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第5节 第五章 【
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德北菲尔德主要依靠这匹老马作小本生意,马一死,生意就立刻垮了。如果说还不会马上贫穷,那么烦恼已经在不远的地方出现了。德北菲尔德是当地称为懒散骨头的那种人;有时候他倒挺有力气工作;不过这种时候是靠不住的,因为不能碰巧有工作需要他;而且,他由于不习惯做日工的正规劳动,所以每当凑巧有工作的时候,他又特别缺乏毅力。
同时,苔丝因为是把她的父母拖进泥淖的人,所以心里一直在默不作声地盘算着怎样帮助他们从泥淖里摆脱出来;后来,她母亲就开始同苔丝商量她的计划。
“走运也好,倒霉也罢,我们总得应付,苔丝,”她说:“真是凑巧,最近发现你身上有高贵的血统,又正是需要它的时候。你一定要去找你的朋友碰碰运气。有一个非常富有的德贝维尔夫人住在猎苑的近郊,肯定是我们的亲戚,你知道不知道?你一定要去她那儿认这门亲戚,请她在我们困难的时候帮帮忙。”
“我不愿意去她那儿认这门亲戚,”苔丝说,“如果真的有这样一位夫人,她能客气地对待我们就很不错了——别指望她会帮助我们。”
“乖孩子,你会讨她的欢心的,你会要她为你做什么她就为你做什么的。另外,也许还有你不知道的好事呢。我听说过我已经听说过的事了,你猜猜。”
苔丝心里总有一种她惹了祸的沉重感觉,因此这就使苔丝对她母亲的愿望,比平时顺从多了;而且她还弄不明白,在她看来,她母亲的计划的好处很值得怀疑,而她的母亲一想到它就能从中得到满足。也许她母亲已经打听过,发现那位德贝维尔夫人是一个极有德行和菩萨心肠的老太太。不过苔丝的自尊心使她觉得,作为一个穷亲戚去求那位老太太,她心里是非常讨厌的。
“我宁愿想法找一个工作。”苔丝嘟哝着说。
“德北菲尔德,你来决定吧,”她的妻子转身对坐在后院的丈夫说,“如果你说她应该去,她就会去的。”
“我不喜欢我的孩子们到不认得的亲戚那儿去沾光,”他嘟哝着说,“我是这个家族中最高贵的一房的家长,我做事应该符合身分。”
在苔丝看来,她父亲不让她去的理由比她自己反对前去的理由更加荒谬。“好吧,马死在我手里,母亲,”她悲伤地说,“我想应该作点儿什么来挽救。我不在乎前去见她,不过求她帮助的事,你们一定要让我看着办。你们也不要老想着她给我找丈夫的事啦——那是愚蠢的。”
“说得很好,苔丝!”她的父亲以说教的口吻说。
“谁说我有这样的想法?”琼问。
“我猜想你心里是这样想的,母亲。不过我愿意去。”
第二天一早她就起了床,动身前往叫做沙斯顿的依山小镇,她在那儿就可以搭乘每个礼拜有两趟从沙斯顿向东前往猎苑堡的大车,大车从特兰里奇附近经过,那位神秘模糊的德贝维尔太太就住在那个教区里。
在这个难忘的早上,苔丝·德北菲尔德要走的路是从布莱克原野谷东北部高低起伏的中间地带穿过,她在这个谷中出生,她的人生也是在这个谷中展开的。对苔丝来说,黑荒原谷就是一个世界,因此黑荒原谷的所有居民就是整个人类。在她对一切都感到新奇的孩童时期,她就从马洛特村的栅栏门口和栅栏门旁的台阶上向下仔细地观察过这片谷地,那时候她感到很神秘,而现在她感到的神秘也没有减少多少。每天她都从自己房间的窗户里看见教堂的钟楼、村庄和白色的屋宇;尤其是高踞山顶的威严的沙斯顿小镇特别惹人注意;小镇的窗玻璃在夕阳里闪闪发光,宛如一盏盏灯火。她从来没有去过那个地方,即使这个山谷和这个山谷附近的地带,她通过就近观察而熟悉的地方只有一小片。远离山谷的地方她就去得更少了。四周山峦的所有外形她都熟悉,就像熟悉她的亲戚的面孔一样;但是对她没有去过的地方,她就只能根据在乡村小学学到的知识加以判断了。到今天她离开学校还只有一两年的时间,她离开学校的时候,她是学校里学得最好的学生。
在她上学的日子里,和她同龄的女孩子都很喜欢她,在村子里可以经常看到她们三个女孩子走在一起——她们的年龄几乎一样大小——放了学肩并肩地从学校回家。苔丝走在中间,穿一件毛料连衣裙,连衣裙原先的颜色已经褪掉了,变成了一种无法形容的模糊颜色;连衣裙外面穿一件粉红色的印花连胸围裙,上面有精致的网状花纹;她迈开两条细长的腿走路,腿上穿着紧身长袜,膝盖部分尽是一些抽丝小洞,那是她跪在路上和草坡上寻找植物和矿物中的宝贝撕破的;那时候她的头发是土灰色的,披在头上像挂锅的钩子;她两边的女孩子用手搂着苔丝的腰;苔丝的两条胳膊就搭在两个女孩子的肩膀上。
