Tess of the d'Urbervilles: Chapter 14 - Summary

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      It was the month of August. The sun was rising dim, as though it wanted to say something individually. The preacher of nature’s religion was saying that there was no better religion than the law of nature. This shining star was really incarnation of God. As if the sun was looking at earth, because he was deeply interested in her.

      But the most shining object that morning was a piece of wood which was shining in the farm. Two groups of men and boys came to this spot. There was a machine working in the farm driven by the horses. This machine was a harvester. Every round of the machine left stubbles and the naked earth behind. Hares, rats and snakes were hiding themselves here and there. They little knew that the machine would destroy them even after the shelter. The reaping machine left a sheaf of corn. The binders were gathering the fallen corn behind. Most of the binders were women. These women were very attractive. When a woman works freely outside her home, her beauty is much more heightened. A man working in the farm is a mere worker, but a woman working on the field is an integral part of nature. Here young women, covering their heads and with gloves in their hands were gathering corn. One of them wore a pink blouse, the other wore a tight gown. The third was putting on red petticoat. But the most beautiful girl that day was the one with the pink jacket. She had a piece of cloth on her head which also hid her face from the view. She was binding the fallen corn like a machine. Taking some plants from the previous sheaf she used to prepare something like a rope to bind sheafs. She was binding the sheaf with her two arms thrown round the sheaf, as though a lover might be embracing his beloved. Her fingers were badly bruised by the stubbles and other plants.

      At the intervals, she stood up to rest. There a man could see her beautiful oval face. Her black round eyes and hanging tresses were enhancing her beauty. Her checks were pale, teeth quite regular, the red thin lips were quite visible. She was Tess, somewhat changed. She was a stranger and an alien here, although it was her native land. After a long time she had decided that she should work, on the farms. It was the busiest season of this harvest. She could earn something.

      The other women were working like Tess. After their work, they used to gather like dancers. They went to breakfast and resumed their work again. At eleven every one could see that Tess’s glance was on the top of the hill. She could see some children coming to her. They used to bring lunch for Tess. The harvesters stopped their work and ate their lunch. Tess left her work last. As soon as she finished her lunch, she took the young baby into her lap and began to suckle the child.

      The men who sat nearest were looking at the fields. Except Tess all the women were talking and adjusting their disarranged hair.

      When the baby had taken its fill the mother set the child upright in her lap. The other women were passing remarks on her.

       Tess was the very incarnation of beauty. But she had taken less care of her character. After her resolution to work in the fields, she came after a long time. She thought that she would regain her lost freedom. The past was past. A man forgets it easily. Lost in these thoughts, Tess had green trees in front of her. The birds were chirping and the sun was shining as usual. Tess was not at all important for others. She thought that she had some special mission in life. She had no experience of life. Even then she wanted to spend her life delightfully. The sorrow in her life was the result of social traditions. It was not the part of her inner nature. Tess used to dress herself elegantly, and worked on the fields. When she suckled the baby, she looked at people seriously. In the afternoon the workers in the fields came up work and the red machine started working again. Tess took her lunch, and gave the child to her younger sister, and put on gloves and began the work of binding sheafs.

      Thus the work continued till evening. Tess used to remain with the harvesters till the evening. Then they all rode home in one of the largest wagon, in the company of the broad moon. Its face resembled the face of a saint. Tess’s companions sang songs. They sang a ballad in which a maiden went to a forest and came back quite changed. In the company of these girls Tess was quite happy. Her moral sorrows were coming to an end. When she reached home, she learned that her baby had been suddenly taken ill. Being weak, this illness was quite expected. Even then this shocked the mother too much.

      Tess had forgotten the offense of the illegitimate baby against the society. She had decided to save the child. But it was clear that this prisoner was going to be set free. Tess was quite miserable thinking that the child was not properly baptized. Without baptism, the child would get no salvation.

      It was bed time. Tess came down, and asked her parents if she could call some priest. The father keeping the dignity of the family in view, refused to call a priest. He locked the door and kept the key in his pocket. She was awake as she lay in her bed. She learned that the baby was clearly dying — quietly but painlessly. In her nursery, she rocked herself upon the bed. It was one O’clock. The hour was when fancy walks outside reason and sinister imagination becomes strong like a rock. She had in her mind the idea of the child consigned to hell. She saw Satan in her imagination. The torments taught in a Christian country were revolving in her mind. Her sleeping gown was wet with heavy perspiration.

      The infant’s breathing grew more difficult. She got down the bed and began to walk in the room. She was praying, “O merciful God, have pity on my child.” After sometime she hit upon a plan to save her child from hell. With this idea, her face was shining.

      She lit a candle, awoke her young sisters and brothers, and poured water in a pot. The children knelt round the pot and offered prayers. Tess took up the child from the bed and stood erect with the child on her arms. The young sister lifted up the prayer book and the ceremony or baptism started.

      Tess stood singularly in her white night gown. Her black hair hung straight down her back to her waist. The dim light of the candle hid her form. The young children were dozing with the sleep and blinking eyes. One of them said, “Tess, are you really going to christen him”. Tess replied in a serious tone, “Yes, I shall name it Sorrow”. Then she further said, “Sorrow I baptize thee in the name of the father.” She sprinkled water, then there was silence. She asked children to repeat “Amen” and all of them followed.

      Here she dipped her hand into the basin and drew a cross on the child. Then they recited Lord’s Prayer and ended it with a loud gnat like wail of “Amen”. Then there was Thanksgiving. In this ceremony, Tess was more divine than earthly. All the children looked at her with reverence.

      All these religious rites could not save the child. In the blue of the morning, this weak soldier breathed his last. When the other children awoke they began to weep bitterly.

      The calmness, she received from the Christening ceremony continued even in the death of the child. So passed away “Sorrow” who was innocent and who had seen nothing except the cottage.

      Tess began to think if the child who had been properly baptized could be buried according to Christian custom. Therefore she went to the parson and stood on the door. She had no courage to go in. If she had not met the parson on the way, her effort in this matter would have ended there and then. Tess spoke to the parson quite plainly, and asked him, if the child could be given a Christian burial. The parson hesitated to perform the last rites. He had been to Tess’s house, the previous evening. But he had come back after the refusal of her father. Therefore he said, “I cannot perform the burial.”

      Tess angrily replied, “I will never come to your church.” Tess took the child in a little box, and buried him in the comer of the churchyard where unbaptized children are buried.

      One day, in the evening, she came to the grave and drew a cross on the child’s grave and placed some flowers.

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