Elizabeth-Jane and Susan finish their meal in silence, consumed by their own thoughts. Donald Farfrae descends to the general company downstairs, and Elizabeth-Jane, after carrying down his tray, as well as their own, quietly joins the guests in the sitting room. At the request of some tradesmen, the young Scottish man favors the room with a song. Elizabeth-Jane is enraptured by the beauty and emotion of his song.
Elizabeth-Jane is as enthralled as the occupants of the inn by Farfrae’s musical talent and his presence. Farfrae seems to win friends and admirers naturally and everywhere he goes, unlike the gruffer Henchard. Elizabeth-Jane’s attraction to Farfrae, established in this first scene, persists throughout the novel.
Solomon Longways and Christopher Coney, two local men, call upon Farfrae to sing again, and exclaim over the song, which speaks of Farfrae’s homeland of Scotland. They ask Farfrae about why he has left his home when it is clear that he cares for it strongly. They bemoan England, and particularly Casterbridge’s dark history, in comparison, referencing its historical rebellions against the crown. Farfrae sings a few more songs, completely winning over the hearts of the occupants of the sitting room. They ask if Farfrae plans to stay in Casterbridge, only to hear that he is passing through.
Villagers like Solomon Longways and Christopher Coney play peripheral and yet vital roles throughout the novel. The development of these secondary characters helps to flesh out the world of Casterbridge. In this scene, these characters discuss their home and develop the setting, as well as demonstrating the way that Farfrae’s natural openness and joy makes him immediately popular in the town.
Elizabeth-Jane admires Farfrae and agrees with the general disappointment at his brief stay in Casterbridge. She feels that he sees the world in a very similar way to herself, as something that is primarily tragic, rather than comical, in which happiness and lightness is intermittent, rather than expected. When Farfrae plans to retire, the landlady tells Elizabeth-Jane to turn down his bed. Coming back down the stairs, Elizabeth-Jane encounters Farfrae on the stairs. He sings to her a verse of a song about “bonnie Peg my dearie.”
Elizabeth-Jane, despite her limited knowledge of Farfrae, is quick to establish similarities between themselves. Her initial crush holds true, however, over years and in the face of trials. She is attracted to Farfrae’s character and this does not change, even as she gets to know him better, and as time passes. Farfrae demonstrates an initial interest in her as well.
Elizabeth-Jane returns to her room to find Susan distraught at the idea that Elizabeth-Jane lowered herself to waiting in the inn, for this would cast a poor light on Henchard, if he did connect himself with them, and this information was public. Elizabeth-Jane says she did not mind waiting upon the very respectable young man. Henchard, who has wandered past the inn after his meeting with Farfrae, overhears the young man singing, and wishes he could have convinced him to stay and join in his business.
Susan’s distress at Elizabeth-Jane working at the inn reflects her obsessive focus on Henchard’s high position. She has not been able to overcome her fear of Henchard’s position, despite her conviction that it is her duty to return to him. At this point, Henchard feels as charmed by Farfrae as any of the villagers, and wishes he would stay.