Phase the Fourth: The Consequence
34. CHAPTER XXXIV (continued)
"I have been told by old folk that they were ladies of
the d'Urberville family, the ancient lords of this
manor," she said, "Owing to their being builded into
the wall they can't be moved away."
The unpleasantness of the matter was that, in addition
to their effect upon Tess, her fine features were
unquestionably traceable in these exaggerated forms.
He said nothing of this, however, and, regretting that
he had gone out of his way to choose the house for
their bridal time, went on into the adjoining room.
The place having been rather hastily prepared for them
they washed their hands in one basin. Clare touched
hers under the water.
"Which are my fingers and which are yours?" he said,
looking up. "They are very much mixed."
"They are all yours," said she, very prettily, and
endeavoured to be gayer than she was. He had not been
displeased with her thoughtfulness on such an occasion;
it was what every sensible woman would show: but Tess
knew that she had been thoughtful to excess, and
struggled against it.
The sun was so low on that short last afternoon of the
year that it shone in through a small opening and
formed a golden staff which stretched across to her
skirt, where it made a spot like a paint-mark set upon
her. They went into the ancient parlour to tea, and
here they shared their first common meal alone. Such
was their childishness, or rather his, that he found it
interesting to use the same bread-and-butter plate as
herself, and to brush crumbs from her lips with his
own. He wondered a little that she did not enter into
these frivolities with his own zest.
Looking at her silently for a long time; "She is a dear
dear Tess," he thought to himself, as one deciding on
the true construction of a difficult passage. "Do I
realize solemnly enough how utterly and irretrievably
this little womanly thing is the creature of my good or
bad faith and fortune? I think not. I think I could
not, unless I were a woman myself. What I am in
worldly estate, she is. What I become, she must
become. What I cannot be, she cannot be. And shall I
ever neglect her, or hurt her, or even forget to
consider her? God forbid such a crime!"