Summary and Analysis
A group of men congregated outside of Boldwood's house, watching the guests arrive and whispering rumors of Troy's reappearance. They were sure Bathsheba hadn't heard of it but weren't sure whether that was a good or bad omen. They sympathized with their mistress.
Boldwood came out. Not noticing the watchers, he leaned on the gate, murmuring, "I hope to God she'll come, or this night will be nothing but misery to me!" A few minutes later, wheels were heard; Boldwood went to welcome Bathsheba.
Tall, Smallbury, and Samway went to the malthouse. They saw Troy peeping in a window. "The men, after recognizing Troy's features, withdrew across the orchard as quietly as they had come. The air was big with Bathsheba's fortunes to-night: every word everywhere concerned her." The men were unnerved by Troy's return and decided that they should warn Bathsheba. Laban was chosen to tell her but was reluctant; he entered Boldwood's house and left again. He couldn't bring himself to ruin everything. The men decided they had better all join together.
Meanwhile, having stayed an hour and thus satisfied amenities, Bathsheba wished to leave. But before she could go, Boldwood found her and insisted on an answer to his proposal. Finally, she gave her promise: If she were truly a widow, she would not marry anyone, if not Boldwood. The man's restraint broke, and he told her of how he had suffered, of how much he loved her. Sobbing, Bathsheba finally agreed to marry him in six years. Boldwood gave her the ring. Bathsheba said it would be improper for her to wear it. When he persisted, she agreed to wear it just for the evening.
Bathsheba descended from the little parlor to find the party somehow deadened. As one of her men stepped forward to talk to her, there was a knock at the door. Someone wished to speak to Mrs. Troy. Boldwood asked the man in; he was one of the few who did not recognize Troy. Bathsheba sank down at the base of the staircase, staring. Still unaware, Boldwood invited the stranger to have a drink. Troy strode in, turning down his collar and laughing. The truth suddenly dawned on Boldwood.
Troy ordered Bathsheba to leave with him. She hesitated. Boldwood, in a strange voice, told her to go. Troy then pulled her roughly, and she screamed. There was a loud noise. Smoke filled the room.
When Bathsheba had cried out, Boldwood's face had changed. He had taken a gun from the rack and had shot and killed Troy. He then attempted to shoot himself but was prevented by Samway. Boldwood said, "There is another way for me to die." He kissed Bathsheba's hand, "put on his hat, opened the door, and went into the darkness, nobody thinking of preventing him."
The action of this chapter is crowded and rapid. One event swiftly follows another, adding to the dramatic quality — as Hardy well knew, having been in his earlier years a playwright.
An atmosphere of inevitability surrounds the climax of the chapter. Once before Boldwood attempted to save Bathsheba from Troy, and when he found he was being tricked he had warned, "I'll punish you yet!" Since that time Boldwood's emotional instability has been made increasingly apparent. His determination to possess Bathsheba is that of a fanatic. Troy has changed little, and he is once again able to thwart Boldwood by trickery and deceit. Never a man of caution, he has ignored a premonition of disaster, and his dramatic gesture costs him his life. We may initially be shocked at Troy's murder, because the chapter has moved so quickly, but we are not really surprised by it once we pause to reflect.