Fanny continues walking, her steps growing feebler. She stops to sleep by a haystack, then awakens to see Casterbridge in the distance, and wonders if she’ll ever get there. A clock strikes two and a carriage rolls past her. Fanny rises and continues on, resting again by a thicket: she opens a gate to find “faggots” or bundles of sticks where woodmen had been working. She snaps a few twigs off, using them as a crutch.
The narration shifts to Fanny’s point of view. In some ways, Fanny’s determination recalls Bathsheba’s own forthright resolve—both women have that personality trait. But in other ways Fanny is far more vulnerable than Bathsheba, whose wealth protects her from such a dire state.
Fanny passes a milestone, then a second, but is then exhausted again. She falls once again, then rises and staggers to a rail fence: she can see the Casterbridge lights, though there’s not a sound. She has less than a mile to go, she tells herself, moving from one post to the next. She crawls to the end of the rails, telling herself she has only a half mile more. But she can’t move anymore: she gives in and closes her eyes.
The description of Fanny’s increasingly halting steps is excruciating in its detail: in terms of physical distance, Fanny is near her goal, but in terms of the physical and psychological strength it requires, she is almost unable to reach it.
Fanny becomes conscious again and a dog is licking her cheek. Hopefully, she points in the direction of Casterbridge so he might fetch someone. But as she doesn’t follow, he returns, then whines when she can’t accompany him, tugging at her dress. They move slowly together to the hill, and finally reach a picturesque building, covered by ivy: the Union. A man emerges and lifts Fanny through the door, as he and other women wonder how she got there.
Here the book offers an example of an instance when chance and circumstance intervenes for the better, as Fanny is helped along by an animal (whereas Gabriel’s over-eager dog, George’s son, had contributed to his own disaster and tragedy).