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"'Tis a pity--a thousand pities!" her father kept saying next
morning at breakfast, Grace being still in her bedroom.
But how could he, with any self-respect, obstruct Winterborne's
suit at this stage, and nullify a scheme he had labored to
promote--was, indeed, mechanically promoting at this moment? A
crisis was approaching, mainly as a result of his contrivances,
and it would have to be met.
But here was the fact, which could not be disguised: since seeing
what an immense change her last twelve months of absence had
produced in his daughter, after the heavy sum per annum that he
had been spending for several years upon her education, he was
reluctant to let her marry Giles Winterborne, indefinitely
occupied as woodsman, cider-merchant, apple-farmer, and what not,
even were she willing to marry him herself.
"She will be his wife if you don't upset her notion that she's
bound to accept him as an understood thing," said Mrs. Melbury.
"Bless ye, she'll soon shake down here in Hintock, and be content
with Giles's way of living, which he'll improve with what money
she'll have from you. 'Tis the strangeness after her genteel life
that makes her feel uncomfortable at first. Why, when I saw
Hintock the first time I thought I never could like it. But
things gradually get familiar, and stone floors seem not so very
cold and hard, and the hooting of the owls not so very dreadful,
and loneliness not so very lonely, after a while."
"Yes, I believe ye. That's just it. I KNOW Grace will gradually
sink down to our level again, and catch our manners and way of
speaking, and feel a drowsy content in being Giles's wife. But I
can't bear the thought of dragging down to that old level as
promising a piece of maidenhood as ever lived--fit to ornament a
palace wi'--that I've taken so much trouble to lift up. Fancy her
white hands getting redder every day, and her tongue losing its
pretty up-country curl in talking, and her bounding walk becoming
the regular Hintock shail and wamble!"
"She may shail, but she'll never wamble," replied his wife,
When Grace came down-stairs he complained of her lying in bed so
late; not so much moved by a particular objection to that form of
indulgence as discomposed by these other reflections.
The corners of her pretty mouth dropped a little down. "You used
to complain with justice when I was a girl," she said. "But I am
a woman now, and can judge for myself....But it is not that; it is
something else!" Instead of sitting down she went outside the
He was sorry. The petulance that relatives show towards each
other is in truth directed against that intangible Causality which
has shaped the situation no less for the offenders than the
offended, but is too elusive to be discerned and cornered by poor
humanity in irritated mood. Melbury followed her. She had
rambled on to the paddock, where the white frost lay, and where
starlings in flocks of twenties and thirties were walking about,
watched by a comfortable family of sparrows perched in a line
along the string-course of the chimney, preening themselves in the
rays of the sun.
"Come in to breakfast, my girl," he said. "And as to Giles, use
your own mind. Whatever pleases you will please me."
"I am promised to him, father; and I cannot help thinking that in
honor I ought to marry him, whenever I do marry."
He had a strong suspicion that somewhere in the bottom of her
heart there pulsed an old simple indigenous feeling favorable to
Giles, though it had become overlaid with implanted tastes. But
he would not distinctly express his views on the promise. "Very
well," he said. "But I hope I sha'n't lose you yet. Come in to
breakfast. What did you think of the inside of Hintock House the
"I liked it much."
"Different from friend Winterborne's?"
She said nothing; but he who knew her was aware that she meant by
her silence to reproach him with drawing cruel comparisons.
"Mrs. Charmond has asked you to come again--when, did you say?"
"She thought Tuesday, but would send the day before to let me know
if it suited her." And with this subject upon their lips they
entered to breakfast.
Tuesday came, but no message from Mrs. Charmond. Nor was there
any on Wednesday. In brief, a fortnight slipped by without a
sign, and it looked suspiciously as if Mrs. Charmond were not
going further in the direction of "taking up" Grace at present.
Her father reasoned thereon. Immediately after his daughter's two
indubitable successes with Mrs. Charmond--the interview in the
wood and a visit to the House--she had attended Winterborne's
party. No doubt the out-and-out joviality of that gathering had
made it a topic in the neighborhood, and that every one present as
guests had been widely spoken of--Grace, with her exceptional
qualities, above all. What, then, so natural as that Mrs.
Charmond should have heard the village news, and become quite
disappointed in her expectations of Grace at finding she kept such
Full of this post hoc argument, Mr. Melbury overlooked the
infinite throng of other possible reasons and unreasons for a
woman changing her mind. For instance, while knowing that his
Grace was attractive, he quite forgot that Mrs. Charmond had also
great pretensions to beauty. In his simple estimate, an
attractive woman attracted all around.
