had been sent her from some unknown source, how could she but have thought
that her whole lot was going to change, and that to-morrow some still more
bewildering joy would befall her? Hetty had never read a novel; if she had ever
seen one, I think the words would have been too hard for her; how then could
she find a shape for her expectations? They were as formless as the sweet
languid odours of the garden at the Chase, which had floated past her as she
walked by the gate.
She is at another gate now--that leading into Fir-tree Grove. She enters the
wood, where it is already twilight, and at every step she takes, the fear at her
heart becomes colder. If he should not come! Oh, how dreary it was--the thought
of going out at the other end of the wood, into the unsheltered road, without
having seen him. She reaches the first turning towards the Hermitage, walking
slowly--he is not there. She hates the leveret that runs across the path; she hates
everything that is not what she longs for. She walks on, happy whenever she is
coming to a bend in the road, for perhaps he is behind it. No. She is beginning to
cry: her heart has swelled so, the tears stand in her eyes; she gives one great
sob, while the corners of her mouth quiver, and the tears roll down.
She doesn't know that there is another turning to the Hermitage, that she is close
against it, and that Arthur Donnithorne is only a few yards from her, full of one
thought, and a thought of which she only is the object. He is going to see Hetty
again: that is the longing which has been growing through the last three hours to
a feverish thirst. Not, of course, to speak in the caressing way into which he had
unguardedly fallen before dinner, but to set things right with her by a kindness
which would have the air of friendly civility, and prevent her from running away
with wrong notions about their mutual relation.
If Hetty had known he was there, she would not have cried; and it would have
been better, for then Arthur would perhaps have behaved as wisely as he had
intended. As it was, she started when he appeared at the end of the side-alley,
and looked up at him with two great drops rolling down her cheeks. What else
could he do but speak to her in a soft, soothing tone, as if she were a bright-eyed
spaniel with a thorn in her foot?
"Has something frightened you, Hetty? Have you seen anything in the wood?
Don't be frightened--I'll take care of you now."
Hetty was blushing so, she didn't know whether she was happy or miserable. To
be crying again--what did gentlemen think of girls who cried in that way? She felt
unable even to say "no," but could only look away from him and wipe the tears
from her cheek. Not before a great drop had fallen on her rose-coloured strings--
she knew that quite well.