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当前位置:主页 > 英国小说 > 德伯家的苔丝 > 第5章 惩罚 The Woman Pays
第1节 第四十五章 【
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自从她离开特兰里奇以后,一直到今天早晨,苔丝再也没有看见过或听说过德贝维尔了。
苔丝是在心情沉重郁闷的时刻同德贝维尔再次相遇的,在所有的时刻里,唯独这个时刻同惊恐的感情发生冲突的可能性是最小的。他站在那儿,明明白白、清清楚楚是一个皈依了宗教的人,正在那儿对自己过去的过错感到痛心疾首,但是无理性的记忆引起的恐惧压倒了苔丝,使她瘫痪了,一动也不能动,既不能前进,也不能后退。
想一想上次她看见他时他脸上表现出来的神态,再看一看现在他脸上的表情!——在那张同样漂亮的脸上,令人不快的神情还同样存在,不过嘴上原来的黑色胡须不见了,现在蓄上了修剪得整齐的旧式连鬓胡;他身上穿着半是牧师、半是俗人的服装,改变了他脸上的神情,掩盖了花花公子的面目,所以苔丝刚一看见他,竟一时没有认出他来。
《圣经》上的那些庄严句子,从他那张嘴里滔滔不绝地讲出来,苔丝最初听在耳里,只感到恐怖荒诞,感到不伦不类和心中不快。这种令人熟悉不过的说话腔调,在不到四年以前她已经听过了,但是他说话的目的却截然不同,看见这种相互对照中的嘲弄,她直感到心中作呕。
这与其说是改过自新,不如说是改头换面。以前他脸上饱含色欲之气的曲线,现在变成了柔和的线条,带上了虔诚的感情。以前他嘴唇的形状意味着勾引诱惑,而现在却在说祈求劝导的话了;他脸上的红光昨天可能要解释为放纵情欲的结果,今天却要被看成讲道时虔诚雄辩的激动;从前的兽性现在变成了疯狂;从前的异教精神现在变成了保罗精神;那双滴溜溜直转的眼睛,过去看她的时候,是那样咄咄逼人,而现在却有了原始的活力,放射出一种几乎让人害怕的神学崇拜的凶光。以前在事不如愿的时候,他那张棱角分明的脸上是一种阴沉的神色,现在却成了一张牧师的脸,在那儿把自己描绘成一个不可救药的自甘下流的人,描绘成一个深陷泥淖而不能自拔的人。
他的这种面目似乎在那儿抱怨。他面目上的特点已经失去了遗传上的意义,所表现的意义连造物主都不赞成。说来奇怪,面目上的高尚之处全然不是地方,醒目之处似乎就是虚伪之处。
可是真的如此吗?她不能再让自己采取这种缺少宽容的态度了。在世界上那些改恶从善把自己的灵魂拯救出来的人当中,德贝维尔并不是第一个,为什么她一定要看他不自然呢?这不过是她思想的成见,所以当听见新的好话从坏人嘴里说出来时,就觉得格格不入了。一个有罪的人罪恶越深重,变成一个圣徒也就越伟大;这用不着要到基督教的历史中去寻找。
上面这些印象使她产生了一些模糊的感触,不过这些感触并不十分明确罢了。刚才她因为吃惊而感到紧张,现在一镇静下来,有力气走动了,就想从他面前赶快逃走。她的位置在向阳的一面,他显然还没有发现她。
