She went on without turning her head. Her back seemed to be endowed with a sensitiveness to ocular beams - even her clothing - so alive was she to a fancied gaze which might be resting upon her from the outside of that barn. All the way along to this point her heart had been heavy with an inactive sorrow; now there was a change in the quality of its trouble. That hunger for affection too long withheld was for the time displaced by an almost physical sense of an implacable past which still engirdled her. It intensified her consciousness of error to a practical despair; the break of continuity between her earlier and present existence, which she had hoped for, had not, after all, taken place. Bygones would never be complete bygones till she was a bygone herself.

Thus absorbed she recrossed the northern part of Long-Ash Lane at right angles, and presently saw before her the road ascending whitely to the upland along whose margin the remainder of her journey lay. Its dry pale surface stretched severely onward, unbroken by a single figure, vehicle, or mark, save some occasional brown horse-droppings which dotted its cold aridity here and there. While slowly breasting this ascent Tess became conscious of footsteps behind her, and turning she saw approaching that well- known form - so strangely accoutred as the Methodist - the one personage in all the world she wished not to encounter alone on this side of the grave.

There was not much time, however, for thought or elusion, and she yielded as calmly as she could to the necessity of letting him overtake her. She saw that he was excited, less by the speed of his walk than by the feelings within him.

`Tess!' he said.

She slackened speed without looking round.

`Tess!' he repeated. `It is I - Alec d'Urberville.'

She then looked back at him, and he came up.

`I see it is,' she answered coldly.

`Well - is that all? Yet I deserve no more! Of course,' he added, with a slight laugh, `there is something of the ridiculous to your eyes in seeing me like this. But - I must put up with that... . I heard you had gone away, nobody, knew where. Tess, you wonder why I have followed you?'

`I do, rather; and I would that you had not, with all my heart!'

`Yes - you may well say it,' he returned grimly, as they moved onward together, she with unwilling tread. `But don't mistake me; I beg this because you may have been led to do so in noticing - if you did notice it - how your sudden appearance unnerved me down there. It was but a momentary faltering; and considering what you had been to me, it was natural enough. But will helped me through it - though perhaps you think me a humbug for saying it - and immediately afterwards I felt that, of all persons in the world whom it was my duty and desire to save from the wrath to come - sneer if you like - the woman whom I had so grievously wronged was that person. I have come with that sole purpose in view - nothing more.'

There was the smallest vein of scorn in her words of rejoinder: `Have you saved yourself? Charity begins at home, they say.'

`I have done nothing!' said he indifferently. `Heaven, as I have been telling my hearers, has done all. No amount of contempt that you can pour upon me, Tess, will equal what I have poured upon myself - the old Adam of my former years! Well, it is a strange story; believe it or not; but I can tell you the means by which my conversion was brought about, and I hope you will be interested enough at least to listen. Have you ever heard the name of the parson of Emminster - you must have done so? - old Mr Clare; one of the most earnest of his school; one of the few intense men left in the Church; not so intense as the extreme wing of Christian believers with which I have thrown in my lot, but quite an exception among the

  By PanEris using Melati.

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