<br/>In general the cows were milked as they presented
themselves, without fancy or choice. But certain cows
will show a fondness for a particular pair of hands,
sometimes carrying this predilection so far as to
refuse to stand at all except to their favourite, the
pail of a stranger being unceremoniously kicked over.
<br/>It was Dairyman Crick's rule to insist on breaking down
these partialities and aversions by constant
interchange, since otherwise, in the event of a milkman
or maid going away from the dairy, he was placed in a
difficulty. The maids' private aims, however, were the
reverse of the dairyman's rule, the daily selection by
each damsel of the eight or ten cows to which she had
grown accustomed rendering the operation on their
willing udders surprisingly easy and effortless.
<br/>Tess, like her compeers, soon discovered which of the
cows had a preference for her style of manipulation,
and her fingers having become delicate from the long
domiciliary imprisonments to which she had subjected
herself at intervals during the last two or three
years, she would have been glad to meet the milchers'
views in this respect. Out of the whole ninety-five
there were eight in particular—Dumpling, Fancy, Lofty,
Mist, Old Pretty, Young Pretty, Tidy, and Loud—who,
though the teats of one or two were as hard as carrots,
gave down to her with a readiness that made her work on
them a mere touch of the fingers. Knowing, however, the
dairyman's wish, she endeavoured conscientiously to
take the animals just as they came, expecting the very
hard yielders which she could not yet manage.
<br/>But she soon found a curious correspondence between the
ostensibly chance position of the cows and her wishes
in this matter, till she felt that their order could
not be the result of accident. The dairyman's pupil
had lent a hand in getting the cows together of late,
and at the fifth or sixth time she turned her eyes, as
she rested against the cow, full of sly inquiry upon
<br/>"Mr Clare, you have ranged the cows!" she said,
blushing; and in making the accusation, symptoms of a
smile gently lifted her upper lip in spite of her, so
as to show the tips of her teeth, the lower lip
remaining severely still.
<br/>"Well, it makes no difference," said he. "You will
always be here to milk them."
<br/>"Do you think so? I <i>hope</i> I shall! But I
<br/>She was angry with herself afterwards, thinking that
he, unaware of her grave reasons for liking this
seclusion, might have mistaken her meaning. She had
spoken so earnestly to him, as if his presence were
somehow a factor in her wish. Her misgiving was such
that at dusk, when the milking was over, she walked in
the garden alone, to continue her regrets that she had
disclosed to him her discovery of his considerateness.
<br/>It was a typical summer evening in June, the atmosphere
being in such delicate equilibrium and so transmissive
that inanimate objects seemed endowed with two or three
senses, if not five. There was no distinction between
the near and the far, and an auditor felt close to
everything within the horizon. The soundlessness
impressed her as a positive entity rather than as the
mere negation of noise. It was broken by the strumming
<br/>Tess had heard those notes in the attic
above her head. Dim, flattened, constrained by their
confinement, they had never appealed to her as now,
when they wandered in the still air with a stark
quality like that of nudity. To speak absolutely, both
instrument and execution were poor; but the relative is
all, and as she listened Tess, like a fascinated bird,
could not leave the spot. Far from leaving she drew up
towards the performer, keeping behind the hedge that he
might not guess her presence.
<br/>The outskirt of the garden in which Tess found herself
had been left uncultivated for some years, and was now
damp and rank with juicy grass which sent up mists of
pollen at a touch; and with tall blooming weeds
emitting offensive smells—weeds whose red and yellow
and purple hues formed a polychrome as dazzling as that
of cultivated flowers. She went stealthily as a cat
through this profusion of growth, gathering
cuckoo-spittle on her skirts, cracking snails that were
underfoot, staining her hands with thistle-milk and
slug-slime, and rubbing off upon her naked arms sticky
blights which, though snow-white on the apple-tree
trunks, made madder stains on her skin; thus she drew
quite near to Clare, still unobserved of him.
<br/>Tess was conscious of neither time nor space. The
exaltation which she had described as being producible
at will by gazing at a star came now without any
determination of hers; she undulated upon the thin
notes of the second-hand harp, and their harmonies
passed like breezes through her, bringing tears into
her eyes. The floating pollen seemed to be his notes
made visible, and the dampness of the garden the
weeping of the garden's sensibility. Though near
nightfall, the rank-smelling weed-flowers glowed as if
they would not close for intentness, and the waves of
colour mixed with the waves of sound.
<br/>The light which still shone was derived mainly from a
large hole in the western bank of cloud; it was like a
piece of day left behind by accident, dusk having
closed in elsewhere. He concluded his plaintive
melody, a very simple performance, demanding no great
skill; and she waited, thinking another might be begun.