可是她刚一走动,他立刻就发现了她。这在她那位过去的情人身上产生的影响就像是触电一样,她的出现对他产生的影响远比他的出现对她产生的影响大得多。他的火一样的热情和滔滔不绝的辩辞似乎从他身上消失了。他嘴唇挣扎着,颤抖着,里面堆满了词句,但是只要在她的面前,他就个一字也说不出来了。他的眼睛自从把苔丝的脸看了一眼以后,就游目四顾,再也不敢看她了,过了几秒钟,他又胆战心惊地迅速瞥了她一眼。但是,这种瘫痪状态持续的时间很短;因为苔丝在他手足无措的时候恢复了力气,已经尽快绕过麦仓,往前走了。
她刚一能思索,心里就吓了一大跳,他们的社会地位变化真是太大了。他本是给她带来祸根的人,现在却站在了神灵那一边,而她本是受害的人,现在灵魂却还没有得到新生。现在倒有些像传说中的那个故事,她那爱神一样的形象突然出现在他的祭坛上,那位牧师祭坛上的圣火都快要因此接近熄灭了。
她头也不回地朝前走着。她的背——甚至衣服——都似乎对别人的目光敏感起来。她太敏感了,甚至想到麦仓的外面都有目光盯在她的身上。她一路走到这个地方,一直把悲伤压在心里,因而心情十分沉重;现在,她的苦恼的性质又发生新的变化了。她原先渴望长期得不到的爱情,而这种渴望现在又暂时被一种物质上感觉取代了,那就是将她缠绕住的不可改变的过去。她强烈地意识到自己的错误是无法消除了,因此她感到了绝望;她曾经希望把自己过去的历史和现在的历史之间的联系割断,但这毕竟不能成为事实。除非是自己已经成为了过去,否则自己的过去是不能成为过去的。
她就这样心思重重地走着,从长槐路的北部横穿过去,立即看见她的面前有一条白色的路通向高地,她剩下的路程就是从高地的边缘走的。那条干燥灰白的路严肃地向上伸展着,路上看不见一个人,看不见一辆车,什么东西也没有,只有一些深黄色的马粪四下散落在又于又冷的路面上。在苔丝喘着气慢慢往上走着的时候,她意识到身后出现了脚步声,她扭过头去,看见她所熟悉的人影正在向她走来——身穿卫理公会牧师的奇怪服装——那正是她这辈子在这个世界上最不想单独遇见的人。
但是,她已经没有时间去思考、去逃避了,因此她只好尽量让自己镇定下来,让他赶上自己。她看见他十分兴奋,与其说是他走路走得太急,不如说是他内心感情的激动。
“苔丝!”他说。
她放慢了脚步,但是没有回过身去。
“苔丝!”他又喊了一遍。“是我——阿历克·德贝维尔。”
她这时才回过头去,他也走了上来。
“我知道是谁!”她冷冷地回答说。
“啊——就是这一句话吗?是的,我不值得你多说几句话了!当然喽!”他接着说,轻轻地笑了一声,“你看见我这副样子,一定感到有些好笑了。可是——我必须忍受着——我听说你走了,没有人知道你去了哪儿。苔丝,你奇怪我为什么要跟着你吗?”
“是的,我是觉得很奇怪;我从心底里不希望你跟着我。”
“不错,你也可以这么说,”在他们一起往前走的时候,苔丝显得很不愿意的样子,他就很阴沉地说。“可是你不要误会了我;刚才我一看见你,你就弄得我情不自禁地跟了来——你也许注意到了——你突然一出现,我就感到手足无措了。不过那只是一时的动摇;考虑到过去你和我的关系,这也是十分自然的。但是意志帮助我克服了——我这样说你也许把我当成骗子啦——后来我立即感到,我的责任和愿望就是把所有的人从上帝的惩罚中拯救出来,在——你听了也许在嘲笑我——在被拯救的那些人中间,头一个要拯救的就是那个被我伤害的女人。我主要就是抱着这个目的到这儿来的,此外没有别的。”
在她的回答里,只带了一点儿淡淡的鄙夷:“你把自己拯救出来了吗?大家不是都说慈善先从自己家里做起吗?”
