Tess of the d'Urbervilles

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Alec d'Urberville Character Analysis

The principle antagonist of the novel, the handsome, libertine son of the wealthy d'Urberville-Stokes. He is fickle and impetuous by nature, but his infatuation with Tess seems more lasting than his feelings for other girls. His rape of Tess is the beginning of her misfortunes and the tragic undercurrent of the entire novel. Alec briefly takes up religion and becomes a preacher, but he discards his faith when he sees Tess again.

Alec d'Urberville Quotes in Tess of the d'Urbervilles

The Tess of the d'Urbervilles quotes below are all either spoken by Alec d'Urberville or refer to Alec d'Urberville. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Injustice and Fate Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of Tess of the d'Urbervilles published in 2003.
Chapter 5 Quotes

He watched her pretty and unconscious munching through the skeins of smoke that pervaded the tent, and Tess Durbeyfield did not divine, as she innocently looked down at the roses in her bosom, that there behind the blue narcotic haze was potentially the “tragic mischief” of her drama – one who stood to be the blood-red ray in the spectrum of her young life.

Related Characters: Tess Durbeyfield, Alec d'Urberville
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Tess is introduced to Alec d'Urberville, one of the main characters of the novel--and, perhaps more than anyone else, the architect of Tess's undoing. Tess sits in a tent with Alec, who's contemplating kissing her. Alec and Tess are equally ignorant of the events their meeting will set in motion: because of their encounter in the tent, Tess's life will be ruined forever.

The tableau described in the passage is notable for contrasting the virginal, natural innocence of Tess's appearance ("roses in her bosom") with Alec's more mature and "modern" tendencies, perhaps symbolized by the "narcotic" smoke in his tent. Alec is like poison for Tess, corrupting her innocence. The passage is also a great example of the narrator's sad, fated tone: he knows exactly what's going to happen to Tess, yet he's powerless to stop it.

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Chapter 8 Quotes

He was inexorable, and she sat still, and d'Urberville gave her the kiss of mastery.

Related Characters: Tess Durbeyfield, Alec d'Urberville
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Alec "seduces" Tess. Alec is a confident, spoiled young man, used to getting what he wants. He thinks of Tess as a weak, poor, unsure girl--an easy conquest, particularly because both her gender and her class prevent her from achieving any kind of agency against the wealthy male Alec. Hardy conveys Alec's social power and intimidating persona with phrases like "inexorable" and "kiss of mastery."

The kiss of mastery that Alec delivers to Tess might as well be a death-blow, since it prefigures the act of rape to come. Alec will impregnate Tess, setting in motion the events of the novel and eventually leading to Tess's arrest and death. There's a sense of fated-ness to the entire scene: one moment of kissing between Tess and Alec will lead to a lifetime of tragedy.

Chapter 45 Quotes

This was once a Holy Cross. Relics are not in my creed; but I fear you at moments – far more than you need fear me at present; and to lessen my fear, put your hand upon that stone hand, and swear that you will never tempt me – by your charms or ways.

Related Characters: Alec d'Urberville (speaker), Tess Durbeyfield
Page Number: 311
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Tess accidentally encounters Alec, years after their last encounter. After this initial encounter, Alec and Tess walk to a mysterious place that is at once both pagan and Christian. They arrive at "Cross-in-Hand," a stone which has been in the wilderness for ages, but which supposedly used to hold a Christian cross. Alec asks Tess to put her hand on the stone and swear that she'll never "tempt" him again.

The passage is important because it shows the depths of Alec's hypocrisy. Even though it was Alec who raped Tess, Alec clearly blames Tess for "tempting" him to rape her. (This echoes society's cruel, sexist stance on the incident as well.) The pagan/Christian symbolism of the scene reinforces Tess's mystic status in the novel (and in the minds of the two main male characters): she's both a Christ-figure and a pagan nature-goddess, an innocent martyr and victim of the sins of others.

Chapter 47 Quotes

What a grand revenge you have taken! I saw you innocent, and I deceived you. Four years after, you find me a Christian enthusiast; you then work upon me, perhaps to my complete perdition!

Related Characters: Alec d'Urberville (speaker), Tess Durbeyfield
Page Number: 329
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Tess meets with Alec once again. Alec has briefly converted to Christianity and worked as a preacher, but when he reunites with Tess, he gives up religion altogether so he can pursue her again. Outrageously, Alec blames Tess for tempting him away from Christianity: he blames her for taking her "revenge" on him.