But, tired of playing, he had desultorily come round
the fence, and was rambling up behind her. Tess, her
cheeks on fire, moved away furtively, as if hardly
moving at all.
<br/>Angel, however, saw her light summer gown, and he
spoke; his low tones reaching her, though he was some
<br/>"What makes you draw off in that way, Tess?" said he.
"Are you afraid?"
<br/>"Oh no, sir—not of outdoor things; especially just
now when the apple-blooth is falling, and everything is
<br/>"But you have your indoor fears—eh?"
<br/>"I couldn't quite say."
<br/>"The milk turning sour?"
<br/>"Life in general?"
<br/>"Ah—so have I, very often. This hobble of being alive
is rather serious, don't you think so?"
<br/>"It is—now you put it that way."
<br/>"All the same, I shouldn't have expected a young girl
like you to see it so just yet. How is it you do?"
<br/>She maintained a hesitating silence.
<br/>"Come, Tess, tell me in confidence."
<br/>She thought that he meant what were the aspects of
things to her, and replied shyly—
<br/>"The trees have inquisitive eyes, haven't they?—that
is, seem as if they had. And the river says,—'Why do
ye trouble me with your looks?' And you seem to see
numbers of to-morrows just all in a line, the first of
them the biggest and clearest, the others getting
smaller and smaller as they stand farther away; but
they all seem very fierce and cruel and as if they
said, 'I'm coming! Beware of me! Beware of
me!' … But <i>you</i>, sir, can raise up
dreams with your music, and
drive all such horrid fancies away!"
<br/>He was surprised to find this young woman—who though
but a milkmaid had just that touch of rarity about her
which might make her the envied of her
housemates—shaping such sad imaginings. She was
expressing in her own native phrases—assisted a little
by her Sixth Standard training—feelings which might
almost have been called those of the age—the ache of
modernism. The perception arrested him less when he
reflected that what are called advanced ideas are
really in great part but the latest fashion in
definition—a more accurate expression, by words in
<i>logy</i> and <i>ism</i>, of sensations which men
and women have vaguely grasped for centuries.
<br/>Still, it was strange that they should have come
to her while yet so young; more than strange; it was
impressive, interesting, pathetic. Not guessing the
cause, there was nothing to remind him that experience
is as to intensity, and not as to duration. Tess's
passing corporeal blight had been her mental harvest.
<br/>Tess, on her part, could not understand why a man of
clerical family and good education, and above physical
want, should look upon it as a mishap to be alive. For
the unhappy pilgrim herself there was very good reason.
But how could this admirable and poetic man ever have
descended into the Valley of Humiliation, have felt
with the man of Uz—as she herself had felt two or
three years ago—"My soul chooseth strangling and death
rather than my life. I loathe it; I would not live
<br/>It was true that he was at present out of his class.
But she knew that was only because, like Peter the
Great in a shipwright's yard, he was studying what he
wanted to know. He did not milk cows because he was
obliged to milk cows, but because he was learning to be
a rich and prosperous dairyman, landowner,
agriculturist, and breeder of cattle. He would become
an American or Australian Abraham, commanding like a
monarch his flocks and his herds, his spotted and his
ring-straked, his men-servants and his maids. At times,
nevertheless, it did seem unaccountable to her that a
decidedly bookish, musical, thinking young man should
have chosen deliberately to be a farmer, and not a
clergyman, like his father and brothers.
<br/>Thus, neither having the clue to the other's secret,
they were respectively puzzled at what each revealed,
and awaited new knowledge of each other's character and
mood without attempting to pry into each other's
<br/>Every day, every hour, brought to him one more little
stroke of her nature, and to her one more of his. Tess
was trying to lead a repressed life, but she little
divined the strength of her own vitality.
<br/>At first Tess seemed to regard Angel Clare as an
intelligence rather than as a man. As such she compared
him with herself; and at every discovery of the
abundance of his illuminations, of the distance
between her own modest mental standpoint
and the unmeasurable, Andean altitude of his, she
became quite dejected, disheartened from all further
effort on her own part whatever.
<br/>He observed her dejection one day, when he had casually
mentioned something to her about pastoral life in
ancient Greece. She was gathering the buds called
"lords and ladies" from the bank while he spoke.
<br/>"Why do you look so woebegone all of a sudden?" he
<br/>"Oh, 'tis only—about my own self," she said, with a
frail laugh of sadness, fitfully beginning to peel "a
lady" meanwhile. "Just a sense of what might have been
with me! My life looks as if it had been wasted for
want of chances! When I see what you know, what you
have read, and seen, and thought, I feel what a nothing
I am! I'm like the poor Queen of Sheba who lived in
the Bible. There is no more spirit in me."
