John Hamm, and revised by Joseph E. Loewenstein, M.D.
TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
A Pure Woman
Faithfully presented by
Phase the First: The Maiden, I-XI
Phase the Second: Maiden No More, XII-XV
Phase the Third: The Rally, XVI-XXIV
Phase the Fourth: The Consequence, XXV-XXXIV
Phase the Fifth: The Woman Pays, XXXV-XLIV
Phase the Sixth: The Convert, XLV-LII
Phase the Seventh: Fulfilment, LIII-LIX
Phase the First: The Maiden
On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking
homeward from Shaston to the village of Marlott, in the adjoining
Vale of Blakemore, or Blackmoor. The pair of legs that carried him
were rickety, and there was a bias in his gait which inclined him
somewhat to the left of a straight line. He occasionally gave a
smart nod, as if in confirmation of some opinion, though he was not
thinking of anything in particular. An empty egg-basket was slung
upon his arm, the nap of his hat was ruffled, a patch being quite
worn away at its brim where his thumb came in taking it off.
Presently he was met by an elderly parson astride on a gray mare,
who, as he rode, hummed a wandering tune.
"Good night t'ee," said the man with the basket.
"Good night, Sir John," said the parson.
The pedestrian, after another pace or two, halted, and turned round.
"Now, sir, begging your pardon; we met last market-day on this road
about this time, and I said 'Good night,' and you made reply '_Good
night, Sir John_,' as now."
"I did," said the parson.
"And once before that - near a month ago."
"I may have."
"Then what might your meaning be in calling me 'Sir John' these
different times, when I be plain Jack Durbeyfield, the haggler?"
The parson rode a step or two nearer.
"It was only my whim," he said; and, after a moment's hesitation: "It
was on account of a discovery I made some little time ago, whilst I
was hunting up pedigrees for the new county history. I am Parson
Tringham, the antiquary, of Stagfoot Lane. Don't you really know,
Durbeyfield, that you are the lineal representative of the ancient
and knightly family of the d'Urbervilles, who derive their descent
from Sir Pagan d'Urberville, that renowned knight who came from
Normandy with William the Conqueror, as appears by Battle Abbey
"Never heard it before, sir!"
"Well it's true. Throw up your chin a moment, so that I may catch
the profile of your face better. Yes, that's the d'Urberville nose
and chin - a little debased. Your ancestor was one of the twelve
knights who assisted the Lord of Estremavilla in Normandy in his
conquest of Glamorganshire. Branches of your family held manors over
all this part of England; their names appear in the Pipe Rolls in the
time of King Stephen. In the reign of King John one of them was rich
enough to give a manor to the Knights Hospitallers; and in Edward the
Second's time your forefather Brian was summoned to Westminster to
attend the great Council there. You declined a little in Oliver
Cromwell's time, but to no serious extent, and in Charles the
Second's reign you were made Knights of the Royal Oak for your
loyalty. Aye, there have been generations of Sir Johns among
you, and if knighthood were hereditary, like a baronetcy, as it
practically was in old times, when men were knighted from father
to son, you would be Sir John now."
"Ye don't say so!"
"In short," concluded the parson, decisively smacking his leg with
his switch, "there's hardly such another family in England."
"Daze my eyes, and isn't there?" said Durbeyfield. "And here have I
been knocking about, year after year, from pillar to post, as if I
was no more than the commonest feller in the parish... And how long
hev this news about me been knowed, Pa'son Tringham?"
The clergyman explained that, as far as he was aware, it had quite
died out of knowledge, and could hardly be said to be known at all.
His own investigations had begun on a day in the preceding spring
when, having been engaged in tracing the vicissitudes of the
d'Urberville family, he had observed Durbeyfield's name on his
waggon, and had thereupon been led to make inquiries about his
father and grandfather till he had no doubt on the subject.
"At first I resolved not to disturb you with such a useless piece of
information," said he. "However, our impulses are too strong for our
judgement sometimes. I thought you might perhaps know something of
it all the while."
"Well, I have heard once or twice, 'tis true, that my family had seen
better days afore they came to Blackmoor. But I took no notice o't,
thinking it to mean that we had once kept two horses where we now
keep only one. I've got a wold silver spoon, and a wold graven seal
at home, too; but, Lord, what's a spoon and seal? ... And to think
that I and these noble d'Urbervilles were one flesh all the time.
