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当前位置:主页 > 英国小说 > 德伯家的苔丝 > 第6章 皈依 The Woman Pays
第5节 第五十一章 【
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终于到了旧历圣母节的前夕,农业界的人忙着搬家的热烈场面,只有在一年中这个特别的日子里才会出现。这一天是合同期满的日子,在烛光节签订的下一年的户外劳动合同,也要从这一天开始。那些不愿意继续在老地方工作的庄稼汉——或者叫劳工,他们自古以来都叫自己庄稼汉,劳工这个词是从外面的世界引进来的——就要搬到新的农场上去。
这些每年一次的从一个农场到另一个农场的迁移,在这儿变得越来越多了。在苔丝的母亲还是一个小孩子的时候,马洛特村一带大多数种地的人,一辈子都是在一个农场里干活,他们的父亲和祖父都是以那个农场为家的;但是近些年来,这种希望每年搬迁的倾向达到了高潮。这种搬迁不仅使年轻的家庭高兴激动,而且也可能从搬迁中得到好处。这一家人住的地方是埃及,但是对从远处看它的家庭来说,它就变成了福地①,等到他们搬到那儿住下以后,才发现那个地方又变成了埃及;所以他们就这样不停地搬来搬去。
 
①埃及、福地,宗教典故。古以色列人流落埃及,遭受虐待,祈祷上帝,上帝于是帮助摩西带领以色列人从埃及达到迦南,因而迦南被称为福地。见《圣经·出埃及记》第一至第十六章。

