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第1节 第四十七章 【
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这是燧石山农场上打最后一垛麦子了。在三月天里,早上的黎明格外朦胧,没有一点儿标志可以表明东方的地平线在哪里。麦垛孤零零地堆积在麦场上,它的梯形尖顶显露在朦胧中,已经经受了一个冬季的风吹雨打了。
伊茨·休特和苔丝走到打麦场的地点,听见了一种沙沙声,这表明已经有人在她们的前面到这儿来了;天渐渐地亮了,立即就能看到麦垛顶上有两个影影绰绰的男人影子。他们正在忙着拆麦垛的顶子,那就是说,在把麦束扔下去之前,先把麦垛的草顶子拆掉。拆麦垛的草顶子的时候,伊茨和苔丝,还有一些其他的女工,都到麦场上来了,他们穿着浅褐色的围裙等在那儿,冷得直打哆嗦,农场主格罗比一定要他们来这样早,想尽量在天黑以前把工作做完。在靠近麦垛檐子下面的地方,当时在朦胧中可以看见那些女工们前来伺候的红色暴君——一个装着皮带和轮子的木头架子——当这个打麦子的机器开动的时候,它就要对她们肌肉和神经的忍耐力提出暴虐的要求了。
在离开机器不远的地方,还可以看见一个模模糊糊的影子;它的颜色漆黑,咝咝作响,表示里面蓄积着巨大的能量。那个地点向外散发着热气,在一棵槐树的旁边矗立着高大的烟囱,这用不着大亮就能够看出来,那就是为这个小小的世界提供主要动力的引擎。引擎的旁边站着一个黑影,一动也不动,那是高大的沾满烟灰和积满污垢的象征,带着一种恍惚的神情,黑影的旁边是一个煤堆:那个黑影就是烧引擎的工人。他的神态和颜色与众不同,就仿佛是从托斐特①里面出来的生灵,闯入了这个麦子金黄、土地灰白和空气清朗的地方,他同这个地方毫无共同之处,使当地的乡民感到惊讶和惶恐。
 
