<br/>At breakfast Brazil was the topic, and all endeavoured
to take a hopeful view of Clare's proposed experiment
with that country's soil, notwithstanding the
discouraging reports of some farm-labourers who had
emigrated thither and returned home within the twelve
months. After breakfast Clare went into the little
town to wind up such trifling matters as he was
concerned with there, and to get from the local bank
all the money he possessed. On his way back he
encountered Miss Mercy Chant by the church, from whose
walls she seemed to be a sort of emanation. She was
carrying an armful of Bibles for her class, and such
was her view of life that events which produced
heartache in others wrought beatific smiles upon
her—an enviable result, although, in the opinion of
Angel, it was obtained by a curiously unnatural
sacrifice of humanity to mysticism.
<br/>She had learnt that he was about to leave England, and
observed what an excellent and promising scheme it
seemed to be.
<br/>"Yes; it is a likely scheme enough in a commercial
sense, no doubt," he replied. "But, my dear Mercy, it
snaps the continuity of existence. Perhaps a cloister
would be preferable."
<br/>"A cloister! O, Angel Clare!"
<br/>"Why, you wicked man, a cloister implies a monk, and a
monk Roman Catholicism."
<br/>"And Roman Catholicism sin, and sin damnation. Thou
art in a parlous state, Angel Clare."
<br/>"<i>I</i> glory in my Protestantism!" she said severely.
<br/>Then Clare, thrown by sheer misery into one of the
demoniacal moods in which a man does despite to his
true principles, called her close to him, and
fiendishly whispered in her ear the most heterodox
ideas he could think of. His momentary laughter at the
horror which appeared on her fair face ceased when it
merged in pain and anxiety for his welfare.
<br/>"Dear Mercy," he said, "you must forgive me. I think I
am going crazy!"
<br/>She thought that he was; and thus the interview ended,
and Clare re-entered the Vicarage. With the local
banker he deposited the jewels till happier days should
arise. He also paid into the bank thirty pounds—to be
sent to Tess in a few months, as she might require; and
wrote to her at her parents' home in Blackmoor Vale to
inform her of what he had done. This amount, with the
sum he had already placed in her hands—about fifty
pounds—he hoped would be amply sufficient for her
wants just at present, particularly as in an emergency
she had been directed to apply to his father.
<br/>He deemed it best not to put his parents into
communication with her by informing them of her
address; and, being unaware of what had really happened
to estrange the two, neither his father nor his mother
suggested that he should do so. During the day he left
the parsonage, for what he had to complete he wished to
get done quickly.
<br/>As the last duty before leaving this part of England it
was necessary for him to call at the Wellbridge
farmhouse, in which he had spent with Tess the first
three days of their marriage, the trifle of rent having
to be paid, the key given up of the rooms they had
occupied, and two or three small articles fetched away
that they had left behind. It was under this roof that
the deepest shadow ever thrown upon his life had
stretched its gloom over him. Yet when he had unlocked
the door of the sitting-room and looked into it, the
memory which returned first upon him was that of their
happy arrival on a similar afternoon, the first fresh
sense of sharing a habitation conjointly, the first
meal together, the chatting by the fire with joined
<br/>The farmer and his wife were in the field at the moment
of his visit, and Clare was in the rooms alone for some
time. Inwardly swollen with a renewal of sentiment that
he had not quite reckoned with, he went upstairs to her
chamber, which had never been his. The bed was smooth
as she had made it with her own hands on the morning of
leaving. The mistletoe hung under the tester just as
he had placed it. Having been there three or four
weeks it was turning colour, and the leaves and berries
were wrinkled. Angel took it down and crushed it into
the grate. Standing there, he for the first time
doubted whether his course in this conjecture had been
a wise, much less a generous, one. But had he not been
cruelly blinded? In the incoherent multitude of his
emotions he knelt down at the bedside wet-eyed. "O
Tess! If you had only told me sooner, I would have
forgiven you!" he mourned.
<br/>Hearing a footstep below, he rose and went to the top of
the stairs. At the bottom of the flight he saw a woman
standing, and on her turning up her face recognized the
pale, dark-eyed Izz Huett.
