The Mayor of Casterbridge
Thomas Hardy
Contributed by Bobbie Heil
Chapter 38

Lucetta is reveling in her position as the mayor’s wife, having shook the hand of the royal personally and hearing the buzz that her husband might even be knighted. Henchard, meanwhile, is angry that Farfrae handled him in front of the entire town and that he hears Lucetta deny that he was anything more than a common employee of Farfrae’s. He leaves Farfrae a message that he wishes to see him at the granaries as soon as it is convenient for Farfrae to be there.

At the granary, Henchard rigs a rope around himself so as to pin back one of his arms against his body. He looks down at the lower level, with a distance of about thirty feet from where he is standing. Farfrae enters, and it is obvious that Henchard is scheming to injure him in some way, but hearing Farfrae whistle a tune, Henchard is momentarily deterred. Once Farfrae stops singing, however, Henchard informs him that he will not stand his snubbing any further. The humiliation from the morning is unbearable, and Henchard proposes a fight to the death. The two men will go face to face and whoever falls to the level below is the loser. Because Henchard is the stronger man, he removes his advantage by pining one of his arms. Farfrae tries to get him to calm down, but Henchard lunges and Farfrae is forced to defend himself. They wrestle and battle from side to side, until finally Henchard has Farfrae’s life in his hands, yet he cannot kill him from a surge of self-reproach and shame. Henchard also remembers his great friendship with Farfrae and is ashamed at his actions.

Farfrae stands up, a little unsettled, and stops to talk with one of his employees before he takes a horse and leaves. Henchard tries to think of a way in which he can win back Farfrae’s good favor and beg forgiveness. But he recalls that Farfrae has gone off in a journey, to a different point than he set off for since his employee tells him that he has been summoned, so Henchard will be unable to apologize tonight. As Henchard walks through town, he hears a racket off in the distance, but he is too absorbed in his own self-degradation to pay it any heed.

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