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第2节 第二章 【
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       在前面说过的美丽的布莱克莫尔谷或者叫做黑荒原谷东北部起伏不平的谷地中间,坐落着马洛特村。布莱克莫尔谷四周环山,是一片幽僻的区域,虽然离伦敦只有不到四个小时的路程,但是直到现在它的大部分地区都还不曾有过旅游者或风景画家的足迹。

从环绕在谷地周围的山峦的顶上往下看,这个山谷可以看得最清楚——不过也许夏天的干旱天气要除开不算。天气不好的时候,没有向导带路而独自漫游到谷内幽深之处的人,容易对蜿蜒其间的狭窄的泥泞小道产生不满情绪。

这是一片远离尘嚣的肥沃原野,泉水从不干涸,土地永不枯黄,一道陡峭的石灰岩山岭在南边形成界线,把汉伯顿山、野牛坟、荨麻岗、道格伯利堡、上斯托利高地和巴布草原环绕其问。那个从海岸走来的游客,向北面跋涉了二十几英里的路程,才走完白垩质的草原和麦地。他突然走到一处悬崖的山脊上,看见一片田野就像一幅地图铺展在下面,同他刚才走过的地方决然不同、不禁又惊又喜。在他的身后,山峦尽收眼底,太阳照耀着广阔的田野,为那片风景增添了气势恢弘的特点,小路是白色的,低矮的树篱的枝条纠结在一起,大气也是清澈透明的。就在下面的山谷里,世界似乎是按照较小的但是更为精巧的规模建造的;田地只是一些围场,从高处看去,它们缩小了,所以卫面的树篱就好像是用深绿色的线织成的网,铺展在浅绿色的草地上。下面的大气是宁静的,染上了一层浅蓝,甚至连被艺术家称作中景的部分,也染上了那种颜色,但是远方的地平线染上的却是浓重的深蓝。这儿的耕地很少,面积不大;这儿的景物除了很少的例外,只见那些广阔的生长茂盛的大片草地和树木覆盖着大山中间的山峦和小谷。黑荒原谷就是这种风光。

这块地方不仅地形引人入胜,它的历史也很有趣。在从前的时代里,这个谷被叫作白鹿苑。名字来自国王亨利三世治下的一段离奇传说。据说国王追上了一只美丽的白鹿后把它放了,却被一个名叫托玛斯·德·拉·林的人把白鹿杀了,因此他被国王处罚了一大笔罚金。在那个时代,一直到比较近些的时代,这个地方到处都长着茂密的森林。即使到了现在,从山坡上残存下来的古老的橡树林和错落不齐的树林带上,从为牧场遮荫的许多空心树上,都找得到当年情形的痕迹。

茂密的森林已经消失了,但是森林浓荫下曾经有过的一些古老风俗依然还在。不过风俗犹存,但许多已经改换了形式,加上了伪装。例如,已经通知下午举行的五朔节舞会,从中就能看见它采用了会社的形式,或者是被当地人称作“会社游行”的形式。

对马洛特村稍为年轻的居民来说,会社游行是一件使他们感兴趣的事件,尽管参加游行的人看不出它的真正趣味。它的特点主要不在于它保留了每年排队游行和跳舞的古风,而在于参加游行的人全是妇女。在男子会社里,这类庆祝虽然逐渐消失,但还不算特别;但是,由于软弱女子天性羞涩和男性家属方面的讥笑态度,已经把残留下来的妇女会社(如果还有其它会社的话)的荣耀和隆盛剥夺干净了。现在只有马洛特村的妇女会社残存下来,保留着庆祝赛丽斯节①的古风。它已经延续了好几白年,如果算不上共济会,它也是一种供奉上帝的姐妹会;而且它还要继续存在下去。 

