Tess of the d'Urbervilles: Chapter 55 - Summary

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      Alec reached Sandbourne at eleven o’clock that night. Having secured a bed at one of the hotels, he went out into the streets. It was a big city. Where could Tess possibly be, a cottage-girl, his young wife, amidst all this wealth and fashion?’ The more he thought the more was he puzzled. There certainly were no fields to till; no cows either. She was most probably engaged to do something in one of these large houses. Just after twelve o’clock he entered and went to bed. Sleep, he could not; so near her, yet so far from her. He might almost as well have set up all night. In the morning he arose at seven, and shortly after went out. At the door he met an intelligent postman coming out with letters for the morning delivery. He inquired about the address of a Miss Durbeyfield. ‘I know no name of Durbeyfield; but there is the name of d’Urberville at the Herons’. He hastened thither. The Herons was an ordinary villa. He rang, and the hour being early the landlady herself opened the door. Clare inquired for Tess d’Urberville or Durbeyfield. ‘It is rather early. What name shall I give, Sir?’ ‘Angel’ he said. He was shown into the front room. After a while Tess appeared on the threshold—not at all as he has expected to see her. Her great natural beauty was rendered more obvious by her dress. She was loosely wrapped in a cashmere dressing-gown of gray-white, and worse slippers of the same shade. He had held out his arms, but they had fallen again to his side. She had not come forward, remaining still in the opening of the doorway. ‘Tess’, he said huskily, ‘Can you forgive me for going away’? ‘Can’t you—come to me!’ ‘It is too late’, said she, her voice sounding hard through the room. Mere yellow skeleton that he was, he thought his appearance distasteful to her. ‘But don’t you love me, my dear wife, because I have been so pulled down by illness?..my mother and father will welcome you now!’ ‘Yes-O, yes, yes! But I say, I say it is too late,’ she said. She further told him how she waited and waited for him and he (Alec) kept on saying you would never come anymore. He was kind to all of them after father’s death, she added. ‘He is upstairs. I hate him now because he told me a lie—that you would not come again; and you have come! These clothes are what he’s put upon me: I didn’t care what he did wi’ me! But—will you go away, Angel, please, and never come any more?’ ‘Ah—it is my fault!’ said Clare. But he could not go on. They stood fixed. A few instants passed, and he found that Tess was gone. After a minute he was in the street walking alone he did not know whither.

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