On Saturday in the market, Boldwood really looks at Bathsheba for the first time. He’s long considered women as remote phenomena more than real beings. Now he notices her face and profile, her figure and skirt. He thinks she’s beautiful, but still unsure, asks his neighbor if she’s considered handsome—he says yes, heartily. How could she have written ‘marry me’? he asks himself, just as blind in his way as Bathsheba was in failing to imagine how great issues can stem from small beginnings.
Boldwood was the only man who had paid little attention to Bathsheba before: now the idea of paying close attention to a woman is so new to him that he has to rely on others in order to make his judgments about her beauty. The narrator makes another connection between Boldwood and Bathsheba, only to emphasize again the great gulf between their characters.
Watching Bathsheba negotiate with a farmer, Boldwood suddenly becomes hotly jealous. Bathsheba realizes Boldwood is finally staring at her, and feels triumphant, though she feels sorry that she had to bring this out with such artifice. She decides to ask for his forgiveness when they next meet.
The letter has begun to work its magic, and Bathsheba, realizing this, has mixed feelings—she hasn’t lost her pride, but recognizes (as she did when running after Gabriel) that she may have erred.