Henchard lives in constant anxiety that Newson will return to Casterbridge, but as time wears on and he does not, Henchard grows increasingly dependent upon Elizabeth-Jane’s care and love. Farfrae’s initial instinct to seek revenge upon the leaders of the skimmington-ride is tempered by his realization that to make too much of Lucetta’s history will harm himself and Henchard, as well. The outcome of the event is therefore regarded as an unintended and unfortunate accident. Henchard accepts the small seed business purchased for him by Farfrae and the members of the council.
Time passes and smoothes over some of the wounds that have been made by the skimmington-ride and Henchard’s fall from prominence. Henchard accepts the generous charity of Farfrae and the council, and the care of Elizabeth-Jane. Farfrae’s reaction to the skimmington-ride is tempered by reflection and time. A delicate peace has been reached in Casterbridge.
With time, Farfrae is able to put Lucetta’s life and death into perspective, realizing that with the revelation of her history, which would have occurred some day, life with her could never have been the same. By the end of the year, Henchard’s seed business is doing very well. Elizabeth-Jane takes long walks most days in the direction of Budmouth.
Farfrae’s rationalization demonstrates the sexism of the time period: to learn that Lucetta had a previous romantic connection would have hurt their marriage. While this rationalization is surprising, it helps Farfrae move past Lucetta’s death.
Henchard notices Elizabeth-Jane spending more money than she used to. Although her room is humble, it is filled with books, many of which are new purchases. She also buys an expensive muff, which he comments upon. Henchard wonders about this, but is distracted by another concern about Elizabeth-Jane when he observes Farfrae looking at her one day. He remembers that Farfrae once showed interest in Elizabeth-Jane in the past, but he hates the idea of a union between the two now, which would take Elizabeth-Jane away from him.
Henchard is more attuned to the emotions and actions of other characters than he has been in the past. This new attentiveness is focused on Elizabeth-Jane because he is obsessed with keeping her in his life. He worries about the secrets she may be keeping, from spending more money to forming a connection with Farfrae.
From that point onward, Henchard keeps a close eye on Elizabeth-Jane. By hiding in The Ring, he observes the two meet and stop to talk on the Budmouth road. He feels that Farfrae means to rob him of Elizabeth-Jane as well, when he thinks Farfrae has already robbed him of so much else.
In his usual selfish way, Henchard views a union between Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae as a personal attack. He has to hide in The Ring to observe the pair, the place associated with underhanded deeds.
In Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae’s conversation on the road, she confesses that she likes to walk that way in order to get a view of the sea, but she will not confess why this is so. She also thanks him for the new books, which are gifts he has given her.
Henchard’s two fears about Elizabeth-Jane are linked: the new items she owns, which Henchard thought she was spending more money on, are gifts from her suitor, Farfrae.
Henchard vows to himself that he will do nothing to hinder Farfrae’s courtship of Elizabeth-Jane, despite his thoughts and wishes. But when he sees how close the two have become, and believes they must be engaged, he cannot help how he feels about the situation. If Elizabeth-Jane had been interested in any other man than Henchard’s great rival, he feels he could have been content to part with her constant company and attention.
Henchard demonstrates a hard-earned maturity in vowing not to interfere with Elizabeth-Jane and Farfrae’s future together. Despite this decision, his feelings are still selfish. His dislike of Farfrae is renewed because he sees this as a new affront to his happiness and stealing of “something” that is his.