'Twas said that my gr't-granfer had secrets, and didn't care to talk
of where he came from... And where do we raise our smoke, now,
parson, if I may make so bold; I mean, where do we d'Urbervilles
"You don't live anywhere. You are extinct - as a county family."
"Yes - what the mendacious family chronicles call extinct in the male
line - that is, gone down - gone under."
"Then where do we lie?"
"At Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill: rows and rows of you in your vaults,
with your effigies under Purbeck-marble canopies."
"And where be our family mansions and estates?"
"You haven't any."
"Oh? No lands neither?"
"None; though you once had 'em in abundance, as I said, for you
family consisted of numerous branches. In this county there was a
seat of yours at Kingsbere, and another at Sherton, and another in
Millpond, and another at Lullstead, and another at Wellbridge."
"And shall we ever come into our own again?"
"Ah - that I can't tell!"
"And what had I better do about it, sir?" asked Durbeyfield, after a
"Oh - nothing, nothing; except chasten yourself with the thought of
'how are the mighty fallen.' It is a fact of some interest to the
local historian and genealogist, nothing more. There are several
families among the cottagers of this county of almost equal lustre.
"But you'll turn back and have a quart of beer wi' me on the strength
o't, Pa'son Tringham? There's a very pretty brew in tap at The Pure
Drop - though, to be sure, not so good as at Rolliver's."
"No, thank you - not this evening, Durbeyfield. You've had enough
already." Concluding thus, the parson rode on his way, with doubts
as to his discretion in retailing this curious bit of lore.
When he was gone, Durbeyfield walked a few steps in a profound
reverie, and then sat down upon the grassy bank by the roadside,
depositing his basket before him. In a few minutes a youth appeared
in the distance, walking in the same direction as that which had been
pursued by Durbeyfield. The latter, on seeing him, held up his hand,
and the lad quickened his pace and came near.
"Boy, take up that basket! I want 'ee to go on an errand for me."
The lath-like stripling frowned. "Who be you, then, John
Durbeyfield, to order me about and call me 'boy'? You know my
name as well as I know yours!"
"Do you, do you? That's the secret - that's the secret! Now obey my
orders, and take the message I'm going to charge 'ee wi'... Well,
Fred, I don't mind telling you that the secret is that I'm one of a
noble race - it has been just found out by me this present afternoon,
P.M." And as he made the announcement, Durbeyfield, declining from
his sitting position, luxuriously stretched himself out upon the bank
among the daisies.
The lad stood before Durbeyfield, and contemplated his length from
crown to toe.
"Sir John d'Urberville - that's who I am," continued the prostrate
man. "That is if knights were baronets - which they be. 'Tis
recorded in history all about me. Dost know of such a place, lad,
"Ees. I've been there to Greenhill Fair."
"Well, under the church of that city there lie - "
"'Tisn't a city, the place I mean; leastwise 'twaddn' when I was
there - 'twas a little one-eyed, blinking sort o' place."
"Never you mind the place, boy, that's not the question before us.
Under the church of that there parish lie my ancestors - hundreds of
'em - in coats of mail and jewels, in gr't lead coffins weighing tons
and tons. There's not a man in the county o' South-Wessex that's
got grander and nobler skillentons in his family than I."
"Now take up that basket, and goo on to Marlott, and when you've come
to The Pure Drop Inn, tell 'em to send a horse and carriage to me
immed'ately, to carry me hwome. And in the bottom o' the carriage
they be to put a noggin o' rum in a small bottle, and chalk it up
to my account. And when you've done that goo on to my house with
the basket, and tell my wife to put away that washing, because she
needn't finish it, and wait till I come hwome, as I've news to tell
As the lad stood in a dubious attitude, Durbeyfield put his hand in
his pocket, and produced a shilling, one of the chronically few that
"Here's for your labour, lad."
This made a difference in the young man's estimate of the position.
"Yes, Sir John. Thank 'ee. Anything else I can do for 'ee, Sir
"Tell 'em at hwome that I should like for supper, - well, lamb's fry
if they can get it; and if they can't, black-pot; and if they can't
get that, well chitterlings will do."
"Yes, Sir John."
