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第21节 第三十三章 【
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安琪尔觉得,在举行婚礼之前,他想和苔丝一起到奶牛场以外的某个地方玩一天,他作她的情夫,让她陪着他,做他的情妇,享受最后一次短途旅行;这会是浪漫的一天,这种情形是不会重现的;而另一个更伟大的日子正在他们的面前闪耀着光彩。因此,在举行婚礼的前一个星期里,他建议到最近的镇上去买一些东西,于是他们就一起动身了。
克莱尔在奶牛场的生活一直是一种隐士的生活,同他自己阶级的人毫无往来。好几个月来,他从来没有到附近的镇上去过,他不需要马车,也从来没有准备马车,如果要坐车出去,他就向奶牛场老板租一辆小马车,如果要骑马出去,就租一匹矮脚马。他们那天出去就是租的一辆双轮小马车。
在他们一生中,这是他们第一次一起出去买共同的东西。那天是圣诞节前夜,小镇用冬青和槲寄生装饰起来,因为过节,镇上涌满了从四面八方来的乡下人。苔丝挽着克莱尔的胳膊走在他们中间,脸上光彩照人,满面春色,引来许多艳羡的目光。
傍晚时分,他们回到了先前住宿的客店,在安琪尔去照料把他们载到门口的马匹和马车的时候,苔丝就站在门口等着。大客厅里到处都是进进出出的客人。进出的客人打开门或关上门的时候,客厅里的灯光就照射到苔丝的脸上。后来客厅里又走出来两个人,从苔丝身边经过。其中有一个人见了她,觉得有些奇怪,就把她上上下下地打量了一番。苔丝心想这是从特兰里奇来的一个人,可是特兰里奇离这儿很远,因此在这儿很少见到从那儿来的人。
“一个漂亮姑娘。”其中一个说。
“不错,真够漂亮的了。不过,除非是我真的认错了人……”
接着他又把没有说完的半句话说成了相反的意思。
克莱尔刚好从马厩里回来,在门口碰见了说话的那个人,也听见了他说的话,看见了苔丝退缩和害怕。看见苔丝受到侮辱,他怒火中烧,想也没有想就握起拳头用劲朝那个人的下巴打了一拳。这一拳打得他歪歪倒倒,又退回到走道里去了。
那个男人回过神来,似乎想冲上来动手,克莱尔走到门外,摆出招架的姿势。可是他的对手开始改变了想法。他从苔丝身边走过的时候又把她重新看了看,对克莱尔说——
“对不起,先生;这完全是一场误会。我把她当成了离这儿有四十里地的另外一个女人。”
后来克莱尔也觉得自己太鲁莽了,而且也后悔自己不该把苔丝一个人留在过道里,于是他就按照自己通常处理这种事情的办法,给了那个人五个先令,算作是他打他一拳的赔偿;然后他们和和气气地说了声晚安,就分头走了。克莱尔从赶车的马夫手中接过缰绳,和苔丝一起上车动了身,那两个人走的是相反的路。
“你当真是认错人了吗?”第二个人问。
“一点儿也没有认错。不过我不想伤害那位绅士的感情罢了。”
就在这个时候,那一对年轻的恋人也正赶着车往前走。
“我们能不能把婚礼往后推迟一下?”她用干涩呆滞的声音问。“我是说如果我们愿意推迟的话。”
“不,我的爱人。你要冷静下来。你是说我打了那个人,他有可能到法庭去告我是不是?”他幽默地问。
“不——我只是说——如果我们愿意推迟的话,就缓一缓。”
她说的话是什么意思并不十分清楚,他就劝她,要她从心里把这样的念头打消,她也就顺从地同意了。不过在回家的路上,她一直郁郁寡欢,心情非常沉闷。她后来心想:“我们应该离开这儿,走得远远的。离开这儿要有好几百英里,这样的话这种事就再也不会发生了,过去的事就一点儿影子也传不到那儿去了。”
那天晚上,他们在楼梯口甜甜蜜蜜地分开了,克莱尔上楼进了他的阁楼。苔丝坐在那儿,收拾一些生活中的必需用品,因为剩下的日子已经不多了,她怕来不及收拾这些小东西。她坐在那儿收拾的时候,听见头顶上克莱尔的房间里传来一阵响声,像是一种打架的声音。屋子里所有的人都睡着了,她担心克莱尔生了病,就跑上楼去敲他的门,问他出了什么事情。
