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in her objections, and not sufficiently overt in her
likings. We learn that it is not the rays which bodies
absorb, but those which they reject, that give them the
colours they are known by; and win the same way people
are specialized by their dislikes and antagonisms, whilst
their goodwill is looked upon as no attribute at all.
Henery continued in a more complaisant mood: "I
once hinted my mind to her on a few things, as nearly
as a battered frame dared to do so to such a froward
piece. You all know, neighbours, what a man I be,
and how I come down with my powerful words when
my pride is boiling wi' scarn?"
"We do, we do, Henery."
"So I said, " Mistress Everdene, there's places empty,
and there's gifted men willing; but the spite -- no. not
the spite -- I didn't say spite -- "but the villainy of the
contrarikind." I said (meaning womankind), " keeps 'em
out." That wasn't too strong for her, say?"
"Passably well put."
"Yes; and I would have said it, had death and
salvation overtook me for it. Such is my spirit when I
have a mind."
"A true man, and proud as a lucifer."
"You see the artfulness? Why, 'twas about being
baily really; but I didn't put it so plain that she could
understand my meaning, so I could lay it on all the
stronger. That was my depth! ... However, let her
marry an she will. Perhaps 'tis high time. I believe
Farmer Boldwood kissed her behind the spear-bed at the
sheep-washing t'other day -- that I do."
"What a lie!" said Gabriel.
"Ah, neighbour Oak -- how'st know?" said, Henery,
mildly.
"Because she told me all that passed." said Oak, with
a pharisaical sense that he was not as other shearers in
this matter.
"Ye have a right to believe it." said Henery, with
dudgeon; "a very true right. But I mid see a little
distance into things! To be long-headed enough for a
baily's place is a poor mere trifle -- yet a trifle more than
nothing. However, I look round upon life quite cool.
Do you heed me, neighbours? My words, though made
as simple as I can, mid be rather deep for some heads."
"O yes, Henery, we quite heed ye."
"A strange old piece, goodmen -- whirled about from
here to yonder, as if I were nothing! A little warped,
too. But I have my depths; ha, and even my great
depths! I might gird at a certain shepherd, brain to
brain. But no -- O no!"
"A strange old piece, ye say!" interposed the maltster,
in a querulous voice. "At the same time ye be no old
man worth naming -- no old man at all. Yer teeth
bain't half gone yet; and what's a old man's standing
if se be his teeth bain't gone? Weren't I stale in
wedlock afore ye were out of arms? 'Tis a poor thing
to be sixty, when there's people far past four-score -- a
boast'weak as water."
It was the unvaying custom in Weatherbury to
sink minor differences when the maltster had to be
pacified.
"Weak as-water! yes." said Jan Coggan.- "Malter,
we feel ye to be a wonderful veteran man, and nobody
can gainsay it."
"Nobody." said Joseph Poorgrass. "Ye be a very
rare old spectacle, malter, and we all admire ye for that
gift. "
"Ay, and as a young man, when my senses were in
prosperity, I was likewise liked by a good-few who
knowed me." said the maltster.
"'Ithout doubt you was -- 'ithout doubt."
The bent and hoary 'man was satisfied, and so
apparently was Henery Frag. That matters should
continue pleasant Maryann spoke, who, what with her
brown complexion, and the working wrapper of rusty
linsey, had at present the mellow hue of an old sketch
in oils -- notably some of Nicholas Poussin's: --
"Do anybody know of a crooked man, or a lame, or
any second-hand fellow at all that would do for poor
me?" said Maryann. "A perfect one I don't expect to
at my time of life. If I could hear of such a thing
twould do me more good than toast and ale."
Coggan furnished a suitable reply. Oak went on
with his shearing, and said not another word. Pestilent
moods had come, and teased away his quiet. Bathsheba
had shown indications of anointing him above his
fellows by installing him as the bailiff that the farm
imperatively required. He did not covet the post
relatively to the farm: in relation to herself, as beloved
by him and unmarried to another, he had coveted it.
His readings of her seemed now to be vapoury and
indistinct. His lecture to her was, he thought, one of
the absurdest mistakes. Far from coquetting with
Boldwood, she had trifled with himself in thus feigning
that she had trifled with another. He was inwardly
convinced that, in accordance with the anticipations of
his easy-going and worse-educated comrades, that day
would see Boldwood the accepted husband of Miss
Everdene. Gabriel at this time of his life had out-
grown the instinctive dislike which every Christian
boy has for reading the Bible, perusing it now quite
frequently, and he inwardly said, "I find more bitter
than death the woman whose heart is snares and
nets!" This was mere exclamation -- the froth of the
storm. He adored Bathsheba just the same.
"We workfolk shall have some lordly- junketing
to-night." said Cainy Ball, casting forth his thoughts in
a new direction. "This morning I see'em making the
great puddens in the milking-pails -- lumps of fat as big
as yer thumb, Mister Oak! I've never seed such
splendid large knobs of fat before in the days of my
life -- they never used to be bigger then a horse-bean.
And there was a great black crock upon the brandish
with his legs a-sticking out, but I don't know what was
in within."
"And there's two bushels of biffins for apple-pies,"
said Maryann.
"Well, I hope to do my duty by it all." said Joseph
Poorgrass, in a pleasant, masticating manner of anticipa-
tion. "Yes; victuals and drink is a cheerful thing,
and gives nerves to the nerveless, if the form of words
may be used. 'Tis the gospel of the body, without
which we perish, so to speak it."

