Tess of the d'Urbervilles: Chapter 21 - Summary

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      Just after breakfast, there was much excitement in the milk-house. The churn revolved as usual but the butter would not come. All milkmaids and men stood by helplessly. Dairyman Crick was restless and worried. He wanted to go to a conjurer. Mrs. Crick suggested that it all happened because somebody was in love in the house. There upon Crick narrated a story which brought Tess’s past back to her mind. She said that it was warm and on that pretext disappeared outside. At this stage butter could be seen coming up, and the attention of all was called off from Tess. But she remained much depressed throughout the afternoon, the Diaryman’s story had scratched her wound. At the evening milking, she did not care to be with the rest of them, and went out of doors wandering along she knew not whither. In these long June days, the milkmaids went to bed at sunset or sooner, for they had to get up very early in the morning. Tess usually accompanied her fellows upstairs. Tonight she went to bed much early, she was awakened when her three chamber companions entered the room. As they put on their nightgowns, they watched somebody with deep interest in the garden. They were all in love with Clare secretly knowing full well that he did not bother about anyone. Then one of them, Marian, pointed out that he liked Tess much. All three sighed at having no prospects of marrying him. Clare had gone indoors and they saw him no more. They slipped into their beds. Tess was very far from sleeping even then. She knew that Clare preferred her but the question was — should she go further? With her unfortunate past, she could never conscientiously allow any man to marry her now.

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