但是,乡村生活中所有这些越来越明显的变动,并不完全是因为农业界的不稳定产生的。农村人口在继续减少。从前在乡村里,还有另外一个有趣的、见识广的阶级同种地的庄稼汉居住在一起,他们的地位比庄稼汉高,苔丝的父亲和母亲属于这个阶级,这个阶级包括木匠、铁匠、鞋匠、小贩,还有一些除了种地的庄稼汉而外的不好分类的人。他们这一班人都有固定的目的和职业,有的和苔丝的父亲一样,是不动产的终身所有人,也有的是副本持有不动产的人,有时候也有一些小不动产所有人。但是他们长期租住的房屋一经到期,就很少再租给相同的佃户,除非是农场主绝对需要这些房屋给他的雇工住,不然大部分房屋都被拆除。那些不是被直接雇来干活的住户,都不大受到欢迎,有些人被赶走以后,留下来的人生意受到影响,也只好跟着走了。这些家庭是过去乡村生活中的主体,保存着乡村的生活传统,现在只好逃到更大的生活中心避难了;关于这个过程,统计学家幽默地称为“农村人口流向城市的趋势”,这种趋势,其实同向下流的水由于机械的作用向山上流是一样的。
马洛特村的房屋经过拆除以后,就这样减少了,所以房主都要把没有拆除的房屋收回去,给自己的工人住。自从苔丝出现了那件事后,她的生活就笼罩在一种阴影里,既然德北菲尔德家的后人名誉不好,大家就心照不宣地作了打算,等到租期一满,就得让德北菲尔德家搬走,仅是只从村中的道德方面考虑也得如此。确实,德北菲尔德这家人无论在性情、节制,还是在贞操方面,一直不是村子里闪闪发光的典型。苔丝的父亲,甚至苔丝的母亲,有时候都喝得醉醺醺的,孩子们也很少上教堂,大女儿还有过一段风流艳史。村子要想办法维持道德方面的纯洁。所以圣母节的第一天刚到,德北菲尔德一家就非得离开,这座房屋的房间多,被一个有一大家人的赶大车的租用了;寡妇琼和她的女儿苔丝、丽莎·露,还有儿子阿伯拉罕和更小的一些孩子,不得不搬往其它的地方。
在搬家前的那个晚上,天下起了蒙蒙细雨,一片阴沉,所以不到天黑的时候天就黑了。因为这是他们在自己的老家和出生的地方住的最后一个晚上,所以德北菲尔德太太、丽莎·露和阿拉伯罕就一起出门去向一些朋友告别,苔丝则留在家里看家,等他们回来。
苔丝跪在窗前的一条凳子上,脸贴着窗户,看见玻璃上的水向下流着,好像玻璃外面又蒙上了一层玻璃。她目光落在一张蜘蛛网上,那张蛛网不该结在一个没有蚊蝇飞过的角落里,所以那只蜘蛛大概早已经饿死了。风从窗户缝里吹进来,轻轻地颤抖着。苔丝心里想着全家的境况,觉得自己是一家人的祸根。假如她这次没有回家来,她的母亲和孩子们也许会被允许住下去,做一个按星期缴纳租金的住户。可是她刚一回来,就被村子里几个爱挑剔和有影响的人看见了:他们看见她来到教堂墓地,用一把小铲子把被毁掉了的婴儿坟墓修好了。因此,他们知道她又回家住了;她的母亲也遭到指责,说她“窝藏”自己的女儿;这也引起琼的尖刻反驳,说自己不屑住在这儿和立刻搬走的话来;话一说出口,别人也信以为真,所以就有了现在这种结果。
“我永远不回家才好!”苔丝伤心地对自己说。
苔丝一心想着上面的那些事情,所以当时她看见街上有一个穿着白色雨衣的人骑着马走来,她起初并没有加以注意、大概是她把脸贴在窗玻璃上的缘故,他很快就看见她了,就拍马向屋前走来,差不多走进了墙下面留下来种花的那一溜土垅子。他用马鞭敲了敲窗户,苔丝才看见他。雨差不多停了,她按照他手势的意思把窗户打开。
“你没有看见我吧?”德贝维尔问。
“我没有注意,”她说。“我相信我听见你了,但是我以为是马车的声音。我好像在做梦似的。”
“啊!你也许听说过德贝维尔家的马车的故事。我想,你听说过那个传说吧?”
“没有。我的——有个人曾经想把那个故事告诉我,但是后来又没有告诉我。”
“如果你是德贝维尔家族的真正后人,我想我也不应该告诉你。至于我,我是假的德贝维尔,所以无关紧要。那个故事有点儿吓人。据说有一辆并不存在的马车,只有真正德贝维尔家族血统的人才能听见它的声音,听见了马车声音的人都认为是一件不吉利的事情。这件事与一桩谋杀案有关,凶手是几百年前一个姓德贝维尔的人。”
“你现在已经讲开了,就把它讲完吧。”
“很好。据说有一个姓德贝维尔的人绑架了一个漂亮女人,那个女人想从绑架她的那辆马车上逃跑,在挣扎中他就把她杀了,也许是她把他杀了——我忘了是谁把谁杀了。这是这个故事的一种说法——我看见你们把盆子和水桶都收拾好了。你们要搬家了,是不是?”
“是的,明天搬家——明天是旧圣母节。”
“我听说你们要搬家,但是我还不敢相信,好像太突然了。是为什么呢?”
“那座房屋的租期到我父亲死时为止,我的父亲一死,我们就没有权利住下去了。要不是因为我的缘故,我们也许还能一礼拜一礼拜地住下去。”
“因为你什么呢?”
“我不是一个——正经女人。”
德贝维尔的脸顿时红了。
“这些人真是不要脸!可怜的势利小人!但愿他们的肮脏灵魂都烧成灰烬!”他用讽刺憎恶的口气喊着说。“你们就是因为这个才搬家的,是不是?是被他们赶走的,是不是?”
“这也并不完全算是被他们赶走的;不过他们说过我们应该早点搬家的话,现在大家都在搬家,所以我们还是现在搬家最好,因为现在的机会好一些。”
