Infomotions, Inc.Adam Bede / Eliot, George, 1819-1880



Author: Eliot, George, 1819-1880
Title: Adam Bede
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): hetty; poyser; dinah; adam; seth; irwine; arthur; martin poyser; arthur donnithorne; captain donnithorne
Contributor(s): Munguia, E. Jr. [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 214,053 words (longer than most) Grade range: 10-12 (high school) Readability score: 65 (easy)
Identifier: etext507
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Title: Adam Bede

Author: George Eliot

Release Date: January 21, 2006 [EBook #507]

Language: English

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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK ADAM BEDE ***




Produced by An Anonymous Volunteer and David Widger





ADAM BEDE

by George Eliot





Book One




Chapter I

The Workshop


With a single drop of ink for a mirror, the Egyptian sorcerer undertakes
to reveal to any chance comer far-reaching visions of the past. This is
what I undertake to do for you, reader. With this drop of ink at the
end of my pen, I will show you the roomy workshop of Mr. Jonathan Burge,
carpenter and builder, in the village of Hayslope, as it appeared on the
eighteenth of June, in the year of our Lord 1799.

The afternoon sun was warm on the five workmen there, busy upon doors
and window-frames and wainscoting. A scent of pine-wood from a tentlike
pile of planks outside the open door mingled itself with the scent of
the elder-bushes which were spreading their summer snow close to
the open window opposite; the slanting sunbeams shone through the
transparent shavings that flew before the steady plane, and lit up the
fine grain of the oak panelling which stood propped against the wall.
On a heap of those soft shavings a rough, grey shepherd dog had
made himself a pleasant bed, and was lying with his nose between his
fore-paws, occasionally wrinkling his brows to cast a glance at the
tallest of the five workmen, who was carving a shield in the centre of
a wooden mantelpiece. It was to this workman that the strong barytone
belonged which was heard above the sound of plane and hammer singing--

     Awake, my soul, and with the sun
     Thy daily stage of duty run;
     Shake off dull sloth...

Here some measurement was to be taken which required more concentrated
attention, and the sonorous voice subsided into a low whistle; but it
presently broke out again with renewed vigour--

     Let all thy converse be sincere,
     Thy conscience as the noonday clear.

Such a voice could only come from a broad chest, and the broad chest
belonged to a large-boned, muscular man nearly six feet high, with a
back so flat and a head so well poised that when he drew himself up
to take a more distant survey of his work, he had the air of a soldier
standing at ease. The sleeve rolled up above the elbow showed an arm
that was likely to win the prize for feats of strength; yet the long
supple hand, with its broad finger-tips, looked ready for works of
skill. In his tall stalwartness Adam Bede was a Saxon, and justified his
name; but the jet-black hair, made the more noticeable by its contrast
with the light paper cap, and the keen glance of the dark eyes that
shone from under strongly marked, prominent and mobile eyebrows,
indicated a mixture of Celtic blood. The face was large and roughly
hewn, and when in repose had no other beauty than such as belongs to an
expression of good-humoured honest intelligence.

It is clear at a glance that the next workman is Adam's brother. He is
nearly as tall; he has the same type of features, the same hue of hair
and complexion; but the strength of the family likeness seems only to
render more conspicuous the remarkable difference of expression both in
form and face. Seth's broad shoulders have a slight stoop; his eyes
are grey; his eyebrows have less prominence and more repose than his
brother's; and his glance, instead of being keen, is confiding and
benign. He has thrown off his paper cap, and you see that his hair is
not thick and straight, like Adam's, but thin and wavy, allowing you
to discern the exact contour of a coronal arch that predominates very
decidedly over the brow.

The idle tramps always felt sure they could get a copper from Seth; they
scarcely ever spoke to Adam.

The concert of the tools and Adam's voice was at last broken by Seth,
who, lifting the door at which he had been working intently, placed
it against the wall, and said, "There! I've finished my door to-day,
anyhow."

The workmen all looked up; Jim Salt, a burly, red-haired man known as
Sandy Jim, paused from his planing, and Adam said to Seth, with a sharp
glance of surprise, "What! Dost think thee'st finished the door?"

"Aye, sure," said Seth, with answering surprise; "what's awanting to't?"

A loud roar of laughter from the other three workmen made Seth look
round confusedly. Adam did not join in the laughter, but there was a
slight smile on his face as he said, in a gentler tone than before,
"Why, thee'st forgot the panels."

The laughter burst out afresh as Seth clapped his hands to his head, and
coloured over brow and crown.

"Hoorray!" shouted a small lithe fellow called Wiry Ben, running forward
and seizing the door. "We'll hang up th' door at fur end o' th' shop an'
write on't 'Seth Bede, the Methody, his work.' Here, Jim, lend's hould
o' th' red pot."

"Nonsense!" said Adam. "Let it alone, Ben Cranage. You'll mayhap be
making such a slip yourself some day; you'll laugh o' th' other side o'
your mouth then."

"Catch me at it, Adam. It'll be a good while afore my head's full o' th'
Methodies," said Ben.

"Nay, but it's often full o' drink, and that's worse."

Ben, however, had now got the "red pot" in his hand, and was about
to begin writing his inscription, making, by way of preliminary, an
imaginary S in the air.

"Let it alone, will you?" Adam called out, laying down his tools,
striding up to Ben, and seizing his right shoulder. "Let it alone, or
I'll shake the soul out o' your body."

Ben shook in Adam's iron grasp, but, like a plucky small man as he was,
he didn't mean to give in. With his left hand he snatched the brush from
his powerless right, and made a movement as if he would perform the feat
of writing with his left. In a moment Adam turned him round, seized his
other shoulder, and, pushing him along, pinned him against the wall. But
now Seth spoke.

"Let be, Addy, let be. Ben will be joking. Why, he's i' the right to
laugh at me--I canna help laughing at myself."

"I shan't loose him till he promises to let the door alone," said Adam.

"Come, Ben, lad," said Seth, in a persuasive tone, "don't let's have a
quarrel about it. You know Adam will have his way. You may's well try
to turn a waggon in a narrow lane. Say you'll leave the door alone, and
make an end on't."

"I binna frighted at Adam," said Ben, "but I donna mind sayin' as I'll
let 't alone at your askin', Seth."

"Come, that's wise of you, Ben," said Adam, laughing and relaxing his
grasp.

They all returned to their work now; but Wiry Ben, having had the worst
in the bodily contest, was bent on retrieving that humiliation by a
success in sarcasm.

"Which was ye thinkin' on, Seth," he began--"the pretty parson's face or
her sarmunt, when ye forgot the panels?"

"Come and hear her, Ben," said Seth, good-humouredly; "she's going to
preach on the Green to-night; happen ye'd get something to think on
yourself then, instead o' those wicked songs you're so fond on. Ye might
get religion, and that 'ud be the best day's earnings y' ever made."

"All i' good time for that, Seth; I'll think about that when I'm a-goin'
to settle i' life; bachelors doesn't want such heavy earnin's. Happen
I shall do the coortin' an' the religion both together, as YE do, Seth;
but ye wouldna ha' me get converted an' chop in atween ye an' the pretty
preacher, an' carry her aff?"

"No fear o' that, Ben; she's neither for you nor for me to win, I doubt.
Only you come and hear her, and you won't speak lightly on her again."

"Well, I'm half a mind t' ha' a look at her to-night, if there isn't
good company at th' Holly Bush. What'll she take for her text? Happen ye
can tell me, Seth, if so be as I shouldna come up i' time for't. Will't
be--what come ye out for to see? A prophetess? Yea, I say unto you, and
more than a prophetess--a uncommon pretty young woman."

"Come, Ben," said Adam, rather sternly, "you let the words o' the Bible
alone; you're going too far now."

"What! Are YE a-turnin' roun', Adam? I thought ye war dead again th'
women preachin', a while agoo?"

"Nay, I'm not turnin' noway. I said nought about the women preachin'.
I said, You let the Bible alone: you've got a jest-book, han't you, as
you're rare and proud on? Keep your dirty fingers to that."

"Why, y' are gettin' as big a saint as Seth. Y' are goin' to th'
preachin' to-night, I should think. Ye'll do finely t' lead the singin'.
But I don' know what Parson Irwine 'ull say at his gran' favright Adam
Bede a-turnin' Methody."

"Never do you bother yourself about me, Ben. I'm not a-going to turn
Methodist any more nor you are--though it's like enough you'll turn
to something worse. Mester Irwine's got more sense nor to meddle wi'
people's doing as they like in religion. That's between themselves and
God, as he's said to me many a time."

"Aye, aye; but he's none so fond o' your dissenters, for all that."

"Maybe; I'm none so fond o' Josh Tod's thick ale, but I don't hinder you
from making a fool o' yourself wi't."

There was a laugh at this thrust of Adam's, but Seth said, very
seriously. "Nay, nay, Addy, thee mustna say as anybody's religion's
like thick ale. Thee dostna believe but what the dissenters and the
Methodists have got the root o' the matter as well as the church folks."

"Nay, Seth, lad; I'm not for laughing at no man's religion. Let 'em
follow their consciences, that's all. Only I think it 'ud be better if
their consciences 'ud let 'em stay quiet i' the church--there's a deal
to be learnt there. And there's such a thing as being oversperitial; we
must have something beside Gospel i' this world. Look at the canals, an'
th' aqueduc's, an' th' coal-pit engines, and Arkwright's mills there at
Cromford; a man must learn summat beside Gospel to make them things, I
reckon. But t' hear some o' them preachers, you'd think as a man must be
doing nothing all's life but shutting's eyes and looking what's agoing
on inside him. I know a man must have the love o' God in his soul, and
the Bible's God's word. But what does the Bible say? Why, it says as God
put his sperrit into the workman as built the tabernacle, to make him do
all the carved work and things as wanted a nice hand. And this is my
way o' looking at it: there's the sperrit o' God in all things and all
times--weekday as well as Sunday--and i' the great works and inventions,
and i' the figuring and the mechanics. And God helps us with our
headpieces and our hands as well as with our souls; and if a man does
bits o' jobs out o' working hours--builds a oven for 's wife to save her
from going to the bakehouse, or scrats at his bit o' garden and makes
two potatoes grow istead o' one, he's doin' more good, and he's just as
near to God, as if he was running after some preacher and a-praying and
a-groaning."

"Well done, Adam!" said Sandy Jim, who had paused from his planing to
shift his planks while Adam was speaking; "that's the best sarmunt I've
heared this long while. By th' same token, my wife's been a-plaguin' on
me to build her a oven this twelvemont."

"There's reason in what thee say'st, Adam," observed Seth, gravely. "But
thee know'st thyself as it's hearing the preachers thee find'st so much
fault with has turned many an idle fellow into an industrious un. It's
the preacher as empties th' alehouse; and if a man gets religion, he'll
do his work none the worse for that."

"On'y he'll lave the panels out o' th' doors sometimes, eh, Seth?" said
Wiry Ben.

"Ah, Ben, you've got a joke again' me as 'll last you your life. But it
isna religion as was i' fault there; it was Seth Bede, as was allays a
wool-gathering chap, and religion hasna cured him, the more's the pity."

"Ne'er heed me, Seth," said Wiry Ben, "y' are a down-right good-hearted
chap, panels or no panels; an' ye donna set up your bristles at every
bit o' fun, like some o' your kin, as is mayhap cliverer."

"Seth, lad," said Adam, taking no notice of the sarcasm against himself,
"thee mustna take me unkind. I wasna driving at thee in what I said just
now. Some 's got one way o' looking at things and some 's got another."

"Nay, nay, Addy, thee mean'st me no unkindness," said Seth, "I know that
well enough. Thee't like thy dog Gyp--thee bark'st at me sometimes, but
thee allays lick'st my hand after."

All hands worked on in silence for some minutes, until the church clock
began to strike six. Before the first stroke had died away, Sandy Jim
had loosed his plane and was reaching his jacket; Wiry Ben had left a
screw half driven in, and thrown his screwdriver into his tool-basket;
Mum Taft, who, true to his name, had kept silence throughout the
previous conversation, had flung down his hammer as he was in the act
of lifting it; and Seth, too, had straightened his back, and was putting
out his hand towards his paper cap. Adam alone had gone on with his work
as if nothing had happened. But observing the cessation of the tools, he
looked up, and said, in a tone of indignation, "Look there, now! I can't
abide to see men throw away their tools i' that way, the minute the
clock begins to strike, as if they took no pleasure i' their work and
was afraid o' doing a stroke too much."

Seth looked a little conscious, and began to be slower in his
preparations for going, but Mum Taft broke silence, and said, "Aye, aye,
Adam lad, ye talk like a young un. When y' are six-an'-forty like me,
istid o' six-an'-twenty, ye wonna be so flush o' workin' for nought."

"Nonsense," said Adam, still wrathful; "what's age got to do with it, I
wonder? Ye arena getting stiff yet, I reckon. I hate to see a man's arms
drop down as if he was shot, before the clock's fairly struck, just as
if he'd never a bit o' pride and delight in 's work. The very grindstone
'ull go on turning a bit after you loose it."

"Bodderation, Adam!" exclaimed Wiry Ben; "lave a chap aloon, will 'ee?
Ye war afinding faut wi' preachers a while agoo--y' are fond enough o'
preachin' yoursen. Ye may like work better nor play, but I like play
better nor work; that'll 'commodate ye--it laves ye th' more to do."

With this exit speech, which he considered effective, Wiry Ben
shouldered his basket and left the workshop, quickly followed by Mum
Taft and Sandy Jim. Seth lingered, and looked wistfully at Adam, as if
he expected him to say something.

"Shalt go home before thee go'st to the preaching?" Adam asked, looking
up.

"Nay; I've got my hat and things at Will Maskery's. I shan't be home
before going for ten. I'll happen see Dinah Morris safe home, if she's
willing. There's nobody comes with her from Poyser's, thee know'st."

"Then I'll tell mother not to look for thee," said Adam.

"Thee artna going to Poyser's thyself to-night?" said Seth rather
timidly, as he turned to leave the workshop.

"Nay, I'm going to th' school."

Hitherto Gyp had kept his comfortable bed, only lifting up his head and
watching Adam more closely as he noticed the other workmen departing.
But no sooner did Adam put his ruler in his pocket, and begin to twist
his apron round his waist, than Gyp ran forward and looked up in his
master's face with patient expectation. If Gyp had had a tail he would
doubtless have wagged it, but being destitute of that vehicle for his
emotions, he was like many other worthy personages, destined to appear
more phlegmatic than nature had made him.

"What! Art ready for the basket, eh, Gyp?" said Adam, with the same
gentle modulation of voice as when he spoke to Seth.

Gyp jumped and gave a short bark, as much as to say, "Of course." Poor
fellow, he had not a great range of expression.

The basket was the one which on workdays held Adam's and Seth's dinner;
and no official, walking in procession, could look more resolutely
unconscious of all acquaintances than Gyp with his basket, trotting at
his master's heels.

On leaving the workshop Adam locked the door, took the key out, and
carried it to the house on the other side of the woodyard. It was a
low house, with smooth grey thatch and buff walls, looking pleasant
and mellow in the evening light. The leaded windows were bright and
speckless, and the door-stone was as clean as a white boulder at ebb
tide. On the door-stone stood a clean old woman, in a dark-striped linen
gown, a red kerchief, and a linen cap, talking to some speckled fowls
which appeared to have been drawn towards her by an illusory expectation
of cold potatoes or barley. The old woman's sight seemed to be dim, for
she did not recognize Adam till he said, "Here's the key, Dolly; lay it
down for me in the house, will you?"

"Aye, sure; but wunna ye come in, Adam? Miss Mary's i' th' house, and
Mester Burge 'ull be back anon; he'd be glad t' ha' ye to supper wi'm,
I'll be's warrand."

"No, Dolly, thank you; I'm off home. Good evening."

Adam hastened with long strides, Gyp close to his heels, out of the
workyard, and along the highroad leading away from the village and down
to the valley. As he reached the foot of the slope, an elderly horseman,
with his portmanteau strapped behind him, stopped his horse when Adam
had passed him, and turned round to have another long look at the
stalwart workman in paper cap, leather breeches, and dark-blue worsted
stockings.

Adam, unconscious of the admiration he was exciting, presently struck
across the fields, and now broke out into the tune which had all day
long been running in his head:

     Let all thy converse be sincere,
     Thy conscience as the noonday clear;
     For God's all-seeing eye surveys
     Thy secret thoughts, thy works and ways.


Chapter II

The Preaching


About a quarter to seven there was an unusual appearance of excitement
in the village of Hayslope, and through the whole length of its
little street, from the Donnithorne Arms to the churchyard gate, the
inhabitants had evidently been drawn out of their houses by something
more than the pleasure of lounging in the evening sunshine. The
Donnithorne Arms stood at the entrance of the village, and a small
farmyard and stackyard which flanked it, indicating that there was a
pretty take of land attached to the inn, gave the traveller a promise
of good feed for himself and his horse, which might well console him
for the ignorance in which the weather-beaten sign left him as to the
heraldic bearings of that ancient family, the Donnithornes. Mr. Casson,
the landlord, had been for some time standing at the door with his hands
in his pockets, balancing himself on his heels and toes and looking
towards a piece of unenclosed ground, with a maple in the middle of it,
which he knew to be the destination of certain grave-looking men and
women whom he had observed passing at intervals.

Mr. Casson's person was by no means of that common type which can be
allowed to pass without description. On a front view it appeared to
consist principally of two spheres, bearing about the same relation to
each other as the earth and the moon: that is to say, the lower sphere
might be said, at a rough guess, to be thirteen times larger than the
upper which naturally performed the function of a mere satellite and
tributary. But here the resemblance ceased, for Mr. Casson's head was
not at all a melancholy-looking satellite nor was it a "spotty globe,"
as Milton has irreverently called the moon; on the contrary, no head and
face could look more sleek and healthy, and its expression--which was
chiefly confined to a pair of round and ruddy cheeks, the slight
knot and interruptions forming the nose and eyes being scarcely worth
mention--was one of jolly contentment, only tempered by that sense of
personal dignity which usually made itself felt in his attitude and
bearing. This sense of dignity could hardly be considered excessive in
a man who had been butler to "the family" for fifteen years, and who, in
his present high position, was necessarily very much in contact with
his inferiors. How to reconcile his dignity with the satisfaction of his
curiosity by walking towards the Green was the problem that Mr. Casson
had been revolving in his mind for the last five minutes; but when
he had partly solved it by taking his hands out of his pockets, and
thrusting them into the armholes of his waistcoat, by throwing his
head on one side, and providing himself with an air of contemptuous
indifference to whatever might fall under his notice, his thoughts were
diverted by the approach of the horseman whom we lately saw pausing to
have another look at our friend Adam, and who now pulled up at the door
of the Donnithorne Arms.

"Take off the bridle and give him a drink, ostler," said the traveller
to the lad in a smock-frock, who had come out of the yard at the sound
of the horse's hoofs.

"Why, what's up in your pretty village, landlord?" he continued, getting
down. "There seems to be quite a stir."

"It's a Methodis' preaching, sir; it's been gev hout as a young woman's
a-going to preach on the Green," answered Mr. Casson, in a treble and
wheezy voice, with a slightly mincing accent. "Will you please to step
in, sir, an' tek somethink?"

"No, I must be getting on to Rosseter. I only want a drink for my horse.
And what does your parson say, I wonder, to a young woman preaching just
under his nose?"

"Parson Irwine, sir, doesn't live here; he lives at Brox'on, over the
hill there. The parsonage here's a tumble-down place, sir, not fit for
gentry to live in. He comes here to preach of a Sunday afternoon, sir,
an' puts up his hoss here. It's a grey cob, sir, an' he sets great store
by't. He's allays put up his hoss here, sir, iver since before I hed the
Donnithorne Arms. I'm not this countryman, you may tell by my tongue,
sir. They're cur'ous talkers i' this country, sir; the gentry's hard
work to hunderstand 'em. I was brought hup among the gentry, sir, an'
got the turn o' their tongue when I was a bye. Why, what do you think
the folks here says for 'hevn't you?'--the gentry, you know, says,
'hevn't you'--well, the people about here says 'hanna yey.' It's what
they call the dileck as is spoke hereabout, sir. That's what I've heared
Squire Donnithorne say many a time; it's the dileck, says he."

"Aye, aye," said the stranger, smiling. "I know it very well. But you've
not got many Methodists about here, surely--in this agricultural spot? I
should have thought there would hardly be such a thing as a Methodist to
be found about here. You're all farmers, aren't you? The Methodists can
seldom lay much hold on THEM."

"Why, sir, there's a pretty lot o' workmen round about, sir. There's
Mester Burge as owns the timber-yard over there, he underteks a good bit
o' building an' repairs. An' there's the stone-pits not far off. There's
plenty of emply i' this countryside, sir. An' there's a fine batch o'
Methodisses at Treddles'on--that's the market town about three mile
off--you'll maybe ha' come through it, sir. There's pretty nigh a score
of 'em on the Green now, as come from there. That's where our people
gets it from, though there's only two men of 'em in all Hayslope: that's
Will Maskery, the wheelwright, and Seth Bede, a young man as works at
the carpenterin'."

"The preacher comes from Treddleston, then, does she?"

"Nay, sir, she comes out o' Stonyshire, pretty nigh thirty mile off.
But she's a-visitin' hereabout at Mester Poyser's at the Hall Farm--it's
them barns an' big walnut-trees, right away to the left, sir. She's own
niece to Poyser's wife, an' they'll be fine an' vexed at her for making
a fool of herself i' that way. But I've heared as there's no holding
these Methodisses when the maggit's once got i' their head: many of 'em
goes stark starin' mad wi' their religion. Though this young woman's
quiet enough to look at, by what I can make out; I've not seen her
myself."

"Well, I wish I had time to wait and see her, but I must get on. I've
been out of my way for the last twenty minutes to have a look at that
place in the valley. It's Squire Donnithorne's, I suppose?"

"Yes, sir, that's Donnithorne Chase, that is. Fine hoaks there, isn't
there, sir? I should know what it is, sir, for I've lived butler there
a-going i' fifteen year. It's Captain Donnithorne as is th' heir,
sir--Squire Donnithorne's grandson. He'll be comin' of hage this
'ay-'arvest, sir, an' we shall hev fine doin's. He owns all the land
about here, sir, Squire Donnithorne does."

"Well, it's a pretty spot, whoever may own it," said the traveller,
mounting his horse; "and one meets some fine strapping fellows about
too. I met as fine a young fellow as ever I saw in my life, about
half an hour ago, before I came up the hill--a carpenter, a tall,
broad-shouldered fellow with black hair and black eyes, marching along
like a soldier. We want such fellows as he to lick the French."

"Aye, sir, that's Adam Bede, that is, I'll be bound--Thias Bede's son
everybody knows him hereabout. He's an uncommon clever stiddy fellow,
an' wonderful strong. Lord bless you, sir--if you'll hexcuse me for
saying so--he can walk forty mile a-day, an' lift a matter o' sixty
ston'. He's an uncommon favourite wi' the gentry, sir: Captain
Donnithorne and Parson Irwine meks a fine fuss wi' him. But he's a
little lifted up an' peppery-like."

"Well, good evening to you, landlord; I must get on."

"Your servant, sir; good evenin'."

The traveller put his horse into a quick walk up the village, but when
he approached the Green, the beauty of the view that lay on his right
hand, the singular contrast presented by the groups of villagers with
the knot of Methodists near the maple, and perhaps yet more, curiosity
to see the young female preacher, proved too much for his anxiety to get
to the end of his journey, and he paused.

The Green lay at the extremity of the village, and from it the road
branched off in two directions, one leading farther up the hill by the
church, and the other winding gently down towards the valley. On the
side of the Green that led towards the church, the broken line of
thatched cottages was continued nearly to the churchyard gate; but on
the opposite northwestern side, there was nothing to obstruct the view
of gently swelling meadow, and wooded valley, and dark masses of distant
hill. That rich undulating district of Loamshire to which Hayslope
belonged lies close to a grim outskirt of Stonyshire, overlooked by its
barren hills as a pretty blooming sister may sometimes be seen linked in
the arm of a rugged, tall, swarthy brother; and in two or three hours'
ride the traveller might exchange a bleak treeless region, intersected
by lines of cold grey stone, for one where his road wound under the
shelter of woods, or up swelling hills, muffled with hedgerows and long
meadow-grass and thick corn; and where at every turn he came upon some
fine old country-seat nestled in the valley or crowning the slope, some
homestead with its long length of barn and its cluster of golden ricks,
some grey steeple looking out from a pretty confusion of trees and
thatch and dark-red tiles. It was just such a picture as this last
that Hayslope Church had made to the traveller as he began to mount the
gentle slope leading to its pleasant uplands, and now from his station
near the Green he had before him in one view nearly all the other
typical features of this pleasant land. High up against the horizon were
the huge conical masses of hill, like giant mounds intended to fortify
this region of corn and grass against the keen and hungry winds of the
north; not distant enough to be clothed in purple mystery, but with
sombre greenish sides visibly specked with sheep, whose motion was only
revealed by memory, not detected by sight; wooed from day to day by the
changing hours, but responding with no change in themselves--left for
ever grim and sullen after the flush of morning, the winged gleams of
the April noonday, the parting crimson glory of the ripening summer
sun. And directly below them the eye rested on a more advanced line of
hanging woods, divided by bright patches of pasture or furrowed crops,
and not yet deepened into the uniform leafy curtains of high summer, but
still showing the warm tints of the young oak and the tender green of
the ash and lime. Then came the valley, where the woods grew thicker,
as if they had rolled down and hurried together from the patches left
smooth on the slope, that they might take the better care of the tall
mansion which lifted its parapets and sent its faint blue summer smoke
among them. Doubtless there was a large sweep of park and a broad glassy
pool in front of that mansion, but the swelling slope of meadow would
not let our traveller see them from the village green. He saw instead
a foreground which was just as lovely--the level sunlight lying like
transparent gold among the gently curving stems of the feathered grass
and the tall red sorrel, and the white ambels of the hemlocks lining
the bushy hedgerows. It was that moment in summer when the sound of
the scythe being whetted makes us cast more lingering looks at the
flower-sprinkled tresses of the meadows.

He might have seen other beauties in the landscape if he had turned
a little in his saddle and looked eastward, beyond Jonathan Burge's
pasture and woodyard towards the green corn-fields and walnut-trees of
the Hall Farm; but apparently there was more interest for him in the
living groups close at hand. Every generation in the village was there,
from old "Feyther Taft" in his brown worsted night-cap, who was bent
nearly double, but seemed tough enough to keep on his legs a long while,
leaning on his short stick, down to the babies with their little round
heads lolling forward in quilted linen caps. Now and then there was a
new arrival; perhaps a slouching labourer, who, having eaten his supper,
came out to look at the unusual scene with a slow bovine gaze, willing
to hear what any one had to say in explanation of it, but by no means
excited enough to ask a question. But all took care not to join the
Methodists on the Green, and identify themselves in that way with the
expectant audience, for there was not one of them that would not have
disclaimed the imputation of having come out to hear the "preacher
woman"--they had only come out to see "what war a-goin' on, like." The
men were chiefly gathered in the neighbourhood of the blacksmith's shop.
But do not imagine them gathered in a knot. Villagers never swarm: a
whisper is unknown among them, and they seem almost as incapable of an
undertone as a cow or a stag. Your true rustic turns his back on his
interlocutor, throwing a question over his shoulder as if he meant to
run away from the answer, and walking a step or two farther off when the
interest of the dialogue culminates. So the group in the vicinity of the
blacksmith's door was by no means a close one, and formed no screen in
front of Chad Cranage, the blacksmith himself, who stood with his black
brawny arms folded, leaning against the door-post, and occasionally
sending forth a bellowing laugh at his own jokes, giving them a
marked preference over the sarcasms of Wiry Ben, who had renounced the
pleasures of the Holly Bush for the sake of seeing life under a new
form. But both styles of wit were treated with equal contempt by Mr.
Joshua Rann. Mr. Rann's leathern apron and subdued griminess can leave
no one in any doubt that he is the village shoemaker; the thrusting out
of his chin and stomach and the twirling of his thumbs are more subtle
indications, intended to prepare unwary strangers for the discovery that
they are in the presence of the parish clerk. "Old Joshway," as he
is irreverently called by his neighbours, is in a state of simmering
indignation; but he has not yet opened his lips except to say, in a
resounding bass undertone, like the tuning of a violoncello, "Sehon,
King of the Amorites; for His mercy endureth for ever; and Og the King
of Basan: for His mercy endureth for ever"--a quotation which may seem
to have slight bearing on the present occasion, but, as with every other
anomaly, adequate knowledge will show it to be a natural sequence. Mr.
Rann was inwardly maintaining the dignity of the Church in the face of
this scandalous irruption of Methodism, and as that dignity was bound up
with his own sonorous utterance of the responses, his argument naturally
suggested a quotation from the psalm he had read the last Sunday
afternoon.

The stronger curiosity of the women had drawn them quite to the edge of
the Green, where they could examine more closely the Quakerlike costume
and odd deportment of the female Methodists. Underneath the maple there
was a small cart, which had been brought from the wheelwright's to serve
as a pulpit, and round this a couple of benches and a few chairs had
been placed. Some of the Methodists were resting on these, with their
eyes closed, as if wrapt in prayer or meditation. Others chose to
continue standing, and had turned their faces towards the villagers
with a look of melancholy compassion, which was highly amusing to Bessy
Cranage, the blacksmith's buxom daughter, known to her neighbours as
Chad's Bess, who wondered "why the folks war amakin' faces a that'ns."
Chad's Bess was the object of peculiar compassion, because her hair,
being turned back under a cap which was set at the top of her head,
exposed to view an ornament of which she was much prouder than of her
red cheeks--namely, a pair of large round ear-rings with false garnets
in them, ornaments condemned not only by the Methodists, but by her own
cousin and namesake Timothy's Bess, who, with much cousinly feeling,
often wished "them ear-rings" might come to good.

Timothy's Bess, though retaining her maiden appellation among her
familiars, had long been the wife of Sandy Jim, and possessed a handsome
set of matronly jewels, of which it is enough to mention the heavy
baby she was rocking in her arms, and the sturdy fellow of five in
knee-breeches, and red legs, who had a rusty milk-can round his neck by
way of drum, and was very carefully avoided by Chad's small terrier.
This young olive-branch, notorious under the name of Timothy's Bess's
Ben, being of an inquiring disposition, unchecked by any false modesty,
had advanced beyond the group of women and children, and was walking
round the Methodists, looking up in their faces with his mouth wide
open, and beating his stick against the milk-can by way of musical
accompaniment. But one of the elderly women bending down to take him by
the shoulder, with an air of grave remonstrance, Timothy's Bess's Ben
first kicked out vigorously, then took to his heels and sought refuge
behind his father's legs.

"Ye gallows young dog," said Sandy Jim, with some paternal pride, "if
ye donna keep that stick quiet, I'll tek it from ye. What dy'e mane by
kickin' foulks?"

