busy ones now - and he received her warmly; inquiring for her mother
and the rest of the family - (though this as a matter of form merely,
for in reality he had not been aware of Mrs Durbeyfield's existence
till apprised of the fact by a brief business-letter about Tess).
"Oh - ay, as a lad I knowed your part o' the country very well," he
said terminatively. "Though I've never been there since. And a aged
woman of ninety that use to live nigh here, but is dead and gone long
ago, told me that a family of some such name as yours in Blackmoor
Vale came originally from these parts, and that 'twere a old ancient
race that had all but perished off the earth - though the new
generations didn't know it. But, Lord, I took no notice of the old
woman's ramblings, not I."
"Oh no - it is nothing," said Tess.
Then the talk was of business only.
"You can milk 'em clean, my maidy? I don't want my cows going azew at
this time o' year."
She reassured him on that point, and he surveyed her up and down.
She had been staying indoors a good deal, and her complexion had
"Quite sure you can stand it? 'Tis comfortable enough here for rough
folk; but we don't live in a cowcumber frame."
She declared that she could stand it, and her zest and willingness
seemed to win him over.
"Well, I suppose you'll want a dish o' tay, or victuals of some sort,
hey? Not yet? Well, do as ye like about it. But faith, if 'twas I,
I should be as dry as a kex wi' travelling so far."
"I'll begin milking now, to get my hand in," said Tess.
She drank a little milk as temporary refreshment - to the
surprise - indeed, slight contempt - of Dairyman Crick, to whose mind
it had apparently never occurred that milk was good as a beverage.
"Oh, if ye can swaller that, be it so," he said indifferently, while
holding up the pail that she sipped from. "'Tis what I hain't
touched for years - not I. Rot the stuff; it would lie in my innerds
like lead. You can try your hand upon she," he pursued, nodding to
the nearest cow. "Not but what she do milk rather hard. We've hard
ones and we've easy ones, like other folks. However, you'll find out
that soon enough."
When Tess had changed her bonnet for a hood, and was really on her
stool under the cow, and the milk was squirting from her fists
into the pail, she appeared to feel that she really had laid a new
foundation for her future. The conviction bred serenity, her pulse
slowed, and she was able to look about her.
The milkers formed quite a little battalion of men and maids, the
men operating on the hard-teated animals, the maids on the kindlier
natures. It was a large dairy. There were nearly a hundred
milchers under Crick's management, all told; and of the herd the
master-dairyman milked six or eight with his own hands, unless away
from home. These were the cows that milked hardest of all; for his
journey-milkmen being more or less casually hired, he would not
entrust this half-dozen to their treatment, lest, from indifference,
they should not milk them fully; nor to the maids, lest they should
fail in the same way for lack of finger-grip; with the result that in
course of time the cows would "go azew" - that is, dry up. It was not
the loss for the moment that made slack milking so serious, but that
with the decline of demand there came decline, and ultimately
cessation, of supply.
After Tess had settled down to her cow there was for a time no talk
in the barton, and not a sound interfered with the purr of the
milk-jets into the numerous pails, except a momentary exclamation
to one or other of the beasts requesting her to turn round or stand
still. The only movements were those of the milkers' hands up and
down, and the swing of the cows' tails. Thus they all worked on,
encompassed by the vast flat mead which extended to either slope
of the valley - a level landscape compounded of old landscapes long
forgotten, and, no doubt, differing in character very greatly from
the landscape they composed now.
"To my thinking," said the dairyman, rising suddenly from a cow
he had just finished off, snatching up his three-legged stool in
one hand and the pail in the other, and moving on to the next
hard-yielder in his vicinity, "to my thinking, the cows don't gie
down their milk to-day as usual. Upon my life, if Winker do begin
keeping back like this, she'll not be worth going under by
"'Tis because there's a new hand come among us," said Jonathan Kail.
"I've noticed such things afore."
"To be sure. It may be so. I didn't think o't."
"I've been told that it goes up into their horns at such times," said
"Well, as to going up into their horns," replied Dairyman Crick
dubiously, as though even witchcraft might be limited by anatomical
possibilities, "I couldn't say; I certainly could not. But as nott
cows will keep it back as well as the horned ones, I don't quite
agree to it. Do ye know that riddle about the nott cows, Jonathan?
