Phase the Sixth: The Convert
46. CHAPTER XLVI (continued)
D'Urberville came up and said quietly----
"I want to speak to you, Tess."
"You have refused my last request, not to come near
me!" said she.
"Yes, but I have a good reason."
"Well, tell it."
"It is more serious than you may think."
He glanced round to see if he were overheard. They
were at some distance from the man who turned the
slicer, and the movement of the machine, too,
sufficiently prevented Alec's words reaching other
ears. D'Urberville placed himself so as to screen Tess
from the labourer, turning his back to the latter.
"It is this," he continued, with capricious
compunction. "In thinking of your soul and mine when
we last met, I neglected to inquire as to your worldly
condition. You were well dressed, and I did not think
of it. But I see now that it is hard--harder than it
used to be when I--knew you--harder than you deserve.
Perhaps a good deal of it is owning to me!"
She did not answer, and he watched her inquiringly, as,
with bent head, her face completely screened by the
hood, she resumed her trimming of the swedes. By going
on with her work she felt better able to keep him
outside her emotions.
"Tess," he added, with a sigh of discontent,--"yours
was the very worst case I ever was concerned in! I had
no idea of what had resulted till you told me. Scamp
that I was to foul that innocent life! The whole 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."