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When the old maltster is having his breakfast of bread and bacon at the Malthouse, the rustics Henery Fray, Matthew Moon, Joseph Poorgrass, and Mark Clark join him. Henery gives expression to his sorrow at not being appointed as the bailiff. He calls his mistress a proud, vain woman who will soon regret her actions. The others speak favorably about her cleverness and education. The maltster is curious to know about Bathsheba's new pieces of furniture like the piano, the elaborate chairs, and tables.
Gabriel soon enters the Malthouse. He is the very picture of health and vigor. He brings four newborn lambs to be warmed by the hearth fire of the Malthouse, since he does not have a lambing hut. Cain Ball and Oak have been up all night attending to the ewes and the lambs. The maltster inquires about Norcombe from Gabriel. He is told that many changes have taken place in the Norcombe of his memories. The maltster is shaken to hear about the changes as much as he is shaken to hear about the stories that the villagers relate about their new mistress. The chatter once again revolves around Bathsheba Everdene. Oak stoutly defends her against all the criticism that the group makes. In reaction to their talking meanly about Bathsheba, he thumps his fist strongly; his fierceness startles all of them.
Boldwood enters the Malthouse and gives the letter he has erroneously received to Oak. It happens to be Fanny Robin's letter. She thanks Oak for his kindness and returns the money he had given to her. She explains that she will soon be married to Sergeant Troy of the Eleventh Dragon Guards. Since Gabriel knows of Boldwood's interest in Fanny, he shows him the letter. Boldwood tells Oak about Troy's life. Although an illegitimate child, he has had a good education and has worked as a lawyer's clerk. Having enlisted as a soldier, he has destroyed many of his prospects.
At this point, Cainy Ball runs in and tells Oak that two more ewes have delivered twin lambs. Oak has to rush back, but first he marks the lambs he has brought to the Malthouse with Bathsheba's initials. Boldwood too goes out with Oak. He musters his courage, shows the valentine to Oak, and asks him if he can tell whose handwriting it is. Oak tells him that it is Bathsheba Everdene's writing. Oak is disturbed that his boss has sent an anonymous letter to Boldwood. Boldwood, however, dismisses Oak's questions very lightly, but the lightness of his answers does not match the tortured expression on his face. Boldwood soon returns home, feeling shame and regret that he had to show Oak the valentine in order to find out who had sent it.