Phase the Third: The Rally
17. CHAPTER XVII
The dairymaids and men had flocked down from their
cottages and out of the dairy-house with the arrival of
the cows from the meads; the maids walking in patterns,
not on account of the weather, but to keep their shoes
above the mulch of the barton. Each girl sat down on
her three-legged stool, her face sideways, her right
cheek resting against the cow; and looked musingly
along the animal's flank at Tess as she approached.
The male milkers, with hat-brims turned down, resting
flat on their foreheads and gazing on the ground, did
not observe her.
One of these was a sturdy middle-aged man--whose long
white "pinner" was somewhat finer and cleaner than the
wraps of the others, and whose jacket underneath had a
presentable marketing aspect--the master-dairyman, of
whom she was in quest, his double character as a
working milker and butter maker here during six days,
and on the seventh as a man in shining broad-cloth in
his family pew at church, being so marked as to have
inspired a rhyme-
All the week:--
On Sundays Mister Richard Crick.
Seeing Tess standing at gaze he went across to her.
The majority of dairymen have a cross manner at milking
time, but it happened that Mr Crick was glad to get a
new hand--for the days were busy ones now--and he
received her warmly; inquiring for her mother and the
rest of the family--(though this as a matter of form
merely, for in reality he had not been aware of Mrs
Durbeyfield's existence till apprised of the fact by a
brief business-letter about Tess).
"Oh--ay, as a lad I knowed your part o' the country
very well," he said terminatively. "Though I've never
been there since. And a aged woman of ninety that use
to live nigh here, but is dead and gone long ago, told
me that a family of some such name as yours in
Blackmoor Vale came originally from these parts, and
that 'twere a old ancient race that had all but
perished off the earth--though the new generations
didn't know it. But, Lord, I took no notice of the old
woman's ramblings, not I."