①托斐特(Tophet),《圣经》中的地名,在耶路撒冷的附近。这个地方常烧垃圾,冒黑烟,因此又是地狱的象征。

这个人感觉到的和我们看到的外表一样。他虽然处在这个农业的世界里,但是却不属于这个农业世界。他是负责管理烟火的人;农田上的人负责管理的是农作物、天气、霜冻和太阳。他带着他的机器从一个郡走到另一个郡,从一个农场走到另一个农场,因为到目前为止,蒸汽脱粒机在威塞克斯这一带还是巡回作业的。他说话时带有奇怪的北方口音;他心里只管想着自己的心事,他的眼睛只管照看自己的铁机器,而对周围的景物差不多看也不看,毫不关心;只有在特别必要的时候,他才和当地人说几句话,仿佛他是在古老的命运的强迫下,不得不违背自己的意愿漂泊到这里,为这个地狱之王一样的主人服务。在他机器的驱动轮上,一根转动的长皮带同脱粒机连接在一起,这就是他和农业之间的唯一联系。
在工人们拆麦垛的时候,他就毫无表情地站在那个可以移动的能量贮存器的旁边,在火热的能量贮存器的周围,早晨的空气颤抖着。对于脱粒的准备工作,他是不闻不问的。他已经把煤火烧红了,已经把蒸汽的压力贮足了;在几秒钟之内,他就能够让那根皮带以看不见的速度转动起来。在皮带的范围以外,无论是麦料、麦草还是混乱,这对他全是一样。如果当地没有活儿干的闲人问他管自己叫什么,他就简单地回答说,“机械工”。
天色已经大亮了,麦垛也拆开了;接着男工们都站到了各自的位置上,女工们也加入进来,脱粒的工作开始了。农场主格罗比——工人们也称他为“他”——在此之前已经到这儿来了,按照他的吩咐,苔丝被安排在机器的台面上,挨着那个喂料的男工人,她干的活儿就是把伊茨递到她手上的麦束解开,伊茨站在麦垛上,就在她的旁边。这样,喂料的工人就从她手里接过解开的麦束,然后把麦束散开在不停转动的圆筒上,圆筒就立即把麦穗上的麦粒打了下来。
在准备的过程中,机器停了一会儿,那些恨机器的人心里就高兴起来,但是不久机器就开始全速工作了。脱粒的工作以全速进行着,一直到吃早饭的时候才停了半个小时;早饭过后,机器又开始转动起来;农场上所有的辅助工人也都来堆脱粒后的麦秆,在那堆麦粒的旁边,麦秆堆也越来越大了。到了吃午饭的时间,他们就站在那儿,动也没有动,就急急忙忙地把午饭吃了,又接连干了两个小时的活,才到吃晚饭的时候;无情的轮子不停地转动着,脱粒机的嗡嗡声刺人耳膜,而靠近机器的人,机器的嗡叫声一直震到了他们的骨髓里。
在堆高的麦秆垛上,上了年纪的工人们谈起了他们过去的岁月,那时候他们一直是用连枷在仓库的地板上打麦子;那时候所有的事情,甚至扬麦糠,靠的也都是人力,按照他们的想法,那样虽然慢点,但是打出的麦子要好得多。在麦秆堆上的人也都说了一会儿话,但是站在机器旁边的人,包括苔丝在内,都是汗流浃背,无法用谈话来减轻他们的劳累。这种工作永无止尽,苔丝累得筋疲力尽,开始后悔当初不该到燧石山农场这儿来。麦垛堆上有一个女工,那是玛丽安,偶尔她还可以把手里的活停下来,从瓶子里喝一两口淡啤酒,或者喝一口凉茶。在工人们擦脸上汗水的时候,或者清理衣服上的麦秆麦糠的时候,玛丽安也还可以和他们说几句闲话。但是苔丝却不能;因为机器圆筒的转动是永远不会停止的,这样喂料的男工也就歇不下来,而她是把解开的麦束递给他的人,所以也歇不下来,除非是玛丽安和她替换一下位置,她才能松一口气,玛丽安做喂料的人速度慢,所以格罗比反对她替换苔丝,但是她不顾他的反对,有时候替换她半个小时。
大概是因为要省钱的缘故,所以女工通常被挑选来做这种特殊的工作,格罗比选了苔丝,他的动机是,苔丝是那些女工中比较有力气的一个,解麦束速度快,耐力强,这也许说得不错。脱粒机嗡嗡地叫,让人不能说话,要是供应的麦束没有平常的多,机器就会像发疯一样的吼叫起来。因为苔丝和喂料的那个男工连扭头的时间也没有,所以她不知道就在吃正餐的时候,有一个人已经悄悄地来到了这块地里的栅栏门旁边。他站在第二个麦垛的下面,看着脱粒的场面,对苔丝尤为注意。
“那个人是谁?”伊茨·休特对玛丽安说。玛丽安最初问过苔丝,但是伊茨当时没有听见。
“我想他是某个人的男朋友吧!”玛丽安简单地说。
“他是来讨好苔丝的,我敢打一个基尼①的赌。”
 