<br/>"Bless my soul, don't go troubling about that! Why,"
he said with some enthusiasm, "I should be only too
glad, my dear Tess, to help you to anything in the way
of history, or any line of reading you would like to
<br/>"It is a lady again," interrupted she, holding out the
bud she had peeled.
<br/>"I meant that there are always more ladies than lords
when you come to peel them."
<br/>"Never mind about the lords and ladies. Would you like
to take up any course of study—history, for example?"
<br/>"Sometimes I feel I don't want to know anything more
about it than I know already."
<br/>"Because what's the use of learning that I am one of a
long row only—finding out that there is set down in
some old book somebody just like me, and to know that I
shall only act her part; making me sad, that's all.
The best is not to remember that your nature and your
past doings have been just like thousands' and
thousands', and that your coming life and doings 'll be
like thousands's and thousands'."
<br/>"What, really, then, you don't want to learn anything?"
<br/>"I shouldn't mind learning why—why the sun do shine on
the just and the unjust alike," she answered, with a
slight quaver in her voice. "But that's what books
will not tell me."
<br/>"Tess, fie for such bitterness!" Of course he
spoke with a conventional sense of duty only,
for that sort of wondering had not been unknown to
himself in bygone days. And as he looked at the
unpracticed mouth and lips, he thought that such a
daughter of the soil could only have caught up the
sentiment by rote. She went on peeling the lords and
ladies till Clare, regarding for a moment the wave-like
curl of her lashes as they dropped with her bent gaze
on her soft cheek, lingeringly went away. When he was
gone she stood awhile, thoughtfully peeling the last
bud; and then, awakening from her reverie, flung it and
all the crowd of floral nobility impatiently on the
ground, in an ebullition of displeasure with herself
for her <i>niaiserie</i>, and with a quickening
warmth in her heart of hearts.
<br/>How stupid he must think her! In an access of hunger
for his good opinion she bethought herself of what she
had latterly endeavoured to forget, so unpleasant had
been its issues—the identity of her family with that
of the knightly d'Urbervilles. Barren attribute as it
was, disastrous as its discovery had been in many ways
to her, perhaps Mr Clare, as a gentleman and a student
of history, would respect her sufficiently to forget
her childish conduct with the lords and ladies if he
knew that those Purbeck-marble and alabaster people in
Kingsbere Church really represented her own lineal
forefathers; that she was no spurious d'Urberville,
compounded of money and ambition like those at
Trantridge, but true d'Urberville to the bone.
<br/>But, before venturing to make the revelation, dubious
Tess indirectly sounded the dairyman as to its possible
effect upon Mr Clare, by asking the former if Mr Clare
had any great respect for old county families when they
had lost all their money and land.
<br/>"Mr Clare," said the dairyman emphatically, "is one of
the most rebellest rozums you ever knowed—not a bit
like the rest of his family; and if there's one thing
that he do hate more than another 'tis the notion of
what's called a' old family. He says that it stands to
reason that old families have done their spurt of work
in past days, and can't have anything left in 'em now.
There's the Billets and the Drenkhards and the Greys
and the St Quintins and the Hardys and the Goulds, who
used to own the lands for miles down this valley; you
could buy 'em all up now for an old song a'most. Why,
our little Retty Priddle here, you know, is one of the
Paridelles—the old family that used to own lots o' the
lands out by King's Hintock, now owned by the Earl o'
Wessex, afore even he or his was heard of. Well, Mr
Clare found this out, and spoke quite scornful to the
poor girl for days. 'Ah!' he says to her, 'you'll never
make a good dairymaid! All your skill was used up ages
ago in Palestine, and you must lie fallow for a
thousand years to git strength for more deeds!' A boy
came here t'other day asking for a job, and said his
name was Matt, and when we asked him his surname he
said he'd never heard that 'a had any surname, and when
we asked why, he said he supposed his folks hadn't been
'stablished long enough. 'Ah! you're the very boy I
want!' says Mr Clare, jumping up and shaking hands
wi'en; 'I've great hopes of you;' and gave him
half-a-crown. O no! he can't stomach old families!"
<br/>After hearing this caricature of Clare's opinion poor
Tess was glad that she had not said a word in a weak
moment about her family—even though it was so
unusually old almost to have gone round the circle and
become a new one. Besides, another diary-girl was as
good as she, it seemed, in that respect. She held her
tongue about the d'Urberville vault and the Knight of the
Conqueror whose name she bore. The insight afforded
into Clare's character suggested to her that it was
largely owing to her supposed untraditional newness
that she had won interest in his eyes.
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