用户名: 密码: 验证码:    注册 | 忘记密码?
主页 |英文小说 |双语传记 |双语戏剧 |双语文史哲 |双语儿童文学 |双语科技 |经典英译 |其他双语名著
当前位置:主页 > 英国小说 > 德伯家的苔丝 > 第1章 第一阶段 处女 Phase the First. The Maiden
第4节 第四章 【
   已开启划词功能

在疏落狭长的村子的这一头只有一家酒店,名叫罗利弗酒店,但它只有准许外卖酒类的执照;因此,不能够允许人在酒店里喝酒,而可以公开招待顾客前来喝酒的地方,则被严格限制在一小块大约六英寸宽两码长的木板那儿,木板被铁丝固定在花园的栅栏上,因此也就算是喝酒的台面。从路边走过的好酒的行人把酒杯放在木板上,就站在路上喝酒,喝完了就把酒杯内的沉渣倒在满是尘土的地上,堆成玻利尼西亚群岛的图样,心里头却希望能在酒店里面有一个舒适的座位。
既然过路的客人有这样的愿望,因此本地的顾客也就有相同的愿望;于是有志者事竟成。
在楼上有一间大卧室,卧室的窗户被罗利弗太太最近淘汰的一条大羊毛披肩遮得严严实实,室内差不多有十来个人聚集在一起,他们都是来这儿喝酒寻乐的;他们都是靠近马洛特村这一头的老住户,也是罗利弗酒店的常客。在这个住户稀落的村子的更远一些的地方,纯酒酒店是一家有全副执照的酒店,但是距离太远,村子这一头的住户实际上不去那家酒店喝酒;而且还有一个更为严重的问题,就是酒的品质的好坏决定了大多数人的倾向,就是大家宁肯挤在罗利弗酒店楼顶的角落里喝酒,也不到纯酒酒店老板的宽敞的屋子里去。
卧室里摆放着一张四柱床,床柱又细又长,这张床的三面给好几个聚集在那儿的人当了座位;还有两个人高踞在五十橱上;另一个坐在雕花橡木小柜上;还有两个坐在盥洗架上,一个坐在小凳上;那儿所有的人,就都这样给自己找到了舒服的座位。在这个时候,他们达到了心灵欢快的阶段,灵魂超脱了躯壳,热情洋溢,全屋子一片火热。在喝酒的过程中,房间和房间里的家具变得越来越富丽堂皇;窗户上悬挂的披肩添上了织花帷幔的华贵;五斗橱上的铜把手就像是黄金做成的门环;四柱床的雕花床柱,同所罗门庙宇的宏伟廊柱也有了几分相似。
德北菲尔德太太离开苔丝以后,就急急忙忙赶到这里,打开前门,穿过楼下阴沉沉的房间,然后就好像是一个十分熟悉楼梯门栓机关的人,用手指打开了楼门。她在弯弯曲曲的楼梯上慢慢地走上去,当她走上最后一节楼梯,脸从灯光里一露出来,所有挤在卧室里的人都一起把目光转到了她的身上。
“——这是我的几个私人朋友,会社游行他们没有尽兴,我花钱请他们来的,”酒店老板娘一听见脚步声,就一边瞟着楼梯一边大声喊,熟练得就像一个背诵教义问答的孩子。“噢,原来是你呀,德北菲尔德太太——我的老天——你把我吓了一大跳!——我还以为是政府派来的官员呢。”
卧室里其他的人望着德北菲尔德太太,向她点头,对她表示欢迎,然后德北菲尔德太太就转身向她丈夫坐的地方走去。她的丈夫在那儿出神地低声哼着:“天底下有些富贵的人,我也同他们一样呀!在青山脚下的金斯伯尔,有我们大家族的地下墓室呀,看威塞克斯的众多人物,数我们家族最高贵呀!”
“我想起来一个绝妙的主意,特地来告诉你的,”一脸高兴的德北菲尔德太太小声说。“喂,约翰,你看见我没有?”她用胳膊肘推推她丈夫,她丈夫仿佛隔着窗玻璃看着她,嘴里继续哼着歌儿。
“嘘!声音不要唱得这样大,我的好人!”酒店老板娘说,“要是碰巧政府里有什么人从这儿路过,就会把我的执照没收了。”
“我们家发生的事他已经告诉你们了,我想是吧?”德北菲尔德太太问。
“是的——说过一点儿。你说你们会不会因此而发财?”
“哦,这可是秘密,”德北菲尔德太太貌似聪明地说,“不过,即使没有大马车坐,能和坐大马车的人是近亲也不错呀。”接着她改换了对大家说话的口气,继续小声对她的丈夫说:“自从你把那件事告诉了我,我一直在想,在特兰里奇那边,就在猎苑的边上,有一个高贵的有钱夫人,名字叫德贝维尔。”
“啊——你说什么?”约翰说。
她把刚才说的消息又重复了一遍。“那个夫人肯定是我们的近亲,”她说。“我的计划就是派苔丝去认这门亲戚。”
“你刚才一说,我倒想起来了,是有一位夫人姓我们的姓,”德北菲尔德说。“特林汉姆牧师倒没有想到这件事。不过她同我们没法比——用不着怀疑,她只是我们家族的一个小支脉,从诺曼王时代传下来的。”
两口子一心在那儿讨论问题,谁也没有注意到小亚伯拉罕已经溜进了房间,正等在那儿寻找机会请他们回去。
“她很有钱,她肯定会看上我们家姑娘的,”德北菲尔德太太接着说。“这是一件非常好的事情。我不明白一个家族的两房人为什么就不能往来。”
