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Now and Then


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… chapter III of Tess of the d’Urberloupes: a MashUp Novel …

Note to the fine readers of this work-in-progress: The greater part of Thomas Hardy’s TESS first appeared in the GRAPHIC newspaper, but other chapters were published as “episodic sketches” in the FORTNIGHTLY REVIEW and the NATIONAL OBSERVER. These publications were “more especially addressed to adult readers” probably because of the “suggestive” content, which shocked readers of that era. Even today, TESS occupies a place on the list of “Most Frequently Banned Books” because of its sensuality.

This “honor” rather surprises me as Hardy’s innuendos are are rather mild compared to today’s licentious mores, or they are so obscured in his lengthy sentences and complex word choices that many do not recognize the sexual connotations!

While I don’t plan on exposing those provocative references beyond what Hardy has already written, I will add more danger and craziness to them with my introduction of wolves into Wessex!

Chapter III

Sketch of cottage courtesy of Fliker!

As for Tess Durbeylou, she did not so easily dislodge the incident from her consideration. She had no spirit to dance again for a long time, though she might have had plenty of partners; but ah! they did not speak so nicely nor delight and cloud Tess’s heart and mind as the strange young man had done. If asked, she could not explain with any clarity the allure and the fear that quickened her pulsating blood and disturbed the hackles on her neck.

Was it the urbane conversation or the limpid state of his countenance that turned her attentions? And did his transient scrutiny raise her pique or was there more behind his cursory glance that tortured her thinking?

It was not till the rays of the sun had absorbed the young stranger’s retreating figure on the hill that she shook off her temporary sadness and vexation to answer her would-be partner in the affirmative.

She remained with her comrades till dusk, and participated with a certain zest in the dancing; though, the struggles and wrangles of the lads for her hand in a jig were an amusement to her–no more; and when they became fierce she rebuked them.

She might have stayed even later, but the incident of her father’s odd appearance and manner returned upon the girl’s mind to make her anxious, and wondering what had become of him she dropped away from the dancers and bent her steps towards the end of the village at which the parental cottage lay.

While yet many score yards off, other rhythmic sounds than those she had quitted became audible to her; sounds that she knew well–so well. They were a regular series of thumpings from the interior of the house, occasioned by the violent rocking of a cradle upon a stone floor, to which movement a feminine voice kept time by singing, in a vigorous gallopade, the favourite ditty of “The Wessex Wolf and the Spotted Cow”—

“The maid replied, ‘Kind sir,’ she cried.

‘I’ve lost my spotted cow.’

“No longer weep, no longer mourn

Your cow’s not lost my dear,

I saw her lie do’–own in yon’–der green gro’–ove;

Come, love!’ and I’ll tell’ you where!’

“And in the gro’–ve, the night drew nigh,

Then brightly shone the moon,

First the light and then my cry;

The shape-shift came too soon.

The cradle-rocking and the song would cease simultaneously for a moment, and an explanation at highest vocal pitch would take the place of the melody.

“God bless thy diment eyes! And thy waxen cheeks! And thy cherry mouth! And thy Cubit’s thighs! And every bit o’ thy blessed body! Don’t ye go cryin’ now. No wolves will steal you away from your mum. Your cradle’s safe, and that’s a promise.

After this invocation the rocking and the singing would recommence, and the “The Wessex Wolf and the Spotted Cow’ proceed as before. So matters stood when Tess opened the door, and paused upon the mat within it surveying the scene.

The interior of the cottage, and the peculiarity of the melody, struck upon the girl’s senses with an unspeakable dreariness. From the holiday gaieties of the field–the white gowns, the nosegays, the willow-wands, the whirling movements on the green, the flash of gentle sentiment towards the stranger–to the yellow melancholy of this one-candled spectacle and the discordant reminders of a once dormant legend, what a step! Tess questioned why her mother would now be singing about the wolves of Wessex; creatures that came from Normandy with William the Conquerer. Besides the jar of contrast there came to her a chill self-reproach that she had not returned sooner, to help her mother in these domesticities, instead of indulging herself out-of-doors.

There stood her mother amid the group of children, as Tess had left her, hanging over the Monday washing-tub, which had now, as always, lingered on to the end of the week. Out of that tub had come the day before–Tess felt it with a dreadful sting of remorse–the very white frock upon her back which she had so carelessly greened about the skirt on the damping grass–which had been wrung up and ironed by her mother’s own hands.

