"Capital," said Troy. "But, dear me, I had better go back for my bag, because my slippers and brush and comb are in it; you run home whilst I fetch it, and I'll promise to be in your parlour in ten minutes."
"Yes." She turned and tripped up the hill again.
During the progress of this dialogue there was a nervous twitching of Boldwood's tightly closed lips, and his face became bathed in a clammy dew. He now started forward towards Troy. Troy turned to him and took up the bag.
"Shall I tell her I have come to give her up and cannot marry her?" said the soldier, mockingly.
"No, no; wait a minute. I want to say more to you — more to you!" said Boldwood, in a hoarse whisper.
"Now," said Troy, "you see my dilemma. Perhaps I am a bad man — the victim of my impulses — led away to do what I ought to leave undone. I can't, however, marry them both. And I have two reasons for choosing Fanny. First, I like her best upon the whole, and second, you make it worth my while."
At the same instant Boldwood sprang upon him, and held him by the neck. Troy felt Boldwood's grasp slowly tightening. The move was absolutely unexpected.
"A moment," he gasped. "You are injuring her you love!"
"Well, what do you mean?" said the farmer.
"Give me breath," said Troy.
Boldwood loosened his hand, saying, "By Heaven, I've a mind to kill you!"
"And ruin her."
"Oh, how can she be saved now, unless I marry her?"
Boldwood groaned. He reluctantly released the soldier, and flung him back against the hedge. "Devil, you torture me!" said he.
Troy rebounded like a ball, and was about to make a dash at the farmer; but he checked himself, saying lightly —
"It is not worth while to measure my strength with you. Indeed it is a barbarous way of settling a quarrel. I shall shortly leave the army because of the same conviction. Now after that revelation of how the land lies with Bathsheba, 'twould be a mistake to kill me, would it not?"
"'Twould be a mistake to kill you," repeated Boldwood, mechanically, with a bowed head.
"Better kill yourself."
"I'm glad you see it."
"Troy, make her your wife, and don't act upon what I arranged just now. The alternative is dreadful, but take Bathsheba; I give her up! She must love you indeed to sell soul and body to you so utterly as she has done. Wretched woman — deluded woman — you are, Bathsheba!"
"But about Fanny?"
"Bathsheba is a woman well to do," continued Boldwood, in nervous anxiety, and, Troy, she will make a good wife; and, indeed, she is worth your hastening on your marriage with her!"
"But she has a will — not to say a temper, and I shall be a mere slave to her. I could do anything with poor Fanny Robin."
"Troy," said Boldwood, imploringly, "I'll do anything for you, only don't desert her; pray don't desert her, Troy."
"Which, poor Fanny?"
"No; Bathsheba Everdene. Love her best! Love her tenderly! How shall I get you to see how advantageous it will be to you to secure her at once?"
"I don't wish to secure her in any new way."
Boldwood's arm moved spasmodically towards Troy's person again. He repressed the instinct, and his form drooped as with pain.
Troy went on —
"I shall soon purchase my discharge, and then — "
"But I wish you to hasten on this marriage! It will be better for you both. You love each other, and you must let me help you to do it."
"Why, by settling the five hundred on Bathsheba instead of Fanny, to enable you to marry at once. No; she wouldn't have it of me. I'll pay it down to you on the wedding-day."
Troy paused in secret amazement at Boldwood's wild infatuation. He carelessly said, "And am I to have anything now?"
"Yes, if you wish to. But I have not much additional money with me. I did not expect this; but all I have is yours."
Boldwood, more like a somnambulist than a wakeful man, pulled out the large canvas bag he carried by way of a purse, and searched it.
"I have twenty-one pounds more with me," he said. "Two notes and a sovereign. But before I leave you I must have a paper signed — "
"Pay me the money, and we'll go straight to her parlour, and make any arrangement you please to secure my compliance with your wishes. But she must know nothing of this cash business."
"Nothing, nothing," said Boldwood, hastily. "Here is the sum, and if you'll come to my house we'll write out the agreement for the remainder, and the terms also."
"First we'll call upon her."
"But why? Come with me to-night, and go with me to-morrow to the surrogate's."