Tess of the d'Urbervilles, A Pure Woman, by Thomas Hardy
Part 3 out of 11
She said that she did not wish him to drive her
further, and they stopped just under the clump of
trees. D'Urberville alighted, and lifted her down
bodily in his arms, afterwards placing her articles on
the ground beside her. She bowed to him slightly, her
eye just lingering in his; and then she turned to take
the parcels for departure.
Alec d'Urberville removed his cigar, bent towards her,
"You are not going to turn away like that, dear!
"If you wish," she answered indifferently. "See how
you've mastered me!"
She thereupon turned round and lifted her face to his,
and remained like a marble term while he imprinted a
kiss upon her cheek--half perfunctorily, half as if
zest had not yet quite died out. Her eyes vaguely
rested upon the remotest trees in the lane while the
kiss was given, as though she were nearly unconscious
of what he did.
"Now the other side, for old acquaintance' sake."
She turned her head in the same passive way, as one
might turn at the request of a sketcher or hairdresser,
and he kissed the other side, his lips touching cheeks
that were damp and smoothly chill as the skin of the
mushrooms in the fields around.
"You don't give me your mouth and kiss me back. You
never willingly do that--you'll never love me, I fear."
"I have said so, often. It is true. I have never
really and truly loved you, and I think I never can."
She added mournfully, "Perhaps, of all things, a lie on
this thing would do the most good to me now; but I have
honour enough left, little as 'tis, not to tell that
lie. If I did love you I may have the best o' causes
for letting you know it. But I don't."
He emitted a laboured breath, as if the scene were
getting rather oppressive to his heart, or to his
conscience, or to his gentility.
"Well, you are absurdly melancholy, Tess. I have no
reason for flattering you now, and I can say plainly
that you need not be so sad. You can hold your own for
beauty against any woman of these parts, gentle or
simple; I say it to you as a practical man and
well-wisher. If you are wise you will show it to the
world more than you do before it fades.... And yet,
Tess, will you come back to me! Upon my soul I don't
like to let you go like this!"
"Never, never! I made up my mind as soon as I
saw--what I ought to have seen sooner; and I won't
"Then good morning, my four months' cousin--goodbye!"
He leapt up lightly, arranged the reins, and was gone
between the tall red-berried hedges.
Tess did not look after him, but slowly wound along the
crooked lane. It was still early, and though the sun's
lower limb was just free of the hill, his rays,
ungenial and peering, addressed the eye rather than the
touch as yet. There was not a human soul near. Sad
October and her sadder self seemed the only two
existences haunting that lane.
As she walked, however, some footsteps approached
behind her, the footsteps of a man; and owing to the
briskness of his advance he was close at her heels and
had said "Good morning" before she had been long aware
of his propinquity. He appeared to be an artisan of
some sort, and carried a tin pot of red paint in his
hand. He asked in a business-like manner if he should
take her basket, which she permitted him to do, walking
"It is early to be astir this Sabbath morn!" he said
"Yes," said Tess.
"When most people are at rest from their week's work."
She also assented to this.
"Though I do more real work today than all the week
"All the week I work for the glory of man, and on
Sunday for the glory of God. That's more real than the
other--hey? I have a little to do here at this stile."
The man turned as he spoke to an opening at the
roadside leading into a pasture. "If you'll wait a
moment," he added, "I shall not be long."
As he had her basket she could not well do otherwise;
and she waited, observing him. He set down her basket
and the tin pot, and stirring the paint with the brush
that was in it began painting large square letters on
the middle board of the three composing the stile,
placing a comma after each word, as if to give pause
while that word was driven well home to the reader's
THY, DAMNATION, SLUMBERETH, NOT.
2 Pet. ii. 3.
Against the peaceful landscape, the pale, decaying
tints of the copses, the blue air of the horizon and
the lichened stileboards, these staring vermilion words
shone forth. They seemed to shout themselves out and
make the atmosphere ring. Some people might have cried
"Alas, poor Theology!" at the hideous defacement--the
last grotesque phase of a creed which had served
mankind well in its time. But the words entered Tess
with accusatory horror. It was as if this man had
known her recent history; yet he was a total stranger.
Having finished his text he picked up her basket, and
she mechanically resumed her walk beside him.
"Do you believe what you paint?" she asked in low
"Believe that tex? Do I believe in my own existence!"
"But," said she tremulously, "suppose your sin was not
of your own seeking?"
He shook his head.
"I cannot split hairs on that burning query," he said.
"I have walked hundreds of miles this past summer,
painting these texes on every wall, gate, and stile the
length and breadth of this district. I leave their
application to the hearts of the people who read 'em."
"I think they are horrible," said Tess. "Crushing!
"That's what they are meant to be!" he replied in a
trade voice. "But you should read my hottest ones--them
I kips for slums and seaports. They'd make ye wriggle!
Not but what this is a very good tex for rural
districts. ... Ah--there's a nice bit of blank wall up
by that barn standing to waste. I must put one
there--one that it will be good for dangerous young
females like yerself to heed. Will ye wait, missy?"
"No," said she; and taking her basket Tess trudged on.
A little way forward she turned her head. The old gray
wall began to advertise a similar fiery lettering to
the first, with a strange and unwonted mien, as if
distressed at duties it had never before been called
upon to perform. It was with a sudden flush that she
read and realized what was to be the inscription he was
now halfway through--
THOU, SHALT, NOT, COMMIT--
Her cheerful friend saw her looking, stopped his brush,
"If you want to ask for edification on these things of
moment, there's a very earnest good man going to preach
a charity-sermon today in the parish you are going
to--Mr Clare of Emminster. I'm not of his persuasion
now, but he's a good man, and he'll expound as well as
any parson I know. 'Twas he began the work in me."
But Tess did not answer; she throbbingly resumed her
walk, her eyes fixed on the ground. "Pooh--I don't
believe God said such things!" she murmured
contemptuously when her flush had died away.
A plume of smoke soared up suddenly from her father's
chimney, the sight of which made her heart ache. The
aspect of the interior, when she reached it, made her
heart ache more. Her mother, who had just come down
stairs, turned to greet her from the fireplace, where
she was kindling barked-oak twigs under the breakfast
kettle. The young children were still above, as was
also her father, it being Sunday morning, when he felt
justified in lying an additional half-hour.
"Well!--my dear Tess!" exclaimed her surprised mother,
jumping up and kissing the girl. "How be ye? I didn't
see you till you was in upon me! Have you come home to
"No, I have not come for that, mother."
"Then for a holiday?"
"Yes--for a holiday; for a long holiday," said Tess.
"What, isn't your cousin going to do the handsome
"He's not my cousin, and he's not going to marry me."
Her mother eyed her narrowly.
"Come, you have not told me all," she said.
Then Tess went up to her mother, put her face upon
Joan's neck, and told.
"And yet th'st not got him to marry 'ee!" reiterated
her mother. "Any woman would have done it but you,
"Perhaps any woman would except me."
"It would have been something like a story to come back
with, if you had!" continued Mrs Durbeyfield, ready to
burst into tears of vexation. "After all the talk
about you and him which has reached us here, who would
have expected it to end like this! Why didn't ye think
of doing some good for your family instead o' thinking
only of yourself? See how I've got to teave and slave,
and your poor weak father with his heart clogged like a
dripping-pan. I did hope for something to come out o'
this! To see what a pretty pair you and he made that
day when you drove away together four months ago! See
what he has given us--all, as we thought, because we
were his kin. But if he's not, it must have been done
because of his love for 'ee. And yet you've not got
him to marry!"
Get Alec d'Urberville in the mind to marry her! He
marry HER! On matrimony he had never once said a word.
And what if he had? How a convulsive snatching at
social salvation might have impelled her to answer him
she could not say. But her poor foolish mother little
knew her present feeling towards this man. Perhaps it
was unusual in the circumstances, unlucky,
unaccountable; but there it was; and this, as she had
said, was what made her detest herself. She had never
wholly cared for him, she did not at all care for him
now. She had dreaded him, winced before him, succumbed
to adroit advantages he took of her helplessness; then,
temporarily blinded by his ardent manners, had been
stirred to confused surrender awhile: had suddenly
despised and disliked him, and had run away. That was
all. Hate him she did not quite; but he was dust and
ashes to her, and even for her name's sake she scarcely
wished to marry him.
"You ought to have been more careful if you didn't mean
to get him to make you his wife!"
"O mother, my mother!" cried the agonized girl, turning
passionately upon her parent as if her poor heart would
break. "How could I be expected to know? I was a child
when I left this house four months ago. Why didn't you
tell me there was danger in men-folk? Why didn't you
warn me? Ladies know what to fend hands against,
because they read novels that tell them of these
tricks; but I never had the chance o' learning in that
way, and you did not help me!"
