It was a long while—more than an hour before Arthur had brought his meditations to this point; but once arrived there, he could stay no longer at the Hermitage. The time must be filled up with movement until he should see Hetty again. And it was already late enough to go and dress for dinner, for his grandfather’s dinner-hour was six.
Evening in the Wood
It happened that Mrs. Pomfret had had a slight quarrel with Mrs. Best, the housekeeper, on this Thursday morning—a fact which had two consequences highly convenient to Hetty. It caused Mrs. Pomfret to have tea sent up to her own room, and it inspired that exemplary lady’s maid with so lively a recollection of former passages in Mrs. Best’s conduct, and of dialogues in which Mrs. Best had decidedly the inferiority as an interlocutor with Mrs. Pomfret, that Hetty required no more presence of mind than was demanded for using her needle, and throwing in an occasional “yes” or “no.” She would have wanted to put on her hat earlier than usual; only she had told Captain Donnithorne that she usually set out about eight o’clock, and if he should go to the Grove again expecting to see her, and she should be gone! Would he come? Her little butterfly soul fluttered incessantly between memory and dubious expectation. At last the minute-hand of the old-fashioned brazen-faced timepiece was on the last quarter to eight, and there was every reason for its being time to get ready for departure. Even Mrs. Pomfret’s preoccupied mind did not prevent her from noticing what looked like a new flush of beauty in the little thing as she tied on her hat before the looking-glass.
“That child gets prettier and prettier every day, I do believe,” was her inward comment. “The more’s the pity. She’ll get neither a place nor a husband any the sooner for it. Sober well-to-do men don’t like such pretty wives. When I was a girl, I was more admired than if I had been so very pretty. However, she’s reason to be grateful to me for teaching her something to get her bread with, better than farm-house work. They always told me I was good-natured—and that’s the truth, and to my hurt too, else there’s them in this house that wouldn’t be here now to lord it over me in the housekeeper’s room.”
Hetty walked hastily across the short space of pleasure-ground which she had to traverse, dreading to meet Mr. Craig, to whom she could hardly have spoken civilly. How relieved she was when she had got safely under the oaks and among the fern of the Chase! Even then she was as ready to be startled as the deer that leaped away at her approach. She thought nothing of the evening light that lay gently in the grassy alleys between the fern, and made the beauty of their living green more visible than it had been in the overpowering flood of noon: she thought of nothing that was present. She only saw something that