Tess of the d'Urbervilles, A Pure Woman, by Thomas Hardy
Part 6 out of 11
belonging to such a family, and I am reserving it for a
grand effect when we are married, and have the proofs
of your descent from Parson Tringham. Apart from that,
my future is to be totally foreign to my family--it
will not affect even the surface of their lives. We
shall leave this part of England--perhaps England
itself--and what does it matter how people regard us
here? You will like going, will you not?"
She could answer no more than a bare affirmative, so
great was the emotion aroused in her at the thought of
going through the world with him as his own familiar
friend. Her feelings almost filled her ears like a
babble of waves, and surged up to her eyes. She put
her hand in his, and thus they went on, to a place
where the reflected sun glared up from the river, under
a bridge, with a molten-metallic glow that dazzled
their eyes, though the sun itself was hidden by the
bridge. They stood still, whereupon little furred and
feathered heads popped up from the smooth surface of
the water; but, finding that the disturbing presences
had paused, and not passed by, they disappeared again.
Upon this river-brink they lingered till the fog began
to close round them--which was very early in the
evening at this time of the year--settling on the
lashes of her eyes, where it rested like crystals, and
on his brows and hair.
They walked later on Sundays, when it was quite dark.
Some of the dairy-people, who were also out of doors on
the first Sunday evening after their engagement, heard
her impulsive speeches, ecstasized to fragments, though
they were too far off to hear the words discoursed;
noted the spasmodic catch in her remarks, broken into
syllables by the leapings of her heart, as she walked
leaning on his arm; her contented pauses, the
occasional little laugh upon which her soul seemed to
ride--the laugh of a woman in company with the man she
loves and has won from all other women--unlike anything
else in nature. They marked the buoyancy of her tread,
like the skim of a bird which had not quite alighted.
Her affection for him was now the breath and life of
Tess's being; it enveloped her as a photosphere,
irradiated her into forgetfulness of her past sorrows,
keeping back the gloomy spectres that would persist in
their attempts to touch her--doubt, fear, moodiness,
care, shame. She knew that they were waiting like
wolves just outside the circumscribing light, but she
had long spells of power to keep them in hungry
A spiritual forgetfulness co-existed with an
intellectual remembrance. She walked in brightness,
but she knew that in the background those shapes of
darkness were always spread. They might be receding, or
they might be approaching, one or the other, a little
One evening Tess and Clare were obliged to sit indoors
keeping house, all the other occupants of the domicile
being away. As they talked she looked thoughtfully up
at him, and met his two appreciative eyes.
"I am not worthy of you--no, I am not!" she burst out,
jumping up from her low stool as though appalled at his
homage, and the fulness of her own joy thereat.
Clare, deeming the whole basis of her excitement to be
that which was only the smaller part of it, said----
"I won't have you speak like it, dear Tess!
Distinction does not consist in the facile use of a
contemptible set of conventions, but in being numbered
among those who are true, and honest, and just, and
pure, and lovely, and of good report--as you are, my
She struggled with the sob in her throat. How often
had that string of excellences made her young heart
ache in church of late years, and how strange that he
should have cited them now.
"Why didn't you stay and love me when I--was sixteen;
living with my little sisters and brothers, and you
danced on the green? O, why didn't you, why didn't
you!" she said, impetuously clasping her hands.
Angel began to comfort and reassure her, thinking to
himself, truly enough, what a creature of moods she
was, and how careful he would have to be of her when
she depended for her happiness entirely on him.
"Ah--why didn't I stay!" he said. "That is just what I
feel. If I had only known! But you must not be so
bitter in your regret--why should you be?"
With the woman's instinct to hide she diverged
"I should have had four years more of your heart than I
can ever have now. Then I should not have wasted my
time as I have done--I should have had so much longer
It was no mature woman with a long dark vista of
intrigue behind her who was tormented thus; but a girl
of simple life, not yet one-and twenty, who had been
caught during her days of immaturity like a bird in a
springe. To calm herself the more completely she rose
from her little stool and left the room, overturning
the stool with her skirts as she went.
He sat on by the cheerful firelight thrown from a
bundle of green ash-sticks laid across the dogs; the
sticks snapped pleasantly, and hissed out bubbles of
sap from their ends. When she came back she was herself
"Do you not think you are just a wee bit capricious,
fitful, Tess?" he said, good-humouredly, as he spread a
cushion for her on the stool, and seated himself in the
settle beside her. "I wanted to ask you something, and
just then you ran away."
"Yes, perhaps I am capricious," she murmured. She
suddenly approached him, and put a hand upon each of
his arms. "No, Angel, I am not really so--by nature,
I mean!" The more particularly to assure him that she
was not, she placed herself close to him in the settle,
and allowed her head to find a resting-place against
Clare's shoulder. "What did you want to ask me--I am
sure I will answer it," she continued humbly.
"Well, you love me, and have agreed to marry me, and
hence there follows a thirdly, 'When shall the day
"I like living like this."
"But I must think of starting in business on my own
hook with the new year, or a little later. And before
I get involved in the multifarious details of my new
position, I should like to have secured my partner."
"But," she timidly answered, "to talk quite
practically, wouldn't it be best not to marry till
after all that?--Though I can't bear the though o'
your going away and leaving me here!"
"Of course you cannot--and it is not best in this case.
I want you to help me in many ways in making my start.
When shall it be? Why not a fortnight from now?"
"No," she said, becoming grave: "I have so many things
to think of first."
He drew her gently nearer to him.
The reality of marriage was startling when it loomed so
near. Before discussion of the question had proceeded
further there walked round the corner of the settle
into the full firelight of the apartment Mr Dairyman
Crick, Mrs Crick, and two of the milkmaids.
Tess sprang like an elastic ball from his side to her
feet while her face flushed and her eyes shone in the
"I know how it would be if I sat so close to him!" she
cried, with vexation. "I said to myself, they are sure
to come and catch us! But I wasn't really sitting on
his knee, though it might ha' seemed as if I was
"Well--if so be you hadn't told us, I am sure we
shouldn't ha' noticed that ye had been sitting anywhere
at all in this light," replied the dairyman. He
continued to his wife, with the stolid mien of a man
who understood nothing of the emotions relating to
matrimony--"Now, Christianer, that shows that folks
should never fancy other folks be supposing things when
they bain't. O no, I should never ha' thought a word
of where she was a sitting to, if she hadn't told me--
"We are going to be married soon," said Clare, with
"Ah--and be ye! Well, I am truly glad to hear it, sir.
I've thought you mid do such a thing for some time.
She's too good for a dairymaid--I said so the very
first day I zid her--and a prize for any man; and
what's more, a wonderful woman for a gentleman-farmer's
wife; he won't be at the mercy of his baily wi' her at
Somehow Tess disappeared. She had been even more
struck with the look of the girls who followed Crick
than abashed by Crick's blunt praise.
After supper, when she reached her bedroom, they were
all present. A light was burning, and each damsel was
sitting up whitely in her bed, awaiting Tess, the whole
like a row of avenging ghosts.
But she saw in a few moments that there was no malice
in their mood. They could scarcely feel as a loss what
they had never expected to have. Their condition was
"He's going to marry her!" murmured Retty, never taking
eyes off Tess. "How her face do show it!"
"You BE going to marry him?" asked Marian.
"Yes," said Tess.
They thought that this was evasiveness only.
"YES--going to MARRY him--a gentleman!" repeated Izz
And by a sort of fascination the three girls, one after
another, crept out of their beds, and came and stood
barefooted round Tess. Retty put her hands upon Tess's
shoulders, as if to realize her friend's corporeality
after such a miracle, and the other two laid their arms
round her waist, all looking into her face.
"How it do seem! Almost more than I can think of!"
said Izz Huett.
Marian kissed Tess. "Yes," she murmured as she
withdrew her lips.
"Was that because of love for her, or because other
lips have touched there by now?" continued Izz drily to
"I wasn't thinking o' that," said Marian simply.
"I was on'y feeling all the strangeness o't--that she is
to be his wife, and nobody else. I don't say nay to
it, nor either of us, because we did not think of
it--only loved him. Still, nobody else is to marry'n
in the world--no fine lady, nobody in silks and satins;
but she who do live like we."
