Tess of the d'Urbervilles, A Pure Woman, by Thomas Hardy
Part 4 out of 11
much older than himself, though luckily he escaped not
greatly the worse for the experience.
Early association with country solitudes had bred in
him an unconquerable, and almost unreasonable, aversion
to modern town life, and shut him out from such success
as he might have aspired to by following a mundane
calling in the impracticability of the spiritual one.
But something had to be done; he had wasted many
valuable years; and having an acquaintance who was
starting on a thriving life as a Colonial farmer, it
occurred to Angel that this might be a lead in the
right direction. Farming, either in the Colonies,
America, or at home--farming, at any rate, after
becoming well qualified for the business by a careful
apprenticeship--that was a vocation which would
probably afford an independence without the sacrifice
of what he valued even more than a
So we find Angel Clare at six-and-twenty here at
Talbothays as a student of kine, and, as there were no
houses near at hand in which he could get a comfortable
lodging, a boarder at the dairyman's.
His room was an immense attic which ran the whole
length of the dairy-house. It could only be reached by
a ladder from the cheese-loft, and had been closed up
for a long time till he arrived and selected it as his
retreat. Here Clare had plenty of space, and could
often be heard by the dairy-folk pacing up and down
when the household had gone to rest. A portion was
divided off at one end by a curtain, behind which was
his bed, the outer part being furnished as a homely
At first he lived up above entirely, reading a good
deal, and strumming upon an old harp which he had
bought at a sale, saying when in a bitter humour that
he might have to get his living by it in the streets
some day. But he soon preferred to read human nature
by taking his meals downstairs in the general
dining-kitchen, with the dairyman and his wife, and the
maids and men, who all together formed a lively
assembly; for though but few milking hands slept in the
house, several joined the family at meals. The longer
Clare resided here the less objection had he to his
company, and the more did he like to share quarters
with them in common.
Much to his surprise he took, indeed, a real delight in
their companionship. The conventional farm-folk of his
imagination--personified in the newspaper-press by the
pitiable dummy known as Hodge--were obliterated after a
few days' residence. At close quarters no Hodge was to
be seen. At first, it is true, when Clare's
intelligence was fresh from a contrasting society,
these friends with whom he now hobnobbed seemed a
little strange. Sitting down as a level member of the
dairyman's household seemed at the outset an
undignified proceeding. The ideas, the modes, the
surroundings, appeared retrogressive and unmeaning.
But with living on there, day after day, the acute
sojourner became conscious of a new aspect in the
spectacle. Without any objective change whatever,
variety had taken the place of monotonousness. His host
and his host's household, his men and his maids, as
they became intimately known to Clare, began to
differentiate themselves as in a chemical process. The
thought of Pascal's was brought home to him: "A MESURE
QU'ON A PLUS D'ESPRIT, ON TROUVE QU'IL Y A PLUS
D'HOMMES ORIGINAUX. LES GENS DU COMMUN NE TROUVENT PAS
DE DIFFERENCE ENTRE LES HOMMES." The typical and
unvarying Hodge ceased to exist. He had been
disintegrated into a number of varied
fellow-creatures--beings of many minds, beings infinite
in difference; some happy, many serene, a few
depressed, one here and there bright even to genius,
some stupid, others wanton, others austere; some mutely
Miltonic, some potentially Cromwellian; into men who
had private views of each other, as he had of his
friends; who could applaud or condemn each other, amuse
or sadden themselves by the contemplation of each
other's foibles or vices; men every one of whom walked
in his own individual way the road to dusty death.
Unexpectedly he began to like the outdoor life for its
own sake, and for what it brought, apart from its
bearing on his own proposed career. Considering his
position he became wonderfully free from the chronic
melancholy which is taking hold of the civilized races
with the decline of belief in a beneficent Power. For
the first time of late years he could read as his
musings inclined him, without any eye to cramming for a
profession, since the few farming handbooks which he
deemed it desirable to master occupied him but little
He grew away from old associations, and saw something
new in life and humanity. Secondarily, he made close
acquaintance with phenomena which he had before known
but darkly--the seasons in their moods, morning and
evening, night and noon, winds in their different
tempers, trees, waters and mists, shades and silences,
and the voices of inanimate things.
The early mornings were still sufficiently cool to
render a fire acceptable in the large room wherein they
breakfasted; and, by Mrs Crick's orders, who held that
he was too genteel to mess at their table, it was Angel
Clare's custom to sit in the yawning chimney-corner
during the meal, his cup-and-saucer and plate being
placed on a hinged flap at his elbow. The light from
the long, wide, mullioned window opposite shone in upon
his nook, and, assisted by a secondary light of cold
blue quality which shone down the chimney, enabled him
to read there easily whenever disposed to do so.
Between Clare and the window was the table at which his
companions sat, their munching profiles rising sharp
against the panes; while to the side was the milk-house
door, through which were visible the rectangular leads
in rows, full to the brim with the morning's milk. At
the further end the great churn could be seen
revolving, and its slip-slopping heard--the moving
power being discernible through the window in the form
of a spiritless horse walking in a circle and driven by
For several days after Tess's arrival Clare, sitting
abstractedly reading from some book, periodical, or
piece of music just come by post, hardly noticed that
she was present at table. She talked so little, and
the other maids talked so much, that the babble did not
strike him as possessing a new note, and he was ever in
the habit of neglecting the particulars of an outward
scene for the general impression. One day, however,
when he had been conning one of his music-scores, and
by force of imagination was hearing the tune in his
head, he lapsed into listlessness, and the music-sheet
rolled to the hearth. He looked at the fire of logs,
with its one flame pirouetting on the top in a dying
dance after the breakfast-cooking and boiling, and it
seemed to jig to his inward tune; also at the two
chimney crooks dangling down from the cotterel or
cross-bar, plumed with soot which quivered to the same
melody; also at the half-empty kettle whining an
accompaniment. The conversation at the table mixed in
with his phantasmal orchestra till he thought: "What a
fluty voice one of those milkmaids has! I suppose it is
the new one."
Clare looked round upon her, seated with the others.
She was not looking towards him. Indeed, owing to his
long silence, his presence in the room was almost
"I don't know about ghosts," she was saying; "but I do
know that our souls can be made to go outside our
bodies when we are alive."
The dairyman turned to her with his mouth full, his
eyes charged with serious inquiry, and his great knife
and fork (breakfasts were breakfasts here) planted
erect on the table, like the beginning of a gallows.
"What--really now? And is it so, maidy?" he said.
"A very easy way to feel 'em go," continued Tess, "is
to lie on the grass at night and look straight up at
some big bright star; and, by fixing your mind upon it,
you will soon find that you are hundreds and hundreds
o' miles away from your body, which you don't seem to
want at all."
The dairyman removed his hard gaze from Tess, and fixed
it on his wife.
"Now that's a rum thing, Christianner--hey? To think
o' the miles I've vamped o' starlight nights these last
thirty year, courting, or trading, or for doctor, or
for nurse, and yet never had the least notion o' that
till now, or feeled my soul rise so much as an inch
above my shirt-collar."
The general attention being drawn to her, including
that of the dairyman's pupil, Tess flushed, and
remarking evasively that it was only a fancy, resumed
Clare continued to observe her. She soon finished her
eating, and having a consciousness that Clare was
regarding her, began to trace imaginary patterns on the
tablecloth with her forefinger with the constraint of a
domestic animal that perceives itself to be watched.
"What a fresh and virginal daughter of Nature that
milkmaid is!" he said to himself.
And then he seemed to discern in her something that was
familiar, something which carried him back into a
joyous and unforeseeing past, before the necessity of
taking thought had made the heavens gray. He concluded
that he had beheld her before; where he could not tell.
A casual encounter during some country ramble it
certainly had been, and he was not greatly curious
about it. But the circumstance was sufficient to lead
him to select Tess in preference to the other pretty
milkmaids when he wished to contemplate contiguous
In general the cows were milked as they presented
themselves, without fancy or choice. But certain cows
will show a fondness for a particular pair of hands,
sometimes carrying this predilection so far as to
refuse to stand at all except to their favourite, the
pail of a stranger being unceremoniously kicked over.
It was Dairyman Crick's rule to insist on breaking down
these partialities and aversions by constant
interchange, since otherwise, in the event of a milkman
or maid going away from the dairy, he was placed in a
difficulty. The maids' private aims, however, were the
reverse of the dairyman's rule, the daily selection by
each damsel of the eight or ten cows to which she had
grown accustomed rendering the operation on their
willing udders surprising easy and effortless.
