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Maiden No More




It was a Sunday morning in late October about four months after Tess's arrival at Trantridge and a few weeks after the night ride in The Chase Carrying a heavy basket and bundle Tess was walking towards the hills which divided her from the Valeher place of birth The scenery and people on this side were very different from those in her villageMarlott people mainly thought and travelled northward and westward while on this side people were interested in the east and the south She walked up the same hill which dUrberville had driven down so wildly that June dayOn reaching the top of the hillTess paused and looked for a long time at the familiar green world of homeIt was always beautiful from herebut since she had last seen ither view of life had changedShe had learnt that wickedness existseven where there is beautyand now she could hardly bear to look down into the Vale

Then she looked behind her and saw a carriage coming up the same hill that she had just climbedwith a man leading the horseSoon he caught up with her

Why did you slip away in secret like that?’ asked dUrberville breathlessly.‘I've been driving like mad to catch up with youJust look at my horseYou know nobody would have prevented you from goingI'm going to drive you the rest of the way if you won't come back with me

I won't come back,’she said quietly I thought soWelllet me help you upGive me your basket.’

She stepped up into the carriage and sat beside himShe had no fear of him nowThe reason for this was also the reason for her sorrow They drove alongdUrberville making conversation and Tess thinking her own thoughtsWhen they approached the village of Marlott a tear rolled down her cheek

Why are you crying?’he asked coldly

I was only thinking I was born over there.’

Well we must all be born somewhere.’

I wish I had never been bornthere or anywhere else!’she said quietly

Wellyou shouldn't have come to Trantridge if you didn't want to You didn't come for love of me anyway.’

That's quite trueIf I had ever loved youif I loved you stillI could not hate myself for my weakness as much as I do now.’

He did not look at her

She added,‘I didn't understand your intention until it was too late.’

That's what every woman says.’

How dare you say that!’she cried angrily her eyes flashing at him.‘My GodI could hit youDid you never think that some women may not only say it but feel it?’

All right,’he said laughing,‘I am sorry to hurt youI did wrongI admit itOnly don't keep accusing meI am ready to pay for itYou need never work on the farms again.’

Her lip lifted slightly as she replied,‘I will not take anything from youI cannot!’

One would think you were a queen as well as being one of the real dUrbervilles WellTess dearI suppose I'm a bad sort of man I've always been one and I always will be one But I promise I won't be bad to you again And if anything should happenyou understandif you are in any trouble or need anythingjust drop me a line and I'll send by return whatever you want.’

She stepped down from the carriage and was going to leave himwhen he stopped her and said,‘You're not going to turn away from me like thatdearGomelet me kiss you!’

If you wish,’she answered coldly She offered her cool cheek to himbut her eyes rested on a distant tree as if the kiss had nothing to do with her

You don't give me your lipsTess I'm afraid you'll never love me.’

It's true I have never loved youand I never can.’She added sadly,‘Perhaps I should tell a lie and then I could lead a comfortable lifeBut I have enough honour not to tell that lieIf I loved youI might have a very good reason to tell you soBut I don't.’

Alec sighed heavilyas if this scene were depressing him

wellyou're very sadTessand you have no reason to beYou're still the prettiest girl for miles around Will you come back with me Say you will!’

NeverneverI've made up my mind and I won't come.’

Then goodbye!’and Alec jumped up into his carriage and drove off

Tess did not watch him gobut continued her walk alone It was still early in the day and the sun was not yet giving any warmthTess felt even sadder than the autumn sadness which surrounded her

But soon a man came up behind hera man with a pot of red paint in his hand

Good morning,’he said and offered to carry her basket

You're up early on a Sunday,’he continued

Yes,’said Tess

A day of rest for most people although I do more real work today than in the rest of the week put together.’

Do you?’

In the week I work for manbut on Sunday I work for GodThat's better workdon't you think Wait a momentI have something to do here.’He stopped at a gate and in large red letters on the middle bar of the gate he painted some words from the Bible




In the soft airagainst the gentle green of the trees and the peaceful fields these great red words stared at Tess They pointed a finger at herThis man was a stranger and could not know her story but the words accused her

Do you believe what you paint?’she asked in a low voice

Do I believe those wordsDo I believe I am alive!’

But,’she whisperedtrembling,‘suppose you were forced to do wrong?’

He shook his head.‘I can't answer that questionI paint the words and leave others to think about them in their own hearts.’

I think they are horrible words!’cried Tess.‘I'll take my basket and go on now and she walked away from himher heart beating fast.‘I don't believe God said those things!’she thoughtas she reached her village

There was smoke coming from her father's chimney but seeing the inside of the cottage made her heart acheIt was as poor as everHer mother jumped upsurprised to see her

Wellmy dear Tess!she saidkissing her.‘How are you Have you come home to be married?’

No not for that mother.’

Whatisn't your cousin going to marry you?’

He's not my cousin and he's not going to marry me.’

Her mother looked at her closely.‘Comeyou haven't told me everything.’

Then Tess went up to her motherput her head on Joan's shoulderand told her the whole story

And you haven't persuaded him to marry you!’cried Joan What's the good of going there Why didn't you think of doing some good for your family instead of thinking only of yourself?’

Tess was confused Alec had never mentioned marriage to herBut even if he hadshe would never have accepted him because she did not love himThis made her hate herself for what she had doneShe would certainly never love him in the future She did not quite hate him but did not wish to marry himeven to remain respectable

You ought to have been more careful if you didn't want to marry him!’

Oh mother!’cried the poor girlher heart breaking.‘Why didn't you warn me about menI was a child when I left homeI didn't know how dangerous they can beand you didn't tell me!’

Wellwe must make the best of it,’said her mother.‘It's only human nature after all.’

That afternoon the little cottage was full of Tess's friends girls who lived in the village and who had missed her while she had been awayThey whispered to each other that Tess was sure to marry that handsome gentlemanFortunately Tess did not hear themShe joined in their laughing and talkingand for a short time almost forgot her shame

But the next day was Mondaythe beginning of the working week when there were no best clothes and no visitorsShe awoke with the innocent children asleep around hershe who had lost her innocence She looked into her futureand grew very depressed She knew she had to travel on a longstony road without help or sympathy She had nothing to look forward toand she wanted to die

In the next few weeks however she became more cheerful and went to church one Sunday morning She loved listening to the wellknown tunes and gave herself up to the beauty of the musicShe wondered at the composer's power From the grave he could make a girl like her who had never known himfeel extremes of emotion She sat in a quietdark corner listening to the serviceBut when the village people arrived at church they noticed her and started whispering to each otherShe knew what they were saying and realized she could come to church no more

So she spent almost all her time in her bedroomwhich she shared with the children From here she watched the wind the snowthe rainbeautiful sunsets and full moonsone after anotherPeople began to think she had gone away She only went out after dark to walk in the woods and the fields She was not afraid of the dark or the shadows it was people she was anxious to avoid She was at home on the lonely hills but she felt guilty surrounded by innocent nature When it rained she thought nature was crying at her weaknessand when the midnight wind blew she thought nature was angry with herBut she did not realize that although she had broken an accepted social rule she had done nothing against nature She was as innocent as the sleeping birds in the treesor the small field animals in the hedges



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