Part 5 out of 10
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.
"Oh, 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 abstracion. "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 bewitch 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
Everdene, 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
Seeing she made no reply, he said, "Do you read French?"
"No; I began, but when I got to the verbs, father died," she
"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 tremulousness
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 are
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."
"Oh, Miss Bathsheba! That is too 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 miserable 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
"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?"
"If 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."
"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
"Put shortly, it is not being able to think, hear, or look
in any direction except one without wretchedness, nor there
"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 pastime."
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
instantaneously. 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 assignation, 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
"But indeed I can't have it!" she said, in a perfect simmer
of distress. "Oh, 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,
"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! Oh,
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; Oh, 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. Oh, 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 was
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
"Let 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! Oh, 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."
The sergeant brought his hand to the cap on the slope of his
head, saluted, and returned to the distant group of
Bathsheba could not face the haymakers now. Her heart
erratically flitting hither and thither from perplexed
excitement, hot, and almost tearful, she retreated homeward,
murmuring, Oh, what have I done! What does it mean! I wish I
knew how much of it was true!
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 throughout 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
"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
"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."
"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 performance, the 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
"Yes; I should like to see it very much."
"And so you shall; you shall see me go through it."
"Let me consider."
"Not with a walking-stick -- I don't care to see that. It
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?"
Troy bent over her and murmured some suggestion in a low
"Oh 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.
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
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
"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
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
"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,
She hurriedly interrupted: "I'd rather not; though I don't
mind your twos and fours; but your ones and threes are
"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 --
"How murderous and bloodthirsty!"
"They are rather deathy. Now I'll be more interesting, 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
"I don't think I am afraid. You are quite sure you will not
"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
nowhere 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
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
"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. Oh, you have spoilt my
"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:
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. However, 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.
"Oh 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
"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
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 times."
"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 feelings
resulting from the scene, abstractedly sat down on a tuft of
"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 powerless 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 Horeb, 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.
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 neighbour is everybody in the
tything, and where calculation is confined to market-days.
Of the fabricated tastes of good fashionable society she
knew but little, and of the 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 virtues were as metals in a mine.
The difference between love and respect was markedly 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 sorrow; 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 neighbouring 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.
"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."
"Oh 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. Forgive my
"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 conversation
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."
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
"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 conversation.
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."
"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
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
"He is as good as anybody in this parish! He is very
particular, too, about going to church -- yes, he is!"
"I am afeard 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
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 regarded 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 palpableness 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 altogether 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 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'
"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 provoking 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
unconsciously 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 unperceived 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.
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 afterwards:
that Troy's presentation of himself so aptly at the roadside
this evening was not by any distinctly preconcerted
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
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
"I thought so! Maryann and Liddy and Temperance -- now I
forbid you to suppose such things. You know I don't care
the least for Mr. Troy -- not I. Everybody knows how much
I hate him. -- Yes," repeated the froward young person,
"We know you do, miss," said Liddy; "and so do we all."
"I hate him too," said Maryann.
"Maryann -- Oh 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.
"Oh miss!" said mild Liddy, looking pitifully into
Bathsheba's face. "I am sorry we mistook you so! I 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
Liddy's clear eyes rounded with wonderment.
"Yes; you must be a blind thing, Liddy!" she said, in
reckless abandonment and grief. "Oh, 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!"
"But, 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 hear?"
"Yes, miss, yes."
"And you don't believe he is?"
"I don't know what to say, miss," said Liddy, beginning to
cry. "If I say No, you don't believe me; and if I say Yes,
you rage at me!"
"Say you don't believe it -- say you don't!"
"I don't believe him to be so had as they make out."
"He is not had at all.... My poor life and heart, how weak
I am!" she moaned, in a relaxed, desultory way, heedless of
Liddy's presence. "Oh, how I wish I had never seen him!
Loving is misery for women always. I shall never forgive
God for making me a woman, and dearly am I beginning to pay
for the honour of owning a pretty face." She freshened and
turned to Liddy suddenly. "Mind this, Lydia Smallbury, if
you repeat anywhere a single word of what I have said to you
inside this closed door, I'll never trust you, or love you,
or have you with me a moment longer -- not a moment!"
