A flash of indignation might have been seen in Bathsheba's dark eyes as she looked resolutely ahead after this reply. They moved on without farther speech, some early-withered leaves from the trees which hooded the road at this spot occasionally spinning downward across their path to the earth.
A woman appeared on the brow of the hill. The ridge was in a cutting, so that she was very near the husband and wife before she became visible. Troy had turned towards the gig to remount, and whilst putting his foot on the step the woman passed behind him.
Though the overshadowing trees and the approach of eventide enveloped them in gloom, Bathsheba could see plainly enough to discern the extreme poverty of the woman's garb, and the sadness of her face.
`Please, sir, do you know at what time Casterbridge Union-house closes at night?'
The woman said these words to Troy over his shoulder.
Troy started visibly at the sound of the voice; yet he seemed to recover presence of mind sufficient to prevent himself from giving way to his impulse to suddenly turn and face her. He said, slowly--
`I don't know.'
The woman, on hearing him speak, quickly looked up, examined the side of his face, and recognized the soldier under the yeoman's garb. Her face was drawn into an expression which had gladness and agony both among its elements. She uttered an hysterical cry, and fell down.
`O, poor thing!' exclaimed Bathsheba, instantly preparing to alight.
`Stay where you are, and attend to the horse!' said Troy peremptorily, throwing her the reins and the whip. `Walk the horse to the top; I'll see to the woman.'
`Do you hear? Clk - Poppet!'
The horse, gig, and Bathsheba moved on.
`How on earth did you come here? I thought you were miles away, or dead! Why didn't you write to me?' said Troy to the woman, in a strangely gentle, yet hurried voice, as he lifted her up.
`I feared to.'
`Have you any money?'
`Good Heavens - I wish I had more to give you! Here's - wretched - the merest trifle. It is every farthing I have left. I have none but what my wife gives me, you know, and I can't ask her now.'
The woman made no answer.
`I have only another moment,' continued Troy; `and now listen. Where are you going to-night? Casterbridge Unions'
`Yes; I thought to go there.'
`You shan't go there; yet, wait. Yes, perhaps for tonight; I can do nothing better - worse luck! Sleep there to-night, and stay there to-morrow. Monday is the first free day I have; and on Monday morning, at ten
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