Alec, the most hypocritical character in the novel, is a weak, spoiled man, without the drive or principle to focus on any religion or ideology other than his own desires. And yet instead of blaming himself for his lust and laziness, he takes out his anger on Tess herself, again simultaneously idealizing and dehumanizing her. On an individual level, we easily see how cruel, unjust, and absurd Alec is being, and this allows Hardy to show how equally cruel, unjust, and absurd is society's condemnation of Tess.

Whip me, crush me; you need not mind those people under the rick! I shall not cry out. Once victim, always victim – that's the law!

Related Characters: Tess Durbeyfield (speaker), Alec d'Urberville
Page Number: 332
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Tess is both active and passive--rebelling against her victimization and accepting it. Tess has met with Alec, who accuses her of tempting him away from the clergy and seducing him. Furious with Alec's hypocrisy, Tess slaps him, and then--seeing the fury in Alec's face--dares Alec to beat her and treat her like a "victim." Her outburst shows that she's fully aware of both Alec's sinfulness and of his power to get away with being sinful: she recognizes that he treats other people like objects, to be enjoyed and then discarded--and no one condemns him for it, because he's wealthy and male.

In the past, Tess has shown signs of blaming herself for her own misfortune. (This is understandable, as it's how society as a whole views her condition.) And yet in her despair Tess seems to have reached greater clarity, as she bitterly and sarcastically suggests that Alec is responsible for her downfall, but because of her fate there's nothing she can do about it. In such a way, the passage foreshadows the end of the novel, in which Tess will truly take justice into her own hands.

Remember, my lady, I was your master once! I will be your master again. If you are any man's wife you are mine!

Related Characters: Alec d'Urberville (speaker), Tess Durbeyfield
Page Number: 332
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Alec d'Urberville again asserts his dominance over Tess. Alec has raped Tess before, and here, he shouts to Tess that he'll "master" her again. As he did years before, Alec again tries to get Tess to love him voluntarily, and when she won't, he abuses his power over and tries to force her to become "his."

Alec is complex and human, yet also the most villainous character in the novel. On one level, he's the very embodiment of England's new social elite--heartless and entitled, insensitive to nature and innocent joy, and generally obsessed with power and "mastery." Alec speaks as if he has control over his own destiny and the destiny of other people, and his class and gender support him in this--but he's also deluded, as there is still one last way Tess can wrest his power away from him (even if it means her own death as well).

Chapter 52 Quotes

The old order changeth. The little finger of the sham d'Urbervilles can do more for you than the whole dynasty of the real underneath…

Related Characters: Alec d'Urberville (speaker), Tess Durbeyfield
Page Number: 364
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Tess discovers Alec d'Urberville among the tombs of her ancient d'Urberville ancestors. Alec points out that his own family isn't actually related to the d'Urbervilles at all: they've just taken the name to give themselves more social prestige. But although Alec is a "sham d'Urberville," he actually has more money and social control than the real d'Urbervilles, who long ago lost their fortune and died off.

The passage conveys the changing order of the world. The old noble families of England are dying out, Hardy suggests, to be replaced by "new money" families that merely pretend to be old and prestigious. The social changes that make such pretensions possible include industrialization: the Industrial Revolution created a new class of wealthy businessmen without any ancestral connection to Britain's past. Because they had no such connection, they simply made one up. Thus, Alec's observations symbolize the changing economic landscape of his country. Yet Hardy doesn't idealize the landed aristocracy of the past--he merely shows how money and power continue to corrupt even in this new, supposedly more democratic age. The fact the Alec has money (and is a man) is enough to ensure that he has almost total control over Tess.

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Alec d'Urberville Character Timeline in Tess of the d'Urbervilles

