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.

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.

XLVIII

In the afternoon the farmer made it known that the rick was to be finished that night, since there was a moon by which they could see to work, and the man with the engine was engaged for another farm on the morrow.  Hence the twanging and humming and rustling proceeded with even less intermission than usual.

It was not till “nammet"-time, about three o-clock, that Tess raised her eyes and gave a momentary glance round.  She felt but little surprise at seeing that Alec d’Urberville had come back, and was standing under the hedge by the gate.  He had seen her lift her eyes, and waved his hand urbanely to her, while he blew her a kiss.  It meant that their quarrel was over.  Tess looked down again, and carefully abstained from gazing in that direction.

Thus the afternoon dragged on.  The wheat-rick shrank lower, and the straw-rick grew higher, and the corn-sacks were carted away.  At six o’clock the wheat-rick was about shoulder-high from the ground.  But the unthreshed sheaves remaining untouched seemed countless still, notwithstanding the enormous numbers that had been gulped down by the insatiable swallower, fed by the man and Tess, through whose two young hands the greater part of them had passed.  And the

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