"Here! Gie him here to me, Jim," said Chad Cranage; "I'll tie hirs up
an' shoe him as I do th' hosses. Well, Mester Casson," he continued,
as that personage sauntered up towards the group of men, "how are ye
t' naight? Are ye coom t' help groon? They say folks allays groon when
they're hearkenin' to th' Methodys, as if they war bad i' th' inside.
I mane to groon as loud as your cow did th' other naight, an' then the
praicher 'ull think I'm i' th' raight way."

"I'd advise you not to be up to no nonsense, Chad," said Mr. Casson,
with some dignity; "Poyser wouldn't like to hear as his wife's niece was
treated any ways disrespectful, for all he mayn't be fond of her taking
on herself to preach."

"Aye, an' she's a pleasant-looked un too," said Wiry Ben. "I'll stick
up for the pretty women preachin'; I know they'd persuade me over a deal
sooner nor th' ugly men. I shouldna wonder if I turn Methody afore the
night's out, an' begin to coort the preacher, like Seth Bede."

"Why, Seth's looking rether too high, I should think," said Mr. Casson.
"This woman's kin wouldn't like her to demean herself to a common
carpenter."

"Tchu!" said Ben, with a long treble intonation, "what's folks's kin got
to do wi't? Not a chip. Poyser's wife may turn her nose up an' forget
bygones, but this Dinah Morris, they tell me, 's as poor as iver she
was--works at a mill, an's much ado to keep hersen. A strappin' young
carpenter as is a ready-made Methody, like Seth, wouldna be a bad match
for her. Why, Poysers make as big a fuss wi' Adam Bede as if he war a
nevvy o' their own."

"Idle talk! idle talk!" said Mr. Joshua Rann. "Adam an' Seth's two men;
you wunna fit them two wi' the same last."

"Maybe," said Wiry Ben, contemptuously, "but Seth's the lad for me,
though he war a Methody twice o'er. I'm fair beat wi' Seth, for I've
been teasin' him iver sin' we've been workin' together, an' he bears me
no more malice nor a lamb. An' he's a stout-hearted feller too, for when
we saw the old tree all afire a-comin' across the fields one night, an'
we thought as it war a boguy, Seth made no more ado, but he up to't
as bold as a constable. Why, there he comes out o' Will Maskery's; an'
there's Will hisself, lookin' as meek as if he couldna knock a nail o'
the head for fear o' hurtin't. An' there's the pretty preacher woman! My
eye, she's got her bonnet off. I mun go a bit nearer."

Several of the men followed Ben's lead, and the traveller pushed his
horse on to the Green, as Dinah walked rather quickly and in advance of
her companions towards the cart under the maple-tree. While she was near
Seth's tall figure, she looked short, but when she had mounted the cart,
and was away from all comparison, she seemed above the middle height of
woman, though in reality she did not exceed it--an effect which was due
to the slimness of her figure and the simple line of her black stuff
dress. The stranger was struck with surprise as he saw her approach and
mount the cart--surprise, not so much at the feminine delicacy of
her appearance, as at the total absence of self-consciousness in her
demeanour. He had made up his mind to see her advance with a measured
step and a demure solemnity of countenance; he had felt sure that her
face would be mantled with the smile of conscious saintship, or
else charged with denunciatory bitterness. He knew but two types of
Methodist--the ecstatic and the bilious. But Dinah walked as simply as
if she were going to market, and seemed as unconscious of her outward
appearance as a little boy: there was no blush, no tremulousness, which
said, "I know you think me a pretty woman, too young to preach"; no
casting up or down of the eyelids, no compression of the lips, no
attitude of the arms that said, "But you must think of me as a saint."
She held no book in her ungloved hands, but let them hang down lightly
crossed before her, as she stood and turned her grey eyes on the people.
There was no keenness in the eyes; they seemed rather to be shedding
love than making observations; they had the liquid look which tells that
the mind is full of what it has to give out, rather than impressed by
external objects. She stood with her left hand towards the descending
sun, and leafy boughs screened her from its rays; but in this sober
light the delicate colouring of her face seemed to gather a calm
vividness, like flowers at evening. It was a small oval face, of a
uniform transparent whiteness, with an egg-like line of cheek and chin,
a full but firm mouth, a delicate nostril, and a low perpendicular brow,
surmounted by a rising arch of parting between smooth locks of pale
reddish hair. The hair was drawn straight back behind the ears, and
covered, except for an inch or two above the brow, by a net Quaker cap.
The eyebrows, of the same colour as the hair, were perfectly horizontal
and firmly pencilled; the eyelashes, though no darker, were long and
abundant--nothing was left blurred or unfinished. It was one of those
faces that make one think of white flowers with light touches of colour
on their pure petals. The eyes had no peculiar beauty, beyond that of
expression; they looked so simple, so candid, so gravely loving, that
no accusing scowl, no light sneer could help melting away before their
glance. Joshua Rann gave a long cough, as if he were clearing his throat
in order to come to a new understanding with himself; Chad Cranage
lifted up his leather skull-cap and scratched his head; and Wiry Ben
wondered how Seth had the pluck to think of courting her.

"A sweet woman," the stranger said to himself, "but surely nature never
meant her for a preacher."

Perhaps he was one of those who think that nature has theatrical
properties and, with the considerate view of facilitating art and
psychology, "makes up," her characters, so that there may be no mistake
about them. But Dinah began to speak.

"Dear friends," she said in a clear but not loud voice "let us pray for
a blessing."

She closed her eyes, and hanging her head down a little continued in the
same moderate tone, as if speaking to some one quite near her: "Saviour
of sinners! When a poor woman laden with sins, went out to the well to
draw water, she found Thee sitting at the well. She knew Thee not; she
had not sought Thee; her mind was dark; her life was unholy. But Thou
didst speak to her, Thou didst teach her, Thou didst show her that her
life lay open before Thee, and yet Thou wast ready to give her that
blessing which she had never sought. Jesus, Thou art in the midst of us,
and Thou knowest all men: if there is any here like that poor woman--if
their minds are dark, their lives unholy--if they have come out not
seeking Thee, not desiring to be taught; deal with them according to the
free mercy which Thou didst show to her Speak to them, Lord, open their
ears to my message, bring their sins to their minds, and make them
thirst for that salvation which Thou art ready to give.

"Lord, Thou art with Thy people still: they see Thee in the
night-watches, and their hearts burn within them as Thou talkest with
them by the way. And Thou art near to those who have not known Thee:
open their eyes that they may see Thee--see Thee weeping over them,
and saying 'Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life'--see Thee
hanging on the cross and saying, 'Father, forgive them, for they know
not what they do'--see Thee as Thou wilt come again in Thy glory to
judge them at the last. Amen."

Dinah opened her eyes again and paused, looking at the group of
villagers, who were now gathered rather more closely on her right hand.

"Dear friends," she began, raising her voice a little, "you have all of
you been to church, and I think you must have heard the clergyman
read these words: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath
anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.' Jesus Christ spoke those
words--he said he came TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. I don't know
whether you ever thought about those words much, but I will tell you
when I remember first hearing them. It was on just such a sort of
evening as this, when I was a little girl, and my aunt as brought me up
took me to hear a good man preach out of doors, just as we are here. I
remember his face well: he was a very old man, and had very long white
hair; his voice was very soft and beautiful, not like any voice I had
ever heard before. I was a little girl and scarcely knew anything, and
this old man seemed to me such a different sort of a man from anybody
I had ever seen before that I thought he had perhaps come down from
the sky to preach to us, and I said, 'Aunt, will he go back to the sky
to-night, like the picture in the Bible?'

"That man of God was Mr. Wesley, who spent his life in doing what our
blessed Lord did--preaching the Gospel to the poor--and he entered into
his rest eight years ago. I came to know more about him years after, but
I was a foolish thoughtless child then, and I remembered only one thing
he told us in his sermon. He told us as 'Gospel' meant 'good news.' The
Gospel, you know, is what the Bible tells us about God.

"Think of that now! Jesus Christ did really come down from heaven, as
I, like a silly child, thought Mr. Wesley did; and what he came down
for was to tell good news about God to the poor. Why, you and me, dear
friends, are poor. We have been brought up in poor cottages and have
been reared on oat-cake, and lived coarse; and we haven't been to school
much, nor read books, and we don't know much about anything but what
happens just round us. We are just the sort of people that want to
hear good news. For when anybody's well off, they don't much mind about
hearing news from distant parts; but if a poor man or woman's in trouble
and has hard work to make out a living, they like to have a letter to
tell 'em they've got a friend as will help 'em. To be sure, we can't
help knowing something about God, even if we've never heard the Gospel,
the good news that our Saviour brought us. For we know everything comes
from God: don't you say almost every day, 'This and that will happen,
please God,' and 'We shall begin to cut the grass soon, please God to
send us a little more sunshine'? We know very well we are altogether
in the hands of God. We didn't bring ourselves into the world, we can't
keep ourselves alive while we're sleeping; the daylight, and the wind,
and the corn, and the cows to give us milk--everything we have comes
from God. And he gave us our souls and put love between parents and
children, and husband and wife. But is that as much as we want to know
about God? We see he is great and mighty, and can do what he will: we
are lost, as if we was struggling in great waters, when we try to think
of him.

"But perhaps doubts come into your mind like this: Can God take much
notice of us poor people? Perhaps he only made the world for the great
and the wise and the rich. It doesn't cost him much to give us our
little handful of victual and bit of clothing; but how do we know he
cares for us any more than we care for the worms and things in the
garden, so as we rear our carrots and onions? Will God take care of us
when we die? And has he any comfort for us when we are lame and sick and
helpless? Perhaps, too, he is angry with us; else why does the blight
come, and the bad harvests, and the fever, and all sorts of pain and
trouble? For our life is full of trouble, and if God sends us good, he
seems to send bad too. How is it? How is it?

"Ah, dear friends, we are in sad want of good news about God; and what
does other good news signify if we haven't that? For everything else
comes to an end, and when we die we leave it all. But God lasts when
everything else is gone. What shall we do if he is not our friend?"

Then Dinah told how the good news had been brought, and how the mind
of God towards the poor had been made manifest in the life of Jesus,
dwelling on its lowliness and its acts of mercy.

"So you see, dear friends," she went on, "Jesus spent his time almost
all in doing good to poor people; he preached out of doors to them, and
he made friends of poor workmen, and taught them and took pains with
them. Not but what he did good to the rich too, for he was full of love
to all men, only he saw as the poor were more in want of his help. So
he cured the lame and the sick and the blind, and he worked miracles to
feed the hungry because, he said, he was sorry for them; and he was
very kind to the little children and comforted those who had lost their
friends; and he spoke very tenderly to poor sinners that were sorry for
their sins.

"Ah, wouldn't you love such a man if you saw him--if he were here in
this village? What a kind heart he must have! What a friend he would be
to go to in trouble! How pleasant it must be to be taught by him.

"Well, dear friends, who WAS this man? Was he only a good man--a very
good man, and no more--like our dear Mr. Wesley, who has been taken from
us?...He was the Son of God--'in the image of the Father,' the Bible
says; that means, just like God, who is the beginning and end of all
things--the God we want to know about. So then, all the love that
Jesus showed to the poor is the same love that God has for us. We can
understand what Jesus felt, because he came in a body like ours and
spoke words such as we speak to each other. We were afraid to think what
God was before--the God who made the world and the sky and the thunder
and lightning. We could never see him; we could only see the things he
had made; and some of these things was very terrible, so as we might
well tremble when we thought of him. But our blessed Saviour has showed
us what God is in a way us poor ignorant people can understand; he has
showed us what God's heart is, what are his feelings towards us.

"But let us see a little more about what Jesus came on earth for.
Another time he said, 'I came to seek and to save that which was lost';
and another time, 'I came not to call the righteous but sinners to
repentance.'

"The LOST!...SINNERS!...Ah, dear friends, does that mean you and me?"

Hitherto the traveller had been chained to the spot against his will
by the charm of Dinah's mellow treble tones, which had a variety of
modulation like that of a fine instrument touched with the unconscious
skill of musical instinct. The simple things she said seemed like
novelties, as a melody strikes us with a new feeling when we hear
it sung by the pure voice of a boyish chorister; the quiet depth of
conviction with which she spoke seemed in itself an evidence for the
truth of her message. He saw that she had thoroughly arrested her
hearers. The villagers had pressed nearer to her, and there was no
longer anything but grave attention on all faces. She spoke slowly,
though quite fluently, often pausing after a question, or before any
transition of ideas. There was no change of attitude, no gesture; the
effect of her speech was produced entirely by the inflections of her
voice, and when she came to the question, "Will God take care of us
when we die?" she uttered it in such a tone of plaintive appeal that
the tears came into some of the hardest eyes. The stranger had ceased
to doubt, as he had done at the first glance, that she could fix the
attention of her rougher hearers, but still he wondered whether she
could have that power of rousing their more violent emotions, which
must surely be a necessary seal of her vocation as a Methodist preacher,
until she came to the words, "Lost!--Sinners!" when there was a great
change in her voice and manner. She had made a long pause before the
exclamation, and the pause seemed to be filled by agitating thoughts
that showed themselves in her features. Her pale face became paler;
the circles under her eyes deepened, as they did when tears half-gather
without falling; and the mild loving eyes took an expression of appalled
pity, as if she had suddenly discerned a destroying angel hovering over
the heads of the people. Her voice became deep and muffled, but there
was still no gesture. Nothing could be less like the ordinary type of
the Ranter than Dinah. She was not preaching as she heard others preach,
but speaking directly from her own emotions and under the inspiration of
her own simple faith.

But now she had entered into a new current of feeling. Her manner became
less calm, her utterance more rapid and agitated, as she tried to bring
home to the people their guilt their wilful darkness, their state of
disobedience to God--as she dwelt on the hatefulness of sin, the Divine
holiness, and the sufferings of the Saviour, by which a way had been
opened for their salvation. At last it seemed as if, in her yearning
desire to reclaim the lost sheep, she could not be satisfied by
addressing her hearers as a body. She appealed first to one and then to
another, beseeching them with tears to turn to God while there was
yet time; painting to them the desolation of their souls, lost in sin,
feeding on the husks of this miserable world, far away from God their
Father; and then the love of the Saviour, who was waiting and watching
for their return.

There was many a responsive sigh and groan from her fellow-Methodists,
but the village mind does not easily take fire, and a little smouldering
vague anxiety that might easily die out again was the utmost effect
Dinah's preaching had wrought in them at present. Yet no one had
retired, except the children and "old Feyther Taft," who being too deaf
to catch many words, had some time ago gone back to his inglenook. Wiry
Ben was feeling very uncomfortable, and almost wishing he had not come
to hear Dinah; he thought what she said would haunt him somehow. Yet he
couldn't help liking to look at her and listen to her, though he dreaded
every moment that she would fix her eyes on him and address him in
particular. She had already addressed Sandy Jim, who was now holding the
baby to relieve his wife, and the big soft-hearted man had rubbed away
some tears with his fist, with a confused intention of being a better
fellow, going less to the Holly Bush down by the Stone-pits, and
cleaning himself more regularly of a Sunday.

In front of Sandy Jim stood Chad's Bess, who had shown an unwonted
quietude and fixity of attention ever since Dinah had begun to speak.
Not that the matter of the discourse had arrested her at once, for she
was lost in a puzzling speculation as to what pleasure and satisfaction
there could be in life to a young woman who wore a cap like Dinah's.
Giving up this inquiry in despair, she took to studying Dinah's nose,
eyes, mouth, and hair, and wondering whether it was better to have such
a sort of pale face as that, or fat red cheeks and round black eyes like
her own. But gradually the influence of the general gravity told upon
her, and she became conscious of what Dinah was saying. The gentle
tones, the loving persuasion, did not touch her, but when the more
severe appeals came she began to be frightened. Poor Bessy had always
been considered a naughty girl; she was conscious of it; if it was
necessary to be very good, it was clear she must be in a bad way. She
couldn't find her places at church as Sally Rann could, she had often
been tittering when she "curcheyed" to Mr. Irwine; and these religious
deficiencies were accompanied by a corresponding slackness in the minor
morals, for Bessy belonged unquestionably to that unsoaped lazy class of
feminine characters with whom you may venture to "eat an egg, an apple,
or a nut." All this she was generally conscious of, and hitherto had not
been greatly ashamed of it. But now she began to feel very much as if
the constable had come to take her up and carry her before the justice
for some undefined offence. She had a terrified sense that God, whom she
had always thought of as very far off, was very near to her, and that
Jesus was close by looking at her, though she could not see him. For
Dinah had that belief in visible manifestations of Jesus, which is
common among the Methodists, and she communicated it irresistibly to her
hearers: she made them feel that he was among them bodily, and might at
any moment show himself to them in some way that would strike anguish
and penitence into their hearts.

"See!" she exclaimed, turning to the left, with her eyes fixed on a
point above the heads of the people. "See where our blessed Lord stands
and weeps and stretches out his arms towards you. Hear what he says:
'How often would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens
under her wings, and ye would not!'...and ye would not," she repeated,
in a tone of pleading reproach, turning her eyes on the people again.
"See the print of the nails on his dear hands and feet. It is your sins
that made them! Ah! How pale and worn he looks! He has gone through all
that great agony in the garden, when his soul was exceeding sorrowful
even unto death, and the great drops of sweat fell like blood to the
ground. They spat upon him and buffeted him, they scourged him, they
mocked him, they laid the heavy cross on his bruised shoulders. Then
they nailed him up. Ah, what pain! His lips are parched with thirst, and
they mock him still in this great agony; yet with those parched lips he
prays for them, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'
Then a horror of great darkness fell upon him, and he felt what sinners
feel when they are for ever shut out from God. That was the last drop
in the cup of bitterness. 'My God, my God!' he cries, 'why hast Thou
forsaken me?'

"All this he bore for you! For you--and you never think of him; for
you--and you turn your backs on him; you don't care what he has gone
through for you. Yet he is not weary of toiling for you: he has risen
from the dead, he is praying for you at the right hand of God--'Father,
forgive them, for they know not what they do.' And he is upon this earth
too; he is among us; he is there close to you now; I see his wounded
body and his look of love."

Here Dinah turned to Bessy Cranage, whose bonny youth and evident vanity
had touched her with pity.

"Poor child! Poor child! He is beseeching you, and you don't listen to
him. You think of ear-rings and fine gowns and caps, and you never think
of the Saviour who died to save your precious soul. Your cheeks will be
shrivelled one day, your hair will be grey, your poor body will be thin
and tottering! Then you will begin to feel that your soul is not saved;
then you will have to stand before God dressed in your sins, in your
evil tempers and vain thoughts. And Jesus, who stands ready to help you
now, won't help you then; because you won't have him to be your Saviour,
he will be your judge. Now he looks at you with love and mercy and says,
'Come to me that you may have life'; then he will turn away from you,
and say, 'Depart from me into ever-lasting fire!'"

Poor Bessy's wide-open black eyes began to fill with tears, her great
red cheeks and lips became quite pale, and her face was distorted like a
little child's before a burst of crying.

"Ah, poor blind child!" Dinah went on, "think if it should happen to you
as it once happened to a servant of God in the days of her vanity. SHE
thought of her lace caps and saved all her money to buy 'em; she thought
nothing about how she might get a clean heart and a right spirit--she
only wanted to have better lace than other girls. And one day when she
put her new cap on and looked in the glass, she saw a bleeding Face
crowned with thorns. That face is looking at you now"--here Dinah
pointed to a spot close in front of Bessy--"Ah, tear off those follies!
Cast them away from you, as if they were stinging adders. They ARE
stinging you--they are poisoning your soul--they are dragging you down
into a dark bottomless pit, where you will sink for ever, and for ever,
and for ever, further away from light and God."

Bessy could bear it no longer: a great terror was upon her, and
wrenching her ear-rings from her ears, she threw them down before her,
sobbing aloud. Her father, Chad, frightened lest he should be "laid hold
on" too, this impression on the rebellious Bess striking him as nothing
less than a miracle, walked hastily away and began to work at his anvil
by way of reassuring himself. "Folks mun ha' hoss-shoes, praichin' or
no praichin': the divil canna lay hould o' me for that," he muttered to
himself.

But now Dinah began to tell of the joys that were in store for the
penitent, and to describe in her simple way the divine peace and love
with which the soul of the believer is filled--how the sense of God's
love turns poverty into riches and satisfies the soul so that no uneasy
desire vexes it, no fear alarms it: how, at last, the very temptation
to sin is extinguished, and heaven is begun upon earth, because no cloud
passes between the soul and God, who is its eternal sun.

"Dear friends," she said at last, "brothers and sisters, whom I love
as those for whom my Lord has died, believe me, I know what this great
blessedness is; and because I know it, I want you to have it too. I am
poor, like you: I have to get my living with my hands; but no lord nor
lady can be so happy as me, if they haven't got the love of God in their
souls. Think what it is--not to hate anything but sin; to be full of
love to every creature; to be frightened at nothing; to be sure that all
things will turn to good; not to mind pain, because it is our Father's
will; to know that nothing--no, not if the earth was to be burnt up, or
the waters come and drown us--nothing could part us from God who loves
us, and who fills our souls with peace and joy, because we are sure that
whatever he wills is holy, just, and good.

"Dear friends, come and take this blessedness; it is offered to you; it
is the good news that Jesus came to preach to the poor. It is not like
the riches of this world, so that the more one gets the less the rest
can have. God is without end; his love is without end--"

     Its streams the whole creation reach,
     So plenteous is the store;
     Enough for all, enough for each,
     Enough for evermore.

Dinah had been speaking at least an hour, and the reddening light of the
parting day seemed to give a solemn emphasis to her closing words. The
stranger, who had been interested in the course of her sermon as if
it had been the development of a drama--for there is this sort of
fascination in all sincere unpremeditated eloquence, which opens to one
the inward drama of the speaker's emotions--now turned his horse aside
and pursued his way, while Dinah said, "Let us sing a little, dear
friends"; and as he was still winding down the slope, the voices of the
Methodists reached him, rising and falling in that strange blending of
exultation and sadness which belongs to the cadence of a hymn.



Chapter III

After the Preaching


IN less than an hour from that time, Seth Bede was walking by Dinah's
side along the hedgerow-path that skirted the pastures and green
corn-fields which lay between the village and the Hall Farm. Dinah had
taken off her little Quaker bonnet again, and was holding it in
her hands that she might have a freer enjoyment of the cool evening
twilight, and Seth could see the expression of her face quite clearly as
he walked by her side, timidly revolving something he wanted to say to
her. It was an expression of unconscious placid gravity--of absorption
in thoughts that had no connection with the present moment or with her
own personality--an expression that is most of all discouraging to a
lover. Her very walk was discouraging: it had that quiet elasticity that
asks for no support. Seth felt this dimly; he said to himself, "She's
too good and holy for any man, let alone me," and the words he had
been summoning rushed back again before they had reached his lips. But
another thought gave him courage: "There's no man could love her better
and leave her freer to follow the Lord's work." They had been silent for
many minutes now, since they had done talking about Bessy Cranage;
Dinah seemed almost to have forgotten Seth's presence, and her pace
was becoming so much quicker that the sense of their being only a few
minutes' walk from the yard-gates of the Hall Farm at last gave Seth
courage to speak.

"You've quite made up your mind to go back to Snowfield o' Saturday,
Dinah?"

"Yes," said Dinah, quietly. "I'm called there. It was borne in upon my
mind while I was meditating on Sunday night, as Sister Allen, who's in a
decline, is in need of me. I saw her as plain as we see that bit of thin
white cloud, lifting up her poor thin hand and beckoning to me. And this
morning when I opened the Bible for direction, the first words my
eyes fell on were, 'And after we had seen the vision, immediately we
endeavoured to go into Macedonia.' If it wasn't for that clear showing
of the Lord's will, I should be loath to go, for my heart yearns over
my aunt and her little ones, and that poor wandering lamb Hetty Sorrel.
I've been much drawn out in prayer for her of late, and I look on it as
a token that there may be mercy in store for her."

"God grant it," said Seth. "For I doubt Adam's heart is so set on her,
he'll never turn to anybody else; and yet it 'ud go to my heart if he
was to marry her, for I canna think as she'd make him happy. It's a deep
mystery--the way the heart of man turns to one woman out of all the rest
he's seen i' the world, and makes it easier for him to work seven year
for HER, like Jacob did for Rachel, sooner than have any other woman for
th' asking. I often think of them words, 'And Jacob served seven years
for Rachel; and they seemed to him but a few days for the love he had
to her.' I know those words 'ud come true with me, Dinah, if so be you'd
give me hope as I might win you after seven years was over. I know you
think a husband 'ud be taking up too much o' your thoughts, because St.
Paul says, 'She that's married careth for the things of the world how
she may please her husband'; and may happen you'll think me overbold to
speak to you about it again, after what you told me o' your mind last
Saturday. But I've been thinking it over again by night and by day, and
I've prayed not to be blinded by my own desires, to think what's only
good for me must be good for you too. And it seems to me there's more
texts for your marrying than ever you can find against it. For St. Paul
says as plain as can be in another place, 'I will that the younger
women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the
adversary to speak reproachfully'; and then 'two are better than one';
and that holds good with marriage as well as with other things. For we
should be o' one heart and o' one mind, Dinah. We both serve the same
Master, and are striving after the same gifts; and I'd never be the
husband to make a claim on you as could interfere with your doing the
work God has fitted you for. I'd make a shift, and fend indoor and out,
to give you more liberty--more than you can have now, for you've got to
get your own living now, and I'm strong enough to work for us both."

When Seth had once begun to urge his suit, he went on earnestly and
almost hurriedly, lest Dinah should speak some decisive word before he
had poured forth all the arguments he had prepared. His cheeks became
flushed as he went on his mild grey eyes filled with tears, and his
voice trembled as he spoke the last sentence. They had reached one of
those very narrow passes between two tall stones, which performed the
office of a stile in Loamshire, and Dinah paused as she turned towards
Seth and said, in her tender but calm treble notes, "Seth Bede, I thank
you for your love towards me, and if I could think of any man as more
than a Christian brother, I think it would be you. But my heart is not
free to marry. That is good for other women, and it is a great and a
blessed thing to be a wife and mother; but 'as God has distributed to
every man, as the Lord hath called every man, so let him walk.' God has
called me to minister to others, not to have any joys or sorrows of my
own, but to rejoice with them that do rejoice, and to weep with those
that weep. He has called me to speak his word, and he has greatly owned
my work. It could only be on a very clear showing that I could leave the
brethren and sisters at Snowfield, who are favoured with very little of
this world's good; where the trees are few, so that a child might count
them, and there's very hard living for the poor in the winter. It has
been given me to help, to comfort, and strengthen the little flock there
and to call in many wanderers; and my soul is filled with these things
from my rising up till my lying down. My life is too short, and God's
work is too great for me to think of making a home for myself in this
world. I've not turned a deaf ear to your words, Seth, for when I saw as
your love was given to me, I thought it might be a leading of Providence
for me to change my way of life, and that we should be fellow-helpers;
and I spread the matter before the Lord. But whenever I tried to fix my
mind on marriage, and our living together, other thoughts always came
in--the times when I've prayed by the sick and dying, and the happy
hours I've had preaching, when my heart was filled with love, and the
Word was given to me abundantly. And when I've opened the Bible for
direction, I've always lighted on some clear word to tell me where my
work lay. I believe what you say, Seth, that you would try to be a help
and not a hindrance to my work; but I see that our marriage is not God's
will--He draws my heart another way. I desire to live and die without
husband or children. I seem to have no room in my soul for wants and
fears of my own, it has pleased God to fill my heart so full with the
wants and sufferings of his poor people."

Seth was unable to reply, and they walked on in silence. At last, as
they were nearly at the yard-gate, he said, "Well, Dinah, I must seek
for strength to bear it, and to endure as seeing Him who is invisible.
But I feel now how weak my faith is. It seems as if, when you are gone,
I could never joy in anything any more. I think it's something passing
the love of women as I feel for you, for I could be content without
your marrying me if I could go and live at Snowfield and be near you.
I trusted as the strong love God has given me towards you was a leading
for us both; but it seems it was only meant for my trial. Perhaps I feel
more for you than I ought to feel for any creature, for I often can't
help saying of you what the hymn says--

     In darkest shades if she appear,
     My dawning is begun;
     She is my soul's bright morning-star,
     And she my rising sun.

That may be wrong, and I am to be taught better. But you wouldn't be
displeased with me if things turned out so as I could leave this country
and go to live at Snowfield?"

"No, Seth; but I counsel you to wait patiently, and not lightly to
leave your own country and kindred. Do nothing without the Lord's clear
bidding. It's a bleak and barren country there, not like this land of
Goshen you've been used to. We mustn't be in a hurry to fix and choose
our own lot; we must wait to be guided."

"But you'd let me write you a letter, Dinah, if there was anything I
wanted to tell you?"

"Yes, sure; let me know if you're in any trouble. You'll be continually
in my prayers."

They had now reached the yard-gate, and Seth said, "I won't go in,
Dinah, so farewell." He paused and hesitated after she had given him
her hand, and then said, "There's no knowing but what you may see things
different after a while. There may be a new leading."

"Let us leave that, Seth. It's good to live only a moment at a time, as
I've read in one of Mr. Wesley's books. It isn't for you and me to lay
plans; we've nothing to do but to obey and to trust. Farewell."

Dinah pressed his hand with rather a sad look in her loving eyes, and
then passed through the gate, while Seth turned away to walk lingeringly
home. But instead of taking the direct road, he chose to turn back along
the fields through which he and Dinah had already passed; and I think
his blue linen handkerchief was very wet with tears long before he
had made up his mind that it was time for him to set his face steadily
homewards. He was but three-and-twenty, and had only just learned what
it is to love--to love with that adoration which a young man gives to a
woman whom he feels to be greater and better than himself. Love of this
sort is hardly distinguishable from religious feeling. What deep and
worthy love is so, whether of woman or child, or art or music. Our
caresses, our tender words, our still rapture under the influence
of autumn sunsets, or pillared vistas, or calm majestic statues, or
Beethoven symphonies all bring with them the consciousness that they are
mere waves and ripples in an unfathomable ocean of love and beauty; our
emotion in its keenest moment passes from expression into silence, our
love at its highest flood rushes beyond its object and loses itself in
the sense of divine mystery. And this blessed gift of venerating love
has been given to too many humble craftsmen since the world began for
us to feel any surprise that it should have existed in the soul of a
Methodist carpenter half a century ago, while there was yet a lingering
after-glow from the time when Wesley and his fellow-labourer fed on the
hips and haws of the Cornwall hedges, after exhausting limbs and lungs
in carrying a divine message to the poor.

