Rolliver's inn, the single alehouse at this end of the long and
broken village, could only boast of an off-licence; hence, as
nobody could legally drink on the premises, the amount of overt
accommodation for consumers was strictly limited to a little board
about six inches wide and two yards long, fixed to the garden
palings by pieces of wire, so as to form a ledge. On this board
thirsty strangers deposited their cups as they stood in the road
and drank, and threw the dregs on the dusty ground to the pattern
of Polynesia, and wished they could have a restful seat inside.
Thus the strangers. But there were also local customers who felt
the same wish; and where there's a will there's a way.
In a large bedroom upstairs, the window of which was thickly
curtained with a great woollen shawl lately discarded by the
landlady, Mrs Rolliver, were gathered on this evening nearly a
dozen persons, all seeking beatitude; all old inhabitants of the
nearer end of Marlott, and frequenters of this retreat. Not only
did the distance to the The Pure Drop, the fully-licensed tavern at
the further part of the dispersed village, render its accommodation
practically unavailable for dwellers at this end; but the far more
serious question, the quality of the liquor, confirmed the
prevalent opinion that it was better to drink with Rolliver in a
corner of the housetop than with the other landlord in a wide
A gaunt four-post bedstead which stood in the room afforded
sitting-space for several persons gathered round three of its
sides; a couple more men had elevated themselves on a chest of
drawers; another rested on the oak-carved "cwoffer"; two on the
wash-stand; another on the stool; and thus all were, somehow,
seated at their ease. The stage of mental comfort to which they had
arrived at this hour was one wherein their souls expanded beyond
their skins, and spread their personalities warmly through the
room. In this process the chamber and its furniture grew more and
more dignified and luxurious; the shawl hanging at the window took
upon itself the richness of tapestry; the brass handles of the
chest of drawers were as golden knockers; and the carved bedposts
seemed to have some kinship with the magnificent pillars of
Mrs Durbeyfield, having quickly walked hitherward after parting
from Tess, opened the front door, crossed the downstairs room,
which was in deep gloom, and then unfastened the stair-door like
one whose fingers knew the tricks of the latches well. Her ascent
of the crooked staircase was a slower process, and her face, as it
rose into the light above the last stair, encountered the gaze of
all the party assembled in the bedroom.
"—Being a few private friends I've asked in to keep up
club-walking at my own expense," the landlady exclaimed at the
sound of footsteps, as glibly as a child repeating the Catechism,
while she peered over the stairs. "Oh, 'tis you, Mrs
Durbeyfield—Lard—how you frightened me!—I thought it might be some
gaffer sent by Gover'ment."
Mrs Durbeyfield was welcomed with glances and nods by the
remainder of the conclave, and turned to where her husband sat. He
was humming absently to himself, in a low tone: "I be as good as
some folks here and there! I've got a great family vault at
Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill, and finer skillentons than any man in
"I've something to tell 'ee that's come into my head about
that—a grand projick!" whispered his cheerful wife. "Here, John,
don't 'ee see me?" She nudged him, while he, looking through her as
through a window-pane, went on with his recitative.
"Hush! Don't 'ee sing so loud, my good man," said the landlady;
"in case any member of the Gover'ment should be passing, and take
away my licends."
"He's told 'ee what's happened to us, I suppose?" asked Mrs
"Yes—in a way. D'ye think there's any money hanging by it?"
"Ah, that's the secret," said Joan Durbeyfield sagely. "However,
'tis well to be kin to a coach, even if you don't ride in 'en." She
dropped her public voice, and continued in a low tone to her
husband: "I've been thinking since you brought the news that
there's a great rich lady out by Trantridge, on the edge o' The
Chase, of the name of d'Urberville."
"Hey—what's that?" said Sir John.
She repeated the information. "That lady must be our relation,"
she said. "And my projick is to send Tess to claim kin."
"There is a lady of the name, now you mention it," said
Durbeyfield. "Pa'son Tringham didn't think of that. But she's
nothing beside we—a junior branch of us, no doubt, hailing long
since King Norman's day."
While this question was being discussed neither of the pair
noticed, in their preoccupation, that little Abraham had crept into
the room, and was awaiting an opportunity of asking them to
"She is rich, and she'd be sure to take notice o' the maid,"
continued Mrs Durbeyfield; "and 'twill be a very good thing. I
don't see why two branches o' one family should not be on visiting
"Yes; and we'll all claim kin!" said Abraham brightly from under
the bedstead. "And we'll all go and see her when Tess has gone to
live with her; and we'll ride in her coach and wear black
"How do you come here, child? What nonsense be ye talking! Go
away, and play on the stairs till father and mother be ready! …
Well, Tess ought to go to this other member of our family. She'd be
sure to win the lady—Tess would; and likely enough 'twould lead to
some noble gentleman marrying her. In short, I know it."