苔丝渐渐地长大了,开始懂事了,这时候,她感到自己就像是一个马尔萨斯的门徒,来看待她母亲糊里糊涂地给她生下的一群弟弟妹妹了,因为养育他们、照顾他们是一件十分麻烦的事。她母亲的智力只是一个快活小孩子的智力。对她自己家里一大群听天由命的孩子来说,琼·德北菲尔德简直就是其中的一个,而且还不是最大的一个。
但是,苔丝对她的弟弟和妹妹却很疼爱、呵护,并尽力帮助他们,一放学回家,她就到附近的农田里割草、收庄稼,做一个帮手;或者去帮着做她喜欢做的事情,如挤牛奶、搅奶油,这是她从前在父亲养牛时学会的;因为她的手指头灵活,所以这种活儿她干得比成人还好。
她年轻的肩上担负的家庭重担,似乎一大大加重了,因此她应该作为德北菲尔德家的代表去德贝维尔的府上,也就成了一件理所当然的事。我们必须承认,在这种情形下,到那儿去的苔丝就是德北菲尔德家向外显露的最好的一面。
她在特兰里奇的十字路口下了车,步行上山,向那个叫做猎苑的地方走去;她已经听人说过,在猪苑边上的平坦地上就能找到德贝维尔的居处。它不是一座普通意义上的庄园,没有田地,没有牧场,也没有让庄园主为了自己和家庭的日常开销而从他们身上把油水挤出来的牢骚满腹的农工。它不是那种庄园,而且远不是那种庄园能够相比的;它完全是一座纯粹为了享乐而建的一幢乡村别墅,除了建筑别墅所需要的土地和一小块由庄园主经管、由管家照看的养鸟的农田外,就再也没有一亩添麻烦的田地同它连在一起了。
苔丝最先看见的是用红砖盖成的门房,然后才看见屋檐上长满的厚厚的长青藤蔓。苔丝以为这就是庄园本身;她怀着惶恐不安的心情走过偏门,走到车路转弯的地点,这时候,她才看见出现在眼前的庄园全貌。庄园是最近新盖的——几乎全是新的——它也是同样的深红颜色,同偏门长满的长青藤蔓形成鲜明对照。在周围浅谈柔和的颜色的对照下,它就像一簇天竺葵的红花突现在那儿;在屋角后面的远处,展现在眼前的是猎苑的一大片柔和的淡蓝色风景——的确是一片让人肃然起敬的森林,是英国残留下来的已经不多的原始森林中的一片;在古老的橡树上,仍然还找得到朱伊德槲寄生,林中的茂密的水杉树不是人工栽种的,它们从人们把它们的枝条砍下来做弓箭的时候就生长在那里。但是,所有这些古老的森林,虽然从山坡上可以看见,但是却已经超越这片产业的边界了。
在这块幽静舒适的地产上,一切都是光明的,兴旺的,管理得井井有条;占地几英亩的温室从山坡上延伸下去,一直到了山脚下的萌生林那儿。一切东西看起来都像钱币一样——就像从造币厂里新铸造出来的钱币。在奥地利松树和四季长青的橡树的遮蔽下,配备了各种最新设备的马厩半掩半现,崇高威严,就像是为了方便教民而修建的小教堂。在一片广阔的草坪上,架着一座供装饰用的帐篷,帐篷的门朝着她的方向。
天真纯朴的苔丝站在一条砾石铺成的弯道边上,神态里半带着惊慌,惊讶地看着。在她还没有完全意识到她到了什么地方的时候,她的两条腿就已经把她带到了这个地方;而现在看来,一切都完全和她期望的相反。
“我还以为我们是一个古老的家族呢;可是这一家全都是新的。”她说,口气里一派天真。她心里真希望她没有那样轻易就接受了母亲的“认亲”计划,而想法在自己的家门口找到了帮助。
德贝维尔家——或者像他们最先称呼自己的那样叫斯托克·德贝维尔家拥有这儿的一切产业,在英国如此保守的这块地方看到这样的家庭,是有些异乎寻常的。特林汉姆牧师说,我们那位步履蹒跚的约翰·德北菲尔德是英国古老的德贝维尔家族唯一仅存的嫡系子孙,他说的倒是真的,或者说接近真的;他还应该加上一句,他知道得清清楚楚,叫斯托克·德贝维尔的这户人家就像他自己一样,本来就不是德贝维尔家族的真正后裔。不过我们必须承认,如果要重新嫁接德贝维尔这个急需更新复苏的名字,斯托克这户人家倒是一根上好的砧木。
最近死去的老西蒙·斯托克是北方的一个本分诚实的商人(有人说他是放债的),发财以后,他就决定在英国南部定居下来,做一个乡绅,好远离他做生意的那个混乱地方;迁居过来的时候,他感到有必要改换一个名字,这名字既要避免别人一下子就认出他就是过去那个精明的商人,又要不像原来赤裸乏味的名字那样平凡。他在大英博物馆里找到那些记载英国南部他计划移居地方的已经灭绝、半灭绝和破产家族的文献,仔细地查找了一个小时,最后认为德贝维尔这个姓看起来和听起来比其它任何一个姓都不会差:因此德贝维尔就被加到了他自己的姓上,为他自己和他的世代子孙所用了。不过他在这方面并不是一个让想法失了分寸的人,在新的基础上重建他的家庭这棵树的时候,总是合情合理地编造家族之间的通婚和同贵族的联系,从来不在严格合适的身分上加上其它的头衔。