“我自己什么也没有做!”他毫不在乎地说。“止如我对听我讲道的人说的那样,一切都是上天的作为。苔丝,想起自己过去的荒唐行为,虽然你看不起我,可是还不如我自己看不起自己呐!唉,真是一个奇怪的故事;信不信由你;不过我要告诉你我是怎样被感化过来的,希望你至少有兴趣听一听。你听说过爱敏寺那个牧师的名字吧——你一定听到过,是吧?——就是那个上了年纪的克莱尔先生;他是他那一派里面最虔诚的人了;国教里剩下的热心人已经不多了,他就是这不多的几个人中的一个;他热烈的程度虽然还比不上我现在信的基督教中那个极端派,但是在英国国教的牧师中已经是很难得的了,新近出现的那些国教牧师只会诡辩,逐渐削弱了真正的教义力量,同原先比起来只是徒有其名了。我和他只是在教会和国家的关系问题上存在分歧,也就是在‘主说,你们务要从他们中间来,与他们分别,这句话的解释上存在分歧,仅此而已。我坚信,他虽然一直是一个卑微的人,但是他在我们这个国家里拯救的灵魂,凡是你知道的人,没有一个比得上他。你听说过这个人吗?’”
“我听说过!”她说。
“在两三年以前,他作为一个传教团体的代表到特兰里奇讲道;那时候我还是一个荒唐放荡的人,当他不顾个人得失来劝导我,指引我,我却侮辱了他。而他并没有怀恨我,只是简单地说,总有一天我会接受到圣灵初结的果实——那一天,许多前来笑骂的人,也都留下来祈祷了。他说的那些话深深地留在我的心里。不过我母亲的死使我遭到了最大的打击;慢慢地,我终于看见我道路上的光明了。自此以后,我一心只想把真理传给别人,这就是我今天到这儿来讲道的原因,不过,我来这一带讲道也只是近来的事。我做牧师的最初几个月,是在英格兰北部一群我不熟悉的人中间度过的,是想先在那儿练练胆子,因为对那些熟悉你的人讲道,对在罪恶的日子里曾是自己伙伴的那些人讲道,你是需要勇气来接受对自己诚心的所有最严格的考验的。苔丝,你要是知道自己打自己脸的那种快乐,我敢肯定——”
“不要再说了吧!”她激动地说,她说的时候就转身躲开他,走到台阶那儿,靠在上面。“我才不信这种突如其来的事呢!你对我这样说话,我只感到愤怒,你心里知道——你心里分明知道你把我伤害到了什么地步!你,还有像你这样的人,你们在这个世界上尽情享乐,都是以我这样的人遭罪受苦为代价的;等你们享乐够了,你们就又皈依了宗教,好到天堂里去享乐,真是多美的事啊!少来这一套——我不会相信你——我恨你!”
“苔丝,”他坚持着说下去;“不要这样说!我皈依宗教,就像接受了一种让人高兴的新观念啊!你不相信我吗?你不相信我什么呢?”
“我不相信你真的变成了好人。不相信你玩的宗教把戏。”
“为什么?”
她放低了声音说:“因为有个比你好的人就不相信这种事。”
“这真是女人的见识了!那个比我好的人是谁呢?”
“我不能告诉你。”
“好,”他说,说的时候似乎有一种愤怒立刻就要发作出来,“上帝不容许我自己说自己是好人——你也知道我也不会自己说自己是好人。我是一个刚刚从善的人,真的;但是新来后到的人有时候看得最远。”
“不错,”她悲伤地回答。“可是我不敢相信你真的皈依了一种新的神灵。阿历克,像你感觉到的这种闪光,我想恐怕不会长久的!”
她原先靠在台阶上,她在说话的时候就转过身来,面朝着阿历克;于是他的眼睛就在无意中落在了苔丝的脸上和身上,打量着她,思考着。他身上那个卑劣的人此时已经安静了;但是肯定没有铲除,也没有完全抑制住。
