Summary and Analysis
In a flashback we learn that Lucetta has overheard Michael reading the letters to her husband. She fears he has revealed all, but when Farfrae retires that night she learns "to her joyous amazement" that he knows nothing of her past. The next morning she writes to Henchard and asks to meet him at the Ring. She decides to present herself humbly and to beg for the return of her letters.
At sunset she meets Henchard at the Ring. The surroundings are gloomy, as usual, but the area brings to Henchard's mind his meeting with Susan, another woman whom he had wronged. This realization causes his heart to melt, and when he sees Lucetta so plainly dressed and so miserable, he relents. He feels that she has stupidly placed herself in a very compromising position by meeting him. He therefore loses all interest in her and promises that her letters will be returned the next morning.
Lucetta is shown to be losing her youthful beauty. Apparently the strain and suspense which Henchard has caused have begun to take their toll. By having Henchard promise to return the letters, Hardy is absolving him of any further intentions of destroying the marriage. However, the letters seem far too important to be dropped so suddenly.
Henchard appears in a generous light when he takes pity on Lucetta. His feeling that she is a "very small deer to hunt" reveals that largeness of outlook that contributes so much to his stature as tragic hero.