His way was by the field in which he had first beheld her at the dance. It was as bad as the house—even worse. He passed on through the churchyard, where, amongst the new headstones, he saw one of a somewhat superior design to the rest. The inscription ran thus:
In memory of John Durbeyfield, rightly d’Urberville, of the once powerful family of that Name, and Direct Descendant through an illustrious Line from Sir Pagan d’Urberville, one of the Knights of the Conqueror. Died March 10th, 18—
HOW ARE THE MIGHTY FALLEN.
Some man, apparently the sexton, had observed Clare standing there, and drew nigh. “Ah, sir, now that’s a man who didn’t want to lie here, but wished to be carried to Kingsbere, where his ancestors be.”
“And why didn’t they respect his wish?”
“Oh—no money. Bless your soul, sir, why—there, I wouldn’t wish to say it everywhere, but—even this headstone, for all the flourish wrote upon en, is not paid for.”
“Ah, who put it up?”
The man told the name of a mason in the village, and, on leaving the churchyard, Clare called at the mason’s house. He found that the statement was true, and paid the bill. This done, he turned in the direction of the migrants.
The distance was too long for a walk, but Clare felt such a strong desire for isolation that at first he would neither hire a conveyance nor go to a circuitous line of railway by which he might eventually reach the place. At Shaston, however, he found he must hire; but the way was such that he did not enter Joan’s place till about seven o’clock in the evening, having traversed a distance of over twenty miles since leaving Marlott.
The village being small he had little difficulty in finding Mrs Durbeyfield’s tenement, which was a house in a walled garden, remote from the main road, where she had stowed away her clumsy old furniture as best she could. It was plain that for some reason or other she had not wished him to visit her, and he felt his call to be somewhat of an intrusion. She came to the door herself, and the light from the evening sky fell upon her face.
This was the first time that Clare had ever met her, but he was too preoccupied to observe more than that she was still a handsome woman, in the garb of a respectable widow. He was obliged to explain that he was Tess’s husband, and his object in coming there, and he did it awkwardly enough. “I want to see her at once,” he added. “You said you would write to me again, but you have not done so.”
“Because she’ve not come home,” said Joan.
“Do you know if she is well?”
“I don’t. But you ought to, sir,” said she.
“I admit it. Where is she staying?”
From the beginning of the interview Joan had disclosed her embarrassment by keeping her hand to the side of her cheek.
“I—don’t know exactly where she is staying,” she answered. “She was—but—”