Part 5 - Tess of the d'Urbervilles Audiobook by Thomas Hardy (Chs 32-37)


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Transcript:
CHAPTER XXXII
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 to-day, dear, about
his not wanting much assistance during the winter months?"
"No."
"The cows are going dry rapidly." "Yes.
Six or 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.
"What?" "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 home.
"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 summer-time!"
"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 subsequent knowledge.
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 mind.
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 just then.)
"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 and
mother."
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." "What?"
"It should ha' been the first time of asking to-day," 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 the point.
"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
wished to." "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 favouring her! "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 them. 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 London--nothing more."
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 Guinevere. Since she had been at the dairy she had not
once thought of the lines till now.
>
CHAPTER XXXIII
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 together.
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 he negatived the remainder of the
definition forthwith.
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 good night.
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 asked good-
humouredly. "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 time.
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 to-day 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 forgive her.
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 the door.
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
landing.
"I am so anxious to talk to you--I want to confess all my faults and blunders!" she
said with attempted lightness.
"No, no--we can't have faults talked of-- you must be deemed perfect to-day 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 same time." "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 closed 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 biased niceness, apart from their views of the
match.
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
walks together.
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 living.
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 be 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 crime?"
"Now, Tess!" 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 so 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 open.
"That's bad," one murmured to the other, not thinking that the words could be heard
by the group at the door-wicket.
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 to-day!
I've not heard his crow of an afternoon all the year afore."
"It only means a change in the weather," said she; "not what you think: 'tis
impossible!"
>
CHAPTER XXXIV
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 roof-tree.
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 started. "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 charwoman.
"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 Clare.
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 the fireplace.
"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 Clare."
"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 are enclosed.
"I do remember," said Clare; "but I had quite forgotten."
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 that."
"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?"
"Dear me;--what--"
"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 rest--"
"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 away.
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 done."
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 forgive me?" "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 stranger.
"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 something lighter." "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
>
CHAPTER XXXV
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. "Tess!"
"Yes, dearest."
"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 that?"
"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, Angel."
"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 that!"
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."
"But who?"
"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 together?"
"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."
"Shan't you?"
"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 self- preservation."
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 way."
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, the 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 to- day 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 hate;
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 pain.
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 Clare. "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 avoid it."
But she went on pleading in her distraction; and perhaps said things that
would have been better left to silence. "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 do you!"
"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 don't know what you say."
"I am only a peasant by position, not by nature!"
She spoke with an impulse to anger, but it went as it came.
"So much the worse for you.
I think that parson who unearthed your pedigree would have done better if he had
held his tongue.
I cannot help associating your decline as a family with this other fact--of your want
of firmness. Decrepit families imply decrepit wills,
decrepit conduct.
Heaven, why did you give me a handle for despising you more by informing me of your
descent!
Here was I thinking you a new-sprung child of nature; there were you, the belated
seedling of an effete aristocracy!" "Lots of families are as bad as mine in
that!
Retty's family were once large landowners, and so were Dairyman Billett's.
And the Debbyhouses, who now are carters, were once the De Bayeux family.
You find such as I everywhere; 'tis a feature of our county, and I can't help
it." "So much the worse for the county."
She took these reproaches in their bulk simply, not in their particulars; he did
not love her as he had loved her hitherto, and to all else she was indifferent.
They wandered on again in silence.
It was said afterwards that a cottager of Wellbridge, who went out late that night
for a doctor, met two lovers in the pastures, walking very slowly, without
converse, one behind the other, as in a
funeral procession, and the glimpse that he obtained of their faces seemed to denote
that they were anxious and sad.
Returning later, he passed them again in the same field, progressing just as slowly,
and as regardless of the hour and of the cheerless night as before.
It was only on account of his preoccupation with his own affairs, and the illness in
his house, that he did not bear in mind the curious incident, which, however, he
recalled a long while after.
During the interval of the cottager's going and coming, she had said to her husband--
"I don't see how I can help being the cause of much misery to you all your life.
The river is down there.
I can put an end to myself in it. I am not afraid."
"I don't wish to add murder to my other follies," he said.
"I will leave something to show that I did it myself--on account of my shame.
They will not blame you then." "Don't speak so absurdly--I wish not to
hear it.
It is nonsense to have such thoughts in this kind of case, which is rather one for
satirical laughter than for tragedy. You don't in the least understand the
quality of the mishap.
It would be viewed in the light of a joke by nine-tenths of the world if it were
known. Please oblige me by returning to the house,
and going to bed."
"I will," said she dutifully.
They had rambled round by a road which led to the well-known ruins of the Cistercian
abbey behind the mill, the latter having, in centuries past, been attached to the
monastic establishment.
The mill still worked on, food being a perennial necessity; the abbey had
perished, creeds being transient.
One continually sees the ministration of the temporary outlasting the ministration
of the eternal.
Their walk having been circuitous, they were still not far from the house, and in
obeying his direction she only had to reach the large stone bridge across the main
river and follow the road for a few yards.
When she got back, everything remained as she had left it, the fire being still
burning.
She did not stay downstairs for more than a minute, but proceeded to her chamber,
whither the luggage had been taken.
Here she sat down on the edge of the bed, looking blankly around, and presently began
to undress.
