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第22节 第三十四章 【
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他们沿着谷中的平坦大道赶车走了几英里的路,就到了井桥村,然后转弯向左走,穿过伊丽莎白桥,正是这座桥,井桥村才带了一个桥字。紧靠桥的后面,就是他们租了住处的那座屋子,凡是从佛卢姆谷来的人,都非常熟悉这座屋子的外部特点;它曾经是一座富丽堂皇的庄园的一部分,是德贝维尔家族的产业和府邸,但是自从有一部分坍塌以后,它就变成了一座农屋。
“欢迎你回到你祖先的府邸!”克莱尔扶苔丝下车时说。不过他又立即后悔起来,因为这句话太接近讽刺了。
他们进屋后发现,房主利用他们租住他的屋子的几天时间到朋友家过除夕节去了,只给他们留下一个从附近农舍请来的妇女,照顾他们不多的需要。虽然他们只租了两个房间,但是他们却可以完全占用整个屋子,意识到这是他们两个人第一次领略独处一室的经验这使他们大为高兴。
但是他也发现,他的新娘子见了这座又霉又旧的老宅有些情绪低落。马车离去了,他们在那个做杂活女人的指引下上楼洗手。苔丝在楼梯口停住了,吓了一跳。
“怎么啦?”他问。
“都是这些可怕的女人!”她笑着回答说。“她们把我吓了一大跳。”
他抬头看去,看见有两幅真人一样大小的画像,镶嵌在屋子的墙板上。凡是到过这座庄园的人都知道,这两幅画着两个中年女人的画像,大概是两百年前的遗物了,画中人物的面貌只要看过一眼,就永远不会忘记。一个是又长又尖的脸,细眯眼,皮笑肉不笑的,一副奸诈无情的凶狠样子;另一个是鹰嘴鼻,大牙齿,瞪着眼睛,一副凶神恶煞的骄横样子,看见这两幅画像的人,晚上都要做恶梦的。
“你知道这是谁的画像吗?”克莱尔问那位女仆。
“老一辈的人曾经告诉过我,她们是德贝维尔家的两位夫人,德贝维尔是这座住宅的主人,”她说。“由于这两幅画像是镶嵌在墙里的,所以无法移走。”
这件事叫人感到不快,除了苔丝对她们印象不好而外,再就是苔丝的美丽面容毫无疑问可以在她们被夸大了的形体上看出来。但是他嘴里什么也没有说,心里头一直后悔不该到这儿来,选中了这座屋子来度过他们新婚的日子。他进了隔壁的那个房间。这个房间是在相当急迫的情况下给他们准备的,他们只好在同一个盆子里洗手。克莱尔在水里摸摸她的手。
“哪些是我的手指,哪些是你的手指呀?”他抬起头来说。“它们完全混在一起啦。”
“它们都是你的手指,”她娇滴滴地说,努力装出比以前更加快活的神情。在这种时候,尽管她心思重重,但是并没有惹他不高兴;所有敏感的女人都会表现出来的,但是苔丝知道,她的心思太重了,所以她努力加以克制。
一年的最后一个下午是短暂的,太阳也快落下去了,光线透过一个小孔照射进来,形成了一根金棒,映在苔丝的裙子上,变成了一个斑点,就像是落在上面的一滴油彩。他们走进那间古老的客厅去吃茶点,单独在一起分享他们的第一次晚餐。他们都非常孩子气,或者说他非常孩子气,觉得和她共用一个黄油面包盘子,用自己的嘴唇擦掉苔丝嘴唇上的面包屑,真是其乐无穷。但是他心里有些纳闷,不知道为什么她对他的嬉闹缺乏热情。
他不声不响地把她打量了老半天:“她真是一个惹人心疼的苔丝呀。”他心里想着,仿佛在揣摸一段难读文章的真正结构。“这个小女人的一生就要和我同甘共苦了,她的未来就要看我对她忠心不忠心了,这一点已经是不可改变的了,我是不是真的认真考虑清楚了呢?我没有想过。除非我自己是个女人,我想我很难领会到。我得到什么样的世俗地位,她也就是什么样的地位。我将来变成什么样子,她一定也要变成什么样子。我不能得到的,她也得不到。会不会有一天我会忽视她,伤害她,甚至忘记为她着想呢?上帝啊,不要让我犯这样的罪吧!”
他们面对面地坐在茶几前,等着他们的行李,奶牛场老板答应过他们,在天黑以前给他们把行李送来。但是已经到了晚上了,行李还没有送到,而他们除了身上穿的衣服外什么也没有带。太阳落了下去,冬日的平静样子也发生了变化。门外开始出现了沙沙声,像是丝绸摩擦发出的声音;秋天刚刚过去,枯叶静静地堆在地上,现在也骚动起来,复活了,不由自主地旋转着扑打在百叶窗上。不久天就开始下雨了。
“那只公鸡早就知道天气要变了,”克莱尔说。
伺候他们的女仆已经回家睡觉了,但是她已经为他们把蜡烛放在桌子上,现在他们就把蜡烛点燃了。每一根蜡烛的光焰都歪向壁炉一边。
“这些老房子真是到处透风,”安琪尔接着说,一边看着蜡烛的火焰,看着从蜡烛上流下来的烛泪。“真奇怪,我们的行李送到哪儿去了。我们甚至连一把刷子和一把梳子也没有呀。”
“我也不知道啊,”她心不在焉地回答说。
“苔丝,今天晚上你有点儿不高兴——一点儿也不像你平常的样子。楼上墙板上的两个老太婆的画像把你吓坏了吧?真是对不起你,我把你带到这么个地方。我不知道你究竟是不是真的爱我?”
他知道她是真的爱他的,所以他说的话并没有严肃的意思;但是她现在正是满腹的情绪,听了他的话就像一头受伤的野兽直往后退。虽然她尽量不让眼泪流出来,但还是有一两滴眼泪流了出来。
“我说这句话是无心的!”他后悔地说。“我知道,你是为你的行李担心。我真不明白老约纳森为什么还不把行李送来。唉,已经七点钟了是不是?啊,他来了!”
门上传来一声敲门的声音,因为没有其他的人去开门,克莱尔就自己出去开门。他回房间的时候,手里拿着一个小包裹。
“竟然还不是老约纳森,”他说。
“真叫人心烦!”苔丝说。
这个包裹是由专人送来的,送包裹的人是从爱敏寺来的,到泰波塞斯的时候,新婚夫妇刚好动身,所以送包裹的人就跟着到这儿来了,因为有过吩咐,包裹一定要送到他们的手上。克莱尔把包裹拿到烛光下。包裹不到一英尺长,外面缝着一层帆布,缝口上封有红色的火漆,盖有他父亲的印鉴,上面有他父亲写的亲笔字:“寄安琪尔·克莱尔夫人收。”
“苔丝,这是送给你的一点儿小礼物,”他说,一边把包裹递给她。“他们想得多周到啊!”
苔丝接过包裹的时候,脸色有一点儿慌乱。
“我想还是由你打开的好,最亲爱的,”她把包裹翻过来说。“我不敢打开那些火漆印,它们看上去太严肃了。请你为我打开它吧!”
他打开包裹。包裹里面是一个用摩洛哥皮做的皮匣子,上面放有一封信和一把打开箱子的钥匙。
信是写给克莱尔的,内容如下:
 
