It’s now 5 a.m., and the wind keeps shifting ominously. A drop of rain hits Gabriel’s face as the wind snarls around him. Then it begins to fall more heavily. He recalls fighting against fire eight months earlier in the same place he’s fighting against water now: his love has continued all the while. He hears voices from the barn: the guests are leaving, abashed.
From one crisis to another, Gabriel has internalized an understanding of nature’s power over humans, respecting such forces even while working to combat their destructiveness (a similar attitude to the one he has in love).
Soon Gabriel too returns home. He passes Boldwood, and they each comment on the other’s haggard appearance. Gabriel says he’s been working on covering the ricks, and he asks Boldwood’s if his are safe—he says no, that he overlooked the ricks this year. This has a dramatic effect on Gabriel, who understands how preposterous such forgetfulness would have seemed only a few months before.
Gabriel and Boldwood have increasingly come to recognize the similarity of their positions with respect to Bathsheba. Nonetheless, Boldwood’s state, Gabriel begins to realize, is actually far more dire than his own, as it’s interrupting his daily life and livelihood.
Finally Boldwood does admit that he’s been out of sorts lately. Gabriel says he did think Bathsheba would marry him. Boldwood imagines he’s the parish joke: Gabriel hastens to deny it, but Boldwood says the truth is that there was never any real engagement or promise. He turns his face to Gabriel and cries that he’s weak, foolish, and grieving: sometimes he thinks it would be better to die than live. But then he says no woman ever had power over him for too long. He asks Gabriel not to repeat their discussion.
Gabriel may love Bathsheba himself, but having been rejected by her, he was also critical of her careless attitude towards Boldwood. Just as Bathsheba sought to defend her husband to Gabriel, here Boldwood defends Bathsheba to him, before making it more clear than ever that he’s in great distress.