<br/>Having mounted beside her, Alec d'Urberville drove
rapidly along the crest of the first hill, chatting
compliments to Tess as they went, the cart with her box
being left far behind. Rising still, an immense
landscape stretched around them on every side; behind,
the green valley of her birth, before, a gray country
of which she knew nothing except from her first brief
visit to Trantridge. Thus they reached the verge of an
incline down which the road stretched in a long
straight descent of nearly a mile.
<br/>Ever since the accident with her father's horse Tess
Durbeyfield, courageous as she naturally was, had been
exceedingly timid on wheels; the least irregularity of
motion startled her. She began to get uneasy at a
certain recklessness in her conductor's driving.
<br/>"You will go down slow, sir, I suppose?" she said with
<br/>D'Urberville looked round upon her, nipped his cigar
with the tips of his large white centre-teeth, and
allowed his lips to smile slowly of themselves.
<br/>"Why, Tess," he answered, after another whiff or two,
"it isn't a brave bouncing girl like you who asks that?
Why, I always go down at full gallop. There's nothing
like it for raising your spirits."
<br/>"But perhaps you need not now?"
<br/>"Ah," he said, shaking his head, "there are two to be
reckoned with. It is not me alone. Tib has to be
considered, and she has a very queer temper."
<br/>"Why, this mare. I fancy she looked round at me in a
very grim way just then. Didn't you notice it?"
<br/>"Don't try to frighten me, sir," said Tess stiffly.
<br/>"Well, I don't. If any living man can manage this
horse I can: I won't say any living man can do it—but
if such has the power, I am he."
<br/>"Why do you have such a horse?"
<br/>"Ah, well may you ask it! It was my fate, I suppose.
Tib has killed one chap; and just after I bought her
she nearly killed me. And then, take my word for it,
I nearly killed her. But she's touchy still, very
touchy; and one's life is hardly safe behind her
<br/>They were just beginning to descend; and it was evident
that the horse, whether of her own will or of his (the
latter being the more likely), knew so well the
reckless performance expected of her that she hardly
required a hint from behind.
<br/>Down, down, they sped, the wheels humming like a top,
the dog-cart rocking right and left, its axis acquiring
a slightly oblique set in relation to the line of
progress; the figure of the horse rising and falling in
undulations before them. Sometimes a wheel was off the
ground, it seemed, for many yards; sometimes a stone
was sent spinning over the hedge, and flinty sparks
from the horse's hoofs outshone the daylight. The
aspect of the straight road enlarged with their
advance, the two banks dividing like a splitting stick;
one rushing past at each shoulder.
<br/>The wind blew through Tess's white muslin to her very
skin, and her washed hair flew out behind. She was
determined to show no open fear, but she clutched
<br/>"Don't touch my arm! We shall be thrown out if you do!
Hold on round my waist!"
<br/>She grasped his waist, and so they reached the bottom.
<br/>"Safe, thank God, in spite of your fooling!" said she,
her face on fire.
<br/>"Tess—fie! that's temper!" said d'Urberville.
<br/>"Well, you need not let go your hold of me so
thanklessly the moment you feel yourself our of
<br/>She had not considered what she had been doing; whether
he were man or woman, stick or stone, in her
involuntary hold on him. Recovering her reserve, she sat
without replying, and thus they reached the summit of
<br/>"Now then, again!" said d'Urberville.
<br/>"No, no!" said Tess. "Show more sense, do, please."
<br/>"But when people find themselves on one of the highest
points in the county, they must get down again," he
<br/>He loosened rein, and away they went a second time.
D'Urberville turned his face to her as they rocked, and
said, in playful raillery: "Now then, put your arms
round my waist again, as you did before, my Beauty."
<br/>"Never!" said Tess independently, holding on as well as
she could without touching him.
<br/>"Let me put one little kiss on those holmberry lips,
Tess, or even on that warmed cheek, and I'll stop—on
my honour, I will!"
<br/>Tess, surprised beyond measure, slid farther back still
on her seat, at which he urged the horse anew, and
rocked her the more.
<br/>"Will nothing else do?" she cried at length, in
desperation, her large eyes staring at him like those
of a wild animal. This dressing her up so prettily by
her mother had apparently been to lamentable purpose.
<br/>"Nothing, dear Tess," he replied.
