He looked at her imploringly, as if he would willingly have taken a lie from her lips, knowing it to be one, and have made of it, by some sort of sophistry, a valid denial. However, she only repeated--

`It is true.'

`Is he living?' Angel then asked.

`The baby died.'

`But the man?'

`He is alive.'

A last despair passed over Clare's face.

`Is he in England?'


He took a few vague steps.

`My position - is this,' he said abruptly. `I thought - any man would have thought - that by giving up all ambition to win a wife with social standing, with fortune, with knowledge of the world, I should secure rustic innocence as surely as I should secure pink cheeks; but - However, I am no man to reproach you, and I will not.'

Tess felt his position so entirely that the remainder had not been needed. Therein lay just the distress of it; she saw that he had lost all round.

`Angel - I should not have let it go on to marriage with you if I had not known that, after all, there was a last way out of it for you; though I hoped you would never------'

Her voice grew husky.

`A last way?'

`I mean, to get rid of me. You can get rid of me.'


`By divorcing me.'

`Good heavens - how can you be so simple! How can I divorce you?'

`Can't you - now I have told you? I thought my confession would give you grounds for that.'

`O Tess - you are too, too - childish - unformed - crude, I suppose! I don't know what you are. You don't understand the law - you don't understand!'

`What - you cannot?'

`Indeed I cannot.'

A quick shame mixed with the misery upon his listener's face.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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