"I don't want to repeat anything," said Liddy, with womanly
dignity of a diminutive order; "but I don't wish to stay
with you. And, if you please, I'll go at the end of the
harvest, or this week, or to-day.... I don't see that I
deserve to be put upon and stormed at for nothing!"
concluded the small woman, bigly.
"No, no, Liddy; you must stay!" said Bathsheba, dropping
from haughtiness to entreaty with capricious inconsequence.
"You must not notice my being in a taking just now. You are
not as a servant -- you are a companion to me. Dear, dear --
I don't know what I am doing since this miserable ache o'!
my heart has weighted and worn upon me so! What shall I
come to! I suppose I shall get further and further into
troubles. I wonder sometimes if I am doomed to die in the
Union. I am friendless enough, God knows!"
"I won't notice anything, nor will I leave you!" sobbed
Liddy, impulsively putting up her lips to Bathsheba's, and
Then Bathsheba kissed Liddy, and all was smooth again.
"I don't often cry, do I, Lidd? but you have made tears come
into my eyes," she said, a smile shining through the
moisture. "Try to think him a good man, won't you, dear
"I will, miss, indeed."
"He is a sort of steady man in a wild way, you know. That's
better than to be as some are, wild in a steady way. I am
afraid that's how I am. And promise me to keep my secret --
do, Liddy! And do not let them know that I have been crying
about him, because it will be dreadful for me, and no good
to him, poor thing!"
"Death's head himself shan't wring it from me, mistress, if
I've a mind to keep anything; and I'll always be your
friend," replied Liddy, emphatically, at the same time
bringing a few more tears into her own eyes, not from any
particular necessity, but from an artistic sense of making
herself in keeping with the remainder of the picture, which
seems to influence women at such times. "I think God likes
us to be good friends, don't you?"
"Indeed I do."
"And, dear miss, you won't harry me and storm at me, will
you? because you seem to swell so tall as a lion then, and
it frightens me! Do you know, I fancy you would be a match
for any man when you are in one o' your takings."
"Never! do you?" said Bathsheba, slightly laughing, though
somewhat seriously alarmed by this Amazonian picture of
herself. "I hope I am not a bold sort of maid -- mannish?"
she continued with some anxiety.
"Oh no, not mannish; but so almighty womanish that 'tis
getting on that way sometimes. Ah! miss," she said, after
having drawn her breath very sadly in and sent it very sadly
out, "I wish I had half your failing that way. 'Tis a great
protection to a poor maid in these illegit'mate days!"
BLAME -- FURY
THE next evening Bathsheba, with the idea of getting out of
the way of Mr. Boldwood in the event of his returning to
answer her note in person, proceeded to fulfil an engagement
made with Liddy some few hours earlier. Bathsheba's
companion, as a gage of their reconciliation, had been
granted a week's holiday to visit her sister, who was
married to a thriving hurdler and cattle-crib-maker living
in a delightful labyrinth of hazel copse not far beyond
Yalbury. The arrangement was that Miss Everdene should
honour them by coming there for a day or two to inspect some
ingenious contrivances which this man of the woods had
introduced into his wares.
Leaving her instructions with Gabriel and Maryann, that they
were to see everything carefully locked up for the night,
she went out of the house just at the close of a timely
thunder-shower, which had refined the air, and daintily
bathed the coat of the land, though all beneath was dry as
ever. Freshness was exhaled in an essence from the varied
contours of bank and hollow, as if the earth breathed maiden
breath; and the pleased birds were hymning to the scene.
Before her, among the clouds, there was a contrast in the
shape of lairs of fierce light which showed themselves in
the neighbourhood of a hidden sun, lingering on to the
farthest north-west corner of the heavens that this
midsummer season allowed.
She had walked nearly two miles of her journey, watching how
the day was retreating, and thinking how the time of deeds
was quietly melting into the time of thought, to give place
in its turn to the time of prayer and sleep, when she beheld
advancing over Yalbury hill the very man she sought so
anxiously to elude. Boldwood was stepping on, not with that
quiet tread of reserved strength which was his customary
gait, in which he always seemed to be balancing two
thoughts. His manner was stunned and sluggish now.
