Part 4 out of 8
highly satisfied at having Fitzpiers as a sort of guest that he
would have sat on for any length of time, but Grace, on whom
Fitzpiers's eyes only too frequently alighted, seemed to think it
incumbent upon her to make a show of going; and her father
thereupon accompanied her to the vehicle.
As the doctor had helped her out of it he appeared to think that
he had excellent reasons for helping her in, and performed the
attention lingeringly enough.
"What were you almost in tears about just now?" he asked, softly.
"I don't know," she said: and the words were strictly true.
Melbury mounted on the other side, and they drove on out of the
grove, their wheels silently crushing delicate-patterned mosses,
hyacinths, primroses, lords-and-ladies, and other strange and
ordinary plants, and cracking up little sticks that lay across the
track. Their way homeward ran along the crest of a lofty hill,
whence on the right they beheld a wide valley, differing both in
feature and atmosphere from that of the Hintock precincts. It was
the cider country, which met the woodland district on the axis of
this hill. Over the vale the air was blue as sapphire--such a
blue as outside that apple-valley was never seen. Under the blue
the orchards were in a blaze of bloom, some of the richly flowered
trees running almost up to where they drove along. Over a gate
which opened down the incline a man leaned on his arms, regarding
this fair promise so intently that he did not observe their
"That was Giles," said Melbury, when they had gone by.
"Was it? Poor Giles," said she.
"All that blooth means heavy autumn work for him and his hands.
If no blight happens before the setting the apple yield will be
such as we have not had for years."
Meanwhile, in the wood they had come from, the men had sat on so
long that they were indisposed to begin work again that evening;
they were paid by the ton, and their time for labor was as they
chose. They placed the last gatherings of bark in rows for the
curers, which led them farther and farther away from the shed; and
thus they gradually withdrew as the sun went down.
Fitzpiers lingered yet. He had opened his book again, though he
could hardly see a word in it, and sat before the dying fire,
scarcely knowing of the men's departure. He dreamed and mused
till his consciousness seemed to occupy the whole space of the
woodland around, so little was there of jarring sight or sound to
hinder perfect unity with the sentiment of the place. The idea
returned upon him of sacrificing all practical aims to live in
calm contentment here, and instead of going on elaborating new
conceptions with infinite pains, to accept quiet domesticity
according to oldest and homeliest notions. These reflections
detained him till the wood was embrowned with the coming night,
and the shy little bird of this dusky time had begun to pour out
all the intensity of his eloquence from a bush not very far off.
Fitzpiers's eyes commanded as much of the ground in front as was
open. Entering upon this he saw a figure, whose direction of
movement was towards the spot where he sat. The surgeon was quite
shrouded from observation by the recessed shadow of the hut, and
there was no reason why he should move till the stranger had
passed by. The shape resolved itself into a woman's; she was
looking on the ground, and walking slowly as if searching for
something that had been lost, her course being precisely that of
Mr. Melbury's gig. Fitzpiers by a sort of divination jumped to
the idea that the figure was Grace's; her nearer approach made the
guess a certainty.
Yes, she was looking for something; and she came round by the
prostrate trees that would have been invisible but for the white
nakedness which enabled her to avoid them easily. Thus she
approached the heap of ashes, and acting upon what was suggested
by a still shining ember or two, she took a stick and stirred the
heap, which thereupon burst into a flame. On looking around by
the light thus obtained she for the first time saw the illumined
face of Fitzpiers, precisely in the spot where she had left him.
Grace gave a start and a scream: the place had been associated
with him in her thoughts, but she had not expected to find him
there still. Fitzpiers lost not a moment in rising and going to
"I frightened you dreadfully, I know," he said. "I ought to have
spoken; but I did not at first expect it to be you. I have been
sitting here ever since."
He was actually supporting her with his arm, as though under the
impression that she was quite overcome, and in danger of falling.
As soon as she could collect her ideas she gently withdrew from
his grasp, and explained what she had returned for: in getting up
or down from the gig, or when sitting by the hut fire, she had
dropped her purse.
"Now we will find it," said Fitzpiers.
He threw an armful of last year's leaves on to the fire, which
made the flame leap higher, and the encompassing shades to weave
themselves into a denser contrast, turning eve into night in a
moment. By this radiance they groped about on their hands and
knees, till Fitzpiers rested on his elbow, and looked at Grace.
"We must always meet in odd circumstances," he said; "and this is
one of the oddest. I wonder if it means anything?"
"Oh no, I am sure it doesn't," said Grace in haste, quickly
assuming an erect posture. "Pray don't say it any more."
"I hope there was not much money in the purse," said Fitzpiers,
rising to his feet more slowly, and brushing the leaves from his
"Scarcely any. I cared most about the purse itself, because it
was given me. Indeed, money is of little more use at Hintock than
on Crusoe's island; there's hardly any way of spending it."
They had given up the search when Fitzpiers discerned something by
his foot. "Here it is," he said, "so that your father, mother,
friend, or ADMIRER will not have his or her feelings hurt by a
sense of your negligence after all."
"Oh, he knows nothing of what I do now."
"The admirer?" said Fitzpiers, slyly.
"I don't know if you would call him that," said Grace, with
simplicity. "The admirer is a superficial, conditional creature,
and this person is quite different."
"He has all the cardinal virtues."
"Perhaps--though I don't know them precisely."
"You unconsciously practise them, Miss Melbury, which is better.
According to Schleiermacher they are Self-control, Perseverance,
Wisdom, and Love; and his is the best list that I know."
"I am afraid poor--" She was going to say that she feared
Winterborne--the giver of the purse years before--had not much
perseverance, though he had all the other three; but she
determined to go no further in this direction, and was silent.
These half-revelations made a perceptible difference in Fitzpiers.
His sense of personal superiority wasted away, and Grace assumed
in his eyes the true aspect of a mistress in her lover's regard.
"Miss Melbury," he said, suddenly, "I divine that this virtuous
man you mention has been refused by you?"
She could do no otherwise than admit it.
"I do not inquire without good reason. God forbid that I should
kneel in another's place at any shrine unfairly. But, my dear
Miss Melbury, now that he is gone, may I draw near?"
"I--I can't say anything about that!" she cried, quickly.
"Because when a man has been refused you feel pity for him, and
like him more than you did before."
This increasing complication added still more value to Grace in
the surgeon's eyes: it rendered her adorable. "But cannot you
say?" he pleaded, distractedly.
"I'd rather not--I think I must go home at once."
"Oh yes," said Fitzpiers. But as he did not move she felt it
awkward to walk straight away from him; and so they stood silently
together. A diversion was created by the accident of two birds,
that had either been roosting above their heads or nesting there,
tumbling one over the other into the hot ashes at their feet,
apparently engrossed in a desperate quarrel that prevented the use
of their wings. They speedily parted, however, and flew up, and
were seen no more.
"That's the end of what is called love!" said some one.
The speaker was neither Grace nor Fitzpiers, but Marty South, who
approached with her face turned up to the sky in her endeavor to
trace the birds. Suddenly perceiving Grace, she exclaimed, "Oh,
Miss Melbury! I have been following they pigeons, and didn't see
you. And here's Mr. Winterborne!" she continued, shyly, as she
looked towards Fitzpiers, who stood in the background.
"Marty," Grace interrupted. "I want you to walk home with me--
will you? Come along." And without lingering longer she took hold
of Marty's arm and led her away.
They went between the spectral arms of the peeled trees as they
lay, and onward among the growing trees, by a path where there
were no oaks, and no barking, and no Fitzpiers--nothing but copse-
wood, between which the primroses could be discerned in pale
bunches. "I didn't know Mr. Winterborne was there," said Marty,
breaking the silence when they had nearly reached Grace's door.
"Nor was he," said Grace.
"But, Miss Melbury, I saw him."
"No," said Grace. "It was somebody else. Giles Winterborne is
nothing to me."
The leaves over Hintock grew denser in their substance, and the
woodland seemed to change from an open filigree to a solid opaque
body of infinitely larger shape and importance. The boughs cast
green shades, which hurt the complexion of the girls who walked
there; and a fringe of them which overhung Mr. Melbury's garden
dripped on his seed-plots when it rained, pitting their surface
all over as with pock-marks, till Melbury declared that gardens in
such a place were no good at all. The two trees that had creaked
all the winter left off creaking, the whir of the night-jar,
however, forming a very satisfactory continuation of uncanny music
from that quarter. Except at mid-day the sun was not seen
complete by the Hintock people, but rather in the form of numerous
little stars staring through the leaves.
Such an appearance it had on Midsummer Eve of this year, and as
the hour grew later, and nine o'clock drew on, the irradiation of
the daytime became broken up by weird shadows and ghostly nooks of
indistinctness. Imagination could trace upon the trunks and
boughs strange faces and figures shaped by the dying lights; the
surfaces of the holly-leaves would here and there shine like
peeping eyes, while such fragments of the sky as were visible
between the trunks assumed the aspect of sheeted forms and cloven
tongues. This was before the moonrise. Later on, when that
planet was getting command of the upper heaven, and consequently
shining with an unbroken face into such open glades as there were
in the neighborhood of the hamlet, it became apparent that the
margin of the wood which approached the timber-merchant's premises
was not to be left to the customary stillness of that reposeful
Fitzpiers having heard a voice or voices, was looking over his
garden gate--where he now looked more frequently than into his
books--fancying that Grace might be abroad with some friends. He
was now irretrievably committed in heart to Grace Melbury, though
he was by no means sure that she was so far committed to him.
