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Moments after she tells Boldwood that she might marry him, Bathsheba wanders over her farm, as she always does, checking to see that everything is in order. She carries a darkened lantern so she cannot be seen. The narrator tells us that, unbeknownst to Bathsheba, Gabriel performs the same task every evening, a sign of his unending devotion to her.
As she walks through the fir plantation, she hears footsteps nearing her and bumps into someone on the path. It is Sergeant Troy, and his spur has caught on her dress. She cannot free herself, and in the dark the two hold a conversation without identifying themselves. When Troy finally opens her lantern, Bathsheba is surprised to see he is a soldier, having expected a suspicious-looking intruder. Troy, for his part, is also struck by the appearance of his interlocutor; he immediately praises her beauty and delays in his untangling of her dress. She finally frees herself, confused by his praise, and speaking somewhat curtly. She later asks Liddy whether there is a soldier living near the fir plantation, and Liddy tells her that it must be Sergeant Troy. Bathsheba regrets being rude to him.
In the next chapter Hardy gives an account of Troy's character, much as the author has done with Boldwood earlier on. We learn that Troy lives only for the moment and displays the opposite of Gabriel's ceaseless loyalty. He is full of activity without direction and regularly deceives women. Toward the end of the chapter, we learn that he has joined the haymakers in their task for the day. Bathsheba notices him in the fields, and as soon as he sees her, he approaches.
Troy and Bathsheba converse for the second time, and Chapter 26 follows a long dialogue between them, with little description. Troy apologizes for not recognizing who she was in the woods and again compliments her. From her responses we can see that she is flattered, bewildered by his admiration--a very different woman from the scornful, proud individual we have heretofore seen asserting her independence with Gabriel and Boldwood. Troy offers her his watch as a gift, and she refuses but agrees that he may continue to join the hay- makers.
In the next chapter their intimacy is increased when Troy encounters Bathsheba maintaining the bees; he helps her, donning the ridiculous-looking protective gear. When he mentions the famous sword exercise that soldiers learn, she confesses that she'd love to see it, and they set a date to meet.
Bathsheba is reluctant to keep the date but comes at the last minute, and Troy shows her the sword exercise. He persuades her that the sword's edge is blunt as he sweeps the hissing, glittering sword around her. At the end of their meeting, as Bathsheba stands overwhelmed by the beauty and danger of the scene, Troy kisses her and disappears.
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