Why do nott cows give less milk in a year than horned?"
"I don't!" interposed the milkmaid, "Why do they?"
"Because there bain't so many of 'em," said the dairyman.
"Howsomever, these gam'sters do certainly keep back their milk
to-day. Folks, we must lift up a stave or two - that's the only cure
Songs were often resorted to in dairies hereabout as an enticement
to the cows when they showed signs of withholding their usual yield;
and the band of milkers at this request burst into melody - in purely
business-like tones, it is true, and with no great spontaneity; the
result, according to their own belief, being a decided improvement
during the song's continuance. When they had gone through fourteen
or fifteen verses of a cheerful ballad about a murderer who was
afraid to go to bed in the dark because he saw certain brimstone
flames around him, one of the male milkers said -
"I wish singing on the stoop didn't use up so much of a man's wind!
You should get your harp, sir; not but what a fiddle is best."
Tess, who had given ear to this, thought the words were addressed to
the dairyman, but she was wrong. A reply, in the shape of "Why?"
came as it were out of the belly of a dun cow in the stalls; it had
been spoken by a milker behind the animal, whom she had not hitherto
"Oh yes; there's nothing like a fiddle," said the dairyman. "Though
I do think that bulls are more moved by a tune than cows - at least
that's my experience. Once there was an old aged man over at
Mellstock - William Dewy by name - one of the family that used to do
a good deal of business as tranters over there - Jonathan, do ye
mind? - I knowed the man by sight as well as I know my own brother, in
a manner of speaking. Well, this man was a coming home along from a
wedding, where he had been playing his fiddle, one fine moonlight
night, and for shortness' sake he took a cut across Forty-acres, a
field lying that way, where a bull was out to grass. The bull seed
William, and took after him, horns aground, begad; and though William
runned his best, and hadn't MUCH drink in him (considering 'twas a
wedding, and the folks well off), he found he'd never reach the fence
and get over in time to save himself. Well, as a last thought, he
pulled out his fiddle as he runned, and struck up a jig, turning to
the bull, and backing towards the corner. The bull softened down,
and stood still, looking hard at William Dewy, who fiddled on and on;
till a sort of a smile stole over the bull's face. But no sooner
did William stop his playing and turn to get over hedge than the
bull would stop his smiling and lower his horns towards the seat of
William's breeches. Well, William had to turn about and play on,
willy-nilly; and 'twas only three o'clock in the world, and 'a knowed
that nobody would come that way for hours, and he so leery and tired
that 'a didn't know what to do. When he had scraped till about four
o'clock he felt that he verily would have to give over soon, and he
said to himself, 'There's only this last tune between me and eternal
welfare! Heaven save me, or I'm a done man.' Well, then he called to
mind how he'd seen the cattle kneel o' Christmas Eves in the dead o'
night. It was not Christmas Eve then, but it came into his head to
play a trick upon the bull. So he broke into the 'Tivity Hymm, just
as at Christmas carol-singing; when, lo and behold, down went the
bull on his bended knees, in his ignorance, just as if 'twere the
true 'Tivity night and hour. As soon as his horned friend were down,
William turned, clinked off like a long-dog, and jumped safe over
hedge, before the praying bull had got on his feet again to take
after him. William used to say that he'd seen a man look a fool
a good many times, but never such a fool as that bull looked when
he found his pious feelings had been played upon, and 'twas not
Christmas Eve. ... Yes, William Dewy, that was the man's name; and
I can tell you to a foot where's he a-lying in Mellstock Churchyard
at this very moment - just between the second yew-tree and the north
"It's a curious story; it carries us back to medieval times, when
faith was a living thing!"
The remark, singular for a dairy-yard, was murmured by the voice
behind the dun cow; but as nobody understood the reference, no notice
was taken, except that the narrator seemed to think it might imply
scepticism as to his tale.
"Well, 'tis quite true, sir, whether or no. I knowed the man well."
"Oh yes; I have no doubt of it," said the person behind the dun cow.
