Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

Part 3 out of 8

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.9 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

The wind had died down to a calm, and while he was weighing the
circumstances he saw coming along the road through the increasing
mist a figure which, indistinct as it was, he knew well. It was
Grace Melbury, on her way out from the house, probably for a short
evening walk before dark. He arranged himself for a greeting from
her, since she could hardly avoid passing immediately beneath the

But Grace, though she looked up and saw him, was just at that time
too full of the words of her father to give him any encouragement.
The years-long regard that she had had for him was not kindled by
her return into a flame of sufficient brilliancy to make her
rebellious. Thinking that she might not see him, he cried, "Miss
Melbury, here I am."

She looked up again. She was near enough to see the expression of
his face, and the nails in his soles, silver-bright with constant
walking. But she did not reply; and dropping her glance again,
went on.

Winterborne's face grew strange; he mused, and proceeded
automatically with his work. Grace meanwhile had not gone far.
She had reached a gate, whereon she had leaned sadly, and
whispered to herself, "What shall I do?"

A sudden fog came on, and she curtailed her walk, passing under
the tree again on her return. Again he addressed her. "Grace,"
he said, when she was close to the trunk, "speak to me." She shook
her head without stopping, and went on to a little distance, where
she stood observing him from behind the hedge.

Her coldness had been kindly meant. If it was to be done, she had
said to herself, it should be begun at once. While she stood out
of observation Giles seemed to recognize her meaning; with a
sudden start he worked on, climbing higher, and cutting himself
off more and more from all intercourse with the sublunary world.
At last he had worked himself so high up the elm, and the mist had
so thickened, that he could only just be discerned as a dark-gray
spot on the light-gray sky: he would have been altogether out of
notice but for the stroke of his billhook and the flight of a
bough downward, and its crash upon the hedge at intervals.

It was not to be done thus, after all: plainness and candor were
best. She went back a third time; he did not see her now, and she
lingeringly gazed up at his unconscious figure, loath to put an
end to any kind of hope that might live on in him still. "Giles--
Mr. Winterborne," she said.

He was so high amid the fog that he did not hear. "Mr.
Winterborne!" she cried again, and this time he stopped, looked
down, and replied.

"My silence just now was not accident," she said, in an unequal
voice. "My father says it is best not to think too much of that--
engagement, or understanding between us, that you know of. I,
too, think that upon the whole he is right. But we are friends,
you know, Giles, and almost relations."

"Very well," he answered, as if without surprise, in a voice which
barely reached down the tree. "I have nothing to say in
objection--I cannot say anything till I've thought a while."

She added, with emotion in her tone, "For myself, I would have
married you--some day--I think. But I give way, for I see it
would be unwise."

He made no reply, but sat back upon a bough, placed his elbow in a
fork, and rested his head upon his hand. Thus he remained till
the fog and the night had completely enclosed him from her view.

Grace heaved a divided sigh, with a tense pause between, and moved
onward, her heart feeling uncomfortably big and heavy, and her
eyes wet. Had Giles, instead of remaining still, immediately come
down from the tree to her, would she have continued in that filial
acquiescent frame of mind which she had announced to him as final?
If it be true, as women themselves have declared, that one of
their sex is never so much inclined to throw in her lot with a man
for good and all as five minutes after she has told him such a
thing cannot be, the probabilities are that something might have
been done by the appearance of Winterborne on the ground beside
Grace. But he continued motionless and silent in that gloomy
Niflheim or fog-land which involved him, and she proceeded on her

The spot seemed now to be quite deserted. The light from South's
window made rays on the fog, but did not reach the tree. A
quarter of an hour passed, and all was blackness overhead. Giles
had not yet come down.

Then the tree seemed to shiver, then to heave a sigh; a movement
was audible, and Winterborne dropped almost noiselessly to the
ground. He had thought the matter out, and having returned the
ladder and billhook to their places, pursued his way homeward. He
would not allow this incident to affect his outer conduct any more
than the danger to his leaseholds had done, and went to bed as
usual. Two simultaneous troubles do not always make a double
trouble; and thus it came to pass that Giles's practical anxiety
about his houses, which would have been enough to keep him awake
half the night at any other time, was displaced and not reinforced
by his sentimental trouble about Grace Melbury. This severance
was in truth more like a burial of her than a rupture with her;
but he did not realize so much at present; even when he arose in
the morning he felt quite moody and stern: as yet the second note
in the gamut of such emotions, a tender regret for his loss, had
not made itself heard.

A load of oak timber was to be sent away that morning to a builder
whose works were in a town many miles off. The proud trunks were
taken up from the silent spot which had known them through the
buddings and sheddings of their growth for the foregoing hundred
years; chained down like slaves to a heavy timber carriage with
enormous red wheels, and four of the most powerful of Melbury's
horses were harnessed in front to draw them.

The horses wore their bells that day. There were sixteen to the
team, carried on a frame above each animal's shoulders, and tuned
to scale, so as to form two octaves, running from the highest note
on the right or off-side of the leader to the lowest on the left
or near-side of the shaft-horse. Melbury was among the last to
retain horse-bells in that neighborhood; for, living at Little
Hintock, where the lanes yet remained as narrow as before the days
of turnpike roads, these sound-signals were still as useful to him
and his neighbors as they had ever been in former times. Much
backing was saved in the course of a year by the warning notes
they cast ahead; moreover, the tones of all the teams in the
district being known to the carters of each, they could tell a
long way off on a dark night whether they were about to encounter
friends or strangers.

The fog of the previous evening still lingered so heavily over the
woods that the morning could not penetrate the trees till long
after its time. The load being a ponderous one, the lane crooked,
and the air so thick, Winterborne set out, as he often did, to
accompany the team as far as the corner, where it would turn into
a wider road.

So they rumbled on, shaking the foundations of the roadside
cottages by the weight of their progress, the sixteen bells
chiming harmoniously over all, till they had risen out of the
valley and were descending towards the more open route, the sparks
rising from their creaking skid and nearly setting fire to the
dead leaves alongside.

Then occurred one of the very incidents against which the bells
were an endeavor to guard. Suddenly there beamed into their eyes,
quite close to them, the two lamps of a carriage, shorn of rays by
the fog. Its approach had been quite unheard, by reason of their
own noise. The carriage was a covered one, while behind it could
be discerned another vehicle laden with luggage.

Winterborne went to the head of the team, and heard the coachman
telling the carter that he must turn back. The carter declared
that this was impossible.

"You can turn if you unhitch your string-horses," said the

"It is much easier for you to turn than for us," said Winterborne.
"We've five tons of timber on these wheels if we've an ounce."

"But I've another carriage with luggage at my back."

Winterborne admitted the strength of the argument. "But even with
that," he said, "you can back better than we. And you ought to,
for you could hear our bells half a mile off."

"And you could see our lights."

"We couldn't, because of the fog."

"Well, our time's precious," said the coachman, haughtily. "You
are only going to some trumpery little village or other in the
neighborhood, while we are going straight to Italy."

"Driving all the way, I suppose," said Winterborne, sarcastically.

The argument continued in these terms till a voice from the
interior of the carriage inquired what was the matter. It was a

She was briefly informed of the timber people's obstinacy; and
then Giles could hear her telling the footman to direct the timber
people to turn their horses' heads.

The message was brought, and Winterborne sent the bearer back to
say that he begged the lady's pardon, but that he could not do as
she requested; that though he would not assert it to be
impossible, it was impossible by comparison with the slight
difficulty to her party to back their light carriages. As fate
would have it, the incident with Grace Melbury on the previous day
made Giles less gentle than he might otherwise have shown himself,
his confidence in the sex being rudely shaken.

In fine, nothing could move him, and the carriages were compelled
to back till they reached one of the sidings or turnouts
constructed in the bank for the purpose. Then the team came on
ponderously, and the clanging of its sixteen bells as it passed
the discomfited carriages, tilted up against the bank, lent a
particularly triumphant tone to the team's progress--a tone which,
in point of fact, did not at all attach to its conductor's

Giles walked behind the timber, and just as he had got past the
yet stationary carriages he heard a soft voice say, "Who is that
rude man? Not Melbury?" The sex of the speaker was so prominent in
the voice that Winterborne felt a pang of regret.

"No, ma'am. A younger man, in a smaller way of business in Little
Hintock. Winterborne is his name."

Thus they parted company. "Why, Mr. Winterborne," said the
wagoner, when they were out of hearing, "that was She--Mrs.
Charmond! Who'd ha' thought it? What in the world can a woman that
does nothing be cock-watching out here at this time o' day for?
Oh, going to Italy--yes to be sure, I heard she was going abroad,
she can't endure the winter here."

Winterborne was vexed at the incident; the more so that he knew
Mr. Melbury, in his adoration of Hintock House, would be the first
to blame him if it became known. But saying no more, he
accompanied the load to the end of the lane, and then turned back
with an intention to call at South's to learn the result of the
experiment of the preceding evening.

It chanced that a few minutes before this time Grace Melbury, who
now rose soon enough to breakfast with her father, in spite of the
unwontedness of the hour, had been commissioned by him to make the
same inquiry at South's. Marty had been standing at the door when
Miss Melbury arrived. Almost before the latter had spoken, Mrs.
Charmond's carriages, released from the obstruction up the lane,
came bowling along, and the two girls turned to regard the

Mrs. Charmond did not see them, but there was sufficient light for
them to discern her outline between the carriage windows. A
noticeable feature in her tournure was a magnificent mass of
braided locks.

"How well she looks this morning!" said Grace, forgetting Mrs.
Charmond's slight in her generous admiration. "Her hair so
becomes her worn that way. I have never seen any more beautiful!"

"Nor have I, miss," said Marty, dryly, unconsciously stroking her

Grace watched the carriages with lingering regret till they were
out of sight. She then learned of Marty that South was no better.
Before she had come away Winterborne approached the house, but
seeing that one of the two girls standing on the door-step was
Grace, he suddenly turned back again and sought the shelter of his
own home till she should have gone away.