"I tried her fate in the Fortune-Teller, and it brought out that
very thing! … You should ha' seen how pretty she looked to-day; her
skin is as sumple as a duchess'."
"What says the maid herself to going?"
"I've not asked her. She don't know there is any such
lady-relation yet. But it would certainly put her in the way of a
grand marriage, and she won't say nay to going."
"Tess is queer."
"But she's tractable at bottom. Leave her to me."
Though this conversation had been private, sufficient of its
import reached the understandings of those around to suggest to
them that the Durbeyfields had weightier concerns to talk of now
than common folks had, and that Tess, their pretty eldest daughter,
had fine prospects in store.
"Tess is a fine figure o' fun, as I said to myself to-day when I
zeed her vamping round parish with the rest," observed one of the
elderly boozers in an undertone. "But Joan Durbeyfield must mind
that she don't get green malt in floor." It was a local phrase
which had a peculiar meaning, and there was no reply.
The conversation became inclusive, and presently other footsteps
were heard crossing the room below.
"—Being a few private friends asked in to-night to keep up
club-walking at my own expense." The landlady had rapidly re-used
the formula she kept on hand for intruders before she recognized
that the newcomer was Tess.
Even to her mother's gaze the girl's young features looked sadly
out of place amid the alcoholic vapours which floated here as no
unsuitable medium for wrinkled middle-age; and hardly was a
reproachful flash from Tess's dark eyes needed to make her father
and mother rise from their seats, hastily finish their ale, and
descend the stairs behind her, Mrs Rolliver's caution following
"No noise, please, if ye'll be so good, my dears; or I mid lose
my licends, and be summons'd, and I don't know what all! 'Night
They went home together, Tess holding one arm of her father, and
Mrs Durbeyfield the other. He had, in truth, drunk very little—not
a fourth of the quantity which a systematic tippler could carry to
church on a Sunday afternoon without a hitch in his eastings or
genuflections; but the weakness of Sir John's constitution made
mountains of his petty sins in this kind. On reaching the fresh air
he was sufficiently unsteady to incline the row of three at one
moment as if they were marching to London, and at another as if
they were marching to Bath—which produced a comical effect,
frequent enough in families on nocturnal homegoings; and, like most
comical effects, not quite so comic after all. The two women
valiantly disguised these forced excursions and countermarches as
well as they could from Durbeyfield, their cause, and from Abraham,
and from themselves; and so they approached by degrees their own
door, the head of the family bursting suddenly into his former
refrain as he drew near, as if to fortify his soul at sight of the
smallness of his present residence—
"I've got a fam—ily vault at Kingsbere!"
"Hush—don't be so silly, Jacky," said his wife. "Yours is not
the only family that was of 'count in wold days. Look at the
Anktells, and Horseys, and the Tringhams themselves—gone to seed
a'most as much as you—though you was bigger folks than they, that's
true. Thank God, I was never of no family, and have nothing to be
ashamed of in that way!"
"Don't you be so sure o' that. From you nater 'tis my belief
you've disgraced yourselves more than any o' us, and was kings and
queens outright at one time."
Tess turned the subject by saying what was far more prominent in
her own mind at the moment than thoughts of her ancestry—"I am
afraid father won't be able to take the journey with the beehives
to-morrow so early." "I? I shall be all right in an hour or two,"
It was eleven o'clock before the family were all in bed, and two
o'clock next morning was the latest hour for starting with the
beehives if they were to be delivered to the retailers in
Casterbridge before the Saturday market began, the way thither
lying by bad roads over a distance of between twenty and thirty
miles, and the horse and waggon being of the slowest. At half-past
one Mrs Durbeyfield came into the large bedroom where Tess and all
her little brothers and sisters slept.
"The poor man can't go," she said to her eldest daughter, whose
great eyes had opened the moment her mother's hand touched the
Tess sat up in bed, lost in a vague interspace between a dream
and this information.
"But somebody must go," she replied. "It is late for the hives
already. Swarming will soon be over for the year; and it we put off
taking 'em till next week's market the call for 'em will be past,
and they'll be thrown on our hands."
Mrs Durbeyfield looked unequal to the emergency. "Some young
feller, perhaps, would go? One of them who were so much after
dancing with 'ee yesterday," she presently suggested.
"O no—I wouldn't have it for the world!" declared Tess proudly.
"And letting everybody know the reason—such a thing to be ashamed
of! I think I could go if Abraham could go with me to kip me
Her mother at length agreed to this arrangement. Little Abraham
was aroused from his deep sleep in a corner of the same apartment,
and made to put on his clothes while still mentally in the other
world. Meanwhile Tess had hastily dressed herself; and the twain,
lighting a lantern, went out to the stable. The rickety little
waggon was already laden, and the girl led out the horse, Prince,
only a degree less rickety than the vehicle.