“对,我们都认本家去!”亚伯拉罕在床沿下自作聪明地说,“等苔丝去了,住在那儿,我们就都去看她;我们还会坐上她的大马车,穿上黑礼服呀!”
“孩子,你怎么来这儿来了?你在这儿胡说什么呀!走开,到楼梯那儿去玩,等你爸爸和妈把事情说完!……我说呀,苔丝应该到我们家族的另一房那儿去。她一定会讨那位夫人的欢心的——苔丝一定会的;还完全有可能碰上一个高贵的绅士娶了她。简而言之,我知道这件事。”
“你怎么知道的?”
“我在《算命大全》的书里查找过她的命运,书里头这件事说得明明白白的啦!……你应该看到她今天是多么漂亮呀;她的皮肤娇嫩得就像公爵夫人的一个样呀。”
“我们的姑娘自己说去不去呢?”
“我还没有问过她。现在她还不知道我们有这样一个贵夫人亲戚。不过,如果到那儿去肯定能给她结上一门好亲事,她是不会说不的。”
“苔丝可是脾气古怪呀。”
“不过其实她还是听话的。把她交给我好了。”
虽然这场谈话是私下进行的,可是这场谈话的意义已足已使周围的人明白,猜想出德北菲尔德家现在商谈的是一件十分重要的大事,非寻常人能比,猜想出他们漂亮的大女儿苔丝,已经有了美好的前途。
“今天我看见苔丝和别的女孩子一起在教区游行,我就在心里对自己说,苔丝真是一个逗人喜爱的漂亮人儿。”一个老酒鬼低声说,“不过约翰·德北菲尔德可要当心她,不要让地上的大麦发了芽。”这是当地的一句土话,有它特殊的意思,但是没有人回答这句话。
这场谈话内容变得广泛起来,过了不久,又听见楼下有脚步声走过房问。
“——这是我的几个私人朋友,会社游行他们没有尽兴,我花钱请他们来的。”老板娘又迅速地把嘴边应付外来人的现成话重新背了一遍,才看见进来的人是苔丝。
室内弥漫着酒气,有了皱纹的中年人逗留在这儿并没有什么不合适,但是姑娘年轻的面孔出现在这个地方,就叫人感到难受了,即使姑娘的母亲也能够看出这一点。苔丝的黑色眼睛里还没有显露出来责备的神气,她的父母亲就从座位上站起来,急忙把酒喝干,跟在女儿的身后走下了楼梯,随着他们的脚步声传来罗利弗太太的叮嘱声。
“亲爱的,请千万不要声张;要不然我就要丢掉我的执照了,把我传唤去,还不知道有什么麻烦呢!再见吧!”
苔丝挽起父亲的一只胳膊,她的母亲挽起父亲的另一只,一起回家去。说实在的,她的父亲酒喝得很少——一个经常喝酒的人,礼拜天下午喝完酒上教堂,转身向东下跪,一点也不踉跄,她父亲喝的酒还不到这种人喝的四分之一;但是约翰爵士的身体虚弱,在当时的情景下,喝酒这种小罪恶就让他受不了啦。一接触到新鲜空气,他就开始跌跌撞撞的,一会儿他们一行三人好像正向伦敦走去,一会儿又好像朝巴斯走去——看上去叫人感到滑稽可笑,尽管一家人晚上回家是常有的事;不过,像大多数滑稽可笑的事情一样,实在是又不能叫人完全感到滑稽可笑。母女俩尽量把主要来自德北菲尔德的跌跌撞撞以及他所引起的亚伯拉罕和她们自己的跌跌撞撞掩饰起来;他们就这样一步一步地接近了他们的家门口,这家人的家长在走近家门口时,突然放声唱起他先前唱过的歌来,仿佛看见他现在的住所太狭小,要增强自己的信心似的——
“在金斯伯尔我有一个家族墓室!”
“嘘——不要犯傻了,杰克,”他的妻子说,“先前的大户人家又不是你一户。你看有安克特尔家,有霍尔斯家,还有特林汉姆家——不都和你们家一样衰败了吗——尽管你们家族比他们的人些,也确实要大些。谢天谢地,我个是什么大家族的出身,但是我从来不觉得我的出身丢人。”
“不要把事情说得太肯定了。从你的天性看来,我敢说你比我们谁都要丢入丢得厉害,你们家曾经出过国王和王后。”
苔丝说的话改变了话题,因为这时候她心里想到了比她的祖先更为重要的事——
“我担心父亲明天起不了那么早,不能上路去送蜂箱啦。”
“我?一两个小时我就会好了,”德北菲尔德说。
已经十一点了,全家人才上床睡觉,如果要在礼拜六的集市开始前把蜂箱送到卡斯特桥的零售商手里,最晚明天凌晨两点钟就得动身,通往那儿的道路不好走,有二三十英里远近,而且他们家送货的又是走得最慢的马车。一点半钟的时候,德北菲尔德太太走进苔丝和她的弟弟妹妹们睡觉的那间大卧室。
“你可怜的爸爸去不了啦。”她对她的大女儿说,而女儿的大眼睛早在她母亲开门时就已经睁开了。
苔丝在床上坐起来,朦朦胧胧地听见母亲的话,一时不知如何是好。
“可是总得有人去呀,”她回答说。“现在去卖蜂箱已经晚了。今年蜜蜂分群的时候很快就要过去了;要是我们推迟到下个礼拜的集市,就没有人要啦,蜂箱也就要积压在我们的手上了。”
看来德北菲尔德太太没有能力应付这种紧急事情。“也许可以找个年轻的小伙子,让他送去行吗?昨天有许多人和你一起跳舞,在他们中间找一个。”她立刻提议说。
“啊,不行——无论如何我也不会同意!”苔丝骄傲地大声说,“这不是要让所有的人都知道这个原因吗——这样一件让人感到羞耻的事情!要是亚伯拉罕能陪着我一起去,我想我可以去送”