Boldwood had for the first time been awakened to woman's
privileges in tergiversation even when it involves another
person's possible blight. That Bathsheba was a firm and
positive girl, far less inconsequent than her fellows, had
been the very lung of his hope; for he had held that these
qualities would lead her to adhere to a straight course for
consistency's sake, and accept him, though her fancy might
not flood him with the iridescent hues of uncritical love.
But the argument now came back as sorry gleams from a broken
mirror. The discovery was no less a scourge than a
He came on looking upon the ground, and did not see
Bathsheba till they were less than a stone's throw apart.
He looked up at the sound of her pit-pat, and his changed
appearance sufficiently denoted to her the depth and
strength of the feelings paralyzed by her letter.
"Oh; is it you, Mr. Boldwood?" she faltered, a guilty warmth
pulsing in her face.
Those who have the power of reproaching in silence may find
it a means more effective than words. There are accents in
the eye which are not on the tongue, and more tales come
from pale lips than can enter an ear. It is both the
grandeur and the pain of the remoter moods that they avoid
the pathway of sound. Boldwood's look was unanswerable.
Seeing she turned a little aside, he said, "What, are you
afraid of me?"
"Why should you say that?" said Bathsheba.
"I fancied you looked so," said he. "And it is most
strange, because of its contrast with my feeling for you.
She regained self-possession, fixed her eyes calmly, and
"You know what that feeling is," continued Boldwood,
deliberately. "A thing strong as death. No dismissal by a
hasty letter affects that."
"I wish you did not feel so strongly about me," she
murmured. "It is generous of you, and more than I deserve,
but I must not hear it now."
"Hear it? What do you think I have to say, then? I am not
to marry you, and that's enough. Your letter was
excellently plain. I want you to hear nothing -- not I."
Bathsheba was unable to direct her will into any definite
groove for freeing herself from this fearfully and was
moving on. Boldwood walked up to her heavily and dully.
"Bathsheba -- darling -- is it final indeed?"
"Indeed it is."
"Oh, Bathsheba -- have pity upon me!" Boldwood burst out.
"God's sake, yes -- I am come to that low, lowest stage --
to ask a woman for pity! Still, she is you -- she is you."
Bathsheba commanded herself well. But she could hardly get
a clear voice for what came instinctively to her lips:
"There is little honour to the woman in that speech." It
was only whispered, for something unutterably mournful no
less than distressing in this spectacle of a man showing
himself to be so entirely the vane of a passion enervated
the feminine instinct for punctilios.
"I am beyond myself about this, and am mad," he said. "I am
no stoic at all to he supplicating here; but I do supplicate
to you. I wish you knew what is in me of devotion to you;
but it is impossible, that. In bare human mercy to a lonely
man, don't throw me off now!"
"I don't throw you off -- indeed, how can I? I never had
you." In her noon-clear sense that she had never loved him
she forgot for a moment her thoughtless angle on that day in
"But there was a time when you turned to me, before I
thought of you! I don't reproach you, for even now I feel
that the ignorant and cold darkness that I should have lived
in if you had not attracted me by that letter -- valentine
you call it -- would have been worse than my knowledge of
you, though it has brought this misery. But, I say, there
was a time when I knew nothing of you, and cared nothing for
you, and yet you drew me on. And if you say you gave me no
encouragement, I cannot but contradict you."
"What you call encouragement was the childish game of an
idle minute. I have bitterly repented of it -- ay,
bitterly, and in tears. Can you still go on reminding me?"
"I don't accuse you of it -- I deplore it. I took for
earnest what you insist was jest, and now this that I pray
to be jest you say is awful, wretched earnest. Our moods
meet at wrong places. I wish your feeling was more like
mine, or my feeling more like yours! Oh, could I but have
foreseen the torture that trifling trick was going to lead
me into, how I should have cursed you; but only having been
able to see it since, I cannot do that, for I love you too
well! But it is weak, idle drivelling to go on like this....
Bathsheba, you are the first woman of any shade or nature
that I have ever looked at to love, and it is the having
been so near claiming you for my own that makes this denial
so hard to bear. How nearly you promised me! But I don't
speak now to move your heart, and make you grieve because of
my pain; it is no use, that. I must bear it; my pain would
get no less by paining you."
