There were tears also in Joan Durbeyfield’s eyes as she turned to go home. But by the time she had got back to the village she was passively trusting to the favour of accident. However, in bed that night she sighed, and her husband asked her what was the matter.
“Oh, I don’t know exactly,” she said. “I was thinking that perhaps it would ha’ been better if Tess had not gone.”
“Oughtn’t ye to have thought of that before?”
“Well, ’tis a chance for the maid—Still, if ’twere the doing again, I wouldn’t let her go till I had found out whether the gentleman is really a good-hearted young man and choice over her as his kinswoman.”
“Yes, you ought, perhaps, to ha’ done that,” snored Sir John.
Joan Durbeyfield always managed to find consolation somewhere: “Well, as one of the genuine stock, she ought to make her way with ’en, if she plays her trump card aright. And if he don’t marry her afore he will after. For that he’s all afire wi’ love for her any eye can see.”
“What’s her trump card? Her d’Urberville blood, you mean?”
“No, stupid; her face—as ’twas mine.”
Having mounted beside her, Alec d’Urberville drove rapidly along the crest of the first hill, chatting compliments to Tess as they went, the cart with her box being left far behind. Rising still, an immense landscape stretched around them on every side; behind, the green valley of her birth, before, a gray country of which she knew nothing except from her first brief visit to Trantridge. Thus they reached the verge of an incline down which the road stretched in a long straight descent of nearly a mile.
Ever since the accident with her father’s horse Tess Durbeyfield, courageous as she naturally was, had been exceedingly timid on wheels; the least irregularity of motion startled her. She began to get uneasy at a certain recklessness in her conductor’s driving.
“You will go down slow, sir, I suppose?” she said with attempted unconcern.
D’Urberville looked round upon her, nipped his cigar with the tips of his large white centre-teeth, and allowed his lips to smile slowly of themselves.
“Why, Tess,” he answered, after another whiff or two, “it isn’t a brave bouncing girl like you who asks that? Why, I always go down at full gallop. There’s nothing like it for raising your spirits.”
“But perhaps you need not now?”
“Ah,” he said, shaking his head, “there are two to be reckoned with. It is not me alone. Tib has to be considered, and she has a very queer temper.”
“Why, this mare. I fancy she looked round at me in a very grim way just then. Didn’t you notice it?”
“Don’t try to frighten me, sir,” said Tess stiffly.
“Well, I don’t. If any living man can manage this horse I can: I won’t say any living man can do it—but if such has the power, I am he.”