<br/>This penitential mood kept her from naming the
wedding-day. The beginning of November found its date
still in abeyance, though he asked her at the most
tempting times. But Tess's desire seemed to be for a
perpetual betrothal in which everything should remain
as it was then.
<br/>The meads were changing now; but it was still warm
enough in early afternoons before milking to idle there
awhile, and the state of dairy-work at this time of
year allowed a spare hour for idling. Looking over the
damp sod in the direction of the sun, a glistening
ripple of gossamer webs was visible to their eyes under
the luminary, like the track of moonlight on the sea.
Gnats, knowing nothing of their brief glorification,
wandered across the shimmer of this pathway, irradiated
as if they bore fire within them, then passed out of
its line, and were quite extinct. In the presence of
these things he would remind her that the date was
still the question.
<br/>Or he would ask her at night, when he accompanied her
on some mission invented by Mrs Crick to give him the
opportunity. This was mostly a journey to the
farmhouse on the slopes above the vale, to inquire how
the advanced cows were getting on in the straw-barton
to which they were relegated. For it was a time of the
year that brought great changes to the world of kine.
Batches of the animals were sent away daily to this
lying-in hospital, where they lived on straw till their
calves were born, after which event, and as soon as the
calf could walk, mother and offspring were driven back
to the dairy. In the interval which elapsed before the
calves were sold there was, of course, little milking
to be done, but as soon as the calf had been taken away
the milkmaids would have to set to work as usual.
<br/>Returning from one of these dark walks they reached a
great gravel-cliff immediately over the levels, where
they stood still and listened. The water was now high
in the streams, squirting through the weirs, and
tinkling under culverts; the smallest gullies were all
full; there was no taking short cuts anywhere, and
foot-passengers were compelled to follow the permanent
ways. From the whole extent of the invisible vale came
a multitudinous intonation; it forced upon their fancy
that a great city lay below them, and that the murmur
was the vociferation of its populace.
<br/>"It seems like tens of thousands of them," said Tess;
"holding public-meetings in their market-places,
arguing, preaching, quarrelling, sobbing, groaning,
praying, and cursing."
<br/>Clare was not particularly heeding.
<br/>"Did Crick speak to you to-day, dear, about his not
wanting much assistance during the winter months?"
<br/>"The cows are going dry rapidly."
<br/>"Yes. Six or seven went to the straw-barton yesterday,
and three the day before, making nearly twenty in the
straw already. Ah—is it that the farmer don't want my
help for the calving? O, I am not wanted here any
more! And I have tried so hard to—"
<br/>"Crick didn't exactly say that he would no longer
require you. But, knowing what our relations were, he
said in the most good-natured and respectful manner
possible that he supposed on my leaving at Christmas I
should take you with me, and on my asking what he would
do without you he merely observed that, as a matter of
fact, it was a time of year when he could do with a
very little female help. I am afraid I was sinner
enough to feel rather glad that he was in this way
forcing your hand."
<br/>"I don't think you ought to have felt glad, Angel.
Because 'tis always mournful not to be wanted, even if
at the same time 'tis convenient."
<br/>"Well, it is convenient—you have admitted that."
He put his finger upon her cheek. "Ah!" he said.
<br/>"I feel the red rising up at her having been caught!
But why should I trifle so! We will not trifle—life
is too serious."
<br/>"It is. Perhaps I saw that before you did."
<br/>She was seeing it then. To decline to marry him after
all—in obedience to her emotion of last night—and
leave the dairy, meant to go to some strange place, not
a dairy; for milkmaids were not in request now
calving-time was coming on; to go to some arable farm
where no divine being like Angel Clare was. She hated
the thought, and she hated more the thought of going
<br/>"So that, seriously, dearest Tess," he continued,
"since you will probably have to leave at Christmas, it
is in every way desirable and convenient that I should
carry you off then as my property. Besides, if you
were not the most uncalculating girl in the world you
would know that we could not go on like this for ever."