“啊,没有什么事,亲爱的,”他在房间里说。“对不起,我把你吵醒了!不过原因说来十分可笑:我睡着了,梦见你受到白天那个家伙的欺侮,就又和他打了起来,你听见的声音就是我用拳头打在旅行皮包上的声音,那个皮包是我今天拿出来准备装东西用的。我睡着了偶尔有这种毛病。睡觉去吧,不要再想着这件事了。”
在她犹豫不定的天平上,这是最后一颗砝码。当面把自己的过去坦诚相告,她做不到,不过还有另外的办法。她坐下来,拿出来一叠信纸,把自己三四年前的事情简单明了地叙述出来,写了满满四页,装进一个信封里,写上寄克莱尔。后来她又怕自己变得软弱了,就光着脚跑上楼,把写的信从门底下塞了进去。
她睡眠的夜晚被打断了,这也许应该是这样的,她倾听着头上传来的第一声微弱的脚步声。脚步声出现了,还是同往常一样;他下了楼,还是同往常一样。她也下了楼。他在楼梯下面等着她,吻她。他的吻肯定还是像过去一样热烈!
她在心里头想,他有点儿心神不安,也有点儿疲倦。不过对于她坦诚相告的事情,他一个字也没有提起,即使他们单独在一起的时候也没有提起。他是不是收到了信?除非是他开始了这个话题,否则她自己只能闭口不提。这一天就这样过去了,很明显,他无论是怎样想的,他是不想让别人知道的。不过,他还是像从前一样坦率,一样地爱她。是不是她的怀疑太孩子气了?是不是他已经原谅了她?是不是他爱她爱的就是她本来这个人?他的微笑是不是在笑她让傻里傻气的恶梦闹得心神不安?他真的收到了她写给他的信吗?她在他的房间里瞧了一眼,但是什么也没有看见。可能他已经原谅她了。不过即使他没有收到她写的信,她也对他突然产生了一种强烈的信任,相信他肯定会原谅她的。
每天早晨和每天晚上,他还是同从前一样,于是除夕那一天来到了,那天是他们结婚的日子。
这一对情人不用在挤牛奶的时间里起早床了,在他们住在奶牛场的最后一个礼拜里,他们的身分有点儿像客人的身分了,苔丝也受到优待,自己拥有了一个房问。吃早饭时他们一下楼,就惊奇地看见那间大餐厅因为他们的婚事已经发生了变化。在早晨天还没有亮的时候,奶牛场老板就吩咐人把那个大张着口的壁扇的炉角粉刷白了,砖面也刷洗得变红了,在壁炉上方的圆拱上,从前挂的是带黑条纹图案的又旧又脏的蓝棉布帘子,现在换上了光彩夺目的黄色花缎。在冬季阴沉的早晨,房间里最引人注目的壁炉现在焕然一新,给整个房间平添了一种喜庆的色彩。
“我决定为你们的结婚庆祝一下,”奶牛场老板说。“要是按照我们过去的做法,我们应该组织一个乐队,用大提琴、小提琴等全套乐器演奏起来,可是你们不愿意这样,所以这是我能够想到的不加张扬的庆祝了。”
苔丝家里人住的地方离这儿很远,所以出席她的婚礼不很方便,甚至也没有邀请她家里任何人;而且事实上马洛特村没有来任何人。至于安琪尔家里人,他已经写信通知了他们结婚的时间,也表示很高兴在结婚那一天至少能看见家里来一个人,如果他们愿意来的话。他的两个哥哥根本就没有回信,似乎对他很生气;而他的父母亲给他回了一封令人悲伤的信,埋怨他不该这样匆匆忙忙地结婚,不过坏事往好处想,说他们虽然从来没有想到会娶一个挤牛奶的姑娘做他们小儿子的媳妇,但是他们的儿子既然已经长大成人,相信他会做出最好的判断。
克莱尔家里人的冷淡并没有使他太悲伤,因为他手里握有一张大牌,不久就可以给家里的人一个惊喜。刚刚从奶牛场离开,就把苔丝是一位小姐、是德贝维尔家族的后裔抖露出去,他觉得是轻率的、危险的;因此他先要把她的身世隐瞒起来,带着她旅行几个月,和他一起读一些书,然后他才带她去见他的父母,表明她的家世,这时候他才得意地介绍苔丝,说她是一个古老家族的千金小姐。如果说这算不上什么,但至少也要算一个情人的美丽梦幻。苔丝的身世对世界上任何人来说,也许不会比对他自己更有价值。