That afterglow has long faded away; and the picture we are apt to make
of Methodism in our imagination is not an amphitheatre of green hills,
or the deep shade of broad-leaved sycamores, where a crowd of rough
men and weary-hearted women drank in a faith which was a rudimentary
culture, which linked their thoughts with the past, lifted their
imagination above the sordid details of their own narrow lives, and
suffused their souls with the sense of a pitying, loving, infinite
Presence, sweet as summer to the houseless needy. It is too possible
that to some of my readers Methodism may mean nothing more than
low-pitched gables up dingy streets, sleek grocers, sponging preachers,
and hypocritical jargon--elements which are regarded as an exhaustive
analysis of Methodism in many fashionable quarters.

That would be a pity; for I cannot pretend that Seth and Dinah were
anything else than Methodists--not indeed of that modern type which
reads quarterly reviews and attends in chapels with pillared porticoes,
but of a very old-fashioned kind. They believed in present miracles, in
instantaneous conversions, in revelations by dreams and visions; they
drew lots, and sought for Divine guidance by opening the Bible at
hazard; having a literal way of interpreting the Scriptures, which is
not at all sanctioned by approved commentators; and it is impossible
for me to represent their diction as correct, or their instruction as
liberal. Still--if I have read religious history aright--faith,
hope, and charity have not always been found in a direct ratio with a
sensibility to the three concords, and it is possible--thank Heaven!--to
have very erroneous theories and very sublime feelings. The raw bacon
which clumsy Molly spares from her own scanty store that she may carry
it to her neighbour's child to "stop the fits," may be a piteously
inefficacious remedy; but the generous stirring of neighbourly kindness
that prompted the deed has a beneficent radiation that is not lost.

Considering these things, we can hardly think Dinah and Seth beneath our
sympathy, accustomed as we may be to weep over the loftier sorrows
of heroines in satin boots and crinoline, and of heroes riding fiery
horses, themselves ridden by still more fiery passions.

Poor Seth! He was never on horseback in his life except once, when he
was a little lad, and Mr. Jonathan Burge took him up behind, telling
him to "hold on tight"; and instead of bursting out into wild accusing
apostrophes to God and destiny, he is resolving, as he now walks
homewards under the solemn starlight, to repress his sadness, to be less
bent on having his own will, and to live more for others, as Dinah does.



Chapter IV

Home and Its Sorrows


A GREEN valley with a brook running through it, full almost to
overflowing with the late rains, overhung by low stooping willows.
Across this brook a plank is thrown, and over this plank Adam Bede is
passing with his undoubting step, followed close by Gyp with the basket;
evidently making his way to the thatched house, with a stack of timber
by the side of it, about twenty yards up the opposite slope.

The door of the house is open, and an elderly woman is looking out; but
she is not placidly contemplating the evening sunshine; she has been
watching with dim eyes the gradually enlarging speck which for the last
few minutes she has been quite sure is her darling son Adam. Lisbeth
Bede loves her son with the love of a woman to whom her first-born has
come late in life. She is an anxious, spare, yet vigorous old woman,
clean as a snowdrop. Her grey hair is turned neatly back under a pure
linen cap with a black band round it; her broad chest is covered with a
buff neckerchief, and below this you see a sort of short bedgown made of
blue-checkered linen, tied round the waist and descending to the hips,
from whence there is a considerable length of linsey-woolsey petticoat.
For Lisbeth is tall, and in other points too there is a strong
likeness between her and her son Adam. Her dark eyes are somewhat dim
now--perhaps from too much crying--but her broadly marked eyebrows are
still black, her teeth are sound, and as she stands knitting rapidly and
unconsciously with her work-hardened hands, she has as firmly upright
an attitude as when she is carrying a pail of water on her head from the
spring. There is the same type of frame and the same keen activity of
temperament in mother and son, but it was not from her that Adam got his
well-filled brow and his expression of large-hearted intelligence.

Family likeness has often a deep sadness in it. Nature, that great
tragic dramatist, knits us together by bone and muscle, and divides us
by the subtler web of our brains; blends yearning and repulsion;
and ties us by our heart-strings to the beings that jar us at every
movement. We hear a voice with the very cadence of our own uttering the
thoughts we despise; we see eyes--ah, so like our mother's!--averted
from us in cold alienation; and our last darling child startles us with
the air and gestures of the sister we parted from in bitterness long
years ago. The father to whom we owe our best heritage--the mechanical
instinct, the keen sensibility to harmony, the unconscious skill of the
modelling hand--galls us and puts us to shame by his daily errors; the
long-lost mother, whose face we begin to see in the glass as our own
wrinkles come, once fretted our young souls with her anxious humours and
irrational persistence.

It is such a fond anxious mother's voice that you hear, as Lisbeth says,
"Well, my lad, it's gone seven by th' clock. Thee't allays stay till the
last child's born. Thee wants thy supper, I'll warrand. Where's Seth?
Gone arter some o's chapellin', I reckon?"

"Aye, aye, Seth's at no harm, mother, thee mayst be sure. But where's
father?" said Adam quickly, as he entered the house and glanced into the
room on the left hand, which was used as a workshop. "Hasn't he done the
coffin for Tholer? There's the stuff standing just as I left it this
morning."

"Done the coffin?" said Lisbeth, following him, and knitting
uninterruptedly, though she looked at her son very anxiously. "Eh, my
lad, he went aff to Treddles'on this forenoon, an's niver come back. I
doubt he's got to th' 'Waggin Overthrow' again."

A deep flush of anger passed rapidly over Adam's face. He said nothing,
but threw off his jacket and began to roll up his shirt-sleeves again.

"What art goin' to do, Adam?" said the mother, with a tone and look
of alarm. "Thee wouldstna go to work again, wi'out ha'in thy bit o'
supper?"

Adam, too angry to speak, walked into the workshop. But his mother threw
down her knitting, and, hurrying after him, took hold of his arm, and
said, in a tone of plaintive remonstrance, "Nay, my lad, my lad, thee
munna go wi'out thy supper; there's the taters wi' the gravy in 'em,
just as thee lik'st 'em. I saved 'em o' purpose for thee. Come an' ha'
thy supper, come."

"Let be!" said Adam impetuously, shaking her off and seizing one of
the planks that stood against the wall. "It's fine talking about having
supper when here's a coffin promised to be ready at Brox'on by seven
o'clock to-morrow morning, and ought to ha' been there now, and not a
nail struck yet. My throat's too full to swallow victuals."

"Why, thee canstna get the coffin ready," said Lisbeth. "Thee't work
thyself to death. It 'ud take thee all night to do't."

"What signifies how long it takes me? Isn't the coffin promised? Can
they bury the man without a coffin? I'd work my right hand off sooner
than deceive people with lies i' that way. It makes me mad to think
on't. I shall overrun these doings before long. I've stood enough of
'em."

Poor Lisbeth did not hear this threat for the first time, and if she had
been wise she would have gone away quietly and said nothing for the next
hour. But one of the lessons a woman most rarely learns is never to talk
to an angry or a drunken man. Lisbeth sat down on the chopping bench
and began to cry, and by the time she had cried enough to make her voice
very piteous, she burst out into words.

"Nay, my lad, my lad, thee wouldstna go away an' break thy mother's
heart, an' leave thy feyther to ruin. Thee wouldstna ha' 'em carry me to
th' churchyard, an' thee not to follow me. I shanna rest i' my grave
if I donna see thee at th' last; an' how's they to let thee know as I'm
a-dyin', if thee't gone a-workin' i' distant parts, an' Seth belike gone
arter thee, and thy feyther not able to hold a pen for's hand shakin',
besides not knowin' where thee art? Thee mun forgie thy feyther--thee
munna be so bitter again' him. He war a good feyther to thee afore he
took to th' drink. He's a clever workman, an' taught thee thy trade,
remember, an's niver gen me a blow nor so much as an ill word--no,
not even in 's drink. Thee wouldstna ha' 'm go to the workhus--thy own
feyther--an' him as was a fine-growed man an' handy at everythin' amost
as thee art thysen, five-an'-twenty 'ear ago, when thee wast a baby at
the breast."

Lisbeth's voice became louder, and choked with sobs--a sort of wail,
the most irritating of all sounds where real sorrows are to be borne and
real work to be done. Adam broke in impatiently.

"Now, Mother, don't cry and talk so. Haven't I got enough to vex me
without that? What's th' use o' telling me things as I only think too
much on every day? If I didna think on 'em, why should I do as I do, for
the sake o' keeping things together here? But I hate to be talking where
it's no use: I like to keep my breath for doing i'stead o' talking."

"I know thee dost things as nobody else 'ud do, my lad. But thee't
allays so hard upo' thy feyther, Adam. Thee think'st nothing too much
to do for Seth: thee snapp'st me up if iver I find faut wi' th' lad. But
thee't so angered wi' thy feyther, more nor wi' anybody else."

"That's better than speaking soft and letting things go the wrong way,
I reckon, isn't it? If I wasn't sharp with him he'd sell every bit o'
stuff i' th' yard and spend it on drink. I know there's a duty to be
done by my father, but it isn't my duty to encourage him in running
headlong to ruin. And what has Seth got to do with it? The lad does no
harm as I know of. But leave me alone, Mother, and let me get on with
the work."

Lisbeth dared not say any more; but she got up and called Gyp, thinking
to console herself somewhat for Adam's refusal of the supper she had
spread out in the loving expectation of looking at him while he ate it,
by feeding Adam's dog with extra liberality. But Gyp was watching his
master with wrinkled brow and ears erect, puzzled at this unusual course
of things; and though he glanced at Lisbeth when she called him, and
moved his fore-paws uneasily, well knowing that she was inviting him to
supper, he was in a divided state of mind, and remained seated on his
haunches, again fixing his eyes anxiously on his master. Adam noticed
Gyp's mental conflict, and though his anger had made him less tender
than usual to his mother, it did not prevent him from caring as much as
usual for his dog. We are apt to be kinder to the brutes that love us
than to the women that love us. Is it because the brutes are dumb?

"Go, Gyp; go, lad!" Adam said, in a tone of encouraging command; and
Gyp, apparently satisfied that duty and pleasure were one, followed
Lisbeth into the house-place.

But no sooner had he licked up his supper than he went back to his
master, while Lisbeth sat down alone to cry over her knitting. Women
who are never bitter and resentful are often the most querulous; and
if Solomon was as wise as he is reputed to be, I feel sure that when
he compared a contentious woman to a continual dropping on a very rainy
day, he had not a vixen in his eye--a fury with long nails, acrid and
selfish. Depend upon it, he meant a good creature, who had no joy but
in the happiness of the loved ones whom she contributed to make
uncomfortable, putting by all the tid-bits for them and spending nothing
on herself. Such a woman as Lisbeth, for example--at once patient and
complaining, self-renouncing and exacting, brooding the livelong day
over what happened yesterday and what is likely to happen to-morrow,
and crying very readily both at the good and the evil. But a certain
awe mingled itself with her idolatrous love of Adam, and when he said,
"Leave me alone," she was always silenced.

So the hours passed, to the loud ticking of the old day-clock and the
sound of Adam's tools. At last he called for a light and a draught
of water (beer was a thing only to be drunk on holidays), and Lisbeth
ventured to say as she took it in, "Thy supper stan's ready for thee,
when thee lik'st."

"Donna thee sit up, mother," said Adam, in a gentle tone. He had worked
off his anger now, and whenever he wished to be especially kind to his
mother, he fell into his strongest native accent and dialect, with which
at other times his speech was less deeply tinged. "I'll see to Father
when he comes home; maybe he wonna come at all to-night. I shall be
easier if thee't i' bed."

"Nay, I'll bide till Seth comes. He wonna be long now, I reckon."

It was then past nine by the clock, which was always in advance of
the days, and before it had struck ten the latch was lifted and Seth
entered. He had heard the sound of the tools as he was approaching.

"Why, Mother," he said, "how is it as Father's working so late?"

"It's none o' thy feyther as is a-workin'--thee might know that well
anoof if thy head warna full o' chapellin'--it's thy brother as does
iverything, for there's niver nobody else i' th' way to do nothin'."

Lisbeth was going on, for she was not at all afraid of Seth, and usually
poured into his ears all the querulousness which was repressed by her
awe of Adam. Seth had never in his life spoken a harsh word to his
mother, and timid people always wreak their peevishness on the gentle.
But Seth, with an anxious look, had passed into the workshop and said,
"Addy, how's this? What! Father's forgot the coffin?"

"Aye, lad, th' old tale; but I shall get it done," said Adam, looking up
and casting one of his bright keen glances at his brother. "Why, what's
the matter with thee? Thee't in trouble."

Seth's eyes were red, and there was a look of deep depression on his
mild face.

"Yes, Addy, but it's what must be borne, and can't be helped. Why,
thee'st never been to the school, then?"

"School? No, that screw can wait," said Adam, hammering away again.

"Let me take my turn now, and do thee go to bed," said Seth.

"No, lad, I'd rather go on, now I'm in harness. Thee't help me to carry
it to Brox'on when it's done. I'll call thee up at sunrise. Go and eat
thy supper, and shut the door so as I mayn't hear Mother's talk."

Seth knew that Adam always meant what he said, and was not to be
persuaded into meaning anything else. So he turned, with rather a heavy
heart, into the house-place.

"Adam's niver touched a bit o' victual sin' home he's come," said
Lisbeth. "I reckon thee'st hed thy supper at some o' thy Methody folks."

"Nay, Mother," said Seth, "I've had no supper yet."

"Come, then," said Lisbeth, "but donna thee ate the taters, for Adam
'ull happen ate 'em if I leave 'em stannin'. He loves a bit o' taters
an' gravy. But he's been so sore an' angered, he wouldn't ate 'em, for
all I'd putten 'em by o' purpose for him. An' he's been a-threatenin'
to go away again," she went on, whimpering, "an' I'm fast sure he'll go
some dawnin' afore I'm up, an' niver let me know aforehand, an' he'll
niver come back again when once he's gone. An' I'd better niver ha'
had a son, as is like no other body's son for the deftness an' th'
handiness, an' so looked on by th' grit folks, an' tall an' upright like
a poplar-tree, an' me to be parted from him an' niver see 'm no more."

"Come, Mother, donna grieve thyself in vain," said Seth, in a soothing
voice. "Thee'st not half so good reason to think as Adam 'ull go away
as to think he'll stay with thee. He may say such a thing when he's in
wrath--and he's got excuse for being wrathful sometimes--but his heart
'ud never let him go. Think how he's stood by us all when it's been none
so easy--paying his savings to free me from going for a soldier, an'
turnin' his earnin's into wood for father, when he's got plenty o' uses
for his money, and many a young man like him 'ud ha' been married and
settled before now. He'll never turn round and knock down his own work,
and forsake them as it's been the labour of his life to stand by."

"Donna talk to me about's marr'in'," said Lisbeth, crying afresh. "He's
set's heart on that Hetty Sorrel, as 'ull niver save a penny, an' 'ull
toss up her head at's old mother. An' to think as he might ha' Mary
Burge, an' be took partners, an' be a big man wi' workmen under him,
like Mester Burge--Dolly's told me so o'er and o'er again--if it warna
as he's set's heart on that bit of a wench, as is o' no more use nor the
gillyflower on the wall. An' he so wise at bookin' an' figurin', an' not
to know no better nor that!"

"But, Mother, thee know'st we canna love just where other folks 'ud have
us. There's nobody but God can control the heart of man. I could ha'
wished myself as Adam could ha' made another choice, but I wouldn't
reproach him for what he can't help. And I'm not sure but what he tries
to o'ercome it. But it's a matter as he doesn't like to be spoke to
about, and I can only pray to the Lord to bless and direct him."

"Aye, thee't allays ready enough at prayin', but I donna see as thee
gets much wi' thy prayin'. Thee wotna get double earnin's o' this side
Yule. Th' Methodies 'll niver make thee half the man thy brother is, for
all they're a-makin' a preacher on thee."

"It's partly truth thee speak'st there, Mother," said Seth, mildly;
"Adam's far before me, an's done more for me than I can ever do for him.
God distributes talents to every man according as He sees good. But thee
mustna undervally prayer. Prayer mayna bring money, but it brings us
what no money can buy--a power to keep from sin and be content with
God's will, whatever He may please to send. If thee wouldst pray to God
to help thee, and trust in His goodness, thee wouldstna be so uneasy
about things."

"Unaisy? I'm i' th' right on't to be unaisy. It's well seen on THEE what
it is niver to be unaisy. Thee't gi' away all thy earnin's, an' niver be
unaisy as thee'st nothin' laid up again' a rainy day. If Adam had been
as aisy as thee, he'd niver ha' had no money to pay for thee. Take
no thought for the morrow--take no thought--that's what thee't allays
sayin'; an' what comes on't? Why, as Adam has to take thought for thee."

"Those are the words o' the Bible, Mother," said Seth. "They don't
mean as we should be idle. They mean we shouldn't be overanxious and
worreting ourselves about what'll happen to-morrow, but do our duty and
leave the rest to God's will."

"Aye, aye, that's the way wi' thee: thee allays makes a peck o' thy own
words out o' a pint o' the Bible's. I donna see how thee't to know as
'take no thought for the morrow' means all that. An' when the Bible's
such a big book, an' thee canst read all thro't, an' ha' the pick o' the
texes, I canna think why thee dostna pick better words as donna mean so
much more nor they say. Adam doesna pick a that'n; I can understan' the
tex as he's allays a-sayin', 'God helps them as helps theirsens.'"

"Nay, Mother," said Seth, "that's no text o' the Bible. It comes out of
a book as Adam picked up at the stall at Treddles'on. It was wrote by
a knowing man, but overworldly, I doubt. However, that saying's partly
true; for the Bible tells us we must be workers together with God."

"Well, how'm I to know? It sounds like a tex. But what's th' matter wi'
th' lad? Thee't hardly atin' a bit o' supper. Dostna mean to ha' no more
nor that bit o' oat-cake? An' thee lookst as white as a flick o' new
bacon. What's th' matter wi' thee?"

"Nothing to mind about, Mother; I'm not hungry. I'll just look in at
Adam again, and see if he'll let me go on with the coffin."

"Ha' a drop o' warm broth?" said Lisbeth, whose motherly feeling now got
the better of her "nattering" habit. "I'll set two-three sticks a-light
in a minute."

"Nay, Mother, thank thee; thee't very good," said Seth, gratefully; and
encouraged by this touch of tenderness, he went on: "Let me pray a
bit with thee for Father, and Adam, and all of us--it'll comfort thee,
happen, more than thee thinkst."

"Well, I've nothin' to say again' it."

Lisbeth, though disposed always to take the negative side in her
conversations with Seth, had a vague sense that there was some comfort
and safety in the fact of his piety, and that it somehow relieved her
from the trouble of any spiritual transactions on her own behalf.

So the mother and son knelt down together, and Seth prayed for the poor
wandering father and for those who were sorrowing for him at home. And
when he came to the petition that Adam might never be called to set
up his tent in a far country, but that his mother might be cheered and
comforted by his presence all the days of her pilgrimage, Lisbeth's
ready tears flowed again, and she wept aloud.

When they rose from their knees, Seth went to Adam again and said, "Wilt
only lie down for an hour or two, and let me go on the while?"

"No, Seth, no. Make Mother go to bed, and go thyself."

Meantime Lisbeth had dried her eyes, and now followed Seth, holding
something in her hands. It was the brown-and-yellow platter containing
the baked potatoes with the gravy in them and bits of meat which she had
cut and mixed among them. Those were dear times, when wheaten bread
and fresh meat were delicacies to working people. She set the dish down
rather timidly on the bench by Adam's side and said, "Thee canst pick a
bit while thee't workin'. I'll bring thee another drop o' water."

"Aye, Mother, do," said Adam, kindly; "I'm getting very thirsty."

In half an hour all was quiet; no sound was to be heard in the house but
the loud ticking of the old day-clock and the ringing of Adam's tools.
The night was very still: when Adam opened the door to look out at
twelve o'clock, the only motion seemed to be in the glowing, twinkling
stars; every blade of grass was asleep.

Bodily haste and exertion usually leave our thoughts very much at the
mercy of our feelings and imagination; and it was so to-night with Adam.
While his muscles were working lustily, his mind seemed as passive as a
spectator at a diorama: scenes of the sad past, and probably sad
future, floating before him and giving place one to the other in swift
succession.

He saw how it would be to-morrow morning, when he had carried the coffin
to Broxton and was at home again, having his breakfast: his father
perhaps would come in ashamed to meet his son's glance--would sit down,
looking older and more tottering than he had done the morning before,
and hang down his head, examining the floor-quarries; while Lisbeth
would ask him how he supposed the coffin had been got ready, that he had
slinked off and left undone--for Lisbeth was always the first to utter
the word of reproach, although she cried at Adam's severity towards his
father.

"So it will go on, worsening and worsening," thought Adam; "there's no
slipping uphill again, and no standing still when once you 've begun
to slip down." And then the day came back to him when he was a little
fellow and used to run by his father's side, proud to be taken out
to work, and prouder still to hear his father boasting to his
fellow-workmen how "the little chap had an uncommon notion o'
carpentering." What a fine active fellow his father was then! When
people asked Adam whose little lad he was, he had a sense of distinction
as he answered, "I'm Thias Bede's lad." He was quite sure everybody
knew Thias Bede--didn't he make the wonderful pigeon-house at Broxton
parsonage? Those were happy days, especially when Seth, who was three
years the younger, began to go out working too, and Adam began to be a
teacher as well as a learner. But then came the days of sadness, when
Adam was someway on in his teens, and Thias began to loiter at the
public-houses, and Lisbeth began to cry at home, and to pour forth her
plaints in the hearing of her sons. Adam remembered well the night of
shame and anguish when he first saw his father quite wild and foolish,
shouting a song out fitfully among his drunken companions at the "Waggon
Overthrown." He had run away once when he was only eighteen, making
his escape in the morning twilight with a little blue bundle over
his shoulder, and his "mensuration book" in his pocket, and saying
to himself very decidedly that he could bear the vexations of home no
longer--he would go and seek his fortune, setting up his stick at the
crossways and bending his steps the way it fell. But by the time he got
to Stoniton, the thought of his mother and Seth, left behind to endure
everything without him, became too importunate, and his resolution
failed him. He came back the next day, but the misery and terror his
mother had gone through in those two days had haunted her ever since.

"No!" Adam said to himself to-night, "that must never happen again. It
'ud make a poor balance when my doings are cast up at the last, if my
poor old mother stood o' the wrong side. My back's broad enough and
strong enough; I should be no better than a coward to go away and leave
the troubles to be borne by them as aren't half so able. 'They that are
strong ought to bear the infirmities of those that are weak, and not to
please themselves.' There's a text wants no candle to show't; it shines
by its own light. It's plain enough you get into the wrong road i' this
life if you run after this and that only for the sake o' making things
easy and pleasant to yourself. A pig may poke his nose into the trough
and think o' nothing outside it; but if you've got a man's heart and
soul in you, you can't be easy a-making your own bed an' leaving the
rest to lie on the stones. Nay, nay, I'll never slip my neck out o' the
yoke, and leave the load to be drawn by the weak uns. Father's a sore
cross to me, an's likely to be for many a long year to come. What then?
I've got th' health, and the limbs, and the sperrit to bear it."

At this moment a smart rap, as if with a willow wand, was given at the
house door, and Gyp, instead of barking, as might have been expected,
gave a loud howl. Adam, very much startled, went at once to the door
and opened it. Nothing was there; all was still, as when he opened it
an hour before; the leaves were motionless, and the light of the stars
showed the placid fields on both sides of the brook quite empty of
visible life. Adam walked round the house, and still saw nothing except
a rat which darted into the woodshed as he passed. He went in again,
wondering; the sound was so peculiar that the moment he heard it it
called up the image of the willow wand striking the door. He could not
help a little shudder, as he remembered how often his mother had told
him of just such a sound coming as a sign when some one was dying. Adam
was not a man to be gratuitously superstitious, but he had the blood of
the peasant in him as well as of the artisan, and a peasant can no
more help believing in a traditional superstition than a horse can help
trembling when he sees a camel. Besides, he had that mental combination
which is at once humble in the region of mystery and keen in the region
of knowledge: it was the depth of his reverence quite as much as
his hard common sense which gave him his disinclination to doctrinal
religion, and he often checked Seth's argumentative spiritualism by
saying, "Eh, it's a big mystery; thee know'st but little about it." And
so it happened that Adam was at once penetrating and credulous. If a
new building had fallen down and he had been told that this was a divine
judgment, he would have said, "May be; but the bearing o' the roof and
walls wasn't right, else it wouldn't ha' come down"; yet he believed
in dreams and prognostics, and to his dying day he bated his breath a
little when he told the story of the stroke with the willow wand. I
tell it as he told it, not attempting to reduce it to its natural
elements--in our eagerness to explain impressions, we often lose our
hold of the sympathy that comprehends them.

But he had the best antidote against imaginative dread in the necessity
for getting on with the coffin, and for the next ten minutes his hammer
was ringing so uninterruptedly, that other sounds, if there were any,
might well be overpowered. A pause came, however, when he had to take
up his ruler, and now again came the strange rap, and again Gyp howled.
Adam was at the door without the loss of a moment; but again all was
still, and the starlight showed there was nothing but the dew-laden
grass in front of the cottage.

Adam for a moment thought uncomfortably about his father; but of late
years he had never come home at dark hours from Treddleston, and
there was every reason for believing that he was then sleeping off his
drunkenness at the "Waggon Overthrown." Besides, to Adam, the conception
of the future was so inseparable from the painful image of his father
that the fear of any fatal accident to him was excluded by the deeply
infixed fear of his continual degradation. The next thought that
occurred to him was one that made him slip off his shoes and tread
lightly upstairs, to listen at the bedroom doors. But both Seth and his
mother were breathing regularly.

Adam came down and set to work again, saying to himself, "I won't open
the door again. It's no use staring about to catch sight of a sound.
Maybe there's a world about us as we can't see, but th' ear's quicker
than the eye and catches a sound from't now and then. Some people think
they get a sight on't too, but they're mostly folks whose eyes are not
much use to 'em at anything else. For my part, I think it's better to
see when your perpendicular's true than to see a ghost."

Such thoughts as these are apt to grow stronger and stronger as daylight
quenches the candles and the birds begin to sing. By the time the red
sunlight shone on the brass nails that formed the initials on the lid of
the coffin, any lingering foreboding from the sound of the willow
wand was merged in satisfaction that the work was done and the promise
redeemed. There was no need to call Seth, for he was already moving
overhead, and presently came downstairs.

"Now, lad," said Adam, as Seth made his appearance, "the coffin's done,
and we can take it over to Brox'on, and be back again before half after
six. I'll take a mouthful o' oat-cake, and then we'll be off."

The coffin was soon propped on the tall shoulders of the two brothers,
and they were making their way, followed close by Gyp, out of the little
woodyard into the lane at the back of the house. It was but about a mile
and a half to Broxton over the opposite slope, and their road wound very
pleasantly along lanes and across fields, where the pale woodbines and
the dog-roses were scenting the hedgerows, and the birds were twittering
and trilling in the tall leafy boughs of oak and elm. It was a strangely
mingled picture--the fresh youth of the summer morning, with its
Edenlike peace and loveliness, the stalwart strength of the two brothers
in their rusty working clothes, and the long coffin on their shoulders.
They paused for the last time before a small farmhouse outside the
village of Broxton. By six o'clock the task was done the coffin nailed
down, and Adam and Seth were on their way home. They chose a shorter
way homewards, which would take them across the fields and the brook in
front of the house. Adam had not mentioned to Seth what had happened in
the night, but he still retained sufficient impression from it himself
to say, "Seth, lad, if Father isn't come home by the time we've had our
breakfast, I think it'll be as well for thee to go over to Treddles'on
and look after him, and thee canst get me the brass wire I want. Never
mind about losing an hour at thy work; we can make that up. What dost
say?"

"I'm willing," said Seth. "But see what clouds have gathered since we
set out. I'm thinking we shall have more rain. It'll be a sore time for
th' haymaking if the meadows are flooded again. The brook's fine and
full now: another day's rain 'ud cover the plank, and we should have to
go round by the road."

They were coming across the valley now, and had entered the pasture
through which the brook ran.

"Why, what's that sticking against the willow?" continued Seth,
beginning to walk faster. Adam's heart rose to his mouth: the vague
anxiety about his father was changed into a great dread. He made no
answer to Seth, but ran forward preceded by Gyp, who began to bark
uneasily; and in two moments he was at the bridge.

This was what the omen meant, then! And the grey-haired father, of whom
he had thought with a sort of hardness a few hours ago, as certain to
live to be a thorn in his side was perhaps even then struggling with
that watery death! This was the first thought that flashed through
Adam's conscience, before he had time to seize the coat and drag out
the tall heavy body. Seth was already by his side, helping him, and
when they had it on the bank, the two sons in the first moment knelt and
looked with mute awe at the glazed eyes, forgetting that there was need
for action--forgetting everything but that their father lay dead before
them. Adam was the first to speak.

"I'll run to Mother," he said, in a loud whisper. "I'll be back to thee
in a minute."

Poor Lisbeth was busy preparing her sons' breakfast, and their porridge
was already steaming on the fire. Her kitchen always looked the pink of
cleanliness, but this morning she was more than usually bent on making
her hearth and breakfast-table look comfortable and inviting.

"The lads 'ull be fine an' hungry," she said, half-aloud, as she stirred
the porridge. "It's a good step to Brox'on, an' it's hungry air o'er
the hill--wi' that heavy coffin too. Eh! It's heavier now, wi' poor Bob
Tholer in't. Howiver, I've made a drap more porridge nor common this
mornin'. The feyther 'ull happen come in arter a bit. Not as he'll ate
much porridge. He swallers sixpenn'orth o' ale, an' saves a hap'orth o'
por-ridge--that's his way o' layin' by money, as I've told him many a
time, an' am likely to tell him again afore the day's out. Eh, poor mon,
he takes it quiet enough; there's no denyin' that."

But now Lisbeth heard the heavy "thud" of a running footstep on the
turf, and, turning quickly towards the door, she saw Adam enter, looking
so pale and overwhelmed that she screamed aloud and rushed towards him
before he had time to speak.

"Hush, Mother," Adam said, rather hoarsely, "don't be frightened.
Father's tumbled into the water. Belike we may bring him round again.
Seth and me are going to carry him in. Get a blanket and make it hot as
the fire."

In reality Adam was convinced that his father was dead but he knew there
was no other way of repressing his mother's impetuous wailing grief than
by occupying her with some active task which had hope in it.

He ran back to Seth, and the two sons lifted the sad burden in
heart-stricken silence. The wide-open glazed eyes were grey, like
Seth's, and had once looked with mild pride on the boys before whom
Thias had lived to hang his head in shame. Seth's chief feeling was awe
and distress at this sudden snatching away of his father's soul; but
Adam's mind rushed back over the past in a flood of relenting and pity.
When death, the great Reconciler, has come, it is never our tenderness
that we repent of, but our severity.



