They were silent now awhile, and having struck into an unfrequented track across a common, the creaks of Boldwood's saddle and her gig springs were all the sounds to be heard. Boldwood ended the pause.

`Do you remember when I carried you fainting in my arms into the King's Arms, in Casterbridge? Every dog has his day: that was mine.'

`I know - I know it all,' she said, hurriedly.

`I, for one, shall never cease regretting that events so fell out as to deny you to me.

`I, too, am very sorry,' she said, and then checked herself. `I mean, you know, I am sorry you thought I--'

`I have always this dreary pleasure in thinking over those past times with you - that I was something to you before he was anything, and that you belonged almost to me. But of course, that's nothing. You never liked me.'

`I did; and respected you, too.'

`Do you now?'



`How do you mean which?'

`Do you like me, or do you respect me?'

`I don't know - at least, I cannot tell you. It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs. My treatment of you was thoughtless, inexcusable, wicked! I shall eternally regret it. If there had been anything I could have done to make amends I would most gladly have done it - there was nothing on earth I so longed to do as to repair the error. But that was not possible.'

`Don't blame yourself - you were not so far in the wrong as you suppose. Bathsheba, suppose you had real complete proof that you are what, in fact, you are - a widow - would you repair the old wrong to me by marrying me?'

`I cannot say. I shouldn't yet, at any rate.'

`But you might at some future time of your life?'

`O yes, I might at some time.'

`Well, then, do you know that without further proof of any kind you may marry again in about six years from the present - subject to nobody's objection or blame?'

`O yes,' she said, quickly. `I know all that. But don't talk of it - seven or six years - where may we all be by that time?'

`They will soon glide by, and it will seem an astonishingly short time to look back upon when they are past - much less than to look forward to now.'

`Yes, yes; I have found that in my own experience.'

`Now, listen once more,' Boldwood pleaded. `If I wait that time, will you marry me? You own that you owe me amends - let that be your way of making them.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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