The cursory remarks of the large-minded stranger, of whom he knew absolutely
nothing beyond a commonplace name, were sublimed by his death, and influenced Clare
more than all the reasoned ethics of the philosophers. His own parochialism made
him ashamed by its contrast. His inconsistencies rushed upon him in a flood. He
had persistently elevated Hellenic Paganism at the expense of Christianity; yet
in that civilization an illegal surrender was not certain disesteem. Surely then
he might have regarded that abhorrence of the un-intact state, which he had inherited
with the creed of mysticism, as at least open to correction when the result was
due to treachery. A remorse struck into him. The words of Izz Huett, never quite
stilled in his memory, came back to him. He had asked Izz if she loved him, and
she had replied in the affirmative. Did she love him more than Tess did? No, she
had replied; Tess would lay down her life for him, and she herself could do no more.
He thought of Tess as she had appeared on the day of the wedding. How her eyes
had lingered upon him; how she had hung upon his words as if they were a god's!
And during the terrible evening over the hearth, when her simple soul uncovered
itself to his, how pitiful her face had looked by the rays of the fire, in her inability
to realize that his love and protection could possibly be withdrawn.
Thus from being her critic he grew to be her advocate. Cynical things he had
uttered to himself about her; but no man can be always a cynic and live; and he
withdrew them. The mistake of expressing them had arisen from his allowing himself
to be influenced by general principles to the disregard of the particular instance.
But the reasoning is somewhat musty; lovers and husbands have gone over the ground
before today. Clare had been harsh towards her; there is no doubt of it. Men are
too often harsh with women they love or have loved; women with men. And yet these
harshnesses are tenderness itself when compared with the universal harshness out
of which they grow; the harshness of the position towards the temperament, of the
means towards the aims, of today towards yesterday, of hereafter towards today.
The historic interest of her family - that masterful line of d'Urbervilles-whom
he had despised as a spent force, touched his sentiments now. Why had he not known
the difference between the political value and the imaginative value of these things?
In the latter aspect her d'Urberville descent was a fact of great dimensions; worthless
to economics, it was a most useful ingredient to the dreamer, to the moralizer on
declines and falls. It was a fact that would soon be forgotten-that bit of distinction
in poor Tess's blood and name, and oblivion would fall upon her hereditary link
with the marble monuments and leaded skeletons at Kingsbere. So does Time ruthlessly
destroy his own romances. In recalling her face again and again, he thought now
that he could see therein a flash of the dignity which must have graced her grand-dames;
and the vision sent that AURA through his veins which he had formerly felt, and
which left behind it a sense of sickness.
Despite her not inviolate past, what still abode in such a woman as Tess outvalued
the freshness of her fellows. Was not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better
than the vintage of Abi-ezer?
So spoke love renascent, preparing the way for Tess's devoted outpouring, which
was then just being forwarded to him by his father; though owing to his distance
inland it was to be a long time in reaching him.
Meanwhile the writer's expectation that Angel would come in response to the entreaty
was alternately great and small. What lessened it was that the facts of her life
which had led to the parting had not changed-could never change; and that, if her
presence had not attenuated them, her absence could not. Nevertheless she addressed
her mind to the tender question of what she could do to please him best if he should
arrive. Sighs were expended on the wish that she had taken more notice of the tunes
he played on his harp, that she had inquired more curiously of him which were his
favourite ballads among those the countryЦ girls sang. She indirectly inquired of
Amby Seedling, who had followed Izz from Talbothays, and by chance Amby remembered
that, amongst the snatches of melody in which they had indulged at the dairyman's,
to induce the cows to let down their milk, Clare had seemed to like ''Cupid's Gardens'',
''I have parks, I have hounds'', and ''The break o' the day''; and had seemed not
to care for ''The Tailor's Breeches'' and ''Such a beauty I did grow'', excellent
ditties as they were.
To perfect the ballads was now her whimsical desire. She practised them privately
at odd moments, especially ''The break o' the day'':
Arise, arise, arise!
