<br/>Her refusal, though unexpected, did not permanently
daunt Clare. His experience of women was great enough
for him to be aware that the negative often meant
nothing more than the preface to the affirmative; and
it was little enough for him not to know that in the
manner of the present negative there lay a great
exception to the dallyings of coyness. That she had
already permitted him to make love to her he read as an
additional assurance, not fully trowing that in the
fields and pastures to "sigh gratis" is by no means
deemed waste; love-making being here more often
accepted inconsiderately and for its own sweet sake
than in the carking, anxious homes of the ambitious,
where a girl's craving for an establishment paralyzes
her healthy thought of a passion as an end.
<br/>"Tess, why did you say 'no' in such a positive way?"
he asked her in the course of a few days.
<br/>"Don't ask me. I told you why—partly. I am not good
enough—not worthy enough."
<br/>"How? Not fine lady enough?"
<br/>"Yes—something like that," murmured she. "Your
friends would scorn me."
<br/>"Indeed, you mistake them—my father and mother.
As for my brothers, I don't care—" He clasped his
fingers behind her back to keep her from slipping away.
"Now—you did not mean it, sweet?—I am sure you did
not! You have made me so restless that I cannot read,
or play, or do anything. I am in no hurry, Tess, but I
want to know—to hear from your own warm lips—that you
will some day be mine—any time you may choose; but
<br/>She could only shake her head and look away from him.
<br/>Clare regarded her attentively, conned the characters
of her face as if they had been hieroglyphics. The
denial seemed real.
<br/>"Then I ought not to hold you in this way—ought I?
I have no right to you—no right to seek out where you
are, or walk with you! Honestly, Tess, do you love any
<br/>"How can you ask?" she said, with continued
<br/>"I almost know that you do not. But then, why do you
<br/>"I don't repulse you. I like you to—tell me you love
me; and you may always tell me so as you go about with
me—and never offend me."
<br/>"But you will not accept me as a husband?"
<br/>"Ah—that's different—it is for your good, indeed, my
dearest! O, believe me, it is only for your sake!
I don't like to give myself the great happiness o'
promising to be yours in that way—because—because I
am <i>sure</i> I ought not to do it."
<br/>"But you will make me happy!"
<br/>"Ah—you think so, but you don't know!"
<br/>At such times as this, apprehending the grounds of her
refusal to be her modest sense of incompetence in
matters social and polite, he would say that she was
wonderfully well-informed and versatile—which was
certainly true, her natural quickness and her
admiration for him having led her to pick up his
vocabulary, his accent, and fragments of his knowledge,
to a surprising extent. After these tender contests
and her victory she would go away by herself under the
remotest cow, if at milking-time, or into the sedge or
into her room, if at a leisure interval, and mourn
silently, not a minute after an apparently phlegmatic
<br/>The struggle was so fearful; her own heart was so
strongly on the side of his—two ardent hearts against
one poor little conscience—that she tried to fortify
her resolution by every means in her power. She had
come to Talbothays with a made-up mind. On no account
could she agree to a step which might afterwards cause
bitter rueing to her husband for his blindness in
wedding her. And she held that what her conscience had
decided for her when her mind was unbiassed ought not
to be overruled now.
<br/>"Why don't somebody tell him all about me?" she said.
"It was only forty miles off—why hasn't it reached
here? Somebody must know!"
<br/>Yet nobody seemed to know; nobody told him.
<br/>For two or three days no more was said. She guessed
from the sad countenances of her chamber companions
that they regarded her not only as the favourite, but
as the chosen; but they could see for themselves that
she did not put herself in his way.
<br/>Tess had never before known a time in which the thread
of her life was so distinctly twisted of two strands,
positive pleasure and positive pain. At the next
cheese-making the pair were again left alone together.
The dairyman himself had been lending a hand; but Mr
Crick, as well as his wife, seemed latterly to have
acquired a suspicion of mutual interest between these
two; though they walked so circumspectly that suspicion
was but of the faintest. Anyhow, the dairyman left them
<br/>They were breaking up the masses of curd before putting
them into the vats. The operation resembled the act of
crumbling bread on a large scale; and amid the
immaculate whiteness of the curds Tess Durbeyfield's
hands showed themselves of the pinkness of the rose.
Angel, who was filling the vats with his handful,
suddenly ceased, and laid his hands flat upon hers.
Her sleeves were rolled far above the elbow, and
bending lower he kissed the inside vein of her soft arm.