关于这个运用想象力的杰作,可怜的苔丝和她的父母自然一无所知——更多的是令他们难堪;说实话,他们从来就没有想到这种添加姓名的可能性;他们只是认为,尽管人长得漂亮也许是运气赐予的,但是一个家庭的姓氏却是天生的。
苔丝还站在那儿犹豫着,像一个沐浴的人想跳进水里去一样,不知道是跳进去还是退回去,正在这个时候,有一个人从帐篷黑色的三角形门里走了出来。他是一个个子高高的抽着烟的年轻人。
她的皮肤近乎黝黑,两片厚嘴唇虽然红润光滑,但形状却长得不好,虽然他至多不过二十三四岁,但是他的嘴唇上方已经蓄上了仔细修剪过的黑色胡须,胡须的尖端向上翘着。尽管在他的身上带有粗野的神气,但是在他的绅士的脸上,在他那双滴溜直转的眼睛里,却有一种奇怪的力量。
“啊,我的美人儿,我能为你效劳吗?”他走上前来说。他看见苔丝站在那儿完全不知如何是好的样子,又说:“不要害怕我。我是德贝维尔先生。你到这儿来是看我的还是来看我母亲的?”
同房子和庭院的差别比起来,这个德贝维尔的化身同沿用德贝维尔名字的人比苔丝所期望的相差更远了。在她的幻想里,它应该是一张老人的庄重严肃的脸,是对所有的德贝维尔的面部特征的升华,脸上的皱纹是记忆的体现,像象形文字一样代表着她的家族和英国好几百年的历史。但是她已经没有退路了,就只好鼓起勇气来应付眼前的事,回答说——
“我是来拜访你母亲的,先生。”
“我恐怕你不能见她——她是个病人,”这个冒牌人家现在的代表回答说;因为这个名叫阿历克先生的人,就是那位最近死了的绅士的独生儿子。“你的事我能不能代劳呢?你想见她有什么事吗?”
“没有什么事——只是——那件事我简直说不出来!”
到这儿来认亲,这件事苔丝心里感到确实好笑,她这种感觉现在变得更强烈了,虽然她心里有些害怕他,总的说来在这儿感到局促不安,但她还是把玫瑰红的嘴唇咧开,装出笑容来,这一下真叫黝黑的阿历克神魂颠倒。
“真是太叫人难为情啦,”她结结巴巴地说;“恐怕我不好告诉你!”
“没有关系,我喜欢听叫人难为情的事。往下说吧,亲爱的,”他和和气气地说。“是我母亲让我到这儿来的,”苔丝接着说,“说实在的,我自己心里也愿意来。不过我没有想到会是这样。我到这儿来,先生,是想告诉你我们都是一个家族的人。”
“噢!穷亲戚吗?”
“是的。”
“是姓斯托克的人吗?”
“不是;姓德贝维尔。”
“是的,是的;我说的姓是德贝维尔。”
“我们的姓现在读变了音,读成了德北菲尔德;但是我们有一些证据,可以证明我们姓德贝维尔。考古学家也认为我们姓德贝维尔,——而且——我们还有一方古印,上面刻有一面盾牌,盾牌上面有一头扑起的狮子,狮子的上方是一座城堡。我们还有一把非常古老的银匙,银匙的勺儿是圆形的,像一把小勺子,上面也刻有一座相同的城堡。不过这把银匙已经用坏了,所以我母亲就用它来搅豌豆汤。”
“银色的城堡肯定是我们的盔饰,”他温和地说。“我家的纹章上也是一头扑起的狮子。”
“因此我母亲说,应该让你们知道我们——因为在一场严重的事故中,我们的马死了,我们是德贝维尔家族的大房。”
“你的母亲真是太好了,让你来告诉我这个。我也不会拒绝她让你来拜访我们。”阿历克说话的时候,打量着苔丝,把苔丝看得脸上有点儿发红。“所以,我漂亮的姑娘,你是以亲戚的身份来看望我们了?”
“我想是的。”她吞吞吐吐地说,又局促不安起来。
“哦——这没有什么不好。你们家住在什么地方?是干什么的?”
她把具体情形对他简单地说了说;回答了他问的一些问题,就告诉他她打算搭乘她到这儿来的时候坐的那趟车回去。
“要等到那趟车转回来经过特兰里奇十字路口,时间还早得很。我们到庭园里走走,等车回来,我漂亮的小堂妹,好不好?”
苔丝希望尽量缩短她的这次访问,但是那位青年一直强劝着她,她只得同意陪他走走。他带着她在草坪里、花圃里和温室里走了走,然后又到果园里和花房里走了走,在那儿他问她喜不喜欢吃草莓。
“喜欢吃,”苔丝说,“要等草莓熟了我才喜欢吃。”