As usual, Mrs Durbeylou was balanced on one foot beside the tub, the other being engaged in the aforesaid business of rocking her youngest child. The cradle-rockers had done hard duty for so many years, under the weight of so many children, on that flagstone floor, that they were worn nearly flat, in consequence of which a huge jerk accompanied each swing of the cot, flinging the baby from side to side like a weaver’s shuttle, as Mrs Durbeylou, excited by her song, trod the rocker with all the spring that was left in her after a long day’s seething in the suds.

Nick-knock, nick-knock, went the cradle; the candle-flame stretched itself tall, and began jigging up and down; the water dribbled from the matron’s elbows, and the song galloped on to the end of the verse where both cow and maiden were devoured by the shape-shifting wolf. Mrs Durbeylou regarded her daughter the while.

There still faintly beamed from the woman’s features something of the freshness, and even the prettiness, of her youth; rendering it probable that the personal charms which Tess could boast of were in main part her mother’s gift, and therefore unknightly, unhistorical, and uninfected. That was the observation of the county and the belief of the mother and father.

“I’ll rock the cradle for ‘ee, mother,” said the daughter gently. “Or I’ll take off my best frock and help you wring up? I thought you had finished long ago.”

Her mother bore Tess no ill-will for leaving the housework to her single-handed efforts for so long; indeed, Joan seldom upbraided her thereon at any time, feeling but slightly the lack of Tess’s assistance whilst her instinctive plan for relieving herself of her labours lay in postponing them. Tonight, however, she was even in a blither mood than usual. There was a dreaminess, a pre-occupation, an exaltation, in the maternal look which the girl could not understand.

“Well, I’m glad you’ve come,” her mother said, as soon as the last note had passed out of her, “I want to go and fetch your father; but what’s more’n that, I want to tell ‘ee what have happened. Y’ll be fess enough, my poppet, when th’st know!” (Mrs Durbeylou habitually spoke the West Saxon dialect; her daughter, who had passed the Sixth Standard in the National School under a London-trained mistress, spoke two languages: the dialect at home, more or less; ordinary English abroad and to persons of quality.)

“Since I’ve been away?” Tess asked.

“Ay!”

“Had it anything to do with father’s making such a mommet of himself in thik carriage this afternoon? Why did ‘er? I felt inclined to sink into the ground with shame!”

“That wer all a part of the larry! We’ve been found to be the greatest gentlefolk in the whole county–reaching all back long before Oliver Grumble’s time–to the days of the Pagan Turks–with monuments, and vaults, and crests, and “scutcheons, and the Lord knows what all. In Saint Charles’s days we was made Knights o’ the Royal Oak, our real name being d’Urberloups! … Don’t that make your bosom plim? ‘Twas on this account that your father rode home in the vlee; not because he’d been drinking, as people supposed.”

“I’m glad of that. But if we are of those gentlefolk – d’Urberloups –  do we not own a portion of the folklores that come with the family name? Stories akin to the ditty you were singing when I crossed the threshold? Will knowin’ this truly do us any good, mother? ”

“O yes! ‘Tis thoughted that great things may come o’t. No doubt a mampus of volk of our own rank will be down here in their carriages as soon as ’tis known. Your father learnt it on his way hwome from Shaston, and he has been telnling me the whole pedigree of the matter – exceptin’ fer the d”Urberloups’ bond w’ the Barcarlet’s. as those stories are nothin’ to us, Tess. Tales o’them Norman werewolves are for scarin’ children and low volk.

“Where is father now?” asked Tess suddenly.

Her mother gave irrelevant information by way of answer: “He called to see the doctor today in Shaston. It is not the ale only that’s causin’ his forgettin’ things; it seems. It is vessels in his heart that are hardenin’, ‘a says ‘You mid last ten years; you mid go off in ten months, or ten days, but yer mind will be more absent with each day that passes.'”

Tess looked alarmed. Her father possibly to go behind the eternal cloud so soon, notwithstanding this sudden greatness! She mourned, too, his dulling mind that failed to take measure of his goings and comings, or what he said and did not say to his wife and children, his friends, neighbors, and business folk. Never was he a man to count on, her father, but this amnesia of his expunged any semblance of dependability.

“But where is father?” she asked again.

Her mother put on a deprecating look. “Now don’t you be bursting out angry! The poor man–he felt so rafted after his uplifting by the pa’son’s news–that he went up to Rolliver’s half an hour ago. He do want to get up his strength for his journey tomorrow with that load of beehives, which must be delivered, family or no. He’ll have to start shortly after twelve tonight, as the distance is so long.”

“Get up his strength!” said Tess impetuously, the tears welling to her eyes. “O my God! Go to a public-house to get up his strength! And you as well agreed as he, mother! You know he’ll not remember to water his ale, and the drink will drowse him so’s he can’t drive the cart.