CHAPTER XXIII

EVENTIDE -- A SECOND DECLARATION

FOR the shearing-supper a long table was placed on the
grass-plot beside the house, the end of the table being
thrust over the sill of the wide parlour window and a
foot or two into the room. Miss Everdene sat inside
the window, facing down the table. She was thus at
the head without mingling with the men.
This evening Bathsheba was unusually excited, her
red cheeks and lips contrasting lustrously with the mazy
skeins of her shadowy hair. She seemed to expect
assistance, and the seat at the bottom of the table was
at her request left vacant until after they had begun
and the duties appertaining to that end, which he did
with great readiness.
At this moment Mr. Boldwood came in at the gate,
and crossed the green to Bathsheba at the window.
He apologized for his lateness: his arrival was evidently
by arrangement.
"Gabriel." said she, " will you move again, please,
and let Mr. Boldwood come there?"
Oak moved in silence back to his original seat.
The gentleman-farmer was dressed in cheerful style,
in a new coat and white waistcoat, quite contrasting
with his usual sober suits of grey. Inwardy, too, he
was blithe, and consequently chatty to an exceptional
degree. So also was Bathsheba now that he had come,
though the uninvited presence of Pennyways, the bailiff
who had been dismissed for theft, disturbed her equan-
imity for a while.
Supper being ended, Coggan began on his own
private account, without reference to listeners: --
l've lost my love and l care not,
I've lost my love, and l care not;
I shall soon have another
That's better than t'other!
I've lost my love, and I care not.
This lyric, when concluded, was received with a
silently appreciative gaze at the table, implying that the
performance, like a work by those established authors
who are independent of notices in the papers, was a
well-known delight which required no applause.
"Now, Master Poorgrass, your song!" said Coggan.
"I be all but in liquor, and the gift is wanting in
me." said Joseph, diminishing himself.
"Nonsense; wou'st never be so ungrateful, Joseph --
never!" said Coggan, expressing hurt feelings by an
inflection of voice. "And mistress is looking hard at
ye, as much as to say, "Sing at once, Joseph Poor-
grass."
"Faith, so she is; well, I must suffer it! ... Just
eye my features, and see if the tell-tale blood overheats
me much, neighbours?"
"No, yer blushes be quite reasonable." said Coggan.
"I always tries to keep my colours from rising when
a beauty's eyes get fixed on me." said Joseph, differently;
"but if so be 'tis willed they do, they must."
"Now, Joseph, your song, please." said Bathsheba,
from the window.
"Well, really, ma'am." he replied, in a yielding tone,
"I don't know what to say. It would be a poor plain
ballet of my own composure."
Hear, hear!" said the supper-party.
Poorgrass, thus assured, trilled forth a flickering yet
commendable piece of sentiment, the tune of which
consisted of the key-note and another, the latter being
the sound chiefly dwelt upon. This was so successful
that he rashly plunged into a second in the same
breath, after a few false starts: --
I sow'-ed th'-e
I sow'-ed
I sow'-ed the'-e seeds' of love',
I-it was' all' i'-in the'-e spring',
I-in A'-pril', Ma'-ay, a'-nd sun'-ny' June',
When sma'-all bi'-irds they' do' sing.
"Well put out of hand." said Coggan, at the end of the
verse. `They do sing' was a very taking paragraph."
"Ay; and there was a pretty place at "seeds of
love." and 'twas well heaved out. Though "love " is
a nasty high corner when a man's voice is getting
crazed. Next verse, Master Poorgrass."
But during this rendering young Bob Coggan ex-
hibited one of those anomalies which will afflict little
people when other persons are particularly serious: in
trying to check his laughter, he pushed down his throat
as much of the tablecloth as he could get hold of, when,
after continuing hermetically sealed for a short time, his
mirth burst out through his nose. Joseph perceived it,
and with hectic cheeks of indignation instantly ceased
singing. Coggan boxed Bob's ears immediately.
"Go on, Joseph -- go on, and never mind the young
scamp." said Coggan. "'Tis a very catching ballet.
Now then again -- the next bar; I'll help ye to flourish
up the shrill notes where yer wind is rather wheezy: --
O the wi'-il-lo'-ow tree' will' twist',
And the wil'-low' tre'-ee wi'ill twine'.
But the singer could not be set going again. Bob
Coggan was sent home for his ill manners, and tran-
quility was restored by Jacob Smallbury, who volunteered
a ballad as inclusive and interminable as that with which
the worthy toper old Silenus amused on a similar occasion
the swains Chromis and Mnasylus, and other jolly dogs
of his day.
It was still the beaming time of evening, though
night was stealthily making itself visible low down upon
the ground, the western lines of light taking the earth
without alighting upon it to any extent, or illuminating
the dead levels at all. The sun had crept round the
tree as a last effort before death, and then began to
sink, the shearers' lower parts becoming steeped in
embrowning twilight, whilst their heads and shoulders
were still enjoying day, touched with a yellow of self-
sustained brilliancy that seemed inherent rather than
acquired.
The sun went down in an ochreous mist; but they
sat, and talked on, and grew as merry as the gods in
Homer's heaven. Bathsheba still remained enthroned
inside the window, and occupied herself in knitting,
from which she sometimes looked up to view the fading
scene outside. The slow twilight expanded and enveloped
them completely before the signs of moving were shown.
Gabriel suddenly missed Farmer Boldwood from his
place at the bottom of the table. How long he had
been gone Oak did not know; but he had apparently
withdrawn into the encircling dusk. Whilst he was
thinking of this, Liddy brought candles into the back
part of the room overlooking the shearers, and their
lively new flames shone down the table and over the
men, and dispersed among the green shadows behind.
Bathsheba's form, still in its original position, was now
again distinct between their eyes and the light, which
revealed that Boldwood had gone inside the room, and
was sitting near her.
Next came the question of the evening. Would Miss
Everdene sing to them the song she always sang so
charmingly -- " The Banks of Allan Water" -- before they
went home?
After a moment's consideration Bathsheba assented,
beckoning to Gabriel, who hastened up into the coveted
atmosphere.
"Have you brought your flute? " she whispered.
"Yes, miss."
"Play to my singing, then."
She stood up in the window-opening, facing the
men, the candles behind her, Gabriel on her right hand,
immediately outside the sash-frame. Boldwood had
drawn up on her left, within the room. Her singing
was soft and rather tremulous at first, but it soon swelled
to a steady clearness. Subsequent events caused one
of the verses to be remembered for many months, and
even years, by more than one of those who were gathered
there: --
For his bride a soldier sought her,
And a winning tongue had he:
On the banks of Allan Water
None was gay as she!
In addition to the dulcet piping of Gabriel's flute,
Boldwood supplied a bass in his customary profound
voice, uttering his notes so softly, however, as to abstain
entirely from making anything like an ordinary duet of
the song; they rather formed a rich unexplored shadow,
which threw her tones into relief. The shearers reclined
against each other as at suppers in the early ages of the
world, and so silent and absorbed were they that her
breathing could almost be heard between the bars; and
at the end of the ballad, when the last tone loitered on
to an inexpressible close, there arose that buzz of
pleasure which is the attar of applause.
It is scarcely necessary to state that Gabriel could
not avoid noting the farmer's bearing to-night towards
their entertainer. Yet there was nothing exceptional in
his actions beyond what appertained to his time of
performing them. It was when the rest were all looking
away that Boldwood observed her; when they regarded
her he turned aside; when they thanked or praised he
was silent; when they were inattentive he murmured
his thanks. The meaning lay in the difference between
actions, none of which had any meaning of itself;
and the necessity of being jealous, which lovers are
troubled with, did not lead Oak to underestimate these
signs.
Bathsheba then wished them good-night, withdrew
from the window, and retired to the back part of the
room, Boldwood thereupon closing the sash and the
shutters, and remaining inside with her. Oak wandered
away under the quiet and scented trees. Recovering
from the softer impressions produced by Bathsheba's
voice, the shearers rose to leave, Coggan turning to
Pennyways as he pushed back the bench to pass out: --
"I like to give praise where praise is due, and the
man deserves it -- that 'a do so." he remarked, looking at
the worthy thief, as if he were the masterpiece of some
world-renowned artist.
"I'm sure I should never have believed it if we hadn't
proved it, so to allude," hiccupped Joseph Poorgrass, "that
every cup, every one of the best knives and forks, and
every empty bottle be in their place as perfect now as
at the beginning, and not one stole at all.
"I'm sure I don't deserve half the praise you give
me." said the virtuous thief, grimly.
"Well, I'll say this for Pennyways." added Coggan,
"that whenever he do really make up his mind to do a
noble thing in the shape of a good action, as I could
see by his face he. did to-night afore sitting down, he's
generally able to carry it out. Yes, I'm proud to say.
neighbours, that he's stole nothing at all.
"Well." -- 'tis an honest deed, and we thank ye for it,
Pennyways." said Joseph; to which opinion the remainder
of the company subscribed unanimously.
At this time of departure, when nothing more was
visible of the inside of the parlour than a thin and still
chink of light between the shutters, a passionate scene
was in course of enactment there."
Miss Everdene and Boldwood were alone. Her
cheeks had lost a great deal of their healthful fire from
the very seriousness of her position; but her eye was
bright with the excitement of a triumph -- though it was
a triumph which had rather been contemplated than
desired.
She was standing behind a low arm-chair, from which
she had just risen, and he was kneeling in it -- inclining
himself over its back towards her, and holding her hand
in both his own. His body moved restlessly, and it was
with what Keats daintily calls a too happy happiness.
This unwonted abstraction by love of all dignity from
a man of whom it had ever seemed the chief component,
was, in its distressing incongruity, a pain to her which
quenched much of the pleasure she derived from the
proof that she was idolized.
"I will try to love you." she was saying, in a trembling
voice quite unlike her usual self-confidence. "And if I
can believe in any way that I shall make you a good
wife I shall indeed be willing to marry you. But, Mr.
Boldwood, hesitation on so high a matter is honourable
in any woman, and I don't want to give a solemn
promise to-night. I would rather ask you to wait a few
weeks till I can see my situation better."But you have every reason to
believe that then -- -- "
"I have every reason to hope that at the end of the five or
six weeks, between this time and harvest, that
you say you are going to be away from home, I shall be
able to promise to be your wife." she said, firmly. "But
remember this distinctly, I don't promise yet."
"It is enough I don't ask more. I can wait on
those dear words. And now, Miss Everdene, good-
night!"
"Good-night." she said, graciously -- almost tenderly;
and Boldwood withdrew with a serene smile.
Bathsheba knew more of him now; he had entirely
bared his heart before her, even until he had almost
worn in her eyes the sorry look of a grand bird without
the feathers that make it grand. She had been awe-
struck at her past temerity, and was struggling to make
amends without thinking whether the sin quite deserved
the penalty she was schooling herself to pay. To have
brought all this about her ears was terrible; but after a
while the situation was not without a fearful joy. The
facility with which even the most timid woman some-
times acquire a relish for the dreadful when that is
amalgamated with a little triumph, is marvellous.

