Phase the First: The Maiden
3. CHAPTER III
As for Tess Durbeyfield, she did not so easily dislodge
the incident from her consideration. She had no spirit
to dance again for a long time, though she might have
had plenty of partners; but ah! they did not speak so
nicely as the strange young man had done. It was not
till the rays of the sun had absorbed the young
stranger's retreating figure on the hill that she shook
off her temporary sadness and answered her would-be
partner in the affirmative.
She remained with her comrades till dusk, and
participated with a certain zest in the dancing;
though, being heart-whole as yet, she enjoyed treading
a measure purely for its own sake; little divining when
she saw "the soft torments, the bitter sweets, the
pleasing pains, and the agreeable distresses" of those
girls who had been wooed and won, what she herself was
capable of in that kind. The struggles and wrangles of
the lads for her hand in a jig were an amusement to
her--no more; and when they became fierce she rebuked them.
She might have stayed even later, but the incident of
her father's odd appearance and manner returned upon
the girl's mind to make her anxious, and wondering what
had become of him she dropped away from the dancers and
bent her steps towards the end of the village at which
the parental cottage lay.
While yet many score yards off, other rhythmic sounds
than those she had quitted became audible to her;
sounds that she knew well--so well. They were a
regular series of thumpings from the interior of the
house, occasioned by the violent rocking of a cradle
upon a stone floor, to which movement a feminine voice
kept time by singing, in a vigorous gallopade, the
favourite ditty of "The Spotted Cow"--
I saw her lie do'--own in yon'--der green gro'--ove;
Come, love!' and I'll tell' you where!'
The cradle-rocking and the song would cease
simultaneously for a moment, and an explanation at
highest vocal pitch would take the place of the melody.
"God bless thy diment eyes! And thy waxen cheeks! And
thy cherry mouth! And thy Cubit's thighs! And every
bit o' thy blessed body!"