“你们搬到哪儿去呢?”
“金斯伯尔。我们在那儿租了房子。我母亲偏爱我父亲的老家,所以她要搬到那儿去。”
“可是你母亲一家人租房住不合适呀,又是住在一个窟窿大的小镇上。为什么不到特兰里奇我家花房里去住呢?自从我的母亲死后,已经没有多少鸡了;但是房子还在,花园还在,这你都知道。那房子一天就可以粉刷好,你母亲就可以十分舒服地住在那儿了;我还要把孩子们都送到一个好学校去。我真的应该为你帮一点儿忙!”
“但是我们已经在金斯伯尔把房子租好了呀!”苔丝说。“我们可以在那儿等——”
“等——等什么呀?等你那个好丈夫吧,这是不会错的。你听着好啦,苔丝,我知道男人是一些什么样的人,心里也记得你们是为什么分离的,我敢肯定他是不会同你和好的。好啦,虽然我曾经是你的敌人,但是我现在是你的朋友,你不相信也罢。到我的小屋去住吧。我们把家禽养起来,你的母亲可以把它们照管得很好,孩子们也可以去上学。”
苔丝的呼吸越来越急促,后来她说——
“我怎样才知道你会这么办呢?你的想法也许改变了——然后——我们——我的母亲——又要无家可归了。”
“啊,不会改变的,不会的。如果你认为必要,我可以写一份防止我改变主意的字据给你。你想一想吧。”
苔丝摇了摇头。但是德贝维尔坚持不让,她很少看见他如此坚决,她不答应,他就不肯罢休。
“请你告诉你的母亲吧!”他郑重地说。“这本来是应该由她作决定的事,不是由你来作主的。明天早上我就让人把房子打扫干净,粉刷好,把火生起来,到晚上的时候房子就干了,这样你们就可以直接搬进去。请你记住,我等着你们。”
苔丝又摇了摇头;心里涌现出各种复杂的感情。她无法抬头看德贝维尔了。
“我过去欠着你一笔人情债,这你是知道的!”他嘟哝着说。“你也把我的宗教狂热给治好了;所以我高兴——”
“我宁愿你还保持着你的宗教狂热,这样你就可以继续为宗教做事!”
“我很高兴能有机会为你作一点儿补偿。明天我希望能听到你的母亲从车上卸东西的声音——现在让我们为这件事握手吧——亲爱的美丽的苔丝!”
他说最后一句话的时候,把声音放低了,好像嘟哝一样,一面把手从半开的窗户中伸进去。苔丝的眼睛带着狂怒的感情,急忙把固定窗户的栓子一拉,这样就把德贝维尔的胳膊夹在窗户和石头的直棂中间了。
“真是该死——你真狠心呀!”他把胳膊抽出来说。“不,不!——我知道你不是故意这样做的。好吧,我等着你。至少希望你的母亲和孩子们会去。”
“我不会去的——我的钱多着啦!”她大声喊。
“你的钱在哪儿?”
“在我的公公那儿,如果我去要,他就会把钱给我。”
“如果你去要。可是你不会去要,苔丝,我知道你知道得很清楚。你不会找别人要钱的——你宁肯饿死也不会去找人要钱!”
说完这些话,他就骑着马走了。刚好在那条街的拐角的地方,他遇见了从前那个提着油漆桶的人,那个人问他是不是把道友抛弃了。
“见你的鬼去吧!”德贝维尔说。
德贝维尔走了,苔丝在那儿待了好久好久,突然,她心底里涌起一股因受尽委屈而要反叛的情绪,引发了她的悲痛,不禁泪如泉涌,涨满了她的眼睛。她的丈夫,安琪尔·克莱尔自己也和别人一样,待她太残酷了,他的确待她太残酷了!她过去从来没有这样想过,但是他待她的确太残酷了!在她的一生中——她可以从她的心底里发誓——从来没有故意做错过事,可是残酷的惩罚却降落在她的身上。无论她犯的是什么罪,也不是她故意犯的罪,既然不是故意犯罪,那她为什么要遭受这种无穷无尽的惩罚呢?
她满腹委屈地顺手拿过一张纸,在上面潦潦草草地写下了这样的话:
啊,安琪尔呀,为什么你待我这样无情无义啊!这是我不应该受的呀。我已经前前后后仔细地想过了,我永远永远也不会宽恕你了!你知道我不是故意委屈你的,为什么你却要这样委屈我呢?你太狠心了,的确太狠心了!我只好尽力把你忘了。我在你手里,得到的都是委屈呀!
  苔
她看着窗外,等到送信的路过,就跑出上把信交给他,然后又回去呆呆地坐在窗前。
写一封这样的信和一封情词哀怨的信没有什么不同。他怎能为她的哀怨动心呢?事实并没有改变:没有什么新的情况改变他的观点。
天越来越黑了,火光在房间里闪耀着。两个最大的孩子和母亲一起出去了,四个更小的孩子年龄从三岁半到十一岁不等,都穿着黑裙子,围坐在壁炉前叽叽喳喳地谈着孩子们的事情。屋里没有点蜡烛,苔丝后来也就和孩子们一起谈起来。
“宝贝们,在我们出生的这座屋子里,我们只能在这儿睡最后一个晚上了,”苔丝急忙说。“我们应该把这件事想一想,你们说是不是?”
孩子们变得安静下来;在他们那个年纪,最容易感情激动,一想到他们就要离开他们的故土了,一个个都咧嘴哭了出来,可是就在白天,他们一想到要搬到新地方去,还一个个感到高兴呢。
“亲爱的,你们给我唱支歌曲好不好?”
“我们唱什么歌曲呢?”
“你们会唱什么歌曲就唱什么歌曲好啦,我都愿意听。”
孩子们暂时安静了一会儿;第一个孩子打破了沉默,轻声试着唱起来;第二个孩子开始跟着唱,最后第三个和第四个孩子也加入进来,一起唱起了他们在主日学校学会的歌曲——
我们在这儿受苦受难,
我们在这儿相聚离别;
在天堂我们就不会分开。①
 
