While the narrator claims that only unconscious superiority is acceptable in women, conscious superiority can sometimes be pleasing to men as well. This is what happens to Gabriel, who begins to wait for the woman every day and watch for her through the hedge. He finds out that her name is Bathsheba Everdene, and that in a week her cow will give no more milk. She no longer comes up the hill.
Sometimes the narrator intrudes to make more general statements about women, espousing notions that may seem out of date to readers today. Nonetheless, this judgment is in the service of accounting for Gabriel’s attraction to Bathsheba despite her faults.
Gabriel repeats her name over and over. Then it dawns on him that marriage might be a way to resolve such silliness. But he needs an excuse to visit Bathsheba’s aunt. Then, one of his ewes dies: he decides to carry its lamb in a basket over to Mrs. Hurst, the aunt, accompanied by his dog George.
It takes a little time for Gabriel even to understand that he’s fallen in love with Bathsheba, given the inauspicious beginning of his acquaintance with her: now, though, he shows the same resolve as in farming.
Gabriel has dressed and prepared properly, not too over-the-top, though he’s used all the hair oil he has. He walks up to the garden gate and sees a cat, which seizes up at the sight of George. A voice from inside exclaims that the nasty brute wanted to kill the poor dear of the cat. Gabriel calls in that George is meek and mild, but no one responds.
The tongue-in-cheek description of Gabriel suggests that he may not look as sophisticated as he’d like, using a bit too much hair oil, for instance. The courting call, like Gabriel’s relationship with Bathsheba, doesn’t begin very well either.
Abashed, Gabriel goes to the door, and asks for Miss Everdene, saying “somebody” would like to see her—an example of the modesty but also ill breeding of the rural world, the narrator notes. Mrs. Hurst says Bathsheba is out but invites him in, and he says he’s brought a lamb for her to rear, as girls like to do. Then Gabriel says that his real reason for coming is to ask if she’d like to marry him. Gabriel asks if Bathsheba has any other men interested; Mrs. Hurst says there’s quite many, as she’s so pretty and intelligent. She was once going to be a governess, but was too wild. Gabriel says he’s an everyday man: his only hope was to be the first suitor. Dejected, he takes his leave.
In another narrative aside, we learn more about the differences between town and country life: the latter is more simple and straightforward, without the ornate standards of the city, but also without its sophistication. The scene that follows, though, suggests that country people are not necessarily as simple-minded as they seem: Mrs. Hurst seems to imply that Bathsheba is a great catch for a man, more valuable than a poor farmer can hope for.
After a hundred yards, Gabriel hears a voice: Bathsheba is running after him, and he blushes. She pauses, out of breath and panting, and says her aunt made a mistake in sending her away. Gabriel gratefully cries that he’s sorry to have made her run so fast. But Bathsheba continues that it was a pity to have him think she’s had multiple sweethearts, when she’s never had one.
Bathsheba had flirted with and teased Gabriel such that he could believe she’s had more suitors than only him; now, though, she hastens to inform him that in fact this is all new for her as well, and that she has no experience with men despite her confidence.
Gabriel seizes her hand, but she releases it. He says he has a nice farm, and works hard, even if he is only an everyday man. He steps forward, but Bathsheba backs away, and with round eyes says she never agreed to marry him. Dismayed, Gabriel asks why she ran after him. She eagerly says that she hates to be thought of as a man’s property, so she just wanted to settle the false news.
At first, Gabriel thought that the only reason Bathsheba could be returning is to accept his offer. But once again, her pride is what she thinks about above all else—rather than what Gabriel might think of her actions, for instance—as she hastens to convince him of her own independence.
Gabriel asks if she might reconsider, given how he loves her. She says she’ll try to think, if he’ll give her time. He lists what he might be able to give her as a husband, but when he says they’ll share everything—he’ll be there whenever she looks up at home by the fire, and vice versa—her face falls and she repeats she doesn’t want to marry him. She says she wouldn’t mind being a bride at a wedding, but she doesn’t want a husband to go with it.
At first, Bathsheba goes back and forth on whether or not to consider Gabriel’s offer of marriage. But it’s the element that he might think most appealing—the sharing of everything—that convinces her, a woman used to having her own mind and doing things her own way, to refuse him.
Gabriel asks why Bathsheba can’t marry him: she says she doesn’t love him. Gabriel says he’s fine with her just liking him, though she protests. He tells her he’ll love her, long for her, and continue to want her until he dies. Distressed, she regrets running after him: she says she’s too independent, and he’d never be able to tame her. Besides, she’s poor, better educated than him, and doesn’t love him. He should marry a woman with money to help with the farm.
Now Gabriel becomes willing to settle for less and less from Bathsheba, a simple partnership rather than a pact of love. Recognizing the extent of Gabriel’s feelings for her, Bathsheba begins to understand that she erred in running after him simply to correct his mistaken impression.
Gabriel, surprised and admiring, says he’d been thinking of that himself. But this disconcerts Bathsheba, though he hastily says that it is in spite of that that he can’t help loving her. But she laughs nervously and asks him to stop pressing her. Gabriel finally, firmly, agrees, with the air of someone devoting the rest of his life to Scripture, saying he’ll ask her no more.
Gabriel too is new at love, as is evident by the way he stumblingly agrees that Bathsheba isn’t wealthy enough to help him establish himself. The chapter ends with another allusion, half earnest and half ironic, that invests Gabriel with Biblical grandeur.