In chapter XLII Tess makes her way to the farm where Marion works and takes a crappy job that will keep her housed and fed through the winter.
In chapter XLIII things get interesting again in this desolate Flintcomb-Ash farm.
Marian and Tess are working in a swede-field (turnip type of crop that grows in bad soil). Their job is to rescue the remaining part of the swede so it can be eaten. In case you wondered, the top of the swedes are eaten by the livestock in the area. There is nothing glamorous about this job; Hardy gives the feeling that there isn’t much lower in the farming world then this job at this place.
They work mechanically in the fields, even through the rain since they are paid for the work they do, not the work they want to do. At the end of the night Marian and Tess have a drink together, Tess has a sip and Marion indulges to dull her pain of losing Angel.
Marion thinks it would be nice to have a reunion from the dairy and invites some of the old girls back to improve the mood. Izz Huet responds back and says that she’ll come and work there. Nope, nothing good could come of that…
Hardy also adds in a lot of little things comparing this farm with the dairy in Talbothay, the happiness there compared to the desolate feeling here. He’s not always subtle at making his point that this is a terrible place.
The next thing we know is there is a crazy flock of birds ahead of a snowstorm, Tess wakes up with a layer of snow that got into her cottage. Because of the snow Tess and Marion will be working in the barn doing reed-drawing, I’m not sure what it is, but I’m pretty sure it makes working in the fields seem like fun.
Also in the barn is Izz. There is actually a gaggle of people here in the farm, including the Dark Car, the Queen of Spades and the Queen of Diamonds – Tess’ nemesis from her night of debasement with Alec. Fortunately, they don’t seem to recognize her.
But it gets worse, the farmer has arrived and he is none other than the man who keeps harassing Tess about her purity – the one from the Inn, both times. Fabulous! And he still hasn’t forgotten her and he is still bitter. He proceeds to pick on her ability to do the work. Tess counters by says she will stay late so she can do the same amount of work as the professionals.
Of course Marian and Izz stay late with her, finally giving them a chance to really talk, talk about Angel. Tess begs off discussion of her husband, but once she lays down to rest Marion and Izz have a lovely chat, that Marion summarizes to Tess after Izz has left. Marion tells Tess about how Angel invited Izz to Brazil. BUSTED!
Tess tries to make excuses for him, but there is no excuse for him and Tess ends up crying, again. Tess blames herself for this a bit, in that she should have been writing him more. Tess is back to fighting again. Or at least writing a letter, she’s not quite ready to mail the letter though. She has second thoughts, she is wondering how bad are things are for Angel if he asked other woman to travel with him instead of bringing her? I’m with Tess on this one, but also know it is long past time to fight for her husband.