Phase the Sixth: The Convert
52. CHAPTER LII (continued)
They had called on a few neighbours that morning and
the previous evening, and some came to see them off,
all wishing them well, though, in their secret hearts,
hardly expecting welfare possible to such a family,
harmless as the Durbeyfields were to all except
themselves. Soon the equipage began to ascend to
higher ground, and the wind grew keener with the change
of level and soil.
The day being the sixth of April, the Durbeyfield
waggon met many other waggons with families on the
summit of the load, which was built on a wellnigh
unvarying principle, as peculiar, probably, to the
rural labourer as the hexagon to the bee. The
groundwork of the arrangement was the family dresser,
which, with its shining handles, and finger-marks, and
domestic evidences thick upon it, stood importantly in
front, over the tails of the shaft-horses, in its erect
and natural position, like some Ark of the Covenant
that they were bound to carry reverently.
Some of the households were lively, some mournful; some
were stopping at the doors of wayside inns; where, in
due time, the Durbeyfield menagerie also drew up to
bait horses and refresh the travellers.
During the halt Tess's eyes fell upon a three-pint blue
mug, which was ascending and descending through the air
to and from the feminine section of a household,
sitting on the summit of a load that had also drawn up
at a little distance from the same inn. She followed
one of the mug's journeys upward, and perceived it to
be clasped by hands whose owner she well knew. Tess
went towards the waggon.
"Marian and Izz!" she cried to the girls, for it was
they, sitting with the moving family at whose house
they had lodged. "Are you house-ridding today, like
They were, they said. It had been too rough a life for
them at Flintcomb-Ash, and they had come away, almost
without notice, leaving Groby to prosecute them if he
chose. They told Tess their destination, and Tess told
Marian leant over the load, and lowered her voice.
"Do you know that the gentleman who follows 'ee--you'll
guess who I mean--came to ask for 'ee at Flintcomb
after you had gone? We didn't tell'n where you was,
knowing you wouldn't wish to see him."