Phase the Second: Maiden No More
15. CHAPTER XV
"By experience," says Roger Ascham, "we find out a
short way by a long wandering." Not seldom that long
wandering unfits us for further travel, and of what use
is our experience to us then? Tess Durbeyfield's
experience was of this incapacitating kind. At last she
had learned what to do; but who would now accept her
If before going to the d'Urbervilles' she had
vigorously moved under the guidance of sundry gnomic
texts and phrases known to her and to the world in
general, no doubt she would never have been imposed on.
But it had not been in Tess's power--nor is it in
anybody's power--to feel the whole truth of golden
opinions while it is possible to profit by them.
She--and how many more--might have ironically said to
God with Saint Augustine: "Thou hast counselled a
better course than Thou hast permitted."
She remained at her father's house during the winter
months, plucking fowls, or cramming turkeys and geese,
or making clothes for her sisters and brothers out of
some finery which d'Urberville had given her, and she
had put by with contempt. Apply to him she would not.
But she would often clasp her hands behind her head and
muse when she was supposed to be working hard.
She philosophically noted dates as they came past in
the revolution of the year; the disastrous night of her
undoing at Trantridge with its dark background of The
Chase; also the dates of the baby's birth and death;
also her own birthday; and every other day
individualized by incidents in which she had taken some
share. She suddenly thought one afternoon, when
looking in the glass at her fairness, that there was
yet another date, of greater importance to her than
those; that of her own death, when all these charms
would had disappeared; a day which lay sly and unseen
among all the other days of the year, giving no sign or
sound when she annually passed over it; but not the
less surely there. When was it? Why did she not feel
the chill of each yearly encounter with such a cold
relation? She had Jeremy Taylor's thought that some
time in the future those who had known her would say:
"It is the--th, the day that poor Tess Durbeyfield
died"; and there would be nothing singular to their
minds in the statement. Of that day, doomed to be her
terminus in time through all the ages, she did not know
the place in month, week, season or year.