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Richard Clay and Sons,
london and bungay.



Grace's exhibition of herself, in the act
of pulllng-to the window curtains, had been
the result of an unfortunate incident in the
house that day — nothing less than the ill-
ness of Grammer Oliver, a woman who had
never, till now, lain down for such a reason
in her life. Like others, to whom an un-
broken career of health has made the idea
of keeping their bed almost as repugnant
as death itself, she had continued on foot
till she literally fell on the floor ; and though



she had, as yet, been scarcely a day off
duty, she had sickened into quite a different
personage from the independent Grammer
of the yard and spar-house. Ill as she was,
on one point she was firm. On no account
would she see a doctor ; in other words,

The room in which Grace had been
discerned was not her own but the old
woman's. On the girl's way to bed she had
received a message from Grammer, to the
effect that she would much like to speak
to her that night.

Grace entered, and set the candle on a
low chair beside the bed, so that the
profile of Grammer, as she lay, cast itself
in a coal-black shadow^ upon the whitened
wall, her large head being still further
magnified by an enormous turban, which
was really her petticoat wound in a wreath
round her temples. Grace put the room


a little in order, and approaching the sick
woman said,

'' I am come,, Grammer, as you wish. Do
let us send for the doctor before it gets

'V'Ch will not have him ! " said Grammer
Oliver decisively.

" Then somebody to sit up with you ? ''

''Can't abear it! Xo. I wanted to see
you, ^Nliss Grace, because 'ch have some-
thing on my mind. Dear Miss Grace, /
/ook that mo7iey of the doctor, aftei' all ! "

" What money .^"

" The ten pounds."

Grace did not quite understand.

'' The ten pounds he offered me for my
head, because I've a large organ of brain.
I signed a paper when I took the money.
not feeling concerned about it at all. I
have not liked to tell ye that it was realK
settled with him, because you showed such

B 2


horror at the notion. Well, having thought
it over more at length, I wish I hadn't done
it ; and it weighs upon my mind. John
South's death of fear about the tree makes
me think that I shall die of this. . . . 'Ch
have been going to ask him again to let
me off, but I hadn't the face."


" I've spent some of the money — more'n
two pounds o't ! It do wherrit me terribly ;
and I shall die o' the thought of that paper
I signed with my holy cross, as South died
of his trouble ! "

"If you ask him to burn the paper
he will, I'm sure, and think no more
of it."

*' 'Ch have done it once already, miss.
But he laughed cruel-like. ' Yours is such a
fine brain, Grammer,' er said, ' that science
couldn't afford to lose you. Besides,
youVe taken my money.' . . . Don't let


your father know of this, please, on no
account whatever ! "

" No, no. I will let you have the money
to return to him."

Grammer rolled the head in question
negatively upon the pillow. " Even if I
should be well enough to take it to him
he won't like it. Though why he should
so particular want to look into the works
of a poor old woman's head-piece like mine,
when there's so many other folks about.
I don't know. I know how he'll answer
me: *A lonely person like you, Grammer,'
er woll say ; ' what difference is it to you
what becomes of ye when the breath's out
of your body ? ' Oh, it do trouble me !
If you only knew how he do chevy me
round the chimmer in my dreams you'd
pity me. How I could do it I can't think I
But 'ch was always so rackless ! . . . If I
only had anybody to plead for me ! "


" Mrs. Melbury would, I am sure."

" Ay ; but he wouldn't hearken to she !
It wants a younger face than hers to work
upon such as he."

Grace started with comprehension. " You
don't think he would do it for me ? " she

''Oh, wouldn't he!"

" I couldn't go to him, Grammer, on any
account. I don't know him at all."

"Ah, if I were a young lady," said the
artful Grammer, '' and could save a poor
old woman's skellington from a heathen's
chopper, to rest in a Christian grave, I
would do it, and be glad to. But nobody
will do anything for a poor old woman but
push her out of the way ! "

'' You are very ungrateful, Grammer, to
say that. But you are ill, I know, and
that's why you speak so. Now believe me
you are not going to die yet. Remember


you told me yourself that you meant to
keep him waiting many a year."

''Ay, one can joke when one is well,
even in old age ; but in sickness one's
gaiety falters ; and that which seemed small
looks large ; and the grim far-off seems

Grace's eyes had tears in them. " I
don't like to go to him on such an errand,
Grammer," she said brokenly. " But I will,
if I must, to ease your mind ! "

It was with extreme reluctance that
Grace cloaked herself next morning for
the undertaking. She was all the more
indisposed to the journey by reason of
Grammer's allusion to the effect of a pretty
face upon Dr. Fitzpiers ; and hence she
most illogically did that which, had the
doctor never seen her, would have operated
to stultify the sole motive of her journey ;
that is to say, she put on a woollen veil


which hid all her face except an occasional
spark of her eyes.