CHAPTER XXIV

THE SAME NIGHT -- THE FIR PLANTATION

AMONG the multifarious duties which Bathsheba had
voluntarily imposed upon herself by dispensing with the
services of a bailiff, was the particular one of looking
round the homestead before going to bed, to see that
all was right and safe for the night. Gabriel had almost
constantly preceded her in this tour every evening,
watching her affairs as carefully as any specially appointed
officer of surveillance could have done; but this tender
devotion was to a great extent unknown to his mistress,
and as much as was known was somewhat thanklessly
received. Women are never tired of bewailing man's
fickleness in love, but they only seem to snub his con-
stancy.
As watching is best done invisibly, she usually carried
a dark lantern in her hand, and every now and then
turned on the light to examine nooks and corners with
the coolness of a metropolitan policeman. This cool-
ness may have owed its existence not so much to her
fearlessness of expected danger as to her freedom from
the suspicion of any; her worst anticipated discovery
being that a horse might not be well bedded, the fowls
not all in, or a door not closed.
This night the buildings were inspected as usual,
and she went round to the farm paddock. Here the
only sounds disturbing the stillness were steady munch-
ings of many mouths, and stentorian breathings from all
but invisible noses, ending in snores and puffs like the
blowing of bellows slowly. Then the munching would
recommence, when the lively imagination might assist
the eye to discern a group of pink-white nostrils, shaped
as caverns, and very clammy and humid on their sur-
faces, not exactly pleasant to the touch until one got
used to them; the mouths beneath having a great
partiality for closing upon any loose end of Bathsheba's
apparel which came within reach of their tongues.
Above each of these a still keener vision suggested a
brown forehead and two staring though not unfriendly
eyes, and above all a pair of whitish crescent-shaped
horns like two particularly new moons, an occasional
stolid " moo!" proclaiming beyond the shade of a doubt
that these phenomena were the features and persons of
Daisy, Whitefoot, Bonny-lass, Jolly-O, Spot, Twinkle-eye,
etc., etc. -- the respectable dairy of Devon cows belonging
to Bathsheba aforesaid.
Her way back to the house was by a path through a
young plantation of tapering firs, which had been planted
some years earlier to shelter the premises from the north
wind. By reason of the density of the interwoven foliage
overhead, it was gloomy there at cloudless noontide,
twilight in the evening, dark as midnight at dusk, and
black as the ninth plague of Egypt at midnight. To
describe the spot is to call it a vast, low, naturally formed
hall, the plumy ceiling of which was supported by slender
pillars of living wood, the floor being covered with a soft
dun carpet of dead spikelets and mildewed cones, with
a tuft of grass-blades here and there.
This bit of the path was always the crux of the
night's ramble, though, before starting, her apprehen-
sions of danger were not vivid enough to lead her to
take a companion. Slipping along here covertly as
Time, Bathsheba fancied she could hear footsteps enter-
ing the track at the opposite end. It was certainly a
rustle of footsteps. Her own instantly fell as gently as
snowflakes. She reassured herself by a remembrance
that the path was public, and that the traveller was
probably some villager returning home; regetting, at
the same time, that the meeting should be about to
occur in the darkest point of her route, even though
only just outside her own door.
The noise approached, came close, and a figure was
apparently on the point of gliding past her when some-
thing tugged at her skirt and pinned it forcibly to the
ground. The instantaneous check nearly threw Bath-
sheba off her balance. In recovering she struck against
warm clothes and buttons.
"A rum start, upon my soul!" said a masculine voice,
a foot or so above her head. "Have I hurt you, mate?"
"No." said Bathsheba, attempting to shrink a way.
"We have got hitched together somehow, I think."
"Yes."
"Are you a woman?"
"Yes."
"A lady, I should have said."
"It doesn't matter."
"I am a man."
"Oh!"
Bathsheba softly tugged again, but to no purpose.
"Is that a dark lantern you have? I fancy so." said
the man.
"Yes."
"If you'll allow me I'll open it, and set you free."
A hand seized the lantern, the door was opened, the
rays burst out from their prison, and Bathsheba beheld
her position with astonishment.
The man to whom she was hooked was brilliant in
brass and scarlet. He was a soldier. His sudden
appearance was to darkness what the sound of a trumpet
is to silense. Gloom, the genius loci at all times hitherto,
was now totally overthrown, less by the lantern-light
than by what the lantern lighted. The contrast of this
revelation with her anticipations of some sinister figure
in sombre garb was so great that it had upon her the
effect of a fairy transformation.
It was immediately apparent that the military man's
spur had become entangled in the gimp which decorated
the skirt of her dress. He caught a view of her face.
"I'll unfasten you in one moment, miss." he said,
with new-born gallantry.
"O no -- I can do it, thank you." she hastily replied,
and stooped for the performance.
The unfastening was not such a trifling affair. The
rowel of the spur had so wound itself among the gimp
cords in those few moments, that separation was likely
to be a matter of time.
He too stooped, and the lantern standing on the
ground betwixt them threw the gleam from its open side
among the fir-tree needles and the blades of long damp
grass with the effect of a large glowworm. It radiated
upwards into their faces, and sent over half the planta-
tion gigantic shadows of both man and woman, each
dusky shape becoming distorted and mangled upon the
tree-trunks till it wasted to nothing.
He looked hard into her eyes when she raised them
for a moment; Bathsheba looked down again, for his
gaze was too strong to be received point-blank with her
own. But she had obliquely noticed that he was young
and slim, and that he wore three chevrons upon his
sleeve.
Bathsheba pulled again.
"You are a prisoner, miss; it is no use blinking the
matter." said the soldier, drily. "I must cut your dress
if you are in such a hurry."
"Yes -- please do!" she exclaimed, helplessly. "
"It wouldn't be necessary if you could wait a
moment," and he unwound a cord from the little
wheel. She withdrew her own hand, but, whether by
accident or design, he touched it. Bathsheba was
vexed; she hardly knew why.
His unravelling went on, but it nevertheless seemed
coming to no end. She looked at him again.
"Thank you for the sight of such a beautiful face!"
said the young sergeant, without ceremony.
She coloured with embarrassment. "'Twas un-
willingly shown." she replied, stiffly, and with as much
dignity -- which was very little -- as she could infuse into
a position of captivity
"I like you the better for that incivility, miss." he
said.
"I should have liked -- I wish -- you had never shown
yourself to me by intruding here!" She pulled again,
and the gathers of her dress began to give way like
liliputian musketry.
"I deserve the chastisement your words give me.
But why should such a fair and dutiful girl have such
an aversion to her father's sex?"
"Go on your way, please."
"What, Beauty, and drag you after me? Do but
look; I never saw such a tangle!"
"O, 'tis shameful of you; you have been making
it worse on purpose to keep me here -- you have!"
"Indeed, I don't think so." said the sergeant, with a
merry twinkle.
"I tell you you have!" she exclaimed, in high
temper. I insist upon undoing it. Now, allow me!"
"Certainly, miss; I am not of steel." He added a
sigh which had as much archness in it as a sigh could
possess without losing its nature altogether. "I am
thankful for beauty, even when 'tis thrown to me like
a bone to a dog. These moments will be over too
soon!"
She closed her lips in a determined silence.
Bathsheba was revolving in her mind whether by a
bold and desperate rush she could free herself at the
risk of leaving her skirt bodily behind her. The
thought was too dreadful. The dress -- which she had
put on to appear stately at the supper -- was the head
and front of her wardrobe; not another in her stock
became her so well. What woman in Bathsheba's
position, not naturally timid, and within call of her
retainers, would have bought escape from a dashing
soldier at so dear a price?
"All in good time; it will soon be done, I perceive,"
said her cool friend.
"This trifling provokes, and -- and -- -- "
"Not too cruel!"
"-- Insults me!"
"It is done in order that I may have the pleasure
of apologizing to so charming a woman, which I
straightway do most humbly, madam." he said, bowing
low.
Bathsheba really knew not what to say.
"I've seen a good many women in my time,
continued the young man in a murmur, and more
thoughtfully than hitherto, critically regarding her bent
head at the same time; "but I've never seen a woman
so beautiful as you. Take it or leave it -- be offended
or like it -- I don't care."
"Who are you, then, who can so well afford to
despise opinion?"
"No stranger. Sergeant Troy. I am staying in
this place. -- There! it is undone at last, you see.
Your light fingers were more eager than mine. I wish it
had been the knot of knots, which there's no untying!"
This was worse and worse. She started up, and so
did he. How to decently get away from him -- that
was her difficulty now. She sidled off inch by inch,
the lantern in her hand, till she could see the redness
of his coat no longer.
"Ah, Beauty; good-bye!" he said.
She made no reply, and, reaching a distance of
twenty or thirty yards, turned about, and ran indoors.
Liddy had just retired to rest. In ascending to her
own chamber, Bathsheba opened the girl's door an
inch or two, and, panting, said --
"Liddy, is any soldier staying in the village --
sergeant somebody -- rather gentlemanly for a sergeant,
and good looking -- a red coat with blue facings?"
"No, miss ... No, I say; but really it might be
Sergeant Troy home on furlough, though I have not
seen him. He was here once in that way when the
regiment was at Casterbridge."
"Yes; that's the name. Had he a moustache -- no
whiskers or beard?"
"He had."
"What kind of a person is he?"
"O! miss -- I blush to name it -- a gay man! But
I know him to be very quick and trim, who might have
made his thousands, like a squire. Such a clever
young dandy as he is! He's a doctor's son by name,
which is a great deal; and he's an earl's son by
nature!"
"Which is a great deal more. Fancy! Is it true?"
"Yes. And, he was brought up so well, and sent to
Casterbridge Grammar School for years and years.
Learnt all languages while he was there; and it was
said he got on so far that he could take down Chinese
in shorthand; but that I don't answer for, as it was
only reported. However, he wasted his gifted lot,
and listed a soldier; but even then he rose to be a
sergeant without trying at all. Ah! such a blessing it
is to be high-born; nobility of blood will shine out even
in the ranks and files. And is he really come home,
miss?"
"I believe so. Good-night, Liddy."
After all, how could a cheerful wearer of skirts
be permanently offended with the man? There are
occasions when girls like Bathsheba will put up with
a great deal of unconventional behaviour. When they
want to be praised, which is often, when they want to
be mastered, which is sometimes; and when they want
no nonsense, which is seldom. Just now the first
feeling was in the ascendant with Bathsheba, with a dash
of the second. Moreover, by chance or by devilry, the
ministrant was antecedently made interesting by being
a handsome stranger who had evidently seen better
days.
So she could not clearly decide whether it was her
opinion that he had insulted her or not. "
"Was ever anything so odd!" she at last exclaimed
to herself, in her own room. "And was ever anything
so meanly done as what I did do to sulk away like that
from a man who was only civil and kind!" Clearly she
did not think his barefaced praise of her person an
insult now.
It was a fatal omission of Boldwood's that he had
never once told her she was beautiful.

