Phase the Fourth: The Consequence
32. CHAPTER XXXII
This penitential mood kept her from naming the
wedding-day. The beginning of November found its date
still in abeyance, though he asked her at the most
tempting times. But Tess's desire seemed to be for a
perpetual betrothal in which everything should remain
as it was then.
The meads were changing now; but it was still warm
enough in early afternoons before milking to idle there
awhile, and the state of dairy-work at this time of
year allowed a spare hour for idling. Looking over the
damp sod in the direction of the sun, a glistening
ripple of gossamer webs was visible to their eyes under
the luminary, like the track of moonlight on the sea.
Gnats, knowing nothing of their brief glorification,
wandered across the shimmer of this pathway, irradiated
as if they bore fire within them, then passed out of
its line, and were quite extinct. In the presence of
these things he would remind her that the date was
still the question.
Or he would ask her at night, when he accompanied her
on some mission invented by Mrs Crick to give him the
opportunity. This was mostly a journey to the
farmhouse on the slopes above the vale, to inquire how
the advanced cows were getting on in the straw-barton
to which they were relegated. For it was a time of the
year that brought great changes to the world of kine.
Batches of the animals were sent away daily to this
lying-in hospital, where they lived on straw till their
calves were born, after which event, and as soon as the
calf could walk, mother and offspring were driven back
to the dairy. In the interval which elapsed before the
calves were sold there was, of course, little milking
to be done, but as soon as the calf had been taken away
the milkmaids would have to set to work as usual.
Returning from one of these dark walks they reached a
great gravel-cliff immediately over the levels, where
they stood still and listened. The water was now high
in the streams, squirting through the weirs, and
tinkling under culverts; the smallest gullies were all
full; there was no taking short cuts anywhere, and
foot-passengers were compelled to follow the permanent
ways. From the whole extent of the invisible vale came
a multitudinous intonation; it forced upon their fancy
that a great city lay below them, and that the murmur
was the vociferation of its populace.