"Are you sure you don't dislike me for it?" said Tess
in a low voice.
They hung about her in their white nightgowns before
replying, as if they considered their answer might lie
in her look.
"I don't know--I don't know," murmured Retty Priddle.
"I want to hate 'ee; but I cannot!" "That's how I
feel," echoed Izz and Marian. "I can't hate her.
Somehow she hinders me!"
"He ought to marry one of you," murmured Tess.
"You are all better than I."
"We better than you?" said the girls in a low, slow
whisper. "No, no, dear Tess!"
"You are!" she contradicted impetuously. And suddenly
tearing away from their clinging arms she burst into a
hysterical fit of tears, bowing herself on the chest of
drawers and repeating incessantly, "O yes, yes, yes!"
Having once given way she could not stop her weeping.
"He ought to have had one of you!" she cried. "I think
I ought to make him even now! You would be better for
him than--I don't know what I'm saying! O! O!"
They went up to her and clasped her round, but still
her sobs tore her.
"Get some water," said Marian, "She's upset by us,
poor thing, poor thing!"
They gently led her back to the side of her bed, where
they kissed her warmly.
"You are best for'n," said Marian. "More ladylike, and
a better scholar than we, especially since he had
taught 'ee so much. But even you ought to be proud.
You BE proud, I'm sure!"
"Yes, I am," she said; "and I am ashamed at so breaking
When they were all in bed, and the light was out,
Marian whispered across to her--
"You will think of us when you be his wife, Tess, and
of how we told 'ee that we loved him, and how we tried
not to hate you, and did not hate you, and could not
hate you, because you were his choice, and we never
hoped to be chose by him."
They were not aware that, at these words, salt,
stinging tears trickled down upon Tess's pillow anew,
and how she resolved, with a bursting heart, to tell
all her history to Angel Clare, despite her mother's
command--to let him for whom she lived and breathed
despise her if he would, and her mother regard her as a
fool, rather then preserve a silence which might be
deemed a treachery to him, and which somehow seemed a
wrong to these.
This penitential mood kept her from naming the
wedding-day. The beginning of November found its date
still in abeyance, though he asked her at the most
tempting times. But Tess's desire seemed to be for a
perpetual betrothal in which everything should remain
as it was then.
The meads were changing now; but it was still warm
enough in early afternoons before milking to idle there
awhile, and the state of dairy-work at this time of
year allowed a spare hour for idling. Looking over the
damp sod in the direction of the sun, a glistening
ripple of gossamer webs was visible to their eyes under
the luminary, like the track of moonlight on the sea.
Gnats, knowing nothing of their brief glorification,
wandered across the shimmer of this pathway, irradiated
as if they bore fire within them, then passed out of
its line, and were quite extinct. In the presence of
these things he would remind her that the date was
still the question.
Or he would ask her at night, when he accompanied her
on some mission invented by Mrs Crick to give him the
opportunity. This was mostly a journey to the
farmhouse on the slopes above the vale, to inquire how
the advanced cows were getting on in the straw-barton
to which they were relegated. For it was a time of the
year that brought great changes to the world of kine.
Batches of the animals were sent away daily to this
lying-in hospital, where they lived on straw till their
calves were born, after which event, and as soon as the
calf could walk, mother and offspring were driven back
to the dairy. In the interval which elapsed before the
calves were sold there was, of course, little milking
to be done, but as soon as the calf had been taken away
the milkmaids would have to set to work as usual.
Returning from one of these dark walks they reached a
great gravel-cliff immediately over the levels, where
they stood still and listened. The water was now high
in the streams, squirting through the weirs, and
tinkling under culverts; the smallest gullies were all
full; there was no taking short cuts anywhere, and
foot-passengers were compelled to follow the permanent
ways. From the whole extent of the invisible vale came
a multitudinous intonation; it forced upon their fancy
that a great city lay below them, and that the murmur
was the vociferation of its populace.
"It seems like tens of thousands of them," said Tess;
"holding public-meetings in their market-places,
arguing, preaching, quarrelling, sobbing, groaning,
praying, and cursing."
Clare was not particularly heeding.
"Did Crick speak to you today, dear, about his not
wanting much assistance during the winter months?"
"The cows are going dry rapidly."
"Yes. Six of seven went to the straw-barton yesterday,
and three the day before, making nearly twenty in the
straw already. Ah--is it that the farmer don't want my
help for the calving? O, I am not wanted here any
more! And I have tried so hard to---"
"Crick didn't exactly say that he would no longer
require you. But, knowing what our relations were, he
said in the most good-natured and respectful manner
possible that he supposed on my leaving at Christmas I
should take you with me, and on my asking what he would
do without you he merely observed that, as a matter of
fact, it was a time of year when he could do with a
very little female help. I am afraid I was sinner
enough to feel rather glad that he was in this way
forcing your hand."
"I don't think you ought to have felt glad, Angel.
Because 'tis always mournful not to be wanted, even if
at the same time 'tis convenient."
"Well, it is convenient--you have admitted that."
He put his finger upon her cheek. "Ah!" he said.
"I feel the red rising up at her having been caught!
But why should I trifle so! We will not trifle--life
is too serious."
"It is. Perhaps I saw that before you did."
She was seeing it then. To decline to marry him after
all--in obedience to her emotion of last night--and
leave the dairy, meant to go to some strange place, not
a dairy; for milkmaids were not in request now
calving-time was coming on; to go to some arable farm
where no divine being like Angel Clare was. She hated
the thought, and she hated more the thought of going
"So that, seriously, dearest Tess," he continued,
"since you will probably have to leave at Christmas, it
is in every way desirable and convenient that I should
carry you off then as my property. Besides, if you
were not the most uncalculating girl in the world you
would know that we could not go on like this for ever."
"I wish we could. That it would always be summer and
autumn, and you always courting me, and always thinking
as much of me as you have done through the past
"I always shall."
"O, I know you will!" she cried, with a sudden fervour
of faith in him. "Angel, I will fix the day when I
will become yours for always!"
Thus at last it was arranged between them, during that
dark walk home, amid the myriads of liquid voices on
the right and left.
When they reached the dairy Mr and Mrs Crick were
promptly told--with injunctions of secrecy; for each of
the lovers was desirous that the marriage should be
kept as private as possible. The dairyman, though he
had thought of dismissing her soon, now made a great
concern about losing her. What should he do about his
skimming? Who would make the ornamental butter-pats
for the Anglebury and Sandbourne ladies? Mrs Crick
congratulated Tess on the shilly-shallying having at
last come to an end, and said that directly she set
eyes on Tess she divined that she was to be the chosen
one of somebody who was no common outdoor man; Tess had
looked so superior as she walked across the barton on
that afternoon of her arrival; that she was of a good
family she could have sworn. In point of fact Mrs
Crick did remember thinking that Tess was graceful and
good-looking as she approached; but the superiority
might have been a growth of the imagination aided by
Tess was now carried along upon the wings of the hours,
without the sense of a will. The word had been given;
the number of the day written down. Her naturally
bright intelligence had begun to admit the fatalistic
convictions common to field-folk and those who
associate more extensively with natural phenomena than
with their fellow-creatures; and she accordingly
drifted into that passive responsiveness to all things
her lover suggested, characteristic of the frame of
But she wrote anew to her mother, ostensibly to notify
the wedding-day; really to again implore her advice.
It was a gentleman who had chosen her, which perhaps
her mother had not sufficiently considered. A
post-nuptial explanation, which might be accepted with
a light heart by a rougher man, might not be received
with the same feeling by him. But this communication
brought no reply from Mrs Durbeyfield.
Despite Angel Clare's plausible representation to
himself and to Tess of the practical need for their
immediate marriage, there was in truth an element of
precipitancy in the step, as became apparent at a later
date. He loved her dearly, though perhaps rather
ideally and fancifully than with the impassioned
thoroughness of her feeling for him. He had
entertained no notion, when doomed as he had thought to
an unintellectual bucolic life, that such charms as he
beheld in this idyllic creature would be found behind
the scenes. Unsophistication was a thing to talk of;
but he had not known how it really struck one until he
came here. Yet he was very far from seeing his future
track clearly, and it might be a year or two before he
would be able to consider himself fairly started in
life. The secret lay in the tinge of recklessness
imparted to his career and character by the sense that
he had been made to miss his true destiny through the
prejudices of his family.