Her mother was subdued.
"I thought if I spoke of his fond feelings and what
they might lead to, you would be hontish wi' him and
lose your chance," she murmured, wiping her eyes with
her apron. "Well, we must make the best of it, I
suppose. 'Tis nater, after all, and what do please
The event of Tess Durbeyfield's return from the manor
of her bogus kinsfolk was rumoured abroad, if rumour be
not too large a word for a space of a square mile. In
the afternoon several young girls of Marlott, former
schoolfellows and acquaintances of Tess, called to see
her, arriving dressed in their best starched and
ironed, as became visitors to a person who had made a
transcendent conquest (as they supposed), and sat round
the room looking at her with great curiosity. For the
fact that it was this said thirty-first cousin, Mr
d'Urberville, who had fallen in love with her, a
gentleman not altogether local, whose reputation as a
reckless gallant and heartbreaker was beginning to
spread beyond the immediate boundaries of Trantridge,
lent Tess's supposed position, by its fearsomeness, a
far higher fascination that it would have exercised if
Their interest was so deep that the younger ones
whispered when her back was turned--
"How pretty she is; and how that best frock do set her
off! I believe it cost an immense deal, and that it
was a gift from him."
Tess, who was reaching up to get the tea-things from
the corner-cupboard, did not hear these commentaries.
If she had heard them, she might soon have set her
friends right on the matter. But her mother heard, and
Joan's simple vanity, having been denied the hope of a
dashing marriage, fed itself as well as it could upon
the sensation of a dashing flirtation. Upon the whole
she felt gratified, even though such a limited and
evanescent triumph should involve her daughter's
reputation; it might end in marriage yet, and in the
warmth of her responsiveness to their admiration she
invited her visitors to stay to tea.
Their chatter, their laughter, their good-humoured
innuendoes, above all, their flashes and flickerings of
envy, revived Tess's spirits also; and, as the evening
wore on, she caught the infection of their excitement,
and grew almost gay. The marble hardness left her
face, she moved with something of her old bounding
step, and flushed in all her young beauty.
At moments, in spite of thought, she would reply to
their inquiries with a manner of superiority, as if
recognizing that her experiences in the field of
courtship had, indeed, been slightly enviable. But so
far was she from being, in the words of Robert South,
"in love with her own ruin," that the illusion was
transient as lightning; cold reason came back to mock
her spasmodic weakness; the ghastliness of her
momentary pride would convict her, and recall her to
reserved listlessness again.
And the despondency of the next morning's dawn, when it
was no longer Sunday, but Monday; and no best clothes;
and the laughing visitors were gone, and she awoke
alone in her old bed, the innocent younger children
breathing softly around her. In place of the
excitement of her return, and the interest it had
inspired, she saw before her a long and stony highway
which she had to tread, without aid, and with little
sympathy. Her depression was then terrible, and she
could have hidden herself in a tomb.
In the course of a few weeks Tess revived sufficiently
to show herself so far as was necessary to get to
church one Sunday morning. She liked to hear the
chanting--such as it was--and the old Psalms, and to
join in the Morning Hymn. That innate love of melody,
which she had inherited from her ballad-singing mother,
gave the simplest music a power over her which could
well-nigh drag her heart out of her bosom at times.
To be as much out of observation as possible for
reasons of her own, and to escape the gallantries of
the young men, she set out before the chiming began,
and took a back seat under the gallery, close to the
lumber, where only old men and women came, and where
the bier stood on end among the churchyard tools.
Parishioners dropped in by twos and threes, deposited
themselves in rows before her, rested three-quarters of
a minute on their foreheads as if they were praying,
though they were not; then sat up, and looked around.
When the chants came on one of her favourites happened
to be chosen among the rest--the old double chant
"Langdon"--but she did not know what it was called,
though she would much have liked to know. She thought,
without exactly wording the thought, how strange and
godlike was a composer's power, who from the grave
could lead through sequences of emotion, which he alone
had felt at first, a girl like her who had never heard
of his name, and never would have a clue to his
The people who had turned their heads turned them again
as the service proceeded; and at last observing her
they whispered to each other. She knew what their
whispers were about, grew sick at heart, and felt that
she could come to church no more.
The bedroom which she shared with some of the children
formed her retreat more continually than ever. Here,
under her few square yards of thatch, she watched
winds, and snows, and rains, gorgeous sunsets, and
successive moons at their full. So close kept she that
at length almost everybody thought she had gone away.
The only exercise that Tess took at this time was after
dark; and it was then, when out in the woods, that she
seemed least solitary. She knew how to hit to a
hair's-breadth that moment of evening when the light
and the darkness are so evenly balanced that the
constraint of day and the suspense of night neutralize
each other, leaving absolute mental liberty. It is
then that the plight of being alive becomes attenuated
to its least possible dimensions. She had no fear of
the shadows; her sole idea seemed to be to shun
mankind--or rather that cold accretion called the
world, which, so terrible in the mass, is so
unformidable, even pitiable, in its units.
On these lonely hills and dales her quiescent glide was
of a piece with the element she moved in. Her flexuous
and stealthy figure became an integral part of the
scene. At times her whimsical fancy would intensify
natural processes around her till they seemed a part of
her own story. Rather they became a part of it; for
the world is only a psychological phenomenon, and what
they seemed they were. The midnight airs and gusts,
moaning amongst the tightly-wrapped buds and bark of
the winter twigs, were formulae of bitter reproach.
A wet day was the expression of irremediable grief at her
weakness in the mind of some vague ethical being whom
she could not class definitely as the God of her
childhood, and could not comprehend as any other.
But this encompassment of her own characterization,
based on shreds of convention, peopled by phantoms and
voices antipathetic to her, was a sorry and mistaken
creation of Tess's fancy--a cloud of moral hobgoblins
by which she was terrified without reason. It was they
that were out of harmony with the actual world, not
she. Walking among the sleeping birds in the hedges,
watching the skipping rabbits on a moonlit warren, or
standing under a pheasant-laden bough, she looked upon
herself as a figure of Guilt intruding into the haunts
of Innocence. But all the while she was making a
distinction where there was no difference. Feeling
herself in antagonism she was quite in accord. She had
been made to break an accepted social law, but no law
know to the environment in which she fancied herself
such an anomaly.
It was a hazy sunrise in August. The denser nocturnal
vapours, attacked by the warm beams, were dividing and
shrinking into isolated fleeces within hollows and
coverts, where they waited till they should be dried
away to nothing.
The sun, on account of the mist, had a curious
sentient, personal look, demanding the masculine
pronoun for its adequate expression. His present
aspect, coupled with the lack of all human forms in the
scene, explained the old-time heliolatries in a moment.
One could feel that a saner religion had never
prevailed under the sky. The luminary was a
golden-haired, beaming, mild-eyed, God-like creature,
gazing down in the vigour and intentness of youth upon
an earth that was brimming with interest for him.
His light, a little later, broke though chinks of
cottage shutters, throwing stripes like red-hot pokers
upon cupboards, chests of drawers, and other furniture
within; and awakening harvesters who were not already
But of all ruddy things that morning the brightest were
two broad arms of painted wood, which rose from the
margin of yellow cornfield hard by Marlott village.
They, with two others below, formed the revolving
Maltese cross of the reaping-machine, which had been
brought to the field on the previous evening to be
ready for operations this day. The paint with which
they were smeared, intensified in hue by the sunlight,
imparted to them a look of having been dipped in liquid
The field had already been "opened"; that is to say,
a lane a few feet wide had been hand-cut through the
wheat along the whole circumference of the field for
the first passage of the horses and machine.
Two groups, one of men and lads, the other of women,
had come down the lane just at the hour when the
shadows of the eastern hedge-top struck the west hedge
midway, so that the heads of the groups were enjoying
sunrise while their feet were still in the dawn. They
disappeared from the lane between the two stone posts
which flanked the nearest field-gate.
Presently there arose from within a ticking like the
love-making of the grasshopper. The machine had begun,
and a moving concatenation of three horses and the
aforesaid long rickety machine was visible over the
gate, a driver sitting upon one of the hauling horses,
and an attendant on the seat of the implement. Along
one side of the field the whole wain went, the arms of
the mechanical reaper revolving slowly, till it passed
down the hill quite out of sight. In a minute it came
up on the other side of the field at the same equable
pace; the glistening brass star in the forehead of the
fore horse first catching the eye as it rose into view
over the stubble, then the bright arms, and then the
The narrow lane of stubble encompassing the field grew
wider with each circuit, and the standing corn was
reduced to smaller area as the morning wore on.