The encounter with the carriages having sprung upon Winterborne's
mind the image of Mrs. Charmond, his thoughts by a natural channel
went from her to the fact that several cottages and other houses
in the two Hintocks, now his own, would fall into her possession
in the event of South's death. He marvelled what people could
have been thinking about in the past to invent such precarious
tenures as these; still more, what could have induced his
ancestors at Hintock, and other village people, to exchange their
old copyholds for life-leases. But having naturally succeeded to
these properties through his father, he had done his best to keep
them in order, though he was much struck with his father's
negligence in not insuring South's life.

After breakfast, still musing on the circumstances, he went up-
stairs, turned over his bed, and drew out a flat canvas bag which
lay between the mattress and the sacking. In this he kept his
leases, which had remained there unopened ever since his father's
death. It was the usual hiding-place among rural lifeholders for
such documents. Winterborne sat down on the bed and looked them
over. They were ordinary leases for three lives, which a member
of the South family, some fifty years before this time, had
accepted of the lord of the manor in lieu of certain copyholds and
other rights, in consideration of having the dilapidated houses
rebuilt by said lord. They had come into his father's possession
chiefly through his mother, who was a South.

Pinned to the parchment of one of the indentures was a letter,
which Winterborne had never seen before. It bore a remote date,
the handwriting being that of some solicitor or agent, and the
signature the landholder's. It was to the effect that at any time
before the last of the stated lives should drop, Mr. Giles
Winterborne, senior, or his representative, should have the
privilege of adding his own and his son's life to the life
remaining on payment of a merely nominal sum; the concession being
in consequence of the elder Winterborne's consent to demolish one
of the houses and relinquish its site, which stood at an awkward
corner of the lane and impeded the way.

The house had been pulled down years before. Why Giles's father
had not taken advantage of his privilege to insert his own and his
son's lives it was impossible to say. The likelihood was that
death alone had hindered him in the execution of his project, as
it surely was, the elder Winterborne having been a man who took
much pleasure in dealing with house property in his small way.

Since one of the Souths still survived, there was not much doubt
that Giles could do what his father had left undone, as far as his
own life was concerned. This possibility cheered him much, for by
those houses hung many things. Melbury's doubt of the young man's
fitness to be the husband of Grace had been based not a little on
the precariousness of his holdings in Little and Great Hintock.
He resolved to attend to the business at once, the fine for
renewal being a sum that he could easily muster. His scheme,
however, could not be carried out in a day; and meanwhile he would
run up to South's, as he had intended to do, to learn the result
of the experiment with the tree.

Marty met him at the door. "Well, Marty," he said; and was
surprised to read in her face that the case was not so hopeful as
he had imagined.

"I am sorry for your labor," she said. "It is all lost. He says
the tree seems taller than ever."

Winterborne looked round at it. Taller the tree certainly did
seem, the gauntness of its now naked stem being more marked than

"It quite terrified him when he first saw what you had done to it
this morning," she added. "He declares it will come down upon us
and cleave us, like 'the sword of the Lord and of Gideon.'"

"Well; can I do anything else?" asked he.

"The doctor says the tree ought to be cut down."

"Oh--you've had the doctor?"

"I didn't send for him Mrs. Charmond, before she left, heard that
father was ill, and told him to attend him at her expense."

"That was very good of her. And he says it ought to be cut down.
We mustn't cut it down without her knowledge, I suppose."

He went up-stairs. There the old man sat, staring at the now
gaunt tree as if his gaze were frozen on to its trunk. Unluckily
the tree waved afresh by this time, a wind having sprung up and
blown the fog away, and his eyes turned with its wavings.

They heard footsteps--a man's, but of a lighter type than usual.
"There is Doctor Fitzpiers again," she said, and descended.
Presently his tread was heard on the naked stairs.

Mr. Fitzpiers entered the sick-chamber just as a doctor is more or
less wont to do on such occasions, and pre-eminently when the room
is that of a humble cottager, looking round towards the patient
with that preoccupied gaze which so plainly reveals that he has
wellnigh forgotten all about the case and the whole circumstances
since he dismissed them from his mind at his last exit from the
same apartment. He nodded to Winterborne, with whom he was
already a little acquainted, recalled the case to his thoughts,
and went leisurely on to where South sat.

Fitzpiers was, on the whole, a finely formed, handsome man. His
eyes were dark and impressive, and beamed with the light either of
energy or of susceptivity--it was difficult to say which; it might
have been a little of both. That quick, glittering, practical
eye, sharp for the surface of things and for nothing beneath it,
he had not. But whether his apparent depth of vision was real, or
only an artistic accident of his corporeal moulding, nothing but
his deeds could reveal.

His face was rather soft than stern, charming than grand, pale
than flushed; his nose--if a sketch of his features be de rigueur
for a person of his pretensions--was artistically beautiful enough
to have been worth doing in marble by any sculptor not over-busy,
and was hence devoid of those knotty irregularities which often
mean power; while the double-cyma or classical curve of his mouth
was not without a looseness in its close. Nevertheless, either
from his readily appreciative mien, or his reflective manner, or
the instinct towards profound things which was said to possess
him, his presence bespoke the philosopher rather than the dandy or
macaroni--an effect which was helped by the absence of trinkets or
other trivialities from his attire, though this was more finished
and up to date than is usually the case among rural practitioners.

Strict people of the highly respectable class, knowing a little
about him by report, might have said that he seemed likely to err
rather in the possession of too many ideas than too few; to be a
dreamy 'ist of some sort, or too deeply steeped in some false kind
of 'ism. However this may be, it will be seen that he was
undoubtedly a somewhat rare kind of gentleman and doctor to have
descended, as from the clouds, upon Little Hintock.

"This is an extraordinary case," he said at last to Winterborne,
after examining South by conversation, look, and touch, and
learning that the craze about the elm was stronger than ever.
"Come down-stairs, and I'll tell you what I think."

They accordingly descended, and the doctor continued, "The tree
must be cut down, or I won't answer for his life."

"'Tis Mrs. Charmond's tree, and I suppose we must get permission?"
said Giles. "If so, as she is gone away, I must speak to her

"Oh--never mind whose tree it is--what's a tree beside a life! Cut
it down. I have not the honor of knowing Mrs. Charmond as yet,
but I am disposed to risk that much with her."

"'Tis timber," rejoined Giles, more scrupulous than he would have
been had not his own interests stood so closely involved.
"They'll never fell a stick about here without it being marked
first, either by her or the agent."

"Then we'll inaugurate a new era forthwith. How long has he
complained of the tree?" asked the doctor of Marty.

"Weeks and weeks, sir. The shape of it seems to haunt him like an
evil spirit. He says that it is exactly his own age, that it has
got human sense, and sprouted up when he was born on purpose to
rule him, and keep him as its slave. Others have been like it
afore in Hintock."

They could hear South's voice up-stairs "Oh, he's rocking this
way; he must come! And then my poor life, that's worth houses upon
houses, will be squashed out o' me. Oh! oh!"

"That's how he goes on," she added. "And he'll never look
anywhere else but out of the window, and scarcely have the
curtains drawn."

"Down with it, then, and hang Mrs. Charmond," said Mr. Fitzpiers.
"The best plan will be to wait till the evening, when it is dark,
or early in the morning before he is awake, so that he doesn't see
it fall, for that would terrify him worse than ever. Keep the
blind down till I come, and then I'll assure him, and show him
that his trouble is over."

The doctor then departed, and they waited till the evening. When
it was dusk, and the curtains drawn, Winterborne directed a couple
of woodmen to bring a crosscut-saw, and the tall, threatening tree
was soon nearly off at its base. He would not fell it completely
then, on account of the possible crash, but next morning, before
South was awake, they went and lowered it cautiously, in a
direction away from the cottage. It was a business difficult to
do quite silently; but it was done at last, and the elm of the
same birth-year as the woodman's lay stretched upon the ground.
The weakest idler that passed could now set foot on marks formerly
made in the upper forks by the shoes of adventurous climbers only;
once inaccessible nests could be examined microscopically; and on
swaying extremities where birds alone had perched, the by-standers
sat down.

As soon as it was broad daylight the doctor came, and Winterborne
entered the house with him. Marty said that her father was
wrapped up and ready, as usual, to be put into his chair. They
ascended the stairs, and soon seated him. He began at once to
complain of the tree, and the danger to his life and Winterborne's
house-property in consequence.

The doctor signalled to Giles, who went and drew back the printed
cotton curtains. "'Tis gone, see," said Mr. Fitzpiers.

As soon as the old man saw the vacant patch of sky in place of the
branched column so familiar to his gaze, he sprang up, speechless,
his eyes rose from their hollows till the whites showed all round;
he fell back, and a bluish whiteness overspread him.

Greatly alarmed, they put him on the bed. As soon as he came a
little out of his fit, he gasped, "Oh, it is gone!--where?--

His whole system seemed paralyzed by amazement. They were
thunder-struck at the result of the experiment, and did all they
could. Nothing seemed to avail. Giles and Fitzpiers went and
came, but uselessly. He lingered through the day, and died that
evening as the sun went down.

"D--d if my remedy hasn't killed him!" murmured the doctor.


When Melbury heard what had happened he seemed much moved, and
walked thoughtfully about the premises. On South's own account he
was genuinely sorry; and on Winterborne's he was the more grieved
in that this catastrophe had so closely followed the somewhat
harsh dismissal of Giles as the betrothed of his daughter.

He was quite angry with circumstances for so heedlessly inflicting
on Giles a second trouble when the needful one inflicted by
himself was all that the proper order of events demanded. "I told
Giles's father when he came into those houses not to spend too
much money on lifehold property held neither for his own life nor
his son's," he exclaimed. "But he wouldn't listen to me. And now
Giles has to suffer for it."

"Poor Giles!" murmured Grace.

