so strong that, notwithstanding her awe of him, and her general
discomfort at being here, her rosy lips curved towards a smile,
much to the attraction of the swarthy Alexander.
"It is so very foolish," she stammered; "I fear can't tell you!"
"Never mind; I like foolish things. Try again, my dear," said he
"Mother asked me to come," Tess continued; "and, indeed, I was in the
mind to do so myself likewise. But I did not think it would be like
this. I came, sir, to tell you that we are of the same family as
"Ho! Poor relations?"
"Ay, ay; I mean d'Urbervilles."
"Our names are worn away to Durbeyfield; but we have several proofs
that we are d'Urbervilles. Antiquarians hold we are, - and - and we
have an old seal, marked with a ramping lion on a shield, and a
castle over him. And we have a very old silver spoon, round in the
bowl like a little ladle, and marked with the same castle. But it
is so worn that mother uses it to stir the pea-soup."
"A castle argent is certainly my crest," said he blandly. "And my
arms a lion rampant."
"And so mother said we ought to make ourselves beknown to you - as
we've lost our horse by a bad accident, and are the oldest branch o'
"Very kind of your mother, I'm sure. And I, for one, don't regret
her step." Alec looked at Tess as he spoke, in a way that made her
blush a little. "And so, my pretty girl, you've come on a friendly
visit to us, as relations?"
"I suppose I have," faltered Tess, looking uncomfortable again.
"Well - there's no harm in it. Where do you live? What are you?"
She gave him brief particulars; and responding to further inquiries
told him that she was intending to go back by the same carrier who
had brought her.
"It is a long while before he returns past Trantridge Cross.
Supposing we walk round the grounds to pass the time, my pretty Coz?"
Tess wished to abridge her visit as much as possible; but the young
man was pressing, and she consented to accompany him. He conducted
her about the lawns, and flower-beds, and conservatories; and thence
to the fruit-garden and greenhouses, where he asked her if she liked
"Yes," said Tess, "when they come."
"They are already here." D'Urberville began gathering specimens
of the fruit for her, handing them back to her as he stooped; and,
presently, selecting a specially fine product of the "British Queen"
variety, he stood up and held it by the stem to her mouth.
"No - no!" she said quickly, putting her fingers between his hand and
her lips. "I would rather take it in my own hand."
"Nonsense!" he insisted; and in a slight distress she parted her lips
and took it in.
They had spent some time wandering desultorily thus, Tess eating in
a half-pleased, half-reluctant state whatever d'Urberville offered
her. When she could consume no more of the strawberries he filled
her little basket with them; and then the two passed round to the
rose-trees, whence he gathered blossoms and gave her to put in her
bosom. She obeyed like one in a dream, and when she could affix no
more he himself tucked a bud or two into her hat, and heaped her
basket with others in the prodigality of his bounty. At last,
looking at his watch, he said, "Now, by the time you have had
something to eat, it will be time for you to leave, if you want to
catch the carrier to Shaston. Come here, and I'll see what grub I
Stoke d'Urberville took her back to the lawn and into the tent, where
he left her, soon reappearing with a basket of light luncheon, which
he put before her himself. It was evidently the gentleman's wish not
to be disturbed in this pleasant _tÃªte-Ã -tÃªte_ by the servantry.
"Do you mind my smoking?" he asked.
"Oh, not at all, sir."
He watched her pretty and unconscious munching through the skeins of
smoke that pervaded the tent, and Tess Durbeyfield did not divine,
as she innocently looked down at the roses in her bosom, that there
behind the blue narcotic haze was potentially the "tragic mischief"
of her drama - one who stood fair to be the blood-red ray in the
spectrum of her young life. She had an attribute which amounted
to a disadvantage just now; and it was this that caused Alec
d'Urberville's eyes to rivet themselves upon her. It was a
luxuriance of aspect, a fulness of growth, which made her appear more
of a woman than she really was. She had inherited the feature from
her mother without the quality it denoted. It had troubled her mind
occasionally, till her companions had said that it was a fault which
time would cure.
She soon had finished her lunch. "Now I am going home, sir," she
"And what do they call you?" he asked, as he accompanied her along
the drive till they were out of sight of the house.
"Tess Durbeyfield, down at Marlott."
"And you say your people have lost their horse?"
