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CHAPTER XXV



THE NEW ACQUAINTANCE DESCRIBED


IDIOSYNCRASY and vicissitude had combined to
stamp Sergeant Troy as an exceptional being.
He was a man to whom memories were an in-
cumbrance, and anticipations a superfluity. Simply
feeling, considering, and caring for what was before his
eyes, he was vulnerable only in the present. His out-
look upon time was as a transient flash of the eye now
and then: that projection of consciousness into days
gone by and to come, which makes the past a synonym
for the pathetic and the future a word for circum-
spection, was foreign to Troy. With him the past
was yesterday; the future, to-morrow; never, the day
after.
On this account he might, in certain lights, have
been regarded as one of the most fortunate of his
order. For it may be argued with great plausibility
that reminiscence is less an endowment than a disease,
and that expectation in its only comfortable form -- that
of absolute faith -- is practically an impossibility; whilst
in the form of hope and the secondary compounds,
patience, impatience, resolve, curiosity, it is a constant
fluctuation between pleasure and pain.
Sergeant Troy, being entirely innocent of the
practice of expectation, was never disappointed. To
set against this negative gain there may have been
some positive losses from a certain narrowing of the
higher tastes and sensations which it entailed. But
limitation of the capacity is never recognized as a loss
by the loser therefrom: in this attribute moral or
aesthetic poverty contrasts plausibly with material, since
those who suffer do not mind it, whilst those who mind
it soon cease to suffer. It is not a denial of anything
to have been always without it, and what Troy had
never enjoyed he did not miss; but, being fully
conscious that what sober people missed he enjoyed,
his capacity, though really less, seemed greater than
theirs.
He was moderately truthful towards men, but to
women lied like a Cretan -- a system of ethics above all
others calculated to win popularity at the first flush of
admission into lively society; and the possibility of the
favour gained being transitory had reference only to
the future.
He never passed the line which divides the spruce
vices from the ugly; and hence, though his morals had
hardly been applauded, disapproval of them" had fre-
quently been tempered with a smile. This treatment
had led to his becoming a sort of regrater of other
men's gallantries, to his own aggrandizement as a
Corinthian, rather than to the moral profit of his
hearers.
His reason and his propensities had seldom any
reciprocating influence, having separated by mutual
consent long ago: thence it sometimes happened that,
while his intentions were as honourable as could be
wished, any particular deed formed a dark background
which threw them into fine relief. The sergeant's
vicious phases being the offspring of impulse, and
his virtuous phases of cool meditation, the latter
had a modest tendency to be oftener heard of than
seen.
Troy was full of activity, but his activities were less of
a locomotive than a vegetative nature; and, never being
based upon any original choice of foundation or direc-
tion, they were exercised on whatever object chance
might place in their way. Hence, whilst he sometimes
reached the brilliant in speech because that -was
spontaneous, he fell below the commonplace in action,
from inability to guide incipient effort. He had a
quick comprehension and considerable force of char-
acter; but, being without the power to combine them,
the comprehension became engaged with trivialities
whilst waiting for the will to direct it, and the force
wasted itself in useless grooves through unheeding the
comprehension.
He was a fairly well-educated man for one of middle
class -- exceptionally well educated for a common soldier.
He spoke fluently and unceasingly. He could in this
way be one thing and seem another: for instance, he
could speak of love and think of dinner; call on the
intend to owe.
The wondrous power of flattery in passados at woman
is a perception so universal as to be remarked upon by
many people almost as automatically as they repeat a
proverb, or say that they are Christians and the like,
without thinking much of the enormous corollaries
which spring from the proposition. Still less is it acted
upon for the good of the complemental being alluded
to. With the majority such an opinion is shelved with
all those trite aphorisms which require some catastrophe
to bring their tremendous meanings thoroughly home.
When expressed with some amount of reflectiveness it
seems co-ordinate with a belief that this flattery must
be reasonable to be effective. It is to the credit of
men that few attempt to settle the question by experi-
ment, and it is for their happiness, perhaps, that accident
has never settled it for them. Nevertheless, that a
male dissembler who by deluging her with untenable
fictions charms the female wisely, may acquire powers
reaching to the extremity of perdition, is a truth taught
to many by unsought and wringing occurrences. And
some profess to have attained to the same knowledge
by experiment as aforesaid, and jauntily continue their
indulgence in such experiments with terrible effect.
Sergeant Troy was one.
He had been known to observe casually that in
dealing with womankind the only alternative to flattery
was cursing and swearing. There was no third method.
"Treat them fairly, and you are a lost man." he would
say.
This philosopher's public appearance in Weatherbury
promptly followed his arrival there. A week or two
after the shearing, Bathsheba, feeling a nameless relief
of spirits on account of Boldwood's absence, approached
her hayfields and looked over the hedge towards the
haymakers. They consisted in about equal proportions
of gnarled and flexuous forms, the former being the
men, the latter the women, who wore tilt bonnets
covered with nankeen, which hung in a curtain upon
their shoulders. Coggan and Mark Clark were mowing
in a less forward meadow, Clark humming a tune to
the strokes of his scythe, to which Jan made no attempt
to keep time with his. In the first mead they were
already loading hay, the women raking it into cocks
and windrows, and the men tossing it upon the
waggon.
From behind the waggon a bright scarlet spot
emerged, and went on loading unconcernedly with the
rest. It was the gallant sergeant, who had come hay-
making for pleasure; and nobody could deny that he
was doing the mistress of the farm real knight-service
by this voluntary contribution of his labour at a busy
time.
As soon as she had entered the field Troy saw her,
and sticking his pitchfork into the ground and picking
up his crop or cane, he came forward. Bathsheba
blushed with half-angry embarrassment, and adjusted
her eyes as well as her feet to the direct line of her
path.





Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Category:
English Literature
 
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