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16

 

As the carriage drove on through Blackmoor ValeTess now began to awake from her sorrow and wonder how she could face her parentsShe left the carriage and came into Marlott on footWhen she entered the little cottage her mother was doing the washing as usual

Why Tess!’she cried when she saw her daughter.‘I thought you were marriedReally married this time!’

YesmotherI am.’

Then where's your husband?’

Gone away for a time.’

Gone awayWhen were you married thenTuesdayas you said?’

Yesmother.’

Married on Tuesday and today it's only Saturdayand he's gone awayWhat strange husbands you seem to findTess!’

Mother!’Tess ran across to Joan and put her head on Joan's shoulder.‘You told me I mustn't tell himBut I did-I couldn't help itand he went away!’

Oh you foolyou little fool!’cried her mother

I knowI know,’sobbed Tess.‘But he was so goodI couldn't lie to himAnd if only you knew how much I loved him and how much I wanted to marry him!’

Wellit's too late now,’said Mrs Durbeyfield.‘Whatever will your father say He was very proud of your marriageHe's been telling them at the public house that you'll help his noble family become great againOhthere he is now!’

Tess ran upstairsbut through the thin walls she could hear the whole story being told to Sir John

People will laugh at me in the village!’he said.‘Do you think he really did marry herJoanOr is it like the first?’

Tess could listen no moreEven her own family did not believe herShe could not stayShe gave her mother half the money which Clare had given herand told her family she was going to join himAnd so she left Marlott againlooking for work

Angel Clare also returned homeHe had spent three weeks since his wedding trying to remain calm and continue his studiesbut with the disturbing picture of Tess always in his mindHe was beginning to wonder if he had treated her unfairlyShe had been so much a part of his plans for the future that he was now thinking of countries where they could farm togetherThe idea of Brazil attracted himThe countrysidepeople and habits would be so differentPerhaps they could make a new life there togetherSo he went back to Emminster to tell his parents his new plan

But where's your wifedear Angel?’cried his mother when he arrived

She's at her mother's for the momentI've come home in rather a hurrybecause I've decided to go to Brazil.’

BrazilBut they're all Roman Catholics there!’

Are theyI hadn't thought of that.’

But Mr and Mrs Clare were even more interested in their son's marriage than in Brazil's religion

Angelwe do want to meet your wifeWe are not in the least angry about this rather hurried weddingso why haven't you brought herIt seems strange.’

Angel explained that she would be staying at her mother's while he went to Brazil alone to see if the country was suitableHe planned to bring her to meet his parents before he went there a second timewith herBut his mother was disappointed at not seeing TessShe watched her son as he ateand asked questions

Is she very pretty?’

She certainly is!’

And a maiden of course?’

Of course.’

I imagine you were her first love?’

Exactly.’

His father asked no questionsbut when the moment for evening prayers arrivedhe chose a passage from the Bible

This passage is very suitableas you are hereAngelIt is in praise of a pure wife.’

We shall all think of her as your father reads it,’ added his motherAs they listened to the ancientbeautiful wordsAngel felt like crying

His mother said,‘You seeAngelthe perfect womanthe Bible tells usis a working womannot a fine ladya girl just like your wifeA girl who uses her hands and heart and head for othersI wish I could have met herAngelAs she is pureshe is fine enough for me.’

Clare's eyes were full of tearsHe quickly said goodnight and went to his roomHis mother followed and stood at his door looking anxiously at him

Angelwhy are you going away so soonHave you quarrelled with your wife in these three weeksAngelis she is she a woman with a past?’The mother's instinct had found the cause of her son's worries

She is totally pure!’he repliedand felt that he had to tell that lieeven if he went to hell there and then for it

Then never mind the restThere are few better things in nature than a pure country girl.’

Clare felt furious with Tessbecause she had forced him to deceive his parentsThen he remembered her sweet voice and the touch of her fingers on his faceand her warm breath on his lipsBut this wellmeaning young mandespite his advanced ideaswas still limited in his thinkingHe could not see that Tess was in character as pure as the pure wife in the Bible

The next day Clare left Emminster and began to prepare for his journey to BrazilOne dayreturning from doing some business with a farmerhe happened to meet one of the dairymaids from TalbothaysIzz HuettHe knew her secretshe was an honest girl who loved him and who might have made as good a farmer's wife as TessHe learnt from Izz thatof the other dairymaidsRetty had become illand Marian had started drinkingAnd Izz herself

Suppose I had asked you to marry meIzz?’he asked

I would have saidyes”,and you would have had a woman who loved you!’

A wild anger took hold of ClareSociety and its rules had trapped him in a cornerWhy shouldn't he take his revenge on society

I'm going to BrazilIzzwithout TessWe have separated for personal reasonsI may never be able to love youbut will you come with me?’

