shook his head.
Then, remembering that she would have been likely to
continue the use of her maiden name, Clare said----
"Of a Miss Durbeyfield?"
This also was strange to the postman addressed.
"There's visitors coming and going every day, as you
know, sir," he said; "and without the name of the house
'tis impossible to find 'em."
One of his comrades hastening out at that moment, the
name was repeated to him.
"I know no name of Durbeyfield; but there is the name
of d'Urberville at The Herons," said the second.
"That's it!" cried Clare, pleased to think that she has
reverted to the real pronunciation. "What place is The
"A stylish lodging-house. 'Tis all lodging-houses
here, bless 'ee."
Clare received directions how to find the house, and
hastened thither, arriving with the milkman. The
Herons, though an ordinary villa, stood in its own
grounds, and was certainly the last place in which one
would have expected to find lodgings, so private was
its appearance. If poor Tess was a servant here, as he
feared, she would go to the back-door to that milkman,
and he was inclined to go thither also. However, in
his doubts he turned to the front, and rang.
The hour being early the landlady herself opened the
door. Clare inquired for Teresa d'Urberville or
Tess, then, passed as a married woman, and he felt
glad, even though she had not adopted his name.
"Will you kindly tell her that a relative is anxious to
"It is rather early. What name shall I give, sir?"
"No; Angel. It is my Christian name. She'll
"I'll see if she is awake."
He was shown into the front room--the dining-room--and
looked out through the spring curtains at the little
lawn, and the rhododendrons and other shrubs upon it.
Obviously her position was by no means so bad as he had
feared, and it crossed his mind that she must somehow
have claimed and sold the jewels to attain it. He did
not blame her for one moment. Soon his sharpened ear
detected footsteps upon the stairs, at which his heart
thumped so painfully that he could hardly stand firm.
"Dear me! what will she think of me, so altered as I
am!" he said to himself; and the door opened.
Tess appeared on the threshold--not at all as he had
expected to see her--bewilderingly otherwise, indeed.
Her great natural beauty was, if not heightened,
rendered more obvious by her attire. She was loosely
wrapped in a cashmere dressing-gown of gray-white,
embroidered in half-mourning tints, and she wore
slippers of the same hue. Her neck rose out of a frill
of down, and her well-remembered cable of dark-brown
hair was partially coiled up in a mass at the back of
her head and partly hanging on her shoulder--the
evident result of haste.
He had held out his arms, but they had fallen again to
his side; for she had not come forward, remaining still
in the opening of the doorway. Mere yellow skeleton
that he was now he felt the contrast between them, and
thought his appearance distasteful to her.
"Tess!" he said huskily, "can you forgive me for going
away? Can't you--come to me? How do you get to
"It is too late," said she, her voice sounding hard
through the room, her eyes shining unnaturally.
"I did not think rightly of you--I did not see you as
you were!" he continued to plead. "I have learnt to
since, dearest Tessy mine!"
"Too late, too late!" she said, waving her hand in the
impatience of a person whose tortures cause every
instant to seem an hour. "Don't come close to me,
Angel! No--you must not. Keep away."
"But don't you love me, my dear wife, because I have
been so pulled down by illness? You are not so
fickle--I am come on purpose for you--my mother and
father will welcome you now!"
"Yes--O, yes, yes! But I say, I say it is too late."
She seemed to feel like a fugitive in a dream, who
tries to move away, but cannot. "Don't you know
all--don't you know it? Yet how do you come here if
you do not know?"
"I inquired here and there, and I found the way."
"I waited and waited for you," she went on, her tones
suddenly resuming their old fluty pathos. "But you did
not come! And I wrote to you, and you did not come!
He kept on saying you would never come any more, and
that I was a foolish woman. He was very kind to me,
and to mother, and to all of us after father's death.
"I don't understand."
"He has won me back to him."
Clare looked at her keenly, then, gathering her
meaning, flagged like one plague-stricken, and his
glance sank; it fell on her hands, which, once rosy,
were now white and more delicate.