<br/>"Oh, I don't know—very well; I don't mind!" she panted
<br/>He drew rein, and as they slowed he was on the point of
imprinting the desired salute, when, as if hardly yet
aware of her own modesty, she dodged aside. His arms
being occupied with the reins there was left him no
power to prevent her manœuvre.
<br/>"Now, damn it—I'll break both our necks!" swore her
capriciously passionate companion. "So you can go from
your word like that, you young witch, can you?"
<br/>"Very well," said Tess, "I'll not move since you be so
determined! But I—thought you would be kind to me, and
protect me, as my kinsman!"
<br/>"Kinsman be hanged! Now!"
<br/>"But I don't want anybody to kiss me, sir!" she
implored, a big tear beginning to roll down her face,
and the corners of her mouth trembling in her attempts
not to cry. "And I wouldn't ha' come if I had known!"
<br/>He was inexorable, and she sat still, and d'Urberville
gave her the kiss of mastery. No sooner had he done so
than she flushed with shame, took out her handkerchief,
and wiped the spot on her cheek that had been touched
by his lips. His ardour was nettled at the sight, for
the act on her part had been unconsciously done.
<br/>"You are mighty sensitive for a cottage girl!" said the
<br/>Tess made no reply to this remark, of which, indeed,
she did not quite comprehend the drift, unheeding the
snub she had administered by her instinctive rub upon
her cheek. She had, in fact, undone the kiss, as far
as such a thing was physically possible. With a dim
sense that he was vexed she looked steadily ahead as
they trotted on near Melbury Down and Wingreen, till
she saw, to her consternation, that there was yet
another descent to be undergone.
<br/>"You shall be made sorry for that!" he resumed, his
injured tone still remaining, as he flourished the whip
anew. "Unless, that is, you agree willingly to let me
do it again, and no handkerchief."
<br/>She sighed. "Very well, sir!" she said. "Oh—let me
get my hat!"
<br/>At the moment of speaking her hat had blown off into
the road, their present speed on the upland being by no
means slow. D'Urberville pulled up, and said he would
get it for her, but Tess was down on the other side.
<br/>She turned back and picked up the article.
<br/>"You look prettier with it off, upon my soul, if that's
possible," he said, contemplating her over the back of
the vehicle. "Now then, up again! What's the matter?"
<br/>The hat was in place and tied, but Tess had not stepped
<br/>"No, sir," she said, revealing the red and ivory of her
mouth as her eye lit in defiant triumph; "not again, if
I know it!"
<br/>"What—you won't get up beside me?"
<br/>"No; I shall walk."
<br/>"'Tis five or six miles yet to Trantridge."
<br/>"I don't care if 'tis dozens. Besides, the cart is
<br/>"You artful hussy! Now, tell me—didn't you make that
hat blow off on purpose? I'll swear you did!"
<br/>Her strategic silence confirmed his suspicion.
<br/>Then d'Urberville cursed and swore at her, and called
her everything he could think of for the trick.
Turning the horse suddenly he tried to drive back upon
her, and so hem her in between the gig and the hedge.
But he could not do this short of injuring her.
<br/>"You ought to be ashamed of yourself for using such
wicked words!" cried Tess with spirit, from the top of
the hedge into which she had scrambled. "I don't like
'ee at all! I hate and detest you! I'll go back to
mother, I will!"
<br/>D'Urberville's bad temper cleared up at sight of hers;
and he laughed heartily.
<br/>"Well, I like you all the better," he said. "Come, let
there be peace. I'll never do it any more against your
will. My life upon it now!"
<br/>Still Tess could not be induced to remount. She did
not, however, object to his keeping his gig alongside
her; and in this manner, at a slow pace, they advanced
towards the village of Trantridge. From time to time
d'Urberville exhibited a sort of fierce distress at the
sight of the tramping he had driven her to undertake by
his misdemeanour. She might in truth have safely
trusted him now; but he had forfeited her confidence
for the time, and she kept on the ground progressing
thoughtfully, as if wondering whether it would be wiser
to return home. Her resolve, however, had been taken,
and it seemed vacillating even to childishness to
abandon it now, unless for graver reasons. How could
she face her parents, get back her box, and disconcert
the whole scheme for the rehabilitation of her family
on such sentimental grounds?
<br/>A few minutes later the chimneys of The Slopes appeared
in view, and in a snug nook to the right the
poultry-farm and cottage of Tess' destination.
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