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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
PHASE THE SIXTH -- THE CONVERT
Tess is shocked to see Alec and hear him preaching about his regret over his past mistakes. Trembling with fear at his image, she turns to leave, but not quickly enough. Alec recognizes her and is equally as shocked as Tess has been, but he does not try to flee from her. Instead, he approaches her on the pretense of trying to save her soul. He tells Tess that his mother's death and a pious clergyman named Clare were responsible for his conversion. Tess does not believe he is genuine.
Tess tells Alec the troubles that she has endured because of his misdoing. He is unhappy about the revelation and makes Tess promise never to tempt or charm him again.
Tess is unnerved by the image of Alec preaching in the barn. When Alec spies her, he is equally unnerved, for he immediately feels his passion rising. He approaches Tess and tells her that women continue to attract him. He makes Tess swear on an assumed holy cross that she will never tempt him again. Later Tess is horrified to learn that the "cross-in-hand" on which she swore is a really a symbol of ill omen.
Alec is obviously a sinner trying to cover up his past in an effort to gain salvation, but his religion does not run very deep. As soon as Alec's eyes fall on Tess, the look on his face and in his eyes clearly reveal he has changed little in the intervening years.
Alec finds Tess in the fields and shows concern for the ill fortune he has caused her. To make up for his past sins, he asks her to marry him and go with him to Africa on a mission. Alec is surprised when Tess tells him that she is married to someone else and even more shocked to learn that her husband is away. Alec departs when Tess begs him to leave.
Alec calls on Tess at her cottage and states that he is unable to rid the image of her from his mind. He asks her to pray for him. Tess, quoting words from Angel, tells Alec that she will not pray for him and expect God to alter his plans on his account. She again begs him to leave, fearing that his presence may cause a scandal and harm Angel's name.
Alec's pathetic nature is clearly revealed in this chapter. He finds Tess in the fields and begs her to marry him in order to ease his conscience and guarantee his salvation. He is so unsure of himself that he calls on her again at her cottage and begs Tess to pray for him so that he is not allured by her charm. But it is clearly obvious that Alec again feels passion for Tess, and he wants to possess her again.
It is important to note Tess's main reaction to Alec during the two visits. She has no thought of her own well being in his presence. She begs him to leave because she does not want any scandal to be attached to Angel's name. Even though her husband has deserted her for Brazil, it is obvious that Tess still loves him deeply.
By March Alec has shed his acquired image of a preacher and comes to share the news with Tess. He tells her that he is in love with her and again asks her to come away with him. Since she is the reason he has renounced the ministry, he says she should "leave that mule you call husband forever" and share her life with him. Unwilling to hear a single bad word spoken against Angel, she slaps Alec's face with a leather glove. Infuriated at her boldness, he grabs Tess by the shoulders and screams, " I will be your master again."
In this chapter, Tess's supreme love for Angel is again depicted. It is unbearable for her to hear anyone speak ill of him. When Alec dares to call him a mule, Tess's temper flares and she strikes him across the face. In the entire book, it is only Alec who has caused Tess to lose control.
Alec is also losing control. He confesses to Tess that "ever since you told me of that child of ours, it is just as my feelings . . . had suddenly found a way open in the direction of you, and had all at once gushed through." He blames Tess for arousing his passion again and swears that he will master her. Tess's already stressful existence simply grows more stressful.