"It seems to me that all depends upon whe'r you think, as everybody else do, that your husband is dead."
"Yes — I've long ceased to doubt that. I well know what would have brought him back long before this time if he had lived."
"Well, then, in a religious sense you will be as free to THINK o' marrying again as any real widow of one year's standing. But why don't ye ask Mr. Thirdly's advice on how to treat Mr. Boldwood?"
"No. When I want a broad-minded opinion for general enlightenment, distinct from special advice, I never go to a man who deals in the subject professionally. So I like the parson's opinion on law, the lawyer's on doctoring, the doctor's on business, and my business-man's — that is, yours — on morals."
"And on love — "
"I'm afraid there's a hitch in that argument," said Oak, with a grave smile.
She did not reply at once, and then saying, "Good evening, Mr. Oak." went away.
She had spoken frankly, and neither asked nor expected any reply from Gabriel more satisfactory than that she had obtained. Yet in the centremost parts of her complicated heart there existed at this minute a little pang of disappointment, for a reason she would not allow herself to recognize. Oak had not once wished her free that he might marry her himself — had not once said, "I could wait for you as well as he." That was the insect sting. Not that she would have listened to any such hypothesis. O no — for wasn't she saying all the time that such thoughts of the future were improper, and wasn't Gabriel far too poor a man to speak sentiment to her? Yet he might have just hinted about that old love of his, and asked, in a playful off-hand way, if he might speak of it. It would have seemed pretty and sweet, if no more; and then she would have shown how kind and inoffensive a woman's "No" can sometimes be. But to give such cool advice — the very advice she had asked for — it ruffled our heroine all the afternoon.