Tess of the D'Urbervilles Phase V: "The Woman Pays," Chapter Forty-Four Summary
Tess begins to think again about contacting Angel's parents at Emminster Vicarage. After all, why had she not heard from Angel? Was he really indifferent to her, as his proposal to Izz would suggest? Or was he sick and dying?
Sunday is the only day she has off, so she resolves to walk to the vicarage from the farm on the first Sunday when the roads are clear of snow, leaving early in the morning.
Marian and Izz know that she's going, and help her to dress up prettily before she leaves.
It's a very far walk, and Tess's hopes droop as she gets tired.
Once Tess arrives in the village, she stashes her walking boots in a bush and puts on her nice pretty shoes.
She rings the bell on the vicarage door, but no one answers – they're all at church, including the servants.
She knows she'll just have to wait until they get back. As she's walking back to the main street, the service lets out and the congregation pours out into the street around her.
Everyone stares at her, so she hurries through the crowd to find a place to rest for a while – she doesn't want to appear on the Clares' doorstep until after they've had a chance to eat lunch.
Two young men are walking together in the same direction, and she hears them call after a young woman – her name is Mercy Chant.
Tess recognizes the name – it's the young woman Angel was supposed to marry.
Before the young men catch up with Mercy, she overhears them discussing Angel's hasty marriage to a dairymaid.
The men catch up with Mercy, and reach the top of the hill where Tess had stashed her boots just before.
Cuthbert Clare, one of the two brothers, spots the boots, and pulls them out.
They assume that the boots must have been left by a beggar, who wanted to get more sympathy by begging in bare feet, so they take the boots with them to give to a more deserving poor person.
Tess doesn't say anything, and cries to herself under her veil.
She thinks there's no way she can go to the vicarage to ask for help now.
This is a mistake – she shouldn't have judged Angel's father by his brothers. His father would have pitied her and helped her.
She walks back towards the farm slowly, pausing frequently to rest.
On her way back, she passes through a village in which a lay preacher (one who isn't officially ordained by the church, but gives informal sermons and religious speeches to anyone who will listen) is giving a sermon.
She overhears part of it: the man is saying that he used to be a sinner, but he found the light, and all that.
Tess is shocked – the man's voice sounds exactly like Alec D'Urberville's.