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A New Life

 

8

 

And so it was that on a beautiful morning in Maytwo to three years after her return from TrantridgeTess Durbeyfield left home for the second timeShe was going in the opposite direction this timeWhen she reached the first hillshe looked back at Marlott and her father's house with sadness in her heart

She travelled partly by carriage and partly on footcarrying her basketNot far to her left she could see the trees which surrounded Kingsberewith its church where her ancestors lay in their tombsShe could no longer admire or respect them She almost hated them for ruining her lifeNothing of theirs was left except the old seal and spoon

HuhI have as much of mother as father in me!’she said

All my prettiness comes from herand she was only a dairymaid.’

Her walk took two hoursuntil she reached the hill overlooking the Valley of the Great Dairies This valley was watered by the river Froomand produced huge amounts of milk and buttermore even than Tess's Vale of Blackmoor which was known as the Vale of Little Dairies

As she stood and lookedshe realized the valleys were quite differentHere the fields and farms were much larger She saw more cows at a glance than she had ever seen beforeThe evening sun shone on their redwhite and brown bodiesShe thought that this view was perhaps not as beautiful as a view of Blackmoor Valewhich she knew so wellThere the sky was deep bluethe smell of the earth was heavy in the airthe streams ran slowly and silentlyBut this view was more cheerful Here the air was clear and light and the river Froom rushed as fast as the shadow of a cloud

Either the change in the quality of the airor the feeling that she was going to start a new life here made her feel much happierShe ran along her hopes and the sunshine warming her

She looked at her best as she ran laughing into the warm windThe desire for pleasure which is in every living thing had finally won over Tess She wasafter allonly a young woman of twenty who had not finished growing up No eventhowever unpleasantcould have marked her for ever She was young and strong and beautiful and could not remain sad for long

Her hopes rose higher than ever She wanted to show how grateful she was for this second chanceShe started singing love songsbut found they were not enough to express her feelingsShe remembered the Sunday mornings of her girlhoodand sang:‘Oh sun and moon Oh stars Oh children of men Praise the Lord Praise Him for ever!’ until she stopped suddenly and murmured But perhaps I don't quite know the Lord yet.’

This was probably a pagan feeling in a religious form People who live in the country and are close to nature like Tesskeep many of the pagan ideas of their ancestors in their soulsReligion learned in church comes much later and does not touch them deeply

Tess was happy to be making her way independently in life She really wanted to live honestly and work hardunlike her fatherTess had her mother's energy and the energy of her youth to help her recover from her experience Women do usually live through such experiences.‘Where there's life there's hope is still true for mostbetrayedwomen

As Tessfull of enthusiasmcame downhill towards the dairyshe suddenly heard the milking callagain and again from all parts of the valleyIt was halfpast four when the dairy people brought in the cows Tess followed the red and white animalswith their great bags of milk under theminto the farmyard She saw the long sheds and the wooden posts shining and smooth where the cows had rubbed against them over the years She saw the cows between the poststhe sun throwing their shadows on the wall as carefully as a painter paints a beautiful king or queenAs the cows waited for their turnthe milk fell in drops on the ground

The dairymaids and men had come from their cottages as they saw the cows arriving from the fields Each girl sat on her threelegged stool as she milkedher right cheek resting on the cow's bodywatching Tess arriveThe men milked with their hats low over their eyes and did not see herOne of them was a middleaged manthe headdairyman she was looking forHe worked six days a week in his white milking clothes milking and buttermaking and on the seventh he wore his best suit to take his family proudly to church Because of this people nearby used to say

Dairyman Dick

All the week

On Sundays Mister Richard Crick

Most dairymen are usually badtempered at milking time but Mr Crick was glad to get a new dairymaid at this busy time of the yearSo he received Tess warmly and asked her how her family were

When I was a boy I knew your part of the country very well,’be said.‘An old woman of ninetyshe's dead now but she used to live near hereshe once told me there was an ancient noble family of a name like yourswho came from here originallyBut I didn't take any notice of an old woman like that.’

Oh no that's just a story,’said Tess

Then Mr Crick turned to business.‘You can milk wellmy girlI don't want my cows drying upespecially just now.’

Oh yesI can,’answered Tess

He looked at her delicate hands and pale face

Quite sure you're strong enough for this sort of life It's comfortable enough here for rough country people but it's hard work.’

Oh yesI'm strong enough I'm used to hard work,’Tess insisted

Wellhave some tea and something to eatYou've had a long journey,’he said kindly

NoI'd rather begin milking straight away,’said Tess I'll just drink a little milk first.’

This surprised Dairyman Crickwho appeared never to have thought of milk as a drink

Ohif you can swallow ithave some,’he saidholding the bucket for her to drink from.‘I haven't touched any for years It would lie in my stomach like a stoneso it would Nowtry that one and see how you get on.’And he pointed to the nearest cow

As soon as Tess was on her stool under the cow and the milk was pouring between her fingers into the bucketshe really felt that her new life was beginning As she relaxedshe looked around her

It was a large dairyThere were nearly a hundred milking cowsDairyman Crick milked six or eight of the difficult ones with his own hands He could not trust them to the dairymaids because if the cows were badly milked their milk would simply dry up

For a while there was no more talk among the milkers Suddenly Mr Crick got up from his stool

We're not getting as much milk from them as usual,’he said.‘We'd better sing them a song friends that's the only thing to do.’So the group of milkers started singingto encourage the cows to give more

Mr Crick went on,‘But I think bulls like music better than cowsDid I tell you all about William Dewy On his way home after a wedding he found himself in a field with an angry bull He took his violin and played some Christmas church music and down went the bull on his knees Just like the animals around baby Jesus And so William was able to escape.’

It's a curious storyIt takes us back to the pastwhen belief in God was a living thing.’This unusual remark came from under a cow

Well it's quite true sir believe it or notI knew the man well,’said Mr Crick

Oh yes I'm sure it's true,’said the man behind the brown cowTess could not see his faceand could not understand why the headdairyman himself should call him sirThe man stayed under the cow long enough to milk threeat times saying something angrily to himselfThen he stood up stretching his armsTess could now see him clearly He wore the clothes of a dairyman but underneath he was quite differentHe looked educated and gentlemanly

But now she realized that she had seen him before He was one of the three walking brothers who had stopped their walk to admire the MayDay dance in Marlott a few years before He had danced with some of the other girls but not with her He had not noticed her and had gone on his way For a moment she was worried that if he recognized her he might discover her story But she soon saw he did not remember her at all Since she had seen him in Marlotthis face had grown more thoughtful He now had a young man's moustache and beard From the time he had spent milking one cowhe was clearly a beginner at dairy work

Tess discovered that only two or three of the dairymaids slept in the housebesides herselfThey all shared a big bedroom near the cheese room That night one of the girls insisted on telling Tess about all the people at the dairy To Tesshalf asleep the whispers seemed to be floating in the air

Mr Angel Clarehe's the one who's learning milking he's a parson's son and thinks a lot and doesn't notice girls His father is parson at Emminstersome way from hereHis sonsexcept Mr Clareare going to be parsons too.’

Tess gradually fell asleep

 


 

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