<br/>The haggling business, which had mainly depended on the
horse, became disorganized forthwith. Distress, if not
penury, loomed in the distance. Durbeyfield was what
was locally called a slack-twisted fellow; he had good
strength to work at times; but the times could not be
relied on to coincide with the hours of requirement;
and, having been unaccustomed to the regular toil of
the day-labourer, he was not particularly persistent
when they did so coincide.
<br/>Tess, meanwhile, as the one who had dragged her parents
into this quagmire, was silently wondering what she
could do to help them out of it; and then her mother
broached her scheme.
<br/>"We must take the ups wi' the downs, Tess," said she;
"and never could your high blood have been found out at
a more called-for moment. You must try your friends.
Do ye know that there is a very rich Mrs d'Urberville
living on the outskirts o' The Chase, who must be our
relation? You must go to her and claim kin, and ask
for some help in our trouble."
<br/>"I shouldn't care to do that," says Tess. "If there is
such a lady, 'twould be enough for us if she were
friendly—not to expect her to give us help."
<br/>"You could win her round to do anything, my dear.
Besides, perhaps there's more in it than you know of.
I've heard what I've heard, good-now."
<br/>The oppressive sense of the harm she had done led Tess
to be more deferential than she might otherwise have
been to the maternal wish; but she could not understand
why her mother should find such satisfaction in
contemplating an enterprise of, to her, such doubtful
profit. Her mother might have made inquiries, and have
discovered that this Mrs d'Urberville was a lady of
unequalled virtues and charity. But Tess's pride made
the part of poor relation one of particular distaste to
<br/>"I'd rather try to get work," she murmured.
<br/>"Durbeyfield, you can settle it," said his wife,
turning to where he sat in the background. "If you say
she ought to go, she will go."
<br/>"I don't like my children going and making themselves
beholden to strange kin," murmured he. "I'm the head
of the noblest branch o' the family, and I ought to
live up to it."
<br/>His reasons for staying away were worse to Tess than
her own objections to going. "Well, as I killed the
horse, mother," she said mournfully, "I suppose I ought
to do something. I don't mind going and seeing her, but
you must leave it to me about asking for help. And
don't go thinking about her making a match for me—it
<br/>"Very well said, Tess!" observed her father
<br/>"Who said I had such a thought?" asked Joan.
<br/>"I fancy it is in your mind, mother. But I'll go."
<br/>Rising early next day she walked to the hill-town
called Shaston, and there took advantage of a van which
twice in the week ran from Shaston eastward to
Chaseborough, passing near Trantridge, the parish in
which the vague and mysterious Mrs d'Urberville had her
<br/>Tess Durbeyfield's route on this memorable morning lay
amid the north-eastern undulations of the Vale in which
she had been born, and in which her life had unfolded.
The Vale of Blackmoor was to her the world, and its
inhabitants the races thereof. From the gates and
stiles of Marlott she had looked down its length in the
wondering days of infancy, and what had been mystery to
her then was not much less than mystery to her now.
She had seen daily from her chamber-window towers,
villages, faint white mansions; above all, the town of
Shaston standing majestically on its height; its
windows shining like lamps in the evening sun. She had
hardly ever visited the place, only a small tract even
of the Vale and its environs being known to her by
close inspection. Much less had she been far outside
the valley. Every contour of the surrounding hills was
as personal to her as that of her relatives' faces; but
for what lay beyond, her judgment was dependent on the
teaching of the village school, where she had held a
leading place at the time of her leaving, a year or two
before this date.
<br/>In those early days she had been much loved by others
of her own sex and age, and had used to be seen about
the village as one of three—all nearly of the same
year—walking home from school side by side; Tess the
middle one—in a pink print pinafore, of a finely
reticulated pattern, worn over a stuff frock that had
lost its original colour for a nondescript
tertiary—marching on upon long stalky legs, in tight
stockings which had little ladder-like holes at the
knees, torn by kneeling in the roads and banks in
search of vegetable and mineral treasures; her then
earth-coloured hair hanging like pot-hooks; the arms of
the two outside girls resting round the waist of Tess;
her arms on the shoulders of the two supporters.
