Phase the Sixth: The Convert
45. CHAPTER XLV (continued)
"No," she answered. "Do not again come near me!"
"I will think. But before we part come here."
He stepped up to the pillar. "This was once a Holy Cross.
Relics are not in my creed; but I fear you at moments--far
more than you need fear me at present; and to lessen my
fear, put your hand upon that stone hand, and swear
that you will never tempt me--by your charms or ways."
"Good God--how can you ask what is so unnecessary!
All that is furthest from my thought!"
"Yes--but swear it."
Tess, half frightened, gave way to his importunity;
placed her hand upon the stone and swore.
"I am sorry you are not a believer," he continued;
"that some unbeliever should have got hold of you and
unsettled your mind. But no more now. At home at
least I can pray for you; and I will; and who knows
what may not happen? I'm off. Goodbye!"
He turned to a hunting-gate in the hedge, and without
letting his eyes again rest upon her leapt over, and
struck out across the down in the direction of
Abbot's-Cernel. As he walked his pace showed
perturbation, and by-and-by, as if instigated by a
former thought, he drew from his pocket a small book,
between the leaves of which was folded a letter, worn
and soiled, as from much re-reading. D'Urberville
opened the letter. It was dated several months before
this time, and was signed by Parson Clare.
The letter began by expressing the writer's unfeigned
joy at d'Urberville's conversion, and thanked him for
his kindness in communicating with the parson on the
subject. It expressed Mr Clare's warm assurance of
forgiveness for d'Urberville's former conduct, and his
interest in the young man's plans for the future. He,
Mr Clare, would much have liked to see d'Urberville in
the Church to whose ministry he had devoted so many
years of his own life, and would have helped him to
enter a theological college to that end; but since his
correspondent had possibly not cared to do this on
account of the delay it would have entailed, he was not
the man to insist upon its paramount importance. Every
man must work as he could best work, and in the method
towards which he felt impelled by the Spirit.