"He is upstairs. I hate him now, because he told me a
lie--that you would not come again; and you HAVE come!
These clothes are what he's put upon me: I didn't care
what he did wi' me! But--will you go away, Angel,
please, and never come any more?"
They stood fixed, their baffled hearts looking out of
their eyes with a joylessness pitiful to see. Both
seemed to implore something to shelter them from
"Ah--it is my fault!" said Clare.
But he could not get on. Speech was as inexpressive as
silence. But he had a vague consciousness of one
thing, though it was not clear to him till later; that
his original Tess had spiritually ceased to recognize
the body before him as hers--allowing it to drift, like
a corpse upon the current, in a direction dissociated
from its living will.
A few instants passed, and he found that Tess was gone.
His face grew colder and more shrunken as he stood
concentrated on the moment, and a minute or two after
he found himself in the street, walking along he did
not know whither.
Mrs Brooks, the lady who was the householder at The
Herons, and owner of all the handsome furniture, was
not a person of an unusually curious turn of mind.
She was too deeply materialized, poor woman, by her long
and enforced bondage to that arithmetical demon
Profit-and-Loss, to retain much curiousity for its own
sake, and apart from possible lodgers' pockets.
Nevertheless, the visit of Angel Clare to her
well-paying tenants, Mr and Mrs d'Urberville, as she
deemed them, was sufficiently exceptional in point of
time and manner to reinvigorate the feminine proclivity
which had been stifled down as useless save in its
bearings to the letting trade.
Tess had spoken to her husband from the doorway,
without entering the dining-room, and Mrs Brooks, who
stood within the partly-closed door of her own
sitting-room at the back of the passage, could hear
fragments of the conversation--if conversation it could
be called--between those two wretched souls. She heard
Tess re-ascend the stairs to the first floor, and the
departure of Clare, and the closing of the front door
behind him. Then the door of the room above was shut,
and Mrs Brooks knew that Tess had re-entered her
apartment. As the young lady was not fully dressed,
Mrs Brooks knew that she would not emerge again for
She accordingly ascended the stairs softly, and stood
at the door of the front room--a drawing-room,
connected with the room immediately behind it (which
was a bedroom) by folding-doors in the common manner.
This first floor, containing Mrs Brooks's best
apartments, had been taken by the week by the
d'Urbervilles. The back room was now in silence; but
from the drawing-room there came sounds.
All that she could at first distinguish of them was one
syllable, continually repeated in a low note of
moaning, as if it came from a soul bound to some
Then a silence, then a heavy sigh, and again----
The landlady looked through the keyhole. Only a small
space of the room inside was visible, but within that
space came a corner of the breakfast table, which was
already spread for the meal, and also a chair beside.
Over the seat of the chair Tess's face was bowed, her
posture being a kneeling one in front of it; her hands
were clasped over her head, the skirts of her
dressing-gown and the embroidery of her night-gown
flowed upon the floor behind her, and her stockingless
feet, from which the slippers had fallen, protruded
upon the carpet. It was from her lips that came the
murmur of unspeakable despair.
Then a man's voice from the adjoining bedroom----
"What's a matter?"
She did not answer, but went on, in a tone which was a
soliloquy rather than an exclamation, and a dirge
rather than a soliloquy. Mrs Brooks could only catch a
"And then my dear, dear husband came home to me ...
and I did not know it! ... And you had used your cruel
persuasion upon me ... you did not stop using
it--no--you did not stop! My little sisters and
brothers and my mother's needs--they were the things
you moved me by ... and you said my husband would never
come back--never; and you taunted me, and said what a
simpleton I was to expect him! ... And at last I
believed you and gave way! ... And then he came back!
