resolve upon a plan for plunging into that world anew. But behold, the absorbing
scene had been imported hither. What had been the engrossing world had dissolved
into an uninteresting outer dumb-show; while here, in this apparently dim and unimpassioned
place, novelty had volcanically started up, as it had never, for him, started up
Every window of the house being open Clare could hear across the yard each trivial
sound of the retiring household. The dairy-house, so humble, so insignificant, so
purely to him a place of constrained sojourn that he had never hitherto deemed it
of sufficient importance to be reconnoitred as an object of any quality whatever
in the landscape; what was it now? The aged and lichened brick gables breathed forth
''Stay!'' The windows smiled, the door coaxed and beckoned, the creeper blushed
confederacy. A personality within it was so far-reaching in her influence as to
spread into and make the bricks, mortar, and whole overhanging sky throb with a
burning sensibility. Whose was this mighty personality? A milkmaid's. It was amazing,
indeed, to find how great a matter the life of the obscure dairy had become to him.
And though new love was to be held partly responsible for this it was not solely
so. Many besides Angel have learnt that the magnitude of lives is not as to their
external displacements, but as to their subjective experiences. The impressionable
peasant leads a larger, fuller, more dramatic life than the pachydermatous king.
Looking at it thus he found that life was to be seen of the same magnitude here
Despite his heterodoxy, faults, and weaknesses, Clare was a man with a conscience.
Tess was no insignificant creature to toy with and dismiss; but a woman living her
precious life-a life which, to herself who endured or enjoyed it, possessed as great
a dimension as the life of the mightiest to himself. Upon her sensations the whole
world depended to Tess; through her existence all her fellow-creatures existed,
to her. The universe itself only came into being for Tess on the particular day
in the particular year in which she was born.
This consciousness upon which he had intruded was the single opportunity of existence
ever vouchsafed to Tess by an unsympathetic First Cause-her all; her every and only
chance. How then should he look upon her as of less consequence than himself; as
a pretty trifle to caress and grow weary of; and not deal in the greatest seriousness
with the affection which he knew that he had awakened in her-so fervid and so impressionable
as she was under her reserve; in order that it might not agonize and wreck her?
To encounter her daily in the accustomed manner would be to develop what had
begun. Living in such close relations, to meet meant to fall into endearment; flesh
and blood could not resist it; and, having arrived at no conclusion as to the issue
of such a tendency, he decided to hold aloof for the present from occupations in
which they would be mutually engaged. As yet the harm done was small.
But it was not easy to carry out the resolution never to approach her. He was
driven towards her by every heave of his pulse.
He thought he would go and see his friends. It might be possible to sound them
upon this. In less than five months his term here would have ended, and after a
few additional months spent upon other farms he would be fully equipped in agricultural
knowledge, and in a position to start on his own account. Would not a farmer want
a wife, and should a farmer's wife be a drawing-room wax-figure, or a woman who
understood farming? Notwithstanding the pleasing answer returned to him by the silence
he resolved to go his journey.
One morning when they sat down to breakfast at Talbothays Dairy some maid observed
that she had not seen anything of Mr Clare that day.
''O no,'' said Dairyman Crick. ''Mr Clare has gone hwome to Emminster to spend
a few days wi' his kinsfolk.''
For four impassioned ones around that table the sunshine of the morning went
out at a stroke, and the birds muffled their song. But neither girl by word or gesture
revealed her blankness. ''He's getting on towards the end of his time wi' me,''
added the dairyman, with a phlegm which unconsciously was brutal; ''and so I suppose
he is beginning to see about his plans elsewhere.''
''How much longer is he to bide here?'' asked Izz Huett, the only one of the
gloom-stricken bevy who could trust her voice with the question.
The others waited for the dairyman's answer as if their lives hung upon it; Retty,
with parted lips, gazing on the tablecloth, Marian with heat added to her redness,
Tess throbbing and looking out at the meads.
''Well, I can't mind the exact day without looking at my memorandum-book,'' replied
Crick, with the same intolerable unconcern. ''And even that may be altered a bit.