我亲爱的儿子,——你可能已经忘了,你的教母皮特尼夫人临终的时候,那时你还是一个孩子,她是一个虚荣心很强的女人,死时把她的一部分珠宝交给我,委托我在你结婚的时候交给你的妻子,无论你娶的妻子是谁,以表示她对你的情爱。我已经完成了她的嘱托,自她去世以来,这副珠宝一直保管在银行里。虽然我觉得在这种情形里把珠宝送给你妻子有点儿不太合适,但是你要明白,我一定要把这些东西送给那个女人,让她终身使用,因此我就立即派人送了来。严格说来,根据你教母的遗嘱的条款,我相信这些珠宝已经变成了传家宝物。有关这件事的准确条文,也一并抄录附寄。

“我现在想起来了,”克莱尔说,“可是我全忘了。”
匣子被打开了,他们发现里面装着一条项链,还有坠子,手镯,耳环;也还有一些其它的装饰品。
苔丝起初不敢动它们,但是当克莱尔把全副的首饰摆开的时候,一时间她的眼睛放射出光来,就像那些钻石闪光一样。
“它们是我的吗?”她有些不敢相信地问。
“是的,肯定是的!”他说。
他向壁炉里的炉火看去。他还记得,当他还是一个十五岁的孩子的时候,他的教母,一个绅士的妻子——他一生中接触过的唯一一个富有的人,相信他将来一定能够取得成功;她预言他的事业会超群出众。把这些华丽的装饰留给他的妻子,留给她的子孙的妻子,这与他想象中的事业根本就没有矛盾的地方。现在它们在那儿放射出讽刺的光芒。“可是为什么要这样呢?”他问自己。自始至终,这只不过是一个虚荣的问题;如果承认他的教母有虚荣心的话,那么他的妻子也应该有虚荣心啊。他妻子是德贝维尔家族的后人:谁还能比她更值得戴这些首饰呢?
他突然热情地说——
“苔丝,把它们戴上——把它们戴上!”他从炉火边转过身来,帮着她戴首饰。
但是仿佛有魔法帮助她似的,她已经把首饰戴上了——项链、耳环,所有的首饰她都戴上了。
“不过这件袍子不太合身,苔丝,”克莱尔说。“应该是低领口的袍子,才好配这一副闪闪发亮的首饰。”
“是吗?”苔丝问。
“是的,”他说。
他建议她把胸衣的上边折进去,这样就大致上接近晚礼服的式样了;她照着他的话做了,项链上那个坠子就独自垂下来,显露在她脖子的前面了,这正是设计要求戴的样子,他向后退了几步,打量着她。
“我的天呀,”克莱尔说,“你有多漂亮啊!”
正如所有的人知道的那样,人是树桩,还要衣妆;一个农村女孩子穿着简单的服饰,随随便便看上去就让人喜爱,要是像一个时髦女人加以打扮,加上艺术的修饰,就会光彩照人美不胜收了。而半夜舞会里的那些美女们,要是穿上乡村种地妇女的衣服,在沉闷的天气里站在单调的胡萝卜地里,她们就会常常显得可怜寒酸了。一直到现在,他都没有想到苔丝面貌和四肢的艺术美点。
“只要你在舞会上一露面呀!”他说。“但是不,不,最亲爱的;我觉得我更喜欢你戴着遮阳软帽,穿着粗布衣服……对,和你现在比起来,虽然现在更能衬托你的高贵,但我更喜欢你那样的穿戴。”
苔丝感觉到自己的惊人美丽,不禁兴奋得满脸通红,但是却没有感觉到快乐。
“我要把它们取下来,”她说,“免得约纳森看见了我。它们不适合我戴,是不是?我想,应该把它们卖了,是不是?”
“你再戴一两分钟吧。把它们卖了,永远也不要卖。那是违背遗嘱条款的。”
她想了想,就照他的话做了。她还要告诉他一些事情,戴着它们也许有助于她和他谈话。她戴着首饰坐下来;又开始一起猜想约纳森有可能把他们的行李送到哪儿去了。他们早已为他倒好了一杯淡啤酒,好让他来了喝,由于时间长了,啤酒的泡沫已经没有了。
过了一会儿,他们开始吃晚饭,晚饭已经摆好在桌子上了。晚饭还没有吃完,壁炉里的火苗突然跳动了一下,上升的黑烟从壁炉里冒出来,弥漫在房间里,好像有人用手把壁炉的烟囱捂了一会儿。这是因为有人把外面的门打开引起的。现在听见走道里传来了沉重的脚步声,安琪尔走了出去。
“我敲了门,但是根本就没有人听得见,”约纳森·凯尔抱歉地说,这回到底是他来了;“外面正在下雨,所以我就把门打开了。我把你们的东西送来了,先生。”
“你把东西送来了,我非常高兴。可是你来得太晚了。”
“啊,是的,先生。”