“不要那样看着我!”他突然说。
苔丝此时对自己的动作和神气并没有完全意识到,听了他的话立即把她那一双又大又黑的眼睛的目光收了回来,脸上一红,结结巴巴地说,“对不起!”她从前心中常常出现的痛苦情绪复活了,那就是她天生了这样一副容貌,但是却老是出错。
“不,不!不要说对不起。不过你既然戴着面纱遮着你美丽的脸,那你为什么不继续戴着它呢?”
她把面纱拉了下来,急忙说,“我戴面纱主要是为了挡风的。”
“我这样对你发号施令似乎是太严厉了!”他继续说:“不过最好我还是不要多看你。看了也许太危险。”
“别说啦!”苔丝说。
“唉,女人的脸早已经对我产生过太大的魅力,能叫我不害怕吗!一个福音教徒和女人的脸本来没有关系;但是它却使我想起了我难以忘记的往事!”
说完了这些话,他们就慢慢地朝前走着,偶尔随便说一两句话,而苔丝心里一直在想,他究竟要同她走多远,同时也不愿意明着把他赶回去。当他们走到栅栏门和台阶时,常常看到一些用红红绿绿的油漆写的《圣经》格言,她问他知不知道是谁不辞辛苦把它们写上去的。他告诉她,写格言的那个人是他和另外一些在那个教区工作的人请来的,把那些格言写上去,目的也就是要去感化邪恶一代的心。
后来他们走到了那个被称作手形十字柱的地点。在这一片荒凉的白土高地上,这个地方是荒凉的地方。它决不是那种画家和爱好风景的人所追求的那种美,而是相反的带有悲剧情调的美。这个地方的名字就是从矗立在那儿的那个石头柱子来的。那是一根奇怪的粗糙的用整块石头做成的柱子,在任何本地的采石场里,都找不到这种石头,在这块石头的上面,粗糙地刻了一只人手。关于它的历史和意义,有许多不同的说法。有的权威人士说,那儿从前曾经竖有一根完整的虔诚的十字架,而现在的剩余部分只是它的底座了。也有另外的人说,那是一根完整的石头柱子,是用来标明地界和集合地点的。无论这根柱子的出处如何,但是由于各人的心情不同,看到那根石头柱子竖在那儿,有的人感到凶恶,有的人感到阴森;就是从那儿走过的感觉最迟钝的人,也会产生出这样的印象。
“我想我现在一定要离开你了!”他们在快接近那个地点时他说。“今天晚上六点钟我必须到阿伯特·色诺去讲道,我走的路从这儿往右拐。苔丝,你今天把我弄得有些心烦意乱了——我也不知道究竟为什么。我必须走了,必须控制自己的情绪——你现在说话怎么变得这样流利了?你能说这样好的英语是谁教你的呢?”
“我是在苦难中学会一些东西的!”她含糊其词地说。
“你有什么苦难呢?”
她把她第一次的苦难告诉了他——那是与他有关的一次苦难。
德贝维尔听后哑口无言了。“一直到现在,我对这件事一无所知!”他后来低声说。“在你陷入麻烦的时候,为什么不跟我写信呢?”
她没有回答;他又接着说,打破了沉默:“好吧——你还会见到我的。”
“不,”她回答说。“再也不要见面了!”
“让我想想吧。不过在我们分手之前,到这儿来吧。”他走到那根柱子的跟前;“这曾经是一根神圣的十字架。在我的教义里我是不相信圣物遗迹的,但是有时候我害怕你——和你现在害怕我比起来,我是更加怕你了;为了减少我心中的害怕,请你把你的手放在这只石头雕成的手上,发誓你永远也不来引诱我——不要用你的美貌和行动来引诱我。”
“天啦——你怎能提出这种不必要的要求呢!我一丁点儿引诱你的想法也没有啊!”
