Bathsheba’s return from a two months’ visit to her old aunt at Norcombe afforded the impassioned and yearning farmer a pretext for inquiring directly after her—now possibly in the ninth month of her widowhood—and endeavouring to get a notion of her state of mind regarding him.
There are no more uses of "pretext" in the book.
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They used the incident as a pretext to invade the country.
She thinks the need for international pollution control is being used as a pretext to create a world government that supersedes national sovereignty with extensive rule making and taxing authority.