The Mayor of Casterbridge
Thomas Hardy
Contributed by Bobbie Heil
Chapter 44

Meanwhile, Henchard continues on her journey away from town. He rests, with the burdens of his souls allowing him to sleep deeply. He appears to be on the road to Weydon Priors, and a flash of memories of Susan and his baby daughter return to him. He tries to move on, but he cannot forget his Elizabeth-Jane, though he chides himself for his weakness over a daughter who is not even his own. After a long search, he secures work as a hay-trusser, mimicking his original employment as a young man. He lingers on the thought of starting up again in a new location, but he has little desire. He manages to keep up with news about Casterbridge from the various passersby as he is working in the fields.

One day, he inquires about Farfrae and the wedding from a merchant who has passed through Casterbridge. He learns that there is to be a wedding soon, on Martin’s Day, and assuming it to be theirs and overwhelmed with a desire to attend, Henchard sets off back to Casterbridge to arrive in time. He thinks Elizabeth-Jane will even be glad to see him, since she mentioned that his presence was desired at the big celebration, whenever it should arrive.

He decides not to make his appearance until the evening of the wedding and purchases a suitable outfit to wear. He chooses a small goldfinch bird as a present to his daughter, and he makes his way to his original hometown. Hearing the bells toll to symbolize their marriage, he seeks the wedding party at Farfrae’s residence in which to make his presence known. Henchard uses a back entrance, not wanting to disturb the festivities, and observes the proceedings from a small back room. He sets down the bird outside in a bush, and asks a servant to inform the mistress that an old friend has arrived to see her. As he waits, he sees the partygoers dancing lively, and he soon notices that one of the merrymakers is Newson.

Right then, Elizabeth-Jane enters and is startled by the sight of "Mr. Henchard." Hearing her call him this and not Father, Henchard tries to beg forgiveness but Elizabeth-Jane is unwilling to love him for his deception. Henchard can speak no further, and miserably leaves the house, telling Elizabeth-Jane not to be distressed at his account since he will no longer bother her anymore.

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