Chapter 5The haggling business, which had mainly depended on the horse, became disorganized forthwith. Distress, if not penury, loomed in the distance. Durbeyfield was what was locally called a slack-twisted fellow; he had good strength to work at times; but the times could not be relied on to coincide with the hours of requirement; and, having been unaccustomed to the regular toil of the day labourer, he was not particularly persistent when they did so coincide.
Tess, meanwhile, as the one who had dragged her parents into this quagmire, was silently wondering what she could do to help them out of it; and then her mother broached her scheme.
`We must take the ups with the downs, Tess,' said she; `and never could your high blood have been found out at a more called for moment. You must try your friends. Do ye know that there is a very rich Mrs d'Urberville living on the outskirts o' The Chase, who must be our relation? You must go to her and claim kin, and ask for some help in our trouble.'
`I shouldn't care to do that,' says Tess. `If there is such a lady, `would be enough for us if she were friendly - not to expect her to give us help.'
`You could win her round to do anything, my dear. Besides, perhaps there's more in it than you know of. I've heard what I've heard, good now.'
The oppressive sense of the harm she had done led Tess to be more deferential than she might otherwise have been to the maternal wish; but she could not understand why her mother should find such satisfaction in contemplating an enterprise of, to her, such doubtful profit. Her mother might have made inquiries, and have discovered that this Mrs d'Urberville was a lady of unequalled virtues and charity. But Tess's pride made the part of poor relation one of particular distaste to her.
`I'd rather try to get work,' she murmured.
`Durbeyfield, you can settle it,' said his wife, turning to where he sat in the background. `If you say she ought to go, she will go.'
`I don't like my children going and making themselves beholden to strange kin,' murmured he. `I'm the head of the noblest branch o' the family, and I ought to live up to it.'
His reasons for staying away were worse to Tess than her own objection to going. `Well, as I killed the horse, mother,' she said mournfully, `I suppose I ought to do something. I don't mind going and seeing her, but you must leave it to me about asking for help. And don't go thinking about her making a match for me - it is silly.'
`Very well said, Tess!' observed her father sententiously.
`Who said I had such a thought?' asked Joan.
`I fancy it is in your mind, mother. But I'll go.'
Rising early next day she walked to the hill-town called Shaston, and there took advantage of a van which twice in the week ran from Shaston eastward to Chaseborough, passing near Trantridge, the parish in which the vague and mysterious Mrs d'Urberville had her residence.
Tess Durbeyfield's route on this memorable morning lay amid the northeastern undulations of the Vale in which she had been born, and in which her life had unfolded. The Vale of Blackmoor was to her the world, and its inhabitants the races thereof. From the gates and stiles of Marlott she had looked down its length in the wondering days of infancy, and what had been mystery to her then was not much less than mystery to her now. She has seen dally from her chamber-window towers, villages, faint white mansions; above all the town of Shaston standing majestically on its height; its windows shining like lamps in the evening sun. She had hardly ever visited the place, only a small tract even of the Vale and its
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