"But I do pity you -- deeply -- O, so deeply!" she earnestly
"Do no such thing -- do no such thing. Your dear love,
Bathsheba, is such a vast thing beside your pity, that the
loss of your pity as well as your love is no great addition
to my sorrow, nor does the gain of your pity make it
sensibly less. O sweet -- how dearly you spoke to me behind
the spear-bed at the washing-pool, and in the barn at the
shearing, and that dearest last time in the evening at your
home! Where are your pleasant words all gone -- your
earnest hope to be able to love me? Where is your firm
conviction that you would get to care for me very much?
Really forgotten? -- really?"
She checked emotion, looked him quietly and clearly in the
face, and said in her low, firm voice, "Mr. Boldwood, I
promised you nothing. Would you have had me a woman of clay
when you paid me that furthest, highest compliment a man can
pay a woman -- telling her he loves her? I was bound to show
some feeling, if l would not be a graceless shrew. Yet each
of those pleasures was just for the day -- the day just for
the pleasure. How was I to know that what is a pastime to
all other men was death to you? Have reason, do, and think
more kindly of me!"
"Well, never mind arguing -- never mind. One thing is sure:
you were all but mine, and now you are not nearly mine.
Everything is changed, and that by you alone, remember. You
were nothing to me once, and I was contented; you are now
nothing to me again, and how different the second nothing is
from the first! Would to God you had never taken me up,
since it was only to throw me down!"
Bathsheba, in spite of her mettle, began to feel un-
mistakable signs that she was inherently the weaker vessel.
She strove miserably against this feminity which would
insist upon supplying unbidden emotions in stronger and
stronger current. She had tried to elude agitation by
fixing her mind on the trees, sky, any trivial object before
her eyes, whilst his reproaches fell, but ingenuity could
not save her now.
"I did not take you up -- surely I did not!" she answered as
heroically as she could. "But don't be in this mood with
me. I can endure being told I am in the wrong, if you will
only tell it me gently! O sir, will you not kindly forgive
me, and look at it cheerfully?"
"Cheerfully! Can a man fooled to utter heart-burning find a
reason for being merry? If I have lost, how can I be as if
I had won? Heavens you must be heartless quite! Had I
known what a fearfully bitter sweet this was to be, how
would I have avoided you, and never seen you, and been deaf
of you. I tell you all this, but what do you care! You
She returned silent and weak denials to his charges, and
swayed her head desperately, as if to thrust away the words
as they came showering about her ears from the lips of the
trembling man in the climax of life, with his bronzed Roman
face and fine frame.
"Dearest, dearest, I am wavering even now between the two
opposites of recklessly renouncing you, and labouring humbly
for you again. Forget that you have said No, and let it be
as it was! Say, Bathsheba, that you only wrote that refusal
to me in fun -- come, say it to me!"
"It would be untrue, and painful to both of us. You
overrate my capacity for love. I don't possess half the
warmth of nature you believe me to have. An unprotected
childhood in a cold world has beaten gentleness out of me."
He immediately said with more resentment: "That may be true,
somewhat; but ah, Miss Everdene, it won't do as a reason!
You are not the cold woman you would have me believe. No,
no! It isn't because you have no feeling in you that you
don't love me. You naturally would have me think so -- you
would hide from me that you have a burning heart like mine.
You have love enough, but it is turned into a new channel.
I know where."
The swift music of her heart became hubbub now, and she
throbbed to extremity. He was coming to Troy. He did then
know what had occurred! And the name fell from his lips the
"Why did Troy not leave my treasure alone?" he asked,
fiercely. "When I had no thought of injuring him, why did
he force himself upon your notice! Before he worried you
your inclination was to have me; when next I should have
come to you your answer would have been Yes. Can you deny
it -- I ask, can you deny it?"
She delayed the reply, but was to honest to with hold it.
"I cannot," she whispered.
"I know you cannot. But he stole in in my absence and
robbed me. Why did't he win you away before, when nobody
would have been grieved? -- when nobody would have been set
tale-bearing. Now the people sneer at me -- the very hills
and sky seem to laugh at me till I blush shamefuly for my
folly. I have lost my respect, my good name, my standing --
lost it, never to get it again. Go and marry your man -- go
"Oh sir -- Mr. Boldwood!"