Now he is gone. Gone a second time, and I have lost
him now for ever ... and he will not love me the
littlest bit ever any more--only hate me! ... O yes,
I have lost him now--again because of--you!" In writhing,
with her head on the chair, she turned her face towards
the door, and Mrs Brooks could see the pain upon it;
and that her lips were bleeding from the clench of her
teeth upon them, and that the long lashes of her closed
eyes stuck in wet tags to her cheeks. She continued:
"And he is dying--he looks as if he is dying! ... And
my sin will kill him and not kill me! ... O, you have
torn my life all to pieces ... made me be what I prayed
you in pity not to make me be again! ... My own true
husband will never, never--O God--I can't bear this!--
There were more and sharper words from the man; then a
sudden rustle; she had sprung to her feet. Mrs Brooks,
thinking that the speaker was coming to rush out of the
door, hastily retreated down the stairs.
She need not have done so, however, for the door of the
sitting-room was not opened. But Mrs Brooks felt it
unsafe to watch on the landing again, and entered her
own parlour below.
She could hear nothing through the floor, although she
listened intently, and thereupon went to the kitchen to
finish her interrupted breakfast. Coming up presently
to the front room on the ground floor she took up some
sewing, waiting for her lodgers to ring that she might
take away the breakfast, which she meant to do herself,
to discover what was the matter if possible. Overhead,
as she sat, she could now hear the floorboards slightly
creak, as if some one were walking about, and presently
the movement was explained by the rustle of garments
against the banisters, the opening and the closing of
the front door, and the form of Tess passing to the
gate on her way into the street. She was fully dressed
now in the walking costume of a well-to-do young lady
in which she had arrived, with the sole addition that
over her hat and black feathers a veil was drawn.
Mrs Brooks had not been able to catch any word of
farewell, temporary or otherwise, between her tenants
at the door above. They might have quarrelled, or Mr
d'Urberville might still be asleep, for he was not an
She went into the back room which was more especially
her own apartment, and continued her sewing there. The
lady lodger did not return, nor did the gentleman ring
his bell. Mrs Brooks pondered on the delay, and on what
probable relation the visitor who had called so early
bore to the couple upstairs. In reflecting she leant
back in her chair.
As she did so her eyes glanced casually over the
ceiling till they were arrested by a spot in the middle
of its white surface which she had never noticed there
before. It was about the size of a wafer when she
first observed it, but it speedily grew as large as the
palm of her hand, and then she could perceive that it
was red. The oblong white ceiling, with this scarlet
blot in the midst, had the appearance of a gigantic ace
Mrs Brooks had strange qualms of misgiving. She got
upon the table, and touched the spot in the ceiling
with her fingers. It was damp, and she fancied that it
was a blood stain.
Descending from the table, she left the parlour, and
went upstairs, intending to enter the room overhead,
which was the bedchamber at the back of the
drawing-room. But, nerveless woman as she had now
become, she could not bring herself to attempt the
handle. She listened. The dead silence within was
broken only by a regular beat.
Drip, drip, drip.
Mrs Brooks hastened downstairs, opened the front door,
and ran into the street. A man she knew, one of the
workmen employed at an adjoining villa, was passing by,
and she begged him to come in and go upstairs with her;
she feared something had happened to one of her
lodgers. The workman assented, and followed her to the
She opened the door of the drawing-room, and stood back
for him to pass in, entering herself behind him. The
room was empty; the breakfast--a substantial repast of
coffee, eggs, and a cold ham--lay spread upon the table
untouched, as when she had taken it up, excepting that
the carving-knife was missing. She asked the man to go
through the folding-doors into the adjoining room.
He opened the doors, entered a step or two, and came
back almost instantly with a rigid face. "My good God,
the gentleman in bed is dead! I think he has been hurt
with a knife--a lot of blood had run down upon the
The alarm was soon given, and the house which had
lately been so quiet resounded with the tramp of many
footsteps, a surgeon among the rest. The wound was
small, but the point of the blade had touched the heart
of the victim, who lay on his back, pale, fixed, dead,
as if he had scarcely moved after the infliction of the
blow. In a quarter of an hour the news that a
gentleman who was a temporary visitor to the town had
been stabbed in his bed, spread through every street
and villa of the popular watering-place.