That the Idea had for once completely fulfilled itself in the
objective substance--which he had hitherto deemed an
impossibility--he was enchanted enough to fancy must be the case
at last. It was not Grace who had passed, however, but several of
the ordinary village girls in a group--some steadily walking, some
in a mood of wild gayety. He quietly asked his landlady, who was
also in the garden, what these girls were intending, and she
informed him that it being Old Midsummer Eve, they were about to
attempt some spell or enchantment which would afford them a
glimpse of their future partners for life. She declared it to be
an ungodly performance, and one which she for her part would never
countenance; saying which, she entered her house and retired to
The young man lit a cigar and followed the bevy of maidens slowly
up the road. They had turned into the wood at an opening between
Melbury's and Marty South's; but Fitzpiers could easily track them
by their voices, low as they endeavored to keep their tones.
In the mean time other inhabitants of Little Hintock had become
aware of the nocturnal experiment about to be tried, and were also
sauntering stealthily after the frisky maidens. Miss Melbury had
been informed by Marty South during the day of the proposed peep
into futurity, and, being only a girl like the rest, she was
sufficiently interested to wish to see the issue. The moon was so
bright and the night so calm that she had no difficulty in
persuading Mrs. Melbury to accompany her; and thus, joined by
Marty, these went onward in the same direction.
Passing Winterborne's house, they heard a noise of hammering.
Marty explained it. This was the last night on which his paternal
roof would shelter him, the days of grace since it fell into hand
having expired; and Giles was taking down his cupboards and
bedsteads with a view to an early exit next morning. His
encounter with Mrs. Charmond had cost him dearly.
When they had proceeded a little farther Marty was joined by
Grammer Oliver (who was as young as the youngest in such matters),
and Grace and Mrs. Melbury went on by themselves till they had
arrived at the spot chosen by the village daughters, whose primary
intention of keeping their expedition a secret had been quite
defeated. Grace and her step-mother paused by a holly-tree; and
at a little distance stood Fitzpiers under the shade of a young
oak, intently observing Grace, who was in the full rays of the
He watched her without speaking, and unperceived by any but Marty
and Grammer, who had drawn up on the dark side of the same holly
which sheltered Mrs. and Miss Melbury on its bright side. The two
former conversed in low tones.
"If they two come up in Wood next Midsummer Night they'll come as
one," said Grammer, signifying Fitzpiers and Grace. "Instead of
my skellington he'll carry home her living carcass before long.
But though she's a lady in herself, and worthy of any such as he,
it do seem to me that he ought to marry somebody more of the sort
of Mrs. Charmond, and that Miss Grace should make the best of
Marty returned no comment; and at that minute the girls, some of
whom were from Great Hintock, were seen advancing to work the
incantation, it being now about midnight.
"Directly we see anything we'll run home as fast as we can," said
one, whose courage had begun to fail her. To this the rest
assented, not knowing that a dozen neighbors lurked in the bushes
"I wish we had not thought of trying this," said another, "but had
contented ourselves with the hole-digging to-morrow at twelve, and
hearing our husbands' trades. It is too much like having dealings
with the Evil One to try to raise their forms."
However, they had gone too far to recede, and slowly began to
march forward in a skirmishing line through the trees towards the
deeper recesses of the wood. As far as the listeners could
gather, the particular form of black-art to be practised on this
occasion was one connected with the sowing of hemp-seed, a handful
of which was carried by each girl. At the moment of their advance
they looked back, and discerned the figure of Miss Melbury, who,
alone of all the observers, stood in the full face of the
moonlight, deeply engrossed in the proceedings. By contrast with
her life of late years they made her feel as if she had receded a
couple of centuries in the world's history. She was rendered
doubly conspicuous by her light dress, and after a few whispered
words, one of the girls--a bouncing maiden, plighted to young
Timothy Tangs--asked her if she would join in. Grace, with some
excitement, said that she would, and moved on a little in the rear
of the rest.
Soon the listeners could hear nothing of their proceedings beyond
the faintest occasional rustle of leaves. Grammer whispered again
to Marty: "Why didn't ye go and try your luck with the rest of the
"I don't believe in it," said Marty, shortly.
"Why, half the parish is here--the silly hussies should have kept
it quiet. I see Mr. Winterborne through the leaves, just come up
with Robert Creedle. Marty, we ought to act the part o'
Providence sometimes. Do go and tell him that if he stands just
behind the bush at the bottom of the slope, Miss Grace must pass
down it when she comes back, and she will most likely rush into
his arms; for as soon as the clock strikes, they'll bundle back
home--along like hares. I've seen such larries before."
"Do you think I'd better?" said Marty, reluctantly.
"Oh yes, he'll bless ye for it."
"I don't want that kind of blessing." But after a moment's thought
she went and delivered the information; and Grammer had the
satisfaction of seeing Giles walk slowly to the bend in the leafy
defile along which Grace would have to return.
Meanwhile Mrs. Melbury, deserted by Grace, had perceived Fitzpiers
and Winterborne, and also the move of the latter. An improvement
on Grammer's idea entered the mind of Mrs. Melbury, for she had
lately discerned what her husband had not--that Grace was rapidly
fascinating the surgeon. She therefore drew near to Fitzpiers.
"You should be where Mr. Winterborne is standing," she said to
him, significantly. "She will run down through that opening much
faster than she went up it, if she is like the rest of the girls."
Fitzpiers did not require to be told twice. He went across to
Winterborne and stood beside him. Each knew the probable purpose
of the other in standing there, and neither spoke, Fitzpiers
scorning to look upon Winterborne as a rival, and Winterborne
adhering to the off-hand manner of indifference which had grown
upon him since his dismissal.
Neither Grammer nor Marty South had seen the surgeon's manoeuvre,
and, still to help Winterborne, as she supposed, the old woman
suggested to the wood-girl that she should walk forward at the
heels of Grace, and "tole" her down the required way if she showed
a tendency to run in another direction. Poor Marty, always doomed
to sacrifice desire to obligation, walked forward accordingly, and
waited as a beacon, still and silent, for the retreat of Grace and
her giddy companions, now quite out of hearing.
The first sound to break the silence was the distant note of Great
Hintock clock striking the significant hour. About a minute later
that quarter of the wood to which the girls had wandered resounded
with the flapping of disturbed birds; then two or three hares and
rabbits bounded down the glade from the same direction, and after
these the rustling and crackling of leaves and dead twigs denoted
the hurried approach of the adventurers, whose fluttering gowns
soon became visible. Miss Melbury, having gone forward quite in
the rear of the rest, was one of the first to return, and the
excitement being contagious, she ran laughing towards Marty, who
still stood as a hand-post to guide her; then, passing on, she
flew round the fatal bush where the undergrowth narrowed to a
gorge. Marty arrived at her heels just in time to see the result.
Fitzpiers had quickly stepped forward in front of Winterborne,
who, disdaining to shift his position, had turned on his heel, and
then the surgeon did what he would not have thought of doing but
for Mrs. Melbury's encouragement and the sentiment of an eve which
effaced conventionality. Stretching out his arms as the white
figure burst upon him, he captured her in a moment, as if she had
been a bird.
"Oh!" cried Grace, in her fright.
"You are in my arms, dearest," said Fitzpiers, "and I am going to
claim you, and keep you there all our two lives!"
She rested on him like one utterly mastered, and it was several
seconds before she recovered from this helplessness. Subdued
screams and struggles, audible from neighboring brakes, revealed
that there had been other lurkers thereabout for a similar
purpose. Grace, unlike most of these companions of hers, instead
of gasping and writhing, said in a trembling voice, "Mr.
Fitzpiers, will you let me go?"
"Certainly," he said, laughing; "as soon as you have recovered."
She waited another few moments, then quietly and firmly pushed him
aside, and glided on her path, the moon whitening her hot blush
away. But it had been enough--new relations between them had
The case of the other girls was different, as has been said. They
wrestled and tittered, only escaping after a desperate struggle.
Fitzpiers could hear these enactments still going on after Grace
had left him, and he remained on the spot where he had caught her,
Winterborne having gone away. On a sudden another girl came
bounding down the same descent that had been followed by Grace--a
fine-framed young woman with naked arms. Seeing Fitzpiers
standing there, she said, with playful effrontery, "May'st kiss me
if 'canst catch me, Tim!"
Fitzpiers recognized her as Suke Damson, a hoydenish damsel of
the hamlet, who was plainly mistaking him for her lover. He was
impulsively disposed to profit by her error, and as soon as she
began racing away he started in pursuit.
On she went under the boughs, now in light, now in shade, looking
over her shoulder at him every few moments and kissing her hand;
but so cunningly dodging about among the trees and moon-shades
that she never allowed him to get dangerously near her. Thus they
ran and doubled, Fitzpiers warming with the chase, till the sound
of their companions had quite died away. He began to lose hope of
ever overtaking her, when all at once, by way of encouragement,
she turned to a fence in which there was a stile and leaped over
it. Outside the scene was a changed one--a meadow, where the
half-made hay lay about in heaps, in the uninterrupted shine of
the now high moon.
Fitzpiers saw in a moment that, having taken to open ground, she
had placed herself at his mercy, and he promptly vaulted over
after her. She flitted a little way down the mead, when all at
once her light form disappeared as if it had sunk into the earth.
She had buried herself in one of the hay-cocks.
Fitzpiers, now thoroughly excited, was not going to let her escape
him thus. He approached, and set about turning over the heaps one
by one. As soon as he paused, tantalized and puzzled, he was
directed anew by an imitative kiss which came from her hiding-
place, and by snatches of a local ballad in the smallest voice she
"O come in from the foggy, foggy dew."
In a minute or two he uncovered her.
"Oh, 'tis not Tim!" said she, burying her face.
Fitzpiers, however, disregarded her resistance by reason of its
mildness, stooped and imprinted the purposed kiss, then sunk down
on the next hay-cock, panting with his race.
"Whom do you mean by Tim?" he asked, presently.
"My young man, Tim Tangs," said she.
"Now, honor bright, did you really think it was he?"
"I did at first."
"But you didn't at last?"
"I didn't at last."
"Do you much mind that it was not?"
"No," she answered, slyly.