"You may as well. I have no further claim upon you. As for
me, I had better go somewhere alone, and hide -- and pray.
I loved a woman once. I am now ashamed. When I am dead
they'll say, Miserable love-sick man that he was. Heaven --
heaven -- if I had got jilted secretly, and the dishonour
not known, and my position kept! But no matter, it is gone,
and the woman not gained. Shame upon him -- shame!"
His unreasonable anger terrified her, and she glided from
him, without obviously moving, as she said, "I am only a
girl -- do not speak to me so!"
"All the time you knew -- how very well you knew -- that
your new freak was my misery. Dazzled by brass and scarlet
-- Oh, Bathsheba -- this is woman's folly indeed!"
She fired up at once. "You are taking too much upon
yourself!" she said, vehemently. "Everybody is upon me --
everybody. It is unmanly to attack a woman so! I have
nobody in the world to fight my battles for me; but no mercy
is shown. Yet if a thousand of you sneer and say things
against me, I WILL NOT be put down!"
"You'll chatter with him doubtless about me. Say to him,
"Boldwood would have died for me." Yes, and you have given
way to him, knowing him to be not the man for you. He has
kissed you -- claimed you as his. Do you hear -- he has
kissed you. Deny it!"
The most tragic woman is cowed by a tragic man, and although
Boldwood was, in vehemence and glow, nearly her own self
rendered into another sex, Bathsheba's cheek quivered. She
gasped, "Leave me, sir -- leave me! I am nothing to you.
Let me go on!"
"Deny that he has kissed you."
"I shall not."
"Ha -- then he has!" came hoarsely from the farmer.
"He has," she said, slowly, and, in spite of her fear,
defiantly. "I am not ashamed to speak the truth."
"Then curse him; and curse him!" said Boldwood, breaking
into a whispered fury." Whilst I would have given worlds to
touch your hand, you have let a rake come in without right
or ceremony and -- kiss you! Heaven's mercy -- kiss you!
... Ah, a time of his life shall come when he will have to
repent, and think wretchedly of the pain he has caused
another man; and then may he ache, and wish, and curse, and
yearn -- as I do now!"
"Don't, don't, oh, don't pray down evil upon him!" she
implored in a miserable cry. "Anything but that --
anything. Oh, be kind to him, sir, for I love him true!"
Boldwood's ideas had reached that point of fusion at which
outline and consistency entirely disappear. The impending
night appeared to concentrate in his eye. He did not hear
her at all now.
"I'll punish him -- by my soul, that will I! I'll meet him,
soldier or no, and I'll horsewhip the untimely stripling for
this reckless theft of my one delight. If he were a hundred
men I'd horsewhip him ----" He dropped his voice suddenly
and unnaturally. "Bathsheba, sweet, lost coquette, pardon
me! I've been blaming you, threatening you, behaving like a
churl to you, when he's the greatest sinner. He stole your
dear heart away with his unfathomable lies! ... It is a
fortunate thing for him that he's gone back to his regiment
-- that he's away up the country, and not here! I hope he
may not return here just yet. I pray God he may not come
into my sight, for I may be tempted beyond myself. Oh,
Bathsheba, keep him away -- yes, keep him away from me!"
For a moment Boldwood stood so inertly after this that his
soul seemed to have been entirely exhaled with the breath of
his passionate words. He turned his face away, and
withdrew, and his form was soon covered over by the twilight
as his footsteps mixed in with the low hiss of the leafy
Bathsheba, who had been standing motionless as a model all
this latter time, flung her hands to her face, and wildly
attempted to ponder on the exhibition which had just passed
away. Such astounding wells of fevered feeling in a still
man like Mr. Boldwood were incomprehensible, dreadful.
Instead of being a man trained to repression he was -- what
she had seen him.
The force of the farmer's threats lay in their relation to a
circumstance known at present only to herself: her lover was
coming back to Weatherbury in the course of the very next
day or two. Troy had not returned to his distant barracks
as Boldwood and others supposed, but had merely gone to
visit some acquaintance in Bath, and had yet a week or more
remaining to his furlough.
