Tess of the D'Urbervilles
by Thomas Hardy
Tess of the D'Urbervilles Phase I: "The Maiden," Chapter Ten Summary
- The narrator tells us how the regular folks in Tess's new neighborhood spend their free time: they drink. A lot.
- On Saturdays, they all walk as a group to a nearby town, and walk back late at night. Or early the next morning.
- Tess doesn't go with them for a long time, but finally starts to go along with them – some of the women pressure her, and she gives in.
- She enjoys the company, especially after hanging out with chickens and an eccentric old lady all week.
- Tess has gone several times on these weekly trips to the next town, and has gotten in the habit of walking home with the group – they come home so late that she doesn't feel comfortably walking back alone.
- One week, Alec sees her standing in the street waiting for her comrades to walk home with her.
- He offers her a ride home, but she politely refuses, saying that she'd rather wait for her peers.
- The other villagers join her soon, and they begin their three-mile walk together.
- Tess is the only sober one in the group.
- Car Darch, one of the women in the group (a.k.a. "the Queen of Spades") has it in for Tess because Tess is Alec's new favorite, and she's jealous.
- Car is in the front of the group, and is balancing a basket of groceries on her head.
- Someone in the group suddenly notices a trickle of something going down Car's back.
- It's treacle (which is like a cross between molasses and honey – very sticky, thick, and sweet).
- Everyone starts laughing at her, so Car throws herself on the grass and starts rubbing her back against the ground to get the sticky goop off.
- Of course, they only laugh harder.
- Tess joins in the laughter. Big mistake.
- Car immediately picks a fight with her about it.
- Tess defends herself, saying that everyone else was laughing.
- Car actually wants a fist-fight, and pulls off her outer clothes (remember, women wore really huge gowns that would have been awfully hard to manage in a brawl).
- Some of the men in the group try to make peace and defend Tess, but that only makes their wives jealous and angry.
- Suddenly, Alec D'Urberville appears on horseback.
- He asks what's going on (even though he overheard it all), and then offers to rescue Tess.
- She's about ready to faint from a combination of shame and anger and fear, and agrees to climb up with him.
- The women in the group watch Alec ride off with Tess, and chuckle quietly amongst themselves.
- "Out of the frying-pan into the fire!" as Car's mother explains it.
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