Her rebuke and her mood seemed to fill the whole room, and to impart a cowed look to the furniture, and candle, and children playing about, and to her mother’s face.

“No,” said the latter touchily, “I be not agreed. I have been waiting for ‘ee to bide and keep house while I go fetch him.”

“I’ll go.”

“O no, Tess. You see, it would be no use.”

Tess did not expostulate. She knew what her mother’s objection meant. Mrs Durbeylou‘s jacket and bonnet were already hanging slily upon a chair by her side, in readiness for this contemplated jaunt, the reason for which the matron deplored more than its necessity.

This going to hunt up her shiftless husband at the inn was one of Mrs Durbeylou‘s still extant enjoyments in the muck and muddle of rearing children. To discover him at Rolliver’s, to sit there for an hour or two by his side and dismiss all thought and care of the children during the interval, made her happy. She thought too of sharing the day’s news with the patrons of the tavern. A sort of halo, an occidental glow, came over life then. She felt a little as she had used to feel when she sat by her now wedded husband in the same spot during his wooing, shutting her eyes to his defects of character, and regarding him only in his ideal presentation as lover.

Tess, being left alone with the younger children, went first to the outhouse with the fortune-telling book her mother studied upon occasion. The skeptical daughter stuffed this grimy volume into the thatch as it were the woman’s fetish that prevented her ever allowing it to stay in the house all night, and hither it was brought back whenever it had been consulted. Between the mother, with her fast-perishing lumber of superstitions, folk-lore, dialect, and orally transmitted ballads, and the daughter, with her trained National teachings and Standard knowledge under an infinitely Revised Code, there was a gap of two hundred years as ordinarily understood. When they were together the Jacobean and the Victorian ages were juxtaposed.

Returning along the garden path Tess mused on what the mother could have wished to ascertain from the book on this particular day. She guessed the recent ancestral discovery to bear upon it, but did not divine that it solely concerned herself. Dismissing this, however, she busied herself with sprinkling the linen dried during the daytime, in company with her nine-year-old brother Abraham, and her sister Eliza-Louisa of twelve and a half, call “‘Liza-Lu,” the youngest ones being put to bed.
It grew later, and neither father nor mother reappeared. Tess looked out of the door, and took a mental journey through Marlott. The village was shutting its eyes. Candles and lamps were being put out everywhere: she could inwardly behold the extinguisher and the extended hand.

Her mother’s fetching simply meant one more to fetch. Tess began to perceive that a man in indifferent health, who proposed to start on a journey before one in the morning, ought not to be at an inn at this late hour celebrating his ancient blood.

“Abraham,” she said to her little brother, “do you put on your hat–you bain’t afraid?–and go up to Rolliver’s, and see what has gone wi’ father and mother.”

The boy jumped promptly from his seat, and opened the door, and the night swallowed him up. Half an hour passed yet again; neither man, woman, nor child returned. Tess opened the door and peered down the lane, hoping for a glance of her brother escorting home his wayward parents. Though the near-full moon lit the path, she saw shadows only. An involuntary shutter shook her senses as thoughts of the d’Urberloupes’ cabalistic ancestry intruded upon her search.

“Nonsense,” she muttered.  “Abraham seems to have been limed and caught by that ensnaring inn. I must go myself.”

‘Liza-Lu then went to bed, and Tess, locking them all in, started on her way up the shadowy and crooked lane or street not made for hasty progress; a street laid out before inches of land had value, and when one-handed clocks sufficiently subdivided the day.




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… Tess of the d’Urberloups, the MashUp … chapter II …

Note to the dear readers: If you want to read the prologue, click HERE, and if  you missed Chapter I, click HERE.

You may have noticed that I have revised the title AND the main character’s surname – both the French and the Anglicized versions – to keep this mash-up a little closer to Hardy’s creation AND to give it a French flavor (d’Urberloups) vs a German bent (d’Uberwolf).  In case you don’t have your French dictionary handy,  wolves is the English translation for “loups”.

I am also returning to chapter I to extend the revisions to that draft.

You may be disappointed that there are not many werewolf details in this chapter. Be not discouraged, as future chapters will be filled with plenty o’ fangs and fur! A close reading of this chapter, however, will expose smoldering sensuality as Hardy describes the maidens of Marlott. You may want to tend to these details in the absence of wolfish elements.

I have also deleted several of Hardy’s sentences describing the countryside and the old wrinkled women – please Thomas, don’t roll over again. I know this is painful for you, but someone had to do it.

