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All the evening Melbury had been coming to his door, saying, "I
wonder where in the world that girl is! Never in all my born days
did I know her bide out like this! She surely said she was going
into the garden to get some parsley."
Melbury searched the garden, the parsley-bed, and the orchard, but
could find no trace of her, and then he made inquiries at the
cottages of such of his workmen as had not gone to bed, avoiding
Tangs's because he knew the young people were to rise early to
leave. In these inquiries one of the men's wives somewhat
incautiously let out the fact that she had heard a scream in the
wood, though from which direction she could not say.
This set Melbury's fears on end. He told the men to light
lanterns, and headed by himself they started, Creedle following at
the last moment with quite a burden of grapnels and ropes, which
he could not be persuaded to leave behind, and the company being
joined by the hollow-turner and the man who kept the cider-house
as they went along.
They explored the precincts of the village, and in a short time
lighted upon the man-trap. Its discovery simply added an item of
fact without helping their conjectures; but Melbury's indefinite
alarm was greatly increased when, holding a candle to the ground,
he saw in the teeth of the instrument some frayings from Grace's
clothing. No intelligence of any kind was gained till they met a
woodman of Delborough, who said that he had seen a lady answering
to the description her father gave of Grace, walking through the
wood on a gentleman's arm in the direction of Sherton.
"Was he clutching her tight?" said Melbury.
"Well--rather," said the man.
"Did she walk lame?"
"Well, 'tis true her head hung over towards him a bit."
Creedle groaned tragically.
Melbury, not suspecting the presence of Fitzpiers, coupled this
account with the man-trap and the scream; he could not understand
what it all meant; but the sinister event of the trap made him
follow on. Accordingly, they bore away towards the town, shouting
as they went, and in due course emerged upon the highway.
Nearing Sherton-Abbas, the previous information was confirmed by
other strollers, though the gentleman's supporting arm had
disappeared from these later accounts. At last they were so near
Sherton that Melbury informed his faithful followers that he did
not wish to drag them farther at so late an hour, since he could
go on alone and inquire if the woman who had been seen were really
Grace. But they would not leave him alone in his anxiety, and
trudged onward till the lamplight from the town began to
illuminate their fronts. At the entrance to the High Street they
got fresh scent of the pursued, but coupled with the new condition
that the lady in the costume described had been going up the
"Faith!--I believe she's mesmerized, or walking in her sleep,"
However, the identity of this woman with Grace was by no means
certain; but they plodded along the street. Percombe, the hair-
dresser, who had despoiled Marty of her tresses, was standing at
his door, and they duly put inquiries to him.
"Ah--how's Little Hintock folk by now?" he said, before replying.
"Never have I been over there since one winter night some three
year ago--and then I lost myself finding it. How can ye live in
such a one-eyed place? Great Hintock is bad enough--hut Little
Hintock--the bats and owls would drive me melancholy-mad! It took
two days to raise my sperrits to their true pitch again after that
night I went there. Mr. Melbury, sir, as a man's that put by
money, why not retire and live here, and see something of the
The responses at last given by him to their queries guided them to
the building that offered the best accommodation in Sherton--
having been enlarged contemporaneously with the construction of
the railway--namely, the Earl of Wessex Hotel.
Leaving the others without, Melbury made prompt inquiry here. His
alarm was lessened, though his perplexity was increased, when he
received a brief reply that such a lady was in the house.
"Do you know if it is my daughter?" asked Melbury.
The waiter did not.
"Do you know the lady's name?"
Of this, too, the household was ignorant, the hotel having been
taken by brand-new people from a distance. They knew the
gentleman very well by sight, and had not thought it necessary to
ask him to enter his name.
"Oh, the gentleman appears again now," said Melbury to himself.
"Well, I want to see the lady," he declared.
A message was taken up, and after some delay the shape of Grace
appeared descending round the bend of the stair-case, looking as
if she lived there, but in other respects rather guilty and
"Why--what the name--" began her father. "I thought you went out
to get parsley!"
"Oh, yes--I did--but it is all right," said Grace, in a flurried
whisper. "I am not alone here. I am here with Edgar. It is
entirely owing to an accident, father."
"Edgar! An accident! How does he come here? I thought he was two
hundred mile off."
"Yes, so he is--I mean he has got a beautiful practice two hundred
miles off; he has bought it with his own money, some that came to
him. But he travelled here, and I was nearly caught in a man-
trap, and that's how it is I am here. We were just thinking of
sending a messenger to let you know."
Melbury did not seem to be particularly enlightened by this
"You were caught in a man-trap?"
