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.

He withdrew it, shaking his head.

“Then I don’t like you!” she burst out, “and I’ll never come to your church no more!”

“Don’t talk so rashly.”

“Perhaps it will be just the same to him if you don’t? ...  Will it be just the same?  Don’t for God’s sake speak as saint to sinner, but as you yourself to me myself—­poor me!”

How the Vicar reconciled his answer with the strict notions he supposed himself to hold on these subjects it is beyond a layman’s power to tell, though not to excuse.  Somewhat moved, he said in this case also—­

“It will be just the same.”

So the baby was carried in a small deal box, under an ancient woman’s shawl, to the churchyard that night, and buried by lantern-light, at the cost of a shilling and a pint of beer to the sexton, in that shabby corner of God’s allotment where He lets the nettles grow, and where all unbaptized infants, notorious drunkards, suicides, and others of the conjecturally damned are laid.  In spite of the untoward surroundings, however, Tess bravely made a little cross of two laths and a piece of string, and having bound it with flowers, she stuck it up at the head of the grave one evening when she could enter the churchyard without being seen, putting at the foot also a bunch of the same flowers in a little jar of water to keep them alive.  What matter was it that on the outside of the jar the eye of mere observation noted the words “Keelwell’s Marmalade”?  The eye of maternal affection did not see them in its vision of higher things.

XV

“By experience,” says Roger Ascham, “we find out a short way by a long wandering.”  Not seldom that long wandering unfits us for further travel, and of what use is our experience to us then?  Tess Durbeyfield’s experience was of this incapacitating kind.  At last she had learned what to do; but who would now accept her doing?

If before going to the d’Urbervilles’ she had vigorously moved under the guidance of sundry gnomic texts and phrases known to her and to the world in general, no doubt she would never have been imposed on.  But it had not been in Tess’s power—­nor is it in anybody’s power—­to feel the whole truth of golden opinions while it is possible to profit by them.  She—­and how many more—­might have ironically said to God with Saint Augustine:  “Thou hast counselled a better course than Thou hast permitted.”

She remained at her father’s house during the winter months, plucking fowls, or cramming turkeys and geese, or making clothes for her sisters and brothers out of some finery which d’Urberville had given her, and she had put by with contempt.  Apply to him she would not.  But she would often clasp her hands behind her head and muse when she was supposed to be working hard.

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