The farmer and his wife were in the fields at the moment of his visit, and Clare was in the rooms alone for some time. Inwardly swollen with a renewal of sentiments that he had not quite reckoned with, he went upstairs to her chamber, which had never been his. The bed was smooth as she had made it with her own hands on the morning of leaving. The mistletoe hung under the tester just as he had placed it. Having been there three or four weeks it was turning colour, and the leaves and berries were wrinkled. Angel took it down and crushed it into the grate. Standing there he for the first time doubted whether his course in this conjuncture had been a wise, much less a generous, one. But had he not been cruelly blinded? In the incoherent multitude of his emotions he knelt down at the bedside wet-eyed. `O Tess! If you had only told me sooner, I would have forgiven you! `he mourned.
Hearing a footstep below he rose and went to the top of the stairs. At the bottom of the flight he saw a woman standing, and on her turning up her face recognized the pale, dark-eyed Izz Huett.
`Mr Clare,' she said, `I've called to see you and Mrs Clare, and to inquire if ye be well. I thought you might be back here again.'
This was a girl whose secret he had guessed, but who had not yet guessed his; an honest girl who loved him - one who would have made as good, or nearly as good, a practical farmer's wife as Tess.
`I am here alone,'he said; `we are not living here now.' Explaining why he had come, he asked, `which way are you going home, Izz?'
`I have no home at Talbothays Dairy now, sir,' she said.
`Why is that?'
Izz looked down.
`It was so dismal there that I left! I am staying out this way.' She pointed in a contrary direction, the direction in which he was journeying.
`Well - are you going there now? I can take you if you wish for a lift.'
Her olive complexion grew richer in hue.
`Thank 'ee, Mr Clare,' she said.
He soon found the farmer, and settled the account for his rent and the few other items which had to be considered by reason of the sudden abandonment of the lodgings. On Clare's return to his horse and gig Izz jumped up beside him.
`I am going to leave England, Izz,' he said, as they drove on.
`Going to Brazil.'
`And do Mrs Clare like the notion of such a journey?' she asked.
`She is not going at present - say for a year or so. I am going out to reconnoitre - to see what life there is like.'
They sped along eastward for some considerable distance, Izz making no observation.
`How are the others?' he inquired. `How is Retty?'
`She was in a sort of nervous state when I zid her last; and so thin and hollow-cheeked that 'a do seem in a decline. Nobody will ever fall in love wi' her any more,' said Izz absently.
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