Tess of the d'Urbervilles, A Pure Woman, by Thomas Hardy
Part 11 out of 11
his shoulder, weeping with happiness, and wondered what
obscure strain in the d'Urberville blood had led to
this aberration--if it were an aberration. There
momentarily flashed through his mind that the family
tradition of the coach and murder might have arisen
because the d'Urbervilles had been known to do these
things. As well as his confused and excited ideas
could reason, he supposed that in the moment of mad
grief of which she spoke her mind had lost its balance,
and plunged her into this abyss.
It was very terrible if true; if a temporary
hallucination, sad. But, anyhow, here was this
deserted wife of his, this passionately-fond woman,
clinging to him without a suspicion that he would be
anything to her but a protector. He saw that for him
to be otherwise was not, in her mind, within the region
of the possible. Tenderness was absolutely dominant in
Clare at last. He kissed her endlessly with his white
lips, and held her hand, and said--
"I will not desert you! I will protect you by every
means in my power, dearest love, whatever you may have
done or not have done!"
They then walked on under the trees, Tess turning her
head every now and then to look at him. Worn and
unhandsome as he had become, it was plain that she did
not discern the least fault in his appearance. To her
he was, as of old, all that was perfection, personally
and mentally. He was still her Antinous, her Apollo
even; his sickly face was beautiful as the morning to
her affectionate regard on this day no less than when
she first beheld him; for was it not the face of the
one man on earth who had loved her purely, and who had
believed in her as pure!
With an instinct as to possibilities he did not now, as
he had intended, make for the first station beyond the
town, but plunged still farther under the firs, which
here abounded for miles. Each clasping the other round
the waist they promenaded over the dry bed of
fir-needles, thrown into a vague intoxicating
atmosphere at the consciousness of being together at
last, with no living soul between them; ignoring that
there was a corpse. Thus they proceeded for several
miles till Tess, arousing herself, looked about her,
and said, timidly----
"Are we going anywhere in particular?"
"I don't know, dearest. Why?"
"I don't know."
"Well, we might walk a few miles further, and when it
is evening find lodgings somewhere or other--in a
lonely cottage, perhaps. Can you walk well, Tessy?"
"O yes! I could walk for ever and ever with your arm
Upon the whole it seemed a good thing to do. Thereupon
they quickened their pace, avoiding high roads, and
following obscure paths tending more or less northward.
But there was an unpractical vagueness in their
movements throughout the day; neither one of them
seemed to consider any question of effectual escape,
disguise, or long concealment. Their every idea was
temporary and unforefending, like the plans of two
At mid-day they drew near to a roadside inn, and Tess
would have entered it with him to get something to eat,
but he persuaded her to remain among the trees and
bushes of this half-woodland, half-moorland part of the
country, till he should come back. Her clothes were of
recent fashion; even the ivory-handled parasol that she
carried was of a shape unknown in the retired spot to
which they had now wandered; and the cut of such
articles would have attracted attention in the settle
of a tavern. He soon returned, with food enough for
half-a-dozen people and two bottles of wine--enough to
last them for a day or more, should any emergency
They sat down upon some dead boughs and shared their
meal. Between one and two o'clock they packed up the
remainder and went on again.
"I feel strong enough to walk any distance," said she.
"I think we may as well steer in a general way towards
the interior of the country, where we can hide for a
time, and are less likely to be looked for than
anywhere near the coast," Clare remarked. "Later on,
when they have forgotten us, we can make for some
She made no reply to this beyond that of grasping him
more tightly, and straight inland they went. Though
the season was an English May the weather was serenely
bright, and during the afternoon it was quite warm.
Through the latter miles of their walk their footpath
had taken them into the depths of the New Forest, and
towards evening, turning the corner of a lane, they
perceived behind a brook and bridge a large board on
which was painted in white letters, "This desirable
Mansion to be Let Furnished"; particulars following,
with directions to apply to some London agents. Passing
through the gate they could see the house, an old brick
building of regular design and large accommodation.
"I know it," said Clare. "It is Bramshurst Court. You
can see that it is shut up, and grass is growing on the
"Some of the windows are open," said Tess.
"Just to air the rooms, I suppose."
"All these rooms empty, and we without a roof to our
"You are getting tired, my Tess!" he said. "We'll stop
soon." And kissing her sad mouth he again led her
He was growing weary likewise, for they had wandered a
dozen or fifteen miles, and it became necessary to
consider what they should do for rest. They looked
from afar at isolated cottages and little inns, and
were inclined to approach one of the latter, when their
hearts failed them, and they sheered off. At length
their gait dragged, and they stood still.