Tess, like her compeers, soon discovered which of the
cows had a preference for her style of manipulation,
and her fingers having become delicate from the long
domiciliary imprisonments to which she had subjected
herself at intervals during the last two or three
years, she would have been glad to meet the milchers'
views in this respect. Out of the whole ninety-five
there were eight in particular--Dumpling, Fancy, Lofty,
Mist, Old Pretty, Young Pretty, Tidy, and Loud--who,
though the teats of one or two were as hard as carrots,
gave down to her with a readiness that made her work on
them a mere touch of the fingers. Knowing, however, the
dairyman's wish, she endeavoured conscientiously to
take the animals just as they came, expecting the very
hard yielders which she could not yet manage.
But she soon found a curious correspondence between the
ostensibly chance position of the cows and her wishes
in this matter, till she felt that their order could
not be the result of accident. The dairyman's pupil
had lent a hand in getting the cows together of late,
and at the fifth or sixth time she turned her eyes, as
she rested against the cow, full of sly inquiry upon
"Mr Clare, you have ranged the cows!" she said,
blushing; and in making the accusation symptoms of a
smile gently lifted her upper lip in spite of her, so
as to show the tips of her teeth, the lower lip
remaining severely still.
"Well, it makes no difference," said he. "You will
always be here to milk them."
"Do you think so? I HOPE I shall! But I don't KNOW."
She was angry with herself afterwards, thinking that
he, unaware of her grave reasons for liking this
seclusion, might have mistaken her meaning. She had
spoken so earnestly to him, as if his presence were
somehow a factor in her wish. Her misgiving was such
that at dusk, when the milking was over, she walked in
the garden alone, to continue her regrets that she had
disclosed to him her discovery of his considerateness.
It was a typical summer evening in June, the atmosphere
being in such delicate equilibrium and so transmissive
that inanimate objects seemed endowed with two or three
senses, if not five. There was no distinction between
the near and the far, and an auditor felt close to
everything within the horizon. The soundlessness
impressed her as a positive entity rather than as the
mere negation of noise. It was broken by the strumming
of strings. Tess had heard those notes in the attic
above her head. Dim, flattened, constrained by their
confinement, they had never appealed to her as now,
when they wandered in the still air with a stark
quality like that of nudity. To speak absolutely, both
instrument and execution were poor; but the relative is
all, and as she listened Tess, like a fascinated bird,
could not leave the spot. Far from leaving she drew up
towards the performer, keeping behind the hedge that he
might not guess her presence.
The outskirt of the garden in which Tess found herself
had been left uncultivated for some years, and was now
damp and rank with juicy grass which sent up mists of
pollen at a touch; and with tall blooming weeds
emitting offensive smells--weeds whose red and yellow
and purple hues formed a polychrome as dazzling as that
of cultivated flowers. She went stealthily as a cat
through this profusion of growth, gathering
cuckoo-spittle on her skirts, cracking snails that were
underfoot, staining her hands with thistle-milk and
slug-slime, and rubbing off upon her naked arms sticky
blights which, though snow-white on the apple-tree
trunks, made madder stains on her skin; thus she drew
quite near to Clare, still unobserved of him.
Tess was conscious of neither time nor space. The
exaltation which she had described as being producible
at will by gazing at a star, came now without any
determination of hers; she undulated upon the thin
notes of the second-hand harp, and their harmonies
passed like breezes through her, bringing tears into
her eyes. The floating pollen seemed to be his notes
made visible, and the dampness of the garden the
weeping of the garden's sensibility. Though near
nightfall, the rank-smelling weed-flowers glowed as if
they would not close for intentness, and the waves of
colour mixed with the waves of sound.
The light which still shone was derived mainly from a
large hole in the western bank of cloud; it was like a
piece of day left behind by accident, dusk having
closed in elsewhere. He concluded his plaintive
melody, a very simple performance, demanding no great
skill; and she waited, thinking another might be begun.
But, tired of playing, he had desultorily come round
the fence, and was rambling up behind her. Tess, her
cheeks on fire, moved away furtively, as if hardly
moving at all.
Angel, however, saw her light summer gown, and he
spoke; his low tones reaching her, though he was some
"What makes you draw off in that way, Tess?" said he.
"Are you afraid?"
"Oh no, sir ... not of outdoor things; especially just
now when the apple-blooth is falling, and everything is
"But you have your indoor fears--eh?"
"I couldn't quite say."
"The milk turning sour?"
"Life in general?"
"Ah--so have I, very often. This hobble of being alive
is rather serious, don't you think so?"
"It is--now you put it that way."
"All the same, I shouldn't have expected a young girl
like you to see it so just yet. How is it you do?"
She maintained a hesitating silence.
"Come, Tess, tell me in confidence."
She thought that he meant what were the aspects of
things to her, and replied shyly --
"The trees have inquisitive eyes, haven't they?--that
is, seem as if they had. And the river says,--'Why do
ye trouble me with your looks?' And you seem to see
numbers of tomorrows just all in a line, the first of
them the biggest and clearest, the others getting
smaller and smaller as they stand farther away; but
they all seem very fierce and cruel and as if they
said, 'I'm coming! Beware of me! Beware of me!' ...
But YOU, sir, can raise up dreams with your music, and
drive all such horrid fancies away!"
He was surprised to find this young woman--who though
but a milkmaid had just that touch of rarity about her
which might make her the envied of her
housemates--shaping such sad imaginings. She was
expressing in her own native phrases--assisted a little
by her Sixth Standard training--feelings which might
almost have been called those of the age--the ache of
modernism. The perception arrested him less when he
reflected that what are called advanced ideas are
really in great part but the latest fashion in
definition--a more accurate expression, by words in
LOGY and ISM, of sensations which men and women have
vaguely grasped for centuries.
Still, it was strange that they should have come to her
while yet so young; more than strange; it was
impressive, interesting, pathetic. Not guessing the
cause, there was nothing to remind him that experience
is as to intensity, and not as to duration. Tess's
passing corporeal blight had been her mental harvest.
Tess, on her part, could not understand why a man of
clerical family and good education, and above physical
want, should look upon it as a mishap to be alive. For
the unhappy pilgrim herself there was very good reason.
But how could this admirable and poetic man ever have
descended into the Valley of Humiliation, have felt
with the man of Uz--as she herself had felt two or
three years ago--'My soul chooseth strangling and death
rather than my life. I loathe it; I would not live
It was true that he was at present out of his class.
But she knew that was only because, like Peter the
Great in a shipwright's yard, he was studying what he
wanted to know. He did not milk cows because he was
obliged to milk cows, but because he was learning to be
a rich and prosperous dairyman, landowner,
agriculturist, and breeder of cattle. He would become
an American or Australian Abraham, commanding like a
monarch his flocks and his herds, his spotted and his
ring-straked, his men-servants and his maids. At times,
nevertheless, it did seem unaccountable to her that a
decidedly bookish, musical, thinking young man should
have chosen deliberately to be a farmer, and not a
clergyman, like his father and brothers.
Thus, neither having the clue to the other's secret,
they were respectively puzzled at what each revealed,
and awaited new knowledge of each other's character and
mood without attempting to pry into each other's
Every day, every hour, brought to him one more little
stroke of her nature, and to her one more of his. Tess
was trying to lead a repressed life, but she little
divined the strength of her own vitality.
At first Tess seemed to regard Angel Clare as an
intelligence rather than as a man. As such she compared
him with herself; and at every discovery of the
abundance of his illuminations, and the unmeasurable,
Andean altitude of his, she became quite dejected,
disheartened from all further effort on her own part
He observed her dejection one day, when he had casually
mentioned something to her about pastoral life in
ancient Greece. She was gathering the buds called
"lords and ladies" from the bank while he spoke.
"Why do you look so woebegone all of a sudden?" he
"Oh, 'tis only--about my own self," she said, with a
frail laugh of sadness, fitfully beginning to peel "a
lady" meanwhile. "Just a sense of what might have been
with me! My life looks as if it had been wasted for
want of chances! When I see what you know, what you
have read, and seen, and thought, I feel what a nothing
I am! I'm like the poor Queen of Sheba who lived in
the Bible. There is no more spirit in me."
"Bless my soul, don't go troubling about that! Why,"
he said with some enthusiasm, "I should be only too
glad, my dear Tess, to help you to anything in the way
of history, or any line of reading you would like to
"It is a lady again," interrupted she, holding out the
bud she had peeled.
"I meant that there are always more ladies than lords
when you come to peel them."
"Never mind about the lords and ladies. Would you like
to take up any course of study--history, for example?"
"Sometimes I feel I don't want to know anything more
about it than I know already."