The timeline below shows where the character Alec d'Urberville appears in Tess of the d'Urbervilles. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
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Tess is approached by the bold, handsome Alec d'Urberville. He tries to flirt with Tess but she rebuffs him shyly. She wants to... (full context)
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Alec convinces Tess to linger with him until her ride home returns. He shows her the... (full context)
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Tess turns to go and Alec considers kissing her, but refrains. The narrator laments the cruel chance of these two meeting... (full context)
Chapter 6
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A week later Tess returns home from job searching to find the family rejoicing again. Alec d'Urberville has ridden by and asked in person if Tess would come manage the fowls.... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...Joan is delighted with her appearance and the effect she imagines it will have on Alec. Tess says goodbye to her father, who takes a break from his nap to say... (full context)
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...hill. Joan watches the cart approach and sees with delight that it is driven by Alec d'Urberville. Tess hesitates to go with him, but then strengthens her resolve and leaves. The... (full context)
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...voices her misgivings to her husband. She says she wishes she had found out if Alec was a good man or not before letting Tess go with him. But then Joan... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Tess and Alec ride away from the green Vale and into the gray unknown. Alec drives recklessly and... (full context)
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They start to go down another hill but this time Tess won't hold onto Alec. Instead he asks if he can kiss her. When she refuses he makes the horse... (full context)
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Unconsciously Tess wipes her cheek with her handkerchief, which makes Alec angry. He insists that she has undone the kiss, and he must have another one.... (full context)
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Tess yells an insult back at Alec and his anger suddenly dissolves. He tries to convince her to get back on the... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...d'Urberville asks her to whistle songs to the bullfinches every day. The maid mentions that Alec has been whistling to them lately, and Mrs. d'Urberville reacts negatively to his name. Tess... (full context)
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Tess feels better the next morning and starts to practice her whistling. Alec suddenly appears, complimenting her beauty and sarcastically calling her “Cousin.” He offers to help her,... (full context)
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Tess begins to adjust to her position and to Alec's presence. He teases her carefully and she gradually becomes less shy, but Alec is also... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...safety of a group. One night she starts out later than usual and then encounters Alec at a street corner. Tess tells him she is just waiting to leave. He says... (full context)
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...and then falling together into the dirt. Tess hears a laugh behind her and meets Alec again. She explains her situation and he offers to take her home, but she still... (full context)
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...the women is Car Darch, the “Queen of Spades,” who was recently a favorite of Alec's. They come to a gate and Car goes first with her heavy basket on her... (full context)
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...and Car hears her and becomes enraged, as she was already jealous of Tess for Alec's attentions. Tess apologizes while Car strips off her bodice and prepares to attack. Tess magnanimously... (full context)
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Tess feels so distressed that she accepts Alec's offer, although at almost any other moment she would have refused. The other women watch... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Alec and Tess ride away, and Tess starts to feel uncomfortable. Alec asks why she is... (full context)
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Alec gets angry at her constant distrust and invokes his superiority over her, calling Tess a... (full context)
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...grows angry again and pulls away. She demands that he let her walk home, but Alec says they are miles from Trantridge and the forest is foggy. Alec lets her dismount... (full context)
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Alec tries to comfort her and wraps her in his overcoat. Then he goes off into... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...but looking like her burden is an emotional one instead. She climbs the hill that Alec had ridden so recklessly down four months before, and sees the beautiful, familiar Vale of... (full context)
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...she starts to cry a little, and says she wishes she had never been born. Alec downplays her sorrow and asks why she came to Trantridge if she did not love... (full context)
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Alec laughs and admits he has done wrong, but he wants to make amends by giving... (full context)
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Alec laments that Tess will never love him, and Tess affirms it. Alec sighs and downplays... (full context)
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...they were not actually related to those d'Urbervilles. Joan gets angry that Tess didn't get Alec to marry her, and guilts her with the family's hardships. Tess had never even considered... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...and many of her old friends come by to visit her, as fascinating rumors about Alec's nature have reached even Blakemore. Joan is able to satisfy her pride by implying a... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...such a harsh situation. Tess spends the winter doing housework and making clothes out of Alec's old gifts. (full context)
Chapter 27
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...of the insulting young skeptic, and gives enough information that Tess can tell it is Alec. The reminder of her past hardens her in her refusal, but Angel does not notice... (full context)
Chapter 33
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By the time they reach home Tess is depressed, and wonders if she is rightfully Alec's wife instead of Angel's. When she is alone she prays to both God and her... (full context)
Chapter 34
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...press their heads together, her diamonds gleaming ominously, and Tess tells the whole story of Alec d'Urberville. (full context)
Chapter 36
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...her story is true, but Tess reaffirms it. Angel asks for the first time about Alec and the baby, and is distraught that Alec is alive and still in England. He... (full context)
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...Tess he cannot live with her without despising both of them. He cannot accept that Alec still lives as her “husband in nature,” and that nowhere on earth is far enough... (full context)
Chapter 39