苔丝的母亲最后同意了这种安排。她把睡在同一个屋子里的小亚伯拉罕从熟睡中叫起来,让他在迷迷糊糊中把衣服穿上。这时候,苔丝已经急急忙忙地把衣服穿好了;姐弟俩点起一盏提灯,就出门向马厩走去。那辆摇摇晃晃的小马车已经装好了,苔丝把那匹名叫王子的马牵了出来,同那辆马车比起来,它摇晃的程度也好不了多少。
那头可怜的牲畜茫然四顾,望望夜空,望望提灯,望望姐弟俩的身影,仿佛它难以相信在那个时刻,当一切生物还在它们的栖身之处歇息的时候,会把它叫出来干活。他们把一些蜡烛头放进提灯,把提灯挂在车右边,就牵着马向前走,最初的一段路是向上走的坡路,他们就走在马的旁边,免得这匹缺少力气的老马负载过重。为了尽量使自己高兴起来,他们就用提灯制造出人造的黎明,吃着黄油面包,谈天说地,其实真正的黎明还远没有到来。亚伯拉罕已经完全清醒过来(因为他刚才一直是迷迷糊糊的),就开始讲在夜空的映衬下各种不同的黑色物体所表现出来的奇形怪状,说这棵树像一只从洞中扑出来的发怒猛虎,又说那棵树很像一个巨人的头。
他们走过斯图尔堡小镇的时候,小镇内覆盖着褐色厚茅草的茅屋还在静静地沉睡着,他们走到了一块更高的地方。在左边还要高一些的地方,是一处被叫做野牛坟或比尔坟的高地,它几乎就是南威塞克斯的最高点,迎天耸立,四周被土沟围绕着。从这儿再往前,这条漫长的道路就有一段比较平坦。他们上了车,坐在马车的前面,亚伯拉罕开始沉思起来。
“苔丝!”沉默了一会儿,他叫了一声,预备说话。
“什么呀,亚伯拉罕。”
“我们已经成了有身分的人了,你高兴吗?”
“不怎么特别高兴。”
“可是你要是嫁给了一个绅士,你一定会高兴的了?”
“你说什么?”苔丝说,抬起了她的脸。
“我是说我们的那个阔亲戚会帮忙,让你嫁给一个绅士。”
“我?我们的那个阔亲戚?我可没有这样的亲戚。你头脑里怎么会有了这种想法?”
“我去找父亲的时候,我听见他们正在罗利弗酒店谈论这件事。在特兰里奇那边有我们家的一个阔亲戚,母亲说要是你同那位夫人认了亲戚,她就会帮你嫁给一个绅士。”
他的姐姐突然坐在那儿一动也不动了,陷入沉思默想之中。亚伯拉罕继续说着,只图自己说得痛快,而不管听的人怎样,因此没有注意到他的姐姐在那儿出神。他仰身向后靠在蜂箱上,仰着脸观察天上的星星,星星冷清的脉搏在头顶上漆黑的夜空里搏动着,静寂无声,同人类生命中这两个小生命相隔遥远。她问姐姐那些眨眼的星星离他们究竟有多远,问上帝是不是就在那些星星的背后。不过毕竟他只是一个孩子,所以他的唠叨就又回到了比创造的奇迹更为深入的想象的话题上了。假如苔丝嫁给了一个绅士而变得富有了,她会不会有足够多的钱买一架大望远镜,大得能够把星星拉到跟前来,就跟荨麻越一样近?
重新提起这个似乎充斥在全家人头脑中的话题,使苔丝很不耐烦。
“现在不要再提那个了!”苔丝大声说。
“苔丝,你说每一个星星都是每一个世界吗?”
“是的。”
“都跟我们的世界一样吗?”
“我不知道,不过我认为是这样的。有时候它们就似乎像我们家尖苹果树上的苹果。它们中间的大多数都是极好的,没有毛病的——有一些是有毛病的。”
“我们住的是哪一种——是没有毛病的还是有毛病的?”
“是有毛病的。”
“真是太不幸了,有这样多的极好的世界,我们却没有挑一个没有毛病的住。”
“是的。”
“真的是那样吗,苔丝?”亚伯拉罕把这句话印在脑子里,又想了想这个新鲜的观点,转身对他姐姐说。“要是我们选中的是一个没有毛病的,那又是什么样子呢?”
“哦,如果那样,父亲就不会像现在那样咳嗽和有气无力了,也不会喝醉了酒不能上路了。母亲也不会老是洗来洗去的,总是洗不完。”
“你也就会一生下来就是一个阔小姐了,也就用不着嫁给一个绅士才能阔起来了,是吗?”
“哎呀,亚伯,不要——不要再说这件事啦!”
亚伯拉罕独自思考了一会儿,不久就打起瞌睡来。苔丝对驾车赶马并不熟练,但是她想自己暂时可以驾驭这辆车,如果亚伯拉罕想睡觉,就让他睡觉好了。她在蜂箱前面给他弄了一下小窝,这样他就不会从车上掉下去,然后就把缰绳拿在自己手里,像先前一样驾着车向前走。
王子没有力气作任何不必要的动作,所以根本不需要照看。她的同伴不再打搅她,她就向后靠在蜂箱上,比以前更加深沉地思索起来。无声的树木和树篱从身边掠过,变成了现实以外幻想景物中的东西,偶尔刮起的风声,也变成了某个巨大的悲伤的灵魂的叹息,在空间上同宇宙连在一起,在时间上同历史连在一起。
接着,她仔细地回想了自己一生中纷乱无序的事情,似乎看见她父亲骄傲中的虚荣;在她母亲的幻想里,她看到了那个向她求婚的绅士模样的人;看见他像是一个怪笑着的怪人,在嘲笑她的贫穷,嘲笑她的已成枯骨的骑士祖先。一切都变得越来越荒诞离奇,她再也不知道时间是怎样过去的了。马车猛地把她的座位一震,苔丝才从睡梦中醒来,原来她也睡着了。