The poor creature looked wonderingly round at the night, at the
lantern, at their two figures, as if he could not believe that at
that hour, when every living thing was intended to be in shelter
and at rest, he was called upon to go out and labour. They put a
stock of candle-ends into the lantern, hung the latter to the
off-side of the load, and directed the horse onward, walking at his
shoulder at first during the uphill parts of the way, in order not
to overload an animal of so little vigour. To cheer themselves as
well as they could, they made an artificial morning with the
lantern, some bread and butter, and their own conversation, the
real morning being far from come. Abraham, as he more fully awoke
(for he had moved in a sort of trance so far), began to talk of the
strange shapes assumed by the various dark objects against the sky;
of this tree that looked like a raging tiger springing from a lair;
of that which resembled a giant's head.
When they had passed the little town of Stourcastle, dumbly
somnolent under its thick brown thatch, they reached higher ground.
Still higher, on their left, the elevation called Bulbarrow, or
Bealbarrow, well-nigh the highest in South Wessex, swelled into the
sky, engirdled by its earthen trenches. From hereabout the long
road was fairly level for some distance onward. They mounted in
front of the waggon, and Abraham grew reflective.
"Tess!" he said in a preparatory tone, after a silence.
"Bain't you glad that we've become gentlefolk?"
"Not particular glad."
"But you be glad that you 'm going to marry a gentleman?"
"What?" said Tess, lifting her face.
"That our great relation will help 'ee to marry a
"I? Our great relation? We have no such relation. What has put
that into your head?"
"I heard 'em talking about it up at Rolliver's when I went to
find father. There's a rich lady of our family out at Trantridge,
and mother said that if you claimed kin with the lady, she'd put
'ee in the way of marrying a gentleman."
His sister became abruptly still, and lapsed into a pondering
silence. Abraham talked on, rather for the pleasure of utterance
than for audition, so that his sister's abstraction was of no
account. He leant back against the hives, and with upturned face
made observations on the stars, whose cold pulses were beating amid
the black hollows above, in serene dissociation from these two
wisps of human life. He asked how far away those twinklers were,
and whether God was on the other side of them. But ever and anon
his childish prattle recurred to what impressed his imagination
even more deeply than the wonders of creation. If Tess were made
rich by marrying a gentleman, would she have money enough to buy a
spyglass so large that it would draw the stars as near to her as
The renewed subject, which seemed to have impregnated the whole
family, filled Tess with impatience.
"Never mind that now!" she exclaimed.
"Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?"
"All like ours?"
"I don't know; but I think so. They sometimes seem to be like
the apples on our stubbard-tree. Most of them splendid and sound—a
"Which do we live on—a splendid one or a blighted one?"
"A blighted one."
"'Tis very unlucky that we didn't pitch on a sound one, when
there were so many more of 'em!"
"Is it like that really, Tess?" said Abraham, turning to her
much impressed, on reconsideration of this rare information. "How
would it have been if we had pitched on a sound one?"
"Well, father wouldn't have coughed and creeped about as he
does, and wouldn't have got too tipsy to go on this journey; and
mother wouldn't have been always washing, and never getting
"And you would have been a rich lady ready-made, and not have
had to be made rich by marrying a gentleman?"
"O Aby, don't—don't talk of that any more!"
Left to his reflections Abraham soon grew drowsy. Tess was not
skilful in the management of a horse, but she thought that she
could take upon herself the entire conduct of the load for the
present and allow Abraham to go to sleep if he wished to do so. She
made him a sort of nest in front of the hives, in such a manner
that he could not fall, and, taking the reins into her own hands,
jogged on as before.
Prince required but slight attention, lacking energy for
superfluous movements of any sort. With no longer a companion to
distract her, Tess fell more deeply into reverie than ever, her
back leaning against the hives. The mute procession past her
shoulders of trees and hedges became attached to fantastic scenes
outside reality, and the occasional heave of the wind became the
sigh of some immense sad soul, conterminous with the universe in
space, and with history in time.
Then, examining the mesh of events in her own life, she seemed
to see the vanity of her father's pride; the gentlemanly suitor
awaiting herself in her mother's fancy; to see him as a grimacing
personage, laughing at her poverty and her shrouded knightly
ancestry. Everything grew more and more extravagant, and she no
longer knew how time passed. A sudden jerk shook her in her seat,
and Tess awoke from the sleep into which she, too, had fallen.
They were a long way further on than when she had lost
consciousness, and the waggon had stopped. A hollow groan, unlike
anything she had ever heard in her life, came from the front,
followed by a shout of "Hoi there!"