The boy took up the basket, and as he set out the notes of a brass
band were heard from the direction of the village.
"What's that?" said Durbeyfield. "Not on account o' I?"
"'Tis the women's club-walking, Sir John. Why, your da'ter is one o'
"To be sure - I'd quite forgot it in my thoughts of greater things!
Well, vamp on to Marlott, will ye, and order that carriage, and
maybe I'll drive round and inspect the club."
The lad departed, and Durbeyfield lay waiting on the grass and
daisies in the evening sun. Not a soul passed that way for a long
while, and the faint notes of the band were the only human sounds
audible within the rim of blue hills.
The village of Marlott lay amid the north-eastern undulations of the
beautiful Vale of Blakemore, or Blackmoor, aforesaid, an engirdled
and secluded region, for the most part untrodden as yet by tourist or
landscape-painter, though within a four hours' journey from London.
It is a vale whose acquaintance is best made by viewing it from the
summits of the hills that surround it - except perhaps during the
droughts of summer. An unguided ramble into its recesses in bad
weather is apt to engender dissatisfaction with its narrow, tortuous,
and miry ways.
This fertile and sheltered tract of country, in which the fields are
never brown and the springs never dry, is bounded on the south by the
bold chalk ridge that embraces the prominences of Hambledon Hill,
Bulbarrow, Nettlecombe-Tout, Dogbury, High Stoy, and Bubb Down. The
traveller from the coast, who, after plodding northward for a score
of miles over calcareous downs and corn-lands, suddenly reaches
the verge of one of these escarpments, is surprised and delighted
to behold, extended like a map beneath him, a country differing
absolutely from that which he has passed through. Behind him the
hills are open, the sun blazes down upon fields so large as to give
an unenclosed character to the landscape, the lanes are white, the
hedges low and plashed, the atmosphere colourless. Here, in the
valley, the world seems to be constructed upon a smaller and more
delicate scale; the fields are mere paddocks, so reduced that from
this height their hedgerows appear a network of dark green threads
overspreading the paler green of the grass. The atmosphere beneath
is languorous, and is so tinged with azure that what artists call the
middle distance partakes also of that hue, while the horizon beyond
is of the deepest ultramarine. Arable lands are few and limited;
with but slight exceptions the prospect is a broad rich mass of grass
and trees, mantling minor hills and dales within the major. Such is
the Vale of Blackmoor.
The district is of historic, no less than of topographical interest.
The Vale was known in former times as the Forest of White Hart, from
a curious legend of King Henry III's reign, in which the killing by
a certain Thomas de la Lynd of a beautiful white hart which the king
had run down and spared, was made the occasion of a heavy fine.
In those days, and till comparatively recent times, the country was
densely wooded. Even now, traces of its earlier condition are to be
found in the old oak copses and irregular belts of timber that yet
survive upon its slopes, and the hollow-trunked trees that shade so
many of its pastures.
The forests have departed, but some old customs of their shades
remain. Many, however, linger only in a metamorphosed or disguised
form. The May-Day dance, for instance, was to be discerned on
the afternoon under notice, in the guise of the club revel, or
"club-walking," as it was there called.
It was an interesting event to the younger inhabitants of Marlott,
though its real interest was not observed by the participators in the
ceremony. Its singularity lay less in the retention of a custom of
walking in procession and dancing on each anniversary than in the
members being solely women. In men's clubs such celebrations were,
though expiring, less uncommon; but either the natural shyness of the
softer sex, or a sarcastic attitude on the part of male relatives,
had denuded such women's clubs as remained (if any other did) or this
their glory and consummation. The club of Marlott alone lived to
uphold the local Cerealia. It had walked for hundreds of years, if
not as benefit-club, as votive sisterhood of some sort; and it walked
The banded ones were all dressed in white gowns - a gay survival from
Old Style days, when cheerfulness and May-time were synonyms - days
before the habit of taking long views had reduced emotions to a
monotonous average. Their first exhibition of themselves was in a
processional march of two and two round the parish. Ideal and real
clashed slightly as the sun lit up their figures against the green
hedges and creeper-laced house-fronts; for, though the whole troop
wore white garments, no two whites were alike among them. Some
approached pure blanching; some had a bluish pallor; some worn by the
older characters (which had possibly lain by folded for many a year)
inclined to a cadaverous tint, and to a Georgian style.