苔丝睡着以后,他们已经向前走了很长一段路,现在马车停了下来。前面传来一阵虚弱的呻吟,她一生中从来没有听见过那种声音,跟着又传来一声“哟,怎么回事”的喊叫。
挂在马车旁边的提灯已经不见了,但是有另外一个提灯在她的眼前闪着亮光,比她自己那个提灯要明亮得多。有件可怕的事情发生了。马具也同挡在路上的什么东西缠在一起。
苔丝大惊失色,跳下车来,看见了可怕的事情。呻吟声是从她父亲的可怜老马王子口中发出来的。一辆早班邮车驱动着它的两个无声无息的车轮,沿着这些单行车道像箭一样飞速驶来,几乎跟她这辆行走缓慢没有灯光的马车撞在了一起。邮车的尖把就像一把利剑,刺进了不幸王子的胸膛,它的生命的热血像溪流一样从伤口喷射而出,带着咝咝声落到地上。
苔丝在绝望中跑上前去,用手捂住那个洞口,唯一的结果只是她的脸上和裙子上都被喷上了殷红色的血迹。后来她只好站起来绝望地看着。王子也尽力一动也不动地坚强站着,直到突然倒在地上,瘫成了一堆。
这时候赶邮车的人也来到了她的身边,开始同她一起把王子还热着的身体拖开,卸下马具。不过它已经死了,看见没有什么更多的事情立即可做,赶邮车的人就回到自己的马的身边,他的马并没有受伤。
“你们走错道了,”他说,“我必须把这一车邮件送走,所以你最好就等在这儿,看着车上的货,我会尽快派人到这儿给你帮忙。天渐渐亮了,你也没有什么可怕的了。”
他上了车,就急忙上路了;苔丝就站在那儿等候着。天色已经发白,小鸟在树篱中抖擞着,飞起来,吱吱地叫着;道路完全显露出它的白色面目,苔丝的面目也显露出来,比道路还要灰白。她面前的一摊血水已经凝固了,宛如彩虹的色彩;当太阳升起来时,上面就反射出一百种光谱的颜色。王子静静地躺在一边,已经僵硬了;它的眼睛半睁着,胸前的伤口看上去很小,似乎不足以让维持它生命的血液全部流出来。
“这都是我的错——都是我的错!”姑娘看见眼前的情景,哭着说。“我不能原谅自己——不能!现在爹妈怎么过呀?亚比,亚比!”她摇动着在整个灾难中一直熟睡未醒的孩子。
当亚伯拉罕明白了一切的时候,他年轻的脸上一下子增添了五十年的皱纹。
“哎,昨天我还在跳舞还在笑啦!”她自言自语地说,“想想我真笨呀!”
“这是因为我们生活在一个有毛病的星球上,不是生活在一个没有毛病的星球上,是不是,苔丝?”亚伯拉罕眼睛里挂着泪水,嘟哝着说。
他们静静地等着,时间似乎没有止境似的。他们终于听见了一种声音,看见有一个物体渐渐地接近他们,这证明赶邮车的人没有骗他们。斯图尔堡附近农场上的一个工人牵着一匹健壮的小马走了过来。他把那匹小马套上拉蜂箱的马车,代替了王子的位置,往卡斯特桥方向驶去了。
当天傍晚,我们看见那辆空车又走到了出事的地点。清晨以来,王子就躺在那条路边的沟里;但是路中间的一大摊血迹依然可见,尽管它被过往的车辆碾压过、磨擦过。剩下的只有王子了,他们就把它抬到原来它拉过的车上,四脚朝天,铁蹄在夕阳的余辉里熠熠闪光,走了八九英里路,又回到了马洛特村。
苔丝先前已经回去了。她简直不知道如何把这件事告诉给家里的人。不过当她从父母的脸上发现他们已经知道了他们的损失,她也就感到无需开口了。但是,这并不能减轻她内心的自责,她一直把对自己疏忽的责备堆积在心里。
但是,这件不幸的事对这户缺乏生机的人家说来,并不如像发生在一户兴旺发达的人家里那样可怕,虽然对前者意味着毁灭,对后者仅仅只是意味着不便。德北菲尔德夫妇尽管对姑娘的幸福雄心勃勃,但他们并没有气得脸色发红,把愤怒发泄在姑娘的身上。没有人像苔丝自己那样责备苔丝。
德北菲尔德发现,由于王子衰老枯瘦,屠户和皮匠只愿出几个先令买下它的尸体,他就站起来处理这件事。
“不卖啦,”他泰然自若地说,“我不卖它这副老骨头了。我们德北菲尔德家当英国骑士的时候,我们从没有把我们的战马卖了做猫食。让他们把先令留给自己吧!它为我辛苦了一辈子,现在我不会让它离开的。”
第二天,他在花园里为王子挖了一个坟坑,几个月来自己家里种庄稼,他干活也没有这样卖过力气。德北菲尔德把坟坑挖好了。就和他妻子用一根绳子把王子套上,向坟坑拖去,孩子们跟在后面为死马送葬。亚伯拉罕和丽莎·露低声哭着,盼盼和素素为了发泄他们的悲痛,就号啕大哭,声震四壁;王子被放进坟坑的时候,他们都站在坟坑的四周。为他们一家挣面包的老马没有了,他们怎么办呢?
“它上天堂去了吗?”亚伯拉罕呜咽着问。
接着,德北菲尔德开始往坟坑里铲土,孩子们又哭了起来。所有的孩子都在哭,只有苔丝没有哭。她的脸色淡漠惨白,仿佛她把自己当成了杀人凶手。