"Because what's the use of learning that I am one of a
long row only--finding out that there is set down in
some old book somebody just like me, and to know that I
shall only act her part; making me sad, that's all.
The best is not to remember that your nature and your
past doings have been just like thousands' and
thousands', and that your coming life and doings 'll be
like thousands's and thousands'."
"What, really, then, you don't want to learn anything?"
"I shouldn't mind learning why--why the sun do shine on
the just and the unjust alike," she answered, with a
slight quaver in her voice. "But that's what books
will not tell me." "Tess, fie for such bitterness!"
Of course he spoke with a conventional sense of duty only,
for that sort of wondering had not been unknown to
himself in bygone days. And as he looked at the
unpracticed mouth and lips, he thought that such a
daughter of the soil could only have caught up the
sentiment by rote. She went on peeling the lords and
ladies till Clare, regarding for a moment the wave-like
curl of her lashes as they dropped with her bent gaze
on her soft cheek, lingeringly went away. When he was
gone she stood awhile, thoughtfully peeling the last
bud; and then, awakening from her reverie, flung it and
all the crowd of floral nobility impatiently on the
ground, in an ebullition of displeasure with herself
for her NIAISERIES, and with a quickening warmth in her
heart of hearts.
How stupid he must think her! In an access of hunger
for his good opinion she bethought herself of what she
had latterly endeavoured to forget, so unpleasant had
been its issues--the identity of her family with that
of the knightly d'Urbervilles. Barren attribute as it
was, disastrous as its discovery had been in many ways
to her, perhaps Mr Clare, as a gentleman and a student
of history, would respect her sufficiently to forget
her childish conduct with the lords and ladies if he
knew that those Purbeck-marble and alabaster people in
Kingsbere Church really represented her own lineal
forefathers; that she was no spurious d'Urberville,
compounded of money and ambition like those at
Trantridge, but true d'Urberville to the bone.
But, before venturing to make the revelation, dubious
Tess indirectly sounded the dairyman as to its possible
effect upon Mr Clare, by asking the former if Mr Clare
had any great respect for old county families when they
had lost all their money and land.
"Mr Clare," said the dairyman emphatically, "is one of
the most rebellest rozums you ever knowed--not a bit
like the rest of his family; and if there's one thing
that he do hate more than another 'tis the notion of
what's called a' old family. He says that it stands to
reason that old families have done their spurt of work
in past days, and can't have anything left in 'em now.
There's the Billets and the Drenkhards and the Greys
and the St Quintins and the Hardys and the Goulds, who
used to own the lands for miles down this valley; you
could buy 'em all up now for an old song a'most. Why,
our little Retty Priddle here, you know, is one of the
Paridelles--the old family that used to own lots o' the
lands out by King's Hintock now owned by the Earl o'
Wessex, afore even he or his was heard of. Well, Mr
Clare found this out, and spoke quite scornful to the
poor girl for days. 'Ah!' he says to her, 'you'll never
make a good dairymaid! All your skill was used up ages
ago in Palestine, and you must lie fallow for a
thousand years to git strength for more deeds!' A boy
came here t'other day asking for a job, and said his
name was Matt, and when we asked him his surname he
said he'd never heard that 'a had any surname, and when
we asked why, he said he supposed his folks hadn't been
'stablished long enough. 'Ah! you're the very boy I
want!' says Mr Clare, jumping up and shaking hands
wi'en; 'I've great hopes of you;' and gave him
half-a-crown. O no! he can't stomach old families!'
After hearing this caricature of Clare's opinion poor
Tess was glad that she had not said a word in a weak
moment about her family--even though it was so
unusually old almost to have gone round the circle and
become a new one. Besides, another diary-girl was as
good as she, it seemed, in that respect. She held her
tongue about the d'Urberville vault, the Knight of the
Conqueror whose name she bore. The insight afforded
into Clare's character suggested to her that it was
largely owing to her supposed untraditional newness
that she had won interest in his eyes.
The season developed and matured. Another year's
instalment of flowers, leaves, nightingales, thrushes,
finches, and such ephemeral creatures, took up their
positions where only a year ago others had stood in
their place when these were nothing more than germs and
inorganic particles. Rays from the sunrise drew forth
the buds and stretched them into long stalks, lifted up
sap in noiseless streams, opened petals, and sucked out
scents in invisible jets and breathings.
Dairyman Crick's household of maids and men lived on
comfortably, placidly, even merrily. Their position
was perhaps the happiest of all positions in the social
scale, being above the line at which neediness ends,
and below the line at which the CONVENANCES begin to
cramp natural feelings, and the stress of threadbare
modishness makes too little of enough.
Thus passed the leafy time when arborescence seems to
be the one thing aimed at out of doors. Tess and Clare
unconsciously studied each other, ever balanced on the
edge of a passion, yet apparently keeping out of it.
All the while they were converging, under an
irresistible law, as surely as two streams in one vale.
Tess had never in her recent life been so happy as she
was now, possibly never would be so happy again. She
was, for one thing, physically and mentally suited
among these new surroundings. The sapling which had
rooted down to a poisonous stratum on the spot of its
sowing had been transplanted to a deeper soil.
Moreover she, and Clare also, stood as yet on the
debatable land between predilection and love; where no
profundities have been reached; no reflections have set
in, awkwardly inquiring, "Whither does this new current
tend to carry me? What does it mean to my future? How
does it stand towards my past?"
Tess was the merest stray phenomenon to Angel Clare as
yet--a rosy warming apparition which had only just
acquired the attribute of persistence in his
consciousness. So he allowed his mind to be occupied
with her, deeming his preoccupation to be no more than
a philosopher's regard of an exceedingly novel, fresh,
and interesting specimen of womankind.
They met continually; they could not help it. They met
daily in that strange and solemn interval, the twilight
of the morning, in the violet or pink dawn; for it was
necessary to rise early, so very early, here. Milking
was done betimes; and before the milking came the
skimming, which began at a little past three. It
usually fell to the lot of some one or other of them to
wake the rest, the first being aroused by an
alarm-clock; and, as Tess was the latest arrival, and
they soon discovered that she could be depended upon
not to sleep though the alarm as others did, this task
was thrust most frequently upon her. No sooner had the
hour of three struck and whizzed, than she left her
room and ran to the dairyman's door; then up the ladder
to Angel's, calling him in a loud whisper; then woke
her fellow-milkmaids. By the time that Tess was
dressed Clare was downstairs and out in the humid air.
The remaining maids and the dairyman usually gave
themselves another turn on the pillow, and did not
appear till a quarter of an hour later.
The gray half-tones of daybreak are not the gray
half-tones of the day's close, though the degree of
their shade may be the same. In the twilight of the
morning light seems active, darkness passive; in the
twilight of evening it is the darkness which is active
and crescent, and the light which is the drowsy
Being so often--possibly not always by chance--the
first two persons to get up at the dairy-house, they
seemed to themselves the first persons up of all the
world. In these early days of her residence here Tess
did not skim, but went out of doors at once after
rising, where he was generally awaiting her. The
spectral, half-compounded, aqueous light which pervaded
the open mead, impressed them with a feeling of
isolation, as if they were Adam and Eve. At this dim
inceptive stage of the day Tess seemed to Clare to
exhibit a dignified largeness both of disposition and
physique, an almost regnant power, possibly because he
knew that at that preternatural time hardly any woman
so well endowed in person as she was likely to be
walking in the open air within the boundaries of his
horizon; very few in all England. Fair women are
usually asleep at mid-summer dawns. She was close at
hand, and the rest were nowhere.
The mixed, singular, luminous gloom in which they
walked along together to the spot where the cows lay,
often made him think of the Resurrection hour. He
little thought that the Magdalen might be at his side.
Whilst all the landscape was in neutral shade his
companion's face, which was the focus of his eyes,
rising above the mist stratum, seemed to have a sort of
phosphorescence upon it. She looked ghostly, as if she
were merely a soul at large. In reality her face,
without appearing to do so, had caught the cold gleam
of day from the north-east; his own face, though he did
not think of it, wore the same aspect to her.
It was then, as has been said, that she impressed him
most deeply. She was no longer the milkmaid, but a
visionary essence of woman--a whole sex condensed into
one typical form. He called her Artemis, Demeter, and
other fanciful names half teasingly, which she did not
like because she did not understand them.
"Call me Tess," she would say askance; and he did.
Then it would grow lighter, and her features would
become simply feminine; they had changed from those of
a divinity who could confer bliss to those of a being
who craved it.
