Phase the First: The Maiden
4. CHAPTER IV (continued)
Mrs Durbeyfield, having quickly walked hitherward after
parting from Tess, opened the front door, crossed the
downstairs room, which was in deep gloom, and then
unfastened the stair-door like one whose fingers knew
the tricks of the latches well. Her ascent of the
crooked staircase was a slower process, and her face,
as it rose into the light above the last stair,
encountered the gaze of all the party assembled in the
"----Being a few private friends I've asked in to keep
up club-walking at my own expense," the landlady
exclaimed at the sound of footsteps, as glibly as a
child repeating the Catechism, while she peered over
the stairs. "Oh, 'tis you, Mrs Durbeyfield--Lard--how
you frightened me!--I thought it might be some gaffer
sent by Gover'ment."
Mrs Durbeyfield was welcomed with glances and nods by
the remainder of the conclave, and turned to where her
husband sat. He was humming absently to himself, in a
low tone: "I be as good as some folks here and there!
I've got a great family vault at Kingsbere-
sub-Greenhill, and finer skillentons than any man in
"I've something to tell 'ee that's come into my head
about that--a grand projick!" whispered his cheerful
wife. "Here, John, don't 'ee see me?" She nudged him,
while he, looking through her as through a window-pane,
went on with his recitative.
"Hush! Don't 'ee sing so loud, my good man," said the
landlady; "in case any member of the Gover'ment should
be passing, and take away my licends."
"He's told 'ee what's happened to us, I suppose?" asked
"Yes--in a way. D'ye think there's any money hanging by
"Ah, that's the secret," said Joan Durbeyfield sagely.
"However, 'tis well to be kin to a coach, even if you
don't ride in 'en." She dropped her public voice, and
continued in a low tone to her husband: "I've been
thinking since you brought the news that there's a
great rich lady out by Trantridge, on the edge o' The
Chase, of the name of d'Urberville."