Rolliver's inn, the single alehouse at this end of the long and broken village, could only boast of an off-license; licence, as nobody could legally drink on the premises, the amount of overt accommodation for consumers was strictly limited to a little board about six inches wide and two yards long, fixed to the garden palings by pieces of wire, so as to form a ledge. On this board thirsty strangers deposited their cups as they stood in the road and drank, and threw the dregs on the dusty ground to the pattern of Polynesia, and wished they could have a restful seat inside.

Thus the strangers. But there were also local customers who felt the same wish; and where there's a will there's a way.

In a large bedroom upstairs, the window of which was thickly curtained with a great woollen shawl lately discarded by the landlady Mrs Rolliver, were gathered on this evening nearly a dozen persons, all seeking beatitude; all old inhabitants of the nearer end of Marlott, and frequenters of this retreat. Not only did the distance to The Pure Drop, the fully-licensed tavern at the further part of the dispersed village, render its accommodation practically unavailable for dwellers at this end; but the far more serious question, the quality of the liquor, confirmed the prevalent opinion that it was better to drink with Rolliver in a corner of the housetop than with the other landlord in a wide house.

A gaunt four-post bedstead which stood in the room afforded sitting-space for several persons gathered round three of its sides; a couple more men had elevated themselves on a chest of drawers; another rested on the oak-carved `cwoffer'; two on the washstand; another on the stool; and thus all were, somehow, seated at their ease. The stage of mental comfort to which they had arrived at his hour was one wherein their souls expanded beyond their skins, and spread their personalities warmly through the room. In this process the chamber and its furniture grew more and more dignified and luxurious; the shawl hanging at the window took upon itself the richness of tapestry; the brass handles of the chest of drawers were as golden knockers; and the carved bed-posts seemed to have some kinship with the magnificent pillars of Solomon's temple.

Mrs Durbeyfield, having quickly walked hitherward after parting from Tess, opened the front door, crossed the downstairs room, which was in deep gloom, and then unfastened the stair-door like one whose fingers knew the tricks of the latches well. Her ascent of the crooked staircase was a slower process, and her face, as it rose into the light above the last stair, encountered the gaze of all the party assembled in the bedroom.

`------Being a few private friends I've asked in to keep up club walking at my own expense,' the landlady exclaimed at the sound of footsteps, as glibly as a child repeating the Catechism, while she peered over the stairs. `Oh, `tis you, Mrs Durbeyfield - Lard - how you frightened me! I thought it might be some gaffer sent by Government.'

Mrs Durbeyfield was welcomed with glances and nods by the remainder of the conclave, and turned to where her husband sat. He was humming absently to himself, in a low tone: `I be as good as some folks here and there! I've got a great family vault at Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill, and finer skillentons than any man in Wessex!'