"Don't you think 'twould have been better for us to
wait till you were quite settled in your midland farm?"
she once asked timidly. (A midland farm was the idea
"To tell the truth, my Tess, I don't like you to be
left anywhere away from my protection and sympathy."
The reason was a good one, so far as it went. His
influence over her had been so marked that she had
caught his manner and habits, his speech and phrases,
his likings and his aversions. And to leave her in
farmland would be to let her slip back again out of
accord with him. He wished to have her under his
charge for another reason. His parents had naturally
desired to see her once at least before he carried her
off to a distant settlement, English or colonial; and
as no opinion of theirs was to be allowed to change his
intention, he judged that a couple of months' life with
him in lodgings whilst seeking for an advantageous
opening would be of some social assistance to her at
what she might feel to be a trying ordeal--her
presentation to his mother at the Vicarage. Next, he
wished to see a little of the working of a flour-mill,
having an idea that he might combine the use of one
with corn-growing. The proprietor of a large old
water-mill at Wellbridge--once the mill of an
Abbey--had offered him the inspection of his
time-honoured mode of procedure, and a hand in the
operations for a few days, whenever he should choose to
come. Clare paid a visit to the place, some few miles
distant, one day at this time, to inquire particulars,
and returned to Talbothays in the evening. She found
him determined to spend a short time at the Wellbridge
flour-mills. And what had determined him? Less the
opportunity of an insight into grinding and bolting
than the casual fact that lodgings were to be obtained
in that very farmhouse which, before its mutilation,
had been the mansion of a branch of the d'Urberville
family. This was always how Clare settled practical
questions; by a sentiment which had nothing to do with
them. They decided to go immediately after the
wedding, and remain for a fortnight, instead of
journeying to towns and inns.
"Then we will start off to examine some farms on the
other side of London that I have heard of," he said,
"and by March or April we will pay a visit to my father
Questions of procedure such as these arose and passed,
and the day, the incredible day, on which she was to
become his, loomed large in the near future. The
thirty-first of December, New Year's Eve, was the date.
His wife, she said to herself. Could it ever be?
Their two selves together, nothing to divide them,
every incident shared by them; why not? And yet why?
One Sunday morning Izz Huett returned from church,
and spoke privately to Tess.
"You was not called home this morning."
"It should ha' been the first time of asking today,"
she answered, looking quietly at Tess. "You meant to
be married New Year's Eve, deary?"
The other returned a quick affirmative.
"And there must be three times of asking. And now
there be only two Sundays left between."
Tess felt her cheek paling; Izz was right; of course
there must be three. Perhaps he had forgotten! If so,
there must be a week's postponement, and that was
unlucky. How could she remind her lover? She who had
been so backward was suddenly fired with impatience and
alarm lest she should lose her dear prize.
A natural incident relieved her anxiety. Izz mentioned
the omission of the banns to Mrs Crick, and Mrs Crick
assumed a matron's privilege of speaking to Angel on
"Have ye forgot 'em, Mr Clare? The banns, I mean."
"No, I have not forgot 'em," says Clare.
As soon as he caught Tess alone he assured her:
"Don't let them tease you about the banns. A licence
will be quieter for us, and I have decided on a licence
without consulting you. So if you go to church on
Sunday morning you will not hear your own name, if you
"I didn't wish to hear it, dearest," she said proudly.
But to know that things were in train was an immense
relief to Tess notwithstanding, who had well-nigh
feared that somebody would stand up and forbid the
banns on the ground of her history. How events were
"I don't quite feel easy," she said to herself. "All
this good fortune may be scourged out of me afterwards
by a lot of ill. That's how Heaven mostly does. I
wish I could have had common banns!"
But everything went smoothly. She wondered whether he
would like her to be married in her present best white
frock, or if she ought to buy a new one. The question
was set at rest by his forethought, disclosed by the
arrival of some large packages addressed to her.
Inside them she found a whole stock of clothing, from
bonnet to shoes, including a perfect morning costume,
such as would well suit the simple wedding they
planned. He entered the house shortly after the
arrival of the packages, and heard her upstairs undoing
A minute later she came down with a flush on her face
and tears in her eyes.
"How thoughtful you've been!" she murmured, her cheek
upon his shoulder. "Even to the gloves and
handkerchief! My own love--how good, how kind!"
"No, no, Tess; just an order to a tradeswoman in
And to divert her from thinking too highly of him he
told her to go upstairs, and take her time, and see if
it all fitted; and, if not, to get the village
sempstress to make a few alterations.
She did return upstairs, and put on the gown. Alone,
she stood for a moment before the glass looking at the
effect of her silk attire; and then there came into her
head her mother's ballad of the mystic robe---
That never would become that wife
That had once done amiss,
which Mrs Durbeyfield had used to sing to her as a
child, so blithely and so archly, her foot on the
cradle, which she rocked to the tune. Suppose this
robe should betray her by changing colour, as her robe
had betrayed Queen Guenever. Since she had been at the
dairy she had not once thought of the lines till now.
Angel felt that he would like to spend a day with her
before the wedding, somewhere away from the dairy, as a
last jaunt in her company while there were yet mere
lover and mistress; a romantic day, in circumstances
that would never be repeated; with that other and
greater day beaming close ahead of them. During the
preceding week, therefore, he suggested making a few
purchases in the nearest town, and they started
Clare's life at the dairy had been that of a recluse in
respect the world of his own class. For months he had
never gone near a town, and, requiring no vehicle, had
never kept one, hiring the dairyman's cob or gig if he
rode or drove. They went in the gig that day.
And then for the first time in their lives they shopped
as partners in one concern. It was Christmas Eve, with
its loads a holly and mistletoe, and the town was very
full of strangers who had come in from all parts of the
country on account of the day. Tess paid the penalty
of walking about with happiness superadded to beauty on
her countenance by being much stared at as she moved
amid them on his arm.
In the evening they returned to the inn at which they
had put up, and Tess waited in the entry while Angel
went to see the horse and gig brought to the door.
The general sitting-room was full of guests, who were
continually going in and out. As the door opened and
shut each time for the passage of these, the light
within the parlour fell full upon Tess's face. Two men
came out and passed by her among the rest. One of them
had stared her up and down in surprise, and she fancied
he was a Trantridge man, though that village lay so
many miles off that Trantridge folk were rarities here.
"A comely maid that," said the other.
"True, comely enough. But unless I make a great
mistake----" And negatived the remainder of the
Clare had just returned from the stable-yard, and,
confronting the man on the threshold, heard the words,
and saw the shrinking of Tess. The insult to her stung
him to the quick, and before he had considered anything
at all he struck the man on the chin with the full
force of his fist, sending him staggering backwards
into the passage.
The man recovered himself, and seemed inclined to come
on, and Clare, stepping outside the door, put himself
in a posture of defence. But his opponent began to
think better of the matter. He looked anew at Tess as
he passed her, and said to Clare---
"I beg pardon, sir; 'twas a complete mistake. I
thought she was another woman, forty miles from here."
Clare, feeling then that he had been too hasty, and
that he was, moreover, to blame for leaving her
standing in an inn-passage, did what he usually did in
such cases, gave the man five shillings to plaster the
blow; and thus they parted, bidding each other a
pacific goodnight. As soon as Clare had taken the
reins from the ostler, and the young couple had driven
off, the two men went in the other direction. "And was
it a mistake?" said the second one.
"Not a bit of it. But I didn't want to hurt the
gentleman's feelings--not I."
In the meantime the lovers were driving onward.
"Could we put off our wedding till a little later?"
Tess asked in a dry dull voice. "I mean if we wished?"
"No, my love. Calm yourself. Do you mean that the
fellow may have time to summon me for assault?" he
"No--I only meant--if it should have to be put off."
What she meant was not very clear, and he directed her
to dismiss such fancies from her mind, which she
obediently did as well as she could. But she was
grave, very grave, all the way home; till she thought,
"We shall go away, a very long distance, hundreds of
miles from these parts, and such as this can never
happen again, and no ghost of the past reach there."
