InLibrary.org

HOME | SEARCH | TOP | SITEMAP      

 
 


 

Thomas Hardy >> Tess of the d'Urbervilles (page 33)


''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 today at least, my Sweet!'' he cried. ''We shall have plenty of time, hereafter, I hope, to talk over our failings. I will confess mine at the 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 close carriage was ordered from a roadside inn, a vehicle which had been kept there ever since the old days of post-chaise travelling. It had stout wheel-spokes, and heavy felloes, a great curved bed, immense straps and springs, and a pole like a battering-ram. The postilion was a venerable ''boy'' of sixty-a martyr to rheumatic gout, the result of excessive exposure in youth, counter-acted by strong liquors-who had stood at inn-doors doing nothing for the whole five-andЦ twenty years that had elapsed since he had no longer been required to ride professionally, as if expecting the old times to come back again. He had a permanent running wound on the outside of his right leg, originated by the constant bruisings of aristocratic carriage-poles during the many years that he had been in regular employ at the King's Arms, Casterbridge.

Inside this cumbrous and creaking structure, and behind this decayed conductor, the PARTIE CARREE took their seats-the bride and bridegroom and Mr and Mrs Crick. Angel would have liked one at least of his brothers to be present as groomsman, but their silence after his gentle hint to that effect by letter had signified that they did not care to come. They disapproved of the marriage, and could not be expected to countenance it. Perhaps it was as well that they could not be present. They were not worldly young fellows, but fraternizing with dairy-folk would have struck unpleasantly upon their biassed niceness, apart from their view of the 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 walk 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 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 to fragile, and Izz so tragically sorrowful and Marian so blank; and she forgot her own dogging shadow for a moment in contemplating theirs.

She impulsively whispered to him-

''Will you kiss 'em all, once, poor things, for the first and last time?''

Clare had not the least objection to such a farewell formality-which was all that it was to him-and as he passed them he kissed them in succession where they stood, saying ''Goodbye'' to each as he did so. When they reached the door Tess femininely glanced back to discern the effect of that kiss of charity; there was no triumph in her glance, as there might have been. If there had it would have disappeared when she saw how moved the girls all were. The kiss had obviously done harm by awakening feelings they were trying to subdue.

Of all this Clare was unconscious. Passing on to the wicket-gate he shook hands with the dairyman and his wife, and expressed his last thanks to them for their attentions; after which there was a moment of silence before they had moved off. It was interrupted by the crowing of a cock. The white one with the rose comb had come and settled on the palings in front of the house, within a few yards of them, and his notes thrilled their ears through, dwindling away like echoes down a valley of rocks.

''Oh?'' said Mrs Crick. ''An afternoon crow!''

Two men were standing by the yard gate, holding it 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 today! 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!''

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.

Title: Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Author: Thomas Hardy
Viewed 87430 times

......
...1314151617181920212223242526272829303132333435363738394041424344454647484950515253...


 
              
Page generation 0.001 seconds