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10

 

Dairyman Crick insisted that all the dairy people should milk different cows every day not just their favourites He was worried that a dairymaid might leave the dairy and then her cows would not like being milked by a stranger However Tess began to find that the cows which came to her usually happened to be her favourites This made her milking much easier But she soon realized that it was not by chance as it was Angel Clare who sent the cows in for milking

Mr Clareyou have sent me my favourite cows!’she accused him one morning blushing

Well it doesn't matter,’ said he.‘ You will always be here to milk them.’

Do you think soI hope I shallBut I don't know.’Afterwards she was angry with herself She had spoken too seriously to him as if he were involved in her staying or leaving In the evening after milking she walked in the garden alone thinking about it

It was a typical summer evening in June The air was delicate and there was a complete absolute silence It was broken by the sound of a harp The notes floated in the still air strong and clear Tess listened like a fascinated bird She drew near to Clare who still had not seen her She was conscious of neither time nor space The tune moved through her mind and body bringing tears to her eyes The waves of colour of the wild flowers mixed with the waves of soundAngel finished playing and caught sight of her She blushed and moved away

Why are you going Tess?’he asked.‘Are you afraid?’

Oh no sir not of outdoor things.’

But indoors?’

Well yes sir.’

Life in general?’

Yessir.’

Ah so am Ivery often Being alive is rather seriousdon't you think so?’

It is now you put it like that.’

All the same I wouldn't expect a young girl like you to feel that Why Come tell me.’

After a moment's hesitation she answered,‘The trees ask questions with their eyes don't they And you seem to see hundreds of tomorrows all in a linethe first big and clear the others getting smaller But they all look fierce and cruel But you can drive away all these ideas with your music sir!’

He was surprised to find that this dairymaid had such sad thoughts She was expressing in her own words the ache of modern life This sadness made her more interesting to himHe did not know that her experience had given her great strength of feeling Tess on the other hand could not understand why a man of religious family good education and financial independence should feel sorry to be alive How could this admirable and poetic man have felt as she did two or three years ago that he would rather die It was true that he was not at present living among gentlemen But he was studying what he wanted to know and would become a rich farmer in time Soas they neither understood each other's secrets they were both puzzled and waited to find out more

At first Tess regarded Angel as an intelligence rather than a man She became quite depressed as she realized the distance between her own knowledge and his One day he asked her why she looked so sad

Oh it's only that I feel I've been wasting my life When I see what you know I feel what a nothing I am!’

Well my dear Tess,’ said Angel with some enthusiasm,‘I shall be only too glad to help you study history for example…’

I don't know What's the use of learning that I'm one of a long row and that my past and future are like thousands of other people's But there's one thing I'd like to knowwhy the sun shines on the good and the bad just the same,’ she said her voice trembling

OhTessdon't be bitter!’Of course he had wondered this himself in the past But as he looked at her innocent lips he thought this pure child of nature could only have picked up the question from others She could not possibly have any guilt in her past

When he had gone Tess felt again how stupid she must appear to himShe wondered whether she could gain his respect by telling him of her dUrberville blood She first asked the dairyman if Mr Clare was interested in old families who had lost their money and land

No,’said Mr Crick firmly He's a rebel and the one thing he hates is an old family.’After hearing this not very accurate view of Clare's opinions poor Tess was glad she had not mentioned her ancestors

That summer Tess and Clare unconsciously studied each other balanced on the edge of a passion yet just keeping out of it But all the time like two streams in a valley they were destined to joinTess had never been so happy as she was now and perhaps never would be so again They met continuallyThey could not help itThey met daily in the half-light at three oclock in the morning just before milking They felt they were the first two up in the whole world like Adam and Eve Tess seemed like a queen to Clare perhaps because he knew that she was the most beautiful woman walking about at this time of day Lovely women are usually asleep at midsummer sunrise But Tess was near and the rest were nowhere In the strange light she was no longer a milkmaid but a vision of woman the whole of womanhood in one form

One day just after breakfast they all gathered in the milkhouse The milk was turning in the churn but the butter would not comeDairyman Crick was worried

Maybe someone in the house is in love,’suggestea his wife.‘That sometimes causes it Dyou remember that maid years ago and the butter didn't come…?’

Ah yes but that wasn't being in love,’replied Mr Crick.‘That was damage to the churn.’He turned to Clare to tell the story

Jack Dollop one of our milkers got a girl into troubleOne day her mother came looking for him with a great heavy umbrella in her handJack hid in the churnbut she found him and turned it round and round.“ Stopstop!” cried Jack.“If you promise to marry my daughter!”shouted the motherAnd so he did.’

Tess very pale had gone to the door for some fresh airFortunately the butter suddenly came But Tess remained depressed all afternoonTo the others the story was funnyShe alone could see the sorrow in it and it reminded her of her experience

Tess was first in bed that night and was half asleep as the other girls undressed She saw them standing at the window looking at someone in the garden with great interest

It's no use you being in love with him any more than meRetty Priddle,’ said Marian the eldest

There he is again!’cried lzz Huett a pale girl with dark hair.‘ I would just marry him tomorrow if he asked me,’said Marian blushing

So would I and more,’murmured Izz

And I too,’whispered Retty shyly

We can't all marry him,’said Izz

We can't anyway,’said Marian.‘He likes Tess Durbeyfield best I've watched him every day and found it out.’

There was a thoughtful silence

How silly this all is!’said Izz impatiently He's a gentleman's son He won't marry any of us or Tess either!’They all sighed and crept into their beds and fell asleep But Tess with her deeper feelings could not sleep She knew Angel Clare preferred her to the others She was more attractive better educated and more womanly She could keep his affection for her But should she Perhaps the others should have a chance of attracting his attention and even of marrying himShe had heard from Mrs Crick that Mr Clare had spoken of marrying a country girl to help him farm milk cows and reap cornTess had promised herself she would never marry and would never be tempted to do so She ought to leave the field open for the other girls

Next morning Dairyman Crick sent all the dairy people out into a field to search for garlic plants One bite by one cow was enough to make the whole day's butter taste of garlicIt was not by accident that Clare walked next to Tess

Don't they look pretty?’she said to him

Who?’

Izzy Huett and Retty.’She had decided that either would make a good farmer's wife

Pretty Well yes I have often thought so

They are excellent dairywomen

Yesthough not better than you.’Clare observed them

She is blushing,’continued Tess bravely,‘because you are looking at her.’She could hardly sayMarry one of them if you really don't want a fine lady Don't think of marrying me!’From now on she tried to avoid spending time with Angel She gave the other three every chance

 


 

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