There was agitation to-day in the lives of all whom these matters concerned. It
was not till the Hintock dinner-time--one o'clock-- that Grace discovered her
father's absence from the house after a departure in the morning under
somewhat unusual conditions. By a little reasoning and inquiry she was able to
come to a conclusion on his destination, and to divine his errand.
Her husband was absent, and her father did not return. He had, in truth, gone on
to Sherton after the interview, but this Grace did not know. In an indefinite dread
that something serious would arise out of Melbury's visit by reason of the
inequalities of temper and nervous irritation to which he was subject, something
possibly that would bring her much more misery than accompanied her present
negative state of mind, she left the house about three o'clock, and took a loitering
walk in the woodland track by which she imagined he would come home. This
track under the bare trees and over the cracking sticks, screened and roofed in
from the outer world of wind and cloud by a net-work of boughs, led her slowly on
till in time she had left the larger trees behind her and swept round into the
coppice where Winterborne and his men were clearing the undergrowth.
Had Giles's attention been concentrated on his hurdles he would not have seen
her; but ever since Melbury's passage across the opposite glade in the morning
he had been as uneasy and unsettled as Grace herself; and her advent now was
the one appearance which, since her father's avowal, could arrest him more than
Melbury's return with his tidings. Fearing that something might be the matter, he
hastened up to her.
She had not seen her old lover for a long time, and, too conscious of the late
pranks of her heart, she could not behold him calmly. "I am only looking for my
father," she said, in an unnecessarily apologetic intonation.
"I was looking for him too," said Giles. "I think he may perhaps have gone on
"Then you knew he was going to the House, Giles?" she said, turning her large
tender eyes anxiously upon him. "Did he tell you what for?"
Winterborne glanced doubtingly at her, and then softly hinted that her father had
visited him the evening before, and that their old friendship was quite restored,
on which she guessed the rest.
"Oh, I am glad, indeed, that you two are friends again!" she cried. And then they
stood facing each other, fearing each other, troubling each other's souls. Grace
experienced acute misery at the sight of these wood-cutting scenes, because