<br/>As Tess grew older, and began to see how matters stood,
she felt quite a Malthusian towards her mother for
thoughtlessly giving her so many little sisters and
brothers, when it was such a trouble to nurse and
provide for them. Her mother's intelligence was that
of a happy child: Joan Durbeyfield was simply an
additional one, and that not the eldest, to her own
long family of waiters on Providence.
<br/>However, Tess became humanely beneficent
towards the small ones, and
to help them as much as possible she used, as soon as
she left school, to lend a hand at haymaking or
harvesting on neighbouring farms; or, by preference,
at milking or butter-making processes, which she had
learnt when her father had owned cows; and being
deft-fingered it was a kind of work in which she
<br/>Every day seemed to throw upon her young shoulders more
of the family burdens, and that Tess should be the
representative of the Durbeyfields at the d'Urberville
mansion came as a thing of course. In this instance it
must be admitted that the Durbeyfields were putting
their fairest side outward.
<br/>She alighted from the van at Trantridge Cross, and
ascended on foot a hill in the direction of the
district known as The Chase, on the borders of which,
as she had been informed, Mrs d'Urberville's seat, The
Slopes, would be found. It was not a manorial home in
the ordinary sense, with fields, and pastures, and a
grumbling farmer, out of whom the owner had to squeeze
an income for himself and his family by hook or by
crook. It was more, far more; a country-house built
for enjoyment pure and simple, with not an acre of
troublesome land attached to it beyond what was
required for residential purposes, and for a little
fancy farm kept in hand by the owner, and tended by a
<br/>The crimson brick lodge came first in sight, up to its
eaves in dense evergreens. Tess thought this was the
mansion itself till, passing through the side wicket
with some trepidation, and onward to a point at which
the drive took a turn, the house proper stood in full
view. It was of recent erection—indeed almost
new—and of the same rich red colour that formed such a
contrast with the evergreens of the lodge. Far behind
the corner of the house—which rose like a geranium
bloom against the subdued colours around—stretched
the soft azure landscape of The Chase—a truly
venerable tract of forest land, one of the few
remaining woodlands in England of undoubted primaeval
date, wherein Druidical mistletoe was still found on
aged oaks, and where enormous yew-trees, not planted by
the hand of man grew as they had grown when they were
pollarded for bows. All this sylvan antiquity,
however, though visible from The Slopes, was outside
the immediate boundaries of the estate.
<br/>Everything on this snug property was bright, thriving,
and well kept; acres of glass-houses stretched down the
inclines to the copses at their feet. Everything
looked like money—like the last coin issued from the
Mint. The stables, partly screened by Austrian pines
and evergreen oaks, and fitted with every late
appliance, were as dignified as Chapels-of-Ease. On
the extensive lawn stood an ornamental tent, its door
being towards her.
<br/>Simple Tess Durbeyfield stood at gaze, in a
half-alarmed attitude, on the edge of the gravel sweep.
Her feet had brought her onward to this point before
she had quite realized where she was; and now all was
contrary to her expectation.
<br/>"I thought we were an old family; but this is all new!"
she said, in her artlessness. She wished that she had
not fallen in so readily with her mother's plans for
"claiming kin," and had endeavoured to gain assistance
<br/>The d'Urbervilles—or Stoke-d'Urbervilles, as they at
first called themselves—who owned all this, were a
somewhat unusual family to find in such an
old-fashioned part of the country. Parson Tringham had
spoken truly when he said that our shambling John
Durbeyfield was the only really lineal representative
of the old d'Urberville family existing in the county,
or near it; he might have added, what he knew very
well, that the Stoke-d'Urbervilles were no more
d'Urbervilles of the true tree then he was himself.
