Tess of the d'Urbervilles: Chapter 38 - Summary

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      As Tess drove on through Blackmoor Vale, her first thought was how she would be able to face her parents. She reached a turnpike gate which stood upon the highway to the village. She asked the turnpike-keeper for news about Marlott. He simply told her that there was nothing very new except that Jack Durbeyfield’s daughter got married this week to a gentleman-farmer. Hearing this, Tess felt so sick at heart that she could not decide to go home publicly in the flight with her luggage and belongings. Depositing her things at the keeper house, she dismissed her carriage, and went on to the village alone by a back lane. She did not reach the house unobserved. Just by the garden-hedge she was met by a girl who knew her. On the girl’s query about her husband, she hastily explained that he had been called away on business. Thus dismissing her, Tess made her way to the house. As she went up the garden-path, she heard her mother singing by the back door. The washing-tub stood in the same old place, and her mother, having thrown the sheet aside, was about to plunge her arms in a new dress. As she saw Tess, she expressed great surprise at her arrival. Bursting into sobs, Tess told her mother how she told everything to Angel Clare in spite of her warning and how he deserted her. The weeping did her good: the tension of so many days was relaxed at last. She pleaded through the sobs that she couldn’t help telling everything to him. “If—if—it were to be done again—I should do the same. I could not—I dared not— so sin—against him!” Her mother burst out crying, “O you little fool—you little fool!” Tess was completely shaken and sank a helpless thing into a chair. Finally, Mrs. Joan Durbeyfield accepted the inevitable and said, Well, well, what’s done can’t be undone!” At this moment Tess’s father entered the house. Tess went upstairs leading the mother to face the father. Her father was a foot-haggler now, having been obliged to sell his second horse, and he traveled with his basket on his arm. The hen had been carried about this morning, as it was often carried, to show people that he was in his work. He asked if any letter had come from Tess that day. She informed that no letter had come but Tess, unfortunately, had come herself. She told him everything in detail. It was a great shock to him. He was worried about what people will think of him now. Then at the same time, he wondered whether the person really married her or was it like the first. It was too much & Tess, who was listening to the conversation, could not bear it. If her father doubted her a little, would not neighbors and acquaintances doubt her much? She felt certain that she could not live long at home! After a few days, she received a short note from Clare informing her that he had gone to the North of England to look at a farm. She made use of this note: bade her parents farewell leaving them under the impression that she was setting out to join him. But before leaving she took twenty-five of the fifty pounds Clare had given her, and handed the sum over to her mother as if the wife of a man like Angel Clare, she could well afford it.

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