Tess of the d'Urbervilles: Chapter 4 - Summary

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      So Tess started on her way to Rollover’s inn to fetch her parents home. Rolliver’s Inn was the single ale-house at this end of the village, and it did not have a regular license for drinking. Outwardly there was little accommodation for consumers but there was a large bedroom upstairs. There were nearly a dozen persons in the room today. Mrs. Durbeyfield, after leaving Tess at home, had entered this room. Soon she sat beside her husband. He was singing “I’ve got a great family vault at Kingsbere-sub-Greenhill...” Mrs. Durbeyfield was also very excited on account of the new discovery. She told her husband that there was a great rich lady at Trantridge of the name of d’Urberville, and Tess must be sent there to claim relationship. While this discussion was going on, little Abraham quietly entered the room. He was waiting for an opportunity of asking them to return but neither of the parents noticed him because of their being busy in the discussion. Soon Abraham interfered in the discussion and was told to play on the stairs till father and mother were ready. The discussion continued. Both strongly felt that Tess must go to this rich lady-relation. It would lend to a grand marriage. Though this conversation had been private, yet people around in the room could understand much of it. They felt Tess had fine prospects.

      At this stage Tess entered the room. She looked hard at her parents. They hastily finished their ale and descended the stairs behind her. They went home together. Jack Durbeyfield had drunk little but the effect of the liquor was great. Still, the question of his belonging to a great family was troubling him. Tess changed the subject of conversation and said father won’t be able to take the journey with the beehives tomorrow so early.

      It was eleven o’clock when all the family slept. By two o’clock next morning Durbeyfield had to start for Casterbridge with the beehives to be delivered to the retailers. The roads were bad, the waggon slowest, the distance was between twenty and thirty miles. At half-past one Mrs. Durbeyfield informed Tess that ‘the poor man can’t go’. Tess offered to go if Abraham kept her company.

      The two, Tess and Abraham, set out for Casterbridge in the rickety little waggon driven by horse Prince. They carried a lantern and the horse wondered why they had left so early at two o’clock, the real morning being far from come. Tess and Abraham began to talk. Once again the conversation was about the discovery that they belonged to a big family. He pointed out to Tess, “But you be glad that you’re going to marry a gentleman?” For sometime, Tess was lost in thoughts and then she changed the subject of conversation. But Abraham soon grew drowsy. She took the reins of the horse into her own hands. With no company, Tess was more deeply lost in thought, her back leaning against the hives. She felt strongly the vanity of her father’s pride. A sudden jerk shook her in her seat, and Tess awoke from the sleep into which she, too, had fallen. Something terrible had happened, the waggon had stopped; the lantern hanging at her waggon had gone out; the harness was entangled with an object which blocked the way. Out of fear, Tess jumped down and discovered that the morning mail-cart had driven into her waggon. The pointed shaft of the cart had entered the breast of the horse Prince. Blood was coming out from the wound like a stream, knowing not what to do, she put her hand to the wound with the result that she became splashed from face to skirt with blood. She stood by helplessly. Prince died. The mail-cart man returned to his own animal which was uninjured.

      It was getting daylight. The mail-cart man moved on with mail bags but promised to send some help. Tess stood there and waited. She cried, “Tis all my doing all mine!” She shook Abraham out of sleep saying, “what will mother and father live on now? Aby, Aby!” The time of waiting seemed endless. At last a farmer’s man came up with a strong cob. He was harnessed to the waggon of beehives and the load taken on towards Casterbridge.

      The same evening the empty waggon reached again the spot of the accident. Prince was put into the waggon and taken to Marlott. Tess had gone back earlier and she did not know how to tell her parents about the loss. However, they had known it already. Nobody blamed Tess as she blamed herself. Jack cried along with all other except Tess, her face was dry and pale. The breadwinner had been taken away from them, what would they do?

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