“这儿的草莓已经熟了。”德贝维尔开始为她采摘各种各样的草莓,弯着腰把草莓递给站在他后面的苔丝;他一站起来,就立刻从“英国王后”种的草莓中挑了一个特别好的草莓,拿着草莓的把儿送到了苔丝的嘴边。
“不——不!”苔丝急忙说,一边举手挡在他的手和她的嘴巴之问。
“废话!”他坚持着,苔丝有一点难过,只好张开嘴巴把草莓吃了。
他们就这样漫无目的地逛着,消磨了一阵时光,每当德贝维尔请她吃草莓,她都半推半就地吃了。苔丝吃不下草莓了,他就把草莓装在她的小篮子里;然后,他们两个人就转到玫瑰那儿,他摘了一些玫瑰花朵,递给苔丝,让她戴在胸前。她依从着他,就像在睡梦里一样,她的胸前戴不下了,但是德贝维尔还是又摘了一两个玫瑰的花蕾插进她的帽子里,而且还十分慷慨大方地在她的篮子里堆了一些其它的花朵。装完了,他看看手表说:“现在是你吃点东西的时候了,然后就该动身了,如果你想搭车去沙斯顿的话。过来吧,我着能找到一点什么东西请你吃。”
斯托克·德贝维尔又把她带回到草坪那儿,就把苔丝留在那儿,自己进了帐篷,不一会儿,他就准备好一篮子便餐拿了出来,放在苔丝的面前。很明显,这位绅士是不愿意他们两个人私下的愉快谈话让仆人给打扰了。
“我抽烟你不在乎吧?”他问。
“哦,一点儿也不在乎,先生。”
他透过弥漫在帐篷里的一缕缕烟雾,观看着苔丝漂亮的无意识的咀嚼,在苔丝·德北菲尔德天真烂漫地低头欣赏胸前的玫瑰的时候,她没有意识到在那麻醉人的蓝色烟雾后面,正潜藏着她人生戏剧中的“悲剧性灾难”——她站在那儿,光艳照人,就像她年轻生命的光谱中的血红色光芒。她有一种品质,这种品质现在却变成了对她不利的因素;也正是这种品质,引起了阿历克·德贝维尔的注意,使他把目光集中在她的身上。也正是她丰满的面容和成熟的身体,使得她看起来比她的实际年龄显得更像一个成年妇人。她从母亲那儿继承了这种特征,但是却没有这种特征所表示的本质。这个特点曾经偶尔在她心里引起烦恼,后来她的同伴告诉她说,随着时光的流逝,这个缺点就会得到纠正。
不久她就把饭吃完了。“我现在要回家了,先生,”她站起来说。
“你叫什么名字?”他陪着她沿着大车道一直走到看不见房子的地方问。
“苔丝·德北菲尔德,住在马洛特村。”
“你还说你们家的马死了?”
“我——是我弄死了它!”她回答说,在她详细说明王子之死的时候,眼睛里充满了泪水。“因为马死了,我真不知道要为父亲做些什么。”
“我一定要想想,看能不能帮帮你。我母亲会给你安排一个工作的。不过,苔丝,不要胡说什么‘德贝维尔’了;—一你知道,只能叫德北菲尔德——那完全是另一个姓。”
“我也不再希望更好的姓了,先生,”她带着几分自尊说。
有一会儿——仅仅有一会儿——当他们走到大车道转弯的地方,在高大的杜鹃树和针叶树中间,在门房看不见的地方,他曾向她把脸伸过去,仿佛要——不过他没有把脸伸过去:他仔细想了想,就放苔丝走了。
故事就这样开始了。要是她已经看出了这次会面将意味着什么,她也许就要问一问,为什么命中注定那天看见她并垂涎她美色的是一个卑鄙下流的人,而不是另外那个在各方面都让她感到可心可意的人——一个刚好在人类中间能够找到的让她可心可意的人;可是在她认识的接近这一标准的人中间,她在那个人心中只留下一个短暂的印象,并且差不多已经被他忘记了。
在世间一切事物中,恰当适宜的计划执行起来就变成失当,渴求的呼唤很少引来应答呼唤的人,恋爱的人也很少同恋爱的时机刚好一致。每当见面可能导致美满的结果时,造物主往往不在那个时候对她的可怜生灵说一声“见面吧”,或者每当捉迷藏的游戏把人累得精疲力竭心里厌烦的时候,造物主也不对高呼“在哪儿”的人回答一声“在这儿”。也许我们渴望知道,当人类的进步到达完美的顶点时,人类的直觉更加敏锐了,把我们颠来倒去的社会机器配合得更加紧密了,在那个时候,时代的错误会不会得到改正;不过这种完美现在是无法预言的,甚至也是不可能想象出来的。我们知道的只是,在目前的事例中,就像在千百万的事例中一样,不是一个完美整体的两个部分在一个完美的时刻互相碰到了一起;而是与其相配的一半迷失了,孤零零地在世上漂泊,浑浑噩噩地等待着,一直等到先前那个时刻的到来。也就在这种糊里糊涂等待的笨拙延宕中,生出了种种焦虑、失望、恐惧、灾难,以及种种短暂的离奇的命运。
德贝维尔回到帐篷以后,就叉开双腿坐在椅子上沉思起来,脸上闪现出得意的神气。接着,他就哈哈大笑起来。
“哈,我真走运呀!多有趣的一件事啊!哈——哈——哈!真是一个叫人馋涎欲滴的小姑娘啊!”

