Tess of the d'Urbervilles: Chapter 45 - Summary

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      Till this moment Tess had never seen or heard from Alec d’Urberville, vile since her departure from Trantridge. She met him again at a heavy moment in her life. Though he had taken clerical duties, yet the words of Scripture sounded odd from such a mouth. But Tess was more than half inclined to believe that he was not the same wicked man. And yet she could not be definite and her impulse was to pass on out of his sight. The moment she moved he recognized her. The effect upon her old lover was electric. His lips struggled and trembled under the words that lay upon them. She walked as fast as she was able and passed the barn and onward. She went on without turning her head. When she was at the upland along whose margin the remainder of her journey lay she became conscious of footsteps behind her. Turning, she saw his figure approaching. There was not much time for thought or delusion. She accepted calmly the necessity of letting him overtake her. She saw that he was excited, less by the speed of his walk than by the feelings within him. ‘Tess’! he said, “I heard you had gone away, nobody knew where. Tess, you wonder why I have followed you?” Then he explained to her how penitent he was and how he wanted to save her from the wrath whose agent he was. She said with scorn, ‘Have you saved yourself? Charity begins at home, they say.’ At this he started narrating the story how his conversion was brought about by that sincere parson of Emminster—oId Mr. Clare. She was not prepared to accept his story and said, “I can’t believe in such sudden things! I feel indignant with you for talking to me like this, when you know—when you know what harm you’ve done me!” The inferior man was quiet in him now, but it was surely not extracted, nor even entirely subdued. He kept on explaining himself while she moved along. Tess inwardly wondered how far he was going with her, and not liking to send him back by saying so plainly. At length, the road touched the spot called ‘Cross-in Hand’. ‘I think I must leave you now,’ he said. He had to preach at six again. Preparing to depart he said, “Well you will see me again.” ‘No’ she answered ‘Do not again come near me.’ At this stage, he asked her to place her hand on a relic, which was once a Holy Cross, and swear that she would never tempt him—by her charms of ways. She wondered at this command, but half-frightened she placed her hand upon the stone and swore. He turned and moved fast in the direction he had to go. As he walked his pace showed disturbance. He drew from his pocket a small boob, between the leaves of which was folded a letter, worn and soiled, as from much re-reading. d’Urberville opened the letter. It was dated several months before this time, and was signed by Parson Clare. The letter began by expressing the writer’s great joy at d’Urberville’s conversion. He also read some passages from it till the image of Tess presently no longer troubled his mind. Meanwhile, Tess had kept along the edge of the hill by which lay her nearest way home. Within the distance of a mile, she met a solitary shepherd. She asked him the meaning of the old stone she had passed, and whether it was ever Holy Cross?” ‘Tis a thing of ill omen, Miss’. It was dusk when she drew near to Flintcomb-Ash. In the lane at the entrance to the hamlet she saw Izz walking by the side of a young man. ‘He is Amby Seeding, the chap who used to sometimes come and help at Talbothays. He says he’s been in love wi’ me these two years. But I’ve hardly answered him,’ she explained. Tess did not tell her very clearly the result of her excursion.

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