"Could we sleep under the trees?" she asked.
He thought the season insufficiently advanced.
"I have been thinking of that empty mansion we passed,"
he said. "Let us go back towards it again."
They retraced their steps, but it was half an hour
before they stood without the entrance-gate as earlier.
He then requested her to stay where she was, whilst he
went to see who was within.
She sat down among the bushes within the gate, and
Clare crept towards the house. His absence lasted some
considerable time, and when he returned Tess was wildly
anxious, not for herself, but for him. He had found
out from a boy that there was only an old woman in
charge as caretaker, and she only came there on fine
days, from the hamlet near, to open and shut the
windows. She would come to shut them at sunset.
"Now, we can get in through one of the lower windows,
and rest there," said he.
Under his escort she went tardily forward to the main
front, whose shuttered windows, like sightless
eyeballs, excluded the possibility of watchers. The
door was reached a few steps further, and one of the
windows beside it was open. Clare clambered in, and
pulled Tess in after him.
Except the hall the rooms were all in darkness, and
they ascended the staircase. Up here also the shutters
were tightly closed, the ventilation being
perfunctorily done, for this day at least, by opening
the hall-window in front and an upper window behind.
Clare unlatched the door of a large chamber, felt his
way across it, and parted the shutters to the width of
two or three inches. A shaft of dazzling sunlight
glanced into the room, revealing heavy, old-fashioned
furniture, crimson damask hangings, and an enormous
four-post bedstead, along the head of which were carved
running figures, apparently Atalanta's race.
"Rest at last!" said he, setting down his bag and the
parcel of viands.
They remained in great quietness till the caretaker
should have come to shut the windows: as a precaution,
putting themselves in total darkness by barring the
shutters as before, lest the woman should open the door
of their chamber for any casual reason. Between six
and seven o'clock she came, but did not approach the
wing they were in. They heard her close the windows,
fasten them, lock the door, and go away. Then Clare
again stole a chink of light from the window, and they
shared another meal, till by-and-by they were enveloped
in the shades of night which they had no candle to
The night was strangely solemn and still. In the small
hours she whispered to him the whole story of how he
had walked in his sleep with her in his arms across the
Froom stream, at the imminent risk of both their lives,
and laid her down in the stone coffin at the ruined
abbey. He had never known of that till now.
"Why didn't you tell me next day?" he said. "It might
have prevented much misunderstanding and woe."
"Don't think of what's past!" said she. "I am not
going to think outside of now. Why should we! Who
knows what tomorrow has in store?"
But it apparently had no sorrow. The morning was wet
and foggy, and Clare, rightly informed that the
caretaker only opened the windows on fine days,
ventured to creep out of their chamber, and explore the
house, leaving Tess asleep. There was no food on the
premises, but there was water, and he took advantage of
the fog to emerge from the mansion, and fetch tea,
bread, and butter from a shop in a little place two
miles beyond, as also a small tin kettle and spirit-lamp,
that they might get fire without smoke. His re-entry
awoke her; and they breakfasted on what he had brought.
They were indisposed to stir abroad, and the day
passed, and the night following, and the next, and
next; till, almost without their being aware, five days
had slipped by in absolute seclusion, not a sight or
sound of a human being disturbing their peacefulness,
such as it was. The changes of the weather were their
only events, the birds of the New Forest their only
company. By tacit consent they hardly once spoke of
any incident of the past subsequent to their
wedding-day. The gloomy intervening time seemed to
sink into chaos, over which the present and prior times
closed as if it never had been. Whenever he suggested
that they should leave their shelter, and go forwards
towards Southampton or London, she showed a strange
unwillingness to move.
"Why should we put an end to all that's sweet and
lovely!" she deprecated. "What must come will come."
And, looking through the shutter-chink: "All is trouble
outside there; inside here content."
He peeped out also. It was quite true; within was
affection, union, error forgiven: outside was the
"And--and," she said, pressing her cheek against his,
"I fear that what you think of me now may not last.
I do not wish to outlive your present feeling for me.
I would rather not. I would rather be dead and buried
when the time comes for you to despise me, so that it
may never be known to me that you despised me."
"I cannot ever despise you."
"I also hope that. But considering what my life had
been I cannot see why any man should, sooner or later,
be able to help despising me.... How wickedly mad I
was! Yet formerly I never could bear to hurt a fly or
a worm, and the sight of a bird in a cage used often to
make me cry."
