Tess of the D'Urbervilles Phase I: "The Maiden," Chapter Ten
By Thomas Hardy
Phase I: "The Maiden," Chapter Ten
The narrator tells us how the regular folks in Tess's new neighborhood spend their free time: they drink. A lot.
On Saturdays, they all walk as a group to a nearby town, and walk back late at night. Or early the next morning.
Tess doesn't go with them for a long time, but finally starts to go along with them—some of the women pressure her, and she gives in.
She enjoys the company, especially after hanging out with chickens and an eccentric old lady all week.
Tess has gone several times on these weekly trips to the next town, and has gotten in the habit of walking home with the group—they come home so late that she doesn't feel comfortably walking back alone.
One week, Alec sees her standing in the street waiting for her comrades to walk home with her.
He offers her a ride home, but she politely refuses, saying that she'd rather wait for her peers.
The other villagers join her soon, and they begin their three-mile walk together.
Tess is the only sober one in the group.
Car Darch, one of the women in the group (a.k.a. "the Queen of Spades") has it in for Tess because Tess is Alec's new favorite, and she's jealous.
Car is in the front of the group, and is balancing a basket of groceries on her head.
Someone in the group suddenly notices a trickle of something going down Car's back.
It's treacle (which is like a cross between molasses and cane syrup—very sticky, thick, and sweet).
Everyone starts laughing at her, so Car throws herself on the grass and starts rubbing her back against the ground to get the sticky goop off.
Of course, they only laugh harder.
Tess joins in the laughter. Big mistake.
Car immediately picks a fight with her about it.
Tess defends herself, saying that everyone else was laughing.
Car actually wants a fist-fight, and pulls off her outer clothes (remember, women wore really huge gowns that would have been awfully hard to manage in a brawl).
Some of the men in the group try to make peace and defend Tess, but that only makes their wives jealous and angry.
Suddenly, Alec D'Urberville appears on horseback.
He asks what's going on (even though he overheard it all), and then offers to rescue Tess.
She's about ready to faint from a combination of shame and anger and fear, and agrees to climb up with him.
The women in the group watch Alec ride off with Tess, and chuckle quietly amongst themselves.
"Out of the frying-pan into the fire!" as Car's mother explains it.