`Safe, thank God, in spite of your fooling!' said she, her face on fire.

`Tess - fie! that's temper!' said d'Urberville.

`Tis truth.'

`Well, you need not let go your hold of me so thanklessly the moment you feel yourself out of danger.'

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 another declivity.

`Now then, again!' said d'Urberville.

`No, no!' said Tess. `Show more sense, do, please.'

`But when people find themselves on one of the highest points in the county, they must get down again,' he retorted.

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.'

`Never!' said Tess independently, holding on as well as she could without touching him.

`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!'

Tess, surprised beyond measure, slid farther back still on her seat, at which he urged the horse anew, and rocked her the more.

`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 hid apparently been to lamentable purpose.

`Nothing, dear Tess,' he replied.

`Oh, I don't know - very well; I don't mind!' she panted miserably.

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 manoeuvre.

`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?'

`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!'

`Kinsman be hanged! Now!'

`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!'

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.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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