In addition to the distinction of a white frock, every woman and girl
carried in her right hand a peeled willow wand, and in her left a
bunch of white flowers. The peeling of the former, and the selection
of the latter, had been an operation of personal care.
There were a few middle-aged and even elderly women in the train,
their silver-wiry hair and wrinkled faces, scourged by time and
trouble, having almost a grotesque, certainly a pathetic, appearance
in such a jaunty situation. In a true view, perhaps, there was more
to be gathered and told of each anxious and experienced one, to whom
the years were drawing nigh when she should say, "I have no pleasure
in them," than of her juvenile comrades. But let the elder be passed
over here for those under whose bodices the life throbbed quick and
The young girls formed, indeed, the majority of the band, and their
heads of luxuriant hair reflected in the sunshine every tone of gold,
and black, and brown. Some had beautiful eyes, others a beautiful
nose, others a beautiful mouth and figure: few, if any, had all. A
difficulty of arranging their lips in this crude exposure to public
scrutiny, an inability to balance their heads, and to dissociate
self-consciousness from their features, was apparent in them, and
showed that they were genuine country girls, unaccustomed to many
And as each and all of them were warmed without by the sun, so each
had a private little sun for her soul to bask in; some dream, some
affection, some hobby, at least some remote and distant hope which,
though perhaps starving to nothing, still lived on, as hopes will.
They were all cheerful, and many of them merry.
They came round by The Pure Drop Inn, and were turning out of the
high road to pass through a wicket-gate into the meadows, when one of
the women said -
"The Load-a-Lord! Why, Tess Durbeyfield, if there isn't thy father
riding hwome in a carriage!"
A young member of the band turned her head at the exclamation.
She was a fine and handsome girl - not handsomer than some others,
possibly - but her mobile peony mouth and large innocent eyes added
eloquence to colour and shape. She wore a red ribbon in her hair,
and was the only one of the white company who could boast of such
a pronounced adornment. As she looked round Durbeyfield was seen
moving along the road in a chaise belonging to The Pure Drop, driven
by a frizzle-headed brawny damsel with her gown-sleeves rolled above
her elbows. This was the cheerful servant of that establishment,
who, in her part of factotum, turned groom and ostler at times.
Durbeyfield, leaning back, and with his eyes closed luxuriously, was
waving his hand above his head, and singing in a slow recitative -
"I've-got-a-gr't-family-vault-at-Kingsbere - and
The clubbists tittered, except the girl called Tess - in whom a slow
heat seemed to rise at the sense that her father was making himself
foolish in their eyes.
"He's tired, that's all," she said hastily, "and he has got a lift
home, because our own horse has to rest to-day."
"Bless thy simplicity, Tess," said her companions. "He's got his
"Look here; I won't walk another inch with you, if you say any jokes
about him!" Tess cried, and the colour upon her cheeks spread over
her face and neck. In a moment her eyes grew moist, and her glance
drooped to the ground. Perceiving that they had really pained her
they said no more, and order again prevailed. Tess's pride would not
allow her to turn her head again, to learn what her father's meaning
was, if he had any; and thus she moved on with the whole body to the
enclosure where there was to be dancing on the green. By the time
the spot was reached she has recovered her equanimity, and tapped her
neighbour with her wand and talked as usual.
Tess Durbeyfield at this time of her life was a mere vessel of
emotion untinctured by experience. The dialect was on her tongue
to some extent, despite the village school: the characteristic
intonation of that dialect for this district being the voicing
approximately rendered by the syllable UR, probably as rich an
utterance as any to be found in human speech. The pouted-up deep red
mouth to which this syllable was native had hardly as yet settled
into its definite shape, and her lower lip had a way of thrusting the
middle of her top one upward, when they closed together after a word.
Phases of her childhood lurked in her aspect still. As she walked
along to-day, for all her bouncing handsome womanliness, you could
sometimes see her twelfth year in her cheeks, or her ninth sparkling
from her eyes; and even her fifth would flit over the curves of her
mouth now and then.
Yet few knew, and still fewer considered this. A small minority,
mainly strangers, would look long at her in casually passing by, and
grow momentarily fascinated by her freshness, and wonder if they
would ever see her again: but to almost everybody she was a fine and
picturesque country girl, and no more.
