The incline was the same down which d’Urberville had driven her so wildly on that day in June. Tess went up the remainder of its length without stopping, and on reaching the edge of the escarpment gazed over the familiar green world beyond, now half-veiled in mist. It was always beautiful from here; it was terribly beautiful to Tess to-day, for since her eyes last fell upon it she had learnt that the serpent hisses where the sweet birds sing, and her views of life had been totally changed for her by the lesson. Verily another girl than the simple one she had been at home was she who, bowed by thought, stood still here, and turned to look behind her. She could not bear to look forward into the Vale.
Ascending by the long white road that Tess herself had just laboured up, she saw a two-wheeled vehicle, beside which walked a man, who held up his hand to attract her attention.
She obeyed the signal to wait for him with unspeculative repose, and in a few minutes man and horse stopped beside her.
“Why did you slip away by stealth like this?” said d’Urberville, with upbraiding breathlessness; “on a Sunday morning, too, when people were all in bed! I only discovered it by accident, and I have been driving like the deuce to overtake you. Just look at the mare. Why go off like this? You know that nobody wished to hinder your going. And how unnecessary it has been for you to toil along on foot, and encumber yourself with this heavy load! I have followed like a madman, simply to drive you the rest of the distance, if you won’t come back.”
“I shan’t come back,” said she.
“I thought you wouldn’t—I said so! Well, then, put up your basket, and let me help you on.”
She listlessly placed her basket and bundle within the dog-cart, and stepped up, and they sat side by side. She had no fear of him now, and in the cause of her confidence her sorrow lay.
D’Urberville mechanically lit a cigar, and the journey was continued with broken unemotional conversation on the commonplace objects by the wayside. He had quite forgotten his struggle to kiss her when, in the early summer, they had driven in the opposite direction along the same road. But she had not, and she sat now, like a puppet, replying to his remarks in monosyllables. After some miles they came in view of the clump of trees beyond which the village of Marlott stood. It was only then that her still face showed the least emotion, a tear or two beginning to trickle down.
“What are you crying for?” he coldly asked.
“I was only thinking that I was born over there,” murmured Tess.
“Well—we must all be born somewhere.”
“I wish I had never been born—there or anywhere else!”
“Pooh! Well, if you didn’t wish to come to Trantridge why did you come?”
She did not reply.
“You didn’t come for love of me, that I’ll swear.”