Angel feels that he needs time to understand the nature of his relationship with Tess, so he decides to spend a few days away from the dairy visiting his family. At his father’s house in Emminster, he finds his parents breakfasting with his brothers: the Reverend Felix, a town curate, and the Reverend Cuthbert, a college dean at Cambridge. Angel’s family notices that his manners have worsened somewhat during his time with common farm folk, while Angel thinks that his brothers have become mentally limited and bogged down by their comfortable situations.
After prayers that evening, Angel and his father discuss Angel’s marriage prospects. The Clares hope Angel will marry Mercy Chant, a pious neighbor girl, and they admonish their son about the importance of Christian piety in a wife. Angel contends that a wife who understands farm life would also be an asset, and he tells them about Tess, emphasizing her religious sincerity. The family agrees to meet her. Angel’s father also tells Angel that he has saved the money he would have needed for his college education, and, since Angel did not go to college, he is willing to give it to Angel to buy land. Before Angel leaves, his father tells him about his efforts to convert the local populace, and mentions his failed efforts to tame a young miscreant named Alec d’Urberville. Angel’s dislike for old families increases.
Angel returns to the dairy, where he finds Tess just awakening from her afternoon nap. He takes her in his arms and asks her to marry him. Tess replies that she loves him but that she cannot marry. Angel replies that he will give her time to think it over, but she replies again that the marriage is impossible. Nevertheless, in the coming days Angel continues to try to persuade her, and Tess quickly realizes that she loves him too strongly to keep up her refusal.
In the early fall, Angel again asks Tess to marry him. Tess hesitates, saying that one of the other girls might make a better wife than she. Tess still feels that she cannot marry Angel because of the implications of her past indiscretions. But Angel still believes that Tess is objecting only because of her low social status, and he thinks that she will accept soon enough. Tess believes that she must tell Angel about her lineage and her dark past, but hesitates and resolves to tell him later.
The farm floods with gossip about a failed marriage. A man named Jack Dollop married a widow, expecting to partake of her substantial dowry, only to discover that her financial stability and income vanishes as a result of the marriage. Most people at the dairy think the widow was wrong to deceive Jack Dollop of this fact and that she should have been completely truthful with him before marrying. This widespread opinion makes Tess nervous again about her past. She wonders whether she should reveal this past to Angel.
As they are taking care of some chores, Angel mentions offhandedly to Tess that they are near the ancestral territory of the ancient d’Urbervilles. She takes the opportunity to tell Angel that she descends from the d’Urbervilles, and he is pleased, realizing that her descent from noble blood will make her a better match in the eyes of his family. At last Tess agrees to marry him, and she begins to weep. Tess asks if she may write to her mother, and when Angel learns she is from Marlott, he remembers where he has seen her before—on May Day, when they did not dance.
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