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The Romantic Adventures of a Milkmaid by Thomas Hardy
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by Thomas Hardy


It was half-past four o'clock (by the testimony of the land-surveyor,
my authority for the particulars of this story, a gentleman with the
faintest curve of humour on his lips); it was half-past four o'clock
on a May morning in the eighteen forties. A dense white fog hung
over the Valley of the Exe, ending against the hills on either side.

But though nothing in the vale could be seen from higher ground,
notes of differing kinds gave pretty clear indications that bustling
life was going on there. This audible presence and visual absence of
an active scene had a peculiar effect above the fog level. Nature
had laid a white hand over the creatures ensconced within the vale,
as a hand might be laid over a nest of chirping birds.

The noises that ascended through the pallid coverlid were perturbed
lowings, mingled with human voices in sharps and flats, and the bark
of a dog. These, followed by the slamming of a gate, explained as
well as eyesight could have done, to any inhabitant of the district,
that Dairyman Tucker's under-milker was driving the cows from the
meads into the stalls. When a rougher accent joined in the
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