In Chapter XXIII Angel plays Superman and helps the ladies get to church. Then they all cry because Angel will never choose one of them. Oh, and he has a girl waiting for him at home!
In chapter XXIV July is passing by, the rain has passed and it’s HOT. In Hardy’s description he throws in a lot of “interesting” words: fertilization, impregnated, and bosoms. Angel’s “fervour of passion” for Tess heats up too. Wow, this chapter is quite “hot” for the 1800’s!
One hot day Angel is watching Tess milk the cows. He prompts her to milk some of the cows that favor her and follows to milk some of the more difficult cows, leaving the two of them alone with the cows. Angel starts to fixate on Tess, and more specifically her lips. Yes, Angel is a lip man!
How very lovable her face was to him. Yet there was nothing ethereal about it; all was real vitality, real warmth, real incarnation. And it was in her mouth that this culminated. Eyes almost as deep and speaking he had seen before, and cheeks perhaps as fair; brows as arched, a chin and throat almost as shapely; her mouth he had seen nothing to equal on the face of the earth. To a young man with the least fire in him that little upward lift in the middle of her red top lip was distracting, infatuation, maddening. He had never before seen a woman’s lips and teeth which forced upon his mind with such persistent iteration the old Elizabethan smile of roses filled with snow.
OMG, this is 19th century erotica!
With an intent focus like that Tess does start to notice Angel, but gives nothing away. But Angel can’t hold back any longer.
He jumped up from his seat, and, leaving his pail to be kicked over if the milcher had such a mind, went quickly towards the desire of his eyes, and, kneeling down beside her in his arms.
Having seen that it was really her lover who had advanced, and no one else, her lips parted, and she sank upon him in her momentary joy, with something very like an ecstatic cry.
Angel stops himself from kissing her and my heart swoons.
“Forgive me, Tess dear!” he whispered. “I ought to have asked. I – did not know what I was doing. I do not mean it as a liberty. I am devoted to you, Tessy, dearest, in all sincerity.”
And then the cow moved, damn you Old Pretty! It breaks the moment and Tess cries. To this Angel unconsciously declares his love for Tess, but stops at that because he sees Tess is upset. They go back to milking their cows and we find out that no on has seen them.
In that moment, everything has changed, concluding phase 3 – The Rally.
We now move to phase 4 – The Consequence
Note: One of the things I had read about Hardy before reading this book was that his writings in this book were scandalous for their time. I’ve read Fifty Shades of Grey so my point of reference is a bit off; but, I really saw nothing wrong with this book so far. This chapter though, wow, it was way hotter then I expected! Hardy is usually so subtle in the way he tells the reader about what is going on. In this chapter, he laid it all out of the table. There was no guessing about how each was feeling and what they might have wanted.