Phase the Fifth: The Woman Pays
41. CHAPTER XLI (continued)
"Goodnight, my pretty maid": to which she civilly
The light still remaining in the sky lit up her face,
though the landscape was nearly dark. The man turned
and stared hard at her.
"Why, surely, it is the young wench who was at
Trantridge awhile--young Squire d'Urberville's friend?
I was there at that time, though I don't live there
She recognized in him the well-to-do boor whom Angel
had knocked down at the inn for addressing her
coarsely. A spasm of anguish shot through her, and she
returned him no answer.
"Be honest enough to own it, and that what I said in
the town was true, though your fancy-man was so up
about it--hey, my sly one? You ought to beg my pardon
for that blow of his, considering."
Still no answer came from Tess. There seemed only one
escape for her hunted soul. She suddenly took to her
heels with the speed of the wind, and, without looking
behind her, ran along the road till she came to a gate
which opened directly into a plantation. Into this she
plunged, and did not pause till she was deep enough in
its shade to be safe against any possibility of
Under foot the leaves were dry, and the foliage of some
holly bushes which grew among the deciduous trees was
dense enough to keep off draughts. She scraped
together the dead leaves till she had formed them into
a large heap, making a sort of nest in the middle.
Into this Tess crept.
Such sleep as she got was naturally fitful; she fancied
she heard strange noises, but persuaded herself that
they were caused by the breeze. She thought of her
husband in some vague warm clime on the other side of
the globe, while she was here in the cold. Was there
another such a wretched being as she in the world?
Tess asked herself; and, thinking of her wasted life,
said, "All is vanity." She repeated the words
mechanically, till she reflected that this was a most
inadequate thought for modern days. Solomon had
thought as far as that more than two thousand years
ago; she herself, though not in the van of thinkers,
had got much further. If all were only vanity, who
would mind it? All was, alas, worse than
vanity--injustice, punishment, exaction, death. The
wife of Angel Clare put her hand in her brow, and felt
its curve, and the edges of her eye-sockets perceptible
under the soft skin, and thought as she did so that a
time would come when that bone would be bare. "I wish
it were now," she said.