He did not expect Dinah to be at home at this hour, but he got down from his horse and tied it at the little gate, that he might ask where she was gone to-day. He had set his mind on following her and bringing her home. She was gone to Sloman’s End, a hamlet about three miles off, over the hill, the old woman told him—had set off directly after morning chapel, to preach in a cottage there, as her habit was. Anybody at the town would tell him the way to Sloman’s End. So Adam got on his horse again and rode to the town, putting up at the old inn and taking a hasty dinner there in the company of the too chatty landlord, from whose friendly questions and reminiscences he was glad to escape as soon as possible and set out towards Sloman’s End. With all his haste it was nearly four o’clock before he could set off, and he thought that as Dinah had gone so early, she would perhaps already be near returning. The little, grey, desolate-looking hamlet, unscreened by sheltering trees, lay in sight long before he reached it, and as he came near he could hear the sound of voices singing a hymn. “Perhaps that’s the last hymn before they come away,” Adam thought. “I’ll walk back a bit and turn again to meet her, farther off the village.” He walked back till he got nearly to the top of the hill again, and seated himself on a loose stone, against the low wall, to watch till he should see the little black figure leaving the hamlet and winding up the hill. He chose this spot, almost at the top of the hill, because it was away from all eyes—no house, no cattle, not even a nibbling sheep near—no presence but the still lights and shadows and the great embracing sky.
She was much longer coming than he expected. He waited an hour at least watching for her and thinking of her, while the afternoon shadows lengthened and the light grew softer. At last he saw the little black figure coming from between the grey houses and gradually approaching the foot of the hill. Slowly, Adam thought, but Dinah was really walking at her usual pace, with a light quiet step. Now she was beginning to wind along the path up the hill, but Adam would not move yet; he would not meet her too soon; he had set his heart on meeting her in this assured loneliness. And now he began to fear lest he should startle her too much. “Yet,” he thought, “she’s not one to be overstartled; she’s always so calm and quiet, as if she was prepared for anything.”
What was she thinking of as she wound up the hill? Perhaps she had found complete repose without him, and had ceased to feel any need of his love. On the verge of a decision we all tremble: hope pauses with fluttering wings.