"Now, Grace, between us two, it is very, very remarkable. It is
almost as if I had foreseen this; and I am thankful for your
escape, though I am sincerely sorry for Giles. Had we not
dismissed him already, we could hardly have found it in our hearts
to dismiss him now. So I say, be thankful. I'll do all I can for
him as a friend; but as a pretender to the position of my son-in
law, that can never be thought of more."

And yet at that very moment the impracticability to which poor
Winterborne's suit had been reduced was touching Grace's heart to
a warmer sentiment on his behalf than she had felt for years
concerning him.

He, meanwhile, was sitting down alone in the old familiar house
which had ceased to be his, taking a calm if somewhat dismal
survey of affairs. The pendulum of the clock bumped every now and
then against one side of the case in which it swung, as the
muffled drum to his worldly march. Looking out of the window he
could perceive that a paralysis had come over Creedle's occupation
of manuring the garden, owing, obviously, to a conviction that
they might not be living there long enough to profit by next
season's crop.

He looked at the leases again and the letter attached. There was
no doubt that he had lost his houses by an accident which might
easily have been circumvented if he had known the true conditions
of his holding. The time for performance had now lapsed in strict
law; but might not the intention be considered by the landholder
when she became aware of the circumstances, and his moral right to
retain the holdings for the term of his life be conceded?

His heart sank within him when he perceived that despite all the
legal reciprocities and safeguards prepared and written, the
upshot of the matter amounted to this, that it depended upon the
mere caprice--good or ill--of the woman he had met the day before
in such an unfortunate way, whether he was to possess his houses
for life or no.

While he was sitting and thinking a step came to the door, and
Melbury appeared, looking very sorry for his position.
Winterborne welcomed him by a word and a look, and went on with
his examination of the parchments. His visitor sat down.

"Giles," he said, "this is very awkward, and I am sorry for it.
What are you going to do?"

Giles informed him of the real state of affairs, and how barely he
had missed availing himself of his chance of renewal.

"What a misfortune! Why was this neglected? Well, the best thing
you can do is to write and tell her all about it, and throw
yourself upon her generosity."

"I would rather not," murmured Giles.

"But you must," said Melbury.

In short, he argued so cogently that Giles allowed himself to be
persuaded, and the letter to Mrs. Charmond was written and sent to
Hintock House, whence, as he knew, it would at once be forwarded
to her.

Melbury feeling that he had done so good an action in coming as
almost to extenuate his previous arbitrary conduct to nothing,
went home; and Giles was left alone to the suspense of waiting for
a reply from the divinity who shaped the ends of the Hintock
population. By this time all the villagers knew of the
circumstances, and being wellnigh like one family, a keen interest
was the result all round.

Everybody thought of Giles; nobody thought of Marty. Had any of
them looked in upon her during those moonlight nights which
preceded the burial of her father, they would have seen the girl
absolutely alone in the house with the dead man. Her own chamber
being nearest the stairs, the coffin had been placed there for
convenience; and at a certain hour of the night, when the moon
arrived opposite the window, its beams streamed across the still
profile of South, sublimed by the august presence of death, and
onward a few feet farther upon the face of his daughter, lying in
her little bed in the stillness of a repose almost as dignified as
that of her companion--the repose of a guileless soul that had
nothing more left on earth to lose, except a life which she did
not overvalue.

South was buried, and a week passed, and Winterborne watched for a
reply from Mrs. Charmond. Melbury was very sanguine as to its
tenor; but Winterborne had not told him of the encounter with her
carriage, when, if ever he had heard an affronted tone on a
woman's lips, he had heard it on hers.

The postman's time for passing was just after Melbury's men had
assembled in the spar-house; and Winterborne, who when not busy on
his own account would lend assistance there, used to go out into
the lane every morning and meet the post-man at the end of one of
the green rides through the hazel copse, in the straight stretch
of which his laden figure could be seen a long way off. Grace
also was very anxious; more anxious than her father; more,
perhaps, than Winterborne himself. This anxiety led her into the
spar-house on some pretext or other almost every morning while
they were awaiting the reply.

Fitzpiers too, though he did not personally appear, was much
interested, and not altogether easy in his mind; for he had been
informed by an authority of what he had himself conjectured, that
if the tree had been allowed to stand, the old man would have gone
on complaining, but might have lived for twenty years.

Eleven times had Winterborne gone to that corner of the ride, and
looked up its long straight slope through the wet grays of winter
dawn. But though the postman's bowed figure loomed in view pretty
regularly, he brought nothing for Giles. On the twelfth day the
man of missives, while yet in the extreme distance, held up his
hand, and Winterborne saw a letter in it. He took it into the
spar-house before he broke the seal, and those who were there
gathered round him while he read, Grace looking in at the door.

The letter was not from Mrs. Charmond herself, but her agent at
Sherton. Winterborne glanced it over and looked up.

"It's all over," he said.

"Ah!" said they altogether.

"Her lawyer is instructed to say that Mrs. Charmond sees no reason
for disturbing the natural course of things, particularly as she
contemplates pulling the houses down," he said, quietly.

"Only think of that!" said several.

Winterborne had turned away, and said vehemently to himself, "Then
let her pull 'em down, and be d--d to her!"

Creedle looked at him with a face of seven sorrows, saying, "Ah,
'twas that sperrit that lost 'em for ye, maister!"

Winterborne subdued his feelings, and from that hour, whatever
they were, kept them entirely to himself. There could be no doubt
that, up to this last moment, he had nourished a feeble hope of
regaining Grace in the event of this negotiation turning out a
success. Not being aware of the fact that her father could have
settled upon her a fortune sufficient to enable both to live in
comfort, he deemed it now an absurdity to dream any longer of such
a vanity as making her his wife, and sank into silence forthwith.

Yet whatever the value of taciturnity to a man among strangers, it
is apt to express more than talkativeness when he dwells among
friends. The countryman who is obliged to judge the time of day
from changes in external nature sees a thousand successive tints
and traits in the landscape which are never discerned by him who
hears the regular chime of a clock, because they are never in
request. In like manner do we use our eyes on our taciturn
comrade. The infinitesimal movement of muscle, curve, hair, and
wrinkle, which when accompanied by a voice goes unregarded, is
watched and translated in the lack of it, till virtually the whole
surrounding circle of familiars is charged with the reserved one's
moods and meanings.

This was the condition of affairs between Winterborne and his
neighbors after his stroke of ill-luck. He held his tongue; and
they observed him, and knew that he was discomposed.

Mr. Melbury, in his compunction, thought more of the matter than
any one else, except his daughter. Had Winterborne been going on
in the old fashion, Grace's father could have alluded to his
disapproval of the alliance every day with the greatest frankness;
but to speak any further on the subject he could not find it in
his heart to do now. He hoped that Giles would of his own accord
make some final announcement that he entirely withdrew his
pretensions to Grace, and so get the thing past and done with.
For though Giles had in a measure acquiesced in the wish of her
family, he could make matters unpleasant if he chose to work upon
Grace; and hence, when Melbury saw the young man approaching along
the road one day, he kept friendliness and frigidity exactly
balanced in his eye till he could see whether Giles's manner was
presumptive or not.

His manner was that of a man who abandoned all claims. "I am glad
to meet ye, Mr. Melbury," he said, in a low voice, whose quality
he endeavored to make as practical as possible. "I am afraid I
shall not be able to keep that mare I bought, and as I don't care
to sell her, I should like--if you don't object--to give her to
Miss Melbury. The horse is very quiet, and would be quite safe
for her."

Mr. Melbury was rather affected at this. "You sha'n't hurt your
pocket like that on our account, Giles. Grace shall have the
horse, but I'll pay you what you gave for her, and any expense you
may have been put to for her keep."

He would not hear of any other terms, and thus it was arranged.
They were now opposite Melbury's house, and the timber-merchant
pressed Winterborne to enter, Grace being out of the way.

"Pull round the settle, Giles," said the timber-merchant, as soon
as they were within. "I should like to have a serious talk with

Thereupon he put the case to Winterborne frankly, and in quite a
friendly way. He declared that he did not like to be hard on a
man when he was in difficulty; but he really did not see how
Winterborne could marry his daughter now, without even a house to
take her to.

Giles quite acquiesced in the awkwardness of his situation. But
from a momentary feeling that he would like to know Grace's mind
from her own lips, he did not speak out positively there and then.
He accordingly departed somewhat abruptly, and went home to
consider whether he would seek to bring about a meeting with her.

In the evening, while he sat quietly pondering, he fancied that he
heard a scraping on the wall outside his house. The boughs of a
monthly rose which grew there made such a noise sometimes, but as
no wind was stirring he knew that it could not be the rose-tree.
He took up the candle and went out. Nobody was near. As he
turned, the light flickered on the whitewashed rough case of the
front, and he saw words written thereon in charcoal, which he read
as follows:

"O Giles, you've lost your dwelling-place,
And therefore, Giles, you'll lose your Grace."

Giles went in-doors. He had his suspicions as to the scrawler of
those lines, but he could not be sure. What suddenly filled his
heart far more than curiosity about their authorship was a
terrible belief that they were turning out to be true, try to see
Grace as he might. They decided the question for him. He sat
down and wrote a formal note to Melbury, in which he briefly
stated that he was placed in such a position as to make him share
to the full Melbury's view of his own and his daughter's promise,
made some years before; to wish that it should be considered as
cancelled, and they themselves quite released from any obligation
on account of it.

Having fastened up this their plenary absolution, he determined to
get it out of his hands and have done with it; to which end he
went off to Melbury's at once. It was now so late that the family
had all retired; he crept up to the house, thrust the note under
the door, and stole away as silently as he had come.

Melbury himself was the first to rise the next morning, and when
he had read the letter his relief was great. "Very honorable of
Giles, very honorable," he kept saying to himself. "I shall not
forget him. Now to keep her up to her own true level."

