The lengthy Chapter 49 covers several months after Troy's supposed death, from late autumn to late summer of the next year. It charts Gabriel's increasing success. Bathsheba relinquishes control of the farm, letting Gabriel oversee it. Similarly, Boldwood, who has lost all his crops from the previous year because of his neglect, decides to hire Gabriel, as well. Gabriel is given a horse and acts as bailiff for both farms. Boldwood even gives Gabriel a share of his profits. The farm laborers comment that Gabriel is miserly because he refuses to change his lifestyle despite his new property.
In the meantime, Bathsheba lives in a state of abstraction. She does not fully believe that Troy is dead and only reluctantly wears clothes of mourning.
Boldwood develops hopes that in six years (the period legally necessary for a missing person to be declared dead), Bathsheba may be willing to forget Troy and marry him. He quizzes Liddy about the likelihood of her mistress remarrying. His preoccupation is turning into a full-blown obsession.
Chapter 50 is built around the Greenhill Sheep Fair, where farmers and shepherds meet from all over the countryside in September. Hardy describes the fair in detail. Gabriel's sheep, from both Boldwood and Bathsheba's farms, are universally admired. The fair also contains a "circular tent, of exceptional newness and size" in which a theatrical show is being performed. Called "The Royal Hippodrome Performance of Turpin's Ride to York and the Death of Black Bess," it stars Troy as the lead role. We see the farm laborers, Poorgrass and Coggan, in the audience, engaged in comical bickering.
The narrator briefly explains that Troy has been wandering through England and America over the past few months. In America he has worked as a professor of gymnastics and sword exercises, but, not liking it, he has returned to England. He intends to wait and see what Bathsheba's financial situation is before revealing his presence to her, not wanting to be held financially "liable for her maintenance." In the meantime, he has taken up with a traveling circus.
Boldwood approaches Bathsheba once the sheep have been sold, and he gets her a seat at the show. Troy recognizes her, and, explaining to the manager that he has a creditor in the audience, asks if he might perform the rest of the play in pantomime, in order to disguise his identity. After the show, Troy thinks that Pennyways, Bathsheba's former bailiff, may have recognized him nonetheless. Pennyways approaches Bathsheba, giving her a note saying her husband is alive, but Troy hides behind her and snatches the note from her before she can read it. Troy and Pennyways go off together to talk.