Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy, 1891
Tess Durbeyfield, then, in good heart, and full of zest for life, descended
the Egdon slopes lower and lower towards the dairy of her pilgrimage.
The marked difference, in the final particular, between the rival vales now
showed itself. The secret of Blackmoor was best discovered from the heights
around; to read aright the valley before her it was necessary to descend into
its midst. When Tess had accomplished this feat she found herself to be
standing on a carpeted level, which stretched to the east and west as far as
the eye could reach.
The river had stolen from the higher tracts and brought in particles to the
vale all this horizontal land; and now, exhausted, aged, and attenuated,
lay serpentining along through the midst of its former spoils.
Not quite sure of her direction Tess stood still upon the hemmed
expanse of verdant flatness, like a fly on a billiard-table of indefinite
length, and of no more consequence to the surroundings than that fly.
The sole effect of her presence upon the placid valley so far had been to
excite the mind of a solitary heron, which, after descending to the ground
not far from her path, stood with neck erect, looking at her.
Suddenly there arose from all parts of the lowland a prolonged and
repeated call— "Waow! waow! waow!" From the furthest east to the furthest
west the cries spread as if by contagion, accompanied in some cases by the
barking of a dog. It was not the expression of the valley's consciousness that
beautiful Tess had arrived, but the ordinary announcement of milking-time—
half-past four o'clock, when the dairymen set about getting in the cows.
The red and white herd nearest at hand, which had been phlegmatically
waiting for the call, now trooped towards the steading in the background,
their great bags of milk swinging under them as they walked. Tess followed
slowly in their rear, and entered the barton by the open gate through which
they had entered before her. Long thatched sheds stretched round the
enclosure, their slopes encrusted with vivid green moss, and their eaves
supported by wooden posts rubbed to a glossy smoothness by the flanks
of infinite cows and calves of bygone years, now passed to an oblivion almost
inconceivable in its profundity. Between the post were ranged the milchers,
each exhibiting herself at the present moment to a whimsical eye in the rear
as a circle on two stalks, down the centre of which a switch moved
pendulum-wise; while the sun, lowering itself behind this patient row,
threw their shadows accurately inwards upon the wall. Thus it threw
shadows of these obscure and homely figures every evening with as
much care over each contour as if it had been the profile of a court
beauty on a palace wall; copied them as diligently as it had copied
Olympian shapes on marble facades long ago, or the outline of
Alexander, Caesar, and the Pharaohs.
Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the d’Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented. United Kingdom: James R. Osgood, McIlvaine, 1891. Gutenberg.org. The Project Gutenberg, Feb. 1994. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.
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