①基尼(guinea),英国旧时的货币,一种金币,值21先令,现值1.05英镑。

“啊,不是的。近来向苔丝献殷勤的是一个卫理公会牧师;哪儿是这样一个花花公子。”
“啊——这是同一个人。”
“他和那个讲道的人是同一个人吗?但是他完全不同呀!”
“他已经把他的黑衣服和白领巾换掉了,把他的连鬓胡子剃掉了;尽管他的打扮变了,但还是同一个人。”
“你真的是这样认为的吗?那么我友告诉她,”玛丽安说。
“别去。不久她就会看到他的。”
“好吧,我觉得他一边讲道和一边追有夫之妇是不对的,尽管她的丈夫在国外,在某种意义上说,她就像一个寡妇。”
“啊——他不会对她有害的,”伊茨冷冷地说。“苔丝是一个死心眼儿的人,就像掉在地洞里的马车一样动摇不了。老天呀,无论是献殷勤,还是讲道,就是七雷发声,也不会使她变心的,即使变了心对她有好处她也不会变的。”
正餐的时间到了,机器的转动停止了;苔丝从机器的台面上走下来,膝盖让机器震得直发颤,使她几乎连路都不能走了。
“你应该像我那样,喝一夸特酒才好,”玛丽安说。“这样你的脸就不至于这样苍白了。唉,天呀,你的脸白得就像做了恶梦一样!”
玛丽安心眼儿好,突然想到苔丝这样疲劳,要是再看见那个人来了,她吃饭的胃口一定要消失得无影无踪了;玛丽安正想劝说苔丝从麦垛另一边的梯子上下去,就在这时,那个人走了过来,抬头望着上面。
苔丝轻轻地惊叫了一声“啊”,就在她的惊叫声过后不久,她又急忙说:“我就在这儿吃饭了——就在这个麦垛上吃。”
他们有时候离家远了,就在麦垛上吃饭,不过那一天的风刮得有点儿大,玛丽安和其他的工人都下了麦垛,坐在麦垛的下面吃。
新来的人虽然换了服装,改变了面貌,但是他的确就是那个最近还是卫理公会教徒的阿历克·德贝维尔。只要看他一眼,就能明显看出他满脸的色欲之气;他又差不多恢复了原来那种得意洋洋,放荡不羁的样子了,苔丝第一次认识她的这个追求者和所谓的堂兄,就是这样的一副神情,只不过年纪大了三四岁罢了。苔丝既然决定留在麦垛上吃饭,她就在一个从地面上看不到的麦束上坐下来,开始吃起来;她吃着吃着,听见梯子上传来了脚步声,不一会儿阿历克就出现在麦垛的上面了——麦垛的顶上现在已经变成了一个用麦束堆成的长方形的平台。他从麦束上走过来,坐在苔丝的对面,一句话也没有说。
苔丝继续吃她的简单不过的正餐,那是她带来的一块厚厚的煎饼。这时候,其他的工人都在麦秆堆的下面,舒舒服服地坐在松软的麦秆上。
“你已经知道,我又到这儿来了!”德贝维尔说。
“你为什么要来骚扰我呢!”苔丝大声说,浑身上下都散发着火气。
“我骚扰你?我想我还要问你呢,问你为什么要骚扰我?”
“我又什么时候骚扰你了!”
“你说你没有骚扰我?可是你一直在骚扰我呀!你的影子老是在我心里,赶也赶不走。刚才你那双眼睛用恶狠狠的目光瞪着我,就是你的这种眼神,无论白天黑夜都在我的面前。苔丝,自从你把我们那个孩子的事告诉了我,我的感情以前一直奔流在一股清教徒式的激流中,现在仿佛在朝你的那个方向冲开了一个缺口,立刻从缺口中奔涌而出。从那时起,宗教的河道干涸了,而这正是你造成的呀!”
她一声没吭地盯着他。
“什么——你把讲道的事完全放弃了吗?”她问。
她已经从安棋尔的现代思想中学到了足够多的怀疑精神,看不起阿历克那种一时的热情;但是,她作为一个女人,听了阿历克的话还是有些吃惊。
德贝维尔摆出一副严肃的态度继续说——
“完全放弃了。自从那个下午以来,所有约好了的到卡斯特桥市场上去给醉鬼们讲道的事,我一次也没有去。鬼才知道他们怎样看我了。哈——哈!那些道友们!毫无疑问他们在为我祈祷——在为我哭泣;因为他们都是一些心地善良的人。可是我关心的是什么呢?——当我对一件事失去了信心的时候,我怎么还能继续那件事呢?——那样我不是成了最卑鄙的伪君子了!我要是混在他们当中,我就和许乃米和亚历山大①一样了,他们可是被交给了魔鬼,好让他们学会不要亵渎神明。你真是报仇雪恨了啊!我过去见你年幼无知,就把你骗了。四年以后,你见我是一个虔诚的基督徒,然后就来害我了,也许我永世不得翻身了!可是苔丝,我的堂妹,我曾经这样叫过你,这只是我对你的一种叫法,你不要看起来这样害怕。当然,其实你只是保持了你美丽的容颜,并没有做别的事。在你看见我以前,我已经看见你在麦垛上的影子了——看见你身上穿着紧身围裙,戴着带耳朵的帽子——如果你们希望免除危险,你们这些在地里干活的姑娘,就永远不要戴那种帽子。”他又默默地盯着她看了一会儿,冷笑了一声,接着说:“我相信,如果那位独身的使徒,我原来以为我就是他的代表了,也会受到你这副美丽容貌诱惑的,他也会和我一样,为了她而放弃他的犁铧。”②
 
①许乃米和亚历山大(Hymenaux and Alexander),见《圣经·提摩太全书》第一章第十九节。书中说:“有人丢弃良心,就在真理上如同船破坏了。其中有许乃米和亚历山大,我已经把他们交给撒旦,使他们受青罚,就不再神渎了。”
②见《圣经·路加福音》第九章第六十二节:“耶稣说,手扶着犁向后看的,不配进上帝的国。”

