After his fight with Henchard, Farfrae decided to follow his plan of heading to Budmouth, until the letter requesting that he go to Weatherby rerouted him. Farfrae wishes to think over the situation with Henchard, and to not encounter Lucetta or act immediately without thought given the seriousness of the situation. The note about his business in Weatherby is an attempt by Longways, Coney, and Buzzford to remove him from Casterbridge for the evening, should the skimmington-ride take place.
Farfrae’s wish to give the situation with Henchard thought reflects his fundamental difference from Henchard as a man of premeditation and planning rather than a man of spontaneous decisions. Farfrae still has some friends among the villagers, who attempt to protect him from the skimmington-ride.
Longways, Coney, and Buzzford do not want to warn Farfrae directly should they receive any backlash from their friends and neighbors who enjoy the event. They also take no precautions on Lucetta’s behalf, believing there to be some truth in the scandal, and feeling she ought to endure the proceedings.
Farfrae receives protection, but Lucetta does not. The villagers are particularly cruel-hearted about scandal, allowing Lucetta, who they are suspicious of, to suffer through the skimmington-ride.
At about eight o’clock, Lucetta is sitting in her drawing room when she overhears a distant hubbub. This does not surprise or interest her, given the celebratory nature of the day, until she hears a maid from an upstairs window talking across the street to a maid in another window. The maids can see the figures of a man and a woman, tied back-to-back, riding on a donkey, and surrounded by a crowd of people.
Lucetta is notified about the skimmington-ride by overhearing the voices of maids who can see the proceedings. Again, a character learns of an event through the gossip and words of others. If not for this gossip, Lucetta may have not witnessed the skimmington-ride.
The one maid exclaims that the female figure is dressed exactly as Lucetta was dressed when she sat in the front row for a performance at the Town Hall. Lucetta hurries to the window, just as Elizabeth-Jane enters. Elizabeth-Jane attempts to close the window and curtains, but Lucetta tells her to let it be. Lucetta realizes that the two figures are effigies of herself and Henchard, and Elizabeth-Jane’s look betrays that she already knew this to be the truth of the situation.
Elizabeth-Jane attempts to project Lucetta from seeing the skimmington-ride once Lucetta has realized it might be about her. Elizabeth-Jane’s gesture shows no triumph, only pity. Elizabeth-Jane is not relieved to see the truth come to life, nor does she feel Lucetta is “getting what she deserved.”
Elizabeth-Jane attempts again to shut the window and block out the skimmington-ride. Lucetta shrieks that Farfrae will see it and never love her again, which will kill her. Lucetta is determined to see it and rushes out onto the balcony. In the lights surrounding the two figures there is no mistaking whom they are meant to represent. Lucetta collapses and lies on the floor in a seizure.
When Lucetta fully realizes that the effigies are herself Henchard, her first thought is of Farfrae and how he will never love her again. Her second reaction is collapse. Lucetta’s emotional distress is clear and acute. The skimmington-ride displays the secret she has fretted over, the secret that destroys her reputation.
Elizabeth-Jane rings for the servants, but they have all run out of the house to see what is happening. Eventually, the servants reappear. The doctor is called and Lucetta is carried to her bed. The doctor arrives and says Lucetta’s fit is serious, in her condition (she is pregnant), and Farfrae must be sent for immediately. They believe that Farfrae has taken the road toward Budmouth, and a man is dispatched to find him.
Lucetta’s sickness appears to be life threatening. The doctor adds the information of Lucetta’s already frail pregnant body, which accounts for the dramatic nature of her illness. When a servant is sent to find Farfrae along the Budmouth Road, the reader knows that he has not actually gone to Budmouth.
Mr. Grower sees the proceedings and calls the Constable. The two look for backup against the crowd leading the skimmington-ride, and meet up with Mr. Blowbody. But when they split up to find the crowd, it appears to have disbanded and the perpetrators cannot be found. Mr. Grower speaks to Charl, Joe, and Jopp, but they claim they haven’t seen anything.
The villagers who are not a part of the skimmington-ride and who attempt to disband it are all upper class. Mr. Grower is a creditor. Mrs. Blowbody, Mr. Blowbody’s wife, has been mentioned as a society woman and friend of Lucetta’s. This emphasizes the economic divide.
Mr. Grower and Constable Stubberd organize a group to go into Mixen Lane in search of information about the leaders of the skimmington-ride. In Peter’s Finger a small group is drinking. They speak again to Charl, asking if they just saw him, but he claims to have been at Peter’s Finger for the last hour, which Nance Mockridge confirms. No incriminating evidence or information can be drawn from the Peter’s Finger crowd and the investigators leave.
Despite the attempt to catch the perpetrators of the skimmington-ride, these people escape. When Mr. Grower and Constable Stubberd confront Charl twice, he outsmarts them, by denying his presence in town, with the support of Nance Mockridge. The Mixen Lane inhabitants stick together and help each other.