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 her into a reverie. The other women keep going by drinking ale, but Tess still abstains because of her childhood experience of her drunken father. The work is terrible, but less terrible than facing Alec again. Finally they catch the rats under the sheaves and are finished.
This is one of Tess's lowest moments, as she is caught between wearily serving an industrial master and seductions and antagonism from her rapist. Alec is no longer her employer, but she is just as vulnerable to him now as when she lived at the Slopes. The machine is again described negatively.
Alec approaches Tess again and offers to help her. She tries to give him the benefit of the doubt but is still wary. Alec mentions her family, and Tess gets upset. She still refuses to take anything from Alec, and he finally departs.
Tess still is able to be independent of his financial aid, but he uses her family's hardships to again wield power over her through her own morality and guilt.
That night Tess writes a passionate letter to Angel, begging that he return because she is so terribly tempted and oppressed. She says her punishment is just, but asks him to have mercy and come home. She still loves him purely and entirely, and is the same woman he feel in love with, only now much more unhappy. She does not value her beauty except for Angel's sake, and she would willingly be his servant if only she could be near him. She warns that there is something terrible threatening her, and she fears she will succumb to it if he doesn't return.
Tess finally takes some action with regards to Angel, but she still hopelessly idealizes him and sees herself as the guilty one in the matter. All of her most submissive, self-deprecating feelings come out in this letter, and it seems like a step backward in terms of her independence and happiness.