It happened that Grace went out for an early ramble that morning,
passing through the door and gate while her father was in the
spar-house. To go in her customary direction she could not avoid
passing Winterborne's house. The morning sun was shining flat
upon its white surface, and the words, which still remained, were
immediately visible to her. She read them. Her face flushed to
crimson. She could see Giles and Creedle talking together at the
back; the charred spar-gad with which the lines had been written
lay on the ground beneath the wall. Feeling pretty sure that
Winterborne would observe her action, she quickly went up to the
wall, rubbed out "lose" and inserted "keep" in its stead. Then
she made the best of her way home without looking behind her.
Giles could draw an inference now if he chose.

There could not be the least doubt that gentle Grace was warming
to more sympathy with, and interest in, Giles Winterborne than
ever she had done while he was her promised lover; that since his
misfortune those social shortcomings of his, which contrasted so
awkwardly with her later experiences of life, had become obscured
by the generous revival of an old romantic attachment to him.
Though mentally trained and tilled into foreignness of view, as
compared with her youthful time, Grace was not an ambitious girl,
and might, if left to herself, have declined Winterborne without
much discontent or unhappiness. Her feelings just now were so far
from latent that the writing on the wall had thus quickened her to
an unusual rashness.

Having returned from her walk she sat at breakfast silently. When
her step-mother had left the room she said to her father, "I have
made up my mind that I should like my engagement to Giles to
continue, for the present at any rate, till I can see further what
I ought to do."

Melbury looked much surprised.

"Nonsense," he said, sharply. "You don't know what you are
talking about. Look here."

He handed across to her the letter received from Giles.

She read it, and said no more. Could he have seen her write on
the wall? She did not know. Fate, it seemed, would have it this
way, and there was nothing to do but to acquiesce.

It was a few hours after this that Winterborne, who, curiously
enough, had NOT perceived Grace writing, was clearing away the
tree from the front of South's late dwelling. He saw Marty
standing in her door-way, a slim figure in meagre black, almost
without womanly contours as yet. He went up to her and said,
"Marty, why did you write that on my wall last night? It WAS you,
you know."

"Because it was the truth. I didn't mean to let it stay, Mr.
Winterborne; but when I was going to rub it out you came, and I
was obliged to run off."

"Having prophesied one thing, why did you alter it to another?
Your predictions can't be worth much."

"I have not altered it."

"But you have."


"It is altered. Go and see."

She went, and read that, in spite of losing his dwelling-place, he
would KEEP his Grace. Marty came back surprised.

"Well, I never," she said. "Who can have made such nonsense of

"Who, indeed?" said he.

"I have rubbed it all out, as the point of it is quite gone."

"You'd no business to rub it out. I didn't tell you to. I meant
to let it stay a little longer."

"Some idle boy did it, no doubt," she murmured.

As this seemed very probable, and the actual perpetrator was
unsuspected, Winterborne said no more, and dismissed the matter
from his mind.

From this day of his life onward for a considerable time,
Winterborne, though not absolutely out of his house as yet,
retired into the background of human life and action thereabout--a
feat not particularly difficult of performance anywhere when the
doer has the assistance of a lost prestige. Grace, thinking that
Winterborne saw her write, made no further sign, and the frail
bark of fidelity that she had thus timidly launched was stranded
and lost.


Dr. Fitzpiers lived on the slope of the hill, in a house of much
less pretension, both as to architecture and as to magnitude, than
the timber-merchant's. The latter had, without doubt, been once
the manorial residence appertaining to the snug and modest domain
of Little Hintock, of which the boundaries were now lost by its
absorption with others of its kind into the adjoining estate of
Mrs. Charmond. Though the Melburys themselves were unaware of the
fact, there was every reason to believe--at least so the parson
said that the owners of that little manor had been Melbury's own
ancestors, the family name occurring in numerous documents
relating to transfers of land about the time of the civil wars.

Mr. Fitzpiers's dwelling, on the contrary, was small, cottage-
like, and comparatively modern. It had been occupied, and was in
part occupied still, by a retired farmer and his wife, who, on the
surgeon's arrival in quest of a home, had accommodated him by
receding from their front rooms into the kitchen quarter, whence
they administered to his wants, and emerged at regular intervals
to receive from him a not unwelcome addition to their income.

The cottage and its garden were so regular in their arrangement
that they might have been laid out by a Dutch designer of the time
of William and Mary. In a low, dense hedge, cut to wedge-shape,
was a door over which the hedge formed an arch, and from the
inside of the door a straight path, bordered with clipped box, ran
up the slope of the garden to the porch, which was exactly in the
middle of the house front, with two windows on each side. Right
and left of the path were first a bed of gooseberry bushes; next
of currant; next of raspberry; next of strawberry; next of old-
fashioned flowers; at the corners opposite the porch being spheres
of box resembling a pair of school globes. Over the roof of the
house could be seen the orchard, on yet higher ground, and behind
the orchard the forest-trees, reaching up to the crest of the

Opposite the garden door and visible from the parlor window was a
swing-gate leading into a field, across which there ran a foot-
path. The swing-gate had just been repainted, and on one fine
afternoon, before the paint was dry, and while gnats were still
dying thereon, the surgeon was standing in his sitting-room
abstractedly looking out at the different pedestrians who passed
and repassed along that route. Being of a philosophical stamp, he
perceived that the chararter of each of these travellers exhibited
itself in a somewhat amusing manner by his or her method of
handling the gate.

As regarded the men, there was not much variety: they gave the
gate a kick and passed through. The women were more contrasting.
To them the sticky wood-work was a barricade, a disgust, a menace,
a treachery, as the case might be.

The first that he noticed was a bouncing woman with her skirts
tucked up and her hair uncombed. She grasped the gate without
looking, giving it a supplementary push with her shoulder, when
the white imprint drew from her an exclamation in language not too
refined. She went to the green bank, sat down and rubbed herself
in the grass, cursing the while.

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed the doctor.

The next was a girl, with her hair cropped short, in whom the
surgeon recognized the daughter of his late patient, the woodman
South. Moreover, a black bonnet that she wore by way of mourning
unpleasantly reminded him that he had ordered the felling of a
tree which had caused her parent's death and Winterborne's losses.
She walked and thought, and not recklessly; but her preoccupation
led her to grasp unsuspectingly the bar of the gate, and touch it
with her arm. Fitzpiers felt sorry that she should have soiled
that new black frock, poor as it was, for it was probably her only
one. She looked at her hand and arm, seemed but little surprised,
wiped off the disfigurement with an almost unmoved face, and as if
without abandoning her original thoughts. Thus she went on her

Then there came over the green quite a different sort of
personage. She walked as delicately as if she had been bred in
town, and as firmly as if she had been bred in the country; she
seemed one who dimly knew her appearance to be attractive, but who
retained some of the charm of being ignorant of that fact by
forgetting it in a general pensiveness. She approached the gate.
To let such a creature touch it even with a tip of her glove was
to Fitzpiers almost like letting her proceed to tragical self-
destruction. He jumped up and looked for his hat, but was unable
to find the right one; glancing again out of the window he saw
that he was too late. Having come up, she stopped, looked at the
gate, picked up a little stick, and using it as a bayonet, pushed
open the obstacle without touching it at all.

He steadily watched her till she had passed out of sight,
recognizing her as the very young lady whom he had seen once
before and been unable to identify. Whose could that emotional
face be? All the others he had seen in Hintock as yet oppressed
him with their crude rusticity; the contrast offered by this
suggested that she hailed from elsewhere.

Precisely these thoughts had occurred to him at the first time of
seeing her; but he now went a little further with them, and
considered that as there had been no carriage seen or heard lately
in that spot she could not have come a very long distance. She
must be somebody staying at Hintock House? Possibly Mrs. Charmond,
of whom he had heard so much--at any rate an inmate, and this
probability was sufficient to set a mild radiance in the surgeon's
somewhat dull sky.

Fitzpiers sat down to the book he had been perusing. It happened
to be that of a German metaphysician, for the doctor was not a
practical man, except by fits, and much preferred the ideal world
to the real, and the discovery of principles to their application.
The young lady remained in his thoughts. He might have followed
her; but he was not constitutionally active, and preferred a
conjectural pursuit. However, when he went out for a ramble just
before dusk he insensibly took the direction of Hintock House,
which was the way that Grace had been walking, it having happened
that her mind had run on Mrs. Charmond that day, and she had
walked to the brow of a hill whence the house could be seen,
returning by another route.

Fitzpiers in his turn reached the edge of the glen, overlooking
the manor-house. The shutters were shut, and only one chimney
smoked. The mere aspect of the place was enough to inform him
that Mrs. Charmond had gone away and that nobody else was staying
there. Fitzpiers felt a vague disappointment that the young lady
was not Mrs. Charmond, of whom he had heard so much; and without
pausing longer to gaze at a carcass from which the spirit had
flown, he bent his steps homeward.

Later in the evening Fitzpiers was summoned to visit a cottage
patient about two miles distant. Like the majority of young
practitioners in his position he was far from having assumed the
dignity of being driven his rounds by a servant in a brougham that
flashed the sunlight like a mirror; his way of getting about was
by means of a gig which he drove himself, hitching the rein of the
horse to the gate post, shutter hook, or garden paling of the
domicile under visitation, or giving pennies to little boys to
hold the animal during his stay--pennies which were well earned
when the cases to be attended were of a certain cheerful kind that
wore out the patience of the little boys.

On this account of travelling alone, the night journeys which
Fitzpiers had frequently to take were dismal enough, a serious
apparent perversity in nature ruling that whenever there was to be
a birth in a particularly inaccessible and lonely place, that
event should occur in the night. The surgeon, having been of late
years a town man, hated the solitary midnight woodland. He was
not altogether skilful with the reins, and it often occurred to
his mind that if in some remote depths of the trees an accident
were to happen, the fact of his being alone might be the death of
him. Hence he made a practice of picking up any countryman or lad
whom he chanced to pass by, and under the disguise of treating him
to a nice drive, obtained his companionship on the journey, and
his convenient assistance in opening gates.