Chapter V

The Rector


BEFORE twelve o'clock there had been some heavy storms of rain, and the
water lay in deep gutters on the sides of the gravel walks in the garden
of Broxton Parsonage; the great Provence roses had been cruelly tossed
by the wind and beaten by the rain, and all the delicate-stemmed border
flowers had been dashed down and stained with the wet soil. A melancholy
morning--because it was nearly time hay-harvest should begin, and
instead of that the meadows were likely to be flooded.

But people who have pleasant homes get indoor enjoyments that they would
never think of but for the rain. If it had not been a wet morning, Mr.
Irwine would not have been in the dining-room playing at chess with his
mother, and he loves both his mother and chess quite well enough to pass
some cloudy hours very easily by their help. Let me take you into that
dining-room and show you the Rev. Adolphus Irwine, Rector of Broxton,
Vicar of Hayslope, and Vicar of Blythe, a pluralist at whom the severest
Church reformer would have found it difficult to look sour. We will
enter very softly and stand still in the open doorway, without awaking
the glossy-brown setter who is stretched across the hearth, with her
two puppies beside her; or the pug, who is dozing, with his black muzzle
aloft, like a sleepy president.

The room is a large and lofty one, with an ample mullioned oriel window
at one end; the walls, you see, are new, and not yet painted; but the
furniture, though originally of an expensive sort, is old and scanty,
and there is no drapery about the window. The crimson cloth over the
large dining-table is very threadbare, though it contrasts pleasantly
enough with the dead hue of the plaster on the walls; but on this cloth
there is a massive silver waiter with a decanter of water on it, of the
same pattern as two larger ones that are propped up on the sideboard
with a coat of arms conspicuous in their centre. You suspect at once
that the inhabitants of this room have inherited more blood than wealth,
and would not be surprised to find that Mr. Irwine had a finely cut
nostril and upper lip; but at present we can only see that he has a
broad flat back and an abundance of powdered hair, all thrown backward
and tied behind with a black ribbon--a bit of conservatism in costume
which tells you that he is not a young man. He will perhaps turn round
by and by, and in the meantime we can look at that stately old lady, his
mother, a beautiful aged brunette, whose rich-toned complexion is well
set off by the complex wrappings of pure white cambric and lace about
her head and neck. She is as erect in her comely embonpoint as a statue
of Ceres; and her dark face, with its delicate aquiline nose, firm proud
mouth, and small, intense, black eye, is so keen and sarcastic in its
expression that you instinctively substitute a pack of cards for the
chess-men and imagine her telling your fortune. The small brown hand
with which she is lifting her queen is laden with pearls, diamonds, and
turquoises; and a large black veil is very carefully adjusted over the
crown of her cap, and falls in sharp contrast on the white folds
about her neck. It must take a long time to dress that old lady in the
morning! But it seems a law of nature that she should be dressed so: she
is clearly one of those children of royalty who have never doubted their
right divine and never met with any one so absurd as to question it.

"There, Dauphin, tell me what that is!" says this magnificent old lady,
as she deposits her queen very quietly and folds her arms. "I should be
sorry to utter a word disagreeable to your feelings."

"Ah, you witch-mother, you sorceress! How is a Christian man to win a
game off you? I should have sprinkled the board with holy water before
we began. You've not won that game by fair means, now, so don't pretend
it."

"Yes, yes, that's what the beaten have always said of great conquerors.
But see, there's the sunshine falling on the board, to show you more
clearly what a foolish move you made with that pawn. Come, shall I give
you another chance?"

"No, Mother, I shall leave you to your own conscience, now it's clearing
up. We must go and plash up the mud a little, mus'n't we, Juno?" This
was addressed to the brown setter, who had jumped up at the sound of the
voices and laid her nose in an insinuating way on her master's leg. "But
I must go upstairs first and see Anne. I was called away to Tholer's
funeral just when I was going before."

"It's of no use, child; she can't speak to you. Kate says she has one of
her worst headaches this morning."

"Oh, she likes me to go and see her just the same; she's never too ill
to care about that."

If you know how much of human speech is mere purposeless impulse or
habit, you will not wonder when I tell you that this identical objection
had been made, and had received the same kind of answer, many hundred
times in the course of the fifteen years that Mr. Irwine's sister Anne
had been an invalid. Splendid old ladies, who take a long time to dress
in the morning, have often slight sympathy with sickly daughters.

But while Mr. Irwine was still seated, leaning back in his chair and
stroking Juno's head, the servant came to the door and said, "If
you please, sir, Joshua Rann wishes to speak with you, if you are at
liberty."

"Let him be shown in here," said Mrs. Irwine, taking up her knitting.
"I always like to hear what Mr. Rann has got to say. His shoes will be
dirty, but see that he wipes them Carroll."

In two minutes Mr. Rann appeared at the door with very deferential bows,
which, however, were far from conciliating Pug, who gave a sharp bark
and ran across the room to reconnoitre the stranger's legs; while the
two puppies, regarding Mr. Rann's prominent calf and ribbed worsted
stockings from a more sensuous point of view, plunged and growled over
them in great enjoyment. Meantime, Mr. Irwine turned round his chair and
said, "Well, Joshua, anything the matter at Hayslope, that you've come
over this damp morning? Sit down, sit down. Never mind the dogs; give
them a friendly kick. Here, Pug, you rascal!"

It is very pleasant to see some men turn round; pleasant as a sudden
rush of warm air in winter, or the flash of firelight in the chill dusk.
Mr. Irwine was one of those men. He bore the same sort of resemblance to
his mother that our loving memory of a friend's face often bears to the
face itself: the lines were all more generous, the smile brighter, the
expression heartier. If the outline had been less finely cut, his face
might have been called jolly; but that was not the right word for its
mixture of bonhomie and distinction.

"Thank Your Reverence," answered Mr. Rann, endeavouring to look
unconcerned about his legs, but shaking them alternately to keep off the
puppies; "I'll stand, if you please, as more becoming. I hope I see you
an' Mrs. Irwine well, an' Miss Irwine--an' Miss Anne, I hope's as well
as usual."

"Yes, Joshua, thank you. You see how blooming my mother looks. She beats
us younger people hollow. But what's the matter?"

"Why, sir, I had to come to Brox'on to deliver some work, and I thought
it but right to call and let you know the goins-on as there's been i'
the village, such as I hanna seen i' my time, and I've lived in it man
and boy sixty year come St. Thomas, and collected th' Easter dues for
Mr. Blick before Your Reverence come into the parish, and been at the
ringin' o' every bell, and the diggin' o' every grave, and sung i' the
choir long afore Bartle Massey come from nobody knows where, wi' his
counter-singin' and fine anthems, as puts everybody out but himself--one
takin' it up after another like sheep a-bleatin' i' th' fold. I know
what belongs to bein' a parish clerk, and I know as I should be wantin'
i' respect to Your Reverence, an' church, an' king, if I was t' allow
such goins-on wi'out speakin'. I was took by surprise, an' knowed
nothin' on it beforehand, an' I was so flustered, I was clean as if I'd
lost my tools. I hanna slep' more nor four hour this night as is past
an' gone; an' then it was nothin' but nightmare, as tired me worse nor
wakin'."

"Why, what in the world is the matter, Joshua? Have the thieves been at
the church lead again?"

"Thieves! No, sir--an' yet, as I may say, it is thieves, an' a-thievin'
the church, too. It's the Methodisses as is like to get th' upper hand
i' th' parish, if Your Reverence an' His Honour, Squire Donnithorne,
doesna think well to say the word an' forbid it. Not as I'm a-dictatin'
to you, sir; I'm not forgettin' myself so far as to be wise above my
betters. Howiver, whether I'm wise or no, that's neither here nor there,
but what I've got to say I say--as the young Methodis woman as is at
Mester Poyser's was a-preachin' an' a-prayin' on the Green last night,
as sure as I'm a-stannin' afore Your Reverence now."

"Preaching on the Green!" said Mr. Irwine, looking surprised but quite
serene. "What, that pale pretty young woman I've seen at Poyser's? I saw
she was a Methodist, or Quaker, or something of that sort, by her dress,
but I didn't know she was a preacher."

"It's a true word as I say, sir," rejoined Mr. Rann, compressing his
mouth into a semicircular form and pausing long enough to indicate three
notes of exclamation. "She preached on the Green last night; an' she's
laid hold of Chad's Bess, as the girl's been i' fits welly iver sin'."

"Well, Bessy Cranage is a hearty-looking lass; I daresay she'll come
round again, Joshua. Did anybody else go into fits?"

"No, sir, I canna say as they did. But there's no knowin' what'll come,
if we're t' have such preachin's as that a-goin' on ivery week--there'll
be no livin' i' th' village. For them Methodisses make folks believe
as if they take a mug o' drink extry, an' make theirselves a bit
comfortable, they'll have to go to hell for't as sure as they're born.
I'm not a tipplin' man nor a drunkard--nobody can say it on me--but I
like a extry quart at Easter or Christmas time, as is nat'ral when we're
goin' the rounds a-singin', an' folks offer't you for nothin'; or
when I'm a-collectin' the dues; an' I like a pint wi' my pipe, an' a
neighbourly chat at Mester Casson's now an' then, for I was brought
up i' the Church, thank God, an' ha' been a parish clerk this
two-an'-thirty year: I should know what the church religion is."

"Well, what's your advice, Joshua? What do you think should be done?"

"Well, Your Reverence, I'm not for takin' any measures again' the young
woman. She's well enough if she'd let alone preachin'; an' I hear as
she's a-goin' away back to her own country soon. She's Mr. Poyser's
own niece, an' I donna wish to say what's anyways disrespectful o' th'
family at th' Hall Farm, as I've measured for shoes, little an' big,
welly iver sin' I've been a shoemaker. But there's that Will Maskery,
sir as is the rampageousest Methodis as can be, an' I make no doubt it
was him as stirred up th' young woman to preach last night, an' he'll be
a-bringin' other folks to preach from Treddles'on, if his comb isn't
cut a bit; an' I think as he should be let know as he isna t' have the
makin' an' mendin' o' church carts an' implemen's, let alone stayin' i'
that house an' yard as is Squire Donnithorne's."

"Well, but you say yourself, Joshua, that you never knew any one come to
preach on the Green before; why should you think they'll come again? The
Methodists don't come to preach in little villages like Hayslope, where
there's only a handful of labourers, too tired to listen to them. They
might almost as well go and preach on the Binton Hills. Will Maskery is
no preacher himself, I think."

"Nay, sir, he's no gift at stringin' the words together wi'out book;
he'd be stuck fast like a cow i' wet clay. But he's got tongue enough
to speak disrespectful about's neebors, for he said as I was a blind
Pharisee--a-usin' the Bible i' that way to find nick-names for folks as
are his elders an' betters!--and what's worse, he's been heard to say
very unbecomin' words about Your Reverence; for I could bring them as
'ud swear as he called you a 'dumb dog,' an' a 'idle shepherd.' You'll
forgi'e me for sayin' such things over again."

"Better not, better not, Joshua. Let evil words die as soon as they're
spoken. Will Maskery might be a great deal worse fellow than he is. He
used to be a wild drunken rascal, neglecting his work and beating his
wife, they told me; now he's thrifty and decent, and he and his wife
look comfortable together. If you can bring me any proof that he
interferes with his neighbours and creates any disturbance, I shall
think it my duty as a clergyman and a magistrate to interfere. But it
wouldn't become wise people like you and me to be making a fuss about
trifles, as if we thought the Church was in danger because Will Maskery
lets his tongue wag rather foolishly, or a young woman talks in a
serious way to a handful of people on the Green. We must 'live and let
live,' Joshua, in religion as well as in other things. You go on doing
your duty, as parish clerk and sexton, as well as you've always done
it, and making those capital thick boots for your neighbours, and things
won't go far wrong in Hayslope, depend upon it."

"Your Reverence is very good to say so; an' I'm sensable as, you not
livin' i' the parish, there's more upo' my shoulders."

"To be sure; and you must mind and not lower the Church in people's eyes
by seeming to be frightened about it for a little thing, Joshua. I shall
trust to your good sense, now to take no notice at all of what Will
Maskery says, either about you or me. You and your neighbours can go on
taking your pot of beer soberly, when you've done your day's work, like
good churchmen; and if Will Maskery doesn't like to join you, but to go
to a prayer-meeting at Treddleston instead, let him; that's no business
of yours, so long as he doesn't hinder you from doing what you like. And
as to people saying a few idle words about us, we must not mind that,
any more than the old church-steeple minds the rooks cawing about
it. Will Maskery comes to church every Sunday afternoon, and does his
wheelwright's business steadily in the weekdays, and as long as he does
that he must be let alone."

"Ah, sir, but when he comes to church, he sits an' shakes his head, an'
looks as sour an' as coxy when we're a-singin' as I should like to fetch
him a rap across the jowl--God forgi'e me--an' Mrs. Irwine, an' Your
Reverence too, for speakin' so afore you. An' he said as our Christmas
singin' was no better nor the cracklin' o' thorns under a pot."

"Well, he's got a bad ear for music, Joshua. When people have wooden
heads, you know, it can't be helped. He won't bring the other people in
Hayslope round to his opinion, while you go on singing as well as you
do."

"Yes, sir, but it turns a man's stomach t' hear the Scripture misused i'
that way. I know as much o' the words o' the Bible as he does, an' could
say the Psalms right through i' my sleep if you was to pinch me; but I
know better nor to take 'em to say my own say wi'. I might as well take
the Sacriment-cup home and use it at meals."

"That's a very sensible remark of yours, Joshua; but, as I said
before----"

While Mr. Irwine was speaking, the sound of a booted step and the clink
of a spur were heard on the stone floor of the entrance-hall, and Joshua
Rann moved hastily aside from the doorway to make room for some one who
paused there, and said, in a ringing tenor voice,

"Godson Arthur--may he come in?"

"Come in, come in, godson!" Mrs. Irwine answered, in the deep
half-masculine tone which belongs to the vigorous old woman, and there
entered a young gentleman in a riding-dress, with his right arm in
a sling; whereupon followed that pleasant confusion of laughing
interjections, and hand-shakings, and "How are you's?" mingled with
joyous short barks and wagging of tails on the part of the canine
members of the family, which tells that the visitor is on the best terms
with the visited. The young gentleman was Arthur Donnithorne, known
in Hayslope, variously, as "the young squire," "the heir," and "the
captain." He was only a captain in the Loamshire Militia, but to the
Hayslope tenants he was more intensely a captain than all the young
gentlemen of the same rank in his Majesty's regulars--he outshone them
as the planet Jupiter outshines the Milky Way. If you want to know
more particularly how he looked, call to your remembrance some
tawny-whiskered, brown-locked, clear-complexioned young Englishman
whom you have met with in a foreign town, and been proud of as a
fellow-countryman--well-washed, high-bred, white-handed, yet looking as
if he could deliver well from 'the left shoulder and floor his man: I
will not be so much of a tailor as to trouble your imagination with the
difference of costume, and insist on the striped waistcoat, long-tailed
coat, and low top-boots.

Turning round to take a chair, Captain Donnithorne said, "But don't let
me interrupt Joshua's business--he has something to say."

"Humbly begging Your Honour's pardon," said Joshua, bowing low, "there
was one thing I had to say to His Reverence as other things had drove
out o' my head."

"Out with it, Joshua, quickly!" said Mr. Irwine.

"Belike, sir, you havena heared as Thias Bede's dead--drownded this
morning, or more like overnight, i' the Willow Brook, again' the bridge
right i' front o' the house."

"Ah!" exclaimed both the gentlemen at once, as if they were a good deal
interested in the information.

"An' Seth Bede's been to me this morning to say he wished me to tell
Your Reverence as his brother Adam begged of you particular t' allow his
father's grave to be dug by the White Thorn, because his mother's set
her heart on it, on account of a dream as she had; an' they'd ha'
come theirselves to ask you, but they've so much to see after with the
crowner, an' that; an' their mother's took on so, an' wants 'em to make
sure o' the spot for fear somebody else should take it. An' if Your
Reverence sees well and good, I'll send my boy to tell 'em as soon as I
get home; an' that's why I make bold to trouble you wi' it, His Honour
being present."

"To be sure, Joshua, to be sure, they shall have it. I'll ride round to
Adam myself, and see him. Send your boy, however, to say they shall
have the grave, lest anything should happen to detain me. And now, good
morning, Joshua; go into the kitchen and have some ale."

"Poor old Thias!" said Mr. Irwine, when Joshua was gone. "I'm afraid
the drink helped the brook to drown him. I should have been glad for the
load to have been taken off my friend Adam's shoulders in a less painful
way. That fine fellow has been propping up his father from ruin for the
last five or six years."

"He's a regular trump, is Adam," said Captain Donnithorne. "When I was
a little fellow, and Adam was a strapping lad of fifteen, and taught me
carpentering, I used to think if ever I was a rich sultan, I would make
Adam my grand-vizier. And I believe now he would bear the exaltation as
well as any poor wise man in an Eastern story. If ever I live to be a
large-acred man instead of a poor devil with a mortgaged allowance of
pocket-money, I'll have Adam for my right hand. He shall manage my woods
for me, for he seems to have a better notion of those things than any
man I ever met with; and I know he would make twice the money of them
that my grandfather does, with that miserable old Satchell to manage,
who understands no more about timber than an old carp. I've mentioned
the subject to my grandfather once or twice, but for some reason or
other he has a dislike to Adam, and I can do nothing. But come, Your
Reverence, are you for a ride with me? It's splendid out of doors now.
We can go to Adam's together, if you like; but I want to call at the
Hall Farm on my way, to look at the whelps Poyser is keeping for me."

"You must stay and have lunch first, Arthur," said Mrs. Irwine. "It's
nearly two. Carroll will bring it in directly."

"I want to go to the Hall Farm too," said Mr. Irwine, "to have another
look at the little Methodist who is staying there. Joshua tells me she
was preaching on the Green last night."

"Oh, by Jove!" said Captain Donnithorne, laughing. "Why, she looks as
quiet as a mouse. There's something rather striking about her, though. I
positively felt quite bashful the first time I saw her--she was sitting
stooping over her sewing in the sunshine outside the house, when I rode
up and called out, without noticing that she was a stranger, 'Is Martin
Poyser at home?' I declare, when she got up and looked at me and just
said, 'He's in the house, I believe: I'll go and call him,' I felt
quite ashamed of having spoken so abruptly to her. She looked like St.
Catherine in a Quaker dress. It's a type of face one rarely sees among
our common people."

"I should like to see the young woman, Dauphin," said Mrs. Irwine. "Make
her come here on some pretext or other."

"I don't know how I can manage that, Mother; it will hardly do for me
to patronize a Methodist preacher, even if she would consent to be
patronized by an idle shepherd, as Will Maskery calls me. You should
have come in a little sooner, Arthur, to hear Joshua's denunciation of
his neighbour Will Maskery. The old fellow wants me to excommunicate the
wheelwright, and then deliver him over to the civil arm--that is to say,
to your grandfather--to be turned out of house and yard. If I chose to
interfere in this business, now, I might get up as pretty a story of
hatred and persecution as the Methodists need desire to publish in
the next number of their magazine. It wouldn't take me much trouble to
persuade Chad Cranage and half a dozen other bull-headed fellows that
they would be doing an acceptable service to the Church by hunting Will
Maskery out of the village with rope-ends and pitchforks; and then, when
I had furnished them with half a sovereign to get gloriously drunk after
their exertions, I should have put the climax to as pretty a farce as
any of my brother clergy have set going in their parishes for the last
thirty years."

"It is really insolent of the man, though, to call you an 'idle
shepherd' and a 'dumb dog,'" said Mrs. Irwine. "I should be inclined to
check him a little there. You are too easy-tempered, Dauphin."

"Why, Mother, you don't think it would be a good way of sustaining my
dignity to set about vindicating myself from the aspersions of Will
Maskery? Besides, I'm not so sure that they ARE aspersions. I AM a lazy
fellow, and get terribly heavy in my saddle; not to mention that I'm
always spending more than I can afford in bricks and mortar, so that
I get savage at a lame beggar when he asks me for sixpence. Those poor
lean cobblers, who think they can help to regenerate mankind by setting
out to preach in the morning twilight before they begin their day's
work, may well have a poor opinion of me. But come, let us have our
luncheon. Isn't Kate coming to lunch?"

"Miss Irwine told Bridget to take her lunch upstairs," said Carroll;
"she can't leave Miss Anne."

"Oh, very well. Tell Bridget to say I'll go up and see Miss Anne
presently. You can use your right arm quite well now, Arthur," Mr.
Irwine continued, observing that Captain Donnithorne had taken his arm
out of the sling.

"Yes, pretty well; but Godwin insists on my keeping it up constantly for
some time to come. I hope I shall be able to get away to the regiment,
though, in the beginning of August. It's a desperately dull business
being shut up at the Chase in the summer months, when one can neither
hunt nor shoot, so as to make one's self pleasantly sleepy in the
evening. However, we are to astonish the echoes on the 30th of July. My
grandfather has given me carte blanche for once, and I promise you the
entertainment shall be worthy of the occasion. The world will not see
the grand epoch of my majority twice. I think I shall have a lofty
throne for you, Godmamma, or rather two, one on the lawn and another in
the ballroom, that you may sit and look down upon us like an Olympian
goddess."

"I mean to bring out my best brocade, that I wore at your christening
twenty years ago," said Mrs. Irwine. "Ah, I think I shall see your poor
mother flitting about in her white dress, which looked to me almost like
a shroud that very day; and it WAS her shroud only three months after;
and your little cap and christening dress were buried with her too. She
had set her heart on that, sweet soul! Thank God you take after your
mother's family, Arthur. If you had been a puny, wiry, yellow baby, I
wouldn't have stood godmother to you. I should have been sure you would
turn out a Donnithorne. But you were such a broad-faced, broad-chested,
loud-screaming rascal, I knew you were every inch of you a Tradgett."

"But you might have been a little too hasty there, Mother," said Mr.
Irwine, smiling. "Don't you remember how it was with Juno's last pups?
One of them was the very image of its mother, but it had two or three
of its father's tricks notwithstanding. Nature is clever enough to cheat
even you, Mother."

"Nonsense, child! Nature never makes a ferret in the shape of a mastiff.
You'll never persuade me that I can't tell what men are by their
outsides. If I don't like a man's looks, depend upon it I shall never
like HIM. I don't want to know people that look ugly and disagreeable,
any more than I want to taste dishes that look disagreeable. If they
make me shudder at the first glance, I say, take them away. An ugly,
piggish, or fishy eye, now, makes me feel quite ill; it's like a bad
smell."

"Talking of eyes," said Captain Donnithorne, "that reminds me that I've
got a book I meant to bring you, Godmamma. It came down in a parcel from
London the other day. I know you are fond of queer, wizardlike stories.
It's a volume of poems, 'Lyrical Ballads.' Most of them seem to be
twaddling stuff, but the first is in a different style--'The Ancient
Mariner' is the title. I can hardly make head or tail of it as a story,
but it's a strange, striking thing. I'll send it over to you; and there
are some other books that you may like to see, Irwine--pamphlets about
Antinomianism and Evangelicalism, whatever they may be. I can't think
what the fellow means by sending such things to me. I've written to him
to desire that from henceforth he will send me no book or pamphlet on
anything that ends in ISM."

"Well, I don't know that I'm very fond of isms myself; but I may as well
look at the pamphlets; they let one see what is going on. I've a little
matter to attend to, Arthur," continued Mr. Irwine, rising to leave the
room, "and then I shall be ready to set out with you."

The little matter that Mr. Irwine had to attend to took him up the old
stone staircase (part of the house was very old) and made him pause
before a door at which he knocked gently. "Come in," said a woman's
voice, and he entered a room so darkened by blinds and curtains that
Miss Kate, the thin middle-aged lady standing by the bedside, would not
have had light enough for any other sort of work than the knitting which
lay on the little table near her. But at present she was doing what
required only the dimmest light--sponging the aching head that lay on
the pillow with fresh vinegar. It was a small face, that of the poor
sufferer; perhaps it had once been pretty, but now it was worn and
sallow. Miss Kate came towards her brother and whispered, "Don't speak
to her; she can't bear to be spoken to to-day." Anne's eyes were closed,
and her brow contracted as if from intense pain. Mr. Irwine went to the
bedside and took up one of the delicate hands and kissed it, a slight
pressure from the small fingers told him that it was worth-while to have
come upstairs for the sake of doing that. He lingered a moment, looking
at her, and then turned away and left the room, treading very gently--he
had taken off his boots and put on slippers before he came upstairs.
Whoever remembers how many things he has declined to do even for
himself, rather than have the trouble of putting on or taking off his
boots, will not think this last detail insignificant.

And Mr. Irwine's sisters, as any person of family within ten miles of
Broxton could have testified, were such stupid, uninteresting women!
It was quite a pity handsome, clever Mrs. Irwine should have had such
commonplace daughters. That fine old lady herself was worth driving ten
miles to see, any day; her beauty, her well-preserved faculties, and her
old-fashioned dignity made her a graceful subject for conversation in
turn with the King's health, the sweet new patterns in cotton dresses,
the news from Egypt, and Lord Dacey's lawsuit, which was fretting poor
Lady Dacey to death. But no one ever thought of mentioning the Miss
Irwines, except the poor people in Broxton village, who regarded them
as deep in the science of medicine, and spoke of them vaguely as "the
gentlefolks." If any one had asked old Job Dummilow who gave him his
flannel jacket, he would have answered, "the gentlefolks, last
winter"; and widow Steene dwelt much on the virtues of the "stuff" the
gentlefolks gave her for her cough. Under this name too, they were used
with great effect as a means of taming refractory children, so that at
the sight of poor Miss Anne's sallow face, several small urchins had a
terrified sense that she was cognizant of all their worst misdemeanours,
and knew the precise number of stones with which they had intended to
hit Farmer Britton's ducks. But for all who saw them through a
less mythical medium, the Miss Irwines were quite superfluous
existences--inartistic figures crowding the canvas of life without
adequate effect. Miss Anne, indeed, if her chronic headaches could have
been accounted for by a pathetic story of disappointed love, might have
had some romantic interest attached to her: but no such story had either
been known or invented concerning her, and the general impression was
quite in accordance with the fact, that both the sisters were old maids
for the prosaic reason that they had never received an eligible offer.

Nevertheless, to speak paradoxically, the existence of insignificant
people has very important consequences in the world. It can be shown to
affect the price of bread and the rate of wages, to call forth many evil
tempers from the selfish and many heroisms from the sympathetic, and,
in other ways, to play no small part in the tragedy of life. And if that
handsome, generous-blooded clergyman, the Rev. Adolphus Irwine, had not
had these two hopelessly maiden sisters, his lot would have been shaped
quite differently: he would very likely have taken a comely wife in his
youth, and now, when his hair was getting grey under the powder, would
have had tall sons and blooming daughters--such possessions, in short,
as men commonly think will repay them for all the labour they take under
the sun. As it was--having with all his three livings no more than seven
hundred a-year, and seeing no way of keeping his splendid mother and his
sickly sister, not to reckon a second sister, who was usually spoken of
without any adjective, in such ladylike ease as became their birth
and habits, and at the same time providing for a family of his own--he
remained, you see, at the age of eight-and-forty, a bachelor, not
making any merit of that renunciation, but saying laughingly, if any one
alluded to it, that he made it an excuse for many indulgences which a
wife would never have allowed him. And perhaps he was the only person in
the world who did not think his sisters uninteresting and superfluous;
for his was one of those large-hearted, sweet-blooded natures that never
know a narrow or a grudging thought; Epicurean, if you will, with no
enthusiasm, no self-scourging sense of duty; but yet, as you have seen,
of a sufficiently subtle moral fibre to have an unwearying tenderness
for obscure and monotonous suffering. It was his large-hearted
indulgence that made him ignore his mother's hardness towards her
daughters, which was the more striking from its contrast with her doting
fondness towards himself; he held it no virtue to frown at irremediable
faults.

See the difference between the impression a man makes on you when you
walk by his side in familiar talk, or look at him in his home, and the
figure he makes when seen from a lofty historical level, or even in the
eyes of a critical neighbour who thinks of him as an embodied system
or opinion rather than as a man. Mr. Roe, the "travelling preacher"
stationed at Treddleston, had included Mr. Irwine in a general statement
concerning the Church clergy in the surrounding district, whom he
described as men given up to the lusts of the flesh and the pride of
life; hunting and shooting, and adorning their own houses; asking what
shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be
clothed?--careless of dispensing the bread of life to their flocks,
preaching at best but a carnal and soul-benumbing morality, and
trafficking in the souls of men by receiving money for discharging the
pastoral office in parishes where they did not so much as look on the
faces of the people more than once a-year. The ecclesiastical historian,
too, looking into parliamentary reports of that period, finds honourable
members zealous for the Church, and untainted with any sympathy for
the "tribe of canting Methodists," making statements scarcely less
melancholy than that of Mr. Roe. And it is impossible for me to say that
Mr. Irwine was altogether belied by the generic classification assigned
him. He really had no very lofty aims, no theological enthusiasm: if I
were closely questioned, I should be obliged to confess that he felt
no serious alarms about the souls of his parishioners, and would have
thought it a mere loss of time to talk in a doctrinal and awakening
manner to old "Feyther Taft," or even to Chad Cranage the blacksmith.
If he had been in the habit of speaking theoretically, he would perhaps
have said that the only healthy form religion could take in such minds
was that of certain dim but strong emotions, suffusing themselves as a
hallowing influence over the family affections and neighbourly duties.
He thought the custom of baptism more important than its doctrine, and
that the religious benefits the peasant drew from the church where his
fathers worshipped and the sacred piece of turf where they lay buried
were but slightly dependent on a clear understanding of the Liturgy or
the sermon. Clearly the rector was not what is called in these days an
"earnest" man: he was fonder of church history than of divinity, and had
much more insight into men's characters than interest in their opinions;
he was neither laborious, nor obviously self-denying, nor very copious
in alms-giving, and his theology, you perceive, was lax. His mental
palate, indeed, was rather pagan, and found a savouriness in a quotation
from Sophocles or Theocritus that was quite absent from any text in
Isaiah or Amos. But if you feed your young setter on raw flesh, how
can you wonder at its retaining a relish for uncooked partridge in
after-life? And Mr. Irwine's recollections of young enthusiasm and
ambition were all associated with poetry and ethics that lay aloof from
the Bible.

On the other hand, I must plead, for I have an affectionate partiality
towards the rector's memory, that he was not vindictive--and some
philanthropists have been so; that he was not intolerant--and there is a
rumour that some zealous theologians have not been altogether free from
that blemish; that although he would probably have declined to give his
body to be burned in any public cause, and was far from bestowing all
his goods to feed the poor, he had that charity which has sometimes
been lacking to very illustrious virtue--he was tender to other men's
failings, and unwilling to impute evil. He was one of those men,
and they are not the commonest, of whom we can know the best only by
following them away from the marketplace, the platform, and the pulpit,
entering with them into their own homes, hearing the voice with which
they speak to the young and aged about their own hearthstone, and
witnessing their thoughtful care for the everyday wants of everyday
companions, who take all their kindness as a matter of course, and not
as a subject for panegyric.

