Certain cows prefer certain milkers, so Dairyman Crick regularly rotates them in case a worker left and a cow refused to give milk. Tess has her favorite cows, but takes them as the rotation delivers. Soon she keeps getting her favorite cows, however, and then notices that Angel is in charge of arranging the rotation. They talk coyly and Tess implies that she might not always be around to milk the cows, but she feels ashamed of her words afterward.
Angel first shows his interest in Tess through this subtle and roundabout way, which contrasts sharply with Alec's bold flirtations. The women and their relationships with the cows again symbolize rural innocence and a connection with Nature.
One evening Tess is in the garden, enjoying the silence, when she hears Angel playing the harp. She is transfixed “like a fascinated bird,” though in reality his playing is clumsy. She approaches him slowly, keeping hidden behind a hedge.
Tess is compared to an animal, specifically a bird, continuing the series of images. She seems even more pristine in this situation, enchanted by human music.
Tess sneaks through the edge of the garden, which is full of wet grass and infested with colorful, foul-smelling weeds, and plants and snails stain her arms. She loses herself in the music and starts to cry. Angel stops and then comes around the fence, and Tess unsuccessfully tries to sneak away.
The vivid description of the garden again associates Tess with fertility and abundance. Here she appears fully as a Nature-girl, sneaking through weeds and smeared with dirt.
Angel asks Tess what she is afraid of, and she says she has no fears when outside, but indoors she has fears of life in general. Angel is surprised at her sorrow, and asks her to confide in him. Tess describes her depression and sense of the gloomy future, and Angel is again shocked that she has such pessimistic feelings, what he calls “the ache of modernism.”
Angel muses that it is strange that Tess should have these ideas at such a young age, although they are actually ancient troubles. Tess finds it strange that a man in such a good position as Angel should be depressed. He is an outsider at Talbothays, but only by his own choice, and he has money and education. They are both puzzled and intrigued by each other.
The disparities of their class and past experiences are emphasized in the nature of their sorrows. For now, though, this difference is intriguing to both, as each idealizes the other; Tess as Nature, Angel as Intellect.
They slowly learn more of each other. Tess first regards Angel as a pure intelligence, and she feels inferior. One day she laments that she knows so little in comparison to him, and Angel offers to teach her. First he proposes a history lesson, but Tess says she avoids history. To her it is like learning that she is only one in a long line of similar lives, and her fate is predestined by her ancestors, and nothing is unique about her actions or experiences.
Tess's wise, pessimistic views on history show her maturity and how her past has affected her. She already understands the power of fate and being punished unfairly. She also hints at the idea that her place in this society is a predetermined role which she must act out, a role that was inflicted upon her, not chosen.
Angel is again surprised, as he has had similarly troubled thoughts. He leaves and Tess stands peeling flowers, finally throwing them all to the ground. She is embarrassed by her conversation, and feels that Angel must think her stupid. She wonders if he would be impressed by her d'Urberville ancestry.
Tess is associated with plant imagery again. She is embarrassed by the same musings that intrigue Angel. Angel can pursue negative thoughts at his leisure, while Tess has no choice in the matter.
Tess asks the dairyman if Angel respects old families, and Crick warns her that Angel hates the idea of them. He feels that their descendants are inferior, as they had their greatness used up early. The family of another dairymaid, Retty Priddle, used to own lots of land in the area, and Angel scorned her for it. Tess is glad she asked, and realizes that it is her “supposed untraditional newness” that interests Angel.
Angel's ideas reflect some of the narrator's earlier musings, that people can be punished for their ancestors, or that bloodlines carry inherent traits within them. Retty is another example of a once-great family laid low, and the changing social order. Tess realizes how she is being idealized by Angel.