在约纳森说话的音调里,有一些不高兴的感觉,而这在白天是没有的,在他的额头上,除了岁月的皱纹而外,又增添了一些愁烦的皱纹。他接着说——
“自从今天下午你和你的夫人离开后——我现在可以叫她夫人了吧——奶牛场发生了一件非常令人痛苦的事,把我们给吓坏了。也许你们没有忘记今天下午公鸡叫的事吧?”
“天呀;——发生了什么事呀——”
“唉,有人说鸡叫要出这件事,又有人说鸡叫要出那件事;结果出事的竟是可怜的小莱蒂·普里德尔,她要跳水自杀来着。”
“天呐!真的吗!为什么,她还和别人一起给我们送行——”
“不错。唉,先生,当你和你的夫人——按照法律该这样称呼她了——我是说,当你们赶着车走了,莱蒂和玛丽安就戴上帽子走了出去;由于是新年的除夕,现在已经没有什么事情可做的了,大家都喝得醉醺醺的,所以谁也没有注意到她们。她们先是到了刘·艾维拉德酒馆,喝了一气的酒,然后她们就走到那个三岔路口,似乎是在那儿分的手,莱蒂就从水草地里穿过去,仿佛是要回家,玛丽安是到下一个村庄去,那儿还有一家酒店。从那时候起,谁也没有看见和听说过莱蒂了,有个水手在回家的路上,发现大水塘旁边有什么东西;那是堆在一起的莱蒂的帽子和披肩。他在水里找到了莱蒂。他和另外一个人一起把她送回家,以为她已经死了;但是她又慢慢地醒过来了。”
安琪尔突然想起来,苔丝一定在偷听这个可怕的故事,就走过去想把走道和前厅之间的门关上,前厅通向里面的客厅,苔丝就在里面的客厅里;可是他的妻子裹着一条围巾,已经到前厅来了,她听着约纳森说话,目光瞧着行李和行李上闪闪发光的露珠,在那儿出神发愣。
“这还不算,还有玛丽安呐;是在柳树林子边上找到她的,她醉得像死人一样——这个姑娘除了喝过一先令的淡啤酒外,还从来没有听说过她沾过其它的东西;当然,这姑娘的食量很大,这从她的脸上就可以看出来。今天那些女孩子,仿佛都是丧魂落魄的!”
“伊茨呢?”苔丝问。
“伊茨还是像往常一样呆在家里;但是她说她猜得出来事情是怎样发生的;她的情绪似乎非常低落,可怜的姑娘。所以你知道,先生,所有这些事情发生的时候,我们正在收抬你的不多的几个包裹,还有你的夫人的睡衣和梳妆的东西,把它们装上大车,所以,我就来晚了。”
“没关系。好啦。约纳森,请你帮着把箱子搬到楼上去吧,喝一杯淡啤酒,尽快赶回去吧,怕万一有需要用你的地方,是不是?”
苔丝已经回到里面那间客厅里去了,坐在壁炉的旁边,正在那儿沉思默想。她听见约纳森上下楼梯的沉重脚步声,直到他把行李搬完了,听见他对她的丈夫倒给他的淡啤酒表示感谢,还感谢她丈夫给他小费。后来她听见约纳森的脚步声从门口消失了,大车的响声也去远了。
安琪尔用又大又重的橡木门栓把门拴好,然后走到苔丝坐的壁炉跟前,从后面用双手捂住苔丝的眼睛。他希望她快活地跳起来,去把她焦急等待的梳妆用具打开,但是她没有站起来,他就在炉火前同她一块儿坐下,晚餐桌上的蜡烛太细小了,发出的亮光无法同炉火争辉。
“真是对不起,那几个女孩子不幸的事都让你听见了,”他说。“你不要再把这些事放在心上了。莱蒂本来就有些疯疯癫癫的,你是知道的。”
“她是不应该这样痛苦的,”苔丝说。“而应该痛苦的那个人,却在掩饰,假装没有什么。”
这个事件使她的天平发生了偏转。他们都是天真纯洁的姑娘,单相思恋爱的不幸降临在她们的身上;她们本应该受到命运的优待的。她本应该受到惩罚的,可是她却是被选中的人。她要是占有这一切而不付出什么,这就是她的罪恶。她应该把最后一文钱的帐还清,就在这里和这时候把一切都说出来。她看着火光,克莱尔握着她的手,就在这时候她作出了最后的决定。
现在壁炉的残火已经没有火焰了,只留下稳定的亮光,把壁炉的四周和后壁,还有发亮的炉架和不能合到一起的旧火钳,都给染上了通红的颜色。壁炉台板的下面,还有靠近炉火的桌子腿,也让炉火映红了。苔丝的脸和脖子也染上了同样的暖色调,她带的宝石也变成了牛眼星和天狼星,变成了闪烁着白色、红色和蓝色光芒的星座,随着她的脉搏的跳动,它们就闪现出各种不同的颜色。