They remained yet another day. In the night the dull
sky cleared, and the result was that the old caretaker
at the cottage awoke early. The brilliant sunrise made
her unusually brisk; she decided to open the contiguous
mansion immediately, and to air it thoroughly on such a
day. Thus it occurred that, having arrived and opened
the lower rooms before six o'clock, she ascended to the
bedchambers, and was about to turn the handle of the
one wherein they lay. At that moment she fancied she
could hear the breathing of persons within. Her
slippers and her antiquity had rendered her progress a
noiseless one so far, and she made for instant retreat;
then, deeming that her hearing might have deceived her,
she turned anew to the door and softly tried the
handle. The lock was out of order, but a piece of
furniture had been moved forward on the inside, which
prevented her opening the door more than an inch or
two. A stream of morning light through the
shutter-chink fell upon the faces of the pair, wrapped
in profound slumber, Tess's lips being parted like a
half-opened flower near his cheek. The caretaker was so
struck with their innocent appearance, and with the
elegance of Tess's gown hanging across a chair, her
silk stockings beside it, the pretty parasol, and the
other habits in which she had arrived because she had
none else, that her first indignation at the effrontery
of tramps and vagabonds gave way to a momentary
sentimentality over this genteel elopement, as it
seemed. She closed the door, and withdrew as softly as
she had come, to go and consult with her neighbours on
the odd discovery.
Not more than a minute had elapsed after her withdrawal
when Tess woke, and then Clare. Both had a sense that
something had disturbed them, though they could not say
what; and the uneasy feeling which it engendered grew
stronger. As soon as he was dressed he narrowly
scanned the lawn through the two or three inches of
"I think we will leave at once," said he. "It is a
fine day. And I cannot help fancying somebody is about
the house. At any rate, the woman will be sure to come
She passively assented, and putting the room in order
they took up the few articles that belonged to them,
and departed noiselessly. When they had got into the
Forest she turned to take a last look at the house.
"Ah, happy house--goodbye!" she said. "My life can
only be a question of a few weeks. Why should we not
have stayed there?"
"Don't say it, Tess! We shall soon get out of this
district altogether. We'll continue our course as
we've begun it, and keep straight north. Nobody will
think of looking for us there. We shall be looked for
at the Wessex ports if we are sought at all. When we
are in the north we will get to a port and away."
Having thus persuaded her the plan was pursued, and
they kept a bee-line northward. Their long repose at
the manor-house lent them walking power now; and
towards mid-day they found that they were approaching
the steepled city of Melchester, which lay directly in
their way. He decided to rest her in a clump of trees
during the afternoon, and push onward under cover of
darkness. At dusk Clare purchased food as usual, and
their night march began, the boundary between Upper and
Mid-Wessex being crossed about eight o'clock.
To walk across country without much regard to roads was
not new to Tess, and she showed her old agility in the
performance. The intercepting city, ancient
Melchester, they were obliged to pass through in order
to take advantage of the town bridge for crossing a
large river that obstructed them. It was about
midnight when they went along the deserted streets,
lighted fitfully by the few lamps, keeping off the
pavement that it might not echo their footsteps. The
graceful pile of cathedral architecture rose dimly on
their left hand, but it was lost upon them now. Once
out of the town they followed the turnpike-road, which
after a few miles plunged across an open plain.
Though the sky was dense with cloud a diffused light
from some fragment of a moon had hitherto helped them a
little. But the moon had now sunk, the clouds seemed to
settle almost on their heads, and the night grew as
dark as a cave. However, they found their way along,
keeping as much on the turf as possible that their
tread might not resound, which it was easy to do, there
being no hedge or fence of any kind. All around was
open loneliness and black solitude, over which a stiff
They had proceeded thus gropingly two or three miles
further when on a sudden Clare became conscious of some
vast erection close in his front, rising sheer from the
grass. They had almost struck themselves against it.
"What monstrous place is this?" said Angel.
"It hums," said she. "Hearken!"
He listened. The wind, playing upon the edifice,
produced a booming tune, like the note of some gigantic
one-stringed harp. No other sound came from it, and
lifting his hand and advancing a step or two, Clare
felt the vertical surface of the structure. It seemed
to be of solid stone, without joint or moulding.
Carrying his fingers onward he found that what he had
come in contact with was a colossal rectangular pillar;
by stretching out his left hand he could feel a similar
one adjoining. At an indefinite height overhead
something made the black sky blacker, which had the
semblance of a vast architrave uniting the pillars
horizontally. They carefully entered beneath and
between; the surfaces echoed their soft rustle; but
they seemed to be still out of doors. The place was
roofless. Tess drew her breath fearfully, and Angel,
"What can it be?"
Feeling sideways they encountered another tower-like
pillar, square and uncompromising as the first; beyond
it another and another. The place was all doors and
pillars, some connected above by continuous
"A very Temple of the Winds," he said.
The next pillar was isolated; others composed a
trilithon; others were prostrate, their flanks forming
a causeway wide enough for a carriage and it was soon
obvious that they made up a forest of monoliths grouped
upon the grassy expanse of the plain. The couple
advanced further into this pavilion of the night till
they stood in its midst.
"It is Stonehenge!" said Clare.
"The heathen temple, you mean?"
"Yes. Older than the centuries; older than the
d'Urbervilles! Well, what shall we do, darling?
We may find shelter further on."
But Tess, really tired by this time, flung herself upon
an oblong slab that lay close at hand, and was
sheltered from the wind by a pillar. Owing to the
action of the sun during the preceding day the stone
was warm and dry, in comforting contrast to the rough
and chill grass around, which had damped her skirts and
"I don't want to go any further, Angel," she said,
stretching out her hand for his. "Can't we bide here?"
"I fear not. This spot is visible for miles by day,
although it does not seem so now."
"One of my mother's people was a shepherd hereabouts,
now I think of it. And you used to say at Talbothays
that I was a heathen. So now I am at home."
He knelt down beside her outstretched form, and put his
lips upon hers.
"Sleepy are you, dear? I think you are lying on an
"I like very much to be here," she murmured. "It is so
solemn and lonely--after my great happiness--with
nothing but the sky above my face. it seems as if
there were no folk in the world but we two; and I wish
there were not--except 'Liza-Lu."
Clare though she might as well rest here till it should
get a little lighter, and he flung his overcoat upon
her, and sat down by her side.
"Angel, if anything happens to me, will you watch over
'Liza-Lu for my sake?" she asked, when they had
listened a long time to the wind among the pillars.
"She is so good and simple and pure. O, Angel--I wish
you would marry her if you lose me, as you will do
shortly. O, if you would!"
"If I lose you I lose all! And she is my
"That's nothing, dearest. People marry sister-laws
continually about Marlott; and 'Liza-Lu is so gentle
and sweet, and she is growing so beautiful. O, I could
share you with her willingly when we are spirits! If
you would train her and teach her, Angel, and bring her
up for your own self! ... She had all the best of me
without the bad of me; and if she were to become yours
it would almost seem as if death had not divided us....
Well, I have said it. I won't mention it again."
She ceased, and he fell into thought. In the far
north-east sky he could see between the pillars a level
streak of light. The uniform concavity of black cloud
was lifting bodily like the lid of a pot, letting in at
the earth's edge the coming day, against which the
towering monoliths and trilithons began to be blackly
"Did they sacrifice to God here?" asked she.
"No," said he.
"I believe to the sun. That lofty stone set away by
itself is in the direction of the sun, which will
presently rise behind it."
"This reminds me, dear," she said. "You remember you
never would interfere with any belief of mine before we
were married? But I knew your mind all the same, and I
thought as you thought--not from any reasons of my own,
but because you thought so. Tell me now, Angel, do you
think we shall meet again after we are dead? I want to
He kissed her to avoid a reply at such a time.
"O, Angel--I fear that means no!" said she, with a
suppressed sob. "And I wanted so to see you again--
so much, so much! What--not even you and I, Angel,
who love each other so well?"
Like a greater than himself, to the critical question
at the critical time he did not answer; and they were
again silent. In a minute or two her breathing became
more regular, her clasp of his hand relaxed, and she
fell asleep. The band of silver paleness along the
east horizon made even the distant parts of the Great
Plain appear dark and near; and the whole enormous
landscape bore that impress of reserve, taciturnity,
and hesitation which is usual just before day. The
eastward pillars and their architraves stood up blackly
against the light, and the great flame-shaped Sun-stone
beyond them; and the Stone of Sacrifice midway.
Presently the night wind died out, and the quivering
little pools in the cup-like hollows of the stones lay
still. At the same time something seemed to move on
the verge of the dip eastward--a mere dot. It was the
head of a man approaching them from the hollow beyond
the Sun-stone. Clare wished they had gone onward, but
in the circumstances decided to remain quiet. The
figure came straight towards the circle of pillars in
which they were.
He heard something behind him, the brush of feet.
Turning, he saw over the prostrate columns another
figure; then before he was aware, another was at hand
on the right, under a trilithon, and another on the
left. The dawn shone full on the front of the man
westward, and Clare could discern from this that he was
tall, and walked as if trained. They all closed in
with evident purpose. Her story then was true!
Springing to his feet, he looked around for a weapon,
loose stone, means of escape, anything. By this time
the nearest man was upon him.
"It is no use, sir," he said. "There are sixteen of us
on the Plain, and the whole country is reared."
