"We'll go away at once. I only came to see - "
"No, no, Susan; you are not to go - you mistake me!" he said, with kindly severity. "I have thought of this plan: that you and Elizabeth take a cottage in the town as the widow Mrs Newson and her daughter; that I meet you, court you, and marry you, Elizabeth-Jane coming to my house as my stepdaughter. The thing is so natural and easy that it is half done in thinking o't. This would leave my shady, headstrong, disgraceful life as a young man absolutely unopened; the secret would be yours and mine only; and I should have the pleasure of seeing my own only child under my roof, as well as my wife."
"I am quite in your hands, Michael," she said meekly. "I came here for the sake of Elizabeth; for myself, if you tell me to leave again tomorrow morning, and never come near you more, I am content to go."
"Now, now; we don't want to hear that," said Henchard gently, "Of course you won't leave again. Think over the plan I have proposed for a few hours; and if you can't hit upon a better one we'll adopt it. I have to be away for a day or two on business, unfortunately; but during that time you can get lodgings - the only ones in the town fit for you are those over the china-shop in High Street - and you can also look for a cottage."
"If the lodgings are in High Street they are dear, I suppose?"
"Never mind - you must start genteel if our plan is to be carried out. Look to me for money. Have you enough till I come back?"
"Quite," said she.
"And are you comfortable at the inn?"
"And the girl is quite safe from learning the shame of her case and ours? - that's what makes me most anxious of all."
"You would be surprised to find how unlikely she is to dream of the truth. How could she ever suppose such a thing?"
"I like the idea of repeating our marriage," said Mrs Henchard, after a pause. "It seems the only right course, after all this. Now I think I must go back to Elizabeth-Jane, and tell her that our kinsman, Mr Henchard, kindly wishes us to stay in the town."
"Very well - arrange that yourself. I'll go some way with you."
"No, no. Don't run any risk!" said his wife anxiously. "I can find my way back - it is not late. Please let me go alone."
"Right," said Henchard. "But just one word. Do you forgive me, Susan?"
She murmured something; but seemed to find it difficult to frame her answer.
"Never mind - all in good time," said he. "Judge me by my future works - good-bye!"
He retreated, and stood at the upper side of the Amphitheatre while his wife passed out through the lower way, and descended under the trees to the town. Then Henchard himself went homeward, going so fast that by the time he reached his door he was almost upon the heels of the unconscious woman from whom he had just parted. He watched her up the street, and turned into his house.
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