In removing the light towards the bedstead its rays fell upon the tester of white
dimity; something was hanging beneath it, and she lifted the candle to see what it
was.
A bough of mistletoe. Angel had put it there; she knew that in an
instant.
This was the explanation of that mysterious parcel which it had been so difficult to
pack and bring; whose contents he would not explain to her, saying that time would soon
show her the purpose thereof.
In his zest and his gaiety he had hung it there.
How foolish and inopportune that mistletoe looked now.
Having nothing more to fear, having scarce anything to hope, for that he would relent
there seemed no promise whatever, she lay down dully.
When sorrow ceases to be speculative, sleep sees her opportunity.
Among so many happier moods which forbid repose this was a mood which welcomed it,
and in a few minutes the lonely Tess forgot existence, surrounded by the aromatic
stillness of the chamber that had once,
possibly, been the bride-chamber of her own ancestry.
Later on that night Clare also retraced his steps to the house.
Entering softly to the sitting-room he obtained a light, and with the manner of
one who had considered his course he spread his rugs upon the old horse-hair sofa which
stood there, and roughly shaped it to a sleeping-couch.
Before lying down he crept shoeless upstairs, and listened at the door of her
apartment.
Her measured breathing told that she was sleeping profoundly.
"Thank God!" murmured Clare; and yet he was conscious of a pang of bitterness at the
thought--approximately true, though not wholly so--that having shifted the burden
of her life to his shoulders, she was now reposing without care.
He turned away to descend; then, irresolute, faced round to her door again.
In the act he caught sight of one of the d'Urberville dames, whose portrait was
immediately over the entrance to Tess's bedchamber.
In the candlelight the painting was more than unpleasant.
Sinister design lurked in the woman's features, a concentrated purpose of revenge
on the other sex--so it seemed to him then.
The Caroline bodice of the portrait was low--precisely as Tess's had been when he
tucked it in to show the necklace; and again he experienced the distressing
sensation of a resemblance between them.
The check was sufficient. He resumed his retreat and descended.
His air remained calm and cold, his small compressed mouth indexing his powers of
self-control; his face wearing still that terrible sterile expression which had
spread thereon since her disclosure.
It was the face of a man who was no longer passion's slave, yet who found no advantage
in his enfranchisement.
He was simply regarding the harrowing contingencies of human experience, the
unexpectedness of things.
Nothing so pure, so sweet, so virginal as Tess had seemed possible all the long while
that he had adored her, up to an hour ago; but
The little less, and what worlds away!
He argued erroneously when he said to himself that her heart was not indexed in
the honest freshness of her face; but Tess had no advocate to set him right.
Could it be possible, he continued, that eyes which as they gazed never expressed
any divergence from what the tongue was telling, were yet ever seeing another world
behind her ostensible one, discordant and contrasting?
He reclined on his couch in the sitting- room, and extinguished the light.
The night came in, and took up its place there, unconcerned and indifferent; the
night which had already swallowed up his happiness, and was now digesting it
listlessly; and was ready to swallow up the
happiness of a thousand other people with as little disturbance or change of mien.
>
CHAPTER XXXVI
Clare arose in the light of a dawn that was ashy and furtive, as though associated with
crime.
The fireplace confronted him with its extinct embers; the spread supper-table,
whereon stood the two full glasses of untasted wine, now flat and filmy; her
vacated seat and his own; the other
articles of furniture, with their eternal look of not being able to help it, their
intolerable inquiry what was to be done? From above there was no sound; but in a few
minutes there came a knock at the door.
He remembered that it would be the neighbouring cottager's wife, who was to
minister to their wants while they remained here.
The presence of a third person in the house would be extremely awkward just now, and,
being already dressed, he opened the window and informed her that they could manage to
shift for themselves that morning.
She had a milk-can in her hand, which he told her to leave at the door.
When the dame had gone away he searched in the back quarters of the house for fuel,
and speedily lit a fire.
There was plenty of eggs, butter, bread, and so on in the larder, and Clare soon had
breakfast laid, his experiences at the dairy having rendered him facile in
domestic preparations.
The smoke of the kindled wood rose from the chimney without like a lotus-headed column;
local people who were passing by saw it, and thought of the newly-married couple,
and envied their happiness.
Angel cast a final glance round, and then going to the foot of the stairs, called in
a conventional voice-- "Breakfast is ready!"
He opened the front door, and took a few steps in the morning air.
When, after a short space, he came back she was already in the sitting-room
mechanically readjusting the breakfast things.
As she was fully attired, and the interval since his calling her had been but two or
three minutes, she must have been dressed or nearly so before he went to summon her.
Her hair was twisted up in a large round mass at the back of her head, and she had
put on one of the new frocks--a pale blue woollen garment with neck-frillings of
white.
Her hands and face appeared to be cold, and she had possibly been sitting dressed in
the bedroom a long time without any fire.
The marked civility of Clare's tone in calling her seemed to have inspired her,
for the moment, with a new glimmer of hope. But it soon died when she looked at him.
The pair were, in truth, but the ashes of their former fires.
To the hot sorrow of the previous night had succeeded heaviness; it seemed as if
nothing could kindle either of them to fervour of sensation any more.
He spoke gently to her, and she replied with a like undemonstrativeness.