Fitzpiers did not pursue his questioning. In the moonlight Suke
looked very beautiful, the scratches and blemishes incidental to
her out-door occupation being invisible under these pale rays.
While they remain silent the coarse whir of the eternal night-jar
burst sarcastically from the top of a tree at the nearest corner
of the wood. Besides this not a sound of any kind reached their
ears, the time of nightingales being now past, and Hintock lying
at a distance of two miles at least. In the opposite direction
the hay-field stretched away into remoteness till it was lost to
the eye in a soft mist.
When the general stampede occurred Winterborne had also been
looking on, and encountering one of the girls, had asked her what
caused them all to fly.
She said with solemn breathlessness that they had seen something
very different from what they had hoped to see, and that she for
one would never attempt such unholy ceremonies again. "We saw
Satan pursuing us with his hour-glass. It was terrible!"
This account being a little incoherent, Giles went forward towards
the spot from which the girls had retreated. After listening
there a few minutes he heard slow footsteps rustling over the
leaves, and looking through a tangled screen of honeysuckle which
hung from a bough, he saw in the open space beyond a short stout
man in evening-dress, carrying on one arm a light overcoat and
also his hat, so awkwardly arranged as possibly to have suggested
the "hour-glass" to his timid observers--if this were the person
whom the girls had seen. With the other hand he silently
gesticulated and the moonlight falling upon his bare brow showed
him to have dark hair and a high forehead of the shape seen
oftener in old prints and paintings than in real life. His
curious and altogether alien aspect, his strange gestures, like
those of one who is rehearsing a scene to himself, and the unusual
place and hour, were sufficient to account for any trepidation
among the Hintock daughters at encountering him.
He paused, and looked round, as if he had forgotten where he was;
not observing Giles, who was of the color of his environment. The
latter advanced into the light. The gentleman held up his hand
and came towards Giles, the two meeting half-way.
"I have lost my way," said the stranger. "Perhaps you can put me
in the path again." He wiped his forehead with the air of one
suffering under an agitation more than that of simple fatigue.
"The turnpike-road is over there," said Giles
"I don't want the turnpike-road," said the gentleman, impatiently.
"I came from that. I want Hintock House. Is there not a path to
it across here?"
"Well, yes, a sort of path. But it is hard to find from this
point. I'll show you the way, sir, with great pleasure."
"Thanks, my good friend. The truth is that I decided to walk
across the country after dinner from the hotel at Sherton, where I
am staying for a day or two. But I did not know it was so far."
"It is about a mile to the house from here."
They walked on together. As there was no path, Giles occasionally
stepped in front and bent aside the underboughs of the trees to
give his companion a passage, saying every now and then when the
twigs, on being released, flew back like whips, "Mind your eyes,
sir." To which the stranger replied, "Yes, yes," in a preoccupied
So they went on, the leaf-shadows running in their usual quick
succession over the forms of the pedestrians, till the stranger
"Is it far?"
"Not much farther," said Winterborne. "The plantation runs up
into a corner here, close behind the house." He added with
hesitation, "You know, I suppose, sir, that Mrs. Charmond is not
"You mistake," said the other, quickly. "Mrs. Charmond has been
away for some time, but she's at home now."
Giles did not contradict him, though he felt sure that the
gentleman was wrong.
"You are a native of this place?" the stranger said.
"Well, you are happy in having a home. It is what I don't
"You come from far, seemingly?"
"I come now from the south of Europe."
"Oh, indeed, sir. You are an Italian, or Spanish, or French
"I am not either."
Giles did not fill the pause which ensued, and the gentleman, who
seemed of an emotional nature, unable to resist friendship, at
length answered the question.
"I am an Italianized American, a South Carolinian by birth," he
said. "I left my native country on the failure of the Southern
cause, and have never returned to it since."
He spoke no more about himself, and they came to the verge of the
wood. Here, striding over the fence out upon the upland sward,
they could at once see the chimneys of the house in the gorge
immediately beneath their position, silent, still, and pale.
"Can you tell me the time?" the gentleman asked. "My watch has
"It is between twelve and one," said Giles.
His companion expressed his astonishment. "I thought it between
nine and ten at latest! Dear me--dear me!"
He now begged Giles to return, and offered him a gold coin, which
looked like a sovereign, for the assistance rendered. Giles
declined to accept anything, to the surprise of the stranger, who,
on putting the money back into his pocket, said, awkwardly, "I
offered it because I want you to utter no word about this meeting
with me. Will you promise?"
Winterborne promised readily. He thereupon stood still while the
other ascended the slope. At the bottom he looked back dubiously.
Giles would no longer remain when he was so evidently desired to
leave, and returned through the boughs to Hintock.
He suspected that this man, who seemed so distressed and
melancholy, might be that lover and persistent wooer of Mrs.
Charmond whom he had heard so frequently spoken of, and whom it
was said she had treated cavalierly. But he received no
confirmation of his suspicion beyond a report which reached him a
few days later that a gentleman had called up the servants who
were taking care of Hintock House at an hour past midnight; and on
learning that Mrs. Charmond, though returned from abroad, was as
yet in London, he had sworn bitterly, and gone away without
leaving a card or any trace of himself.
The girls who related the story added that he sighed three times
before he swore, but this part of the narrative was not
corroborated. Anyhow, such a gentleman had driven away from the
hotel at Sherton next day in a carriage hired at that inn.
The sunny, leafy week which followed the tender doings of
Midsummer Eve brought a visitor to Fitzpiers's door; a voice that
he knew sounded in the passage. Mr. Melbury had called. At first
he had a particular objection to enter the parlor, because his
boots were dusty, but as the surgeon insisted he waived the point
and came in.
Looking neither to the right nor to the left, hardly at Fitzpiers
himself, he put his hat under his chair, and with a preoccupied
gaze at the floor, he said, "I've called to ask you, doctor, quite
privately, a question that troubles me. I've a daughter, Grace,
an only daughter, as you may have heard. Well, she's been out in
the dew--on Midsummer Eve in particular she went out in thin
slippers to watch some vagary of the Hintock maids--and she's got
a cough, a distinct hemming and hacking, that makes me uneasy.
Now, I have decided to send her away to some seaside place for a
"Send her away!" Fitzpiers's countenance had fallen.
"Yes. And the question is, where would you advise me to send
The timber-merchant had happened to call at a moment when
Fitzpiers was at the spring-tide of a sentiment that Grace was a
necessity of his existence. The sudden pressure of her form upon
his breast as she came headlong round the bush had never ceased to
linger with him, ever since he adopted the manoeuvre for which the
hour and the moonlight and the occasion had been the only excuse.
Now she was to be sent away. Ambition? it could be postponed.
Family? culture and reciprocity of tastes had taken the place of
family nowadays. He allowed himself to be carried forward on the
wave of his desire.
"How strange, how very strange it is," he said, "that you should
have come to me about her just now. I have been thinking every
day of coming to you on the very same errand."
"Ah!--you have noticed, too, that her health----"
"I have noticed nothing the matter with her health, because there
is nothing. But, Mr. Melbury, I have seen your daughter several
times by accident. I have admired her infinitely, and I was
coming to ask you if I may become better acquainted with her--pay
my addresses to her?"
Melbury was looking down as he listened, and did not see the air
of half-misgiving at his own rashness that spread over Fitzpiers's
face as he made this declaration.
"You have--got to know her?" said Melbury, a spell of dead silence
having preceded his utterance, during which his emotion rose with
almost visible effect.
"Yes," said Fitzpiers.
"And you wish to become better acquainted with her? You mean with
a view to marriage--of course that is what you mean?"
"Yes," said the young man. "I mean, get acquainted with her, with
a view to being her accepted lover; and if we suited each other,
what would naturally follow."
The timber-merchant was much surprised, and fairly agitated; his
hand trembled as he laid by his walking-stick. "This takes me
unawares," said he, his voice wellnigh breaking down. "I don't
mean that there is anything unexpected in a gentleman being
attracted by her; but it did not occur to me that it would be you.
I always said," continued he, with a lump in his throat, "that my
Grace would make a mark at her own level some day. That was why I
educated her. I said to myself, 'I'll do it, cost what it may;'
though her mother-law was pretty frightened at my paying out so
much money year after year. I knew it would tell in the end.
'Where you've not good material to work on, such doings would be
waste and vanity,' I said. 'But where you have that material it
is sure to be worth while.'"
"I am glad you don't object," said Fitzpiers, almost wishing that
Grace had not been quite so cheap for him.
"If she is willing I don't object, certainly. Indeed," added the
honest man, "it would be deceit if I were to pretend to feel
anything else than highly honored personally; and it is a great
credit to her to have drawn to her a man of such good professional
station and venerable old family. That huntsman-fellow little
thought how wrong he was about her! Take her and welcome, sir."
"I'll endeavor to ascertain her mind."
"Yes, yes. But she will be agreeable, I should think. She ought
"I hope she may. Well, now you'll expect to see me frequently."
"Oh yes. But, name it all--about her cough, and her going away.
I had quite forgot that that was what I came about."
"I assure you," said the surgeon, "that her cough can only be the
result of a slight cold, and it is not necessary to banish her to
any seaside place at all."
Melbury looked unconvinced, doubting whether he ought to take
Fitzpiers's professional opinion in circumstances which naturally
led him to wish to keep her there. The doctor saw this, and
honestly dreading to lose sight of her, he said, eagerly, 'Between
ourselves, if I am successful with her I will take her away myself
for a month or two, as soon as we are married, which I hope will
be before the chilly weather comes on. This will be so very much
better than letting her go now."
The proposal pleased Melbury much. There could be hardly any
danger in postponing any desirable change of air as long as the
warm weather lasted, and for such a reason. Suddenly recollecting
himself, he said, "Your time must be precious, doctor. I'll get
home-along. I am much obliged to ye. As you will see her often,
you'll discover for yourself if anything serious is the matter."