The doctor had started on his way out of the village on the night
in question when the light of his lamps fell upon the musing form
of Winterborne, walking leisurely along, as if he had no object in
life. Winterborne was a better class of companion than the doctor
usually could get, and he at once pulled up and asked him if he
would like a drive through the wood that fine night.

Giles seemed rather surprised at the doctor's friendliness, but
said that he had no objection, and accordingly mounted beside Mr.

They drove along under the black boughs which formed a network
upon the stars, all the trees of a species alike in one respect,
and no two of them alike in another. Looking up as they passed
under a horizontal bough they sometimes saw objects like large
tadpoles lodged diametrically across it, which Giles explained to
be pheasants there at roost; and they sometimes heard the report
of a gun, which reminded him that others knew what those tadpole
shapes represented as well as he.

Presently the doctor said what he had been going to say for some

"Is there a young lady staying in this neighborhood--a very
attractive girl--with a little white boa round her neck, and white
fur round her gloves?"

Winterborne of course knew in a moment that Grace, whom he had
caught the doctor peering at, was represented by these
accessaries. With a wary grimness, partly in his character,
partly induced by the circumstances, he evaded an answer by
saying, "I saw a young lady talking to Mrs. Charmond the other
day; perhaps it was she."

Fitzpiers concluded from this that Winterborne had not seen him
looking over the hedge. "It might have been," he said. "She is
quite a gentlewoman--the one I mean. She cannot be a permanent
resident in Hintock or I should have seen her before. Nor does
she look like one."

"She is not staying at Hintock House?"

"No; it is closed."

"Then perhaps she is staying at one of the cottages, or farm-

"Oh no--you mistake. She was a different sort of girl
altogether." As Giles was nobody, Fitzpiers treated him
accordingly, and apostrophized the night in continuation:

"'She moved upon this earth a shape of brightness,
A power, that from its objects scarcely drew
One impulse of her being--in her lightness
Most like some radiant cloud of morning dew,
Which wanders through the waste air's pathless blue,
To nourish some far desert: she did seem
Beside me, gathering beauty as she grew,
Like the bright shade of some immortal dream
Which walks, when tempests sleep, the wave of life's dark

The consummate charm of the lines seemed to Winterborne, though he
divined that they were a quotation, to be somehow the result of
his lost love's charms upon Fitzpiers.

"You seem to be mightily in love with her, sir," he said, with a
sensation of heart-sickness, and more than ever resolved not to
mention Grace by name.

"Oh no--I am not that, Winterborne; people living insulated, as I
do by the solitude of this place, get charged with emotive fluid
like a Leyden-jar with electric, for want of some conductor at
hand to disperse it. Human love is a subjective thing--the
essence itself of man, as that great thinker Spinoza the
philosopher says--ipsa hominis essentia--it is joy accompanied by
an idea which we project against any suitable object in the line
of our vision, just as the rainbow iris is projected against an
oak, ash, or elm tree indifferently. So that if any other young
lady had appeared instead of the one who did appear, I should have
felt just the same interest in her, and have quoted precisely the
same lines from Shelley about her, as about this one I saw. Such
miserable creatures of circumstance are we all!"

"Well, it is what we call being in love down in these parts,
whether or no," said Winterborne.

"You are right enough if you admit that I am in love with
something in my own head, and no thing in itself outside it at

"Is it part of a country doctor's duties to learn that view of
things, may I ask, sir?" said Winterborne, adopting the Socratic
{Greek word: irony} with such well-assumed simplicity that
Fitzpiers answered, readily,

"Oh no. The real truth is, Winterborne, that medical practice in
places like this is a very rule-of-thumb matter; a bottle of
bitter stuff for this and that old woman--the bitterer the better--
compounded from a few simple stereotyped prescriptions;
occasional attendance at births, where mere presence is almost
sufficient, so healthy and strong are the people; and a lance for
an abscess now and then. Investigation and experiment cannot be
carried on without more appliances than one has here--though I
have attempted it a little."

Giles did not enter into this view of the case; what he had been
struck with was the curious parallelism between Mr. Fitzpiers's
manner and Grace's, as shown by the fact of both of them straying
into a subject of discourse so engrossing to themselves that it
made them forget it was foreign to him.

Nothing further passed between himself and the doctor in relation
to Grace till they were on their way back. They had stopped at a
way-side inn for a glass of brandy and cider hot, and when they
were again in motion, Fitzpiers, possibly a little warmed by the
liquor, resumed the subject by saying, "I should like very much to
know who that young lady was."

"What difference can it make, if she's only the tree your rainbow
falls on?"

"Ha! ha! True."

"You have no wife, sir?"

"I have no wife, and no idea of one. I hope to do better things
than marry and settle in Hintock. Not but that it is well for a
medical man to be married, and sometimes, begad, 'twould be
pleasant enough in this place, with the wind roaring round the
house, and the rain and the boughs beating against it. I hear
that you lost your life-holds by the death of South?"

"I did. I lost in more ways than one."

They had reached the top of Hintock Lane or Street, if it could be
called such where three-quarters of the road-side consisted of
copse and orchard. One of the first houses to be passed was
Melbury's. A light was shining from a bedroom window facing
lengthwise of the lane. Winterborne glanced at it, and saw what
was coming. He had withheld an answer to the doctor's inquiry to
hinder his knowledge of Grace; but, as he thought to himself, "who
hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in
a garment?" he could not hinder what was doomed to arrive, and
might just as well have been outspoken. As they came up to the
house, Grace's figure was distinctly visible, drawing the two
white curtains together which were used here instead of blinds.

"Why, there she is!" said Fitzpiers. "How does she come there?"

"In the most natural way in the world. It is her home. Mr.
Melbury is her father."

"Oh, indeed--indeed--indeed! How comes he to have a daughter of
that stamp?"

Winterborne laughed coldly. "Won't money do anything," he said,
"if you've promising material to work upon? Why shouldn't a
Hintock girl, taken early from home, and put under proper
instruction, become as finished as any other young lady, if she's
got brains and good looks to begin with?"

"No reason at all why she shouldn't," murmured the surgeon, with
reflective disappointment. "Only I didn't anticipate quite that
kind of origin for her."

"And you think an inch or two less of her now." There was a little
tremor in Winterborne's voice as he spoke.

"Well," said the doctor, with recovered warmth, "I am not so sure
that I think less of her. At first it was a sort of blow; but,
dammy! I'll stick up for her. She's charming, every inch of her!"

"So she is," said Winterborne, "but not to me."

From this ambiguous expression of the reticent woodlander's, Dr.
Fitzpiers inferred that Giles disliked Miss Melbury because of
some haughtiness in her bearing towards him, and had, on that
account, withheld her name. The supposition did not tend to
diminish his admiration for her.


Grace's exhibition of herself, in the act of pulling-to the
window-curtains, had been the result of an unfortunate incident in
the house that day--nothing less than the illness of Grammer
Oliver, a woman who had never till now lain down for such a reason
in her life. Like others to whom unbroken years of health has
made the idea of keeping their bed almost as repugnant as death
itself, she had continued on foot till she literally fell on the
floor; and though she had, as yet, been scarcely a day off duty,
she had sickened into quite a different personage from the
independent Grammer of the yard and spar-house. Ill as she was,
on one point she was firm. On no account would she see a doctor;
in other words, Fitzpiers.

The room in which Grace had been discerned was not her own, but
the old woman's. On the girl's way to bed she had received a
message from Grammer, to the effect that she would much like to
speak to her that night.

Grace entered, and set the candle on a low chair beside the bed,
so that the profile of Grammer as she lay cast itself in a keen
shadow upon the whitened wall, her large head being still further
magnified by an enormous turban, which was, really, her petticoat
wound in a wreath round her temples. Grace put the room a little
in order, and approaching the sick woman, said, "I am come,
Grammer, as you wish. Do let us send for the doctor before it
gets later."

"I will not have him," said Grammer Oliver, decisively.

"Then somebody to sit up with you."

"Can't abear it! No; I wanted to see you, Miss Grace, because 'ch
have something on my mind. Dear Miss Grace, I TOOK THAT MONEY OF

"What money?"

"The ten pounds."

Grace did not quite understand.

"The ten pounds he offered me for my head, because I've a large
brain. I signed a paper when I took the money, not feeling
concerned about it at all. I have not liked to tell ye that it
was really settled with him, because you showed such horror at the
notion. Well, having thought it over more at length, I wish I
hadn't done it; and it weighs upon my mind. John South's death of
fear about the tree makes me think that I shall die of this....'Ch
have been going to ask him again to let me off, but I hadn't the


"I've spent some of the money--more'n two pounds o't. It do
wherrit me terribly; and I shall die o' the thought of that paper
I signed with my holy cross, as South died of his trouble."

"If you ask him to burn the paper he will, I'm sure, and think no
more of it."

"'Ch have done it once already, miss. But he laughed cruel like.
'Yours is such a fine brain, Grammer, 'er said, 'that science
couldn't afford to lose you. Besides, you've taken my
money.'...Don't let your father know of this, please, on no
account whatever!"

"No, no. I will let you have the money to return to him."

Grammer rolled her head negatively upon the pillow. "Even if I
should be well enough to take it to him, he won't like it. Though
why he should so particular want to look into the works of a poor
old woman's head-piece like mine when there's so many other folks
about, I don't know. I know how he'll answer me: 'A lonely person
like you, Grammer,' er woll say. 'What difference is it to you
what becomes of ye when the breath's out of your body?' Oh, it do
trouble me! If you only knew how he do chevy me round the chimmer
in my dreams, you'd pity me. How I could do it I can't think! But
'ch was always so rackless!...If I only had anybody to plead for

"Mrs. Melbury would, I am sure."

"Ay; but he wouldn't hearken to she! It wants a younger face than
hers to work upon such as he."

Grace started with comprehension. "You don't think he would do it
for me?" she said.

"Oh, wouldn't he!"

