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Bathsheba Everdene's home is an old mansion-like structure with its walls covered in moss. Its architecture is "classic renaissance," with different styles added on later. It appears to have been the manor hall with a small estate around it. The rear portion of the house is used for all the farming business, while the front of the house is little used.
Bathsheba and her maid Liddy Smallbury are busy this morning cleaning up and sorting out papers and various other things belonging to Bathsheba's late uncle. Liddy Smallbury is the great granddaughter of the ancient maltster; she is of the same age as Bathsheba and more of a companion to her mistress than a maid. At this time, a visitor is heard knocking on the door. He asks to see Miss Everdene, the mistress of the house. He is Mr. Boldwood, a neighbor. Bathsheba, in her pride, refuses to meet him because she is all dust-covered. Mr. Boldwood informs the woman who opens the door that he has called to inquire about Fanny Robin. He turns back without any specific information about Fanny.
After his departure, Bathsheba questions Liddy about Farmer Boldwood. All her assembled maids inform her that Boldwood is a bachelor. He is about forty, very rich, extremely handsome, and strict in appearance. He is interested in Fanny Robin because it is he who had taken care of her as a child. He had put her in school and later found her a job at Farmer Everdene's.
From Mr. Boldwood, the discussion turns to marriage. Liddy boldly asks her mistress if she has ever had a marriage proposal. Since Bathsheba is very vain, she willingly answers this question. She hints that she has had a proposal, but the young man was not her equal in status. Their chatter ends when the farm-laborers come up to the house.
This chapter serves several purposes. The description of the farmhouse reveals Hardy's descriptive power and architectural knowledge. In the conversation between Liddy and Bathsheba, the reader is provided with Background Information regarding Farmer Boldwood and Fanny Robin. Finally, Bathsheba's vanity is once again emphasized.
The incident of Farmer Boldwood's visit and his return without meeting the mistress are significant. Bathsheba and the reader learn about Farmer Boldwood from stories told by her maids. It is significant that since she has not seen him, the mystery and romantic interest in him are intensified. Hardy stresses Boldwood's character. He is a gentleman farmer, who is handsome, rather stern-looking, rich, and not married. He is a very kind man, but a hopeless case where women are concerned. Several women have tried in the past to attract him but did not succeed.