And pick your love a posy,
All o' the sweetest flowers
That in the garden grow.
The turtle doves and sma' birds
In every bough a-building,
So early in the May-time
At the break o' the day!
It would have melted the heart of a stone to hear her singing these ditties,
whenever she worked apart from the rest of the girls in this cold dry time; the
tears running down her cheeks all the while at the thought that perhaps he would
not, after all, come to hear her, and the simple silly words of the songs resounding
in painful mockery of the aching heart of the singer.
Tess was so wrapt up in this fanciful dream that she seemed not to know how the
season was advancing; that the days had lengthened, that Lady-Day was at hand, and
would soon be followed by Old Lady-Day, the end of her term here.
But before the quarter-day had quite come something happened which made Tess
think of far different matters. She was at her lodging as usual one evening, sitting
in the downstairs room with the rest of the family, when somebody knocked at the
door and inquired for Tess. Through the doorway she saw against the declining light
a figure with the height of a woman and the breadth of a child, a tall, thin, girlish
creature whom she did not recognize in the twilight till the girl said ''Tess!''
''What-is it 'Liza-Lu?'' asked Tess, in startled accents. Her sister, whom a
little over a year ago she had left at home as a child, had sprung up by a sudden
shoot to a form of this presentation, of which as yet Lu seemed herself scarce able
to understand the meaning. Her thin legs, visible below her once long frock now
short by her growing, and her uncomfortable hands and arms, revealed her youth and
''Yes, I have been traipsing about all day, Tess,'' said Lu, with unemotional
gravity, ''a-trying to find 'ee; and I'm very tired.''
''What is the matter at home?''
''Mother is took very bad, and the doctor says she's dying, and as father is
not very well neither, and says 'tis wrong for a man of such a high family as his
to slave and drave at common labouring work, we don't know what to do.''
Tess stood in reverie a long time before she thought of asking 'Liza-Lu to come
in and sit down. When she had done so, and 'Liza-Lu was having some tea, she came
to a decision. It was imperative that she should go home. Her agreement did not
end till Old Lady-Day, the sixth of April, but as the interval thereto was not a
long one she resolved to run the risk of starting at once.
To go that night would be a gain of twelve-hours; but her sister was too tired
to undertake such a distance till the morrow. Tess ran down to where Marian and
Izz lived, informed them of what had happened, and begged them to make the best
of her case to the farmer. Returning, she got Lu a supper, and after that, having
tucked the younger into her own bed, packed up as many of her belongings as would
go into a withy basket, and started, directing Lu to follow her next morning.
She plunged into the chilly equinoctial darkness as the clock struck ten, for her
fifteen miles' walk under the steely stars. In lone districts night is a protection
rather than a danger to a noiseless pedestrian, and knowing this Tess pursued the
nearest course along by-lanes that she would almost have feared in the day-time;
but marauders were wanting now, and spectral fears were driven out of her mind by
thoughts of her mother. Thus she proceeded mile after mile, ascending and descending
till she came to Bulbarrow, and about midnight looked from that height into the
abyss of chaotic shade which was all that revealed itself of the vale on whose further
side she was born. Having already traversed about five miles on the upland she had
now some ten or eleven in the lowland before her journey would be finished. The
winding road downwards became just visible to her under the wan starlight as she
followed it, and soon she paced a soil so contrasting with that above it that the
difference was perceptible to the tread and to the smell. It was the heavy clay
land of Blackmoor Vale, and a part of the Vale to which turnpike-roads had never
penetrated. Superstitions linger longest on these heavy soils. Having once been
forest, at this shadowy time it seemed to assert something of its old character,
the far and the near being blended, and every tree and tall hedge making the most
of its presence. The harts that had been hunted here, the witches that had been
pricked and ducked, the green-spangled fairies that ''whickered'' at you as you
passed;-the place teemed with beliefs in them still, and they formed an impish multitude
At Nuttlebury she passed the village inn, whose sign creaked in response to the
greeting of her footsteps, which not a human soul heard but herself. Under the thatched
roofs her mind's eye beheld relaxed tendons and flaccid muscles, spread out in the
darkness beneath coverlets made of little purple patchwork squares, and undergoing
a bracing process at the hands of sleep for renewed labour on the morrow, as soon
as a hint of pink nebulosity appeared on Hambledon Hill.