He'll bide to get a little practice in the calving out at the straw-yard, for certain.
He'll hang on till the end of the year I should say.''
Four months or so of torturing ecstasy in his society-of ''pleasure girdled about
with pain''. After that the blackness of unutterable night.
At this moment of the morning Angel Clare was riding along a narrow lane ten miles
distant from the breakfasters, in the direction of his father's Vicarage at Emminster,
carrying, as well as he could, a little basket which contained some black-puddings
and a bottle of mead, sent by Mrs Crick, with her kind respects, to his parents.
The white lane stretched before him, and his eyes were upon it; but they were staring
into next year, and not at the lane. He loved her; ought he to marry her? Dared
he to marry her? What would his mother and his brothers say? What would he himself
say a couple of years after the event? That would depend upon whether the germs
of staunch comradeship underlay the temporary emotion, or whether it were a sensuous
joy in her form only, with no substratum of everlastingness.
His father's hill-surrounded little town, the Tudor church-tower of red stone,
the clump of trees near the Vicarage, came at last into view beneath him, and he
rode down towards the well-known gate. Casting a glance in the direction of the
church before entering his home, he beheld standing by the vestry-door a group of
girls, of ages between twelve and sixteen, apparently awaiting the arrival of some
other one, who in a moment became visible; a figure somewhat older than the school-girls,
wearing a broad-brimmed hat and highly-starched cambric morning-gown, with a couple
of books in her hand.
Clare knew her well. He could not be sure that she observed him; he hoped she
did not, so as to render it unnecessary that he should go and speak to her, blameless
creature that she was. An overpowering reluctance to greet her made him decide that
she had not seen him. The young lady was Miss Mercy Chant, the only daughter of
his father's neighbour and friend, whom it was his parents' quiet hope that he might
wed some day. She was great at Antinomianism and Bible– classes, and was plainly
going to hold a class now. Clare's mind flew to the impassioned, summer-steeped
heathens in the Var Vale, their rosy faces court-patched with cow-droppings; and
to one the most impassioned of them all. It was on the impulse of the moment that
he had resolved to trot over to Emminster, and hence had not written to apprise
his mother and father, aiming, however, to arrive about the breakfast hour, before
they should have gone out to their parish duties. He was a little late, and they
had already sat down to the morning meal. The group at the table jumped up to welcome
him as soon as he entered. They were his father and mother, his brother the Reverend
Felix-curate at a town in the adjoining county, home for the inside of a fortnight-and
his other brother, the Reverend Cuthbert, the classical scholar, and Fellow and
Dean of his College, down from Cambridge for the long vacation. His mother appeared
in a cap and silver spectacles, and his father looked what in fact he was-an earnest,
God-fearing man, somewhat gaunt, in years about sixty-five, his pale face lined
with thought and purpose. Over their heads hung the picture of Angel's sister, the
eldest of the family, sixteen years his senior, who had married a missionary and
gone out to Africa.
Old Mr Clare was a clergyman of a type which, within the last twenty years, has
wellnigh dropped out of contemporary life. A spiritual descendant in the direct
line from Wycliff, Huss, Luther, Calvin; an Evangelical of the Evangelicals, a Conversionist,
a man of Apostolic simplicity in life and thought, he had in his raw youth made
up his mind once for all in the deeper questions of existence, and admitted no further
reasoning on them thenceforward. He was regarded even by those his own date and
school of thinking as extreme; while, on the other hand, those totally opposed to
him were unwillingly won to admiration for his thoroughness, and for the remarkable
power he showed in dismissing all question as to principles in his energy for applying
them. He loved Paul of Tarsus, liked St John, hated St James as much as he dared,
and regarded with mixed feelings Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. The New Testament
was less a Christiad then a Pauliad to his intelligence-less an argument than an
intoxication. His creed of determinism was such that it almost amounted to a vice,
and quite amounted, on its negative side, to a renunciative philosophy which had
cousinship with that of Schopenhauer and Leopardi. He despised the Canons and Rubric,
swore by the Articles, and deemed himself consistent through the whole category-which
in a way he might have been. One thing he certainly was-sincere.
