While corn prices are low, Farfrae buys a large amount of corn, and the weather suddenly turns poor again, causing the harvest to be less successful than predicted. Farfrae prospers as the corn prices rise, and Henchard laments his rival’s success. One night, one of Farfrae’s wagoners and one of Henchard’s collide in the street in front of High-Place Hall. Henchard is summoned to settle the dispute. Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane testify that Henchard’s man was in the wrong, but Henchard’s man maintains that these two cannot be trusted because “all the women side with Farfrae.”
After the conflict is resolved, Henchard calls on Lucetta and is told that she cannot see him because she has an appointment. He hides outside her door and sees Farfrae call for her. As the couple leave for a walk, Henchard follows them and eavesdrops on their declarations of love. When Lucetta returns to High-Place Hall, Henchard surprises her there. He threatens to reveal their past intimacy unless she agrees to marry him. With Elizabeth-Jane as a witness, she agrees to do so.
The next day, Henchard goes to Town Hall to preside over a case (he retains his position as a magistrate for one year after being mayor). There is only one case to be heard—that of an old woman accused of disorderly conduct. The constable testifies that the woman insulted him, and the woman interrupts many times during his testimony with objections. Finally, the woman is granted the opportunity to offer her defense. She recounts the story of an event that happened twenty years ago. She was a furmity-merchant at a fair in Weydon-Priors and witnessed a man sell his wife to a sailor for five guineas. She identifies Henchard as the guilty party and asks how such a man can sit in judgment of her. The clerk dismisses the story as mere fabrication, but Henchard admits its truth and leaves the court. Lucetta sees a crowd around the Town Hall and asks her servant what is happening. The servant tells her of Henchard’s revelation, and Lucetta becomes deeply miserable that she has agreed to marry him. She departs to the seaside town of Port-Bredy for a few days.
Lucetta walks along the road toward Port-Bredy. She stops a mile outside of Casterbridge and sees Elizabeth-Jane, who has decided to meet her, approaching. Suddenly, a bull begins to walk toward them, and the two women retreat into a nearby barn. The bull charges and traps them in the barn. The bull chases them until a man appears; he seizes the bull by its nose ring and secures it outside the barn. The man turns out to be Henchard, and Lucetta is very grateful to him for saving them. The trio heads home. Lucetta remembers that she has dropped her muff in the barn, and Elizabeth-Jane offers to run back and get it. After finding the muff, Elizabeth-Jane runs into Farfrae on the road. He drives her home, then returns to his own lodging, where his servants are preparing to move.
Meanwhile, Henchard escorts Lucetta home, apologizing for his insistence that she marry him. He suggests an indefinite engagement. When she asks if there is anything she can do to repay his kindness, he asks her to tell Mr. Grower, one of his creditors, that they will soon be married—given Lucetta’s wealth, Henchard believes that this arrangement will persuade Grower to treat his debt more leniently. Lucetta replies that she cannot do so, since Grower served as a witness during her wedding to Farfrae, which, she announces, took place this week secretly in Port-Bredy.
Shortly after Lucetta arrives at home, Farfrae follows with all his things. All that remains to be done, she claims, is to tell Elizabeth-Jane of their marriage. Lucetta goes to speak to Elizabeth-Jane and asks if she remembers the story about her friend who was torn between the two lovers. Elizabeth-Jane remembers, and Lucetta makes it clear that that the “friend” of whom she was speaking is actually herself. Lucetta tells Elizabeth-Jane that she wishes her to stay in the house as before, and Elizabeth-Jane says that she will think about it. As soon as Lucetta leaves the room, however, Elizabeth-Jane makes preparations to depart and does so later that night.