Rabbits, hares, snakes, rats, mice, retreated inwards
as into a fastness, unaware of the ephemeral nature of
their refuge, and of the doom that awaited them later
in the day when, their covert shrinking to a more and
more horrible narrowness, they were huddled together,
friends and foes, till the last few yards of upright
wheat fell also under the teeth of the unerring reaper,
and they were every one put to death by the sticks and
stones of the harvesters.
The reaping-machine left the fallen corn behind it in
little heaps, each heap being of the quantity for a
sheaf; and upon these the active binders in the rear
laid their hands--mainly women, but some of them men in
print shirts, and trousers supported round their waists
by leather straps, rendering useless the two buttons
behind, which twinkled and bristled with sunbeams at
every movement of each wearer, as if they were a pair
of eyes in the small of his back.
But those of the other sex were the most interesting of
this company of binders, by reason of the charm which
is acquired by woman when she becomes part and parcel
of outdoor nature, and is not merely an object set down
therein as at ordinary times. A field-man is a
personality afield; a field-woman is a portion of the
field; she had somehow lost her own margin, imbibed the
essence of her surrounding, and assimilated herself
The women--or rather girls, for they were mostly
young--wore drawn cotton bonnets with great flapping
curtains to keep off the sun, and gloves to prevent
their hands being wounded by the stubble. There was one
wearing a pale pink jacket, another in a cream-coloured
tight-sleeved gown, another in a petticoat as red as
the arms of the reaping-machine; and others, older, in
the brown-rough "wropper" or over-all--the
old-established and most appropriate dress of the
field-woman, which the young ones were abandoning.
This morning the eye returns involuntarily to the girl
in the pink cotton jacket, she being the most flexuous
and finely-drawn figure of them all. But her bonnet is
pulled so far over her brow that none of her face is
disclosed while she binds, though her complexion may be
guessed from a stray twine or two of dark brown hair
which extends below the curtain of her bonnet. Perhaps
one reason why she seduces casual attention is that she
never courts it, though the other women often gaze
Her binding proceeds with clock-like monotony. From
the sheaf last finished she draws a handful of ears,
patting their tips with her left palm to bring them
even. Then stooping low she moves forward, gathering
the corn with both hands against her knees, and pushing
her left gloved hand under the bundle to meet the right
on the other side, holding the corn in an embrace like
that of a lover. She brings the ends of the bond
together, and kneels on the sheaf while she ties it,
beating back her skirts now and then when lifted by the
breeze. A bit of her naked arm is visible between the
buff leather of the gauntlet and the sleeve of her
gown; and as the day wears on its feminine smoothness
becomes scarified by the stubble, and bleeds.
At intervals she stands up to rest, and to retie her
disarranged apron, or to pull her bonnet straight.
Then one can see the oval face of a handsome young
woman with deep dark eyes and long heavy clinging
tresses, which seem to clasp in a beseeching way
anything they fall against. The cheeks are paler, the
teeth more regular, the red lips thinner than is usual
in a country-bred girl.
It is Tess Durbeyfield, otherwise d'Urberville,
somewhat changed--the same, but not the same; at the
present stage of her existence living as a stranger and
an alien here, though it was no strange land that she
was in. After a long seclusion she had come to a
resolve to undertake outdoor work in her native
village, the busiest season of the year in the
agricultural world having arrived, and nothing that she
could do within the house being so remunerative for the
time as harvesting in the fields.
The movements of the other women were more or less
similar to Tess's, the whole bevy of them drawing
together like dancers in a quadrille at the completion
of a sheaf by each, every one placing her sheaf on end
against those of the rest, till a shock, or "stitch" as
it was here called, of ten or a dozen was formed.
They went to breakfast, and came again, and the work
proceeded as before. As the hour of eleven drew near a
person watching her might have noticed that every now
and then Tess's glance flitted wistfully to the brow of
the hill, though she did not pause in her sheafing. On
the verge of the hour the heads of a group of children,
of ages ranging from six to fourteen, rose over the
stubbly convexity of the hill.
The face of Tess flushed slightly, but still she did
The eldest of the comers, a girl who wore a triangular
shawl, its corners draggling on the stubble, carried in
her arms what at first sight seemed to be a doll, but
proved to be an infant in long clothes. Another
brought some lunch. The harvesters ceased working,
took their provisions, and sat down against one of the
shocks. Here they fell to, the men plying a stone jar
freely, and passing round a cup.
Tess Durbeyfield had been one of the last to suspend
her labours. She sat down at the end of the shock, her
face turned somewhat away from her companions. When
she had deposited herself a man in a rabbit-skin cap
and with a red handkerchief tucked into his belt, held
the cup of ale over the top of the shock for her to
drink. But she did not accept his offer. As soon as
her lunch was spread she called up the big girl her
sister, and took the baby off her, who, glad to be
relieved of the burden, went away to the next shock and
joined the other children playing there. Tess, with a
curiously stealthy yet courageous movement, and with a
still rising colour, unfastened her frock and began
suckling the child.
The men who sat nearest considerately turned their
faces towards the other end of the field, some of them
beginning to smoke; one, with absent-minded fondness,
regretfully stroking the jar that would no longer yield
a stream. All the women but Tess fell into animated
talk, and adjusted the disarranged knots of their hair.
When the infant had taken its fill the young mother sat
it upright in her lap, and looking into the far
distance dandled it with a gloomy indifference that was
almost dislike; then all of a sudden she fell to
violently kissing it some dozens of times, as if she
could never leave off, the child crying at the
vehemence of an onset which strangely combined
passionateness with contempt.
"She's fond of that there child, though she mid pretend
to hate en, and say she wishes the baby and her too
were in the churchyard," observed the woman in the red
"She'll soon leave off saying that," replied the one in
buff. "Lord, 'tis wonderful what a body can get used to
o' that sort in time!"
"A little more than persuading had to do wi' the coming
o't, I reckon. There were they that heard a sobbing
one night last year in The Chase; and it mid ha' gone
hard wi' a certain party if folks had come along."
"Well, a little more, or a little less, 'twas a
thousand pities that it should have happened to she, of
all others. But 'tis always the comeliest! The plain
ones be as safe as churches--hey, Jenny?" The speaker
turned to one of the group who certainly was not
ill-defined as plain.
It was a thousand pities, indeed; it was impossible for
even an enemy to feel otherwise on looking at Tess as
she sat there, with her flower-like mouth and large
tender eyes, neither black nor blue nor grey nor
violet; rather all those shades together, and a hundred
others, which could be seen if one looked into their
irises--shade behind shade--tint beyond tint--around
pupils that had no bottom; an almost standard woman,
but for the slight incautiousness of character
inherited from her race.
A resolution which had surprised herself had brought
her into the fields this week for the first time during
many months. After wearing and wasting her palpitating
heart with every engine of regret that lonely
inexperience could devise, commonsense had illuminated
her. She felt that she would do well to be useful
again--to taste anew sweet independence at any price.
The past was past; whatever it had been it was no more
at hand. Whatever its consequences, time would close
over them; they would all in a few years be as if they
had never been, and she herself grassed down and
forgotten. Meanwhile the trees were just as green as
before; the birds sang and the sun shone as clearly now
as ever. The familiar surroundings had not darkened
because of her grief, nor sickened because of her pain.
She might have seen that what had bowed her head so
profoundly--the thought of the world's concern at her
situation--was founded on an illusion. She was not an
existence, an experience, a passion, a structure of
sensations, to anybody but herself. To all humankind
besides Tess was only a passing thought. Even to
friends she was no more than a frequently passing
thought. If she made herself miserable the livelong
night and day it was only this much to them--"Ah, she
makes herself unhappy." If she tried to be cheerful,
to dismiss all care, to take pleasure in the daylight,
the flowers, the baby, she could only be this idea to
them--"Ah, she bears it very well." Moreover, alone in
a desert island would she have been wretched at what
had happened to her? Not greatly. If she could have
been but just created, to discover herself as a
spouseless mother, with no experience of life except as
the parent of a nameless child, would the position have
caused her to despair? No, she would have taken it
calmly, and found pleasure therein. Most of the misery
had been generated by her conventional aspect, and not
by her innate sensations.
Whatever Tess's reasoning, some spirit had induced her
to dress herself up neatly as she had formerly done,
and come out into the fields, harvest-hands being
greatly in demand just then. This was why she had
borne herself with dignity, and had looked people
calmly in the face at times, even when holding the baby
in her arms.
The harvest-men rose from the shock of corn, and
stretched their limbs, and extinguished their pipes.
The horses, which had been unharnessed and fed, were
again attached to the scarlet machine. Tess, having
quickly eaten her own meal, beckoned to her eldest
sister to come and take away the baby, fastened her
dress, put on the buff gloves again, and stooped anew
to draw a bond from the last completed sheaf for the
tying of the next.