"I - killed him!" she answered, her eyes filling with tears as she
gave particulars of Prince's death. "And I don't know what to do
for father on account of it!"
"I must think if I cannot do something. My mother must find a berth
for you. But, Tess, no nonsense about 'd'Urberville'; - 'Durbeyfield'
only, you know - quite another name."
"I wish for no better, sir," said she with something of dignity.
For a moment - only for a moment - when they were in the turning of the
drive, between the tall rhododendrons and conifers, before the lodge
became visible, he inclined his face towards her as if - but, no: he
thought better of it, and let her go.
Thus the thing began. Had she perceived this meeting's import she
might have asked why she was doomed to be seen and coveted that day
by the wrong man, and not by some other man, the right and desired
one in all respects - as nearly as humanity can supply the right
and desired; yet to him who amongst her acquaintance might have
approximated to this kind, she was but a transient impression, half
In the ill-judged execution of the well-judged plan of things the
call seldom produces the comer, the man to love rarely coincides with
the hour for loving. Nature does not often say "See!" to her poor
creature at a time when seeing can lead to happy doing; or reply
"Here!" to a body's cry of "Where?" till the hide-and-seek has become
an irksome, outworn game. We may wonder whether at the acme and
summit of the human progress these anachronisms will be corrected by
a finer intuition, a closer interaction of the social machinery than
that which now jolts us round and along; but such completeness is not
to be prophesied, or even conceived as possible. Enough that in the
present case, as in millions, it was not the two halves of a perfect
whole that confronted each other at the perfect moment; a missing
counterpart wandered independently about the earth waiting in
crass obtuseness till the late time came. Out of which maladroit
delay sprang anxieties, disappointments, shocks, catastrophes, and
When d'Urberville got back to the tent he sat down astride on a
chair, reflecting, with a pleased gleam in his face. Then he broke
into a loud laugh.
"Well, I'm damned! What a funny thing! Ha-ha-ha! And what a crumby
Tess went down the hill to Trantridge Cross, and inattentively waited
to take her seat in the van returning from Chaseborough to Shaston.
She did not know what the other occupants said to her as she entered,
though she answered them; and when they had started anew she rode
along with an inward and not an outward eye.
One among her fellow-travellers addressed her more pointedly than
any had spoken before: "Why, you be quite a posy! And such roses in
Then she became aware of the spectacle she presented to their
surprised vision: roses at her breasts; roses in her hat; roses
and strawberries in her basket to the brim. She blushed, and
said confusedly that the flowers had been given to her. When the
passengers were not looking she stealthily removed the more prominent
blooms from her hat and placed them in the basket, where she covered
them with her handkerchief. Then she fell to reflecting again, and
in looking downwards a thorn of the rose remaining in her breast
accidentally pricked her chin. Like all the cottagers in Blackmoor
Vale, Tess was steeped in fancies and prefigurative superstitions;
she thought this an ill omen - the first she had noticed that day.
The van travelled only so far as Shaston, and there were several
miles of pedestrian descent from that mountain-town into the vale to
Marlott. Her mother had advised her to stay here for the night, at
the house of a cottage-woman they knew, if she should feel too tired
to come on; and this Tess did, not descending to her home till the
When she entered the house she perceived in a moment from her
mother's triumphant manner that something had occurred in the
"Oh yes; I know all about it! I told 'ee it would be all right, and
now 'tis proved!"
"Since I've been away? What has?" said Tess rather wearily.
Her mother surveyed the girl up and down with arch approval, and went
on banteringly: "So you've brought 'em round!"
"How do you know, mother?"
"I've had a letter."
Tess then remembered that there would have been time for this.
"They say - Mrs d'Urberville says - that she wants you to look after a
little fowl-farm which is her hobby. But this is only her artful way
of getting 'ee there without raising your hopes. She's going to own
'ee as kin - that's the meaning o't."
"But I didn't see her."
"You zid somebody, I suppose?"
"I saw her son."
"And did he own 'ee?"
"Well - he called me Coz."
"An' I knew it! Jacky - he called her Coz!" cried Joan to her
husband. "Well, he spoke to his mother, of course, and she do want
"But I don't know that I am apt at tending fowls," said the dubious
"Then I don't know who is apt. You've be'n born in the business, and
brought up in it. They that be born in a business always know more
about it than any 'prentice. Besides, that's only just a show of
something for you to do, that you midn't feel beholden."
