An old tree trunk lay under the hedge immediately opposite, and they sat down.

`I was engaged to be married to Miss Everdene,' said Boldwood, `but you came and--'

`Not engaged,' said Troy.

`As good as engaged.'

`If I had not turned up she might have become engaged to you.'

`Hang might!'

`Would, then.'

`If you had not come I should certainly - yes, certainly - have been accepted by this time. If you had not seen her you might have been married to Fanny. Well, there's too much difference between Miss Everdene's station and your own for this flirtation with her ever to benefit you by ending in marriage. So all I ask is, don't molest her any more. Marry Fanny. I'll make it worth your while.'

`How will you?'

`I'll pay you well now, I'll settle a sum of money upon her, and I'll see that you don't suffer from poverty in the future. I'll put it clearly. Bathsheba is only playing with you; you are too poor for her as I said; so give up your wasting your time about a great match you'll never make for a moderate and rightful match you may make to-morrow; take up your carpet-bag, turn about, leave Weatherbury now, this night, and you shall take fifty pounds with you. Fanny shall have fifty to enable her to prepare for the wedding, when you have told me where she is living, and she shall have five hundred paid down on her wedding- day.'

In making this statement Boldwood's voice revealed only too clearly a consciousness of the weakness of his position, his aims, and his method. His manner had lapsed quite from that of the firm and dignified Boldwood of former times; and such a scheme as he had now engaged in he would have condemned as childishly imbecile only a few months ago. We discern a grind force in the lover which he lacks whilst a free man; but there is a breadth of vision in the free man which in the lover we vainly seek. Where there is much bias there must be some narrowness, and love, though added emotion, is subtracted capacity. Boldwood amplified this to an abnormal degree; he knew nothing of Fanny Robin's circumstances or whereabouts, he knew nothing of Troy's possibilities, yet that was what he said.

`I like Fanny best,' said Troy; `and if, as you say, Miss Everdene is out of my reach, why I have all to gain by accepting your money, and marrying Fan. But she's only a servant.'

`Never mind - do you agree to my arrangement?'

`I do.'

`Ah!' said Boldwood, in a more elastic voice. `O, Troy, if you like her best, why then did you step in here and injure my happiness?'

`I love Fanny best now' said Troy. `But Bathsh - Miss Everdene inflamed me, and displaced Fanny for a time. It is over now.'

`Why should it be over so soon? And why then did you come here again?'

`There are weighty reasons. Fifty pounds at once, you said!'

`I did,' said Boldwood, `and here they are - fifty sovereigns.' He handed Troy a small packet.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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