Bathsheba feels slightly surprised, then relieved, though mostly indifferent, at Troy’s absence. Her youthful pride has weakened, and her anxiety with it. Sooner or later he’ll return, and their days on the farm will be numbered. There was initially some concern about Bathsheba as her uncle’s successor, as a woman, but her success until her marriage had put off such fears: Troy’s debts would put an end to that.
The wild emotions that characterized Bathsheba’s initial courtship with Troy, as well as the discovery of his relationship to Fanny, have ceded to indifference, even as Troy’s abandonment threatens to ruin her prior independence and authority as owner of the farm.
On Saturday she goes to Casterbridge alone for the first time since her marriage. At the market, she hears one man ask another for help finding Mrs. Troy: her husband has drowned. Bathsheba gasps, then faints. Boldwood, who’s been watching, caches her. As they hear that a coast guard found Troy’s clothes, his face flushes. He carries Bathsheba to a private room, where she opens her eyes, asking to go home.
Just as he watched Bathsheba for the first time at the market after receiving her valentine, now Boldwood continues to observe her, ready to intervene at any sign of trouble. The tragedy of Troy’s apparent death presumably means something quite different for Boldwood.
Boldwood gathers his senses, still thinking of the feeling of Bathsheba in his arms. He offers to get her a driver, but she declines, and once recovered drives home herself. Liddy meets her, asking if she might find some mourning clothes to wear. But Bathsheba says he must be alive: she feels it.
Initially, Bathsheba refuses to believe the evidence of Troy’s death—she has come to understand the extent of his trickery and deception, and is unwilling to fall for it as she has before.
On Monday, though, Bathsheba’s conviction begins to be shaken: the newspaper contains the testimony of a young man from Budmouth who says he was passing over the cliff and saw a bather carried by the current. After dusk set in, he saw no more. Then, Troy’s clothes arrive, and she’s convinced that he undressed meaning to dress again soon. Bathsheba wonders if Troy wanted to follow Fanny into the next world. She opens his watch case that night, and makes to throw the lock of hair into the fire, but then pauses: she’ll keep it in memory of the poor girl.
It is only when Bathsheba is faced with strong proof of her husband’s death that she decides she can trust the reports. Bathsheba is left alone, abandoned by Troy as well as by the lover that he preferred to herself. Still, Bathsheba’s rivalry with Fanny mingles with both pity and with the knowledge that they were both made to suffer by Troy.