①这是主日学校的流行赞美诗,名为(Heeven Anticipated),T.Bilby作于1832年。

他们四个人一起唱着,那种神情就好像老早已经把问题解决了并且解决得没有错误的人,觉得不需要多加考虑了,所以神情冷静呆板。他们的脸一个个都很紧张,使劲地唱着每一个音节,同时还不住地去看中间闪烁不定的火焰,最小那个孩子还唱得错了节拍。
苔丝转过身去,又走到窗户跟前。外面的天色已经完全黑了,但是她把脸贴着窗户玻璃,仿佛要看穿外面浓浓的黑夜,其实,她是在掩藏自己眼中的泪水。只要她真能相信孩子们唱的歌曲里面的话,真的敢肯定是那样的话,那么一切将和现在多么不同呀,那么她就可以放心地把他们交给上帝和他们未来的王国了!叮是,那是无法办到的,所以她还得想办法,做他们的上帝,在一个诗人写的诗句里,里面有一种辛辣的讽刺,既是对苔丝的讽刺,也是对其他千千万万的人的讽刺——
我们不是赤裸着降生
而是驾着荣耀的祥云。②
 
②这是华兹华斯的诗句,见《Ode on Intimation of immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood》一诗。

在苔丝和苔丝这样的人看来,下世为人本身就是卑鄙的个人欲望遭受的痛苦,从结果来看,也好像无法让它合乎道理,至多只能减轻一些痛苦。
在苍茫的夜色里,苔丝看见她的母亲和瘦长的丽莎·露以及亚伯拉罕从潮湿的路上走了回来。不久德北菲尔德太太穿着木鞋走到了门口,苔丝打开门。
“我看见窗户外面有马的蹄印呐!”琼说。“有人来过吗?”
“没有人来过!”苔丝说。
坐在火边的孩子们表情严肃地看着她,其中有一个低声说——
“怎么啦,苔丝,骑马的是一个绅士啊!”
“那个绅士是谁?”母亲问。“是你的丈夫吗?”
“不是的。我的丈夫永远永远也不会来了,”她用绝望的语气回答说。
“那么他是谁呀?”
“啊!你不必问我了。你以前见过他,我从前也见过他。”
“啊!他说什么啦?”琼好奇地问。
“等到我们明天在金斯伯尔住下来了,我再一个字一个字地告诉你。”
她已经说过,那个人不是她的丈夫。可是在她的意识里,从肉体的意义上说,她在心里越来越感到只有那个人才是她的丈夫。

At length it was the eve of Old Lady-Day, and the agricultural world was in a fever of mobility such as only occurs at that particular date of the year. It is a day of fulfilment; agreements for outdoor service during the ensuing year, entered into at Candlemas, are to be now carried out. The labourers - or `workfolk', as they used to call themselves immemorially till the other word was introduced from without - who wish to remain no longer in old places are removing to the new farms.