“今天早上我们说过相互谈谈我们的缺点,你还记得吗?”他看见她仍然坐在那儿一动也不动,就突然问。“我们也许是随便说说的,你也可以随便说说。但对我来说,却不是随便说说的。我想向你承认一件事,我的爱人。”
他说出这句话来,完全和她想说的一样,这使她觉得好像是上天的有意安排。
“你也要承认什么过错吗?”她急忙问,甚至还带有高兴和宽慰的神情。
“你没有想到吗?唉——你把我想得太高尚了。现在听着。把你的头放在我这儿,因为我要你宽恕我,不要因为我以前没有告诉你,你就生我的气,也许我以前就应该告诉你的。”
这多么地奇怪呀!他似乎和她一模一样。她没有说话,克莱尔继续说——
“我以前没有说这件事,因为我害怕我会失去你,亲爱的,你是我一生最大的奖赏——我称你为我的奖学金。我哥哥的奖学金是从学院里获得的,而我是从泰波塞斯奶牛场获得的。所以我不敢轻易冒这个险,一个月前我就想告诉你了——那个时候你答应嫁给我,不过我没有告诉你;我想,那会把你从我身边吓走的。我就把这件事推迟了;后来我想我会在昨天告诉你的,要给你一个机会,让你能够从我身边离开。但是我还是没有说。今天早晨我也没有说,就是在你在楼梯口提出把我们各自做的错事说一说的时候——我是一个有罪的人呀!现在我看见你这样严肃地坐在这儿,所以我必须告诉你了。我不知道你是否会宽恕我?”
“啊,会的!我保证——”
“好吧,我希望你会宽恕我。但是请你等一会儿再说。你还不知道呐。我就从开头说起吧。虽然我想我可怜的父亲担心我是一个永远失去了信仰的人,但是,当然,苔丝,我仍然和你一样是一个相信道德的人。我曾经希望做人们的导师,但是当我发现我不能进入教会的时候,我感到了多么大的失望啊。虽然我没有资格说自己是一个十全十美的人,但是我敬仰纯洁的人,痛恨不纯洁的人,我希望我现在还是如此。无论我们怎样看待完全灵感论,一个人必须诚心承认圣保罗说的话:‘你要做个榜样:在言语上,在谈话中,在仁慈上,在精神上,在信仰上,在纯洁上。’这才是我们可怜人类的唯一保证。‘正直地生活’,一位罗马诗人说过的话,真让人想不到和圣保罗说的完全一样——
正直的人的生活中没有缺点,
不需要摩尔人的长矛和弓箭。
“好啦,某个地方是用良好的愿望铺成的,你会感到一切都是那样奇怪,你还会看见,我心里是多么地懊悔呀,因为我自己堕落了。”
他接着告诉苔丝,在他的生活中有段时间产生了幻灭感,因为困惑和困难在伦敦漂泊,就像一个软木塞子在波浪中漂浮一样,跟一个陌生女人过了四十八个小时的放荡生活。
“幸好我立即就清醒了,认识到了自己的愚蠢,”他继续说。“所以我就跟她一刀两断,回家了。我再也没有犯过这种过错。不过我觉得对你我应该诚实坦白,要是我不把这件事告诉你,我就觉得对不住你。你能宽恕我吗?”
她紧紧地握住他的手,算是回答他。
“我们现在就不说这个话题了,永远不谈这个话题了!——在这种时候谈这个太让人痛苦了——让我们谈点儿轻松的话题吧。”
“啊,安琪尔——我简直是高兴呢——因为现在你也能够宽恕我了呀!我还没有向你坦白我的过错呢。我也有一桩罪过要向你坦白——记得吗?我曾经这样说过。”
“啊,是说过!那么你说吧,你这个小坏蛋。”
“虽然你在笑,其实这是一件和你的一样严肃的事,或者更严重些。”
“不会比我的更严重吧,最亲爱的。”
“不会——啊,不会,不会更严重的!”她觉得有希望,高兴得跳起来说。“不会的,肯定不会更严重的,”她大声说,“因为和你的正是一样的。我现在就告诉你。”
她又坐下来。
他们的手仍然握在一起。炉桥下的灰烬由炉火垂直地照亮了,就像一片炎热干燥的荒野。炭火的红光落在他的脸上、手上,也落在她的脸上和手上,透射进她前额上蓬松的头发里,把她头发下的细皮嫩肉照得通红。这种红色,让人想象到末日来临的恐惧。她的巨大的身影映射在墙上和天花板上。她向前弯着腰,脖子上的每一粒钻石就闪闪发亮,像毒蛤蟆眨眼一样。她把额头靠在他的头上,开始讲述她的故事,讲述她怎样认识亚历克·德贝维尔,讲后来的结果,她低声说着,低垂着眼帘,一点也没有退缩。
 

