‘Cutting your hay is harder work than sword practice！’he told her one day，a smile lighting up his handsome face.
‘Is it？I've never seen sword practice，’she answered.
‘Ah！Would you like to？’asked Troy.
Bathsheba hesitated. She had heard wonderful stories from people who had watched soldiers practising，stories of shining metal flashing through the air.
‘I would like to see it，very much. ’
‘Well，I'll show you. I can get a sword by this evening. Will you…’and he bent over her，whispering in her ear.
‘Oh no！’said Bathsheba，blushing. ‘I couldn't. ’
‘Surely you could？ Nobody would know. ’
‘Well，if I came，Liddy would have to come with me. ’
‘I don't see why you want to bring her，’Troy said coldly.
‘Well then，I won't bring her—and I'll come. But only for a very short time. ’
So at eight o'clock that evening，Bathsheba found herself，in spite of her doubts，climbing the hill near her house and go－ing down the other side. Now she was in what seemed like a natural theatre，a deep，round hollow in the ground . It was completely hidden from her house and the path. This was the place where Troy had asked her to meet him.
And Troy，in his bright red uniform，was there.
‘Now，he said，producing his sword，which flashed in the evening sunlight，‘let me show you. One，two，three，four. Like this！A sword can kill a man in a second. ’
Bathsheba saw a kind of rainbow in the air，and gasped.
‘How cruel and murderous！’she cried.
‘Yes. Now I'll pretend to fight you. You are my enemy，but the only difference from a real fight is that I'll miss you each time. Stand in front of me，and don't move！’
Bathsheba was beginning to enjoy this. ‘I'll just test you first，’added Troy，‘to see whether you're brave enough. ’
The sword flashed in the air，from her left to right side. It seemed to go through her body. But there it was again in Troy's hand，perfectly clean and free from blood.
‘Oh！’she cried，frightened. ‘Have you killed me？No，yon haven't！How did you do it？’
‘I haven't touched you，’said Troy quietly. ‘Now， you aren't afraid，are you？I promise I won't hurt you，or even touch you. ’
‘I don't think I'm afraid. Is the sword very sharp？’
‘Oh no—just stand very still. Now！’
In a second，Bathsheba could no longer see the sky or the ground. The shining weapon flashed above，around and in 110 front of her，catching light from the low sun and whistling as it rushed through the air. Never had Sergeant Troy managed his sword better than today.
‘Your hair is a little untidy，’he said. ‘Allow me，’and before she could move or speak，a curl dropped to the ground.
‘You are very brave，for a woman！’he congratulated her.
‘It was because I didn't expect it. Now I'm afraid of you，I am，really！’
‘This time I won't even touch your hair. I'm going to kill that insect on your dress. Stand still！’
Not daring to tremble，she saw the point of his sword coming towards her heart，and，sure that this time she would die，closed her eyes. But when she opened them，she saw the insect，dead，on the point of the sword.
‘It's magic！’she cried. ‘And how could you cut off one of my curls with a sword that isn't sharp？’
‘It's sharper than any knife，’he said. ‘I had to lie to you about that，to give you the confidence to stand still. ’
Bathsheba's feelings were almost too much for her to control，and she sat down suddenly in the grass.
‘I could have died，’she whispered.
‘You were perfectly safe，’Troy told her. ‘My sword never makes a mistake. I must leave you now. I'll keep this to re－mind me of you. ’He bent to pick up the curl of hair，which he put carefully in his pocket，next to his heart. She was not strong enough to say or do anything. He came closer，bent 112 again，and a minute later his red coat disappeared through the grass. Bathsheba blushed guiltily and tears rolled down her face. In that minute Troy had kissed her on the lips.
Determined，independent women often show their weakness when they fall in love，and Bathsheba had very little experi-ence of the world，or of men. It was as difficult for her to see Troy's bad qualities，which he kept carefully hidden，as to ad-mire Gabriel Oak's good ones，which were not all obvious at first sight.
One evening a few days later，Gabriel went to find his mis-tress. He knew that she was falling in love，and had decided to warn her of the mistake she was making. He found her walking along a path through the fields.
‘I was worried about your walking alone，miss，’he said.
‘It's rather late，and there are some bad men in the area. ’He was hoping to introduce Troy's name as one of the ‘bad men’.
‘I never meet any，’said Bathsheba lightly.
Gabriel tried again. ‘Farmer Boldwood will be taking care of you in future，of course. ’
‘What do you mean，Gabriel？’
‘Well，when you and he are married，miss，as everybody expects. You've let him court you，after all. ’
‘Everybody is wrong，Gabriel. I didn't promise him any－thing. I respect him，but I won't marry him. ’
‘I wish you had never met that young Sergeant Troy，114 miss，’be said sadly. ‘He's not good enough for you. ’
‘How dare you say that！He's of good family，and well－educated！’replied Bathsheba angrily.
‘He can't be trusted，miss. Don't trust him，I beg you. ’
‘He's as good as anybody in the village！He goes to church regularly！He told me so himself. ’
‘I'm afraid nobody has ever seen him in church. I certainly haven't. ’Cabriel's heart ached when he saw how completely Bathsheba trusted the soldier.
‘That's because he enters by the old tower door and sits at the back，where he can't be seen，’she replied eagerly.
‘You know，mistress，’said Gabriel in a deep voice full of sadness，‘that I love you and shall love you for ever. I accept that I can't marry you now that I'm poor. But Bathsheba，dear mistress，think of your position！Be careful of your behaviour towards this soldier Mr Boldwood is sixteen years older than you. Consider how well he would lood after you！’
‘Leave my farm，Cabriel，’said Bathsheba，her face white with anger. ‘You can't speak like that to me，your mistress！’
‘Don't be foolish！You've already sent me away once. How would you manage without me？No，although I'd like to have my own farm，I'll stay with you，and you know why. ’
‘Well，I suppose you can stay if you wish. Will you leave me here now please？I ask not as your mistress，but as a woman.
‘Of course，Miss Everdene，’said Gabriel gently. He was a little surprised by her request，as it was getting dark，and they were on a lonely hill some way from her house. As she moved away from him，the reason became clear. The figure of a soldier appeared on the hill and came to meet Bathsheba. Gabriel turned away and walked sadly home. On his way he passed the church，where he looked closely at the old tower door. It was covered with climbing plants，and clearly had not been used for years.
Half an hour later Bathsheba arrived home，with Troy's words of love still in her ears. He had kissed her a second time. Wild and feverish with excitement，she sat down imme-diately to write to Boldwood，to inform him that she could not marry him. The letter would reach him on his business trip. She was so enger to send the letter at once that she called Liddy to post it.
‘Liddy，tell me，’she said urgently，when her maid entered the room，promise me that Sergeant Troy isn't a bad man. Promise me that he doesn't chase girls，as people say！’
‘But，miss，how can I say he doesn't if he—’
‘Don't be so cruel，Liddy！Say you don't believe he's had！’
‘I don't know what to say，miss，’said Liddy，beginning to cry. ‘I'll make you angry whatever I say！’
‘Oh，how weak I am！How I wish I'd never seen him！You see how much I love him，Liddy！Don't tell anyone my secret，Liddy！’
‘I'll keep your secret，miss，’said Liddy gently.