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20

 

Meavwhile Angel Clare returned to his hoteland sat for a while over breakfaststaring into spaceA note arrived from his mothersaying that his brother Cuthbert was going to marry Mercy ChantClare threw away the paperAt last he got uppaid the bill and went to the railway station But he could not sit patiently and wait for the next trainin an hour's timeHe had nothing to wish for in lifeand nobody to love He was in no hurrybut just wanted to get out of that town as soon as possible

So he started walking along the road out of townThe road was openand dropped down to cross a valleyWhen he was climbing the far side of the valleyhe stopped for breathand something made him turn roundThere was a small black figure in the distancea human figurerunning Clare waitedIt looked like a womanbut he never imagined that it could be his wife until she came close and he saw it was less

I saw youturn on to the roadfrom the stationand I've been following you all this way!’She was palebreathless and tremblingHe did not question her but took her arm and helped her alongThey took a footpath under some treesto avoid being seen

Angel,’she said,‘do you know why I've been running after youTo tell you that I've killed him!’There was a pitiful smile on her white face as she spoke

What!he criedthinking her mind was disturbed

I don't know how I did it,’she said.‘I had to do itfor you and meAngelI was afraid long agowhen I hit him in the mouth with that heavy glovethat I might kill him one dayHe has come between us and ruined our livesI never loved him at allAngelYou believe medon't youOhwhy did you go awaywhen I loved you so muchBut I don't blame youAngelOnlywill you forgive me nowI could not bear losing you any longerI had to kill himSay you love me nowsay you do!’

OhI do love youTessI doIt has all come back!’he saidholding her tightly in his arms.‘But what do you meanyou've killed him?’

He is deadHe heard me crying about youand he called you rude namesI couldn't bear itSo I killed him.’

Eventually Angel came to believe that she probably had killed d'UrbervilleHe was amazed at the strength of her feelingand thisit seemedhad made her forget the difference between right and wrongShe did not seem to realize what she had doneand laid her head on his shouldercrying with happinessHe wondered if the bad blood of the d'Urbervilles was to blame for this moment of madness

Howeverhe knew he could not leave her nowShe expected him to protect herAnd at lastClare felt nothing but love for this passionateloving wife of hisHe kissed her again and againand held her hand

I won't leave youI'll protect you as well as I canmy dearest lovewhatever you may or may not have done!’

They walked onless turning her head occasionally to look at himFor her he was still perfectiondespite his thinness and pale faceHe was the one man who had loved her purelyand who believed in her as pureTheir arms around each other's waiststhey walked through the woods on lonely footpathstaking care not to meet anybodyThey did not talk muchbeing content to be together at last

Where shall we go?’asked Tess

I don't knowPerhaps we could find a cottage to stay in tonightCan you walk a long wayTessy?’

Oh yesI could walk for ever with your arm around me!’ At midday Angel went to a public house and brought food and wine back to where Tess was waiting in the woods for himHer clothes were so fashionable that the country people would have noticed her

I think we should keep walking inlandaway from the coastssaid Clareas they finished eating.‘We can hide there for a whileLater onwhen they stop looking for uswe can go to a port and get right out of the country.’

But their plans were vagueThey were like two childrenwho think only of the momentThe weather was warm and they enjoyed walking togetherHoweverin the afternoon they did nut find any suitable cottages to stay inand it was too cold to sleep outsideThey had walked about fifteen mileswhen they passed a large empty house in the middle of the woods

All those rooms empty!’said Tess,‘and we have no shelter!’

We can stay the night there,’said Clare.‘Lookthere's a window openThe caretaker probably airs the rooms in the daytimeWe can climb inNobody will know.’

And so they didThey chose a bedroom with heavy oldfashioned furniture and a huge old bedThey kept quiet while the caretaker came to shut the windows in the eveningThen the house was theirsThey ate some of the food they had broughtand went to bed in total darkness

During the night she told him about his sleepwalking just after their wedding

You should have told me at the time!’

Don't think of the pastThink of the presentTomorrow may mean the end of our happiness.’

But when tomorrow came it was wet and foggyIt seemed that the caretaker only came on fine daysso they were alone in the houseThey had enough food and wineand stayed there for the next five daysIt was the honeymoon they had never hadThey had no contact with peopleand only noticed changes in the weatherNeither mentioned the depressing period from their weddingday to the presentThey lived for the momentand were completely happyWhen Angel suggested leaving their shelter and travelling to a port like Southampton or LondonTess was unwilling

Why put an end to sweetness and happinessOutsideeverything is confused and sadHerewe are quite content

Angel agreedInside was forgiveness and loveoutside was eventual punishment

And…’she saidputting her cheek against his,‘I want you to go on loving meI'm afraid you might reject me one day for what I've doneThen I would rather be deadI must have been mad to kill himBut I don't want to be alive when you reject me for it.’

