The night of the shearing supper, Bathsheba sits by the table, flushed and eyes sparkling. Boldwood appears at the gate and Bathsheba asks him to take Gabriel’s spot: Gabriel moves readily. After supper Coggan sings a love song, followed by Poorgrass. A young Coggan son is beset by giggle and is sent home for his bad manners: the others take over the singing. As the sun sets, the company talks merrily, while Bathsheba remains by the window knitting.
Bathsheba seems not to know or perhaps, just now, not to care about the fact that her private life is a matter of public discussion—Coggan and Poorgrass don’t hesitate to imply what they know by taking up love songs, while Bathsheba is content to watch over them without participating.
Gabriel notices that Boldwood has gone. His thoughts are interrupted by Bathsheba asking for his flute, since she’s been asked to sing herself. Just then Boldwood comes back inside, and joins her higher voice with his bass, singing verse about a soldier with a “winning tongue” seeking his bride. A buzz of pleasure greets the end. Pennyways has showed up uninvited, and Coggan and Poorgrass begin to berate him for stealing. Their talk masks a dramatic scene in the parlor, where Bathsheba and Boldwood are alone.
Boldwood’s dramatic re-entrance underlines even more to everyone present that there is a courtship taking place between him and Bathsheba. The choice of the song and the romantic duet create even more of a romantic atmosphere—one that is nevertheless deflated by the petty squabbles between Coggan, Poorgrass, and the bailiff.
Bathsheba says, trembling, that she will try to love Boldwood, and will marry him if she can believe that she’ll be a good wife. But she’d like him to wait a few more weeks: she cannot promise yet. Joyfully, Boldwood agrees and wishes her goodnight. She’s still struggling to make amends, but still uncertain as to whether she must do so by marrying him.
Bathsheba is again torn between different feelings, and instead of either accepting or refusing Boldwood, puts him off once again. Bathsheba is still trying to instruct herself in the laws of penance, while retaining an independent streak.