Tess's attention was thus attracted to the dairyman's interlocutor,
of whom she could see but the merest patch, owing to his burying his
head so persistently in the flank of the milcher. She could not
understand why he should be addressed as "sir" even by the dairyman
himself. But no explanation was discernible; he remained under the
cow long enough to have milked three, uttering a private ejaculation
now and then, as if he could not get on.
"Take it gentle, sir; take it gentle," said the dairyman. "'Tis
knack, not strength, that does it."
"So I find," said the other, standing up at last and stretching his
arms. "I think I have finished her, however, though she made my
Tess could then see him at full length. He wore the ordinary white
pinner and leather leggings of a dairy-farmer when milking, and his
boots were clogged with the mulch of the yard; but this was all his
local livery. Beneath it was something educated, reserved, subtle,
But the details of his aspect were temporarily thrust aside by
the discovery that he was one whom she had seen before. Such
vicissitudes had Tess passed through since that time that for a
moment she could not remember where she had met him; and then it
flashed upon her that he was the pedestrian who had joined in the
club-dance at Marlott - the passing stranger who had come she knew
not whence, had danced with others but not with her, and slightingly
left her, and gone on his way with his friends.
The flood of memories brought back by this revival of an incident
anterior to her troubles produced a momentary dismay lest,
recognizing her also, he should by some means discover her story.
But it passed away when she found no sign of remembrance in him. She
saw by degrees that since their first and only encounter his mobile
face had grown more thoughtful, and had acquired a young man's
shapely moustache and beard - the latter of the palest straw colour
where it began upon his cheeks, and deepening to a warm brown farther
from its root. Under his linen milking-pinner he wore a dark
velveteen jacket, cord breeches and gaiters, and a starched white
shirt. Without the milking-gear nobody could have guessed what
he was. He might with equal probability have been an eccentric
landowner or a gentlemanly ploughman. That he was but a novice at
dairy work she had realized in a moment, from the time he had spent
upon the milking of one cow.
Meanwhile many of the milkmaids had said to one another of the
newcomer, "How pretty she is!" with something of real generosity and
admiration, though with a half hope that the auditors would qualify
the assertion - which, strictly speaking, they might have done,
prettiness being an inexact definition of what struck the eye in
Tess. When the milking was finished for the evening they straggled
indoors, where Mrs Crick, the dairyman's wife - who was too
respectable to go out milking herself, and wore a hot stuff gown in
warm weather because the dairymaids wore prints - was giving an eye
to the leads and things.
Only two or three of the maids, Tess learnt, slept in the dairy-house
besides herself, most of the helpers going to their homes. She saw
nothing at supper-time of the superior milker who had commented on
the story, and asked no questions about him, the remainder of the
evening being occupied in arranging her place in the bed-chamber.
It was a large room over the milk-house, some thirty feet long; the
sleeping-cots of the other three indoor milkmaids being in the same
apartment. They were blooming young women, and, except one, rather
older than herself. By bedtime Tess was thoroughly tired, and fell
But one of the girls, who occupied an adjoining bed, was more wakeful
than Tess, and would insist upon relating to the latter various
particulars of the homestead into which she had just entered. The
girl's whispered words mingled with the shades, and, to Tess's drowsy
mind, they seemed to be generated by the darkness in which they
"Mr Angel Clare - he that is learning milking, and that plays
the harp - never says much to us. He is a pa'son's son, and is
too much taken up wi' his own thoughts to notice girls. He is
the dairyman's pupil - learning farming in all its branches. He
has learnt sheep-farming at another place, and he's now mastering
dairy-work.... Yes, he is quite the gentleman-born. His father is
the Reverent Mr Clare at Emminster - a good many miles from here."
"Oh - I have heard of him," said her companion, now awake. "A very
earnest clergyman, is he not?"
"Yes - that he is - the earnestest man in all Wessex, they say - the
last of the old Low Church sort, they tell me - for all about here be
what they call High. All his sons, except our Mr Clare, be made
Tess had not at this hour the curiosity to ask why the present Mr
Clare was not made a parson like his brethren, and gradually fell
asleep again, the words of her informant coming to her along with the
smell of the cheeses in the adjoining cheeseloft, and the measured
dripping of the whey from the wrings downstairs.
