It is July in the city of Wintoncester. Two people walk up the road away from town, moving quickly as if fleeing something. They are young but their heads are bowed by sadness. One is Angel Clare and the other is Liza-Lu, who has become the image of a young Tess. They hold hands as they walk.
Hardy again removes the narration from the climactic action, just like with the rape and Alec's murder. It is ambiguous if they hold hands for comfort or if Angel is following Tess's last request.
When they reach the top of the hill they turn helplessly back and wait beside the milestone. They can see everything from their position – the brilliant sun, the cathedral, and the College. The only stain is a large prison tower partly disguised by trees. Angel and Liza-Lu gaze fixedly at a pole on the tower's corner. After the clock strikes eight a black flag rises.
The milestone becomes another sinister monolith foreboding doom. All of Nature is beautiful except the place of human condemnation. Hardy at least spares us a view of Tess imprisoned and trapped indoors. The black flag rising indicates that she has been executed. Society has enacted its punishment of her, though it never examines its own brutal role in forcing Tess to commit the murder she did.
“The President of the Immortals” has finally ended his game of Tess's fate, and the world has carried out its justice. Angel and Liza-Lu fall to the ground, but after a while they stand up, take hands once more, and keep walking.
There is no benevolent God in Hardy's world, but only a cruel being using human lives for sport, and the justice of the world is harsh and unfair. Tess has reached the only fate possible in her situation as the innocent victim and unfairly persecuted woman. There is the possibility that she has gotten the one fleeting hope she continued to be able to hold after all her misery—that Angel and Liza-Lu would marry—but even that is uncertain.