Summary and Analysis
Bathsheba's home, which "presented itself as a hoary building, of the early stage of Classic Renaissance," was once the manorial hall of a small estate. Ornate stone pilasters, finials, and other Gothic features adorned it. All the outlines were softened by a mossy growth. The entire complex of buildings was mellowed, and its new function, as a farmhouse, seemed to have turned it front to rear, reversing its focus.
Within, the floors, at present uncarpeted, creaked and sagged. Bathsheba and her maid-companion, Liddy, were in one of the upper rooms, sorting the belongings of the former owner. Liddy was the old maltster's great-granddaughter, and "her face was a prominent advertisement of the light-hearted English country girl." Maryann Money could be heard scrubbing, and Mrs. Coggan was busy in the kitchen. A horse tramped up the footpath, and the women were thrown into confusion when they saw that the rider was a gentleman. He knocked, and the responsibility for answering the door was delegated from one to another. Eventually Mrs. Coggan, flour-covered, opened it and announced Mr. Boldwood. Bathsheba could not see him, said Mrs. Coggan, for she was "dusting bottles sir, and is quite a object." Boldwood explained that he was merely inquiring as to whether Fanny had been found.
Later, the girls told Bathsheba that Boldwood was a gentleman farmer, a forty-year-old bachelor. He had befriended Fanny and had sent her to school. Then he had gotten her the position with Bathsheba's uncle. Boldwood, they agreed, was kind, but "never was such a hopeless man for a woman!" He had resisted all female attempts to ensnare him.
Bathsheba, in a petulant mood, told Maryann that she should long since have been married off. The girl agreed: "But what between the poor men I won't have, and the rich men who won't have me, I stand as a pelican in the wilderness!" To Liddy's question, "Did anybody ever want to marry you, miss?" Bathsheba answered, "A man wanted to once." But "he wasn't quite good enough" for her. At this point, a file of employees was seen arriving.
To describe the manor house, Hardy draws on the terminology of architecture, with which he is professionally conversant. He adds the mellowed tones of a painter's appreciation and creates the venerable, musty atmosphere of the estate.
This is our first meeting with the gossiping female servants; they are as absorbing as their male counterparts in the previous chapter. Into this preserve comes the very masculine Boldwood. Through conversation with busybody Liddy, Bathsheba learns about him. He is fond of children (he rewards the little gatekeeper), but impervious to womanly charms and wiles.