"I couldn't go to him, Grammer, on any account. I don't know him
at all."

"Ah, if I were a young lady," said the artful Grammer, "and could
save a poor old woman's skellington from a heathen doctor instead
of a Christian grave, I would do it, and be glad to. But nobody
will do anything for a poor old familiar friend but push her out
of the way."

You are very ungrateful, Grammer, to say that. But you are ill, I
know, and that's why you speak so. Now believe me, you are not
going to die yet. Remember you told me yourself that you meant to
keep him waiting many a year."

"Ay, one can joke when one is well, even in old age; but in
sickness one's gayety falters to grief; and that which seemed
small looks large; and the grim far-off seems near."

Grace's eyes had tears in them. "I don't like to go to him on
such an errand, Grammer," she said, brokenly. "But I will, to
ease your mind."

It was with extreme reluctance that Grace cloaked herself next
morning for the undertaking. She was all the more indisposed to
the journey by reason of Grammer's allusion to the effect of a
pretty face upon Dr. Fitzpiers; and hence she most illogically did
that which, had the doctor never seen her, would have operated to
stultify the sole motive of her journey; that is to say, she put
on a woollen veil, which hid all her face except an occasional
spark of her eyes.

Her own wish that nothing should be known of this strange and
grewsome proceeding, no less than Grammer Oliver's own desire, led
Grace to take every precaution against being discovered. She went
out by the garden door as the safest way, all the household having
occupations at the other side. The morning looked forbidding
enough when she stealthily opened it. The battle between frost
and thaw was continuing in mid-air: the trees dripped on the
garden-plots, where no vegetables would grow for the dripping,
though they were planted year after year with that curious
mechanical regularity of country people in the face of
hopelessness; the moss which covered the once broad gravel terrace
was swamped; and Grace stood irresolute. Then she thought of poor
Grammer, and her dreams of the doctor running after her, scalpel
in hand, and the possibility of a case so curiously similar to
South's ending in the same way; thereupon she stepped out into the

The nature of her errand, and Grammer Oliver's account of the
compact she had made, lent a fascinating horror to Grace's
conception of Fitzpiers. She knew that he was a young man; but
her single object in seeking an interview with him put all
considerations of his age and social aspect from her mind.
Standing as she stood, in Grammer Oliver's shoes, he was simply a
remorseless Jove of the sciences, who would not have mercy, and
would have sacrifice; a man whom, save for this, she would have
preferred to avoid knowing. But since, in such a small village,
it was improbable that any long time could pass without their
meeting, there was not much to deplore in her having to meet him

But, as need hardly be said, Miss Melbury's view of the doctor as
a merciless, unwavering, irresistible scientist was not quite in
accordance with fact. The real Dr. Fitzpiers w as a man of too
many hobbies to show likelihood of rising to any great eminence in
the profession he had chosen, or even to acquire any wide practice
in the rural district he had marked out as his field of survey for
the present. In the course of a year his mind was accustomed to
pass in a grand solar sweep through all the zodiacal signs of the
intellectual heaven. Sometimes it was in the Ram, sometimes in
the Bull; one month he would be immersed in alchemy, another in
poesy; one month in the Twins of astrology and astronomy; then in
the Crab of German literature and metaphysics. In justice to him
it must be stated that he took such studies as were immediately
related to his own profession in turn with the rest, and it had
been in a month of anatomical ardor without the possibility of a
subject that he had proposed to Grammer Oliver the terms she had
mentioned to her mistress.

As may be inferred from the tone of his conversation with
Winterborne, he had lately plunged into abstract philosophy with
much zest; perhaps his keenly appreciative, modern, unpractical
mind found this a realm more to his taste than any other. Though
his aims were desultory, Fitzpiers's mental constitution was not
without its admirable side; a keen inquirer he honestly was, even
if the midnight rays of his lamp, visible so far through the trees
of Hintock, lighted rank literatures of emotion and passion as
often as, or oftener than, the books and materiel of science.

But whether he meditated the Muses or the philosophers, the
loneliness of Hintock life was beginning to tell upon his
impressionable nature. Winter in a solitary house in the country,
without society, is tolerable, nay, even enjoyable and delightful,
given certain conditions, but these are not the conditions which
attach to the life of a professional man who drops down into such
a place by mere accident. They were present to the lives of
Winterborne, Melbury, and Grace; but not to the doctor's. They
are old association--an almost exhaustive biographical or
historical acquaintance with every object, animate and inanimate,
within the observer's horizon. He must know all about those
invisible ones of the days gone by, whose feet have traversed the
fields which look so gray from his windows; recall whose creaking
plough has turned those sods from time to time; whose hands
planted the trees that form a crest to the opposite hill; whose
horses and hounds have torn through that underwood; what birds
affect that particular brake; what domestic dramas of love,
jealousy, revenge, or disappointment have been enacted in the
cottages, the mansion, the street, or on the green. The spot may
have beauty, grandeur, salubrity, convenience; but if it lack
memories it will ultimately pall upon him who settles there
without opportunity of intercourse with his kind.

In such circumstances, maybe, an old man dreams of an ideal
friend, till he throws himself into the arms of any impostor who
chooses to wear that title on his face. A young man may dream of
an ideal friend likewise, but some humor of the blood will
probably lead him to think rather of an ideal mistress, and at
length the rustle of a woman's dress, the sound of her voice, or
the transit of her form across the field of his vision, will
enkindle his soul with a flame that blinds his eyes.

The discovery of the attractive Grace's name and family would have
been enough in other circumstances to lead the doctor, if not to
put her personality out of his head, to change the character of
his interest in her. Instead of treasuring her image as a rarity,
he would at most have played with it as a toy. He was that kind
of a man. But situated here he could not go so far as amative
cruelty. He dismissed all reverential thought about her, but he
could not help taking her seriously.

He went on to imagine the impossible. So far, indeed, did he go
in this futile direction that, as others are wont to do, he
constructed dialogues and scenes in which Grace had turned out to
be the mistress of Hintock Manor-house, the mysterious Mrs.
Charmond, particularly ready and willing to be wooed by himself
and nobody else. "Well, she isn't that," he said, finally. "But
she's a very sweet, nice, exceptional girl."

The next morning he breakfasted alone, as usual. It was snowing
with a fine-flaked desultoriness just sufficient to make the
woodland gray, without ever achieving whiteness. There was not a
single letter for Fitzpiers, only a medical circular and a weekly

To sit before a large fire on such mornings, and read, and
gradually acquire energy till the evening came, and then, with
lamp alight, and feeling full of vigor, to pursue some engrossing
subject or other till the small hours, had hitherto been his
practice. But to-day he could not settle into his chair. That
self-contained position he had lately occupied, in which the only
attention demanded was the concentration of the inner eye, all
outer regard being quite gratuitous, seemed to have been taken by
insidious stratagem, and for the first time he had an interest
outside the house. He walked from one window to another, and
became aware that the most irksome of solitudes is not the
solitude of remoteness, but that which is just outside desirable

The breakfast hour went by heavily enough, and the next followed,
in the same half-snowy, half-rainy style, the weather now being
the inevitable relapse which sooner or later succeeds a time too
radiant for the season, such as they had enjoyed in the late
midwinter at Hintock. To people at home there these changeful
tricks had their interests; the strange mistakes that some of the
more sanguine trees had made in budding before their month, to be
incontinently glued up by frozen thawings now; the similar
sanguine errors of impulsive birds in framing nests that were now
swamped by snow-water, and other such incidents, prevented any
sense of wearisomeness in the minds of the natives. But these
were features of a world not familiar to Fitzpiers, and the inner
visions to which he had almost exclusively attended having
suddenly failed in their power to absorb him, he felt unutterably

He wondered how long Miss Melbury was going to stay in Hintock.
The season was unpropitious for accidental encounters with her
out-of-doors, and except by accident he saw not how they were to
become acquainted. One thing was clear--any acquaintance with her
could only, with a due regard to his future, be casual, at most of
the nature of a flirtation; for he had high aims, and they would
some day lead him into other spheres than this.

Thus desultorily thinking he flung himself down upon the couch,
which, as in many draughty old country houses, was constructed
with a hood, being in fact a legitimate development from the
settle. He tried to read as he reclined, but having sat up till
three o'clock that morning, the book slipped from his hand and he
fell asleep.


It was at this time that Grace approached the house. Her knock,
always soft in virtue of her nature, was softer to-day by reason
of her strange errand. However, it was heard by the farmer's wife
who kept the house, and Grace was admitted. Opening the door of
the doctor's room the housewife glanced in, and imagining
Fitzpiers absent, asked Miss Melbury to enter and wait a few
minutes while she should go and find him, believing him to be
somewhere on the premises. Grace acquiesced, went in, and sat
down close to the door.

As soon as the door was shut upon her she looked round the room,
and started at perceiving a handsome man snugly ensconced in the
couch, like the recumbent figure within some canopied mural tomb
of the fifteenth century, except that his hands were by no means
clasped in prayer. She had no doubt that this was the doctor.
Awaken him herself she could not, and her immediate impulse was to
go and pull the broad ribbon with a brass rosette which hung at
one side of the fireplace. But expecting the landlady to re-enter
in a moment she abandoned this intention, and stood gazing in
great embarrassment at the reclining philosopher.

The windows of Fitzpiers's soul being at present shuttered, he
probably appeared less impressive than in his hours of animation;
but the light abstracted from his material presence by sleep was
more than counterbalanced by the mysterious influence of that
state, in a stranger, upon the consciousness of a beholder so
sensitive. So far as she could criticise at all, she became aware
that she had encountered a specimen of creation altogether unusual
in that locality. The occasions on which Grace had observed men
of this stamp were when she had been far removed away from
Hintock, and even then such examples as had met her eye were at a
distance, and mainly of coarser fibre than the one who now
confronted her.

