“Of course,” continued the unwitting Clare, “I should have been glad to know you to be descended exclusively from the long-suffering, dumb, unrecorded rank and file of the English nation, and not from the self-seeking few who made themselves powerful at the expense of the rest. But I am corrupted away from that by my affection for you, Tess (he laughed as he spoke), and made selfish likewise. For your own sake I rejoice in your descent. Society is hopelessly snobbish, and this fact of your extraction may make an appreciable difference to its acceptance of you as my wife, after I have made you the well-read woman that I mean to make you. My mother too, poor soul, will think so much better of you on account of it. Tess, you must spell your name correctly—d’Urberville—from this very day.”
“I like the other way rather best.”
“But you MUST, dearest! Good heavens, why dozens of mushroom millionaires would jump at such a possession! By the bye, there’s one of that kidney who has taken the name—where have I heard of him?—Up in the neighbourhood of The Chase, I think. Why, he is the very man who had that rumpus with my father I told you of. What an odd coincidence!”
“Angel, I think I would rather not take the name! It is unlucky, perhaps!”
She was agitated.
“Now then, Mistress Teresa d’Urberville, I have you. Take my name, and so you will escape yours! The secret is out, so why should you any longer refuse me?”
“If it is SURE to make you happy to have me as your wife, and you feel that you do wish to marry me, VERY, VERY much—”
“I do, dearest, of course!”
“I mean, that it is only your wanting me very much, and being hardly able to keep alive without me, whatever my offences, that would make me feel I ought to say I will.”
“You will—you do say it, I know! You will be mine for ever and ever.”
He clasped her close and kissed her.
She had no sooner said it than she burst into a dry hard sobbing, so violent that it seemed to rend her. Tess was not a hysterical girl by any means, and he was surprised.
“Why do you cry, dearest?”
“I can’t tell—quite!—I am so glad to think—of being yours, and making you happy!”
“But this does not seem very much like gladness, my Tessy!”
“I mean—I cry because I have broken down in my vow! I said I would die unmarried!”
“But, if you love me you would like me to be your husband?”
“Yes, yes, yes! But O, I sometimes wish I had never been born!”
“Now, my dear Tess, if I did not know that you are very much excited, and very inexperienced, I should say that remark was not very complimentary. How came you to wish that if you care for me? Do you care for me? I wish you would prove it in some way.”
“How can I prove it more than I have done?” she cried, in a distraction of tenderness. “Will this prove it more?”