The tower of Weatherbury Church is from the 14th century and has two Gothic gargoyles on each of its faces. Though most of the mouths no longer spout water, they are all equally hideous. The horrible one on the north-eastern side does still have a passage for water, and as Troy sleeps on the church porch, the stream thickens and pours right over Fanny’s grave, drowning the carefully planted flowers and washing them away. Troy only awakens in broad daylight, when the sun is shining again. He reaches the grave and sees only a hollow around the tombstone.
The narration moves from Troy’s perspective specifically to a general account, in what first seems like a digression on the history of Weatherbury Church. Nevertheless, this context ends up lending itself to another example of nature’s unconcern regarding human affairs and desires, a lack of concern that can still, to humans, seem maliciously intent on flouting their will.
Troy usually can elude grief simply by pushing off troublesome thoughts. For almost the first time in his life, now, he cannot, and he wishes he were another man: he hates himself. Miserable, he stands and wonders where he should go. He’s only been thoughtful for one full day—the source of wanting to care for Fanny’s grave—and now he feels fate is jeering at him. He withdraws without doing anything to fix the grave, and leaves the village at once.
Again, like a child, Troy hasn’t spent much time learning to develop a mature sense of the relationship between his actions and consequences, or of how to react when things don’t go his way. He’s unable to accept the cold indifference of the natural world, instead taking it as a personal insult.
Meanwhile Bathsheba remains in the attic with Liddy, and sleeps restlessly. At eight a.m. Liddy knocks and says she heard one strange noise in the night, apart from the heavy rain, like the boiling of a pot. Bathsheba asks if Troy has been in; she says she thinks he’s gone to Budmouth, the horse-race site: Laban Tall saw him on that road before breakfast.
Moving back to Bathsheba’s perspective, the book describes the affairs at the farm, where the same heavy rain is falling but where the tragedy of Fanny’s death, and Bathsheba’s recognition of her own plight, is being dealt with in its own way.
After breakfast Bathsheba leaves to walk towards church. Across the churchyard she sees Gabriel, who is looking at the tomb and disturbed grave. She follows his eyes and reads, “Erected by Francis Troy in memory of Fanny Robbin.” Gabriel sees her, and Bathsheba’s earlier emotion cedes to calm. She asks him simply to fill the hole, as she begins planting the flowers scattered around. She asks Gabriel to get the church wardens to turn the gargoyle’s mouth, and finally wipes the mud from the tomb, then goes home.
Fanny was one of the first people that Gabriel met before starting his new life in Weatherbury, and he has his own reasons for paying respect to her. Bathsheba recognizes what Troy must have done, but rather than raging at cold nature like he did, she takes it upon herself to mitigate the ruined grave, enacting a kind of penance.