Tess of the d'Urbervilles: Chapter 27 - Summary

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      After a ride of some twenty miles, Angel was a mile or two west of Talbothays. It was in the afternoon. The languid perfume of the summer was making everything drowsy. Not a human being was out of doors at the dairy. They were all enjoying the usual afternoon nap of an hour or so. Angel entered and went straight to the back quarters. lie unbridled and fed his horse, and as he re-entered the house the clock struck three. There was the afternoon skimming hour, and presently Tess’s footsteps could be heard on the stairs and there she stood before his eyes. She had not heard him enter and hardly knew about his presence. Her face was flushed with sleep and her eyelids were heavy. Then with feelings of gladness, shyness, and surprise, she exclaimed: “O Mr. Clare! How you frightened me!”. And he greeted her with all joy putting his arm round her. “I’ve got to go a skimming”, she pleaded, “and I have only old Deborah Fyander to help me today. Mrs. Crick is gone to market with Mr. Crick, Retty is not well, and the others are out somewhere, and won’t be home till milking.” Clare told Deborah that he could go and take rest, he himself would assist Tess. She could not skim the milk thoroughly that afternoon, she all the time trembled with emotion. Clare could not help saying, “I shall soon want to marry, and being a farmer, you see I shall require for my wife a woman who knows all about the management of farms. Will you be that woman, Tess?” She felt miserable, and with pain in her voice said, “O Mr. Clare—I cannot be your wife—I cannot be!” Amazed Clare pressed her to tell him the reasons. She could only say, “I don’t want to marry! I only want to love you”. She resumed skimming but could not carry on the operation perfectly. Two tears had blinded her vision and there was a grief in her heart which she could not explain to him. To give her confidence, Clare began talking in a more general way. Gradually she grew calm and could skim better. After some time the other maids returned, and Tess also moved to go at field to the cows. But before she could go, Clare said softly, “And my question, Tessy?”. Full of sorrow and pain, she said, “It can’t be”. She joined the other milkmaids in the mead.

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