苔丝想反驳他,但是在这个关键时刻,她一句流利的话也说不出来了,德贝维尔看也不看她,继续说:
“好啦,说到究竟,你所提供的乐园,也许和其它任何乐园一样好。可是,苔丝,严肃说来,”德贝维尔站起身来,走到苔丝跟前,用胳膊肘支撑着身体斜靠在麦束上。“自从上次我见到你以来,我一直在思考你和他说的话。我通过思考得出结论:过去那些陈词滥调的确违背常理;我怎么会被可怜的克莱尔牧师的热心鼓动起来呢?我怎么会疯狂地去讲道,甚至还超过了他的热情呢?我真是弄不明白了!至于你上次说的话,你是依靠你丈夫的智慧的力量说的——你还没有告诉我你丈夫的名字呐——你说的那些东西,你们叫做没有教条的道德体系,但是我认为根本办不到。”
“唔,如果你没有——你们称作什么呀——教条,你至少也应该有博爱和纯洁的宗教啊。”
“啊,不!我们不是你说的那种人呀!如果没有人对我说,‘做这件事,你死后它对你就是一件好事;做那件事,你死后它对你就是一件坏事,’不那样我就热心不起来。算了吧,如果没有人为我的行为和感觉负责任的话,我也不会觉得我自己要负责任;如果我是你,亲爱的,我也不会觉得要负责任!”
她想同他争论,告诉他说,他在他糊涂的脑袋里把两件事,即神学和道德混到一起了,而在人类的初期,神学和道德是大不相同的。但是,由于安琪尔·克莱尔平时不爱多说话,她自己又缺少训练,加上她这个人感情胜于理智,所以就说不下去了。
“好吧,这没有关系,”他又接着说。“我又回来了,我的宝贝,我又和从前一样回来了。”
“跟从前不一样——跟从前绝不一样——这是不同的!”她恳求说。“再说我从来也没有对你产生过热情呀!啊,如果说你因为失去了信念才对我那样说话,那你为什么不保持你的信念呢?”
“因为是你把我的信念打碎了;所以,灾难就要降临到你美丽的头上!你的丈夫一点儿也没有想到他的教训要自食其果呀!哈——哈——你让我离经叛道,我还是同样高兴坏了!苔丝,和以往任何时候相比,我更加离不开你了,我也同情你。尽管你不说,我也看得出来,你的境遇很不好——那个应该爱护你的人,现在不心疼你了。”
她再也难得把嘴里的食物吞下去了;她的嘴唇发干,都快给噎住了。在这个麦垛的下面,正在吃饭喝酒的工人们的说话声和笑声,她听在耳里就好像它们来自四分之一英里以外。
“你对我这样说话太残酷了!”她说。“你怎能——你怎能对我这样说话呢?如果你心里真的还有一点点我的话。”
“不错,不错,”他说。“我不是因为我的行为而到这儿来责备你的。苔丝,我到这儿来,是要告诉你,我不希望你在这儿像这样于活,我是特意为你而来。你说你有一个丈夫,那个丈夫不是我。好啦,你也许有一个丈夫;但是我从来没有见过他,你也没有告诉我他的名字;其实他似乎只是一个神秘的人物。但是,即使你有一个丈夫,我也认为我离你近,他离你远。无论如何,我都要努力帮助你解决困难,但是他不会这样做,愿上帝保佑那张看不见的脸吧!我曾经读过严厉的先知何西阿说过的话,那些话我现在又想起来了。你知道那些话吗,苔丝?——‘她必追随所爱的,却追不上;她必寻找他,却寻不见,便说,我要归回前夫,因我那时的光景比如今还好!’——苔丝,我的车正在山下等着呐——我的爱人,不是他的爱人!——你知道我还没有说完的话。”
在他说话的时候,她的脸上慢慢地出现了一片深深的红晕,不过她没有说话。
“你可是我这次堕落的原因啊!”他继续说,一边把他的手向她的腰伸过去;“你应该和我一起堕落,让你那个驴一样的丈夫永远滚开吧。”
她在吃饼时,把她手上的一只皮手套脱了下来,放在膝头上;她没有给他一点儿警告,就抡起手套向他的脸用力打去。那只手套像军用手套一样又厚又重,实实在在地打在他的嘴上。在富于想象的人看来,她的这个动作也许是她的那些身穿铠甲的祖先惯常动作的再现。阿历克凶狠狠地一下子从斜靠着的姿势跳了起来。在他的脸上,被打过的地方出现了深红的血印,不一会儿,鲜血从他的嘴里开始流出来,滴到了麦草上。但是他很快就控制住了自己,镇定地从他的口袋里掏出手绢,擦掉从他的嘴唇上流出来的血。
她也跳了起来,但是又坐了下去。
“好,你惩罚我吧!”她用眼睛看着他说,那目光就像是一只被人捉住的麻雀,感到绝望又不能反抗,只好等着捉住它的人扭断它的脖子。“你抽我吧,你打死我吧;你用不着担心麦垛下面的那些人!我不会叫喊的。我过去是牺牲品,就永远是牺牲品——这就是规律!”
“啊,没有的事,没有的事,苔丝,”他温和地说。“对这件事我完全能够原谅。不过最不公平的是你忘记了一件事,就是如果不是你剥夺了我同伴结婚的权力,我已经和你结婚了。难道我没有直截了当地请你做我的妻子吗——是不是?回答我。”
“是的。”
“现在你不能嫁给我了。可是有一件事你要记住!”他想起他真心实意地向她求婚和她现在的忘恩负义,不禁怒火中烧,说话的声音也变得生硬起来;他走过去,站在她的旁边,抓住她的肩膀,她在他的手里索索发抖。“记住,我的夫人,我曾经是你的主人!我还要做你的主人。你只要做男人的妻子,你就得做我的妻子!”
麦垛下面打麦子的人又开始行动了。
“我们不要再吵了,”他松开手说。“我现在走了,下午我再来这儿听你的回话。你还没有了解我呢!可是我了解你了。”
她没有再开口说话,站在那儿,仿佛呆住了。德贝维尔又从麦束上走过去,下了梯子,这时候,麦垛下面的工人们站了起来,伸伸懒腰,消化消化刚才喝下去的啤酒。接着,脱粒机又重新开动起来;随着脱粒机的圆筒转动起来的嗡嗡声,苔丝又在麦秆的沙沙声中站到了她的位置上,把麦束一个个解开,仿佛没有止境似的。
 