"I can assure you it is nothing," said Fitzpiers, who had seen
Grace much oftener already than her father knew of.
When he was gone Fitzpiers paused, silent, registering his
sensations, like a man who has made a plunge for a pearl into a
medium of which he knows not the density or temperature. But he
had done it, and Grace was the sweetest girl alive.
As for the departed visitor, his own last words lingered in
Melbury's ears as he walked homeward; he felt that what he had
said in the emotion of the moment was very stupid, ungenteel, and
unsuited to a dialogue with an educated gentleman, the smallness
of whose practice was more than compensated by the former
greatness of his family. He had uttered thoughts before they were
weighed, and almost before they were shaped. They had expressed
in a certain sense his feeling at Fitzpiers's news, but yet they
were not right. Looking on the ground, and planting his stick at
each tread as if it were a flag-staff, he reached his own
precincts, where, as he passed through the court, he automatically
stopped to look at the men working in the shed and around. One of
them asked him a question about wagon-spokes.
"Hey?" said Melbury, looking hard at him. The man repeated the
Melbury stood; then turning suddenly away without answering, he
went up the court and entered the house. As time was no object
with the journeymen, except as a thing to get past, they leisurely
surveyed the door through which he had disappeared.
"What maggot has the gaffer got in his head now?" said Tangs the
elder. "Sommit to do with that chiel of his! When you've got a
maid of yer own, John Upjohn, that costs ye what she costs him,
that will take the squeak out of your Sunday shoes, John! But
you'll never be tall enough to accomplish such as she; and 'tis a
lucky thing for ye, John, as things be. Well, be ought to have a
dozen--that would bring him to reason. I see 'em walking together
last Sunday, and when they came to a puddle he lifted her over
like a halfpenny doll. He ought to have a dozen; he'd let 'em
walk through puddles for themselves then."
Meanwhile Melbury had entered the house with the look of a man who
sees a vision before him. His wife was in the room. Without
taking off his hat he sat down at random.
"Luce--we've done it!" he said. "Yes--the thing is as I expected.
The spell, that I foresaw might be worked, has worked. She's done
it, and done it well. Where is she--Grace, I mean?"
"Up in her room--what has happened!"
Mr. Melbury explained the circumstances as coherently as he could.
"I told you so," he said. "A maid like her couldn't stay hid
long, even in a place like this. But where is Grace? Let's have
her down. Here--Gra-a-ace!"
She appeared after a reasonable interval, for she was sufficiently
spoiled by this father of hers not to put herself in a hurry,
however impatient his tones. "What is it, father?" said she, with
"Why, you scamp, what's this you've been doing? Not home here more
than six months, yet, instead of confining yourself to your
father's rank, making havoc in the educated classes."
Though accustomed to show herself instantly appreciative of her
father's meanings, Grace was fairly unable to look anyhow but at a
"No, no--of course you don't know what I mean, or you pretend you
don't; though, for my part, I believe women can see these things
through a double hedge. But I suppose I must tell ye. Why,
you've flung your grapnel over the doctor, and he's coming
"Only think of that, my dear! Don't you feel it a triumph?" said
"Coming courting! I've done nothing to make him," Grace exclaimed.
"'Twasn't necessary that you should, 'Tis voluntary that rules in
these things....Well, he has behaved very honorably, and asked my
consent. You'll know what to do when he gets here, I dare say. I
needn't tell you to make it all smooth for him."
"You mean, to lead him on to marry me?"
"I do. Haven't I educated you for it?"
Grace looked out of the window and at the fireplace with no
animation in her face. "Why is it settled off-hand in this way?"
said she, coquettishly. "You'll wait till you hear what I think
of him, I suppose?"
"Oh yes, of course. But you see what a good thing it will be."
She weighed the statement without speaking.
"You will be restored to the society you've been taken away from,"
continued her father; "for I don't suppose he'll stay here long."
She admitted the advantage; but it was plain that though Fitzpiers
exercised a certain fascination over her when he was present, or
even more, an almost psychic influence, and though his impulsive
act in the wood had stirred her feelings indescribably, she had
never regarded him in the light of a destined husband. "I don't
know what to answer," she said. "I have learned that he is very
"He's all right, and he's coming here to see you."
A premonition that she could not resist him if he came strangely
moved her. "Of course, father, you remember that it is only
lately that Giles--"
"You know that you can't think of him. He has given up all claim
She could not explain the subtleties of her feeling as he could
state his opinion, even though she had skill in speech, and her
father had none. That Fitzpiers acted upon her like a dram,
exciting her, throwing her into a novel atmosphere which biassed
her doings until the influence was over, when she felt something
of the nature of regret for the mood she had experienced--still
more if she reflected on the silent, almost sarcastic, criticism
apparent in Winterborne's air towards her--could not be told to
this worthy couple in words.
It so happened that on this very day Fitzpiers was called away
from Hintock by an engagement to attend some medical meetings, and
his visits, therefore, did not begin at once. A note, however,
arrived from him addressed to Grace, deploring his enforced
absence. As a material object this note was pretty and superfine,
a note of a sort that she had been unaccustomed to see since her
return to Hintock, except when a school friend wrote to her--a
rare instance, for the girls were respecters of persons, and many
cooled down towards the timber-dealer's daughter when she was out
of sight. Thus the receipt of it pleased her, and she afterwards
walked about with a reflective air.
In the evening her father, who knew that the note had come, said,
"Why be ye not sitting down to answer your letter? That's what
young folks did in my time."
She replied that it did not require an answer.
"Oh, you know best," he said. Nevertheless, he went about his
business doubting if she were right in not replying; possibly she
might be so mismanaging matters as to risk the loss of an alliance
which would bring her much happiness.
Melbury's respect for Fitzpiers was based less on his professional
position, which was not much, than on the standing of his family
in the county in by-gone days. That implicit faith in members of
long-established families, as such, irrespective of their personal
condition or character, which is still found among old-fashioned
people in the rural districts reached its full intensity in
Melbury. His daughter's suitor was descended from a family he had
heard of in his grandfather's time as being once great, a family
which had conferred its name upon a neighboring village; how,
then, could anything be amiss in this betrothal?
"I must keep her up to this," he said to his wife. "She sees it
is for her happiness; but still she's young, and may want a little
prompting from an older tongue."
With this in view he took her out for a walk, a custom of his when
he wished to say anything specially impressive. Their way was
over the top of that lofty ridge dividing their woodland from the
cider district, whence they had in the spring beheld the miles of
apple-trees in bloom. All was now deep green. The spot recalled
to Grace's mind the last occasion of her presence there, and she
said, "The promise of an enormous apple-crop is fulfilling itself,
is it not? I suppose Giles is getting his mills and presses
This was just what her father had not come there to talk about.
Without replying he raised his arm, and moved his finger till he
fixed it at a point. "There," he said, "you see that plantation
reaching over the hill like a great slug, and just behind the hill
a particularly green sheltered bottom? That's where Mr.
Fitzpiers's family were lords of the manor for I don't know how
many hundred years, and there stands the village of Buckbury
Fitzpiers. A wonderful property 'twas--wonderful!"
"But they are not lords of the manor there now."
"Why, no. But good and great things die as well as little and
foolish. The only ones representing the family now, I believe,
are our doctor and a maiden lady living I don't know where. You
can't help being happy, Grace, in allying yourself with such a
romantical family. You'll feel as if you've stepped into
"We've been at Hintock as long as they've been at Buckbury; is it
not so? You say our name occurs in old deeds continually."
"Oh yes--as yeomen, copyholders, and such like. But think how
much better this will be for 'ee. You'll be living a high
intellectual life, such as has now become natural to you; and
though the doctor's practice is small here, he'll no doubt go to a
dashing town when he's got his hand in, and keep a stylish
carriage, and you'll be brought to know a good many ladies of
excellent society. If you should ever meet me then, Grace, you
can drive past me, looking the other way. I shouldn't expect you
to speak to me, or wish such a thing, unless it happened to be in
some lonely, private place where 'twouldn't lower ye at all.
Don't think such men as neighbor Giles your equal. He and I shall
be good friends enough, but he's not for the like of you. He's
lived our rough and homely life here, and his wife's life must be
rough and homely likewise."
So much pressure could not but produce some displacement. As
Grace was left very much to herself, she took advantage of one
fine day before Fitzpiers's return to drive into the aforesaid
vale where stood the village of Buckbury Fitzpiers. Leaving her
father's man at the inn with the horse and gig, she rambled onward
to the ruins of a castle, which stood in a field hard by. She had
no doubt that it represented the ancient stronghold of the
The remains were few, and consisted mostly of remnants of the
lower vaulting, supported on low stout columns surmounted by the
crochet capital of the period. The two or three arches of these
vaults that were still in position were utilized by the adjoining
farmer as shelter for his calves, the floor being spread with
straw, amid which the young creatures rustled, cooling their
thirsty tongues by licking the quaint Norman carving, which
glistened with the moisture. It was a degradation of even such a
rude form of art as this to be treatad so grossly, she thought,
and for the first time the family of Fitzpiers assumed in her
imagination the hues of a melancholy romanticism.
It was soon time to drive home, and she traversed the distance
with a preoccupied mind. The idea of so modern a man in science
and aesthetics as the young surgeon springing out of relics so
ancient was a kind of novelty she had never before experienced.
The combination lent him a social and intellectual interest which
she dreaded, so much weight did it add to the strange influence he
exercised upon her whenever he came near her.