At last she came up to him, looking in his sharply-defined face as one who had no
consciousness that her own formed a visible object also.
"Angel!" she said, and paused, touching him with her fingers lightly as a breeze, as
though she could hardly believe to be there in the flesh the man who was once her
lover.
Her eyes were bright, her pale cheek still showed its wonted roundness, though half-
dried tears had left glistening traces thereon; and the usually ripe red mouth was
almost as pale as her cheek.
Throbbingly alive as she was still, under the stress of her mental grief the life
beat so brokenly that a little further pull upon it would cause real illness, dull her
characteristic eyes, and make her mouth thin.
She looked absolutely pure.
Nature, in her fantastic trickery, had set such a seal of maidenhood upon Tess's
countenance that he gazed at her with a stupefied air.
"Tess!
Say it is not true! No, it is not true!"
"It is true." "Every word?"
"Every word."
He looked at her imploringly, as if he would willingly have taken a lie from her
lips, knowing it to be one, and have made of it, by some sort of sophistry, a valid
denial.
However, she only repeated-- "It is true."
"Is he living?" Angel then asked.
"The baby died."
"But the man?" "He is alive."
A last despair passed over Clare's face. "Is he in England?"
"Yes."
He took a few vague steps. "My position--is this," he said abruptly.
"I thought--any man would have thought-- that by giving up all ambition to win a
wife with social standing, with fortune, with knowledge of the world, I should
secure rustic innocence as surely as I
should secure pink cheeks; but--However, I am no man to reproach you, and I will not."
Tess felt his position so entirely that the remainder had not been needed.
Therein lay just the distress of it; she saw that he had lost all round.
"Angel--I should not have let it go on to marriage with you if I had not known that,
after all, there was a last way out of it for you; though I hoped you would never--"
Her voice grew husky.
"A last way?" "I mean, to get rid of me.
You CAN get rid of me." "How?"
"By divorcing me."
"Good heavens--how can you be so simple! How can I divorce you?"
"Can't you--now I have told you? I thought my confession would give you
grounds for that."
"O Tess--you are too, too--childish-- unformed--crude, I suppose!
I don't know what you are. You don't understand the law--you don't
understand!"
"What--you cannot?" "Indeed I cannot."
A quick shame mixed with the misery upon his listener's face.
"I thought--I thought," she whispered.
"O, now I see how wicked I seem to you! Believe me--believe me, on my soul, I never
thought but that you could!
I hoped you would not; yet I believed, without a doubt, that you could cast me off
if you were determined, and didn't love me at--at--all!"
"You were mistaken," he said.
"O, then I ought to have done it, to have done it last night!
But I hadn't the courage. That's just like me!"
"The courage to do what?"
As she did not answer he took her by the hand.
"What were you thinking of doing?" he inquired.
"Of putting an end to myself."
"When?" She writhed under this inquisitorial manner
of his. "Last night," she answered.
"Where?"
"Under your mistletoe." "My good--!
How?" he asked sternly. "I'll tell you, if you won't be angry with
me!" she said, shrinking.
"It was with the cord of my box. But I could not--do the last thing!
I was afraid that it might cause a scandal to your name."
The unexpected quality of this confession, wrung from her, and not volunteered, shook
him perceptibly.
But he still held her, and, letting his glance fall from her face downwards, he
said, "Now, listen to this. You must not dare to think of such a
horrible thing!
How could you! You will promise me as your husband to
attempt that no more." "I am ready to promise.
I saw how wicked it was."
"Wicked! The idea was unworthy of you beyond
description."
"But, Angel," she pleaded, enlarging her eyes in calm unconcern upon him, "it was
thought of entirely on your account--to set you free without the scandal of the divorce
that I thought you would have to get.
I should never have dreamt of doing it on mine.
However, to do it with my own hand is too good for me, after all.
It is you, my ruined husband, who ought to strike the blow.
I think I should love you more, if that were possible, if you could bring yourself
to do it, since there's no other way of escape for 'ee.
I feel I am so utterly worthless!
So very greatly in the way!" "Ssh!"
"Well, since you say no, I won't. I have no wish opposed to yours."
He knew this to be true enough.
Since the desperation of the night her activities had dropped to zero, and there
was no further rashness to be feared.
Tess tried to busy herself again over the breakfast-table with more or less success,
and they sat down both on the same side, so that their glances did not meet.
There was at first something awkward in hearing each other eat and drink, but this
could not be escaped; moreover, the amount of eating done was small on both sides.
Breakfast over, he rose, and telling her the hour at which he might be expected to
dinner, went off to the miller's in a mechanical pursuance of the plan of
studying that business, which had been his only practical reason for coming here.
When he was gone Tess stood at the window, and presently saw his form crossing the
great stone bridge which conducted to the mill premises.
He sank behind it, crossed the railway beyond, and disappeared.
Then, without a sigh, she turned her attention to the room, and began clearing
the table and setting it in order.
The charwoman soon came. Her presence was at first a strain upon
Tess, but afterwards an alleviation.
At half-past twelve she left her assistant alone in the kitchen, and, returning to the
sitting-room, waited for the reappearance of Angel's form behind the bridge.
About one he showed himself.
Her face flushed, although he was a quarter of a mile off.