CHAPTER XXV

THE NEW ACQUAINTANCE DESCRIBED

IDIOSYNCRASY and vicissitude had combined to
stamp Sergeant Troy as an exceptional being.
He was a man to whom memories were an in-
cumbrance, and anticipations a superfluity. Simply
feeling, considering, and caring for what was before his
eyes, he was vulnerable only in the present. His out-
look upon time was as a transient flash of the eye now
and then: that projection of consciousness into days
gone by and to come, which makes the past a synonym
for the pathetic and the future a word for circum-
spection, was foreign to Troy. With him the past
was yesterday; the future, to-morrow; never, the day
after.
On this account he might, in certain lights, have
been regarded as one of the most fortunate of his
order. For it may be argued with great plausibility
that reminiscence is less an endowment than a disease,
and that expectation in its only comfortable form -- that
of absolute faith -- is practically an impossibility; whilst
in the form of hope and the secondary compounds,
patience, impatience, resolve, curiosity, it is a constant
fluctuation between pleasure and pain.
Sergeant Troy, being entirely innocent of the
practice of expectation, was never disappointed. To
set against this negative gain there may have been
some positive losses from a certain narrowing of the
higher tastes and sensations which it entailed. But
limitation of the capacity is never recognized as a loss
by the loser therefrom: in this attribute moral or
aesthetic poverty contrasts plausibly with material, since
those who suffer do not mind it, whilst those who mind
it soon cease to suffer. It is not a denial of anything
to have been always without it, and what Troy had
never enjoyed he did not miss; but, being fully
conscious that what sober people missed he enjoyed,
his capacity, though really less, seemed greater than
theirs.
He was moderately truthful towards men, but to
women lied like a Cretan -- a system of ethics above all
others calculated to win popularity at the first flush of
admission into lively society; and the possibility of the
favour gained being transitory had reference only to
the future.
He never passed the line which divides the spruce
vices from the ugly; and hence, though his morals had
hardly been applauded, disapproval of them" had fre-
quently been tempered with a smile. This treatment
had led to his becoming a sort of regrater of other
men's gallantries, to his own aggrandizement as a
Corinthian, rather than to the moral profit of his
hearers.
His reason and his propensities had seldom any
reciprocating influence, having separated by mutual
consent long ago: thence it sometimes happened that,
while his intentions were as honourable as could be
wished, any particular deed formed a dark background
which threw them into fine relief. The sergeant's
vicious phases being the offspring of impulse, and
his virtuous phases of cool meditation, the latter
had a modest tendency to be oftener heard of than
seen.
Troy was full of activity, but his activities were less of
a locomotive than a vegetative nature; and, never being
based upon any original choice of foundation or direc-
tion, they were exercised on whatever object chance
might place in their way. Hence, whilst he sometimes
reached the brilliant in speech because that -was
spontaneous, he fell below the commonplace in action,
from inability to guide incipient effort. He had a
quick comprehension and considerable force of char-
acter; but, being without the power to combine them,
the comprehension became engaged with trivialities
whilst waiting for the will to direct it, and the force
wasted itself in useless grooves through unheeding the
comprehension.
He was a fairly well-educated man for one of middle
class -- exceptionally well educated for a common soldier.
He spoke fluently and unceasingly. He could in this
way be one thing and seem another: for instance, he
could speak of love and think of dinner; call on the
intend to owe.
The wondrous power of flattery in passados at woman
is a perception so universal as to be remarked upon by
many people almost as automatically as they repeat a
proverb, or say that they are Christians and the like,
without thinking much of the enormous corollaries
which spring from the proposition. Still less is it acted
upon for the good of the complemental being alluded
to. With the majority such an opinion is shelved with
all those trite aphorisms which require some catastrophe
to bring their tremendous meanings thoroughly home.
When expressed with some amount of reflectiveness it
seems co-ordinate with a belief that this flattery must
be reasonable to be effective. It is to the credit of
men that few attempt to settle the question by experi-
ment, and it is for their happiness, perhaps, that accident
has never settled it for them. Nevertheless, that a
male dissembler who by deluging her with untenable
fictions charms the female wisely, may acquire powers
reaching to the extremity of perdition, is a truth taught
to many by unsought and wringing occurrences. And
some profess to have attained to the same knowledge
by experiment as aforesaid, and jauntily continue their
indulgence in such experiments with terrible effect.
Sergeant Troy was one.
He had been known to observe casually that in
dealing with womankind the only alternative to flattery
was cursing and swearing. There was no third method.
"Treat them fairly, and you are a lost man." he would
say.
This philosopher's public appearance in Weatherbury
promptly followed his arrival there. A week or two
after the shearing, Bathsheba, feeling a nameless relief
of spirits on account of Boldwood's absence, approached
her hayfields and looked over the hedge towards the
haymakers. They consisted in about equal proportions
of gnarled and flexuous forms, the former being the
men, the latter the women, who wore tilt bonnets
covered with nankeen, which hung in a curtain upon
their shoulders. Coggan and Mark Clark were mowing
in a less forward meadow, Clark humming a tune to
the strokes of his scythe, to which Jan made no attempt
to keep time with his. In the first mead they were
already loading hay, the women raking it into cocks
and windrows, and the men tossing it upon the
waggon.
From behind the waggon a bright scarlet spot
emerged, and went on loading unconcernedly with the
rest. It was the gallant sergeant, who had come hay-
making for pleasure; and nobody could deny that he
was doing the mistress of the farm real knight-service
by this voluntary contribution of his labour at a busy
time.
As soon as she had entered the field Troy saw her,
and sticking his pitchfork into the ground and picking
up his crop or cane, he came forward. Bathsheba
blushed with half-angry embarrassment, and adjusted
her eyes as well as her feet to the direct line of her
path.