They drove by the level road along the valley to a distance of a few miles, and, reaching Wellbridge, turned away from the village to the left, and over the great Elizabethan bridge which gives the place half its name. Immediately behind it stood the house wherein they had engaged lodgings, whose exterior features are so well known to all travellers through the Froom Valley; once portion of a fine manorial residence, and the property and seat of a d'Urberville, but since its partial demolition a farm-house.

`Welcome to one of your ancestral mansions!' said Clare as he handed her down. But he regretted the pleasantry; it was too near a satire.

On entering they found that, though they had only engaged a couple of rooms, the farmer had taken advantage of their proposed presence during the coming days to pay a New Year's visit to some friends, leaving a woman from a neighbouring cottage to minister to their few wants. The absoluteness of possession pleased them, and they realized it as the first moment of their experience under their own exclusive roof-tree.

But he found that the mouldy old habitation somewhat depressed his bride. When the carriage was gone they ascended the stairs to wash their hands, the charwoman showing the way. On the landing Tess stopped and started.

`What's the matter?' said he.

`Those horrid women!' she answered, with a smile. `How they frightened me.'

He looked up, and perceived two life-size portraits on panels built into the masonry. As all visitors to the mansion are aware, these paintings represent women of middle age, of a date some two hundred years ago, whose lineaments once seen can never be forgotten. The long pointed features, narrow eye, and smirk of the one, so suggestive of merciless treachery; the bill-hook nose, large teeth, and bold eye of the other, suggesting arrogance to the point of ferocity, haunt the beholder afterwards in his dreams.

`Whose portraits are those?' asked Clare of the charwoman.

`I have been told by old folk that they were ladies of the d'Urberville family, the ancient lords of this manor,' she said. `Owing to their being builded into the wall they can't be moved away.'

The unpleasantness of the matter was that, in addition to their effect upon Tess, her fine features were unquestionably traceable in these exaggerated forms. He said nothing of this, however, and, regretting that he had gone out of his way to choose the house for their bridal time, went on into the adjoining room. The place having been rather hastily prepared for them they washed their hands in one basin. Clare touched hers under the water.

`Which are my fingers and which are yours?' he said, looking up. `They are very much mixed.'

`They are all yours,' said she, very prettily, and endeavoured to be gayer than she was. He had not been displeased with her thoughtfulness on such an occasion; it was what every sensible woman would show: but Tess knew that she had been thoughtful to excess, and struggled against it.

