<br/>The dairymaids and men had flocked down from their
cottages and out of the dairy-house with the arrival of
the cows from the meads; the maids walking in pattens,
not on account of the weather, but to keep their shoes
above the mulch of the barton. Each girl sat down on
her three-legged stool, her face sideways, her right
cheek resting against the cow, and looked musingly
along the animal's flank at Tess as she approached.
The male milkers, with hat-brims turned down, resting
flat on their foreheads and gazing on the ground, did
not observe her.
<br/>One of these was a sturdy middle-aged man—whose long
white "pinner" was somewhat finer and cleaner than the
wraps of the others, and whose jacket underneath had a
presentable marketing aspect—the master-dairyman, of
whom she was in quest, his double character as a
working milker and butter maker here during six days,
and on the seventh as a man in shining broad-cloth in
his family pew at church, being so marked as to have
inspired a rhyme:
All the week:—<br/>
On Sundays Mister Richard Crick.<br/>
Seeing Tess standing at gaze he went across to her.<br/>
<br/>The majority of dairymen have a cross manner at milking
time, but it happened that Mr Crick was glad to get a
new hand—for the days were 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).
<br/>"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."
<br/>"Oh no—it is nothing," said Tess.
<br/>Then the talk was of business only.
<br/>"You can milk 'em clean, my maidy? I don't want my cows
going azew at this time o' year."
<br/>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 grown delicate.
<br/>"Quite sure you can stand it? 'Tis comfortable enough
here for rough folk; but we don't live in a cowcumber
<br/>She declared that she could stand it, and her zest and
willingness seemed to win him over.
<br/>"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."
<br/>"I'll begin milking now, to get my hand in," said Tess.
<br/>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.
<br/>"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
<br/>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.
<br/>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.
<br/>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.
<br/>"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 midsummer."
<br/>"'Tis because there's a new hand come among us," said
Jonathan Kail. "I've noticed such things afore."
<br/>"To be sure. It may be so. I didn't think o't."
<br/>"I've been told that it goes up into their horns at
such times," said a dairymaid.
<br/>"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?"
<br/>"I don't!" interposed the milkmaid, "Why do they?"
<br/>"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 for't."
<br/>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
<br/>"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."
<br/>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
<br/>"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 <i>much</i> 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. ᡖ 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 aisle."
<br/>"It's a curious story; it carries us back to medieval
times, when faith was a living thing!"
<br/>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.
<br/>"Well, 'tis quite true, sir, whether or no. I knowed
the man well."
<br/>"Oh yes; I have no doubt of it," said the person behind
the dun cow.
<br/>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.
<br/>"Take it gentle, sir; take it gentle," said the
dairyman. "'Tis knack, not strength, that does it."
<br/>"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 fingers ache."
<br/>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, sad, differing.
<br/>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.
<br/>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.
<br/>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.
<br/>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 asleep immediately.
<br/>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
<br/>"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."
<br/>"Oh—I have heard of him," said her companion, now
awake. "A very earnest clergyman, is he not?"
<br/>"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 pa'sons too."
<br/>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.
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