In Chapter III we left off with Tess going to the Rolliver’s Inn to find her mother, father and brother and I pondered if this chapter was going to be “Scandal at the Inn?”
There are no scandals at the Inn. Well unless you count the fact that the Rolliver Inn is not a licensed bar. Instead, there is a room in the Inn where the locals go and drink around a bed. That is where Tess and eventually finds Abraham, John and Joan.
While at the Inn John, Joan and Mrs. Rolliver were discussing the d’Urberville history and how it might help the family. It seems there is a rich lady near Trantridge with the name of d’Urberville and Joan intends to send Tess there to claim their “kinship.” And of course marry her off to someone of a higher class with more money. This conversation is overheard by Abraham, but not Tess.
When Tess finally arrives it takes one slight look from Tess and Mom and Dad get up and the 4 of them make their way home. On the walk home we find out that John did not drink much, but it seems he is a light weight and Tess and Joan have to help him home. They arrive at home around 11 PM and John is supposed to leave between 1 and 2 AM with bee hives to be delivered to Casterbridge. Hmmmm, now you can see what Hardy was talking about in the last chapter when he said the parents could screw up the lives of their whole family.
As you might expect Sir John can’t take the bee hives to Casterbridge and after some discussion Tess and Abraham with their 2 and a half hours of sleep take the bee hives. The situation isn’t the best, the wagon is a piece of crap and the horse, Prince, only in a little better shape. Here is how the scene is described as they set out:
The poor creature looked wonderingly round at the night, at the lantern, at the two figures, as if you could not believe that at that hour, when every living thing was intended to be in the shelter and at rest, he was called up on to go out and labour.
Nothing good can come of this!
While they ride Abraham reveals the plan to have her go to the d’Urbervilles and declare their family connection and marry a gentleman. Tess doesn’t say much, but her silence on the matter tells the story of her lack of enthusiasm for this plan.
Later, Tess and Abraham have another conversation about stars and planets. Tess explains that the stars are “worlds” like theirs and that some are splendid and sound and others are blighted – like apples on trees. She declares that their world is in fact blighted. If it was not, “Well, father wouldn’t have coughed and creeped about as he does, and wouldn’t have got too tipsy to go this journey; and mother wouldn’t have been always washing, and never getting finished.” It’s a bit sad to think of a 16-year-old girl having to think that way. I can’t help but think an apple tree was chosen for its references to the Garden of Eden, Hardy seems to good a writer for this to have been an accident.
Tess lets Abraham sleep, and then falls asleep herself, only waking up when Prince is struck by another carriage and dies before Tess’ eyes. The dangers of sleeping while driving…
Holy crap is Tess having a bad night! Killing your family horse, which is essential to most of your father’s business, and then finding out that your parents are going to send you to a strangers house to declare that you’re a relative in the hopes that it will get you married off to a rich aristocrat. I can’t even imagine! The English in the 1800’s were made of stronger stock then us electronic toting generation X and Yers.
For the family this means probable financial ruin, but they do not blame her. And certainly not to the extent that she does. Tess sees herself as something of a murderer at the end of the chapter. And I am left wondering if her guilt will push her to meet this strange d’Urberville woman in hopes of saving her family, or worse.