"Yes; my dress was. That's how it arose. Edgar is up-stairs in
his own sitting-room," she went on. "He would not mind seeing
you, I am sure."
"Oh, faith, I don't want to see him! I have seen him too often
a'ready. I'll see him another time, perhaps, if 'tis to oblige
"He came to see me; he wanted to consult me about this large
partnership I speak of, as it is very promising."
"Oh, I am glad to hear it," said Melbury, dryly.
A pause ensued, during which the inquiring faces and whity-brown
clothes of Melbury's companions appeared in the door-way.
"Then bain't you coming home with us?" he asked.
"I--I think not," said Grace, blushing.
"H'm--very well--you are your own mistress," he returned, in tones
which seemed to assert otherwise. "Good-night;" and Melbury
retreated towards the door.
"Don't be angry, father," she said, following him a few steps. "I
have done it for the best."
"I am not angry, though it is true I have been a little misled in
this. However, good-night. I must get home along."
He left the hotel, not without relief, for to be under the eyes of
strangers while he conversed with his lost child had embarrassed
him much. His search-party, too, had looked awkward there, having
rushed to the task of investigation--some in their shirt sleeves,
others in their leather aprons, and all much stained--just as they
had come from their work of barking, and not in their Sherton
marketing attire; while Creedle, with his ropes and grapnels and
air of impending tragedy, had added melancholy to gawkiness.
"Now, neighbors," said Melbury, on joining them, "as it is getting
late, we'll leg it home again as fast as we can. I ought to tell
you that there has been some mistake--some arrangement entered
into between Mr. and Mrs. Fitzpiers which I didn't quite
understand--an important practice in the Midland counties has come
to him, which made it necessary for her to join him to-night--so
she says. That's all it was--and I'm sorry I dragged you out."
"Well," said the hollow-turner, "here be we six mile from home,
and night-time, and not a hoss or four-footed creeping thing to
our name. I say, we'll have a mossel and a drop o' summat to
strengthen our nerves afore we vamp all the way back again? My
throat's as dry as a kex. What d'ye say so's?"
They all concurred in the need for this course, and proceeded to
the antique and lampless back street, in which the red curtain of
the Three Tuns was the only radiant object. As soon as they had
stumbled down into the room Melbury ordered them to be served,
when they made themselves comfortable by the long table, and
stretched out their legs upon the herring-boned sand of the floor.
Melbury himself, restless as usual, walked to the door while he
waited for them, and looked up and down the street.
"I'd gie her a good shaking if she were my maid; pretending to go
out in the garden, and leading folk a twelve-mile traipse that
have got to get up at five o'clock to morrow," said a bark-ripper;
who, not working regularly for Melbury, could afford to indulge in
"I don't speak so warm as that," said the hollow-turner, "but if
'tis right for couples to make a country talk about their
separating, and excite the neighbors, and then make fools of 'em
like this, why, I haven't stood upon one leg for five-and-twenty
All his listeners knew that when he alluded to his foot-lathe in
these enigmatic terms, the speaker meant to be impressive; and
Creedle chimed in with, "Ah, young women do wax wanton in these
days! Why couldn't she ha' bode with her father, and been
faithful?" Poor Creedle was thinking of his old employer.
"But this deceiving of folks is nothing unusual in matrimony,"
said Farmer Bawtree. "I knowed a man and wife--faith, I don't
mind owning, as there's no strangers here, that the pair were my
own relations--they'd be at it that hot one hour that you'd hear
the poker and the tongs and the bellows and the warming-pan flee
across the house with the movements of their vengeance; and the
next hour you'd hear 'em singing 'The Spotted Cow' together as
peaceable as two holy twins; yes--and very good voices they had,
and would strike in like professional ballet-singers to one
another's support in the high notes."
"And I knowed a woman, and the husband o' her went away for four-
and-twenty year," said the bark-ripper. "And one night he came
home when she was sitting by the fire, and thereupon he sat down
himself on the other side of the chimney-corner. 'Well,' says
she, 'have ye got any news?' 'Don't know as I have,' says he;
'have you?' 'No,' says she, 'except that my daughter by my second
husband was married last month, which was a year after I was made
a widow by him.' 'Oh! Anything else?' he says. 'No,' says she.
And there they sat, one on each side of that chimney-corner, and
were found by their neighbors sound asleep in their chairs, not
having known what to talk about at all."
"Well, I don't care who the man is," said Creedle, "they required
a good deal to talk about, and that's true. It won't be the same
"No. He is such a projick, you see. And she is a wonderful
"What women do know nowadays!" observed the hollow-turner. "You
can't deceive 'em as you could in my time."