They parted tenderly that night on the landing, and
Clare ascended to his attic. Tess sat up getting on
with some little requisites, lest the few remaining
days should not afford sufficient times. While she sat
she heard a noise in Angel's room overhead, a sound of
thumping and struggling. Everybody else in the house
was asleep, and in her anxiety lest Clare should be ill
she ran up and knocked at his door, and asked him what
was the matter.
"Oh, nothing, dear," he said from within. "I am so
sorry I disturbed you! But the reason is rather an
amusing one: I fell asleep and dreamt that I was
fighting that fellow again who insulted you and the
noise you heard was my pummelling away with my fists at
my portmanteau, which I pulled out today for packing.
I am occasionally liable to these freaks in my sleep.
Go to bed and think of it no more."
This was the last drachm required to turn the scale of
her indecision. Declare the past to him by word of
mouth she could not; but there was another way. She
sat down and wrote on the four pages of a note-sheet a
succinct narrative of those events of three or four
years ago, put it into an envelope, and directed it to
Clare. Then, lest the flesh should again be weak, she
crept upstairs without any shoes and slipped the note
under his door.
Her night was a broken one, as it well might be, and
she listened for the first faint noise overhead. It
came, as usual; he descended, as usual. She descended.
He met her at the bottom of the stairs and kissed her.
Surely it was as warmly as ever!
He looked a little disturbed and worn, she thought.
But he said not a word to her about her revelation,
even when they were alone. Could he have had it?
Unless he began the subject she felt that she could say
nothing. So the day passed, and it was evident that
whatever he thought he meant to keep to himself. Yet
he was frank and affectionate as before. Could it be
that her doubts were childish? that he forgave her;
that he loved her for what she was, just as she was,
and smiled at her disquiet as at a foolish nightmare?
Had he really received her note? She glanced into his
room, and could see nothing of it. It might be that he
forgave her. But even if he had not received it she
had a sudden enthusiastic trust that he surely would
Every morning and night he was the same, and thus New
Year's Eve broke--the wedding day.
The lovers did not rise at milking-time, having through
the whole of this last week of their sojourn at the
dairy been accorded something of the position of
guests, Tess being honoured with a room of her own.
When they arrived downstairs at breakfast-time they
were surprised to see what effects had been produced in
the large kitchen for their glory since they had last
beheld it. At some unnatural hour of the morning the
dairyman had caused the yawning chimney-corner to be
whitened, and the brick hearth reddened, and a blazing
yellow damask blower to be hung across the arch in
place of the old grimy blue cotton one with a black
sprig pattern which had formerly done duty there. This
renovated aspect of what was the focus indeed of the
room on a full winter morning, threw a smiling
demeanour over the whole apartment.
"I was determined to do summat in honour o't", said the
dairyman. "And as you wouldn't hear of my gieing a
rattling good randy wi' fiddles and bass-viols
complete, as we should ha' done in old times, this was
all I could think o' as a noiseless thing."
Tess's friends lived so far off that none could
conveniently have been present at the ceremony, even
had any been asked; but as a fact nobody was invited
from Marlott. As for Angel's family, he had written
and duly informed them of the time, and assured them
that he would be glad to see one at least of them there
for the day if he would like to come. His brothers had
not replied at all, seeming to be indignant with him;
while his father and mother had written a rather sad
letter, deploring his precipitancy in rushing into
marriage, but making the best of the matter by saying
that, though a dairywoman was the last daughter-in-law
they could have expected, their son had arrived at an
age which he might be supposed to be the best judge.
This coolness in his relations distressed Clare less
than it would have done had he been without the grand
card with which he meant to surprise them ere long. To
produce Tess, fresh from the dairy, as a d'Urberville
and a lady, he had felt to be temerarious and risky;
hence he had concealed her lineage till such time as,
familiarized with worldly ways by a few months' travel
and reading with him, he could take her on a visit to
his parents, and impart the knowledge while
triumphantly producing her as worthy of such an ancient
line. It was a pretty lover's dream, if no more.
Perhaps Tess's lineage had more value for himself than
for anybody in the world beside.
Her perception that Angel's bearing towards her still
remained in no whit altered by her own communication
rendered Tess guiltily doubtful if he could have
received it. She rose from breakfast before he had
finished, and hastened upstairs. It had occurred to
her to look once more into the queer gaunt room which
had been Clare's den, or rather eyrie, for so long, and
climbing the ladder she stood at the open door of the
apartment, regarding and pondering. She stooped to the
threshold of the doorway, where she had pushed in the
note two or three days earlier in such excitement. The
carpet reached close to the sill, and under the edge of
the carpet she discerned the faint white margin of the
envelope containing her letter to him, which he
obviously had never seen, owing to her having in her
haste thrust it beneath the carpet as well as beneath
With a feeling of faintness she withdrew the letter.
There it was--sealed up, just as it had left her hands.
The mountain had not yet been removed. She could not
let him read it now, the house being in full bustle of
preparation; and descending to her own room she
destroyed the letter there.
She was so pale when he saw her again that he felt
quite anxious. The incident of the misplaced letter
she had jumped at as if it prevented a confession; but
she knew in her conscience that it need not; there was
still time. Yet everything was in a stir; there was
coming and going; all had to dress, the dairyman and
Mrs Crick having been asked to accompany them as
witnesses; and reflection or deliberate talk was
well-nigh impossible. The only minute Tess could get
to be alone with Clare was when they met upon the
"I am so anxious to talk to you--I want to confess all
my faults and blunders!" she said with attempted
"No, no--we can't have faults talked of--you must be
deemed perfect today at least, my Sweet!" he cried.
"We shall have plenty of time, hereafter, I hope, to
talk over our failings. I will confess mine at the
"But it would be better for me to do it now, I think,
so that you could not say----"
"Well, my quixotic one, you shall tell me
anything--say, as soon as we are settled in our
lodging; not now. I, too, will tell you my faults
then. But do not let us spoil the day with them; they
will be excellent matter for a dull time."
"Then you don't wish me to, dearest?"
"I do not, Tessy, really."
The hurry of dressing and starting left no time for
more than this. Those words of his seemed to reassure
her on further reflection. She was whirled onward
through the next couple of critical hours by the
mastering tide of her devotion to him, which closed up
further meditation. Her one desire, so long resisted,
to make herself his, to call him her lord, her
own--then, if necessary, to die--had at last lifted her
up from her plodding reflective pathway. In dressing,
she moved about in a mental cloud of many-coloured
idealities, which eclipsed all sinister contingencies
by its brightness.
The church was a long way off, and they were obliged to
drive, particularly as it was winter. A close carriage
was ordered from a roadside inn, a vehicle which had
been kept there ever since the old days of post-chaise
travelling. It had stout wheel-spokes, and heavy
felloes, a great curved bed, immense straps and
springs, and a pole like a battering-ram. The
postilion was a venerable "boy" of sixty--a martyr to
rheumatic gout, the result of excessive exposure in
youth, counter-acted by strong liquors--who had stood
at inn-doors doing nothing for the whole five-and-
twenty years that had elapsed since he had no longer
been required to ride professionally, as if expecting
the old times to come back again. He had a permanent
running wound on the outside of his right leg,
originated by the constant bruisings of aristocratic
carriage-poles during the many years that he had been
in regular employ at the King's Arms, Casterbridge.
Inside this cumbrous and creaking structure, and behind
this decayed conductor, the PARTIE CARREE took their
seats--the bride and bridegroom and Mr and Mrs Crick.
Angel would have liked one at least of his brothers to
be present as groomsman, but their silence after his
gentle hint to that effect by letter had signified that
they did not care to come. They disapproved of the
marriage, and could not be expected to countenance it.
Perhaps it was as well that they could not be present.