At three she turned the last corner of the maze of lanes she had threaded, and
entered Marlott, passing the field in which as a club-girl, she had first seen Angel
Clare, when he had not danced with her; the sense of disappointment remained with
her yet. In the direction of her mother's house she saw a light. It came from the
bedroom window, and a branch waved in front of it and made it wink at her. As soon
as she could discern the outline of the house-newly thatched with her money-it had
all its old effect upon Tess's imagination. Part of her body and life it ever seemed
to be; the slope of its dormers, the finish of its gables, the broken courses of
brick which topped the chimney, all had something in common with her personal character.
A stupefaction had come into these features, to her regard; it meant the illness
of her mother.
She opened the door so softly as to disturb nobody; the lower room was vacant,
but the neighbour who was sitting up with her mother came to the top of the stairs,
and whispered that Mrs Durbeyfield was no better, though she was sleeping just then.
Tess prepared herself a breakfast, and then took her place as nurse in her mother's
In the morning, when she contemplated the children, they had all a curiously
elongated look; although she had been away little more than a year their growth
was astounding; and the necessity of applying herself heart and soul to their needs
took her out of her own cares.
Her father's ill-health was the same indefinite kind, and he sat in his chair
as usual. But the day after her arrival he was unusually bright. He had a rational
scheme for living, and Tess asked him what it was.
''I'm thinking of sending round to all the old antiqueerians in this part of
England,'' he said, ''asking them to subscribe to a fund to maintain me. I'm sure
they'd see it as a romantical, artistical, and proper thing to do. They spend lots
o' money in keeping up old ruins, and finding the bones o' things, and such like;
and living remains must be more interesting to 'em still, if they only knowed of
me. Would that somebody would go round and tell 'em what there is living among 'em,
and they thinking nothing of him! If Pa'son Tringham, who discovered me, had lived,
he'd ha' done it, I'm sure.''
Tess postponed her arguments on this high project till she had grappled with
pressing matters in hand, which seemed little improved by her remittances. When
indoor necessities had been eased she turned her attention to external things. It
was now the season for planting and sowing; many gardens and allotments of the villagers
had already received their spring tillage; but the garden and the allotment of the
Durbeyfields were behindhand. She found, to her dismay, that this was owing to their
having eaten all the seed potatoes,-that last lapse of the improvident. At the earliest
moment she obtained what others she could procure, and in a few days her father
was well enough to see to the garden, under Tess's persuasive efforts: while she
herself undertook the allotment-plot which they rented in a field a couple of hundred
yards out of the village.
She liked doing it after the confinement of the sick chamber, where she was not
now required by reason of her mother's improvement. Violent motion relieved thought.
The plot of ground was in a high, dry, open enclosure, where there were forty or
fifty such pieces, and where labour was at its briskest when the hired labour of
the day had ended. Digging began usually at six o'clock, and extended indefinitely
into the dusk or moonlight. Just now heaps of dead weeds and refuse were burning
on many of the plots, the dry weather favouring their combustion.
One fine day Tess and 'Liza-Lu worked on here with their neighbours till the
last rays of the sun smote flat upon the white pegs that divided the plots. As soon
as twilight succeeded to sunset the flare of the couch-grass and cabbage-stalk fires
began to light up the allotments fitfully, their outlines appearing and disappearing
under the dense smoke as wafted by the wind. When a fire glowed, banks of smoke,
blown level along the ground, would themselves become illuminated to an opaque lustre,
screening the workpeople from one another; and meaning of the ''pillar of a cloud'',
which was a wall by day and a light by night, could be understood.