Tess of the d'Urbervilles eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 439 pages of information about Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

Till this moment she had never seen or heard from d’Urberville since her departure from Trantridge.

The rencounter came at a heavy moment, one of all moments calculated to permit its impact with the least emotional shock.  But such was unreasoning memory that, though he stood there openly and palpably a converted man, who was sorrowing for his past irregularities, a fear overcame her, paralyzing her movement so that she neither retreated nor advanced.

To think of what emanated from that countenance when she saw it last, and to behold it now! ...  There was the same handsome unpleasantness of mien, but now he wore neatly trimmed, old-fashioned whiskers, the sable moustache having disappeared; and his dress was half-clerical, a modification which had changed his expression sufficiently to abstract the dandyism from his features, and to hinder for a second her belief in his identity.

To Tess’s sense there was, just at first, a ghastly bizarrerie, a grim incongruity, in the march of these solemn words of Scripture out of such a mouth.  This too familiar intonation, less than four years earlier, had brought to her ears expressions of such divergent purpose that her heart became quite sick at the irony of the contrast.

It was less a reform than a transfiguration.  The former curves of sensuousness were now modulated to lines of devotional passion.  The lip-shapes that had meant seductiveness were now made to express supplication; the glow on the cheek that yesterday could be translated as riotousness was evangelized to-day into the splendour of pious rhetoric; animalism had become fanaticism; Paganism, Paulinism; the bold rolling eye that had flashed upon her form in the old time with such mastery now beamed with the rude energy of a theolatry that was almost ferocious.  Those black angularities which his face had used to put on when his wishes were thwarted now did duty in picturing the incorrigible backslider who would insist upon turning again to his wallowing in the mire.

The lineaments, as such, seemed to complain.  They had been diverted from their hereditary connotation to signify impressions for which Nature did not intend them.  Strange that their very elevation was a misapplication, that to raise seemed to falsify.

Yet could it be so?  She would admit the ungenerous sentiment no longer.  D’Urberville was not the first wicked man who had turned away from his wickedness to save his soul alive, and why should she deem it unnatural in him?  It was but the usage of thought which had been jarred in her at hearing good new words in bad old notes.  The greater the sinner, the greater the saint; it was not necessary to dive far into Christian history to discover that.

Such impressions as these moved her vaguely, and without strict definiteness.  As soon as the nerveless pause of her surprise would allow her to stir, her impulse was to pass on out of his sight.  He had obviously not discerned her yet in her position against the sun.

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Tess of the d'Urbervilles from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.