Phase the Fourth: The Consequence
34. CHAPTER XXXIV
They drove by the level road along the valley to a
distance of a few miles, and, reaching Wellbridge,
turned away from the village to the left, and over the
great Elizabethan bridge which gives the place half its
name. Immediately behind it stood the house wherein
they had engaged lodgings, whose exterior features are
so well known to all travellers through the Froom
Valley; once portion of a fine manorial residence, and
the property and seat of a d'Urberville, but since its
partial demolition a farmhouse.
"Welcome to one of your ancestral mansions!" said Clare
as he handed her down. But he regretted the pleasantry;
it was too near a satire.
On entering they found that, though they had only
engaged a couple of rooms, the farmer had taken
advantage of their proposed presence during the coming
days to pay a New Year's visit to some friends, leaving
a woman from a neighbouring cottage to minister to
their few wants. The absoluteness of possession
pleased them, and they realized it as the first moment
of their experience under their own exclusive
But he found that the mouldy old habitation somewhat
depressed his bride. When the carriage was gone they
ascended the stairs to wash their hands, the charwoman
showing the way. On the landing Tess stopped and
"What's the matter?" said he.
"Those horrid women!" she answered with a smile.
"How they frightened me."
He looked up, and perceived two life-size portraits on
panels built into the masonry. As all visitors to the
mansion are aware, these paintings represent women of
middle age, of a date some two hundred years ago, whose
lineaments once seen can never be forgotten. The long
pointed features, narrow eye, and smirk of the one, so
suggestive of merciless treachery; the bill-hook nose,
large teeth, and bold eye of the other suggesting
arrogance to the point of ferocity, haunt the beholder
afterwards in his dreams.
"Whose portraits are those?" asked Clare of the