Her own wish that nothing should be
known of this strange and gruesome pro-
ceeding, no less than Grammer Oliver's
own desire, led Grace to take every pre-
caution against being discovered. She
went out by the garden-door as the safest
way, all the household having occupations
at the other side. The morning looked
forbidding enough when she stealthily
edged forth. The battle between frost
and thaw was continuing in mid-air : the
trees dripped on the garden-plots, where
no vegetables would grow for the dripping,
though they were planted year after year
with that curious mechanical regularity of
country people in the face of hopelessness ;
the moss which covered the once broad
gravel terrace was swamped ; and Grace
stood irresolute. Then she thought of


poor Grammer, and her dreams of the
doctor running after her scalpel in hand,
and the possibility of a case so curiously
similar to South's ending in the same way ;
thereupon she stepped out into the drizzle.

The nature of her errand, and Grammer
Oliver's account of the compact she had
made, lent a fascinating horror to Grace's
conception of Fitzpiers. She knew that
he was a young man ; but her single object
in seeking an interview with him put all
considerations of his age and social aspect
from her mind. Standing, as she stood,
in Grammer Oliver's shoes, he was simply
a remorseless Jehovah of the sciences, who
would not have mercy, and would have
sacrifice ; a man whom, save for this, she
would have preferred to a\'oid knowing.
But since, in such a small village, it was
improbable that any long time could pass
without their meeting, there was not much


to deplore In her having to meet him

But, as need hardly be said, Miss Melbury's
view of the doctor as a merciless, unwaver-
ing, irresistible scientist, was not quite in
accordance with fact. The real Dr.

Fitzpiers was a man of too many hobbies
to show likelihood of rising to any great
eminence in the profession he had chosen,
or even to acquire any wide practice in the
rural district he had marked out as his
held of survey for the present. In the
course of a year his mind was accustomed
to pass in a grand solar sv/eep throughout
the zodiac of the intellectual heaven. Some-
times it w^as in the Ram, sometimes In the
Bull ; one month he would be immersed in
alchemy, another in poesy ; one month In
the Twins of astrology and astronomy ;
then in the Crab of German literature and
metaphysics. In justice to him it must be


Stated that he took such studies as were
immediately related to his own profession
in turn with the rest, and it had been in a
month of anatomical ardour without the
possibility of a subject that he had proposed
to Grammer Oliver the terms she had
mentioned to her mistress.

As may be inferred from the tone of his
conversation with Winterborne, he had lately
plunged into abstract philosophy with much
zest ; perhaps his keenly appreciative, modern,
unpractical mind found this a realm more
to his taste than any other. Though his
aims were desultory, Fitzpiers's mental con-
stitution was not without its admirable side ;
a real inquirer he honestly was ; even if the
midnight rays of his lamp, visible so far
through the trees of Hintock, lighted rank
literatures of emotion and passion as often
as, or oftener than, the books and materiel
of science.


But whether he meditated the Muses or
the philosophers, the loneliness of Hintock
life was beginning to tell upon his im-
pressionable nature. Winter in a solitary
house in the country, without society, is
tolerable, nay, even enjoyable and delightful,
given certain conditions ; but these are not
the conditions which attach to the life of a
professional man who drops down into such
a place by mere accident. They were
present to the lives of Winterborne, Melbury,
and Grace ; but not to the doctor's. They
are old association — an almost exhaustive
biographical or historical acquaintance with
every object, animate and inanimate, within
the observer's horizon. He must know all
about those invisible ones of the days gone
by, whose feet have traversed the fields
which look so grey from his windows ; recall
whose creaking plough has turned those
sods from time to time ; whose hands planted


the trees that form a crest to the opposite
hill ; whose horses and hounds have torn
through that underwood ; what birds affect
that particular brake ; what bygone domestic
dramas of love, jealousy, revenge, or dis-
appointment, have been enacted in the
cottages, the mansions, the street, or on
the green. The spot may have beauty,
grandeur, salubrity, convenience ; but if it
lack memories it will ultimately pall upon
him who settles there without opportunity
of intercourse with his kind.

In such circumstances, maybe, an old
man dreams of an ideal friend, till he throws
himself into the arms of any impostor who
chooses to wear that title on his face. A
young man may dream of an ideal friend
likewise, but some humour of the blood will
probably lead him to think rather of an ideal
mistress, and at length the rustle of a
woman's dress, the sound of her voice, or


the transit of her form across the field of
his vision will enkindle his soul with a flame
that blinds his eyes.

