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18

 

This desperate cry for help eventually arrived at the parson's house in EmminsterOld Mr Clare was pleased

I think this letter is from Angel's wifeI hope this will bring him home more quicklyHe did say he was planning to come home next month.’

Dear boyI hope he will get home safely,’murmured Mrs Clare.‘I still feel he should have gone university like the other twoHe should have had the same chance as themChurch or no Church.’

This was the only complaint she ever made to her husbandHe too was worried that he had been unfair to AngelThey blamed themselves for this unfortunate marriageIf Angel had studied at Cambridge he would never have become a farmer and married a country girlStillhis more recent letters showed that Angel was planning to come home to fetch her so perhaps their quarrelwhatever it was could be settled

Angel himself was at this moment riding across Brazil towards the coastHe had never completely recovered from the serious illness he had had when he first arrivedHe was not as strong as beforeand looked much olderThe country had been a disappointment to himMany farmers had come here from England hoping to make their fortuneand had died in the fields or on the roadsHe knew now he could not farm here

His attitude to life had changed during this time He began to look again at what was right and wrongHe began to see that a person should be judged not only on what he has done but also on what he wanted to doHe began to think that he had perhaps been unfair to Tessand he thought about her with growing affection

He wondered why she had not writtenHe forgot that he had told her not to write firstHe did not realize that she was obeying his orders exactlyalthough it was breaking her heart

On his journeyhe travelled with another EnglishmanThey were both depressed and both told each other their problemsThe stranger was older and more experienced than AngelHe had a differentmore open approach to lifeHe told Angel clearly that he was wrong in parting from Tess

The next day they got wet in a thunderstormThe stranger fell ill and died a few days laterDeath came as no surprise in that unfriendly landClare buried himand continued his journeyThe man's words were somehow given greater importance by his unexpected deathand suddenly Clare felt ashamedTess had committed no crime He should believe in her characterand not object to a past action she could not avoidHe remembered the words of Izz HuettShe would have laid down her life for youNo woman could do moreHow she had looked at him on their wedding dayas if he were a godAnd during that terrible evening by the firesidewhen she told him her storyhow desperately sad she had been to realize he might not love her any more

Meanwhile Tess was not hopeful that Angel would come in answer to her letterThe past had not changedso he might not change eitherNevertheless she spent her spare time preparing for his possible returnpractising singing the songs he used to liketears rolling down her cheeks all the while

One evening she was in the cottage as usual when there was a knock at the doorA tall thin girl came in and Tess recognized her young sister LizaLu

LizaLu!’said Tess.‘What's the matter?’

Mother is very ill,’her sister said seriously,‘and father is not well either and says a man of such noble family shouldn't have to workSo we don't know what to do.’

Tess thought for a momentShe realized she had to go home immediatelyalthough her time was not yet up at the farmShe left her sister to rest for a whileand she herself set off at once with her possessions in a basket

Although it was night and she had a fifteenmile walk she felt quite safeShe was only worried about her mother and did not notice the strange shapes of trees and hedges in the darknessAt three in the morning she passed the field where she had first seen Angel Clareand felt again the disappointment when he did not dance with herAnd when she saw the family cottage it seemed to be part of her body and lifeas it always did

She found her mother recovering from her illnessand took over as head of the householdHer father did not seem illand had a new plan for earning money

I'm going to find all the historians round here,’he said,‘and get them to pay money to keep me goingAfter allthey pay to look after old ruinsand I'm of historical interestI think they'll be pleased to do it!’

Tess did not have time to answerShe nursed her motherfed the childrenand worked in the gardenplanting vegetables for next yearShe enjoyed working outsideamong her neighboursOne evening when it was almost darkshe was digging happily in the vegetable gardensome distance from the cottageIt was a clearfresh nightwith smoke blowing about from small fires in the gardensSuddenly she saw a man's face in the light of a fireIt was dUrbervilleShe gasped and stepped backher face pale

What are you doing here?’

My dear TessI just want to help youto see you Have you finished at that farm?’

