Tess of the d'Urbervilles: Chapter 23 - Summary

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      It was the hot month of July. The atmosphere of the valley had become heavy. Men, cows and trees were a bit uneasy. Sometimes, there was very heavy rainfall. Grass was spoilt and it could not be dried into hay. It was Saturday morning. The cows had been milked. The milkers had gone out. Tess and the three other women were dressing themselves. On Sunday, they wanted to go to Mellstock church, which lay at a distance of three or four miles. Tess had spent two months in the dairy. This was the first chance of her going out. In the last week, every day in the evening there was rainfall. A lot of grass had been washed away by the river. But that morning, the Sun shone brightly. The air was clean and pure. A zig-zag path lay between the dairy and Mellstock church. After going some distance, these women came to know that the way had shallow water upto fifty yards, because they wore white stockings with their shoes. It was difficult to cross this water. They could hear the bell of the church from a distance of one mile. Marian said, “Who could know that the brook might be flooded?” When she was talking the sound of a splash was heard and they saw Angel Clare who offered to help them. The four women’s heartbeats increased. He was not going to the Church. But he wanted to see the loss done to hay and grass. All the four women seemed to him quite beautiful. He stopped and looked at them. Tess stood behind them. He waded through water and approaching them said, “Do you want to go to the church. All right come on, I shall lift you through this, water.” They were all shy. Parian said, “You cannot lift us.”

      Angel replied that he could lift them all together. Then Angel lifted each of them and waded through water. He had different experiences in lifting each one of them. In this incident, he was trying to understand each one’s feelings. All the four were going to the church. They were talking among themselves about Angel. The happy mood in which they had started changed into the mood of worry and jealousy when they felt Tess at a advantage. They were brought up in an atmosphere where destiny was all in all.

      Tess was rather uneasy. There was, no doubt, that she loved Angel Clare. Therefore other women loved him all the more. The feeling of love is quite infectious. Tess’s pure nature revolted against love. Therefore she used to say to other women that she did not want to put hindrances in their way.

      After this episode, Izz said, “I shall leave the dairy, because she had no hope of marriage with Angel.” After this all girls came back home. In their room prevailed a strange type of atmosphere. Cruel nature was entangling them in its trap. Oppressed by cupidity they were all in trouble. In hopelessness, they had forgotten jealousy and had become quite outspoken. Each of them had power of Telesmer. They could not easily be beguiled. They were quite convinced that they could not succeed in their marriage. They tossed and turned on their little beds.

      After half an hour Izz said, “Tess, are you awake?” Tess said, “Yes please.”On this Retty and Marian threw away their sheets and said, “We are also awake.” Then all of them said, “Angel Clare is marrying some other woman. There was a girl quite in match with his family, who lived near the home of his father. Angel did not care much for this girl. But she will be married to him.

      They had not heard this story. But this story was sufficient to make their dreams miserable. They began to see in their imagination the marriage with the girl and all the arrangements thereof. Sleep came to their help and the conversation stopped.

      After this, even Tess paid no attention to Clare. Her love was transitory. She thought that Angel was not worthy of her.

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