Tess of the D'Urbervilles
by Thomas Hardy
Tess of the D'Urbervilles Phase I: "The Maiden," Chapter Eleven Summary
- Alec canters off with Tess, and slows to a walk when she asks him to.
- He asks why she doesn't like him to kiss her, and she answers that it's because she doesn't love him.
- There's some more back-and-forth here – she says that he makes her angry, and offended when he flirts with her, and he doesn't argue (the narrator says Alec prefers anger to indifference).
- The horse walks slowly through the wood until they're surrounded by a deep fog.
- Alec hasn't taken the usual Trantridge path through the woods.
- Tess is exhausted – she's been up early and working hard all week, and it's now almost 1am.
- At one point she starts to fall asleep, and slumps forward against Alec's back.
- He twists around to put his arm around her – but she wakes quickly enough to push him away.
- He's off balance and almost falls off of his horse.
- Alec says that he was only trying to keep her from falling, so Tess apologizes.
- He goes on to complain that she has "no confidence" in him and has been jerking him around for months now. He says he loves her.
- Tess stammers out a reply, and he puts his arm around her again.
- Tess realizes that they should already be back by this time, and asks where they are.
- He says that they're in The Chase – the oldest forest in the area. It's such a nice night, he says, why not enjoy it? Extend their ride a bit?
- Tess is mad – he lulled her into a false sense of security by making her feel guilty about shoving him.
- She asks to get down and walk home, but he says that she'd wander for hours in the fog and the trees.
- Alec says that he's not exactly sure where they are anyway, because of the fog.
- So they both dismount, and Alec says that he'll take a look around to get his bearings.
- Alec spreads his jacket on the ground for Tess to sit on while he looks around.
- Just then, he tells her that "someone" gave her father a new horse that day.
- Tess thanks him (of course) but feels awkward that she has to thank him at that moment.
- He asks if she's cold (she's only wearing a light summer dress), and she admits that she is, a little.
- He takes a bottle out of the saddlebag, and puts it to her lips before she knows what he's up to.
- She swallows as he pours to keep it from spilling on her best dress.
- He assures her that it's medicinal, and then disappears into the fog and the trees.
- Alec really doesn't know where they are – he wasn't just trying to tease Tess. But after climbing up a nearby hill he finds the edge of the highway and figures out where they are.
- When he gets back, he calls her name.
- She doesn't answer – she's asleep under the trees.
- The narrator asks, "where was Tess's guardian angel? where was Providence?" (11.61), but neither her guardian angel nor Providence comes to help her.
- There are good men and women waking up in cottages not too far away from them, but not one of them knew "that their sister was in the hands of the spoiler" (11.62). ("Sister" is being used figuratively – her real little brothers are far away in Marlott).
- The narrator muses that perhaps one of Tess's distant knighted ancestors had "dealt the same wrong […] upon peasant girls of their time" (11.63).
- The first phase of the novel ends with the "fatalistic" remark common to Tess's neighbors: "it was to be" (11.64).
- Note that Hardy never once uses the word "rape" in this scene – he leaves it slightly ambiguous.
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