①赛丽斯节(Ceralia),指庆祝罗马丰收女神赛丽斯(Ceres)的节日。

队伍中的妇女们都身穿白色长袍——这是一种从罗马旧历时代就开始流行的欢乐遗风,那时候快乐和五月的时光是同义词——那个还没有习惯着眼未来的时代,已经把人的感情降低到了单调乏味的程度。他们最初的表演是排成双行队伍绕着教区游行。太阳照亮了她们的身形,在绿色的树篱和爬满藤萝的房屋前墙的映衬下,理想和现实就稍微显出一些冲突来;因为尽管整个游行的队伍都穿着白色服装,然而她们中间却没有两件的颜色是一样的。有些近乎纯白;有些却是泛蓝的浅白;还有一些已经被妇女会的老会员穿得破旧(它们有可能叠起来存放许多年了)而接近了一种灰白的颜色,式样还是乔治时代的。

除了白色的长袍醒目而外,每一个妇女和姑娘的右手,都拿着一根剥去了外皮的柳树枝条,左手里则拿着一束白色的鲜花。剥去柳枝的外皮,选择白色的鲜花,都是每个人自己细心操作的。

在游行的队伍里,有几个已到中年甚至还要年老的妇女,她们遭到时光的蚀刻和痛苦的磨难,银白的鬈发和满是皱纹的面孔在轻快活泼的环境里,显得叫人好笑,也肯定叫人同情。真实地看来,每一个经历过人间沧桑的人同她们年轻的伙伴比起来,也许更值得搜集她们的材料加以叙述,因为她们要说“生命毫无喜悦”的年月就要来到了。不过还是让我们把年长的妇女放在一边,述说那些生命在胸衣下跳动得快速而热烈的妇女吧。

年轻的姑娘们的确在游行的队伍中占了大多数,她们头上厚实的秀发在阳光的照耀下,反射出每一种金黄、乌黑和棕褐的颜色。有的姑娘眼睛漂亮,有的姑娘鼻子好看,有的姑娘嘴巴美观和身材秀美,但是如果说有人能够集众美于一身,那也没有几个人。由于在众目睽睽之下抛头露面,很明显她们对如何安排她们的嘴唇就感到困难了,对如何摆放她们的脑袋,如何使她们的自我意识同她们的形体分开,她们也感到无能为力。这表明她们都是素朴的乡村姑娘,还不习惯被许多眼睛注视。

在她们每一个人的胸膛里,她们都有自己的小太阳照耀着灵魂,所以大家身上都暖烘烘的,不过不是被太阳晒热的;有些梦想,有些纯情,有些偏爱,至少有些遥远而渺茫的希望,虽然也许正在化为泡影,却仍然还在不断地滋长,因为希望是会不断滋长的。所以,她们每个人都精神振奋,许多人都欢欣鼓舞。

他们绕过纯酒酒店,从一条大道走出来,准备拐弯穿过一道小栅栏门走进草地里去,这时有个妇女说——

“唉呀,我的天啦!噢,苔丝·德北菲尔德,那坐着马车回家的不是你父亲呀!”
听见这声惊讶,游行队伍中有个年轻的姑娘扭头看去。她是一个娟秀俊俏的姑娘——同有些别的姑娘比起来,也许不是更俊俏——但是她那生动的艳若牡丹的嘴,加上一双天真无邪的大眼睛,就为她的容貌和形象增添了动人之处。她的头发上系一根红色的发带,在一群穿白色衣服的队伍里,她是唯一能以这种引人注目的装饰而感到自豪的人。她回过头去,看见德北菲尔德正坐着纯酒酒店的马车沿道而来,赶车的是一个满头鬈发、体格健壮的姑娘,两只袖子卷到了胳膊肘以上。她是酒店里一个性格开朗的仆女,有时候喂马,有时候赶车。德北菲尔德在车里向后靠着,舒舒服服地闭着眼睛,一只手不停地在头顶上舞动着,嘴里头慢慢地哼着一首宣叙小调——

“金斯比尔有我家的地下墓室——铅做的棺材里睡的是我的骑士祖先!”

妇女会的会员们都吃吃地笑起来,只是那个叫做苔丝的姑娘除外——她意识到她的父亲在众人眼里出丑卖乖,不禁感到脸上发烧。

“他只是累了,没有别的,”她急忙说:“他是搭别人的便车回家,因为我们家的马今天休息。”

“别装糊涂了吧,苔丝,”她的同伴们说,“他是在集市上喝醉了。哈哈!”