In an excitement which was not love, not ambition, rather a
fearful consciousness of hazard in the air, she awaited his
Meanwhile her father was awaiting him also. In his house there
was an old work on medicine, published towards the end of the last
century, and to put himself in harmony with events Melbury spread
this work on his knees when he had done his day's business, and
read about Galen, Hippocrates, and Herophilus--of the dogmatic,
the empiric, the hermetical, and other sects of practitioners that
have arisen in history; and thence proceeded to the classification
of maladies and the rules for their treatment, as laid down in
this valuable book with absolute precision. Melbury regretted
that the treatise was so old, fearing that he might in consequence
be unable to hold as complete a conversation as he could wish with
Mr. Fitzpiers, primed, no doubt, with more recent discoveries.
The day of Fitzpiers's return arrived, and he sent to say that he
would call immediately. In the little time that was afforded for
putting the house in order the sweeping of Melbury's parlor was as
the sweeping of the parlor at the Interpreter's which wellnigh
choked the Pilgrim. At the end of it Mrs. Melbury sat down,
folded her hands and lips, and waited. Her husband restlessly
walked in and out from the timber-yard, stared at the interior of
the room, jerked out "ay, ay," and retreated again. Between four
and five Fitzpiers arrived, hitching his horse to the hook outside
As soon as he had walked in and perceived that Grace was not in
the room, he seemed to have a misgiving. Nothing less than her
actual presence could long keep him to the level of this
impassioned enterprise, and that lacking he appeared as one who
wished to retrace his steps.
He mechanically talked at what he considered a woodland matron's
level of thought till a rustling was heard on the stairs, and
Grace came in. Fitzpiers was for once as agitated as she. Over
and above the genuine emotion which she raised in his heart there
hung the sense that he was casting a die by impulse which he might
not have thrown by judgment.
Mr. Melbury was not in the room. Having to attend to matters in
the yard, he had delayed putting on his afternoon coat and
waistcoat till the doctor's appearance, when, not wishing to be
backward in receiving him, he entered the parlor hastily buttoning
up those garments. Grace's fastidiousness was a little distressed
that Fitzpiers should see by this action the strain his visit was
putting upon her father; and to make matters worse for her just
then, old Grammer seemed to have a passion for incessantly pumping
in the back kitchen, leaving the doors open so that the banging
and splashing were distinct above the parlor conversation.
Whenever the chat over the tea sank into pleasant desultoriness
Mr. Melbury broke in with speeches of labored precision on very
remote topics, as if he feared to let Fitzpiers's mind dwell
critically on the subject nearest the hearts of all. In truth a
constrained manner was natural enough in Melbury just now, for the
greatest interest of his life was reaching its crisis. Could the
real have been beheld instead of the corporeal merely, the corner
of the room in which he sat would have been filled with a form
typical of anxious suspense, large-eyed, tight-lipped, awaiting
the issue. That paternal hopes and fears so intense should be
bound up in the person of one child so peculiarly circumstanced,
and not have dispersed themselves over the larger field of a whole
family, involved dangerous risks to future happiness.
Fitzpiers did not stay more than an hour, but that time had
apparently advanced his sentiments towards Grace, once and for
all, from a vaguely liquescent to an organic shape. She would not
have accompanied him to the door in response to his whispered
"Come!" if her mother had not said in a matter-of-fact way, "Of
course, Grace; go to the door with Mr. Fitzpiers." Accordingly
Grace went, both her parents remaining in the room. When the
young pair were in the great brick-floored hall the lover took the
girl's hand in his, drew it under his arm, and thus led her on to
the door, where he stealthily kissed her.
She broke from him trembling, blushed and turned aside, hardly
knowing how things had advanced to this. Fitzpiers drove off,
kissing his hand to her, and waving it to Melbury who was visible
through the window. Her father returned the surgeon's action with
a great flourish of his own hand and a satisfied smile.
The intoxication that Fitzpiers had, as usual, produced in Grace's
brain during the visit passed off somewhat with his withdrawal.
She felt like a woman who did not know what she had been doing for
the previous hour, but supposed with trepidation that the
afternoon's proceedings, though vague, had amounted to an
engagement between herself and the handsome, coercive,
This visit was a type of many which followed it during the long
summer days of that year. Grace was borne along upon a stream of
reasonings, arguments, and persuasions, supplemented, it must be
added, by inclinations of her own at times. No woman is without
aspirations, which may be innocent enough within certain limits;
and Grace had been so trained socially, and educated
intellectually, as to see clearly enough a pleasure in the
position of wife to such a man as Fitzpiers. His material
standing of itself, either present or future, had little in it to
give her ambition, but the possibilities of a refined and
cultivated inner life, of subtle psychological intercourse, had
their charm. It was this rather than any vulgar idea of marrying
well which caused her to float with the current, and to yield to
the immense influence which Fitzpiers exercised over her whenever
she shared his society.
Any observer would shrewdly have prophesied that whether or not
she loved him as yet in the ordinary sense, she was pretty sure to
do so in time.
One evening just before dusk they had taken a rather long walk
together, and for a short cut homeward passed through the
shrubberies of Hintock House--still deserted, and still blankly
confronting with its sightless shuttered windows the surrounding
foliage and slopes. Grace was tired, and they approached the
wall, and sat together on one of the stone sills--still warm with
the sun that had been pouring its rays upon them all the
"This place would just do for us, would it not, dearest," said her
betrothed, as they sat, turning and looking idly at the old
"Oh yes," said Grace, plainly showing that no such fancy had ever
crossed her mind. "She is away from home still," Grace added in a
minute, rather sadly, for she could not forget that she had
somehow lost the valuable friendship of the lady of this bower.
"Who is?--oh, you mean Mrs. Charmond. Do you know, dear, that at
one time I thought you lived here."
"Indeed!" said Grace. "How was that?"
He explained, as far as he could do so without mentioning his
disappointment at finding it was otherwise; and then went on:
"Well, never mind that. Now I want to ask you something. There
is one detail of our wedding which I am sure you will leave to me.
My inclination is not to be married at the horrid little church
here, with all the yokels staring round at us, and a droning
"Where, then, can it be? At a church in town?"
"No. Not at a church at all. At a registry office. It is a
quieter, snugger, and more convenient place in every way."
"Oh," said she, with real distress. "How can I be married except
at church, and with all my dear friends round me?"
"Yeoman Winterborne among them."
"Yes--why not? You know there was nothing serious between him and
"You see, dear, a noisy bell-ringing marriage at church has this
objection in our case: it would be a thing of report a long way
round. Now I would gently, as gently as possible, indicate to you
how inadvisable such publicity would be if we leave Hintock, and I
purchase the practice that I contemplate purchasing at Budmouth--
hardly more than twenty miles off. Forgive my saying that it will
be far better if nobody there knows where you come from, nor
anything about your parents. Your beauty and knowledge and
manners will carry you anywhere if you are not hampered by such
"But could it not be a quiet ceremony, even at church?" she
"I don't see the necessity of going there!" he said, a trifle
impatiently. "Marriage is a civil contract, and the shorter and
simpler it is made the better. People don't go to church when
they take a house, or even when they make a will."
"Oh, Edgar--I don't like to hear you speak like that."
"Well, well--I didn't mean to. But I have mentioned as much to
your father, who has made no objection; and why should you?"
She gave way, deeming the point one on which she ought to allow
sentiment to give way to policy--if there were indeed policy in
his plan. But she was indefinably depressed as they walked
He left her at the door of her father's house. As he receded, and
was clasped out of sight by the filmy shades, he impressed Grace
as a man who hardly appertained to her existence at all.
Cleverer, greater than herself, one outside her mental orbit, as
she considered him, he seemed to be her ruler rather than her
equal, protector, and dear familiar friend.
The disappointment she had experienced at his wish, the shock
given to her girlish sensibilities by his irreverent views of
marriage, together with the sure and near approach of the day
fixed for committing her future to his keeping, made her so
restless that she could scarcely sleep at all that night. She
rose when the sparrows began to walk out of the roof-holes, sat on
the floor of her room in the dim light, and by-and-by peeped out
behind the window-curtains. It was even now day out-of-doors,
though the tones of morning were feeble and wan, and it was long
before the sun would be perceptible in this overshadowed vale.
Not a sound came from any of the out-houses as yet. The tree-
trunks, the road, the out-buildings, the garden, every object wore
that aspect of mesmeric fixity which the suspensive quietude of
daybreak lends to such scenes. Outside her window helpless
immobility seemed to be combined with intense consciousness; a
meditative inertness possessed all things, oppressively
contrasting with her own active emotions. Beyond the road were
some cottage roofs and orchards; over these roofs and over the
apple-trees behind, high up the slope, and backed by the
plantation on the crest, was the house yet occupied by her future
husband, the rough-cast front showing whitely through its
creepers. The window-shutters were closed, the bedroom curtains
closely drawn, and not the thinnest coil of smoke rose from the
Something broke the stillness. The front door of the house she
was gazing at opened softly, and there came out into the porch a
female figure, wrapped in a large shawl, beneath which was visible
the white skirt of a long loose garment. A gray arm, stretching
from within the porch, adjusted the shawl over the woman's
shoulders; it was withdrawn and disappeared, the door closing
The woman went quickly down the box-edged path between the
raspberries and currants, and as she walked her well-developed
form and gait betrayed her individuality. It was Suke Damson, the
affianced one of simple young Tim Tangs. At the bottom of the
garden she entered the shelter of the tall hedge, and only the top
of her head could be seen hastening in the direction of her own
Grace had recognized, or thought she recognized, in the gray arm
stretching from the porch, the sleeve of a dressing-gown which Mr.
Fitzpiers had been wearing on her own memorable visit to him. Her
face fired red. She had just before thought of dressing herself
and taking a lonely walk under the trees, so coolly green this
early morning; but she now sat down on her bed and fell into
reverie. It seemed as if hardly any time had passed when she
heard the household moving briskly about, and breakfast preparing
down-stairs; though, on rousing herself to robe and descend, she
found that the sun was throwing his rays completely over the tree-
tops, a progress of natural phenomena denoting that at least three
hours had elapsed since she last looked out of the window.
