Tess of the D'Urbervilles Phase V: "The Woman Pays," Chapter Forty-Three Summary
The farm where Tess and Marian are working is described repeatedly as a "starve-acre place" (42.34; 43.1). It really is a poor and dismal place.
Their job basically consists of pulling turnips out of the ground – not very exciting, and kind of hard on the back.
Marian offers a nip from her flask to Tess, and Tess refuses.
Marian excuses her own drinking by saying that she lost Angel, and Tess didn't, so that's why she needs the booze more.
Marian is so happy to have Tess there that she proposes that they write to Izz and Retty, and tell them to come and work there as well. It would be like old times.
The winter weather is brutally cold.
The next day, the weather is so bad that it keeps them from working in the fields, and they hang out in the barn.
Izz arrives that afternoon –along with two other new farm workers, Car and Nancy Darch, the two women who wanted to fight with Tess in Trantridge the night Alec raped her.
They don't seem to recognize her, though, and everyone sets to work in the field the next day.
The farmer gets back, and it turns out he's the Trantridge man whom Angel popped in the face, and who scared Tess on the road. And now she's signed something agreeing to work for him through the winter.
He gives her a hard time about it, but she takes it calmly.
Marian and Izz want to reminisce about the good old days at Talbothays, and how they all used to be in love with Angel, but Tess refuses to join in –after all, she married the guy.
Izz makes a few sarcastic remarks about Angel's having left her, but she's really not a mean girl, so she lets up when she sees how it upsets Tess.
After working in silence for a while, Tess sinks to the ground in exhaustion.
Marian offers to help her, and Tess accepts, although she feels bad about it.
While she's resting, Tess has the feeling that Marian and Izz are discussing Angel, and she doesn't like it.
After a while, Tess gets up and gets back to work.
Izz goes in early – she'd been walking all day, after all.
Once Izz is gone, Marian shakes her head and says she wouldn't have believed it.
Tess asks what she means – Marian's been drinking from her hip flask, and is inclined to be honest.
Izz has told Marian about how Angel asked her to go to Brazil with him, and then changed his mind, and now Marian tells Tess.
Tess bursts into tears, and resolves to write him a letter. But she never finishes the letter, and doesn't mail it.