"I don't altogether think I ought to go," said Tess thoughtfully.
"Who wrote the letter? Will you let me look at it?"
"Mrs d'Urberville wrote it. Here it is."
The letter was in the third person, and briefly informed Mrs
Durbeyfield that her daughter's services would be useful to that lady
in the management of her poultry-farm, that a comfortable room would
be provided for her if she could come, and that the wages would be on
a liberal scale if they liked her.
"Oh - that's all!" said Tess.
"You couldn't expect her to throw her arms round 'ee, an' to kiss and
to coll 'ee all at once."
Tess looked out of the window.
"I would rather stay here with father and you," she said.
"I'd rather not tell you why, mother; indeed, I don't quite know
A week afterwards she came in one evening from an unavailing search
for some light occupation in the immediate neighbourhood. Her idea
had been to get together sufficient money during the summer to
purchase another horse. Hardly had she crossed the threshold before
one of the children danced across the room, saying, "The gentleman's
Her mother hastened to explain, smiles breaking from every inch of
her person. Mrs d'Urberville's son had called on horseback, having
been riding by chance in the direction of Marlott. He had wished
to know, finally, in the name of his mother, if Tess could really
come to manage the old lady's fowl-farm or not; the lad who had
hitherto superintended the birds having proved untrustworthy. "Mr
d'Urberville says you must be a good girl if you are at all as you
appear; he knows you must be worth your weight in gold. He is very
much interested in 'ee - truth to tell."
Tess seemed for the moment really pleased to hear that she had won
such high opinion from a stranger when, in her own esteem, she had
sunk so low.
"It is very good of him to think that," she murmured; "and if I was
quite sure how it would be living there, I would go any-when."
"He is a mighty handsome man!"
"I don't think so," said Tess coldly.
"Well, there's your chance, whether or no; and I'm sure he wears a
beautiful diamond ring!"
"Yes," said little Abraham, brightly, from the window-bench; "and
I seed it! and it did twinkle when he put his hand up to his
mistarshers. Mother, why did our grand relation keep on putting his
hand up to his mistarshers?"
"Hark at that child!" cried Mrs Durbeyfield, with parenthetic
"Perhaps to show his diamond ring," murmured Sir John, dreamily, from
"I'll think it over," said Tess, leaving the room.
"Well, she's made a conquest o' the younger branch of us, straight
off," continued the matron to her husband, "and she's a fool if she
don't follow it up."
"I don't quite like my children going away from home," said the
haggler. "As the head of the family, the rest ought to come to me."
"But do let her go, Jacky," coaxed his poor witless wife. "He's
struck wi' her - you can see that. He called her Coz! He'll marry
her, most likely, and make a lady of her; and then she'll be what
her forefathers was."
John Durbeyfield had more conceit than energy or health, and this
supposition was pleasant to him.
"Well, perhaps that's what young Mr d'Urberville means," he admitted;
"and sure enough he mid have serious thoughts about improving his
blood by linking on to the old line. Tess, the little rogue! And
have she really paid 'em a visit to such an end as this?"
Meanwhile Tess was walking thoughtfully among the gooseberry-bushes
in the garden, and over Prince's grave. When she came in her mother
pursued her advantage.
"Well, what be you going to do?" she asked.
"I wish I had seen Mrs d'Urberville," said Tess.
"I think you mid as well settle it. Then you'll see her soon
Her father coughed in his chair.
"I don't know what to say!" answered the girl restlessly. "It is for
you to decide. I killed the old horse, and I suppose I ought to do
something to get ye a new one. But - but - I don't quite like Mr
d'Urberville being there!"
The children, who had made use of this idea of Tess being taken up by
their wealthy kinsfolk (which they imagined the other family to be)
as a species of dolorifuge after the death of the horse, began to cry
at Tess's reluctance, and teased and reproached her for hesitating.
"Tess won't go-o-o and be made a la-a-dy of! - no, she says she
wo-o-on't!" they wailed, with square mouths. "And we shan't have a
nice new horse, and lots o' golden money to buy fairlings! And Tess
won't look pretty in her best cloze no mo-o-ore!"