The haggling business, which had mainly depended on the horse, became disorganized forthwith. Distress, if not penury, loomed in the distance. Durbeyfield was what was locally called a slack-twisted fellow; he had good strength to work at times; but the times could not be relied on to coincide with the hours of requirement; and, having been unaccustomed to the regular toil of the day labourer, he was not particularly persistent when they did so coincide.

Tess, meanwhile, as the one who had dragged her parents into this quagmire, was silently wondering what she could do to help them out of it; and then her mother broached her scheme.

`We must take the ups with the downs, Tess,' said she; `and never could your high blood have been found out at a more called for moment. You must try your friends. Do ye know that there is a very rich Mrs d'Urberville living on the outskirts o' The Chase, who must be our relation? You must go to her and claim kin, and ask for some help in our trouble.'

`I shouldn't care to do that,' says Tess. `If there is such a lady, `would be enough for us if she were friendly - not to expect her to give us help.'

`You could win her round to do anything, my dear. Besides, perhaps there's more in it than you know of. I've heard what I've heard, good now.'

The oppressive sense of the harm she had done led Tess to be more deferential than she might otherwise have been to the maternal wish; but she could not understand why her mother should find such satisfaction in contemplating an enterprise of, to her, such doubtful profit. Her mother might have made inquiries, and have discovered that this Mrs d'Urberville was a lady of unequalled virtues and charity. But Tess's pride made the part of poor relation one of particular distaste to her.

`I'd rather try to get work,' she murmured.

`Durbeyfield, you can settle it,' said his wife, turning to where he sat in the background. `If you say she ought to go, she will go.'

`I don't like my children going and making themselves beholden to strange kin,' murmured he. `I'm the head of the noblest branch o' the family, and I ought to live up to it.'

His reasons for staying away were worse to Tess than her own objection to going. `Well, as I killed the horse, mother,' she said mournfully, `I suppose I ought to do something. I don't mind going and seeing her, but you must leave it to me about asking for help. And don't go thinking about her making a match for me - it is silly.'

`Very well said, Tess!' observed her father sententiously.

`Who said I had such a thought?' asked Joan.

