“Crick didn’t exactly say that he would no longer require you. But, knowing what our relations were, he said in the most good-natured and respectful manner possible that he supposed on my leaving at Christmas I should take you with me, and on my asking what he would do without you he merely observed that, as a matter of fact, it was a time of year when he could do with a very little female help. I am afraid I was sinner enough to feel rather glad that he was in this way forcing your hand.”
“I don’t think you ought to have felt glad, Angel. Because ’tis always mournful not to be wanted, even if at the same time ’tis convenient.”
“Well, it is convenient—you have admitted that.” He put his finger upon her cheek. “Ah!” he said.
“I feel the red rising up at her having been caught! But why should I trifle so! We will not trifle—life is too serious.”
“It is. Perhaps I saw that before you did.”
She was seeing it then. To decline to marry him after all—in obedience to her emotion of last night—and leave the dairy, meant to go to some strange place, not a dairy; for milkmaids were not in request now calving-time was coming on; to go to some arable farm where no divine being like Angel Clare was. She hated the thought, and she hated more the thought of going home.
“So that, seriously, dearest Tess,” he continued, “since you will probably have to leave at Christmas, it is in every way desirable and convenient that I should carry you off then as my property. Besides, if you were not the most uncalculating girl in the world you would know that we could not go on like this for ever.”
“I wish we could. That it would always be summer and autumn, and you always courting me, and always thinking as much of me as you have done through the past summer-time!”
“I always shall.”
“O, I know you will!” she cried, with a sudden fervour of faith in him. “Angel, I will fix the day when I will become yours for always!”
Thus at last it was arranged between them, during that dark walk home, amid the myriads of liquid voices on the right and left.
When they reached the dairy Mr and Mrs Crick were promptly told—with injunctions of secrecy; for each of the lovers was desirous that the marriage should be kept as private as possible. The dairyman, though he had thought of dismissing her soon, now made a great concern about losing her. What should he do about his skimming? Who would make the ornamental butter-pats for the Anglebury and Sandbourne ladies? Mrs Crick congratulated Tess on the shilly-shallying having at last come to an end, and said that directly she set eyes on Tess she divined that she was to be the chosen one of somebody who was no common outdoor man; Tess had looked so superior as she walked across the barton on that afternoon of her arrival; that she was of a good family she could have sworn. In point of fact Mrs Crick did remember thinking that Tess was graceful and good-looking as she approached; but the superiority might have been a growth of the imagination aided by subsequent knowledge.