Gabriel walks back to his plantation, lost in thought. At the bottom of the hill, he sees the girl on a pony from afar, and wonders if she’s come to look for her hat. Suddenly he sees it lying in a ditch, and takes it back to his hut. The girl rides up to the hedge lining the hut, and he is about to emerge, when he sees the girl look around as to see if anyone’s there, then easily slip down the back of the horse, then ride it side-saddle—unexpected for a woman.
Gabriel is becoming more and more adept at spying on this woman from afar, a tendency that is paired awkwardly with his own judgments about the woman’s character and behavior. Here we’re given another example about the woman’s lack of concern for certain gender norms.
Amused and surprised, Gabriel returns to his sheep. An hour later, the girl returns seated properly, with a bag of bran. A boy meets her near the cattle shed; they milk the cow together. Gabriel leaves and waits for her outside. She emerges, bright and cheerful, and seems surprised to see Gabriel’s face from behind the hedge. Gabriel, meanwhile, notices her severe, regular features, better-proportioned than most girls, though her neck and shoulders are entirely covered—the line of the unseen being higher here than in towns.
Gabriel watches as the girl deftly navigates another of the tasks necessary in the country, taking charge once again. For the first time, he is able to look at her in the face. Although he’s come to characterize her as vain and independent, the woman also is undeniably a creature of the country, not of the town with its own class emblems and norms.
Gabriel blushes a little and says he found a hat. She says it blew away last night—one o’clock, he says, since he was here. She asks about his farm, then says she had needed her hat this morning to ride to town. He says he knows—he saw her going down the hill—and meets her eyes. Now she is the one to blush extravagantly, while he politely turns away. Still waiting, he hears a sound and looks up: she’s left. Feeling somewhere between tragic and comic, Gabriel goes back to work.
Gabriel’s calm, reasoned demeanor evaporates once he has to talk to the woman in person. It’s unclear whether Gabriel means to alert the woman as to the fact that he saw her in not exactly feminine actions, but either way, it’s Gabriel who ends up seeming more abashed than she does.
Each day for five days, the woman returns regularly to milk the cow, but ignores Gabriel —the fact that he saw her, and let her know, has offended her, making her feel inappropriate.
Together with Bathsheba’s vanity comes a sense of pride that makes her reluctant to associate with someone who’s seen her at a weak moment.
One evening that week, though, a frost spreads over the land, and finally Gabriel returns inside to get warm. The wind keeps getting in, though, and for a moment he decides to keep both the door and ventilating hole closed to warm up, even though the fire needs ventilation. Gabriel falls asleep without closing either, and when he opens his eyes, his head is on the girl’s lap. Seeming amused, she says it was remarkable that he wasn’t suffocated, and scolds him for keeping the vent and door closed. Absently, Gabriel agrees, feeling a mix of embarrassment and pleasure. She says she heard his dog howling, and found him near dead.
Gabriel may be dutiful and hard-working, but he’s still new at farming, which becomes clear as he makes the mistake of falling asleep without making sure that he’s safe as a fire is roaring. Now it’s Gabriel’s turn to have his pride wounded at having to be saved, although, unlike Bathsheba, he does feel a more complicated mix of emotions—his fascination with her includes both admiration and skepticism.
Gabriel says she’s saved his life, and asks her name: she says he may ask for it at her aunt’s. He tells her his own, and they banter, before he asks to take her hand. After an instant he lets it go, then says he’s sorry he did—she gives it back to him. She asks if he’d like to kiss it; when he says he wasn’t thinking of that, she snatches it away, then teasingly tells him to find out her name, before leaving.
For the first time, Gabriel allows his feelings of attraction to overcome his more judgmental sentiments towards her. Bathsheba, in turn, may be a simple woman from the country, but she is a natural at teasing and flirting, as her behavior shows.