<br/>"I wish we could. That it would always be summer and
autumn, and you always courting me, and always thinking
as much of me as you have done through the past
<br/>"I always shall."
<br/>"O, I know you will!" she cried, with a sudden fervour
of faith in him. "Angel, I will fix the day when I
will become yours for always!"
<br/>Thus at last it was arranged between them, during that
dark walk home, amid the myriads of liquid voices on
the right and left.
<br/>When they reached the dairy Mr and Mrs Crick were
promptly told—with injunctions of secrecy; for each of
the lovers was desirous that the marriage should be
kept as private as possible. The dairyman, though he
had thought of dismissing her soon, now made a great
concern about losing her. What should he do about his
skimming? Who would make the ornamental butter-pats
for the Anglebury and Sandbourne ladies? Mrs Crick
congratulated Tess on the shilly-shallying having at
last come to an end, and said that directly she set
eyes on Tess she divined that she was to be the chosen
one of somebody who was no common outdoor man; Tess had
looked so superior as she walked across the barton on
that afternoon of her arrival; that she was of a good
family she could have sworn. In point of fact Mrs
Crick did remember thinking that Tess was graceful and
good-looking as she approached; but the superiority
might have been a growth of the imagination aided by
<br/>Tess was now carried along upon the wings of the hours,
without the sense of a will. The word had been given;
the number of the day written down. Her naturally
bright intelligence had begun to admit the fatalistic
convictions common to field-folk and those who
associate more extensively with natural phenomena than
with their fellow-creatures; and she accordingly
drifted into that passive responsiveness to all things
her lover suggested, characteristic of the frame of
<br/>But she wrote anew to her mother, ostensibly to notify
the wedding-day; really to again implore her advice.
It was a gentleman who had chosen her, which perhaps
her mother had not sufficiently considered. A
post-nuptial explanation, which might be accepted with
a light heart by a rougher man, might not be received
with the same feeling by him. But this communication
brought no reply from Mrs Durbeyfield.
<br/>Despite Angel Clare's plausible representation to
himself and to Tess of the practical need for their
immediate marriage, there was in truth an element of
precipitancy in the step, as became apparent at a later
date. He loved her dearly, though perhaps rather
ideally and fancifully than with the impassioned
thoroughness of her feeling for him. He had
entertained no notion, when doomed as he had thought to
an unintellectual bucolic life, that such charms as he
beheld in this idyllic creature would be found behind
the scenes. Unsophistication was a thing to talk of;
but he had not known how it really struck one until he
came here. Yet he was very far from seeing his future
track clearly, and it might be a year or two before he
would be able to consider himself fairly started in
life. The secret lay in the tinge of recklessness
imparted to his career and character by the sense that
he had been made to miss his true destiny through the
prejudices of his family.
<br/>"Don't you think 'twould have been better for us to
wait till you were quite settled in your midland farm?"
she once asked timidly. (A midland farm was the idea
<br/>"To tell the truth, my Tess, I don't like you to be
left anywhere away from my protection and sympathy."
<br/>The reason was a good one, so far as it went. His
influence over her had been so marked that she had
caught his manner and habits, his speech and phrases,
his likings and his aversions. And to leave her in
farmland would be to let her slip back again out of
accord with him. He wished to have her under his
charge for another reason. His parents had naturally
desired to see her once at least before he carried her
off to a distant settlement, English or colonial; and
as no opinion of theirs was to be allowed to change his
intention, he judged that a couple of months' life with
him in lodgings whilst seeking for an advantageous
opening would be of some social assistance to her at
what she might feel to be a trying ordeal—her
presentation to his mother at the Vicarage.