At these non-human hours they could get quite close to
the waterfowl. Herons came, with a great bold noise as
of opening doors and shutters, out of the boughs of a
plantation which they frequented at the side of the
mead; or, if already on the spot, hardily maintained
their standing in the water as the pair walked by,
watching them by moving their heads round in a slow,
horizontal, passionless wheel, like the turn of puppets
They could then see the faint summer fogs in layers,
woolly, level, and apparently no thicker than
counterpanes, spread about the meadows in detached
remnants of small extent. On the gray moisture of the
grass were marks where the cows had lain through the
night--dark-green islands of dry herbage the size of
their carcasses, in the general sea of dew. From each
island proceeded a serpentine trail, by which the cow
had rambled away to feed after getting up, at the end
of which trail they found her; the snoring puff from
her nostrils, when she recognized them, making an
intenser little fog of her own amid the prevailing one.
Then they drove the animals back to the barton, or sat
down to milk them on the spot, as the case might
Or perhaps the summer fog was more general, and the
meadows lay like a white sea, out of which the
scattered trees rose like dangerous rocks. Birds would
soar through it into the upper radiance, and hang on
the wing sunning themselves, or alight on the wet rails
subdividing the mead, which now shone like glass rods.
Minute diamonds of moisture from the mist hung, too,
upon Tess's eyelashes, and drops upon her hair, like
seed pearls. When the day grew quite strong and
commonplace these dried off her; moreover, Tess then
lost her strange and ethereal beauty; her teeth, lips,
and eyes scintillated in the sunbeams and she was again
the dazzlingly fair dairymaid only, who had to hold her
own against the other women of the world.
About this time they would hear Dairyman Crick's voice,
lecturing the non-resident milkers for arriving late,
and speaking sharply to old Deborah Fyander for not
washing her hands.
"For Heaven's sake, pop thy hands under the pump, Deb!
Upon my soul, if the London folk only knowed of thee
and thy slovenly ways, they'd swaller their milk and
butter more mincing than they do a'ready; and that's
saying a good deal."
The milking progressed, till towards the end Tess and
Clare, in common with the rest, could hear the heavy
breakfast table dragged out from the wall in the
kitchen by Mrs Crick, this being the invariable
preliminary to each meal; the same horrible scrape
accompanying its return journey when the table had been
There was a great stir in the milk-house just after
breakfast. The churn revolved as usual, but the butter
would not come. Whenever this happened the dairy was
paralyzed. Squish, squash, echoed the milk in the great
cylinder, but never arose the sound they waited for.
Dairyman Crick and his wife, the milkmaids Tess,
Marian, Retty Priddle, Izz Huett, and the married ones
from the cottages; also Mr Clare, Jonathan Kail, old
Deborah, and the rest, stood gazing hopelessly at the
churn; and the boy who kept the horse going outside put
on moon-like eyes to show his sense of the situation.
Even the melancholy horse himself seemed to look in at
the window in inquiring despair at each walk round.
"'Tis years since I went to Conjuror Trendle's son in
Egdon--years!" said the dairyman bitterly. "And he was
nothing to what his father had been. I have said fifty
times, if I have said once, that I DON'T believe in en;
though 'a do cast folks' waters very true. But I shall
have to go to 'n if he's alive. O yes, I shall have to
go to 'n, if this sort of thing continnys!"
Even Mr Clare began to feel tragical at the dairyman's
"Conjuror Fall, t'other side of Casterbridge, that they
used to call 'Wide-O', was a very good man when I was a
boy," said Jonathan Kail. "But he's rotten as
touchwood by now."
"My grandfather used to go to Conjuror Mynterne, out at
Owlscombe, and a clever man a' were, so I've heard
grandf'er say," continued Mr Crick. "But there's no
such genuine folk about nowadays!"
Mrs Crick's mind kept nearer to the matter in hand.
"Perhaps somebody in the house is in love," she said
tentatively. "I've heard tell in my younger days that
that will cause it. Why, Crick--that maid we had years
ago, do ye mind, and how the butter didn't come
"Ah yes, yes!--but that isn't the rights o't. It had
nothing to do with the love-making. I can mind all
about it--'twas the damage to the churn."
He turned to Clare.
"Jack Dollop, a 'hore's-bird of a fellow we had here as
milker at one time, sir, courted a young woman over at
Mellstock, and deceived her as he had deceived many
afore. But he had another sort o' woman to reckon wi'
this time, and it was not the girl herself. One Holy
Thursday of all days in the almanack, we was here as we
mid be now, only there was no churning in hand, when we
zid the girl's mother coming up to the door, wi' a
great brass-mounted umbrella in her hand that would ha'
felled an ox, and saying 'Do Jack Dollop work
here?--because I want him! I have a big bone to pick
with he, I can assure 'n!' And some way behind her
mother walked Jack's young woman, crying bitterly into
her handkercher. 'O Lard, here's a time!' said Jack,
looking out o' winder at 'em. 'She'll murder me! Where
shall I get--where shall I--? Don't tell her where I
be!' And with that he scrambled into the churn through
the trap-door, and shut himself inside, just as the
young woman's mother busted into the milk-house. 'The
villain--where is he?' says she, 'I'll claw his face
for'n, let me only catch him!' Well, she hunted about
everywhere, ballyragging Jack by side and by seam, Jack
lying a'most stifled inside the churn, and the poor
maid--or young woman rather--standing at the door
crying her eyes out. I shall never forget it, never!
'Twould have melted a marble stone! But she couldn't
find him nowhere at all."
The dairyman paused, and one or two words of comment
came from the listeners.
Dairyman Crick's stories often seemed to be ended when
they were not really so, and strangers were betrayed
into premature interjections of finality; though old
friends knew better. The narrator went on--
"Well, how the old woman should have had the wit to
guess it I could never tell, but she found out that he
was inside that there churn. Without saying a word she
took hold of the winch (it was turned by handpower
then), and round she swung him, and Jack began to flop
about inside. 'O Lard! stop the churn! let me out!'
says he, popping out his head, 'I shall be churned into
a pummy!' (he was a cowardly chap in his heart, as such
men mostly be). 'Not till ye make amends for ravaging
her virgin innocence!' says the old woman. 'Stop the
churn you old witch!' screams he. 'You call me old
witch, do ye, you deceiver!' says she, 'when ye ought
to ha' been calling me mother-law these last five
months!' And on went the churn, and Jack's bones
rattled round again. Well, none of us ventured to
interfere; and at last 'a promised to make it right wi'
her. 'Yes--I'll be as good as my word!' he said. And so
it ended that day."
While the listeners were smiling their comments there
was a quick movement behind their backs, and they
looked round. Tess, pale-faced, had gone to the door.
"How warm 'tis today!" she said, almost inaudibly.
It was warm, and none of them connected her withdrawal
with the reminiscences of the dairyman. He went
forward and opened the door for her, saying with tender
"Why, maidy" (he frequently, with unconscious irony,
gave her this pet name), "the prettiest milker I've got
in my dairy; you mustn't get so fagged as this at the
first breath of summer weather, or we shall be finely
put to for want of 'ee by dog-days, shan't we, Mr Clare?"
"I was faint--and--I think I am better out o' doors,"
she said mechanically; and disappeared outside.
Fortunately for her the milk in the revolving churn at
that moment changed its squashing for a decided
"'Tis coming!" cried Mrs Crick, and the attention of
all was called off from Tess.
That fair sufferer soon recovered herself externally;
but she remained much depressed all the afternoon.
When the evening milking was done she did not care to
be with the rest of them, and went out of doors
wandering along she knew not whither. She was
wretched--O so wretched--at the perception that to her
companions the dairyman's story had been rather a
humorous narration than otherwise; none of them but
herself seemed to see the sorrow of it; to a certainty,
not one knew how cruelly it touched the tender place in
her experience. The evening sun was now ugly to her,
like a great inflamed wound in the sky. Only a
solitary cracked-voice reed-sparrow greeted her from
the bushes by the river, in a sad, machine-made tone,
resembling that of a past friend whose friendship she
In these long June days the milkmaids, and, indeed,
most of the household, went to bed at sunset or sooner,
the morning work before milking being so early and
heavy at a time of full pairs. Tess usually
accompanied her fellows upstairs. Tonight, however,
she was the first to go to their common chamber; and
she had dozed when the other girls came in. She saw
them undressing in the orange light of the vanished
sun, which flushed their forms with its colour; she
dozed again, but she was reawakened by their voices,
and quietly turned her eyes towards them.
Neither of her three chamber-companions had got into
bed. They were standing in a group, in their
nightgowns, barefooted, at the window, the last red
rays of the west still warming their faces and necks,
and the walls around them. All were watching somebody
in the garden with deep interest, their three faces
close together: a jovial and round one, a pale one with
dark hair, and a fair one whose tresses were auburn.
