That same evening, Troy asks Bathsheba for 20 pounds, and her face sinks. First he says it’s for the races, but when Bathsheba again begs him not to go with dignified beauty, he says it’s not for the races at all, though he refuses to say for what. She says if she pays she has the right to know, pouting a little, but he tells her not to go too far or she’ll regret it. Bathsheba says she already regrets the end of her romance: that’s what happens at marriage, her husband says.
Bathsheba no longer trusts Troy with money, nor with much else. Troy, meanwhile, continues to be able to get his own way, though he is still susceptible to Bathsheba’s beauty. Yet Troy is now cruel to Bathsheba in a way he never was when they were courting, only cementing Bathsheba’s loss of romantic illusions.
Sighing, Bathsheba gives him the money. Troy looks at his watch and reflexively opens its back case, revealing a lock of hair. Bathsheba gasps: he says it’s hers, but she’s seen that it was yellow hair. Finally Troy admits that it was someone who he was going to marry before her: she’s unmarried, alive, and pretty, he replies to his wife’s questions.
While Gabriel’s watch aligns with his pragmatic, problem-solving character, Troy’s is emblematic of his own frivolity and thoughtlessness, even if it’s also tied to his earnest feelings—though feelings for another woman than his wife.
Troy tells Bathsheba not to be jealous, driving her almost to tears. She cries that he’s cruel to her, and asks her to burn the lock. Troy says there is reparation to be made that she knows nothing of: he too repents of marrying her. But she now, trembling, says she only repents if he loves another more than her. If he does, she cannot do anything. Now Troy says he hasn’t looked at the lock for months: it was the meeting with the woman today that reminded him.
Bathsheba knows a great deal about penance and reparations: here, even while Troy fails to imagine that she is familiar with such a reality, there is another parallel drawn between these two imperfect though, in different ways, earnest people. Troy waffles back and forth, as Bathsheba did with Boldwood, regarding his feelings.
Bathsheba begs Troy for honesty, but he snaps at her to not be so desperate, and leaves. She begins to sob, but then determines to repress her feelings and maintain her pride. Before Troy she’d been proud of her position as independent woman, scorning girls who fell for the first handsome man who saluted them and who were obsessed with marriage. Bathsheba was a kind of Diana, self-sufficient and respectable: now she wishes she had never left such a life.
Troy lashes out at Bathsheba in a cruel way, even though she’s had a temper herself in the past. But here Bathsheba’s pain also has to do with her recognition of her vulnerable role as Troy’s wife, as well as of everything she’s lost as a result of an impetuous choice, including her majestic, goddess-like authority.
The next morning Bathsheba walks across the farm. She thinks of Gabriel, who is now like a brother to her: at times she wonders what life would have been like with him, or Boldwood, but she’s not often subject to such musings. Then she sees Boldwood approach Gabriel across the field: while talking, both are saluted by Poorgrass, who is wheeling a barrow of apples towards the house. Bathsheba asks him for the news. He says Fanny Robbin is dead. She belongs to their parish, so Boldwood is going to send a wagon to fetch the body and bury her. Bathsheba says that Fanny was her uncle’s servant, so she will do so. Bathsheba is beset by sympathy, now that she knows suffering herself. She asks how long Fanny has lived here. Poorgrass says just a day or two: she’s been a seamstress in Melchester, and arrived at the Union-house on Sunday, having walked all the way.
While the novel occasionally depicts Bathsheba as indulging in imaginative fancy, it also underlines her willingness and ability to put aside such dreams and deal with the reality at hand—in this she is more like Gabriel than Troy or, for that matter, Boldwood. Like Gabriel, too, Bathsheba has changed and grown more mature and sympathetic as a result of her own suffering. She thinks of Fanny as a woman who in some ways is comparable to herself—even if Fanny’s vulnerability went far beyond Bathsheba’s and ultimately led to her death.
Suddenly, Bathsheba asks if Fanny walked on the turnpike road: she did, Poorgrass says, before remarking that Bathsheba looks pale. Fanny passed Weatherbury Saturday night. Before sending him off, Bathsheba asks what color her hair was; he can’t remember. He repeats everything he heard from Boldwood and Gabriel, and says he imagines she might have died simply from exposure. Bathsheba intently asks if he’s heard another story: he hasn’t. She wonders, looking down, why Gabriel hasn’t told her himself, but Poorgrass says he was perhaps busy.
Bathsheba, savvier than before her marriage to Troy, begins to piece together a possible connection between Fanny Robbin, the woman whom Bathsheba and Troy saw on Saturday night, and the lock of hair in Troy’s watch. This time, nonetheless, local gossip and knowledge fail to fill in the mystery for Bathsheba, who for now has to be content with suspicion.
Going inside, Bathsheba asks Liddy what the color of Fanny Robbin’s hair was—it was beautiful golden hair, she says. Her young man was a soldier in Troy’s regiment, she adds: Troy once told her he knew the young man as well as he knew himself, and looked a great deal like him. Bathsheba stops her petulantly.
Liddy’s casual information doesn’t put Bathsheba into a rage, but does bring out her more impetuous, heady side, as she shifts again from confidant to mistress when she doesn’t hear what she wants to.