Back in Chapter V Tess goes to the meet the woman d’Urberville, but instead meets her son Alec. They have a lovely and possibly inappropriate (by victorian standards in my non-expert opinion) afternoon. Hardy forshadows the tragedy and Alec plots the debasement of Tess.
Chapter VI starts out with Tess taking the journey home (a cart and a several mile walk) with flowers in hair, dress, basket… She was noticed by the others around her, which reinforces my thought that the afternoon together was not appropriate behavior for the time period. During the trip home Tess manages to prick herself with a rose thorn, which she takes as a bad omen.
When she arrives home Joan is very excited, it seems a letter was sent from “Mrs. d’Urberville” (if you believe that story) offering Tess a job looking after a poultry-farm and providing housing.
Tess, superstitious and perhaps getting the feeling that something isn’t quite right, is not terribly interested in the offer. Tess spends the next week trying to find herself some work to earn enough money to purchase a new horse, apparently with no success.
Alec gets tired of waiting for an answer to the job offer and visits the house (Tess is not home) to get the answer. While there Alec impresses the whole family. How could he not impress Sir John and Joan and a bunch of children with his handsome looks and large diamond ring? Yes, I am being sarcastic.
Tess is hesitant at first, as is Sir John (because he doesn’t want his children leaving the home). But Sir John is easily persuaded to let her go when Joan theorizes that Mr. d’Urberville really wants to marry Tess. This girl is sooooo screwed!
Tess is still undecided and offers it up to her parents to decide, since she killed the horse. She has misgivings about being in the same household as Mr. d’Urberville and I wish I could scream through the book: FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCTS! But it wont work and she agrees to go…
Hardy does manage to throw in that Mrs. d’Urberville’s handwriting is distinctly masculine. Really? Why am I not the least bit surprised?
I just wish Tess had a little more self confidence. She’s a bright girl, brighter then her parents. I think she knows that, I just wish she lived it!
Prediction, nothing major will happen in chapter VII, just a bit more of Alec’s slightly inappropriate behavior and a setting for the debasement of Tess…