“听着,你们要是拿他开玩笑,那我就一步也不同你往前走了!”苔丝叫起来,脸颊上的红晕扩大了,从脸上延伸到脖子上。

不一会儿,她的眼睛湿润了,目光垂到了地上。她们看见真的让她难过了,就住口不再说了,重新整理好队伍。苔丝的自尊心不让她再扭过头去,看看她的父亲是什么意思,如果她的父亲有什么意思的话。因此,苔丝又随着队伍移动了,一直向在草地上跳舞的地方走去。一走到那个地方,苔丝就恢复了平静,用手中的柳枝轻轻地抽打她的同伴,同往常一样有说有笑了。

苔丝·德北菲尔德在她人生的这个时候,满腔的纯情还没有带上人生的经验。尽管进过乡村小学,但在她的说话里还是带有某种程度的乡音:因为这个地区的方言的特殊音调,大约就体现在音节UR的发声上,也许同任何可以发现的人类说话的言语一样丰富。要念这个本地的音节,苔丝得把她深红的嘴巴撅起来,但是又刚好没有把形状固定下来,她的下嘴唇在上嘴唇的中部有点儿撮起,念完一个字后,她才把嘴巴闭起来。

她的童年的各个阶段的特征,现在仍然还留在她的身上。在她今天一路走着的时候,就她全部的一个漂亮健壮妇女的丰韵来说,有时候你在她的双颊上能够看到她十二岁时的影子,或者从她的眼睛里看到她九岁时的神情,在她的嘴角的曲线上,甚至有时候还能够看到她五岁时的模样。
但是这一点很少有人知道,更没有多少人加以注意。有一小群人,主要是一群陌生人,在他们偶然路过的时候会对她看上一阵,暂时为她的新鲜美感所吸引,心想他们是不是还能再见到她:但是对其他大多数人来说,她只不过是一个俊俏的迷人的乡村姑娘而已。

德北菲尔德坐在荣耀的双轮马车里,由女车夫赶着车走了,既看不见也听不见了。队伍已经走进了指定的地点,开始跳起舞来。因为队伍里没有男子,所以开始时姑娘们相互对舞着,但是随着收工时间的临近,村子里的男性居民就同其他没事的闲人和过路行人一起聚集到舞场的周围,似乎想争取到一个舞伴。

在这群旁观的人中间有三个阶层较高的年轻男子,肩上背着小背包,手里拄着粗棍子。他们的面貌大致上相似,年龄一个比一个小,这几乎已经暗示说他们可能是亲兄弟,而实际上他们正是亲兄弟。年龄最长的一个是助理牧师,系白色的领带,穿圆领背心,戴窄边帽子;第二个是通常的大学生;最小的第三个似乎还很难看出他的身分。从他的眼神里和衣服上,可以看出一种不拘形迹的神情,暗示他到目前为止还没有找到专门职业的大门。从他身上大概可以猜测出,他是一个对什么事情都想广泛学习的学生。

这兄弟三个告诉他们偶然遇见的人,他们正在过圣灵降临节,要步行游玩黑荒原谷,他们的路线是从东北的小镇夏斯顿往西南方向走。

他们斜靠在大路边的栅栏门上,询问妇女穿白袍跳舞的意思。兄弟中年纪较大的两位显然不想在这儿逗留,可是看见一群姑娘跳舞而没有男子相伴,这似乎引起了老三的兴趣,使他不急着往前走了。他把背包从身上取下来,连同手中的棍子一起放在树篱坡上,把门打开了。

“你要干什么呀,安琪儿?”大哥问。

“我想去同她们跳一会儿舞。为什么我们不都去跳一会儿舞——就一会儿,不会耽误我们太久的。”

“不行——不行;胡说八道!”大哥说,“在公开场合同一群乡下野姑娘跳舞——假如让人看见了怎么办!快走吧,不然我们走不到斯图尔堡天就黑了,走不到那儿我们可找不到地方睡觉。另外,在我们睡觉之前,我们还要把《驳不可知论》①的另一章读完,你看,我还不怕麻烦地带着这本书呢。” 

