Winterborne sped on his way to Sherton Abbas without elation and without
discomposure. Had he regarded his inner self spectacularly, as lovers are now
daily more wont to do, he might have felt pride in the discernment of a somewhat
rare power in him--that of keeping not only judgment but emotion suspended in
difficult cases. But he noted it not. Neither did he observe what was also the fact,
that though he cherished a true and warm feeling towards Grace Melbury, he
was not altogether her fool just now. It must be remembered that he had not
seen her for a year.
Arrived at the entrance to a long flat lane, which had taken the spirit out of many
a pedestrian in times when, with the majority, to travel meant to walk, he saw
before him the trim figure of a young woman in pattens, journeying with that
steadfast concentration which means purpose and not pleasure. He was soon
near enough to see that she was Marty South. Click, click, click went the pattens;
and she did not turn her head.
She had, however, become aware before this that the driver of the approaching
gig was Giles. She had shrunk from being overtaken by him thus; but as it was
inevitable, she had braced herself up for his inspection by closing her lips so as
to make her mouth quite unemotional, and by throwing an additional firmness
into her tread.
"Why do you wear pattens, Marty? The turnpike is clean enough, although the
lanes are muddy."
"They save my boots."
"But twelve miles in pattens--'twill twist your feet off. Come, get up and ride with
She hesitated, removed her pattens, knocked the gravel out of them against the
wheel, and mounted in front of the nodding specimen apple-tree. She had so
arranged her bonnet with a full border and trimmings that her lack of long hair did
not much injure her appearance; though Giles, of course, saw that it was gone,
and may have guessed her motive in parting with it, such sales, though
infrequent, being not unheard of in that locality.
But nature's adornment was still hard by--in fact, within two feet of him, though he
did not know it. In Marty's basket was a brown paper packet, and in the packet
the chestnut locks, which, by reason of the barber's request for secrecy, she had
not ventured to intrust to other hands.