Nothing was seen or heard further of Durbeyfield in his triumphal
chariot under the conduct of the ostleress, and the club having
entered the allotted space, dancing began. As there were no men in
the company, the girls danced at first with each other, but when the
hour for the close of labour drew on, the masculine inhabitants of
the village, together with other idlers and pedestrians, gathered
round the spot, and appeared inclined to negotiate for a partner.
Among these on-lookers were three young men of a superior class,
carrying small knapsacks strapped to their shoulders, and stout
sticks in their hands. Their general likeness to each other, and
their consecutive ages, would almost have suggested that they might
be, what in fact they were, brothers. The eldest wore the white tie,
high waistcoat, and thin-brimmed hat of the regulation curate; the
second was the normal undergraduate; the appearance of the third and
youngest would hardly have been sufficient to characterize him; there
was an uncribbed, uncabined aspect in his eyes and attire, implying
that he had hardly as yet found the entrance to his professional
groove. That he was a desultory tentative student of something and
everything might only have been predicted of him.
These three brethren told casual acquaintance that they were spending
their Whitsun holidays in a walking tour through the Vale of
Blackmoor, their course being south-westerly from the town of Shaston
on the north-east.
They leant over the gate by the highway, and inquired as to the
meaning of the dance and the white-frocked maids. The two elder of
the brothers were plainly not intending to linger more than a moment,
but the spectacle of a bevy of girls dancing without male partners
seemed to amuse the third, and make him in no hurry to move on. He
unstrapped his knapsack, put it, with his stick, on the hedge-bank,
and opened the gate.
"What are you going to do, Angel?" asked the eldest.
"I am inclined to go and have a fling with them. Why not all of
us - just for a minute or two - it will not detain us long?"
"No - no; nonsense!" said the first. "Dancing in public with a troop
of country hoydens - suppose we should be seen! Come along, or it
will be dark before we get to Stourcastle, and there's no place we
can sleep at nearer than that; besides, we must get through another
chapter of _A Counterblast to Agnosticism_ before we turn in, now I
have taken the trouble to bring the book."
"All right - I'll overtake you and Cuthbert in five minutes; don't
stop; I give my word that I will, Felix."
The two elder reluctantly left him and walked on, taking their
brother's knapsack to relieve him in following, and the youngest
entered the field.
"This is a thousand pities," he said gallantly, to two or three of
the girls nearest him, as soon as there was a pause in the dance.
"Where are your partners, my dears?"
"They've not left off work yet," answered one of the boldest.
"They'll be here by and by. Till then, will you be one, sir?"
"Certainly. But what's one among so many!"
"Better than none. 'Tis melancholy work facing and footing it to one
of your own sort, and no clipsing and colling at all. Now, pick and
"'Ssh - don't be so for'ard!" said a shyer girl.
The young man, thus invited, glanced them over, and attempted some
discrimination; but, as the group were all so new to him, he could
not very well exercise it. He took almost the first that came to
hand, which was not the speaker, as she had expected; nor did it
happen to be Tess Durbeyfield. Pedigree, ancestral skeletons,
monumental record, the d'Urberville lineaments, did not help Tess in
her life's battle as yet, even to the extent of attracting to her a
dancing-partner over the heads of the commonest peasantry. So much
for Norman blood unaided by Victorian lucre.
The name of the eclipsing girl, whatever it was, has not been handed
down; but she was envied by all as the first who enjoyed the luxury
of a masculine partner that evening. Yet such was the force of
example that the village young men, who had not hastened to enter
the gate while no intruder was in the way, now dropped in quickly,
and soon the couples became leavened with rustic youth to a marked
extent, till at length the plainest woman in the club was no longer
compelled to foot it on the masculine side of the figure.
The church clock struck, when suddenly the student said that he must
leave - he had been forgetting himself - he had to join his companions.
As he fell out of the dance his eyes lighted on Tess Durbeyfield,
whose own large orbs wore, to tell the truth, the faintest aspect of
reproach that he had not chosen her. He, too, was sorry then that,
owing to her backwardness, he had not observed her; and with that in
his mind he left the pasture.
On account of his long delay he started in a flying-run down the lane