That evening, Gabriel is leaning over Coggan’s garden gate when he hears Bathsheba and Liddy’s voices from a carriage. Gabriel feels great relief. He lingers there until seeing Boldwood pass by, and then goes to bed. Meanwhile, Boldwood continues on to Bathsheba’s farm. He’s been in deep meditation recently, characterizing Bathsheba’s actions as emblematic of all women. But now he feels better, and wants to ask her forgiveness for his temper.
Gabriel thinks that if Bathsheba has returned home, all cannot be lost—that she must have regained reason or at least her sense of independence and left Troy behind in Bath. Meanwhile, Boldwood recognizes that he had gone too far in insisting on his right to marry Bathsheba—another way of asserting man’s power over women.
He asks Liddy to see Miss Everdene, but, in an odd mood, she says the lady cannot. Boldwood decides he must still not be forgiven. He’s still wandering through Weatherbury, when he catches sight of Troy leaving his carriage and entering the carrier’s house. Suddenly determined, Boldwood heads home and ten minutes later returns as if to call upon Troy. But as he approaches, he sees Troy leave the house, saying good night to those inside, apparently holding a carpet bag.
Boldwood initially still has hope that he might repair his relationship with Bathsheba, but upon seeing his rival he moves to encounter him, just the thing that Bathsheba had feared and wanted to prevent by going to see Troy in Bath. It’s still unclear how, if at all, that conflict has been resolved.
Boldwood follows and addresses Troy, saying he wants to speak to him about a woman Troy has wronged. Troy tries to brush him off, but Boldwood insists, saying he’s the only one who knows about Troy’s relationship to Fanny Robbin: Troy should marry her. Troy says he probably should, but in a trickster’s voice, says he’s too poor.
Rather than speaking of Bathsheba directly, Boldwood chooses another tack, thinking that, given his knowledge of Troy and Fanny, he holds the advantage here. Troy, nonetheless, seems to be inspired to trick Boldwood himself.
Boldwood says that if Troy hadn’t shown up, he’d almost certainly be engaged to Miss Everdene by this time. So he proposes that he’ll give Troy fifty pounds now, fifty for Fanny to prepare for the wedding, and 500 on the wedding day, as long as the couple leaves Weatherbury. Boldwood recognizes all the weaknesses of this proposal. Troy says he does prefer Fanny, though she’s only a servant: he agrees. Boldwood asks if he preferred her, why he ruined things in Weatherbury. Bathsheba ensnared him for a time, Troy says: now that’s over. Boldwood hands him fifty sovereigns: when Troy reminds him that he has only his word, Boldwood hopes that Troy’s shrewd enough to count on the 500 pounds.
Boldwood proposes a kind of business agreement with Troy, just as he had attempted to convince Bathsheba to marry him as more of a contract than a sign of her love or passion for him. Boldwood knows that Fanny’s whereabouts are unknown and Troy is not exactly known to keep his word, but his desire to have Bathsheba for himself is enough for him to make the gamble despite the precariousness of the offer—which Troy reminds Boldwood of himself.
They hear a pit-pat, and Troy says he must leave to meet Bathsheba, who’s expecting him, and wish her good-bye according to Boldwood’s proposal. He may hide and listen to them, Troy says, as he steps forward. She says playfully that no one will know they’ve met. Troy says he’s left his bag: she should run home, and he’ll meet her in her parlor.
It appears that Troy had already agreed to meet Bathsheba before he encountered Boldwood, and now he cruelly plays with Boldwood’s emotions in allowing him to see Bathsheba’s infatuation with him.
When Bathsheba runs off, Troy mockingly asks Boldwood, whose face is nervous and clammy, if he should tell her he’s given her up. Perhaps he’s impulsive, but he can’t marry them both, Troy says, and he now has two reasons for choosing family. Boldwood bursts out that he’s hurting Bathsheba: Troy says she can only be saved now if he marries her. Boldwood wants to kill him, but finally says he should marry Bathsheba, in order to save her honor. Now Troy begins to mention Bathsheba’s weaknesses, and Boldwood begs him to marry her anyway, as soon as possible. He’ll give Troy the five hundred on the wedding day with Bathsheba. He only has eleven pounds now, which he gives to him.
Having witnessed Bathsheba and Troy, Boldwood is well aware now that Bathsheba has fallen for the soldier. Boldwood recognizes that he’s just paid Troy to do something that would devastate the woman he loves—even though to undo his proposal would mean losing his own chances to be with Bathsheba. He also feels that Bathsheba is on the verge of giving herself to Troy and that it would ruin her honor, now, if he encouraged Troy to run away from her.
Together, they climb to the house. Troy opens the door, and then slides a newspaper through the slot back to Boldwood, telling him to read. It is an announcement of Troy’s marriage to Bathsheba. Gleefully, Troy lists all Boldwood has paid him, first for one woman then the other. Fanny’s left him, he says, and Boldwood immediately believed in Bathsheba’s dishonor. He tells Boldwood to take his money back: Boldwood hisses that he won’t, but Troy throws the gold into the road. As Boldwood rages, Troy laughs and locks himself in.
Troy has fully tricked Boldwood, making money for himself out of the bargain, but also laying low Boldwood’s pride—seemingly for no other reason than his own capricious temperament and the satisfaction of doing away with a rival. Boldwood’s temper returns with a vengeance when he realizes what’s happened, but it’s too late—Troy has won.