苔丝看见安琪尔对她的态度并没有因为她写信表白了自己。的过去而有什么改变,于是就开始怀疑他是否收到了她的信。在安琪尔还没有吃完早饭之前,她就急忙离开饭桌上楼。她突然想起来再去把那个古怪的房间搜查一遍,长期以来,这个房间一直是克莱尔的兽穴,或者不如说是鸟巢;她爬上楼梯,站在门开着的房间门口,观察着、思考着。她弯下身子从门槛下看去,两三天前,她就是怀着紧张的心情从那儿把信塞进去的。房间里的地毯一直铺到了门槛的跟前,在地毯下面,她看见了一个信封的白边,信封里装着她写给克莱尔的信,由于她在匆忙中把信塞进了地毯和地板之间,很显然克莱尔从来就没有看到这封信。
她把信抽出来,觉得人都快晕倒了。她拿的就是那封信,封得好好的,和当时离开她手里的时候完全一样。她面前的一座大山还是没有被移开。全屋子的人都在忙着为他们做准备,现在她是不能让他读这封信了;所以她回到自己的房间,在房间里把那封信销毁了。
克莱尔再次看到她的时候,她的脸色是那样苍白,这使得他十分担心。她把信误放进地毯下面这件事,使她把这看成天意,不让她自白;但是她的理智又使她明白不是那样一回事;她仍然还有时间啊。但是一切都处在一种混乱当中;人们进进出出;所有的人都得换衣服,奶牛场老板和克里克太太已经被请来做他们的证婚人;因此思考和认真谈话都是不可能的。苔丝唯一能单独和克莱尔在一起的机会只是他们在楼梯口相遇的时候。
“我非常想和你谈一谈——我要向你坦白我的过错、我的缺点!”她装出轻松的样子说。
“不用,不用——我们不能谈什么过错——至少在今天,你得让别人认为你十全十美,我的宝贝!”他大声说、“以后我们有的是时间,我希望那时候再讨论我们的过错。同时我也要把我的过错说一说。”
“可是我想,最好还是现在让我谈一谈,你就不会说——”
“好啦,我的傻小姐,你可以另外找时间告诉我——比如说,我们把新房安顿好以后。那时候,我也要把我的过错告诉你。不过我们不要让这些事破坏了今天这个好日子;在以后无聊的日子里,它们才是绝妙的话题呢。”
“那么你是不希望我现在告诉你了,最亲爱的?”
“我不希望你现在告诉我,苔丝,真的。”
他们急急忙忙地换衣服,忙着动身,剩下的时间就只谈了这样几句话。她想了想,感到他说的话是为了让她放心。她对克莱尔一片忠心的强大浪潮,在后来关键的几个小时里推动着她前进,从而使她再也无法思考了。她只有一个愿望,这是她抗拒了这样长时间的一个愿望,那就是做他的人,称他为自己的主人,自己的丈夫——如有必要,就为他而死——这个愿望现在终于使她从疲惫不堪的思索之旅中摆脱出来了。在梳妆打扮的时候,她似乎漫步在五光十色的想象的精神云霞中,在云霞的照射下,一切不祥的可能性都慢慢消失了。
到教堂去有很长一段路要走,又是在冬天,所以他们决定驾车去。他们在路边的酒店里定了一辆轿式马车,这辆马车是从坐驿车旅行的时代保存到现在的。它的轮辐很结实,轮瓦很厚,带拱顶的大车厢,皮带和弹簧粗大,车辕就像攻打城市的大木头。赶车的是一个六十岁的老“小子”,因为年轻时长年遭受风吹雨打,加上好喝烈性酒,所以受到风湿性痛风的折磨——自从不需要他再做专门的赶车夫以来,他无事可做,站在酒店的门口,已经整整二十五年了,仿佛是在期待旧日时光的重新到来。许多年来,他一直是卡斯特桥市王家酒店长期雇佣的车夫,他右腿的外面长期受到豪华马车车辕的摩擦,从而产生出一个长年不愈的伤口。
新郎和新娘,还有克里克先生和克里克太太,一起上了这辆笨重的吱吱作响的马车,坐在这位老朽的赶车夫的后面。安琪尔希望他的哥哥至少有一个人出席他的婚礼,做他的傧相,但是他们在他委婉地暗示之后仍然保持沉默,这表示他们是不肯来了。他们不赞成这门婚事,因此也就不能指望他们会支持他。也许他们不能来更好些。他们都是教会中的年轻人,但是,且不论他们对这门婚事的看法如何,就是他们那一副酸臭样子,同奶牛场的人称兄道弟也会叫人不舒服。