She nervously wondered why the woman had not discovered her
mistake and returned, and went again towards the bell-pull.
Approaching the chimney her back was to Fitzpiers, but she could
see him in the glass. An indescribable thrill passed through her
as she perceived that the eyes of the reflected image were open,
gazing wonderingly at her, and under the curious unexpectedness of
the sight she became as if spellbound, almost powerless to turn
her head and regard the original. However, by an effort she did
turn, when there he lay asleep the same as before.

Her startled perplexity as to what he could be meaning was
sufficient to lead her to precipitately abandon her errand. She
crossed quickly to the door, opened and closed it noiselessly, and
went out of the house unobserved. By the time that she had gone
down the path and through the garden door into the lane she had
recovered her equanimity. Here, screened by the hedge, she stood
and considered a while.

Drip, drip, drip, fell the rain upon her umbrella and around; she
had come out on such a morning because of the seriousness of the
matter in hand; yet now she had allowed her mission to be
stultified by a momentary tremulousness concerning an incident
which perhaps had meant nothing after all.

In the mean time her departure from the room, stealthy as it had
been, had roused Fitzpiers, and he sat up. In the reflection from
the mirror which Grace had beheld there was no mystery; he had
opened his eyes for a few moments, but had immediately relapsed
into unconsciousness, if, indeed, he had ever been positively
awake. That somebody had just left the room he was certain, and
that the lovely form which seemed to have visited him in a dream
was no less than the real presentation of the person departed he
could hardly doubt.

Looking out of the window a few minutes later, down the box-edged
gravel-path which led to the bottom, he saw the garden door gently
open, and through it enter the young girl of his thoughts, Grace
having just at this juncture determined to return and attempt the
interview a second time. That he saw her coming instead of going
made him ask himself if his first impression of her were not a
dream indeed. She came hesitatingly along, carrying her umbrella
so low over her head that he could hardly see her face. When she
reached the point where the raspberry bushes ended and the
strawberry bed began, she made a little pause.

Fitzpiers feared that she might not be coming to him even now, and
hastily quitting the room, he ran down the path to meet her. The
nature of her errand he could not divine, but he was prepared to
give her any amount of encouragement.

"I beg pardon, Miss Melbury," he said. "I saw you from the
window, and fancied you might imagine that I was not at home--if
it is I you were coming for."

"I was coming to speak one word to you, nothing more," she
replied. "And I can say it here."

"No, no. Please do come in. Well, then, if you will not come
into the house, come as far as the porch."

Thus pressed she went on to the porch, and they stood together
inside it, Fitzpiers closing her umbrella for her.

"I have merely a request or petition to make," she said. "My
father's servant is ill--a woman you know--and her illness is

"I am sorry to hear it. You wish me to come and see her at once?"

"No; I particularly wish you not to come."

"Oh, indeed."

"Yes; and she wishes the same. It would make her seriously worse
if you were to come. It would almost kill her....My errand is of
a peculiar and awkward nature. It is concerning a subject which
weighs on her mind--that unfortunate arrangement she made with
you, that you might have her body--after death."

"Oh! Grammer Oliver, the old woman with the fine head. Seriously
ill, is she!"

"And SO disturbed by her rash compact! I have brought the money
back--will you please return to her the agreement she signed?"
Grace held out to him a couple of five-pound notes which she had
kept ready tucked in her glove.

Without replying or considering the notes, Fitzpiers allowed his
thoughts to follow his eyes, and dwell upon Grace's personality,
and the sudden close relation in which he stood to her. The porch
was narrow; the rain increased. It ran off the porch and dripped
on the creepers, and from the creepers upon the edge of Grace's
cloak and skirts.

"The rain is wetting your dress; please do come in," he said. "It
really makes my heart ache to let you stay here."

Immediately inside the front door was the door of his sitting-
room; he flung it open, and stood in a coaxing attitude. Try how
she would, Grace could not resist the supplicatory mandate written
in the face and manner of this man, and distressful resignation
sat on her as she glided past him into the room--brushing his coat
with her elbow by reason of the narrowness.

He followed her, shut the door--which she somehow had hoped he
would leave open--and placing a chair for her, sat down. The
concern which Grace felt at the development of these commonplace
incidents was, of course, mainly owing to the strange effect upon
her nerves of that view of him in the mirror gazing at her with
open eyes when she had thought him sleeping, which made her fancy
that his slumber might have been a feint based on inexplicable

She again proffered the notes; he awoke from looking at her as at
a piece of live statuary, and listened deferentially as she said,
"Will you then reconsider, and cancel the bond which poor Grammer
Oliver so foolishly gave?"

"I'll cancel it without reconsideration. Though you will allow me
to have my own opinion about her foolishness. Grammer is a very
wise woman, and she was as wise in that as in other things. You
think there was something very fiendish in the compact, do you
not, Miss Melbury? But remember that the most eminent of our
surgeons in past times have entered into such agreements."

"Not fiendish--strange."

"Yes, that may be, since strangeness is not in the nature of a
thing, but in its relation to something extrinsic--in this case an
unessential observer."

He went to his desk, and searching a while found a paper, which be
unfolded and brought to her. A thick cross appeared in ink at the
bottom--evidently from the hand of Grammer. Grace put the paper
in her pocket with a look of much relief.

As Fitzpiers did not take up the money (half of which had come
from Grace's own purse), she pushed it a little nearer to him.
"No, no. I shall not take it from the old woman," he said. "It
is more strange than the fact of a surgeon arranging to obtain a
subject for dissection that our acquaintance should be formed out
of it."

"I am afraid you think me uncivil in showing my dislike to the
notion. But I did not mean to be."

"Oh no, no." He looked at her, as he had done before, with
puzzled interest. "I cannot think, I cannot think," he murmured.
"Something bewilders me greatly." He still reflected and
hesitated. "Last night I sat up very late," he at last went on,
"and on that account I fell into a little nap on that couch about
half an hour ago. And during my few minutes of unconsciousness I
dreamed--what do you think?--that you stood in the room."

Should she tell? She merely blushed.

"You may imagine," Fitzpiers continued, now persuaded that it had,
indeed, been a dream, "that I should not have dreamed of you
without considerable thinking about you first."

He could not be acting; of that she felt assured.

"I fancied in my vision that you stood there," he said, pointing
to where she had paused. "I did not see you directly, but
reflected in the glass. I thought, what a lovely creature! The
design is for once carried out. Nature has at last recovered her
lost union with the Idea! My thoughts ran in that direction
because I had been reading the work of a transcendental
philosopher last night; and I dare say it was the dose of Idealism
that I received from it that made me scarcely able to distinguish
between reality and fancy. I almost wept when I awoke, and found
that you had appeared to me in Time, but not in Space, alas!"

At moments there was something theatrical in the delivery of
Fitzpiers's effusion; yet it would have been inexact to say that
it was intrinsically theatrical. It often happens that in
situations of unrestraint, where there is no thought of the eye of
criticism, real feeling glides into a mode of manifestation not
easily distinguishable from rodomontade. A veneer of affectation
overlies a bulk of truth, with the evil consequence, if perceived,
that the substance is estimated by the superficies, and the whole

Grace, however, was no specialist in men's manners, and she
admired the sentiment without thinking of the form. And she was
embarrassed: "lovely creature" made explanation awkward to her
gentle modesty.

"But can it be," said he, suddenly, "that you really were here?"

"I have to confess that I have been in the room once before,"
faltered she. "The woman showed me in, and went away to fetch
you; but as she did not return, I left."

"And you saw me asleep," he murmured, with the faintest show of

"Yes--IF you were asleep, and did not deceive me."

"Why do you say if?"

"I saw your eyes open in the glass, but as they were closed when I
looked round upon you, I thought you were perhaps deceiving me.

"Never," said Fitzpiers, fervently--"never could I deceive you."

Foreknowledge to the distance of a year or so in either of them
might have spoiled the effect of that pretty speech. Never
deceive her! But they knew nothing, and the phrase had its day.

Grace began now to be anxious to terminate the interview, but the
compelling power of Fitzpiers's atmosphere still held her there.
She was like an inexperienced actress who, having at last taken up
her position on the boards, and spoken her speeches, does not know
how to move off. The thought of Grammer occurred to her. "I'll
go at once and tell poor Grammer of your generosity," she said.
"It will relieve her at once."

"Grammer's a nervous disease, too--how singular!" he answered,
accompanying her to the door. "One moment; look at this--it is
something which may interest you."

He had thrown open the door on the other side of the passage, and
she saw a microscope on the table of the confronting room. "Look
into it, please; you'll be interested," he repeated.

She applied her eye, and saw the usual circle of light patterned
all over with a cellular tissue of some indescribable sort. "What
do you think that is?" said Fitzpiers.

She did not know.

"That's a fragment of old John South's brain, which I am

She started back, not with aversion, but with wonder as to how it
should have got there. Fitzpiers laughed.

"Here am I," he said, "endeavoring to carry on simultaneously the
study of physiology and transcendental philosophy, the material
world and the ideal, so as to discover if possible a point of
contrast between them; and your finer sense is quite offended!"

"Oh no, Mr. Fitzpiers," said Grace, earnestly. "It is not so at
all. I know from seeing your light at night how deeply you
meditate and work. Instead of condemning you for your studies, I
admire you very much!"

Her face, upturned from the microscope, was so sweet, sincere, and
self-forgetful in its aspect that the susceptible Fitzpiers more
than wished to annihilate the lineal yard which separated it from
his own. Whether anything of the kind showed in his eyes or not,
Grace remained no longer at the microscope, but quickly went her
way into the rain.


Instead of resuming his investigation of South's brain, which
perhaps was not so interesting under the microscope as might have
been expected from the importance of that organ in life, Fitzpiers
reclined and ruminated on the interview. Grace's curious
susceptibility to his presence, though it was as if the currents
of her life were disturbed rather than attracted by him, added a
special interest to her general charm. Fitzpiers was in a
distinct degree scientific, being ready and zealous to interrogate
all physical manifestations, but primarily he was an idealist. He
believed that behind the imperfect lay the perfect; that rare
things were to be discovered amid a bulk of commonplace; that
results in a new and untried case might be different from those in
other cases where the conditions had been precisely similar.
Regarding his own personality as one of unbounded possibilities,
because it was his own--notwithstanding that the factors of his
life had worked out a sorry product for thousands--he saw nothing
but what was regular in his discovery at Hintock of an altogether
exceptional being of the other sex, who for nobody else would have
had any existence.