They were not worldly young fellows, but fraternizing
with dairy-folk would have struck unpleasantly upon
their biassed niceness, apart from their view of the
Upheld by the momentum of the time Tess knew nothing of
this; did not see anything; did not know the road they
were taking to the church. She knew that Angel was
close to her; all the rest was a luminous mist. She
was a sort of celestial person, who owed her being to
poetry--one of those classical divinities Clare was
accustomed to talk to her about when they took their
The marriage being by licence there were only a dozen
or so of people in the church; had there been a
thousand they would have produced no more effect upon
her. They were at stellar distances from her present
world. In the ecstatic solemnity with which she swore
her faith to him the ordinary sensibilities of sex
seemed a flippancy. At a pause in the service, while
they were kneeling together, she unconsciously inclined
herself towards him, so that her shoulder touched his
arm; she had been frightened by a passing thought, and
the movement had been automatic, to assure herself that
he was really there, and to fortify her belief that his
fidelity would be proof against all things.
Clare knew that she loved him--every curve of her form
showed that--but he did not know at that time the full
depth of her devotion, its single-mindedness, its
meekness; what long-suffering it guaranteed, what
honesty, what endurance what good faith.
As they came out of church the ringers swung the bells
off their rests, and a modest peal of three notes broke
forth--that limited amount of expression having been
deemed sufficient by the church builders for the joys
of such a small parish. Passing by the tower with her
husband on the path to the gate she could feel the
vibrant air humming round them from the louvred belfry
in the circle of sound, and it matched the
highly-charged mental atmosphere in which she was
This condition of mind, wherein she felt glorified by
an irradiation not her own, like the angel whom St John
saw in the sun, lasted till the sound of the church
bells had died away, and the emotions of the
wedding-service had calmed down. Her eyes could dwell
upon details more clearly now, and Mr and Mrs Crick
having directed their own gig to be sent for them, to
leave the carriage to the young couple, she observed
the build and character of that conveyance for the
first time. Sitting in silence she regarded it long.
"I fancy you seem oppressed, Tessy," said Clare.
"Yes," she answered, putting her hand to her brow.
"I tremble at many things. It is all so serious, Angel.
Among other things I seem to have seen this carriage
before, to very well acquainted with it. It is very
odd--I must have seen it in a dream."
"Oh--you have heard the legend of the d'Urberville
Coach--that well-known superstition of this county
about your family when they were very popular here; and
this lumbering old thing reminds you of it."
"I have never heard of it to my knowledge," said she.
"What is the legend--may I know it?"
"Well--I would rather not tell it in detail just now.
A certain d'Urberville of the sixteenth or seventeenth
century committed a dreadful crime in his family coach;
and since that time members of the family see or hear
the old coach whenever----But I'll tell you another
day--it is rather gloomy. Evidently some dim knowledge
of it has been brought back to your mind by the sight
of this venerable caravan."
"I don't remember hearing it before," she murmured.
"Is it when we are going to die, Angel, that members of
my family see it, or is it when we have committed a
He silenced her by a kiss.
By the time they reached home she was contrite and
spiritless. She was Mrs Angel Clare, indeed, but had
she any moral right to the name? Was she not more
truly Mrs Alexander d'Urberville? Could intensity of
love justify what might be considered in upright souls
as culpable reticence? She knew not what was expected
of women in such cases; and she had no counsellor.
However, when she found herself alone in her room for a
few minutes--the last day this on which she was ever to
enter it--she knelt down and prayed. She tried to pray
to God, but it was her husband who really had her
supplication. Her idolatry of this man was such that
she herself almost feared it to be ill-omened. She was
conscious of the notion expressed by Friar Laurence:
"These violent delights have violent ends." It might
be too desperate for human conditions--too rank, to
wild, too deadly.
"O my love, why do I love you so!" she whispered there
alone; "for she you love is not my real self, but one
in my image; the one I might have been!"
Afternoon came, and with it the hour for departure.
They had decided to fulfil the plan of going for a few
days to the lodgings in the old farmhouse near
Wellbridge Mill, at which he meant to reside during his
investigation of flour processes. At two o'clock there
was nothing left to do but to start. All the servantry
of the dairy were standing in the red-brick entry to
see them go out, the dairyman and his wife following to
the door. Tess saw her three chamber-mates in a row
against the wall, pensively inclining their heads. She
had much questioned if they would appear at the parting
moment; but there they were, stoical and staunch to the
last. She knew why the delicate Retty looked to
fragile, and Izz so tragically sorrowful and Marian so
blank; and she forgot her own dogging shadow for a
moment in contemplating theirs.
She impulsively whispered to him----
"Will you kiss 'em all, once, poor things, for the
first and last time?"
Clare had not the least objection to such a farewell
formality--which was all that it was to him--and as he
passed them he kissed them in succession where they
stood, saying "Goodbye" to each as he did so. When
they reached the door Tess femininely glanced back to
discern the effect of that kiss of charity; there was
no triumph in her glance, as there might have been.
If there had it would have disappeared when she saw how
moved the girls all were. The kiss had obviously done
harm by awakening feelings they were trying to subdue.
Of all this Clare was unconscious. Passing on to the
wicket-gate he shook hands with the dairyman and his
wife, and expressed his last thanks to them for their
attentions; after which there was a moment of silence
before they had moved off. It was interrupted by the
crowing of a cock. The white one with the rose comb
had come and settled on the palings in front of the
house, within a few yards of them, and his notes
thrilled their ears through, dwindling away like echoes
down a valley of rocks.
"Oh?" said Mrs Crick. "An afternoon crow!"
Two men were standing by the yard gate, holding it
"That's bad," one murmured to the other, not thinking
that the words could be heard by the group at the
The cock crew again--straight towards Clare.
"Well!" said the dairyman.
"I don't like to hear him!" said Tess to her husband.
"Tell the man to drive on. Goodbye, goodbye!"
The cock crew again.
"Hoosh! Just you be off, sir, or I'll twist your
neck!" said the dairyman with some irritation, turning
to the bird and driving him away. And to his wife as
they went indoors: "Now, to think o' that just today!
I've not heard his crow of an afternoon all the year
"It only means a change in the weather," said she;
"not what you think: 'tis impossible!"
They drove by the level road along the valley to a
distance of a few miles, and, reaching Wellbridge,
turned away from the village to the left, and over the
great Elizabethan bridge which gives the place half its
name. Immediately behind it stood the house wherein
they had engaged lodgings, whose exterior features are
so well known to all travellers through the Froom
Valley; once portion of a fine manorial residence, and
the property and seat of a d'Urberville, but since its
partial demolition a farmhouse.
"Welcome to one of your ancestral mansions!" said Clare
as he handed her down. But he regretted the pleasantry;
it was too near a satire.
On entering they found that, though they had only
engaged a couple of rooms, the farmer had taken
advantage of their proposed presence during the coming
days to pay a New Year's visit to some friends, leaving
a woman from a neighbouring cottage to minister to
their few wants. The absoluteness of possession
pleased them, and they realized it as the first moment
of their experience under their own exclusive
But he found that the mouldy old habitation somewhat
depressed his bride. When the carriage was gone they
ascended the stairs to wash their hands, the charwoman
showing the way. On the landing Tess stopped and
"What's the matter?" said he.
"Those horrid women!" she answered with a smile.
"How they frightened me."
He looked up, and perceived two life-size portraits on
panels built into the masonry. As all visitors to the
mansion are aware, these paintings represent women of
middle age, of a date some two hundred years ago, whose
lineaments once seen can never be forgotten. The long
pointed features, narrow eye, and smirk of the one, so
suggestive of merciless treachery; the bill-hook nose,
large teeth, and bold eye of the other suggesting
arrogance to the point of ferocity, haunt the beholder
afterwards in his dreams.
"Whose portraits are those?" asked Clare of the
"I have been told by old folk that they were ladies of
the d'Urberville family, the ancient lords of this
manor," she said, "Owing to their being builded into
the wall they can't be moved away."
The unpleasantness of the matter was that, in addition
to their effect upon Tess, her fine features were
unquestionably traceable in these exaggerated forms.
He said nothing of this, however, and, regretting that
he had gone out of his way to choose the house for
their bridal time, went on into the adjoining room.
The place having been rather hastily prepared for them
they washed their hands in one basin. Clare touched
hers under the water.
"Which are my fingers and which are yours?" he said,
looking up. "They are very much mixed."