“不错——不过你还是发个誓吧。”
苔丝半带着害怕,顺从了他,把手放在那只石头手上发了誓。
“你不是一个信教的人,我为你感到遗憾,”他继续说:“有个不信教的人控制了你,动摇了你的信念。不过现在用不着多说了。至少我会在家里为你祈祷的;我会为你祈祷的;没有发生的事又有谁能够知道呢?我走了,再见!”
他转身向一个猎人树篱中的一个栅栏门走去,没有再看她一眼就跳了过去,穿过草地朝阿伯特·色诺的方向走了。他向前走着,他的步伐表现出他心神不安,他走了一会儿,仿佛又想起了以前有过的念头,就从他口袋里掏出来一本小书,书页里夹有一封叠着的信,那封信又破又乱,好像反复看了好多遍似的。德贝维尔把信打开,信是好几个月以前写的,信后签的是克莱尔牧师的名字。
在信的开头,写信人对德贝维尔的转变表示由衷的高兴,接着又感谢他的一片好意,就这个问题跟他通信。信中还说,克莱尔先生真心实意地宽恕了德贝维尔过去的行为,并且对这位青年的未来计划表示关注。为了实现他的计划,克莱尔先生非常希望看到德贝维尔也进入他多年献身的教会,并且愿意帮助他先进神学院学习;不过既然德贝维尔认为进神学院耽误时间而不愿去,所以他也不再坚持他非进神学院不可了。任何人都要在圣灵的激励下尽心尽力,奉献自己,尽自己的本分。
德贝维尔把这封信读了又读,似乎在尖刻地嘲笑自己。在他往前走的时候,他又把从前写的备忘录读了几段,后来脸色又重新平静下来,很明显苔丝的形象不再扰乱他的心智了。
与此同时,苔丝也一直沿着山脊走着,因为她走这条路回家是最近的一条路。走了不到一英里,他遇见了一个牧羊人。
“我刚才走过的那根古老的石柱是什么意思呢?”她问他。“从前它是一个十字架吗?”
“十字架——不是的;它不是一个十字架!那是一件不吉利的东西,小姐。那根石头柱子是古时候一个犯了罪的人的亲属竖在那儿的,先是把那个人的手钉在那儿折磨他,后来才把他绞死。他的尸首就埋在那根石头柱子下面。有人说他把自己的灵魂卖给了魔鬼,有时候还显形走出来呢。”
她出乎意外地听说了这件阴森可怖的事,不禁毛骨悚然,就把那个孤独的牧人留在那儿,自己朝前走了。当她走近燧石山的时候,天色已是黄昏了。她走进通往村子的那条篱路,在路口的地方,她碰到了一个姑娘和她的情人在一起,而自己没有被他们看见。他们不是在说什么调情的话,那个年轻姑娘说话的声音清脆而又冷淡,答理着那个男人热情的说话。那时候,大地一片苍茫,天色一片昏暗,在这种沉寂里,没有外来的东西闯入进来,只听见那个姑娘说话的声音,飘荡在寒冷的空气里。有一会儿,这些声音使苔丝的心高兴起来,后来,她又推究出他们会面的原因,吸引他们的是来自一方或另一方的力量,而这种同样的吸引力正是导致她的灾难的序幕。当她走近了的时候,那个姑娘坦然地转过头来,认出了苔丝,那个年轻的小伙子感到不好意思,就离开了。那个姑娘是伊茨·休特,认出是苔丝,就把自己的事情放在一边,立刻关心起苔丝这次出门的事来。苔丝对这次出门的结果含糊其词,伊茨是一个聪敏的姑娘,就开始对她讲自己的一件小事,也就是刚才苔丝看到的一幕。
“他叫阿米·西德林,从前有时候在泰波塞斯做零活儿,”她满不在乎地解释说。“其实他是打听到我已经到这儿来了,才到这儿来找我的。他说他爱我已经爱了两年了,不过我还没有答应他。”