She ran to the kitchen to get the dinner served by the time he should enter.
He went first to the room where they had washed their hands together the day before,
and as he entered the sitting-room the dish-covers rose from the dishes as if by
his own motion.
"How punctual!" he said. "Yes.
I saw you coming over the bridge," said she.
The meal was passed in commonplace talk of what he had been doing during the morning
at the Abbey Mill, of the methods of bolting and the old-fashioned machinery,
which he feared would not enlighten him
greatly on modern improved methods, some of it seeming to have been in use ever since
the days it ground for the monks in the adjoining conventual buildings--now a heap
of ruins.
He left the house again in the course of an hour, coming home at dusk, and occupying
himself through the evening with his papers.
She feared she was in the way and, when the old woman was gone, retired to the kitchen,
where she made herself busy as well as she could for more than an hour.
Clare's shape appeared at the door.
"You must not work like this," he said. "You are not my servant; you are my wife."
She raised her eyes, and brightened somewhat.
"I may think myself that--indeed?" she murmured, in piteous raillery.
"You mean in name! Well, I don't want to be anything more."
"You MAY think so, Tess!
You are. What do you mean?"
"I don't know," she said hastily, with tears in her accents.
"I thought I--because I am not respectable, I mean.
I told you I thought I was not respectable enough long ago--and on that account I
didn't want to marry you, only--only you urged me!"
She broke into sobs, and turned her back to him.
It would almost have won round any man but Angel Clare.
Within the remote depths of his constitution, so gentle and affectionate as
he was in general, there lay hidden a hard logical deposit, like a vein of metal in a
soft loam, which turned the edge of everything that attempted to traverse it.
It had blocked his acceptance of the Church; it blocked his acceptance of Tess.
Moreover, his affection itself was less fire than radiance, and, with regard to the
other sex, when he ceased to believe he ceased to follow: contrasting in this with
many impressionable natures, who remain
sensuously infatuated with what they intellectually despise.
He waited till her sobbing ceased.
"I wish half the women in England were as respectable as you," he said, in an
ebullition of bitterness against womankind in general.
"It isn't a question of respectability, but one of principle!"
He spoke such things as these and more of a kindred sort to her, being still swayed by
the antipathetic wave which warps direct souls with such persistence when once their
vision finds itself mocked by appearances.
There was, it is true, underneath, a back current of sympathy through which a woman
of the world might have conquered him.
But Tess did not think of this; she took everything as her deserts, and hardly
opened her mouth.
The firmness of her devotion to him was indeed almost pitiful; quick-tempered as
she naturally was, nothing that he could say made her unseemly; she sought not her
own; was not provoked; thought no evil of his treatment of her.
She might just now have been Apostolic Charity herself returned to a self-seeking
modern world.
This evening, night, and morning were passed precisely as the preceding ones had
been passed.
On one, and only one, occasion did she--the formerly free and independent Tess--venture
to make any advances.
It was on the third occasion of his starting after a meal to go out to the
flour-mill.
As he was leaving the table he said "Goodbye," and she replied in the same
words, at the same time inclining her mouth in the way of his.
He did not avail himself of the invitation, saying, as he turned hastily aside--
"I shall be home punctually." Tess shrank into herself as if she had been
struck.
Often enough had he tried to reach those lips against her consent--often had he said
gaily that her mouth and breath tasted of the butter and eggs and milk and honey on
which she mainly lived, that he drew
sustenance from them, and other follies of that sort.
But he did not care for them now. He observed her sudden shrinking, and said
gently--
"You know, I have to think of a course. It was imperative that we should stay
together a little while, to avoid the scandal to you that would have resulted
from our immediate parting.
But you must see it is only for form's sake."
"Yes," said Tess absently.
He went out, and on his way to the mill stood still, and wished for a moment that
he had responded yet more kindly, and kissed her once at least.
Thus they lived through this despairing day or two; in the same house, truly; but more
widely apart than before they were lovers.
It was evident to her that he was, as he had said, living with paralyzed activities
in his endeavour to think of a plan of procedure.
She was awe-stricken to discover such determination under such apparent
flexibility. His consistency was, indeed, too cruel.
She no longer expected forgiveness now.
More than once she thought of going away from him during his absence at the mill;
but she feared that this, instead of benefiting him, might be the means of
hampering and humiliating him yet more if it should become known.
Meanwhile Clare was meditating, verily.
His thought had been unsuspended; he was becoming ill with thinking; eaten out with
thinking, withered by thinking; scourged out of all his former pulsating, flexuous
domesticity.
He walked about saying to himself, "What's to be done--what's to be done?" and by
chance she overheard him. It caused her to break the reserve about
their future which had hitherto prevailed.
"I suppose--you are not going to live with me--long, are you, Angel?" she asked, the
sunk corners of her mouth betraying how purely mechanical were the means by which
she retained that expression of chastened calm upon her face.
"I cannot" he said, "without despising myself, and what is worse, perhaps,
despising you.
I mean, of course, cannot live with you in the ordinary sense.
At present, whatever I feel, I do not despise you.
And, let me speak plainly, or you may not see all my difficulties.
How can we live together while that man lives?--he being your husband in nature,
and not I.
