Bathsheba now loves Troy in the way that self-reliant women do when they lose their self-reliance, making them weaker than anyone. Though she is a woman of the world, she still knows little of society or of self-indulgence: her love is like a child’s. But she makes no effort to control her own feelings, and is happily unaware of Troy’s own faults, unlike Gabriel’s, whose faults are all for the showing.
Although Bathsheba has always been characterized as independent and self-sufficient, here the novel shows how such character traits can be malleable. While Gabriel isn’t portrayed as perfect either, we are meant to see his more apparent faults as better than Troy’s two-sidedness.
Gabriel recognizes this love and it pains him. He decides to speak to Bathsheba, using her treatment of Boldwood as excuse. He finds her one day walking through the corn fields. He awkwardly brings up Boldwood so that he can mention the wedding likely to take place between them, so people say. She hotly denies that this is the case. Abandoning pretense, Gabriel says he has obviously been courting her.
Gabriel has kept quiet while watching Bathsheba make what he believes are moral errors, but now he believes that she’s gone too far, and is willing to risk breaching the social gulf that has cropped up between him and Bathsheba, though it’s because he still has feelings for her.
Bathsheba insists that she must clear up any mistake. She didn’t promise Boldwood anything: she respects but has never loved him, and as soon as he returns from traveling her answer to him will be no. Now sighing, Gabriel says he wishes she’d never met Sergeant Troy. She stonily says that he’s educated, well-born, and worthy of a woman: besides, she can’t see what this has to do with their conversation. But Gabriel begs her not to trust him: he doesn’t like him, and asks her to consider being more cool towards him. Red and angry, Bathsheba stammers that he has no right to say such things. Troy’s goodness is just hidden—he goes in privately by the old tower door at church, she says, so no one sees him. Gabriel is incredulous, and sad to see how much she trusts Troy. He declares that he knows she’s lost to himself, but only begs her to be more discreet towards him, and to consider how safe she would be in his hands.
This scene between Bathsheba and Gabriel is notably similar to another scene between them, when Bathsheba had asked Gabriel for his opinion regarding Boldwood and she had flared up at him. Now, once again, Bathsheba changes in a flash from friend to mistress and back again, depending on whether or not Gabriel says something she wants to hear. At one level, then, Bathsheba seems to understand that she may be making a mistake with Troy; yet she insists on painting him as a grand, even noble figure, creating her own reality so that she can best defend her own actions.
Pale, Bathsheba tells him to leave the farm. Gabriel calmly says this is the second time she’s pretended to dismiss him. He can’t go unless she hires a bailiff: if he leaves it will go to ruin, since it’ll only be led by a woman. He may be interfering, but will remain grimly faithful. Privately, Bathsheba is grateful for this, and she asks for him to leave her alone, but as a woman, not a mistress. He stands still and allows her to get ahead of him, but then sees a figure arise in the distance—Troy’s. Gabriel turns back and goes home by the church-yard. He climbs to the tower door, which clearly hasn’t been used in years.
Again, Gabriel angers Bathsheba so much that she retakes her position of authority over him in order to banish him. But this time Gabriel holds his own. In one way this is a blatant disruption of authority, and one that suggests that Gabriel, too, is skeptical of a woman’s role in charge of a farm; but the novel also portrays his declaration as a noble sign of faithfulness to Bathsheba.