①《驳不可知论》(A Counterblast to Agnosticism),该书名疑为哈代杜撰,与英国科学家赫胥黎的“不可知论”有关。

“好吧——我在五分钟之内赶上你和卡斯贝特;不用等我;你放心,菲力克斯,我会在五分钟内赶上你。”
两个哥哥不情愿地走了。他们带走了背包,好让弟弟赶路时轻松些,而最年轻的弟弟则走进了跳舞的场地。

“真是万分的遗憾,”跳舞剧一停顿,他就对离他最近的两三个姑娘大献殷勤说。“亲爱的,你们的舞伴呢?”

“现在他们还没有收工呢,”有一个最大胆的姑娘回答说。“他们马上就都来了。趁他们还没来,你来跳好吗,先生?”

“当然好。可是我一个人怎么同这许多女孩子跳啊!”

“总比没有好呀。同你自己的同类面对面地跳舞,真是一件扫兴的事,根本就不能搂搂抱抱亲一个嘴。现在,由你自己从中挑选一个吧。”

“嘘——别厚脸皮吧!”一个害羞的姑娘说。

年青人这样受到邀请,就把她们打量了一阵,想作一番鉴别;但是,他见这一群姑娘全是新面孔,就感到不能很好地应用他的鉴别力了。他挑选的几乎就是第一个走到他跟前的女孩子,而不是希望被他挑中的那个说话的姑娘。苔丝·德北菲尔德碰巧也没有被挑中。高贵的门第,祖先的枯骨,纪功的铭文,德北菲尔家族的容貌,在苔丝人生的搏斗中到目前为止还没有为她帮上忙,就是在一群最普通的乡村女孩子中间,也没有帮她吸引到一个陪她跳舞的舞伴。没有维多利亚财富支持的诺曼人的血统,原来也不过如此。

无论如何,那个独占鳌头的姑娘的名字并没有流传下来;但是她在那天傍晚却因为第一个得到拥有男舞伴的殊荣而受到大家的羡慕。不过榜样自有它的力量,在外人还没有进入舞场的时候,乡村的男青年并不急着进去,现在很快都进了舞场,不久,大多数成对的女孩子中就掺进来乡村小伙子,最后连相貌最平常的妇女也有男子陪着她们跳舞了。

教堂的钟声敲响了,那个学生突然说他必须离开了——他刚才一直得意忘形——他不得不去追赶他的同伴。在他从跳舞中退出来时,眼睛看见了苔丝·德北菲尔德,老实说,因为先前没有选中她,她的一双大眼睛里含有微微的怨恨。此时,由于她的退缩不前,他也为自己没有注意到她而感到遗憾;他心里就带着这种遗憾离开了牧场。

因为他已经耽搁很久了,他就开始在通向西边的小路上飞跑起来,很快就跑过了一片洼地,到了前面的山坡上。他还没有追上他的两个哥哥,但是他得停下来喘一口气,又回头看看。他能够看见姑娘们的白色身影在绿色的舞场上旋转着,就像刚才他在她们中间一起旋转一样。她们似乎已经完全把他忘记了。

她们所有的人都把他忘了,也许有一个姑娘除外。那个白色的身影离开了舞场,独自一人站在树篱旁边。他从她站的地点上可以看出来,她就是那个他没有同她跳舞的漂亮姑娘。虽然只不过是一件微不足道的小事,但是他本能地感觉到,她已经因为被他忽视而遭到了伤害。他真希望他邀请过她;他也真希望曾经问过她的名字。她是那样的羞怯,那样的富有情感,她穿着那件薄薄的白色袍子,看上去是那样的温柔,他感到他刚才没有挑选她是太愚蠢了。

但是,现在已经于事无补了,他转过身去,弯腰快步向前走去,心里不再想这件事了。
 

The village of Marlott lay amid the north-eastern undulations of the beautiful Vale of Blakemore or Blackmoor aforesaid, an engirdled and secluded region, for the most part untrodden as yet by tourist or landscape-painter, though within a four hours' journey from London.
It is a vale whose acquaintance is best made by viewing it from the summits of the hills that surround it - except perhaps during the droughts of summer. An unguided ramble into its recesses in bad weather is apt to engender dissatisfaction with its narrow, tortuous, and miry ways.