CHAPTER XXVI

SCENE ON THE VERGE OF THE HAY-MEAD

"AH, Miss Everdene!" said the sergeant, touching his
diminutive cap. "Little did I think it was you I was
speaking to the other night. And yet, if I had reflected,
the "Queen of the Corn-market" (truth is truth at any
hour of the day or night, and I heard you so named in
Casterbridge yesterday), the "Queen of the Corn-market."
I say, could be no other woman. I step across now to
beg your forgiveness a thousand times for having been
led by my feelings to express myself too strongly for a
stranger. To be sure I am no stranger to the place --
I am Sergeant Troy, as I told you, and I have assisted
your uncle in these fields no end of times when I was a
lad. I have been doing the same for you today."
"I suppose I must thank you for that, Sergeant
Troy." said the Queen of the Corn-market, in an in-
differently grateful tone.
The sergeant looked hurt and sad. "Indeed you
must not, Miss Everdene." he said. "Why could you
think such a thing necessary?"
"I am glad it is not."
"Why? if I may ask without offence."
"Because I don't much want to thank you for any"
thing."
"I am afraid I have made a hole with my tongue
that my heart will never mend. O these intolerable
times: that ill-luck should follow a man for honestly
telling a woman she is beautiful! 'Twas the most I
said -- you must own that; and the least I could say --
that I own myself."
"There is some talk I could do without more easily
than money."
"Indeed. That remark is a sort of digression."
"No. It means that I would rather have your room
than your company."
"And I would rather have curses from you than
kisses from any other woman; so I'll stay here."
Bathsheba was absolutely speechless. And yet she
could not help feeling that the assistance he was render-
ing forbade a harsh repulse.
"Well." continued Troy, "I suppose there is a praise
which is rudeness, and that may be mine. At the
same time there is a treatment which is injustice, and
that may be yours. Because a plain blunt man, who
has never been taught concealment, speaks out his
mind without exactly intending it, he's to be snapped
off like the son of a sinner."
"Indeed there's no such case between us." she said,
turning away. "I don't allow strangers to be bold and
impudent -- even in praise of me."
"Ah -- it is not the fact but the method which offends
you." he said, carelessly. "But I have the sad satis-
faction of knowing that my words, whether pleasing or
offensive, are unmistakably true. Would you have had
me look at you, and tell my acquaintance that you are
quite a common-place woman, to save you the embar-
rassment of being stared at if they come near you?
Not I. I couldn't tell any such ridiculous lie about
a beauty to encourage a single woman in England in
too excessive a modesty."
"It is all pretence -- what you are saying!" exclaimed
Bathsheba, laughing in spite of herself at the sergeant's
sly method. "You have a rare invention, Sergeant
Troy. Why couldn't you have passed by me that
night, and said nothing? -- that was all I meant to
reproach you for."
"Because I wasn't going to. Half the pleasure of
a feeling lies in being able to express it on the spur of
the moment, and I let out mine. It would have been
just the same if you had been the reverse person -- ugly
and old -- I should have exclaimed about it in the same
way. "
"How long is it since you have been so afflicted with
strong feeling, then?"
"Oh, ever since I was big enough to know loveliness
from deformity."
"'Tis to be hoped your sense of the difference you
speak of doesn't stop at faces, but extends to morals as
well. "
"I won't speak of morals or religion -- my own or
anybody else's. Though perhaps I should have been a
very good Christian if you pretty women hadn't made
me an idolater."
Bathsheba moved on to hide the irrepressible dimp-
lings of merriment. Troy followed, whirling his crop.
"But -- Miss Everdene -- you do forgive me?"
"Hardly. "
"Why?"
"You say such things."
"I said you were beautiful, and I'll say so still; for,
by -- so you are! The most beautiful ever I saw, or
may I fall dead this instant! Why, upon my -- -- "
"Don't -- don't! I won't listen to you -- you are so
profane!" she said, in a restless state between distress
at hearing him and a penchant to hear more.
"I again say you are a most fascinating woman.
There's nothing remarkable in my saying so, is there?
I'm sure the fact is evident enough. Miss Everdene,
my opinion may be too forcibly let out to please you,
and, for the matter of that, too insignificant to convince
you, but surely it is honest, and why can't it be ex-
cused? "
"Because it -- it isn't a correct one." she femininely
murmured.
"O, fie -- fie-! Am I any worse for breaking the
third of that Terrible Ten than you for breaking the
ninth?"
"Well, it doesn't seem quite true to me that I am
fascinating." she replied evasively.
"Not so to you: then I say with all respect that, if
so, it is owing to your modesty, Miss Everdene. But
surely you must have been told by everybody of what
everybody notices? and you should take their words
for it."
"They don't say so exactly."
"O yes, they must!"
"Well, I mean to my face, as you do." she went on,
allowing herself to be further lured into a conversation
that intention had rigorously forbidden.
"But you know they think so?"
"No -- that is -- I certainly have heard Liddy say
they do, but -- --" She paused.
Capitulation -- that was the purport of the simple
reply, guarded as it was -- capitulation, unknown to her-
self. Never did a fragile tailless sentence convey a
more perfect meaning. The careless sergeant smiled
within himself, and probably too the devil smiled from
a loop-hole in Tophet, for the moment was the turning-
point of a career. Her tone and mien signified beyond
mistake that the seed which was to lift the foundation
had taken root in the chink: the remainder was a mere
question of time and natural changes.
"There the truth comes out!" said the soldier, in
reply. "Never tell me that a young lady can live in a
buzz of admiration without knowing something about it.
Ah." well, Miss Everdene, you are -- pardon my blunt
way -- you are rather an injury to our race than other-
wise.
"How -- indeed?" she said, opening her eyes.
"O, it is true enough. I may as well be hung for
a sheep as a lamb (an old country saying, not of much
account, but it will do for a rough soldier), and so I
will speak my mind, regardless of your pleasure, and
without hoping or intending to get your pardon. Why,
Miss Everdene, it is in this manner that your good
looks may do more. harm than good in the world."
The sergeant looked down the mead in critical abstrac-
ion. "Probably some one man on an average falls in"
love, with each ordinary woman. She can marry him:
he is content, and leads a useful life. Such women as
you a hundred men always covet -- your eyes will be-
witch scores on scores into an unavailing fancy for you
you can only marry one of that many. Out of these
say twenty will endeavour to. drown the bitterness of
espised love in drink; twenty more will mope away
their lives without a wish or attempt to make a mark in
he world, because they have no ambition apart from
their attachment to you; twenty more -- the susceptible
person myself possibly among them -- will be always
draggling after you, getting where they may just see
you, doing desperate things. Men are such constant
fools! The rest may try to get over their passion with
more or less success. But all these men will be
saddened. And not only those ninety-nine men, but
the ninety-nine women they might have married are
saddened with them. There's my tale. That's why I
say that a woman so charming as yourself, Miss Ever-
dene, is hardly a blessing to her race."
The handsome sergeant's features were during this
speech as rigid and stern as John Knox's in addressing
his gay young queen.
Seeing she made no reply, he said, "Do you read
French?"
"No; I began, but when I got to the verbs, father
died." she said simply.
"I do -- when I have an opportunity, which latterly
has not been often (my mother was a Parisienne) -- and
there's a proverb they have, Qui aime bien chatie bien
-- "He chastens who loves well." Do you understand
me?
"Ah!" she replied, and there was even a little tremu-
lousness in the usually cool girl's voice; "if you can
only fight half as winningly as you can talk, you are
able to make a pleasure of a bayonet wound!" And
then poor Bathsheba instantly perceived her slip in
making this admission: in hastily trying to retrieve it,
she went from bad to worse. "Don't, however, suppose
that I derive any pleasure from what you tell me."
"I know you do not -- I know it perfectly." said Troy,
with much hearty conviction on the exterior of his face:
and altering the expression to moodiness; "when a
dozen men arfe ready to speak tenderly to you, and
give the admiration you deserve without adding the
warning you need, it stands to reason that my poor
rough-and-ready mixture of praise and blame cannot
convey much pleasure. Fool as I may be, I am not so
conceited as to suppose that!"
"I think you -- are conceited, nevertheless." said
Bathsheba, looking askance at a reed she was fitfully
pulling with one hand, having lately grown feverish
under the soldier's system of procedure -- not because
the nature of his cajolery was entirely unperceived, but
because its vigour was overwhelming.
"I would not own it to anybody else -- nor do I
exactly to you. Still, there might have been some self-
conceit in my foolish supposition the other night. I
knew that what I said in admiration might be an
opinion too often forced upon you to give any pleasure
but I certainly did think that the kindness of your
nature might prevent you judging an uncontrolled
tongue harshly -- which you have done -- and thinking
badly of me and wounding me this morning, when I
am working hard to save your hay."
"Well, you need not think more of that: perhaps you
did not mean to be rude to me by speaking out your
mind: indeed, I believe you did not." said the shrewd
woman, in painfully innocent earnest. "And I thank
you for giving help here. But -- but mind you don't
speak to me again in that way, or in any other, unless
I speak to you."
"O, Miss Bathsheba! That is to hard!"
"No, it isn't. Why is it?"
"You will never speak to me; for I shall not be
here long. I am soon going back again to the miser-
able monotony of drill -- and perhaps our regiment will
be ordered out soon. And yet you take away the one
little ewe-lamb of pleasure that I have in this dull life
of mine. Well, perhaps generosity is not a woman's
most marked characteristic."
"When are you going from here?" she asked, with
some interest.
"In a month."
"But how can it give you pleasure to speak to me?"
"Can you ask Miss Everdene -- knowing as you do
-- what my offence is based on?"
"I you do care so much for a silly trifle of that
kind, then, I don't mind doing it." she uncertainly and
doubtingly answered. "But you can't really care for a
word from me? you only say so -- I think you only
say so."
"that's unjust -- but I won't repeat the remark. I
am too gratified to get such a mark of your friendship
at any price to cavil at the tone. I do Miss Everdene,
care for it. You may think a man foolish to want a
mere word -- just a good morning. Perhaps he is -- I
don't know. But you have never been a man looking
upon a woman, and that woman yourself."
"Well."
"Then you know nothing of what such an experience
is like -- and Heaven forbid that you ever should!"
"Nonsense, flatterer! What is it like? I am
interested in knowing."
"Put shortly, it is not being able to think, hear, or
look in any direction except one without wretchedness,
nor there without torture."
"Ah, sergeant, it won't do -- you are pretending!" she
said, shaking her head." Your words are too dashing
to be true."
"I am not, upon the honour of a soldier"
"But why is it so? -- Of course I ask for mere pas-
time."
Because you are so distracting -- and I am so
distracted. "
"You look like it."
"I am indeed."
"Why, you only saw me the other night!"
"That makes no difference. The lightning works in-
stantaneously. I loved you then, at once -- as I do now."
Bathsheba surveyed him curiously, from the feet
upward, as high as she liked to venture her glance,
which was not quite so high as his eyes.
"You cannot and you don"t." she said demurely.
"There is-no such sudden feeling in people. I won't
listen to you any longer. Hear me, I wish I knew what
o'clock it is -- I am going -- I have wasted too much time
here already!"
The sergeant looked at his watch and told her.
"What, haven't you a watch, miss?" he inquired.
"I have not just at present -- I am about to get a
new one."
"No. You shall be given one. Yes -- you shall.
A gift, Miss Everdene -- a gift."
And before she knew what the young -- man was
intending, a heavy gold watch was in her hand.
"It is an unusually good one for a man like me to
possess." he quietly said. "That watch has a history.
Press the spring and open the back."
She did so.
"What do you see?"
"A crest and a motto."
"A coronet with five points, and beneath, Cedit amor
rebus -- "Love yields to circumstance." It's the motto
of the Earls of Severn. That watch belonged to the
last lord, and was given to my mother's husband, a
medical man, for his use till I came of age, when it was
to be given to me. It was all the fortune that ever I
inherited. That watch has regulated imperial interests
in its time -- the stately ceremonial, the courtly assigna-
tion, pompous travels, and lordly sleeps. Now it is
yours.
"But, Sergeant Troy, I cannot take this -- I cannot!"
she exclaimed, with round-eyed wonder. "A gold watch!
What are you doing? Don't be such a dissembler!"
The sergeant retreated to avoid receiving back his
gift, which she held out persistently towards him.
Bathsheba followed as he retired.
"Keep it -- do, Miss Everdene -- keep it!" said the
erratic child of impulse. "The fact of your possessing
it makes it worth ten times as much to me. A more
plebeian one will answer my purpose just as well, and
the pleasure of knowing whose heart my old one beats
against -- well, I won't speak of that. It is in far
worthier hands than ever it has been in before."
"But indeed I can't have it!" she said, in a perfect
simmer of distress. "O, how can you do such a thing;
that is if you really mean it! Give me your dead
father's watch, and such a valuable one! You should
not be so reckless, indeed, Sergeant Troy!"
"I loved my father: good; but better, I love you
more. That's how I can do it." said the sergeant, with
an intonation of such exquisite fidelity to nature that it.
was evidently not all acted now. Her beauty, which,
whilst it had been quiescent, he had praised in jest,
had in its animated phases moved him to earnest; and
though his seriousness was less than she imagined, it
was probably more than he imagined himself.
Bathsheba was brimming with agitated bewilderment,
and she said, in half-suspicious accents of feeling, "Can
it be! O, how can it be, that you care for me, and
so suddenly,! You have seen so little of me: I may
not be really so -- so nice-looking as I seem to you.
Please, do take it; O, do! I cannot and will not have
it. Believe me, your generosity is too great. I have
never done you a single kindness, and why should you
be so kind to me?"
A factitious reply had been again upon his lips, but
it was again suspended, and he looked at her with an
arrested eye. The truth was, that as she now stood --
excited, wild, and honest as the day -- her alluring
beauty bore out so fully the epithets he had bestowed
upon it that he was quite startled at his temerity in
advancing them as false. He said mechanically, "Ah,
why?" and continued to look at her.
"And my workfolk see me following you about the
field, and are wondering. O, this is dreadful!" she
went on, unconscious of the transmutation she was
effecting.
"I did not quite mean you to accept it at first, for it
as my one poor patent of nobility." he broke out,
bluntly; "but, upon my soul, I wish you would now.
Without any shamming, come! Don't deny me the
happiness of wearing it for my sake? But you are too
lovely even to care to be kind as others are."
"No, no; don"t say so! I have reasons for reserve
which I cannot explain."
"bet it be, then, let it be." he said, receiving back
the watch at last; "I must be leaving you now. And
will you speak to me for these few weeks of my stay?"
"Indeed I will. Yet, I don't know if I will! O,
why did you come and disturb me so!"
"Perhaps in setting a gin, I have caught myself.
Such things have happened. Well, will you let me
work in your fields?" he coaxed.
"Yes, I suppose so; if it is any pleasure to you."
"Miss Everdene, I thank you.
"No, no."
"Good-bye!"
The sergeant brought his hand to the cap on the
slope of his head, saluted, and returned to the distant
group of haymakers.
Bathsheba could not face the haymakers now. Her
heart erratically flitting hither and thither from per-
plexed excitement, hot, and almost tearful, she retreated
homeward, murmuring, O, what have I done! What
does it mean! I wish I knew how much of it was
true!

