Tess walks under the stars and finally reaches the heavy soil of Blackmoor, and the forests still alive with old pagan superstitions. She reaches home the next day to find her mother sleeping. The children have grown, and Durbeyfield is also ill, but excited by his new scheme of asking historians to pay for his well-being.
She is back in her fertile native land, among the pagan spirits of Nature. Durbeyfield has reached new heights in his laziness and farcical pride, but now his shiftlessness is really putting his family in danger.
Tess begins to work in the garden, as no one has tended to it lately, and she prefers the outdoors work to staying her mother's sickroom. One evening she and Liza-Lu are working as other farmers start burning their grass piles, sending up eerie plumes of smoke and making the atmosphere hazy and dreamlike. Tess works into the night, comforted by her own labor.
As always, Tess prefers the outdoors to the indoors. The smoky atmosphere is reminiscent of the Trantridge dance so long ago. Tess is able to find a little solace in her solitary labors, untroubled for a while by external society.
She is so absorbed that she doesn't notice the man working next to 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 Tess's shock and compares her to Eve, and himself to Satan. He quotes Milton to her.
Alec in peasant clothes seems like a mockery of Tess's class. She is again compared to Eve, although this time as the innocent girl suffering the serpent's temptation. Alec embraces his role as villain.
Alec says he has come entirely for Tess, and offers to help her family out of love for her. He mentions her young siblings, and wonders what would happen if her mother dies. Tess is upset but still refuses his help. Alec leaves angrily.
Alec again presses her at her most vulnerable spot – the Durbeyfield children. She is helpless to assist them, but still asserts her independence against Alec.
Tess starts home and is met by one of her sisters who says that their father is dead. Tess rushes home. Joan is out of danger, but John suddenly fell dead of his heart condition. The news means that the Durbeyfields will be evicted, as John was the lease-holder. The narrator muses that their fate is now the same as those of many peasants whom the ancient d'Urbervilles once displaced long ago.
Another sudden tragedy for Tess, this one compounded by their impending eviction. Hardy again brings up the idea that perhaps Tess is being punished for the sins of her cruel ancestors, although he knows how unfair this seems.