Chapter 7

On the morning appointed for her departure Tess was awake before dawn at the marginal minute of the dark when the grove is still mute, save for one prophetic bird who sings with a clear voiced conviction that he at least knows the correct time of day, the rest preserving silence as if equally convinced that he is mistaken. She remained upstairs packing till breakfast-time, and then came down in her ordinary weekday clothes, her Sunday apparel being carefully folded in her box.

Her mother expostulated. `You will never set out to see your folks without dressing up more the dand than that?'

`But I am going to work!' said Tess.

`Well, yes,' said Mrs Durbeyfield, and in a private tone, `at first there mid be a little pretence o't... But I think it will be wiser of lee to put your best side outward,' she added.

`Very well; I suppose you know best,' replied Tess with calm abandonment.

And to please her parent the girl put herself quite in Joan's hands, saying serenely `Do what you like with me, mother.' Mrs Durbeyfield was only too delighted at this tractability. First she fetched a great basin, and washed Tess's hair with such thoroughness that when dried and brushed it looked twice as much as at other times. She tied it with a broader pink ribbon than usual. Then she put upon her the white frock that Tess had worn at the clubwalking, the airy fullness of which, supplementing her enlarged coiffure, imparted to her developing figure an amplitude which belied her age, and might cause her to be estimated as woman when she was not much more than a child.

`I declare there's a holes in your stockings-heel!' said Tess.

`Never mind holes in your stockings - they don't speak! When I was a maid, so long as I had a pretty bonnet the devil might ha' found me in heels.

Her mother's pride in the girl's appearance led her to step back, like a painter from his easel, and survey her work as a whole.

`You must zee yourself!' she cried. `It is much better than you was t'other day.'

As the looking-glass was only large enough to reflect a very small portion of Tess's person at one time, Mrs Durbeyfield hung a black cloak outside the casement, and so made a large reflector of the panes, as it is the wont of bedecking cottagers to do. After this she went downstairs to her husband, who was sitting in the lower room.

`I'll tell 'ee what 'tis, Durbeyfield,' said she exultingly; `he'll never have the heart not to love her. But whatever you do, don't zay too much to Tess of his fancy for her, and this chance she has got. She is such an odd maid that it mid zet her against him, or against going there, even now. If all goes well, I shall certainly be for making some return to that pa'son at Stagfoot Lane for telling us - dear, good man!'

However, as the moment for the girl's setting out drew nigh, when the first excitement of the dressing had passed off, a slight misgiving found place in Joan Durbeyfield's mind. It prompted the matron to say that she would walk a little way - as far as to the point where the acclivity from the valley began its first steep ascent to the outer world. At the top Tess was going to be met with the spring-cart sent by the Stoke-d'Urbervilles, and her box had already been wheeled ahead towards this summit by a lad with trucks, to be in readiness.

Seeing their mother put on her bonnet the younger children clamoured to go with her.

`I do want to walk a little ways wi' Sissy, now she's going to marry our gentleman-cousin, and wear fine cloze!'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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