随着时间的发展,苔丝在这种情势的推动下对这些一无所知,也一无所见,甚至连他们走的那条通向教堂的路也不知道。她知道安琪尔就坐在她的身边;其它的一切都是一团发光的雾霭。她成了一种天上才有的人物,生活在诗歌中——是那些古典天神中的一个,安琪尔和她一块儿散步的时候,常常给她讲那些天神。
他们的婚姻是采用的许可证办法,因此教堂里只有十二三个人;不过即使有一千个人出席,对她也不会产生太大的影响。他们离她现在的世界,就像从地上到天上一样远。她怀着喜悦的心情郑重宣誓要忠实于他,与之相比普通男女的感情就似乎变成了轻浮。在仪式停顿的中间,他们跪在一起,苔丝在不知不觉中歪向安琪尔一边,肩膀碰到了他的胳膊;头脑里思念一闪,她又感到害怕起来,于是就动了动肩膀,好弄清楚他是不是真的在那儿,也好巩固一下她的信心,他的忠诚就是抵抗一切的证明。
克莱尔知道她爱他——她身上的每一处曲线都表明了这一点——但是那时候他还不知道她对他的忠实、专一和温顺的程度;还不知道她为他忍受了多久的痛苦,对他有多诚实,对她抱有多大的信任。
他们从教堂出来的时候,撞钟人正在把钟推动起来,于是一阵三组音调的质朴钟声响起来——对于这样一个小教区来说,建造教堂的人认为这种有限的钟声已经足够了。她和她的丈夫一起经过钟楼,向大门走去,一阵阵声音从钟楼的气窗里传出来,在他们的四周嗡嗡响着,他们能感觉到空气的震动。这种情景同她正在经历的极其强烈的精神气氛是一致的。
她在这种心境里感到荣耀,好像圣约翰看见太阳中的天使一样,这是因为她受到外来光辉的照耀,等到教堂的钟声慢慢地消失了,婚礼引起的激动感情才平静下来。这时候,她的眼睛已经能够清楚地看出细节来,克里克先生和克里克太太吩咐把那辆小马车赶来自己乘坐,而把那辆大马车留给这一对新人,此时她才第一次看见这辆马车的结构和特点。她一声不响地坐在那儿,把那辆马车打量了好久。
“你好像心情有些不大好,苔丝,”克莱尔说。
“是的,”她回答说,一边用她的手去摸额头。“有许多东西我一见到就心惊胆战。一切都是这样地严肃,安琪尔。在那些东西里,我似乎从前见过这辆大马车,也非常熟悉这辆大马车。真是奇怪,一定是我在睡梦中见过它。”
“啊——你一定听到过德贝维尔家马车的传说——你们家族正兴旺的时候,出了一件迷信的事情,在这个郡人人都知道;这辆笨重的马车使你想起了这个传说。”
“就我所知,我从来没有听说过,”苔丝说。“是什么传说?可以告诉我吗?”
“啊——现在最好还是不要仔细地告诉你。在十六世纪或者十七世纪,有一户姓德贝维尔的在自家的马车里犯了一桩可怕的罪行;自此以后,你们家族的人就总是看见或听见那辆旧马车了——不过等以后我再讲给你听——这故事很有些阴森。很明显,你看见了这辆笨重的马车,心里头就又想起了你听说过的模模糊糊的故事。”
“我不记得我以前听说过这个故事,”她嘟哝着说。“安琪尔,你是说我们家族的人在快死的时候看见马车出现呢,还是在他们犯罪的时候看见马车出现呢?”
“别说啦,苔丝!”
他吻了她一下,不让她说下去。
他们到家的时候,她心里懊悔不已,人也变得没精打采。她的确变成了安琪尔·克莱尔夫人了,但是她有任何道德上的权利获得这种名义吗?更确切地说,她难道不是亚里山大·德贝维尔夫人吗?由于她保持沉默,在正直的人看来就应该受到责备,难道强烈的爱情就能够免去对她的责备吗?她不知道别的妇女在这种情形下是怎样做的;也没有人帮她拿主意。
不过,有一会儿她看见只有自己一个人在房间里——这是她住在这儿的最后一天,以后也不会再来了——于是她跪在地上,为自己祈祷。她想向上帝祈祷,不过她真正恳求的是她的丈夫。她对这个男人如此崇拜,这使她一直害怕这不是什么好的兆头。她知道劳伦斯神父所说的一句话:“这些疯狂的欢乐都会有疯狂的结果。”①她对他的崇拜太不要命了,不是人的条件能够接受的——太厉害了、太疯狂了、太要人的命了。
 
