Summary and Analysis
Chapter 39 - The Skimmity-Ride
Though Donald's men have sent him a note asking him to go to Weatherbury as a pretext to spare him the sight of the skimmity-ride, they have taken no protective measures for Lucetta, since they believe she had carried on an illicit affair with Henchard. That evening the skimmity-ride is conveyed in a wild procession past Lucetta's house just as she is feeling most secure.
Elizabeth-Jane, aware of the vulgar display, rushes to Lucetta's house and begs her not to look. Lucetta, however, has heard two maids gossiping outside and cannot be restrained from observing the shame the townspeople wish to cast upon her. She goes to the window. There she gazes on the procession of the ignorant revelers accompanying a donkey upon whose back are the effigies of Henchard and herself tied together back to back by the elbows. The implication that the vulgar display reveals is only too clear to Lucetta. Driven to distraction by the fear her husband will see it and grow to hate her, she falls into an epileptic fit. The doctor is summoned, and since Lucetta is pregnant he fears her condition is highly critical. A man is immediately dispatched to bring Donald home from his supposed journey along the Budmouth Road. He has gone off to Weatherbury instead.
The feeble town constables are urged on by Mr. Grower, the witness at the Farfraes' wedding, to apprehend the perpetrators of the unlawful procession, but they are unable to discover who has taken part. They meet Jopp, but he claims to have seen nothing, and they finally go to the infamous Peter's Finger Inn in Mixen Lane, but there they discover only a quiet gathering. The reader knows that the members of the group at the inn had taken part in the skimmity-ride, but since they give false witness and establish alibis for each other, the constables are powerless to apprehend them.
The skimmington-ride has done more evil than its perpetrators had intended. Despite the good-hearted Elizabeth-Jane's efforts to hide the display from Lucetta, Lucetta sees the procession. It is strange that Hardy attributes the seizure to epilepsy. Though epilepsy may occur at unpredictable times, the disease is such that the sufferer usually has a history of seizures. Yet no mention has been made of such a history of sickness in Lucetta's past.
it mid be it might be.
cleavers . . . rams'-horns Old musical instruments or noisemakers; a "croud" would be a fiddle and "humstrums" would be cranked instruments similar to a hurdy-gurdy.
Comus a masque by Milton.
was with child an old form of saying "was pregnant."