YesI have.’

Where are you going nextTo join your dear husband?’

OhI don't know!’she said bitterly.‘I have no husband!’

That is quite true in one wayBut you have a true friendWhen you go back to your cottageyou'll see what I've done for you.’

Oh AlecI wish you wouldn't give me anythingII have enoughII just don't want to live at all!’Her tears fell as she started digging againWhen she looked rounddUrberville had left

On her way back one of her sisters rushed towards her shouting,‘TessTessMother is much better but father is dead!’

But father was only a little bit ill!’said Tesstrying to take in the news

He dropped down just nowand the doctor said there was no hope for him because it's his heart!’

Poor John Durbeyfield's death had more importance than his family realized at firstThe cottage was in his nameOn his death the farmer who owned it decided to put farm workers in itand told the Durbeyfields to leaveThey were not much respected in the village because of John's lazinessTess also felt guilty that her presence might have influenced the farmerThe village people clearly thought she was not a good example for their children

So on Lady Day the Durbeyfields had to leave their old homeThe night before they leftdUrberville came to visit Tessto offer her and her family a little house on his land at TrantridgeHer mother could look after the chickensand he would pay for the children to go to schoolTess firmly rejected his offerBut when he had gonefor the first time a feeling of anger rose in her against her husbandShe had never intended to do wrong and he had punished her too hardShe passionately wrote these few words to him

Oh why have you treated me so badlyAngelI do not deserve itYou are cruelI intend to forget youYou have been so unfair to me

T

She ran out and posted it before she could change her mind

I see there's been a visitor,’said her mothercoming into the living room later.‘Your husband was it?’

Noit wasn't himHe'll nevernever come,’said Tess hopelesslyShe had said it was not her husbandbut she was feeling more and more that dUrberville was physically her husband

Next day their possessions were put on a waggon and taken to KingsbereMrs Durbeyfield had booked rooms thereas it was the family home of the dUrbervillesand she still hoped some good would come of belonging to the ancient familyBut as they approached Kingsbere after a long and tiring day's journeya man came to tell them there were no rooms availableTess and her mother unloaded the waggonand left the children and furniture near the churchyard wallwhile they looked for somewhere to stayBut all the rooms were full

Tess looked desperately at the pile of their possessions In the cold sunlight of this spring evening the furniture looked old and the pots looked worn

Tombs belong to families for everdon't they?’asked her mother brightlyhaving looked round the churchyard.‘Wellthat's where we'll staychildrenuntil the place of your ancestors finds us some shelter!’

Tess helped her mother move the big bed against the church wallUnderground were the tombs of the dUrbervillesand at the head of the bed was a beautiful old windowin which the symbols on the Durbeyfield seal and spoon could be seenThe children were put to bed all together for warmth and comfort

Tomorrow we'll find somewhere better!’said Joan cheerfully.‘But Tesswhat's the good of you playing at marrying gentlemen if it leaves us like this!’

Tess went inside the ancient church and stared sadly at the tombs of her ancestorsShe thought she saw a movement and turned to look again at a stone figure lying on a tombWhen she saw it was Alec dUrberville lying thereshe almost fainted

I'm going to help you,’he saidjumping up and smiling at her.‘You'll see that I'm more useful than a real dUrbervilleI'll see your motherYou'll thank me for this!’As he brushed past hershe dropped her head on to the cold stone of the tomb

Why am I on the wrong side of this stone?’she whispered

Marian and Izz had seen Tess moving house with her familyand knew what a difficult position she was inThey generously hoped she would one day be happy with Angel againand were afraid for herknowing that Alec dUrberville was constantly tempting herThey decided to write a letter to Angel Clareto inform him of the dangerous situation his wife was inThis is what they wrote

 

Dear Sir

Watch out for your wife if you love her as much as she loves youShe is in danger from an enemy in the shape of a friendA woman's strength cannot last for everand waterif it drops continuallywill wear away a stoneyeseven a diamond

From two wellwishers

 


 

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