Lucetta had retired upstairs that evening, but she had not gone to sleep. As the time arrives and passes when Farfrae normally comes to bed, Lucetta decides to get up and see where he is. She hears voices downstairs and overhears Henchard and Farfrae. She stands transfixed by horror as she hears her own words read aloud by Henchard. Their conversation indicates, however, that Farfrae does not know the author of the letters. He encourages Henchard to burn the letters to preserve the woman’s privacy, but Henchard says he will not do so.
Lucetta overhears Henchard reading the letters. Again, the power of language, and overheard information, is key. Lucetta is aware of Henchard’s ability to hurt her, but also aware of Farfrae’s ignorance about the situation. Farfrae’s advice that Henchard burn the letters is unknowingly advice that protects himself. It also shows his sense that they shouldn’t pry into private affairs.
Lucetta sits on her bed, waiting, unable to undress or move in her state of anxiety. Had Henchard revealed the truth before leaving? She wonders. Farfrae arrives upstairs and upon observing that he does not know the truth, Lucetta bursts into tears.
Lucetta’s anxiety shows her lack of control in the situation. She is entirely at Henchard’s mercy because she will not be able to defend herself against his accusation, especially as a woman at this time period.
The next day, Lucetta wonders how to parry Henchard’s next attack. She considers telling Farfrae the truth, but is too afraid that he will consider the situation her fault rather than her misfortune. She decides to attempt to persuade Henchard to return the letters to her and writes to him, requesting that he meet her at The Ring that evening.
When Lucetta considers whether or not to tell the truth, she is primarily guided by considerations of how Farfrae will react. She is worried about her reputation, but now this concern is focused entirely on what Farfrae will think. Love has changed Lucetta.
Lucetta prepares for the meeting with Henchard by wearing her drabbest clothes and attempting to heighten her tired and worn look that is the result of a sleepless night after overhearing Henchard read her letters aloud. When Lucetta sees Henchard at The Ring, she marks a change in his demeanor when he sees her. Henchard remembers his meeting with Susan in this same place, and the similarity between Lucetta’s appearance and Susan’s appearance at that moment predisposes him to take pity on Lucetta.
The Ring, which symbolizes the concealing of secrets, is the perfect meeting place for Lucetta and Henchard. Lucetta’s resemblance to Susan causes Henchard to take pity on her. Henchard was aware of the wrong he had done to Susan, but he was not aware, until this moment, of the wrong he did to Lucetta.
When Henchard says he is sorry to see her looking so ill, Lucetta says that he is the cause. She begs him to not ruin her happiness and her marriage in this way. Henchard realizes that such a woman is a “very small deer to hurt” and he feels ashamed of his desire to punish Lucetta. He promises Lucetta that he will return the letters to her, but cautions her that Farfrae may still discover the truth through someone other than himself. Lucetta says that she hopes this will not happen until she has proved herself a faithful wife, so that Farfrae might forgive her for everything.
Henchard uses the words “a very small deer to hurt” to describe Lucetta in the moment that he understand he should pity her, rather than punish her. Henchard views women as either vulnerable creatures or wild creatures to be controlled according to his wishes. To compare Lucetta to an animal is, therefore, fitting. Lucetta believes in her eventual ability to convince Farfrae to see beyond her past.