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3

 

Life now became rather difficult for the DurbeyfieldsWithout Prince to carry loadsJohn Durbeyfield could not buy and sell as he used toHe had never worked hard or regularlyand now he only occasionally felt like workingTess wondered how she could help her parentsOne day her mother made a suggestion

It's lucky we've found out about your noble bloodTessDo you know there's a very rich lady called Mrs dUrberville living on the other side of the wood She must be our relationYou must go to her and claim relationship with herand ask for same help in our trouble.’

I wouldn't like to do that,’said Tess.‘If there is such a ladyit would be enough to be friendlyWe can't expect help from her.’

You could persuade anybodymy dearBesidessomething else might happenYou never know.’And her mother nodded wisely

I'd rather try to get work,’said Tess sadly

What do you sayDurbeyfield?’said his wifeturning to him

I don't like my children asking for help,’said he proudly.‘I'm the head of the oldest branch of the family and a noble family like ours shouldn't have to ask for help.’Tess could not accept his reasons for not going

Wellas I killed the horsemotherI suppose I ought to goBut don't start thinking about her finding a husband for me

Who said I had such an idea?’asked Joan innocently

I know youmotherBut I'll go.’

Next morning Tess walked to Shastona town she hardly knewand went on by waggon to TrantridgeThe Vale of Blackmoor was her only world and she had never been far outside the valleyAll the knowledge she had came from her lessons in the village schoolwhich she had left a year or two earlierAs soon as she left school she had tried to earn a little money by helping in the fields or milking cows or making butterShe blamed her mother for thoughtlessly producing so many childrenJoan Durbeyfield was like a child herself and never thought about the futureIt was Tess who worried and worked and felt responsible for her little brothers and sistersSo naturally it was Tess who should represent her family at the dUrberville home

From Trantridge she walked up a hilland turning a cornersaw the houseShe stoppd in amazementIt was large and almost new a rich red against the green of the bushes around itBehind it lay the woods called The Chase an ancient forestThere were greenhouses and well-kept gardensThere was no lack of money here Tess hesitated almost frightened

I thought we were an old family!’she said to herself,‘but this is all new!’She wished she had not come

She was right in a wayAll this was owned by the dUrbervillesor the Stoke-dUrbervilles as they called themselves at firstThe Stokes were a northern business family who took an old-sounding name to add to their own when they moved into the southSo Tess was more of a dUrberville than any of them but did not know it

A young man appeared in the garden He looked about twenty-four and was tall and dark with full red lips and a black moustache curled at the ends

Wellmy beautywhat can I do for you?’he said looking interestedly at her.‘I'm Mr dUrberville.’

It needed all Tess's courage to reply.‘I came to see your mothersir.’

I'm afraid you can't see her She's illWhat do you want to see her about?’

IIit seems so foolish!’

Never mind,’said he kindly.‘I like foolish thingsTry againmy dear.’

I camesirto tell you we are of the same family as you.’

AhaPoor relations?’

Yes.’

Stokes?’

NodUrbervilles.’

Oh yesof courseI mean dUrbervilles.’

We have several proofs that we are dUrbervillesWe have an old silver spoon and a seal at homeBut mother uses the spoon to stir the soupMother said we ought to tell youas we are the oldest branch of the family and we've lost our horse in an accident.’

Very kind of your mother,’said Alec dUrberville,‘and I certainly don't regret it.’He looked admiringly at Tesswhose face blushed a deep pink.‘And so you've come on a friendly visit?’

I suppose I have,’murmured Tess looking uncomfortable

Let us walk round the gardens until you have to go homemy pretty cousin.’Tess wanted to leave as soon as possiblebut the young man insistedHe took her to the greenhouses

Do you like strawberries?’he asked

Yes,’said Tess,‘when they are ready.’

These are ready now,’and so sayingdUrberville picked one and held it to her mouth

No no!’she said.‘I'd rather take it myself.’

But Alec put it into her mouthHe put roses into her hair and filled her basket with strawberries and flowers He gave her food to eatand watched herwhile he quietly smoked a cigarette She looked more adult and womanly than she really wasAlec could not take his eyes off herShe did not know as she smiled innocently at the flowers that behind the cigarette smoke was the cause of future sorrow in her life

What is your name?’asked Alec

Tess DurbeyfieldWe live at Marlott.’

I must see if my mother can find a place for you.’They said goodbye and she set off home carrying her strawberries and flowers

This then was the beginning Why did she have to meet the wrong man and one who was so strongly attracted to herYet to the right man she was only a half-forgotten impression from an evening's dancing in a country fieldIn life the right man to love hardly ever comes at the right time for lovingNature does not often answer a call for love until the caller is tired of callingIn this caseas in millionsit was not the two halves of a perfect whole who metA missing half wandered somewhere elsearriving much laterThis delay was to have tragic results

 


 

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