"Don't push! You can see as well as I," said Retty,
the auburn-haired and youngest girl, without removing
her eyes from the window.
"'Tis no use for you to be in love with him any more
than me, Retty Priddle," said jolly-faced Marian, the
eldest, slily. "His thoughts be of other cheeks than
Retty Priddle still looked, and the other looked again.
"There he is again!" cried Izz Huett, the pale girl
with dark damp hair and keenly cut lips.
"You needn't say anything, Izz," answered Retty.
"For I zid you kissing his shade."
"WHAT did you see her doing?" asked Marian.
"Why--he was standing over the whey-tub to let off the
whey, and the shade of his face came upon the wall
behind, close to Izz, who was standing there filling a
vat. She put her mouth against the wall and kissed the
shade of his mouth; I zid her, though he didn't."
"O Izz Huett!" said Marian.
A rosy spot came into the middle of Izz Huett's cheek.
"Well, there was no harm in it," she declared, with
attempted coolness. "And if I be in love wi'en, so is
Retty, too; and so be you, Marian, come to that."
Marian's full face could not blush past its chronic
"I!" she said. "What a tale! Ah, there he is again!
Dear eyes--dear face--dear Mr Clare!"
"There--you've owned it!"
"So have you--so have we all," said Marian, with the
dry frankness of complete indifference to opinion.
"It is silly to pretend otherwise amongst ourselves, though
we need not own it to other folks. I would just marry
"So would I--and more," murmured Izz Huett.
"And I too," whispered the more timid Retty.
The listener grew warm.
"We can't all marry him," said Izz.
"We shan't, either of us; which is worse still," said
the eldest. "There he is again!"
They all three blew him a silent kiss.
"Why?" asked Retty quickly.
"Because he likes Tess Durbeyfield best," said Marian,
lowering her voice. "I have watched him every day, and
have found it out."
There was a reflective silence.
"But she don't care anything for 'n?" at length
"Well--I sometimes think that too."
"But how silly all this is!" said Izz Huett
impatiently. "Of course he won't marry any one of us,
or Tess either--a gentleman's son, who's going to be a
great landowner and farmer abroad! More likely to ask
us to come wi'en as farm-hands at so much a year!"
One sighed, and another sighed, and Marian's plump
figure sighed biggest of all. Somebody in bed hard by
sighed too. Tears came into the eyes of Retty Priddle,
the pretty red-haired youngest--the last bud of the
Paridelles, so important in the county annals. They
watched silently a little longer, their three faces
still close together as before, and the triple hues of
their hair mingling. But the unconscious Mr Clare had
gone indoors, and they saw him no more; and, the shades
beginning to deepen, they crept into their beds. In a
few minutes they heard him ascend the ladder to his own
room. Marian was soon snoring, but Izz did not drop
into forgetfulness for a long time. Retty Priddle
cried herself to sleep.
The deeper-passioned Tess was very far from sleeping
even then. This conversation was another of the bitter
pills she had been obliged to swallow that day. Scarce
the least feeling of jealousy arose in her breast. For
that matter she knew herself to have the preference.
Being more finely formed, better educated, and, though
the youngest except Retty, more woman than either, she
perceived that only the slightest ordinary care was
necessary for holding her own in Angel Clare's heart
against these her candid friends. But the grave
question was, ought she to do this? There was, to be
sure, hardly a ghost of a chance for either of them, in
a serious sense; but there was, or had been, a chance
of one or the other inspiring him with a passing fancy
for her, and enjoying the pleasure of his attentions
while he stayed here. Such unequal attachments had led
to marriage; and she had heard from Mrs Crick that Mr
Clare had one day asked, in a laughing way, what would
be the use of his marrying a fine lady, and all the
while ten thousand acres of Colonial pasture to feed,
and cattle to rear, and corn to reap. A farm-woman
would be the only sensible kind of wife for him. But
whether Mr Clare had spoken seriously or not, why
should she, who could never conscientiously allow any
man to marry her now, and who had religiously
determined that she never would be tempted to do so,
draw off Mr Clare's attention from other women, for the
brief happiness of sunning herself in his eyes while he
remained at Talbothays?
They came downstairs yawning next morning; but skimming
and milking were proceeded with as usual, and they went
indoors to breakfast. Dairyman Crick was discovered
stamping about the house. He had received a letter, in
which a customer had complained that the butter had a
"And begad, so 't have!" said the dairyman, who held in
his left hand a wooden slice on which a lump of butter
was stuck. "Yes--taste for yourself!"
Several of them gathered round him; and Mr Clare
tasted, Tess tasted, also the other indoor milkmaids,
one or two of the milking-men, and last of all Mrs
Crick, who came out from the waiting breakfast-table.
There certainly was a twang.
The dairyman, who had thrown himself into abstraction
to better realize the taste, and so divine the
particular species of noxious weed to which it
appertained, suddenly exclaimed--
"'Tis garlic! and I thought there wasn't a blade left
in that mead!"
Then all the old hands remembered that a certain dry
mead, into which a few of the cows had been admitted of
late, had, in years gone by, spoilt the butter in the
same way. The dairyman had not recognized the taste at
that time, and thought the butter bewitched.
"We must overhaul that mead," he resumed; "this mustn't
All having armed themselves with old pointed knives
they went out together. As the inimical plant could
only be present in very microscopic dimensions to have
escaped ordinary observation, to find it seemed rather
a hopeless attempt in the stretch of rich grass before
them. However, they formed themselves into line, all
assisting, owing to the importance of the search; the
dairyman at the upper end with Mr Clare, who had
volunteered to help; then Tess, Marian, Izz Huett, and
Retty; then Bill Lewell, Jonathan, and the married
dairywomen--Beck Knibbs, with her wooly black hair and
rolling eyes; and flaxen Frances, consumptive from the
winter damps of the water-meads--who lived in their
With eyes fixed upon the ground they crept slowly
across a strip of the field, returning a little further
down in such a manner that, when they should have
finished, not a single inch of the pasture but would
have fallen under the eye of some one of them. It was
a most tedious business, not more than half a dozen
shoots of garlic being discoverable in the whole field;
yet such was the herb's pungency that probably one bite
of it by one cow had been sufficient to season the
whole dairy's produce for the day.
Differing one from another in natures and moods so
greatly as they did, they yet formed, bending, a
curiously uniform row--automatic, noiseless; and an
alien observer passing down the neighbouring lane might
well have been excused for massing them as "Hodge". As
they crept along, stooping low to discern the plant, a
soft yellow gleam was reflected from the buttercups
into their shaded faces, giving them an elfish, moonlit
aspect, though the sun was pouring upon their backs in
all the strength of noon.
Angel Clare, who communistically stuck to his rule of
taking part with the rest in everything, glanced up now
and then. It was not, of course, by accident that he
walked next to Tess.
"Well, how are you?" he murmured.
"Very well, thank you, sir," she replied demurely.
As they had been discussing a score of personal matters
only half-an-hour before, the introductory style seemed
a little superfluous. But they got no further in
speech just then. They crept and crept, the hem of her
petticoat just touching his gaiter, and his elbow
sometimes brushing hers. At last the dairyman, who
came next, could stand it no longer.
"Upon my soul and body, this here stooping do fairly
make my back open and shut!" he exclaimed,
straightening himself slowly with an excruciated look
till quite upright. "And you, maidy Tess, you wasn't
well a day or two ago--this will make your head ache
finely! Don't do any more, if you feel fainty; leave
the rest to finish it."
Dairyman Crick withdrew, and Tess dropped behind. Mr
Clare also stepped out of line, and began privateering
about for the weed. When she found him near her, her
very tension at what she had heard the night before
made her the first to speak.
"Don't they look pretty?" she said.
"Izzy Huett and Retty."
Tess had moodily decided that either of these maidens
would make a good farmer's wife, and that she ought to
recommend them, and obscure her own wretched charms.
"Pretty? Well, yes--they are pretty girls--fresh
looking. I have often thought so."
"Though, poor dears, prettiness won't last long!"
"O no, unfortunately."
"They are excellent dairywomen."
"Yes: though not better than you."
"They skim better than I."
Clare remained observing them--not without their
"She is colouring up," continued Tess heroically.
"Oh! Why it that?"
"Because you are looking at her."
