“Well, darling, you agree?” said Wildeve.
“If it could be London, or even Budmouth, instead of America,” she murmured languidly. “Well, I will think. It is too great a thing for me to decide offhand. I wish I hated the heath less—or loved you more.”
“You can be painfully frank. You loved me a month ago warmly enough to go anywhere with me.”
“And you loved Thomasin.”
“Yes, perhaps that was where the reason lay,” he returned, with almost a sneer. “I don’t hate her now.”
“Exactly. The only thing is that you can no longer get her.”
“Come—no taunts, Eustacia, or we shall quarrel. If you don’t agree to go with me, and agree shortly, I shall go by myself.”
“Or try Thomasin again. Damon, how strange it seems that you could have married her or me indifferently, and only have come to me because I am—cheapest! Yes, yes—it is true. There was a time when I should have exclaimed against a man of that sort, and been quite wild; but it is all past now.”
“Will you go, dearest? Come secretly with me to Bristol, marry me, and turn our backs upon this dog-hole of England for ever? Say Yes.”
“I want to get away from here at almost any cost,” she said with weariness, “but I don’t like to go with you. Give me more time to decide.”
“I have already,” said Wildeve. “Well, I give you one more week.”
“A little longer, so that I may tell you decisively. I have to consider so many things. Fancy Thomasin being anxious to get rid of you! I cannot forget it.”
“Never mind that. Say Monday week. I will be here precisely at this time.”
“Let it be at Rainbarrow,” said she. “This is too near home; my grandfather may be walking out.”
“Thank you, dear. On Monday week at this time I will be at the Barrow. Till then good-bye.”
“Good-bye. No, no, you must not touch me now. Shaking hands is enough till I have made up my mind.”
Eustacia watched his shadowy form till it had disappeared. She placed her hand to her forehead and breathed heavily; and then her rich, romantic lips parted under that homely impulse—a yawn. She was immediately angry at having betrayed even to herself the possible evanescence of her passion for him. She could not admit at once that she might have overestimated Wildeve, for to perceive his mediocrity now was to admit her own great folly heretofore. And the discovery that she was the owner of a disposition so purely that of the dog in the manger had something in it which at first made her ashamed.
The fruit of Mrs. Yeobright’s diplomacy was indeed remarkable, though not as yet of the kind she had anticipated. It had appreciably influenced Wildeve, but it was influencing Eustacia far more. Her lover was no longer to her an exciting man whom many women strove for, and herself could only retain by striving with them. He was a superfluity.