Summary and Analysis
Hours later, in snow and darkness, a figure appeared on the public path that was bordered by a river. In the background could be heard the constant gurgling of water. The figure was counting out the windows of a barracks. Stopping at the fifth, it threw a small snowball which "smacked against the wall at a point several yards from its mark. The throw was the idea of a man conjoined with the execution of a woman. No man . . . could possibly have thrown with such utter imbecility as was shown here." After many efforts, the girl finally struck the proper window.
The window opened and a man's voice asked who was there. The girl identified herself as Fanny Robin. She regarded herself as Sergeant Troy's wife because of his frequent promises, and she wished to publish their marriage banns. They agreed to meet the next day. Then she went away, amid the guffaws of Troy's companions.
Hardy lets the weather serve to show the interrelation between atmospheric conditions and mood. The approach of winter is well portrayed, and the bleakness of the barracks territory reflects Fanny's dismal situation. The tall "verticality" of the barracks wall is dramatically contrasted with the smallness of the little waif; her credulity is contrasted with Troy's blustering. Using nature to mirror mood or situation is a common device in Hardy. Note the seasons in which major events occur throughout the book. Spring is often a time of happiness and renewal; winter, a time of death and despair.