`I've something to tell `ee that's come into my head about that a grand projick!' whispered his cheerful wife. `Here, John, don't `ee see me?' She nudged him, while he, looking through her as through a windowpane, went on with his recitative.

`Hush! Don't `ee sing so loud, my good man,'said the landlady; in case any member of the Government should be passing, and take away my license.'

`He's told `ee what's happened to us, I suppose?' asked Mrs Durbeyfield.

`Yes - in a way. D'ye think there's any money hanging by it?'

`Ah, that's the secret,' said Joan Durbeyfield sagely. `However, tis well to be kin to a coach, even if you don't ride in `en.' She dropped her public voice, and continued in a low tone to her husband: `I've been thinking since you brought the news that there's a great rich lady out by Trantridge, on the edge o' The Chase, of the name of d'Urberville.'

`Hey - what's that?' said Sir John.

She repeated the information. `That lady must be our relation,'she said. `And my projick is to send Tess to claim kin.'

`There is a lady of the name, now you mention it,'said Durbeyfield. `Pa'son Tringham didn't think of that. But she's nothing beside we - a junior branch of us, no doubt, hailing long since King Norman's day.'

While this question was being discussed neither of the pair noticed, in their preoccupation, that little Abraham had crept into the room, and was awaiting an opportunity of asking them to return.

`She is rich, and she'd be sure to take notice o' the maid,' continued Mrs Durbeyfield; `and `twill be a very good thing. I don't see why two branches o' one family should not be on visiting terms.'

`Yes; and we'll all claim kin!' said Abraham brightly from under the bedstead. `And we'll all go and see her when Tess has gone to live with her; and we'll ride in her coach and wear black clothes!'

`How do you come here, child? What nonsense be ye talking! Go away, and play on the stairs till father and mother be ready! Well, Tess ought to go to this other member of our family. She'd be sure to win the lady - Tess would; and likely enough It would lead to some noble gentleman marrying her. In short, I know it.'

`How?'

`I tried her fate in the Fortune-Teller, and it brought out that very thing! You should ha' seen how pretty she looked today; her skin is as sumple as a duchess's.'

`What says the maid herself to going?'

`I've not asked her. She don't know there is any such lady relation yet. But it would certainly put her in the way of a grand marriage, and she won't say nay to going.'

`Tess is queer.'

`But she's tractable at bottom. Leave her to me.'

Though this conversation had been private, sufficient of its import reached the understandings of those around to suggest to them that the Durbeyfields had weightier concerns to talk of now than common folks had, and that Tess, their pretty eldest daughter had fine prospects in store.

`Tess is a fine figure o' fun, as I said to myself today when I zeed her vamping round parish with the rest,' observed one of the elderly boozers in an undertone.'But Joan Durbeyfield must mind that she don't get green malt in floor.' It was a local phrase which had a peculiar meaning, and there was no reply.

The conversation became inclusive, and presently other footsteps were heard crossing the room below.

`------Being a few private friends asked in tonight to keep up club-walking at my own expense.' The landlady had rapidly reused the formula she kept on hand for intruders before she recognized that the newcomer was Tess.

Even to her mother's gaze the girl's young features looked sadly out of place amid the alcoholic vapours which floated here as no unsuitable medium for wrinkled middle-age; and hardly was a reproachful f lash f rom Tess's dark eyes needed to make her father and mother rise from their seats, hastily finish their ale, and descend the stairs behind her, Mrs Rolliver's caution following their footsteps.

`No noise, please, if yell be so good, my dears or I mid lose my license, and be summons'd, and I don't know what all! `Night t'ye!'

They went home together, Tess holding one arm of her father, and Mrs Durbeyfield the other. He had, in truth, drunk very little - not a fourth of the quantity which a systematic tippler could carry to church on a Sunday afternoon without a hitch in his eastings or genuflections; but the weakness of Sir John's constitution made mountains of his petty sins in this kind. On reaching the fresh air he was sufficiently unsteady to incline the row of three at one moment as if they were marching to London, and at another as if they were marching to Bath - which produced a comical effect, frequent enough in families on nocturnal home goings; and, like most comical effects, not quite so comic after all. The two women valiantly disguised these forced excursions and countermarches as well as they could from Durbeyfield their cause, and from Abraham, and from themselves; and so they approached by degrees their own door, the head of the family bursting suddenly into his former refrain as he drew near, as if to fortify his soul at sight of the smallness of his present residence--

`I've got a fam - ily vault at Kingsbere!'

`Hush - don't be so silly, Jacky,' said his wife. `Yours is not the only family that was of `count in wold days. Look at the Anktells, and Horseys, and the Tringhams themselves gone to seed almost as much as you - though you was bigger folks than they, that's true. Thank God, I was never of no family, and have nothing to be ashamed of in that way!'

`Don't you be so sure o' that. From your father `tis my belief you've disgraced yourselves more than any o' us, and was kings and queens outright at one time.'

Tess turned the subject by saying what was far more prominent in her own mind at the moment than thoughts of her ancestry--

`I am afraid father won't be able to take the journey with the beehives tomorrow so early.'

`I? I shall be all right in an hour or two,' said Durbeyfield.