"They are all yours," said she, very prettily, and
endeavoured to be gayer than she was. He had not been
displeased with her thoughtfulness on such an occasion;
it was what every sensible woman would show: but Tess
knew that she had been thoughtful to excess, and
struggled against it.
The sun was so low on that short last afternoon of the
year that it shone in through a small opening and
formed a golden staff which stretched across to her
skirt, where it made a spot like a paint-mark set upon
her. They went into the ancient parlour to tea, and
here they shared their first common meal alone. Such
was their childishness, or rather his, that he found it
interesting to use the same bread-and-butter plate as
herself, and to brush crumbs from her lips with his
own. He wondered a little that she did not enter into
these frivolities with his own zest.
Looking at her silently for a long time; "She is a dear
dear Tess," he thought to himself, as one deciding on
the true construction of a difficult passage. "Do I
realize solemnly enough how utterly and irretrievably
this little womanly thing is the creature of my good or
bad faith and fortune? I think not. I think I could
not, unless I were a woman myself. What I am in
worldly estate, she is. What I become, she must
become. What I cannot be, she cannot be. And shall I
ever neglect her, or hurt her, or even forget to
consider her? God forbid such a crime!"
They sat on over the tea-table waiting for their
luggage, which the dairyman had promised to send before
it grew dark. But evening began to close in, and the
luggage did not arrive, and they had brought nothing
more than they stood in. With the departure of the sun
the calm mood of the winter day changed. Out of doors
there began noises as of silk smartly rubbed; the
restful dead leaves of the preceding autumn were
stirred to irritated resurrection, and whirled about
unwillingly, and tapped against the shutters. It soon
began to rain.
"That cock knew the weather was going to change," said
The woman who had attended upon them had gone home for
the night, but she had placed candles upon the table,
and now they lit them. Each candle-flame drew towards
"These old houses are so draughty," continued Angel,
looking at the flames, and at the grease guttering down
the sides. "I wonder where that luggage is. We
haven't even a brush and comb."
"I don't know," she answered, absent-minded.
"Tess, you are not a bit cheerful this evening--not at
all as you used to be. Those harridans on the panels
upstairs have unsettled you. I am sorry I brought you
here. I wonder if you really love me, after all?" He
knew that she did, and the words had no serious intent;
but she was surcharged with emotion, and winced like a
wounded animal. Though she tried not to shed tears she
could not help showing one or two.
"I did not mean it!" said he, sorry. "You are worried
at not having your things, I know. I cannot think why
old Jonathan has not come with them. Why, it is seven
o'clock? Ah, there he is!"
A knock had come to the door, and, there being nobody
else to answer it, Clare went out. He returned to the
room with a small package in his hand.
"It is not Jonathan, after all," he said.
"How vexing!" said Tess.
The packet had been brought by a special messenger, who
had arrived at Talbothays from Emminster Vicarage
immediately after the departure of the married couple,
and had followed them hither, being under injunction to
deliver it into nobody's hands but theirs. Clare
brought it to the light. It was less than a foot long,
sewed up in canvas, sealed in red wax with his father's
seal, and directed in his father's hand to "Mrs Angel
"It is a little wedding-present for you, Tess," said
he, handing it to her. "How thoughtful they are!"
Tess looked a little flustered as she took it.
"I think I would rather have you open it, dearest,"
said she, turning over the parcel. "I don't like to
break those great seals; they look so serious. Please
open it for me!"
He undid the parcel. Inside was a case of morocco
leather, on the top of which lay a note and a key.
The note was for Clare, in the following words:
MY DEAR SON----
Possibly you have forgotten that on the death of your
godmother, Mrs Pitney, when you were a lad, she--vain
kind woman that she was--left to me a portion of the
contents of her jewel-case in trust for your wife, if
you should ever have one, as a mark of her affection
for you and whomsoever you should choose. This trust I
have fulfilled, and the diamonds have been locked up at
my banker's ever since. Though I feel it to be a
somewhat incongruous act in the circumstances, I am, as
you will see, bound to hand over the articles to the
woman to whom the use of them for her lifetime will now
rightly belong, and they are therefore promptly sent.
They become, I believe, heirlooms, strictly speaking,
according to the terms of your godmother's will. The
precise words of the clause that refers to this matter
"I do remember," said Clare; "but I had quite
Unlocking the case, they found it to contain a
necklace, with pendant, bracelets, and ear-rings; and
also some other small ornaments.
Tess seemed afraid to touch them at first, but her eyes
sparkled for a moment as much as the stones when Clare
spread out the set.
"Are they mine?" she asked incredulously.
"They are, certainly," said he.
He looked into the fire. He remembered how, when he
was a lad of fifteen, his godmother, the Squire's
wife--the only rich person with whom he had ever come
in contact--had pinned her faith to his success; had
prophesied a wondrous career for him. There had seemed
nothing at all out of keeping with such a conjectured
career in the storing up of these showy ornaments for
his wife and the wives of her descendants. They
gleamed somewhat ironically now. "Yet why?" he asked
himself. It was but a question of vanity throughout;
and if that were admitted into one side of the equation
it should be admitted into the other. His wife was a
d'Urberville: whom could they become better than her?
Suddenly he said with enthusiasm---
"Tess, put them on--put them on!" And he turned from
the fire to help her.
But as if by magic she had already donned them--
necklace, ear-rings, bracelets, and all.
"But the gown isn't right, Tess," said Clare. "It
ought to be a low one for a set of brilliants like
"Ought it?" said Tess.
"Yes," said he.
He suggested to her how to tuck in the upper edge of
her bodice, so as to make it roughly approximate to the
cut for evening wear; and when she had done this, and
the pendant to the necklace hung isolated amid the
whiteness of her throat, as it was designed to do, he
stepped back to survey her.
"My heavens," said Clare, "how beautiful you are!"
As everybody knows, fine feathers make fine birds; a
peasant girl but very moderately prepossessing to the
casual observer in her simple condition and attire,
will bloom as an amazing beauty if clothed as a woman
of fashion with the aids that Art can render; while the
beauty of the midnight crush would often cut but a
sorry figure if placed inside the field-woman's wrapper
upon a monotonous acreage of turnips on a dull day. He
had never till now estimated the artistic excellence of
Tess's limbs and features.
"If you were only to appear in a ball-room!" he said.
"But no--no, dearest; I think I love you best in the
wing-bonnet and cotton-frock--yes, better than in this,
well as you support these dignities."
Tess's sense of her striking appearance had given her a
flush of excitement, which was yet not happiness.
"I'll take them off," she said, "in case Jonathan
should see me. They are not fit for me, are they?
They must be sold, I suppose?"
"Let them stay a few minutes longer. Sell them?
Never. It would be a breach of faith."
Influenced by a second thought she readily obeyed.
She had something to tell, and there might be help in
these. She sat down with the jewels upon her; and they
again indulged in conjectures as to where Jonathan
could possibly be with their baggage. The ale they had
poured out for his consumption when he came had gone
flat with long standing.
Shortly after this they began supper, which was already
laid on a side-table. Ere they had finished there was
a jerk in the fire-smoke, the rising skein of which
bulged out into the room, as if some giant had laid his
hand on the chimney-top for a moment. It had been
caused by the opening of the outer door. A heavy step
was now heard in the passage, and Angel went out.
"I couldn' make nobody hear at all by knocking,"
apologized Jonathan Kail, for it was he at last; "and
as't was raining out I opened the door. I've brought
the things, sir."
"I am very glad to see them. But you are very late."
"Well, yes, sir."
There was something subdued in Jonathan Kail's tone
which had not been there in the day, and lines of
concern were ploughed upon his forehead in addition to
the lines of years. He continued----
"We've all been gallied at the dairy at what might ha'
been a most terrible affliction since you and your
Mis'ess--so to name her now--left us this a'ternoon.
Perhaps you ha'nt forgot the cock's afternoon crow?"
"Well, some says it do mane one thing, and some
another; but what's happened is that poor little Retty
Priddle hev tried to drown herself."