CHAPTER XXVII

HIVING THE BEES

THE Weatherbury bees were late in their swarming this
year. It was in the latter part of June, and the day after
the interview with Troy in the hayfield, that Bathsheba
was standing in her garden, watching a swarm in the
air and guessing their probable settling place. Not only
were they late this year, but unruly. Sometimes through-
out a whole season all the swarms would alight on the
lowest attainable bough -- such as part of a currant-bush
or espalier apple-tree; next year they would, with just
the same unanimity, make straight off to the uppermost
member of some tall, gaunt costard, or quarrenden,
and there defy all invaders who did not come armed
with ladders and staves to take them.
This was the case at present. Bathsheba's eyes,
shaded by one hand, were following the ascending
multitude against the unexplorable stretch of blue till
they ultimately halted by one of the unwieldy trees
spoken of. A process somewhat analogous to that of
alleged formations of the universe, time and times ago,
was observable. The bustling swarm had swept the sky
in a scattered and uniform haze, which now thickened to
a nebulous centre: this glided on to a bough and grew
still denser, till it formed a solid black spot upon the
light.
The men and women being all busily engaged in
saving the hay -- even Liddy had left the house for the
purpose of lending a hand -- Bathsheba resolved to hive
the bees herself, if possible. She had dressed the hive
with herbs and honey, fetched a ladder, brush, and
crook, made herself impregnable with armour of leather
gloves, straw hat, and large gauze veil -- once green but
now faded to snuff colour -- and ascended a dozen rungs
of the ladder. At once she heard, not ten yards off,
a voice that was beginning to have a strange power in
agitating her.
"Miss Everdene, let me assist you; you should not
attempt such a thing alone."
Troy was just opening the garden gate.
Bathsheba flung down the brush, crook, and empty
hive, pulled the skirt of her dress tightly round her
ankles in a tremendous flurry, and as well as she could
slid down the ladder. By the time she reached the
bottom Troy was there also, and he stooped to pick
up the hive.
"How fortunate I am to have dropped in at this
moment!" exclaimed the sergeant.
She found her voice in a minute. "What! and will
you shake them in for me?" she asked, in what, for a
defiant girl, was a faltering way; though, for a timid
girl, it would have seemed a brave way enough.
"Will I!" said Troy. "Why, of course I will. How
blooming you are to-day!" Troy flung down his cane
and put his foot on the ladder to ascend.
"But you must have on the veil and gloves, or you'll
be stung fearfully!"
"Ah, yes. I must put on the veil and gloves. Will
you kindly show me how to fix them properly?"
"And you must have the broad-brimmed hat, too, for
your cap has no brim to keep the veil off, and they'd
reach your face."
"The broad-brimmed hat, too, by all means."
So a whimsical fate ordered that her hat should be
taken off -- veil and all attached -- and placed upon his
head, Troy tossing his own into a gooseberry bush.
Then the veil had to be tied at its lower edge round
his collar and the gloves put on him.
He looked such an extraordinary object in this guise
that, flurried as she was, she could not avoid laughing
outright. It was the removal of yet another stake from
the palisade of cold manners which had kept him off
Bathsheba looked on from the ground whilst he was
busy sweeping and shaking the bees from the tree,
holding up the hive with the other hand for them to
fall into. She made use of an unobserved minute
whilst his attention was absorbed in the operation to
arrange her plumes a little. He came down holding
the hive at arm's length, behind which trailed a cloud
of bees.
"Upon my life." said Troy, through the veil," holding
up this hive makes one's arm ache worse than a week
of sword-exercise." When the manoeuvre was complete
he approached her. "Would you be good enough to
untie me and let me out? I am nearly stifled inside
this silk cage."
To hide her embarrassment during the unwonted
process of untying the string about his neck, she said: --
"I have never seen that you spoke of."
"What?"
"The sword-exercise."
"Ah! would you like to?" said Troy.
Bathsheba hesitated. She had heard wondrous
reports from time to time by dwellers in Weatherbury,
who had by chance sojourned awhile in Casterbridge,
near the barracks, of this strange and glorious perform-
ance, *tlie sword-exercise. Men and boys who had
peeped through chinks or over walls into the barrack-
yard returned with accounts of its being the most
flashing affair conceivable; accoutrements and weapons
glistening like stars-here,there,around-yet all by rule
and compass. So she said mildly what she felt strongly.
"Yes; I should like to see it very much."
"And so you shall; you shall see me go through it."
"No! How?"
"Let me consider."
"Not with a walking-stick -- I don't care to see that.
lt must be a real sword."
"Yes, I know; and I have no sword here; but I
think I could get one by the evening. Now, will you
do this?"
"O no, indeed!" said Bathsheba, blushing." Thank
you very much, but I couldn't on any account.
"Surely you might? Nobody would know."
She shook her head, but with a weakened negation.
"If I were to." she said, "I must bring Liddy too. Might
I not?"
Troy looked far away. "I don't see why you want
to bring her." he said coldly.
An unconscious look of assent in Bathsheba's eyes
betrayed that something more than his coldness had
made her also feel that Liddy Would be superfluous in
the suggested scene. She had felt it, even whilst making
the proposal.
"Well, I won't bring Liddy -- and I'll come. But
only for a very short time." she added; "a very short
time."
"It will not take five minutes." said Troy.

CHAPTER XXVIII

THE HOLLOW AMID THE FERNS

THE hill opposite Bathsheba's dwelling extended, a
mile off, into an uncultivated tract of land, dotted at
this season with tall thickets of brake fern, plump and
diaphanous from recent rapid growth, and radiant in
hues of clear and untainted green.
At eight o'clock this midsummer evening, whilst the
bristling ball of gold in the west still swept the tips of
the ferns with its long, luxuriant rays, a soft brushing-
by of garments might have been heard among them,
and Bathsheba appeared in their midst, their soft,
feathery arms caressing her up to her shoulders. She
paused, turned, went back over the hill and half-way
to her own door, whence she cast a farewell glance upon
the spot she had just left, having resolved not to remain
near the place after all.
She saw a dim spot of artificial red moving round
the shoulder of the rise. It disappeared on the other
side.
She waited one minute -- two minutes -- thought of
Troy's disappointment at her non-fulfilment of a promised
engagement, till she again ran along the field, clambered
over the bank, and followed the original direction. She
was now literally trembling and panting at this her
temerity in such an errant undertaking; her breath
came and went quickly, and her eyes shone with an in-
frequent light. Yet go she must. She reached the
verge of a pit in the middle of the ferns. Troy stood
in the bottom, looking up towards her.
"I heard you rustling through the fern before I saw
you." he said, coming up and giving her his hand to help
her down the slope.
The pit was a saucer-shaped concave, naturally
formed, with a top diameter of about thirty feet, and
shallow enough to allow the sunshine to reach their
heads. Standing in the centre, the sky overhead was
met by a circular horizon of fern: this grew nearly to
the bottom of the slope and then abruptly ceased. The
middle within the belt of verdure was floored with a
thick flossy carpet of moss and grass intermingled, so
yielding that the foot was half-buried within it.
"Now." said Troy, producing the sword, which, as he
raised it into the sunlight, gleamed a sort of greeting,
like a living thing, "first, we have four right and four
left cuts; four right and four left thrusts. Infantry cuts
and guards are more interesting than ours, to my mind;
but they are not so swashing. They have seven cuts
and three thrusts. So much as a preliminary. Well,
next, our cut one is as if you were sowing your corn --
so." Bathsheba saw a sort of rainbow, upside down in
the air, and Troy's arm was still again. "Cut two, as if
you were hedging -- so. Three, as if you were reaping
-- so." Four, as if you were threshing -- in that way.
"Then the same on the left. The thrusts are these: one,
two, three, four, right; one, two, three, four, left." He
repeated them. "Have 'em again?" he said. "One,
two -- -- "
She hurriedly interrupted: "I'd rather not; though
I don't mind your twos and fours; but your ones and
threes are terrible!"
"Very well. I'll let you off the ones and threes.
Next, cuts, points and guards altogether." Troy duly
exhibited them. "Then there's pursuing practice, in
this way." He gave the movements as before. "There,
those are the stereotyped forms. The infantry have
two most diabolical upward cuts, which we are too
humane to use. Like this -- three, four."
"How murderous and bloodthirsty!"
"They are rather deathy. Now I'll be more inter-
esting, and let you see some loose play -- giving all the
cuts and points, infantry and cavalry, quicker than
lightning, and as promiscuously -- with just enough rule
to regulate instinct and yet not to fetter it. You are
my antagonist, with this difference from real warfare,
that I shall miss you every time by one hair's breadth,
or perhaps two. Mind you don't flinch, whatever you
do."
I'll be sure not to!" she said invincibly.
He pointed to about a yard in front of him.
Bathsheba's adventurous spirit was beginning to find
some grains of relish in these highly novel proceedings.
She took up her position as directed, facing Troy.
"Now just to learn whether you have pluck enough
to let me do what I wish, I'll give you a preliminary
test."
He flourished the sword by way of introduction
number two, and the next thing of which she was
conscious was that the point and blade of the sword
were darting with a gleam towards her left side, just
above her hip; then of their reappearance on her right
side, emerging as it were from between her ribs, having
apparently passed through her body. The third item
of consciousness was that of seeing the same sword,
perfectly clean and free from blood held vertically in
Troy's hand (in the position technically called "recover
swords"). All was as quick as electricity.
"Oh!" she cried out in affright, pressing her hand to
her side." Have you run me through? -- no, you have
not! Whatever have you done!"
"I have not touched you." said Troy, quietly. "It
was mere sleight of hand. The sword passed behind
you. Now you are not afraid, are you? Because if
you are l can't perform. I give my word that l will
not only not hurt you, but not once touch you."
"I don't think I am afraid. You are quite sure you
will not hurt me?"
"Quite sure."
"Is the sWord very sharp?"
"O no -- only stand as still as a statue. Now!"
In an instant the atmosphere was transformed to
Bathsheba's eyes. Beams of light caught from the low
sun's rays, above, around, in front of her, well-nigh shut
out earth and heaven -- all emitted in the marvellous
evolutions of Troy's reflecting blade, which seemed
everywhere at once, and yet nowherre specially. These
circling gleams were accompanied by a keen rush that
was almost a whistling -- also springing from all sides of
her at once. In short, she was enclosed in a firmament
of light, and of sharp hisses, resembling a sky-full of
meteors close at hand.
Never since the broadsword became the national
weapon had there been more dexterity shown in its
management than by the hands of Sergeant Troy, and
never had he been in such splendid temper for the
performance as now in the evening sunshine among the
ferns with Bathsheba. It may safely be asserted with
respect to the closeness of his cuts, that had it been
possible for the edge of the sword to leave in the air a
permanent substance wherever it flew past, the space
left untouched would have been almost a mould of
Bathsheba's figure.
Behind the luminous streams of this aurora militaris,
she could see the hue of Troy's sword arm, spread in a
scarlet haze over the space covered by its motions, like
a twanged harpstring, and behind all Troy himself,
mostly facing her; sometimes, to show the rear cuts,
half turned away, his eye nevertheless always keenly
measuring her breadth and outline, and his lips tightly
closed in sustained effort. Next, his movements lapsed
slower, and she could see them individually. The
hissing of the sword had ceased, and he stopped
entirely.
"That outer loose lock of hair wants tidying, he
said, before she had moved or spoken. "Wait: I'll do
it for you."
An arc of silver shone on her right side: the sword
had descended. The lock droped to the ground.
"Bravely borne!" said Troy. "You didn't flinch a
shade's thickness. Wonderful in a woman!"
"It was because I didn't expect it. O, you have
spoilt my hair!"
"Only once more."
"No -- no! I am afraid of you -- indeed I am!" she
cried.
"I won't touch you at all -- not even your hair. I
am only going to kill that caterpillar settling on you.
Now: still!"
It appeared that a caterpillar had come from the
fern and chosen the front of her bodice as his resting
place. She saw the point glisten towards her bosom,
and seemingly enter it. Bathsheba closed her eyes in
the full persuasion that she was killed at last. How-
ever, feeling just as usual, she opened them again.
"There it is, look." said the sargeant, holding his
sword before her eyes.
The caterpillar was spitted upon its point.
"Why, it is magic!" said Bathsheba, amazed.
"O no -- dexterity. I merely gave point to your
bosom where the caterpillar was, and instead of running
you through checked the extension a thousandth of an
inch short of your surface."
"But how could you chop off a curl of my hair with
a sword that has no edge?"
"No edge! This sword will shave like a razor.
Look here."
He touched the palm of his hand with the blade,
and then, lifting it, showed her a thin shaving of scarf-
skin dangling therefrom.
"But you said before beginning that it was blunt and
couldn't cut me!"
"That was to get you to stand still, and so make sure
of your safety. The risk of injuring you through your
moving was too great not to force me to tell you a
fib to escape it."
She shuddered. "I have been within an inch of my
life, and didn't know it!"
"More precisely speaking, you have been within half
an inch of being pared alive two hundred and ninety-five
tinies."
"Cruel, cruel, 'tis of you!"
"You have been perfectly safe, nevertheless. My
sword never errs." And Troy returned the weapon to
the scabbard.
Bathsheba, overcome by a hundred tumultuous feel-
ings resulting from the scene, abstractedly sat down on
a tuft of heather.
"I must leave you now." said Troy, softly. "And I'll
venture to take and keep this in remembrance of you."
She saw him stoop to the grass, pick up the winding
lock which he had severed from her manifold tresses,
twist it round his fingers, unfasten a button in the breast
of his coat, and carefully put it inside. She felt power-
less to withstand or deny him. He was altogether too
much for her, and Bathsheba seemed as one who, facing
a reviving wind, finds it blow so strongly that it stops
the breath.
He drew near and said, "I must be leaving you."
He drew nearer still. A minute later and she saw his
scarlet form disappear amid the ferny thicket, almost in
a flash, like a brand swiftly waved.
That minute's interval had brought the blood beating
into her face, set her stinging as if aflame to the very
hollows of her feet, and enlarged emotion to a compass
which quite swamped thought. It had brought upon
her a stroke resulting, as did that of Moses in Horeh, in
a liquid stream -- here a stream of tears. She felt like
one who has sinned a great sin.
The circumstance had been the gentle dip of Troy's
mouth downwards upon her own. He had kissed her.