In the afternoon and evening the proceedings of the
morning were continued, Tess staying on till dusk with
the body of harvesters. Then they all rode home in one
of the largest wagons, in the company of a broad
tarnished moon that had risen from the ground to the
eastwards, its face resembling the outworn gold-leaf
halo of some worm-eaten Tuscan saint. Tess's female
companions sang songs, and showed themselves very
sympathetic and glad at her reappearance out of doors,
though they could not refrain from mischievously
throwing in a few verses of the ballad about the maid
who went to the merry green wood and came back a
changed state. There are counterpoises and
compensations in life; and the event which had made of
her a social warning had also for the moment made her
the most interesting personage in the village to many.
Their friendliness won her still farther away from
herself, their lively spirits were contagious, and she
became almost gay.
But now that her moral sorrows were passing away a
fresh one arose on the natural side of her which knew
no social law. When she reached home it was to learn
to her grief that the baby had been suddenly taken ill
since the afternoon. Some such collapse had been
probable, so tender and puny was its frame; but the
event came as a shock nevertheless.
The baby's offence against society in coming into the
world was forgotten by the girl-mother; her soul's
desire was to continue that offence by preserving the
life of the child. However, it soon grew clear that
the hour of emancipation for that little prisoner of
the flesh was to arrive earlier than her worst
misgiving had conjectured. And when she had discovered
this she was plunged into a misery which transcended
that of the child's simple loss. Her baby had not been
Tess had drifted into a frame of mind which accepted
passively the consideration that if she should have to
burn for what she had done, burn she must, and there
was an end of it. Like all village girls she was well
grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and had dutifully
studied the histories of Aholah and Aholibah, and knew
the inferences to be drawn therefrom. But when the
same question arose with regard to the baby, it had a
very different colour. Her darling was about to die,
and no salvation.
It was nearly bedtime, but she rushed downstairs and
asked if she might send for the parson. The moment
happened to be one at which her father's sense of the
antique nobility of his family was highest, and his
sensitiveness to the smudge which Tess had set upon
that nobility most pronounced, for he had just returned
from his weekly booze at Rolliver's Inn. No parson
should come inside his door, he declared, prying into
his affairs, just then, when, by her shame, it had
become more necessary than ever to hide them. He locked
the door and put the key in his pocket.
The household went to bed, and, distressed beyond
measure, Tess retired also. She was continually waking
as she lay, and in the middle of the night found that
the baby was still worse. It was obviously
dying--quietly and painlessly, but none the less
In her misery she rocked herself upon the bed. The
clock struck the solemn hour of one, that hour when
fancy stalks outside reason, and malignant
possibilities stand rock-firm as facts. She thought of
the child consigned to the nethermost corner of hell,
as its double doom for lack of baptism and lack of
legitimacy; saw the arch-fiend tossing it with his
three-pronged fork, like the one they used for heating
the oven on baking days; to which picture she added
many other quaint and curious details of torment
sometimes taught the young in this Christian country.
The lurid presentment so powerfully affected her
imagination in the silence of the sleeping house that
her nightgown became damp with perspiration, and the
bedstead shook with each throb of her heart.
The infant's breathing grew more difficult, and the
mother's mental tension increased. It was useless to
devour the little thing with kisses; she could stay in
bed no longer, and walked feverishly about the room.
"O merciful God, have pity; have pity upon my poor
baby!" she cried. "Heap as much anger as you want to
upon me, and welcome; but pity the child!"
She leant against the chest of drawers, and murmured
incoherent supplications for a long while, till she
suddenly started up.
"Ah! perhaps baby can be saved! Perhaps it will be
just the same!"
She spoke so brightly that it seemed as though her face
might have shone in the gloom surrounding her. She lit
a candle, and went to a second and a third bed under
the wall, where she awoke her young sisters and
brothers, all of whom occupied the same room. Pulling
out the washing-stand so that she could get behind it,
she poured some water from a jug, and made them kneel
around, putting their hands together with fingers
exactly vertical. While the children, scarcely awake,
awe-stricken at her manner, their eyes growing larger
and larger, remained in this position, she took the
baby from her bed--a child's child--so immature as
scarce to seem a sufficient personality to endow its
producer with the maternal title. Tess then stood
erect with the infant on her arm beside the basin, the
next sister held the Prayer-Book open before her, as
the clerk at church held it before the parson; and thus
the girl set about baptizing her child.
Her figure looked singularly tall and imposing as she
stood in her long white nightgown, a thick cable of
twisted dark hair hanging straight down her back to her
waist. The kindly dimness of the weak candle
abstracted from her form and features the little
blemishes which sunlight might have revealed--the
stubble scratches upon her wrists, and the weariness of
her eyes--her high enthusiasm having a transfiguring
effect upon the face which had been her undoing,
showing it as a thing of immaculate beauty, with a
touch of dignity which was almost regal. The little
ones kneeling round, their sleepy eyes blinking and
red, awaited her preparations full of a suspended
wonder which their physical heaviness at that hour
would not allow to become active.
The most impressed of them said:
"Be you really going to christen him, Tess?"
The girl-mother replied in a grave affirmative.
"What's his name going to be?"
She had not thought of that, but a name suggested by a
phrase in the book of Genesis came into her head as she
proceeded with the baptismal service, and now she
"SORROW, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and
the Son, and the Holy Ghost."
She sprinkled the water, and there was silence.
"Say 'Amen,' children."
The tiny voices piped in obedient response "Amen!"
Tess went on:
"We receive this child"--and so forth--"and do sign him
with the sign of the Cross."
Here she dipped her hand into the basin, and fervently
drew an immense cross upon the baby with her
forefinger, continuing with the customary sentences as
to his manfully fighting against sin, the world, and
the devil, and being a faithful soldier and servant
unto his life's end. She duly went on with the Lord's
Prayer, the children lisping it after her in a thin
gnat-like wail, till, at the conclusion, raising their
voices to clerk's pitch, they again piped into silence,
Then their sister, with much augmented confidence in
the efficacy of the sacrament, poured forth from the
bottom of her heart the thanksgiving that follows,
uttering it boldly and triumphantly in the
stopt-diapason note which her voice acquired when her
heart was in her speech, and which will never be
forgotten by those who knew her. The ecstasy of faith
almost apotheosized her; it set upon her face a glowing
irradiation, and brought a red spot into the middle of
each cheek; while the miniature candle-flame inverted
in her eye-pupils shone like a diamond. The children
gazed up at her with more and more reverence, and no
longer had a will for questioning. She did not look
like Sissy to them now, but as a being large, towering,
and awful--a divine personage with whom they had
nothing in common.
Poor Sorrow's campaign against sin, the world, and the
devil was doomed to be of limited brilliancy--luckily
perhaps for himself, considering his beginnings. In
the blue of the morning that fragile soldier and
servant breathed his last, and when the other children
awoke they cried bitterly, and begged Sissy to have
another pretty baby. The calmness which had possessed
Tess since the christening remained with her in the
infant's loss. In the daylight, indeed, she felt her
terrors about his soul to have been somewhat
exaggerated; whether well founded or not she had no
uneasiness now, reasoning that if Providence would not
ratify such an act of approximation she, for one, did
not value the kind of heaven lost by the
irregularity--either for herself or for her child.
So passed away Sorrow the Undesired--that intrusive
creature, that bastard gift of shameless Nature who
respects not the social law; a waif to whom eternal
Time had been a matter of days merely, who knew not
that such things as years and centuries ever were; to
whom the cottage interior was the universe, the week's
weather climate, new-born babyhood human existence, and
the instinct to suck human knowledge.
Tess, who mused on the christening a good deal,
wondered if it were doctrinally sufficient to secure a
Christian burial for the child. Nobody could tell this
but the parson of the parish, and he was a new-comer,
and did not know her. She went to his house after
dusk, and stood by the gate, but could not summon
courage to go in. The enterprise would have been
abandoned if she had not by accident met him coming
homeward as she turned away. In the gloom she did not
mind speaking freely.
"I should like to ask you something, sir."
He expressed his willingness to listen, and she told
the story of the baby's illness and the extemporized
ordinance. "And now, sir," she added earnestly, "can
you tell me this--will it be just the same for him as
if you had baptized him?"
Having the natural feelings of a tradesman at finding
that a job he should have been called in for had been
unskilfully botched by his customers among themselves,
he was disposed to say no. Yet the dignity of the
girl, the strange tenderness in her voice, combined to
affect his nobler impulses--or rather those that he had
left in him after ten years of endeavour to graft
technical belief on actual scepticism. The man and the
ecclesiastic fought within him, and the victory fell to
"My dear girl," he said, "it will be just the same."
"Then will you give him a Christian burial?" she asked
The Vicar felt himself cornered. Hearing of the baby's
illness, he had conscientiously gone to the house after
nightfall to perform the rite, and, unaware that the
refusal to admit him had come from Tess's father and
not from Tess, he could not allow the plea of necessity
for its irregular administration.
