In Chapter 19 of The Mayor of Casterbridge, what does the line "he jumped up in impulse, kicked off his slippers" relate to?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 19 of The Mayor of Casterbridge, Susan Henchard has just died and, in the grief following her death, Henchard makes another one of his decisions that lack foresight and have ramifications that reach far into the future. Henchard decides to confess to Elizabeth-Jane that he is in fact her father instead of Newson. Before keeping his word to allow Elizabeth-Jane to compose herself and adjust to the shocking news in private, he gains her agreement about changing her name from Newson to Henchard. He then retires to his room to find the personal documents that will prove his assertions. While looking for these, he comes across the letter written by the late Mrs. Henchard just before her death. Being ill, she has folded and sealed it badly so that the seal is broken and the poorly folded letter is coming open.

Innocently enough, with no disrespectful or prying design in mind, Henchard proceeds to read the letter. To his dismay he learns that his daughter Elizabeth-Jane died in infancy and that the present Elizabet-Jane is in fact Susan's second child fathered by Newson. It is here, after tumultuous contemplation, that Henchard impulsively, again without forethought, "jumped up" and "kicked off his slippers" in order to go barefooted and unheard to determine the truth of Susan's claim. He sneaks into Elizabeth-Jane's room to examine her features in the revealing repose of slumber. By candle light, he discovers that Newson's features are written all over Elizabeth-Jane's face. She is not Henchard's daughter; she is Newson's daughter.