''I suppose it is farming or nothing for you now, my dear fellow,'' Felix was
saying, among other things, to his youngest brother, as he looked through his spectacles
at the distant fields with sad austerity. ''And, therefore, we must make the best
of it. But I do entreat you to endeavour to keep as much as possible in touch with
moral ideals. Farming, of course, means roughing it externally; but high thinking
may go with plain living, nevertheless.''
''Of course it may,'' said Angel. ''Was it not proved nineteen hundred years
ago-if I may trespass upon your domain a little? Why should you think, Felix, that
I am likely to drop my high thinking and my moral ideals?''
''Well, I fancied, from the tone of your letters and our conversation-it may
be fancy only-that you were somehow losing intellectual grasp. Hasn't it struck
''Now, Felix,'' said Angel drily, ''we are very good friends, you know; each
of us treading our allotted circles; but if it comes to intellectual grasp, I think
you, as a contented dogmatist, had better leave mine alone, and inquire what has
become of yours.''
They returned down the hill to dinner, which was fixed at any time at which their
father's and mother's morning work in the parish usually concluded. Convenience
as regarded afternoon callers was the last thing to enter into the consideration
of unselfish Mr and Mrs Clare; though the three sons were sufficiently in unison
on this matter to wish that their parents would conform a little to modern notions.
The walk had made them hungry, Angel in particular, who was now an outdoor man,
accustomed to the profuse DAPES INEMPTAE of the dairyman's somewhat coarsely-laden
table. But neither of the old people had arrived, and it was not till the sons were
almost tired of waiting that their parents entered. The self-denying pair had been
occupied in coaxing the appetites of some of their sick parishioners, whom they,
somewhat inconsistently, tried to keep imprisoned in the flesh, their own appetites
being quite forgotten.
The family sat down to table, and a frugal meal of cold viands was deposited
before them. Angel looked round for Mrs Crick's black-puddings, which he had directed
to be nicely grilled as they did them at the dairy, and of which he wished his father
and mother to appreciate the marvellous herbal savours as highly as he did himself.
''Ah! you are looking for the black-puddings, my dear boy,'' observed Clare's
mother. ''But I am sure you will not mind doing without them as I am sure your father
and I shall not, when you know the reason. I suggested to him that we should take
Mrs Crick's kind present to the children of the man who can earn nothing just now
because of his attacks of delirium tremens; and he agreed that it would be a great
pleasure to them; so we did.''
''Of course,'' said Angel cheerfully, looking round for the mead.
''I found the mead so extremely alcoholic,'' continued his mother, ''that it
was quite unfit for use as a beverage, but as valuable as rum or brandy in an emergency;
so I have put it in my medicine-closet.''
''We never drink spirits at this table, on principle,'' added his father.
''But what shall I tell the dairyman's wife?'' said Angel.
''The truth, of course,'' said his father.
''I rather wanted to say we enjoyed the mead and the black-puddings very much.
She is a kind, jolly sort of body, and is sure to ask me directly I return.''
''You cannot, if we did not,'' Mr Clare answered lucidly.
''Ah-no; though that mead was a drop of pretty tipple.''
''A what?'' said Cuthbert and Felix both.
''Oh-'tis an expression they use down at Talbothays,'' replied Angel, blushing.
He felt that his parents were right in their practice if wrong in their want of
sentiment, and said no more.
It was not till the evening, after family prayers, that Angel found opportunity
of broaching to his father one or two subjects near his heart. He had strung himself
up to the purpose while kneeling behind his brothers on the carpet, studying the
little nails in the heels of their walking boots. When the service was over they
went out of the room with their mother, and Mr Clare and himself were left alone.
The young man first discussed with the elder his plans for the attainment of
his position as a farmer on an extensive scale-either in England or in the Colonies.
His father then told him that, as he had not been put to the expense of sending
Angel up to Cambridge, he had felt it his duty to set by a sum of money every year
towards the purchase or lease of land for him some day, that he might not feel himself
''As far as worldly wealth goes,'' continued his father, ''you will no doubt
stand far superior to your brothers in a few years.''
This considerateness on old Mr Clare's part led Angel onward to the other and
dearer subject. He observed to his father that he was then six-and-twenty, and that
when he should start in the farming business he would require eyes in the back of
his head to see to all matters-some one would be necessary to superintend the domestic
labours of his establishment whilst he was afield. Would it not be well, therefore,
for him to marry?
His father seemed to think this idea not unreasonable; and then Angel put the
''What kind of wife do you think would be best for me as a thrifty hard-working
''A truly Christian woman, who will be a help and a comfort to you in your goings-out
and your comings-in. Beyond that, it really matters little. Such an one can be found;
indeed, my earnest-minded friend and neighbour, Dr Chant-''
''But ought she not primarily to be able to milk cows, churn good butter, make
immense cheeses; know how to sit hens and turkeys and rear chickens, to direct a
field of labourers in an emergency, and estimate the value of sheep and calves?''
''Yes; a farmer's wife; yes, certainly. It would be desirable.'' Mr Clare, the
elder, had plainly never thought of these points before. ''I was going to add,''
he said, ''that for a pure and saintly woman you will not find one more to your
true advantage, and certainly not more to your mother's mind and my own, than your
friend Mercy, whom you used to show a certain interest in. It is true that my neighbour
Chant's daughter had lately caught up the fashion of the younger clergy round about
us for decorating the Communion– table-alter, as I was shocked to hear her call
it one day-with flowers and other stuff on festival occasions. But her father, who
is quite as opposed to such flummery as I, says that can be cured. It is a mere
girlish outbreak which, I am sure, will not be permanent.''