These annual migrations from farm to farm were on the increase here. When Tess's mother was a child the majority of the field-folk about Marlott had remained all their lives on one farm, which had been the home also of their fathers and grandfathers; but latterly the desire for yearly removal had risen to a high pitch. With the younger families it was a pleasant excitement which might possibly be an advantage. The Egypt of one family was the Land of Promise to the family who saw it from a distance, till by residence there it became in turn their Egypt also; and so they changed and changed.

However, all the mutations so increasingly discernible in village life did not originate entirely in the agricultural unrest. A depopulation was also going on. The village had formerly contained, side by side with the agricultural labourers, an interesting and better informed class, ranking distinctly above the former - the class to which Tess's father and mother had belonged - and including the carpenter, the smith, the shoemaker, the huckster, together with nondescript workers other than farm-labourers; a set of people who owed a certain stability of aim and conduct to the fact of their being life-holders like Tess's father, or copyholders, or, occasionally, small freeholders. But as the long holdings fell in they were seldom again let to similar tenants, and were mostly pulled down, if not absolutely required by the farmer for his hands. Cottagers who were not directly employed on the land were looked upon with disfavour, and the banishment of some starved the trade of others, who were thus obliged to follow. These families, who had formed the backbone of the village life in the past, who were the depositaries of the village traditions, had to seek refuge in the large centres; the process, humorously designated by statisticians as `the tendency of the rural population towards the large towns', being really the tendency of water to flow uphill when forced by machinery.

The cottage accommodation at Marlott having been in this manner considerably curtailed by demolitions, every house which remained standing was required by the agriculturist for his workpeople. Ever since the occurrence of the event which had cast such a shadow over Tess's life, the Durbeyfield family (whose descent was not credited) had been tacitly looked on as one which would have to go when their lease ended, if only in the interests of morality. It was, indeed, quite true that the household had not been shining examples either of temperance, soberness, or chastity. The father, and even the mother, had got drunk at times, the younger children seldom had gone to church, and the eldest daughter had made queer unions. By some means the village had to kept pure. So on this, the first Lady-Day on which the Durbeyfields were expellable, the house, being roomy, was required for a carter with a large family; and Widow Joan, her daughters Tess and 'Liza-Lu, the boy Abraham and the younger children, had to go elsewhere.

On the evening preceding their removal it was getting dark betimes by reason of a drizzling rain which blurred the sky. As it was the last night they would spend in the village which had been their home and birthplace, Mrs Durbeyfield, 'Liza-Lu, and Abraham had gone out to bid some friends good-bye, and Tess was keeping house till they should return.

She was kneeling in the window-bench, her face close to the casement, where an outer pane of rainwater was sliding down the inner pane of glass. Her eyes rested on the web of a spider, probably starved long ago, which had been mistakenly placed in a corner where no flies ever came, and shivered in the slight draught through the casement. Tess was reflecting on the position of the household, in which she perceived her own evil influence. Had she not come home her mother and the children might probably have been allowed to stay on as weekly tenants. But she had been observed almost immediately on her return by some people of scrupulous character and great influence: they had seen her idling in the churchyard, restoring as well as she could with a little trowel a baby's obliterated grave. By this means they had found that she was living here again; her mother was scolded for `harbouring' her; sharp retorts had ensued from Joan, who had independently offered to leave at once; she had been taken at her word; and here was the result.

`I ought never to have come home,' said Tess to herself, bitterly.

She was so intent upon these thoughts that she hardly at first took note of a man in a white mackintosh whom she saw riding down the street. Possibly it was owing to her face being near to the pane that he saw her so quickly, and directed his horse so close to the cottage-front that his hoofs were almost upon the narrow border for plants growing under the wall. It was not till he touched the window with his riding-crop that she observed him. The rain had nearly ceased, and she opened the casement in obedience to his gesture.