She felt wretchedly certain that if he revisited her just at
this nick of time, and came into contact with Boldwood, a
fierce quarrel would be the consequence. She panted with
solicitude when she thought of possible injury to Troy. The
least spark would kindle the farmer's swift feelings of rage
and jealousy; he would lose his self-mastery as he had this
evening; Troy's blitheness might become aggressive; it might
take the direction of derision, and Boldwood's anger might
then take the direction of revenge.
With almost a morbid dread of being thought a gushing girl,
this guileless woman too well concealed from the world under
a manner of carelessness the warm depths of her strong
emotions. But now there was no reserve. In her
distraction, instead of advancing further she walked up and
down, beating the air with her fingers, pressing on her
brow, and sobbing brokenly to herself. Then she sat down on
a heap of stones by the wayside to think. There she
remained long. Above the dark margin of the earth appeared
foreshores and promontories of coppery cloud, bounding a
green and pellucid expanse in the western sky. Amaranthine
glosses came over them then, and the unresting world wheeled
her round to a contrasting prospect eastward, in the shape
of indecisive and palpitating stars. She gazed upon their
silent throes amid the shades of space, but realised none at
all. Her troubled spirit was far away with Troy.
NIGHT -- HORSES TRAMPING
THE village of Weatherbury was quiet as the graveyard in its
midst, and the living were lying well-nigh as still as the
dead. The church clock struck eleven. The air was so empty
of other sounds that the whirr of the clock-work immediately
before the strokes was distinct, and so was also the click
of the same at their close. The notes flew forth with the
usual blind obtuseness of inanimate things -- flapping and
rebounding among walls, undulating against the scattered
clouds, spreading through their interstices into unexplored
miles of space.
Bathsheba's crannied and mouldy halls were to-night occupied
only by Maryann, Liddy being, as was stated, with her
sister, whom Bathsheba had set out to visit. A few minutes
after eleven had struck, Maryann turned in her bed with a
sense of being disturbed. She was totally unconscious of
the nature of the interruption to her sleep. It led to a
dream, and the dream to an awakening, with an uneasy
sensation that something had happened. She left her bed and
looked out of the window. The paddock abutted on this end
of the building, and in the paddock she could just discern
by the uncertain gray a moving figure approaching the horse
that was feeding there. The figure seized the horse by the
forelock, and led it to the corner of the field. Here she
could see some object which circumstances proved to be a
vehicle, for after a few minutes spent apparently in
harnessing, she heard the trot of the horse down the road,
mingled with the sound of light wheels.
Two varieties only of humanity could have entered the
paddock with the ghostlike glide of that mysterious figure.
They were a woman and a gipsy man. A woman was out of the
question in such an occupation at this hour, and the comer
could be no less than a thief, who might probably have known
the weakness of the household on this particular night, and
have chosen it on that account for his daring attempt.
Moreover, to raise suspicion to conviction itself, there
were gipsies in Weatherbury Bottom.
Maryann, who had been afraid to shout in the robber's
presence, having seen him depart had no fear. She hastily
slipped on her clothes, stumped down the disjointed
staircase with its hundred creaks, ran to Coggan's, the
nearest house, and raised an alarm. Coggan called Gabriel,
who now again lodged in his house as at first, and together
they went to the paddock. Beyond all doubt the horse was
"Hark!" said Gabriel.
They listened. Distinct upon the stagnant air came the
sounds of a trotting horse passing up Longpuddle Lane --
just beyond the gipsies' encampment in Weatherbury Bottom.
"That's our Dainty -- I'll swear to her step," said Jan.
"Mighty me! Won't mis'ess storm and call us stupids wen she
comes back!" moaned Maryann. "How I wish it had happened
when she was at home, and none of us had been answerable!"
"We must ride after," said Gabriel, decisively. "I'll be
responsible to Miss Everdene for what we do. Yes, we'll
"Faith, I don't see how," said Coggan. "All our horses are
too heavy for that trick except little Poppet, and what's
she between two of us? -- If we only had that pair over the
hedge we might do something."
"Mr. Boldwood's Tidy and Moll."
