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Bathsheba is happy that Boldwood accompanies her home so she does not have to travel by herself; however, she would have preferred Gabriel Oak's company, but he was delayed. On the way, Boldwood presses her to consider marrying him in another six years; he is quite willing to wait for her until it is legal for her to remarry. As before, Bathsheba postpones a decision and promises to give a definite answer by Christmas. As Christmas approaches, Bathsheba grows increasingly upset. She tells Oak about her dilemma and goes to the extent of stating she thinks she must marry Boldwood to prevent him from becoming insane. The reader sees some genuine sensitivity in her again.
Bathsheba hopes for some indication from Oak of his continuing interest in her. Contrary to her expectation, Oak says that she should consider marrying Boldwood in view of the fact that she wronged him when Troy came into her life. Feeling hurt by Oak's silence in regards to her, Bathsheba tells him that she would not consider marrying a man in Oak's circumstances. Ironically, these words are proven false by the end of the novel.
In this chapter, Hardy moves from one character to another. First Bathsheba is seen with Boldwood, who still desperately wants to marry her. Then Bathsheba has a discussion with Gabriel; she tells about her predicament with Boldwood. Though she does not love Boldwood, she is considering his marriage proposal since she has treated him so poorly in the past. This is certainly a more mature Bathsheba, who speaks about her concern over wronging Boldwood. Surprisingly, Gabriel encourages her to seriously consider the marriage. He says nothing about his continued love for her. Remember, after he proposed to her the first time, he states he will never do it again.