Tess of the d'Urbervilles: Chapter 37 - Summary

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      Midnight came and passed silently. But at about one o’clock there was a slight creak in the darkened farm-house. Tess heard it and awoke. She saw the door of her bedroom open, and her husband stood in the middle of the room. And he murmured in tones of indescribable sadness “Dead dead!” Tess realized that continued mental distress had turned him into that somnambulistic state now. He came close, and bent over her. “Dead, dead, dead!” he murmured. Then he rolled her in the sheet, enclosed her in his arms, lifted her from the bed and moved out of the house saying, “My wife - dead, dead!” He lifted her against his shoulder, so that he could carry her with ease, and took her in the direction of the river a few yards distant. It was consoling, under the hovering terror of tomorrow’s separation, to feel that he really recognized her now as his wife Tess, even though for a while. He did not cross the bridge with her but stood still on the brink of the river. Across the river, where he stood, was a narrow footbridge. The autumn flood had washed its handrail away leaving the bare plank only. Now he took her from a precarious pathway for even steady heads, and Tess had noticed from the window of the house in the daytime young men walking across upon it as a feat in balancing. He now mounted the plank and advanced along it. Was he going to drown her? He might drown her if he would; it would be better than parting tomorrow to lead several lives. The swift stream raced under them splitting the moon’s reflected face. If they could both fall together into the current now, they could not be saved. They would go out of the world almost painlessly, and there would be no more reproach to her or to him for marrying her. He reached the other side with her in safety. Here they were within a plantation which formed the Abbey grounds. Against the north wall was the empty stone coffin of an abbot. In this Clare carefully laid Tess. He kissed her lips and lay down on the ground alongside. He immediately fell into sleep because of deep exhaustion, Tess sat up in the coffin. The night was cold enough to make it dangerous for him to remain here long in his half-clothed state. She stepped out of her stone coffin, shook him slightly, but was unable to arouse him. Then she whispered in his ears by way of persuasion, “let us walk on darling.” To her relief, he agreed. She conducted him by the arm, and came back to the manor-house. She induced him to lie down on his sofa bed and covered him up warmly. He slept soundly. As soon as they met the next morning Tess divined that Angel knew little or nothing of what he did last night. But he remembered his determination to separate from her. He had ordered by letter a vehicle from the nearest town, and soon after breakfast, it arrived. The luggage was put on the top and the man drove them off. Their route lay near the dairy from which they had started with the hope of a wonderful future. As Clare wished to wind up his business with Mr. Crick, Tess could hardly avoid paying Mrs. Crick a call at the same time, unless she would excite suspicion of their unhappy state. To avoid all suspicion and publicity they left the carriage by the wicket leading down from the high road to the dairy-house, and descended the track on foot, side by side. The spot where they had made love stood before them. Over the barton-gate, the dairyman saw them, and came forward to greet the newly married on their re-appearance. Then Mrs. Crick came out, and several others, though Marian and Retty did not seem to be there. Tess patiently bore their sly attacks and friendly humours. They did not want to let their estrangement known to their old friends at the dairy. Tess was told in detail how Marian and Retty had left the dairy, and there was every ground to think that the former would come to no good. She went and hade all her favorite cows good-bye, touching each of them with her hand. As she and Clare stood side by side at leaving, one could clearly see something stiff and embarrassed in their attitude, something peculiarly sorry in their aspect. When they were gone, Mrs. Crick said of her aspect: “How unnatural the brightness of her eyes did seem, and how they stood like waxen images...” they re-entered the vehicle, and were driven along the roads towards Weatherbury, and at a midway point towards her home, Clare stopped the conveyance and said to her that if she meant to return to her mother’s house it was here that he would leave her. Finally, he said, “But until I come to you it will be better that you should not try to come to me.” She simply repeated after him his own words, and then said, “May I write to you?” “O yes—if you are ill, or want anything at all. I hope that will not be the case so that it may happen that I write first to you,” he added. In her characteristic greatness, she said, “I agree to the conditions, Angel because you know best what my punishment ought to be only—only—don’t make it more than I can bear!” the remainder of their discourse was on practical matters only. He now handed her a packet containing a fairly good sum of money, which he had obtained from his bankers for the purpose. These things done, he left Tess who was driven home by the coachman. Bidding her good-bye, they parted there and then. He saw her go and said to himself:

“God’s not in His heaven: all’s wrong with the world!”

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