It is the threshing of the last wheat-rick at Flintcomb-Ash Farm. The dawn of the March morning is singularly inexpressive, and there is nothing to show where the eastern horizon lies. Against the twilight rises the trapezoidal top of the stack, which has stood forlornly here through the washing and bleaching of the wintry weather.

When Izz Huett and Tess arrived at the scene of operations only a rustling denoted that others had preceded them; to which, as the light increased, there were presently added the silhouettes of two men on the summit. They were busily `unhaling' the rick, that is, stripping off the thatch before beginning to throw down the sheaves; and while this was in progress Izz and Tess, with the other women-workers, in their whitey-brown pinners, stood waiting and shivering, Farmer Groby having insisted upon their being on the spot thus early to get the job over if possible by the end of the day. Close under the eaves of the stack, and as yet barely visible, was the red tyrant that the women had come to serve - a timber-framed construction, with straps and wheels appertaining - the threshing-machine which, whilst it was going, kept up a despotic demand upon the endurance of their muscles and nerves.

A little way off there was another indistinct figure; this one black, with a sustained hiss that spoke of strength very much in reserve. The long chimney running up beside an ash-tree, and the warmth which radiated from the spot, explained without the necessity of much daylight that here was the engine which was to act as the primum mobile of this little world. By the engine stood a dark motionless being, a sooty and grimy embodiment of tallness, in a sort of trance, with a heap of coals by his side: it was the engineman. The isolation of his manner and colour lent him the appearance of a creature from Tophet, who had strayed into the pellucid smokelessness of this region of yellow grain and pale soil, with which he had nothing in common, to amaze and to discompose its aborigines.

What he looked he felt. He was in the agricultural world, but not of it. He served fire and smoke; these denizens of the fields served vegetation, weather, frost, and sun. He travelled with his engine from farm to farm, from county to county, for as yet the steam threshing-machine was itinerant in this part of Wessex. He spoke in a strange northern accent; his thoughts being turned inwards upon himself, his eye on his iron charge, hardly perceiving the scenes around him, and caring for them not at all: holding only strictly necessary intercourse with the natives, as if some ancient doom compelled him to wander here against his will in the service of his Plutonic master. The long strap which ran from the driving-wheel of his engine to the red thresher under the rick was the sole tie-line between agriculture and him.

