Phase the Fifth: The Woman Pays
37. CHAPTER XXXVII
Midnight came and passed silently, for there was
nothing to announce it in the Valley of the Froom.
Not long after one o'clock there was a slight creak in
the darkened farmhouse once the mansion of the
d'Urbervilles. Tess, who used the upper chamber, heard
it and awoke. It had come from the corner step of the
staircase, which, as usual, was loosely nailed. She
saw the door of her bedroom open, and the figure of her
husband crossed the stream of moonlight with a
curiously careful tread. He was in his shirt and
trousers only, and her first flush of joy died when she
perceived that his eyes were fixed in an unnatural
stare on vacancy. When he reached the middle of the
room he stood still and murmured in tones of
"Dead! dead! dead!"
Under the influence of any strongly-disturbing force
Clare would occasionally walk in his sleep, and even
perform strange feats, such as he had done on the night
of their return from market just before their marriage,
when he re-enacted in his bedroom his combat with the
man who had insulted her. Tess saw that continued
mental distress had wrought him into that
somnambulistic state now.
Her loyal confidence in him lay so deep down in her
heart, that, awake or asleep, he inspired her with no
sort of personal fear. If he had entered with a pistol
in his hand he would scarcely have disturbed her trust
in his protectiveness.
Clare came close, and bent over her. "Dead, dead,
dead!" he murmured.
After fixedly regarding her for some moments with the
same gaze of unmeasurable woe he bent lower, enclosed
her in his arms, and rolled her in the sheet as in a
shroud. Then lifting her from the bed with as much
respect as one would show to a dead body, he carried
her across the room, murmuring----
"My poor, poor Tess--my dearest, darling Tess! So
sweet, so good, so true!"