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The Mayor of Casterbridge
by Thomas Hardy
The Mayor of Casterbridge Chapter 11 Summary
The Casterbridge Ring, as people call the old Roman coliseum, is at the edge of town just off the main road. It's a good place for secret meetings, since it's close to town but the tall walls of the amphitheater block the view from the road. Secret lovers don't usually meet there, though, because of its sad history: it used to be the place of public execution. Henchard and Susan meet there after dark. The first thing he tells her is that he doesn't drink, and hasn't since that night. It's his way of apologizing to her. He says he looked everywhere for her and asks why she never tried to contact him. She says she thought she owed Newson the faithfulness of a wife after he'd paid for her and everything. She thought it was a binding arrangement. She says she only came to find Henchard since Newson had died. She considers herself Newson's widow. Henchard doesn't know what to do about Elizabeth-Jane, though – neither he nor Susan wants to tell the girl everything; they're afraid she would hate them. Henchard is also afraid of losing his position in town if he goes public with the story. So he comes up with the idea of giving Susan enough money to rent a cottage in town and call herself the widow Mrs. Newson. Henchard will pretend to fall in love and propose to her, and then they'll be able to get married again and live together as a family. Elizabeth-Jane will think of Henchard as a stepfather, but that's the price you pay. Susan agrees to the plan and they both walk home.
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