"Then wait here till I come hither again," said Gabriel. He
ran down the hill towards Farmer Boldwood's.
"Farmer Boldwood is not at home," said Maryann.
"All the better," said Coggan. "I know what he's gone for."
Less than five minutes brought up Oak again, running at the
same pace, with two halters dangling from his hand.
"Where did you find 'em?" said Coggan, turning round and
leaping upon the hedge without waiting for an answer.
"Under the eaves. I knew where they were kept," said
Gabriel, following him. "Coggan, you can ride bare-backed?
there's no time to look for saddles."
"Like a hero!" said Jan.
"Maryann, you go to bed," Gabriel shouted to her from the
top of the hedge.
Springing down into Boldwood's pastures, each pocketed his
halter to hide it from the horses, who, seeing the men
empty-handed, docilely allowed themselves to he seized by
the mane, when the halters were dexterously slipped on.
Having neither bit nor bridle, Oak and Coggan extemporized
the former by passing the rope in each case through the
animal's mouth and looping it on the other side. Oak
vaulted astride, and Coggan clambered up by aid of the bank,
when they ascended to the gate and galloped off in the
direction taken by Bathsheha's horse and the robber. Whose
vehicle the horse had been harnessed to was a matter of some
Weatherbury Bottom was reached in three or four minutes.
They scanned the shady green patch by the roadside. The
gipsies were gone.
"The villains!" said Gabriel. "Which way have they gone, I
"Straight on, as sure as God made little apples," said Jan.
"Very well; we are better mounted, and must overtake em',
said Oak. "Now on at full speed!"
No sound of the rider in their van could now be discovered.
The road-metal grew softer and more rain had wetted its
surface to a somewhat plastic, but not muddy state. They
came to cross-roads. Coggan suddenly pulled up Moll and
"What's the matter?" said Gabriel.
"We must try to track 'em, since we can't hear 'em," said
Jan, fumbling in his pockets. He struck a light, and held
the match to the ground. The rain had been heavier here,
and all foot and horse tracks made previous to the storm had
been abraded and blurred by the drops, and they were now so
many little scoops of water, which reflected the flame of
the match like eyes. One set of tracks was fresh and had no
water in them; one pair of ruts was also empty, and not
small canals, like the others. The footprints forming this
recent impression were full of information as to pace; they
were in equidistant pairs, three or four feet apart, the
right and left foot of each pair being exactly opposite one
"Straight on!" Jan exclaimed. "Tracks like that mean a
stiff gallop. No wonder we don't hear him. And the horse
is harnessed -- look at the ruts. Ay, that's our mare sure
"How do you know?"
"Old Jimmy Harris only shoed her last week, and I'd swear to
his make among ten thousand."
"The rest of the gipsies must ha' gone on earlier, or some
other way," said Oak. "You saw there were no other tracks?"
"True." They rode along silently for a long weary time.
Coggan carried an old pinchbeck repeater which he had
inherited from some genius in his family; and it now struck
one. He lighted another match, and examined the ground
"'Tis a canter now," he said, throwing away the light. "A
twisty, rickety pace for a gig. The fact is, they over-
drove her at starting, we shall catch 'em yet."
Again they hastened on, and entered Blackmore Vale.
Coggan's watch struck one. When they looked again the hoof-
marks were so spaced as to form a sort of zigzag if united,
like the lamps along a street.
"That's a trot, I know," said Gabriel.
"Only a trot now," said Coggan, cheerfully. "We shall
overtake him in time."
They pushed rapidly on for yet two or three miles. "Ah! a
moment," said Jan. "Let's see how she was driven up this
hill. 'Twill help us." A light was promptly struck upon
his gaiters as before, and the examination made.
"Hurrah!" said Coggan. "She walked up here -- and well she
might. We shall get them in two miles, for a crown."
They rode three, and listened. No sound was to be heard
save a millpond trickling hoarsely through a hatch, and
suggesting gloomy possibilities of drowning by jumping in.