The sun was so low on that short last afternoon of the year that it shone in through a small opening and formed a golden staff which stretched across to her skirt, where it made a spot like a paint-mark set upon her. They went into the ancient parlour to tea, and here they shared their first common meal alone. Such was their childishness, or rather his, that he found it interesting to use the same bread-and-butter plate as herself, and to brush crumbs from her lips with his own. He wondered a little that she did not enter into these frivolities with his own zest.

Looking at her silently for a long time; `She is a dear dear Tess,' he thought to himself, as one deciding on the true construction of a difficult passage. `Do I realize solemnly enough how utterly and irretrievably this little womanly thing is the creature of my good or bad faith and fortune? I think not. I think I could not, unless I were a woman myself. What I am in worldly estate, she is. What I become, she must become. What I cannot be, she cannot be. And shall I ever neglect her, or hurt her, or even forget to consider her? God forbid such a crime!'

They sat on over the tea-table waiting for their luggage, which the dairyman had promised to send before it grew dark. But evening began to close in, and the luggage did not arrive, and they had brought nothing more than they stood in. With the departure of the sun the calm mood of the winter day changed. Out of doors there began noises as of silk smartly rubbed; the restful dead leaves of the preceding autumn were stirred to irritated resurrection, and whirled about unwillingly, and tapped against the shutters. It soon began to rain.

`That cock knew the weather was going to change,' said Clare.

The woman who had attended upon them had gone home for the night, but she had placed candles upon the table, and now they lit them. Each candle-flame drew towards the fireplace.

`These old houses are so draughty,' continued Angel, looking at the flames, and at the grease guttering down the sides. `I wonder where that luggage is. We haven't even a brush and comb.'

`I don't know,' she answered, absent-minded.

`Tess, you are not a bit cheerful this evening - not at all as you used to be. Those harridans on the panels upstairs have unsettled you. I am sorry I brought you here. I wonder if you really love me, after all?'

He knew that she did, and the words had no serious intent; but she was surcharged with emotion, and winced like a wounded animal. Though she tried not to shed tears she could not help showing one or two.

`I did not mean it!' said he, sorry. `You are worried at not having your things, I know. I cannot think why old Jonathan has not come with them. Why, it is seven o'clock? Ah, there he is!'

A knock had come to the door, and, there being nobody else to answer it Clare went out. He returned to the room with a small package in his hand.

`It is not Jonathan, after all,' he said.

`How vexing!' said Tess.

The packet had been brought by a special messenger, who had arrived at Talbothays from Emminster Vicarage immediately after the departure of the married couple, and had followed them hither, being under injunction to deliver it into nobody's hands but theirs. Clare brought it to the light. It was less than a foot long, sewed up in canvas, sealed in red wax with his father's seal, and directed in his father's hand to `Mrs Angel Clare'.

`It is a little wedding-present for you, Tess,' said he, handing it to her. `How thoughtful they are!'

Tess looked a little flustered as she took it.

`I think I would rather have you open it, dearest,' said she, turning over the parcel. `I don't like to break those great seals; they look so serious. Please open it for me!'

He undid the parcel. Inside was a case of morocco leather, on the top of which lay a note and a key.

The note was for Clare, in the following words:

My DEAR SON, - Possibly you have forgotten that on the death of your godmother, Mrs Pitney, when you were a lad, she - vain kind woman that she was - left to me a portion of the contents of her jewel-case in trust for your wife, if you should ever have one, as a mark of her affection for you and whomsoever you should choose. This trust I have fulfilled, and the diamonds have been locked up at my banker's ever since. Though I feel it to be a somewhat incongruous act in the circumstances, I am, as you will see, bound to hand over the articles to the woman to whom the use of them for her lifetime will now rightly belong, and they are therefore promptly sent. They become, I believe, heirlooms, strictly speaking, according to the terms of your godmother's will. The precise words of the clause that refers to this matter are enclosed.
`I do remember,' said Clare; `but I had quite forgotten.'
Unlocking the case, they found it to contain a necklace, with pendant, bracelets, and ear-rings; and also some other small ornaments.

Tess seemed afraid to touch them at first, but her eyes sparkled for a moment as much as the stones when Clare spread out the set.

`Are they mine?' she asked incredulously.

`They are, certainly,' said he.

He looked into the fire. He remembered how, when he was a lad of fifteen, his godmother, the Squire's wife - the only rich person with whom he had ever come in contact - had pinned her faith to his success; had prophesied a wondrous career for him. There had seemed nothing at all out of keeping with such a conjectured career in the storing up of these showy ornaments for his wife and the wives of her descendants. They gleamed somewhat ironically now. `Yet why?' he asked himself. It was but a question of vanity throughout; and if that were admitted into one side of the equation it should be admitted into the other. His wife was a d'Urberville: whom could they become better than her?

Suddenly he said with enthusiasm--

`Tess, put them on - put them on!' And he turned from the fire to help her.

But as if by magic she had already donned them - necklace, ear-rings, bracelets, and all.

