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30. CHAPTER XXX.
Examine Grace as her father might, she would admit nothing. For the present, therefore, he simply watched.
The suspicion that his darling child was being slighted wrought almost a miraculous change in Melbury's nature. No man so furtive for the time as the ingenuous countryman who finds that his ingenuousness has been abused. Melbury's heretofore confidential candor towards his gentlemanly son-in-law was displaced by a feline stealth that did injnry to his every action, thought, and mood. He knew that a woman once given to a man for life took, as a rule, her lot as it came and made the best of it, without external interference; but for the first time he asked himself why this so generally should be so. Moreover, this case was not, he argued, like ordinary cases. Leaving out the question of Grace being anything but an ordinary woman, her peculiar situation, as it were in mid-air between two planes of society, together with the loneliness of Hintock, made a husband's neglect a far more tragical matter to her than it would be to one who had a large circle of friends to fall back upon. Wisely or unwisely, and whatever other fathers did, he resolved to fight his daughter's battle still.
Mrs. Charmond had returned. But Hintock House scarcely gave forth signs of life, so quietly had she reentered it. He went to church at Great Hintock one afternoon as usual, there being no service at the smaller village. A few minutes before his departure, he had casually heard Fitzpiers, who was no church-goer, tell his wife that he was going to walk in the wood. Melbury entered the building and sat down in his pew; the parson came in, then Mrs. Charmond, then Mr. Fitzpiers.
The service proceeded, and the jealons father was quite sure that a mutual consciousness was uninterruptedly maintained between those two; he fancied that more than once their eyes met. At the end, Fitzpiers so timed his movement into the aisle that it exactly coincided with Felice Charmond's from the opposite side, and they walked out with their garments in contact, the surgeon being just that two or three inches in her rear which made it convenient for his eyes to rest upon her cheek. The cheek warmed up to a richer tone.
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