①见莎士比亚的悲剧《罗密欧与朱丽叶》第二幕第六场。

“啊,我的爱人,我的爱人,为什么我要这样地爱你!”她独自在房间里低声说;“因为你爱的她并不是真正的我自己,而只是另外一个长得和我一模一样的人;是一个我有可能是而现在不是的另外一个人。”
已经到了下午,这也是他们动身的时候。他们早就决定了他们的计划,在井桥磨坊的附近有一座古老的农舍,他们在那儿租了住处,打算在那儿住几天,同时克莱尔也想在那儿对面粉的生产过程进行一番研究。到了下午两点钟的时候,他们已经收拾好,只准备动身了。奶牛场的工人都站在红砖门房那儿为他们送行,奶牛场老板和老板娘一直把他们送到门口。苔丝看见和她同房的三个伙伴靠墙站成一排,心情忧郁地把头低着。先前她很有一些怀疑,她们会不会在他们动身的时候出来为他们送行,但是她们都来了,尽力克制着、忍受着,一直坚持到最后。她知道娇小的莱蒂为什么看上去那样柔弱,伊茨为什么那样伤心痛苦,玛丽安又为什么那样麻木。她在那儿一心想着她们的痛苦,倒暂时把萦绕在自己心头的一块心病忘了。
她一时受到感情的驱使,就低声对她的丈夫说——
“真是几个可怜的女孩子,你能不能把她们每个人都吻一下,第一次也是最后一次行吗?”
克莱尔对这种告别的方式一点也没有表示反对的意思——这对他来说只不过是一种告别的形式罢了——他从她们身边走过去的时候,就一个接一个地把她们都吻了一下,在吻她们的时候,嘴里一边说着“再见”。他们走到门口的时候,女性的敏感又使苔丝回过头去,想看一看那个同情的吻产生了什么样的效果;她的目光里没有得意的神情,而她的目光里本应该有这种神气的。即使她的目光里有得意的神气,当她看到那些姑娘们如何感动的时候,她也会清除掉这种神气的。很明显,他的吻是伤害了她们了,因为这一吻又唤醒了她们一直在努力抑制的感情。
而所有的这一切,克莱尔是不知道的。在从边门中走出去的时候,他握住奶牛场老板和老板娘的手,对他们的照顾表示他最后的感谢;此后在他们动身上路之前就是一片沉寂了。这种沉寂被公鸡的一声啼鸣打破了。一只长着红冠子的白公鸡早已经落在了屋前的栅栏顶上,离他们只有几码远,公鸡的长鸣震荡着他们的耳膜,然后就像山谷里的回声一样地消失了。
“啊?”克里克太太说。“一只下午打鸣的鸡!”
场院的门边站着两个人,为他们把门打开。
“真遗憾,”有一个人低声对另一个人说,没有想到他们说的话传到了站在边门旁的一对新人的耳中。
公鸡又叫了一声,是直接对着克莱尔叫的。
“哦,”奶牛场老板说。
“我不想听这只公鸡叫!”苔丝对她的丈夫说。“叫那个人把它赶开。再见,再见啦!”
公鸡又叫了一声。
“嘘!滚开吧,不然我就扭断你的脖子!”奶牛场老板有些恼怒地说,一边转过身去把公鸡赶走了。他在进门时对妻子说:“唉,想想今天那公鸡叫吧!这一年来我还从来没有听见公鸡在下午叫呢。”
“那不过是说天气要变了,”妻子说:“并不是像你想的那样:那是不可能的。”
 

Angel felt that he would like to spend a day with her before the wedding, somewhere away from the dairy, as a last jaunt in her company while they were yet mere lover and mistress; a romantic day, in circumstances that would never be repeated; with that other and greater day beaming close ahead of them. During the preceding week, therefore, he suggested making a few purchases in the nearest town, and they started together.

Clare's life at the dairy had been that of a recluse in respect to the world of his own class. For months he had never gone near a town, and, requiring no vehicle, had never kept one, hiring the dairyman's cob or gig if he rode or drove. They went in the gig that day.

And then for the first time in their lives they shopped as partners in one concern. It was Christmas Eve, with its loads of holly and mistletoe, and the town was very full of strangers who had come in from all parts of the country on account of the day. Tess paid the penalty of walking about with happiness superadded to beauty on her countenance by being much stared at as she moved amid them on his arm.

In the evening they returned to the inn at which they had put up, and Tess waited in the entry while Angel went to see the horse and gig brought to the door. The general sitting-room was full of guests, who were continually going in and out. As the door opened and shut each time for the passage of these, the light within the parlour fell full upon Tess's face. Two men came out and passed by her among the rest. One of them had stared her up and down in surprise, and she fancied be was a Trantridge man, though that village lay so many miles off that Trantridge folk were rarities here.

`A comely maid that,' said the other.

`True, comely enough. But unless I make a great mistake------' And he negatived the remainder of the definition forthwith.

Clare had just returned from the stable-yard, and, confronting the man on the threshold, heard the words, and saw the shrinking of Tess. The insult to her stung him to the quick, and before he had considered anything at all he struck the man on the chin with the full force of his fist, sending him staggering backwards into the passage.

The man recovered himself, and seemed inclined to come on, and Clare, stepping outside the door, put himself in a posture of defence. But his opponent began to think better of the matter. He looked anew at Tess as he passed her, and said to Clare--

`I beg pardon, sir; 'twas a complete mistake. I thought she was another woman, forty miles from here.'

Clare, feeling then that he had been too hasty, and that he was, moreover, to blame for leaving her standing in an inn-passage, did what he usually did in such cases, gave the man five shillings to plaster the blow; and thus they parted, bidding each other a pacific good-night. As soon as Clare had taken the reins from the ostler, and the young couple had driven off, the two men went in the other direction.

