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The Result

 

12

 

The nights were as hot as the days Angel Clare could not sleep He went out into the darkness to think over what had happened that afternoon He had come as a student of farming to this dairy thinking he would be here only a short time He thought it would be a quiet place From here he could observe the great world outside before plunging back into it But the world outside had lost its interest and the quiet place was now the centre of all feeling

Clare was a thoughtful honest man He knew Tess was not a toy to play with and throw away when finished with Her life was as important to her as his was to him He knew he must treat her affection for him seriously But if they went on meeting every day their relationship must develop he could not stop himselfAs he had not decided what purpose their relationship should have he decided that for the moment they should meet as little as possible But it was not easy to keep to this decisionHe was driven towards her by the heat in his blood

He thought he would go and see his familyIn less than five months he would have finished his studies here After a few more months on other farms he would be ready to start farming himself Shouldn't a farmer's wife be a woman who understood farming

He rode along the narrow road towards Emminster and his parents house His eyes were looking not at the road but at next year He loved her ought he to marry her What would his mother and brothers say What would he himself say two years after the wedding

As he rode into the village he saw a group of young girls waiting outside the church Walking quickly to join them was Miss Mercy Chant only daughter of his father's neighbourHis parents quietly hoped Angel would marry Mercy one day She was very good at giving Bible classes but in Angel's mind was the face of the pretty milkmaid who hardly ever thought of God

His family were delightedthough surprisedto see himAngel was glad to be at homeand yet he did not feel so much part of the family as he used to His father's religious belief was very strict but he was a kind honest man and fond of his sons However he would have been shocked to know of the pagan pleasure in nature and pretty womanhood experienced by Angel His mother shared his father's religious views and helped in his church work His brothers seemed rather unimaginative and narrow-minded although they were both well educatedthey felt that anybody outside the Church or university could not be respected

As he walked with his brothers Angel felt that however lucky they were to have a university education neither of them really saw life as it was lived They thought farming was a poor man's job not suitable for a gentleman Angel felt all the more determined to keep to his choice

In the evening he spoke to his father alone after prayers Mr Clare told his son he had been saving the money he would have spent on his university education for him This encouraged Angel to ask his father what sort of wife a farmer needed

A really Christian woman Nothing else mattersFor examplemy neighbour Dr Chant…’

But isn't the main thing that she should be able to milk cowschurn good butter value animals and direct farm workers?’

Mr Clare had clearly never thought of this before

Yesyes certainly But I was going to say that you will never find a purer woman than Mercy Chant Your mother and I would be very happy if you…’

YesyesMercy is good I knowButfatherdon't you think that one who is just as good and pureand who understands farm life as well as the farmer would be much better?’

After much discussion Angel got down to detailsHe explained he had met a woman who was ideally suited to be a farmer's wife who went to church reqularly who was honest sensitive intelligent graceful pure as snow and extremely beautiful

Is she of a good family like Mercy?’ asked his surprised mother who had come in during the conversation

She is not what we call a lady,’ said Angel firmly.‘ She is a cottager's daughterWhat's the advantage of good family to me My wife will have to work hard and manage with very little money.’

Mercy is educated That has its charm,’ said his motherlooking at him through her silver glasses

I shall help her with her reading She will learn fast She's full of poetry real poetry She lives what poets only writeAnd she is a good Christian girl I'm sure you'll value her for that.’

His parents already doubted Angel's religious belief so they were almost relieved to hear this of his future wife They told him not to act in a hurry but they would like to see herAlthough Angel was free to marry or not as he wished he did not want to hurt his parents and he accepted their advice

As he set off to return to the dairy and Tess his father rode with him a little way Mr Clare was telling his son about the new dUrberville family who had taken the ancient name and lived near Trantridge There was a young man and his blind mother Preaching in the church there one day Mr Clare had spoken out bravely against the well-known wickedness of young dUrberville who after this had publicly insulted him when they met later

Angel was angry with dUrbervilleDear fatheryou should not let yourself be insulted like that!’

It doesn't matter to me I have a duty to point out where people go wrong Often men have hit me but then at least they haven't hit their families And they live to thank me and praise God.’

I hope this young man does the same!’ said Angel warmly.‘But it doesn't seem likely.’

We'll hope anyway,’said Mr Clare.‘Maybe one of my words may grow like a seed in his heart one day.’

Angel could not accept his father's narrow religious beliefsbut he loved him for his courage He remembered that his father had not once asked whether Tess had money or notThis lack of interest in money meant that all the brothers would probably be poor for ever but Angel still admired his father's belief that money was not important

When he returned to the dairyin the sleepy afternoon heat nobody was awake Getting up so early in the morning meant the milkers really needed a sleep before the afternoon milking It was three oclock time for skimmingThere was a slight noise upstairsthen Tess appeared before his eyesShe did not see him and stretched one arm up above her headShe yawned like a cat and he saw the red inside of her mouth Her whole soul breathed out physical beauty Then her eyes flashed as she recognized him

Oh Mr Clar How you frightened meI…’she saidlooking glad shy and surprised at the same time

Clare stepped forward to put his arms round her

Dear darling Tessy!’he whispered putting his face to her warm cheek.‘Don't call me Mr Clare any more I've hurried back because of you!’

They stood holding each other the sun warming them through the window He looked deep into her eyes of blue and black and grey She looked at him as Eve must have looked at Adam

I must go skimming,’she said Together they went to the milk-house

Perhaps the Talbothays milk was not very well skimmed that afternoon Tess was in a dream as she skimmedThe heat of his love made her feel like a plant under a burning sun

Theres s something very practical that I want to ask you,’he said gently.‘I shall sonn want to marry Being a farmer I need a wife who knows all about farms Will you be that woman Tessy?’

She looked quite worriedShe had accepted that she could not help loving him but she had not expected this resultWith bitter pain she replied as she had promised herself she would

Oh Mr ClareI cannot be your wife I cannot be!’The sound of these words seemed to break her very heart

But Tess!’he said amazed at her answer and holding her still closer.‘Surely you love me?’

Oh yes yes And I would rather be yours than anybody's in the whole world But I cannot marry you!’cried the sweet and honest voice miserably

Tess have you agreed to marry someone else?’

No no!’

Then why do you refuse me?’

Your father is a parson and your mother will want you to marry a lady,’said poor Tess desperately trying to find an excuse

No certainly not that's why I went home to talk to them both.’

I feel I cannotnever never!’

Is it too sudden my pretty I'll give you time I won't mention it again for a while.’

She tried to skim again but her tears fell so that she could not do it She could never explain her sadness even to this her best friend Clare began to talk more generally to calm herHe talked about his father's religious views and the good work he did He mentioned the insults his father had received from a young man near Trantridge who had a blind mother

Tess now looked hard and wornand her mouth was tragicClare did not notice They finished skimming and he said to her softly

And my question Tessy?’

Oh nono!’ she replied hopelessly thinking bitterly of Alec dUrberville.‘ It can't be!’

She went out with the other milkmaids to the cows in the fields Angel watched her moving freely in the air like a swimmer on a waveHe knew he was right to choose a wife from nature not from civilization

 


 

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