Mrs. Brooks, the landlady of The Herons, grows curious about the aftermath of Angel's visit to the d'Urbervilles so she eavesdrops at their door. She hears moaning, and through the keyhole sees a woman kneeling in despair. A man asks what the matter is.
Hardy again changes perspective for the climactic action. This helps build up the suspense, but it also echoes the switch to Angel's perspective earlier, which avoided describing Alec's victory.
Mrs. Brooks hears snatches of a lament from the woman. She says that the man never relented in his cruel persuasion, and used her family's needs against her, and mocked her that her husband would never return. She finally believed him, but now her husband has returned, and she has lost him again because of the man, and she fears her husband is ill and will die for her sins. Mrs. Brooks sees that her lips are bleeding from clenching her teeth, and then an argument starts and Mrs. Brooks runs downstairs.
Tess finally lists all of her grievances against Alec and all the ways he controls her. This is her final outburst before the climactic action (which Hardy never actually describes), and almost justifies the murder as the only way she can escape her rapist's terrible influence on her life. Her bloody mouth also recalls Alec's after Tess struck him with her glove.
She enters her own room which is directly below the d'Urbervilles'. She hears nothing through the ceiling, so she finishes her breakfast and knits. Then she sees Tess passing outside and into the street with a veil over her face. Mrs. Brooks goes back to knitting, wondering about the couple, but then she notices a red spot on the white ceiling. It grows quickly until it looks like an ace of hearts. Mrs. Brooks touches it and sees that it is blood.
The red spot against white echoes Prince's blood on the innocent Tess, and is also a symbolic image of the original rape. The “ace of hearts” also recalls Car Darch, the “Queen of Spades,” and suggests that Alec is the red card finally laid low. Hardy never shows us the actual murder.
She goes upstairs and listens through the door, but can only hear an ominous dripping. She runs out for help and then returns with a man and enters the apartment. The man looks in the back room and comes back shocked, saying there is a dead man who has been stabbed with a knife. They raise the alarm and later the surgeon finds that the small wound touched the man's heart, and the news of the murder spreads through the village.
Hardy adds another layer of remove from the climax by not even having Mrs. Brooks see the body, but only another man describe it. The stabbing is similar to Prince's goring. Tess is like the small wound that touched Alec's heart, or else her d'Urberville blood is the small murderous flaw in her own heart.