`And was it a mistake?' said the second one.

`Not a bit of it. But I didn't want to hurt the gentleman's feelings - not I.'

In the meantime the lovers were driving onward.

`Could we put off our wedding till a little later?' Tess asked in a dry dull voice. `I mean if we wished?'

`No, my love. Calm yourself. Do you mean that the fellow may have time to summon me for assault?' he asked good-humouredly.

`No - I only meant - if it should have to be put off.'

What she meant was not very clear, and he directed her to dismiss such fancies from her mind, which she obediently did as well as she could. But she was grave, very grave, all the way home; till she thought, `We shall go away, a very long distance, hundreds of miles from these parts, and such as this can never happen again, and no ghost of the past reach there.'

They parted tenderly that night on the landing, and Clare ascended to his attic. Tess sat up getting on with some little requisites, lest the few remaining days should not afford sufficient time. While she sat she heard a noise in Angel's room overhead, a sound of thumping and struggling. Everybody else in the house was asleep, and in her anxiety lest Clare should be ill she ran up and knocked at his door, and asked him what was the matter.

`Oh, nothing, dear,' he said from within. `I am so sorry disturbed you! But the reason is rather an amusing one: I fell asleep and dreamt that I was fighting that fellow again who insulted you and the noise you heard was my pummelling away with my fists at my portmanteau, which I pulled out to-day for packing. I am occasionally liable to these freaks in my sleep. Go to bed and think of it no more.'

This was the last drachm required to turn the scale of her indecision. Declare the past to him by word of mouth she could not; but there was another way. She sat down and wrote on the four pages of a note-sheet a succinct narrative of those events of three or four years ago, put it into an envelope, and directed it to Clare. Then, lest the flesh should again be weak, she crept upstairs without any shoes and slipped the note under his door.

Her night was a broken one, as it well might be, and she listened for the first faint noise overhead. It came, as usual; he descended, as usual. She descended. He met her at the bottom of the stairs and kissed her. Surely it was as warmly as ever!

He looked a little disturbed and worn, she thought. But he said not a word to her about her revelation, even when they were alone. Could he have had it? Unless he began the subject she felt that she could say nothing. So the day passed, and it was evident that whatever he thought he meant to keep to himself. Yet he was frank and affectionate as before. Could it be that her doubts were childish? that he forgave her; that he loved her for what she was, just as she was, and smiled at her disquiet as at a foolish nightmare? Had he really received her note? She glanced into his room, and could see nothing of it. It might be that he forgave her. But even if he had not received it she had a sudden enthusiastic trust that he surely would forgive her.

Every morning and night he was the same, and thus New Year's Eve broke - the wedding-day.

The lovers did not rise at milking-time, having through the whole of this last week of their sojourn at the dairy been accorded something of the position of guests, Tess being honoured with a room of her own. When they arrived downstairs at breakfast-time they were surprised to see what effects had been produced in the large kitchen for their glory since they had last beheld it. At some unnatural hour of the morning the dairyman had caused the yawning chimney-corner to be whitened, and the brick hearth reddened, and a blazing yellow damask blower to be hung across the arch in place of the old grimy blue cotton one with a black sprig pattern which had formerly done duty here. This renovated aspect of what was the focus indeed of the room on a dull winter morning, threw a smiling demeanour over the whole apartment.

`I was determined to do summat in honour o't,' said the dairyman. `And as you wouldn't hear of my gieing a rattling good randy wi' fiddles and bass-viols complete, as we should ha' done in old times, this was all I could think o' as a noiseless thing.' Tess's friends lived so far off that none could conveniently have been present at the ceremony, even had any been asked; but as a fact nobody was invited from Marlott. As for Angel's family, he had written and duly informed them of the time, and assured them that he would be glad to see one at least of them there for the day if he would like to come. His brothers had not replied at all, seeming to be indignant with him; while his father and mother had written a rather sad letter, deploring his precipitancy in rushing into marriage, but making the best of the matter by saying that, though a dairywoman was the last daughter-in-law they could have expected, their son had arrived at an age at which he might be supposed to be the best judge.

This coolness in his relations distressed Clare less than it would have done had he been without the grand card with which he meant to surprise them ere long. To produce Tess, fresh from the dairy, as a d'Urberville and a lady, he had felt to be temerarious and risky; hence he had concealed her lineage till such time as, familiarized with worldly ways by a few months' travel and reading with him, he could take her on a visit to his parents, and impart the knowledge while triumphantly producing her as worthy of such an ancient line. It was a pretty lover's dream, if no more. Perhaps Tess's lineage had more value for himself than for anybody in the world besides.