"Ah--that's another matter," he said.
"Another matter--why?" asked Tess, rather warmly.
"Well--I would willingly do so if only we two were
concerned. But I must not--for certain reasons."
"Just for once, sir!"
"Really I must not."
"O sir!" She seized his hand as she spoke.
He withdrew it, shaking his head.
"Then I don't like you!" she burst out, "and I'll never
come to your church no more!"
"Don't talk so rashly."
"Perhaps it will be just the same to him if you don't?
... Will it be just the same? Don't for God's sake
speak as saint to sinner, but as you yourself to me
How the Vicar reconciled his answer with the strict
notions he supposed himself to hold on these subjects
it is beyond a layman's power to tell, though not to
excuse. Somewhat moved, he said in this case also--
"It will be just the same."
So the baby was carried in a small deal box, under an
ancient woman's shawl, to the churchyard that night,
and buried by lantern-light, at the cost of a shilling
and a pint of beer to the sexton, in that shabby corner
of God's allotment where He lets the nettles grow, and
where all unbaptized infants, notorious drunkards,
suicides, and others of the conjecturally damned are
laid. In spite of the untoward surroundings, however,
Tess bravely made a little cross of two laths and a
piece of string, and having bound it with flowers, she
stuck it up at the head of the grave one evening when
she could enter the churchyard without being seen,
putting at the foot also a bunch of the same flowers in
a little jar of water to keep them alive. What matter
was it that on the outside of the jar the eye of mere
observation noted the words "Keelwell's Marmalade"?
The eye of maternal affection did not see them in its
vision of higher things.
"By experience," says Roger Ascham, "we find out a
short way by a long wandering." Not seldom that long
wandering unfits us for further travel, and of what use
is our experience to us then? Tess Durbeyfield's
experience was of this incapacitating kind. At last she
had learned what to do; but who would now accept her
If before going to the d'Urbervilles' she had
vigorously moved under the guidance of sundry gnomic
texts and phrases known to her and to the world in
general, no doubt she would never have been imposed on.
But it had not been in Tess's power--nor is it in
anybody's power--to feel the whole truth of golden
opinions while it is possible to profit by them.
She--and how many more--might have ironically said to
God with Saint Augustine: "Thou hast counselled a
better course than Thou hast permitted."
She remained at her father's house during the winter
months, plucking fowls, or cramming turkeys and geese,
or making clothes for her sisters and brothers out of
some finery which d'Urberville had given her, and she
had put by with contempt. Apply to him she would not.
But she would often clasp her hands behind her head and
muse when she was supposed to be working hard.
She philosophically noted dates as they came past in
the revolution of the year; the disastrous night of her
undoing at Trantridge with its dark background of The
Chase; also the dates of the baby's birth and death;
also her own birthday; and every other day
individualized by incidents in which she had taken some
share. She suddenly thought one afternoon, when
looking in the glass at her fairness, that there was
yet another date, of greater importance to her than
those; that of her own death, when all these charms
would had disappeared; a day which lay sly and unseen
among all the other days of the year, giving no sign or
sound when she annually passed over it; but not the
less surely there. When was it? Why did she not feel
the chill of each yearly encounter with such a cold
relation? She had Jeremy Taylor's thought that some
time in the future those who had known her would say:
"It is the--th, the day that poor Tess Durbeyfield
died"; and there would be nothing singular to their
minds in the statement. Of that day, doomed to be her
terminus in time through all the ages, she did not know
the place in month, week, season or year.
Almost at a leap Tess thus changed from simple girl to
complex woman. Symbols of reflectiveness passed into
her face, and a note of tragedy at times into her
voice. Her eyes grew larger and more eloquent. She
became what would have been called a fine creature; her
aspect was fair and arresting; her soul that of a woman
whom the turbulent experiences of the last year or two
had quite failed to demoralize. But for the world's
opinion those experiences would have been simply a
She had held so aloof of late that her trouble, never
generally known, was nearly forgotten in Marlott. But
it became evident to her that she could never be really
comfortable again in a place which had seen the
collapse of her family's attempt to "claim kin"--
and, through her, even closer union--with the rich
d'Urbervilles. At least she could not be comfortable
there till long years should have obliterated her keen
consciousness of it. Yet even now Tess felt the pulse
of hopeful like still warm within her; she might be
happy in some nook which had no memories. To escape
the past and all that appertained thereto was to
annihilate it, and to do that she would have to get
Was once lost always lost really true of chastity? she
would ask herself. She might prove it false if she
could veil bygones. The recuperative power which
pervaded organic nature was surely not denied to
She waited a long time without finding opportunity for
a new departure. A particularly fine spring came
round, and the stir of germination was almost audible
in the buds; it moved her, as it moved the wild
animals, and made her passionate to go. At last, one
day in early May, a letter reached her from a former
friend of her mother's, to whom she had addressed
inquiries long before--a person whom she had never
seen--that a skilful milkmaid was required at a
dairy-house many miles to the southward, and that the
dairyman would be glad to have her for the summer
It was not quite so far off as could have been wished;
but it was probably far enough, her radius of movement
and repute having been so small. To persons of limited
spheres, miles are as geographical degrees, parishes as
counties, counties as provinces and kingdoms. On one
point she was resolved: there should be no more
d'Urberville air-castles in the dreams and deeds of her
new life. She would be the dairymaid Tess, and nothing
more. Her mother knew Tess's feeling on this point so
well, though no words had passed between them on the
subject, that she never alluded to the knightly
Yet such is human inconsistency that one of the
interests of the new place to her was the accidental
virtues of its lying near her forefathers' country (for
they were not Blakemore men, though her mother was
Blakemore to the bone). The dairy called Talbothays,
for which she was bound, stood not remotely from some
of the former estates of the d'Urbervilles, near the
great family vaults of her granddames and their
powerful husbands. She would be able to look at them,
and think not only that d'Urberville, like Babylon, had
fallen, but that the individual innocence of a humble
descendant could lapse as silently. All the while she
wondered if any strange good thing might come of her
being in her ancestral land; and some spirit within her
rose automatically as the sap in the twigs. It was
unexpected youth, surging up anew after its temporary
check, and bringing with it hope, and the invincible
instinct towards self-delight.
END OF PHASE THE SECOND
Phase the Third: The Rally
On a thyme-scented, bird-hatching morning in May,
between two and three years after the return from
Trantridge--silent reconstructive years for Tess
Durbeyfield--she left her home for the second time.
Having packed up her luggage so that it could be sent
to her later, she started in a hired trap for the
little town of Stourcastle, through which it was
necessary to pass on her journey, now in a direction
almost opposite to that of her first adventuring. On
the curve of the nearest hill she looked back
regretfully at Marlott and her father's house, although
she had been so anxious to get away.
Her kindred dwelling there would probably continue
their daily lives as heretofore, with no great
diminution of pleasure in their consciousness, although
she would be far off, and they deprived of her smile.
In a few days the children would engage in their games
as merrily as ever, without the sense of any gap left
by her departure. This leaving of the younger children
she had decided to be for the best; were she to remain
they would probably gain less good by her precepts than
harm by her example.
She went through Stourcastle without pausing, and
onward to a junction of highways, where she could await
a carrier's van that ran to the south-west; for the
railways which engirdled this interior tract of country
had never yet struck across it. While waiting,
however, there came along a farmer in his spring cart,
driving approximately in the direction that she wished
to pursue. Though he was a stranger to her she accepted
his offer of a seat beside him, ignoring that its
motive was a mere tribute to her countenance. He was
going to Weatherbury, and by accompanying him thither
she could walk the remainder of the distance instead of
travelling in the van by way of Casterbridge.
Tess did not stop at Weatherbury, after this long
drive, further than to make a slight nondescript meal
at noon at a cottage to which the farmer recommended
her. Thence she started on foot, basket in hand, to
reach the wide upland of heath dividing this district
from the low-lying meads of a further valley in which
the dairy stood that was the aim and end of her day's
Tess had never before visited this part of the country,
and yet she felt akin to the landscape. Not so very
far to the left of her she could discern a dark patch
in the scenery, which inquiry confirmed her in
supposing to be trees marking the environs of
Kingsbere--in the church of which parish the bones of
her ancestors--her useless ancestors--lay entombed.
She had no admiration for them now; she almost hated
them for the dance they had led her; not a thing of all
that had been theirs did she retain but the old seal
and spoon. "Pooh--I have as much of mother as father in
me!" she said. "All my prettiness comes from her, and
she was only a dairymaid."
