Tess of the D'Urbervilles
by Thomas Hardy
Tess of the D'Urbervilles Phase III: "The Rally," Chapter Seventeen Summary
- This was long before the days of milking machines, so when the cows are all in the barnyard, the dairymaids and dairymen come out of their cottages to start milking.
- The dairymaids all sit alongside the cows on their stools, with their cheeks pressed against the animals' flanks, watching Tess curiously as they milk the cows.
- One of the men comes over to her – it's "Dairyman Dick," a.k.a. "Mr. Richard Crick," the owner of the farm and Tess's new boss.
- He looks her over, asks about her experience, and says he knew her mother well – she had come from this part of the country, and had only moved to Blackmoor Vale after marrying Jack Durbeyfield.
- He offers Tess a cup of tea, but she says she'll start milking immediately.
- Tess begins milking, and finds the rhythmic pumping of the cow's udders to be soothing and meditative.
- Dairyman Crick does his share of the milking, too, and they all set to work in silence.
- There are more than one hundred cows in his herd – quite a lot.
- Someone remarks that the cows aren't giving up their usual yield. Some think it's because there's a new dairymaid.
- They sing a ballad as a group, because tradition has it that singing helps induce the cows to give more milk.
- One of the dairymen asks someone to bring out his harp, while admitting that a fiddle would be better.
- The dairyman in question asks why fiddles are better.
- Tess hadn't seen him before, and still can't. He's on the other side of his cow.
- The first dairyman gives a lengthy explanation in the form of a folktale about a man who played a Christmas hymn to a bull on a fiddle, and tricked the bull into thinking it was the Nativity.
- The second dairyman finishes his cow, under the watchful eye of Dairyman Crick, who gives him a few pointers.
- The second dairyman stands up, and Tess has a good look at him.
- He's dressed the same as everyone else, but he looks different – more educated, more reserved, more sad.
- He looks familiar to her. She realizes that it's the man who had been walking through Marlott on the day of the club-walking – it's the man who had not danced with her.
- She panics momentarily. What if he has connections in Blackmoor, and is able to learn about her past?
- But he doesn't seem to recognize her.
- He's grown up a fair amount in the last couple of years, too.
- She doesn't see him at supper, and asks no questions about him.
- Her bedroom is over the milk house, and she shares it with three other milkmaids.
- Tess is ready to fall asleep immediately, but the girl in the bed next to her insists on telling her about the strange milkman.
- His name is Mr. Angel Clare, and he's learning about milking, and about all kinds of farming so that he can be a gentleman farmer somewhere. He plays the harp, and is the son of a parson, and is too busy "wi' his own thoughts to notice girls." His father, the parson Mr. Clare, is a very good preacher.
- That's the parson that the man had told Tess about on her way back from Trantridge, so she perks up a bit, and asks more about him.
- The girl tells Tess that both of Angel's brothers are parsons now, like their father, but Angel opted for a different career route.
- Tess isn't able to stay awake for much more gossip, so she falls asleep.
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