It was eleven o'clock before the family were all in bed, and two o'clock next morning was the latest hour for starting with the beehives if they were to be delivered to the retailers in Caster-bridge before the Saturday market began, the way thither lying by bad roads over a distance of between twenty and thirty miles, and the horse and waggon being of the slowest. At half-past one Mrs Durbeyfield came into the large bedroom where Tess and all her little brothers and sisters slept.

`The poor man can't go,' she said to her eldest daughter, whose great eyes had opened the moment her mother's hand touched the door.

Tess sat up in bed, lost in a vague interspace between a dream and this information.

`But somebody must go,' she replied. `It is late for the hives already. Swarming will soon be over for the year; and if we put off taking `em till next week's market the call for'em will be past, and they'll be thrown on our hands.'

Mrs Durbeyfield looked unequal to the emergency. `Some young feller, perhaps, would go? One of them who were so much after dancing with `ee yesterday,' she presently suggested.

`O no - I wouldn't have it for the world!'declared Tess proudly. `And letting everybody know the reason such a thing to be ashamed of! I think I could go if Abraham could go with me to kip me company.'

Her mother at length agreed to this arrangement. little Abraham was aroused from his deep sleep in a corner of the same apartment, and made to put on his clothes while still mentally in the other world. Meanwhile Tess had hastily dressed herself; and the twain, lighting a lantern, went out to the stable. The rickety little waggon was already laden, and the girl led out the horse Prince, only a degree less rickety than the vehicle.

The poor creature looked wonderingly round at the night, at the lantern, at their two figures, as if he could not believe that at that hour, when every living thing was intended to be in shelter and at rest, he was called upon to go out and labour. They put a stock of candle ends into the lantern, hung the latter to the off side of the load, and directed the horse onward, walking at his shoulder at first during the uphill parts of the way, in order not to overload an animal of so little vigour. To cheer themselves as well as they could, they made an artificial morning with the lantern, some bread and butter, and their own conversation, the real morning being far from come. Abraham, as he more fully awoke (for he had moved in a sort of trance so far), began to talk of the strange shapes assumed by the various dark objects against the sky; of this tree that looked like a raging tiger springing from a lair; of that which resembled a giant's head.

When they had passed the little town of Stourcastle, dumbly somnolent under its thick brown thatch, they reached higher ground. Still higher, on their left, the elevation called Bulbarrow or Bealbarrow, well-nigh the highest in South Wessex, swelled into the sky, engirdled by its earthen trenches. From hereabout the long road was fairly level for some distance onward. They mounted in front of the waggon, and Abraham grew reflective.

`Tess!' he said in a preparatory tone, after a silence.

`Yes, Abraham.'

`Bain't you glad that we've become gentlefolk?'

`Not particular glad.'

`But you be glad that you `m going to marry a gentleman?'

`What?' said Tess, lifting her face.

`That our great relation will help `ee to marry a gentleman.'

`I? Our great relation? We have no such relation. What has put that into your head?'

`I heard `em talking about it up at Rolliver's when I went to find father. There's a rich lady of our family out at Trantridge, and mother said that if you claimed kin with the lady, she'd put `ee in the way of marrying a gentleman.'

His sister became abruptly still, and lapsed into a pondering silence. Abraham talked on, rather for the pleasure of utterance than for audition, so that his sister's abstraction was of no account. He leant back against the hives, and with upturned face made observations on the stars, whose cold pulses were beating amid the black hollows above, in serene dissociation from these two wisps of human life. He asked how far away those twinklers were, and whether God was on the other side of them. But ever and anon his childish prattle recurred to what impressed his imagination even more deeply than the wonders of creation. If Tess were made rich by marrying a gentleman, would she have money enough to buy a spyglass so large that it would draw the stars as near to her as Nettlecombe-Tout?

The renewed subject, which seemed to have impregnated the whole family, filled Tess with impatience.

`Never mind that now!' she exclaimed.

`Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?'

`Yes.'

`All like ours?'

`I don't know; but I think so. They sometimes seem to be like apples on our stubbard tree. Most of them splendid and sound a few blighted.'

`Which do we live on - a splendid one or a blighted one?'

`A blighted one.'

`'Tis very unlucky that we didn't pitch on a sound one, when there were so many more of `em!'

`Yes.'

`Is it like that really, Tess said Abraham, turning to her much impressed, on reconsideration of this rare information. `How would it have been if we had pitched on a sound one?'

`Well, father wouldn't have coughed and creeped about as he does, and wouldn't have got too tipsy to go this journey; and mother wouldn't have been always washing, and never getting finished.'

`And you would have been a rich lady read-ymade, and not have had to be made rich by marrying a gentleman?'

`O Aby, don't - don't talk of that any more!'

Left to his reflections Abraham soon grew drowsy. Tess was not skilful in the management of a horse, but she thought that she could take upon herself the entire conduct of the load for the present, and allow Abraham to go to sleep if he wished to do so. She made him a sort of nest in front of the hives, in such a manner that he could not fall, and, taking the reins into her own hands, jogged on as before.

Prince required but slight attention, lacking energy for superfluous movements of any sort. With no longer a companion to distract her, Tess fell more deeply into reverie than ever, her back leaning against the hives. The mute procession past her shoulders of trees and hedges became attached to fantastic scenes outside reality, and the occasional heave of the wind became the sigh of some immense sad soul, conterminous with the universe in space, and with history in time.

