blame was mine - the whole unconventional business of our time at Trantridge. You, too, the real blood of which I am but the base imitation, what a blind young thing you were as to possibilities! I say in all earnestness that it is a shame for parents to bring up their girls in such dangerous ignorance of the gins and nets that the wicked may set for them, whether their motive be a good one or the result of simple indifference.'

Tess still did no more than listen, throwing down one globular root and taking up another with automatic regularity, the pensive contour of the mere fieldwoman alone marking her.

`But it is not that I came to say,' d'Urberville went on. `My circumstances are these. I have lost my mother since you were at Trantridge, and the place is my own. But I intend to sell it, and devote myself to missionary work in Africa. A devil of a poor hand I shall make at the trade, no doubt. However, what I want to ask you is, will you put it in my power to do my duty - to make the only reparation I can make for the trick played you: that is, will you be my wife, and go with me?... I have already obtained this precious document. It was my old mother's dying wish.' He drew a piece of parchment from his pocket, with a slight fumbling of embarrassment.

`What is it?' said she.

`A marriage licence.'

`O no, sir - no!' she said quickly, starting back.

`You will not? Why is that?'

And as he asked the question a disappointment which was not entirely the disappointment of thwarted duty crossed d'Urberville face. It was unmistakably a symptom that something of his old passion for her had been revived; duty and desire ran hand-in-hand.

`Surely,' he began again, in more impetuous tones, and then looked round at the labourer who turned the slicer.

Tess, too, felt that the argument could not be ended there. Informing the man that a gentleman had come to see her, with whom she wished to walk a little way, she moved off with d'Urberville across the zebra-striped field. When they reached the first newly-sloughed section he held out his hand to help her over it; but she stepped forward on the summits of the earth-rolls as if she did not see him.

`You will not marry me, Tess, and make me a self-respecting man?' he repeated, as soon as they were over the furrows.

`I cannot.'

`But why?'

`You know I have no affection for you.'

`But you would get to feel that in time, perhaps - as soon as you really could forgive me?'


`Why so positive?'

`I love somebody else.'

The words seemed to astonish him.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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