Such men, happily, have lived in times when great abuses flourished, and
have sometimes even been the living representatives of the abuses.
That is a thought which might comfort us a little under the opposite
fact--that it is better sometimes NOT to follow great reformers of
abuses beyond the threshold of their homes.

But whatever you may think of Mr. Irwine now, if you had met him that
June afternoon riding on his grey cob, with his dogs running beside
him--portly, upright, manly, with a good-natured smile on his finely
turned lips as he talked to his dashing young companion on the bay mare,
you must have felt that, however ill he harmonized with sound theories
of the clerical office, he somehow harmonized extremely well with that
peaceful landscape.

See them in the bright sunlight, interrupted every now and then by
rolling masses of cloud, ascending the slope from the Broxton side,
where the tall gables and elms of the rectory predominate over the tiny
whitewashed church. They will soon be in the parish of Hayslope; the
grey church-tower and village roofs lie before them to the left, and
farther on, to the right, they can just see the chimneys of the Hall
Farm.



Chapter VI

The Hall Farm


EVIDENTLY that gate is never opened, for the long grass and the great
hemlocks grow close against it, and if it were opened, it is so rusty
that the force necessary to turn it on its hinges would be likely to
pull down the square stone-built pillars, to the detriment of the two
stone lionesses which grin with a doubtful carnivorous affability above
a coat of arms surmounting each of the pillars. It would be easy enough,
by the aid of the nicks in the stone pillars, to climb over the brick
wall with its smooth stone coping; but by putting our eyes close to the
rusty bars of the gate, we can see the house well enough, and all but
the very corners of the grassy enclosure.

It is a very fine old place, of red brick, softened by a pale powdery
lichen, which has dispersed itself with happy irregularity, so as
to bring the red brick into terms of friendly companionship with the
limestone ornaments surrounding the three gables, the windows, and the
door-place. But the windows are patched with wooden panes, and the door,
I think, is like the gate--it is never opened. How it would groan and
grate against the stone floor if it were! For it is a solid, heavy,
handsome door, and must once have been in the habit of shutting with a
sonorous bang behind a liveried lackey, who had just seen his master and
mistress off the grounds in a carriage and pair.

But at present one might fancy the house in the early stage of a
chancery suit, and that the fruit from that grand double row of
walnut-trees on the right hand of the enclosure would fall and rot among
the grass, if it were not that we heard the booming bark of dogs echoing
from great buildings at the back. And now the half-weaned calves that
have been sheltering themselves in a gorse-built hovel against the
left-hand wall come out and set up a silly answer to that terrible bark,
doubtless supposing that it has reference to buckets of milk.

Yes, the house must be inhabited, and we will see by whom; for
imagination is a licensed trespasser: it has no fear of dogs, but may
climb over walls and peep in at windows with impunity. Put your face
to one of the glass panes in the right-hand window: what do you see? A
large open fireplace, with rusty dogs in it, and a bare boarded floor;
at the far end, fleeces of wool stacked up; in the middle of the floor,
some empty corn-bags. That is the furniture of the dining-room. And
what through the left-hand window? Several clothes-horses, a pillion,
a spinning-wheel, and an old box wide open and stuffed full of coloured
rags. At the edge of this box there lies a great wooden doll, which, so
far as mutilation is concerned, bears a strong resemblance to the finest
Greek sculpture, and especially in the total loss of its nose. Near it
there is a little chair, and the butt end of a boy's leather long-lashed
whip.

The history of the house is plain now. It was once the residence of
a country squire, whose family, probably dwindling down to mere
spinsterhood, got merged in the more territorial name of Donnithorne. It
was once the Hall; it is now the Hall Farm. Like the life in some
coast town that was once a watering-place, and is now a port, where the
genteel streets are silent and grass-grown, and the docks and warehouses
busy and resonant, the life at the Hall has changed its focus, and no
longer radiates from the parlour, but from the kitchen and the farmyard.

Plenty of life there, though this is the drowsiest time of the year,
just before hay-harvest; and it is the drowsiest time of the day too,
for it is close upon three by the sun, and it is half-past three by Mrs.
Poyser's handsome eight-day clock. But there is always a stronger sense
of life when the sun is brilliant after rain; and now he is pouring
down his beams, and making sparkles among the wet straw, and lighting
up every patch of vivid green moss on the red tiles of the cow-shed, and
turning even the muddy water that is hurrying along the channel to the
drain into a mirror for the yellow-billed ducks, who are seizing the
opportunity of getting a drink with as much body in it as possible.
There is quite a concert of noises; the great bull-dog, chained against
the stables, is thrown into furious exasperation by the unwary approach
of a cock too near the mouth of his kennel, and sends forth a thundering
bark, which is answered by two fox-hounds shut up in the opposite
cow-house; the old top-knotted hens, scratching with their chicks among
the straw, set up a sympathetic croaking as the discomfited cock joins
them; a sow with her brood, all very muddy as to the legs, and curled as
to the tail, throws in some deep staccato notes; our friends the calves
are bleating from the home croft; and, under all, a fine ear discerns
the continuous hum of human voices.

For the great barn-doors are thrown wide open, and men are busy
there mending the harness, under the superintendence of Mr. Goby,
the "whittaw," otherwise saddler, who entertains them with the latest
Treddleston gossip. It is certainly rather an unfortunate day that
Alick, the shepherd, has chosen for having the whittaws, since the
morning turned out so wet; and Mrs. Poyser has spoken her mind pretty
strongly as to the dirt which the extra number of men's shoes brought
into the house at dinnertime. Indeed, she has not yet recovered her
equanimity on the subject, though it is now nearly three hours since
dinner, and the house-floor is perfectly clean again; as clean as
everything else in that wonderful house-place, where the only chance of
collecting a few grains of dust would be to climb on the salt-coffer,
and put your finger on the high mantel-shelf on which the glittering
brass candlesticks are enjoying their summer sinecure; for at this time
of year, of course, every one goes to bed while it is yet light, or
at least light enough to discern the outline of objects after you
have bruised your shins against them. Surely nowhere else could an
oak clock-case and an oak table have got to such a polish by the hand:
genuine "elbow polish," as Mrs. Poyser called it, for she thanked God
she never had any of your varnished rubbish in her house. Hetty Sorrel
often took the opportunity, when her aunt's back was turned, of looking
at the pleasing reflection of herself in those polished surfaces, for
the oak table was usually turned up like a screen, and was more for
ornament than for use; and she could see herself sometimes in the great
round pewter dishes that were ranged on the shelves above the long
deal dinner-table, or in the hobs of the grate, which always shone like
jasper.

Everything was looking at its brightest at this moment, for the sun
shone right on the pewter dishes, and from their reflecting surfaces
pleasant jets of light were thrown on mellow oak and bright brass--and
on a still pleasanter object than these, for some of the rays fell on
Dinah's finely moulded cheek, and lit up her pale red hair to auburn,
as she bent over the heavy household linen which she was mending for her
aunt. No scene could have been more peaceful, if Mrs. Poyser, who was
ironing a few things that still remained from the Monday's wash, had
not been making a frequent clinking with her iron and moving to and
fro whenever she wanted it to cool; carrying the keen glance of her
blue-grey eye from the kitchen to the dairy, where Hetty was making
up the butter, and from the dairy to the back kitchen, where Nancy was
taking the pies out of the oven. Do not suppose, however, that Mrs.
Poyser was elderly or shrewish in her appearance; she was a good-looking
woman, not more than eight-and-thirty, of fair complexion and sandy
hair, well-shapen, light-footed. The most conspicuous article in her
attire was an ample checkered linen apron, which almost covered her
skirt; and nothing could be plainer or less noticeable than her cap
and gown, for there was no weakness of which she was less tolerant than
feminine vanity, and the preference of ornament to utility. The family
likeness between her and her niece Dinah Morris, with the contrast
between her keenness and Dinah's seraphic gentleness of expression,
might have served a painter as an excellent suggestion for a Martha and
Mary. Their eyes were just of the same colour, but a striking test of
the difference in their operation was seen in the demeanour of Trip, the
black-and-tan terrier, whenever that much-suspected dog unwarily exposed
himself to the freezing arctic ray of Mrs. Poyser's glance. Her tongue
was not less keen than her eye, and, whenever a damsel came within
earshot, seemed to take up an unfinished lecture, as a barrel-organ
takes up a tune, precisely at the point where it had left off.

The fact that it was churning day was another reason why it was
inconvenient to have the whittaws, and why, consequently, Mrs.
Poyser should scold Molly the housemaid with unusual severity. To all
appearance Molly had got through her after-dinner work in an exemplary
manner, had "cleaned herself" with great dispatch, and now came to ask,
submissively, if she should sit down to her spinning till milking time.
But this blameless conduct, according to Mrs. Poyser, shrouded a secret
indulgence of unbecoming wishes, which she now dragged forth and held up
to Molly's view with cutting eloquence.

"Spinning, indeed! It isn't spinning as you'd be at, I'll be bound, and
let you have your own way. I never knew your equals for gallowsness. To
think of a gell o' your age wanting to go and sit with half-a-dozen men!
I'd ha' been ashamed to let the words pass over my lips if I'd been you.
And you, as have been here ever since last Michaelmas, and I hired you
at Treddles'on stattits, without a bit o' character--as I say, you might
be grateful to be hired in that way to a respectable place; and you knew
no more o' what belongs to work when you come here than the mawkin i'
the field. As poor a two-fisted thing as ever I saw, you know you was.
Who taught you to scrub a floor, I should like to know? Why, you'd leave
the dirt in heaps i' the corners--anybody 'ud think you'd never been
brought up among Christians. And as for spinning, why, you've wasted
as much as your wage i' the flax you've spoiled learning to spin.
And you've a right to feel that, and not to go about as gaping and as
thoughtless as if you was beholding to nobody. Comb the wool for the
whittaws, indeed! That's what you'd like to be doing, is it? That's the
way with you--that's the road you'd all like to go, headlongs to ruin.
You're never easy till you've got some sweetheart as is as big a fool as
yourself: you think you'll be finely off when you're married, I daresay,
and have got a three-legged stool to sit on, and never a blanket to
cover you, and a bit o' oat-cake for your dinner, as three children are
a-snatching at."

"I'm sure I donna want t' go wi' the whittaws," said Molly, whimpering,
and quite overcome by this Dantean picture of her future, "on'y we
allays used to comb the wool for 'n at Mester Ottley's; an' so I just
axed ye. I donna want to set eyes on the whittaws again; I wish I may
never stir if I do."

"Mr. Ottley's, indeed! It's fine talking o' what you did at Mr.
Ottley's. Your missis there might like her floors dirted wi' whittaws
for what I know. There's no knowing what people WONNA like--such ways as
I've heard of! I never had a gell come into my house as seemed to know
what cleaning was; I think people live like pigs, for my part. And as to
that Betty as was dairymaid at Trent's before she come to me, she'd ha'
left the cheeses without turning from week's end to week's end, and the
dairy thralls, I might ha' wrote my name on 'em, when I come downstairs
after my illness, as the doctor said it was inflammation--it was a mercy
I got well of it. And to think o' your knowing no better, Molly, and
been here a-going i' nine months, and not for want o' talking to,
neither--and what are you stanning there for, like a jack as is run
down, instead o' getting your wheel out? You're a rare un for sitting
down to your work a little while after it's time to put by."

"Munny, my iron's twite told; pease put it down to warm."

The small chirruping voice that uttered this request came from a little
sunny-haired girl between three and four, who, seated on a high chair
at the end of the ironing table, was arduously clutching the handle of
a miniature iron with her tiny fat fist, and ironing rags with an
assiduity that required her to put her little red tongue out as far as
anatomy would allow.

"Cold, is it, my darling? Bless your sweet face!" said Mrs. Poyser, who
was remarkable for the facility with which she could relapse from her
official objurgatory to one of fondness or of friendly converse. "Never
mind! Mother's done her ironing now. She's going to put the ironing
things away."

"Munny, I tould 'ike to do into de barn to Tommy, to see de whittawd."

"No, no, no; Totty 'ud get her feet wet," said Mrs. Poyser, carrying
away her iron. "Run into the dairy and see cousin Hetty make the
butter."

"I tould 'ike a bit o' pum-take," rejoined Totty, who seemed to be
provided with several relays of requests; at the same time, taking the
opportunity of her momentary leisure to put her fingers into a bowl
of starch, and drag it down so as to empty the contents with tolerable
completeness on to the ironing sheet.

"Did ever anybody see the like?" screamed Mrs. Poyser, running towards
the table when her eye had fallen on the blue stream. "The child's
allays i' mischief if your back's turned a minute. What shall I do to
you, you naughty, naughty gell?"

Totty, however, had descended from her chair with great swiftness, and
was already in retreat towards the dairy with a sort of waddling run,
and an amount of fat on the nape of her neck which made her look like
the metamorphosis of a white suckling pig.

The starch having been wiped up by Molly's help, and the ironing
apparatus put by, Mrs. Poyser took up her knitting which always lay
ready at hand, and was the work she liked best, because she could carry
it on automatically as she walked to and fro. But now she came and sat
down opposite Dinah, whom she looked at in a meditative way, as she
knitted her grey worsted stocking.

"You look th' image o' your Aunt Judith, Dinah, when you sit a-sewing. I
could almost fancy it was thirty years back, and I was a little gell
at home, looking at Judith as she sat at her work, after she'd done
the house up; only it was a little cottage, Father's was, and not a big
rambling house as gets dirty i' one corner as fast as you clean it in
another--but for all that, I could fancy you was your Aunt Judith, only
her hair was a deal darker than yours, and she was stouter and broader
i' the shoulders. Judith and me allays hung together, though she had
such queer ways, but your mother and her never could agree. Ah, your
mother little thought as she'd have a daughter just cut out after the
very pattern o' Judith, and leave her an orphan, too, for Judith to
take care on, and bring up with a spoon when SHE was in the graveyard at
Stoniton. I allays said that o' Judith, as she'd bear a pound weight
any day to save anybody else carrying a ounce. And she was just the same
from the first o' my remembering her; it made no difference in her, as
I could see, when she took to the Methodists, only she talked a bit
different and wore a different sort o' cap; but she'd never in her life
spent a penny on herself more than keeping herself decent."

"She was a blessed woman," said Dinah; "God had given her a loving,
self-forgetting nature, and He perfected it by grace. And she was very
fond of you too, Aunt Rachel. I often heard her talk of you in the same
sort of way. When she had that bad illness, and I was only eleven
years old, she used to say, 'You'll have a friend on earth in your Aunt
Rachel, if I'm taken from you, for she has a kind heart,' and I'm sure
I've found it so."

"I don't know how, child; anybody 'ud be cunning to do anything for you,
I think; you're like the birds o' th' air, and live nobody knows how.
I'd ha' been glad to behave to you like a mother's sister, if you'd come
and live i' this country where there's some shelter and victual for
man and beast, and folks don't live on the naked hills, like poultry
a-scratching on a gravel bank. And then you might get married to some
decent man, and there'd be plenty ready to have you, if you'd only leave
off that preaching, as is ten times worse than anything your Aunt Judith
ever did. And even if you'd marry Seth Bede, as is a poor wool-gathering
Methodist and's never like to have a penny beforehand, I know your
uncle 'ud help you with a pig, and very like a cow, for he's allays been
good-natur'd to my kin, for all they're poor, and made 'em welcome to
the house; and 'ud do for you, I'll be bound, as much as ever he'd do
for Hetty, though she's his own niece. And there's linen in the house
as I could well spare you, for I've got lots o' sheeting and
table-clothing, and towelling, as isn't made up. There's a piece o'
sheeting I could give you as that squinting Kitty spun--she was a rare
girl to spin, for all she squinted, and the children couldn't abide her;
and, you know, the spinning's going on constant, and there's new linen
wove twice as fast as the old wears out. But where's the use o' talking,
if ye wonna be persuaded, and settle down like any other woman in her
senses, i'stead o' wearing yourself out with walking and preaching,
and giving away every penny you get, so as you've nothing saved against
sickness; and all the things you've got i' the world, I verily believe,
'ud go into a bundle no bigger nor a double cheese. And all because
you've got notions i' your head about religion more nor what's i' the
Catechism and the Prayer-book."

"But not more than what's in the Bible, Aunt," said Dinah.

"Yes, and the Bible too, for that matter," Mrs. Poyser rejoined, rather
sharply; "else why shouldn't them as know best what's in the Bible--the
parsons and people as have got nothing to do but learn it--do the same
as you do? But, for the matter o' that, if everybody was to do like
you, the world must come to a standstill; for if everybody tried to
do without house and home, and with poor eating and drinking, and was
allays talking as we must despise the things o' the world as you say, I
should like to know where the pick o' the stock, and the corn, and the
best new-milk cheeses 'ud have to go. Everybody 'ud be wanting bread
made o' tail ends and everybody 'ud be running after everybody else
to preach to 'em, istead o' bringing up their families, and laying by
against a bad harvest. It stands to sense as that can't be the right
religion."

"Nay, dear aunt, you never heard me say that all people are called to
forsake their work and their families. It's quite right the land should
be ploughed and sowed, and the precious corn stored, and the things
of this life cared for, and right that people should rejoice in their
families, and provide for them, so that this is done in the fear of the
Lord, and that they are not unmindful of the soul's wants while they are
caring for the body. We can all be servants of God wherever our lot is
cast, but He gives us different sorts of work, according as He fits us
for it and calls us to it. I can no more help spending my life in trying
to do what I can for the souls of others, than you could help running if
you heard little Totty crying at the other end of the house; the voice
would go to your heart, you would think the dear child was in trouble or
in danger, and you couldn't rest without running to help her and comfort
her."

"Ah," said Mrs. Poyser, rising and walking towards the door, "I know it
'ud be just the same if I was to talk to you for hours. You'd make me
the same answer, at th' end. I might as well talk to the running brook
and tell it to stan' still."

The causeway outside the kitchen door was dry enough now for Mrs. Poyser
to stand there quite pleasantly and see what was going on in the yard,
the grey worsted stocking making a steady progress in her hands all the
while. But she had not been standing there more than five minutes before
she came in again, and said to Dinah, in rather a flurried, awe-stricken
tone, "If there isn't Captain Donnithorne and Mr. Irwine a-coming into
the yard! I'll lay my life they're come to speak about your preaching
on the Green, Dinah; it's you must answer 'em, for I'm dumb. I've said
enough a'ready about your bringing such disgrace upo' your uncle's
family. I wouldn't ha' minded if you'd been Mr. Poyser's own
niece--folks must put up wi' their own kin, as they put up wi' their own
noses--it's their own flesh and blood. But to think of a niece o' mine
being cause o' my husband's being turned out of his farm, and me brought
him no fortin but my savin's----"

"Nay, dear Aunt Rachel," said Dinah gently, "you've no cause for such
fears. I've strong assurance that no evil will happen to you and my
uncle and the children from anything I've done. I didn't preach without
direction."

"Direction! I know very well what you mean by direction," said Mrs.
Poyser, knitting in a rapid and agitated manner. "When there's a bigger
maggot than usual in your head you call it 'direction'; and then nothing
can stir you--you look like the statty o' the outside o' Treddles'on
church, a-starin' and a-smilin' whether it's fair weather or foul. I
hanna common patience with you."

By this time the two gentlemen had reached the palings and had got
down from their horses: it was plain they meant to come in. Mrs. Poyser
advanced to the door to meet them, curtsying low and trembling between
anger with Dinah and anxiety to conduct herself with perfect propriety
on the occasion. For in those days the keenest of bucolic minds felt a
whispering awe at the sight of the gentry, such as of old men felt when
they stood on tiptoe to watch the gods passing by in tall human shape.

"Well, Mrs. Poyser, how are you after this stormy morning?" said Mr.
Irwine, with his stately cordiality. "Our feet are quite dry; we shall
not soil your beautiful floor."

"Oh, sir, don't mention it," said Mrs. Poyser. "Will you and the captain
please to walk into the parlour?"

"No, indeed, thank you, Mrs. Poyser," said the captain, looking eagerly
round the kitchen, as if his eye were seeking something it could not
find. "I delight in your kitchen. I think it is the most charming room
I know. I should like every farmer's wife to come and look at it for a
pattern."

"Oh, you're pleased to say so, sir. Pray take a seat," said Mrs.
Poyser, relieved a little by this compliment and the captain's evident
good-humour, but still glancing anxiously at Mr. Irwine, who, she saw,
was looking at Dinah and advancing towards her.

"Poyser is not at home, is he?" said Captain Donnithorne, seating
himself where he could see along the short passage to the open
dairy-door.

"No, sir, he isn't; he's gone to Rosseter to see Mr. West, the factor,
about the wool. But there's Father i' the barn, sir, if he'd be of any
use."

"No, thank you; I'll just look at the whelps and leave a message about
them with your shepherd. I must come another day and see your husband; I
want to have a consultation with him about horses. Do you know when he's
likely to be at liberty?"

"Why, sir, you can hardly miss him, except it's o' Treddles'on
market-day--that's of a Friday, you know. For if he's anywhere on the
farm we can send for him in a minute. If we'd got rid o' the Scantlands,
we should have no outlying fields; and I should be glad of it, for if
ever anything happens, he's sure to be gone to the Scantlands. Things
allays happen so contrairy, if they've a chance; and it's an unnat'ral
thing to have one bit o' your farm in one county and all the rest in
another."

"Ah, the Scantlands would go much better with Choyce's farm, especially
as he wants dairyland and you've got plenty. I think yours is the
prettiest farm on the estate, though; and do you know, Mrs. Poyser, if I
were going to marry and settle, I should be tempted to turn you out, and
do up this fine old house, and turn farmer myself."

"Oh, sir," said Mrs. Poyser, rather alarmed, "you wouldn't like it at
all. As for farming, it's putting money into your pocket wi' your
right hand and fetching it out wi' your left. As fur as I can see, it's
raising victual for other folks and just getting a mouthful for yourself
and your children as you go along. Not as you'd be like a poor man as
wants to get his bread--you could afford to lose as much money as you
liked i' farming--but it's poor fun losing money, I should think, though
I understan' it's what the great folks i' London play at more than
anything. For my husband heard at market as Lord Dacey's eldest son had
lost thousands upo' thousands to the Prince o' Wales, and they said
my lady was going to pawn her jewels to pay for him. But you know more
about that than I do, sir. But, as for farming, sir, I canna think as
you'd like it; and this house--the draughts in it are enough to cut you
through, and it's my opinion the floors upstairs are very rotten, and
the rats i' the cellar are beyond anything."

"Why, that's a terrible picture, Mrs. Poyser. I think I should be doing
you a service to turn you out of such a place. But there's no chance
of that. I'm not likely to settle for the next twenty years, till I'm a
stout gentleman of forty; and my grandfather would never consent to part
with such good tenants as you."

"Well, sir, if he thinks so well o' Mr. Poyser for a tenant I wish you
could put in a word for him to allow us some new gates for the Five
closes, for my husband's been asking and asking till he's tired, and to
think o' what he's done for the farm, and's never had a penny allowed
him, be the times bad or good. And as I've said to my husband often and
often, I'm sure if the captain had anything to do with it, it wouldn't
be so. Not as I wish to speak disrespectful o' them as have got the
power i' their hands, but it's more than flesh and blood 'ull bear
sometimes, to be toiling and striving, and up early and down late, and
hardly sleeping a wink when you lie down for thinking as the cheese
may swell, or the cows may slip their calf, or the wheat may grow green
again i' the sheaf--and after all, at th' end o' the year, it's like
as if you'd been cooking a feast and had got the smell of it for your
pains."

Mrs. Poyser, once launched into conversation, always sailed along
without any check from her preliminary awe of the gentry. The confidence
she felt in her own powers of exposition was a motive force that
overcame all resistance.

"I'm afraid I should only do harm instead of good, if I were to speak
about the gates, Mrs. Poyser," said the captain, "though I assure you
there's no man on the estate I would sooner say a word for than your
husband. I know his farm is in better order than any other within
ten miles of us; and as for the kitchen," he added, smiling, "I don't
believe there's one in the kingdom to beat it. By the by, I've never
seen your dairy: I must see your dairy, Mrs. Poyser."

"Indeed, sir, it's not fit for you to go in, for Hetty's in the middle
o' making the butter, for the churning was thrown late, and I'm quite
ashamed." This Mrs. Poyser said blushing, and believing that the captain
was really interested in her milk-pans, and would adjust his opinion of
her to the appearance of her dairy.

"Oh, I've no doubt it's in capital order. Take me in," said the captain,
himself leading the way, while Mrs. Poyser followed.



Chapter VII

The Dairy


THE dairy was certainly worth looking at: it was a scene to sicken for
with a sort of calenture in hot and dusty streets--such coolness, such
purity, such fresh fragrance of new-pressed cheese, of firm butter, of
wooden vessels perpetually bathed in pure water; such soft colouring of
red earthenware and creamy surfaces, brown wood and polished tin, grey
limestone and rich orange-red rust on the iron weights and hooks and
hinges. But one gets only a confused notion of these details when they
surround a distractingly pretty girl of seventeen, standing on little
pattens and rounding her dimpled arm to lift a pound of butter out of
the scale.

Hetty blushed a deep rose-colour when Captain Donnithorne entered the
dairy and spoke to her; but it was not at all a distressed blush, for
it was inwreathed with smiles and dimples, and with sparkles from under
long, curled, dark eyelashes; and while her aunt was discoursing to him
about the limited amount of milk that was to be spared for butter and
cheese so long as the calves were not all weaned, and a large quantity
but inferior quality of milk yielded by the shorthorn, which had
been bought on experiment, together with other matters which must be
interesting to a young gentleman who would one day be a landlord, Hetty
tossed and patted her pound of butter with quite a self-possessed,
coquettish air, slyly conscious that no turn of her head was lost.

There are various orders of beauty, causing men to make fools of
themselves in various styles, from the desperate to the sheepish; but
there is one order of beauty which seems made to turn the heads not only
of men, but of all intelligent mammals, even of women. It is a beauty
like that of kittens, or very small downy ducks making gentle rippling
noises with their soft bills, or babies just beginning to toddle and
to engage in conscious mischief--a beauty with which you can never be
angry, but that you feel ready to crush for inability to comprehend the
state of mind into which it throws you. Hetty Sorrel's was that sort
of beauty. Her aunt, Mrs. Poyser, who professed to despise all personal
attractions and intended to be the severest of mentors, continually
gazed at Hetty's charms by the sly, fascinated in spite of herself; and
after administering such a scolding as naturally flowed from her anxiety
to do well by her husband's niece--who had no mother of her own to scold
her, poor thing!--she would often confess to her husband, when they were
safe out of hearing, that she firmly believed, "the naughtier the little
huzzy behaved, the prettier she looked."

It is of little use for me to tell you that Hetty's cheek was like a
rose-petal, that dimples played about her pouting lips, that her large
dark eyes hid a soft roguishness under their long lashes, and that her
curly hair, though all pushed back under her round cap while she was at
work, stole back in dark delicate rings on her forehead, and about her
white shell-like ears; it is of little use for me to say how lovely
was the contour of her pink-and-white neckerchief, tucked into her low
plum-coloured stuff bodice, or how the linen butter-making apron, with
its bib, seemed a thing to be imitated in silk by duchesses, since it
fell in such charming lines, or how her brown stockings and thick-soled
buckled shoes lost all that clumsiness which they must certainly have
had when empty of her foot and ankle--of little use, unless you have
seen a woman who affected you as Hetty affected her beholders, for
otherwise, though you might conjure up the image of a lovely woman, she
would not in the least resemble that distracting kittenlike maiden. I
might mention all the divine charms of a bright spring day, but if you
had never in your life utterly forgotten yourself in straining your eyes
after the mounting lark, or in wandering through the still lanes when
the fresh-opened blossoms fill them with a sacred silent beauty like
that of fretted aisles, where would be the use of my descriptive
catalogue? I could never make you know what I meant by a bright spring
day. Hetty's was a spring-tide beauty; it was the beauty of young
frisking things, round-limbed, gambolling, circumventing you by a
false air of innocence--the innocence of a young star-browed calf, for
example, that, being inclined for a promenade out of bounds, leads you
a severe steeplechase over hedge and ditch, and only comes to a stand in
the middle of a bog.

And they are the prettiest attitudes and movements into which a pretty
girl is thrown in making up butter--tossing movements that give a
charming curve to the arm, and a sideward inclination of the round white
neck; little patting and rolling movements with the palm of the hand,
and nice adaptations and finishings which cannot at all be effected
without a great play of the pouting mouth and the dark eyes. And then
the butter itself seems to communicate a fresh charm--it is so pure,
so sweet-scented; it is turned off the mould with such a beautiful
firm surface, like marble in a pale yellow light! Moreover, Hetty was
particularly clever at making up the butter; it was the one performance
of hers that her aunt allowed to pass without severe criticism; so she
handled it with all the grace that belongs to mastery.

"I hope you will be ready for a great holiday on the thirtieth of July,
Mrs. Poyser," said Captain Donnithorne, when he had sufficiently admired
the dairy and given several improvised opinions on Swede turnips and
shorthorns. "You know what is to happen then, and I shall expect you
to be one of the guests who come earliest and leave latest. Will you
promise me your hand for two dances, Miss Hetty? If I don't get your
promise now, I know I shall hardly have a chance, for all the smart
young farmers will take care to secure you."

Hetty smiled and blushed, but before she could answer, Mrs. Poyser
interposed, scandalized at the mere suggestion that the young squire
could be excluded by any meaner partners.

"Indeed, sir, you are very kind to take that notice of her. And I'm
sure, whenever you're pleased to dance with her, she'll be proud and
thankful, if she stood still all the rest o' th' evening."

"Oh no, no, that would be too cruel to all the other young fellows who
can dance. But you will promise me two dances, won't you?" the captain
continued, determined to make Hetty look at him and speak to him.

Hetty dropped the prettiest little curtsy, and stole a half-shy,
half-coquettish glance at him as she said, "Yes, thank you, sir."

"And you must bring all your children, you know, Mrs. Poyser; your
little Totty, as well as the boys. I want all the youngest children on
the estate to be there--all those who will be fine young men and women
when I'm a bald old fellow."

"Oh dear, sir, that 'ull be a long time first," said Mrs. Poyser, quite
overcome at the young squire's speaking so lightly of himself, and
thinking how her husband would be interested in hearing her recount this
remarkable specimen of high-born humour. The captain was thought to
be "very full of his jokes," and was a great favourite throughout the
estate on account of his free manners. Every tenant was quite sure
things would be different when the reins got into his hands--there
was to be a millennial abundance of new gates, allowances of lime, and
returns of ten per cent.

"But where is Totty to-day?" he said. "I want to see her."

"Where IS the little un, Hetty?" said Mrs. Poyser. "She came in here not
long ago."

