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11. CHAPTER XI.
"'Tis a pity--a thousand pities!" her father kept saying next morning at breakfast, Grace being still in her bedroom.
But how could he, with any self-respect, obstruct Winterborne's suit at this stage, and nullify a scheme he had labored to promote--was, indeed, mechanically promoting at this moment? A crisis was approaching, mainly as a result of his contrivances, and it would have to be met.
But here was the fact, which could not be disguised: since seeing what an immense change her last twelve months of absence had produced in his daughter, after the heavy sum per annum that he had been spending for several years upon her education, he was reluctant to let her marry Giles Winterborne, indefinitely occupied as woodsman, cider-merchant, apple-farmer, and what not, even were she willing to marry him herself.
"She will be his wife if you don't upset her notion that she's bound to accept him as an understood thing," said Mrs. Melbury. "Bless ye, she'll soon shake down here in Hintock, and be content with Giles's way of living, which he'll improve with what money she'll have from you. 'Tis the strangeness after her genteel life that makes her feel uncomfortable at first. Why, when I saw Hintock the first time I thought I never could like it. But things gradually get familiar, and stone floors seem not so very cold and hard, and the hooting of the owls not so very dreadful, and loneliness not so very lonely, after a while."
"Yes, I believe ye. That's just it. I KNOW Grace will gradually sink down to our level again, and catch our manners and way of speaking, and feel a drowsy content in being Giles's wife. But I can't bear the thought of dragging down to that old level as promising a piece of maidenhood as ever lived--fit to ornament a palace wi'--that I've taken so much trouble to lift up. Fancy her white hands getting redder every day, and her tongue losing its pretty up-country curl in talking, and her bounding walk becoming the regular Hintock shail and wamble!"
"She may shail, but she'll never wamble," replied his wife, decisively.
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