`Didn't you see me?' asked d'Urberville.

`I was not attending,' she said. `I heard you, I believe, though I fancied it was a carriage and horses. I was in a sort of dream.'

`Ah! you heard the d'Urberville Coach, perhaps. You know the legend, I suppose?'

`No. My - somebody was going to tell it me once, but didn't.'

`If you are a genuine d'Urberville I ought not to tell you either, I suppose. As for me, I'm a sham one, so it doesn't matter. It is rather dismal. It is that this sound of a non-existent coach can only be heard by one of d'Urberville blood, and it is held to be of ill-omen to the one who hears it. It has to do with a murder, committed by one of the family, centuries ago.'

`Now you have begun it finish it.'

`Very well. One of the family is said to have abducted some beautiful woman, who tried to escape from the coach in which he was carrying her off, and in the struggle he killed her - or she killed him - I forget which. Such is one version of the tale... . I see that your tubs and buckets are packed. Going away, aren't you?'

`Yes, to-morrow - Old Lady-Day.'

`I heard you were, but could hardly believe it; it seems so sudden. Why is it?'

`Father's was the last life on the property, and when that dropped we had no further right to stay. Though we might, perhaps,have stayed as weekly tenants-if it had not been for me.'

`What about you?'

`I am not a - proper woman.'

D'Urberville's face flushed.

`What a blasted shame! Miserable snobs! May their dirty souls be burnt to cinders!' he exclaimed in tones of ironic resentment. `That's why you are going, is it? Turned out?'

`We are not turned out exactly; but as they said we should have to go soon, it was best to go now everybody was moving, because there are better chances.'

`Where are you going to?'

`Kingsbere. We have taken rooms there. Mother is so foolish about father's people that she will go there.'

`But your mother's family are not fit for lodgings, and in a little hole of a town like that. Now why not come to my garden-house at Trantridge? There are hardly any poultry now, since my mother's death; but there's the house, as you know it, and the garden. It can be whitewashed in a day, and your mother can live there quite comfortably; and I will put the children to a good school. Really I ought to do something for you!'

`But we have already taken the rooms at Kingsbere!' she declared. `And we can wait there------'

`Wait - what for? For that nice husband, no doubt. Now look here, Tess, I know what men are, and, bearing in mind the grounds of your separation, I am quite positive he will never make it up with you. Now, though I have been your enemy, I am your friend, even if you won't believe it. Come to this cottage of mine. We'll get up a regular colony of fowls, and your mother can attend to them excellently; and the children can go to school.'

Tess breathed more and more quickly, and at length she said--

`How do I know that you would do all this? Your views may change - and then - we should be - my mother would be homeless again.'

`O no - no. I would guarantee you against such as that in writing necessary. Think it over.'

Tess shook her head. But d'Urberville persisted; she had seldom seen him so determined; he would not take a negative.

`Please just tell your mother,' he said, in emphatic tones. `It is her business to judge - not yours. I shall get the house swept out and whitened to-morrow morning, and fires lit; and it will be dry by the evening, so that you can come straight there. Now mind, I shall expect you.'

Tess again shook her head; her throat swelling with complicated emotion. She could not look up at d'Urberville.

`I owe you something for the past, you know,' he resumed. `And you cured me, too, of that craze; so I am glad--'

`I would rather you had kept the craze, so that you had kept the practice which went with it!'

`I am glad of this opportunity of repaying you a little. Tomorrow I shall expect to hear your mother's goods unloading... .Give me your hand on it now - dear, beautiful Tess!'

With the last sentence he had dropped his voice to a murmur, and put his hand in at the half-open casement. With stormy eyes she pulled the stay-bar quickly, and, in doing so, caught his arm between the casement and the stone mullion.

`Damnation - you are very cruel!' he said, snatching out his arm. `No, no! - I know you didn't do it on purpose. Well, I shall expect you, or your mother and the children at least.'

`I shall not come - I have plenty of money!' she cried.

`Where?'

