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 unwanted process of untying the string about his neck, she said:

`I have never seen that you spoke of.'


`The sword-exercise.'

`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; accouterments and weapons glistening like stars - here, there, around - yet all by rule and compass.

So she said mildly what she felt strongly:

`Yes; I should like to see it very much.'

`And so you shall; you shall see me go through it.'

`No! How?'

`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 voice.

`O 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.

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