"No! Really! Why, she bade us goodbye with the
"Yes. Well, sir, when you and your Mis'ess--so to name
what she lawful is--when you two drove away, as I say,
Retty and Marian put on their bonnets and went out; and
as there is not much doing now, being New Year's Eve,
and folks mops and brooms from what's inside 'em,
nobody took much notice. They went on to Lew-Everard,
where they had summut to drink, and then on they vamped
to Dree-armed Cross, and there they seemed to have
parted, Retty striking across the water-meads as if for
home, and Marian going on to the next village, where
there's another public-house. Nothing more was zeed or
heard o' Retty till the waterman, on his way home,
noticed something by the Great Pool; 'twas her bonnet
and shawl packed up. In the water he found her. He
and another man brought her home, thinking a' was dead;
but she fetched round by degrees."
Angel, suddenly recollecting that Tess was overhearing
this gloomy tale, went to shut the door between the
passage and the ante-room to the inner parlour where
she was; but his wife, flinging a shawl round her, had
come to the outer room and was listening to the man's
narrative, her eyes resting absently on the luggage and
the drops of rain glistening upon it.
"And, more than this, there's Marian; she's been found
dead drunk by the withy-bed--a girl who hev never been
known to touch anything before except shilling ale;
though, to be sure, 'a was always a good trencher-
woman, as her face showed. It seems as if the maids
had all gone out o' their minds!"
"And Izz?" asked Tess.
"Izz is about house as usual; but 'a do say 'a can
guess how it happened; and she seems to be very low in
mind about it, poor maid, as well she mid be. And so
you see, sir, as all this happened just when we was
packing your few traps and your Mis'ess's night-rail
and dressing things into the cart, why, it belated me."
"Yes. Well, Jonathan, will you get the trunks
upstairs, and drink a cup of ale, and hasten back as
soon as you can, in case you should be wanted?"
Tess had gone back to the inner parlour, and sat down
by the fire, looking wistfully into it. She heard
Jonathan Kail's heavy footsteps up and down the stairs
till he had done placing the luggage, and heard him
express his thanks for the ale her husband took out to
him, and for the gratuity he received. Jonathan's
footsteps then died from the door, and his cart creaked
Angel slid forward the massive oak bar which secured
the door, and coming in to where she sat over the
hearth, pressed her cheeks between his hands from
behind. He expected her to jump up gaily and unpack
the toilet-gear that she had been so anxious about, but
as she did not rise he sat down with her in the
firelight, the candles on the supper-table being too
thin and glimmering to interfere with its glow.
"I am so sorry you should have heard this sad story
about the girls," he said. "Still, don't let it
depress you. Retty was naturally morbid, you know."
"Without the least cause," said Tess. "While they who
have cause to be, hide it, and pretend they are not."
This incident had turned the scale for her. They were
simple and innocent girls on whom the unhappiness of
unrequited love had fallen; they had deserved better at
the hands of Fate. She had deserved worse--yet she was
the chosen one. It was wicked of her to take all
without paying. She would pay to the uttermost
farthing; she would tell, there and then. This final
determination she came to when she looked into the
fire, he holding her hand.
A steady glare from the now flameless embers painted
the sides and back of the fireplace with its colour,
and the well-polished andirons, and the old brass tongs
that would not meet. The underside of the mantel-shelf
was flushed with the high-coloured light, and the legs
of the table nearest the fire. Tess's face and neck
reflected the same warmth, which each gem turned into
an Aldebaran or a Sirius--a constellation of white,
red, and green flashes, that interchanged their hues
with her every pulsation.
"Do you remember what we said to each other this
morning about telling our faults?" he asked abruptly,
finding that she still remained immovable. "We spoke
lightly perhaps, and you may well have done so. But
for me it was no light promise. I want to make a
confession to you, Love."
This, from him, so unexpectedly apposite, had the
effect upon her of a Providential interposition.
"You have to confess something?" she said quickly,
and even with gladness and relief.
"You did not expect it? Ah--you thought too highly of
me. Now listen. Put your head there, because I want
you to forgive me, and not to be indignant with me for
not telling you before, as perhaps I ought to have
How strange it was! He seemed to be her double.
She did not speak, and Clare went on----
"I did not mention it because I was afraid of
endangering my chance of you, darling, the great prize
of my life--my Fellowship I call you. My brother's
Fellowship was won at his college, mine at Talbothays
Dairy. Well, I would not risk it. I was going to tell
you a month ago--at the time you agreed to be mine, but
I could not; I thought it might frighten you away from
me. I put it off; then I thought I would tell you
yesterday, to give you a chance at least of escaping
me. But I did not. And I did not this morning, when
you proposed our confessing our faults on the
landing--the sinner that I was! But I must, now I see
you sitting there so solemnly. I wonder if you will
"O yes! I am sure that----"
"Well, I hope so. But wait a minute. You don't know.
To begin at the beginning. Though I imagine my poor
father fears that I am one of the eternally lost for my
doctrines, I am of course, a believer in good morals,
Tess, as much as you. I used to wish to be a teacher
of men, and it was a great disappointment to me when I
found I could not enter the Church. I admired
spotlessness, even though I could lay no claim to it,
and hated impurity, as I hope I do now. Whatever one
may think of plenary inspiration, one must heartily
subscribe to these words of Paul: 'Be thou an example--
in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in
faith, in purity.' It is the only safeguard for us
poor human beings. 'INTEGER VITAE,' says a Roman poet,
who is strange company for St Paul----
The man of upright life, from frailties free,
Stands not in need of Moorish spear or bow
Well, a certain place is paved with good intentions,
and having felt all that so strongly, you will see what
a terrible remorse it bred in me when, in the midst of
my fine aims for other people, I myself fell."
He then told her of that time of his life to which
allusion has been made when, tossed about by doubts and
difficulties in London, like a cork on the waves, he
plunged into eight-and-forty hours' dissipation with a
"Happily I awoke almost immediately to a sense of my
folly," he continued. "I would have no more to say to
her, and I came home. I have never repeated the
offence. But I felt I should like to treat you with
perfect frankness and honour, and I could not do so
without telling this. Do you forgive me?"
She pressed his hand tightly for an answer.
"Then we will dismiss it at once and for ever!--too
painful as it is for the occasion--and talk of
"O, Angel--I am almost glad--because now YOU can
forgive ME! I have not made my confession. I have a
confession, too--remember, I said so."
"Ah, to be sure! Now then for it, wicked little one."
"Perhaps, although you smile, it is as serious as
yours, or more so."
"It can hardly be more serious, dearest."
"It cannot--O no, it cannot!" She jumped up joyfully
at the hope. "No, it cannot be more serious,
certainly," she cried, "because 'tis just the same!
I will tell you now."
She sat down again.
Their hands were still joined. The ashes under the
grate were lit by the fire vertically, like a torrid
waste. Imagination might have beheld a Last Day
luridness in this red-coaled glow, which fell on his
face and hand, and on hers, peering into the loose hair
about her brow, and firing the delicate skin
underneath. A large shadow of her shape rose upon the
wall and ceiling. She bent forward, at which each
diamond on her neck gave a sinister wink like a toad's;
and pressing her forehead against his temple she
entered on her story of her acquaintance with Alec
d'Urberville and its results, murmuring the words
without flinching, and with her eyelids drooping down.
END OF PHASE THE FOURTH
Phase the Fifth: The Woman Pays
Her narrative ended; even its re-assertions and
secondary explanations were done. Tess's voice
throughout had hardly risen higher than its opening
tone; there had been no exculpatory phrase of any kind,
and she had not wept.
But the complexion even of external things seemed to
suffer transmutation as her announcement progressed.
The fire in the grate looked impish--demoniacally
funny, as if it did not care in the least about her
strait. The fender grinned idly, as if it too did not
care. The light from the water-bottle was merely
engaged in a chromatic problem. All material objects
around announced their irresponsibility with terrible
iteration. And yet nothing had changed since the
moments when he had been kissing her; or rather,
nothing in the substance of things. But the essence of
things had changed.
When she ceased the auricular impressions from their
previous endearments seemed to hustle away into the
corner of their brains, repeating themselves as echoes
from a time of supremely purblind foolishness.