`At my father-in-law's, if I ask for it.'

`If you ask for it. But you won't, Tess; I know you; you'll never ask for it - you'll starve first!'

With these words he rode off. just at the corner of the street he met the man with the paint-pot, who asked him if he had deserted the brethren.

`You go to the devil!' said d'Urberville.

Tess remained where she was a long while, till a sudden rebellious sense of injustice caused the region of her eyes to swell with the rush of hot tears thither. Her husband, Angel Clare himself, had, like others, dealt out hard measure to her, surely he had! She had never before admitted such a thought; but he had surely! Never in her life - she could swear it from the bottom of her soul had she ever intended to do wrong; yet these hard judgments had come. Whatever her sins, they were not sins of intention, but of inadvertence, and why should she have been punished so persistently?

She passionately seized the first piece of paper that came to hand, and scribbled the following lines:

O why have you treated me so monstrously, Angel! I do not deserve it. I have thought it all over carefully, and I can never, never forgive you! You know that I did not intend to wrong you - why have you so wronged me? You are cruel, cruel indeed! I will try to forget you. It is all injustice I have received at your hands! T.
She watched till the postman passed by, ran out to him with her epistle, and then again took her listless place inside the window-panes.
It was just as well to write like that as to write tenderly. How could he give way to entreaty? The facts had not changed: there was no new event to alter his opinion.

It grew darker, the fire-light shining over the room. The two biggest of the younger children had gone out with their mother; the four smallest, their ages ranging from three-and-a-half years to eleven, all in black frocks, were gathered round the hearth babbling their own little subjects. Tess at length joined them, without lighting a candle.

`This is the last night that we shall sleep here, dears, in the house where we were born,' she said quickly. `We ought to think of it, oughtn't we?'

They all became silent; with the impressibility of their age they were ready to burst into tears at the picture of finality she had conjured up, though all the day hitherto they had been rejoicing in the idea of a new place. Tess changed the subject.

`Sing to me, dears,' she said.

`What shall we sing?'

`Anything you know; I don't mind.'

There was a momentary pause; it was broken, first, by one little tentative note; then a second voice strengthened it, and a third and a fourth chimed in unison, with words they had learnt at the Sunday-school--

Here we suffer grief and pain,
Here we meet to part again;
In Heaven we part no more.

The four sang on with the phlegmatic passivity of persons who had long ago settled the question, and there being no mistake about it, felt that further thought was not required. With features strained hard to enunciate the syllables they continued to regard the centre of the flickering fire, the notes of the youngest straying over into the pauses of the rest.
Tess turned from them, and went to the window again. Darkness had now fallen without, but she put her face to the pane as though to peer into the gloom. It was really to hide her tears. If she could only believe what the children were singing; if she were only sure, how different all would now be; how confidently she would leave them to Providence and their future kingdom! But, in default of that, it behoved her to do something; to be their Providence; for to Tess, as to not a few millions of others, there was ghastly satire in the poet's lines--

Not in utter nakedness
But trailing clouds of glory do we come.

To her and her like, birth itself was an ordeal of degrading personal compulsion, whose gratuitousness nothing in the result seemed to justify, and at best could only palliate.
In the shades of the wet road she soon discerned her mother with tall 'Liza-Lu and Abraham. Mrs Durbeyfield's pattens clicked up to the door, and Tess opened it.

`I see the tracks of a horse outside the window,' said Joan. `Hev somebody called?'

`No,' said Tess.

The children by the fire looked gravely at her, and one murmured --

`Why, Tess, the gentleman a-horseback!'

`He didn't call,' said Tess. `He spoke to me in passing.'

`Who was the gentleman?' asked her mother. `Your husband?'

`No. He'll never, never come,' answered Tess in stony hopelessness.

`Then who was it?'

`Oh, you needn't ask. You've seen him before, and so have I.'

`Ah! What did he say?' said Joan curiously.

`I will tell you when we are settled in our lodgings at Kingsbere to-morrow - every word.'

It was not her husband, she had said. Yet a consciousness that in a physical sense this man alone was her husband seemed to weigh on her more and more.