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Bathsheba leads a lonely life. Eight months after Troy's death, she enters the village churchyard, and there she reads the inscription that has been added to Fanny's tombstone, for Troy has been interred in Fanny's grave. Inside the church, the choir is practicing a new hymn, which moves her to tears. Oak, who is part of the choir, tells her that he is planning to immigrate to California. She complains that he is trying to avoid her, and does not even consult her in matters about the farm.
The day after Christmas Bathsheba receives a note from Oak that he will not continue in service beyond March 25. She wonders how she will manage the farm without him. She visits him at his cottage, and he tells her that he has to leave because people are gossiping that he is only staying on in the hope of marrying her. Bathsheba dismisses the idea at first. However, she makes it clear that it would not be out of question. This reply comes as a surprise to Oak because he has long since given up hope about her.
There is a change for the better in Bathsheba's character. She has known suffering and overcome it. Finally, she has come to recognize the real worth of Gabriel Oak. After he resigns from his position on the farm, she wonders how she will make it without him. She goes to tell him how much he is needed and hints that marriage might be a possibility.
The transformed Bathsheba is a woman delightfully free from vanity and pride. She is no longer too proud to accept Gabriel. In fact, the suggestion for marriage comes from her. It cannot come from Gabriel who has decided not to propose to her again.