The lantern hanging at her waggon had gone out, but another was
shining in her face—much brighter than her own had been. Something
terrible had happened. The harness was entangled with an object
which blocked the way.
In consternation Tess jumped down, and discovered the dreadful
truth. The groan had proceeded from her father's poor horse Prince.
The morning mail-cart, with its two noiseless wheels, speeding
along these lanes like an arrow, as it always did, had driven into
her slow and unlighted equipage. The pointed shaft of the cart had
entered the breast of the unhappy Prince like a sword, and from the
wound his life's blood was spouting in a stream, and falling with a
hiss into the road.
In her despair Tess sprang forward and put her hand upon the
hole, with the only result that she became splashed from face to
skirt with the crimson drops. Then she stood helplessly looking on.
Prince also stood firm and motionless as long as he could; till he
suddenly sank down in a heap.
By this time the mail-cart man had joined her, and began
dragging and unharnessing the hot form of Prince. But he was
already dead, and, seeing that nothing more could be done
immediately, the mail-cart man returned to his own animal, which
"You was on the wrong side," he said. "I am bound to go on with
the mail-bags, so that the best thing for you to do is bide here
with your load. I'll send somebody to help you as soon as I can. It
is getting daylight, and you have nothing to fear."
He mounted and sped on his way; while Tess stood and waited. The
atmosphere turned pale, the birds shook themselves in the hedges,
arose, and twittered; the lane showed all its white features, and
Tess showed hers, still whiter. The huge pool of blood in front of
her was already assuming the iridescence of coagulation; and when
the sun rose a hundred prismatic hues were reflected from it.
Prince lay alongside, still and stark; his eyes half open, the hole
in his chest looking scarcely large enough to have let out all that
had animated him.
"'Tis all my doing—all mine!" the girl cried, gazing at the
spectacle. "No excuse for me—none. What will mother and father live
on now? Aby, Aby!" She shook the child, who had slept soundly
through the whole disaster. "We can't go on with our load—Prince is
When Abraham realized all, the furrows of fifty years were
extemporized on his young face.
"Why, I danced and laughed only yesterday!" she went on to
herself. "To think that I was such a fool!"
"'Tis because we be on a blighted star, and not a sound one,
isn't it, Tess?" murmured Abraham through his tears.
In silence they waited through an interval which seemed endless.
At length a sound, and an approaching object, proved to them that
the driver of the mail-car had been as good as his word. A farmer's
man from near Stourcastle came up, leading a strong cob. He was
harnessed to the waggon of beehives in the place of Prince, and the
load taken on towards Casterbridge.
The evening of the same day saw the empty waggon reach again the
spot of the accident. Prince had lain there in the ditch since the
morning; but the place of the blood-pool was still visible in the
middle of the road, though scratched and scraped over by passing
vehicles. All that was left of Prince was now hoisted into the
waggon he had formerly hauled, and with his hoofs in the air, and
his shoes shining in the setting sunlight, he retraced the eight or
nine miles to Marlott.
Tess had gone back earlier. How to break the news was more than
she could think. It was a relief to her tongue to find from the
faces of her parents that they already knew of their loss, though
this did not lessen the self-reproach which she continued to heap
upon herself for her negligence.
But the very shiftlessness of the household rendered the
misfortune a less terrifying one to them than it would have been to
a thriving family, though in the present case it meant ruin, and in
the other it would only have meant inconvenience. In the
Durbeyfield countenances there was nothing of the red wrath that
would have burnt upon the girl from parents more ambitious for her
welfare. Nobody blamed Tess as she blamed herself.
When it was discovered that the knacker and tanner would give
only a very few shillings for Prince's carcase because of his
decrepitude, Durbeyfield rose to the occasion.
"No," said he stoically, "I won't sell his old body. When we
d'Urbervilles was knights in the land, we didn't sell our chargers
for cat's meat. Let 'em keep their shillings! He've served me well
in his lifetime, and I won't part from him now."
He worked harder the next day in digging a grave for Prince in
the garden than he had worked for months to grow a crop for his
family. When the hole was ready, Durbeyfield and his wife tied a
rope round the horse and dragged him up the path towards it, the
children following in funeral train. Abraham and 'Liza-Lu sobbed,
Hope and Modesty discharged their griefs in loud blares which
echoed from the walls; and when Prince was tumbled in they gathered
round the grave. The bread-winner had been taken away from them;
what would they do?
"Is he gone to heaven?" asked Abraham, between the sobs.
Then Durbeyfield began to shovel in the earth, and the children
cried anew. All except Tess. Her face was dry and pale, as though
she regarded herself in the light of a murderess.