<br/>The twain cantered along for some time without speech,
Tess as she clung to him still panting in her triumph,
yet in other respects dubious. She had perceived that
the horse was not the spirited one he sometimes rose,
and felt no alarm on that score, though her seat was
precarious enough despite her tight hold of him. She
begged him to slow the animal to a walk, which Alec
<br/>"Neatly done, was it not, dear Tess?" he said by and
<br/>"Yes!" said she. "I am sure I ought to be much obliged
<br/>"And are you?"
<br/>She did not reply.
<br/>"Tess, why do you always dislike my kissing you?"
<br/>"I suppose—because I don't love you."
<br/>"You are quite sure?"
<br/>"I am angry with you sometimes!"
<br/>"Ah, I half feared as much." Nevertheless, Alec did
not object to that confession. He knew that anything
was better then frigidity. "Why haven't you told me
when I have made you angry?"
<br/>"You know very well why. Because I cannot help myself
<br/>"I haven't offended you often by love-making?"
<br/>"You have sometimes."
<br/>"How many times?"
<br/>"You know as well as I—too many times."
<br/>"Every time I have tried?"
<br/>She was silent, and the horse ambled along for a
considerable distance, till a faint luminous fog, which
had hung in the hollows all the evening, became general
and enveloped them. It seemed to hold the moonlight in
suspension, rendering it more pervasive than in clear
air. Whether on this account, or from
absent-mindedness, or from sleepiness, she did not
perceive that they had long ago passed the point at
which the lane to Trantridge branched from the highway,
and that her conductor had not taken the Trantridge
<br/>She was inexpressibly weary. She had risen at five
o'clock every morning of that week, had been on foot
the whole of each day, and on this evening had in
addition walked the three miles to Chaseborough, waited
three hours for her neighbours without eating or
drinking, her impatience to start them preventing
either; she had then walked a mile of the way home, and
had undergone the excitement of the quarrel, till, with
the slow progress of their steed, it was now nearly one
o'clock. Only once, however, was she overcome by
actual drowsiness. In that moment of oblivion her head
sank gently against him.
<br/>D'Urberville stopped the horse, withdrew his feet from
the stirrups, turned sideways on the saddle, and
enclosed her waist with his arm to support her.
<br/>This immediately put her on the defensive, and with one
of those sudden impulses of reprisal to which she was
liable she gave him a little push from her. In his
ticklish position he nearly lost his balance and only
just avoided rolling over into the road, the horse,
though a powerful one, being fortunately the quietest
<br/>"That is devilish unkind!" he said. "I mean no
harm—only to keep you from falling."
<br/>She pondered suspiciously, till, thinking that this
might after all be true, she relented, and said quite
humbly, "I beg your pardon, sir."
<br/>"I won't pardon you unless you show some confidence in
me. Good God!" he burst out, "what am I, to be
repulsed so by a mere chit like you? For near three
mortal months have you trifled with my feelings, eluded
me, and snubbed me; and I won't stand it!"
<br/>"I'll leave you to-morrow, sir."
<br/>"No, you will not leave me to-morrow! Will you, I ask
once more, show your belief in me by letting me clasp
you with my arm? Come, between us two and nobody else,
now. We know each other well; and you know that I love
you, and think you the prettiest girl in the world,
which you are. Mayn't I treat you as a lover?"
<br/>She drew a quick pettish breath of objection, writhing
uneasily on her seat, looked far ahead, and murmured,
"I don't know—I wish—how can I say yes or no when—"
<br/>He settled the matter by clasping his arm round her as
he desired, and Tess expressed no further negative.
Thus they sidled slowly onward till it struck her they
had been advancing for an unconscionable time—far
longer than was usually occupied by the short journey
from Chaseborough, even at this walking pace, and that
they were no longer on hard road, but in a mere
<br/>"Why, where be we?" she exclaimed.
<br/>"Passing by a wood."
<br/>"A wood—what wood? Surely we are quite out of the
<br/>"A bit of The Chase—the oldest wood in England. It is
a lovely night, and why should we not prolong our ride
<br/>"How could you be so treacherous!" said Tess, between
archness and real dismay, and getting rid of his arm by
pulling open his fingers one by one, though at the risk
of slipping off herself. "Just when I've been putting
such trust in you, and obliging you to please you,
because I thought I had wronged you by that push!
Please set me down, and let me walk home."
<br/>"You cannot walk home, darling, even if the air were
clear. We are miles away from Trantridge, if I must
tell you, and in this growing fog you might wander for
hours among these trees."
<br/>"Never mind that," she coaxed. "Put me down, I beg
you. I don't mind where it is; only let me get down,
<br/>"Very well, then, I will—on one condition. Having
brought you here to this out-of-the-way place, I feel
myself responsible for your safe-conduct home, whatever
you may yourself feel about it. As to your getting to
Trantridge without assistance, it is quite impossible;
for, to tell the truth, dear, owing to this fog, which
so disguises everything, I don't quite know where we
are myself. Now, if you will promise to wait beside the
horse while I walk through the bushes till I come to
some road or house, and ascertain exactly our
whereabouts, I'll deposit you here willingly. When I
come back I'll give you full directions, and if you
insist upon walking you may; or you may ride—at your
<br/>She accepted these terms, and slid off on the near
side, though not till he had stolen a cursory kiss.
