The Woodlanders HTML version

Chapter 24
He left her at the door of her father's house. As he receded, and was clasped out
of sight by the filmy shades, he impressed Grace as a man who hardly
appertained to her existence at all. Cleverer, greater than herself, one outside
her mental orbit, as she considered him, he seemed to be her ruler rather than
her equal, protector, and dear familiar friend.
The disappointment she had experienced at his wish, the shock given to her
girlish sensibilities by his irreverent views of marriage, together with the sure and
near approach of the day fixed for committing her future to his keeping, made her
so restless that she could scarcely sleep at all that night. She rose when the
sparrows began to walk out of the roof-holes, sat on the floor of her room in the
dim light, and by-and-by peeped out behind the window-curtains. It was even
now day out-of-doors, though the tones of morning were feeble and wan, and it
was long before the sun would be perceptible in this overshadowed vale. Not a
sound came from any of the out-houses as yet. The tree- trunks, the road, the
out-buildings, the garden, every object wore that aspect of mesmeric fixity which
the suspensive quietude of daybreak lends to such scenes. Outside her window
helpless immobility seemed to be combined with intense consciousness; a
meditative inertness possessed all things, oppressively contrasting with her own
active emotions. Beyond the road were some cottage roofs and orchards; over
these roofs and over the apple-trees behind, high up the slope, and backed by
the plantation on the crest, was the house yet occupied by her future husband,
the rough-cast front showing whitely through its creepers. The window-shutters
were closed, the bedroom curtains closely drawn, and not the thinnest coil of
smoke rose from the rugged chimneys.
Something broke the stillness. The front door of the house she was gazing at
opened softly, and there came out into the porch a female figure, wrapped in a
large shawl, beneath which was visible the white skirt of a long loose garment. A
gray arm, stretching from within the porch, adjusted the shawl over the woman's
shoulders; it was withdrawn and disappeared, the door closing behind her.
The woman went quickly down the box-edged path between the raspberries and
currants, and as she walked her well-developed form and gait betrayed her
individuality. It was Suke Damson, the affianced one of simple young Tim Tangs.
At the bottom of the garden she entered the shelter of the tall hedge, and only
the top of her head could be seen hastening in the direction of her own dwelling.
Grace had recognized, or thought she recognized, in the gray arm stretching
from the porch, the sleeve of a dressing-gown which Mr. Fitzpiers had been
wearing on her own memorable visit to him. Her face fired red. She had just
before thought of dressing herself and taking a lonely walk under the trees, so