Self-sacrificing as her mood might be Tess could not
well go further and cry, "Marry one of them, if you
really do want a dairywoman and not a lady; and don't
think of marrying me!" She followed Dairyman Crick,
and had the mournful satisfaction of seeing that Clare
From this day she forced herself to take pains to avoid
him--never allowing herself, as formerly, to remain
long in his company, even if their juxtaposition were
purely accidental. She gave the other three every
Tess was woman enough to realize from their avowals to
herself that Angel Clare had the honour of all the
dairymaids in his keeping, and her perception of his
care to avoid compromising the happiness of either in
the least degree bred a tender respect in Tess for what
she deemed, rightly or wrongly, the self-controlling
sense of duty shown by him, a quality which she had
never expected to find in one of the opposite sex, and
in the absence of which more than one of the simple
hearts who were his house-mates might have gone weeping
on her pilgrimage.
The hot weather of July had crept upon them unawares,
and the atmosphere of the flat vale hung heavy as an
opiate over the dairy-folk, the cows, and the trees.
Hot steaming rains fell frequently, making the grass
where the cows fed yet more rank, and hindering the
late haymaking in the other meads.
It was Sunday morning; the milking was done; the
outdoor milkers had gone home. Tess and the other
three were dressing themselves rapidly, the whole bevy
having agreed to go together to Mellstock Church, which
lay some three or four miles distant from the
dairy-house. She had now been two months at
Talbothays, and this was her first excursion.
All the preceding afternoon and night heavy
thunderstorms had hissed down upon the meads, and
washed some of the hay into the river; but this morning
the sun shone out all the more brilliantly for the
deluge, and the air was balmy and clear.
The crooked lane leading from their own parrish to
Mellstock ran along the lowest levels in a portion of
its length, and when the girls reached the most
depressed spot they found that the result of the rain
had been to flood the lane over-shoe to a distance of
some fifty yards. This would have been no serious
hindrance on a week-day; they would have clicked
through it in their high patterns and boots quite
unconcerned; but on this day of vanity, this Sun's-day,
when flesh went forth to coquet with flesh while
hypocritically affecting business with spiritual
things; on this occasion for wearing their white
stockings and thin shoes, and their pink, white, and
lilac gowns, on which every mud spot would be visible,
the pool was an awkward impediment. They could hear
the church-bell calling--as yet nearly a mile off.
"Who would have expected such a rise in the river in
summer-time!" said Marian, from the top of the
roadside bank on which they had climbed, and were
maintaining a precarious footing in the hope of
creeping along its slope till they were past the pool.
"We can't get there anyhow, without walking right
through it, or else going round the Turnpike way; and
that would make us so very late!" said Retty, pausing
"And I do colour up so hot, walking into church late,
and all the people staring round," said Marian,
"that I hardly cool down again till we get into the
While they stood clinging to the bank they heard a
splashing round the bend of the road, and presently
appeared Angel Clare, advancing along the lane towards
them through the water.
Four hearts gave a big throb simultaneously.
His aspect was probably as un-Sabbatarian a one as a
dogmatic parson's son often presented; his attire being
his dairy clothes, long wading boots, a cabbage-leaf
inside his hat to keep his head cool, with a
thistle-spud to finish him off. "He's not going to
church," said Marian.
"No--I wish he was!" murmured Tess.
Angel, in fact, rightly or wrongly (to adopt the safe
phrase of evasive controversialists), preferred sermons
in stones to sermons in churches and chapels on fine
summer days. This morning, moreover, he had gone out
to see if the damage to the hay by the flood was
considerable or not. On his walk he observed the girls
from a long distance, though they had been so occupied
with their difficulties of passage as not to notice
him. He knew that the water had risen at that spot,
and that it would quite check their progress. So he
had hastened on, with a dim idea of how he could help
them--one of them in particular.
The rosy-cheeked, bright-eyed quartet looked so
charming in their light summer attire, clinging to the
roadside bank like pigeons on a roof-slope, that he
stopped a moment to regard them before coming close.
Their gauzy skirts had brushed up from the grass
innumerable flies and butterflies which, unable to
escape, remained caged in the transparent tissue as in
an aviary. Angel's eye at last fell upon Tess, the
hindmost of the four; she, being full of suppressed
laughter at their dilemma, could not help meeting his
He came beneath them in the water, which did not rise
over his long boots; and stood looking at the entrapped
flies and butterflies.
"Are you trying to get to church?" he said to Marian,
who was in front, including the next two in his remark,
but avoiding Tess.
"Yes, sir; and 'tis getting late; and my colour do come
"I'll carry you through the pool--every Jill of you."
The whole four flushed as if one heart beat through
"I think you can't, sir," said Marian.
"It is the only way for you to get past. Stand still.
Nonsense--you are not too heavy! I'd carry you all
four together. Now, Marian, attend," he continued, "and
put your arms round my shoulders, so. Now! Hold on.
That's well done."
Marian had lowered herself upon his arm and shoulder as
directed, and Angel strode off with her, his slim
figure, as viewed from behind, looking like the mere
stem to the great nosegay suggested by hers. They
disappeared round the curve of the road, and only his
sousing footsteps and the top ribbon of Marian's bonnet
told where they were. In a few minutes he reappeared.
Izz Huett was the next in order upon the bank.
"Here he comes," she murmured, and they could hear that
her lips were dry with emotion. "And I have to put my
arms round his neck and look into his face as Marian
"There's nothing in that," said Tess quickly.
"There's a time for everything," continued Izz,
unheeding. "A time to embrace, and a time to refrain
from embracing; the first is now going to be mine."
"Fie--it is Scripture, Izz!"
"Yes," said Izz, "I've always a' ear at church for
Angel Clare, to whom three-quarters of this performance
was a commonplace act of kindness, now approached Izz.
She quietly and dreamily lowered herself into his arms,
and Angel methodically marched off with her. When he
was heard returning for the third time Retty's
throbbing heart could be almost seen to shake her. He
went up to the red-haired girl, and while he was
seizing her he glanced at Tess. His lips could not
have pronounced more plainly, "It will soon be you and
I." Her comprehension appeared in her face; she could
not help it. There was an understanding between them.
Poor little Retty, though by far the lightest weight,
was the most troublesome of Clare's burdens. Marian
had been like a sack of meal, a dead weight of
plumpness under which he has literally staggered.
Izz had ridden sensibly and calmly. Retty was a bunch of
However, he got through with the disquieted creature,
deposited her, and returned. Tess could see over the
hedge the distant three in a group, standing as he had
placed them on the next rising ground. It was now her
turn. She was embarrassed to discover that excitement
at the proximity of Mr Clare's breath and eyes, which
she had contemned in her companions, was intensified in
herself; and as if fearful of betraying her secret she
paltered with him at the last moment.
"I may be able to clim' along the bank perhaps--I can
clim' better than they. You must be so tired, Mr Clare!"
"No, no, Tess," said he quickly. And almost before she
was aware she was seated in his arms and resting
against his shoulder.
"Three Leahs to get one Rachel," he whispered.
"They are better women than I," she replied,
magnanimously sticking to her resolve.
"Not to me," said Angel.
He saw her grow warm at this; and they went some steps
"I hope I am not too heavy?" she said timidly.
"O no. You should lift Marian! Such a lump. You are
like an undulating billow warmed by the sun. And all
this fluff of muslin about you is the froth."
"It is very pretty--if I seem like that to you."
"Do you know that I have undergone three-quarters of
this labour entirely for the sake of the fourth
"I did not expect such an event today."
"Nor I.... The water came up so sudden."
That the rise in the water was what she understood him
to refer to, the state of breathing belied. Clare
stood still and inclinced his face towards hers.
"O Tessy!" he exclaimed.
The girl's cheeks burned to the breeze, and she could
not look into his eyes for her emotion. It reminded
Angel that he was somewhat unfairly taking advantage of
an accidental position; and he went no further with it.
No definite words of love had crossed their lips as
yet, and suspension at this point was desirable now.
However, he walked slowly, to make the remainder of the
distance as long as possible; but at last they came to
the bend, and the rest of their progress was in full
view of the other three. The dry land was reached, and
he set her down.
Her friends were looking with round thoughtful eyes at
her and him, and she could see that they had been
talking of her. He hastily bade them farewell, and
splashed back along the stretch of submerged road.
The four moved on together as before, till Marian broke
the silence by saying--
"No--in all truth; we have no chance against her!"
She looked joylessly at Tess.
"What do you mean?" asked the latter.
"He likes 'ee best--the very best! We could see it as
he brought 'ee. He would have kissed 'ee, if you had
encouraged him to do it, ever so little."
"No, no," said she.
The gaiety with which they had set out had somehow
vanished; and yet there was no enmity or malice between
them. They were generous young souls; they had been
reared in the lonely country nooks where fatalism is a
strong sentiment, and they did not blame her. Such
supplanting was to be.
