Summary and Analysis
Boldwood gave the impression of being aristocratic. He lived in a home recessed from the road, with stables behind it. It was all overgrown with shrubbery. In the stables were fine, healthy horses; all was warmth, contentment, and plenty. Looking after the horses was almost a sacred ritual for Boldwood. "This place was his almonry and cloister in one."
Boldwood's "square-framed perpendicularity showed more fully now than in . . . the markethouse." He paced flatfootedly, his face bent downward. Except for "a few clear and thread-like horizontal lines," his face was smooth. "That stillness, which struck casual observers . . . may have been the perfect balance of enormous antagonistic forces — positives and negatives in fine adjustment. His equilibrium disturbed, he was in extremity at once." Had Bathsheba known the intensity of his nature, she might have been frightened.
It was spring, and one sensed the awakening of the countryside. Bathsheba was across the fields with Oak and Cainy. When Boldwood saw her, his face lit up "as the moon lights up a great tower." He resolved at once to cross the fields to speak to her.
Bathsheba blushed at Boldwood's approach. Gabriel, attuned to her moods, remembered that Boldwood had asked him to identify the handwriting on the valentine, and he suspected that Bathsheba might have been up to something. Finally Boldwood decided not to speak. Bathsheba, aware that she had caused a reaction in the farmer, resolved not to do such a thing again. "But a resolution to avoid an evil is seldom formed till the evil is so far advanced as to make avoidance impossible."
Two characteristics of Hardy's writing are emphasized here — the careful sketching of forms, this time of animals, and the sound and olfactory effects as well as the visual ones. Hardy builds up an intensity of feeling. Boldwood is deeply involved with Bathsheba; she recognizes that she has done a foolhardy thing. Gabriel intuitively knows there will be complications.