Clare performed the irrelevant act of stirring the
fire; the intelligence had not even yet got to the
bottom of him. After stirring the embers he rose to his
feet; all the force of her disclosure had imparted
itself now. His face had withered. In the
strenuousness of his concentration he treadled fitfully
on the floor. He could not, by any contrivance, think
closely enough; that was the meaning of his vague
movement. When he spoke it was in the most inadequate,
commonplace voice of the many varied tones she had
heard from him.
"Am I to believe this? From your manner I am to take
it as true. O you cannot be out of your mind! You
ought to be! Yet you are not. ... My wife, my
Tess--nothing in you warrants such a supposition as
"I am not out of my mind," she said.
"And yet----" He looked vacantly at her, to resume
with dazed senses: "Why didn't you tell me before?
Ah, yes, you would have told me, in a way--but I hindered
you, I remember!"
These and other of his words were nothing but the
perfunctory babble of the surface while the depths
remained paralyzed. He turned away, and bent over a
chair. Tess followed him to the middle of the room
where he was, and stood there staring at him with eyes
that did not weep. Presently she slid down upon her
knees beside his foot, and from this position she
crouched in a heap.
"In the name of our love, forgive me!" she whispered
with a dry mouth. "I have forgiven you for the same!"
And, as he did not answer, she said again----
"Forgive me as you are forgiven! I forgive YOU,
"You--yes, you do."
"But you do not forgive me?"
"O Tess, forgiveness does not apply to the case! You
were one person; now you are another. My God--how can
forgiveness meet such a grotesque--prestidigitation as
He paused, contemplating this definition; then suddenly
broke into horrible laughter--as unnatural and ghastly
as a laugh in hell.
"Don't--don't! It kills me quite, that!" she shrieked.
"O have mercy upon me--have mercy!"
He did not answer; and, sickly white, she jumped up.
"Angel, Angel! what do you mean by that laugh?" she
cried out. "Do you know what this is to me?"
He shook his head.
"I have been hoping, longing, praying, to make you
happy! I have thought what joy it will be to do it,
what an unworthy wife I shall be if I do not! That's
what I have felt, Angel!"
"I know that."
"I thought, Angel, that you loved me--me, my very self!
If it is I you do love, O how can it be that you look
and speak so? It frightens me! Having begun to love
you, I love you for ever--in all changes, in all
disgraces, because you are yourself. I ask no more.
Then how can you, O my own husband, stop loving me?"
"I repeat, the woman I have been loving is not you."
"Another woman in your shape."
She perceived in his words the realization of her own
apprehensive foreboding in former times. He looked
upon her as a species of imposter; a guilty woman in
the guise of an innocent one. Terror was upon her
white face as she saw it; her cheek was flaccid, and
her mouth had almost the aspect of a round little hole.
The horrible sense of his view of her so deadened her
that she staggered; and he stepped forward, thinking
she was going to fall.
"Sit down, sit down," he said gently. "You are ill;
and it is natural that you should be."
She did sit down, without knowing where she was, that
strained look still upon her face, and her eyes such as
to make his flesh creep.
"I don't belong to you any more, then; do I, Angel?"
she asked helplessly. "It is not me, but another woman
like me that he loved, he says."
The image raised caused her to take pity upon herself
as one who was ill-used. Her eyes filled as she
regarded her position further; she turned round and
burst into a flood of self-sympathetic tears.
Clare was relieved at this change, for the effect on
her of what had happened was beginning to be a trouble
to him only less than the woe of the disclosure itself.
He waited patiently, apathetically, till the violence
of her grief had worn itself out, and her rush of
weeping had lessened to a catching gasp at intervals.
"Angel," she said suddenly, in her natural tones, the
insane, dry voice of terror having left her now.
"Angel, am I too wicked for you and me to live
"I have not been able to think what we can do."
"I shan't ask you to let me live with you, Angel,
because I have no right to! I shall not write to
mother and sisters to say we be married, as I said I
would do; and I shan't finish the good-hussif' I cut
out and meant to make while we were in lodgings."
"No, I shan't do anything, unless you order me to; and
if you go away from me I shall not follow 'ee; and if
you never speak to me any more I shall not ask why,
unless you tell me I may."
"And if I order you to do anything?"
"I will obey you like your wretched slave, even if it
is to lie down and die."
"You are very good. But it strikes me that there is a
want of harmony between your present mood of
self-sacrifice and your past mood of
These were the first words of antagonism. To fling
elaborate sarcasms at Tess, however, was much like
flinging them at a dog or cat. The charms of their
subtlety passed by her unappreciated, and she only
received them as inimical sounds which meant that anger
ruled. She remained mute, not knowing that he was
smothering his affection for her. She hardly observed
that a tear descended slowly upon his cheek, a tear so
large that it magnified the pores of the skin over
which it rolled, like the object lens of a microscope.
Meanwhile reillumination as to the terrible and total
change that her confession had wrought in his life, in
his universe, returned to him, and he tried desperately
to advance among the new conditions in which he stood.
Some consequent action was necessary; yet what?
"Tess," he said, as gently as he could speak, "I cannot
stay--in this room--just now. I will walk out a little
He quietly left the room, and the two glasses of wine
that he had poured out for their supper--one for her,
one for him--remained on the table untasted. This was
what their AGAPE had come to. At tea, two or three
hours earlier, they had, in the freakishness of
affection, drunk from one cup.
The closing of the door behind him, gently as it had
been pulled to, roused Tess from her stupor. He was
gone; she could not stay. Hastily flinging her cloak
around her she opened the door and followed, putting
out the candles as if she were never coming back. The
rain was over and the night was now clear.
She was soon close at his heels, for Clare walked
slowly and without purpose. His form beside her light
gray figure looked black, sinister, and forbidding, and
she felt as sarcasm the touch of the jewels of which
she had been momentarily so proud. Clare turned at
hearing her footsteps, but his recognition of her
presence seemed to make no difference to him, and he
went on over the five yawning arches of the great
bridge in front of the house.
The cow and horse tracks in the road were full of
water, and rain having been enough to charge them, but
not enough to wash them away. Across these minute
pools the reflected stars flitted in a quick transit as
she passed; she would not have known they were shining
overhead if she had not seen them there--the vastest
things of the universe imaged in objects so mean.
The place to which they had travelled today was in the
same valley as Talbothays, but some miles lower down
the river; and the surroundings being open she kept
easily in sight of him. Away from the house the road
wound through the meads, and along these she followed
Clare without any attempt to come up with him or to
attract him, but with dumb and vacant fidelity.
At last, however, her listless walk brought her up
alongside him, and still he said nothing. The cruelty
of fooled honesty is often great after enlightenment,
and it was mighty in Clare now. The outdoor air had
apparently taken away from him all tendency to act on
impulse; she knew that he saw her without
irradiation--in all her bareness; that Time was
chanting his satiric psalm at her then----
Behold, when thy face is made bare, he that loved thee shall
Thy face shall be no more fair at the fall of thy fate
For thy life shall fall as a leaf and be shed as the rain;
And the veil of thine head shall be grief, and the crown shall be
He was still intently thinking, and her companionship
had now insufficient power to break or divert the
strain of thought. What a weak thing her presence must
have become to him! She could not help addressing
"What have I done--what HAVE I done! I have not told
of anything that interferes with or belies my love for
you. You don't think I planned it, do you? It is in
your own mind what you are angry at, Angel; it is not
in me. O, it is not in me, and I am not that deceitful
woman you think me!"
"H'm--well. Not deceitful, my wife; but not the same.
No, not the same. But do not make me reproach you. I
have sworn that I will not; and I will do everything to
But she went on pleading in her distraction; and
perhaps said things that would have been better left to
"Angel!--Angel! I was a child--a child when it
happened! I knew nothing of men."
"You were more sinned against than sinning, that I admit."
"Then will you not forgive me?"
"I do forgive you, but forgiveness is not all."
"And love me?"
To this question he did not answer.
"O Angel--my mother says that it sometimes happens
so!--she knows several cases where they were worse than
I, and the husband has not minded it much--has got over
it at least. And yet the woman had not loved him as I
"Don't, Tess; don't argue. Different societies,
different manners. You almost make me say you are an
unapprehending peasant woman, who have never been
initiated into the proportions of social things. You
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