30 minutes later Bathsheba arrives home. Troy has just said goodbye for two days, since he’ll be visiting friends in Bath, and has kissed her again. He had in fact only hinted that he would meet her there—she had forbidden it, but was worried that he’d come anyway, which was why she so wanted to get rid of Gabriel. She sits then jumps back up, writing a final letter of refusal to Boldwood. To calm her uneasiness, she decides to take it to one of the servant women now, though it won’t be sent until the morning.
Even while Bathsheba defends Troy to Gabriel and insists on his goodness, she recognizes that their relationship is, at least as it stands, not exactly a paragon of virtue according to the standards of society. She tries to appease her conscience by breaking things off for good with Boldwood, convincing herself that she doesn’t owe him anything.
In the kitchen Liddy, Temperance, and Mary-ann are speaking of Troy and Bathsheba: she bursts in and asks who they’re speaking of. After a pause Liddy tells her: she forbids them to gossip, saying she doesn’t care at all for him. Mary-ann says he’s a wild scamp and she’s right to hate him. Bathsheba, now in a temper, disagrees violently, but then claims again that she doesn’t care for him. She bursts into tears.
Bathsheba has largely kept a cool, controlled demeanor, but here she breaks out in a temper. Earlier she had invited the looks and attention of others, but now she recognizes how overwhelming and unpleasant such gossip can be, preventing her from being as independent as she’d like.
Alone with Liddy in the parlor, Bathsheba admits that she does in fact love Troy—she has to tell someone. She sends Liddy away, then beckons her back and asks her to swear that he’s not a bad man. She begins to say that she cannot, but Bathsheba berates her for listening to others. She paces back and forth, yelling at Liddy, who begins to cry too. Bathsheba says that love is only misery for women, and curses her fate for being one. Then she wheels around and orders Liddy never to repeat what she’s heard. Liddy agrees with dignity, but she does say she doesn’t deserve to be yelled at for nothing. Bathsheba says she’s a companion, not just a servant, so she should pay her no mind. She continues to feel sorry for herself, until Liddy cries that she’ll never leave her, and will never tell anyone what Bathsheba said. She adds that Bathsheba would be a match for any man in one of those moves. She wishes she herself had such a good protection against danger, even if it is a failing.
Just as in her relationship with Gabriel, here Bathsheba is torn between considering Liddy a true friend and confidant, and a servant who remains firmly beneath Bathsheba in terms of authority. She switches between the two whenever it best suits her. Liddy, though, has some independent spirit of her own, and objects to being treated as a mere vessel for Bathsheba’s anger. In some ways, both these women suffer equally from the expectations and greater scrutiny to which society subjects them, even as Bathsheba enjoys far greater privilege than Liddy does. Ultimately, Liddy does decide that loyalty to her mistress (and fellow woman) is more important to her than Bathsheba’s wild and sometimes unfair moods.