Tess's heart ached. There was no concealing from
herself the fact that she loved Angel Clare, perhaps
all the more passionately from knowing that the others
had also lost their hearts to him. There is contagion
in this sentiment, especially among women. And yet
that same hungry nature had fought against this, but
too feebly, and the natural result had followed.
"I will never stand in your way, nor in the way of
either of you!" she declared to Retty that night in the
bedroom (her tears running down). "I can't help this,
my dear! I don't think marrying is in his mind at all;
but if he were ever to ask me I should refuse him, as I
should refuse any man."
"Oh! would you? Why?" said wondering Retty.
"It cannot be! But I will be plain. Putting myself
quite on one side. I don't think he will choose either
"I have never expected it--thought of it!" moaned
Retty. "But O! I wish I was dead!"
The poor child, torn by a feeling which she hardly
understood, turned to the other two girls who came
upstairs just then.
"We be friends with her again," she said to them.
"She thinks no more of his choosing her than we do."
So the reserve went off, and they were confiding and
"I don't seem to care what I do now," said Marian,
whose mood was turned to its lowest bass. "I was going
to marry a dairyman at Stickleford, who's asked me
twice; but--my soul--I would put an end to myself
rather'n be his wife now! Why don't ye speak, Izz?"
"To confess, then," murmured Izz, "I made sure today
that he was going to kiss me as he held me; and I lay
still against his breast, hoping and hoping, and never
moved at all. But he did not. I don't like biding
here at Talbothays any longer! I shall go hwome."
The air of the sleeping-chamber seemed to palpitate
with the hopeless passion of the girls. They writhed
feverishly under the oppressiveness of an emotion
thrust on them by cruel Nature's law--an emotion which
they had neither expected nor desired. The incident of
the day had fanned the flame that was burning the
inside of their hearts out, and the torture was almost
more than they could endure. The differences which
distinguished them as individuals were abstracted by
this passion, and each was but portion of one organism
called sex. There was so much frankness and so little
jealousy because there was no hope. Each one was a
girl of fair common sense, and she did not delude
herself with any vain conceits, or deny her love, or
give herself airs, in the idea of outshining the
others. The full recognition of the futility of their
infatuation, from a social point of view; its
purposeless beginning; its self-bounded outlook; its
lack of everything to justify its existence in the eye
of civilization (while lacking nothing in the eye of
Nature); the one fact that it did exist, ecstasizing
them to a killing joy; all this imparted to them a
resignation, a dignity, which a practical and sordid
expectation of winning him as a husband would have
They tossed and turned on their little beds, and the
cheese-wring dripped monotonously downstairs.
"B' you awake, Tess?" whispered one, half-an-hour
It was Izz Huett's voice.
Tess replied in the affirmative, whereupon also Retty
and Marian suddenly flung the bedclothes off them, and
"So be we!"
"I wonder what she is like--the lady they say his
family have looked out for him!"
"I wonder," said Izz.
"Some lady looked out for him?" gasped Tess, starting.
"I have never heard o' that!"
"O yes--'tis whispered; a young lady of his own rank,
chosen by his family; a Doctor of Divinity's daughter
near his father's parish of Emminster; he don't much
care for her, they say. But he is sure to marry her."
They had heard so very little of this; yet it was
enough to build up wretched dolorous dreams upon, there
in the shade of the night. They pictured all the
details of his being won round to consent, of the
wedding preparations, of the bride's happiness, of her
dress and veil, of her blissful home with him, when
oblivion would have fallen upon themselves as far as he
and their love were concerned. Thus they talked, and
ached, and wept till sleep charmed their sorrow away.
After this disclosure Tess nourished no further foolish
thought that there lurked any grave and deliberate
import in Clare's attentions to her. It was a passing
summer love of her face, for love's own temporary
sake--nothing more. And thorny crown of this sad
conception was that she whom he really did prefer in a
cursory way to the rest, she who knew herself to be
more impassioned in nature, cleverer, more beautiful
than they, was in the eyes of propriety far less worthy
of him than the homelier ones whom he ignored.
Amid the oozing fatness and warm ferments of the Froom
Vale, at a season when the rush of juices could almost
be heard below the hiss of fertilization, it was
impossible that the most fanciful love should not grow
passionate. The ready bosoms existing there were
impregnated by their surroundings.
July passed over their heads, and the Thermidorean
weather which came in its wake seemed an effort on the
part of Nature to match the state of hearts at
Talbothays Dairy. The air of the place, so fresh in
the spring and early summer, was stagnant and
enervating now. Its heavy scents weighed upon them,
and at mid-day the landscape seemed lying in a swoon.
Ethiopic scorchings browned the upper slopes of the
pastures, but there was still bright green herbage here
where the watercourses purled. And as Clare was
oppressed by the outward heats, so was he burdened
inwardly by waxing fervour of passion for the soft and
The rains having passed the uplands were dry. The
wheels of the dairyman's spring cart, as he sped home
from market, licked up the pulverized surface of the
highway, and were followed by white ribands of dust, as
if they had set a thin powertrain on fire. The cows
jumped wildly over the five-barred barton-gate,
maddened by the gad-fly; Dairyman Crick kept his
shirt-sleeves permanently rolled up from Monday to
Saturday; open windows had no effect in ventilation
without open doors, and in the dairy-garden the
blackbirds and thrushes crept about under the
currant-bushes, rather in the manner of quadrupeds than
of winged creatures. The flies in the kitchen were
lazy, teasing, and familiar, crawling about in the
unwonted places, on the floors, into drawers, and over
the backs of the milkmaids' hands. Conversations were
concerning sunstroke; while butter-making, and still
more butter-keeping, was a despair.
They milked entirely in the meads for coolness and
convenience, without driving in the cows. During the
day the animals obsequiously followed the shadow of the
smallest tree as it moved round the stem with the
diurnal roll; and when the milkers came they could
hardly stand still for the flies.
On one of these afternoons four or five unmilked cows
chanced to stand apart from the general herd, behind
the corner of a hedge, among them being Dumpling and
Old Pretty, who loved Tess's hands above those of any
other maid. When she rose from her stool under a
finished cow Angel Clare, who had been observing her
for some time, asked her if she would take the
aforesaid creatures next. She silently assented, and
with her stool at arm's length, and the pail against
her knee, went round to where they stood. Soon the
sound of Old Pretty's milk fizzing into the pail came
through the hedge, and then Angel felt inclined to go
round the corner also, to finish off a hard-yielding
milcher who had strayed there, he being now as capable
of this as the dairyman himself.
All the men, and some of the women, when milking, dug
their foreheads into the cows and gazed into the pail.
But a few--mainly the younger ones--rested their heads
sideways. This was Tess Durbeyfield's habit, her
temple pressing the milcher's flank, her eyes fixed on
the far end of the meadow with the quiet of one lost in
meditation. She was milking Old Pretty thus, and the
sun chancing to be on the milking-side it shone flat
upon her pink-gowned form and her white curtain-bonnet,
and upon her profile, rendering it keen as a cameo cut
from the dun background of the cow.
She did not know that Clare had followed her round, and
that he sat under his cow watching her. The stillness
of her head and features was remarkable: she might have
been in a trance, her eyes open, yet unseeing. Nothing
in the picture moved but Old Pretty's tail and Tess's
pink hands, the latter so gently as to be a rhythmic
pulsation only, as if they were obeying a reflex
stimulus, like a beating heart.
How very lovable her face was to him. yet there was
nothing ethereal about it; all was real vitality, real
warmth, real incarnation. And it was in her mouth that
this culminated. Eyes almost as deep and speaking he
had seen before, and cheeks perhaps as fair; brows as
arched, a chin and throat almost as shapely; her mouth
he had seen nothing to equal on the face of the earth.
To a young man with the least fire in him that little
upward lift in the middle of her red top lip was
distracting, infatuating, maddening. He had never
before seen a woman's lips and teeth which forced upon
his mind with such persistent iteration the old
Elizabethan simile of roses filled with snow. Perfect,
he, as a lover, might have called them off-hand. But
no--they were not perfect. And it was the touch of the
imperfect upon the would-be perfect that gave the
sweetness, because it was that which gave the humanity.
Clare had studied the curves of those lips so many
times that he could reproduce them mentally with ease:
and now, as they again confronted him, clothed with
colour and life, they sent an AURA over his flesh, a
breeze through his nerves, which wellnigh produced a
qualm; and actually produced, by some mysterious
physiological process, a prosaic sneeze.
She then became conscious that he was observing her;
but she would not show it by any change of position,
though the curious dream-like fixity disappeared, and a
close eye might easily have discerned that the rosiness
of her face deepened, and then faded till only a tinge
of it was left.