Meanwhile Angel Clare had walked automatically along
the way by which he had come, and, entering his hotel,
sat down over the breakfast, staring at nothingness.
He went on eating and drinking unconsciously till on a
sudden he demanded his bill; having paid which he took
his dressing-bag in his hand, the only luggage he had
brought with him, and went out.
At the moment of his departure a telegram was handed to
him--a few words from his mother, stating that they
were glad to know his address, and informing him that
his brother Cuthbert had proposed to and been accepted
by Mercy Chant.
Clare crumpled up the paper, and followed the route to
the station; reaching it, he found that there would be
no train leaving for an hour and more. He sat down to
wait, and having waited a quarter of an hour felt that
he could wait there no longer. Broken in heart and
numbed, he had nothing to hurry for; but he wished to
get out of a town which had been the scene of such an
experience, and turned to walk to the first station
onward, and let the train pick him up there.
The highway that he followed was open, and at a little
distance dipped into a valley, across which it could be
seen running from edge to edge. He had traversed the
greater part of this depression, and was climbing the
western acclivity, when, pausing for breath, he
unconsciously looked back. Why he did so he could not
say, but something seemed to impel him to the act. The
tape-like surface of the road diminished in his rear as
far as he could see, and as he gazed a moving spot
intruded on the white vacuity of its perspective.
It was a human figure running. Clare waited, with a
dim sense that somebody was trying to overtake him.
The form descending the incline was a woman's, yet so
entirely was his mind blinded to the idea of his wife's
following him that even when she came nearer he did not
recognize her under the totally changed attire in which
he now beheld her. It was not till she was quite close
that he could believe her to be Tess.
"I saw you--turn away from the station--just before I
got there--and I have been following you all this way!"
She was so pale, so breathless, so quivering in every
muscle, that he did not ask her a single question, but
seizing her hand, and pulling it within his arm, he led
her along. To avoid meeting any possible wayfarers he
left the high road, and took a footpath under some
fir-trees. When they were deep among the moaning
boughs he stopped and looked at her inquiringly.
"Angel," she said, as if waiting for this, "do you know
what I have been running after you for? To tell you
that I have killed him!" A pitiful white smile lit her
face as she spoke.
"What!" said he, thinking from the strangeness of her
manner that she was in some delirium.
"I have done it--I don't know how," she continued.
"Still, I owed it to you, and to myself, Angel. I
feared long ago, when I struck him on the mouth with my
glove, that I might do it some day for the trap he set
for me in my simple youth, and his wrong to you through
me. He has come between us and ruined us, and now he
can never do it any more. I never loved him at all,
Angel, as I loved you. You know it, don't you? You
believe it? You didn't come back to me, and I was
obliged to go back to him. Why did you go away--why
did you--when I loved you so? I can't think why you
did it. But I don't blame you; only, Angel, will you
forgive me my sin against you, now I have killed him?
I thought as I ran along that you would be sure to
forgive me now I have done that. It came to me as a
shining light that I should get you back that way. I
could not bear the loss of you any longer--you don't
know how entirely I was unable to bear your not loving
me! Say you do now, dear, dear husband; say you do,
now I have killed him!"
"I do love you, Tess--O, I do--it is all come back!"
he said, tightening his arms round her with fervid
pressure. "But how do you mean--you have killed him?"
"I mean that I have," she murmured in a reverie.
"What, bodily? Is he dead?"
"Yes. He heard me crying about you, and he bitterly
taunted me; and called you by a foul name; and then I
did it. My heart could not bear it. He had nagged me
about you before. And then I dressed myself and came
away to find you."
By degrees he was inclined to believe that she had
faintly attempted, at least, what she said she had
done; and his horror at her impulse was mixed with
amazement at the strength of her affection for himself,
and at the strangeness of its quality, which had
apparently extinguished her moral sense altogether.
Unable to realize the gravity of her conduct she seemed
at last content; and he looked at her as she lay upon
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