At eight in the evening, Bathsheba arrives at an uncultivated hollow among ferns, before turning around and going back home. Then, thinking of Troy’s disappointment, she turns around again and runs back: he’s waiting for her. Troy draws a sword and begins to thrust, explaining what he’s doing. He proposes that they act as if they’re fighting: he’ll miss her by a hair’s breadth each time. He slices the air, and she cries out, but he tells her not to be afraid.
Bathsheba continues to be conflicted. This conflict is no longer between paying penance to Boldwood or maintaining her independence; now it is between maintaining her female virtue—a quality insisted on at the time the novel was written—and caving in to her own desires.
Troy is an excellent marksman, and he dazzles Bathsheba, especially when he cuts off just one lock of her hair. He points to a caterpillar resting on the front of her bodice, and in a flash flicks it off with his sword. He puts his weapon away, saying she was within a hair’s breadth of danger, though he never would have let anything happen to her. He stoops and picks up the lock of her hair and puts it in his coat pocket. He draws nearer, saying he must leave: he kisses her, then darts away, leaving her in tears.
This entire stunt has allowed Troy to show off in front of Bathsheba and play the part of the soldier saving a woman in distress. While the novel wants us to see some of the bluster of Troy’s position, Bathsheba is blind to it—she fully succumbs to Troy’s flattery and flirtatiousness. The portrayal of a kiss before marriage would have been shocking to many Victorian readers.