In chapter XXXIV Angel and Tess are newly married and happy as can be. Then they decide to confess their pre-marriage sins.
Chapter XXXV we start Phase the Fifth – The Woman Pays
The chapter starts with Tess finishing her story, while she may have been calm and steady through the story, the atmosphere in the room changed. Angel didn’t take this well. His first thought was that she had lost her mind, but realizes that is not true.
He questions why she didn’t tell him, but then realizes that he had stopped her. He turns from her and bends over a chair. She kneels at his feet and begs for forgiveness. She says she forgives him and asks if he forgives her. His response is:
“O Tess, forgiveness does not apply in this case. You were one person; now you are another. My god – how can forgiveness meet such a grotesque-prestidigitation as that.”
This is not going well. She’s begging and he’s laughing. She’s declaring her love for him and he tells her that he loved another woman in her shape. He can’t separate the woman he fell in love with from the woman who was taken advantage of by Alec.
He angers me a bit. First, he’s gone and had his own tryst, so he’s not any better than Tess. Second, she never professed to be this pure woman, he built her up in his head on his own and now he can’t accept that. Get over yourself Angel!
Eventually she falls to tears and it seems his feelings for her have just died. She asks if she’s too wicked for him to live with. But he says he doesn’t know what he wants to do yet.
She tells him she’ll do anything he says, “I will obey you like your wretched slave, even if it is to lie down and die.” She does offer to just go away. But he’s become sarcastic and antagonistic; fortunately she’s so caught up in her misery to even notice.
Angel decides to take a walk, when she realizes he left she follows after him, though doesn’t say anything to him for quite a while. Their walk is described as looking like a funeral procession.
There conversation is interesting though. Tess calls him out that he is mad because of what was in his own mind, not because she was deceitful. She also points out that she was taken advantage of, all of which he agrees is true. He even seems to forgive her on an intellectual level, but he’s lost his love for her, or the woman he thought she was.
When she insists they can get through this, that others have, he throws it in her face that she was a peasant and doesn’t know what she’s talking about. What? The d’Urberville name isn’t good enough for you now?
She offers to kill herself; he responds that he doesn’t want to add murder to his list of follies. But they continue to have a conversation about why she can’t kill herself and why it would only make things worse.
Eventually they return home and Tess goes to the bedroom for the night, she finds mistletoe that Angel had snuck in for their wedding night. But she goes to bed by herself. Angel does take the time to check on her and while he does he notices the resemblance between Tess and the paintings of the d’Urberville woman, which seems to reinforce his feelings.
He goes to bed thinking how an hour ago he never could have imagined his pure, sweet, virginal Tess this way. The night comes in and swallows up his happiness.
Wow, Angel has now become the melodramatic one!
I’m only about halfway through the book, maybe a little further and I wonder if the rest of it will be as depressing…