Summary and Analysis
At eight o'clock that midsummer evening, Bathsheba appeared in the fern hollow amid the soft, green, shoulder-high fronds. She paused, changed her mind, and was halfway home again before she caught sight of a red coat approaching. She considered Troy's disappointment were she not to appear, and she ran back to the hollow. When she reached the verge of a pit in the midst of the ferns, she saw Troy standing at the bottom and looking toward her.
Troy's performance with the sword was precise and filled with bravado. It grew a bit frightening. He pretended the girl was the enemy and brandished his sword about her so realistically that she imagined herself run through. It was a dexterous feat. As a final tour-de-force, he said, "That outer loose lock of hair wants tidying. . . . Wait: I'll do it for you."
"An area of silver shone on her right side; the sword had descended. The lock dropped to the ground." Next Troy speared a caterpillar that had settled upon Bathsheba's bosom. Only then did Troy admit that the sword was razor-sharp. "You have been within half an inch of being pared alive two hundred and ninety-five times."
Then the man stopped to pick up the lock of Bathsheba's hair. He tucked it inside his coat. Softly he announced that he had to leave. He disappeared, and, overcome by tumultuous emotion, "aflame to the very hollows of her feet," Bathsheba wept, feeling "like one who has sinned a great sin."
"The circumstances had been the gentle dip of Troy's mouth downwards upon her own. He had kissed her."
Troy is so completely in command of his sword and so perfectly confident of his skill that he does not hesitate to risk Bathsheba's life for the sake of his performance. His actions have utterly overwhelmed Bathsheba: "She felt powerless to withstand or deny him."
We must not overlook Hardy's own showmanship. He creates a sensuous chapter, with the lush setting, textures, colors, and lighting all playing their parts. He does a masterful job of describing the flashing of lights and the lightning speed of Troy's every move. Hardy was interested in dramatics and here uses his sense of effective staging.