On a Saturday evening in October Bathsheba is returning from market up a steep turnpike road. Troy is walking beside her. He’s bought his soldier’s discharge with Bathsheba’s money and is insisting on becoming a modern farmer. Troy is protesting to Bathsheba that he would have made far more money if not for the rain, though she says it’s the time of year for changeable weather. Bathsheba sadly reminds him that he’s lost a hundred pounds this month in horseracing: it’s cruel and foolish to waste money so. He says he was thinking of taking her to the races next week, though she begs him not to go.
Troy again introduces the idea of modernity into the more static landscape of Weatherbury, even though it also seems that he lacks the will and wherewithal to actually come through on his grand schemes. Meanwhile, Bathsheba struggles with Troy’s profligate spending and gambling: she’s used to being responsible with money, but she now has to face the reality that, in a marriage at the time, the husband controls the purse.
Troy says Bathsheba has lost all her former pluck and spirit. She looks away indignantly but resolutely. A woman appears on the hill, poor and sorrowful-looking. She asks Troy when Casterbridge Unionhouse closes at night. At the sounds of the voice, he starts, and slowly says he doesn’t know. At hearing him speak, the woman looks both happy and anguished: she cries and falls.
While Bathsheba is concerned with the very real, present problems of management and of married life, Troy is as careless as a child, insisting on returning to the flirtations of their initial courtship. Suddenly, though, his carelessness is interrupted.
Bathsheba exclaims and prepares to get down, but Troy orders her to walk the horse up, while he deals with the woman. After beginning to protest, Bathsheba obeys. Troy helps Fanny up and asks how she ever came here, in a gentle but hurried voice. She says she has no money, and he gives her what he has. Fanny is silent.
Troy and Fanny both immediately recognized one another’s voice. Troy’s attitude now completely shifts: while he had been scornful and sarcastic to his wife, he seems earnestly worried about Fanny.
Troy tells Fanny to meet him Monday morning on Casterbridge Bridge: he’ll bring all the money he can, and get her lodging somewhere. Troy returns to Bathsheba, who asks if he knew the woman. He says boldly that he does, but only by sight: Bathsheba doesn’t believe him.
Bathsheba has lost much of her innocence and naiveté along with her pride: she’s unable to guess what exactly the relationship between Troy and the woman is, but recognizes that he is adept at hiding things from her.