Summary and Analysis
Chapter 7 - A Conversation between Henchard and Farfrae Is Overheard
Despite the modesty of their accommodations at the Three Mariners, Susan believes that they are "too good for us." Elizabeth-Jane is pleased at their "respectability," however. Unknown to her mother, she offers to defray some of the expense by working as a serving maid in the busy bar. During these duties she is required to bring the young Scotsman's meal to his quarters. She does so, and while serving the meal takes the chance to study his handsome bearing. She also notices that the young man's room is directly beside the one she shares with her mother.
When Elizabeth-Jane finally returns to the room with their own meal, Susan motions her to remain silent. Michael Henchard is in the room next door with the young Scotsman, whose name they learn is Donald Farfrae. Because of the thinness of the walls, their entire conversation is audible next door.
It is learned that Donald Farfrae's note to Henchard contained information on how to restore grown wheat to wholesome second quality. Henchard is sure, as a result, that the young man is the one who answered his advertisement for a corn-manager, but Farfrae assures him that is not so. Farfrae, being kind and generous, demonstrates the procedure to Henchard free-of-charge. Henchard is astounded by Farfrae's ability and immediately offers him the position of corn-manager, plus a commission. However, Farfrae is just passing through on his way to Bristol where he plans to take ship to the New World: "I wish I could stay — sincerely I would like to," he replied. "But no — it cannet be! . . . I want to see the warrld." Showing bitter disappointment, Henchard must make do with this reply despite his liberal offer and persistent pleas. Farfrae offers Henchard a glass of ale, which is refused. Henchard states his reason for refusing: "When I was a young man I went in for that sort of thing too strong — far too strong — and was well-nigh ruined by it! I did a deed on account of it which I shall be ashamed of to my dying day."
We see that Henchard is a lonely man and has been looking for another employee who would be of value to him in his business and as a friend. Hardy is careful to convince the reader of Henchard's friendly attraction to the younger man who is temperamentally and physically the opposite of Henchard. We also see that Henchard is continually hounded by his youthful deed. There is a hint that Henchard is still the same, however, in the ease with which he forgets the prior claim to the corn-manager's job of the applicant named "Jipp" or "Jopp."