If he were dead it might be different... Besides, that's not all the difficulty; it
lies in another consideration--one bearing upon the future of other people than
ourselves.
Think of years to come, and children being born to us, and this past matter getting
known--for it must get known.
There is not an uttermost part of the earth but somebody comes from it or goes to it
from elsewhere.
Well, think of wretches of our flesh and blood growing up under a taunt which they
will gradually get to feel the full force of with their expanding years.
What an awakening for them!
What a prospect! Can you honestly say 'Remain' after
contemplating this contingency? Don't you think we had better endure the
ills we have than fly to others?"
Her eyelids, weighted with trouble, continued drooping as before.
"I cannot say 'Remain,'" she answered, "I cannot; I had not thought so far."
Tess's feminine hope--shall we confess it?- -had been so obstinately recuperative as to
revive in her surreptitious visions of a domiciliary intimacy continued long enough
to break down his coldness even against his judgement.
Though unsophisticated in the usual sense, she was not incomplete; and it would have
denoted deficiency of womanhood if she had not instinctively known what an argument
lies in propinquity.
Nothing else would serve her, she knew, if this failed.
It was wrong to hope in what was of the nature of strategy, she said to herself:
yet that sort of hope she could not extinguish.
His last representation had now been made, and it was, as she said, a new view.
She had truly never thought so far as that, and his lucid picture of possible offspring
who would scorn her was one that brought deadly convictions to an honest heart which
was humanitarian to its centre.
Sheer experience had already taught her that in some circumstances there was one
thing better than to lead a good life, and that was to be saved from leading any life
whatever.
Like all who have been previsioned by suffering, she could, in the words of M.
Sully-Prudhomme, hear a penal sentence in the fiat, "You shall be born," particularly
if addressed to potential issue of hers.
Yet such is the vulpine slyness of Dame Nature, that, till now, Tess had been
hoodwinked by her love for Clare into forgetting it might result in vitalizations
that would inflict upon others what she had bewailed as misfortune to herself.
She therefore could not withstand his argument.
But with the self-combating proclivity of the supersensitive, an answer thereto arose
in Clare's own mind, and he almost feared it.
It was based on her exceptional physical nature; and she might have used it
promisingly.
She might have added besides: "On an Australian upland or Texan plain, who is to
know or care about my misfortunes, or to reproach me or you?"
Yet, like the majority of women, she accepted the momentary presentment as if it
were the inevitable. And she may have been right.
The intuitive heart of woman knoweth not only its own bitterness, but its husband's,
and even if these assumed reproaches were not likely to be addressed to him or to his
by strangers, they might have reached his ears from his own fastidious brain.
It was the third day of the estrangement.
Some might risk the odd paradox that with more animalism he would have been the
nobler man. We do not say it.
Yet Clare's love was doubtless ethereal to a fault, imaginative to impracticability.
With these natures, corporal presence is something less appealing than corporal
absence; the latter creating an ideal presence that conveniently drops the
defects of the real.
She found that her personality did not plead her cause so forcibly as she had
anticipated.
The figurative phrase was true: she was another woman than the one who had excited
his desire.
"I have thought over what you say," she remarked to him, moving her forefinger over
the tablecloth, her other hand, which bore the ring that mocked them both, supporting
her forehead.
"It is quite true, all of it; it must be. You must go away from me."
"But what can you do?" "I can go home."
Clare had not thought of that.
"Are you sure?" he inquired. "Quite sure.
We ought to part, and we may as well get it past and done.
You once said that I was apt to win men against their better judgement; and if I am
constantly before your eyes I may cause you to change your plans in opposition to your
reason and wish; and afterwards your repentance and my sorrow will be terrible."
"And you would like to go home?" he asked. "I want to leave you, and go home."
"Then it shall be so."
Though she did not look up at him, she started.
There was a difference between the proposition and the covenant, which she had
felt only too quickly.
"I feared it would come to this," she murmured, her countenance meekly fixed.
"I don't complain, Angel, I--I think it best.
What you said has quite convinced me.
Yes, though nobody else should reproach me if we should stay together, yet somewhen,
years hence, you might get angry with me for any ordinary matter, and knowing what
you do of my bygones, you yourself might be
tempted to say words, and they might be overheard, perhaps by my own children.
O, what only hurts me now would torture and kill me then!
I will go--to-morrow."
"And I shall not stay here.
Though I didn't like to initiate it, I have seen that it was advisable we should part--
at least for a while, till I can better see the shape that things have taken, and can
write to you."
Tess stole a glance at her husband.
He was pale, even tremulous; but, as before, she was appalled by the
determination revealed in the depths of this gentle being she had married--the will
to subdue the grosser to the subtler
emotion, the substance to the conception, the flesh to the spirit.
Propensities, tendencies, habits, were as dead leaves upon the tyrannous wind of his
imaginative ascendency.
He may have observed her look, for he explained--
"I think of people more kindly when I am away from them"; adding cynically, "God
knows; perhaps we will shake down together some day, for weariness; thousands have
done it!"
That day he began to pack up, and she went upstairs and began to pack also.
Both knew that it was in their two minds that they might part the next morning for
ever, despite the gloss of assuaging conjectures thrown over their proceeding
because they were of the sort to whom any
parting which has an air of finality is a torture.
