Phase the First: The Maiden
1. CHAPTER I
On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged
man was walking homeward from Shaston to the village of
Marlott, in the adjoining Vale of Blakemore or
Blackmoor. The pair of legs that carried him were
rickety, and there was a bias in his gait which
inclined him somewhat to the left of a straight line.
He occasionally gave a smart nod, as if in confirmation
of some opinion, though he was not thinking of anything
in particular. An empty egg-basket was slung upon his
arm, the nap of his hat was ruffled, a patch being
quite worn away at its brim where his thumb came in
taking it off. Presently he was met by an elderly
parson astride on a gray mare, who, as he rode, hummed
a wandering tune.
"Good night t'ee," said the man with the basket.
"Good night, Sir John," said the parson.
The pedestrian, after another pace or two, halted,
and turned round.
"Now, sir, begging your pardon; we met last market-day
on this road about this time, and I said "Good night,"
and you made reply 'GOOD NIGHT, SIR JOHN,' as now."
"I did," said the parson.
"And once before that--near a month ago."
"I may have."
"Then what might your meaning be in calling me
'Sir John' these different times, when I be plain Jack
Durbeyfield, the haggler?"
The parson rode a step or two nearer.
"It was only my whim," he said; and, after a moment's
hesitation: "It was on account of a discovery I made
some little time ago, whilst I was hunting up pedigrees
for the new county history. I am Parson Tringham, the
antiquary, of Stagfoot Lane. Don't you really know,
Durbeyfield, that you are the lineal representative of
the ancient and knightly family of the d'Urbervilles,
who derive their descent from Sir Pagan d'Urberville,
that renowned knight who came from Normandy with
William the Conqueror, as appears by Battle Abbey