`I fancy it is in your mind, mother. But I'll go.'

Rising early next day she walked to the hill-town called Shaston, and there took advantage of a van which twice in the week ran from Shaston eastward to Chaseborough, passing near Trantridge, the parish in which the vague and mysterious Mrs d'Urberville had her residence.

Tess Durbeyfield's route on this memorable morning lay amid the northeastern undulations of the Vale in which she had been born, and in which her life had unfolded. The Vale of Blackmoor was to her the world, and its inhabitants the races thereof. From the gates and stiles of Marlott she had looked down its length in the wondering days of infancy, and what had been mystery to her then was not much less than mystery to her now. She has seen dally from her chamber-window towers, villages, faint white mansions; above all the town of Shaston standing majestically on its height; its windows shining like lamps in the evening sun. She had hardly ever visited the place, only a small tract even of the Vale and its environs being known to her by close inspection. Much less had she been far outside the valley. Every contour of the surrounding hills was as personal to her as that of her relatives' faces; but for what lay beyond her judgment was dependent on the teaching of the village school, where she had held a leading place at the time of her leaving, a year or two before this date.

In those early days she had been much loved by others of her own sex and age, and had used to be seen about the village as one of three - all nearly of the same year - walking home from school side by side; Tess the middle one - in a pink print pinafore, of a finely reticulated pattern, worn over a stuff frock that had lost its original colour for a nondescript tertiary - marching on upon long stalky legs, in tight stockings which had little ladder-like holes at the knees, torn by kneeling in the roads and banks in search of vegetable and mineral treasures; her then earth-coloured hair hanging like pot-hooks; the arms of the two outside girls resting round the waist of Tess; her arms on the shoulders of the two supporters.

As Tess grew older, and began to see how matters stood, she felt quite a Malthusian towards her mother for thoughtlessly giving her so many little sisters and brothers, when it was such a trouble to nurse and provide for them. Her mother's intelligence was that of a happy child: Joan Durbeyfield was simply an additional one, and that not the eldest, to her own long family of waiters on Providence.

However, Tess became humanely beneficent towards the small ones, and to help them as much as possible she used, as soon as she left school, to lend a hand at hay making or harvesting on neighbouring farms; or, by preference, at milking or butter-making processes, which she had learnt when her father had owned cows; and being deft-fingered it was a kind of work in which she excelled.

Every day seemed to throw upon her young shoulders more of the family burdens, and that Tess should be the representative of the Durbeyfields at the d'Urberville mansion came as a thing of course. In this instance it must be admitted that the Durbeyfields were putting their fairest side outward.

She alighted from the van at Trantridge Cross, and ascended on foot a hill in the direction of the district known as The Chase, on the borders of which, as she had been informed, Mrs d'Urberville's seat, The Slopes, would be found. It was not a manorial home in the ordinary sense, with fields, and pastures, and a grumbling farmer, out of whom the owner had to squeeze an income for himself and his family by hook or by crook. It was more, far more; a country house built for enjoyment pure and simple, with not an acre of troublesome land attached to it beyond what was required for residential purposes, and for a little fancy farm kept in hand by the owner, and tended by a bailiff.

The crimson brick lodge came first in sight, up to its eaves in dense evergreens. Tess thought this was the mansion itself till, passing through the side wicket with some trepidation, and onward to a point at which the drive took a turn, the house proper stood in full view. It was of recent erection - indeed almost new - and of the same rich red colour that formed such a contrast with the evergreens of the lodge. Far behind the corner of the house - which rose like a geranium bloom against the subdued colours around - stretched the soft azure landscape of The Chase - a truly venerable tract of forest land, one of the few remaining woodlands in England of undoubted primaeval date, wherein Druidical mistletoe was still found on aged oaks, and where enormous yew trees, not planted by the hand of man, grew as they had grown when they were pollarded for bows. All this sylvan antiquity, however, though visible from the Slopes, was outside the immediate boundaries of the estate.

Everything on this snug property was bright, thriving, and well kept; acres of glass houses stretched down the inclines to the copses at their feet. Everything looked like money - like the last coin issued from the Mint. The stables, partly screened by Austrian pines and evergreen oaks, and fitted with every late appliance, were as dignified as Chapels-of-Ease. On the extensive lawn stood an ornamental tent, its door being towards her.

Simple Tess Durbeyfield stood at gaze, in a half alarmed attitude, on the edge of the gravel sweep. Her feet had brought her onward to this point before she had quite realized where she was; and now all was contrary to her expectation.

`I thought we were an old family; but this is all new!'she said, in her artlessness. She wished that she had not fallen in so readily with her mother's plans for `claiming kin', and had endeavoured to gain assistance nearer home.