Her mother chimed in to the same tune: a certain way she had of
making her labours in the house seem heavier than they were by
prolonging them indefinitely, also weighed in the argument. Her
father alone preserved an attitude of neutrality.
"I will go," said Tess at last.
Her mother could not repress her consciousness of the nuptial vision
conjured up by the girl's consent.
"That's right! For such a pretty maid as 'tis, this is a fine
Tess smiled crossly.
"I hope it is a chance for earning money. It is no other kind of
chance. You had better say nothing of that silly sort about parish."
Mrs Durbeyfield did not promise. She was not quite sure that she did
not feel proud enough, after the visitor's remarks, to say a good
Thus it was arranged; and the young girl wrote, agreeing to be ready
to set out on any day on which she might be required. She was duly
informed that Mrs d'Urberville was glad of her decision, and that a
spring-cart should be sent to meet her and her luggage at the top
of the Vale on the day after the morrow, when she must hold herself
prepared to start. Mrs d'Urberville's handwriting seemed rather
"A cart?" murmured Joan Durbeyfield doubtingly. "It might have been
a carriage for her own kin!"
Having at last taken her course Tess was less restless and
abstracted, going about her business with some self-assurance in the
thought of acquiring another horse for her father by an occupation
which would not be onerous. She had hoped to be a teacher at the
school, but the fates seemed to decide otherwise. Being mentally
older than her mother she did not regard Mrs Durbeyfield's
matrimonial hopes for her in a serious aspect for a moment. The
light-minded woman had been discovering good matches for her daughter
almost from the year of her birth.
On the morning appointed for her departure Tess was awake before
dawn - at the marginal minute of the dark when the grove is still
mute, save for one prophetic bird who sings with a clear-voiced
conviction that he at least knows the correct time of day, the rest
preserving silence as if equally convinced that he is mistaken. She
remained upstairs packing till breakfast-time, and then came down in
her ordinary week-day clothes, her Sunday apparel being carefully
folded in her box.
Her mother expostulated. "You will never set out to see your folks
without dressing up more the dand than that?"
"But I am going to work!" said Tess.
"Well, yes," said Mrs Durbeyfield; and in a private tone, "at first
there mid be a little pretence o't ... But I think it will be wiser
of 'ee to put your best side outward," she added.
"Very well; I suppose you know best," replied Tess with calm
And to please her parent the girl put herself quite in Joan's hands,
saying serenely - "Do what you like with me, mother."
Mrs Durbeyfield was only too delighted at this tractability.
First she fetched a great basin, and washed Tess's hair with such
thoroughness that when dried and brushed it looked twice as much as
at other times. She tied it with a broader pink ribbon than usual.
Then she put upon her the white frock that Tess had worn at the
club-walking, the airy fulness of which, supplementing her enlarged
_coiffure_, imparted to her developing figure an amplitude which
belied her age, and might cause her to be estimated as a woman when
she was not much more than a child.
"I declare there's a hole in my stocking-heel!" said Tess.
"Never mind holes in your stockings - they don't speak! When I was a
maid, so long as I had a pretty bonnet the devil might ha' found me
Her mother's pride in the girl's appearance led her to step back,
like a painter from his easel, and survey her work as a whole.
"You must zee yourself!" she cried. "It is much better than you was
As the looking-glass was only large enough to reflect a very small
portion of Tess's person at one time, Mrs Durbeyfield hung a black
cloak outside the casement, and so made a large reflector of the
panes, as it is the wont of bedecking cottagers to do. After this
she went downstairs to her husband, who was sitting in the lower
"I'll tell 'ee what 'tis, Durbeyfield," said she exultingly; "he'll
never have the heart not to love her. But whatever you do, don't zay
too much to Tess of his fancy for her, and this chance she has got.
She is such an odd maid that it mid zet her against him, or against
going there, even now. If all goes well, I shall certainly be for
making some return to pa'son at Stagfoot Lane for telling us - dear,
However, as the moment for the girl's setting out drew nigh, when the
first excitement of the dressing had passed off, a slight misgiving
found place in Joan Durbeyfield's mind. It prompted the matron to
say that she would walk a little way - as far as to the point where
the acclivity from the valley began its first steep ascent to
the outer world. At the top Tess was going to be met with the
spring-cart sent by the Stoke-d'Urbervilles, and her box had already
been wheeled ahead towards this summit by a lad with trucks, to be in
Seeing their mother put on her bonnet, the younger children clamoured
to go with her.
