Tess of the DUrbervilles
Thomas Hardy
Contributed by Harvey Landy
Chapter 9

Tess acquaints herself with the fowls under her care, which reside in a small cottage with every room given over for their accommodations. Her first duty is to bring all the chickens to Mrs. d’Urberville since she is blind but still wishes to see her fowls. Tess, along with a servant, brings the chickens, four at a time, over to the main house for inspection, making several trips. Tess is intrigued to see the blind woman acknowledge all the chickens by name. Mrs. d’Urberville asks Tess then if she can whistle, charging her with educating her bullfinches with tunes they can imitate. Tess agrees to begin the music education tomorrow, and she also notices disdain on Mrs. d’Urberville’s part for her son Alec.

Tess, not having recently whistled, finds a remote location in which to practice for her debut tomorrow. Her greatest efforts are unrewarded since only air and no notes come from her lips. Alec, who has been observing her, laughs at the sight of Tess and her puckered attempts. Although Tess does not want his help, he manages to teach her how to whistle. Alec also inquires about Tess’ perception of his mother and tries to make her stay more welcome.

Alec’s playfulness makes her relationship more familiar with him, and although she is still put off by his advances, she realizes that she is dependent on him while she is there. Tess finds that whistling to the birds is a task she very much enjoys, but one day, she fears that Alec might be spying on her. She tries to investigate but discovers nothing, but from then on, whatever aroused her suspicions, likely Alec, no longer returns.

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