The d'Urbervilles - or Stoke-d'Urbervilles, as they at first called themselves - who owned all this, were a somewhat unusual family to find in such an old-fashioned part of the country. Parson Tringham had spoken truly when he said that our shambling John Durbeyfield was the only really lineal representative of the old d'Urberville family existing in the county, or near it; he might have added, what he knew very well, that the Stoke-d'Urbervilles were no more d'Urbervilles of the true tree than he was himself. Yet it must be admitted that this family formed a very good stock whereon to regraft a name which sadly wanted such renovation.

When old Mr Simon Stoke, latterly deceased, had made his fortune as an honest merchant (some said money-lender) in the North, he decided to settle as a county man in the South of England, out of hall of his business district; and in doing this he felt the necessity of recommencing with a name that would not too readily identify him with the smart tradesman of the past, and that would be less commonplace than the original bald stark words. Conning for an hour in the British Museum the pages of works devoted to extinct, half extinct, obscured, and ruined families appertaining to the quarter of England in which he proposed to settle, he considered that d'Urberville looked and sounded as well as any of them: and d'Urberville accordingly was annexed to his own name for himself and his heirs eternally. Yet he was not an extravagant minded man in this, and in constructing his family tree on the new basis was duly reasonable in framing his inter-marriages and aristocratic links, never inserting a single title above a rank of strict moderation.

Of this work of imagination poor Tess and her parents were naturally in ignorance - much to their discomfiture; indeed, the very possibility of such annexations was unknown to them; who supposed that, though to be well favoured might be the gift of fortune, a family name came by nature.

Tess still stood hesitating like a barber about to make his plunge, hardly knowing whether to retreat or to persevere, when a figure came forth from the dark triangular door of the tent. It was that of a tall young man, smoking.

He had an almost swarthy complexion, with full lips, badly moulded, though red and smooth, above which was a well-groomed black moustache with curled points, though his age could not be more than three or four-and-twenty. Despite the touches of barbarism in his contours, there was a singular force in the gentleman's face, and in his bold rolling eye.

`Well, my Beauty, what can I do for you?' said he, coming forward. And perceiving that she stood quite confounded: `Never mind me. I am Mr d'Urberville. Have you come to see me or my mother?'

This embodiment of a d'Urberville and a namesake differed even more from what Tess had expected than the house and grounds had differed. She had dreamed of an aged and dignified face, the sublimation of all the d'Urberville lineaments, furrowed with incarnate memories representing in hieroglyphic the centuries of her family's and England's history. But she screwed herself up to the work in hand, since she could not get out of it, and answered--

`I came to see your mother, sir.'

`I am afraid you cannot see her - she is an invalid,' replied the present representative of the spurious house; for this was Mr Alec, the only son of the lately deceased gentleman. `Cannot I answer your purpose? What is the business you wish to see her about?'

`It isn't business - it is - I can hardly say what!'

`Pleasure?,

`Oh no. Why, sir, if I tell you, it will seem'------

Tess's sense of a certain ludicrousness in her errand was now so strong that, notwithstanding her awe of him, and her general discomfort at being here, her rosy lips curved towards a smile, much to the attraction of the swarthy Alexander.

`It is so very foolish,' she stammered; `I fear I can't tell you!' `Never mind; I like foolish things. Try again, my dear,' said he kindly.

`Mother asked me to come,'Tess continued; `and, indeed, I was in the mind to do so myself likewise. But I did not think it would be like this. I came, sir, to tell you that we are of the same family as you.,

`Ho! Poor relations?'

`Yes.'

`Stokes?'

`No; d'Urbervilles.'

`Ay, ay; I mean d'Urbervilles.'

`Our names are worn away to Durbeyfield; but we have several proofs that we are d'Urbervilles. Antiquarians hold we are, - and - and we have an old seal, marked with a ramping lion on a shield, and a castle over him. And we have a very old silver spoon, round in the bowl like a little ladle, and marked with the same castle. But it is so worn that mother uses it to stir the pea-soup.'

`A castle argent is certainly my crest,' said he blandly. `And my arms a lion rampant.'

`And so mother said we ought to make ourselves beknown to you - as we've lost our horse by a bad accident, and are the oldest branch o' the family.'

`Very' kind of your mother, I'm sure. And 1, for one, don't regret her step.' Alec looked at Tess as he spoke, in a way that made her blush a little. `And so, my pretty girl, you've come on a friendly visit to us, as relations?'

`I suppose I have,' faltered Tess, looking uncomfortable again.

`Well - there's no harm in it. Where do you live? What are you?'