"What they knowed then was not small," said John Upjohn. "Always
a good deal more than the men! Why, when I went courting my wife
that is now, the skilfulness that she would show in keeping me on
her pretty side as she walked was beyond all belief. Perhaps
you've noticed that she's got a pretty side to her face as well as
a plain one?"
"I can't say I've noticed it particular much," said the hollow-
"Well," continued Upjohn, not disconcerted, "she has. All women
under the sun be prettier one side than t'other. And, as I was
saying, the pains she would take to make me walk on the pretty
side were unending! I warrant that whether we were going with the
sun or against the sun, uphill or downhill, in wind or in lewth,
that wart of hers was always towards the hedge, and that dimple
towards me. There was I, too simple to see her wheelings and
turnings; and she so artful, though two years younger, that she
could lead me with a cotton thread, like a blind ram; for that was
in the third climate of our courtship. No; I don't think the
women have got cleverer, for they was never otherwise."
"How many climates may there be in courtship, Mr. Upjohn?"
inquired a youth--the same who had assisted at Winterborne's
"Five--from the coolest to the hottest--leastwise there was five
"Can ye give us the chronicle of 'em, Mr. Upjohn?"
"Yes--I could. I could certainly. But 'tis quite unnecessary.
They'll come to ye by nater, young man, too soon for your good."
"At present Mrs. Fitzpiers can lead the doctor as your mis'ess
could lead you," the hollow-turner remarked. "She's got him quite
tame. But how long 'twill last I can't say. I happened to be
setting a wire on the top of my garden one night when he met her
on the other side of the hedge; and the way she queened it, and
fenced, and kept that poor feller at a distance, was enough to
freeze yer blood. I should never have supposed it of such a
Melbury now returned to the room, and the men having declared
themselves refreshed, they all started on the homeward journey,
which was by no means cheerless under the rays of the high moon.
Having to walk the whole distance they came by a foot-path rather
shorter than the highway, though difficult except to those who
knew the country well. This brought them by way of Great Hintock;
and passing the church-yard they observed, as they talked, a
motionless figure standing by the gate.
"I think it was Marty South," said the hollow-turner,
"I think 'twas; 'a was always a lonely maid," said Upjohn. And
they passed on homeward, and thought of the matter no more.
It was Marty, as they had supposed. That evening had been the
particular one of the week upon which Grace and herself had been
accustomed to privately deposit flowers on Giles's grave, and this
was the first occasion since his death, eight months earlier, on
which Grace had failed to keep her appointment. Marty had waited
in the road just outside Little Hintock, where her fellow-pilgrim
had been wont to join her, till she was weary; and at last,
thinking that Grace had missed her and gone on alone, she followed
the way to Great Hintock, but saw no Grace in front of her. It
got later, and Marty continued her walk till she reached the
church-yard gate; but still no Grace. Yet her sense of
comradeship would not allow her to go on to the grave alone, and
still thinking the delay had been unavoidable, she stood there
with her little basket of flowers in her clasped hands, and her
feet chilled by the damp ground, till more than two hours had
She then heard the footsteps of Melbury's men, who presently
passed on their return from the search. In the silence of the
night Marty could not help hearing fragments of their
conversation, from which she acquired a general idea of what had
occurred, and where Mrs. Fitzpiers then was.
Immediately they had dropped down the hill she entered the church-
yard, going to a secluded corner behind the bushes, where rose the
unadorned stone that marked the last bed of Giles Winterborne. As
this solitary and silent girl stood there in the moonlight, a
straight slim figure, clothed in a plaitless gown, the contours of
womanhood so undeveloped as to be scarcely perceptible, the marks
of poverty and toil effaced by the misty hour, she touched
sublimity at points, and looked almost like a being who had
rejected with indifference the attribute of sex for the loftier
quality of abstract humanism. She stooped down and cleared away
the withered flowers that Grace and herself had laid there the
previous week, and put her fresh ones in their place.
"Now, my own, own love," she whispered, "you are mine, and on'y
mine; for she has forgot 'ee at last, although for her you died.
But I--whenever I get up I'll think of 'ee, and whenever I lie
down I'll think of 'ee. Whenever I plant the young larches I'll
think that none can plant as you planted; and whenever I split a
gad, and whenever I turn the cider-wring, I'll say none could do
it like you. If ever I forget your name, let me forget home and
Heaven!--But no, no, my love, I never can forget 'ee; for you was
a GOOD man, and did good things!"
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