CHAPTER XXIX

PARTICULARS OF A TWILIGHT WALK

WE now see the element of folly distinctly mingling
with the many varying particulars which made up the
character of Bathsheba Everdene. It was almost foreign
to her intrinsic nature. Introduced as lymph on the
dart of Eros, it eventually permeated and coloured
her whole constitution. Bathsheba, though she had too
much understanding to be entirely governed by her
womanliness, had too much womanliness to use her
understanding to the best advantage. Perhaps in no
minor point does woman astonish her helpmate more
than in the strange power she possesses of believing
cajoleries that she knows to be false -- except, indeed, in
that of being utterly sceptical on strictures that she
knows to be true.
Bathsheba loved Troy in the way that only self-reliant
women love when they abandon their self-reliance.
When a strong woman recklessly throws away her
strength she is worse than a weak woman who has never
had any strength to throw away. One source of her
inadequacy is the novelty of the occasion. She has
never had practice in making the best of such a
condition. Weakness is doubly weak by being new.
Bathsheba was not conscious of guile in this matter.
Though in one sense a woman of the world, it was, after
all, that world of daylight coteries and green carpets
wherein cattle form the passing crowd and winds the
busy hum; where a quiet family of rabbits or hares lives
on the other side of your party-wall, where your neigh-
bour is everybody in the tything, and where calculation
formulated self-indulgence of bad, nothing at all. Had
her utmost thoughts in this direction been distinctly
worded (and by herself they never were), they would
only have amounted to such a matter as that she felt
her impulses to be pleasanter guides than her discretion .
Her love was entire as a child's, and though warm as
summer it was fresh as spring. Her culpability lay in
her making no attempt to control feeling by subtle and
careful inquiry into consciences. She could show others
the steep and thorny way, but 'reck'd not her own rede,"
And Troy's deformities lay deep down from a
woman's vision, whilst his embellishments were upon
the very surface; thus contrasting with homely Oak,
whose defects were patent to the blindest, and whose
vertues were as metals in a mine.
The difference between love and respect was mark-
edly shown in her conduct. Bathsheba had spoken of
her interest in Boldwood with the greatest freedom to
Liddy, but she had only communed with her own heart
concerning "Troy".
All this infatuation Gabriel saw, and was troubled
thereby from the time of his daily journey a-field to the
time of his return, and on to the small hours of many a
night. That he was not beloved had hitherto been his
great that Bathsheba was getting into the toils
was now a sorrow greater than the first, and one which
nearly obscured it. It was a result which paralleled
the oft-quoted observation of Hippocrates concerning
physical pains.
That is a noble though perhaps an unpromising love
which not even the fear of breeding aversion in the
bosom of the one beloved can deter from combating his
or her errors. Oak determined to speak to his mistress.
He would base his appeal on what he considered her
unfair treatment of Farmer Boldwood, now absent from
home.
An opportunity occurred one evening when she had
gone for a short walk by a path through the neighbour-
ing cornfields. It was dusk when Oak, who had not
been far a-field that day, took the same path and met
her returning, quite pensively, as he thought.
The wheat was now tall, and the path was narrow;
thus the way was quite a sunken groove between the
embowing thicket on either side. Two persons could
not walk abreast without damaging the crop, and Oak
stood aside to let her pass.
"Oh, is it Gabriel?" she said. "You are taking a
walk too. Good-night."
"I thought I would come to meet you, as it is rather
late," said Oak, turning and following at her heels when
she had brushed somewhat quickly by him.
"Thank you, indeed, but I am not very fearful."
"O no; but there are bad characters about."
"I never meet them."
Now Oak, with marvellous ingenuity, had been going
to introduce the gallant sergeant through the channel of
"bad characters." But all at once the scheme broke
down, it suddenly occurring to him that this was rather a
clumsy way, and too barefaced to begin with. He tried
another preamble.
"And as the man who would naturally come to meet
you is away from home, too -- I mean Farmer Boldwood
-- why, thinks I, I'll go." he said.
"Ah, yes." She walked on without turning her head,
and for many steps nothing further was heard from her
quarter than the rustle of her dress against the heavy
corn-ears. Then she resumed rather tartly --
"I don't quite understand what you meant by saying
that Mr. Boldwood would naturally come to meet me."
I meant on account of the wedding which they say
is likely to take place between you and him, miss. For-
give my speaking plainly."
"They say what is not true." she returned quickly.
No marriage is likely to take place between us."
Gabriel now put forth his unobscured opinion, for
the moment had come. "Well, Miss Everdene." he
said, "putting aside what people say, I never in my life
saw any courting if his is not a courting of you."
Bathsheba would probably have terminated the con-
versation there and then by flatly forbidding the subject,
had not her conscious weakness of position allured her
to palter and argue in endeavours to better it.
"Since this subject has been mentioned." she said
very emphatically, "I am glad of the opportunity of
clearing up a mistake which is very common and very
provoking. I didn't definitely promise Mr. Boldwood
anything. I have never cared for him. I respect him,
and he has urged me to marry him. But I have given
him no distinct answer. As soon as he returns I shall
do so; and the answer will be that I cannot think of
marrying him."
"People are full of mistakes, seemingly."
"They are."
The other day they said you were trifling with him,
and you almost proved that you were not; lately they
have said that you be not, and you straightway begin
to show -- -- "
That I am, I suppose you mean."
"Well, I hope they speak the truth."
They do, but wrongly applied. I don't trifle with
him; but then, I have nothing to do with him."
Oak was unfortunately led on to speak of Boldwood's
rival in a wrong tone to her after all. "I wish you had
never met that young Sergeant Troy, miss." he sighed.

