"'Tis a pity--a thousand pities!" her father kept saying next morning at breakfast,
Grace being still in her bedroom.
But how could he, with any self-respect, obstruct Winterborne's suit at this stage,
and nullify a scheme he had labored to promote--was, indeed, mechanically
promoting at this moment? A crisis was approaching, mainly as a result of his
contrivances, and it would have to be met.
But here was the fact, which could not be disguised: since seeing what an
immense change her last twelve months of absence had produced in his
daughter, after the heavy sum per annum that he had been spending for several
years upon her education, he was reluctant to let her marry Giles Winterborne,
indefinitely occupied as woodsman, cider-merchant, apple-farmer, and what not,
even were she willing to marry him herself.
"She will be his wife if you don't upset her notion that she's bound to accept him
as an understood thing," said Mrs. Melbury. "Bless ye, she'll soon shake down
here in Hintock, and be content with Giles's way of living, which he'll improve with
what money she'll have from you. 'Tis the strangeness after her genteel life that
makes her feel uncomfortable at first. Why, when I saw Hintock the first time I
thought I never could like it. But things gradually get familiar, and stone floors
seem not so very cold and hard, and the hooting of the owls not so very dreadful,
and loneliness not so very lonely, after a while."
"Yes, I believe ye. That's just it. I KNOW Grace will gradually sink down to our
level again, and catch our manners and way of speaking, and feel a drowsy
content in being Giles's wife. But I can't bear the thought of dragging down to that
old level as promising a piece of maidenhood as ever lived--fit to ornament a
palace wi'--that I've taken so much trouble to lift up. Fancy her white hands
getting redder every day, and her tongue losing its pretty up-country curl in
talking, and her bounding walk becoming the regular Hintock shail and wamble!"
"She may shail, but she'll never wamble," replied his wife, decisively.
When Grace came down-stairs he complained of her lying in bed so late; not so
much moved by a particular objection to that form of indulgence as discomposed
by these other reflections.
The corners of her pretty mouth dropped a little down. "You used to complain
with justice when I was a girl," she said. "But I am a woman now, and can judge
for myself....But it is not that; it is something else!" Instead of sitting down she
went outside the door.