YesI will,’said Izz after a pause

You know it's wrong in the eyes of the worlddon't youDo you love me very muchMore than Tess?’

I doyesohI do love youbut not more than TessNobody couldShe would have laid down her life for you.’

Clare was silentA sob rose inside himHe heard Izz's words again and again in his headShe would have laid down her life for you

I'm sorryIzz,’he said suddenly.‘Please forget what I said just nowI must be mad!’

Oh please take meOhI shouldn't have been so honest!’sobbed Izz

Izzby your honesty you have saved me from doing something wickedThank you for thatAnd please forgive me!’

And so Angel said goodbye to the miserable girlBut he did not turn towards Tess's villageHe continued with his planand five days later left the country for Brazil

And so the months passedTess found occasional dairy work for the spring and summerShe sent all Angel's money to her familywho as usual had many expenses and hardly any incomeShe was too proud to ask Angel's family for more moneyThat winter she went to work at another farmwhere Marian was workingHere the earth was poorand the work was difficultBut Tess did not mind the hard work in the fieldsAs she and Marian dug out the vegetables in the pouring rainthey talked of Talbothays and of the sunny green fields and of Angel ClareTess did not tell Marian everythingso Marian could not understand why the couple were apart

They wrote to Izzasking her to join them if she had no other workIt was the coldest winter for yearsbut Tess and Marian had to go on working in the snowTess realized that the farmer was the same Trantridge man who had recognized her in the market townand had been knocked down by AngelHe made her work twice as hard as the others

When Izz cameTess saw her whispering to MarianTess had a feeling it was important.‘Is it about my husband?’she asked Marian later

Well yesIzz said I shouldn't tellBut he asked her to run away to Brazil with him!’

Tess's face went as white as the snow on the ground

What happened?’

He changed his mindBut he was going to take her!’

Tess burst out crying.‘I must write to himIt's my faultI shouldn't have left it to himHe said I could write to himI've been neglecting him!’

But in the eveningin her roomshe could not finish her letter to himShe looked at her wedding ringwhich she wore round her neck in the dayand kept on her finger all nightWhat kind of husband would ask Izz to go to Brazil with him so soon after parting from his wife

But this new information made her think again of visiting Angel's family in EmminsterShe wanted to know why he had not written to herShe could meet his parentswho would surely be kind to her in her lonelinessSo she decided to walk there from the farm at FlintcombAsh on a Sunday her only free dayIt was fifteen miles each wayShe dressed in her bestencouraged by Marian and Izzwho sent her on her way at four oclock in the morningThe girls sincerely loved Tess and wished for her happinessIt was a year since her weddingand on that bright cold morning her unspoken hope was to win over her husband's family and so persuade him back to her

Although she started cheerfullyshe began to lose her courage as she approached EmminsterThe church looked forbiddingPerhaps the rather strict parson would not approve of her travelling so far on a SundayBut she had to go onShe took off her thick walking boots and hid them behind a treechanging into her pretty shoesShe would collect the boots on the way out of town

She took a deep breath and rang the bell at the parson's houseNobody answeredShe tried againSilenceIt was almost with relief that she turned and walked awayThen she suddenly remembered that they must all be at churchSo she waited in a quiet part of the street until people began to stream out of churchShe immediately recognized Angel's brothers and even overheard some of their conversation

Poor Angel!’one of them said.‘There's that nice girlMercy ChantWhy on earth didn't he marry her instead of rushing into marriage with a dairymaid?’

It's certainly very strangeBut his ideas have always been most odd.’

They joined Mercy Chant as she came out of churchand walked together along the road Tess had walked into Emminster

Lookhere's a pair of old boots,’said one of the brothersnoticing Tess's boots behind the tree

Excellent walking bootsI see,’said Miss Chant.‘How wicked to throw them awayGive them to meI'll find a poor person who would like them.’

Tess walked quickly past themtears running down her faceShe continued walking as fast as she could away from EmminsterHow unlucky that she had met the sons and not the fatherAngel's parents would have taken poor lonely Tess to their hearts immediatelyas they did every other lost soulwithout thought of family or education or wealth

She grew more and more tired and depressed as she walked the fifteen miles back to FlintcombAshwhere only hard work awaited herBut on the way she noticed a crowd listening to a preacher and she stopped for a while to join themThe preacher was describing with enthusiasm how he had been wicked for years and how a certain parson had pointed it out to himthis had gradually turned him from wickednessBut Tess was more shocked by the voice than the wordsShe moved round behind the crowd to look at his faceAs the afternoon sun shone full on him she recognized Alec dUrberville

 


 

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