Bathsheba's steps became faintly spasmodic. "Why?"
she asked.
"He is not good enough for 'ee."
"Did any one tell you to speak to me like this?"
"Nobody at all."
"Then it appears to me that Sergeant Troy does not
concern us here." she said, intractably." Yet I must say
that Sergeant Troy is an educated man, and quite worthy
of any woman. He is well born."
"His being higher in learning and birth than the
ruck o' soldiers is anything but a proof of his worth. It
show's his course to be down'ard."
"I cannot see what this has to do with our conversa-
tion. Mr. Troy's course is not by any means downward;
and his superiority IS a proof of his worth!"
"I believe him to have no conscience at all. And I
cannot help begging you, miss, to have nothing to do
with him. Listen to me this once -- only this once!
I don't say he's such a bad man as I have fancied -- I
pray to God he is not. But since we don't exactly
know what he is, why not behave as if he MIGHT be bad,
simply for your own safety? Don't trust him, mistress;
I ask you not to trust him so."
"Why, pray?"
"I like soldiers, but this one I do not like." he said,
sturdily. "His cleverness in his calling may have
tempted him astray, and what is mirth to the neighbours
is ruin to the woman. When he tries to talk to 'ee again,
why not turn away with a short "Good day," and when
you see him coming one way, turn the other. When
he says anything laughable, fail to see the point
and don't smile, and speak of him before those who will
report your talk as "that fantastical man." or " that
Sergeant What's-his-name." "That man of a family
that has come to the dogs." Don't be unmannerly
towards en, but harmless-uncivil, and so get rid of the
man."
No Christmas robin detained by a window-pane ever
pulsed as did Bathsheba now.
I say -- I say again -- that it doesn't become you to
talk about him. Why he should be mentioned passes
me quite . she exclaimed desperately. "I know this,
th-th-that he is a thoroughly conscientious man -- blunt
sometimes even to rudeness -- but always speaking his
mind about you plain to your face!"
"Oh."
"He is as good as anybody in this parish! He is
very particular, too, about going to church -- yes, he
is!"
"I am afraid nobody saw him there. I never
did certainly."
"The reason of that is." she said eagerly, " that he goes
in privately by the old tower door, just when the service
commences, and sits at the back of the gallery. He
told me so."
This supreme instance of Troy's goodness fell upon
Gabriel ears like the thirteenth stroke of crazy clock.
It was not only received with utter incredulity as re-
garded itself, but threw a doubt on all the assurances
that had preceded it.
Oak was grieved to find how entirely she trusted him.
He brimmed with deep feeling as he replied in a steady
voice, the steadiness of which was spoilt by the palpable-
ness of his great effort to keep it so: --
"You know, mistress, that I love you, and shall love
you always. I only mention this to bring to your mind
that at any rate I would wish to do you no harm:
beyond that I put it aside. I have lost in the race for
money and good things, and I am not such a fool as to
pretend to 'ee now I am poor, and you have got alto-
gether above me. But Bathsheba, dear mistress, this
I beg you to consider -- that, both to keep yourself well
honoured among the workfolk, and in common generosity
to an honourable man who loves you as well as I, you
PARTICULARS OF A TWILIGHT WALK
should be more discreet in your bearing towards this
soldier."
"Don't, don't, don't!" she exclaimed, in a choking
voice.
"Are ye not more to me than my own affairs, and
even life!" he went on. "Come, listen to me! I am
six years older than you, and Mr. Boldwood is ten years
older than I, and consider -- I do beg of 'ee to consider
before it is too late -- how safe you would be in his
hands!"
Oak's allusion to his own love for her lessened, to
some extent, her anger at his interference; but she
could not really forgive him for letting his wish to marry
her be eclipsed by his wish to do her good, any more
than for his slighting treatment of Troy.
"I wish you to go elsewhere." she commanded, a
paleness of face invisible to the eye being suggested by
the trembling words. "Do not remain on this farm any
longer. I don't want you -- I beg you to go!"
"That's nonsense." said Oak, calmly. "This is the
second time you have pretended to dismiss me; and
what's the use o' it?"
"Pretended! You shall go, sir -- your lecturing I
will not hear! I am mistress here."
"Go, indeed -- what folly will you say next? Treating
me like Dick, Tom and Harry when you know that a
short time ago my position was as good as yours! Upon
my life, Bathsheba, it is too barefaced. You know, too,
that I can't go without putting things in such a strait as
you wouldn't get out of I can't tell when. Unless, indeed,
you'll promise to have an understanding man as bailiff,
or manager, or something. I'll go at once if you'll
promise that."
"I shall have no bailiff; I shall continue to be my
own manager." she said decisively.
"Very well, then; you should be thankful to me for
biding. How would the farm go on with nobody to
mind it but a woman? But mind this, I don't wish
"ee to feel you owe me anything. Not I. What I do,
I do. Sometimes I say I should be as glad as a bird to
leave the place -- for don't suppose I'm content to be a
nobody. I was made for better things. However, I
don't like to see your concerns going to ruin, as they
must if you keep in this mind.... I hate taking my
own measure so plain, but, upon my life, your provok-
ing ways make a man say what he wouldn't dream of
at other times! I own to being rather interfering. But
you know well enough how it is, and who she is that I
like too well, and feel too much like a fool about to be
civil to her!"
It is more than probable that she privately and un-
consciously respected him a little for this grim fidelity,
which had been shown in his tone even more than in
his words. At any rate she murmured something to the
effect that he might stay if he wished. She said more
distinctly, " Will you leave me alone now? I don't
order it as a mistress -- I ask it as a woman, and I
expect you not to be so uncourteous as to refuse."
"Certainly I will, Miss Everdene." said Gabriel, gently.
He wondered that the request should have come at this
moment, for the strife was over, and they were on a
most desolate hill, far from every human habitation, and
the hour was getting late. He stood still and allowed
her to get far ahead of him till he could only see her
form upon the sky.
A distressing explanation of this anxiety to be rid of
him at that point now ensued. A figure apparently rose
from the earth beside her. The shape beyond all doubt
was Troy's. Oak would not be even a possible listener,
and at once turned back till a good two hundred yards
were between the lovers and himself.
Gabriel went home by way of the churchyard. In
passing the tower he thought of what she had said about
the sergeant's virtuous habit of entering the church un-
PARTICULARS OF A TWILIGHT WALK
perceived at the beginning of service. Believing that
the little gallery door alluded to was quite disused, he
ascended the external flight of steps at the top of which
it stood, and examined it. The pale lustre yet hanging
in the north-western heaven was sufficient to show that
a sprig of ivy had grown from the wall across the door
to a length of more than a foot, delicately tying the
panel to the stone jamb. It was a decisive proof that
the door had not been opened at least since Troy came
back to Weatherbury.

CHAPTER XXX

HOT CHEEKS AND TEARFUL EYES

HALF an hour later Bathsheba entered her own house.
There burnt upon her face when she met the light of
the candles the flush and excitement which were little
less than chronic with her now. The farewell words of
Troy, who had accompanied her to the very door, still
lingered in her ears. He had bidden her adieu for two
days, which were so he stated, to be spent at Bath in
visiting some friends. He had also kissed her a second
time.
It is only fair to Bathsheba to explain here a little
fact which did not come to light till a long time after-
wards: that Troy's presentation of himself so aptly at
the roadside this evening was not by any distinctly pre-
concerted arrangement. He had hinted -- she had
forbidden; and it was only on the chance of his still
coming that she had dismissed Oak, fearing a meeting
between them just then.
She now sank down into a chair, wild and perturbed
by all these new and fevering sequences. Then she
jumped up with a manner of decision, and fetched her
desk from a side table.
In three minutes, without pause or modification, she
had written a letter to Boldwood, at his address beyond
Casterbridge, saying mildly but firmly that she had well
considered the whole subject he had brought before her
and kindly given her time to decide upon; that her
final decision was that she could not marry him. She
had expressed to Oak an intention to wait till Boldwood
came home before communicating to him her conclusive
reply. But Bathsheba found that she could not wait.
It was impossible to send this letter till the next day;
yet to quell her uneasiness by getting it out of her hands,
and so, as it were, setting the act in motion at once, she
arose to take it to any one of the women who might be
in the kitchen.
She paused in the passage. A dialogue was going
on in the kitchen, and Bathsheba and Troy were the
subject of it.
"If he marry her, she'll gie up farming."
"Twill be a gallant life, but may bring some trouble
between the mirth -- so say I."
"Well, I wish I had half such a husband."
Bathsheba had too much sense to mind seriously
what her servitors said about her; but too much womanly
redundance of speech to leave alone what was said till
it died the natural death of unminded things. She
burst in upon them.
"Who are you speaking of?" she asked.
There was a pause before anybody replied. At last
Liddy said frankly," What was passing was a bit of a
word about yourself, miss."
"I thought so! Maryann and Liddy and Temper-
ance -- now I forbid you to suppose such things. You
know I don't care the least for Mr. Troy -- not I. Every-
body knows how much I hate him. -- Yes." repeated the
froward young person, "HATE him!"
"We know you do, miss." said Liddy; "and so do we
all."
"I hate him too." said Maryann.
"Maryann -- O you perjured woman! How can you
speak that wicked story!" said Bathsheba, excitedly.
"You admired him from your heart only this morning
in the very world, you did. Yes, Maryann, you know it!"
"Yes, miss, but so did you. He is a wild scamp
now, and you are right to hate him."
"He's NOT a wild scamp! How dare you to my face!
I have no right to hate him, nor you, nor anybody.
But I am a silly woman! What is it to me what he is?
You know it is nothing. I don't care for him; I don"t
mean to defend his good name, not I. Mind this, if
any of you say a word against him you'll be dismissed
instantly!"
She flung down the letter and surged back into the
parlour, with a big heart and tearful eyes, Liddy following
her.
"O miss!" said mild Liddy, looking pitifully into
Bathsheba's face. "I am sorry we mistook you so!
did think you cared for him; but I see you don't now."
"Shut the door, Liddy."
Liddy closed the door, and went on: " People always
say such foolery, miss. I'll make answer hencefor'ard,
"Of course a lady like Miss Everdene can't love him;"
I'll say it out in plain black and white."
Bathsheba burst out: "O Liddy, are you such a
simpleton? Can't you read riddles? Can't you see?
Are you a woman yourself?"
Liddy's clear eyes rounded with wonderment.
"Yes; you must be a blind thing, Liddy!" she said,
in reckless abandonment and grief. "O, I love him
to very distraction and misery and agony! Don't be
frightened at me, though perhaps I am enough to frighten
any innocent woman. Come closer -- closer." She put
her arms round Liddy's neck. "I must let it out to
somebody; it is wearing me away! Don't you yet know
enough of me to see through that miserable denial of
mine? O God, what a lie it was! Heaven and my
Love forgive me. And don't you know that a woman
who loves at all thinks nothing of perjury when it is
balanced against her love? There, go out of the room;
I want to be quite alone."
Liddy went towards the door.
"Liddy, come here. Solemnly swear to me that he's
not a fast man; that it is all lies they say about him!"
"Put, miss, how can I say he is not if -- -- "
"You graceless girl! How can you have the cruel
heart to repeat what they say? Unfeeling thing that
you are.... But I'LL see if you or anybody else in the
village, or town either, dare do such a thing!" She
started off, pacing from fireplace to door, and back
again.
"No, miss. I don't -- I know it is not true!" said
Liddy, frightened at Bathsheba's unwonted vehemence.
I suppose you only agree with me like that to please
me. But, Liddy, he CANNOT BE had, as is said. Do you

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