Angel Clare rises out of the past not altogether as a distinct
figure, but as an appreciative voice, a long regard of fixed,
abstracted eyes, and a mobility of mouth somewhat too small and
delicately lined for a man's, though with an unexpectedly firm close
of the lower lip now and then; enough to do away with any inference
of indecision. Nevertheless, something nebulous, preoccupied, vague,
in his bearing and regard, marked him as one who probably had no very
definite aim or concern about his material future. Yet as a lad
people had said of him that he was one who might do anything if he
He was the youngest son of his father, a poor parson at the other end
of the county, and had arrived at Talbothays Dairy as a six months'
pupil, after going the round of some other farms, his object being
to acquire a practical skill in the various processes of farming,
with a view either to the Colonies or the tenure of a home-farm, as
circumstances might decide.
His entry into the ranks of the agriculturists and breeders was a
step in the young man's career which had been anticipated neither
by himself nor by others.
Mr Clare the elder, whose first wife had died and left him a
daughter, married a second late in life. This lady had somewhat
unexpectedly brought him three sons, so that between Angel, the
youngest, and his father the Vicar there seemed to be almost a
missing generation. Of these boys the aforesaid Angel, the child of
his old age, was the only son who had not taken a University degree,
though he was the single one of them whose early promise might have
done full justice to an academical training.
Some two or three years before Angel's appearance at the Marlott
dance, on a day when he had left school and was pursuing his studies
at home, a parcel came to the Vicarage from the local bookseller's,
directed to the Reverend James Clare. The Vicar having opened it and
found it to contain a book, read a few pages; whereupon he jumped up
from his seat and went straight to the shop with the book under his
"Why has this been sent to my house?" he asked peremptorily, holding
up the volume.
"It was ordered, sir."
"Not by me, or any one belonging to me, I am happy to say."
The shopkeeper looked into his order-book.
"Oh, it has been misdirected, sir," he said. "It was ordered by Mr
Angel Clare, and should have been sent to him."
Mr Clare winced as if he had been struck. He went home pale and
dejected, and called Angel into his study.
"Look into this book, my boy," he said. "What do you know about it?"
"I ordered it," said Angel simply.
"How can you think of reading it?"
"How can I? Why - it is a system of philosophy. There is no more
moral, or even religious, work published."
"Yes - moral enough; I don't deny that. But religious! - and for YOU,
who intend to be a minister of the Gospel!"
"Since you have alluded to the matter, father," said the son, with
anxious thought upon his face, "I should like to say, once for
all, that I should prefer not to take Orders. I fear I could not
conscientiously do so. I love the Church as one loves a parent.
I shall always have the warmest affection for her. There is no
institution for whose history I have a deeper admiration; but I
cannot honestly be ordained her minister, as my brothers are, while
she refuses to liberate her mind from an untenable redemptive
It had never occurred to the straightforward and simple-minded Vicar
that one of his own flesh and blood could come to this! He was
stultified, shocked, paralysed. And if Angel were not going to
enter the Church, what was the use of sending him to Cambridge? The
University as a step to anything but ordination seemed, to this man
of fixed ideas, a preface without a volume. He was a man not merely
religious, but devout; a firm believer - not as the phrase is now
elusively construed by theological thimble-riggers in the Church and
out of it, but in the old and ardent sense of the Evangelical school:
one who could
That the Eternal and Divine
Did, eighteen centuries ago
In very truth...
Angel's father tried argument, persuasion, entreaty.
"No, father; I cannot underwrite Article Four (leave alone the rest),
taking it 'in the literal and grammatical sense' as required by the
Declaration; and, therefore, I can't be a parson in the present state
of affairs," said Angel. "My whole instinct in matters of religion
is towards reconstruction; to quote your favorite Epistle to the
Hebrews, 'the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things
that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.'"
His father grieved so deeply that it made Angel quite ill to see him.
"What is the good of your mother and me economizing and stinting
ourselves to give you a University education, if it is not to be used
for the honour and glory of God?" his father repeated.
