Phase the Fifth: The Woman Pays
39. CHAPTER XXXIX
It was three weeks after the marriage that Clare found
himself descending the hill which led to the well-known
parsonage of his father. With his downward course the
tower of the church rose into the evening sky in a
manner of inquiry as to why he had come; and no living
person in the twilighted town seemed to notice him,
still less to expect him. He was arriving like a
ghost, and the sound of his own footsteps was almost an
encumbrance to be got rid of.
The picture of life had changed for him. Before this
time he had known it but speculatively; now he thought
he knew it as a practical man; though perhaps he did
not, even yet. Nevertheless humanity stood before him
no longer in the pensive sweetness of Italian art, but
in the staring and ghastly attitudes of a Wiertz
Museum, and with the leer of a study by Van Beers.
His conduct during these first weeks had been desultory
beyond description. After mechanically attempting to
pursue his agricultural plans as though nothing unusual
had happened, in the manner recommended by the great
and wise men of all ages, he concluded that very few of
those great and wise men had ever gone so far outside
themselves as to test the feasibility of their counsel.
"This is the chief thing: be not perturbed," said the
Pagan moralist. That was just Clare's own opinion.
But he was perturbed. "Let not your heart be troubled,
neither let it be afraid," said the Nazarene. Clare
chimed in cordially; but his heart was troubled all the
same. How he would have liked to confront those two
great thinkers, and earnestly appeal to them as
fellow-man to fellow-men, and ask them to tell him
His mood transmuted itself into a dogged indifference
till at length he fancied he was looking on his own
existence with the passive interest of an outsider.
He was embittered by the conviction that all this
desolation had been brought about by the accident of
her being a d'Urberville. When he found that Tess came
of that exhausted ancient line, and was not of the new
tribes from below, as he had fondly dreamed, why had he
not stoically abandoned her, in fidelity to his
principles? This was what he had got by apostasy, and
his punishment was deserved.