They stayed for one more daybut the caretaker came early that fine sunny morningShe wanted to open the windows in the bedroomswhich she did not usually doand opened their bedroom doorShe saw the young couple lying in the big bedfast asleepand hurried away to tell her neighbours

Tess and Angel woke soon afterand decided to leave immediatelyThey dared not stay any longerWhen they were in the woods Tess turned to look at the house

So much happiness in that house!’she whispered.‘My life can only be a question of a few weeksWhy couldn't we have stayed there?’

Don't say thatTessWe'll go northwards and get to a portThey won't find us.’

They kept going all day and most of the nightpassing the cathedral city of Melchester and reaching open landIt was a windycloudy nightThey walked on grassso as not to make any noise on the roadThey were alone and in darkness SuddenlyClare almost bumped into a great stone rising up in front of himMoving forwards carefullythey found other stonesstanding tall and black against the night sky

What on earth is this place?’Clare asked

Listen!’cried Tess

The windplaying on the huge stonesproduced a strange tunelike the notes of a great harpThe couple walked slowly into the middle of the great circle of stones

It's Stonehenge!’cried Clare

The pagan temple?’

YesOlder than the centuriesOlder than the d'Urbervilles!’

Let's stay here tonightAngel,’said Tesslying down on a flat stone which was still warm from the day's sunshine

We'd better notThis place can be seen for miles in daylight.’

I feel at home here,’murmured Tess.‘You used to say at Talbothays that I was a pagando you remember?’

He bent over her and kissed her

Sleepyare youdearest?’

I love it here,’she said.‘I have been so happy with youAnd here I have only the sky above my faceThere is nobody in the world except us two.’

Clare thought she could rest a while hereHe put his coat over herand lay down beside her

Angel,’she asked presentlyas they listened to the wind among the stones,‘if anything happens to mewill you take care of LizaLu?’

I will.’

She is so good and pureOh AngelI wish you would marry her if you lose meas you will do soon If I lose youI lose everything.’

She has all the best of me without my bad sideand if she were yoursit would almost seem as if we were not separated by deathWellI won't mention it again.’

There was silence for a whileAngel could see the first light in the eastThey had not much time

Did they sacrifice to God here?’she asked

Noto the sun.’

That reminds medearTell medo you think we shall meet again after we are deadI want to know

He kissed her to avoid replying

Oh Angelthat means no!’she almost sobbed.‘And I so wanted to see you againso muchso muchNot even you and IAngelwho love each other so much?’

He could not answerSoon she fell asleep on the stone of sacrifice The night wind died awayand the stones looked black in the halflightSomething seemed to move in the distanceIt was a figure approaching StonehengeClare wished they had gone onbut it was too lateHe turnedand saw anotherand anotherThey were uniformed menclosing in on Tess with slow purposeful stepsClare jumped up wildlylooking round for a way to escape

It's no usesir,’said the nearest policeman.‘We've surrounded the place.’

Let her finish her sleep!’he begged in a whisperas the men gathered round the stoneHe held her handShe was breathing more like a trapped animal than a womanAll waited in the growing lighttheir faces and hands silverthe stones greyWhen the light was strongshe awoke

What is itAngel?’she saidsitting up.‘Have they come for me?’

Yesdearestthey have.’

That is rightI am almost gladThis happiness could not have lasted!’

She stood up and went towards the waiting men.‘I am ready,’she said quietly

One July morning the sun shone on two figures climbing the hill leading out of the fine city of WintoncesterThey were young but they walked bent in sorrowOne was Angel Clarethe other Tess's younger sisterLizaLuHand in handwith paletearstained facesthey walked in silence

When they reached the top of the hillthey heard the town clocks strike eightThey turned quickly and looked back at the cityThey could see the cathedralthe college and the prison very clearlyA tall post was fixed to the prison towerA few minutes after eightas they watcheda black flag moved slowly up the post

The gods had finished playing with TessSociety had seen justicedoneHer d'Urberville ancestors slept on in their tombsuncaringThe two silent watchers dropped to the ground and stayed there without moving for a long timeThe flag waved in the windAs soon as they had strengththey stood upjoined hands againand continued slowly on their way

 


 

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