Till this moment she had never seen or heard from d'Urberville since her departure from Trantridge.

The rencounter came at a heavy moment, one of all moments calculated to permit its impact with the least emotional shock. But such was unreasoning memory that, though he stood there openly and palpably a converted man, who was sorrowing for his past irregularities, a fear overcame her, paralyzing her movement so that she neither retreated nor advanced.

To think of what emanated from that countenance when she saw it last, and to behold it now! There was the same handsome unpleasantness of mien, but now he wore neatly trimmed, old-fashioned whiskers, the sable moustache having disappeared; and his dress was half-clerical, a modification which had changed his expression sufficiently to abstract the dandyism from his features, and to hinder for a second her belief in his identity.

To Tess's sense there was, just at first, a ghastly bizarrerie, a grim incongruity, in the march of these solemn words of Scripture out of such a mouth. This too familiar intonation, less than four years earlier, had brought to her ears expressions of such divergent purpose that her heart became quite sick at the irony of the contrast.

It was less a reform than a transfiguration. The former curves of sensuousness were now modulated to lines of devotional passion. The lip-shapes that had meant seductiveness were now made to express supplication; the glow on the cheek that yesterday could be translated as riotousness was evangelized to-day into the splendour of pious rhetoric; animalism had become fanaticism; Paganism Paulinism; the bold rolling eye that had flashed upon her form in the old time with such mastery now beamed with the rude energy of a theolatry that was almost ferocious. Those black angularities which his face had used to put on when his wishes were thwarted now did duty in picturing the incorrigible backslider who would insist upon turning again to his wallowing in the mire.

The lineaments, as such, seemed to complain. They had been diverted from their hereditary connotation to signify impressions for which Nature did not intend them. Strange that their very elevation was a misapplication, that to raise seemed to falsify.

Yet could it be so? She would admit the ungenerous sentiment no longer. D'Urberville was not the first wicked man who had turned away from his wickedness to save his soul alive, and why should she deem it unnatural to him? It was but the usage of thought which had been jarred in her at hearing good new words in bad old notes. The greater the sinner the greater the saint; it was not necessary to dive far into Christian history to discover that.

Such impressions as these moved her vaguely, and without strict definiteness. As soon as the nerveless pause of her surprise would allow her to stir, her impulse was to pass on out of his sight. He had obviously not discerned her yet in her position against the sun.

But the moment that she moved again he recognized her. The effect upon her old lover was electric, far stronger than the effect of his presence upon her. His fire, the tumultuous ring of his eloquence, seemed to go out of him. His lip struggled and trembled under the words that lay upon it; but deliver them it could not as long as she faced him. His eyes, after their first glance upon her face, hung confusedly in every other direction but hers, but came back in a desperate leap every few seconds. This paralysis lasted, however, but a short time; for Tess's energies returned with the atrophy of his, and she walked as fast as she was able past the barn and onward.

As soon as she could reflect it appalled her, this change in their relative platforms. He who had wrought her undoing was now on the side of the Spirit, while she remained unregenerate. And, as in the legend, it had resulted that her Cyprian image had suddenly appeared upon his altar, whereby the fire of the priest had been wellnigh extinguished.

She went on without turning her head. Her back seemed to be endowed with a sensitiveness to ocular beams - even her clothing - so alive was she to a fancied gaze which might be resting upon her from the outside of that barn. All the way along to this point her heart had been heavy with an inactive sorrow; now there was a change in the quality of its trouble. That hunger for affection too long withheld was for the time displaced by an almost physical sense of an implacable past which still engirdled her. It intensified her consciousness of error to a practical despair; the break of continuity between her earlier and present existence, which she had hoped for, had not, after all, taken place. Bygones would never be complete bygones till she was a bygone herself.

Thus absorbed she recrossed the northern part of Long-Ash Lane at right angles, and presently saw before her the road ascending whitely to the upland along whose margin the remainder of her journey lay. Its dry pale surface stretched severely onward, unbroken by a single figure, vehicle, or mark, save some occasional brown horse-droppings which dotted its cold aridity here and there. While slowly breasting this ascent Tess became conscious of footsteps behind her, and turning she saw approaching that well-known form - so strangely accoutred as the Methodist - the one personage in all the world she wished not to encounter alone on this side of the grave.

There was not much time, however, for thought or elusion, and she yielded as calmly as she could to the necessity of letting him overtake her. She saw that he was excited, less by the speed of his walk than by the feelings within him.

`Tess!' he said.

She slackened speed without looking round.

`Tess!' he repeated. `It is I - Alec d'Urberville.'

She then looked back at him, and he came up.

`I see it is,' she answered coldly.

`Well - is that all? Yet I deserve no more! Of course,' he added, with a slight laugh, `there is something of the ridiculous to your eyes in seeing me like this. But - I must put up with that... . I heard you had gone away, nobody, knew where. Tess, you wonder why I have followed you?'

`I do, rather; and I would that you had not, with all my heart!'