He knew, and she knew, that, though the fascination which each had exercised over
the other--on her part independently of accomplishments--would probably in the
first days of their separation be even more
potent than ever, time must attenuate that effect; the practical arguments against
accepting her as a housemate might pronounce themselves more strongly in the
boreal light of a remoter view.
Moreover, when two people are once parted-- have abandoned a common domicile and a
common environment--new growths insensibly bud upward to fill each vacated place;
unforeseen accidents hinder intentions, and old plans are forgotten.
>
CHAPTER XXXVII
Midnight came and passed silently, for there was nothing to announce it in the
Valley of the Froom.
Not long after one o'clock there was a slight creak in the darkened farmhouse once
the mansion of the d'Urbervilles. Tess, who used the upper chamber, heard it
and awoke.
It had come from the corner step of the staircase, which, as usual, was loosely
nailed.
She saw the door of her bedroom open, and the figure of her husband crossed the
stream of moonlight with a curiously careful tread.
He was in his shirt and trousers only, and her first flush of joy died when she
perceived that his eyes were fixed in an unnatural stare on vacancy.
When he reached the middle of the room he stood still and murmured in tones of
indescribable sadness-- "Dead! dead! dead!"
Under the influence of any strongly- disturbing force, Clare would occasionally
walk in his sleep, and even perform strange feats, such as he had done on the night of
their return from market just before their
marriage, when he re-enacted in his bedroom his combat with the man who had insulted
her.
Tess saw that continued mental distress had wrought him into that somnambulistic state
now.
Her loyal confidence in him lay so deep down in her heart, that, awake or asleep,
he inspired her with no sort of personal fear.
If he had entered with a pistol in his hand he would scarcely have disturbed her trust
in his protectiveness. Clare came close, and bent over her.
"Dead, dead, dead!" he murmured.
After fixedly regarding her for some moments with the same gaze of unmeasurable
woe, he bent lower, enclosed her in his arms, and rolled her in the sheet as in a
shroud.
Then lifting her from the bed with as much respect as one would show to a dead body,
he carried her across the room, murmuring-- "My poor, poor Tess--my dearest, darling
Tess!
So sweet, so good, so true!" The words of endearment, withheld so
severely in his waking hours, were inexpressibly sweet to her forlorn and
hungry heart.
If it had been to save her weary life she would not, by moving or struggling, have
put an end to the position she found herself in.
Thus she lay in absolute stillness, scarcely venturing to breathe, and,
wondering what he was going to do with her, suffered herself to be borne out upon the
landing.
"My wife--dead, dead!" he said. He paused in his labours for a moment to
lean with her against the banister. Was he going to throw her down?
Self-solicitude was near extinction in her, and in the knowledge that he had planned to
depart on the morrow, possibly for always, she lay in his arms in this precarious
position with a sense rather of luxury than of terror.
If they could only fall together, and both be dashed to pieces, how fit, how
desirable.
However, he did not let her fall, but took advantage of the support of the handrail to
imprint a kiss upon her lips--lips in the day-time scorned.
Then he clasped her with a renewed firmness of hold, and descended the staircase.
The creak of the loose stair did not awaken him, and they reached the ground-floor
safely.
Freeing one of his hands from his grasp of her for a moment, he slid back the door-bar
and passed out, slightly striking his stockinged toe against the edge of the
door.
But this he seemed not to mind, and, having room for extension in the open air, he
lifted her against his shoulder, so that he could carry her with ease, the absence of
clothes taking much from his burden.
Thus he bore her off the premises in the direction of the river a few yards distant.
His ultimate intention, if he had any, she had not yet divined; and she found herself
conjecturing on the matter as a third person might have done.
So easefully had she delivered her whole being up to him that it pleased her to
think he was regarding her as his absolute possession, to dispose of as he should
choose.
It was consoling, under the hovering terror of to-morrow's separation, to feel that he
really recognized her now as his wife Tess, and did not cast her off, even if in that
recognition he went so far as to arrogate to himself the right of harming her.
Ah! now she knew what he was dreaming of-- that Sunday morning when he had borne her
along through the water with the other dairymaids, who had loved him nearly as
much as she, if that were possible, which Tess could hardly admit.
Clare did not cross the bridge with her, but proceeding several paces on the same
side towards the adjoining mill, at length stood still on the brink of the river.
Its waters, in creeping down these miles of meadowland, frequently divided,
serpentining in purposeless curves, looping themselves around little islands that had
no name, returning and re-embodying
themselves as a broad main stream further on.
Opposite the spot to which he had brought her was such a general confluence, and the
river was proportionately voluminous and deep.
Across it was a narrow foot-bridge; but now the autumn flood had washed the handrail
away, leaving the bare plank only, which, lying a few inches above the speeding
current, formed a giddy pathway for even
steady heads; and Tess had noticed from the window of the house in the day-time young
men walking across upon it as a feat in balancing.
Her husband had possibly observed the same performance; anyhow, he now mounted the
plank, and, sliding one foot forward, advanced along it.
Was he going to drown her?
Probably he was. The spot was lonely, the river deep and
wide enough to make such a purpose easy of accomplishment.
He might drown her if he would; it would be better than parting to-morrow to lead
severed lives.