Gabriel dismounted when they came to a turning. The tracks
were absolutely the only guide as to the direction that they
now had, and great caution was necessary to avoid confusing
them with some others which had made their appearance
"What does this mean? -- though I guess," said Gabriel,
looking up at Coggan as he moved the match over the ground
about the turning. Coggan, who, no less than the panting
horses, had latterly shown signs of weariness, again
scrutinized the mystic characters. This time only three
were of the regular horseshoe shape. Every fourth was a
He screwed up his face and emitted a long "Whew-w-w!"
"Lame," said Oak.
"Yes Dainty is lamed; the near-foot-afore," said Coggan
slowly staring still at the footprints.
"We'll push on," said Gabriel, remounting his humid steed.
Although the road along its greater part had been as good as
any turnpike-road in the country, it was nominally only a
byway. The last turning had brought them into the high road
leading to Bath. Coggan recollected himself.
"We shall have him now!" he exclaimed.
"Sherton Turnpike. The keeper of that gate is the sleepiest
man between here and London -- Dan Randall, that's his name
-- knowed en for years, when he was at Casterbridge gate.
Between the lameness and the gate 'tis a done job."
They now advanced with extreme caution. Nothing was said
until, against a shady background of foliage, five white
bars were visible, crossing their route a little way ahead.
"Hush -- we are almost close!" said Gabriel.
"Amble on upon the grass," said Coggan.
The white bars were blotted out in the midst by a dark shape
in front of them. The silence of this lonely time was
pierced by an exclamation from that quarter.
It appeared that there had been a previous call which they
had not noticed, for on their close approach the door of the
turnpike-house opened, and the keeper came out half-dressed,
with a candle in his hand. The rays illumined the whole
"Keep the gate close!" shouted Gabriel. "He has stolen the
"Who?" said the turnpike-man.
Gabriel looked at the driver of the gig, and saw a woman --
Bathsheba, his mistress.
On hearing his voice she had turned her face away from the
light. Coggan had, however, caught sight of her in the
"Why, 'tis mistress -- I'll take my oath!" he said, amazed.
Bathsheba it certainly was, and she had by this time done
the trick she could do so well in crises not of love,
namely, mask a surprise by coolness of manner.
"Well, Gabriel," she inquired quietly," where are you
"We thought ----" began Gabriel.
"I am driving to Bath," she said, taking for her own use the
assurance that Gabriel lacked. "An important matter made it
necessary for me to give up my visit to Liddy, and go off at
once. What, then, were you following me?"
"We thought the horse was stole."
"Well -- what a thing! How very foolish of you not to know
that I had taken the trap and horse. I could neither wake
Maryann nor get into the house, though I hammered for ten
minutes against her window-sill. Fortunately, I could get
the key of the coach-house, so I troubled no one further.
Didn't you think it might be me?"
"Why should we, miss?"
"Perhaps not. Why, those are never Farmer Bold-wood's
horses! Goodness mercy! what have you been doing --
bringing trouble upon me in this way? What! mustn't a lady
move an inch from her door without being dogged like a
"But how was we to know, if you left no account of your
doings?" expostulated Coggan, "and ladies don't drive at
these hours, miss, as a jineral rule of society."
"I did leave an account -- and you would have seen it in the
morning. I wrote in chalk on the coach-house doors that I
had come back for the horse and gig, and driven off; that I
could arouse nobody, and should return soon."
"But you'll consider, ma'am, that we couldn't see that till
it got daylight."
"True," she said, and though vexed at first she had too much
sense to blame them long or seriously for a devotion to her
that was as valuable as it was rare. She added with a very
pretty grace, "Well, I really thank you heartily for taking
all this trouble; but I wish you had borrowed anybody's
horses but Mr. Boldwood's."
"Dainty is lame, miss," said Coggan. "Can ye go on?"
"It was only a stone in her shoe. I got down and pulled it
out a hundred yards back. I can manage very well, thank
you. I shall be in Bath by daylight. Will you now return,
She turned her head -- the gateman's candle shimmering upon
her quick, clear eyes as she did so -- passed through the
gate, and was soon wrapped in the embowering shades of
mysterious summer boughs. Coggan and Gabriel put about
their horses, and, fanned by the velvety air of this July
night, retraced the road by which they had come.
"A strange vagary, this of hers, isn't it, Oak?" said
"Yes," said Gabriel, shortly.
"She won't be in Bath by no daylight!"