"I don't know. She went into the brewhouse to Nancy, I think."

The proud mother, unable to resist the temptation to show her Totty,
passed at once into the back kitchen, in search of her, not, however,
without misgivings lest something should have happened to render her
person and attire unfit for presentation.

"And do you carry the butter to market when you've made it?" said the
Captain to Hetty, meanwhile.

"Oh no, sir; not when it's so heavy. I'm not strong enough to carry it.
Alick takes it on horseback."

"No, I'm sure your pretty arms were never meant for such heavy weights.
But you go out a walk sometimes these pleasant evenings, don't you?
Why don't you have a walk in the Chase sometimes, now it's so green and
pleasant? I hardly ever see you anywhere except at home and at church."

"Aunt doesn't like me to go a-walking only when I'm going somewhere,"
said Hetty. "But I go through the Chase sometimes."

"And don't you ever go to see Mrs. Best, the housekeeper? I think I saw
you once in the housekeeper's room."

"It isn't Mrs. Best, it's Mrs. Pomfret, the lady's maid, as I go to see.
She's teaching me tent-stitch and the lace-mending. I'm going to tea
with her to-morrow afternoon."

The reason why there had been space for this tete-a-tete can only be
known by looking into the back kitchen, where Totty had been discovered
rubbing a stray blue-bag against her nose, and in the same moment
allowing some liberal indigo drops to fall on her afternoon pinafore.
But now she appeared holding her mother's hand--the end of her round
nose rather shiny from a recent and hurried application of soap and
water.

"Here she is!" said the captain, lifting her up and setting her on the
low stone shelf. "Here's Totty! By the by, what's her other name? She
wasn't christened Totty."

"Oh, sir, we call her sadly out of her name. Charlotte's her christened
name. It's a name i' Mr. Poyser's family: his grandmother was named
Charlotte. But we began with calling her Lotty, and now it's got to
Totty. To be sure it's more like a name for a dog than a Christian
child."

"Totty's a capital name. Why, she looks like a Totty. Has she got a
pocket on?" said the captain, feeling in his own waistcoat pockets.

Totty immediately with great gravity lifted up her frock, and showed a
tiny pink pocket at present in a state of collapse.

"It dot notin' in it," she said, as she looked down at it very
earnestly.

"No! What a pity! Such a pretty pocket. Well, I think I've got some
things in mine that will make a pretty jingle in it. Yes! I declare I've
got five little round silver things, and hear what a pretty noise they
make in Totty's pink pocket." Here he shook the pocket with the five
sixpences in it, and Totty showed her teeth and wrinkled her nose in
great glee; but, divining that there was nothing more to be got by
staying, she jumped off the shelf and ran away to jingle her pocket in
the hearing of Nancy, while her mother called after her, "Oh for shame,
you naughty gell! Not to thank the captain for what he's given you I'm
sure, sir, it's very kind of you; but she's spoiled shameful; her father
won't have her said nay in anything, and there's no managing her. It's
being the youngest, and th' only gell."

"Oh, she's a funny little fatty; I wouldn't have her different. But I
must be going now, for I suppose the rector is waiting for me."

With a "good-bye," a bright glance, and a bow to Hetty Arthur left the
dairy. But he was mistaken in imagining himself waited for. The rector
had been so much interested in his conversation with Dinah that he would
not have chosen to close it earlier; and you shall hear now what they
had been saying to each other.



Chapter VIII

A Vocation


DINAH, who had risen when the gentlemen came in, but still kept hold of
the sheet she was mending, curtsied respectfully when she saw Mr. Irwine
looking at her and advancing towards her. He had never yet spoken to
her, or stood face to face with her, and her first thought, as her eyes
met his, was, "What a well-favoured countenance! Oh that the good seed
might fall on that soil, for it would surely flourish." The agreeable
impression must have been mutual, for Mr. Irwine bowed to her with a
benignant deference, which would have been equally in place if she had
been the most dignified lady of his acquaintance.

"You are only a visitor in this neighbourhood, I think?" were his first
words, as he seated himself opposite to her.

"No, sir, I come from Snowfield, in Stonyshire. But my aunt was very
kind, wanting me to have rest from my work there, because I'd been ill,
and she invited me to come and stay with her for a while."

"Ah, I remember Snowfield very well; I once had occasion to go there.
It's a dreary bleak place. They were building a cotton-mill there; but
that's many years ago now. I suppose the place is a good deal changed by
the employment that mill must have brought."

"It IS changed so far as the mill has brought people there, who get a
livelihood for themselves by working in it, and make it better for the
tradesfolks. I work in it myself, and have reason to be grateful, for
thereby I have enough and to spare. But it's still a bleak place, as you
say, sir--very different from this country."

"You have relations living there, probably, so that you are attached to
the place as your home?"

"I had an aunt there once; she brought me up, for I was an orphan. But
she was taken away seven years ago, and I have no other kindred that I
know of, besides my Aunt Poyser, who is very good to me, and would
have me come and live in this country, which to be sure is a good land,
wherein they eat bread without scarceness. But I'm not free to leave
Snowfield, where I was first planted, and have grown deep into it, like
the small grass on the hill-top."

"Ah, I daresay you have many religious friends and companions there; you
are a Methodist--a Wesleyan, I think?"

"Yes, my aunt at Snowfield belonged to the Society, and I have cause
to be thankful for the privileges I have had thereby from my earliest
childhood."

"And have you been long in the habit of preaching? For I understand you
preached at Hayslope last night."

"I first took to the work four years since, when I was twenty-one."

"Your Society sanctions women's preaching, then?"

"It doesn't forbid them, sir, when they've a clear call to the work,
and when their ministry is owned by the conversion of sinners and the
strengthening of God's people. Mrs. Fletcher, as you may have heard
about, was the first woman to preach in the Society, I believe, before
she was married, when she was Miss Bosanquet; and Mr. Wesley approved
of her undertaking the work. She had a great gift, and there are many
others now living who are precious fellow-helpers in the work of the
ministry. I understand there's been voices raised against it in the
Society of late, but I cannot but think their counsel will come to
nought. It isn't for men to make channels for God's Spirit, as they
make channels for the watercourses, and say, 'Flow here, but flow not
there.'"

"But don't you find some danger among your people--I don't mean to say
that it is so with you, far from it--but don't you find sometimes that
both men and women fancy themselves channels for God's Spirit, and are
quite mistaken, so that they set about a work for which they are unfit
and bring holy things into contempt?"

"Doubtless it is so sometimes; for there have been evil-doers among us
who have sought to deceive the brethren, and some there are who deceive
their own selves. But we are not without discipline and correction to
put a check upon these things. There's a very strict order kept among
us, and the brethren and sisters watch for each other's souls as they
that must give account. They don't go every one his own way and say, 'Am
I my brother's keeper?'"

"But tell me--if I may ask, and I am really interested in knowing
it--how you first came to think of preaching?"

"Indeed, sir, I didn't think of it at all--I'd been used from the time
I was sixteen to talk to the little children, and teach them, and
sometimes I had had my heart enlarged to speak in class, and was much
drawn out in prayer with the sick. But I had felt no call to preach, for
when I'm not greatly wrought upon, I'm too much given to sit still and
keep by myself. It seems as if I could sit silent all day long with the
thought of God overflowing my soul--as the pebbles lie bathed in the
Willow Brook. For thoughts are so great--aren't they, sir? They seem to
lie upon us like a deep flood; and it's my besetment to forget where
I am and everything about me, and lose myself in thoughts that I could
give no account of, for I could neither make a beginning nor ending of
them in words. That was my way as long as I can remember; but sometimes
it seemed as if speech came to me without any will of my own, and words
were given to me that came out as the tears come, because our hearts
are full and we can't help it. And those were always times of great
blessing, though I had never thought it could be so with me before
a congregation of people. But, sir, we are led on, like the little
children, by a way that we know not. I was called to preach quite
suddenly, and since then I have never been left in doubt about the work
that was laid upon me."

"But tell me the circumstances--just how it was, the very day you began
to preach."

"It was one Sunday I walked with brother Marlowe, who was an aged
man, one of the local preachers, all the way to Hetton-Deeps--that's a
village where the people get their living by working in the lead-mines,
and where there's no church nor preacher, but they live like sheep
without a shepherd. It's better than twelve miles from Snowfield, so
we set out early in the morning, for it was summertime; and I had a
wonderful sense of the Divine love as we walked over the hills, where
there's no trees, you know, sir, as there is here, to make the sky look
smaller, but you see the heavens stretched out like a tent, and you feel
the everlasting arms around you. But before we got to Hetton, brother
Marlowe was seized with a dizziness that made him afraid of falling, for
he overworked himself sadly, at his years, in watching and praying,
and walking so many miles to speak the Word, as well as carrying on his
trade of linen-weaving. And when we got to the village, the people were
expecting him, for he'd appointed the time and the place when he was
there before, and such of them as cared to hear the Word of Life were
assembled on a spot where the cottages was thickest, so as others might
be drawn to come. But he felt as he couldn't stand up to preach, and
he was forced to lie down in the first of the cottages we came to. So I
went to tell the people, thinking we'd go into one of the houses, and I
would read and pray with them. But as I passed along by the cottages and
saw the aged and trembling women at the doors, and the hard looks of the
men, who seemed to have their eyes no more filled with the sight of the
Sabbath morning than if they had been dumb oxen that never looked up to
the sky, I felt a great movement in my soul, and I trembled as if I
was shaken by a strong spirit entering into my weak body. And I went to
where the little flock of people was gathered together, and stepped on
the low wall that was built against the green hillside, and I spoke the
words that were given to me abundantly. And they all came round me out
of all the cottages, and many wept over their sins, and have since been
joined to the Lord. That was the beginning of my preaching, sir, and
I've preached ever since."

Dinah had let her work fall during this narrative, which she uttered in
her usual simple way, but with that sincere articulate, thrilling treble
by which she always mastered her audience. She stooped now to gather up
her sewing, and then went on with it as before. Mr. Irwine was deeply
interested. He said to himself, "He must be a miserable prig who would
act the pedagogue here: one might as well go and lecture the trees for
growing in their own shape."

"And you never feel any embarrassment from the sense of your youth--that
you are a lovely young woman on whom men's eyes are fixed?" he said
aloud.

"No, I've no room for such feelings, and I don't believe the people ever
take notice about that. I think, sir, when God makes His presence felt
through us, we are like the burning bush: Moses never took any heed
what sort of bush it was--he only saw the brightness of the Lord. I've
preached to as rough ignorant people as can be in the villages about
Snowfield--men that looked very hard and wild--but they never said an
uncivil word to me, and often thanked me kindly as they made way for me
to pass through the midst of them."

"THAT I can believe--that I can well believe," said Mr. Irwine,
emphatically. "And what did you think of your hearers last night, now?
Did you find them quiet and attentive?"

"Very quiet, sir, but I saw no signs of any great work upon them, except
in a young girl named Bessy Cranage, towards whom my heart yearned
greatly, when my eyes first fell on her blooming youth, given up
to folly and vanity. I had some private talk and prayer with her
afterwards, and I trust her heart is touched. But I've noticed that
in these villages where the people lead a quiet life among the green
pastures and the still waters, tilling the ground and tending the
cattle, there's a strange deadness to the Word, as different as can
be from the great towns, like Leeds, where I once went to visit a holy
woman who preaches there. It's wonderful how rich is the harvest of
souls up those high-walled streets, where you seemed to walk as in a
prison-yard, and the ear is deafened with the sounds of worldly toil.
I think maybe it is because the promise is sweeter when this life is so
dark and weary, and the soul gets more hungry when the body is ill at
ease."

"Why, yes, our farm-labourers are not easily roused. They take life
almost as slowly as the sheep and cows. But we have some intelligent
workmen about here. I daresay you know the Bedes; Seth Bede, by the by,
is a Methodist."

"Yes, I know Seth well, and his brother Adam a little. Seth is a
gracious young man--sincere and without offence; and Adam is like the
patriarch Joseph, for his great skill and knowledge and the kindness he
shows to his brother and his parents."

"Perhaps you don't know the trouble that has just happened to them?
Their father, Matthias Bede, was drowned in the Willow Brook last night,
not far from his own door. I'm going now to see Adam."

"Ah, their poor aged mother!" said Dinah, dropping her hands and looking
before her with pitying eyes, as if she saw the object of her sympathy.
"She will mourn heavily, for Seth has told me she's of an anxious,
troubled heart. I must go and see if I can give her any help."

As she rose and was beginning to fold up her work, Captain Donnithorne,
having exhausted all plausible pretexts for remaining among the
milk-pans, came out of the dairy, followed by Mrs. Poyser. Mr. Irwine
now rose also, and, advancing towards Dinah, held out his hand, and
said, "Good-bye. I hear you are going away soon; but this will not be
the last visit you will pay your aunt--so we shall meet again, I hope."

His cordiality towards Dinah set all Mrs. Poyser's anxieties at rest,
and her face was brighter than usual, as she said, "I've never asked
after Mrs. Irwine and the Miss Irwines, sir; I hope they're as well as
usual."

"Yes, thank you, Mrs. Poyser, except that Miss Anne has one of her bad
headaches to-day. By the by, we all liked that nice cream-cheese you
sent us--my mother especially."

"I'm very glad, indeed, sir. It is but seldom I make one, but I
remembered Mrs. Irwine was fond of 'em. Please to give my duty to her,
and to Miss Kate and Miss Anne. They've never been to look at my poultry
this long while, and I've got some beautiful speckled chickens, black
and white, as Miss Kate might like to have some of amongst hers."

"Well, I'll tell her; she must come and see them. Good-bye," said the
rector, mounting his horse.

"Just ride slowly on, Irwine," said Captain Donnithorne, mounting also.
"I'll overtake you in three minutes. I'm only going to speak to the
shepherd about the whelps. Good-bye, Mrs. Poyser; tell your husband I
shall come and have a long talk with him soon."

Mrs. Poyser curtsied duly, and watched the two horses until they had
disappeared from the yard, amidst great excitement on the part of the
pigs and the poultry, and under the furious indignation of the bull-dog,
who performed a Pyrrhic dance, that every moment seemed to threaten the
breaking of his chain. Mrs. Poyser delighted in this noisy exit; it was
a fresh assurance to her that the farm-yard was well guarded, and that
no loiterers could enter unobserved; and it was not until the gate had
closed behind the captain that she turned into the kitchen again, where
Dinah stood with her bonnet in her hand, waiting to speak to her aunt,
before she set out for Lisbeth Bede's cottage.

Mrs. Poyser, however, though she noticed the bonnet, deferred remarking
on it until she had disburdened herself of her surprise at Mr. Irwine's
behaviour.

"Why, Mr. Irwine wasn't angry, then? What did he say to you, Dinah?
Didn't he scold you for preaching?"

"No, he was not at all angry; he was very friendly to me. I was quite
drawn out to speak to him; I hardly know how, for I had always thought
of him as a worldly Sadducee. But his countenance is as pleasant as the
morning sunshine."

"Pleasant! And what else did y' expect to find him but pleasant?" said
Mrs. Poyser impatiently, resuming her knitting. "I should think his
countenance is pleasant indeed! And him a gentleman born, and's got a
mother like a picter. You may go the country round and not find such
another woman turned sixty-six. It's summat-like to see such a man as
that i' the desk of a Sunday! As I say to Poyser, it's like looking at
a full crop o' wheat, or a pasture with a fine dairy o' cows in it; it
makes you think the world's comfortable-like. But as for such creaturs
as you Methodisses run after, I'd as soon go to look at a lot o'
bare-ribbed runts on a common. Fine folks they are to tell you what's
right, as look as if they'd never tasted nothing better than bacon-sword
and sour-cake i' their lives. But what did Mr. Irwine say to you about
that fool's trick o' preaching on the Green?"

"He only said he'd heard of it; he didn't seem to feel any displeasure
about it. But, dear aunt, don't think any more about that. He told me
something that I'm sure will cause you sorrow, as it does me. Thias Bede
was drowned last night in the Willow Brook, and I'm thinking that the
aged mother will be greatly in need of comfort. Perhaps I can be of use
to her, so I have fetched my bonnet and am going to set out."

"Dear heart, dear heart! But you must have a cup o' tea first, child,"
said Mrs. Poyser, falling at once from the key of B with five sharps to
the frank and genial C. "The kettle's boiling--we'll have it ready in
a minute; and the young uns 'ull be in and wanting theirs directly. I'm
quite willing you should go and see th' old woman, for you're one as
is allays welcome in trouble, Methodist or no Methodist; but, for the
matter o' that, it's the flesh and blood folks are made on as makes the
difference. Some cheeses are made o' skimmed milk and some o' new milk,
and it's no matter what you call 'em, you may tell which is which by the
look and the smell. But as to Thias Bede, he's better out o' the way nor
in--God forgi' me for saying so--for he's done little this ten year but
make trouble for them as belonged to him; and I think it 'ud be well
for you to take a little bottle o' rum for th' old woman, for I daresay
she's got never a drop o' nothing to comfort her inside. Sit down,
child, and be easy, for you shan't stir out till you've had a cup o'
tea, and so I tell you."

During the latter part of this speech, Mrs. Poyser had been reaching
down the tea-things from the shelves, and was on her way towards
the pantry for the loaf (followed close by Totty, who had made her
appearance on the rattling of the tea-cups), when Hetty came out of
the dairy relieving her tired arms by lifting them up, and clasping her
hands at the back of her head.

"Molly," she said, rather languidly, "just run out and get me a bunch of
dock-leaves: the butter's ready to pack up now."

"D' you hear what's happened, Hetty?" said her aunt.

"No; how should I hear anything?" was the answer, in a pettish tone.

"Not as you'd care much, I daresay, if you did hear; for you're too
feather-headed to mind if everybody was dead, so as you could stay
upstairs a-dressing yourself for two hours by the clock. But anybody
besides yourself 'ud mind about such things happening to them as think
a deal more of you than you deserve. But Adam Bede and all his kin might
be drownded for what you'd care--you'd be perking at the glass the next
minute."

"Adam Bede--drowned?" said Hetty, letting her arms fall and looking
rather bewildered, but suspecting that her aunt was as usual
exaggerating with a didactic purpose.

"No, my dear, no," said Dinah kindly, for Mrs. Poyser had passed on to
the pantry without deigning more precise information. "Not Adam. Adam's
father, the old man, is drowned. He was drowned last night in the Willow
Brook. Mr. Irwine has just told me about it."

"Oh, how dreadful!" said Hetty, looking serious, but not deeply
affected; and as Molly now entered with the dock-leaves, she took them
silently and returned to the dairy without asking further questions.



Chapter IX

Hetty's World


WHILE she adjusted the broad leaves that set off the pale fragrant
butter as the primrose is set off by its nest of green I am afraid Hetty
was thinking a great deal more of the looks Captain Donnithorne had cast
at her than of Adam and his troubles. Bright, admiring glances from
a handsome young gentleman with white hands, a gold chain, occasional
regimentals, and wealth and grandeur immeasurable--those were the
warm rays that set poor Hetty's heart vibrating and playing its little
foolish tunes over and over again. We do not hear that Memnon's statue
gave forth its melody at all under the rushing of the mightiest wind,
or in response to any other influence divine or human than certain
short-lived sunbeams of morning; and we must learn to accommodate
ourselves to the discovery that some of those cunningly fashioned
instruments called human souls have only a very limited range of music,
and will not vibrate in the least under a touch that fills others with
tremulous rapture or quivering agony.

Hetty was quite used to the thought that people liked to look at her.
She was not blind to the fact that young Luke Britton of Broxton came to
Hayslope Church on a Sunday afternoon on purpose that he might see her;
and that he would have made much more decided advances if her uncle
Poyser, thinking but lightly of a young man whose father's land was so
foul as old Luke Britton's, had not forbidden her aunt to encourage him
by any civilities. She was aware, too, that Mr. Craig, the gardener at
the Chase, was over head and ears in love with her, and had lately made
unmistakable avowals in luscious strawberries and hyperbolical peas.
She knew still better, that Adam Bede--tall, upright, clever, brave Adam
Bede--who carried such authority with all the people round about, and
whom her uncle was always delighted to see of an evening, saying that
"Adam knew a fine sight more o' the natur o' things than those as
thought themselves his betters"--she knew that this Adam, who was often
rather stern to other people and not much given to run after the lasses,
could be made to turn pale or red any day by a word or a look from
her. Hetty's sphere of comparison was not large, but she couldn't help
perceiving that Adam was "something like" a man; always knew what to say
about things, could tell her uncle how to prop the hovel, and had mended
the churn in no time; knew, with only looking at it, the value of the
chestnut-tree that was blown down, and why the damp came in the walls,
and what they must do to stop the rats; and wrote a beautiful hand
that you could read off, and could do figures in his head--a degree
of accomplishment totally unknown among the richest farmers of that
countryside. Not at all like that slouching Luke Britton, who, when
she once walked with him all the way from Broxton to Hayslope, had only
broken silence to remark that the grey goose had begun to lay. And as
for Mr. Craig, the gardener, he was a sensible man enough, to be sure,
but he was knock-kneed, and had a queer sort of sing-song in his talk;
moreover, on the most charitable supposition, he must be far on the way
to forty.

Hetty was quite certain her uncle wanted her to encourage Adam, and
would be pleased for her to marry him. For those were times when there
was no rigid demarcation of rank between the farmer and the respectable
artisan, and on the home hearth, as well as in the public house, they
might be seen taking their jug of ale together; the farmer having
a latent sense of capital, and of weight in parish affairs, which
sustained him under his conspicuous inferiority in conversation. Martin
Poyser was not a frequenter of public houses, but he liked a friendly
chat over his own home-brewed; and though it was pleasant to lay down
the law to a stupid neighbour who had no notion how to make the best
of his farm, it was also an agreeable variety to learn something from
a clever fellow like Adam Bede. Accordingly, for the last three
years--ever since he had superintended the building of the new
barn--Adam had always been made welcome at the Hall Farm, especially of
a winter evening, when the whole family, in patriarchal fashion, master
and mistress, children and servants, were assembled in that glorious
kitchen, at well-graduated distances from the blazing fire. And for the
last two years, at least, Hetty had been in the habit of hearing her
uncle say, "Adam Bede may be working for wage now, but he'll be a
master-man some day, as sure as I sit in this chair. Mester Burge is
in the right on't to want him to go partners and marry his daughter, if
it's true what they say; the woman as marries him 'ull have a good take,
be't Lady day or Michaelmas," a remark which Mrs. Poyser always followed
up with her cordial assent. "Ah," she would say, "it's all very fine
having a ready-made rich man, but mayhappen he'll be a ready-made fool;
and it's no use filling your pocket full o' money if you've got a hole
in the corner. It'll do you no good to sit in a spring-cart o' your own,
if you've got a soft to drive you: he'll soon turn you over into the
ditch. I allays said I'd never marry a man as had got no brains; for
where's the use of a woman having brains of her own if she's tackled
to a geck as everybody's a-laughing at? She might as well dress herself
fine to sit back'ards on a donkey."

These expressions, though figurative, sufficiently indicated the bent of
Mrs. Poyser's mind with regard to Adam; and though she and her husband
might have viewed the subject differently if Hetty had been a daughter
of their own, it was clear that they would have welcomed the match with
Adam for a penniless niece. For what could Hetty have been but a servant
elsewhere, if her uncle had not taken her in and brought her up as a
domestic help to her aunt, whose health since the birth of Totty had not
been equal to more positive labour than the superintendence of servants
and children? But Hetty had never given Adam any steady encouragement.
Even in the moments when she was most thoroughly conscious of his
superiority to her other admirers, she had never brought herself to
think of accepting him. She liked to feel that this strong, skilful,
keen-eyed man was in her power, and would have been indignant if he had
shown the least sign of slipping from under the yoke of her coquettish
tyranny and attaching himself to the gentle Mary Burge, who would have
been grateful enough for the most trifling notice from him. "Mary Burge,
indeed! Such a sallow-faced girl: if she put on a bit of pink ribbon,
she looked as yellow as a crow-flower and her hair was as straight as a
hank of cotton." And always when Adam stayed away for several weeks from
the Hall Farm, and otherwise made some show of resistance to his passion
as a foolish one, Hetty took care to entice him back into the net by
little airs of meekness and timidity, as if she were in trouble at his
neglect. But as to marrying Adam, that was a very different affair!
There was nothing in the world to tempt her to do that. Her cheeks never
grew a shade deeper when his name was mentioned; she felt no thrill
when she saw him passing along the causeway by the window, or advancing
towards her unexpectedly in the footpath across the meadow; she felt
nothing, when his eyes rested on her, but the cold triumph of knowing
that he loved her and would not care to look at Mary Burge. He could no
more stir in her the emotions that make the sweet intoxication of young
love than the mere picture of a sun can stir the spring sap in the
subtle fibres of the plant. She saw him as he was--a poor man with old
parents to keep, who would not be able, for a long while to come, to
give her even such luxuries as she shared in her uncle's house. And
Hetty's dreams were all of luxuries: to sit in a carpeted parlour, and
always wear white stockings; to have some large beautiful ear-rings,
such as were all the fashion; to have Nottingham lace round the top of
her gown, and something to make her handkerchief smell nice, like
Miss Lydia Donnithorne's when she drew it out at church; and not to be
obliged to get up early or be scolded by anybody. She thought, if Adam
had been rich and could have given her these things, she loved him well
enough to marry him.

But for the last few weeks a new influence had come over Hetty--vague,
atmospheric, shaping itself into no self-confessed hopes or prospects,
but producing a pleasant narcotic effect, making her tread the ground
and go about her work in a sort of dream, unconscious of weight or
effort, and showing her all things through a soft, liquid veil, as if
she were living not in this solid world of brick and stone, but in a
beatified world, such as the sun lights up for us in the waters. Hetty
had become aware that Mr. Arthur Donnithorne would take a good deal of
trouble for the chance of seeing her; that he always placed himself at
church so as to have the fullest view of her both sitting and standing;
that he was constantly finding reason for calling at the Hall Farm, and
always would contrive to say something for the sake of making her speak
to him and look at him. The poor child no more conceived at present the
idea that the young squire could ever be her lover than a baker's pretty
daughter in the crowd, whom a young emperor distinguishes by an imperial
but admiring smile, conceives that she shall be made empress. But the
baker's daughter goes home and dreams of the handsome young emperor, and
perhaps weighs the flour amiss while she is thinking what a heavenly lot
it must be to have him for a husband. And so, poor Hetty had got a face
and a presence haunting her waking and sleeping dreams; bright, soft
glances had penetrated her, and suffused her life with a strange, happy
languor. The eyes that shed those glances were really not half so
fine as Adam's, which sometimes looked at her with a sad, beseeching
tenderness, but they had found a ready medium in Hetty's little
silly imagination, whereas Adam's could get no entrance through that
atmosphere. For three weeks, at least, her inward life had consisted of
little else than living through in memory the looks and words Arthur had
directed towards her--of little else than recalling the sensations with
which she heard his voice outside the house, and saw him enter, and
became conscious that his eyes were fixed on her, and then became
conscious that a tall figure, looking down on her with eyes that seemed
to touch her, was coming nearer in clothes of beautiful texture with an
odour like that of a flower-garden borne on the evening breeze. Foolish
thoughts! But all this happened, you must remember, nearly sixty years
ago, and Hetty was quite uneducated--a simple farmer's girl, to whom
a gentleman with a white hand was dazzling as an Olympian god. Until
to-day, she had never looked farther into the future than to the next
time Captain Donnithorne would come to the Farm, or the next Sunday when
she should see him at church; but now she thought, perhaps he would try
to meet her when she went to the Chase to-morrow--and if he should
speak to her, and walk a little way, when nobody was by! That had never
happened yet; and now her imagination, instead of retracing the past,
was busy fashioning what would happen to-morrow--whereabout in the
Chase she should see him coming towards her, how she should put her new
rose-coloured ribbon on, which he had never seen, and what he would say
to her to make her return his glance--a glance which she would be living
through in her memory, over and over again, all the rest of the day.

In this state of mind, how could Hetty give any feeling to Adam's
troubles, or think much about poor old Thias being drowned? Young souls,
in such pleasant delirium as hers are as unsympathetic as butterflies
sipping nectar; they are isolated from all appeals by a barrier of
dreams--by invisible looks and impalpable arms.

While Hetty's hands were busy packing up the butter, and her head filled
with these pictures of the morrow, Arthur Donnithorne, riding by Mr.
Irwine's side towards the valley of the Willow Brook, had also certain
indistinct anticipations, running as an undercurrent in his mind while
he was listening to Mr. Irwine's account of Dinah--indistinct, yet
strong enough to make him feel rather conscious when Mr. Irwine suddenly
said, "What fascinated you so in Mrs. Poyser's dairy, Arthur? Have you
become an amateur of damp quarries and skimming dishes?"

Arthur knew the rector too well to suppose that a clever invention would
be of any use, so he said, with his accustomed frankness, "No, I went to
look at the pretty butter-maker Hetty Sorrel. She's a perfect Hebe; and
if I were an artist, I would paint her. It's amazing what pretty girls
one sees among the farmers' daughters, when the men are such clowns.
That common, round, red face one sees sometimes in the men--all cheek
and no features, like Martin Poyser's--comes out in the women of the
famuly as the most charming phiz imaginable."

"Well, I have no objection to your contemplating Hetty in an artistic
light, but I must not have you feeding her vanity and filling her little
noddle with the notion that she's a great beauty, attractive to fine
gentlemen, or you will spoil her for a poor man's wife--honest Craig's,
for example, whom I have seen bestowing soft glances on her. The little
puss seems already to have airs enough to make a husband as miserable
as it's a law of nature for a quiet man to be when he marries a beauty.
Apropos of marrying, I hope our friend Adam will get settled, now the
poor old man's gone. He will only have his mother to keep in future, and
I've a notion that there's a kindness between him and that nice modest
girl, Mary Burge, from something that fell from old Jonathan one day
when I was talking to him. But when I mentioned the subject to Adam he
looked uneasy and turned the conversation. I suppose the love-making
doesn't run smooth, or perhaps Adam hangs back till he's in a better
position. He has independence of spirit enough for two men--rather an
excess of pride, if anything."

"That would be a capital match for Adam. He would slip into old Burge's
shoes and make a fine thing of that building business, I'll answer for
him. I should like to see him well settled in this parish; he would be
ready then to act as my grand-vizier when I wanted one. We could plan
no end of repairs and improvements together. I've never seen the girl,
though, I think--at least I've never looked at her."

"Look at her next Sunday at church--she sits with her father on the
left of the reading-desk. You needn't look quite so much at Hetty Sorrel
then. When I've made up my mind that I can't afford to buy a tempting
dog, I take no notice of him, because if he took a strong fancy to
me and looked lovingly at me, the struggle between arithmetic and
inclination might become unpleasantly severe. I pique myself on my
wisdom there, Arthur, and as an old fellow to whom wisdom had become
cheap, I bestow it upon you."