The swift stream raced and gyrated under them, tossing, distorting, and splitting
the moon's reflected face. Spots of froth travelled past, and
intercepted weeds waved behind the piles.
If they could both fall together into the current now, their arms would be so tightly
clasped together that they could not be saved; they would go out of the world
almost painlessly, and there would be no
more reproach to her, or to him for marrying her.
His last half-hour with her would have been a loving one, while if they lived till he
awoke, his day-time aversion would return, and this hour would remain to be
contemplated only as a transient dream.
The impulse stirred in her, yet she dared not indulge it, to make a movement that
would have precipitated them both into the gulf.
How she valued her own life had been proved; but his--she had no right to tamper
with it. He reached the other side with her in
safety.
Here they were within a plantation which formed the Abbey grounds, and taking a new
hold of her he went onward a few steps till they reached the ruined choir of the Abbey-
church.
Against the north wall was the empty stone coffin of an abbot, in which every tourist
with a turn for grim humour was accustomed to stretch himself.
In this Clare carefully laid Tess.
Having kissed her lips a second time he breathed deeply, as if a greatly desired
end were attained.
Clare then lay down on the ground alongside, when he immediately fell into
the deep dead slumber of exhaustion, and remained motionless as a log.
The spurt of mental excitement which had produced the effort was now over.
Tess sat up in the coffin.
The night, though dry and mild for the season, was more than sufficiently cold to
make it dangerous for him to remain here long, in his half-clothed state.
If he were left to himself he would in all probability stay there till the morning,
and be chilled to certain death. She had heard of such deaths after sleep-
walking.
But how could she dare to awaken him, and let him know what he had been doing, when
it would mortify him to discover his folly in respect of her?
Tess, however, stepping out of her stone confine, shook him slightly, but was unable
to arouse him without being violent.
It was indispensable to do something, for she was beginning to shiver, the sheet
being but a poor protection.
Her excitement had in a measure kept her warm during the few minutes' adventure; but
that beatific interval was over.
It suddenly occurred to her to try persuasion; and accordingly she whispered
in his ear, with as much firmness and decision as she could summon--
"Let us walk on, darling," at the same time taking him suggestively by the arm.
To her relief, he unresistingly acquiesced; her words had apparently thrown him back
into his dream, which thenceforward seemed to enter on a new phase, wherein he fancied
she had risen as a spirit, and was leading him to Heaven.
Thus she conducted him by the arm to the stone bridge in front of their residence,
crossing which they stood at the manor- house door.
Tess's feet were quite bare, and the stones hurt her, and chilled her to the bone; but
Clare was in his woollen stockings, and appeared to feel no discomfort.
There was no further difficulty.
She induced him to lie down on his own sofa bed, and covered him up warmly, lighting a
temporary fire of wood, to dry any dampness out of him.
The noise of these attentions she thought might awaken him, and secretly wished that
they might. But the exhaustion of his mind and body was
such that he remained undisturbed.
As soon as they met the next morning Tess divined that Angel knew little or nothing
of how far she had been concerned in the night's excursion, though, as regarded
himself, he may have been aware that he had not lain still.
In truth, he had awakened that morning from a sleep deep as annihilation; and during
those first few moments in which the brain, like a Samson shaking himself, is trying
its strength, he had some dim notion of an unusual nocturnal proceeding.
But the realities of his situation soon displaced conjecture on the other subject.
He waited in expectancy to discern some mental pointing; he knew that if any
intention of his, concluded over-night, did not vanish in the light of morning, it
stood on a basis approximating to one of
pure reason, even if initiated by impulse of feeling; that it was so far, therefore,
to be trusted.
He thus beheld in the pale morning light the resolve to separate from her; not as a
hot and indignant instinct, but denuded of the passionateness which had made it scorch
and burn; standing in its bones; nothing but a skeleton, but none the less there.
Clare no longer hesitated.
At breakfast, and while they were packing the few remaining articles, he showed his
weariness from the night's effort so unmistakeably that Tess was on the point of
revealing all that had happened; but the
reflection that it would anger him, grieve him, stultify him, to know that he had
instinctively manifested a fondness for her of which his common-sense did not approve,
that his inclination had compromised his
dignity when reason slept, again deterred her.
It was too much like laughing at a man when sober for his erratic deeds during
intoxication.
It just crossed her mind, too, that he might have a faint recollection of his
tender vagary, and was disinclined to allude to it from a conviction that she
would take amatory advantage of the
opportunity it gave her of appealing to him anew not to go.
He had ordered by letter a vehicle from the nearest town, and soon after breakfast it
arrived.
She saw in it the beginning of the end--the temporary end, at least, for the revelation
of his tenderness by the incident of the night raised dreams of a possible future
with him.
The luggage was put on the top, and the man drove them off, the miller and the old
waiting-woman expressing some surprise at their precipitate departure, which Clare
attributed to his discovery that the mill-
work was not of the modern kind which he wished to investigate, a statement that was
true so far as it went.
Beyond this there was nothing in the manner of their leaving to suggest a fiasco, or
that they were not going together to visit friends.
Their route lay near the dairy from which they had started with such solemn joy in
each other a few days back, and as Clare wished to wind up his business with Mr
Crick, Tess could hardly avoid paying Mrs
Crick a call at the same time, unless she would excite suspicion of their unhappy
state.