<br/>Next, he wished to see a little of the working of a
flour-mill, having an idea that he might combine the use
of one with corn-growing. The proprietor of a large old
water-mill at Wellbridge—once the mill of an
Abbey—had offered him the inspection of his
time-honoured mode of procedure, and a hand in the
operations for a few days, whenever he should choose to
come. Clare paid a visit to the place, some few miles
distant, one day at this time, to inquire particulars,
and returned to Talbothays in the evening. She found
him determined to spend a short time at the Wellbridge
flour-mills. And what had determined him? Less the
opportunity of an insight into grinding and bolting
than the casual fact that lodgings were to be obtained
in that very farmhouse which, before its mutilation,
had been the mansion of a branch of the d'Urberville
family. This was always how Clare settled practical
questions; by a sentiment which had nothing to do with
them. They decided to go immediately after the
wedding, and remain for a fortnight, instead of
journeying to towns and inns.
<br/>"Then we will start off to examine some farms on the
other side of London that I have heard of," he said,
"and by March or April we will pay a visit to my father
<br/>Questions of procedure such as these arose and passed,
and the day, the incredible day, on which she was to
become his, loomed large in the near future. The
thirty-first of December, New Year's Eve, was the date.
His wife, she said to herself. Could it ever be?
Their two selves together, nothing to divide them,
every incident shared by them; why not? And yet why?
<br/>One Sunday morning Izz Huett returned from church,
and spoke privately to Tess.
<br/>"You was not called home this morning."
<br/>"It should ha' been the first time of asking to-day,"
she answered, looking quietly at Tess. "You meant to
be married New Year's Eve, deary?"
<br/>The other returned a quick affirmative.
<br/>"And there must be three times of asking. And now
there be only two Sundays left between."
<br/>Tess felt her cheek paling; Izz was right; of course
there must be three. Perhaps he had forgotten! If so,
there must be a week's postponement, and that was
unlucky. How could she remind her lover? She who had
been so backward was suddenly fired with impatience and
alarm lest she should lose her dear prize.
<br/>A natural incident relieved her anxiety. Izz mentioned
the omission of the banns to Mrs Crick, and Mrs Crick
assumed a matron's privilege of speaking to Angel on
<br/>"Have ye forgot 'em, Mr Clare? The banns, I mean."
<br/>"No, I have not forgot 'em," says Clare.
<br/>As soon as he caught Tess alone he assured her:
<br/>"Don't let them tease you about the banns. A licence
will be quieter for us, and I have decided on a licence
without consulting you. So if you go to church on
Sunday morning you will not hear your own name, if you
<br/>"I didn't wish to hear it, dearest," she said proudly.
<br/>But to know that things were in train was an immense
relief to Tess notwithstanding, who had well-nigh
feared that somebody would stand up and forbid the
banns on the ground of her history. How events were
<br/>"I don't quite feel easy," she said to herself. "All
this good fortune may be scourged out of me afterwards
by a lot of ill. That's how Heaven mostly does. I
wish I could have had common banns!"
<br/>But everything went smoothly. She wondered whether he
would like her to be married in her present best white
frock, or if she ought to buy a new one. The question
was set at rest by his forethought, disclosed by the
arrival of some large packages addressed to her.
Inside them she found a whole stock of clothing, from
bonnet to shoes, including a perfect morning costume,
such as would well suit the simple wedding they
planned. He entered the house shortly after the
arrival of the packages, and heard her upstairs undoing
<br/>A minute later she came down with a flush on her face
and tears in her eyes.
<br/>"How thoughtful you've been!" she murmured, her cheek
upon his shoulder. "Even to the gloves and
handkerchief! My own love—how good, how kind!"
<br/>"No, no, Tess; just an order to a tradeswoman in
<br/>And to divert her from thinking too highly of him, he
told her to go upstairs, and take her time, and see if
it all fitted; and, if not, to get the village
sempstress to make a few alterations.
<br/>She did return upstairs, and put on the gown. Alone,
she stood for a moment before the glass looking at the
effect of her silk attire; and then there came into her
head her mother's ballad of the mystic robe—
That never would become that wife<br/>
That had once done amiss,<br/>
which Mrs Durbeyfield had used to sing to her as a
child, so blithely and so archly, her foot on the
cradle, which she rocked to the tune. Suppose this
robe should betray her by changing colour, as her robe
had betrayed Queen Guinevere. Since she had been at the
dairy she had not once thought of the lines till now.
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