"Thank you. It may stand me in good stead some day though I don't
know that I have any present use for it. Bless me! How the brook has
overflowed. Suppose we have a canter, now we're at the bottom of the
hill."

That is the great advantage of dialogue on horseback; it can be merged
any minute into a trot or a canter, and one might have escaped from
Socrates himself in the saddle. The two friends were free from the
necessity of further conversation till they pulled up in the lane behind
Adam's cottage.



Chapter X

Dinah Visits Lisbeth


AT five o'clock Lisbeth came downstairs with a large key in her hand:
it was the key of the chamber where her husband lay dead. Throughout the
day, except in her occasional outbursts of wailing grief, she had been
in incessant movement, performing the initial duties to her dead with
the awe and exactitude that belong to religious rites. She had brought
out her little store of bleached linen, which she had for long years
kept in reserve for this supreme use. It seemed but yesterday--that time
so many midsummers ago, when she had told Thias where this linen lay,
that he might be sure and reach it out for her when SHE died, for she
was the elder of the two. Then there had been the work of cleansing to
the strictest purity every object in the sacred chamber, and of removing
from it every trace of common daily occupation. The small window, which
had hitherto freely let in the frosty moonlight or the warm summer
sunrise on the working man's slumber, must now be darkened with a fair
white sheet, for this was the sleep which is as sacred under the bare
rafters as in ceiled houses. Lisbeth had even mended a long-neglected
and unnoticeable rent in the checkered bit of bed-curtain; for the
moments were few and precious now in which she would be able to do the
smallest office of respect or love for the still corpse, to which in all
her thoughts she attributed some consciousness. Our dead are never dead
to us until we have forgotten them: they can be injured by us, they can
be wounded; they know all our penitence, all our aching sense that their
place is empty, all the kisses we bestow on the smallest relic of their
presence. And the aged peasant woman most of all believes that her dead
are conscious. Decent burial was what Lisbeth had been thinking of for
herself through years of thrift, with an indistinct expectation that she
should know when she was being carried to the churchyard, followed by
her husband and her sons; and now she felt as if the greatest work of
her life were to be done in seeing that Thias was buried decently before
her--under the white thorn, where once, in a dream, she had thought she
lay in the coffin, yet all the while saw the sunshine above and smelt
the white blossoms that were so thick upon the thorn the Sunday she went
to be churched after Adam was born.

But now she had done everything that could be done to-day in the chamber
of death--had done it all herself, with some aid from her sons in
lifting, for she would let no one be fetched to help her from the
village, not being fond of female neighbours generally; and her
favourite Dolly, the old housekeeper at Mr. Burge's, who had come to
condole with her in the morning as soon as she heard of Thias's death,
was too dim-sighted to be of much use. She had locked the door, and now
held the key in her hand, as she threw herself wearily into a chair
that stood out of its place in the middle of the house floor, where in
ordinary times she would never have consented to sit. The kitchen had
had none of her attention that day; it was soiled with the tread of
muddy shoes and untidy with clothes and other objects out of place. But
what at another time would have been intolerable to Lisbeth's habits
of order and cleanliness seemed to her now just what should be: it was
right that things should look strange and disordered and wretched, now
the old man had come to his end in that sad way; the kitchen ought not
to look as if nothing had happened. Adam, overcome with the agitations
and exertions of the day after his night of hard work, had fallen asleep
on a bench in the workshop; and Seth was in the back kitchen making a
fire of sticks that he might get the kettle to boil, and persuade his
mother to have a cup of tea, an indulgence which she rarely allowed
herself.

There was no one in the kitchen when Lisbeth entered and threw herself
into the chair. She looked round with blank eyes at the dirt and
confusion on which the bright afternoon's sun shone dismally; it was
all of a piece with the sad confusion of her mind--that confusion which
belongs to the first hours of a sudden sorrow, when the poor human soul
is like one who has been deposited sleeping among the ruins of a vast
city, and wakes up in dreary amazement, not knowing whether it is
the growing or the dying day--not knowing why and whence came this
illimitable scene of desolation, or why he too finds himself desolate in
the midst of it.

At another time Lisbeth's first thought would have been, "Where is
Adam?" but the sudden death of her husband had restored him in
these hours to that first place in her affections which he had held
six-and-twenty years ago. She had forgotten his faults as we forget the
sorrows of our departed childhood, and thought of nothing but the young
husband's kindness and the old man's patience. Her eyes continued
to wander blankly until Seth came in and began to remove some of the
scattered things, and clear the small round deal table that he might set
out his mother's tea upon it.

"What art goin' to do?" she said, rather peevishly.

"I want thee to have a cup of tea, Mother," answered Seth, tenderly.
"It'll do thee good; and I'll put two or three of these things away, and
make the house look more comfortable."

"Comfortable! How canst talk o' ma'in' things comfortable? Let a-be, let
a-be. There's no comfort for me no more," she went on, the tears coming
when she began to speak, "now thy poor feyther's gone, as I'n washed for
and mended, an' got's victual for him for thirty 'ear, an' him allays
so pleased wi' iverything I done for him, an' used to be so handy an' do
the jobs for me when I war ill an' cumbered wi' th' babby, an' made me
the posset an' brought it upstairs as proud as could be, an' carried the
lad as war as heavy as two children for five mile an' ne'er grumbled,
all the way to Warson Wake, 'cause I wanted to go an' see my sister, as
war dead an' gone the very next Christmas as e'er come. An' him to be
drownded in the brook as we passed o'er the day we war married an'
come home together, an' he'd made them lots o' shelves for me to put my
plates an' things on, an' showed 'em me as proud as could be, 'cause he
know'd I should be pleased. An' he war to die an' me not to know, but to
be a-sleepin' i' my bed, as if I caredna nought about it. Eh! An' me to
live to see that! An' us as war young folks once, an' thought we should
do rarely when we war married. Let a-be, lad, let a-be! I wonna ha'
no tay. I carena if I ne'er ate nor drink no more. When one end o' th'
bridge tumbles down, where's th' use o' th' other stannin'? I may's well
die, an' foller my old man. There's no knowin' but he'll want me."

Here Lisbeth broke from words into moans, swaying herself backwards and
forwards on her chair. Seth, always timid in his behaviour towards his
mother, from the sense that he had no influence over her, felt it was
useless to attempt to persuade or soothe her till this passion was past;
so he contented himself with tending the back kitchen fire and folding
up his father's clothes, which had been hanging out to dry since
morning--afraid to move about in the room where his mother was, lest he
should irritate her further.

But after Lisbeth had been rocking herself and moaning for some minutes,
she suddenly paused and said aloud to herself, "I'll go an' see arter
Adam, for I canna think where he's gotten; an' I want him to go upstairs
wi' me afore it's dark, for the minutes to look at the corpse is like
the meltin' snow."

Seth overheard this, and coming into the kitchen again, as his mother
rose from her chair, he said, "Adam's asleep in the workshop, mother.
Thee'dst better not wake him. He was o'erwrought with work and trouble."

"Wake him? Who's a-goin' to wake him? I shanna wake him wi' lookin' at
him. I hanna seen the lad this two hour--I'd welly forgot as he'd e'er
growed up from a babby when's feyther carried him."

Adam was seated on a rough bench, his head supported by his arm, which
rested from the shoulder to the elbow on the long planing-table in
the middle of the workshop. It seemed as if he had sat down for a few
minutes' rest and had fallen asleep without slipping from his first
attitude of sad, fatigued thought. His face, unwashed since yesterday,
looked pallid and clammy; his hair was tossed shaggily about his
forehead, and his closed eyes had the sunken look which follows upon
watching and sorrow. His brow was knit, and his whole face had an
expression of weariness and pain. Gyp was evidently uneasy, for he sat
on his haunches, resting his nose on his master's stretched-out leg, and
dividing the time between licking the hand that hung listlessly down and
glancing with a listening air towards the door. The poor dog was
hungry and restless, but would not leave his master, and was waiting
impatiently for some change in the scene. It was owing to this feeling
on Gyp's part that, when Lisbeth came into the workshop and advanced
towards Adam as noiselessly as she could, her intention not to awaken
him was immediately defeated; for Gyp's excitement was too great to find
vent in anything short of a sharp bark, and in a moment Adam opened his
eyes and saw his mother standing before him. It was not very unlike his
dream, for his sleep had been little more than living through again, in
a fevered delirious way, all that had happened since daybreak, and his
mother with her fretful grief was present to him through it all. The
chief difference between the reality and the vision was that in
his dream Hetty was continually coming before him in bodily
presence--strangely mingling herself as an actor in scenes with which
she had nothing to do. She was even by the Willow Brook; she made his
mother angry by coming into the house; and he met her with her smart
clothes quite wet through, as he walked in the rain to Treddleston, to
tell the coroner. But wherever Hetty came, his mother was sure to follow
soon; and when he opened his eyes, it was not at all startling to see
her standing near him.

"Eh, my lad, my lad!" Lisbeth burst out immediately, her wailing impulse
returning, for grief in its freshness feels the need of associating its
loss and its lament with every change of scene and incident, "thee'st
got nobody now but thy old mother to torment thee and be a burden to
thee. Thy poor feyther 'ull ne'er anger thee no more; an' thy mother
may's well go arter him--the sooner the better--for I'm no good to
nobody now. One old coat 'ull do to patch another, but it's good for
nought else. Thee'dst like to ha' a wife to mend thy clothes an' get thy
victual, better nor thy old mother. An' I shall be nought but cumber,
a-sittin' i' th' chimney-corner. (Adam winced and moved uneasily; he
dreaded, of all things, to hear his mother speak of Hetty.) But if
thy feyther had lived, he'd ne'er ha' wanted me to go to make room for
another, for he could no more ha' done wi'out me nor one side o' the
scissars can do wi'out th' other. Eh, we should ha' been both flung away
together, an' then I shouldna ha' seen this day, an' one buryin' 'ud ha'
done for us both."

Here Lisbeth paused, but Adam sat in pained silence--he could not speak
otherwise than tenderly to his mother to-day, but he could not help
being irritated by this plaint. It was not possible for poor Lisbeth to
know how it affected Adam any more than it is possible for a wounded
dog to know how his moans affect the nerves of his master. Like all
complaining women, she complained in the expectation of being soothed,
and when Adam said nothing, she was only prompted to complain more
bitterly.

"I know thee couldst do better wi'out me, for thee couldst go where thee
likedst an' marry them as thee likedst. But I donna want to say thee
nay, let thee bring home who thee wut; I'd ne'er open my lips to find
faut, for when folks is old an' o' no use, they may think theirsens well
off to get the bit an' the sup, though they'n to swallow ill words wi't.
An' if thee'st set thy heart on a lass as'll bring thee nought and waste
all, when thee mightst ha' them as 'ud make a man on thee, I'll say
nought, now thy feyther's dead an' drownded, for I'm no better nor an
old haft when the blade's gone."

Adam, unable to bear this any longer, rose silently from the bench and
walked out of the workshop into the kitchen. But Lisbeth followed him.

"Thee wutna go upstairs an' see thy feyther then? I'n done everythin'
now, an' he'd like thee to go an' look at him, for he war allays so
pleased when thee wast mild to him."

Adam turned round at once and said, "Yes, mother; let us go upstairs.
Come, Seth, let us go together."

They went upstairs, and for five minutes all was silence. Then the key
was turned again, and there was a sound of footsteps on the stairs. But
Adam did not come down again; he was too weary and worn-out to encounter
more of his mother's querulous grief, and he went to rest on his bed.
Lisbeth no sooner entered the kitchen and sat down than she threw her
apron over her head, and began to cry and moan and rock herself as
before. Seth thought, "She will be quieter by and by, now we have been
upstairs"; and he went into the back kitchen again, to tend his little
fire, hoping that he should presently induce her to have some tea.

Lisbeth had been rocking herself in this way for more than five minutes,
giving a low moan with every forward movement of her body, when she
suddenly felt a hand placed gently on hers, and a sweet treble voice
said to her, "Dear sister, the Lord has sent me to see if I can be a
comfort to you."

Lisbeth paused, in a listening attitude, without removing her apron from
her face. The voice was strange to her. Could it be her sister's spirit
come back to her from the dead after all those years? She trembled and
dared not look.

Dinah, believing that this pause of wonder was in itself a relief for
the sorrowing woman, said no more just yet, but quietly took off her
bonnet, and then, motioning silence to Seth, who, on hearing her voice,
had come in with a beating heart, laid one hand on the back of Lisbeth's
chair and leaned over her, that she might be aware of a friendly
presence.

Slowly Lisbeth drew down her apron, and timidly she opened her dim
dark eyes. She saw nothing at first but a face--a pure, pale face, with
loving grey eyes, and it was quite unknown to her. Her wonder increased;
perhaps it WAS an angel. But in the same instant Dinah had laid her hand
on Lisbeth's again, and the old woman looked down at it. It was a much
smaller hand than her own, but it was not white and delicate, for Dinah
had never worn a glove in her life, and her hand bore the traces of
labour from her childhood upwards. Lisbeth looked earnestly at the hand
for a moment, and then, fixing her eyes again on Dinah's face, said,
with something of restored courage, but in a tone of surprise, "Why,
ye're a workin' woman!"

"Yes, I am Dinah Morris, and I work in the cotton-mill when I am at
home."

"Ah!" said Lisbeth slowly, still wondering; "ye comed in so light, like
the shadow on the wall, an' spoke i' my ear, as I thought ye might be a
sperrit. Ye've got a'most the face o' one as is a-sittin' on the grave
i' Adam's new Bible."

"I come from the Hall Farm now. You know Mrs. Poyser--she's my aunt, and
she has heard of your great affliction, and is very sorry; and I'm come
to see if I can be any help to you in your trouble; for I know your sons
Adam and Seth, and I know you have no daughter; and when the clergyman
told me how the hand of God was heavy upon you, my heart went out
towards you, and I felt a command to come and be to you in the place of
a daughter in this grief, if you will let me."

"Ah! I know who y' are now; y' are a Methody, like Seth; he's tould
me on you," said Lisbeth fretfully, her overpowering sense of pain
returning, now her wonder was gone. "Ye'll make it out as trouble's a
good thing, like HE allays does. But where's the use o' talkin' to me
a-that'n? Ye canna make the smart less wi' talkin'. Ye'll ne'er make me
believe as it's better for me not to ha' my old man die in's bed, if he
must die, an' ha' the parson to pray by him, an' me to sit by him, an'
tell him ne'er to mind th' ill words I've gi'en him sometimes when I war
angered, an' to gi' him a bit an' a sup, as long as a bit an' a sup
he'd swallow. But eh! To die i' the cold water, an' us close to him, an'
ne'er to know; an' me a-sleepin', as if I ne'er belonged to him no more
nor if he'd been a journeyman tramp from nobody knows where!"

Here Lisbeth began to cry and rock herself again; and Dinah said, "Yes,
dear friend, your affliction is great. It would be hardness of heart to
say that your trouble was not heavy to bear. God didn't send me to you
to make light of your sorrow, but to mourn with you, if you will let me.
If you had a table spread for a feast, and was making merry with your
friends, you would think it was kind to let me come and sit down and
rejoice with you, because you'd think I should like to share those
good things; but I should like better to share in your trouble and your
labour, and it would seem harder to me if you denied me that. You won't
send me away? You're not angry with me for coming?"

"Nay, nay; angered! who said I war angered? It war good on you to come.
An' Seth, why donna ye get her some tay? Ye war in a hurry to get some
for me, as had no need, but ye donna think o' gettin' 't for them as
wants it. Sit ye down; sit ye down. I thank you kindly for comin', for
it's little wage ye get by walkin' through the wet fields to see an old
woman like me....Nay, I'n got no daughter o' my own--ne'er had one--an'
I warna sorry, for they're poor queechy things, gells is; I allays
wanted to ha' lads, as could fend for theirsens. An' the lads 'ull be
marryin'--I shall ha' daughters eno', an' too many. But now, do ye make
the tay as ye like it, for I'n got no taste i' my mouth this day--it's
all one what I swaller--it's all got the taste o' sorrow wi't."

Dinah took care not to betray that she had had her tea, and accepted
Lisbeth's invitation very readily, for the sake of persuading the old
woman herself to take the food and drink she so much needed after a day
of hard work and fasting.

Seth was so happy now Dinah was in the house that he could not help
thinking her presence was worth purchasing with a life in which grief
incessantly followed upon grief; but the next moment he reproached
himself--it was almost as if he were rejoicing in his father's sad
death. Nevertheless the joy of being with Dinah WOULD triumph--it was
like the influence of climate, which no resistance can overcome. And the
feeling even suffused itself over his face so as to attract his mother's
notice, while she was drinking her tea.

"Thee may'st well talk o' trouble bein' a good thing, Seth, for thee
thriv'st on't. Thee look'st as if thee know'dst no more o' care an'
cumber nor when thee wast a babby a-lyin' awake i' th' cradle. For
thee'dst allays lie still wi' thy eyes open, an' Adam ne'er 'ud lie
still a minute when he wakened. Thee wast allays like a bag o' meal as
can ne'er be bruised--though, for the matter o' that, thy poor feyther
war just such another. But ye've got the same look too" (here Lisbeth
turned to Dinah). "I reckon it's wi' bein' a Methody. Not as I'm
a-findin' faut wi' ye for't, for ye've no call to be frettin', an'
somehow ye looken sorry too. Eh! Well, if the Methodies are fond o'
trouble, they're like to thrive: it's a pity they canna ha't all, an'
take it away from them as donna like it. I could ha' gi'en 'em plenty;
for when I'd gotten my old man I war worreted from morn till night; and
now he's gone, I'd be glad for the worst o'er again."

"Yes," said Dinah, careful not to oppose any feeling of Lisbeth's, for
her reliance, in her smallest words and deeds, on a divine guidance,
always issued in that finest woman's tact which proceeds from acute and
ready sympathy; "yes, I remember too, when my dear aunt died, I longed
for the sound of her bad cough in the nights, instead of the silence
that came when she was gone. But now, dear friend, drink this other cup
of tea and eat a little more."

"What!" said Lisbeth, taking the cup and speaking in a less querulous
tone, "had ye got no feyther and mother, then, as ye war so sorry about
your aunt?"

"No, I never knew a father or mother; my aunt brought me up from a baby.
She had no children, for she was never married and she brought me up as
tenderly as if I'd been her own child."

"Eh, she'd fine work wi' ye, I'll warrant, bringin' ye up from a babby,
an' her a lone woman--it's ill bringin' up a cade lamb. But I daresay
ye warna franzy, for ye look as if ye'd ne'er been angered i' your life.
But what did ye do when your aunt died, an' why didna ye come to live in
this country, bein' as Mrs. Poyser's your aunt too?"

Dinah, seeing that Lisbeth's attention was attracted, told her the story
of her early life--how she had been brought up to work hard, and
what sort of place Snowfield was, and how many people had a hard life
there--all the details that she thought likely to interest Lisbeth. The
old woman listened, and forgot to be fretful, unconsciously subject to
the soothing influence of Dinah's face and voice. After a while she was
persuaded to let the kitchen be made tidy; for Dinah was bent on this,
believing that the sense of order and quietude around her would help in
disposing Lisbeth to join in the prayer she longed to pour forth at her
side. Seth, meanwhile, went out to chop wood, for he surmised that Dinah
would like to be left alone with his mother.

Lisbeth sat watching her as she moved about in her still quick way, and
said at last, "Ye've got a notion o' cleanin' up. I wouldna mind ha'in
ye for a daughter, for ye wouldna spend the lad's wage i' fine clothes
an' waste. Ye're not like the lasses o' this countryside. I reckon folks
is different at Snowfield from what they are here."

"They have a different sort of life, many of 'em," said Dinah; "they
work at different things--some in the mill, and many in the mines, in
the villages round about. But the heart of man is the same everywhere,
and there are the children of this world and the children of light there
as well as elsewhere. But we've many more Methodists there than in this
country."

"Well, I didna know as the Methody women war like ye, for there's Will
Maskery's wife, as they say's a big Methody, isna pleasant to look at,
at all. I'd as lief look at a tooad. An' I'm thinkin' I wouldna mind if
ye'd stay an' sleep here, for I should like to see ye i' th' house i'
th' mornin'. But mayhappen they'll be lookin for ye at Mester Poyser's."

"No," said Dinah, "they don't expect me, and I should like to stay, if
you'll let me."

"Well, there's room; I'n got my bed laid i' th' little room o'er the
back kitchen, an' ye can lie beside me. I'd be glad to ha' ye wi' me to
speak to i' th' night, for ye've got a nice way o' talkin'. It puts me
i' mind o' the swallows as was under the thack last 'ear when they fust
begun to sing low an' soft-like i' th' mornin'. Eh, but my old man war
fond o' them birds! An' so war Adam, but they'n ne'er comed again this
'ear. Happen THEY'RE dead too."

"There," said Dinah, "now the kitchen looks tidy, and now, dear
Mother--for I'm your daughter to-night, you know--I should like you to
wash your face and have a clean cap on. Do you remember what David did,
when God took away his child from him? While the child was yet alive
he fasted and prayed to God to spare it, and he would neither eat nor
drink, but lay on the ground all night, beseeching God for the child.
But when he knew it was dead, he rose up from the ground and washed and
anointed himself, and changed his clothes, and ate and drank; and when
they asked him how it was that he seemed to have left off grieving now
the child was dead, he said, 'While the child was yet alive, I fasted
and wept; for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me,
that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast?
Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return
to me.'"

"Eh, that's a true word," said Lisbeth. "Yea, my old man wonna come back
to me, but I shall go to him--the sooner the better. Well, ye may do as
ye like wi' me: there's a clean cap i' that drawer, an' I'll go i' the
back kitchen an' wash my face. An' Seth, thee may'st reach down Adam's
new Bible wi' th' picters in, an' she shall read us a chapter. Eh, I
like them words--'I shall go to him, but he wonna come back to me.'"

Dinah and Seth were both inwardly offering thanks for the greater
quietness of spirit that had come over Lisbeth. This was what Dinah had
been trying to bring about, through all her still sympathy and absence
from exhortation. From her girlhood upwards she had had experience among
the sick and the mourning, among minds hardened and shrivelled through
poverty and ignorance, and had gained the subtlest perception of the
mode in which they could best be touched and softened into willingness
to receive words of spiritual consolation or warning. As Dinah expressed
it, "she was never left to herself; but it was always given her when to
keep silence and when to speak." And do we not all agree to call rapid
thought and noble impulse by the name of inspiration? After our subtlest
analysis of the mental process, we must still say, as Dinah did, that
our highest thoughts and our best deeds are all given to us.

And so there was earnest prayer--there was faith, love, and hope pouring
forth that evening in the little kitchen. And poor, aged, fretful
Lisbeth, without grasping any distinct idea, without going through any
course of religious emotions, felt a vague sense of goodness and love,
and of something right lying underneath and beyond all this sorrowing
life. She couldn't understand the sorrow; but, for these moments, under
the subduing influence of Dinah's spirit, she felt that she must be
patient and still.



Chapter XI

In the Cottage


IT was but half-past four the next morning when Dinah, tired of lying
awake listening to the birds and watching the growing light through the
little window in the garret roof, rose and began to dress herself very
quietly, lest she should disturb Lisbeth. But already some one else was
astir in the house, and had gone downstairs, preceded by Gyp. The dog's
pattering step was a sure sign that it was Adam who went down; but Dinah
was not aware of this, and she thought it was more likely to be Seth,
for he had told her how Adam had stayed up working the night before.
Seth, however, had only just awakened at the sound of the opening
door. The exciting influence of the previous day, heightened at last
by Dinah's unexpected presence, had not been counteracted by any bodily
weariness, for he had not done his ordinary amount of hard work; and so
when he went to bed; it was not till he had tired himself with hours of
tossing wakefulness that drowsiness came, and led on a heavier morning
sleep than was usual with him.

But Adam had been refreshed by his long rest, and with his habitual
impatience of mere passivity, he was eager to begin the new day and
subdue sadness by his strong will and strong arm. The white mist lay in
the valley; it was going to be a bright warm day, and he would start to
work again when he had had his breakfast.

"There's nothing but what's bearable as long as a man can work," he said
to himself; "the natur o' things doesn't change, though it seems as if
one's own life was nothing but change. The square o' four is sixteen,
and you must lengthen your lever in proportion to your weight, is as
true when a man's miserable as when he's happy; and the best o' working
is, it gives you a grip hold o' things outside your own lot."

As he dashed the cold water over his head and face, he felt completely
himself again, and with his black eyes as keen as ever and his thick
black hair all glistening with the fresh moisture, he went into the
workshop to look out the wood for his father's coffin, intending that
he and Seth should carry it with them to Jonathan Burge's and have the
coffin made by one of the workmen there, so that his mother might not
see and hear the sad task going forward at home.

He had just gone into the workshop when his quick ear detected a light
rapid foot on the stairs--certainly not his mother's. He had been in bed
and asleep when Dinah had come in, in the evening, and now he wondered
whose step this could be. A foolish thought came, and moved him
strangely. As if it could be Hetty! She was the last person likely to
be in the house. And yet he felt reluctant to go and look and have the
clear proof that it was some one else. He stood leaning on a plank he
had taken hold of, listening to sounds which his imagination interpreted
for him so pleasantly that the keen strong face became suffused with a
timid tenderness. The light footstep moved about the kitchen, followed
by the sound of the sweeping brush, hardly making so much noise as the
lightest breeze that chases the autumn leaves along the dusty path; and
Adam's imagination saw a dimpled face, with dark bright eyes and roguish
smiles looking backward at this brush, and a rounded figure just leaning
a little to clasp the handle. A very foolish thought--it could not be
Hetty; but the only way of dismissing such nonsense from his head was
to go and see WHO it was, for his fancy only got nearer and nearer to
belief while he stood there listening. He loosed the plank and went to
the kitchen door.

"How do you do, Adam Bede?" said Dinah, in her calm treble, pausing from
her sweeping and fixing her mild grave eyes upon him. "I trust you feel
rested and strengthened again to bear the burden and heat of the day."

It was like dreaming of the sunshine and awaking in the moonlight. Adam
had seen Dinah several times, but always at the Hall Farm, where he was
not very vividly conscious of any woman's presence except Hetty's, and
he had only in the last day or two begun to suspect that Seth was in
love with her, so that his attention had not hitherto been drawn towards
her for his brother's sake. But now her slim figure, her plain black
gown, and her pale serene face impressed him with all the force that
belongs to a reality contrasted with a preoccupying fancy. For the
first moment or two he made no answer, but looked at her with the
concentrated, examining glance which a man gives to an object in which
he has suddenly begun to be interested. Dinah, for the first time in her
life, felt a painful self-consciousness; there was something in the dark
penetrating glance of this strong man so different from the mildness and
timidity of his brother Seth. A faint blush came, which deepened as she
wondered at it. This blush recalled Adam from his forgetfulness.

"I was quite taken by surprise; it was very good of you to come and see
my mother in her trouble," he said, in a gentle grateful tone, for his
quick mind told him at once how she came to be there. "I hope my mother
was thankful to have you," he added, wondering rather anxiously what had
been Dinah's reception.

"Yes," said Dinah, resuming her work, "she seemed greatly comforted
after a while, and she's had a good deal of rest in the night, by times.
She was fast asleep when I left her."

"Who was it took the news to the Hall Farm?" said Adam, his thoughts
reverting to some one there; he wondered whether SHE had felt anything
about it.

"It was Mr. Irwine, the clergyman, told me, and my aunt was grieved
for your mother when she heard it, and wanted me to come; and so is my
uncle, I'm sure, now he's heard it, but he was gone out to Rosseter all
yesterday. They'll look for you there as soon as you've got time to go,
for there's nobody round that hearth but what's glad to see you."

Dinah, with her sympathetic divination, knew quite well that Adam was
longing to hear if Hetty had said anything about their trouble; she was
too rigorously truthful for benevolent invention, but she had contrived
to say something in which Hetty was tacitly included. Love has a way
of cheating itself consciously, like a child who plays at solitary
hide-and-seek; it is pleased with assurances that it all the while
disbelieves. Adam liked what Dinah had said so much that his mind was
directly full of the next visit he should pay to the Hall Farm, when
Hetty would perhaps behave more kindly to him than she had ever done
before.

"But you won't be there yourself any longer?" he said to Dinah.

"No, I go back to Snowfield on Saturday, and I shall have to set out to
Treddleston early, to be in time for the Oakbourne carrier. So I must go
back to the farm to-night, that I may have the last day with my aunt and
her children. But I can stay here all to-day, if your mother would like
me; and her heart seemed inclined towards me last night."

"Ah, then, she's sure to want you to-day. If mother takes to people at
the beginning, she's sure to get fond of 'em; but she's a strange way of
not liking young women. Though, to be sure," Adam went on, smiling, "her
not liking other young women is no reason why she shouldn't like you."

Hitherto Gyp had been assisting at this conversation in motionless
silence, seated on his haunches, and alternately looking up in his
master's face to watch its expression and observing Dinah's movements
about the kitchen. The kind smile with which Adam uttered the last words
was apparently decisive with Gyp of the light in which the stranger
was to be regarded, and as she turned round after putting aside her
sweeping-brush, he trotted towards her and put up his muzzle against her
hand in a friendly way.

"You see Gyp bids you welcome," said Adam, "and he's very slow to
welcome strangers."

"Poor dog!" said Dinah, patting the rough grey coat, "I've a strange
feeling about the dumb things as if they wanted to speak, and it was a
trouble to 'em because they couldn't. I can't help being sorry for the
dogs always, though perhaps there's no need. But they may well have more
in them than they know how to make us understand, for we can't say half
what we feel, with all our words."

Seth came down now, and was pleased to find Adam talking with Dinah; he
wanted Adam to know how much better she was than all other women.
But after a few words of greeting, Adam drew him into the workshop to
consult about the coffin, and Dinah went on with her cleaning.

By six o'clock they were all at breakfast with Lisbeth in a kitchen as
clean as she could have made it herself. The window and door were open,
and the morning air brought with it a mingled scent of southernwood,
thyme, and sweet-briar from the patch of garden by the side of the
cottage. Dinah did not sit down at first, but moved about, serving the
others with the warm porridge and the toasted oat-cake, which she had
got ready in the usual way, for she had asked Seth to tell her just what
his mother gave them for breakfast. Lisbeth had been unusually silent
since she came downstairs, apparently requiring some time to adjust her
ideas to a state of things in which she came down like a lady to find
all the work done, and sat still to be waited on. Her new sensations
seemed to exclude the remembrance of her grief. At last, after tasting
the porridge, she broke silence:

"Ye might ha' made the parridge worse," she said to Dinah; "I can ate it
wi'out its turnin' my stomach. It might ha' been a trifle thicker an' no
harm, an' I allays putten a sprig o' mint in mysen; but how's ye t' know
that? The lads arena like to get folks as 'll make their parridge as I'n
made it for 'em; it's well if they get onybody as 'll make parridge at
all. But ye might do, wi' a bit o' showin'; for ye're a stirrin' body
in a mornin', an' ye've a light heel, an' ye've cleaned th' house well
enough for a ma'shift."

