'Ah - and be ye! Well, I am truly glad to hear it, sir. I've thought you mid do; such a thing for some time. She's too good for a dairymaid - I said so the very first day I zid her - and a prize for any man; and what's more, a wonderful woman for a gentleman-farmer's wife; he won't be at the mercy of his baily wi' her at his side.'

Somehow Tess disappeared. She had been even more struck with the look of the girls who followed Crick than abashed by Crick's blunt praise.

After supper, when she reached her bedroom, they were all present. A light was burning, and each damsel was sitting up whitely in her bed, awaiting Tess, the whole like a row of avenging ghosts.

But she saw in a few moments that there was no malice in their mood. They could scarcely feel as a loss what they had never expected to have. Their condition was objective, contemplative.

He's going to marry her!' murmured Retty, never taking eyes off Tess. 'How her face do show it!'

'You be going to marry him?' asked Marian.

'Yes,' said Tess.


'Some day.'

They thought that this was evasiveness only.

'Yes - going to marry him - a gentleman!' repeated Izz Huett.

And by a sort of fascination the three girls, one after another, crept out of their beds, and came and stood barefooted round Tess. Retty put her hands upon Tess's shoulders, as if to realize her friend's corporeality after such a miracle, and the other two laid their arms round her waist, all looking into her face.