The journey over the intervening uplands and lowlands
of Egdon, when she reached them, was a more troublesome
walk than she had anticipated, the distance being
actually but a few miles. It was two hours, owing to
sundry wrong turnings, ere she found herself on a
summit commanding the long-sought-for vale, the Valley
of the Great Dairies, the valley in which milk and
butter grew to rankness, and were produced more
profusely, if less delicately, than at her home--the
verdant plain so well watered by the river Var or
It was intrinsically different from the Vale of Little
Dairies, Blackmoor Vale, which, save during her
disastrous sojourn at Trantridge, she had exclusively
known till now. The world was drawn to a larger
pattern here. The enclosures numbered fifty acres
instead of ten, the farmsteads were more extended, the
groups of cattle formed tribes hereabout; there only
families. These myriads of cows stretching under her
eyes from the far east to the far west outnumbered any
she had ever seen at one glance before. The green lea
was speckled as thickly with them as a canvas by Van
Alsloot or Sallaert with burghers. The ripe hue of the
red and dun kine absorbed the evening sunlight, which
the white-coated animals returned to the eye in rays
almost dazzling, even at the distant elevation on which
The bird's-eye perspective before her was not so
luxuriantly beautiful, perhaps, as that other one which
she knew so well; yet it was more cheering. It lacked
the intensely blue atmosphere of the rival vale, and
its heavy soils and scents; the new air was clear,
bracing, ethereal. The river itself, which nourished
the grass and cows of these renowned dairies, flowed
not like the streams in Blackmoor. Those were slow,
silent, often turbid; flowing over beds of mud into
which the incautious wader might sink and vanish
unawares. The Froom waters were clear as the pure
River of Life shown to the Evangelist, rapid as the
shadow of a cloud, with pebbly shallows that prattled
to the sky all day long. There the water-flower was
the lily; the crowfoot here.
Either the change in the quality of the air from heavy
to light, or the sense of being amid new scenes where
there were no invidious eyes upon her, sent up her
spirits wonderfully. Her hopes mingled with the
sunshine in an ideal photosphere which surrounded her
as she bounded along against the soft south wind.
She heard a pleasant voice in every breeze, and in every
bird's note seemed to lurk a joy.
Her face had latterly changed with changing states of
mind, continually fluctuating between beauty and
ordinariness, according as the thoughts were gay or
grave. One day she was pink and flawless; another pale
and tragical. When she was pink she was feeling less
then when pale; her more perfect beauty accorded with
her less elevated mood; her more intense mood with her
less perfect beauty. It was her best face physically
that was now set against the south wind.
The irresistible, universal, automatic tendency to find
sweet pleasure somewhere, which pervades all life, from
the meanest to the highest, had at length mastered
Tess. Being even now only a young woman of twenty, one
who mentally and sentimentally had not finished
growing, it was impossible that any event should have
left upon her an impression that was not in time
capable of transmutation.
And thus her spirits, and her thankfulness, and her
hopes, rose higher and higher. She tried several
ballads, but found them inadequate; till, recollecting
the psalter that her eyes had so often wandered over of
a Sunday morning before she had eaten of the tree of
knowledge, she chanted: "O ye Sun and Moon ... O ye
Stars ... ye Green Things upon the Earth ... ye Fowls
of the Air ... Beasts and Cattle ... Children of Men
... bless ye the Lord, praise Him and magnify Him for
She suddenly stopped and murmured: "But perhaps I don't
quite know the Lord as yet."
And probably the half-unconscious rhapsody was a
Fetichistic utterance in a Monotheistic setting; women
whose chief companions are the forms and forces of
outdoor Nature retain in their souls far more of the
Pagan fantasy of their remote forefathers than of the
systematized religion taught their race at later date.
However, Tess found at least approximate expression for
her feelings in the old BENEDICITE that she had lisped
from infancy; and it was enough. Such high contentment
with such a slight initial performance as that of
having started towards a means of independent living
was a part of the Durbeyfield temperament. Tess really
wished to walk uprightly, while her father did nothing
of the kind; but she resembled him in being content
with immediate and small achievements, and in having no
mind for laborious effort towards such petty social
advancement as could alone be effected by a family so
heavily handicapped as the once powerful d'Urbervilles
There was, it might be said, the energy of her mother's
unexpected family, as well as the natural energy of
Tess's years, rekindled after the experience which had
so overwhelmed her for the time. Let the truth be
told--women do as a rule live through such
humiliations, and regain their spirits, and again look
about them with an interested eye. While there's life
there's hope is a conviction not so entirely unknown to
the "betrayed" as some amiable theorists would have us
Tess Durbeyfield, then, in good heart, and full of zest
for life, descended the Egdon slopes lower and lower
towards the dairy of her pilgrimage.
The marked difference, in the final particular, between
the rival vales now showed itself. The secret of
Blackmoor was best discovered from the heights around;
to read aright the valley before her it was necessary
to descend into its midst. When Tess had accomplished
this feat she found herself to be standing on a
carpeted level, which stretched to the east and west as
far as the eye could reach.
The river had stolen from the higher tracts and brought
in particles to the vale all this horizontal land; and
now, exhausted, aged, and attenuated, lay serpentining
along through the midst of its former spoils.
Not quite sure of her direction Tess stood still upon
the hemmed expanse of verdant flatness, like a fly on a
billiard-table of indefinite length, and of no more
consequence to the surroundings than that fly. The
sole effect of her presence upon the placid valley so
far had been to excite the mind of a solitary heron,
which, after descending to the ground not far from her
path, stood with neck erect, looking at her.
Suddenly there arose from all parts of the lowland a
prolonged and repeated call--"Waow! waow! waow!"
From the furthest east to the furthest west the cries
spread as if by contagion, accompanied in some cases by
the barking of a dog. It was not the expression of the
valley's consciousness that beautiful Tess had arrived,
but the ordinary announcement of
milking-time--half-past four o'clock, when the dairymen
set about getting in the cows.
The red and white herd nearest at hand, which had been
phlegmatically waiting for the call, now trooped
towards the steading in the background, their great
bags of milk swinging under them as they walked.
Tess followed slowly in their rear, and entered the barton
by the open gate through which they had entered before
her. Long thatched sheds stretched round the
enclosure, their slopes encrusted with vivid green
moss, and their eaves supported by wooden posts rubbed
to a glossy smoothness by the flanks of infinite cows
and calves of bygone years, now passed to an oblivion
almost inconceivable in its profundity. Between the
post were ranged the milchers, each exhibiting herself
at the present moment to a whimsical eye in the rear as
a circle on two stalks, down the centre of which a
switch moved pendulum-wise; while the sun, lowering
itself behind this patient row, threw their shadows
accurately inwards upon the wall. Thus it threw
shadows of these obscure and homely figures every
evening with as much care over each contour as if it
had been the profile of a court beauty on a palace
wall; copied them as diligently as it had copied
Olympian shapes on marble FACADES long ago, or the
outline of Alexander, Caesar, and the Pharaohs.
They were the less restful cows that were stalled.
Those that would stand still of their own will were
milked in the middle of the yard, where many of such
better behaved ones stood waiting now--all prime
milchers, such as were seldom seen out of this valley,
and not always within it; nourished by the succulent
feed which the water-meads supplied at this prime
season of the year. Those of them that were spotted
with white reflected the sunshine in dazzling
brilliancy, and the polished brass knobs of their horns
glittered with something of military display. Their
large-veined udders hung ponderous as sandbags, the
teats sticking out like the legs of a gipsy's crock;
and as each animal lingered for her turn to arrive the
milk oozed forth and fell in drops to the ground.
The dairymaids and men had flocked down from their
cottages and out of the dairy-house with the arrival of
the cows from the meads; the maids walking in patterns,
not on account of the weather, but to keep their shoes
above the mulch of the barton. Each girl sat down on
her three-legged stool, her face sideways, her right
cheek resting against the cow; and looked musingly
along the animal's flank at Tess as she approached.
The male milkers, with hat-brims turned down, resting
flat on their foreheads and gazing on the ground, did
not observe her.
One of these was a sturdy middle-aged man--whose long
white "pinner" was somewhat finer and cleaner than the
wraps of the others, and whose jacket underneath had a
presentable marketing aspect--the master-dairyman, of
whom she was in quest, his double character as a
working milker and butter maker here during six days,
and on the seventh as a man in shining broad-cloth in
his family pew at church, being so marked as to have
inspired a rhyme-
All the week:--
On Sundays Mister Richard Crick.
Seeing Tess standing at gaze he went across to her.
The majority of dairymen have a cross manner at milking
time, but it happened that Mr Crick was glad to get a
new hand--for the days were busy ones now--and he
received her warmly; inquiring for her mother and the
rest of the family--(though this as a matter of form
merely, for in reality he had not been aware of Mrs
Durbeyfield's existence till apprised of the fact by a
brief business-letter about Tess).