<br/>Although the early September weather was sultry, her
arm, from her dabbling in the curds, was as cold and
damp to his mouth as a new-gathered mushroom, and
tasted of the whey. But she was such a sheaf of
susceptibilities that her pulse was accelerated by the
touch, her blood driven to her finder-ends, and the
cool arms flushed hot. Then, as though her heart had
said, "Is coyness longer necessary? Truth is truth
between man and woman, as between man and man," she
lifted her eyes and they beamed devotedly into his, as
her lip rose in a tender half-smile.
<br/>"Do you know why I did that, Tess?" he said.
<br/>"Because you love me very much!"
<br/>"Yes, and as a preliminary to a new entreaty."
<br/>She looked a sudden fear that her resistance might
break down under her own desire.
<br/>"O, Tessy!" he went on, "I <i>cannot</i> think why you
are so tantalizing. Why do you disappoint me so? You seem
almost like a coquette, upon my life you do—a coquette
of the first urban water! They blow hot and blow cold,
just as you do, and it is the very last sort of thing
to expect to find in a retreat like Talbothays. … And
yet, dearest," he quickly added, observing now the
remark had cut her, "I know you to be the most honest,
spotless creature that ever lived. So how can I
suppose you a flirt? Tess, why don't you like the idea
of being my wife, if you love me as you seem to do?"
<br/>"I have never said I don't like the idea, and I never
could say it; because—it isn't true!"
<br/>The stress now getting beyond endurance, her lip
quivered, and she was obliged to go away. Clare was so
pained and perplexed that he ran after and caught her
in the passage.
<br/>"Tell me, tell me!" he said, passionately clasping her,
in forgetfulness of his curdy hands: "do tell me that
you won't belong to anybody but me!"
<br/>"I will, I will tell you!" she exclaimed. "And I will
give you a complete answer, if you will let me go now.
I will tell you my experiences—all about myself—all!"
<br/>"Your experiences, dear; yes, certainly; any number."
He expressed assent in loving satire, looking into her
face. "My Tess, no doubt, almost as many experiences as
that wild convolvulus out there on the garden hedge,
that opened itself this morning for the first time.
Tell me anything, but don't use that wretched
expression any more about not being worthy of me."
<br/>"I will try—not! And I'll give you my reasons
<br/>"Say on Sunday?"
<br/>"Yes, on Sunday."
<br/>At last she got away, and did not stop in her retreat
till she was in the thicket of pollard willows at the
lower side of the barton, where she could be quite
unseen. Here Tess flung herself down upon the rustling
undergrowth of spear-grass, as upon a bed, and
remained crouching in palpitating misery broken by
momentary shoots of joy, which her fears about the
ending could not altogether suppress.
<br/>In reality, she was drifting into acquiescence. Every
see-saw of her breath, every wave of her blood, every
pulse singing in her ears, was a voice that joined with
nature in revolt against her scrupulousness. Reckless,
inconsiderate acceptance of him; to close with him at
the altar, revealing nothing, and chancing discovery;
to snatch ripe pleasure before the iron teeth of pain
could have time to shut upon her: that was what love
counselled; and in almost a terror of ecstasy Tess
divined that, despite her many months of lonely
self-chastisement, wrestlings, communings, schemes to
lead a future of austere isolation, love's counsel
<br/>The afternoon advanced, and still she remained among
the willows. She heard the rattle of taking down the
pails from the forked stands; the "waow-waow!" which
accompanied the getting together of the cows. But she
did not go to the milking. They would see her
agitation; and the dairyman, thinking the cause to be
love alone, would good-naturedly tease her; and that
harassment could not be borne.
<br/>Her lover must have guessed her overwrought state, and
invented some excuse for her non-appearance, for no
inquiries were made or calls given. At half-past six
the sun settled down upon the levels with the aspect
of a great forge in the heavens; and presently a
monstrous pumpkin-like moon arose on the other hand.
The pollard willows, tortured out of their natural
shape by incessant choppings, became spiny-haired
monsters as they stood up against it. She went in
and upstairs without a light.
<br/>It was now Wednesday. Thursday came, and Angel looked
thoughtfully at her from a distance, but intruded in no
way upon her. The indoor milkmaids, Marian and the
rest, seemed to guess that something definite was
afoot, for they did not force any remarks upon her in
the bedchamber. Friday passed; Saturday. To-morrow was
<br/>"I shall give way—I shall say yes—I shall let myself
marry him—I cannot help it!" she jealously panted,
with her hot face to the pillow that night, on hearing
one of the other girls sigh his name in her sleep.
"I can't bear to let anybody have him but me! Yet it is a
wrong to him, and may kill him when he knows! O my
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