That evening Angel is still restless, so he goes outside. He is surprised by his own burst of passion, and wonders how they should act before others now. He had planned to come to Talbothays for a brief episode of education and observation, but now the outside world has become dull to him and the farm is transformed by Tess's personality into a wonderful, abundant, homelike place.
Tess brings out Angel's more liberated inner nature, but his repressed conventionality quickly returns. Tess has the power to affect Angel's mindset and seemingly the entire environment, although it may be that she is just perfectly aligned with Nature instead.
Even apart from Tess the dairy has become important to Angel. He realizes that his experiences here are as important as elsewhere, and that Tess is not a doll for his temporary pleasure but a human with her own “precious life.” This life is her only chance in this world, a chance given her by an “unsympathetic First Cause,” so Angel must be careful in dealing with it.
Angel has many wise and admirable observations here that contrast with Alec's carelessness. It seems that he shares Hardy's idea of a compassionless God or predestined fate.
Angel realizes he should probably avoid Tess for a while, but the thought is repulsive to him. He decides to go home and ask his family and acquaintances if it doesn't make sense for a farmer to have a farm-woman for a wife.
Angel is constantly trying to reign in his emotions, and his return home symbolizes the importance he places on the opinions of others, despite what his inner nature feels.
At breakfast the four women discover that Angel is gone, and they try to hide their despair. Dairyman Crick blithely discusses his eventual leaving, and guesses that Angel has about four months left at Talbothays.
The date is set at which everything will change again, so they have something to both hope for and despair of. The dairyman is humorously blind to his workers' passions.
At that time Angel is riding home to Emminster with some pudding and mead from Mrs. Crick. He watches the road and thinks about his potential future with Tess, and what his family and community would think if he married her.
Angel tries to reconcile his innate, natural love for Tess with the opinions of society and his family. In his passion, such reconciliation still seems possible.
Angel passes by his father's church and sees some school-girls, and among them is Mercy Chant, the pious woman his parents want him to marry. Angel thinks of the fertile valley and Tess, and tries to avoid Mercy.
Mercy is herself a unique woman, but the story is Tess's, so here she represents the upper-class properness and repression, and contrasts with wild, natural Tess.
Angel has come home on an impulse without warning his family, and he arrives at breakfast. Both his brothers, Felix and Cuthbert, are home from their respective positions. Their father, Reverend Clare, is an “honest, God-fearing man.” He is one of a dying breed of clergymen who is extreme and conservative in his views but wins everyone's admiration for his sincerity and fervency.
Reverend Clare gets the most respect among the Christians Hardy portrays, but it is his sincerity and passion that are portrayed positively more than the specifics of his religious beliefs. His whole nature leans in this one way, and he remains true to it despite the fashions of the church and society.
Angel imagines his father uncomprehending and condemning of the “aesthetic, sensuous, pagan pleasure in natural life and lush womanhood” that Angel has lately enjoyed. Clare cannot accept his son's skepticism, but his heart is so kind that he feels and acts no differently towards Angel.
Angel admits the pagan nature of his current rural life, and contrasts it with his father's austerity. The Reverend's kindness makes his harsh religious beliefs more human.
Angel sits down and again feels that he has changed while his family remains the same. His brothers notice that he behaves with the passionate freedom of a farmer, and has perhaps “lost culture.” Later Angel walks with them; they are both educated men who wear the glasses that are in fashion, read the poets in fashion, and believe the doctrines in fashion. Angel notices their recent “mental limitations” as they settle into their respective mindframes of the Church and University. Both are somewhat inferior in spirit to their father, and they have little curiosity for life or sense of the wider world beyond.
Hardy disparages the older brothers for their unoriginality and lack of conviction. They are more socially proper than Angel, Tess, or Reverend Clare, but they have lost their sense of wonder in the world and can no longer empathize with other points of view. Hardy's social and religious critique is at its sharpest here, and the perfectly conventional Clare brothers seem like lifeless cutouts of what their society wants them to be.
Felix comments on Angel's farming future and advises him to not drop his morality and thought, as in his latest letters he seemed to be losing intelligence. Angel disparages Felix's fixed ideas of dogma. They return home and Angel is hungry, but neither parent returns until much later.
The brothers' worlds collide but they have little to say to each other, so lost are they in their own states of mind. Angel is used to the hearty meals of a farmer, and finds his family's austerity stifling.
Angel looks around for his gifts from Mrs. Crick, but his mother has given the puddings to the poor and put the mead in the medicine cabinet, as they never drink alcohol. Angel uses a rural expression and then feels ashamed of his family's stiffness.
The contrast between meals at Talbothays and in the Clare household is emphasized. The farmers embrace their appetites and pleasures while the Clares deny themselves.