To the aesthetic, sensuous, pagan pleasure in natural life and lush womanhood
which his son Angel had lately been experiencing in Var Vale, his temper would have
been antipathetic in a high degree, had he either by inquiry or imagination been
able to apprehend it. Once upon a time Angel had been so unlucky as to say to his
father, in a moment of irritation, that it might have resulted far better for mankind
if Greece had been the source of the religion of modern civilization, and not Palestine;
and his father's grief was of that blank description which could not realize that
there might lurk a thousandth part of a truth, much less a half truth or a whole
truth, in such a proposition. He had simply preached austerely at Angel for some
time after. But the kindness of his heart was such that he never resented anything
for long, and welcomed his son today with a smile which was as candidly sweet as
Angel sat down, and the place felt like home; yet he did not so much as formerly
feel himself one of the family gathered there. Every time that he returned hither
he was conscious of this divergence, and since he had last shared in the Vicarage
life it had grown even more distinctly foreign to his own than usual. Its transcendental
aspirations-still unconsciously based on the geocentric view of things, a zenithal
paradise, a nadiral hell-were as foreign to his own as if they had been the dreams
of people on another planet. Latterly he had seen only Life, felt only the great
passionate pulse of existence, unwarped, uncontorted, untrammelled by those creeds
which futilely attempt to check what wisdom would be content to regulate.
On their part they saw a great difference in him, a growing divergence from the
Angel Clare of former times. It was chiefly a difference in his manner that they
noticed just now, particularly his brothers. He was getting to behave like a farmer;
he flung his legs about; the muscles of his face had grown more expressive; his
eyes looked as much information as his tongue spoke, and more. The manner of the
scholar had nearly disappeared; still more the manner of the drawing-room young
man. A prig would have said that he had lost culture, and a prude that he had become
coarse. Such was the contagion of domiciliary fellowship with the Talbothays nymphs
After breakfast he walked with his two brothers, non-evangelical, well-educated,
hall-marked young men, correct to their remotest fibre, such unimpeachable models
as are turned out yearly by the lathe of a systematic tuition. They were both somewhat
short-sighted, and when it was the custom to wear a single eyeglass and string they
wore a single eyeglass and string; when it was the custom to wear a double glass
they wore a double glass; when it was the custom to wear spectacles they wore spectacles
straightway, all without reference to the particular variety of defect in their
own vision. When Wordsworth was enthroned they carried pocket copies; and when Shelley
was belittled they allowed him to grow dusty on their shelves. When Correggio's
Holy Families were admired, they admired Correggio's Holy Families; when he was
decried in favour of Velasquez, they sedulously followed suit without any personal
If these two noticed Angel's growing social ineptness, he noticed their growing
mental limitations. Felix seemed to him all Church; Cuthbert all College. His Diocesan
Synod and Visitations were the mainsprings of the world to the one; Cambridge to
the other. Each brother candidly recognized that there were a few unimportant score
of millions of outsiders in civilized society, persons who were neither University
men nor churchmen; but they were to be tolerated rather than reckoned with and respected.
They were both dutiful and attentive sons, and were regular in their visits to
their parents. Felix, though an offshoot from a far more recent point in the devolution
of theology than his father, was less self-sacrificing and disinterested. More tolerant
than his father of a contradictory opinion, in its aspect as a danger to its holder,
he was less ready than his father to pardon it as a slight to his own teaching.
Cuthbert was, upon the whole, the more liberal-minded, though, with greater subtlety,
he had not so much heart.
As they walked along the hillside Angel's former feeling revived in him-that
whatever their advantages by comparison with himself, neither saw or set forth life
as it really was lived. Perhaps, as with many men, their opportunities of observation
were not so good as their opportunities of expression. Neither had an adequate conception
of the complicated forces at work outside the smooth and gentle current in which
they and their associates floated. Neither saw the difference between local truth
and universal truth; that what the inner world said in their clerical and academic
hearing was quite a different thing from what the outer world was thinking.