One habit of Fitzpiers's--commoner in dreamers of more advanced
age than in men of his years--was that of talking to himself. He
paced round his room with a selective tread upon the more
prominent blooms of the carpet, and murmured, "This phenomenal
girl will be the light of my life while I am at Hintock; and the
special beauty of the situation is that our attitude and relations
to each other will be purely spiritual. Socially we can never be
intimate. Anything like matrimonial intentions towards her,
charming as she is, would be absurd. They would spoil the
ethereal character of my regard. And, indeed, I have other aims
on the practical side of my life."

Fitzpiers bestowed a regulation thought on the advantageous
marriage he was bound to make with a woman of family as good as
his own, and of purse much longer. But as an object of
contemplation for the present, as objective spirit rather than
corporeal presence, Grace Melbury would serve to keep his soul
alive, and to relieve the monotony of his days.

His first notion--acquired from the mere sight of her without
converse--that of an idle and vulgar flirtation with a timber-
merchant's pretty daughter, grated painfully upon him now that he
had found what Grace intrinsically was. Personal intercourse with
such as she could take no lower form than intellectual communion,
and mutual explorations of the world of thought. Since he could
not call at her father's, having no practical views, cursory
encounters in the lane, in the wood, coming and going to and from
church, or in passing her dwelling, were what the acquaintance
would have to feed on.

Such anticipated glimpses of her now and then realized themselves
in the event. Rencounters of not more than a minute's duration,
frequently repeated, will build up mutual interest, even an
intimacy, in a lonely place. Theirs grew as imperceptibly as the
tree-twigs budded. There never was a particular moment at which
it could be said they became friends; yet a delicate understanding
now existed between two who in the winter had been strangers.

Spring weather came on rather suddenly, the unsealing of buds that
had long been swollen accomplishing itself in the space of one
warm night. The rush of sap in the veins of the trees could
almost be heard. The flowers of late April took up a position
unseen, and looked as if they had been blooming a long while,
though there had been no trace of them the day before yesterday;
birds began not to mind getting wet. In-door people said they had
heard the nightingale, to which out-door people replied
contemptuously that they had heard him a fortnight before.

The young doctor's practice being scarcely so large as a London
surgeon's, he frequently walked in the wood. Indeed such practice
as he had he did not follow up with the assiduity that would have
been necessary for developing it to exceptional proportions. One
day, book in hand, he walked in a part of the wood where the trees
were mainly oaks. It was a calm afternoon, and there was
everywhere around that sign of great undertakings on the part of
vegetable nature which is apt to fill reflective human beings who
are not undertaking much themselves with a sudden uneasiness at
the contrast. He heard in the distance a curious sound, something
like the quack of a duck, which, though it was common enough here
about this time, was not common to him.

Looking through the trees Fitzpiers soon perceived the origin of
the noise. The barking season had just commenced, and what he had
heard was the tear of the ripping tool as it ploughed its way
along the sticky parting between the trunk and the rind. Melbury
did a large business in bark, and as he was Grace's father, and
possibly might be found on the spot, Fitzpiers was attracted to
the scene even more than he might have been by its intrinsic
interest. When he got nearer he recognized among the workmen the
two Timothys, and Robert Creedle, who probably had been "lent" by
Winterborne; Marty South also assisted.

Each tree doomed to this flaying process was first attacked by
Creedle. With a small billhook he carefully freed the collar of
the tree from twigs and patches of moss which incrusted it to a
height of a foot or two above the ground, an operation comparable
to the "little toilet" of the executioner's victim. After this it
was barked in its erect position to a point as high as a man could
reach. If a fine product of vegetable nature could ever be said
to look ridiculous it was the case now, when the oak stood naked-
legged, and as if ashamed, till the axe-man came and cut a ring
round it, and the two Timothys finished the work with the

As soon as it had fallen the barkers attacked it like locusts, and
in a short time not a particle of rind was left on the trunk and
larger limbs. Marty South was an adept at peeling the upper
parts, and there she stood encaged amid the mass of twigs and buds
like a great bird, running her tool into the smallest branches,
beyond the farthest points to which the skill and patience of the
men enabled them to proceed--branches which, in their lifetime,
had swayed high above the bulk of the wood, and caught the latest
and earliest rays of the sun and moon while the lower part of the
forest was still in darkness.

"You seem to have a better instrument than they, Marty," said

"No, sir," she said, holding up the tool--a horse's leg-bone
fitted into a handle and filed to an edge--"'tis only that they've
less patience with the twigs, because their time is worth more
than mine."

A little shed had been constructed on the spot, of thatched
hurdles and boughs, and in front of it was a fire, over which a
kettle sung. Fitzpiers sat down inside the shelter, and went on
with his reading, except when he looked up to observe the scene
and the actors. The thought that he might settle here and become
welded in with this sylvan life by marrying Grace Melbury crossed
his mind for a moment. Why should he go farther into the world
than where he was? The secret of quiet happiness lay in limiting
the ideas and aspirations; these men's thoughts were conterminous
with the margin of the Hintock woodlands, and why should not his
be likewise limited--a small practice among the people around him
being the bound of his desires?

Presently Marty South discontinued her operations upon the
quivering boughs, came out from the reclining oak, and prepared
tea. When it was ready the men were called; and Fitzpiers being
in a mood to join, sat down with them.

The latent reason of his lingering here so long revealed itself
when the faint creaking of the joints of a vehicle became audible,
and one of the men said, "Here's he." Turning their heads they saw
Melbury's gig approaching, the wheels muffled by the yielding

The timber-merchant was on foot leading the horse, looking back at
every few steps to caution his daughter, who kept her seat, where
and how to duck her head so as to avoid the overhanging branches.
They stopped at the spot where the bark-ripping had been
temporarily suspended; Melbury cursorily examined the heaps of
bark, and drawing near to where the workmen were sitting down,
accepted their shouted invitation to have a dish of tea, for which
purpose he hitched the horse to a bough. (Grace declined to take
any of their beverage, and remained in her place in the vehicle,
looking dreamily at the sunlight that came in thin threads through
the hollies with which the oaks were interspersed.

When Melbury stepped up close to the shelter, he for the first
time perceived that the doctor was present, and warmly appreciated
Fitzpiers's invitation to sit down on the log beside him.

"Bless my heart, who would have thought of finding you here," he
said, obviously much pleased at the circumstance. "I wonder now
if my daughter knows you are so nigh at hand. I don't expect she

He looked out towards the gig wherein Grace sat, her face still
turned in the opposite direction. "She doesn't see us. Well,
never mind: let her be."

Grace was indeed quite unconscious of Fitzpiers's propinquity.
She was thinking of something which had little connection with the
scene before her--thinking of her friend, lost as soon as found,
Mrs. Charmond; of her capricious conduct, and of the contrasting
scenes she was possibly enjoying at that very moment in other
climes, to which Grace herself had hoped to be introduced by her
friend's means. She wondered if this patronizing lady would
return to Hintock during the summer, and whether the acquaintance
which had been nipped on the last occasion of her residence there
would develop on the next.

Melbury told ancient timber-stories as he sat, relating them
directly to Fitzpiers, and obliquely to the men, who had heard
them often before. Marty, who poured out tea, was just saying, "I
think I'll take out a cup to Miss Grace," when they heard a
clashing of the gig-harness, and turning round Melbury saw that
the horse had become restless, and was jerking about the vehicle
in a way which alarmed its occupant, though she refrained from
screaming. Melbury jumped up immediately, but not more quickly
than Fitzpiers; and while her father ran to the horse's head and
speedily began to control him, Fitzpiers was alongside the gig
assisting Grace to descend. Her surprise at his appearance was so
great that, far from making a calm and independent descent, she
was very nearly lifted down in his arms. He relinquished her when
she touched ground, and hoped she was not frightened.

"Oh no, not much," she managed to say. "There was no danger--
unless he had run under the trees where the boughs are low enough
to hit my head."

"Which was by no means an impossibility, and justifies any amount
of alarm."

He referred to what he thought he saw written in her face, and she
could not tell him that this had little to do with the horse, but
much with himself. His contiguity had, in fact, the same effect
upon her as on those former occasions when he had come closer to
her than usual--that of producing in her an unaccountable tendency
to tearfulness. Melbury soon put the horse to rights, and seeing
that Grace was safe, turned again to the work-people. His
daughter's nervous distress had passed off in a few moments, and
she said quite gayly to Fitzpiers as she walked with him towards
the group, "There's destiny in it, you see. I was doomed to join
in your picnic, although I did not intend to do so."

Marty prepared her a comfortable place, and she sat down in the
circle, and listened to Fitzpiers while he drew from her father
and the bark-rippers sundry narratives of their fathers', their
grandfathers', and their own adventures in these woods; of the
mysterious sights they had seen--only to be accounted for by
supernatural agency; of white witches and black witches; and the
standard story of the spirits of the two brothers who had fought
and fallen, and had haunted Hintock House till they were exorcised
by the priest, and compelled to retreat to a swamp in this very
wood, whence they were returning to their old quarters at the rate
of a cock's stride every New-year's Day, old style; hence the
local saying, "On New-year's tide, a cock's stride."

It was a pleasant time. The smoke from the little fire of peeled
sticks rose between the sitters and the sunlight, and behind its
blue veil stretched the naked arms of the prostrate trees The
smell of the uncovered sap mingled with the smell of the burning
wood, and the sticky inner surface of the scattered bark glistened
as it revealed its pale madder hues to the eye. Melbury was so

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest