One Sunday morning Izz Huett returned from church, and spoke privately to Tess.
''You was not called home this morning.''
''It should ha' been the first time of asking today,'' she answered, looking
quietly at Tess. ''You meant to be married New Year's Eve, deary?''
The other returned a quick affirmative.
''And there must be three times of asking. And now there be only two Sundays
Tess felt her cheek paling; Izz was right; of course there must be three. Perhaps
he had forgotten! If so, there must be a week's postponement, and that was unlucky.
How could she remind her lover? She who had been so backward was suddenly fired
with impatience and alarm lest she should lose her dear prize.
A natural incident relieved her anxiety. Izz mentioned the omission of the banns
to Mrs Crick, and Mrs Crick assumed a matron's privilege of speaking to Angel on
''Have ye forgot 'em, Mr Clare? The banns, I mean.''
''No, I have not forgot 'em,'' says Clare.
As soon as he caught Tess alone he assured her:
''Don't let them tease you about the banns. A licence will be quieter for us,
and I have decided on a licence without consulting you. So if you go to church on
Sunday morning you will not hear your own name, if you 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 Guenever. Since
she had been at the dairy she had not once thought of the lines till now.
Angel felt that he would like to spend a day with her before the wedding, somewhere
away from the dairy, as a last jaunt in her company while there were yet mere lover
and mistress; a romantic day, in circumstances that would never be repeated; with
that other and greater day beaming close ahead of them. During the preceding week,
therefore, he suggested making a few purchases in the nearest town, and they started
Clare's life at the dairy had been that of a recluse in respect the world of
his own class. For months he had never gone near a town, and, requiring no vehicle,
had never kept one, hiring the dairyman's cob or gig if he rode or drove. They went
in the gig that day.
And then for the first time in their lives they shopped as partners in one concern.
It was Christmas Eve, with its loads a holly and mistletoe, and the town was very
full of strangers who had come in from all parts of the country on account of the
day. Tess paid the penalty of walking about with happiness superadded to beauty
on her countenance by being much stared at as she moved amid them on his arm.
In the evening they returned to the inn at which they had put up, and Tess waited
in the entry while Angel went to see the horse and gig brought to the door. The
general sitting-room was full of guests, who were continually going in and out.
As the door opened and shut each time for the passage of these, the light within
the parlour fell full upon Tess's face. Two men came out and passed by her among
the rest. One of them had stared her up and down in surprise, and she fancied he
was a Trantridge man, though that village lay so many miles off that Trantridge
folk were rarities here.
''A comely maid that,'' said the other.
''True, comely enough. But unless I make a great mistake-'' And negatived the
remainder of the 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 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
''I beg pardon, sir; 'twas a complete mistake. I thought she was another woman,
forty miles from here.''
Clare, feeling then that he had been too hasty, and that he was, moreover, to
blame for leaving her standing in an inn-passage, did what he usually did in such
cases, gave the man five shillings to plaster the blow; and thus they parted, bidding
each other a pacific goodnight. As soon as Clare had taken the reins from the ostler,
and the young couple had driven off, the two men went in the other direction. ''And
was it a mistake?'' said the second one.
''Not a bit of it. But I didn't want to hurt the gentleman's feelings-not I.''
In the meantime the lovers were driving
''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 times. While she sat she heard a noise in Angel's room
overhead, a sound of thumping and struggling. Everybody else in the house was asleep,
and in her anxiety lest Clare should be ill she ran up and knocked at his door,
and asked him what was the matter.
''Oh, nothing, dear,'' he said from within. ''I am so sorry I disturbed you!
But the reason is rather an amusing one: I fell asleep and dreamt that I was fighting
that fellow again who insulted you and the noise you heard was my pummelling away
with my fists at my portmanteau, which I pulled out today for packing. I am occasionally
liable to these freaks in my sleep. Go to bed and think of it no more.''
This was the last drachm required to turn the scale of her indecision. Declare
the past to him by word of mouth she could not; but there was another way. She sat
down and wrote on the four pages of a note-sheet a succinct narrative of those events
of three or four years ago, put it into an envelope, and directed it to Clare. Then,
lest the flesh should again be weak, she crept upstairs without any shoes and slipped
the note under his door.
Her night was a broken one, as it well might be, and she listened for the first
faint noise overhead. It came, as usual; he descended, as usual. She descended.
He met her at the bottom of the stairs and kissed her. Surely it was as warmly as
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
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
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.