I know I am two chapters into this remix, but I am going to interject an introductory post to summarize the original with hopes of building readers’ background knowledge. A little something to look forward to! =D

Chapter II

"Club-walking" in Marlett

The village of Marlott lay amid the north-eastern undulations of the beautiful Vale of Blakemore or Blackmoor aforesaid, an engirdled and secluded region, for the most part untrodden as yet by tourist or landscape-painter, though within a four hours’ journey from London.

It is a vale whose acquaintance is best made by viewing it from the summits of the hills that surround it–except perhaps during the droughts of summer. An unguided ramble into its recesses in bad weather is apt to engender dissatisfaction with its narrow, tortuous, and miry ways.

The district is of historic, no less than of topographical interest. The Vale was known in former times as the Forest of White Wolf, from a curious legend of King Henry III’s reign, in which the killing by a certain Thomas Clair d’Lune of a beautiful white wolf which the king had run down and spared, was made the occasion of a heavy fine. In those days, and till comparatively recent times, the country was densely wooded. Even now, traces of its earlier condition are to be found in the old oak copses and irregular belts of timber that yet survive upon its slopes, and the hollow-trunked trees that shade so many of its pastures.

The forests have departed, but some old customs of their shades remain. Many, however, linger only in a metamorphosed or disguised form. The May-Day dance, for instance, was to be discerned on the afternoon under notice, in the guise of the club revel, or “club-walking,” as it was there called.

It was an interesting event to the younger inhabitants of Marlott, though its real interest was not observed by the participators in the ceremony. Its singularity lay less in the retention of a custom of walking in procession and dancing on each anniversary than in the members being solely women. In men’s clubs such celebrations were, though expiring, less uncommon; but either the natural shyness of the softer sex, or a sarcastic attitude on the part of male relatives, had denuded such women’s clubs as remained (if any other did) or this their glory and consummation. The club of Marlott alone lived to uphold the local Cerealia, inspired by the Roman festival honoring the fertility goddess Ceres. It had walked for hundreds of years, if not as benefit-club as votive sisterhood of some sort; and it walked still.

The banded ones were all dressed in white gowns–a gay survival from Old Style days, when cheerfulness and May-time were synonyms. Their first exhibition of themselves was in a processional march of two and two round the parish. Ideal and real clashed slightly as the sun lit up their figures against the green hedges and creeper-laced house-fronts. In addition to the distinction of a white frock, every woman and girl carried in her right hand a peeled willow wand, and in her left a bunch of white flowers. The peeling of the former, and the selection of the latter, had been an operation of personal care.

There were a few middle-aged and even elderly women in the train, their silver-wiry hair and wrinkled faces, scourged by time and trouble, having almost a grotesque, certainly a pathetic, appearance in such a jaunty situation. But let the elder be passed over here for those under whose bodices the life throbbed quick and warm.

The young girls formed, indeed, the majority of the band, and their heads of luxuriant hair reflected in the sunshine every tone of gold, and black, and brown. Some had beautiful eyes, others a beautiful nose, others a beautiful mouth and figure: few, if any, had all. A difficulty of arranging their lips in this crude exposure to public scrutiny, an inability to balance their heads, and to dissociate self-consciousness from their features, was apparent in them, and showed that they were genuine country girls, unaccustomed to many eyes.

And as each and all of them were warmed without by the sun, so each had a private little sun for her soul to bask in; some dream, some affection, some hobby, at least some remote and distant hope which, though perhaps starving to nothing, still lived on, as hopes will. They were all cheerful, and many of them merry.

They came round by The Pure Drop Inn, and were turning out of the high road to pass through a wicket-gate into the meadows, when one of the women said–

“The Load-a-Lord! Why, Tess Durbeylou, if there isn’t thy father riding hwome in a carriage!”

A young member of the band turned her head at the exclamation. She was a fine and handsome girl–not handsomer than some others, possibly–but her mobile peony mouth and large innocent eyes added eloquence to colour and shape. She wore a red ribbon in her hair, and was the only one of the white company who could boast of such a pronounced adornment. As she looked round Durbeylou was seen moving along the road in a chaise belonging to the The Pure Drop, driven by a frizzle-headed brawny damsel with her gown-sleeves rolled above her elbows. This was the cheerful servant of that establishment, who, in her part of factotum, turned groom and ostler at times. Durbeylou, leaning back, and with his eyes closed luxuriously, was waving his hand above his head, and singing in a slow recitative–

“I’ve-got-a-gr’t-family-vault-neart’Kingsbere–and knighted-forefathers-in-silver and lead-coffins-there!”

