By this time the mail-cart man had joined her, and began dragging and unharnessing the hot form of Prince. But he was already dead, and, seeing that nothing more could be done immediately
, the mail-cart man returned to his own animal, which was uninjured.
'You was on the wrong side,'he said.'I am bound to go on with the mail-bags, so that the best thing for you to do is to bide here with your load. I'll send somebody to help you as soon as I can. It is getting daylight, and you have nothing to fear.'
He mounted and sped on his way; while Tess stood and waited. The atmosphere
turned pale, the birds shook themselves in the hedges, arose, and twittered; the lane showed all its white features, and Tess showed hers, still whiter. The huge pool of blood in front of her was already assuming the iridescence
; and when the sun rose a hundred prismatic
hues were reflected from it. Prince lay alongside still and stark; his eyes half open, the hole in his chest looking scarcely large enough to have let out all that had animated him.
''Tis all my doing - all mine!' the girl cried, gazing at the spectacle. 'No excuse for me none - What will mother and father live on now? Aby, Aby!' She shook the child, who had slept soundly through the whole disaster. 'We can't go on with our load - Prince is killed!'
When Abraham realized all, the furrows of fifty years were extemporized
on his young face.
'Why, I danced and laughed only yesterday!' she went on to herself. 'To think that I was such a fool!'
'Tis because we be on a blighted star, and not a sound one, isn't it, Tess?' murmured Abraham through his tears.
In silence they waited through an interval which seemed endless. At length a sound, and an approaching object, proved to them that the driver of the mail-cart had been as good as his word. A farmer's man from near Stourcastle came up, leading a strong cob
. He was harnessed to the waggon of beehives in the place of Prince, and the load taken on towards Casterbridge.
The evening of the same day saw the empty waggon reach again the spot of the accident. Prince had lain there in the ditch
since the morning; but the place of the blood-pool was still visible in the middle of the road, though scratched
and scraped over by passing vehicles. All that was left of Prince was now hoisted
into the waggon he had formerly hauled, and with his hoofs in the air, and his shoes shining in the setting sunlight, he retraced the eight or nine miles to Marlott.