Phase the Fifth: The Woman Pays
42. CHAPTER XLII (continued)
Thus Tess walks on; a figure which is part of the
landscape; a fieldwoman pure and simple, in winter
guise; a gray serge cape, a red woollen cravat, a stuff
skirt covered by a whitey-brown rough wrapper, and
buff-leather gloves. Every thread of that old attire
has become faded and thin under the stroke of
raindrops, the burn of sunbeams, and the stress of
winds. There is no sign of young passion in her
The maiden's mouth is cold
. . . . . . . .
Fold over simple fold
Binding her head.
Inside this exterior, over which the eye might have
roved as over a thing scarcely percipient, almost
inorganic, there was the record of a pulsing life which
had learnt too well, for its years, of the dust and
ashes of things, of the cruelty of lust and the
fragility of love.
Next day the weather was bad, but she trudged on, the
honesty, directness, and impartiality of elemental
enmity disconcerting her but little. Her object being
a winter's occupation and a winter's home, there was no
time to lose. Her experience of short hirings had been
such that she was determined to accept no more.
Thus she went forward from farm to farm in the
direction of the place whence Marian had written to
her, which she determined to make use of as a last
shift only, its rumoured stringencies being the reverse
of tempting. First she inquired for the lighter kinds
of employment, and, as acceptance in any variety of
these grew hopeless, applied next for the less light,
till, beginning with the dairy and poultry tendance
that she liked best, she ended with the heavy and
course pursuits which she liked least--work on arable
land: work of such roughness, indeed, as she would
never have deliberately voluteered for.
Towards the second evening she reached the irregular
chalk table-land or plateau, bosomed with semi-globular
tumuli--as if Cybele the Many-breasted were supinely
extended there--which stretched between the valley of
her birth and the valley of her love.