Tess of the DUrbervilles
Thomas Hardy
Contributed by Harvey Landy
Chapter 45

Tess stares at her former oppressor, seeing that he has been entirely transformed. His lips, which used to spew romantic overtures, now are devoted to fervent religious dogma. Her initial surprise is slightly tamed by her admission that Alec would not have been the first man to undergo such an incredible change in belief. She moves to leave, not wanting to see him, but as she does so, he recognizes her.

Alec’s reaction to seeing Tess is strong, she being one of his greatest misgivings in his life. He knows he brought about her undoing, and he is repentant. Running after her, he is sad to learn that she wishes to have nothing to do with him. Moreover, she is largely skeptical of his conversion and is outraged that it is he who has harmed her so greatly in her past. She listens to him explain how he is converted by Angel’s father, but she is still indignant with his presence. She tells him about their baby and her great sorrows over his death, and Alec is shocked to learn the information. Before he allows her to leave, however, he makes her swear upon a relic not to excite his heart, and although she thinks it ridiculous, she assents. She tells him to stay away from her. As she walks away, she asks a nearby shepherd if the relic is indeed real, but he tells her that it is not, but rather an ill-omen connected to a horrible act. Tess is mortified as she makes her way back to the dairy house, meeting Izz along the way who is in the middle of her own courtship.

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