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5

 

The chickens for which Tess was responsible lived in an old cottage on Mrs dUrberville's landOn her first day Tess had to take some of the chickens to show to their ownerShe immediately realized the old lady was blindMrs dUrberville held each bird and felt it carefully to see that it was in good healthAt the end she suddenly asked Tess a question

Can you whistle?’

WhistleMaam?’

Yeswhistle tunesI want you to practise and whistle to my birds every day.’

YesMaam.’

Tess was not surprised at Mrs dUrberville's cold mannerand did not expect any more of such a great ladyHowevershe did not realize that the old lady had never even heard about the family connection

Tess began to enjoy her new work with the chickensand the next day in the cottage garden she decided to practise whistling as instructedShe was shocked to find that she had completely forgotten how to whistleSuddenly she noticed a movement behind a tree near the wallIt was Alec dUrberville

Wellcousin Tess,’he said,‘I've never seen such a beautiful thing as youI've been watching you from over the wallLookI can give you a lesson or two.’

Oh no you won't!’cried Tessgoing back towards the door

Don't worryI won't touch youJust look…’and he showed her how to whistleFrom that moment Tess found she could whistle tunes to the birds just as Mrs dUrberville wantedAnd as the weeks passed she often met dUrberville in the garden and began to lose her shyness of him

Every Saturday night the other farm workers from the surrounding area used to go to drink and dance in the market town two or three miles away On Sundays they would sleep lateFor a long time Tess did not go with themBut after a while she wanted a change from her routine and began to go on the weekly trips regularlyShe always came home with the others at night preferring the protection of being in a groupOne Saturday night she was in the town looking for her companions as it was time to go homewhen she met Alec dUrberville

Whatmy beautyHere so late?’he saidsmiling at her

I'm just waiting for my friends,’she answered

I'll see you again,’he said as she moved away

She became worried when she realized the workers were still dancing wildly and would not be going home soonAgain she caught sight of Alecwaiting in a doorwayhis cigar glowing red in the darkEventually she joined a group wandering homeThey had all been drinkingbut she felt safer with them than aloneBut after a while she became involved in a quarrel with themand was trying to get away from the angry groupwhen Alec dUrberville rode byHe offered to take her home on the back of his horseShe hesitatedtthen accepted

Together they rode along in the darkTess holding on to AlecShe was very tiredevery day that week she had got up at fiveSo she did not notice that they were riding off the main road and into The Chasethe oldest wood in EnglandIt began to get foggyand finally Alec admitted honestly that he was lost

Put me down heresir,’cried Tess at once.‘Let me walk home from hereHow wrong of you to bring me away from the main roadI knew I shouldn't trust you!’

Don't worrymy beauty,’laughed Alec.‘I thought you would enjoy a longer ride on such a lovely nightBut I can't let you goThe fog is so bad now that you couldn't possibly find your wayI'll leave you here and go to find out where we areWhen I come backI'll tell youand you can come with me on horseback or go alone on footjust as you like.’

She agreed to this.‘Shall I hold the horse?’she asked

Nohe'll stay quiet,’answered Alec.‘By the way your father has a new horse todayAnd the children have some new toys.’

Was itwas it you who gave themOhhow good of you!’murmured Tess with a heavy heart.‘I almost wish you hadn't!’

Tessydon't you love me just a little now?’

I'm grateful,’she admitted,‘but I'm afraid I don't…’and slowly she started to cry

Now don't crymy dearSit here and wait for me.’He made a bed for the tired girl among the dead leaves and covered her with his coatHe set off into the fog to find out where he wasand came back to find Tess fast asleep He saw her in her white dress among the leaves a paleshining figure in the darkHe bent down and touched her cheek with hisEverywhere there was darkness and silenceThe birds and animals sleptsafe in and under the treesBut who was looking after TessWho was protecting her innocence

Tess!’said dUrbervilleand lay down beside herThe girl was not strong enough to resist him

Why was Tess's girlish purity lostWhy does the wrong man take the wrong womanWhy do the bad so often ruin the good Why is beauty damaged by uglinessThousands of years of philosophy cannot give us the answers to these questionsThese things happen and have always happened Perhaps in the pastrolling home after a battleTess's ancestorsthe real dUrbervilleshad done the sameeven more cruellyto young country girlsBut we cannot accept that that is Tess's faultand should happen to herAs the people of her village say,‘It was to be.’And from now onTess's life was to be completely different

 


 

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