Summary and Analysis
Chapter 24 - Lucetta Tells Elizabeth-Jane a Story
Lucetta and Elizabeth-Jane now pass the days of the week in anxious anticipation of Saturday's market when they might be able to catch a glimpse of Farfrae from their window. A new seeding machine called a horse-drill is brought to town and Lucetta — wearing her beautiful new dress "of a deep cherry color" from London — suggests that they go to see the machine. While examining the drill, they meet Michael Henchard, whom Elizabeth-Jane immediately introduces to Lucetta. Michael gruffly criticizes the machine's function and departs quickly. Before he leaves, Elizabeth-Jane overhears him state under his breath to Lucetta: "You refused to see me!" Elizabeth-Jane reflects upon the incident but appears not to realize that a relationship exists between Lucetta and Henchard.
They meet Donald as he examines the new machine. It was upon his recommendation that the modern piece of farm equipment has been purchased. He explains to the two ladies that the machine will revolutionize farming. It becomes obvious to Elizabeth-Jane that Donald and Lucetta have grown fond of each other.
A few days later, desiring to get advice about her own rather difficult position, Lucetta reveals her past to Elizabeth-Jane, but tells the story as if it had happened to another woman. Her main question is what should the other "she" do now that "she" has grown fond of a second man. Elizabeth-Jane refuses to answer so delicate a question. However, she knows that Lucetta had been referring to herself.
The plot becomes more involved. Farfrae is advancing in Lucetta's favor while Henchard declines. Though Elizabeth-Jane does not know of a relationship between Lucetta and Henchard, she is saddened by the interest in each other that Donald and Lucetta already show. Not only has fate taken away most of Michael Henchard's happiness, but it also appears that chance and blind circumstance are plotting to do a similarly thorough job on Elizabeth-Jane's life. Yet we admire increasingly the uncomplaining girl and respect her silent stoicism.
The seed-drill accents the differences between Henchard and Farfrae. Henchard's stubborn conservatism evokes sympathy, but progress is clearly on Farfrae's side.