In Chapter IX we left off with Tess settling into life at the farm. Her being dependent on Mrs. d’Urberville, who was dependent on Alec. And Alec creeps around spying on Tess while trying to softener her up to him.
In Chapter X we move ahead a few month to September. Tess has begun going out on Saturday nights with the other members of the working class. It’s slipped in here that marriages happen young (though not at 16 years old). So on Saturday nights Tess walks the 2 or 3 miles to the decayed market-town of Chaseborough to hang out with those who choose to drink and dance and then sleep off the night on Sundays.
On this particular night Tess is waiting for her friends to finish up before walking home, she does this every week as it’s a long walk late at night. But on this particular night she’s waiting a bit longer then she would like and runs into Alec, not once, but twice. She’s particularly cautious tonight because their was a fair in town, so more unfamiliar men around the area. I read each word dreading what might happen tonight.
But Tess still is not a fan of Alec, still bitter and mistrusting from the ride from her home. She declines his offer to take her home and continues to wait for her friends. Finally, at 11:15 the group start the walk home.
While walking we meet Car and Nancy Darch the “Queen of Spades” and “Queen of Diamonds.” Car it seems has fallen out of favor of the d’Urbervilles and has had a bit too much to drink (so has everyone else in the group). Tess is not impressed with the drinking, having learned its dangers from her parents, but continues on. During the walk treacle (syrup) spills onto Car (it was in a basket on her head), and she tries getting it off by rubbing her back in a field. As you might expect, everyone laughs, including Tess.
The Queen of Spades didn’t take this so well, but managed to keep a certain level of decorum, or NOT. She got in Tess’ face and called her a “hussy.” She then started ripping off part of her own bodice, “till she had bared her plump neck, shoulders, and arms to the moonshine.” That folks, is the dangers of drinking, because today the only thing you have covering your breasts is your bra and not the 80 layers of underclothing they wore back then.
The mood quickly went downhill from the near stripping by Car, and now all the ladies were ganging up on Tess. When the men tried to defend her it only added to the berating of Tess. Tess is now indignant and ashamed and wants nothing more then to get the hell out of there.
And who do you guess overheard part of this? Yes, Alec d’Urberville. He rides in on his horse to rescue her. I’m pretty sure it’s not a white horse, not even tonight. When he offers her a ride and without any real thought, she jumped on behind him and off they went.
Behind them they left the group laughing when Car’s mother comments, “out of the frying-pan into the fire.”