"Why, that it may be used for the honour and glory of man, father."
Perhaps if Angel had persevered he might have gone to Cambridge like
his brothers. But the Vicar's view of that seat of learning as a
stepping-stone to Orders alone was quite a family tradition; and so
rooted was the idea in his mind that perseverance began to appear to
the sensitive son akin to an intent to misappropriate a trust, and
wrong the pious heads of the household, who had been and were, as his
father had hinted, compelled to exercise much thrift to carry out
this uniform plan of education for the three young men.
"I will do without Cambridge," said Angel at last. "I feel that I
have no right to go there in the circumstances."
The effects of this decisive debate were not long in showing
themselves. He spent years and years in desultory studies,
undertakings, and meditations; he began to evince considerable
indifference to social forms and observances. The material
distinctions of rank and wealth he increasingly despised. Even the
"good old family" (to use a favourite phrase of a late local worthy)
had no aroma for him unless there were good new resolutions in its
representatives. As a balance to these austerities, when he went to
live in London to see what the world was like, and with a view to
practising a profession or business there, he was carried off his
head, and nearly entrapped by a woman much older than himself, though
luckily he escaped not greatly the worse for the experience.
Early association with country solitudes had bred in him an
unconquerable, and almost unreasonable, aversion to modern town life,
and shut him out from such success as he might have aspired to by
following a mundane calling in the impracticability of the spiritual
one. But something had to be done; he had wasted many valuable
years; and having an acquaintance who was starting on a thriving life
as a Colonial farmer, it occurred to Angel that this might be a lead
in the right direction. Farming, either in the Colonies, America, or
at home - farming, at any rate, after becoming well qualified for the
business by a careful apprenticeship - that was a vocation which would
probably afford an independence without the sacrifice of what he
valued even more than a competency - intellectual liberty.
So we find Angel Clare at six-and-twenty here at Talbothays as a
student of kine, and, as there were no houses near at hand in which
he could get a comfortable lodging, a boarder at the dairyman's.
His room was an immense attic which ran the whole length of the
dairy-house. It could only be reached by a ladder from the
cheese-loft, and had been closed up for a long time till he arrived
and selected it as his retreat. Here Clare had plenty of space, and
could often be heard by the dairy-folk pacing up and down when the
household had gone to rest. A portion was divided off at one end by
a curtain, behind which was his bed, the outer part being furnished
as a homely sitting-room.
At first he lived up above entirely, reading a good deal, and
strumming upon an old harp which he had bought at a sale, saying when
in a bitter humour that he might have to get his living by it in the
streets some day. But he soon preferred to read human nature by
taking his meals downstairs in the general dining-kitchen, with the
dairyman and his wife, and the maids and men, who all together formed
a lively assembly; for though but few milking hands slept in the
house, several joined the family at meals. The longer Clare resided
here the less objection had he to his company, and the more did he
like to share quarters with them in common.
Much to his surprise he took, indeed, a real delight in their
companionship. The conventional farm-folk of his imagination -
personified in the newspaper-press by the pitiable dummy known as
Hodge - were obliterated after a few days' residence. At close
quarters no Hodge was to be seen. At first, it is true, when Clare's
intelligence was fresh from a contrasting society, these friends with
whom he now hobnobbed seemed a little strange. Sitting down as a
level member of the dairyman's household seemed at the outset an
undignified proceeding. The ideas, the modes, the surroundings,
appeared retrogressive and unmeaning. But with living on there,
day after day, the acute sojourner became conscious of a new aspect
in the spectacle. Without any objective change whatever, variety
had taken the place of monotonousness. His host and his host's
household, his men and his maids, as they became intimately known to
Clare, began to differentiate themselves as in a chemical process.
The thought of Pascal's was brought home to him: "_A mesure qu'on a
plus d'esprit, on trouve qu'il y a plus d'hommes originaux. Les
gens du commun ne trouvent pas de diffÃ©rence entre les hommes._"
The typical and unvarying Hodge ceased to exist. He had been
disintegrated into a number of varied fellow-creatures - beings of