The discovery of the attractive Grace's
name and family would have been enough
in other circumstances to lead the doctor, it
not to put her personality out of his head, to
change the character of his interest in her.
Instead of treasuring her image as a rarity
he would at most have played with her as
a toy. He was that kind of man. But
situated here he could not go so far as
amative cruelty. He dismissed all deferen-
tial thought about her, but he could not
help taking her somewhat seriously.

He went on to imagine the impossible.
So far, indeed, did he go in this futile
direction that, as others are wont to do, he
constructed dialogues and scenes in which
Grace had turned out to be the mistress of
Hintock Manor-house, the mysterious Mrs.


Charmond, particularly ready and willing
to be wooed by himself and nobody else.

''Well, she isn't that," he said finally.
'' But she's a very sweet, nice, exceptional

The next morninof he breakfasted alone,
as usual. It was snowing with a fine-flaked
desultoriness just sufficient to make the
woodland grey, without ever achieving
whiteness. There was not a single letter
for Fitzpiers, only a medical circular and
a weekly newspaper.

To sit before a large fire on such mornings,
and read, and gradually acquire energy till
the evening^ came, and then, with lamp
alight, and feeling full of vigour, to pursue
some engrossing subject or other till the
small hours, had hitherto been his practice
since arriving here. But to-day he could
not settle into his chair. That self-contained
position he had lately occupied, in which his


whole attention was given to objects of the
inner eye, all outer regard being quite disdain-
ful, seemed to have been taken by insidious
stratagem, and for the first time he had an
interest without the house. He w^alked from
one window^ to another, and became aware
that the most irksome of solitudes is not the
solitude of remoteness, but that which is
just outside desirable company.

The breakfast hour went by heavily
enough, and the next followed, in the same
half-snowy, half-rainy style, the weather
now being the inevitable relapse w^hich
sooner or later succeeds a time too radiant
for the season, such as they had enjoyed in
the late mid-winter at Hintock. To people
at home there these changeful tricks had
their interests ; the strange mistakes that
some of the more sanguine trees had made
in budding before their month, to be in-
continently glued up by frozen thawings


now ; the similar sanguine errors of impulsive
birds in framing nests that were swamped
by snow-water, and other such incidents,
prevented any sense of wearisomeness in
the minds of the natives. But these were
features of a world not familiar to Fitzpiers.
and the inner visions to which he had almost
exclusively attended having suddenly failed
in their power to absorb him he felt un-
utterably dreary.

He wondered how long ]\Iiss Melbury was
going to stay in Hintock. The season was
unpropitious for accidental encounters with
her out of doors, and except by accident he
saw not how they were to become acquainted.
One thing was clear — any acquaintance with
her could only, with a due regard to his future,
be casual, at most of the nature of a mild
flirtation ; for he had high aims, and they
would some day lead him into other spheres
than this.



Thus desultorily thinking he flung himself
down upon the couch, which, as in many
draughty old country houses, was construc-
ted with a hood, being in fact a legitimate
development from the settle. He tried to
read as he reclined, but having sat up till
three o'clock that morning, the book slipped
from his hand and he fell asleep.


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
w^ait a few minutes whilst she should go and
find him, believing him to be somewhere on
the premises. Grace acquiesced, went in
and sat clown close to the door.

As soon as the door was shut upon her she

c 2


looked round the room, and started at per-
ceiving a handsome man snugly ensconced
on the couch, like a recumbent figure within
some canopied mural tomb of the fifteenth
century, except that his hands were not
exactly clasped in prayer. She had no
doubt that this w^as the doctor.

Awaken him herself she could not, and her
immediate impulse was to go and pull the
broad riband w^ith 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

The wlndow^s 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
features by sleep was more than counter-
balanced 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 away from
Hintock, and even then such examples as
had met her eye were at a distance, and
mainly of commoner fibre than the one who
now confronted her.

She nervously wondered why the woman
had not discovered her mistake and re-
turned, 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 wonderlngly at her.
Under the curious unexpectedness of the
sight she became as if spell-bound, 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

Her startled perplexity as to what he could
be meaning was sufficient to lead her to pre-
cipitately abandon her errand. She crossed
quickly to the door, opened and closed It
noiselessly, and went out of the house unob-
served. By the time that she had gone
down the path and through the garden-door
Into the lane she had recovered her equani-
mity. Here, screened by the hedge, she
stood and considered a while.

Drip, drip, drip, fell the rain upon her
umbrella and around ; she had come out on
such a morning because of the seriousness of
the matter in hand ; yet now she had allowed
her mission to be stultified by a momentary
tremulousness concerning an incident which
perhaps had meant nothing after all.


In the meantime her departure from the
room, stealthy as it had been, had roused
Fitzplers ; and he sat up. In the reflection
from the mirror which Grace had beheld
there was no mystery ; he had opened his
eyes for a few moments, but had immediately
relapsed into unconsciousness, if indeed he
had ever been positively awake. That some-
body had just left the room he was certain,
and that the lovely form which seemied to
have visited him in a dream was no less than
the real presentation of the person departed
he could hardly doubt.