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...only circumstance, not intention. She is still just as pure as before she ever met Alec. (full context)
Chapter 44
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...voice, and she nervously enters the barn to see that he is none other than Alec d'Urberville. (full context)
Chapter 45
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Tess cannot help being afraid when she sees Alec, and it feels grotesque to watch him speak the words of Scripture. His passion and... (full context)
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Tess decides to leave immediately, but when she moves again Alec notices her. The passion of his sermon is suddenly extinguished, and he hesitates. Tess keeps... (full context)
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She hears footsteps behind her and Alec approaches, agitated. Tess wishes he had not followed her, and speaks to him with scorn.... (full context)
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...to both apologize and preach to Tess, who becomes enraged, pointing out the horror that Alec should be able to use her as he did and then just change his mind... (full context)
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Alec asks Tess to put down her veil, as she is tempting him, and she can't... (full context)
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...human hand, rumored to once have held a cross. The place seems ancient and sinister. Alec says he has to leave and asks Tess about her new way of speaking, and... (full context)
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Alec says they will meet again, but Tess warns him not to come near her. Alec... (full context)
Chapter 46
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...is in the field with a male worker throwing turnips into a slicing machine, when Alec d'Urberville appears in the distance. Tess repeats her demand that he not come near her,... (full context)
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Alec blames himself for corrupting Tess's innocent life, but also her parents for not warning her... (full context)
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They step away from the other worker to talk. Alec is shocked when Tess says she loves someone else, and he calls her improper. Finally... (full context)
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Alec says he at least wants to help her financially, and is surprised to hear that... (full context)
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At that moment Farmer Groby rides up, mad that Tess isn't working. Alec defends her angrily but finally leaves. Tess is almost relieved at Groby's reprimands, as they... (full context)
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On the Candlemas holiday Alec shows up at her lodgings. He is agitated and admits that he can't stop thinking... (full context)
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Alec scorns her for parroting her husband's beliefs, and Tess defends Angel with a faithfulness he... (full context)
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Alec gets angry at Tess for tempting him and causing him to backslide, comparing her to... (full context)
Chapter 47
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Tess doesn't notice that Alec d'Urberville has arrived and is watching her. He is dressed fashionably now, no longer like... (full context)
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Tess asks why he keeps bothering her, but Alec accuses her of bothering him by haunting him with her eyes and ruining his faith.... (full context)
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Alec admits that Angel's arguments have convinced him, and Tess asks that he keep the religion... (full context)
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Alec emphasizes how Angel has abandoned Tess, and again he propositions her, implying that he is... (full context)
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Alec does not retaliate, but he does threaten Tess that he will be her master again,... (full context)
Chapter 48
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Farmer Groby makes them keep working by moonlight, and Alec returns to watch Tess. The work seems endless and the threshing-machine insatiable. The machine shakes... (full context)
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Alec approaches Tess again and offers to help her. She tries to give him the benefit... (full context)
Chapter 50
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...her for a long time, but he approaches the fire and she sees it is Alec d'Urberville. He looks grotesque in the dim light and peasant's clothes, and he laughs at... (full context)
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Alec says he has come entirely for Tess, and offers to help her family out of... (full context)
Chapter 51
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...recently shamed her mother for “harboring” her. She is so absorbed that she doesn't notice Alec until he knocks at the window. (full context)
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Tess says she thought he was a carriage passing by, and Alec tells her the story of the d'Urberville coach. Some past d'Urberville supposedly kidnapped a beautiful... (full context)
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...that her family is being kicked out because she is not a “proper woman,” and Alec is enraged at the villagers. Tess says they are going to Kingsbere where the d'Urberville... (full context)
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...Tess's husband, but Tess says he will never return. She cannot help but feel that Alec is more truly her husband than Angel is. (full context)
Chapter 52
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...Tess sees Marian and Izz among them. They have fled Flintcomb-Ash, and warn her that Alec is looking for her. They also ask about Angel. (full context)
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...on the family's seal and spoon. Joan and Liza-Lu go looking for food and encounter Alec on horseback. They reluctantly tell him where Tess is. (full context)
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...Suddenly one of the effigies moves, and she almost faints before she realizes it is Alec d'Urberville. (full context)
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Alec apologizes for interrupting her reunion, and stamps ironically on the vaults. He says he, the... (full context)
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Meanwhile Izz and Marian ride on, talking of Tess, Angel, and Alec. They are worried that Tess will succumb to Alec if Angel does not return, and... (full context)
Chapter 54
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...find Tess. He passes by Cross-in-Hand, the sinister stone where Tess swore to never tempt Alec again, and continues on to Flintcomb-Ash. He finds that she is not there, and that... (full context)
Chapter 55
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...come near her. She says that she waited and suffered for so long, and then Alec appeared, and helped her family, and convinced her that Angel would never return, and at... (full context)
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Angel understands the terrible truth. Tess says Alec is upstairs, and that she hates him now, but Angel must leave and never return.... (full context)
Chapter 57
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Tess says she has killed Alec, and she smiles. Angel thinks she is delirious. She says she feared it would happen... (full context)