The influence that had passed into Clare like an
excitation from the sky did not die down. Resolutions,
reticences, prudences, fears, fell back like a defeated
battalion. He jumped up from his seat, and, leaving his
pail to be kicked over if the milcher had such a mind,
went quickly towards the desire of his eyes, and,
kneeling down beside her, clasped her in his arms.
Tess was taken completely by surprise, and she yielded
to his embrace with unreflecting inevitableness.
Having seen that it was really her lover who had
advanced, and no one else, her lips parted, and she
sank upon him in her momentary joy, with something very
like an ecstatic cry.
He had been on the point of kissing that too tempting
mouth, but he checked himself, for tender conscience'
"Forgive me, Tess dear!" he whispered. "I ought to
have asked. I--did not know what I was doing. I do
not mean it as a liberty. I am devoted to you, Tessy,
dearest, in all sincerity!"
Old Pretty by this time had looked round, puzzled; and
seeing two people crouching under her where, by
immemorial custom, there should have been only one,
lifted her hind left crossly.
"She is angry--she doesn't know what we mean--she'll
kick over the milk!" exclaimed Tess, gently striving to
free herself, her eyes concerned with the quadruped's
actions, her heart more deeply concerned with herself
She slipped up from her seat, and they stood together,
his arm still encircling her. Tess's eyes, fixed on
distance, began to fill.
"Why do you cry, my darling?" he said.
"O--I don't know!" she murmured.
As she saw and felt more clearly the position she was
in she became agitated and tried to withdraw.
"Well, I have betrayed my feeling, Tess, at last," said
he, with a curious sigh of desperation, signifying
unconsciously that his heart had outrun his judgement.
"That I--love you dearly and truly I need not say. But
I--it shall go no further now--it distresses you--I am
as surprised as you are. You will not think I have
presumed upon your defencelessness--been too quick and
unreflecting, will you?"
"N'--I can't tell."
He had allowed her to free herself; and in a minute or
two the milking of each was resumed. Nobody had beheld
the gravitation of the two into one; and when the
dairyman came round by that screened nook a few minutes
later there was not a sign to reveal that the markedly
sundered pair were more to each other than mere
acquaintance. Yet in the interval since Crick's last
view of them something had occurred which changed the
pivot of the universe for their two natures; something
which, had he known its quality, the dairyman would
have despised, as a practical man; yet which was based
upon a more stubborn and resistless tendency than a
whole heap of so-called practicalities. A veil had
been whisked aside; the tract of each one's outlook was
to have a new horizon thenceforward--for a short time
or for a long.
END OF PHASE THE THIRD
Phase the Fourth: The Consequence
Clare, restless, went out into the dusk when evening
drew on, she who had won him having retired to her
The night was as sultry as the day. There was no
coolness after dark unless on the grass. Roads,
garden-paths, the house-fronts, the barton-walls were
warm as hearths, and reflected the noontime temperature
into the noctambulist's face.
He sat on the east gate of the dairy-yard, and knew not
what to think of himself. Feeling had indeed smothered
judgement that day.
Since the sudden embrace, three hours before, the twain
had kept apart. She seemed stilled, almost alarmed, at
what had occurred, while the novelty, unpremeditation,
mastery of circumstance disquieted him--palpitating,
contemplative being that he was. He could hardly
realize their true relations to each other as yet, and
what their mutual bearing should be before third
Angel had come as pupil to this dairy in the idea that
his temporary existence here was to be the merest
episode in his life, soon passed through and early
forgotten; he had come as to a place from which as from
a screened alcove he could calmly view the absorbing
world without, and, apostrophizing it with Walt
Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes,
How curious you are to me!--
resolve upon a plan for plunging into that world anew.
But behold, the absorbing scene had been imported
hither. What had been the engrossing world had
dissolved into an uninteresting outer dumb-show; while
here, in this apparently dim and unimpassioned place,
novelty had volcanically started up, as it had never,
for him, started up elsewhere.
Every window of the house being open Clare could hear
across the yard each trivial sound of the retiring
household. The dairy-house, so humble, so
insignificant, so purely to him a place of constrained
sojourn that he had never hitherto deemed it of
sufficient importance to be reconnoitred as an object
of any quality whatever in the landscape; what was it
now? The aged and lichened brick gables breathed forth
"Stay!" The windows smiled, the door coaxed and
beckoned, the creeper blushed confederacy. A
personality within it was so far-reaching in her
influence as to spread into and make the bricks,
mortar, and whole overhanging sky throb with a burning
sensibility. Whose was this mighty personality? A
milkmaid's. It was amazing, indeed, to find how great a
matter the life of the obscure dairy had become to him.
And though new love was to be held partly responsible
for this it was not solely so. Many besides Angel have
learnt that the magnitude of lives is not as to their
external displacements, but as to their subjective
experiences. The impressionable peasant leads a
larger, fuller, more dramatic life than the
pachydermatous king. Looking at it thus he found that
life was to be seen of the same magnitude here as
Despite his heterodoxy, faults, and weaknesses, Clare
was a man with a conscience. Tess was no insignificant
creature to toy with and dismiss; but a woman living
her precious life--a life which, to herself who
endured or enjoyed it, possessed as great a dimension
as the life of the mightiest to himself. Upon her
sensations the whole world depended to Tess; through
her existence all her fellow-creatures existed, to her.
The universe itself only came into being for Tess on
the particular day in the particular year in which she
This consciousness upon which he had intruded was the
single opportunity of existence ever vouchsafed to Tess
by an unsympathetic First Cause--her all; her every and
only chance. How then should he look upon her as of
less consequence than himself; as a pretty trifle to
caress and grow weary of; and not deal in the greatest
seriousness with the affection which he knew that he
had awakened in her--so fervid and so impressionable as
she was under her reserve; in order that it might not
agonize and wreck her?
To encounter her daily in the accustomed manner would
be to develop what had begun. Living in such close
relations, to meet meant to fall into endearment; flesh
and blood could not resist it; and, having arrived at
no conclusion as to the issue of such a tendency, he
decided to hold aloof for the present from occupations
in which they would be mutually engaged. As yet the
harm done was small.
But it was not easy to carry out the resolution never
to approach her. He was driven towards her by every
heave of his pulse.
He thought he would go and see his friends. It might
be possible to sound them upon this. In less than five
months his term here would have ended, and after a few
additional months spent upon other farms he would be
fully equipped in agricultural knowledge, and in a
position to start on his own account. Would not a
farmer want a wife, and should a farmer's wife be a
drawing-room wax-figure, or a woman who understood
farming? Notwithstanding the pleasing answer returned
to him by the silence he resolved to go his journey.
One morning when they sat down to breakfast at
Talbothays Dairy some maid observed that she had not
seen anything of Mr Clare that day.
"O no," said Dairyman Crick. "Mr Clare has gone hwome
to Emminster to spend a few days wi' his kinsfolk."
For four impassioned ones around that table the
sunshine of the morning went out at a stroke, and the
birds muffled their song. But neither girl by word or
gesture revealed her blankness. "He's getting on
towards the end of his time wi' me," added the
dairyman, with a phlegm which unconsciously was brutal;
"and so I suppose he is beginning to see about his
"How much longer is he to bide here?" asked Izz Huett,
the only one of the gloom-stricken bevy who could trust
her voice with the question.
The others waited for the dairyman's answer as if their
lives hung upon it; Retty, with parted lips, gazing on
the tablecloth, Marian with heat added to her redness,
Tess throbbing and looking out at the meads.
"Well, I can't mind the exact day without looking at my
memorandum-book," replied Crick, with the same
intolerable unconcern. "And even that may be altered a
bit. He'll bide to get a little practice in the
calving out at the straw-yard, for certain. He'll
hang on till the end of the year I should say."
Four months or so of torturing ecstasy in his
society--of "pleasure girdled about with pain".
After that the blackness of unutterable night.
At this moment of the morning Angel Clare was riding
along a narrow lane ten miles distant from the
breakfasters, in the direction of his father's Vicarage
at Emminster, carrying, as well as he could, a little
basket which contained some black-puddings and a bottle
of mead, sent by Mrs Crick, with her kind respects, to
his parents. The white lane stretched before him, and
his eyes were upon it; but they were staring into next
year, and not at the lane. He loved her; ought he to
marry her? Dared he to marry her? What would his
mother and his brothers say? What would he himself say
a couple of years after the event? That would depend
upon whether the germs of staunch comradeship underlay
the temporary emotion, or whether it were a sensuous
joy in her form only, with no substratum of
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