To make the call as unobtrusive as possible, they left the carriage by the
wicket leading down from the high road to the dairy-house, and descended the track on
foot, side by side.
The withy-bed had been cut, and they could see over the stumps the spot to which Clare
had followed her when he pressed her to be his wife; to the left the enclosure in
which she had been fascinated by his harp;
and far away behind the cow-stalls the mead which had been the scene of their first
embrace.
The gold of the summer picture was now gray, the colours mean, the rich soil mud,
and the river cold.
Over the barton-gate the dairyman saw them, and came forward, throwing into his face
the kind of jocularity deemed appropriate in Talbothays and its vicinity on the re-
appearance of the newly-married.
Then Mrs Crick emerged from the house, and several others of their old acquaintance,
though Marian and Retty did not seem to be there.
Tess valiantly bore their sly attacks and friendly humours, which affected her far
otherwise than they supposed.
In the tacit agreement of husband and wife to keep their estrangement a secret they
behaved as would have been ordinary.
And then, although she would rather there had been no word spoken on the subject,
Tess had to hear in detail the story of Marian and Retty.
The later had gone home to her father's, and Marian had left to look for employment
elsewhere. They feared she would come to no good.
To dissipate the sadness of this recital Tess went and bade all her favourite cows
goodbye, touching each of them with her hand, and as she and Clare stood side by
side at leaving, as if united body and
soul, there would have been something peculiarly sorry in their aspect to one who
should have seen it truly; two limbs of one life, as they outwardly were, his arm
touching hers, her skirts touching him,
facing one way, as against all the dairy facing the other, speaking in their adieux
as "we", and yet sundered like the poles.
Perhaps something unusually stiff and embarrassed in their attitude, some
awkwardness in acting up to their profession of unity, different from the
natural shyness of young couples, may have
been apparent, for when they were gone Mrs Crick said to her husband--
"How onnatural the brightness of her eyes did seem, and how they stood like waxen
images and talked as if they were in a dream!
Didn't it strike 'ee that 'twas so?
Tess had always sommat strange in her, and she's not now quite like the proud young
bride of a well-be-doing man."
They re-entered the vehicle, and were driven along the roads towards Weatherbury
and Stagfoot Lane, till they reached the Lane inn, where Clare dismissed the fly and
man.
They rested here a while, and entering the Vale were next driven onward towards her
home by a stranger who did not know their relations.
At a midway point, when Nuttlebury had been passed, and where there were cross-roads,
Clare stopped the conveyance and said to Tess that if she meant to return to her
mother's house it was here that he would leave her.
As they could not talk with freedom in the driver's presence he asked her to accompany
him for a few steps on foot along one of the branch roads; she assented, and
directing the man to wait a few minutes they strolled away.
"Now, let us understand each other," he said gently.
"There is no anger between us, though there is that which I cannot endure at present.
I will try to bring myself to endure it. I will let you know where I go to as soon
as I know myself.
And if I can bring myself to bear it--if it is desirable, possible--I will come to you.
But until I come to you it will be better that you should not try to come to me."
The severity of the decree seemed deadly to Tess; she saw his view of her clearly
enough; he could regard her in no other light than that of one who had practised
gross deceit upon him.
Yet could a woman who had done even what she had done deserve all this?
But she could contest the point with him no further.
She simply repeated after him his own words.
"Until you come to me I must not try to come to you?"
"Just so."
"May I write to you?" "O yes--if you are ill, or want anything at
all. I hope that will not be the case; so that
it may happen that I write first to you."
"I agree to the conditions, Angel; because you know best what my punishment ought to
be; only--only--don't make it more than I can bear!"
That was all she said on the matter.
If Tess had been artful, had she made a scene, fainted, wept hysterically, in that
lonely lane, notwithstanding the fury of fastidiousness with which he was possessed,
he would probably not have withstood her.
But her mood of long-suffering made his way easy for him, and she herself was his best
advocate.
Pride, too, entered into her submission-- which perhaps was a symptom of that
reckless acquiescence in chance too apparent in the whole d'Urberville family--
and the many effective chords which she
could have stirred by an appeal were left untouched.
The remainder of their discourse was on practical matters only.
He now handed her a packet containing a fairly good sum of money, which he had
obtained from his bankers for the purpose.
The brilliants, the interest in which seemed to be Tess's for her life only (if
he understood the wording of the will), he advised her to let him send to a bank for
safety; and to this she readily agreed.
These things arranged, he walked with Tess back to the carriage, and handed her in.
The coachman was paid and told where to drive her.
Taking next his own bag and umbrella--the sole articles he had brought with him
hitherwards--he bade her goodbye; and they parted there and then.
The fly moved creepingly up a hill, and Clare watched it go with an unpremeditated
hope that Tess would look out of the window for one moment.
But that she never thought of doing, would not have ventured to do, lying in a half-
dead faint inside.
Thus he beheld her recede, and in the anguish of his heart quoted a line from a
poet, with peculiar emendations of his own- -
God's NOT in his heaven: All's WRONG with the world!
When Tess had passed over the crest of the hill he turned to go his own way, and
hardly knew that he loved her still.
>