Her perception that Angel's bearing towards her still remained in no whit altered by her own communication rendered Tess guiltily doubtful if he could have received it. She rose from breakfast before he had finished, and hastened upstairs. It had occurred to her to look once more into the queer gaunt room which had been Clare's den, or rather eyrie, for so long, and climbing the ladder she stood at the open door of the apartment, regarding and pondering. She stooped to the threshold of the doorway, where she had pushed in the note two or three days earlier in such excitement. The carpet reached close to the sill, and under the edge of the carpet she discerned the faint white margin of the envelope containing her letter to him, which he obviously had never seen, owing to her having in her haste thrust it beneath the carpet as well as beneath the door.

With a feeling of faintness she withdrew the letter. There it was - sealed up, just as it had left her hands. The mountain had not yet been removed. She could not let him read it now, the house being in full bustle of preparation; and descending to her own room she destroyed the letter there.

She was so pale when he saw her again that he felt quite anxious. The incident of the misplaced letter she had jumped at as if it prevented a confession; but she knew in her conscience that it need not; there was still time. Yet everything was in a stir; there was coming and going; all had to dress, the dairyman and Mrs Crick having been asked to accompany them as witnesses; and reflection or deliberate talk was well-nigh impossible. The only minute Tess could get to be alone with Clare was when they met upon the landing.

`I am so anxious to talk to you - I want to confess all my faults and blunders!' she said with attempted lightness.

`No, no - we can't have faults talked of - you must be deemed perfect to-day at least, my Sweet!' he cried. `We shall have plenty of time, hereafter, I hope, to talk over our failings. I will confess mine at the same time.'

`But it would be better for me to do it now, I think, so that you could not say--'

`Well, my quixotic one, you shall tell me anything - say, as soon as we are settled in our lodging; not now. 1, too, will tell you my faults then. But do not let us spoil the day with them; they will be excellent matter for a dull time.'

`Then you don't wish me to, dearest?'

`I do not, Tessy, really.'

The hurry of dressing and starting left no time for more than this. Those words of his seemed to reassure her on further reflection. She was whirled onward through the next couple of critical hours by the mastering tide of her devotion to him, which closed up further meditation. Her one desire, so long resisted, to make herself his, to call him her lord, her own - then, if necessary, to die - had at last lifted her up from her plodding reflective pathway. In dressing, she moved about in a mental cloud of many-coloured idealities, which eclipsed all sinister contingencies by its brightness.

The church was a long way off, and they were obliged to drive, particularly as it was winter. A close carriage was ordered from a roadside inn, a vehicle which had been kept there ever since the old days of post-chaise travelling. It had stout wheel-spokes, and heavy felloes, a great curved bed, immense straps and springs, and a pole like a battering-ram. The postilion was a venerable `boy' of sixty - a martyr to rheumatic gout, the result of excessive exposure in youth, counteracted by strong liquors - who had stood at inn-doors doing nothing for the whole five-and-twenty years that had elapsed since he had no longer been required to ride professionally, as if expecting the old times to come back again. He had a permanent running wound on the outside of his right leg, originated by the constant bruisings of aristocratic carriage-poles during the many years that he had been in regular employ at the King's Arms, Casterbridge.

Inside this cumbrous and creaking structure, and behind this decayed conductor, the partie carrée took their seats - the bride and bridegroom and Mr and Mrs Crick. Angel would have liked one at least of his brothers to be present as groomsman, but their silence after his gentle hint to that effect by letter had signified that they did not care to come. They disapproved of the marriage, and could not be expected to countenance it. Perhaps it was as well that they could not be present. They were not worldly young fellows, but fraternizing with dairy-folk would have struck unpleasantly upon their biassed niceness, apart from their views of the match.

Upheld by the momentum of the time Tess knew nothing of this; did not see anything; did not know the road they were taking to the church. She knew that Angel was close to her; all the rest was a luminous mist. She was a sort of celestial person, who owed her being to poetry - one of those classical divinities Clare was accustomed to talk to her about when they took their walks together.

The marriage being by licence there were only a dozen or so of people in the church; had there been a thousand they would have produced no more effect upon her. They were at stellar distances from her present world. In the ecstatic solemnity with which she swore her faith to him the ordinary sensibilities of sex seemed a flippancy. At a pause in the service, while they were kneeling together, she unconsciously inclined herself towards him, so that her shoulder touched his arm; she had been frightened by a passing thought, and the movement had been automatic, to assure herself that he was really there, and to fortify her belief that his fidelity would be proof against all things.

Clare knew that she loved him - every curve of her form showed that - but he did not know at that time the full depth of her devotion, its single-mindedness, its meekness; what long-suffering it guaranteed, what honesty, what endurance, what good faith.

