`'Twould be much more becoming if you set yourself to cure them. Come, let's strike a balance with the twenty pounds, and be friends.'

She gave a sigh of resignation. `I have about that sum here for household expenses. If you must have it, take it.'

`Very good. Thank you. I expect I shall have gone away before you are in to breakfast tomorrow.

`And must you go? Ah! there was a time, Frank, when it would have taken a good many promises to other people to drag you away from me. You used to call me darling, then. But it doesn't matter to you how my days are passed now.'

`I must go, in spite of sentiment.' Troy, as he spoke, looked at his watch, and, apparently actuated by non lucendo principles, opened the case at the back, revealing, snugly stowed within it, a small coil of hair.

Bathsheba's eyes had been accidentally lifted at that moment, and she saw the action and saw the hair. She flushed in pain and surprise, and some words escaped her before she had thought whether or not it was wise to utter them. `A woman's curl of hair!' she said. `O, Frank, whose is that?'

Troy had instantly closed his watch. He carelessly replied, as one who cloaked some feelings that the sight had stirred: `Why, yours, of course. Whose should it be? I had quite forgotten that I had it.'

`What a dreadful fib, Frank!'

`I tell you I had forgotten it!' he said loudly.

`I don't mean that - it was yellow hair.'


`That's insulting me. I know it was yellow. Now whose was it? I want to know.'

`Very well - I'll tell you, so make no more ado. It is the hair of a young woman I was going to marry before I knew you.'

`You ought to tell me her name, then.'

`I cannot do that.'

`Is she married yet?'


`Is she alive?'


`Is she pretty?'


`It is wonderful how she can be, poor thing, under such an awful affliction!'

`Affliction - what affliction?' he inquired quickly.

`Having hair of that dreadful colour.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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