In Chapter XXII Tess tells Angel to check out the other girls if he wants a wife. When he does, and does it politely, she falls even more in love with him.
In Chapter XIII it is July, 2 months after Tess has arrived. Today is a Sunday and Tess is taking her first trip away from the farm, she’s going to church with the other girls; Marian, Izz and Retty.
Unfortunately the night before they had heavy rains and now the river is too high for the girls to pass in their Sunday clothes. But never fret, Superman, umm, I mean Angel Clare shows up just in time. He carries the four girls across the river. It seems that Angel does not attend church, so he can wade through the water with the girls, making all their hearts beat a little faster.
But he does leave the best for last, Tess, and he tells her so. I’ll give the man some credit, he is not shy about his feelings, though he is certainly more appropriate about it then Alec was. He says things to her like: “Do you know that I have undergone three-quarters of this labour entirely for the sake of the fourth quarter?” and he calls her “Tessy.” They are very cute together.
While Angel carries Tess they converse about the weather but they are really discussing the position they are in. There’s some heavy breathing and an almost kiss. Unlike Alec, Angel knows he would be taking advantage of Tess by kissing her now, hence the almost kiss. Marian, Izz, and Retty didn’t miss this, and they realize they have no chance against Tess. The girls are not bitter with Tess though, they actually all seem to bond over this common love for Angel.
Really? All 3 girls living with Tess happen to fall in love with the same man? I understand that their world was much smaller then our world today, but what are the chances of 4 girls living together falling for the same guy?
Later that night Tess and Retty talk about Angel, Tess says she doesn’t believe he’s interested in marriage, but even if he was she wouldn’t marry him (or any other man). Actually, none of the girls think that Angel will choose any of them. Retty is despondent and wishing herself dead. The other girls join in with confessions: Marian was once set to marry a dairyman, it’s not clear what happened, but she would rather kill herself then marry him now. Today Izz positioned herself to get Angel to kiss her, but he made no effort. Wow, what a bunch of dramatic hussies!
After that they go to bed, but they don’t sleep and we find out from Izz that Angel has a secret too. It seems the Clare family choose a woman for Angel from his own class. He apparently doesn’t care for her, but is likely to marry her.
WHAT? No wonder the man is trying to get away from the family.
This revelation makes Tess realizes that their romance will never be more then a summer fling. Poor girl, her experience with Alec is tainting her view of Angel. I really believe Angel likes Tess and wants to do the right thing with her, that she’s not a summer fling.