`Then I don't know who is apt. You've been born in the business, and brought up in it. They that be born in a business always know more about it than any 'prentice. Besides, that's only just a show of something for you to do, that you midn't feel beholden.'

`I don't altogether think I ought to go,' said Tess thoughtfully.

`Who wrote the letter? Will you let me look at it?'

`Mrs d'Urberville wrote it. Here it is.'

The letter was in the third person, and briefly informed Mrs Durbeyfield that her daughter's services would be useful to that lady in the management of her poultry farm, that a comfortable room would be provided for her if she could come, and that the wages would be on a liberal scale if they liked her.

`Oh - that's all!' said Tess.

`You couldn't expect her to throw her arms round 'ee, an' to kiss and to coll 'ee all at once.'

Tess looked out of the window.

`I would rather stay here with father and you,' she said.

`But why?'

`I'd rather not tell you why, mother; indeed, I don't quite know why.'

A week afterwards she came in one evening from an unavailing search for some light occupation in the immediate neighbourhood. Her idea had been to get together sufficient money during the summer to purchase another horse. Hardly had she crossed the threshold before one of the children danced across the room, `The gentleman's been here!' saying,

Her mother hastened to explain, smiles breaking from every inch of her person. Mrs d'Urberville's son had called on horseback, having been riding by chance in the direction of Marlott. He had wished to know, finally, in the name of his mother, if Tess could really come to manage the old lady's fowl farm or not; the lad who had hitherto superintended the birds having proved untrustworthy. `Mr d'Urberville says you must be a good girl if you are at all as you appear; he knows you must be worth your weight in gold. He is very much interested in 'ee - truth to tell.' Tess seemed for the moment really pleased to hear that she had won such high opinion from a stranger when, in her own esteem, she had sunk so low.

`It is very good of him to think that,' she murmured; `and if I was quite sure how it would be living there, I would go any-when.'

`He is a mighty handsome man!'

`I don't think so,' said Tess coldly.

`Well, there's your chance, whether or no; and I'm sure he wears a beautiful diamond ring!'

`Yes,' said little Abraham, brightly, from the window bench; `and I seed it! and it did twinkle when he put his hand up to his mistarshers. Mother, why did our grand relation keep on putting his hand up to his mistarshers?'

`Hark at that child!' cried Mrs Durbeyfield, with parenthetic admiration.

`Perhaps to show his diamond ring,' murmured Sir John, dreamily, from his chair.

`I'll think it over,' said Tess, leaving the room.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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