Summary and Analysis
On a bleak day three months later, a number of people gathered on Yalbury Hill. The high sheriff waited in a carriage. Another carriage arrived carrying the judge of the circuit court; he switched carriages, trumpets flourished, and a procession went into town. Bathsheba's men discussed their hopes that the judge would be merciful to Boldwood.
Much had been learned of Boldwood's behavior. No one had guessed the extent of his derangement. The closets in his home were found to contain an expensive and elegant collection of ladies' clothes, muffs, and jewelry, all wrapped, labeled "Bathsheba Boldwood," and dated six years ahead. Boldwood had bought the things in Bath and elsewhere and had brought them to his home.
The group which gathered at the malthouse thoroughly discussed the question of Boldwood's odd behavior. Once the suggestion had been raised, it was simple to find examples of the farmer's oddity. "The conviction that Boldwood had not been morally responsible for his later acts now became general." But Gabriel arrived to announce the verdict: "Boldwood, as every one supposed he would do, had pleaded guilty, and had been sentenced to death."
A petition was sent to the home secretary, asking for reconsideration of the verdict because of Boldwood's state of mind. But not too many inhabitants of Casterbridge signed it. Shopkeepers resented Boldwood's patronage of other towns to purchase the finery for Bathsheba. A few merciful men prodded others into signing.
The reply to the petition had not arrived by the Friday preceding the day set for the execution. Coming from the jail where he had bidden farewell to Boldwood, Gabriel saw the scaffold being erected. Bathsheba was in bed, wasting away. She constantly asked whether the messenger had arrived with an answer to the petition. Gabriel too was worried. His "anxiety was great that Boldwood might be saved, even though in his conscience he felt that he ought to die; for there had been qualities in the farmer which Oak loved."
At last, late that night, a rider brought the answer they awaited. The sentence had been commuted to "confinement during Her Majesty's pleasure."
"'Hurrah!' said Coggan, with a swelling heart. 'God's above the devil yet!"'
In this chapter we learn most of the news through hearsay and the expression of the views of the townsfolk. Liddy, for example, tells us that Bathsheba's "sufferings have been dreadful", and that she fears for her mistress' sanity if Boldwood is executed. Oak, as always, remains steadfast