Study Guide

Tess of the D'Urbervilles Phase I: "The Maiden," Chapter Six

By Thomas Hardy

Phase I: "The Maiden," Chapter Six

  • Tess takes the same cart back to Marlott that she had taken out to Trantridge that morning. The basket of roses and the bouquets that Alec had pinned to her hat and dress attract the attention of the other passengers, so she tries to hide them as though ashamed of them.
  • As she removes one of the roses from under her chin, it pricks her skin.
  • It's getting late, so she spends the night at a friend's house on her way back to Marlott (she'd told her mother that she might do that).
  • When she arrives at home the next morning, her mother looks triumphant—she's received a letter from Mrs. D'Urberville.
  • The letter invites Tess to come stay at the house and look after a little poultry-farm there, which is Mrs. D'Urberville's special hobby.
  • Mrs. Durbeyfield assumes that Mrs. D'Urberville is just asking Tess to work as a means of getting her there, but that she really means to bring Tess up in her own family and make a lady of her.
  • Tess is confused, since she didn't actually meet Mrs. D'Urberville.
  • Mrs. Durbeyfield asks whom she did meet, then—and when Tess reports that Alec had called her "Coz," Mrs. Durbeyfield is exultant, thinking that he's acknowledged her as a relation.
  • Tess is still hesitant about going, and asks to see the letter. She isn't convinced that it was written by Mrs. D'Urberville, and would rather stay at home with her parents.
  • She holds out for a week, looking for work in her own neighborhood.
  • One day she comes home, and her younger siblings inform her that "the gentleman has been here!" (6.30).
  • Mrs. Durbeyfield explains that Mrs. D'Urberville's son happened to be passing by, and stopped to ask whether Tess would come to manage the old lady's poultry-farm or not.
  • Tess is pleased that Alec thinks that she would do a good job managing the poultry-farm, but is still reluctant to go—she doesn't know what it will be like, living there.
  • Her parents and her younger siblings can't stop talking about Alec's moustache or his diamond ring.
  • Tess wanders off to think it over in the garden, while her mother triumphantly asserts that Alec is in love with Tess, and will marry her and make her a lady.
  • Jack Durbeyfield likes this idea—it flatters his vanity.
  • Tess comes back, and says she still doesn't know—but she's the one who killed the old horse, and she feels responsible for helping to get a new one. But she can't help not liking Mr. D'Urberville.
  • The younger children start crying because they want Tess to become a lady.
  • Tess finally agrees to go.
  • Her mother is relieved—it's a fine opportunity, she says.
  • Tess says it's an opportunity for making money, and that her mother had better not tell the neighbors that it's any other kind of opportunity.
  • Her mother understands her, but doesn't promise.
  • Tess writes to Mrs. D'Urberville, agreeing to come whenever she is sent for.
  • Mrs. D'Urberville writes back, saying that a cart would be sent to pick her up the day after tomorrow. The narrator notes that Mrs. D'Urberville's handwriting looks rather masculine.
  • Tess is happy at the prospect of helping her father to buy a new horse, but would rather have been a teacher at the school. She doesn't take her mother's hopes that she would marry Alec at all seriously.