When attired she searched about the house for her father; she
found him at last in the garden, stooping to examine the potatoes
for signs of disease. Hearing her rustle, he stood up and
stretched his back and arms, saying, "Morning t'ye, Gracie. I
congratulate ye. It is only a month to-day to the time!"
She did not answer, but, without lifting her dress, waded between
the dewy rows of tall potato-green into the middle of the plot
where he was.
"I have been thinking very much about my position this morning--
ever since it was light," she began, excitedly, and trembling so
that she could hardly stand. "And I feel it is a false one. I
wish not to marry Mr. Fitzpiers. I wish not to marry anybody; but
I'll marry Giles Winterborne if you say I must as an alternative."
Her father's face settled into rigidity, he turned pale, and came
deliberately out of the plot before he answered her. She had
never seen him look so incensed before.
"Now, hearken to me," he said. "There's a time for a woman to
alter her mind; and there's a time when she can no longer alter
it, if she has any right eye to her parents' honor and the
seemliness of things. That time has come. I won't say to ye, you
SHALL marry him. But I will say that if you refuse, I shall
forever be ashamed and a-weary of ye as a daughter, and shall look
upon you as the hope of my life no more. What do you know about
life and what it can bring forth, and how you ought to act to lead
up to best ends? Oh, you are an ungrateful maid, Grace; you've
seen that fellow Giles, and he has got over ye; that's where the
secret lies, I'll warrant me!"
"No, father, no! It is not Giles--it is something I cannot tell
"Well, make fools of us all; make us laughing-stocks; break it
off; have your own way."
"But who knows of the engagement as yet? how can breaking it
Melbury then by degrees admitted that he had mentioned the
engagement to this acquaintance and to that, till she perceived
that in his restlessness and pride he had published it everywhere.
She went dismally away to a bower of laurel at the top of the
garden. Her father followed her.
"It is that Giles Winterborne!" he said, with an upbraiding gaze
"No, it is not; though for that matter you encouraged him once,"
she said, troubled to the verge of despair. "It is not Giles, it
is Mr. Fitzpiers."
"You've had a tiff--a lovers' tiff--that's all, I suppose
"It is some woman--"
"Ay, ay; you are jealous. The old story. Don't tell me. Now do
you bide here. I'll send Fitzpiers to you. I saw him smoking in
front of his house but a minute by-gone."
He went off hastily out of the garden-gate and down the lane. But
she would not stay where she was; and edging through a slit in the
garden-fence, walked away into the wood. Just about here the
trees were large and wide apart, and there was no undergrowth, so
that she could be seen to some distance; a sylph-like, greenish-
white creature, as toned by the sunlight and leafage. She heard a
foot-fall crushing dead leaves behind her, and found herself
reconnoitered by Fitzpiers himself, approaching gay and fresh as
the morning around them.
His remote gaze at her had been one of mild interest rather than
of rapture. But she looked so lovely in the green world about
her, her pink cheeks, her simple light dress, and the delicate
flexibility of her movement acquired such rarity from their wild-
wood setting, that his eyes kindled as he drew near.
"My darling, what is it? Your father says you are in the pouts,
and jealous, and I don't know what. Ha! ha! ha! as if there were
any rival to you, except vegetable nature, in this home of
recluses! We know better."
"Jealous; oh no, it is not so," said she, gravely. "That's a
mistake of his and yours, sir. I spoke to him so closely about
the question of marriage with you that he did not apprehend my
state of mind."
"But there's something wrong--eh?" he asked, eying her narrowly,
and bending to kiss her. She shrank away, and his purposed kiss
"What is it?" he said, more seriously for this little defeat.
She made no answer beyond, "Mr. Fitzpiers, I have had no
breakfast, I must go in."
"Come," he insisted, fixing his eyes upon her. "Tell me at once,
It was the greater strength against the smaller; but she was
mastered less by his manner than by her own sense of the
unfairness of silence. "I looked out of the window," she said,
with hesitation. "I'll tell you by-and-by. I must go in-doors.
I have had no breakfast."
By a sort of divination his conjecture went straight to the fact.
"Nor I," said he, lightly. "Indeed, I rose late to-day. I have
had a broken night, or rather morning. A girl of the village--I
don't know her name--came and rang at my bell as soon as it was
light--between four and five, I should think it was--perfectly
maddened with an aching tooth. As no-body heard her ring, she
threw some gravel at my window, till at last I heard her and
slipped on my dressing-gown and went down. The poor thing begged
me with tears in her eyes to take out her tormentor, if I dragged
her head off. Down she sat and out it came--a lovely molar, not a
speck upon it; and off she went with it in her handkerchief, much
contented, though it would have done good work for her for fifty
years to come."
It was all so plausible--so completely explained. knowing nothing
of the incident in the wood on old Midsummer-eve, Grace felt that
her suspicions were unworthy and absurd, and with the readiness of
an honest heart she jumped at the opportunity of honoring his
word. At the moment of her mental liberation the bushes about the
garden had moved, and her father emerged into the shady glade.
"Well, I hope it is made up?" he said, cheerily.
"Oh yes," said Fitzpiers, with his eyes fixed on Grace, whose eyes
were shyly bent downward.
"Now," said her father, "tell me, the pair of ye, that you still
mean to take one another for good and all; and on the strength o't
you shall have another couple of hundred paid down. I swear it by
Fitzpiers took her hand. "We declare it, do we not, my dear
Grace?" said he.
Relieved of her doubt, somewhat overawed, and ever anxious to
please, she was disposed to settle the matter; yet, womanlike, she
would not relinquish her opportunity of asking a concession of
some sort. "If our wedding can be at church, I say yes," she
answered, in a measured voice. "If not, I say no."
Fitzpiers was generous in his turn. "It shall be so," he
rejoined, gracefully. "To holy church we'll go, and much good may
it do us."
They returned through the bushes indoors, Grace walking, full of
thought between the other two, somewhat comforted, both by
Fitzpiers's ingenious explanation and by the sense that she was
not to be deprived of a religious ceremony. "So let it be," she
said to herself. "Pray God it is for the best."
From this hour there was no serious attempt at recalcitration on
her part. Fitzpiers kept himself continually near her, dominating
any rebellious impulse, and shaping her will into passive
concurrence with all his desires. Apart from his lover-like
anxiety to possess her, the few golden hundreds of the timber-
dealer, ready to hand, formed a warm background to Grace's lovely
face, and went some way to remove his uneasiness at the prospect
of endangering his professional and social chances by an alliance
with the family of a simple countryman.
The interim closed up its perspective surely and silently.
Whenever Grace had any doubts of her position, the sense of
contracting time was like a shortening chamber: at other moments
she was comparatively blithe. Day after day waxed and waned; the
one or two woodmen who sawed, shaped, spokeshaved on her father's
premises at this inactive season of the year, regularly came and
unlocked the doors in the morning, locked them in the evening,
supped, leaned over their garden-gates for a whiff of evening air,
and to catch any last and farthest throb of news from the outer
world, which entered and expired at Little Hintock like the
exhausted swell of a wave in some innermost cavern of some
innermost creek of an embayed sea; yet no news interfered with the
nuptial purpose at their neighbor's house. The sappy green twig-
tips of the season's growth would not, she thought, be appreciably
woodier on the day she became a wife, so near was the time; the
tints of the foliage would hardly have changed. Everything was so
much as usual that no itinerant stranger would have supposed a
woman's fate to be hanging in the balance at that summer's
But there were preparations, imaginable readily enough by those
who had special knowledge. In the remote and fashionable town of
Sandbourne something was growing up under the hands of several
persons who had never seen Grace Melbury, never would see her, or
care anything about her at all, though their creation had such
interesting relation to her life that it would enclose her very
heart at a moment when that heart would beat, if not with more
emotional ardor, at least with more emotional turbulence than at
any previous time.
Why did Mrs. Dollery's van, instead of passing along at the end of
the smaller village to Great Hintock direct, turn one Saturday
night into Little Hintock Lane, and never pull up till it reached
Mr. Melbury's gates? The gilding shine of evening fell upon a
large, flat box not less than a yard square, and safely tied with
cord, as it was handed out from under the tilt with a great deal
of care. But it was not heavy for its size; Mrs. Dollery herself
carried it into the house. Tim Tangs, the hollow-turner, Bawtree,
Suke Damson, and others, looked knowing, and made remarks to each
other as they watched its entrance. Melbury stood at the door of
the timber-shed in the attitude of a man to whom such an arrival
was a trifling domestic detail with which he did not condescend to
be concerned. Yet he well divined the contents of that box, and
was in truth all the while in a pleasant exaltation at the proof
that thus far, at any rate, no disappointment had supervened.
While Mrs. Dollery remained--which was rather long, from her sense
of the importance of her errand--he went into the out-house; but
as soon as she had had her say, been paid, and had rumbled away,
he entered the dwelling, to find there what he knew he should
find--his wife and daughter in a flutter of excitement over the
wedding-gown, just arrived from the leading dress-maker of
Sandbourne watering-place aforesaid.
During these weeks Giles Winterborne was nowhere to be seen or
heard of. At the close of his tenure in Hintock he had sold some
of his furniture, packed up the rest--a few pieces endeared by
associations, or necessary to his occupation--in the house of a
friendly neighbor, and gone away. People said that a certain
laxity had crept into his life; that he had never gone near a
church latterly, and had been sometimes seen on Sundays with
unblacked boots, lying on his elbow under a tree, with a cynical
gaze at surrounding objects. He was likely to return to Hintock
when the cider-making season came round, his apparatus being
stored there, and travel with his mill and press from village to
The narrow interval that stood before the day diminished yet.