The clubbists tittered, except the girl called Tess– in whom a slow heat seemed to rise at the sense that her father was making himself foolish in their eyes.

“He’s tired, that’s all,” she said hastily, “and he has got a lift home, because our own horse has to rest today.”

“Bless thy simplicity, Tess,” said her companions. “He’s got his market-nitch. Haw-haw!”

“Look here; I won’t walk another inch with you, if you say any jokes about him!” Tess cried, and the colour upon her cheeks spread over her face and neck. In a moment her eyes grew moist, and her glance drooped to the ground. Perceiving that they had really pained her they said no more, and order again prevailed. Tess’s pride would not allow her to turn her head again, to learn what her father’s meaning was, if he had any; and thus she moved on with the whole body to the enclosure where there was to be dancing on the green. By the time the spot was reached she has recovered her equanimity, and tapped her neighbour with her wand and talked as usual.

Tess Durbeylou at this time of her life was a mere vessel of emotion untinctured by experience. The dialect was on her tongue to some extent, despite the village school: the characteristic intonation of that dialect for this district being the voicing approximately rendered by the syllable ur, probably as rich an utterance as any to be found in human speech. The pouted-up deep red mouth to which this syllable was native had hardly as yet settled into its definite shape, and her lower lip had a way of thrusting the middle of her top one upward, when they closed together after a word.

Phases of her childhood lurked in her aspect still. As she walked along today, for all her bouncing handsome womanliness, you could sometimes see her twelfth year in her cheeks, or her ninth sparkling from her eyes; and even her fifth would flit over the curves of her mouth now and then.

Yet few knew, and still fewer considered this. A small minority, mainly strangers, would look long at her in casually passing by, and grow momentarily fascinated by her freshness, and wonder if they would ever see her again: but to almost everybody she was a fine and picturesque country girl, and no more.

Nothing was seen or heard further of Durbeylou in his triumphal chariot under the conduct of the ostleress, and the club having entered the allotted space, dancing began. As there were no men in the company the girls danced at first with each other, but when the hour for the close of labour drew on, the masculine inhabitants of the village, together with other idlers and pedestrians, gathered round the spot, and appeared inclined to negotiate for a partner.

Among these on-lookers were three young men of a superior class, carrying small knapsacks strapped to their shoulders, and stout sticks in their hands. Their general likeness to each other, and their consecutive ages, would almost have suggested that they might be, what in fact they were, brothers. The eldest wore the white tie, high waistcoat, and thin-brimmed hat of the regulation curate; the second was the normal undergraduate; the appearance of the third and youngest would hardly have been sufficient to characterize him; there was an uncribbed, uncabined aspect in his eyes and attire, implying that he had hardly as yet found the entrance to his professional groove. That he was a desultory tentative student of something and everything might only have been predicted of him.

These three brethren told casual acquaintance that they were spending their Whitsun holidays in a walking tour through the Vale of Blackmoor. They leant over the gate by the highway, and inquired as to the meaning of the dance and the white-frocked maids. The two elder of the brothers were plainly not intending to linger more than a moment, but the spectacle of a bevy of girls dancing without male partners seemed to amuse the third, and made him in no hurry to move on. He unstrapped his knapsack, put it, with his stick, on the hedge-bank, and opened the gate.

“What are you going to do, Angel?” asked the eldest.

“I am inclined to go and have a fling with them. Why not all of us–just for a minute or two–it will not detain us long?”

“No–no; nonsense!” said the first. “Dancing in public with a troop of country hoydens–suppose we should be seen! Come along, or it will be dark before we get to Stourcastle, and there’s no place we can sleep at nearer than that; besides, we must get through another chapter of A Counterblast to Lycanthropy before we turn in, now I have taken the trouble to bring the book.”

“All right–I’ll overtake you and Cuthbert in five minutes; don’t stop; I give my word that I will, Felix.”

The two elder reluctantly left him and walked on, taking their brother’s knapsack to relieve him in following, and the youngest entered the field.

“This is a thousand pities,” he said gallantly, to two or three of the girls nearest him, as soon as there was a pause in the dance. “Where are your partners, my dears?”

“They’ve not left off work yet,” answered one of the boldest. “They’ll be here by and by. Till then, will you be one, sir?”

“Certainly. But what’s one among so many!”

“Better than none. ‘Tis melancholy work facing and footing it to one of your own sort, and no clipsing and colling at all. Now, pick and choose.”

“‘Ssh–don’t be so for’ard!” said a shyer girl.