While they uncovered the sheaves he stood apathetic beside his portable repository of force, round whose hot blackness the morning air quivered. He had nothing to do with preparatory labour. His fire was waiting incandescent, his steam was at high pressure, in a few seconds he could make the long strap move at an invisible velocity. Beyond its extent the environment might be corn, straw, or chaos; it was all the same to him. If any of the autochthonous idlers asked him what he called himself, he replied shortly, `an engineer'.

The rick was unhaled by full daylight; the men then took their places, the women mounted, and the work began. Farmer Groby - or, as they called him, `he' - had arrived ere this, and by his orders Tess was placed on the platform of the machine, close to the man who fed it, her business being to untie every sheaf of corn handed on to her by Izz Huett, who stood next, but on the rick; so that the feeder could seize it and spread it over the revolving drum, which whisked out every grain in one moment.

They were soon in full progress, after a preparatory hitch or two, which rejoiced the hearts of those who hated machinery. The work sped on till breakfast-time, when the thresher was stopped for half an hour; and on starting again after the meal the whole supplementary strength of the farm was thrown into the labour of constructing the straw-rick, which began to grow beside the stack of corn. A hasty lunch was eaten as they stood, without leaving their positions, and then another couple of hours brought them near to dinner-time; the inexorable wheels continuing to spin, and the penetrating hum of the thresher to thrill to the very marrow all who were near the revolving wire-cage.

The old men on the rising straw-rick talked of the past days when they had been accustomed to thresh with flails on the oaken barn-floor; when everything, even to winnowing, was effected by hand-labour, which, to their thinking, though slow, produced better results. Those, too, on the corn-rick talked a little; but the perspiring ones at the machine, including Tess, could not lighten their duties by the exchange of many words. It was the ceaselessness of the work which tried her so severely, and began to make her wish that she had never come to Flintcomb-Ash. The women on the corn-rick - Marian, who was one of them, in particular - could stop to drink ale or cold tea from the flagon now and then, or to exchange a few gossiping remarks while they wiped their faces or cleared the fragments of straw and husk from their clothing; but for Tess there was no respite; for, as the drum never stopped, the man who fed it could not stop, and she, who had to supply the man with untied sheaves, could not stop either, unless Marian changed places with her, which she sometimes did for half an hour in spite of Groby's objection that she was too slow-handed for a feeder.

For some probably economical reason it was usually a woman who was chosen for this particular duty, and Groby gave as his motive in selecting Tess that she was one of those who best combined strength with quickness in untying, and both with staying power, and this may have been true. The hum of the thresher, which prevented speech, increased to a raving whenever the supply of corn fell short of the regular quantity. As Tess and the man who fed could never turn their heads she did not know that just before the dinner-hour a person had come silently into the field by the gate, and had been standing under a second rick watching the scene, and Tess in particular. He was dressed in a tweed suit of fashionable pattern, and he twirled a gay walking-cane.

`Who is that?' said Izz Huett to Marian. She had at first addressed the inquiry to Tess, but the latter could not hear it.

`Somebody's fancy-man, I s'pose,' said Marian laconically.

`I'll lay a guinea he's after Tess.'

`O no. 'Tis a ranter parson who's been sniffing after her lately; not a dandy like this.'

`Well - this is the same man.'

`The same man as the preacher? But he's quite different!'

`He hev left off his black coat and white neckercher, and hev cut off his whiskers; but he's the same man for all that.'

`D'ye really think so? Then I'll tell her,' said Marian.

`Don't. She'll see him soon enough, good-now.'

`Well, I don't think it at all right for him to join his preaching to courting a married woman, even though her husband mid be abroad, and she, in a sense, a widow.'

`Oh - he can do her no harm,' said Izz drily. `Her mind can no more be heaved from that one place where it do bide than a stooded waggon from the hole he's in. Lord love 'ee, neither court-paying, nor preaching, nor the seven thunders themselves, can wean a woman when 'twould be better for her that she should be weaned.'

Dinner-time came, and the whirling ceased; whereupon Tess left her post, her knees trembling so wretchedly with the shaking of the machine that she could scarcely walk.