"I do want to walk a little-ways wi' Sissy, now she's going to marry
our gentleman-cousin, and wear fine cloze!"
"Now," said Tess, flushing and turning quickly, "I'll hear no more o'
that! Mother, how could you ever put such stuff into their heads?"
"Going to work, my dears, for our rich relation, and help get enough
money for a new horse," said Mrs Durbeyfield pacifically.
"Goodbye, father," said Tess, with a lumpy throat.
"Goodbye, my maid," said Sir John, raising his head from his breast
as he suspended his nap, induced by a slight excess this morning in
honour of the occasion. "Well, I hope my young friend will like such
a comely sample of his own blood. And tell'n, Tess, that being sunk,
quite, from our former grandeur, I'll sell him the title - yes, sell
it - and at no onreasonable figure."
"Not for less than a thousand pound!" cried Lady Durbeyfield.
"Tell'n - I'll take a thousand pound. Well, I'll take less, when
I come to think o't. He'll adorn it better than a poor lammicken
feller like myself can. Tell'n he shall hae it for a hundred. But
I won't stand upon trifles - tell'n he shall hae it for fifty - for
twenty pound! Yes, twenty pound - that's the lowest. Dammy, family
honour is family honour, and I won't take a penny less!"
Tess's eyes were too full and her voice too choked to utter the
sentiments that were in her. She turned quickly, and went out.
So the girls and their mother all walked together, a child on each
side of Tess, holding her hand and looking at her meditatively from
time to time, as at one who was about to do great things; her mother
just behind with the smallest; the group forming a picture of honest
beauty flanked by innocence, and backed by simple-souled vanity.
They followed the way till they reached the beginning of the ascent,
on the crest of which the vehicle from Trantridge was to receive her,
this limit having been fixed to save the horse the labour of the last
slope. Far away behind the first hills the cliff-like dwellings
of Shaston broke the line of the ridge. Nobody was visible in the
elevated road which skirted the ascent save the lad whom they had
sent on before them, sitting on the handle of the barrow that
contained all Tess's worldly possessions.
"Bide here a bit, and the cart will soon come, no doubt," said Mrs
Durbeyfield. "Yes, I see it yonder!"
It had come - appearing suddenly from behind the forehead of the
nearest upland, and stopping beside the boy with the barrow. Her
mother and the children thereupon decided to go no farther, and
bidding them a hasty goodbye, Tess bent her steps up the hill.
They saw her white shape draw near to the spring-cart, on which her
box was already placed. But before she had quite reached it another
vehicle shot out from a clump of trees on the summit, came round the
bend of the road there, passed the luggage-cart, and halted beside
Tess, who looked up as if in great surprise.
Her mother perceived, for the first time, that the second vehicle was
not a humble conveyance like the first, but a spick-and-span gig or
dog-cart, highly varnished and equipped. The driver was a young man
of three- or four-and-twenty, with a cigar between his teeth; wearing
a dandy cap, drab jacket, breeches of the same hue, white neckcloth,
stick-up collar, and brown driving-gloves - in short, he was the
handsome, horsey young buck who had visited Joan a week or two before
to get her answer about Tess.
Mrs Durbeyfield clapped her hands like a child. Then she looked
down, then stared again. Could she be deceived as to the meaning of
"Is dat the gentleman-kinsman who'll make Sissy a lady?" asked the
Meanwhile the muslined form of Tess could be seen standing still,
undecided, beside this turn-out, whose owner was talking to her.
Her seeming indecision was, in fact, more than indecision: it was
misgiving. She would have preferred the humble cart. The young
man dismounted, and appeared to urge her to ascend. She turned her
face down the hill to her relatives, and regarded the little group.
Something seemed to quicken her to a determination; possibly the
thought that she had killed Prince. She suddenly stepped up; he
mounted beside her, and immediately whipped on the horse. In a
moment they had passed the slow cart with the box, and disappeared
behind the shoulder of the hill.
Directly Tess was out of sight, and the interest of the matter as a
drama was at an end, the little ones' eyes filled with tears. The