The young man, thus invited, clanged them over, and attempted some discrimination; but, as the group were all so new to him, he could not very well exercise it. He took almost the first that came to hand, which was not the speaker, as she had expected; nor did it happen to be Tess Durbeylou. Pedigree, ancestral , monumental record, the d’Urberloupe lineaments, did not help Tess in her life’s battle as yet, even to the extent of attracting to her a dancing-partner over the heads of the commonest peasantry. So much for Norman blood unaided by Victorian lucre.

The name of the eclipsing girl, whatever it was, has not been handed down; but she was envied by all as the first who enjoyed the luxury of a masculine partner that evening. Yet such was the force of example that the village young men, who had not hastened to enter the gate while no intruder was in the way, now dropped in quickly, and soon the couples became leavened with rustic youth to a marked extent, till at length the plainest woman in the club was no longer compelled to foot it on the masculine side of the figure.

The church clock struck, when suddenly the student said that he must leave–he had been forgetting himself– he had to join his companions. As he fell out of the dance his eyes lighted on Tess Durbeylou, whose own large orbs wore, to tell the truth, a growing aspect of reproach that he had not chosen her. He, too, was sorry then that, owing not only to her backwardness but also to a preternatural portent that navigated him from an observation of her; and with that in his mind he left the pasture.

On account of his long delay he started in a flying-run down the lane westward, and had soon passed the hollow and mounted the next rise. He had not yet overtaken his brothers, but he paused to get breath, and looked back. He could see the white figures of the girls in the green enclosure whirling about as they had whirled when he was among them. They seemed to have quite forgotten him already.

All of them, except, perhaps, one. This white shape stood apart by the hedge alone. From her position he knew it to be the pretty maiden with whom he had not danced. For a second time, the young man hailed as Angel, wondered at the presentiments shuffling through his senses. Trifling as the matter was, he instinctively felt his path – as undetermined as it was – would entwine with hers. Too, he distinguished that she was hurt by his oversight. He wished that he had asked her; he wished that he had inquired her name. She was so modest, so expressive, so mysterious, she had looked so soft in her thin white gown that he felt he had acted stupidly.

However, it could not be helped, and turning, and bending himself to a rapid walk, he dismissed the subject from his mind.


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… Tess of the d’Urberloups, the MashUP … Phase the First; Chapter I …

Note to the reader: Go HERE to read the prologue – if you want to, that is.

If you have not experienced a “mash-up” novel, then I feel I must warn you that such books include the author’s original prose EXCEPT where the “collaborating” author adds or substitutes different ideas. My revisions SHOULD reflect Hardy’s tone and style, and the events – though wacky and weird – will be included as if VERY plausible.

Just in case you can’t differentiate MY writing from Mr. Hardy’s (LOL), I will bold my bold attempts to write like the genius. And because this is a work-in-progress (wip), I will only include scenes where I tamper with the writing and occassionally link those together with summaries of the UNtouched pages. We’ll see how that goes.

Phase the First: Country Girl

Chapter 1

Written by Thomas Hardy and Thomasina HardLY

On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking homeward from Shaston to the village of Marlott, in the adjoining Vale of Blakemore or Blackmoor. The pair of legs that carried him were rickety, and there was a bias in his gait which inclined him somewhat to the left of a straight line. He occasionally gave a smart nod, as if in confirmation of some opinion, though he was not thinking of anything in particular. An empty egg-basket was slung upon his arm, the nap of his hat was ruffled, a patch being quite worn away at its brim where his thumb came in taking it off. Presently he was met by an elderly parson astride on a gray mare, who, as he rode, hummed a wandering tune.

“Good night t’ee,” said the man with the basket.

“Good night, Sir John,” said the parson.

The pedestrian, after another pace or two, halted, and turned round.

“Now, sir, begging your pardon; we met last market-day on this road about this time, and I said “Good night,” and you made reply ‘Good night, Sir John,’ as now.”

“I did,” said the parson.

“And once before that–near a month ago.”

“I may have.”

“Then what might your meaning be in calling me ‘Sir John’ these different times, when I be plain Jack Durbeyfield Durbeylou, the haggler?”

The parson rode a step or two nearer.

“It was only my whim,” he said; and, after a moment’s hesitation: “It was on account of a discovery I made some little time ago, whilst I was hunting up pedigrees for the new county history. I am Parson Tringham, the antiquary, of Stagfoot Lane. Don’t you really know, Durbeylou, that you are the lineal representative of the ancient and knightly family of the d’Uberwolves d’Urberloups, who derive their descent from Sir Pagan d’Uberwolves d’Urberloups, that renowned knight who came from Normandy with William the Conqueror, as appears by Battle Abbey Roll?”

