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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Farfrae, being a shrewd businessman, buys corn when prices are low. When the weather turns damp, he sells his corn as prices rise. Henchard is not so wise; if he had only waited a few more days, grain prices would have improved, and he could have avoided his heavy loss. But Henchard is always impatient.
Farfrae continues to prosper, and Henchard believes he will soon be the Mayor. As a result, Henchard's jealousy grows more intense and spreads to his employees. When an accident occurs below Lucetta's window involving wagons of Henchard and Farfrae, the drivers start fighting. Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane see the whole incident and come down to testify that Henchard's man was in the wrong. Henchard arrives and sets things right for the moment. He then goes to Lucetta's house, but is denied admittance. He waits outside in the shadows, sees Farfrae enter the house at the stroke of nine, watches the two of them walk out into the night, follows them, and overhears them declare their love for each other. Henchard, in a fit of gloom and jealousy, enters Lucetta's house without permission and waits for her return. He threatens to reveal her past if she refuses to marry him. With Elizabeth-Jane as witness, she agrees to the marriage. Elizabeth-Jane upbraids Henchard for coercing Lucetta and wonders why Lucetta has submitted to his demands.
It is Farfrae's calm and shrewd business acumen that makes him prosper; in contrast, it is Henchard's impulsiveness that causes him to lose. Because of his losses, Henchard becomes morbid and depressed; but he still tries to place blame elsewhere. He imagines his misfortunes are because someone is practicing magic rites against him.
Henchard's jealousy over Farfrae reaches disastrous proportions, causing his character to further decline. He goes to Lucetta and threatens to reveal her past, blackmailing her into marrying him. To make matters worse, his proposal is not motivated by love, but by sheer vengeance. Had his rival been any other man than Farfrae, Henchard would probably have left her alone.
Elizabeth-Jane shows courage and nobility in the chapter. Even though Lucetta has replaced her in Farfrae's affections, she confronts her father and tells him to leave Lucetta alone. Henchard cynically remarks that the obstacle between her and Farfrae would be removed by his marrying Lucetta; Elizabeth-Jane is not amused. Instead, in her quiet, solicitous way, she tries to soothe Lucetta. At the same time, she is baffled by the hold Henchard has over her.
The next day, Henchard, taking over as magistrate, tries an old woman that is brought forward for creating a nuisance. Henchard thinks he has seen this woman somewhere, but cannot place her. She then reveals herself as the 'furmity woman' that had witnessed the sale of Susan and Elizabeth-Jane twenty years ago. She exposes Henchard, revealing his past and claiming he has no right to pass judgment on her. Henchard does not deny her allegation and leaves the court.
When Lucetta hears of Henchard's past, she is shocked and worried about her reputation if she marries him. With Elizabeth-Jane's encouragement, Lucetta decides to go to Port Bredy for a rest. During her absence, Henchard calls on her a number of times only to learn she has left Casterbridge.
Though short, this chapter is one of the most dramatic in the novel. It begins on a light note, with Constable Stubberg giving his testimony. This humorous scene is quickly and completely overshadowed when Henchard meets his nemesis in the guise of the old "'furmity woman'". She recognizes Henchard and exposes the fact that twenty years ago he sold his daughter and wife for five guineas.
Henchard must be respected for his sense of justice, for he makes no attempts to deny her allegations. Instead, he endorses her judgment that he is no better than she to judge her; he then quietly leaves the courtroom. This one noble aspect of Henchard's character should come as no surprise to the reader, for Henchard's moral fiber has been seen throughout the novel. It is his ingrained sense of justice that makes him remarry Susan and propose to Lucetta when he is again free. Yet because of his owning up to the 'furmity woman's' allegation, the fortune and reputation that he has gained will take a further downward slide.
When Lucetta hears about Henchard's past, she feels totally trapped. She dreads the prospect of being tied down to a person like Henchard, who had auctioned his wife like livestock; but she is afraid to turn down his proposal, for she knows he will ruin her reputation, as he has threatened. Her despair is understandable.
It is important to notice how Hardy deals with the courtroom scene. He is surprisingly terse in his description about what goes on in the court and says little about the resulting chaos probably caused by the 'furmity woman's' revelation.