By Casterbridge tradition, many workingmen go to The King of Prussia for just one half pint of liquor on Sunday afternoons. The conversation reflects the finer occasion, and that day’s sermon is often discussed. Henchard chooses The King of Prussia to that day begin his drinking. The other workingmen remark that he is a stranger there, to whom Henchard replies that he has been in a melancholy mood lately, and they all know why, and hopes to lift it. He calls for a song, and the choir members say they will offer a hymn. Henchard looks outside and sees Farfrae passing in the street with Lucetta on his arm.
Henchard joins the workingmen at the King of Prussia. The workingmen are at first sympathetic for Henchard and his situation. Henchard has become one of them. The characters that have been presented as the villagers, the gossips, and the ones who observe the wealthier characters throughout the novel now surround him.
Henchard requests the hundred-and-ninth psalm and when the choir leader protests and says the fourth instead, Henchard roars that they shall sing the hundred-and-ninth. The choir complies, and the words of the psalm describe a cursed man who dies and leaves little prosperity or happiness behind him. Farfrae and Lucetta pass by again and Henchard, indicating Farfrae, says that he is the man they’ve been singing about.
Henchard imposes his will on the choir and on the gathered group. The choir’s willingness to sing his chosen psalm demonstrates their fear of Henchard’s temper and his outburst. Henchard uses the psalm as a curse, connecting its situation with Farfrae, like a prayer for his downfall.
The choir is horrified and says that they would not have sung the psalm if they thought the words were meant for a living man. Elizabeth-Jane arrives and is able to convince Henchard to leave The King of Prussia. As they walk home, Henchard repeats the ending of the sung psalm. He says aloud that Farfrae has taken everything away from him and that he must meet him. Elizabeth-Jane is alarmed by these words and asks her father what he is planning, but he does not answer.
The choir’s horror at this use of the psalm shows that they believe in the power of these words to inflict harm. Elizabeth-Jane, while not alarmed by Henchard’s use of the psalm, is alarmed at the possibility of what her father might physically do to harm Farfrae. She is focused, as usual, on the rational possibilities.
Elizabeth-Jane keeps a close eye on her father. She comes to the yard and works with him in order to do so. After a few days, Lucetta happens to stumble upon Henchard and Elizabeth-Jane working together. Henchard says to Lucetta that humble workmen are honored to have the lady of the house look in on them. Lucetta is embarrassed and hurt by his bitterness and the irony of the situation.
Elizabeth-Jane witnesses a confrontation between Henchard and Lucetta that demonstrates the extent of Henchard’s bitterness. He addresses Lucetta as if he is a lowly servant, mocking her for her position so far above him, which he presents as if it is her fault.
The next day, Henchard receives a note from Lucetta asking him not to speak to her in such a way when she has done him no injury and only wishes for him to be well off in her husband’s employ. Henchard laughs at her foolishness in writing him such a letter, which he could easily show to Farfrae, before throwing the letter into the fire.
Henchard’s laughter at Lucetta’s foolishness, before he throws her letter away, demonstrates his understanding that he still has some power over her because of their secret past. He burns the letter because he is confident about this power.
Elizabeth-Jane often brings her father tea, as one strategy for preventing him from going out to drink alcohol. One day, on this errand, she arrives to find Henchard and Farfrae both working on the top floor of the corn stores. As she watches, she sees Henchard raise his hand up behind Farfrae’s back as the younger man stands near the edge of the floor. While Henchard does nothing else, the odd expression on his face causes Elizabeth-Jane to decide that she must warn Farfrae in some way.
Elizabeth-Jane witnesses an interaction between Farfrae and Henchard, which demonstrates his desires to Elizabeth-Jane as well as to the reader. Instead of directly presenting Henchard’s internal thoughts and feelings, the novel presents his emotional state through a considered action: the death of Farfrae.