“Never heard it before, sir!”

“Well it’s true. Throw up your chin a moment, so that I may catch the profile of your face better. Yes, that’s the d’Uberwolf d’Urberloups nose, mashed pushed in there a bit and nostrils somewhat flared flaring.  Ah, the chin, too, prominent-like because of the under-bite, another characteristic of the d’Uberwolves d’Urberloups.

“Show me your fingers, Sir John,” insisted the parson as he took the dazed haggler’s hand into his own. “Now look at that, will you? See the middle and index fingers are of the same length, man. Is it so with your left?”

John examined his fingers and nodded. “What does this mean, sir, if ye don’t do not mind me asking’?”

Your ancestor was one of the twelve knights who assisted the Lord of Estremavilla in Normandy in his conquest of Glamorganshire. If you’ve no knowledge of that piece of history, then I don’t not imagine you have heard the legends of the d’Urberloups’ heredity.

“No sir, can’t says that I have, but had I known I was one of them, I’d of paid better attention to them stories. How ’bouts ye share these here legends and a quart of beer wi’ me Pa’son Tringham? There’s a very pretty brew in tap at The Pure Drop–though, to be sure, not so good as at Rolliver’s.”

“No, thank you–not this evening, Durbeyfield. You’ve had enough already, but I’ll tell you this: it is said the d’Urberloups’ line traces back to Bisclavaret. So, my good man, in spite of the former greatness of your ancestors – – -“

“Greatness, Sir? You mean lands and such?”

“In their day, yes. Branches of your family held manors over all this part of England; their names appear in the Pipe Rolls in the time of King Stephen. In the reign of King John one of them was rich enough to give a manor to the Knights Hospitallers; and in Edward the Second’s time your forefather Brian was summoned to Westminster to attend the great Council there. You declined a little in Oliver Cromwell’s time, but to no serious extent, and in Charles the Second’s reign you were made Knights of the Royal Oak for your loyalty. Aye, there have been generations of Sir Johns among you, and if knighthood were hereditary, like a baronetcy, as it practically was in old times, when men were knighted from father to son, you would be Sir John now. And if the legends of Bisclavaret are based on any truths, you would also be lubin’s relative, my good fellow.

“Ye don’t say so! Manors, knights, and werewolves!”

“In short,” concluded the parson, decisively smacking his leg with his switch, “there’s hardly such another family in England.”

“Daze my eyes, and isn’t there?” said Durbeyfield. “And here have I been knocking about, year after year, from pillar to post, as if I was no more than the commonest feller in the parish… And how long hev this news about me been knowed, Pa’son Tringham?”

The clergyman explained that, as far as he was aware, it had quite died out of knowledge, and could hardly be said to be known at all.  His own investigations had begun on a day in the preceding spring when, having been engaged in tracing the vicissitudes of the d’Urberloups family, he had observed Durbeyfield’s name on his waggon, and had thereupon been led to make inquiries about his father and grandfather till he had no doubt on the subject.

“At first I resolved not to disturb you with such a useless piece of information,” said he. “However, our impulses are too strong for our judgment sometimes. I thought you might perhaps know something of it all the while.”

“Well, I have heard once or twice, ’tis true, that my family had seen better days afore they came to Blackmoor. But I took no notice o’t, thinking it to mean that we had once kept two horses where we now keep only one. I’ve got a wold silver spoon and knife, and a wold graven seal at home, too; but, Lord, what’s a seal, a spoon and  a knife, one that is too large t’use at the table and too fine t’use in the kitchen? … And to think that I and these noble d’Uberwolves were one flesh all the time. ‘Twas said that my gr’t-granfer had secrets, and didn’t care to talk of where he came from. I be thinking he didn’t want folks knowing about them d’Urberloups stories as some might judge he was not to be trusted some days o’ the month … Parson if I may make so bold;  where do we d’Urberloups live?”

“You don’t live anywhere. You are extinct – as a county family and as a loup-garou.”

“That’s bad to be an extinct county family, I be meaning.”

“Yes – what the mendacious family chronicles call extinct in the male line – that is, gone down – gone under.”

“Then where do we lie?”

“At Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill: near the church lands but not within its boundaries. There are rows and rows of you in your vaults, forming a sanctuary of its own with your effigies under Purbeck-marble canopies.”

“And where be our family mansions and estates?”

“You haven’t any.”

“Oh? No lands neither?”