''Yes, yes; Mercy is good and devout, I know. But, father, don't you think that
a young woman equally pure and virtuous as Miss Chant, but one who, in place of
that lady's ecclesiastical accomplishments, understands the duties of farm life
as well as a farmer himself, would suit me infinitely better?''
His father persisted in his conviction that a knowledge of a farmer's wife's
duties came second to a Pauline view of humanity; and the impulsive Angel, wishing
to honour his father's feelings and to advance the cause of his heart at the same
time, grew specious. He said that fate or Providence had thrown in his way a woman
who possessed every qualification to be the helpmate of an agriculturist, and was
decidedly of a serious turn of mind. He would not say whether or not she had attached
herself to the sound Low Church School of his father; but she would probably be
open to conviction on that point; she was a regular church-goer of simple faith;
honest-hearted, receptive, intelligent, graceful to a degree, chaste as a vestal,
and, in personal appearance, exceptionally beautiful.
''Is she of a family such as you would care to marry into-a lady, in short?''
asked his startled mother, who had come softly into the study during the conversation.
''She is not what in common parlance is called a lady,'' said Angel, unflinchingly,
''for she is a cottager's daughter, as I am proud to say. But she IS a lady, nevertheless-in
feeling and nature.''
''Mercy Chant is of a very good family.''
''Pooh!-what's the advantage of that, mother?'' said Angel quickly. ''How is
family to avail the wife of a man who has to rough it as I have, and shall have
''Mercy is accomplished. And accomplishments have their charm,'' returned his
mother, looking at him through her silver spectacles.
''As to external accomplishments, what will be the use of them in the life I
am going to lead?-while as to her reading, I can take that in hand. She'll be apt
pupil enough, as you would say if you knew her. She's brim full of poetry-actualized
poetry, if I may use the expression. She LIVES what paper-poets only write…. And
she is an unimpeachable Christian, I am sure; perhaps of the very tribe, genus,
and species you desire to propagate.''
''O Angel, you are mocking!''
''Mother, I beg pardon. But as she really does attend Church almost every Sunday
morning, and is a good Christian girl, I am sure you will tolerate any social shortcomings
for the sake of that quality, and feel that I may do worse than choose her.'' Angel
waxed quite earnest on that rather automatic orthodoxy in his beloved Tess which
(never dreaming that it might stand him in such good stead) he had been prone to
slight when observing it practised by her and the other milkmaids, because of its
obvious unreality amid beliefs essentially naturalistic.
In their sad doubts as to whether their son had himself any right whatever to
the title he claimed for the unknown young woman, Mr and Mrs Clare began to feel
it as an advantage not to be overlooked that she at least was sound in her views;
especially as the conjunction of the pair must have arisen by an act of Providence;
for Angel never would have made orthodoxy a condition of his choice. They said finally
that it was better not to act in a hurry, but that they would not object to see
Angel therefore refrained from declaring more particulars now. He felt that,
single-minded and self-sacrificing as his parents were, there yet existed certain
latent prejudices of theirs, as middle-class people, which it would require some
tact to overcome. For though legally at liberty to do as he chose, and though their
daughter-in-law's qualifications could make no practical difference to their lives,
in the probability of her living far away from them, he wished for affection's sake
not to wound their sentiment in the most important decision of his life.
He observed his own inconsistencies in dwelling upon accidents in Tess's life
as if they were vital features. It was for herself that he loved Tess; her soul,
her heart, her substance-not for her skill in the dairy, her aptness as his scholar,
and certainly not for her simple formal faith-professions. Her unsophisticated open-air
existence required no varnish of conventionality to make it palatable to him. He
held that education had as yet but little affected the beats of emotion and impulse
on which domestic happiness depends. It was probable that, in the lapse of ages,
improved systems of moral and intellectual training would appreciably, perhaps considerably,
elevate the involuntary and even the unconscious instincts of human nature; but
up to the present day culture, as far as he could see, might be said to have affected
only the mental epiderm of those lives which had been brought under its influence.
This belief was confirmed by his experience of women, which, having latterly been
extended from the cultivated middle-class into the rural community, had taught him
how much less was the intrinsic difference between the good and wise woman of one
social stratum and the good and wise woman of another social stratum, than between
the good and bad, the wise and the foolish, of the same stratum or class.
It was the morning of his departure. His brothers had already left the Vicarage
to proceed on a walking tour in the north, whence one was to return to his college,
and the other to his curacy. Angel might have accompanied them, but preferred to
rejoin his sweetheart at Talbothays. He would have been an awkward member of the
party; for, though the most appreciative humanist, the most ideal religionist, even
the best-versed Christologist of the three, there was alienation in the standing
consciousness that his squareness would not fit the round hole that had been prepared
for him. To neither Felix nor Cuthbert had he ventured to mention Tess.
His mother made him sandwiches, and his father accompanied him, on his own mare,
a little way along the road. Having fairly well advanced his own affairs Angel listened
in a willing silence, as they jogged on together through the shady lanes, to his
father's account of his parish difficulties, and the coldness of brother clergymen
whom he loved, because of his strict interpretations of the New Testament by the
light of what they deemed a pernicious Calvinistic doctrine.
''Pernicious!'' said Mr Clare, with genial scorn; and he proceeded to recount
experiences which would show the absurdity of that idea. He told of wondrous conversions
of evil livers of which he had been the instrument, not only amongst the poor, but
amongst the rich and well-to-do; and he also candidly admitted many failures.
As an instance of the latter, he mentioned the case of a young upstart squire
named d'Urberville, living some forty miles off, in the neighbourhood of Trantridge.
''Not one of the ancient d'Urbervilles of Kingsbere and other places?'' asked
his son. ''That curiously historic worn-out family with its ghostly legend of the