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Troy's absence continues for several days, and Bathsheba loses all interest in life. She knows, however, that sooner or later her husband will return to Weatherbury. The first Saturday after Troy's departure, Bathsheba goes to the Casterbridge market. There she hears one man telling another that he has come to inform Bathsheba that her husband has drowned. On hearing this news, Bathsheba faints. Mr. Boldwood, who happens to be present, catches her in his arms before she falls to the ground. He carries her to the King's Arms Inn. When Bathsheba recovers consciousness, she expresses a desire to go home. By the time she reaches Weatherbury, the news of Troy's drowning has already arrived. She believes somehow that her husband is alive.
Two events apparently contradict Bathsheba's belief. The first is a newspaper report, which bases the death of Troy on the testimony of a young physician who claims to be an eyewitness to the accident. The second is the arrival of Troy's clothes and watch. Alone Bathsheba looks at the curl of golden hair at the back of the watch. She wants to throw it into fire, but on second thought decides not to do so. She will, instead, keep it in memory of Fanny.
The episode of Troy's apparent death is contrived by Hardy to accomplish two plot necessities: his temporary disappearance and his eventual reappearance. No one in Casterbridge or Weatherbury has reason to doubt the death. Bathsheba initially disbelieves it, but finally she accepts the event when she reads an eyewitness report of the accident and receives his clothes and watch. Troy's presumed drowning enables Bathsheba to rearrange her life. Her fate seems to be changing.
The legal formalities connected with Bathsheba's tenancy of her farm are introduced by Hardy to suggest the possible tragedy in store for her. Troy did not give a single thought about how his disappearance would impact Bathsheba or the farm. Troy, like Bathsheba used to be, is totally immature, vain, and self-centered; he can only think of himself. In contrast to Troy, Bathsheba, who was a thoughtless woman before her sad marriage, has matured. She cannot even throw the lock of Fanny's hair in the fire, but saves it as a memory. With maturity, she accepts Troy's bond with Fanny and her mistake in having married him.