`Yes - you may well say it,' he returned grimly, as they moved onward together, she with unwilling tread. `But don't mistake me; I beg this because you may have been led to do so in noticing - if you did notice it - how your sudden appearance unnerved me down there. It was but a momentary faltering; and considering what you had been to me, it was natural enough. But will helped me through it - though perhaps you think me a humbug for saying it - and immediately afterwards I felt that, of all persons in the world whom it was my duty and desire to save from the wrath to come - sneer if you like - the woman whom I had so grievously wronged was that person. I have come with that sole purpose in view - nothing more.'

There was the smallest vein of scorn in her words of rejoinder: `Have you saved yourself? Charity begins at home, they say.'

`I have done nothing!' said he indifferently. `Heaven, as I have been telling my hearers, has done all. No amount of contempt that you can pour upon me, Tess, will equal what I have poured upon myself - the old Adam of my former years! Well, it is a strange story; believe it or not; but I can tell you the means by which my conversion was brought about, and I hope you will be interested enough at least to listen. Have you ever heard the name of the parson of Emminster - you must have done so? - old Mr Clare; one of the most earnest of his school; one of the few intense men left in the Church; not so intense as the extreme wing of Christian believers with which I have thrown in my lot, but quite an exception among the Established clergy, the younger of whom are gradually attenuating the true doctrines by their sophistries, till they are but the shadow of what they were. I only differ from him on the question of Church and State - the interpretation of the text, "Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord" - that's all. He is one who, I firmly believe, has been the humble means of saving more souls in this country than any other man you can name. You have heard of him?'

`I have,' she said.

`He came to Trantridge two or three years ago to preach on behalf of some missionary society, and I, wretched fellow that I was, insulted him when, in his disinterestedness, he tried to reason with me and show me the way. He did not resent my conduct, he simply said that some day I should receive the first-fruits of the Spirit - that those who came to scoff sometimes remained to pray. There was a strange magic in his words. They sank into my mind. But the loss of my mother hit me most; and by degrees I was brought to see daylight. Since then my one desire has been to hand on the true view to others, and that is what I was trying to do to-day; though it is only lately that I have preached hereabout. The first months of my ministry have been spent in the North of England among strangers, where I preferred to make my earliest clumsy attempts, so as to acquire courage before undergoing that severest of all tests of one's sincerity, addressing those who have known one, and have been one's companions in the days of darkness. If you could only know, Tess, the pleasure of having a good slap at yourself, I am sure------'

`Don't go on with it!' she cried passionately, as she turned away from him to a stile by the wayside, on which she bent herself. `I can't believe in such sudden things! I feel indignant with you for talking to me like this, when you know - when you know what harm you've done me! You, and those like you, take your fill of pleasure on earth by making the life of such as me bitter and black with sorrow; and then it is a fine thing, when you have had enough of that, to think of securing your pleasure in heaven by becoming converted! Out upon such - I don't believe in you - I hate it!'

`Tess, he insisted; don't speak so! It came to me like a jolly new idea! And you don't believe me? What don't you believe?'

`Your conversion. Your scheme of religion.'

`Why?'

She dropped her voice. `Because a better man than you does not believe in such.'

`What a woman's reason! Who is this better man?,

`I cannot tell you.'

`Well,' he declared, a resentment beneath his words seeming ready to spring out at a moment's notice, `God forbid that I should say I am a good man - and you know I don't say any such thing. I am new to goodness, truly; but new comers see furthest sometimes.'

`Yes,' she replied sadly. `But I cannot believe in your conversion to a new spirit. Such flashes as you feel, Alec, I fear don't last!'

Thus speaking she turned from the stile over which she had been leaning, and faced him; whereupon his eyes, falling casually upon the familiar countenance and form, remained contemplating her. The inferior man was quiet in him now; but it was surely not extracted, nor even entirely subdued.

`Don't look at me like that!' he said abruptly.

Tess, who had been quite unconscious of her action and mien, instantly withdrew the large dark gaze of her eyes, stammering with a flush, `I beg your pardon!' And there was revived in her the wretched sentiment which had often come to her before, that in inhabiting the fleshly tabernacle with which nature had endowed her she was somehow doing wrong.

`No, no! Don't beg my pardon. But since you wear a veil to hide your good looks, why don't you keep it down?'