`But the gown isn't right, Tess,' said Clare. `It ought to be a low one for a set of brilliants like that.'

`Ought it?' said Tess.

`Yes,' said he.

He suggested to her how to tuck in the upper edge of her bodice, so as to make it roughly approximate to the cut for evening wear; and when she had done this, and the pendant to the necklace hung isolated amid the whiteness of her throat, as it was designed to do, he stepped back to survey her.

`My heavens,' said Clare, `how beautiful you are!'

As everybody knows, fine feathers make fine birds; a peasant girl but very moderately prepossessing to the casual observer in her simple condition and attire, will bloom as an amazing beauty if clothed as a woman of fashion with the aids that Art can render; while the beauty of the midnight crush would often cut but a sorry figure if placed inside the field-woman's wrapper upon a monotonous acreage of turnips on a dull day. He had never till now estimated the artistic excellence of Tess's limbs and features.

`If you were only to appear in a ball-room!' he said. `But no no, dearest; I think I love you best in the wing-bonnet and cotton-frock - yes, better than in this, well as you support these dignities.'

Tess's sense of her striking appearance had given her a flush of excitement, which was yet not happiness.

`I'll take them off,' she said, `in case Jonathan should see me. They are not fit for me, are they? They must be sold, I suppose?'

`Let them stay a few minutes longer. Sell them? Never. It would be a breach of faith.'

Influenced by a second thought she readily obeyed. She had something to tell, and there might be help in these. She sat down with the jewels upon her; and they again indulged in conjectures as to where Jonathan could possibly be with their baggage. The ale they had poured out for his consumption when he came had gone flat with long standing.

Shortly after this they began supper, which was already laid on a side-table. Ere they had finished there was a jerk in the fire-smoke, the rising skein of which bulged out into the room, as if some giant had laid his hand on the chimney-top for a moment. It had been caused by the opening of the outer door. A heavy step was now heard in the passage, and Angel went out.

`I couldn' make nobody hear at all by knocking,' apologized Jonathan Kail, for it was he at last; `and as't was raining out I opened the door. I've brought the things, sir.'

`I am very glad to see them. But you are very late.'

`Well, yes, sir.'

There was something subdued in Jonathan Kail's tone which had not been there in the day, and lines of concern were ploughed upon his forehead in addition to the lines of years. He continued--

`We've all been gallied at the dairy at what might ha' been a most terrible affliction since you and your Mis'ess - so to name her now - left us this afternoon. Perhaps you ha'nt forgot the cock's afternoon crow?'

`Dear me; - what--'

`Well, some says it do mane one thing, and some another; but what's happened is that poor little Retty Priddle hev tried to drown herself.'

`No! Really! Why, she bade us good-bye with the rest--'

`Yes. Well, sir, when you and your Mis'ess - so to name what she lawful is - when you two drove away, as I say, Retty and Marian put on their bonnets and went out; and as there is not much doing now, being New Year's Eve, and folks mops and brooms from what's inside 'em, nobody took much notice. They went on to Lew-Everard, where they had summut to drink, and then on they vamped to Dree-armed Cross, and there they seemed to have parted, Retty striking across the water-meads as if for home, and Marian going on to the next village, where there's another public-house. Nothing more was zeed or heard o' Retty till the waterman, on his way home, noticed something by the Great Pool; 'twas her bonnet and shawl packed up. In the water he found her. He and another man brought her home, thinking's was dead; but she fetched round by degrees.'

Angel, suddenly recollecting that Tess was overhearing this gloomy tale, went to shut the door between the passage and the ante-room to the inner parlour where she was; but his wife, flinging a shawl round her, had come to the outer room and was listening to the man's narrative, her eyes resting absently on the luggage and the drops of rain glistening upon it.

`And, more than this, there's Marian; she's been found dead drunk by the withy-bed - a girl who hev never been known to touch anything before except shilling ale; though, to be sure, 'a was always a good trencher-woman, as her face showed. It seems as if the maids had all gone out o' their minds!'

`And Izz?' asked Tess.

`Izz is about house as usual; but 'a do say 'a can guess how it happened; and she seems to be very low in mind about it, poor maid, as well she mid be. And so you see, sir, as all this happened just when we was packing your few traps and your Mis'ess's night-rail and dressing things into the cart, why, it belated me.'

`Yes. Well, Jonathan, will you get the trunks upstairs, and drink a cup of ale, and hasten back as soon as you can, in case you should be wanted?'

Tess had gone back to the inner parlour, and sat down by the fire, looking wistfully into it. She heard Jonathan Kail's heavy footsteps up and down the stairs till he had done placing the luggage, and heard him express his thanks for the ale her husband took out to him, and for the gratuity he received. Jonathan's footsteps then died from the door, and his cart creaked away.

