In chapter L Tess tries to help the family by setting up the farming of the land and taking care of the family, and refusing the help of Alec. Once things start to get set up her father dies leaving the family homeless.
It’s now the day before Old Lady-Day, when the farming folk switch farms. Old Lady-Day is given the description of being a time when people who don’t like where they are working to go to a new farm where the “grass is greener.” Sometimes it’s a good choice, other times, not so much.
The Durbeyfield family was allowed to stay in their home until Old Lady-Day. The option to stay on and work might have been offered to Joan, but the family is looked down upon by the community due to their lack of morality. Sir John’s drinking was not unnoticed, but it was really Tess’ lack of chastity that was the nail in the coffin. While this was implied earlier in the book, I did not get the impression that Tess and the family had been quite so isolated from the community because of her actions. Knowing this makes Tess’ actions throughout the book make more sense.
And so on this evening, Joan, Liza-Lu and Abraham go to say goodbye to friends while Tess stays at home with the little ones. Tess is staring into space contemplating how things might be different if she hadn’t come home to help the family. During her thoughts Alec arrives on horseback.
Their conversation starts with Alec asking if she had seen him, but she responds that she thought she heard carriage and horses. Alec references the d’Urberville legend, the one referenced on her wedding day, but Angel wouldn’t tell her. Alec knows he shouldn’t tell her, but does.
Only someone of true d’Urberville blood can hear the non-existent coach and it is an ill omen to the one who hears it. It seems that centuries ago one of the men abducted a woman, when she tried to escape there was a struggle and she was accidently killed.
Bottom line, things aren’t going to improve for Tess.
The conversation moves to Tess’ family needing to move. Tess says that they might have been able to stay, expect she’s not a pure woman, obviously embarrassing Alec – good! The family will be going to Kingsbere where her father is from. Alec says the town isn’t big enough for the family and invites the family to stay in the house that she used to stay in when she worked for him.
Tess of course refuses and starts to say she’s waiting for her husband, but Alec calls her out. He says that he knows men and Angel is not coming back. Tess tries to say that if Angel eventually changes his mind that the family will end up homeless again – Alec offers to put it in writing that they can stay. Finally he tells her to discuss it with her mother and he’ll make the arrangements.
Alec goes on to tell her that he owes her this, for the past, and for curing him of his religious craze. She tells him he should have stayed crazed. Sometimes I love her – like when Alec tries to manipulate her and she throws it all back in his face.
Alec rides off in frustration, running into the man with the paint can (I assume the one who goes around painting biblical sayings on rocks). The man asks if he has deserted his brethren, Alec tells him to go to the devil. GASP!
Meanwhile Tess gets angry and decides that Angel has punished her too harshly. Her intentions were not bad and he’s gone too far. Tess writes a letter to Angel:
“O why have you treated me so monstrously, Angel! I do not deserve it. I have thought it all over carefully, and I can never, never forgive you! You know that I did not intend to wrong you-why have you so wronged me? You are cruel, cruel indeed! I will try forgetting you. It is all injustice I have received at your hands!”
Ouch! The woman wrote and didn’t mail several letters for a year, but in 1 month she writes and mails 2 of them. Hmmm, I’m concerned Angel might take this one too literally.
Tess hangs out with her siblings for the rest of the night, talking the 4 younger ones into signing. When Mom and her siblings return home Joan asks who visited. Tess tries to lie about it, but the little kids sell her out. Joan wonders if it’s her husband – HA! Tess responds, “No. He’ll never, never come.” Tess admits it was Alec, but tells Joan they can discuss it after they have settled tomorrow night.
The chapter closes with Tess feeling the difference between who is husband legally is and who feels like her real husband.