Looking out of the window a few minutes
later, down the box-edged gravel-path which
led to the bottom, he saw the garden-door
gently open, and through it enter the young
girl of his thoughts. Grace having just at this
juncture determined to return and attempt
the interview a second time. That he saw
her coming instead of going made him ask


himself if his first impression of her were
not a dream indeed. She came hesitatingly
along, carrying her umbrella so low over her
head that he could hardly see her face.
When she reached the point where the
raspberry-bushes ended and the strawberry-
bed began she made a little pause.

Fitzpiers feared that she might not be
coming to him even now, and hastily quitting
the room he ran down the path to meet her.
The nature of her errand he could not divine,
but he was prepared to give her any amount
of encouragement.

" I beg pardon. Miss Melbury," he said.
" I saw you from the window, and fancied
you might imagine that I was not at home —
if it is I you were coming for ? "

" 1 was coming to speak one word to you,
nothing more," she replied. ''And I can
say it here."

" No, no. Please do come in. Well then,


if you will not come into the house, come so
far as the porch ! "

Thus pressed she went on to the porch,
and they stood together inside it, Fitzpiers
closing her umbrella for her.

"I have merely a request or petition to
make," she said. '' My father's servant is
ill — a woman you know — and her illness is

" I am sorry to hear it. You wish me to
come and see her at once ? "

'' No, I particularly wish you not to come."

'' Oh, indeed."

"Yes; and she wishes the same. It
would make her seriously worse if you were
to come. It would almost kill her. . . .
My errand is of a peculiar and awkward
nature. It is concerning a subject which
weighs on her mind — that unfortunate
arrangement she made with you, that you
might have her body after death."


" Oh, Grammer Oliver, the old woman
with the fine head. Seriously ill, is she ! "

'* And so disturbed by her rash compact !
I have brought the money back — will you
please return to her the agreement she
signed ? " Grace held out to him a couple
of five-pound notes which she had kept
ready tucked in her glove.

Without replying or considering the notes
Fitzpiers allowed his thoughts to follow his
eyes and dwell upon Grace's personality, and
the sudden close relation in which he stood
to her. The porch was narrow ; the rain
increased. It ran off the porch and dripped
on the creepers, and from the creepers upon
the edge of Grace's cloak and skirts.

" The rain is wetting your dress ; please
do come in," he said. '' It really makes my
heart ache to let you stay here."

Immediately inside the front door was the
door of his sitting-room ; he flung it open,


and stood in a coaxing attitude. Try how
she would Grace could not resist the suppli-
catory mandate written in the face and
manner of this man, and distressful resigna-
tion sat on her as she glided past him into
the room — brushing his coat with her elbow
because of the narrowness.

He followed her, shut the door — which she
somehow had hoped he would leave open —
and placing a chair for her sat down.

The concern which Grace felt at the
development of these commonplace inci-
dents was, of course, mainly owing to the
strange effect upon her nerves of that view
of him in the mirror gazing at her with open
eyes when she had thought him sleeping,
which made her fancy that his slumber might
have been a feint based on inexplicable

She again proffered the notes ; he awoke
from looking at her as at a piece of live


Statuary, and listened deferentially as she
said, " Will you then reconsider, and cancel
the bond which poor Grammer Oliver so
foolishly gave ? "

" I'll cancel it without reconsideration.
Though you will allow me to have my own
opinion about her foolishness. Grammer is
a very wise woman, and she was as wise in
that as in other things. You think there was
something very fiendish in the compact, do
you not, Miss Melbury ? But remember
that the most eminent of our surgeons
in past times have entered into such

" Not fiendish — strange."

*' Yes, that may be, since strangeness is
not in the nature of a thing, but in its
relation to something extrinsic — In this case
an unessential observer."

He went to his desk, and searching awhile
found a paper, which he unfolded and


brought to her. A thick cross appeared in
ink at the bottom — evidently from the hand
of Grammer. Grace put the paper in her
pocket with a look of much relief.

As Fitzpiers did not take up the money
(half of which had come from Grace's own
purse), she pushed it a little nearer to him.
" No, no. I shall not take it from the old
woman," he said. " It is more strange than
the fact of a surgeon arranging to obtain a
subject for dissection that our acquaintance
should be formed out of it.''

" I am afraid you think me uncivil in
showing my dislike to the notion. But I
did not mean to be."

" Oh, no, no."

He looked at her, as he had done before,
with puzzled interest. " I cannot think, I
cannot think," he murmured. " Something
bewilders me greatly." He still reflected
and hesitated. '' Last night I sat up very


late," he at last went on, " and on that

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