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.

Tess, like her compeers, soon discovered which of the cows had a preference for her style of manipulation, and her fingers having become delicate from the long domiciliary imprisonments to which she had subjected herself at intervals during the last two or three years, she would have been glad to meet the milchers’ views in this respect.  Out of the whole ninety-five there were eight in particular—­Dumpling, Fancy, Lofty, Mist, Old Pretty, Young Pretty, Tidy, and Loud—­who, though the teats of one or two were as hard as carrots, gave down to her with a readiness that made her work on them a mere touch of the fingers.  Knowing, however, the dairyman’s wish, she endeavoured conscientiously to take the animals just as they came, expecting the very hard yielders which she could not yet manage.

But she soon found a curious correspondence between the ostensibly chance position of the cows and her wishes in this matter, till she felt that their order could not be the result of accident.  The dairyman’s pupil had lent a hand in getting the cows together of late, and at the fifth or sixth time she turned her eyes, as she rested against the cow, full of sly inquiry upon him.

“Mr Clare, you have ranged the cows!” she said, blushing; and in making the accusation, symptoms of a smile gently lifted her upper lip in spite of her, so as to show the tips of her teeth, the lower lip remaining severely still.

“Well, it makes no difference,” said he.  “You will always be here to milk them.”

“Do you think so?  I HOPE I shall!  But I don’t KNOW.”

She was angry with herself afterwards, thinking that he, unaware of her grave reasons for liking this seclusion, might have mistaken her meaning.  She had spoken so earnestly to him, as if his presence were somehow a factor in her wish.  Her misgiving was such that at dusk, when the milking was over, she walked in the garden alone, to continue her regrets that she had disclosed to him her discovery of his considerateness.

It was a typical summer evening in June, the atmosphere being in such delicate equilibrium and so transmissive that inanimate objects seemed endowed with two or three senses, if not five.  There was no distinction between the near and the far, and an auditor felt close to everything within the horizon.  The soundlessness impressed her as a positive entity rather than as the mere negation of noise.  It was broken by the strumming of strings.

Tess had heard those notes in the attic above her head.  Dim, flattened, constrained by their confinement, they had never appealed to her as now, when they wandered in the still air with a stark quality like that of nudity.  To speak absolutely, both instrument and execution were poor; but the relative is all, and as she listened Tess, like a fascinated bird, could not leave the spot.  Far from leaving she drew up towards the performer, keeping behind the hedge that he might not guess her presence.

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