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Bathsheba leaves one evening soon afterward with the intention of visiting Liddy. She has written to Boldwood to refuse him and does not want to see him when he returns from his trip. Troy is in Bath and is planning to return to Weatherbury in the next day or two.
On her way to Liddy's, Bathsheba runs into Boldwood, who has received her letter but will not accept her refusal. The two of them have a heated discussion, in which he reminds her of the valentine she sent, and she tries to persuade him that it meant nothing. Finally, she claims that she lacks warmth. Boldwood responds by telling her that he knows she loves Troy, and he chastises her for being "dazzled by brass and scarlet." She admits that she does love Troy and has kissed him. He flies into a jealous rage, declaring, "I pray God he may not come into my sight for I may be tempted beyond myself." Bathsheba fears greatly for Troy.
Chapter 32 opens in the perspective of the wife of one of Bathsheba's farm laborers, a woman by the name of Maryann Money. After Bathsheba has left, Maryann sees someone take a horse from the stable. Thinking it is a thief she alerts Gabriel and Coggan, and the two set off after the rider. When they finally catch up to him or her, after a long chase, they discover it is Bathsheba, secretly following Troy to Bath. They agree not to tell anyone what they have seen, but Gabriel warns Bathsheba that women generally should not travel alone at night. The chapter ends with a summary of the events from Bathsheba's perspective, explaining that she was so frightened by Boldwood's words that she determined to warn Troy not to return to Weatherbury.
The next chapter spans two weeks at the farm during the oak harvest. No news of Bathsheba comes, except when Cainy Ball, one of the farm hands, comes back from seeing a doctor in Bath. He tells a group of farm workers that he saw the mistress enter a park arm-in-arm with a soldier.
That night Gabriel hears voices and realizes that Liddy and Bathsheba have returned. Boldwood is also walking nearby, and he sees Sergeant Troy return to the carriage house. Boldwood tries to bribe Troy to marry Fanny Robin and leave Bathsheba alone. Troy claims to agree to the bribe but persuades Boldwood to wait and overhear his conversation with Bathsheba first, whom he now awaits. She comes and Boldwood hears her invite Troy back to the house, and she calls him by his first name, Frank. At this, Boldwood abandons all hope, thinking she has now lost all sense of propriety. When Bathsheba has gone back to the house, Boldwood tells Troy he will now pay him to marry Bathsheba rather than Fanny, reasoning that marriage will be more honorable than the current state of affairs. At this, however, Troy brings Boldwood back to the farm and shows him a newspaper announcement revealing that he and Bathsheba are, in fact, already married. He refuses Boldwood's money but has utterly humiliated him. Boldwood wanders the fields all night after Troy locks him out of the house.
Aside from advancing the plot with the off-stage marriage of Bathsheba and Troy, this short section provides crucial insights into the characters of Bathsheba, Boldwood, and Troy. Having shown us the effect of a series of meetings with Troy on Bathsheba's feelings, Hardy now takes Troy away and shows us how his absence affects her. Interestingly, very little of this section is shown from her point of view. Instead, we see her behavior as it strikes people who know her only distantly, such as Maryann Money and the farm workers. Chapter 32 is a particularly good example. Maryann watches someone take the horse from the stables and has no idea that Bathsheba would act so rashly as to ride to Bath at night without telling anyone. Thus, rather than seeing the series of decisions that lead up to her strange act, we see the act from afar. Hardy's use of perspective here makes the strange irrationality of Bathsheba's actions much more clear to us than it would be if we were inside Bathsheba's consciousness. Hardy does not allow us to sympathize with her but rather asks us to evaluate her behavior; the information with which he provides us gives us little choice but to judge this once strong and independent woman as increasingly foolish.
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