The Woodlanders HTML version

Chapter 12
It was a day of rather bright weather for the season. Miss Melbury went out for a
morning walk, and her ever-regardful father, having an hour's leisure, offered to
walk with her. The breeze was fresh and quite steady, filtering itself through the
denuded mass of twigs without swaying them, but making the point of each ivy-
leaf on the trunks scratch its underlying neighbor restlessly. Grace's lips sucked
in this native air of hers like milk. They soon reached a place where the wood ran
down into a corner, and went outside it towards comparatively open ground.
Having looked round about, they were intending to re-enter the copse when a fox
quietly emerged with a dragging brush, trotted past them tamely as a domestic
cat, and disappeared amid some dead fern. They walked on, her father merely
observing, after watching the animal, "They are hunting somewhere near."
Farther up they saw in the mid-distance the hounds running hither and thither, as
if there were little or no scent that day. Soon divers members of the hunt
appeared on the scene, and it was evident from their movements that the chase
had been stultified by general puzzle-headedness as to the whereabouts of the
intended victim. In a minute a farmer rode up to the two pedestrians, panting with
acteonic excitement, and Grace being a few steps in advance, he addressed her,
asking if she had seen the fox.
"Yes," said she. "We saw him some time ago--just out there."
"Did you cry Halloo?"
"We said nothing."
"Then why the d--- didn't you, or get the old buffer to do it for you?" said the man,
as he cantered away.
She looked rather disconcerted at this reply, and observing her father's face, saw
that it was quite red.
"He ought not to have spoken to ye like that!" said the old man, in the tone of one
whose heart was bruised, though it was not by the epithet applied to himself.
"And he wouldn't if he had been a gentleman. 'Twas not the language to use to a
woman of any niceness. You, so well read and cultivated--how could he expect
ye to know what tom-boy field-folk are in the habit of doing? If so be you had just
come from trimming swedes or mangolds--joking with the rough work-folk and all
that--I could have stood it. But hasn't it cost me near a hundred a year to lift you
out of all that, so as to show an example to the neighborhood of what a woman
can be? Grace, shall I tell you the secret of it? 'Twas because I was in your