There was in Grace's mind sometimes a certain anticipative
satisfaction, the satisfaction of feeling that she would be the
heroine of an hour; moreover, she was proud, as a cultivated
woman, to be the wife of a cultivated man. It was an opportunity
denied very frequently to young women in her position, nowadays
not a few; those in whom parental discovery of the value of
education has implanted tastes which parental circles fail to
gratify. But what an attenuation was this cold pride of the dream
of her youth, in which she had pictured herself walking in state
towards the altar, flushed by the purple light and bloom of her
own passion, without a single misgiving as to the sealing of the
bond, and fervently receiving as her due
"The homage of a thousand hearts; the fond, deep love of one."
Everything had been clear then, in imagination; now something was
undefined. She had little carking anxieties; a curious
fatefulness seemed to rule her, and she experienced a mournful
want of some one to confide in.
The day loomed so big and nigh that her prophetic ear could, in
fancy, catch the noise of it, hear the murmur of the villagers as
she came out of church, imagine the jangle of the three thin-toned
Hintock bells. The dialogues seemed to grow louder, and the ding-
ding-dong of those three crazed bells more persistent. She awoke:
the morning had come.
Five hours later she was the wife of Fitzpiers.
The chief hotel at Sherton-Abbas was an old stone-fronted inn with
a yawning arch, under which vehicles were driven by stooping
coachmen to back premises of wonderful commodiousness. The
windows to the street were mullioned into narrow lights, and only
commanded a view of the opposite houses; hence, perhaps, it arose
that the best and most luxurious private sitting-room that the inn
could afford over-looked the nether parts of the establishment,
where beyond the yard were to be seen gardens and orchards, now
bossed, nay incrusted, with scarlet and gold fruit, stretching to
infinite distance under a luminous lavender mist. The time was
"When the fair apples, red as evening sky,
Do bend the tree unto the fruitful ground,
When juicy pears, and berries of black dye,
Do dance in air, and call the eyes around."
The landscape confronting the window might, indeed, have been part
of the identical stretch of country which the youthful Chatterton
had in his mind.
In this room sat she who had been the maiden Grace Melbury till
the finger of fate touched her and turned her to a wife. It was
two months after the wedding, and she was alone. Fitzpiers had
walked out to see the abbey by the light of sunset, but she had
been too fatigued to accompany him. They had reached the last
stage of a long eight-weeks' tour, and were going on to Hintock
In the yard, between Grace and the orchards, there progressed a
scene natural to the locality at this time of the year. An apple-
mill and press had been erected on the spot, to which some men
were bringing fruit from divers points in mawn-baskets, while
others were grinding them, and others wringing down the pomace,
whose sweet juice gushed forth into tubs and pails. The
superintendent of these proceedings, to whom the others spoke as
master, was a young yeoman of prepossessing manner and aspect,
whose form she recognized in a moment. He had hung his coat to a
nail of the out-house wall, and wore his shirt-sleeves rolled up
beyond his elbows, to keep them unstained while he rammed the
pomace into the bags of horse-hair. Fragments of apple-rind had
alighted upon the brim of his hat--probably from the bursting of a
bag--while brown pips of the same fruit were sticking among the
down upon his fine, round arms.
She realized in a moment how he had come there. Down in the heart
of the apple country nearly every farmer kept up a cider-making
apparatus and wring-house for his own use, building up the pomace
in great straw "cheeses," as they were called; but here, on the
margin of Pomona's plain, was a debatable land neither orchard nor
sylvan exclusively, where the apple produce was hardly sufficient
to warrant each proprietor in keeping a mill of his own. This was
the field of the travelling cider-maker. His press and mill were
fixed to wheels instead of being set up in a cider-house; and with
a couple of horses, buckets, tubs, strainers, and an assistant or
two, he wandered from place to place, deriving very satisfactory
returns for his trouble in such a prolific season as the present.
The back parts of the town were just now abounding with apple-
gatherings. They stood in the yards in carts, baskets, and loose
heaps; and the blue. stagnant air of autumn which hung over
everything was heavy with a sweet cidery smell. Cakes of pomace
lay against the walls in the yellow sun, where they were drying to
be used as fuel. Yet it was not the great make of the year as
yet; before the standard crop came in there accumulated, in
abundant times like this, a large superfluity of early apples, and
windfalls from the trees of later harvest, which would not keep
long. Thus, in the baskets, and quivering in the hopper of the
mill, she saw specimens of mixed dates, including the mellow
countenances of streaked-jacks, codlins, costards, stubbards,
ratheripes, and other well-known friends of her ravenous youth.
Grace watched the head-man with interest. The slightest sigh
escaped her. Perhaps she thought of the day--not so far distant--
when that friend of her childhood had met her by her father's
arrangement in this same town, warm with hope, though diffident,
and trusting in a promise rather implied than given. Or she might
have thought of days earlier yet--days of childhood--when her
mouth was somewhat more ready to receive a kiss from his than was
his to bestow one. However, all that was over. She had felt
superior to him then, and she felt superior to him now.
She wondered why he never looked towards her open window. She did
not know that in the slight commotion caused by their arrival at
the inn that afternoon Winterborne had caught sight of her through
the archway, had turned red, and was continuing his work with more
concentrated attention on the very account of his discovery.
Robert Creedle, too, who travelled with Giles, had been
incidentally informed by the hostler that Dr. Fitzpiers and his
young wife were in the hotel, after which news Creedle kept
shaking his head and saying to himself, "Ah!" very audibly,
between his thrusts at the screw of the cider-press.
"Why the deuce do you sigh like that, Robert?" asked Winterborne,
"Ah, maister--'tis my thoughts--'tis my thoughts!...Yes, ye've
lost a hundred load o' timber well seasoned; ye've lost five
hundred pound in good money; ye've lost the stone-windered house
that's big enough to hold a dozen families; ye've lost your share
of half a dozen good wagons and their horses--all lost!--through
your letting slip she that was once yer own!"
"Good God, Creedle, you'll drive me mad!" said Giles, sternly.
"Don't speak of that any more!"
Thus the subject had ended in the yard. Meanwhile, the passive
cause of all this loss still regarded the scene. She was
beautifully dressed; she was seated in the most comfortable room
that the inn afforded; her long journey had been full of variety,
and almost luxuriously performed--for Fitzpiers did not study
economy where pleasure was in question. Hence it perhaps arose
that Giles and all his belongings seemed sorry and common to her
for the moment--moving in a plane so far removed from her own of
late that she could scarcely believe she had ever found congruity
therein. "No--I could never have married him!" she said, gently
shaking her head. "Dear father was right. It would have been too
coarse a life for me." And she looked at the rings of sapphire and
opal upon her white and slender fingers that had been gifts from
Seeing that Giles still kept his back turned, and with a little of
the above-described pride of life--easily to be understood, and
possibly excused, in a young, inexperienced woman who thought she
had married well--she said at last, with a smile on her lips, "Mr.
He appeared to take no heed, and she said a second time, "Mr.
Even now he seemed not to hear, though a person close enough to
him to see the expression of his face might have doubted it; and
she said a third time, with a timid loudness, "Mr. Winterborne!
What, have you forgotten my voice?" She remained with her lips
parted in a welcoming smile.
He turned without surprise, and came deliberately towards the
window. "Why do you call me?" he said, with a sternness that took
her completely unawares, his face being now pale. "Is it not
enough that you see me here moiling and muddling for my daily
bread while you are sitting there in your success, that you can't
refrain from opening old wounds by calling out my name?"
She flushed, and was struck dumb for some moments; but she forgave
his unreasoning anger, knowing so well in what it had its root.
"I am sorry I offended you by speaking," she replied, meekly.
"Believe me, I did not intend to do that. I could hardly sit here
so near you without a word of recognition."
Winterborne's heart had swollen big, and his eyes grown moist by
this time, so much had the gentle answer of that familiar voice
moved him. He assured her hurriedly, and without looking at her,
that he was not angry. He then managed to ask her, in a clumsy,
constrained way, if she had had a pleasant journey, and seen many
interesting sights. She spoke of a few places that she had
visited, and so the time passed till he withdrew to take his place
at one of the levers which pulled round the screw.
Forgotten her voice! Indeed, he had not forgotten her voice, as
his bitterness showed. But though in the heat of the moment he
had reproached her keenly, his second mood was a far more tender
one--that which could regard her renunciation of such as he as her
glory and her privilege, his own fidelity notwithstanding. He
could have declared with a contemporary poet--
"If I forget,
The salt creek may forget the ocean;
If I forget
The heart whence flows my heart's bright motion,
May I sink meanlier than the worst
Abandoned, outcast, crushed, accurst,
If I forget.
"Though you forget,
No word of mine shall mar your pleasure;
Though you forget,
You filled my barren life with treasure,
You may withdraw the gift you gave;
You still are queen, I still am slave,
Though you forget."
She had tears in her eyes at the thought that she could not remind
him of what he ought to have remembered; that not herself but the
pressure of events had dissipated the dreams of their early youth.
Grace was thus unexpectedly worsted in her encounter with her old
friend. She had opened the window with a faint sense of triumph,
but he had turned it into sadness; she did not quite comprehend
the reason why. In truth it was because she was not cruel enough
in her cruelty. If you have to use the knife, use it, say the
great surgeons; and for her own peace Grace should have contemned
Winterborne thoroughly or not at all. As it was, on closing the
window an indescribable, some might have said dangerous, pity
quavered in her bosom for him.
Presently her husband entered the room, and told her what a
wonderful sunset there was to be seen.
"I have not noticed it. But I have seen somebody out there that
we know," she replied, looking into the court.
Fitzpiers followed the direction of her eyes, and said he did not
"Why, Mr. Winterborne--there he is, cider-making. He combines
that with his other business, you know."
"Oh--that fellow," said Fitzpiers, his curiosity becoming extinct.
She, reproachfully: "What, call Mr. Winterborne a fellow, Edgar?
It is true I was just saying to myself that I never could have
married him; but I have much regard for him, and always shall."
