Angel sets out to find Tess. He passes by Cross-in-Hand, the sinister stone where Tess swore to never tempt Alec again, and continues on to Flintcomb-Ash. He finds that she is not there, and that when she was she never called herself “Mrs. Clare,” but only went by her maiden name. Angel begins to appreciate the hardships Tess has endured alone.
Angel makes a quick tour of all the sites of Tess's trials. Cross-in-Hand once again darkens the mood of his journey, and Tess's old oath becomes cruelly ironic in light of what has probably happened to her.
Angel next goes to Marlott to find out where the Durbeyfields are. Spring has hardly begun in the Vale of Blakemore. There is a new family in the Durbeyfield house who lives happily in their place, and Angel cannot help but hate the place for not containing Tess. The children tell him that the Durbeyfields intended to go to Kingsbere.
Nature reflects the mood of the story, as winter has dominion but spring is tentatively approaching. The happy new family in the Durbeyfield house shows just how quickly people can be forgotten, and makes Tess's story seem tragically small.
On his way out of town Angel passes by the field where he first saw Tess at the May-Day dance, and he sees John Durbeyfield's grave marked with “How Are The Mighty Fallen.” A stranger approaches and says that the headstone has not even been paid for, and Angel finds the mason and pays the debt.
All the past images start to coincide as the novel approaches its climax. Angel is faced with the full weight of his guilt. Durbeyfield's grandiosity helped him just the same as it did his ancestors – not at all.
Angel goes next to Kingsbere and finds Joan's house. She is unwelcoming to him and won't tell him where Tess is. The children ask if this is the man come to marry Tess, but Joan shoos them away. She says Tess would not want Angel to find her, but he begs until she finally reveals that she is at Sandbourne. Angel asks if they need anything, but Joan says they are well taken care of. Angel catches the train to Sandbourne.
It is finally made clear to the reader, though not to Angel, what has happened – Tess is gone and the Durbeyfields have money, so Alec must have won. The suspense builds for the inevitable reveal to Angel and whatever tragic climax Hardy has prepared.