In Chapter XXI Tess realizes that she can’t be with Angel and is once again depressed. I predicted that in this chapter she’ll play hard to get with him.
Well the churn is back working in this chapter, but now the butter tastes funny. But not to worry, Dairyman Crick has an epiphany, it’s garlic. Yes, they had let the cows into an area of the farm they hadn’t used in a while and garlic had grown and the cows ate it, tainting the butter.
So now they all line up and do an in-depth search of the land for garlic. Naturally, Angel and Tess end up next to each other. Tess plays it real cool, she suggests that the other girls are pretty. And then goes on to praise all she can about them. She even goes with the whole, they have great milk skimming skills and will make good farm wives. This girl is no dummy.
And Angel plays along, but eventually Tess says, “Marry one of them, if you really do want a dairywoman and not a lady; and don’t think of marrying me.” Hmmm, I take back the dummy comment, crazy girl. Tess goes on to avoid Angel after that.
Hardy goes on to write one of his more ambiguous paragraphs of the whole book, but after reading it 10 times (and searching the internet) I finally figured out how the chapter ends. Angel does as Tess says, and pays attention to the other girls, but not so much to any one girl as to cause any issues. Tess ends up falling even more in love with him.
Since this was a short chapter I will point out an observation about this book, which is no accident. During Tess’ time with Alec, Hardy moves time quickly and gives us little detail about Alec. Weeks and months go by between chapters with just hints of what went on. We learn that Alec is, at best, dishonest about their heritage and that he is persistent with his attention toward Tess. He takes advantage of Tess (not just in bed, but in life by taking advantage of her position). But other then that, we know next to nothing about Alec.
We learn a lot about Angel in a much shorter period of time and we learn about their day to day lives. Obviously Hardy is differentiating that all we need to know about Alec is that he takes advantage of Tess. Meanwhile, Angel is an “angel,” honorable and polite. He’s a bit more of a contemporary of the time, shying away from the rich in favor of being a hard worker. The bad news, we’re not even half way through the book…