As they came out of church the ringers swung the bells off their rests, and a modest peal of three notes broke forth - that limited amount of expression having been deemed sufficient by the church builders for the joys of such a small parish. Passing by the tower with her husband on the path to the gate she could feel the vibrant air humming round them from the louvred belfry in a circle of sound, and it matched the highly-charged mental atmosphere in which she was living.

This condition of mind, wherein she felt glorified by an irradiation not her own, like the angel whom St John saw in the sun, lasted till the sound of the church bells had died away, and the emotions of the wedding-service had calmed down. Her eyes could dwell upon details more clearly now, and Mr and Mrs Crick having directed their own gig to be sent for them, to leave the carriage to the young couple, she observed the build and character of that conveyance for the first time. Sitting in silence she regarded it long.

`I fancy you seem oppressed, Tessy,' said Clare.

`Yes,' she answered, putting her hand to her brow. `I tremble at many things. It is all so serious, Angel. Among other things I seem to have seen this carriage before, to be very well acquainted with it. It is very odd - I must have seen it in a dream.'

`Oh - you have heard the legend of the d'Urberville Coach - that well-known superstition of this county about your family when they were very popular here; and this lumbering old thing reminds you of it.'

`I have never heard of it to my knowledge,' said she. `What is the legend - may I know it?'

`Well - I would rather not tell it in detail just now. A certain d'Urberville of the sixteenth or seventeenth century committed a dreadful crime in his family coach; and since that time members of the family see or hear the old coach whenever - But I'll tell you another day - it is rather gloomy. Evidently some dim knowledge of it has been brought back to your mind by the sight of this venerable caravan.'

`I don't remember hearing it before,' she murmured. `Is it when we are going to die, Angel, that members of my family see it, or is it when we have committed a crime?'

`Now, Tess!'

He silenced her by a kiss.

By the time they reached home she was contrite and spiritless. She was Mrs Angel Clare, indeed, but had she any moral right to the name? Was she not more truly Mrs Alexander d'Urberville? Could intensity of love justify what might be considered in upright souls as culpable reticence? She knew not what was expected of women in such cases; and she had no counsellor.

However, when she found herself alone in her room for a few minutes - the last day this on which she was ever to enter it - she knelt down and prayed. She tried to pray to God, but it was her husband who really had her supplication. Her idolatry of this man was such that she herself almost feared it to be ill-omened. She was conscious of the notion expressed by Friar Laurence: `These violent delights have violent ends.' It might be too desperate for human conditions - too rank, too wild, too deadly.

`O my love, my love, why do I love you so!' she whispered there alone; `for she you love is not my real self, but one in my image; the one I might have been!'

Afternoon came, and with it the hour for departure. They had decided to fulfil the plan of going for a few days to the lodgings in the old farmhouse near Wellbridge Mill, at which he meant to reside during his investigation of flour processes. At two o'clock there was nothing left to do but to start. All the servantry of the dairy were standing in the red-brick entry to see them go out, the dairyman and his wife following to the door. Tess saw her three chamber-mates in a row against the wall, pensively inclining their heads. She had much questioned if they would appear at the parting moment; but there they were, stoical and staunch to the last. She knew why the delicate Retty looked so fragile, and Izz so tragically sorrowful, and Marian so blank; and she forgot her own dogging shadow for a moment in contemplating theirs.

She impulsively whispered to him--

`Will you kiss 'em all, once, poor things, for the first and last time?'

Clare had not the least objection to such a farewell formality - which was all that it was to him - and as he passed them he kissed them in succession where they stood, saying `Good-bye' to each as he did so. When they reached the door Tess femininely glanced back to discern the effect of that kiss of charity; there was no triumph in her glance, as there might have been. If there had it would have disappeared when she saw how moved the girls all were. The kiss had obviously done harm by awakening feelings they were trying to subdue.

Of all this Clare was unconscious. Passing on to the wicket-gate he shook hands with the dairyman and his wife, and expressed his last thanks to them for their attentions; after which there was a moment of silence before they had moved off. It was interrupted by the crowing of a cock. The white one with the rose comb had come and settled on the palings in front of the house, within a few yards of them, and his notes thrilled their ears through, dwindling away like echoes down a valley of rocks.

`Oh?' said Mrs Crick. `An afternoon crow!'

Two men were standing by the yard gate, holding it open.

`That's bad,' one murmured to the other, not thinking that the words could be heard by the group at the door-wicket.

The cock crew again - straight towards Clare.

`Well!' said the dairyman.

`I don't like to hear him!' said Tess to her husband. `Tell the man to drive on. Good-bye, good-bye!'

The cock crew again.

`Hoosh! just you be off, sir, or I'll twist your neck!' said the dairyman with some irritation, turning to the bird and driving him away. And to his wife as they went indoors: `Now, to think o' that just to-day! I've not heard his crow of an afternoon all the year afore.'

`It only means a change in the weather,' said she; `not what you think: 'tis impossible!'