Summary and Analysis
Because Poorgrass had suffered a recurrence of his "multiplying eye," Oak was to drive Bathsheba home. He was still involved in Boldwood's business, however, and so when Boldwood offered to escort Bathsheba, she accepted, still somewhat alarmed by the incident in the tent. Riding beside her, Boldwood renewed his proposal.
He suggested that now there was no longer any reasonable doubt about Troy's death. Bathsheba objected: "From the first I have had a strange unaccountable feeling that he could not have perished." She did not want to remarry, but she did regret her treatment of Boldwood and wished she could make amends. Boldwood immediately asked her to repair the wrong by marrying him in six years, when Troy could legally be declared dead. When he persisted, she asked to delay her answer until Christmas.
Later, Bathsheba told Oak that she was afraid that outright refusal would cause Boldwood to go mad. Oak advised a conditional promise. Suggesting that there was no guarantee that they would all be alive in six years, she deferred to Oak's judgment. "She had spoken frankly, and neither asked nor expected any reply from Gabriel more satisfactory than she had obtained. Yet in . . . her complicated heart there existed at this minute a little pang of disappointment. . . . He might have just hinted at that old love of his. . . . it ruffled our heroine all the afternoon."
Boldwood's obsession with Bathsheba is further revealed. Yet, for all the farmer's seeming unbalance, he is shrewd enough to play on Bathsheba's guilt about her treatment of him. This is probably the only effective weapon he has in his struggle to win her.
Oak maintains his surface calm, while Bathsheba, eternally feminine, is piqued when he does not attempt to win her himself.