`You ought to het a quart o' drink into 'ee, as I've done,' said Marian. `You wouldn't look so white then. Why, souls above us, your face is as if you'd been hagrode!'

It occurred to the good-natured Marian that, as Tess was so tired, her discovery of her visitor's presence might have the bad effect of taking away her appetite; and Marian was thinking of inducing Tess to descend by a ladder on the further side of the stack when the gentleman came forward and looked up.

Tess uttered a short little `Oh!' And a moment after she said, quickly, `I shall eat my dinner here - right on the rick.'

Sometimes, when they were so far from their cottages, they all did this; but as there was rather a keen wind going to-day, Marian and the rest descended, and sat under the straw-stack.

The new-comer was, indeed, Alec d'Urberville, the late Evangelist, despite his changed attire and aspect. It was obvious at a glance that the original Weltlust had come back; that he had restored himself, as nearly as a man could do who had grown three or four years older, to the old jaunty, slap-dash guise under which Tess had first known her admirer, and cousin so-called. Having decided to remain where she was, Tess sat down among the bundles, out of sight of the ground, and began her meal; till, by-and-by, she heard footsteps on the ladder, and immediately after Alec appeared upon the stack - now an oblong and level platform of sheaves. He strode across them, and sat down opposite to her without a word.

Tess continued to eat her modest dinner, a slice of thick pancake which she had brought with her. The other workfolk were by this time all gathered under the rick, where the loose straw formed a comfortable retreat.

`I am here again, as you see,' said d'Urberville.

`Why do you trouble me so!' she cried, reproach flashing from her very finger-ends.

`I trouble you? I think I may ask, why do you trouble me?'

`Sure, I don't trouble you any-when!'

`You say you don't? But you do! You haunt me. Those very eyes that you turned upon me with such a bitter flash a moment ago, they come to me just as you showed them then, in the night and in the day! Tess, ever since you told me of that child of ours, it is lust as if my feelings, which have been flowing in a strong puritanical stream, had suddenly found a way open in the direction of you, and had all at once gushed through. The religious channel is left dry forthwith; and it is you who have done it!'

She gazed in silence.

`What - you have given up your preaching entirely?' she asked.

She had gathered from Angel sufficient of the incredulity of modern thought to despise flash enthusiams; but, as a woman, she was somewhat appalled.

In affected severity d'Urberville continued--

`Entirely. I have broken every engagement since that afternoon I was to address the drunkards at Casterbridge Fair. The deuce only knows what I am thought of by the brethren. Ah-ha! The brethren! No doubt they pray for me - weep for me; for they are kind people in their way. But what do I care? How could I go on with the thing when I had lost my faith in it? - it would have been hypocrisy of the basest kind! Among them I should have stood like Hymenaeus and Alexander, who were delivered over to Satan that they might learn not to blaspheme. What a grand revenge you have taken! I saw you innocent, and I deceived you. Four years after, you find me a Christian enthusiast; you then work upon me, perhaps to my complete perdition! But Tess, my coz, as I used to call you, this is only my way of talking, and you must not look so horribly concerned. Of course you have done nothing except retain your pretty face and shapely figure. I saw it on the rick before you saw me - that tight pinafore-thing sets it off, and that wing-bonnet - you field-girls should never wear those bonnets if you wish to keep out of danger.' He regarded her silently for a few moments, and with a short cynical laugh resumed: `I believe that if the bachelor-apostle, whose deputy I thought I was, had been tempted by such a pretty face, he would have let go the plough for her sake as I do!'

Tess attempted to expostulate, but at this juncture all her fluency failed her, and without heeding he added:

`Well, this paradise that you supply is perhaps as good as any other, after all. But to speak seriously, Tess.' D'Urberville rose and came nearer, reclining sideways amid the sheaves, and resting upon his elbow. `Since I last saw you, I have been thinking of what you said that he said. I have come to the conclusion that there does seem rather a want of commonsense in these threadbare old propositions; how I could have been so fired by poor Parson Clare's enthusiasm, and have gone so madly to work, transcending even him, I cannot make out! As for what you said last time, on the strength of your wonderful husband's intelligence - whose name you have never told me - about having what they call an ethical system without any dogma, I don't see my way to that at all.'

`Why, you can have the religion of loving-kindness and purity at least, if you can't have - what do you call it - dogma.'

