The Woodlanders HTML version

Chapter 21
When the general stampede occurred Winterborne had also been looking on,
and encountering one of the girls, had asked her what caused them all to fly.
She said with solemn breathlessness that they had seen something very different
from what they had hoped to see, and that she for one would never attempt such
unholy ceremonies again. "We saw Satan pursuing us with his hour-glass. It was
This account being a little incoherent, Giles went forward towards the spot from
which the girls had retreated. After listening there a few minutes he heard slow
footsteps rustling over the leaves, and looking through a tangled screen of
honeysuckle which hung from a bough, he saw in the open space beyond a short
stout man in evening-dress, carrying on one arm a light overcoat and also his
hat, so awkwardly arranged as possibly to have suggested the "hour-glass" to his
timid observers--if this were the person whom the girls had seen. With the other
hand he silently gesticulated and the moonlight falling upon his bare brow
showed him to have dark hair and a high forehead of the shape seen oftener in
old prints and paintings than in real life. His curious and altogether alien aspect,
his strange gestures, like those of one who is rehearsing a scene to himself, and
the unusual place and hour, were sufficient to account for any trepidation among
the Hintock daughters at encountering him.
He paused, and looked round, as if he had forgotten where he was; not
observing Giles, who was of the color of his environment. The latter advanced
into the light. The gentleman held up his hand and came towards Giles, the two
meeting half-way.
"I have lost my way," said the stranger. "Perhaps you can put me in the path
again." He wiped his forehead with the air of one suffering under an agitation
more than that of simple fatigue.
"The turnpike-road is over there," said Giles
"I don't want the turnpike-road," said the gentleman, impatiently. "I came from
that. I want Hintock House. Is there not a path to it across here?"
"Well, yes, a sort of path. But it is hard to find from this point. I'll show you the
way, sir, with great pleasure."
"Thanks, my good friend. The truth is that I decided to walk across the country
after dinner from the hotel at Sherton, where I am staying for a day or two. But I
did not know it was so far."