<br/>"Mr Clare," she said, "I've called to see you and Mrs
Clare, and to inquire if ye be well. I thought you
might be back here again."
<br/>This was a girl whose secret he had guessed, but who
had not yet guessed his; an honest girl who loved
him—one who would have made as good, or nearly as
good, a practical farmer's wife as Tess.
<br/>"I am here alone," he said; "we are not living here
now." Explaining why he had come, he asked, "Which way
are you going home, Izz?"
<br/>"I have no home at Talbothays Dairy now, sir," she
<br/>"Why is that?"
<br/>Izz looked down.
<br/>"It was so dismal there that I left! I am staying out
this way." She pointed in a contrary direction, the
direction in which he was journeying.
<br/>"Well—are you going there now? I can take you if you
wish for a lift."
<br/>Her olive complexion grew richer in hue.
<br/>"Thank 'ee, Mr Clare," she said.
<br/>He soon found the farmer, and settled the account for
his rent and the few other items which had to be
considered by reason of the sudden abandonment of the
lodgings. On Clare's return to his horse and gig, Izz
jumped up beside him.
<br/>"I am going to leave England, Izz," he said, as they
drove on. "Going to Brazil."
<br/>"And do Mrs Clare like the notion of such a journey?"
<br/>"She is not going at present—say for a year or so.
I am going out to reconnoitre—to see what life there
<br/>They sped along eastward for some considerable
distance, Izz making no observation.
<br/>"How are the others?" he inquired. "How is Retty?"
<br/>"She was in a sort of nervous state when I zid her
last; and so thin and hollow-cheeked that 'a do seem in
a decline. Nobody will ever fall in love wi' her any
more," said Izz absently.
<br/>Izz lowered her voice.
<br/>"Yes. The dairyman has got rid of her."
<br/>"I don't drink, and I bain't in a decline. But—I am
no great things at singing afore breakfast now!"
<br/>"How is that? Do you remember how neatly you used to
turn ''Twas down in Cupid's Gardens' and 'The Tailor's
Breeches' at morning milking?"
<br/>"Ah, yes! When you first came, sir, that was. Not
when you had been there a bit."
<br/>"Why was that falling-off?"
<br/>Her black eyes flashed up to his face for one moment by
way of answer.
<br/>"Izz!—how weak of you—for such as I!" he said, and
fell into reverie. "Then—suppose I had asked <i>you</i> to
<br/>"If you had I should have said 'Yes', and you would
have married a woman who loved 'ee!"
<br/>"Down to the ground!" she whispered vehemently. "O my
God! did you never guess it till now!"
<br/>By-and-by they reached a branch road to a village.
<br/>"I must get down. I live out there," said Izz abruptly,
never having spoken since her avowal.
<br/>Clare slowed the horse. He was incensed against his
fate, bitterly disposed towards social ordinances; for
they had cooped him up in a corner, out of which there
was no legitimate pathway. Why not be revenged on
society by shaping his future domesticities loosely,
instead of kissing the pedagogic rod of convention in
this ensnaring manner?
<br/>"I am going to Brazil alone, Izz," said he. "I have
separated from my wife for personal, not voyaging,
reasons. I may never live with her again. I may not be
able to love you; but—will you go with me instead of
<br/>"You truly wish me to go?"
<br/>"I do. I have been badly used enough to wish for
relief. And you at least love me disinterestedly."
<br/>"Yes—I will go," said Izz, after a pause.
<br/>"You will? You know what it means, Izz?"
<br/>"It means that I shall live with you for the time you
are over there—that's good enough for me."
<br/>"Remember, you are not to trust me in morals now. But
I ought to remind you that it will be wrong-doing in
the eyes of civilization—Western civilization, that is
<br/>"I don't mind that; no woman do when it comes to
agony-point, and there's no other way!"
<br/>"Then don't get down, but sit where you are."
<br/>He drove past the cross-roads, one mile, two miles,
without showing any signs of affection.
