As winter goes on, Bathsheba reaches a mood of calm, though not peace: she feels pain that Troy is not still hers. She’s lost interest in the farm, but keeps it going out of instinct. She does install Gabriel as bailiff to take on what she no longer cares to do.
Despite her suspicion, maturity, and knowledge, Bathsheba still does love Troy, a sentiment that persists and comingles with her general indifference.
Boldwood lives secluded: it’s whispered that forgetfulness has nothing to do with the strange neglect that has led to the ruin of his crops. Finally Boldwood calls for Gabriel and suggests he take over supervision of his farm as well. At first Bathsheba objects, though languidly, that it’s too much, but Boldwood insists. Gabriel grows wealthier and more handsome than ever, though some whisper that he’s cheap—he lives in no better style than before. But he cares little for public opinion and is a man of habit.
Bathsheba’s indifference and grief are in some ways echoed by Boldwood’s own seclusion, even if his strange ways preceded Fanny’s death and can instead be traced back to his refusal by Bathsheba and his humiliation by Troy. Meanwhile, Gabriel’s steady ascendance begins to provoke rumors, though the narrator intervenes against them.
Boldwood, meanwhile, has begun to nourish a renewed hope regarding Bathsheba, who has now been persuaded to wear mourning clothes. He hopes she might be chastened from her past, and willing to marry him, in the future, if she marries anyone again. He gets his chance during the haymaking, where he asks after Bathsheba to Liddy. He awkwardly gets around to asking if she ever considers marrying again. She never alludes to it, Liddy says, thinking Boldwood is acting stupidly, but then says she once supposed she might marry after seven years. When Liddy asks if Boldwood has talked to her about it, he reddens, then goes away, ashamed at himself.
Boldwood’s intervention when Bathsheba fainted, having just learned of her husband’s death, has reintroduced the woman to him in the flesh, rather than as an abstraction or idea. Liddy obviously thinks that Boldwood’s hopes regarding Bathsheba are deluded, but the information she gives him will end up being of sufficient weight for him to grasp and cling onto, even as he recognizes how far he has fallen from his former pride.