"Oh--ay, as a lad I knowed your part o' the country
very well," he said terminatively. "Though I've never
been there since. And a aged woman of ninety that use
to live nigh here, but is dead and gone long ago, told
me that a family of some such name as yours in
Blackmoor Vale came originally from these parts, and
that 'twere a old ancient race that had all but
perished off the earth--though the new generations
didn't know it. But, Lord, I took no notice of the old
woman's ramblings, not I."
"Oh no--it is nothing," said Tess.
Then the talk was of business only.
"You can milk 'em clean, my maidy? I don't want my cow
going azew at this time o' year."
She reassured him on that point, and he surveyed her up
and down. She had been staying indoors a good deal, and
her complexion had grown delicate.
"Quite sure you can stand it? 'Tis comfortable enough
here for rough folk; but we don't live in a cowcumber
She declared that she could stand it, and her zest and
willingness seemed to win him over.
"Well, I suppose you'll want a dish o' tay, or victuals
of some sort, hey? Not yet? Well, do as ye like about
it. But faith, if 'twas I, I should be as dry as a kex
wi' travelling so far."
"I'll begin milking now, to get my hand in," said Tess.
She drank a little milk as temporary refreshment--
to the surprise--indeed, slight contempt--of Dairyman
Crick, to whose mind it had apparently never occurred
that milk was good as a beverage.
"Oh, if ye can swaller that, be it so," he said
indifferently, while holding up the pail that she
sipped from. "'Tis what I hain't touched for years--
not I. Rot the stuff; it would lie in my innerds like
lead. You can try your hand upon she," he pursued,
nodding to the nearest cow. "Not but what she do milk
rather hard. We've hard ones and we've easy ones, like
other folks. However, you'll find out that soon
When Tess had changed her bonnet for a hood, and was
really on her stool under the cow, and the milk was
squirting from her fists into the pail, she appeared to
feel that she really had laid a new foundation for her
future. The conviction bred serenity, her pulse
slowed, and she was able to look about her.
The milkers formed quite a little battalion of men and
maids, the men operating on the hard-teated animals,
the maids on the kindlier natures. It was a large
dairy. There were nearly a hundred milchers under
Crick's management, all told; and of the herd the
master-dairyman milked six or eight with his own hands,
unless away from home. These were the cows that milked
hardest of all; for his journey-milkmen being more or
less casually hired, he would not entrust this
half-dozen to their treatment, lest, from indifference,
they should not milk them fully; nor to the maids, lest
they should fail in the same way for lack of
finger-grip; with the result that in course of time the
cows would "go azew"--that is, dry up. It was not the
loss for the moment that made slack milking so serious,
but that with the decline of demand there came decline,
and ultimately cessation, of supply.
After Tess had settled down to her cow there was for a
time no talk in the barton, and not a sound interfered
with the purr of the milk-jets into the numerous pails,
except a momentary exclamation to one or other of the
beast requesting her to turn round or stand still. The
only movements were those of the milkers' hands up and
down, and the swing of the cows' tails. Thus they all
worked on, encompassed by the vast flat mead which
extended to either slope of the valley--a level
landscape compounded of old landscapes long forgotten,
and, no doubt, differing in character very greatly from
the landscape they composed now.
"To my thinking," said the dairyman, rising suddenly
from a cow he had just finished off, snatching up his
three-legged stool in one hand and the pail in the
other, and moving on to the next hard-yielder in his
vicinity; "to my thinking, the cows don't gie down
their milk today as usual. Upon my life, if Winker do
begin keeping back like this, she'll not be worth going
under by midsummer."
"'Tis because there's a new hand come among us,' said
Jonathan Kail. "I've noticed such things afore."
"To be sure. It may be so. I didn't think o't."
"I've been told that it goes up into their horns at
such times," said a dairymaid.
"Well, as to going up into their horns," replied
Dairyman Crick dubiously, as though even witchcraft
might be limited by anatomical possibilities, "I
couldn't say; I certainly could not. But as nott cows
will keep it back as well as the horned ones, I don't
quite agree to it. Do ye know that riddle about the
nott cows, Jonathan? Why do nott cows give less milk in
a year than horned?"
"I don't!" interposed the milkmaid, "Why do they?"
"Because there bain't so many of 'em," said the
dairyman. "Howsomever, these gam'sters do certainly
keep back their milk today. Folks, we must lift up a
stave or two--that's the only cure for't."
Songs were often resorted to in dairies hereabout as an
enticement to the cows when they showed signs of
withholding their usual yield; and the band of milkers
at this request burst into melody--in purely
business-like tones, it is true, and with no great
spontaneity; the result, according to their own belief,
being a decided improvement during the song's
continuance. When they had gone through fourteen or
fifteen verses of a cheerful ballad about a murderer
who was afraid to go to bed in the dark because he saw
certain brimstone flames around him, one of the male
"I wish singing on the stoop didn't use up so much of a
man's wind! You should get your harp, sir; not but what
a fiddle is best."
Tess, who had given ear to this, thought the words were
addressed to the dairyman, but she was wrong. A reply,
in the shape of "Why?" came as it were out of the belly
of a dun cow in the stalls; it had been spoken by a
milker behind the animal, whom she had not hitherto
"Oh yes; there's nothing like a fiddle," said the
dairyman. "Though I do think that bulls are more moved
by a tune than cows--at least that's my experience.
Once there was an old aged man over at
Mellstock--William Dewy by name--one of the family that
used to do a good deal of business as tranters over
there, Jonathan, do ye mind?--I knowed the man by sight
as well as I know my own brother, in a manner of
speaking. Well, this man was a coming home-along from
a wedding where he had been playing his fiddle, one
fine moonlight night, and for shortness' sake he took a
cut across Forty-acres, a field lying that way, where a
bull was out to grass. The bull seed William, and took
after him, horns aground, begad; and though William
runned his best, and hadn't MUCH drink in him
(considering 'twas a wedding, and the folks well off),
he found he'd never reach the fence and get over in
time to save himself. Well, as a last thought, he
pulled out his fiddle as he runned, and struck up a
jig, turning to the bull, and backing towards the
corner. The bull softened down, and stood still,
looking hard at William Dewy, who fiddled on and on;
till a sort of a smile stole over the bull's face. But
no sooner did William stop his playing and turn to get
over hedge than the bull would stop his smiling and
lower his horns towards the seat of William's breeches.
Well, William had to turn about and play on,
willy-nilly; and 'twas only three o'clock in the world,
and 'a knowed that nobody would come that way for
hours, and he so leery and tired that 'a didn't know
what to do. When he had scraped till about four
o'clock he felt that he verily would have to give over
soon, and he said to himself, 'There's only this last
tune between me and eternal welfare! Heaven save me, or
I'm a done man.' Well, then he called to mind how he'd
seen the cattle kneel o' Christmas Eves in the dead o'
night. It was not Christmas Eve then, but it came into
his head to play a trick upon the bull. So he broke
into the 'Tivity Hymm, just as at Christmas
carol-singing; when, lo and behold, down went the bull
on his bended knees, in his ignorance, just as if
'twere the true 'Tivity night and hour. As soon as his
horned friend were down, William turned, clinked off
like a long-dog, and jumped safe over hedge, before
the praying bull had got on his feet again to take
after him. William used to say that he'd seen a man
look a fool a good many times, but never such a fool as
that bull looked when he found his pious feelings had
been played upon, and 'twas not Christmas Eve. ... Yes,
William Dewy, that was the man's name; and I can tell
you to a foot where's he a-lying in Mellstock
Churchyard at this very moment--just between the second
yew-tree and the north aisle."
"It's a curious story; it carries us back to medieval
times, when faith was a living thing!"
The remark, singular for a dairy-yard, was murmured by
the voice behind the dun cow; but as nobody understood
the reference no notice was taken, except that the
narrator seemed to think it might imply scepticism as
to his tale.
"Well, 'tis quite true, sir, whether or no. I knowed
the man well."
"Oh yes; I have no doubt of it," said the person behind
the dun cow.
Tess's attention was thus attracted to the dairyman's
interlocutor, of whom she could see but the merest
patch, owing to his burying his head so persistently in
the flank of the milcher. She could not understand why
he should be addressed as "sir" even by the dairyman
himself. But no explanation was discernible; he
remained under to cow long enough to have milked three,
uttering a private ejaculation now and then, as if he
could not get on.
"Take it gentle, sir; take it gentle," said the
dairyman. "'Tis knack, not strength that does it."
"So I find," said the other, standing up at last and
stretching his arms. "I think I have finished her,
however, though she made my fingers ache."
Tess could then see him at full length. He wore the
ordinary white pinner and leather leggings of a
dairy-farmer when milking, and his boots were clogged
with the mulch of the yard; but this was all his local
livery. Beneath it was something educated, reserved,
subtle, sad, differing.
