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Tess of the D'Urbervilles

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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