"Well, do by all means, my dear one. I dare say I am inhuman, and
supercilious, and contemptibly proud of my poor old ramshackle
family; but I do honestly confess to you that I feel as if I
belonged to a different species from the people who are working in
"And from me too, then. For my blood is no better than theirs."
He looked at her with a droll sort of awakening. It was, indeed,
a startling anomaly that this woman of the tribe without should be
standing there beside him as his wife, if his sentiments were as
he had said. In their travels together she had ranged so
unerringly at his level in ideas, tastes, and habits that he had
almost forgotten how his heart had played havoc with his
principles in taking her to him.
"Ah YOU--you are refined and educated into something quite
different," he said, self-assuringly.
"I don't quite like to think that," she murmured with soft regret.
"And I think you underestimate Giles Winterborne. Remember, I was
brought up with him till I was sent away to school, so I cannot be
radically different. At any rate, I don't feel so. That is, no
doubt, my fault, and a great blemish in me. But I hope you will
put up with it, Edgar."
Fitzpiers said that he would endeavor to do so; and as it was now
getting on for dusk, they prepared to perform the last stage of
their journey, so as to arrive at Hintock before it grew very
In less than half an hour they started, the cider-makers in the
yard having ceased their labors and gone away, so that the only
sounds audible there now were the trickling of the juice from the
tightly screwed press, and the buzz of a single wasp, which had
drunk itself so tipsy that it was unconscious of nightfall. Grace
was very cheerful at the thought of being soon in her sylvan home,
but Fitzpiers sat beside her almost silent. An indescribable
oppressiveness had overtaken him with the near approach of the
journey's end and the realities of life that lay there.
"You don't say a word, Edgar," she observed. "Aren't you glad to
get back? I am."
"You have friends here. I have none."
"But my friends are yours."
"Oh yes--in that sense."
The conversation languished, and they drew near the end of Hintock
Lane. It had been decided that they should, at least for a time,
take up their abode in her father's roomy house, one wing of which
was quite at their service, being almost disused by the Melburys.
Workmen had been painting, papering, and whitewashing this set of
rooms in the wedded pair's absence; and so scrupulous had been the
timber-dealer that there should occur no hitch or disappointment
on their arrival, that not the smallest detail remained undone.
To make it all complete a ground-floor room had been fitted up as
a surgery, with an independent outer door, to which Fitzpiers's
brass plate was screwed--for mere ornament, such a sign being
quite superfluous where everybody knew the latitude and longitude
of his neighbors for miles round.
Melbury and his wife welcomed the twain with affection, and all
the house with deference. They went up to explore their rooms,
that opened from a passage on the left hand of the staircase, the
entrance to which could be shut off on the landing by a door that
Melbury had hung for the purpose. A friendly fire was burning in
the grate, although it was not cold. Fitzpiers said it was too
soon for any sort of meal, they only having dined shortly before
leaving Sherton-Abbas. He would walk across to his old lodging,
to learn how his locum tenens had got on in his absence.
In leaving Melbury's door he looked back at the house. There was
economy in living under that roof, and economy was desirable, but
in some way he was dissatisfied with the arrangement; it immersed
him so deeply in son-in-lawship to Melbury. He went on to his
former residence. His deputy was out, and Fitzpiers fell into
conversation with his former landlady.
"Well, Mrs. Cox, what's the best news?" he asked of her, with
She was a little soured at losing by his marriage so profitable a
tenant as the surgeon had proved to be duling his residence under
her roof; and the more so in there being hardly the remotest
chance of her getting such another settler in the Hintock
solitudes. "'Tis what I don't wish to repeat, sir; least of all
to you," she mumbled.
"Never mind me, Mrs. Cox; go ahead."
"It is what people say about your hasty marrying, Dr. Fitzpiers.
Whereas they won't believe you know such clever doctrines in
physic as they once supposed of ye, seeing as you could marry into
Mr. Melbury's family, which is only Hintock-born, such as me."
"They are kindly welcome to their opinion," said Fitzpiers, not
allowing himself to recognize that he winced. "Anything else?"
"Yes; SHE'S come home at last."
"Oh, indeed!" said Fitzpiers, with but slight interest. "I've
never seen her."
"She has seen you, sir, whether or no."
"Yes; she saw you in some hotel or street for a minute or two
while you were away travelling, and accidentally heard your name;
and when she made some remark about you, Miss Ellis--that's her
maid--told her you was on your wedding-tower with Mr. Melbury's
daughter; and she said, 'He ought to have done better than that.
I fear he has spoiled his chances,' she says."
Fitzpiers did not talk much longer to this cheering housewife, and
walked home with no very brisk step. He entered the door quietly,
and went straight up-stairs to the drawing-room extemporized for
their use by Melbury in his and his bride's absence, expecting to
find her there as he had left her. The fire was burning still,
but there were no lights. He looked into the next apartment,
fitted up as a little dining-room, but no supper was laid. He
went to the top of the stairs, and heard a chorus of voices in the
timber-merchant's parlor below, Grace's being occasionally
Descending, and looking into the room from the door-way, he found
quite a large gathering of neighbors and other acquaintances,
praising and congratulating Mrs. Fitzpiers on her return, among
them being the dairyman, Farmer Bawtree, and the master-blacksmith
from Great Hintock; also the cooper, the hollow-turner, the
exciseman, and some others, with their wives, who lived hard by.
Grace, girl that she was, had quite forgotten her new dignity and
her husband's; she was in the midst of them, blushing, and
receiving their compliments with all the pleasure of old-
Fitzpiers experienced a profound distaste for the situation.
Melbury was nowhere in the room, but Melbury's wife, perceiving
the doctor, came to him. "We thought, Grace and I," she said,
"that as they have called, hearing you were come, we could do no
less than ask them to supper; and then Grace proposed that we
should all sup together, as it is the first night of your return."
By this time Grace had come round to him. "Is it not good of them
to welcome me so warmly?" she exclaimed, with tears of friendship
in her eyes. "After so much good feeling I could not think of our
shutting ourselves up away from them in our own dining-room."
"Certainly not--certainly not," said Fitzpiers; and he entered the
room with the heroic smile of a martyr.
As soon as they sat down to table Melbury came in, and seemed to
see at once that Fitzpiers would much rather have received no such
demonstrative reception. He thereupon privately chid his wife for
her forwardness in the matter. Mrs. Melbury declared that it was
as much Grace's doing as hers, after which there was no more to be
said by that young woman's tender father. By this time Fitzpiers
was making the best of his position among the wide-elbowed and
genial company who sat eating and drinking and laughing and joking
around him; and getting warmed himself by the good cheer, was
obliged to admit that, after all, the supper was not the least
enjoyable he had ever known.
At times, however, the words about his having spoiled his
opportunities, repeated to him as those of Mrs. Charmond, haunted
him like a handwriting on the wall. Then his manner would become
suddenly abstracted. At one moment he would mentally put an
indignant query why Mrs. Charmond or any other woman should make
it her business to have opinions about his opportunities; at
another he thought that he could hardly be angry with her for
taking an interest in the doctor of her own parish. Then he would
drink a glass of grog and so get rid of the misgiving. These
hitches and quaffings were soon perceived by Grace as well as by
her father; and hence both of them were much relieved when the
first of the guests to discover that the hour was growing late
rose and declared that he must think of moving homeward. At the
words Melbury rose as alertly as if lifted by a spring, and in ten
minutes they were gone.
"Now, Grace," said her husband as soon as he found himself alone
with her in their private apartments, "we've had a very pleasant
evening, and everybody has been very kind. But we must come to an
understanding about our way of living here. If we continue in
these rooms there must be no mixing in with your people below. I
can't stand it, and that's the truth."
She had been sadly surprised at the suddenness of his distaste for
those old-fashioned woodland forms of life which in his courtship
he had professed to regard with so much interest. But she
assented in a moment.
"We must be simply your father's tenants," he continued, "and our
goings and comings must be as independent as if we lived
"Certainly, Edgar--I quite see that it must be so."
"But you joined in with all those people in my absence, without
knowing whether I should approve or disapprove. When I came I
couldn't help myself at all."
She, sighing: "Yes--I see I ought to have waited; though they came
unexpectedly, and I thought I had acted for the best."
Thus the discussion ended, and the next day Fitzpiers went on his
old rounds as usual. But it was easy for so super-subtle an eye
as his to discern, or to think he discerned, that he was no longer
regarded as an extrinsic, unfathomed gentleman of limitless
potentiality, scientific and social; but as Mr. Melbury's compeer,
and therefore in a degree only one of themselves. The Hintock
woodlandlers held with all the strength of inherited conviction to
the aristocratic principle, and as soon as they had discovered
that Fitzpiers was one of the old Buckbury Fitzpierses they had
accorded to him for nothing a touching of hat-brims, promptness of
service, and deference of approach, which Melbury had to do
without, though he paid for it over and over. But now, having
proved a traitor to his own cause by this marriage, Fitzpiers was
believed in no more as a superior hedged by his own divinity;
while as doctor he began to be rated no higher than old Jones,
whom they had so long despised.
His few patients seemed in his two months' absence to have
dwindled considerably in number, and no sooner had he returned
than there came to him from the Board of Guardians a complaint
that a pauper had been neglected by his substitute. In a fit of
pride Fitzpiers resigned his appointment as one of the surgeons to
the union, which had been the nucleus of his practice here.
At the end of a fortnight he came in-doors one evening to Grace
more briskly than usual. "They have written to me again about
that practice in Budmouth that I once negotiated for," he said to
her. "The premium asked is eight hundred pounds, and I think that
between your father and myself it ought to be raised. Then we can
get away from this place forever."
The question had been mooted between them before, and she was not
unprepared to consider it. They had not proceeded far with the
discussion when a knock came to the door, and in a minute Grammer
ran up to say that a message had arrived from Hintock House
requesting Dr. Fitzpiers to attend there at once. Mrs. Charmond