This fertile and sheltered tract of country, in which the fields are never brown and the springs never dry, is bounded on the south by the bold chalk ridge that embraces the prominences of Hambledon Hill, Bulbarrow, Nettlecombe-Tout, Dogbury, High Stoy, and Bubb Down. The traveller from the coast, who, after plodding northward for a score of miles over calcareous downs and corn-lands, suddenly reaches the verge of one of these escarpments, is surprised and delighted to behold, extended like a map beneath him, a country differing absolutely from that which he has passed through. Behind him the hills are open, the sun blazes down upon fields so large as to give an unenclosed character to the landscape, the lanes are white, the hedges low and plashed, the atmosphere colourless. Here, in the valley, the world seems to be constructed upon a smaller and more delicate scale; the fields are mere paddocks, so reduced that from this height their hedgerows appear a network of dark green threads overspreading the paler green of the grass. The atmosphere beneath is languorous, and is so tinged with azure that what artists call the middle distance partakes also of that hue, while the horizon beyond is of the deepest ultramarine. Arable lands arc few and limited; with but slight exceptions the prospect is a broad rich mass of grass and trees, mantling minor hills and dales within the major. Such is the Vale of Blackmoor.

The district is of historic, no less than of topographical interest. The Vale was known in former times as the Forest of White Hart, from a curious legend of King Henry III's reign, in which the killing by a certain Thomas de la Lynd of a beautiful white hart which the king had run down and spared, was made the occasion of a heavy fine. In those days, and till comparatively recent times, the country was densely wooded. Even now, traces of its earlier condition are to be found in the old oak copses and irregular belts of timber that yet survive upon its slopes, and the hollow-trunked trees that shade so many of its pastures.

The forests have departed, but some old customs of their shades remain. Many, however, linger only in a metamorphosed or disguised form. The May-Day dance, for instance, was to be discerned on the afternoon under notice, in the guise of the club revel, or `club-walking', as it was there called.

It was an interesting event to the younger inhabitants of Marlott, though its real interest was not observed by the participators in the ceremony. Its singularity lay less in the retention of a custom of walking in procession and dancing on each anniversary than in the members being solely women. In men's clubs such celebrations were, though expiring, less uncommon; but either the natural shyness of the softer sex, or a sarcastic attitude on the part of male relatives, had denuded such women's clubs as remained (if any other did) of this their glory and consummation. The club of Marlott alone lived to uphold the local Cerealia. It had walked for hundreds of years, if not as benefit-club, as votive sisterhood of some sort; and it walked still.

The banded ones were all dressed in white gowns - a gay survival from Old Style days, when cheerfulness and May-time were synonyms - days before the habit of taking long views had reduced emotions to a monotonous average. Their first exhibition of themselves was in a processional march of two and two round the parish. Ideal and real clashed slightly as the sun lit up their figures against the green hedges and creeper-laced house-fronts; for, though the whole troop wore white garments, no two whites were among them. Some approached pure blanching; some were all had a bluish pallor; some worn by the older characters (which had possibly lain by folded for many a year) inclined to a cadaverous tint, and to a Georgian style.

In addition to the distinction of a white frock, every woman and girl carried in her right hand a peeled willow wand, and in her left a bunch of white flowers. The peeling of the former, and the selection of the latter, had been an operation of personal care.

There were a few middle-aged and even elderly women in the train, their silver-wiry hair and wrinkled faces, scourged by time and trouble, having almost a grotesque, certainly a pathetic, appearance in such a jaunty situation. In a true view, perhaps, there was more to be gathered and told of each anxious and experienced one, to whom the years were drawing nigh when she should say, `I have no pleasure in them', than of her juvenile comrades. But let the elder be passed over here for those under whose bodices the life throbbed quick and warm.