She gave him brief particulars; and responding to further inquiries told him that she was intending to go back by the same carrier who had brought her.

`It is a long while before he returns past Trantridge Cross. Supposing we walk round the grounds to pass the time, my pretty Coz?'

Tess wished to abridge her visit as much as possible; but the young man was pressing, and she consented to accompany him. He conducted her about the lawns, and flower-beds, and conservatories; and thence to the fruit-garden and greenhouses, where he asked her if she liked strawberries.

`Yes,' said Tess, `when they come.'

`They are already here.' D'Urberville began gathering specimens of the fruit for her, handing them back to her as he stooped; and, presently, selecting a specially fine product of the `British Queen variety, he stood up and held it by the stem to her mouth.

`No - no!' she said quickly, putting her fingers between his hand and her lips. `I would rather take it in my own hand.' `Nonsense!' he insisted; and in a slight distress she parted her lips and took it in.

They had spent some time wandering desultorily thus, Tess eating in a half pleased, half reluctant state whatever d'Urberville offered her. When she could consume no more of the strawberries he filled her little basket with them; and then the two passed round to the rose trees, whence he gathered blossoms and gave her to put in her bosom. She obeyed like one in a dream, and when she could affix no more he himself tucked a bud or two into her hat, and heaped her basket with others in the prodigality of his bounty. At last, looking at his watch, he said, `Now, by the time you have had something to eat, it will be time for you to leave, if you want to catch the carrier to Shaston. Come here, and I'll see what grub I can find.'

Stoke-d'Urberville took her back to the lawn and into the tent, where he left her, soon reappearing with a basket of light luncheon, which he put before her himself. It was evidently the gentleman's wish not to be disturbed in this pleasant tête-à-te by the servantry.

`Do you mind my smoking?' he asked.

`Oh, not at all, sir.'

He watched her pretty and unconscious munching through the skeins of smoke that pervaded the tent, and Tess Durbeyfield did not divine, as she innocently looked down at the roses in her bosom, that there behind the blue narcotic haze was potentially the `tragic mischief' of her drama one who stood fair to be the blood-red-ray in the spectrum of her young life. She had an attribute which amounted to a disadvantage just now; and it was attribute which amounted to a disadvantage just now; and it was this that caused Alec d'Urberville's eyes to rivet themselves upon her. It was a luxuriance of aspect, a fullness of growth, which made her appear more of a woman that she really was. She had inherited the feature from her mother without the quality it denoted. It had troubled her mind occasionally, till her companions had said that it was a fault which time would cure.

She soon had finished her lunch. `Now I am going home, sir,' she said, rising.

`And what do they call you?' he asked, as he accompanied her along the drive till they were out of sight of the house.

`Tess Durbeyfield, down at Marlott.'

`And you say your people have lost their horse?'

`I - killed him!' she answered, her eyes filling with tears as she gave particulars of Prince's death. `And I don't know what to do for father on account of it!'

`I must think if I cannot do something. My mother must find a berth for you. But, Tess, no nonsense about "d'Urberville";--

"Durbeyfield" only, you know - quite another name.'

`I wish for no better, sir,' said she with something of dignity.

For a moment - only for a moment - when they were in the turning of the drive, between the tall rhododendrons and conifers, before the lodge became visible, he inclined his face towards her as if - but, no: he thought better of it, and let her go.

Thus the thing began. Had she perceived this meeting's import she might have asked why she was doomed to be seen and coveted that day by the wrong man, and not by some other man, the right and desired one in all respects - as nearly as humanity can supply the right and desired; yet to him who amongst her acquaintance might have approximated to this kind, she was but a transient impression, half forgotten.

In the ill-judged execution of the well-judged plan of things the call seldom produces the comer, the man to love rarely coincides with the hour for loving. Nature does not often say `See!' to her poor creature at a time when seeing can lead to happy doing; or reply `Here!'to a body's cry of `Where?'till the hide and seek has become an irksome, outworn game. We may wonder whether at the acme and summit of the human progress these anachronisms will be corrected by a finer intuition, a closer interaction of the social machinery than that which now jolts us round and along; but such completeness is not to be prophesied, or even conceived as possible. Enough that in the present case, as in millions, it was not the two halves of a perfect whole that confronted each other at the perfect moment; a missing counterpart wandered independently about the earth waiting in crass obtuseness till the late time came. Out of which maladroit delay sprang anxieties, disappointments, shocks, catastrophes, and passing-strange destinies.

When d'Urberville got back to the tent he sat down astride on a chair reflecting, with a pleased gleam in his face. Then he broke into a loud laugh.

`Well, I'm damned! What a funny thing! Ha-ha-ha! And what a crumby girl!'