Then, examining the mesh of events in her own life, she seemed to see the vanity of her father's pride; the gentlemanly suitor awaiting herself in her mother's fancy; to see him as a grimacing personage, laughing at her poverty, and her shrouded knightly ancestry. Everything grew more and more extravagant, and she no longer knew how time passed. A sudden jerk shook her in her seat, and Tess awoke from the sleep into which she, too, had fallen.

They were a long way further on than when she had lost consciousness, and the waggon had stopped. A hollow groan, unlike anything she had ever heard in her life, came from the front, followed by a shout of `Hoi there!'

The lantern hanging at her waggon had gone out, but another was shining in her face - much brighter than her own had been. Something terrible had happened. The harness was entangled with an object which blocked the way.

In consternation Tess jumped down, and discovered the dreadful truth. The groan had proceeded from her father's poor horse Prince. The morning mail-cart, with its two noiseless wheels, speeding along these lanes like an arrow, as it always did, had driven into her slow and unlighted equipage. The pointed shaft of the cart had entered the breast of the unhappy Prince like a sword, and from the wound his life's blood was spouting in a stream, and falling with a hiss into the road.

In her despair Tess sprang forward and put her hand upon the hole, with the only result that she became splashed from face to skirt with the crimson drops. Then she stood helplessly looking on. Prince also stood firm and motionless as long as he could; till he suddenly sank down in a heap,

By this time the mail-cart man had joined her, and began dragging and unharnessing the hot form of Prince. But he was already dead, and, seeing that nothing more could be done immediately, the mail-cart man returned to his own animal, which was uninjured.

`You was on the wrong side,'he said.'I am bound to go on with the mail-bags, so that the best thing for you to do is to bide here with your load. I'll send somebody to help you as soon as I can. It is getting daylight, and you have nothing to fear.'

He mounted and sped on his way; while Tess stood and waited. The atmosphere turned pale, the birds shook themselves in the hedges, arose, and twittered; the lane showed all its white features, and Tess showed hers, still whiter. The huge pool of blood in front of her was already assuming the iridescence of coagulation; and when the sun rose a hundred prismatic hues were reflected from it. Prince lay alongside still and stark; his eyes half open, the hole in his chest looking scarcely large enough to have let out all that had animated him.

`'Tis all my doing - all mine!' the girl cried, gazing at the spectacle. `No excuse for me none - What will mother and father live on now? Aby, Aby!' She shook the child, who had slept soundly through the whole disaster. `We can't go on with our load - Prince is killed!'

When Abraham realized all, the furrows of fifty years were extemporized on his young face.

`Why, I danced and laughed only yesterday!' she went on to herself. `To think that I was such a fool!'

`Tis because we be on a blighted star, and not a sound one, isn't it, Tess?' murmured Abraham through his tears.

In silence they waited through an interval which seemed endless. At length a sound, and an approaching object, proved to them that the driver of the mail-cart had been as good as his word. A farmer's man from near Stourcastle came up, leading a strong cob. He was harnessed to the waggon of beehives in the place of Prince, and the load taken on towards Casterbridge.

The evening of the same day saw the empty waggon reach again the spot of the accident. Prince had lain there in the ditch since the morning; but the place of the blood-pool was still visible in the middle of the road, though scratched and scraped over by passing vehicles. All that was left of Prince was now hoisted into the waggon he had formerly hauled, and with his hoofs in the air, and his shoes shining in the setting sunlight, he retraced the eight or nine miles to Marlott.

Tess had gone back earlier. How to break the news was more than she could think. It was a relief to her tongue to find from the faces of her parents that they already knew of their loss, though this did not lessen the self-reproach which she continued to heap upon herself for her negligence.

But the very shiftlessness of the household rendered the misfortune a less terrifying one to them than it would have been to a striving family, though in the present case it meant ruin, and in the other it would only have meant inconvenience. In the Durbeyfield countenances there was nothing of the red wrath that would have burnt upon the girl from parents more ambitious for her welfare. Nobody blamed Tess as she blamed herself.

When it was discovered that the knacker and tanner would give only a very few shillings for Prince's carcase because of his decrepitude, Durbeyfield rose to the occasion.

`No,' said he stoically, `I won't sell his old body. When we d'Urbervilles was knights in the land, we didn't sell our chargers for cat's meat. Let `em keep their shillings! He've served me well in his lifetime, and I won't part from him now.'

He worked harder the next day in digging a grave for Prince in the garden than he had worked for months to grow a crop for his family. When the hole was ready, Durbeyfield and his wife tied a rope round the horse and dragged him up the path towards it, the children following in funeral train. Abraham and `Liza-Lu sobbed, Hope and Modesty discharged their griefs in loud blares which echoed from the walls; and when Prince was tumbled in they gathered round the grave. The breadwinner had been taken away from them; what would they do?

`Is he gone to heaven?' asked Abraham, between the sobs.

Then Durbeyfield began to shovel in the earth and the children cried anew. All except Tess. Her face was dry and pale, as though she regarded herself in the light of a murderess.