The young girls formed, indeed, the majority of the band, and their heads of luxuriant hair reflected in the sunshine every tone of gold, and black, and brown. Some had beautiful eyes, others a beautiful nose, others a beautiful mouth and figure: few, if any, had all. A difficulty of arranging their lips in this crude exposure to public scrutiny, an inability to balance their heads, and to dissociate self-consciousness from their features, was apparent in them, and showed that they were genuine country girls, un-accustomed to many eyes.

And as each and all of them were warmed without by the sun, so each had a private little sun for her soul to bask in; some dream, some affection, some hobby, at least some remote and distant hope which, though perhaps starving to nothing, still lived on, as hopes will. Thus they were all cheerful, and many of them merry.

They came round by The Pure Drop Inn, and were turning out of the high road to pass through a wicket-gate into the meadows, when one of the women said--

`The Lord-a-Lord! Why, Tess Durbeyfield, if there isn't thy father riding hwome in a carriage!'

A young member of the band turned her head at the exclamation. She was a fine and handsome girl - not handsomer than some others, possibly - but her mobile peony mouth and large innocent eyes added eloquence to colour and shape. She wore a red ribbon in her hair, and was the only one of the white company who could boast of such a pronounced adornment. As she looked round Durbeyfield was seen moving along the road in a chaise belonging to The Pure Drop, driven by a frizzle-headed brawny damsel with her gown-sleeves rolled above her elbows. This was the cheerful servant of that establishment, who, in her part of factotum, turned groom and ostler at times. Durbeyfield, leaning back, and with his eyes closed luxuriously, was waving his hand above his head, and singing in a slow recitative--

`I've-got-a-gr't-family-vault-at-Kingsbere - and knighted-forefathers-in-lead-coffins-there!'

The clubbists tittered, except the girl called Tess - in whom a slow heat seemed to rise at the sense that her father was making himself foolish in their eyes.

`He's tired, that's all,' she said hastily, `and he has got a lift home, because our own horse has to rest to-day.'

`Bless thy simplicity, Tess,' said her companions. `He's got his market-nitch. Haw-haw!'

`Look here; I won't walk another inch with you, if you say any jokes about him!' Tess cried, and the colour upon her cheeks spread over her face and neck. In a moment her eyes grew moist, and her glance drooped to the ground. Perceiving that they had really pained her they said no more, and order again prevailed. Tess's pride would not allow her to turn her head again, to learn what her father's meaning was, if he had any; and thus she moved on with the whole body to the enclosure where there was to be dancing on the green. By the time the spot was reached she had recovered her equanimity, and tapped her neighbour with her wand and talked as usual.

Tess Durbeyfield at this time of her life was a mere vessel of emotion untinctured by experience. The dialect was on her tongue to some extent, despite the village school: the characteristic intonation of that dialect for this district being the voicing approximately rendered by the syllable UR, probably as rich an utterance as any to be found in human speech. The pouted-up deep red mouth to which this syllable was native had hardly as yet settled into its definite shape, and her lower lip had a way of thrusting the middle of her top one upward, when they closed together after a word.

Phases of her childhood lurked in her aspect still. As she walked along to-day, for all her bouncing handsome womanliness, you could sometimes see her twelfth year in her cheeks, or her ninth sparkling from her eyes; and even her fifth would flit over the curves of her mouth now and then.

Yet few knew, and still fewer considered this. A small minority, mainly strangers, would look long at her in casually passing by, and grow momentarily fascinated by her freshness, and wonder if they would ever see her again: but to almost everybody she was a fine and picturesque country girl, and no more.

Nothing was seen or heard further of Durbeyfield in his triumphal chariot under the conduct of the ostleress, and the club having entered the allotted space, dancing began. As there were no men in the company the girls danced at first with each other, but when the hour for the close of labour drew on, the masculine inhabitants of the village, together with other idlers and pedestrians, gathered round the spot, and appeared inclined to negotiate for a partner.