Angel slid forward the massive oak bar which secured the door, and coming in to where she sat over the hearth, pressed her cheeks between his hands from behind. He expected her to jump up gaily and unpack the toilet-gear that she had been so anxious about, but as she did not rise he sat down with her in the firelight, the candles on the supper-table being too thin and glimmering to interfere with its glow.

`I am so sorry you should have heard this sad story about the girls,' he said. `Still, don't let it depress you. Retty was naturally morbid, you know.'

`Without the least cause,' said Tess. `While they who have cause to be, hide it, and pretend they are not.'

This incident had turned the scale for her. They were simple and innocent girls on whom the unhappiness of unrequited love had fallen; they had deserved better at the hands of Fate. She had deserved worse - yet she was the chosen one. It was wicked of her to take all without paying. She would pay to the uttermost farthing; she would tell, there and then. This final determination she came to when she looked into the fire, he holding her hand.

A steady glare from the now flameless embers painted the sides and back of the fireplace with its colour, and the well-polished andirons, and the old brass tongs that would not meet. The underside of the mantel-shelf was flushed with the high-coloured light, and the legs of the table nearest the fire. Tess's face and neck reflected the same warmth, which each gem turned into an Aldebaran or a Sirius - a constellation of white, red, and green flashes, that interchanged their hues with her every pulsation.

`Do you remember what we said to each other this morning about telling our faults?' he asked abruptly, finding that she still remained immovable. `We spoke lightly perhaps, and you may well have done so. But for me it was no light promise. I want to make a confession to you, Love.'

This, from him, so unexpectedly apposite, had the effect upon her of a Providential interposition.

`You have to confess something?' she said quickly, and even with gladness and relief.

`You did not expect it? Ah - you thought too highly of me. Now listen. Put your head there, because I want you to forgive me, and not to be indignant with me for not telling you before, as perhaps I ought to have done.'

How strange it was! He seemed to be her double. She did not speak, and Clare went on--

`I did not mention it because I was afraid of endangering my chance of you, darling, the great prize of my life - my Fellowship I call you. My brother's Fellowship was won at his college, mine at Talbothays Dairy. Well, I would not risk it. I was going to tell you a month ago - at the time you agreed to be mine, but I could not; I thought it might frighten you away from me. I put it off; then I thought I would tell you yesterday, to give you a chance at least of escaping me. But I did not. And I did not this morning, when you proposed our confessing our faults on the landing - the sinner that I was! But I must, now I see you sitting there so solemnly. I wonder if you will forgive me?'

`O yes! I am sure that--'

`Well, I hope so. But wait a minute. You don't know. To begin at the beginning. Though I imagine my poor father fears that I am one of the eternally lost for my doctrines, I am of course, a believer in good morals, Tess, as much as you. I used to wish to be a teacher of men, and it was a great disappointment to me when I found I could not enter the Church. I admired spotlessness, even though I could lay no claim to it, and hated impurity, as I hope I do now. Whatever one may think of plenary inspiration, one must heartily subscribe to these words of Paul: "Be thou an example - in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." It is the only safeguard for us poor human beings. "Integer vitae", says a Roman poet, who is strange company for St Paul--

The man of upright life, from frailties free,
Stands not in need of Moorish spear or bow.

Well, a certain place is paved with good intentions, and having felt all that so strongly, you will see what a terrible remorse it bred in me when, in the midst of my fine aims for other people, I myself fell.'
He then told her of that time of his life to which allusion has been made when, tossed about by doubts and difficulties in London, like a cork on the waves, he plunged into eight-and-forty hours' dissipation with a stranger.

`Happily I awoke almost immediately to a sense of my folly,' he continued. `I would have no more to say to her, and I came home. I have never repeated the offence. But I felt I should like to treat you with perfect frankness and honour, and I could not do so without telling this. Do you forgive me?'

She pressed his hand tightly for an answer.

`Then we will dismiss it at once and for ever! - too painful as it is for the occasion - and talk of something lighter.'

`O, Angel - I am almost glad - because now you can forgive me! I have not made my confession. I have a confession, too - remember, I said so.'

`Ah, to be sure! Now then for it, wicked little one.'

`Perhaps, although you smile, it is as serious as yours, or more so.'

`It can hardly be more serious, dearest.'

`It cannot - O no, it cannot!' She jumped up joyfully at the hope. `No, it cannot be more serious, certainly,' she cried, `because 'tis just the same! I will tell you now.'

She sat down again.

Their hands were still joined. The ashes under the grate were lit by the fire vertically, like a torrid waste. Imagination might have beheld a Last Day luridness in this red-coaled glow, which fell on his face and hand, and on hers, peering into the loose hair about her brow, and firing the delicate skin underneath. A large shadow of her shape rose upon the wall and ceiling. She bent forward, at which each diamond on her neck gave a sinister wink like a toad's; and pressing her forehead against his temple she entered on her story of her acquaintance with Alec d'Urberville and its results, murmuring the words without flinching, and with her eyelids drooping down.