"The village of Weatherbury was quiet as the graveyard in its midst, and the living were lying well-nigh as still as the dead. The church clock struck eleven. The air was so empty of other sounds that the whirr of the clock-work immediately before the strokes was distinct, and so was also the clock of the same at their close." Maryann, alone in the manorhouse, was startled by a stealthy footfall. She saw a gray figure enter the paddock; shortly thereafter, she heard the gig traveling down the road. Thinking that gypsies had stolen the wagon, she ran to Coggan's house, where Gabriel was again staying. The men found that Dainty was the horse that had been stolen. To pursue her, they would need light, quick horses; Gabriel decided to borrow Boldwood's.
They followed the hoofmarks, and were sure because of the shoeing on one foot that it was indeed Dainty. Finally, at a tollgate, they caught up, only to discover that the "thief' was — Bathsheba!
Bathsheba explained that she had given up the trip to Liddy's for "an important matter." Then, unable to rouse Maryann, she had chalked a message on the coach-house door. She said that now that she had removed the stone from Dainty's shoe, she would be able to reach Bath by daylight. The men were sure she was miscalculating the distance, as in truth she was.
"Bathsheba's perturbed mediations by the roadside had ultimately evolved a conclusion that there were only two remedies for the present desperate state of affairs. The first was merely to keep Troy away from Weatherbury till Boldwood's indignation had cooled; the second, to listen to Oak's entreaties, and Boldwood's denunciations, and give up Troy altogether."
Following Troy to Bath insured another meeting with him, but this was something Bathsheba chose not to think about. The rest of her plan was to go from Bath to Yalbury, meet Liddy, and return with her.
The deductions made by the men in tracing and identifying the "stolen" horse reveal native skills, as does their estimation of distances. Since both men are sufficiently convinced that Bathsheba's behavior is erratic, Gabriel easily enjoins Coggan to silence.