She pulled down the veil, saying hastily, `It was mostly to keep off the wind.'

`It may seem harsh of me to dictate like this,' he went on; `but it is better that I should not look too often on you. It might be dangerous.'

`Ssh!' said Tess.

`Well, women's faces have had too much power over me already for me not to fear them! An evangelist has nothing to do with such as they; and it reminds me of the old times that I would forget!'

After this their conversation dwindled to a casual remark now and then as they rambled onward, Tess inwardly wondering how far he was going with her, and not liking to send him back by positive mandate. Frequently when they came to a gate or stile they found painted thereon in red or blue letters some text of Scripture, and she asked him if he knew who had been at the pains to blazon these announcements. He told her that the man was employed by himself and others who were working with him in that district, to paint these reminders that no means might be left untried which might move the hearts of a wicked generation.

At length the road touched the spot called `Cross-in-Hand'. Of all spots on the bleached and desolate upland this was the most forlorn. It was so far removed from the charm which is sought in landscape by artists and view-lovers as to reach a new kind of beauty, a negative beauty of tragic tone. The place took its name from a stone pillar which stood there, a strange rude monolith, from a stratum unknown in any local quarry, on which was roughly carved a human hand. Differing accounts were given of its history and purport. Some authorities stated that a devotional cross had once formed the complete erection thereon, of which the present relic was but the stump; others that the stone as it stood was entire, and that it had been fixed there to mark a boundary or place of meeting. Anyhow, whatever the origin of the relic, there was and is something sinister, or solemn, according to mood, in the scene amid which it stands; something tending to impress the most phlegmatic passer-by.

`I think I must leave you now,' he remarked, as they drew near to this spot. `I have to preach at Abbot's-Cernel at six this evening, and my way lies across to the right from here. And you upset me somewhat too, Tessy - I cannot, will not, say why. I must go away and get strength... . How is it that you speak so fluently now? Who has taught you such good English?'

`I have learnt things in my troubles,' she said evasively.

`What troubles have you had?'

She told him of the first one - the only one that related to him.

D'Urberville was struck mute. `I knew nothing of this till now!' he next murmured. `Why didn't you write to me when you felt your trouble coming on?'

She did not reply; and he broke the silence by adding: `Well - you will see me again.'

`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. Good-bye!'

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.

D'Urberville read and re-read this letter, and seemed to quiz himself cynically. He also read some passages from memoranda as he walked till his face assumed a calm, and apparently the image of Tess no longer troubled his mind.

She meanwhile had kept along the edge of the hill by which lay her nearest way home. Within the distance of a mile she met a solitary shepherd.

`What is the meaning of that old stone I have passed?' she asked of him. `Was it ever a Holy Cross?'

`Cross - no; 'twer not a cross! 'Tis a thing of ill-omen, Miss. It was put up in wuld times by the relations of a malefactor who was tortured there by nailing his hand to a post and afterwards hung. The bones lie underneath. They say he sold his soul to the devil, and that he walks at times.'

She felt the petite mort at this unexpectedly gruesome information, and left the solitary man behind her. It was dusk when she drew near to Flintcomb-Ash, and in the lane at the entrance to the hamlet she approached a girl and her lover without their observing her. They were talking no secrets, and the clear unconcerned voice of the young woman, in response to the warmer accents of the man, spread into the chilly air as the one soothing thing within the dusky horizon, full of a stagnant obscurity upon which nothing else intruded. For a moment the voices cheered the heart of Tess, till she reasoned that this interview had its origin, on one side or the other, in the same attraction which had been the prelude to her own tribulation. When she came close the girl turned serenely and recognized her, the young man walking off in embarrassment. The woman was Izz Huett, whose interest in Tess's excursion immediately superseded her own proceedings. Tess did not explain very clearly its results, and Izz, who was a girl of tact, began to speak of her own little affair, a phase of which Tess had just witnessed.

`He is Amby Seedling, the chap who used to sometimes come and help at Talbothays,' she explained indifferently. `He actually inquired and found out that I had come here, and has followed me. He says he's been in love wi' me these two years. But I've hardly answered him.'