<br/>"You love me very, very much, Izz?" he suddenly asked.
<br/>"I do—I have said I do! I loved you all the time we
was at the dairy together!"
<br/>"More than Tess?"
<br/>She shook her head.
<br/>"No," she murmured, "not more than she."
<br/>"Because nobody could love 'ee more than Tess did! …
She would have laid down her life for 'ee. I could do
<br/>Like the prophet on the top of Peor, Izz Huett would
fain have spoken perversely at such a moment, but the
fascination exercised over her rougher nature by Tess's
character compelled her to grace.
<br/>Clare was silent; his heart had risen at these
straightforward words from such an unexpected
unimpeachable quarter. In his throat was something as
if a sob had solidified there. His ears repeated, "<i>She
would have laid down her life for 'ee. I could do no
<br/>"Forget our idle talk, Izz," he said, turning the
horse's head suddenly. "I don't know what I've been
saying! I will now drive you back to where your lane
<br/>"So much for honesty towards 'ee! O—how can I bear
it—how can I—how can I!"
<br/>Izz Huett burst into wild tears, and beat her forehead
as she saw what she had done.
<br/>"Do you regret that poor little act of justice to an
absent one? O, Izz, don't spoil it by regret!"
<br/>She stilled herself by degrees.
<br/>"Very well, sir. Perhaps I didn't know what I was
saying, either, wh—when I agreed to go! I wish—what
<br/>"Because I have a loving wife already."
<br/>"Yes, yes! You have!"
<br/>They reached the corner of the lane which they had
passed half an hour earlier, and she hopped down.
<br/>"Izz—please, please forget my momentary levity!" he
cried. "It was so ill-considered, so ill-advised!"
<br/>"Forget it? Never, never! O, it was no levity to me!"
<br/>He felt how richly he deserved the reproach that the
wounded cry conveyed, and, in a sorrow that was
inexpressible, leapt down and took her hand.
<br/>"Well, but, Izz, we'll part friends, anyhow? You don't
know what I've had to bear!"
<br/>She was a really generous girl, and allowed no further
bitterness to mar their adieux.
<br/>"I forgive 'ee, sir!" she said.
<br/>"Now, Izz," he said, while she stood beside him there,
forcing himself to the mentor's part he was far from
feeling; "I want you to tell Marian when you see her
that she is to be a good woman, and not to give way to
folly. Promise that, and tell Retty that there are more
worthy men than I in the world, that for my sake she is
to act wisely and well—remember the words—wisely and
well—for my sake. I send this message to them as a
dying man to the dying; for I shall never see them
again. And you, Izzy, you have saved me by your honest
words about my wife from an incredible impulse towards
folly and treachery. Women may be bad, but they are
not so bad as men in these things! On that one account
I can never forget you. Be always the good and sincere
girl you have hitherto been; and think of me as a
worthless lover, but a faithful friend. Promise."
<br/>She gave the promise.
<br/>"Heaven bless and keep you, sir. Goodbye!"
<br/>He drove on; but no sooner had Izz turned into the
lane, and Clare was out of sight, than she flung
herself down on the bank in a fit of racking anguish;
and it was with a strained unnatural face that she
entered her mother's cottage late that night. Nobody
ever was told how Izz spent the dark hours that
intervened between Angel Clare's parting from her and
her arrival home.
<br/>Clare, too, after bidding the girl farewell, was
wrought to aching thoughts and quivering lips. But his
sorrow was not for Izz. That evening he was within a
feather-weight's turn of abandoning his road to the
nearest station, and driving across that elevated
dorsal line of South Wessex which divided him from his
Tess's home. It was neither a contempt for her nature,
nor the probable state of her heart, which deterred
<br/>No; it was a sense that, despite her love, as
corroborated by Izz's admission, the facts had not
changed. If he was right at first, he was right now.
And the momentum of the course on which he had embarked
tended to keep him going in it, unless diverted by a
stronger, more sustained force than had played upon him
this afternoon. He could soon come back to her. He
took the train that night for London, and five days
after shook hands in farewell of his brothers at the
port of embarkation.
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