Tess of the d'Urbervilles: Chapter 12 - Summary

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Phase—The Second


Chapter XII

      It was a Sunday morning in late October. About four months had passed since Tess’s arrival at Trantridge. And it was only a few weeks when she had a night ride in the chase. Though she was only twenty miles from her native village, it seemed a faraway spot. The people of Trantridge differed in many ways from the people of Blackmoor Vale. It was daybreak and Tess was climbing the ridge with a basket and heavy bundle from where she could see her native village. The Blackmoor Vale looked terribly beautiful. But then she had changed from the simple girl she had been at home into a thoughtful girl. She came down the ridge and saw a two-wheeled vehicle beside which walked Alec d’Urberville. He had come out in search of her and wanted to know why she left without telling it to anybody. Nobody wanted to stop her going. “I shan’t come back”, she said, “Well, then, put up your basket and let me help you on”, Alec suggested. She put her basket and bundle in the dog-cart and they sat side by side. She had no fear of him now. But she was deeply sad. Some unemotional conversation on ordinary objects went on between them. Now, the village of Marlott could be seen and her face showed signs of emotion. A tear or two trickled down her cheeks, “What are you crying for?” he coldly asked. “I wish I had never been born there or anywhere else!” she said. She was very miserable and told him that she did not understand his meaning till it was too late. He said lightly and coldly, “I am sorry to wound you. I did wrong—I admit it.” And then he promised to help her if she ever needed his help. She got down from the dog-cart quite a good distance from her house and prepared to cover the distance on foot. Before she could leave, Alec kissed her and she allowed him to do it mechanically. Alec rode away. Tess moved on towards her cottage. It was all quiet, not a human soul was near. But soon some footsteps could be heard and an artisan of some sort carrying a tin pot of red paint came up to her. He took her basket and walked beside her. Soon he wrote large letters on the middle board of the stile, placing a coma after each word:


      These words in red shone powerfully. They entered Tess’heart with “accusatory horror”, i.e., they seemed to shout themselves out and blame Tess for what she had done. It was as if this man had known her recent history yet he was a total stranger. Having painted, he moved on and Tess beside him. Soon he stopped to paint a few more words. Tess walked on but looked back to see him writing:


      He stopped half-way and shouted at Tess that Mr. Clare of Emminster will preach in her parish today and explain all these things. Tess did not answer and kept moving on. She entered the house and her heart ached to see the conditions inside. It was Sunday morning and her father was still lying in bed. Mother greeted her. “Have you come home to be married?” she said. Tess said “no” and told her all. Mother was angry and wanted to know why she did not force him to marry after all this. “After all the talk about you and him which has reached us here who would have expected it to end like this!” she cried. But her poor foolish mother little knew her present feeling towards this man. She could never marry him, he was dust and ashes to her though she could not quite hate him. Judging her temper, Mother shouted that she should have been more careful towards him. “O mother, my mother! How could I be expected to know? I was a child when I left this house four months ago, why didn’t you tell me there was danger in men-folk?” she cried out. Mother felt pity and with tears in her eyes said, “well, we must make the best of it, I suppose. Tis nater (nature), after all, and what do please God !.”

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