Ilustration of Tess on hilly pink terrain with trees and clouds in the background

Tess of the d'Urbervilles

by Thomas Hardy

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Phase the Second: Maiden No More, Chapters 12–15: Summary

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Last Updated May 22, 2023.

Several weeks following the incident at the Chase, Tess makes her way back to Marlott with her perspective on life significantly altered due to recent events. D'Urberville encounters her and proposes to drive her home, but only if she declines to accompany him back to Trantridge. Tess firmly rejects the idea of remaining Alec's "possession" and declines his financial assistance. Despite her refusal, Alec repeats his offers, hinting at potential situations Tess fails to understand. Finally, Alec bids farewell to Tess, referring to her as his "cousin of four months.

Tess is soon approached by a man who has a hobby of painting Bible verses on walls around the countryside. Following this encounter, the man overtakes her, and she reads his message, which is oddly punctuated and reads, "THY, DAMNATION, SLUMBERETH, NOT." After reading this, Tess experiences a feeling of horror and shame as she believes that the man somehow knows of her sinful ways.

Tess initially talks to her mother at their residence, and her mother expresses shock and disappointment upon hearing that Tess has no plans to compel Alec to marry her. Joan believes that Tess should have been more cautious if she did not want to end up getting married to Alec. In response, Tess claims that her mother had not warned her about the potential danger that men pose to women. Even though Joan is saddened by the fact that Tess has lost a great opportunity for the family's progress, she eventually comes to terms with it and decides to make the most of the situation.

Tess's spirits were momentarily boosted by her friends' admiration of her romantic success with D'Urberville, but it was short-lived. When she attended church a few weeks later, she felt unwelcome due to the whisperings of the people there. The gossipy disapproval of the villagers made her avoid them by taking long walks at night, where she could contemplate her guilt without being seen.

Tess is no longer isolated at the next harvest season and is helping with the wheat reaping. While nursing her baby one day in the fields at noon, Tess realizes that her baby, who was never strong, is now very sick and close to death in the afternoon. Tess decides she must have the baby baptized, but her father is too proud to let the parson into their home to perform the ceremony. Tess decides to perform an impromptu baptism with the help of her younger siblings. Unfortunately, the baby dies soon after the baptism. When Tess meets the parson, he tells her that the baptism will save the baby's soul, but he initially refuses to let the baby be buried in consecrated ground. Eventually, the baby is buried in a corner of the graveyard.

During the winter, Tess stays in seclusion until she realizes she cannot feel at ease in a place where people know her past experiences. When she learns about a summer job opportunity at a dairy close to her ancestral home of the D'Urbervilles, Tess promises to begin a fresh start there.

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