So it was settled in his mind that her sudden mingling with the
villagers at the unlucky Winterborne's was the cause of her most
grievous loss, as he deemed it, in the direction of Hintock House.
"'Tis a thousand pities!" he would repeat to himself. "I am
ruining her for conscience' sake!"
It was one morning later on, while these things were agitating his
mind, that, curiously enough, something darkened the window just
as they finished breakfast. Looking up, they saw Giles in person
mounted on horseback, and straining his neck forward, as he had
been doing for some time, to catch their attention through the
window. Grace had been the first to see him, and involuntarily
exclaimed, "There he is--and a new horse!"
On their faces as they regarded Giles were written their suspended
thoughts and compound feelings concerning him, could he have read
them through those old panes. But he saw nothing: his features
just now were, for a wonder, lit up with a red smile at some other
idea. So they rose from breakfast and went to the door, Grace
with an anxious, wistful manner, her father in a reverie, Mrs.
Melbury placid and inquiring. "We have come out to look at your
horse," she said.
It could be seen that he was pleased at their attention, and
explained that he had ridden a mile or two to try the animal's
paces. "I bought her," he added, with warmth so severely
repressed as to seem indifference, "because she has been used to
carry a lady."
Still Mr. Melbury did not brighten. Mrs. Melbury said, "And is
Winterborne assured her that there was no doubt of it. "I took
care of that. She's five-and-twenty, and very clever for her
"Well, get off and come in," said Melbury, brusquely; and Giles
This event was the concrete result of Winterborne's thoughts
during the past week or two. The want of success with his evening
party he had accepted in as philosophic a mood as he was capable
of; but there had been enthusiasm enough left in him one day at
Sherton Abbas market to purchase this old mare, which had belonged
to a neighboring parson with several daughters, and was offered
him to carry either a gentleman or a lady, and to do odd jobs of
carting and agriculture at a pinch. This obliging quadruped
seemed to furnish Giles with a means of reinstating himself in
Melbury's good opinion as a man of considerateness by throwing out
future possibilities to Grace.
The latter looked at him with intensified interest this morning,
in the mood which is altogether peculiar to woman's nature, and
which, when reduced into plain words, seems as impossible as the
penetrability of matter--that of entertaining a tender pity for
the object of her own unnecessary coldness. The imperturbable
poise which marked Winterborne in general was enlivened now by a
freshness and animation that set a brightness in his eye and on
his cheek. Mrs. Melbury asked him to have some breakfast, and he
pleasurably replied that he would join them, with his usual lack
of tactical observation, not perceiving that they had all finished
the meal, that the hour was inconveniently late, and that the note
piped by the kettle denoted it to be nearly empty; so that fresh
water had to be brought in, trouble taken to make it boil, and a
general renovation of the table carried out. Neither did he know,
so full was he of his tender ulterior object in buying that horse,
how many cups of tea he was gulping down one after another, nor
how the morning was slipping, nor how he was keeping the family
from dispersing about their duties.
Then he told throughout the humorous story of the horse's
purchase,looking particularly grim at some fixed object in the
room, a way he always looked when he narrated anything that amused
him. While he was still thinking of the scene he had described,
Grace rose and said, "I have to go and help my mother now, Mr.
"H'm!" he ejaculated, turning his eyes suddenly upon her.
She repeated her words with a slight blush of awkwardness;
whereupon Giles, becoming suddenly conscious, too conscious,
jumped up, saying, "To be sure, to be sure!" wished them quickly
good-morning, and bolted out of the house.
Nevertheless he had, upon the whole, strengthened his position,
with her at least. Time, too, was on his side, for (as her father
saw with some regret) already the homeliness of Hintock life was
fast becoming effaced from her observation as a singularity; just
as the first strangeness of a face from which we have for years
been separated insensibly passes off with renewed intercourse, and
tones itself down into simple identity with the lineaments of the
Thus Mr. Melbury went out of the house still unreconciled to the
sacrifice of the gem he had been at such pains in mounting. He
fain could hope, in the secret nether chamber of his mind, that
something would happen, before the balance of her feeling had
quite turned in Winterborne's favor, to relieve his conscience and
preserve her on her elevated plane.
He could not forget that Mrs. Charmond had apparently abandoned
all interest in his daughter as suddenly as she had conceived it,
and was as firmly convinced as ever that the comradeship which
Grace had shown with Giles and his crew by attending his party had
been the cause.
Matters lingered on thus. And then, as a hoop by gentle knocks on
this side and on that is made to travel in specific directions,
the little touches of circumstance in the life of this young girl
shaped the curves of her career.
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