But the details of his aspect were temporarily thrust
aside by the discovery that he was one whom she had
seen before. Such vicissitudes had Tess passed through
since that time that for a moment she could not
remember where she had met him; and then it flashed
upon her that he was the pedestrian who had joined in
the club-dance at Marlott--the passing stranger who had
come she knew not whence, had danced with others but
not with her, and slightingly left her, and gone on his
way with his friends.
The flood of memories brought back by this revival of
an incident anterior to her troubles produced a
momentary dismay lest, recognizing her also, he should
by some means discover her story. But it passed away
when she found no sign of remembrance in him. She saw
by degrees that since their first and only encounter
his mobile face had grown more thoughtful, and had
acquired a young man's shapely moustache and beard--the
latter of the palest straw colour where it began upon
his cheeks, and deepening to a warm brown farther from
its root. Under his linen milking-pinner he wore a
dark velveteen jacket, cord breeches and gaiters, and a
starched white shirt. Without the milking-gear nobody
could have guessed what he was. He might with equal
probability have been an eccentric landowner or a
gentlemanly ploughman. That he was but a novice at
dairy work she had realized in a moment, from the time
he had spent upon the milking of one cow.
Meanwhile many of the milkmaids had said to one another
of the newcomer, "How pretty she is!" with something of
real generosity and admiration, though with a half hope
that the auditors would qualify the assertion--which,
strictly speaking, they might have done, prettiness
being an inexact definition of what struck the eye in
Tess. When the milking was finished for the evening
they straggled indoors, where Mrs Crick, the dairyman's
wife--who was too respectable to go out milking
herself, and wore a hot stuff gown in warm weather
because the dairymaids wore prints--was giving an eye
to the leads and things.
Only two or three of the maids, Tess learnt, slept in
the dairy-house besides herself; most of the helpers
going to their homes. She saw nothing at supper-time of
the superior milker who had commented on the story, and
asked no questions about him, the remainder of the
evening being occupied in arranging her place in the
bed-chamber. It was a large room over the milk-house,
some thirty feet long; the sleeping-cots of the other
three indoor milkmaids being in the same apartment.
They were blooming young women, and, except one, rather
older than herself. By bedtime Tess was thoroughly
tired, and fell asleep immediately.
But one of the girls who occupied an adjoining bed was
more wakeful than Tess, and would insist upon relating
to the latter various particulars of the homestead into
which she had just entered. The girl's whispered words
mingled with the shades, and, to Tess's drowsy mind,
they seemed to be generated by the darkness in which
"Mr Angel Clare--he that is learning milking, and that
plays the harp--never says much to us. He is a pa'son's
son, and is too much taken up wi' his own thoughts to
notice girls. He is the dairyman's pupil--learning
farming in all its branches. He has learnt
sheep-farming at another place, and he's now mastering
dairy-work.... Yes, he is quite the gentleman-born. His
father is the Reverent Mr Clare at Emminster--a good
many miles from here."
"Oh--I have heard of him," said her companion, now
awake. "A very earnest clergyman, is he not?"
"Yes--that he is--the earnestest man in all Wessex,
they say--the last of the old Low Church sort, they
tell me--for all about here be what they call High.
All his sons, except our Mr Clare, be made pa'sons too."
Tess had not at this hour the curiosity to ask why the
present Mr Clare was not made a parson like his
brethren, and gradually fell asleep again, the words of
her informant coming to her along with the smell of the
cheeses in the adjoining cheeseloft, and the measured
dripping of the whey from the wrings downstairs.
Angel Clare rises out of the past not altogether as a
distinct figure, but as an appreciative voice, a long
regard of fixed, abstracted eyes, and a mobility of
mouth somewhat too small and delicately lined for a
man's, though with an unexpectedly firm close of the
lower lip now and then; enough to do away with any
inference of indecision. Nevertheless, something
nebulous, preoccupied, vague, in his bearing and
regard, marked him as one who probably had no very
definite aim or concern about his material future.
Yet as a lad people had said of him that he was one who
might do anything if he tried.
He was the youngest son of his father, a poor parson at
the other end of the county, and had arrived at
Talbothays Dairy as a six months' pupil, after going
the round of some other farms, his object being to
acquire a practical skill in the various processes of
farming, with a view either to the Colonies, or the
tenure of a home-farm, as circumstances might decide.
His entry into the ranks of the agriculturists and
breeders was a step in the young man's career which had
been anticipated neither by himself nor by others.
Mr Clare the elder, whose first wife had died and left
him a daughter, married a second late in life. This
lady had somewhat unexpectedly brought him three sons,
so that between Angel, the youngest, and his father the
Vicar there seemed to be almost a missing generation.
Of these boys the aforesaid Angel, the child of his old
age, was the only son who had not taken a University
degree, though he was the single one of them whose
early promise might have done full justice to an
Some two or three years before Angel's appearance at
the Marlott dance, on a day when he had left school and
was pursuing his studies at home, a parcel came to the
Vicarage from the local bookseller's, directed to the
Reverend James Clare. The Vicar having opened it and
found it to contain a book, read a few pages; whereupon
he jumped up from his seat and went straight to the
shop with the book under his arm.
"Why has this been sent to my house?" he asked
peremptorily, holding up the volume.
"It was ordered, sir."
"Not by me, or any one belonging to me, I am happy to
The shopkeeper looked into his order-book.
"Oh, it has been misdirected, sir," he said. "It was
ordered by Mr Angel Clare, and should have been sent to
Mr Clare winced as if he had been struck. He went home
pale and dejected, and called Angel into his study.
"Look into this book, my boy," he said. "What do you
know about it?"
"I ordered it," said Angel simply.
"To read." "How can you think of reading it?"
"How can I? Why--it is a system of philosophy.
There is no more moral, or even religious, work published."
"Yes--moral enough; I don't deny that. But
religious!--and for YOU, who intend to be a minister of
"Since you have alluded to the matter, father," said
the son, with anxious thought upon his face, "I should
like to say, once for all, that I should prefer not to
take Orders. I fear I could not conscientiously do so.
I love the Church as one loves a parent. I shall always
have the warmest affection for her. There is no
institution for whose history I have a deeper
admiration; but I cannot honestly be ordained her
minister, as my brothers are, while she refuses to
liberate her mind from an untenable redemptive
It had never occurred to the straightforward and
simple-minded Vicar that one of his own flesh and blood
could come to this! He was stultified, shocked,
paralysed. And if Angel were not going to enter the
Church, what was the use of sending him to Cambridge?
The University as a step to anything but ordination
seemed, to this man of fixed ideas, a preface without a
volume. He was a man not merely religious, but devout;
a firm believer--not as the phrase is now elusively
construed by theological thimble-riggers in the Church
and out of it, but in the old and ardent sense of the
Evangelical school: one who could
That the Eternal and Divine
Did, eighteen centuries ago
In very truth...
Angel's father tried argument, persuasion, entreaty.
"No, father; I cannot underwrite Article Four (leave
alone the rest), taking it 'in the literal and
grammatical sense' as required by the Declaration; and,
therefore, I can't be a parson in the present state of
affairs," said Angel. "My whole instinct in matters of
religion is towards reconstruction; to quote your
favorite Epistle to the Hebrews, 'THE REMOVING OF THOSE
THINGS THAT ARE SHAKEN, AS OF THINGS THAT ARE MADE,
THAT THOSE THINGS WHICH CANNOT BE SHAKEN MAY REMAIN.'"
His father grieved so deeply that it made Angel quite
ill to see him.
"What is the good of your mother and me economizing and
stinting ourselves to give you a University education,
if it is not to be used for the honour and glory of
God?" his father repeated.
"Why, that it may be used for the honour and glory of
Perhaps if Angel had persevered he might have gone to
Cambridge like his brothers. But the Vicar's view of
that seat of learning as a stepping-stone to Orders
alone was quite a family tradition; and so rooted was
the idea in his mind that perseverance began to appear
to the sensitive son akin to an intent to
misappropriate a trust, and wrong the pious heads of
the household, who had been and were, as his father had
hinted, compelled to exercise much thrift to carry out
his uniform plan of education for the three young men.
"I will do without Cambridge," said Angel at last.
"I feel that I have no right to go there in the
The effects of this decisive debate were not long in
showing themselves. He spent years and years in
desultory studies, undertakings, and meditations; he
began to evince considerable indifference to social
forms and observances. The material distinctions of
rank and wealth he increasingly despised. Even the
"good old family" (to use a favourite phrase of a late
local worthy) had no aroma for him unless there were
good new resolutions in its representatives. As a
balance to these austerities, when he went to live in
London to see what the world was like, and with a view
to practising a profession or business there, he was
carried off his head, and nearly entrapped by a woman
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