In chapter XLIII Tess works her ass off for the farmer, who also happens to be the guy who keeps picking on her lack of purity. Oh, and finds out that Angel invited Izz to Brazil with him.
In chapter XLIV We find out that it’s right around the anniversary of Tess and Angel’s wedding and Tess has not heard from Angel. She decides to visit his parents at the Vicarage, hoping to get word on Angel and hopefully connect with his family.
On a Sunday morning, Izz and Marian help Tess prepare for the 15-mile walk to the Vicarage. Due to her financial circumstances she does not have the option of going on a workday. On the walk, she stops in the town of Evershead for breakfast before going on to her destination.
She arrives around noon and hides her boots in the bushes for the walk home, allowing her to wear nice shoes to meet her family. When she knocks on the door and no one answers Tess realizes that the family and their staff are all at church.
When church lets out Tess finds herself walking behind a woman with 2 men. She recognizes the voices of the men; they are the brothers of Angel and the woman is Mercy Chant. She hears one of the brothers lamenting their brother’s poor choice in marriage, his other brother comments that it has completed the estrangement with Angel and he hasn’t heard from him at all.
All three are described as being uptight when they find Tess’ boots in the bushes. Mercy comments they appear to be left by “some impostor who wished to come into the town barefoot, perhaps, and so excite our sympathies.” Mercy took them to give to a poor person.
Tess knows all this talk is not based in fact; but, still feels terrible and doesn’t want to risk meeting Angel’s parents in case they feel the same way. I suspect we might all feel that way; fortunately, we wouldn’t have a 15 mile walk home! But Hardy tells us that the Clare’s are much more charitable and would have warmly welcomed her and sympathized with her. Of course WE know that, what fun would it be if Tess knew too!
On her walk back to the farm Tess again stops in the town of Evershead and when the town is deserted she finds out it’s because they are all watching a preacher, an excellent, fiery Christian man.
The preacher’s doctrine was in the same views as Angel’s father. Fitting since he is the man who converted him. The preacher was once one of the greatest sinners, but after some time of considering the words of Angel Clare’s father, he converted. Oh, and it happens to be Alec d’Urberville.
WHAT? I totally expected Alec to come back into the story but definitely not as a reformed preacher!
This Ends the 5th Phase of the story and we enter Phase 6 – The Convert