Among these on-lookers were three Young men of a superior class, carrying small knapsacks strapped to their shoulders, and stout sticks in their hands. Their general likeness to each other, and their consecutive ages, would almost have suggested that they might be, what in fact they were, brothers. The eldest wore the white tie, high waistcoat, and thin-brimmed hat of the regulation curate; the second was the normal undergraduate; the appearance of the third and youngest would hardly have been sufficient to characterize him; there was an uncribbed, uncabined aspect in his eyes and attire, implying that he had hardly as yet found the entrance to his professional groove. That he was a desultory tentative student of something and everything might only have been predicted of him.

These three brethren told casual acquaintance that they were spending their Whitsun holidays in a walking tour through the Vale of Blackmoor, their course being south-westerly from the town of Shaston on the north-east.

They leant over the gate by the highway, and inquired as to the meaning of the dance and the white-frocked maids. The two elder of the brothers were plainly not intending to linger more than a moment, but the spectacle of a bevy of girls dancing without male partners seemed to amuse the third, and make him in no hurry to move on. He unstrapped his knapsack, put it, with his stick, on the hedge-bank, and opened the gate.

`What are you going to do, Angel?' asked the eldest.

`I am inclined to go and have a fling with them. Why not all of us - just for a minute or two - it will not detain us long?'

`No - no; nonsense!' said the first. `Dancing in public with a troop of country hoydens - suppose we should be seen! Come along, or it will be dark before we get to Stourcastle, and there's no place we can sleep at nearer than that; besides, we must get through another chapter of A Counterblast to Agnosticism before we turn in, now I have taken the trouble to bring the book.'

`All right - I'll overtake you and Cuthbert in five minutes; don't stop; I give my word that I will, Felix.'

The two elder reluctantly left him and walked on taking their brother's knapsack to relieve him in following, and the youngest entered the field.

`This is a thousand pities,' he said gallantly, to two or three of the girls nearest him, as soon as there was a pause in the dance.

`Where are your partners, my dears?'

`They've not left off work yet,' answered one of the boldest.

`They'll be here by and by. Till then, will you be one, sir?'

`Certainly. But what's one among so many!'

`Better than none. 'Tis melancholy work facing and footing it to one of your own sort, and no clipsing and colling at all. Now, pick and choose.'

`'Ssh - don't be so for'ard!' said a shyer girl.

The young man, thus invited, glanced them over, and attempted some discrimination; but, as the group were all so new to him, he could not very well exercise it. He took almost the first that came to hand, which was not the speaker, as she had expected; nor did it happen to be Tess Durbeyfield. Pedigree, ancestral skeletons, monumental record, the d'Urberville lineaments, did not help Tess in her life's battle as yet, even to the extent of attracting to her a dancing-partner over the heads of the commonest peasantry. So much for Norman blood unaided by Victorian lucre.

The name of the eclipsing girl, whatever it was, has not been handed down; but she was envied by all as the first who enjoyed the luxury of a masculine partner that evening. Yet such was the force of example that the village young men, who had not hastened to enter the gate while no intruder was in the way, now dropped in quickly, and soon the couples became leavened with rustic youth to a marked extent, till at length the plainest woman in the club was no longer compelled to foot it on the masculine side of the figure.

The church clock struck, when suddenly the student said that he must leave - he had been forgetting himself - he had to join his companions. As he fell out of the dance his eyes lighted on Tess Durbeyfield, whose own large orbs wore, to tell the truth, the faintest aspect of reproach that he had not chosen her. He, tool was sorry then that, owing to her backwardness, he had not observed her; and with that in his mind he left the pasture.

On account of his long delay he started in a flying-run down the lane westward, and had soon passed the hollow and mounted the next rise. He had not yet overtaken his brothers, but he paused to get breath, and looked back. He could see the white figures of the girls in the green enclosure whirling about as they had whirled when he was among them. They seemed to have quite forgotten him already.

All of them, except, perhaps, one. This white shape stood apart by the hedge alone. From her position he knew it to be the pretty maiden with whom he had not danced. Trifling as the matter was, he yet instinctively felt that she was hurt by his oversight. He wished that he had asked her; he wished that he had inquired her name. She was so modest, so expressive, she had looked so soft in her thin white gown that he felt he had acted stupidly.

However, it could not be helped, and turning, and bending himself to a rapid walk, he dismissed the subject from his mind.