The Mayor of Casterbridge
Thomas Hardy
Contributed by Bobbie Heil
Chapter 26

One day, Henchard and Farfrae meet unexpectedly on a walk, and in their awkwardness, they attempt to pass each other without speaking. However, Henchard is preoccupied with a recent letter from Lucetta and asks Farfrae to recall the secret that he had confided to him when they first met. Farfrae advises that if Henchard has proposed to her and she refuses, then he not longer has any obligation to her. Still Henchard is blinded by his competitiveness with Farfrae and his emotions for Lucetta.

On a visit to Lucetta, Henchard tries to determine her feelings for Farfrae, to no great success. Before they can delve any further into the topic, the door knocks and in walks Farfrae, also seeking to pay Lucetta a visit. The four sit awkwardly, with both Farfrae and Henchard assuming Lucetta’s attentions are solely directed at him.

The encounter antagonizes Henchard, and he immediately hires Joshua Jopp as his foreman, the man whom Farfrae had displaced when Henchard first hired him. Henchard reveals to him that his plan is to drive Farfrae out of business, and Jopp willingly agrees, holding his own dislike for the Scotsman for taking his job. Their scheme is to buy and sell their crops in accordance with the weather pattern, to ensure a profit when there is a scarce supply. If the weather is poor, they will hoard their quantities until the prices skyrocket.

Henchard’s blind determination to snuff out Farfrae leads him to seek a hermit, believed to have powers of divination. That night Henchard pays a visit to Wide-oh, as he was rudely called by the townspeople, and learns from him that the season’s weather will be full of rain and storms. Henchard quickly leaves the lonely man, thanking him for the information, and returns to town. The next day, he and Jopp purchase an exorbitant supply of grain, causing the town to wonder about the sudden large transaction. Yet sadly, the weather turns out excellent and grain is in plentiful supply. Henchard loses heavily on his bet for bad weather. When he comes across Farfrae one day, he tries to downplay his losses, but he cannot deny his bankruptcy.

The gloomy Henchard has a long meeting with the Casterbridge Bank, and he is infuriated after the proceedings when he sees Jopp. He fires his employee for not advising him towards a better course, and although Jopp tries to explain his actions, Henchard will hear no more and storms away. Jopp is left standing, unemployed and outraged at Henchard.

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