"Let her finish her sleep!" he implored in a whisper of
the men as they gathered round.
When they saw where she lay, which they had not done
till then, they showed no objection, and stood watching
her, as still as the pillars around. He went to the
stone and bent over her, holding one poor little hand;
her breathing now was quick and small, like that of a
lesser creature than a woman. All waited in the
growing light, their faces and hands as if they were
silvered, the remainder of their figures dark, the
stones glistening green-gray, the Plain still a mass of
shade. Soon the light was strong, and a ray shone upon
her unconscious form, peering under her eyelids and
"What is it, Angel?" she said, starting up. "Have they
come for me?"
"Yes, dearest," he said. "They have come."
"It is as it should be," she murmured. "Angel, I am
almost glad--yes, glad! This happiness could not have
lasted. It was too much. I have had enough; and now I
shall not live for you to despise me!"
She stood up, shook herself, and went forward, neither
of the men having moved.
"I am ready," she said quietly.
The city of Wintoncester, that fine old city, aforetime
capital of Wessex, lay amidst its convex and concave
downlands in all the brightness and warmth of a July
morning. The gabled brick, tile, and freestone houses
had almost dried off for the season their integument of
lichen, the streams in the meadows were low, and in the
sloping High Street, from the West Gateway to the
mediaeval cross, and from the mediaeval cross to the
bridge, that leisurely dusting and sweeping was in
progress which usually ushers in an old-fashioned
From the western gate aforesaid the highway, as every
Wintoncestrian knows, ascends a long and regular
incline of the exact length of a measured mile, leaving
the houses gradually behind. Up this road from the
precincts of the city two persons were walking rapidly,
as if unconscious of the trying ascent--unconscious
through preoccupation and not through buoyancy. They
had emerged upon this road through a narrow barred
wicket in a high wall a little lower down. They seemed
anxious to get out of the sight of the houses and of
their kind, and this road appeared to offer the
quickest means of doing so. Though they were young
they walked with bowed heads, which gait of grief the
sun's rays smiled on pitilessly.
One of the pair was Angel Clare, the other a tall
budding creature--half girl, half woman--a
spiritualized image of Tess, slighter than she, but
with the same beautiful eyes--Clare's sister-in-law,
'Liza-Lu. Their pale faces seemed to have shrunk to
half their natural size. They moved on hand in hand,
and never spoke a word, the drooping of their heads
being that of Giotto's "Two Apostles".
When they had nearly reached the top of the great West
Hill the clocks in the town struck eight. Each gave a
start at the notes, and, walking onward yet a few
steps, they reached the first milestone, standing
whitely on the green margin of the grass, and backed by
the down, which here was open to the road. They
entered upon the turf, and, impelled by a force that
seemed to overrule their will, suddenly stood still,
turned, and waited in paralyzed suspense beside the
The prospect from this summit was almost unlimited.
In the valley beneath lay the city they had just left,
its more prominent buildings showing as in an isometric
drawing--among them the broad cathedral tower, with
its Norman windows and immense length of aisle and
nave, the spires of St Thomas's, the pinnacled tower of
the College, and, more to the right, the tower and
gables of the ancient hospice, where to this day the
pilgrim may receive his dole of bread and ale. Behind
the city swept the rotund upland of St Catherine's
Hill; further off, landscape beyond landscape, till the
horizon was lost in the radiance of the sun hanging
Against these far stretches of country rose, in front
of the other city edifices, a large red-brick building,
with level gray roofs, and rows of short barred windows
bespeaking captivity, the whole contrasting greatly by
its formalism with the quaint irregularities of the
Gothic erections. It was somewhat disguised from the
road in passing it by yews and evergreen oaks, but it
was visible enough up here. The wicket from which the
pair had lately emerged was in the wall of this
structure. From the middle of the building an ugly
flat-topped octagonal tower ascended against the east
horizon, and viewed from this spot, on its shady side
and against the light, it seemed the one blot on the
city's beauty. Yet it was with this blot, and not with
the beauty, that the two gazers were concerned.
Upon the cornice of the tower a tall staff was fixed.
Their eyes were riveted on it. A few minutes after the
hour had struck something moved slowly up the staff,
and extended itself upon the breeze. It was a black flag.
"Justice" was done, and the President of the Immortals,
in Aeschylean phrase, had ended his sport with Tess.
And the d'Urberville knights and dames slept on in
their tombs unknowing. The two speechless gazers bent
themselves down to the earth, as if in prayer, and
remained thus a long time, absolutely motionless: the
flag continued to wave silently. As soon as they had
strength they arose, joined hands again, and went on.
Back to Full Books