In Chapter XLIX the Clare’s pass Tess’ letter to Angel, who is rethinking his treatment of Tess and of returning home. In the meantime Tess’ parents are sick and we’re left wondering if Angel will make it home in time to save the day.
Tess starts out on the 15 mile walk to her family after putting Liza-Lu to bed. It’s actually safer this time of day to walk by the roads. There are pages of description of the walk and the landscape, the biggest theme in it is how alone Tess is and how much better the landscape is once she leaves the area by the farm.
When she finally arrives home she finds her mother and father are still sick. The next day when she sees her siblings she notices how much they have grown since she last saw them a year ago and is reminded how much care they still need.
Her father is feeling a bit better the following day and they discuss his plans to raise money, a modern day Kick Starter project to help save a destitute family descended from a knight. She seemed as interested in his idea as I am…
Tess has more to worry about, it seems that the family was so hungry they ended up eating their seeds and so, cannot farm. Tess procures enough seed and sets up the fields. The work starts at 6 AM and goes past sunset, sometimes until Midnight. Yet, Tess seems happier doing this then she was while working at the previous farm. There are a lot of workers on the land, I believe this is tenant farming and a large piece of land is split between multiple families. Anyway, the families and workers seem to work along each other quietly and without paying much attention to each other.
Tess continues to farm and although she is losing a bit of hope that Angel will return she continues to sing his songs. Eventually she becomes aware of a man farming next to her, Alec d’Urberville…
Alec has disguised his appearance and is quite unattractive dressed as a laborer. He explains he does it since he knows she will not accept his help. He offers to save her and she comments that she likes what she is doing since she is helping her father. Alec asks about her husband, to which she replies, “O-I don’t know! I have no husband!”
Alec jumps on this and says that it is true, but that she has a friend. But Tess doesn’t want anything from Alec and tells him that. But he insists that it is the right thing for him to help a woman he has feelings for. Then he throws in the kids, almost breaking her. Tess insists that with her help her father can care for the family. Alec tries the angle that her father thinks that they are all family; however, Tess tells him that her father knows the truth. She’s really pissing Alec off now and he finally leaves.
Tess is restless and agitated after the conversation and can’t continue working and decides to head home. On the way she runs into one of her little sisters who informers her that there are a lot of people at the house, Liza-Lu is crying, Mom is doing better and Dad might be dead. WHAT? Yea, that’s pretty much what Tess said too… Apparently Sir John just dropped dead due to a bad heart.
But it’s much worse than just a dead father, although he might have sucked as a father, he provided one thing the family needed – he was the leaseholder for their land, and without him the family is to become homeless.