The mare paced along with firm and cautious tread through the copse where
Winterborne had worked, and into the heavier soil where the oaks grew; past
Great Willy, the largest oak in the wood, and thence towards Nellcombe Bottom,
intensely dark now with overgrowth, and popularly supposed to be haunted by
the spirits of the fratricides exorcised from Hintock House.
By this time Fitzpiers was quite recovered as to physical strength. But he had
eaten nothing since making a hasty breakfast in London that morning, his anxiety
about Felice having hurried him away from home before dining; as a
consequence, the old rum administered by his father-in-law flew to the young
man's head and loosened his tongue, without his ever having recognized who it
was that had lent him a kindly hand. He began to speak in desultory sentences,
Melbury still supporting him.
"I've come all the way from London to-day," said Fitzpiers. "Ah, that's the place to
meet your equals. I live at Hintock--worse, at Little Hintock--and I am quite lost
there. There's not a man within ten miles of Hintock who can comprehend me. I
tell you, Farmer What's-your-name, that I'm a man of education. I know several
languages; the poets and I are familiar friends; I used to read more in
metaphysics than anybody within fifty miles; and since I gave that up there's
nobody can match me in the whole county of Wessex as a scientist. Yet I an
doomed to live with tradespeople in a miserable little hole like Hintock!"
"Indeed!" muttered Melbury.
Fitzpiers, increasingly energized by the alcohol, here reared himself up suddenly
from the bowed posture he had hitherto held, thrusting his shoulders so violently
against Melbury's breast as to make it difficult for the old man to keep a hold on
the reins. "People don't appreciate me here!" the surgeon exclaimed; lowering his
voice, he added, softly and slowly, "except one--except one!...A passionate soul,
as warm as she is clever, as beautiful as she is warm, and as rich as she is
beautiful. I say, old fellow, those claws of yours clutch me rather tight--rather like
the eagle's, you know, that ate out the liver of Pro--Pre--the man on Mount
Caucasus. People don't appreciate me, I say, except HER. Ah, gods, I am an
unlucky man! She would have been mine, she would have taken my name; but
unfortunately it cannot be so. I stooped to mate beneath me, and now I rue it."
The position was becoming a very trying one for Melbury, corporeally and
mentally. He was obliged to steady Fitzpiers with his left arm, and he began to
hate the contact. He hardly knew what to do. It was useless to remonstrate with
Fitzpiers, in his intellectual confusion from the rum and from the fall. He remained