Summary and Analysis
Chapter 21 - Elizabeth-Jane Moves to High-Place Hall
Elizabeth-Jane, "almost with a lover's feeling," stealthily visits High-Place Hall, the chief town topic now that word is out of a new resident there. She is impressed by the easy but rather secret access the house has from many directions. Despite the fact that the appearance of the house suggests intrigue, she is anxious to move there immediately. Henchard also visits the house, but Elizabeth-Jane hides when she hears footsteps. Thus, neither of them is conscious of the other's identity.
After Henchard's return home, she realizes that his harshness has turned to "absolute indifference." She asks if she might leave his home to take employment which will advance her knowledge and manners. He readily agrees and is somewhat relieved that she is going. Elizabeth-Jane once again meets the stranger at the churchyard and learns her name is Miss Templeman. It is decided that Elizabeth-Jane will move into High-Place Hall that very evening, although Miss Templeman wonders if it might not be better to avoid mentioning High-Place Hall to Henchard. Henchard, upon learning of Elizabeth-Jane's immediate departure, tries at the last minute to persuade her to remain. Elizabeth-Jane tells him that she will not be far and that if he should need her she will return immediately. Henchard is surprised when he learns of her destination.
This chapter completes the work of the last two — that is, stripping Henchard of his remaining affectionate ties to others. The fact that Elizabeth-Jane cannot be dissuaded from leaving shows that she is acquiring an independent character. The reader assumes that the pretty stranger who takes such an interest in Elizabeth-Jane is Lucetta. This inference, coupled with the grotesque descriptions of High-Place Hall and Henchard's clandestine visit there, hints to the reader that new directions, possibly unpleasant, will be taken soon.
Hardy's professional interest in architecture is again evident in the description of High-Place Hall. His reasons for placing it so near the center of town rather than on the outskirts will become clear.