She soon had finished her lunch. “Now I am going home, sir,” she said, rising.
“And what do they call you?” he asked, as he accompanied her along the drive till they were out of sight of the house.
“Tess Durbeyfield, down at Marlott.”
“And you say your people have lost their horse?”
“I—killed him!” she answered, her eyes filling with tears as she gave particulars of Prince’s death. “And I don’t know what to do for father on account of it!”
“I must think if I cannot do something. My mother must find a berth for you. But, Tess, no nonsense about ‘d’Urberville’;—’Durbeyfield’ only, you know—quite another name.”
“I wish for no better, sir,” said she with something of dignity.
For a moment—only for a moment—when they were in the turning of the drive, between the tall rhododendrons and conifers, before the lodge became visible, he inclined his face towards her as if—but, no: he thought better of it, and let her go.
Thus the thing began. Had she perceived this meeting’s import she might have asked why she was doomed to be seen and coveted that day by the wrong man, and not by some other man, the right and desired one in all respects—as nearly as humanity can supply the right and desired; yet to him who amongst her acquaintance might have approximated to this kind, she was but a transient impression, half forgotten.
In the ill-judged execution of the well-judged plan of things the call seldom produces the comer, the man to love rarely coincides with the hour for loving. Nature does not often say “See!” to her poor creature at a time when seeing can lead to happy doing; or reply “Here!” to a body’s cry of “Where?” till the hide-and-seek has become an irksome, outworn game. We may wonder whether at the acme and summit of the human progress these anachronisms will be corrected by a finer intuition, a closer interaction of the social machinery than that which now jolts us round and along; but such completeness is not to be prophesied, or even conceived as possible. Enough that in the present case, as in millions, it was not the two halves of a perfect whole that confronted each other at the perfect moment; a missing counterpart wandered independently about the earth waiting in crass obtuseness till the late time came. Out of which maladroit delay sprang anxieties, disappointments, shocks, catastrophes, and passing-strange destinies.
When d’Urberville got back to the tent he sat down astride on a chair, reflecting, with a pleased gleam in his face. Then he broke into a loud laugh.
“Well, I’m damned! What a funny thing! Ha-ha-ha! And what a crumby girl!”
Tess went down the hill to Trantridge Cross, and inattentively waited to take her seat in the van returning from Chaseborough to Shaston. She did not know what the other occupants said to her as she entered, though she answered them; and when they had started anew she rode along with an inward and not an outward eye.