He sprang down on the other side.
<br/>"I suppose I must hold the horse?" said she.
<br/>"Oh no; it's not necessary," replied Alec, patting the
panting creature. "He's had enough of it for to-night."
<br/>He turned the horse's head into the bushes, hitched him
on to a bough, and made a sort of couch or nest for her
in the deep mass of dead leaves.
<br/>"Now, you sit there," he said. "The leaves have not
got damp as yet. Just give an eye to the horse—it
will be quite sufficient."
<br/>He took a few steps away from her, but, returning,
said, "By the bye, Tess, your father has a new cob
to-day. Somebody gave it to him."
<br/>"O how very good of you that is!" she exclaimed, with a
painful sense of the awkwardness of having to thank him
<br/>"And the children have some toys."
<br/>"I didn't know—you ever sent them anything!" she
murmured, much moved. "I almost wish you had not—yes,
I almost wish it!"
<br/>"It—hampers me so."
<br/>"Tessy—don't you love me ever so little now?"
<br/>"I'm grateful," she reluctantly admitted. "But I fear
I do not—" The sudden vision of his passion for
herself as a factor in this result so distressed her
that, beginning with one slow tear, and then following
with another, she wept outright.
<br/>"Don't cry, dear, dear one! Now sit down here, and
wait till I come." She passively sat down amid the
leaves he had heaped, and shivered slightly. "Are you
cold?" he asked.
<br/>"Not very—a little."
<br/>He touched her with his fingers, which sank into her as
into down. "You have only that puffy muslin dress
<br/>"It's my best summer one. 'Twas very warm when I
started, and I didn't know I was going to ride, and
that it would be night."
<br/>"Nights grow chilly in September. Let me see." He
pulled off a light overcoat that he had worn, and put
it round her tenderly. "That's it—now you'll feel
warmer," he continued. "Now, my pretty, rest there; I
shall soon be back again."
<br/>Having buttoned the overcoat round her shoulders he
plunged into the webs of vapour which by this time
formed veils between the trees. She could hear the
rustling of the branches as he ascended the adjoining
slope, till his movements were no louder than the
hopping of a bird, and finally died away. With the
setting of the moon the pale light lessened, and Tess
became invisible as she fell into reverie upon the
leaves where he had left her.
<br/>In the meantime Alec d'Urberville had pushed on up the
slope to clear his genuine doubt as to the quarter of
The Chase they were in. He had, in fact, ridden quite
at random for over an hour, taking any turning that
came to hand in order to prolong companionship with
her, and giving far more attention to Tess's moonlit
person than to any wayside object. A little rest for
the jaded animal being desirable, he did not hasten his
search for landmarks. A clamber over the hill into the
adjoining vale brought him to the fence of a highway
whose contours he recognized, which settled the
question of their whereabouts. D'Urberville thereupon
turned back; but by this time the moon had quite gone
down, and partly on account of the fog The Chase was
wrapped in thick darkness, although morning was not far
off. He was obliged to advance with outstretched hands
to avoid contact with the boughs, and discovered that
to hit the exact spot from which he had started was at
first entirely beyond him. Roaming up and down, round
and round, he at length heard a slight movement of the
horse close at hand; and the sleeve of his overcoat
unexpectedly caught his foot.
<br/>"Tess!" said d'Urberville.
<br/>There was no answer. The obscurity was now so great
that he could see absolutely nothing but a pale
nebulousness at his feet, which represented the white
muslin figure he had left upon the dead leaves.
Everything else was blackness alike. D'Urberville
stooped; and heard a gentle regular breathing. He
knelt and bent lower, till her breath warmed his face,
and in a moment his cheek was in contact with hers.
She was sleeping soundly, and upon her eyelashes there
<br/>Darkness and silence ruled everywhere around. Above
them rose the primeval yews and oaks of The Chase, in
which there poised gentle roosting birds in their last
nap; and about them stole the hopping rabbits and
hares. But, might some say, where was Tess's guardian
angel? where was the providence of her simple faith?
Perhaps, like that other god of whom the ironical
Tishbite spoke, he was talking, or he was pursuing, or
he was in a journey, or he was sleeping and not to be
<br/>Why it was that upon this beautiful feminine tissue,
sensitive as gossamer, and practically blank as snow as
yet, there should have been traced such a coarse
pattern as it was doomed to receive; why so often the
coarse appropriates the finer thus, the wrong man the
woman, the wrong woman the man, many thousand years of
analytical philosophy have failed to explain to our
sense of order. One may, indeed, admit the possibility
of a retribution lurking in the present catastrophe.
Doubtless some of Tess d'Urberville's mailed ancestors
rollicking home from a fray had dealt the same measure
even more ruthlessly towards peasant girls of their
time. But though to visit the sins of the fathers upon
the children may be a morality good enough for
divinities, it is scorned by average human nature; and
it therefore does not mend the matter.
<br/>As Tess's own people down in those retreats are never
tired of saying among each other in their fatalistic
way: "It was to be." There lay the pity of it. An
immeasurable social chasm was to divide our heroine's
personality thereafter from that previous self of hers
who stepped from her mother's door to try her fortune
at Trantridge poultry-farm.
<h4>End of Phase the First</h4>
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