“None; though you once had ’em in abundance, as I said, for you family consisted of numerous branches. In this county there was a seat of yours at Kingsbere, and another at Sherton, and another in Millpond, and another at Lullstead, and another at Wellbridge.”

“And shall we ever come into our own again?”

“Ah – that I can’t tell! Probably no more likely than your transformation from human to wolf.

“And what had I better do about comin’ into our own, sir?” asked Durbeylou, after a pause.

“Oh – nothing, nothing; except chasten yourself with the thought of ‘how are the mighty fallen and the dangerous mollified. It is a fact of some interest to the local historian, genealogist, or lycanthropologist, nothing more. There are several families among the cottagers of this county of almost equal lustre and dross, might I add. Good night.”

Concluding thus, the parson rode on his way, with doubts as to his discretion in retailing this curious bit of lore.

When he was gone, Durbeylou walked a few steps in a profound reverie, and then sat down upon the grassy bank by the roadside, depositing his basket before him. In a few minutes a youth appeared in the distance, walking in the same direction as that which had been pursued by Durbeyfield. The latter, on seeing him, held up his hand, and the lad quickened his pace and came near.

“Boy, take up that basket! I want ‘ee to go on an errand for me.”

The lath-like stripling frowned. “Who be you, then, John Durbeylou, to order me about and call me ‘boy’? You know my name as well as I know yours!”

“Do you, do you? That’s the secret – that’s the secret! Now obey my orders, and take the message I’m going to charge ‘ee wi’… Well, Fred, I don’t mind telling you that the secret is that I’m one of a noble race and a dangerous breed – it has been just found out by me this present afternoon, P.M.” And as he made the announcement, Durbeyfield, declining from his sitting position, luxuriously stretched himself out upon the bank among the daisies.

The lad stood before Durbeylou, and contemplated his length from crown to toe.

“Sir John d’Urberloups – that’s who I am,” continued the prostrate man. “That is if knights were baronets – which they be. ‘Tis recorded in history all about me. Dost know of such a place, lad, as Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill?”

“Ees. I’ve been there to Greenhill Fair.”

“Well, near the church of that city there lie – ”

“‘Tisn’t a city, the place I mean; leastwise ‘twaddn’ when I was there – ’twas a little one-eyed, blinking sort o’ place with a plot filled with them that ain’t worthy to be put in holy ground.”

“Never you mind the place, boy, that’s not the question before us. In that there parish lie my ancestors – hundreds of ’em – in coats of mail and jewels, in gr’t lead coffins, some lined with silver, weighing tons and tons. There’s not a man in the county o’ South-Wessex that’s got grander and nobler and more fearsome skillentons in his family than I.”

“Oh?”

“Now take up that basket, and goo on to Marlott, and when you’ve come to The Pure Drop Inn, tell ’em to send a horse and carriage to me immed’ately, to carry me hwome. And in the bottom o’ the carriage they be to put a noggin o’ rum in a small bottle, and chalk it up to my account. And when you’ve done that goo on to my house with the basket, and tell my wife to put away that washing, because she needn’t finish it, and wait till I come hwome, as I’ve news to tell her.”

As the lad stood in a dubious attitude, Durbeylou bared his teeth and narrowed his eyes as he had never done before. Then he put his hand in his pocket and produced a shilling, one of the chronically few that he possessed.

“Here’s for your labour, lad,” Durbeylou growled.

This made a difference in the young man’s estimate of the position.

“Y-y-y-yes, Sir John. Thank ‘ee. Anything else I can do for ‘ee, S-s-sir John?”

“Tell ’em at hwome that I should like for supper, – well, lamb’s fry if they can get it – done up rare-like; and if they can’t, blood sausage; and if they can’t get that, well chitterlings will do.”

“Yes, Sir John,” the boy swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat and then took up the basket. But before he could run from the strange encounter, the notes of a brass band were heard from the direction of the village.

“What’s that?” hollered Durbeylou after the fleeing lad. “Not on account o’ I?”

“‘Tis the women’s club-walking, Sir John,” he yelled back. “Why, your da’ter is one o’ the members.”

“To be sure – I’d quite forgot it in my thoughts of greater things! Well, vamp on to Marlott, will ye, and order that carriage, and maybe I’ll drive round and inspect the club.” But the boy heard none of the reminders as he was ‘round two bends by that time.

Durbeylou lay waiting on the grass and daisies in the evening sun. Not a soul passed that way for a long while, and the faint notes of the band were the only human sounds audible within the rim of blue hills. Deep in Durbeylou’s reverie, however, a distant howl interrupted the muffled music.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Chapter II