or two ago - this will make your head ache finely! Don't do any more, if you feel fainty; leave the rest to finish it.'
Dairyman Crick withdrew, and Tess dropped behind. Mr Clare also stepped out of line, and began privateering about for the weed. When she found him near her, her very tension at what she had heard the night before made her the first to speak.
`Don't they look pretty?' she said.
`Izzy Huett and Retty.'
Tess had moodily decided that either of these maidens would make a good farmer's wife, and that she ought to recommend them, and obscure her own wretched charms.
`Pretty? Well, yes - they are pretty girls - fresh looking. I have often thought so.'
`Though, poor dears, prettiness won't last long!'
`O no, unfortunately.'
`They are excellent dairywomen.'
`Yes: though not better than you.'
`They skim better than I.'
Clare remained observing them - not without their observing him.
`She is colouring up,' continued Tess heroically.
`Oh! Why is that?'
`Because you are looking at her.'
Self-sacrificing as her mood might be Tess could not well go further and cry, `Marry one of them, if you really do want a dairywoman and not a lady; and don't think of marrying me!' She followed Dairyman Crick, and had the mournful satisfaction of seeing that Clare remained behind.
From this day she forced herself to take pains to avoid him - never allowing herself, as formerly, to remain long in his company, even if their juxtaposition were purely accidental. She gave the other three every chance.
Tess was woman enough to realize from their avowals to herself that Angel Clare had the honour of all the dairymaids in his keeping, and her perception of his care to avoid compromising the happiness of either in the least degree bred a tender respect in Tess for what she deemed, rightly or wrongly, the self-controlling sense of duty shown by him, a quality which she had never expected to find in one of the opposite sex, and in the absence of which more than one of the simple hearts who were his housemates might have gone weeping on her pilgrimage.
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