Summary and Analysis Chapter 56



"Bathsheba revived with the spring. The utter prostration that had followed the low fever from which she had suffered diminished perceptibly when all uncertainty upon every subject had come to an end." In summer, she eventually attempted to walk to town. She passed the church and heard the choir practicing. Then she stood before Fanny Robin's grave and read the words that Troy had had inscribed. Beneath them was a new inscription: "In the same Grave lie The Remains of the aforesaid Francis Troy. . . ."

The children in the church were rehearsing a hymn, "Lead, Kindly Light." Bathsheba, recalling all that had happened, wept. Oak approached. He had been inside the church, singing with the choir.

Their talk was formal, Bathsheba addressing him as Mr. Oak. As they walked back, Gabriel spoke of his plans to leave England and go to California. He admitted that he had an option to buy Boldwood's farm, but he had decided merely to finish out his year as manager. Bathsheba was upset that Gabriel, whom she now considered an old friend, would no longer be there to help her. Gabriel answered that her very helplessness was another reason for his planned departure. From that day on, he avoided Bathsheba.

Fall and winter passed, and when Bathsheba finally received the long-expected letter of resignation from Oak, she wept bitterly. Then she donned her bonnet and went to his house. He did not realize it was she at first — then, apologetically, he admitted her. His bachelor quarters had no comforts, he said, for ladies.

Bathsheba asked if she had offended him. Gabriel explained that, on the contrary, he was leaving because there was gossip that he was waiting to buy Boldwood's farm just so that he would be rich enough to court Bathsheba.

"Bathsheba did not look quite so alarmed as if a cannon had been discharged by her ear, which was what Oak had expected. 'Marrying me! I didn't know it was that you meant. . . . Such a thing as that is too absurd — too soon — to think of, by far!'" Gabriel heard only the "absurd," not the "too soon," and their talk continued at cross-purposes until Gabriel said that he wished he knew if she would let him court her. Bathsheba tearfully assured him that he would never know whether she would have him unless he asked. The two found release in laughter, finally throwing off the inhibitions and constraints of employer and employee. To Bathsheba's embarrassed remark that she had come courting him, Gabriel replied that it was his due for having long danced to her tune.

"They spoke very little of their mutual feeling; pretty phrases and warm expressions being probably unnecessary between such tried friends. . . . when the two who are thrown together begin first by knowing the rougher sides of each other's character, and not the best till further on."


Hardy is now winding up the plot details swiftly and directly. It is in character that Bathsheba's first visit is to the churchyard, and that Gabriel's life is neatly ordered. Somewhat aloof since the tragedy, Gabriel no longer overtly aspires to win Bathsheba, but be does resign to protect her reputation. Hardy spares us a coy or saccharine close, ending rather with a bit of wise philosophy about the basis of a sound marriage.