Henchard, being a magistrate, is required to preside in the case of the old woman accused of creating an obscene nuisance.
In court Henchard fails to recognize the old crone, although she looks faintly familiar. However, after the arresting officer gives his story, the old woman tells the court that twenty years ago she witnessed the sale of a wife. She then points to Henchard and declares that he is the man who sold his wife. She concludes by saying that he has no right to sit in judgment over her. Henchard recognizes the furmity woman and is shocked. However, he agrees with her, corroborates the story, and leaves his place of judgment.
Her servant tells Lucetta of the furmity woman's story. Lucetta, who had always believed that Henchard's wife had been presumed dead, is taken aback. She decides that she must leave Casterbridge and vacation for a few days at Port-Bredy. Henchard calls upon her a number of times only to learn that she has left town. When he calls a few days later he learns that she has returned, but has gone for a walk on the turnpike road toward Port-Bredy.
Henchard's past has finally caught up with him. The turn of events is somewhat unexpected. Even more unexpected is Henchard's complete corroboration of the furmity woman's story. Despite all his shortcomings, Henchard must be respected for a rough kind of moral virtue. It would have been easy for him to deny the furmity woman's story, since she wasn't believed in the first place. However, the ironic justice becomes plain to him, and since we have become acquainted with his quick starts and sudden decisions, his confession is not unnatural.
Shallow and Silence in Shakespeare's King Henry IV, Part II. They are comic characters and serve as country justices of the peace.
ashlar a roughhewn square block of stone.
Hannah Dominy from Latin Anno Domine (A.D., in the year of our Lord). A slight bit of satirizing of the rather ignorant type of justice of the peace. The word "instinct" which precedes the corruption of the legal phrase should be "instance."
wambling weaving, wobbling.
turmit-hit turnip-head, turnip-top, idiot.
"you son of a bee," "dee me if I haint" The constable does not want to swear in court.
larry commotion or disturbance.