The Woodlanders HTML version

Chapter 18
It was at this time that Grace approached the house. Her knock, always soft in
virtue of her nature, was softer to-day by reason of her strange errand. However,
it was heard by the farmer's wife who kept the house, and Grace was admitted.
Opening the door of the doctor's room the housewife glanced in, and imagining
Fitzpiers absent, asked Miss Melbury to enter and wait a few minutes while she
should go and find him, believing him to be somewhere on the premises. Grace
acquiesced, went in, and sat down close to the door.
As soon as the door was shut upon her she looked round the room, and started
at perceiving a handsome man snugly ensconced in the couch, like the
recumbent figure within some canopied mural tomb of the fifteenth century,
except that his hands were by no means clasped in prayer. She had no doubt
that this was the doctor. Awaken him herself she could not, and her immediate
impulse was to go and pull the broad ribbon with a brass rosette which hung at
one side of the fireplace. But expecting the landlady to re-enter in a moment she
abandoned this intention, and stood gazing in great embarrassment at the
reclining philosopher.
The windows of Fitzpiers's soul being at present shuttered, he probably appeared
less impressive than in his hours of animation; but the light abstracted from his
material presence by sleep was more than counterbalanced by the mysterious
influence of that state, in a stranger, upon the consciousness of a beholder so
sensitive. So far as she could criticise at all, she became aware that she had
encountered a specimen of creation altogether unusual in that locality. The
occasions on which Grace had observed men of this stamp were when she had
been far removed away from Hintock, and even then such examples as had met
her eye were at a distance, and mainly of coarser fibre than the one who now
confronted her.
She nervously wondered why the woman had not discovered her mistake and
returned, and went again towards the bell-pull. Approaching the chimney her
back was to Fitzpiers, but she could see him in the glass. An indescribable thrill
passed through her as she perceived that the eyes of the reflected image were
open, gazing wonderingly at her, and under the curious unexpectedness of the
sight she became as if spellbound, almost powerless to turn her head and regard
the original. However, by an effort she did turn, when there he lay asleep the
same as before.
Her startled perplexity as to what he could be meaning was sufficient to lead her
to precipitately abandon her errand. She crossed quickly to the door, opened and
closed it noiselessly, and went out of the house unobserved. By the time that she
had gone down the path and through the garden door into the lane she had