Tess cannot help being afraid when she sees Alec, and it feels grotesque to watch him speak the words of Scripture. His passion and sensuality seem to have been transformed into religious devotion, although faithfulness looks unfitted for his bestial features. Tess thinks of other great sinners that have been converted, and tries not to feel angry.
This is another brutal plot twist for Tess. According to society, Alec is in the right now as a Christian. She cannot even see him as a villain, but must now think of him like this, and feel confusion instead of hate.
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 walking, thinking how unfair it is that now God is on the side of her attacker, while she remains “unregenerate.” She can feel the physicality of the past following her as she walks.
This really is terribly unfair, as it seems cruel to protest someone's conversion, but now Alec has eluded condemnation yet again while Tess is left to suffer. Even though she is the victim, she is technically “worse” than Alec now because of her religious doubt.
She hears footsteps behind her and Alec approaches, agitated. Tess wishes he had not followed her, and speaks to him with scorn. Alec disparages his former self and tells the story of his conversion by Reverend Clare, who bore his insults with such grace that Alec began to reconsider his life, especially after his mother died.
She cannot escape the past, and it keeps returning in grotesque ways like this. Their closely interwoven lives are shown by the connection to Reverend Clare. Tess's dignity at least shines through in this meeting, and she is cold and scornful to waffling Alec.
He tries 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 and have everything forgiven. She won't accept that Alec has really been converted because “a better man” than he is does not believe. Tess says that Alec's fickle passions don't usually last.
Tess again loses her temper with Alec (entirely justifiably), which foreshadows the novel's climax. No matter how angry she becomes or how she tries to flee, she still cannot escape the persistent presence of this man who ruined her life.
Alec asks Tess to put down her veil, as she is tempting him, and she can't help feeling her old guilt just for existing as she does. Alec does not want to remember his old ways. They walk together and pass more fences painted with Bible quotes, and Alec says the man who paints them works with him.
More horrible unfairness of the double standard. Tess must feel guilty just for being attractive to men, as if her very existence was inherently sinful, when really the sin is in Alec for his lack of morals, decency, or self-restraint.
They reach “Cross-in-Hand” again, which is a bleak land with a single stone monolith carved with a 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 the trouble she had mentioned. She tells him about the baby, and he is distressed.
The sinister monolith foreshadows Stonehenge and makes the tone of their meeting seem more portentous. It is also a reminder of ancient pagan powers, contrasted with Alec's quick and easy Christian conversion.
Alec says they will meet again, but Tess warns him not to come near her. Alec says he fears Tess now, and he asks her to place her hand upon the stone hand and swear that she will not tempt him again. Tess is offended, but complies. Alec says he will pray for her and leaves. He is disturbed as he walks, and often rereads a letter from Reverend Clare to give him strength.
This oath summarizes well the novel's themes. Tess is seen as actively “tempting” the cruel, dominant man just by existing, and the idea is so ingrained in her by society that she can't help believing it. She swears the oath on an ancient paganistic monument, alone in the bleakness of Nature.
Tess meets a shepherd and asks him about Cross-in-Hand. He says it is haunted, a place where a criminal was tortured long ago. Tess later approaches a young couple, and then sees that the girl is Izz. She says the man is from Talbothays, and followed her here, but she hasn't answered his proposal yet.
Again Tess finds a murderous, spiritual past lurking behind seemingly commonplace things, as in the d'Urberville coach. There is hope that the dairymaids can move on with their lives after Angel's rejection.