`O no! I'm a different sort of fellow from that! If there's nobody to say, "Do this, and it will be a good thing for you after you are dead; do that, and it will he a bad thing for you," I can't warm up. Hang it, I am not going to feel responsible for my deeds and passions if there's nobody to be responsible to; and if I were you, my dear, I wouldn't either!'

She tried to argue, and tell him that he had mixed in his dull brain two matters, theology and morals, which in the primitive days of mankind had been quite distinct. But owing to Angel Clare's reticence, to her absolute want of training, and to her being a vessel of emotions rather than reasons, she could not get on.

`Well, never mind,' he resumed. `Here I am, my love, as in the old times!'

`Not as then - never as then--'tis different!' she entreated. `And there was never warmth with me! O why didn't you keep your faith, if the loss of it has brought you to speak to me like this!'

`Because you've knocked it out of me; so the evil be upon your sweet head! Your husband little thought how his teaching would recoil upon him! Ha-ha - I'm awfully glad you have made an apostate of me all the same! Tess, I am more taken with you than ever, and I pity you too. For all your closeness, I see you are in a bad way - neglected by one who ought to cherish you.'

She could not get her morsels of food down her throat; her lips were dry, and she was ready to choke. The voices and laughs of the workfolk eating and drinking under the rick came to her as if they were a quarter of a mile off.

`It is cruelty to me!' she said. `How - how can you treat me to this talk, if you care ever so little for me?'

`True, true,' he said, wincing a little. `i did not come to reproach you for my deeds. I came, Tess, to say that I don't like you to be working like this, and I have come on purpose for you. You say you have a husband who is not I. Well, perhaps you have; but I've never seen him, and you've not told me his name; and altogether he seems rather a mythological personage. However, even if you have one, I think I am nearer to you than he is. I, at any rate, try to help you out of trouble, but he does not, bless his invisible face! The words of the stern prophet Hosea that I used to read come back to me. Don't you know them, Tess? - "And she shall follow after her lover, but she shall not overtake him; and she shall seek him, but shall not find him; then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now!"... Tess, my trap is waiting lust under the hill, and - darling mine, not his! - you know the rest.'

Her face had been rising to a dull crimson fire while he spoke; but she did not answer.

`You have been the cause of my backsliding,' he continued, stretching his arm towards her waist; `you should be willing to share it, and leave that mule you call husband for ever.'

One of her leather gloves, which she had taken off to eat her skimmer-cake, lay in her lap, and without the slightest warning she passionately swung the glove by the gauntlet directly in his face. It was heavy and thick as a warrior's, and it struck him flat on the mouth. Fancy might have regarded the act as the recrudescence of a trick in which her armed progenitors were not unpractised. Alec fiercely started up from his reclining position. A scarlet oozing appeared where her blow had alighted, and in a moment the blood began dropping from his mouth upon the straw. But he soon controlled himself, calmly drew his handkerchief from his pocket, and mopped his bleeding lips.

She too had sprung up, but she sank down again.

`Now, punish me!' she said, turning up her eyes to him with the hopeless defiance of the sparrow's gaze before its captor twists its neck. `Whip me, crush me; you need not mind those people under the rick! I shall not cry out. Once victim, always victim - that's the law!'

`O no, no, Tess,' he said blandly. `I can make full allowance for this. Yet you most unjustly forget one thing, that I would have married you if you had not put it out of my power to do so. Did I not ask you flatly to be my wife - hey? Answer me.'

`You did.'

`And you cannot be. But remember one thing!' His voice hardened as his temper got the better of him with the recollection of his sincerity in asking her and her present ingratitude, and he stepped across to her side and held her by the shoulders, so that she shook under his grasp. `Remember, my lady, I was your master once! I will be your master again. If you are any man's wife you are mine!'

The threshers now began to stir below.

`So much for our quarrel,' he said, letting her go. `Now I shall leave you, and shall come again for your answer during the afternoon. You don't know me yet! But I know you.' She had not spoken again, remaining as if stunned. D'Urberville retreated over the sheaves, and descended the ladder, while the workers below rose and stretched their arms, and shook down the beer they had drunk. Then the threshing-machine started afresh; and amid the renewed rustle of the straw Tess resumed her position by the buzzing drum as one in a dream, untying sheaf after sheaf in endless succession.