Yet it must be admitted that this family formed a very
good stock whereon to regraft a name which sadly wanted
<br/>When old Mr Simon Stoke, latterly deceased, had made
his fortune as an honest merchant (some said
money-lender) in the North, he decided to settle as a
county man in the South of England, out of hail of his
business district; and in doing this he felt the
necessity of recommencing with a name that would not
too readily identify him with the smart tradesman of
the past, and that would be less commonplace than the
original bald, stark words. Conning for an hour in the
British Museum the pages of works devoted to extinct,
half-extinct, obscured, and ruined families
appertaining to the quarter of England in which he
proposed to settle, he considered that <i>d'Urberville</i>
looked and sounded as well as any of them: and
d'Urberville accordingly was annexed to his own name
for himself and his heirs eternally. Yet he was not an
extravagant-minded man in this, and in constructing his
family tree on the new basis was duly reasonable in
framing his inter-marriages and aristocratic links,
never inserting a single title above a rank of strict
<br/>Of this work of imagination poor Tess and her parents
were naturally in ignorance—much to their
discomfiture; indeed, the very possibility of such
annexations was unknown to them; who supposed that,
though to be well-favoured might be the gift of
fortune, a family name came by nature.
<br/>Tess still stood hesitating like a bather about to make
his plunge, hardly knowing whether to retreat or to
persevere, when a figure came forth from the dark
triangular door of the tent. It was that of a tall
young man, smoking.
<br/>He had an almost swarthy complexion, with full lips,
badly moulded, though red and smooth, above which was a
well-groomed black moustache with curled points, though
his age could not be more than three- or
four-and-twenty. Despite the touches of barbarism in
his contours, there was a singular force in the
gentleman's face, and in his bold rolling eye.
<br/>"Well, my Beauty, what can I do for you?" said he,
coming forward. And perceiving that she stood quite
confounded: "Never mind me. I am Mr d'Urberville.
Have you come to see me or my mother?"
<br/>This embodiment of a d'Urberville and a namesake
differed even more from what Tess had expected than the
house and grounds had differed. She had dreamed of an
aged and dignified face, the sublimation of all the
d'Urberville lineaments, furrowed with incarnate
memories representing in hieroglyphic the centuries of
her family's and England's history. But she screwed
herself up to the work in hand, since she could not get
out of it, and answered—
<br/>"I came to see your mother, sir."
<br/>"I am afraid you cannot see her—she is an invalid,"
replied the present representative of the spurious
house; for this was Mr Alec, the only son of the lately
deceased gentleman. "Cannot I answer your purpose?
What is the business you wish to see her about?"
<br/>"It isn't business—it is—I can hardly say what!"
<br/>"Oh no. Why, sir, if I tell you, it will seem—"
<br/>Tess's sense of a certain ludicrousness in her errand
was now 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
<br/>"It is so very foolish," she stammered; "I fear can't
<br/>"Never mind; I like foolish things. Try again, my
dear," said he kindly.
<br/>"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 you."
<br/>"Ho! Poor relations?"
<br/>"Ay, ay; I mean d'Urbervilles."
<br/>"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
<br/>"A castle argent is certainly my crest," said he
blandly. "And my arms a lion rampant."
<br/>"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' the family."
<br/>"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,
<br/>"I suppose I have," faltered Tess, looking
<br/>"Well—there's no harm in it. Where do you live?
What are you?"
<br/>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.
<br/>"It is a long while before he returns past Trantridge
Cross. Supposing we walk round the grounds to pass the
time, my pretty Coz?"
<br/>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
<br/>"Yes," said Tess, "when they come."
<br/>"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.
<br/>"No—no!" she said quickly, putting her fingers between
his hand and her lips. "I would rather take it in my
<br/>"Nonsense!" he insisted; and in a slight distress she
parted her lips and took it in.
<br/>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 can find."
<br/>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
by the servantry.
<br/>"Do you mind my smoking?" he asked.
<br/>"Oh, not at all, sir."
<br/>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
<br/>She soon had finished her lunch. "Now I am going home,
sir," she said, rising.
<br/>"And what do they call you?" he asked, as he
accompanied her along the drive till they were out of
sight of the house.
<br/>"Tess Durbeyfield, down at Marlott."
<br/>"And you say your people have lost their horse?"
<br/>"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!"
<br/>"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
<br/>"I wish for no better, sir," said she with something of
<br/>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.
<br/>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 forgotten.
<br/>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
<br/>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.
<br/>"Well, I'm damned! What a funny thing! Ha-ha-ha!
And what a crumby girl!"
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