Amid the oozing
fatness and warm ferments of the Var Vale, at a season when the rush of juices could almost be heard below the hiss of fertilization
, it was impossible that the most fanciful
love should not grow passionate. The ready bosoms existing there were impregnated
by their surroundings.
July passed over their beads, and the Thermidorean weather which came in its wake seemed an effort on the part of Nature to match the state of hearts at Talbothays Dairy. The air of the place, so fresh in the spring and early summer, was stagnant
now. Its heavy scents weighed upon them, and at mid-day the landscape seemed lying in a swoon
. Ethiopic scorchings browned the upper slopes of the pastures, but there was still bright green herbage here where the watercourses purled
. And as Clare was oppressed by the outward heats, so was he burdened inwardly by waxing fervour of passion for the soft and silent Tess.
The rains having passed the uplands were dry. The wheels of the dairyman's spring-cart, as he sped home from market, licked up the pulverized
surface of the highway, and were followed by white ribands
of dust, as if they had set a thin powder-train on fire. The cows jumped wildly over the five-barred barton-gate, maddened
by the gad-fly; Dairyman Crick kept his shirt-sleeves permanently
rolled up from Monday to Saturday: open windows had no effect in ventilation
without open doors, and in the dairy-garden the blackbirds and thrushes crept about under the currant-bushes, rather in the manner of quadrupeds than of winged creatures. The flies in the kitchen were lazy, teasing, and familiar, crawling about in unwonted
places, on the floor, into drawers, and over the backs of the milkmaids' hands. Conversations were concerning sunstroke; while butter-making, and still more butterkeeping, was a despair.