"Makeshift, mother?" said Adam. "Why, I think the house looks beautiful.
I don't know how it could look better."

"Thee dostna know? Nay; how's thee to know? Th' men ne'er know whether
the floor's cleaned or cat-licked. But thee'lt know when thee gets thy
parridge burnt, as it's like enough to be when I'n gi'en o'er makin' it.
Thee'lt think thy mother war good for summat then."

"Dinah," said Seth, "do come and sit down now and have your breakfast.
We're all served now."

"Aye, come an' sit ye down--do," said Lisbeth, "an' ate a morsel; ye'd
need, arter bein' upo' your legs this hour an' half a'ready. Come,
then," she added, in a tone of complaining affection, as Dinah sat down
by her side, "I'll be loath for ye t' go, but ye canna stay much longer,
I doubt. I could put up wi' ye i' th' house better nor wi' most folks."

"I'll stay till to-night if you're willing," said Dinah. "I'd stay
longer, only I'm going back to Snowfield on Saturday, and I must be with
my aunt to-morrow."

"Eh, I'd ne'er go back to that country. My old man come from that
Stonyshire side, but he left it when he war a young un, an' i' the right
on't too; for he said as there war no wood there, an' it 'ud ha' been a
bad country for a carpenter."

"Ah," said Adam, "I remember father telling me when I was a little lad
that he made up his mind if ever he moved it should be south'ard. But
I'm not so sure about it. Bartle Massey says--and he knows the South--as
the northern men are a finer breed than the southern, harder-headed and
stronger-bodied, and a deal taller. And then he says in some o' those
counties it's as flat as the back o' your hand, and you can see nothing
of a distance without climbing up the highest trees. I couldn't abide
that. I like to go to work by a road that'll take me up a bit of a hill,
and see the fields for miles round me, and a bridge, or a town, or a bit
of a steeple here and there. It makes you feel the world's a big place,
and there's other men working in it with their heads and hands besides
yourself."

"I like th' hills best," said Seth, "when the clouds are over your head
and you see the sun shining ever so far off, over the Loamford way, as
I've often done o' late, on the stormy days. It seems to me as if that
was heaven where there's always joy and sunshine, though this life's
dark and cloudy."

"Oh, I love the Stonyshire side," said Dinah; "I shouldn't like to set
my face towards the countries where they're rich in corn and cattle, and
the ground so level and easy to tread; and to turn my back on the hills
where the poor people have to live such a hard life and the men spend
their days in the mines away from the sunlight. It's very blessed on a
bleak cold day, when the sky is hanging dark over the hill, to feel
the love of God in one's soul, and carry it to the lonely, bare, stone
houses, where there's nothing else to give comfort."

"Eh!" said Lisbeth, "that's very well for ye to talk, as looks welly
like the snowdrop-flowers as ha' lived for days an' days when I'n
gethered 'em, wi' nothin' but a drop o' water an' a peep o' daylight;
but th' hungry foulks had better leave th' hungry country. It makes less
mouths for the scant cake. But," she went on, looking at Adam, "donna
thee talk o' goin' south'ard or north'ard, an' leavin' thy feyther and
mother i' the churchyard, an' goin' to a country as they know nothin'
on. I'll ne'er rest i' my grave if I donna see thee i' the churchyard of
a Sunday."

"Donna fear, mother," said Adam. "If I hadna made up my mind not to go,
I should ha' been gone before now."

He had finished his breakfast now, and rose as he was speaking.

"What art goin' to do?" asked Lisbeth. "Set about thy feyther's coffin?"

"No, mother," said Adam; "we're going to take the wood to the village
and have it made there."

"Nay, my lad, nay," Lisbeth burst out in an eager, wailing tone; "thee
wotna let nobody make thy feyther's coffin but thysen? Who'd make it
so well? An' him as know'd what good work war, an's got a son as is the
head o' the village an' all Treddles'on too, for cleverness."

"Very well, mother, if that's thy wish, I'll make the coffin at home;
but I thought thee wouldstna like to hear the work going on."

"An' why shouldna I like 't? It's the right thing to be done. An' what's
liking got to do wi't? It's choice o' mislikings is all I'n got i' this
world. One morsel's as good as another when your mouth's out o' taste.
Thee mun set about it now this mornin' fust thing. I wonna ha' nobody to
touch the coffin but thee."

Adam's eyes met Seth's, which looked from Dinah to him rather wistfully.

"No, Mother," he said, "I'll not consent but Seth shall have a hand
in it too, if it's to be done at home. I'll go to the village this
forenoon, because Mr. Burge 'ull want to see me, and Seth shall stay at
home and begin the coffin. I can come back at noon, and then he can go."

"Nay, nay," persisted Lisbeth, beginning to cry, "I'n set my heart on't
as thee shalt ma' thy feyther's coffin. Thee't so stiff an' masterful,
thee't ne'er do as thy mother wants thee. Thee wast often angered wi'
thy feyther when he war alive; thee must be the better to him now he's
gone. He'd ha' thought nothin' on't for Seth to ma's coffin."

"Say no more, Adam, say no more," said Seth, gently, though his voice
told that he spoke with some effort; "Mother's in the right. I'll go to
work, and do thee stay at home."

He passed into the workshop immediately, followed by Adam; while
Lisbeth, automatically obeying her old habits, began to put away the
breakfast things, as if she did not mean Dinah to take her place any
longer. Dinah said nothing, but presently used the opportunity of
quietly joining the brothers in the workshop.

They had already got on their aprons and paper caps, and Adam was
standing with his left hand on Seth's shoulder, while he pointed with
the hammer in his right to some boards which they were looking at. Their
backs were turned towards the door by which Dinah entered, and she came
in so gently that they were not aware of her presence till they heard
her voice saying, "Seth Bede!" Seth started, and they both turned round.
Dinah looked as if she did not see Adam, and fixed her eyes on Seth's
face, saying with calm kindness, "I won't say farewell. I shall see you
again when you come from work. So as I'm at the farm before dark, it
will be quite soon enough."

"Thank you, Dinah; I should like to walk home with you once more. It'll
perhaps be the last time."

There was a little tremor in Seth's voice. Dinah put out her hand and
said, "You'll have sweet peace in your mind to-day, Seth, for your
tenderness and long-suffering towards your aged mother."

She turned round and left the workshop as quickly and quietly as she had
entered it. Adam had been observing her closely all the while, but she
had not looked at him. As soon as she was gone, he said, "I don't wonder
at thee for loving her, Seth. She's got a face like a lily."

Seth's soul rushed to his eyes and lips: he had never yet confessed his
secret to Adam, but now he felt a delicious sense of disburdenment,
as he answered, "Aye, Addy, I do love her--too much, I doubt. But she
doesna love me, lad, only as one child o' God loves another. She'll
never love any man as a husband--that's my belief."

"Nay, lad, there's no telling; thee mustna lose heart. She's made out
o' stuff with a finer grain than most o' the women; I can see that clear
enough. But if she's better than they are in other things, I canna think
she'll fall short of 'em in loving."

No more was said. Seth set out to the village, and Adam began his work
on the coffin.

"God help the lad, and me too," he thought, as he lifted the board.
"We're like enough to find life a tough job--hard work inside and out.
It's a strange thing to think of a man as can lift a chair with his
teeth and walk fifty mile on end, trembling and turning hot and cold
at only a look from one woman out of all the rest i' the world. It's a
mystery we can give no account of; but no more we can of the sprouting
o' the seed, for that matter."



Chapter XII

In the Wood


THAT same Thursday morning, as Arthur Donnithorne was moving about in
his dressing-room seeing his well-looking British person reflected in
the old-fashioned mirrors, and stared at, from a dingy olive-green piece
of tapestry, by Pharaoh's daughter and her maidens, who ought to have
been minding the infant Moses, he was holding a discussion with himself,
which, by the time his valet was tying the black silk sling over his
shoulder, had issued in a distinct practical resolution.

"I mean to go to Eagledale and fish for a week or so," he said aloud.
"I shall take you with me, Pym, and set off this morning; so be ready by
half-past eleven."

The low whistle, which had assisted him in arriving at this resolution,
here broke out into his loudest ringing tenor, and the corridor, as he
hurried along it, echoed to his favourite song from the Beggar's Opera,
"When the heart of a man is oppressed with care." Not an heroic strain;
nevertheless Arthur felt himself very heroic as he strode towards the
stables to give his orders about the horses. His own approbation was
necessary to him, and it was not an approbation to be enjoyed quite
gratuitously; it must be won by a fair amount of merit. He had never yet
forfeited that approbation, and he had considerable reliance on his own
virtues. No young man could confess his faults more candidly; candour
was one of his favourite virtues; and how can a man's candour be seen
in all its lustre unless he has a few failings to talk of? But he had
an agreeable confidence that his faults were all of a generous
kind--impetuous, warm-blooded, leonine; never crawling, crafty,
reptilian. It was not possible for Arthur Donnithorne to do anything
mean, dastardly, or cruel. "No! I'm a devil of a fellow for getting
myself into a hobble, but I always take care the load shall fall on
my own shoulders." Unhappily, there is no inherent poetical justice in
hobbles, and they will sometimes obstinately refuse to inflict their
worst consequences on the prime offender, in spite of his loudly
expressed wish. It was entirely owing to this deficiency in the scheme
of things that Arthur had ever brought any one into trouble besides
himself. He was nothing if not good-natured; and all his pictures of
the future, when he should come into the estate, were made up of a
prosperous, contented tenantry, adoring their landlord, who would be the
model of an English gentleman--mansion in first-rate order, all elegance
and high taste--jolly housekeeping, finest stud in Loamshire--purse open
to all public objects--in short, everything as different as possible
from what was now associated with the name of Donnithorne. And one of
the first good actions he would perform in that future should be to
increase Irwine's income for the vicarage of Hayslope, so that he might
keep a carriage for his mother and sisters. His hearty affection for the
rector dated from the age of frocks and trousers. It was an affection
partly filial, partly fraternal--fraternal enough to make him like
Irwine's company better than that of most younger men, and filial enough
to make him shrink strongly from incurring Irwine's disapprobation.

You perceive that Arthur Donnithorne was "a good fellow"--all his
college friends thought him such. He couldn't bear to see any one
uncomfortable; he would have been sorry even in his angriest moods for
any harm to happen to his grandfather; and his Aunt Lydia herself had
the benefit of that soft-heartedness which he bore towards the whole
sex. Whether he would have self-mastery enough to be always as harmless
and purely beneficent as his good-nature led him to desire, was a
question that no one had yet decided against him; he was but twenty-one,
you remember, and we don't inquire too closely into character in the
case of a handsome generous young fellow, who will have property enough
to support numerous peccadilloes--who, if he should unfortunately
break a man's legs in his rash driving, will be able to pension him
handsomely; or if he should happen to spoil a woman's existence for her,
will make it up to her with expensive bon-bons, packed up and directed
by his own hand. It would be ridiculous to be prying and analytic
in such cases, as if one were inquiring into the character of a
confidential clerk. We use round, general, gentlemanly epithets about
a young man of birth and fortune; and ladies, with that fine intuition
which is the distinguishing attribute of their sex, see at once that
he is "nice." The chances are that he will go through life without
scandalizing any one; a seaworthy vessel that no one would refuse to
insure. Ships, certainly, are liable to casualties, which sometimes make
terribly evident some flaw in their construction that would never have
been discoverable in smooth water; and many a "good fellow," through a
disastrous combination of circumstances, has undergone a like betrayal.

But we have no fair ground for entertaining unfavourable auguries
concerning Arthur Donnithorne, who this morning proves himself capable
of a prudent resolution founded on conscience. One thing is clear:
Nature has taken care that he shall never go far astray with perfect
comfort and satisfaction to himself; he will never get beyond that
border-land of sin, where he will be perpetually harassed by assaults
from the other side of the boundary. He will never be a courtier of
Vice, and wear her orders in his button-hole.

It was about ten o'clock, and the sun was shining brilliantly;
everything was looking lovelier for the yesterday's rain. It is a
pleasant thing on such a morning to walk along the well-rolled gravel on
one's way to the stables, meditating an excursion. But the scent of
the stables, which, in a natural state of things, ought to be among
the soothing influences of a man's life, always brought with it some
irritation to Arthur. There was no having his own way in the stables;
everything was managed in the stingiest fashion. His grandfather
persisted in retaining as head groom an old dolt whom no sort of
lever could move out of his old habits, and who was allowed to hire a
succession of raw Loamshire lads as his subordinates, one of whom
had lately tested a new pair of shears by clipping an oblong patch on
Arthur's bay mare. This state of things is naturally embittering; one
can put up with annoyances in the house, but to have the stable made
a scene of vexation and disgust is a point beyond what human flesh
and blood can be expected to endure long together without danger of
misanthropy.

Old John's wooden, deep-wrinkled face was the first object that met
Arthur's eyes as he entered the stable-yard, and it quite poisoned for
him the bark of the two bloodhounds that kept watch there. He could
never speak quite patiently to the old blockhead.

"You must have Meg saddled for me and brought to the door at half-past
eleven, and I shall want Rattler saddled for Pym at the same time. Do
you hear?"

"Yes, I hear, I hear, Cap'n," said old John very deliberately, following
the young master into the stable. John considered a young master as the
natural enemy of an old servant, and young people in general as a poor
contrivance for carrying on the world.

Arthur went in for the sake of patting Meg, declining as far as possible
to see anything in the stables, lest he should lose his temper before
breakfast. The pretty creature was in one of the inner stables, and
turned her mild head as her master came beside her. Little Trot, a tiny
spaniel, her inseparable companion in the stable, was comfortably curled
up on her back.

"Well, Meg, my pretty girl," said Arthur, patting her neck, "we'll have
a glorious canter this morning."

"Nay, your honour, I donna see as that can be," said John.

"Not be? Why not?"

"Why, she's got lamed."

"Lamed, confound you! What do you mean?"

"Why, th' lad took her too close to Dalton's hosses, an' one on 'em
flung out at her, an' she's got her shank bruised o' the near foreleg."

The judicious historian abstains from narrating precisely what ensued.
You understand that there was a great deal of strong language, mingled
with soothing "who-ho's" while the leg was examined; that John stood
by with quite as much emotion as if he had been a cunningly carved
crab-tree walking-stick, and that Arthur Donnithorne presently repassed
the iron gates of the pleasure-ground without singing as he went.

He considered himself thoroughly disappointed and annoyed. There was not
another mount in the stable for himself and his servant besides Meg and
Rattler. It was vexatious; just when he wanted to get out of the way
for a week or two. It seemed culpable in Providence to allow such a
combination of circumstances. To be shut up at the Chase with a broken
arm when every other fellow in his regiment was enjoying himself
at Windsor--shut up with his grandfather, who had the same sort of
affection for him as for his parchment deeds! And to be disgusted at
every turn with the management of the house and the estate! In such
circumstances a man necessarily gets in an ill humour, and works off the
irritation by some excess or other. "Salkeld would have drunk a bottle
of port every day," he muttered to himself, "but I'm not well seasoned
enough for that. Well, since I can't go to Eagledale, I'll have a gallop
on Rattler to Norburne this morning, and lunch with Gawaine."

Behind this explicit resolution there lay an implicit one. If he lunched
with Gawaine and lingered chatting, he should not reach the Chase again
till nearly five, when Hetty would be safe out of his sight in the
housekeeper's room; and when she set out to go home, it would be his
lazy time after dinner, so he should keep out of her way altogether.
There really would have been no harm in being kind to the little thing,
and it was worth dancing with a dozen ballroom belles only to look at
Hetty for half an hour. But perhaps he had better not take any more
notice of her; it might put notions into her head, as Irwine had hinted;
though Arthur, for his part, thought girls were not by any means so soft
and easily bruised; indeed, he had generally found them twice as cool
and cunning as he was himself. As for any real harm in Hetty's case, it
was out of the question: Arthur Donnithorne accepted his own bond for
himself with perfect confidence.

So the twelve o'clock sun saw him galloping towards Norburne; and by
good fortune Halsell Common lay in his road and gave him some fine
leaps for Rattler. Nothing like "taking" a few bushes and ditches for
exorcising a demon; and it is really astonishing that the Centaurs, with
their immense advantages in this way, have left so bad a reputation in
history.

After this, you will perhaps be surprised to hear that although Gawaine
was at home, the hand of the dial in the courtyard had scarcely
cleared the last stroke of three when Arthur returned through the
entrance-gates, got down from the panting Rattler, and went into the
house to take a hasty luncheon. But I believe there have been men
since his day who have ridden a long way to avoid a rencontre, and then
galloped hastily back lest they should miss it. It is the favourite
stratagem of our passions to sham a retreat, and to turn sharp round
upon us at the moment we have made up our minds that the day is our own.

"The cap'n's been ridin' the devil's own pace," said Dalton the
coachman, whose person stood out in high relief as he smoked his pipe
against the stable wall, when John brought up Rattler.

"An' I wish he'd get the devil to do's grooming for'n," growled John.

"Aye; he'd hev a deal haimabler groom nor what he has now," observed
Dalton--and the joke appeared to him so good that, being left alone upon
the scene, he continued at intervals to take his pipe from his mouth
in order to wink at an imaginary audience and shake luxuriously with
a silent, ventral laughter, mentally rehearsing the dialogue from the
beginning, that he might recite it with effect in the servants' hall.

When Arthur went up to his dressing-room again after luncheon, it was
inevitable that the debate he had had with himself there earlier in the
day should flash across his mind; but it was impossible for him now
to dwell on the remembrance--impossible to recall the feelings and
reflections which had been decisive with him then, any more than to
recall the peculiar scent of the air that had freshened him when he
first opened his window. The desire to see Hetty had rushed back like an
ill-stemmed current; he was amazed himself at the force with which this
trivial fancy seemed to grasp him: he was even rather tremulous as he
brushed his hair--pooh! it was riding in that break-neck way. It was
because he had made a serious affair of an idle matter, by thinking of
it as if it were of any consequence. He would amuse himself by seeing
Hetty to-day, and get rid of the whole thing from his mind. It was all
Irwine's fault. "If Irwine had said nothing, I shouldn't have thought
half so much of Hetty as of Meg's lameness." However, it was just the
sort of day for lolling in the Hermitage, and he would go and finish
Dr. Moore's Zeluco there before dinner. The Hermitage stood in Fir-tree
Grove--the way Hetty was sure to come in walking from the Hall Farm.
So nothing could be simpler and more natural: meeting Hetty was a mere
circumstance of his walk, not its object.

Arthur's shadow flitted rather faster among the sturdy oaks of the Chase
than might have been expected from the shadow of a tired man on a warm
afternoon, and it was still scarcely four o'clock when he stood before
the tall narrow gate leading into the delicious labyrinthine wood which
skirted one side of the Chase, and which was called Fir-tree Grove, not
because the firs were many, but because they were few. It was a wood
of beeches and limes, with here and there a light silver-stemmed
birch--just the sort of wood most haunted by the nymphs: you see their
white sunlit limbs gleaming athwart the boughs, or peeping from behind
the smooth-sweeping outline of a tall lime; you hear their soft liquid
laughter--but if you look with a too curious sacrilegious eye, they
vanish behind the silvery beeches, they make you believe that their
voice was only a running brooklet, perhaps they metamorphose themselves
into a tawny squirrel that scampers away and mocks you from the topmost
bough. It was not a grove with measured grass or rolled gravel for you
to tread upon, but with narrow, hollow-shaped, earthy paths, edged with
faint dashes of delicate moss--paths which look as if they were made
by the free will of the trees and underwood, moving reverently aside to
look at the tall queen of the white-footed nymphs.

It was along the broadest of these paths that Arthur Donnithorne passed,
under an avenue of limes and beeches. It was a still afternoon--the
golden light was lingering languidly among the upper boughs, only
glancing down here and there on the purple pathway and its edge of
faintly sprinkled moss: an afternoon in which destiny disguises her cold
awful face behind a hazy radiant veil, encloses us in warm downy
wings, and poisons us with violet-scented breath. Arthur strolled along
carelessly, with a book under his arm, but not looking on the ground
as meditative men are apt to do; his eyes WOULD fix themselves on the
distant bend in the road round which a little figure must surely appear
before long. Ah! There she comes. First a bright patch of colour, like
a tropic bird among the boughs; then a tripping figure, with a round
hat on, and a small basket under her arm; then a deep-blushing, almost
frightened, but bright-smiling girl, making her curtsy with a fluttered
yet happy glance, as Arthur came up to her. If Arthur had had time
to think at all, he would have thought it strange that he should feel
fluttered too, be conscious of blushing too--in fact, look and feel as
foolish as if he had been taken by surprise instead of meeting just what
he expected. Poor things! It was a pity they were not in that golden age
of childhood when they would have stood face to face, eyeing each other
with timid liking, then given each other a little butterfly kiss,
and toddled off to play together. Arthur would have gone home to his
silk-curtained cot, and Hetty to her home-spun pillow, and both would
have slept without dreams, and to-morrow would have been a life hardly
conscious of a yesterday.

Arthur turned round and walked by Hetty's side without giving a reason.
They were alone together for the first time. What an overpowering
presence that first privacy is! He actually dared not look at this
little butter-maker for the first minute or two. As for Hetty, her feet
rested on a cloud, and she was borne along by warm zephyrs; she had
forgotten her rose-coloured ribbons; she was no more conscious of her
limbs than if her childish soul had passed into a water-lily, resting
on a liquid bed and warmed by the midsummer sun-beams. It may seem a
contradiction, but Arthur gathered a certain carelessness and confidence
from his timidity: it was an entirely different state of mind from what
he had expected in such a meeting with Hetty; and full as he was of
vague feeling, there was room, in those moments of silence, for the
thought that his previous debates and scruples were needless.

"You are quite right to choose this way of coming to the Chase," he
said at last, looking down at Hetty; "it is so much prettier as well as
shorter than coming by either of the lodges."

"Yes, sir," Hetty answered, with a tremulous, almost whispering voice.
She didn't know one bit how to speak to a gentleman like Mr. Arthur, and
her very vanity made her more coy of speech.

"Do you come every week to see Mrs. Pomfret?"

"Yes, sir, every Thursday, only when she's got to go out with Miss
Donnithorne."

"And she's teaching you something, is she?"

"Yes, sir, the lace-mending as she learnt abroad, and the
stocking-mending--it looks just like the stocking, you can't tell it's
been mended; and she teaches me cutting-out too."

"What! are YOU going to be a lady's maid?"

"I should like to be one very much indeed." Hetty spoke more audibly
now, but still rather tremulously; she thought, perhaps she seemed as
stupid to Captain Donnithorne as Luke Britton did to her.

"I suppose Mrs. Pomfret always expects you at this time?"

"She expects me at four o'clock. I'm rather late to-day, because my aunt
couldn't spare me; but the regular time is four, because that gives us
time before Miss Donnithorne's bell rings."

"Ah, then, I must not keep you now, else I should like to show you the
Hermitage. Did you ever see it?"

"No, sir."

"This is the walk where we turn up to it. But we must not go now. I'll
show it you some other time, if you'd like to see it."

"Yes, please, sir."

"Do you always come back this way in the evening, or are you afraid to
come so lonely a road?"

"Oh no, sir, it's never late; I always set out by eight o'clock, and
it's so light now in the evening. My aunt would be angry with me if I
didn't get home before nine."

"Perhaps Craig, the gardener, comes to take care of you?"

A deep blush overspread Hetty's face and neck. "I'm sure he doesn't;
I'm sure he never did; I wouldn't let him; I don't like him," she said
hastily, and the tears of vexation had come so fast that before she had
done speaking a bright drop rolled down her hot cheek. Then she felt
ashamed to death that she was crying, and for one long instant her
happiness was all gone. But in the next she felt an arm steal round her,
and a gentle voice said, "Why, Hetty, what makes you cry? I didn't mean
to vex you. I wouldn't vex you for the world, you little blossom. Come,
don't cry; look at me, else I shall think you won't forgive me."

Arthur had laid his hand on the soft arm that was nearest to him, and
was stooping towards Hetty with a look of coaxing entreaty. Hetty lifted
her long dewy lashes, and met the eyes that were bent towards her with a
sweet, timid, beseeching look. What a space of time those three moments
were while their eyes met and his arms touched her! Love is such a
simple thing when we have only one-and-twenty summers and a sweet girl
of seventeen trembles under our glance, as if she were a bud first
opening her heart with wondering rapture to the morning. Such young
unfurrowed souls roll to meet each other like two velvet peaches that
touch softly and are at rest; they mingle as easily as two brooklets
that ask for nothing but to entwine themselves and ripple with
ever-interlacing curves in the leafiest hiding-places. While Arthur
gazed into Hetty's dark beseeching eyes, it made no difference to him
what sort of English she spoke; and even if hoops and powder had been
in fashion, he would very likely not have been sensible just then that
Hetty wanted those signs of high breeding.

But they started asunder with beating hearts: something had fallen on
the ground with a rattling noise; it was Hetty's basket; all her little
workwoman's matters were scattered on the path, some of them showing
a capability of rolling to great lengths. There was much to be done in
picking up, and not a word was spoken; but when Arthur hung the basket
over her arm again, the poor child felt a strange difference in his look
and manner. He just pressed her hand, and said, with a look and tone
that were almost chilling to her, "I have been hindering you; I must not
keep you any longer now. You will be expected at the house. Good-bye."

Without waiting for her to speak, he turned away from her and hurried
back towards the road that led to the Hermitage, leaving Hetty to pursue
her way in a strange dream that seemed to have begun in bewildering
delight and was now passing into contrarieties and sadness. Would he
meet her again as she came home? Why had he spoken almost as if he were
displeased with her? And then run away so suddenly? She cried, hardly
knowing why.

Arthur too was very uneasy, but his feelings were lit up for him by a
more distinct consciousness. He hurried to the Hermitage, which stood in
the heart of the wood, unlocked the door with a hasty wrench, slammed
it after him, pitched Zeluco into the most distant corner, and thrusting
his right hand into his pocket, first walked four or five times up and
down the scanty length of the little room, and then seated himself on
the ottoman in an uncomfortable stiff way, as we often do when we wish
not to abandon ourselves to feeling.

He was getting in love with Hetty--that was quite plain. He was ready
to pitch everything else--no matter where--for the sake of surrendering
himself to this delicious feeling which had just disclosed itself. It
was no use blinking the fact now--they would get too fond of each other,
if he went on taking notice of her--and what would come of it? He should
have to go away in a few weeks, and the poor little thing would be
miserable. He MUST NOT see her alone again; he must keep out of her way.
What a fool he was for coming back from Gawaine's!

He got up and threw open the windows, to let in the soft breath of the
afternoon, and the healthy scent of the firs that made a belt round the
Hermitage. The soft air did not help his resolution, as he leaned out
and looked into the leafy distance. But he considered his resolution
sufficiently fixed: there was no need to debate with himself any longer.
He had made up his mind not to meet Hetty again; and now he might
give himself up to thinking how immensely agreeable it would be if
circumstances were different--how pleasant it would have been to meet
her this evening as she came back, and put his arm round her again and
look into her sweet face. He wondered if the dear little thing were
thinking of him too--twenty to one she was. How beautiful her eyes were
with the tear on their lashes! He would like to satisfy his soul for a
day with looking at them, and he MUST see her again--he must see her,
simply to remove any false impression from her mind about his manner
to her just now. He would behave in a quiet, kind way to her--just to
prevent her from going home with her head full of wrong fancies. Yes,
that would be the best thing to do after all.

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.



Chapter XIII

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 was possible: Mr.
Arthur Donnithorne coming to meet her again along the Fir-tree Grove.
That was the foreground of Hetty's picture; behind it lay a bright hazy
something--days that were not to be as the other days of her life had
been. It was as if she had been wooed by a river-god, who might any
time take her to his wondrous halls below a watery heaven. There was no
knowing what would come, since this strange entrancing delight had come.
If a chest full of lace and satin and jewels had been sent her from some
unknown source, how could she but have thought that her whole lot was
going to change, and that to-morrow some still more bewildering joy
would befall her? Hetty had never read a novel; if she had ever seen
one, I think the words would have been too hard for her; how then could
she find a shape for her expectations? They were as formless as the
sweet languid odours of the garden at the Chase, which had floated past
her as she walked by the gate.

She is at another gate now--that leading into Fir-tree Grove. She enters
the wood, where it is already twilight, and at every step she takes, the
fear at her heart becomes colder. If he should not come! Oh, how dreary
it was--the thought of going out at the other end of the wood, into the
unsheltered road, without having seen him. She reaches the first turning
towards the Hermitage, walking slowly--he is not there. She hates the
leveret that runs across the path; she hates everything that is not what
she longs for. She walks on, happy whenever she is coming to a bend in
the road, for perhaps he is behind it. No. She is beginning to cry: her
heart has swelled so, the tears stand in her eyes; she gives one great
sob, while the corners of her mouth quiver, and the tears roll down.

She doesn't know that there is another turning to the Hermitage, that
she is close against it, and that Arthur Donnithorne is only a few yards
from her, full of one thought, and a thought of which she only is the
object. He is going to see Hetty again: that is the longing which has
been growing through the last three hours to a feverish thirst. Not,
of course, to speak in the caressing way into which he had unguardedly
fallen before dinner, but to set things right with her by a kindness
which would have the air of friendly civility, and prevent her from
running away with wrong notions about their mutual relation.

If Hetty had known he was there, she would not have cried; and it would
have been better, for then Arthur would perhaps have behaved as wisely
as he had intended. As it was, she started when he appeared at the end
of the side-alley, and looked up at him with two great drops rolling
down her cheeks. What else could he do but speak to her in a soft,
soothing tone, as if she were a bright-eyed spaniel with a thorn in her
foot?

"Has something frightened you, Hetty? Have you seen anything in the
wood? Don't be frightened--I'll take care of you now."

Hetty was blushing so, she didn't know whether she was happy or
miserable. To be crying again--what did gentlemen think of girls who
cried in that way? She felt unable even to say "no," but could only look
away from him and wipe the tears from her cheek. Not before a great drop
had fallen on her rose-coloured strings--she knew that quite well.

"Come, be cheerful again. Smile at me, and tell me what's the matter.
Come, tell me."

Hetty turned her head towards him, whispered, "I thought you wouldn't
come," and slowly got courage to lift her eyes to him. That look was too
much: he must have had eyes of Egyptian granite not to look too lovingly
in return.

"You little frightened bird! Little tearful rose! Silly pet! You won't
cry again, now I'm with you, will you?"

Ah, he doesn't know in the least what he is saying. This is not what
he meant to say. His arm is stealing round the waist again; it is
tightening its clasp; he is bending his face nearer and nearer to the
round cheek; his lips are meeting those pouting child-lips, and for a
long moment time has vanished. He may be a shepherd in Arcadia for aught
he knows, he may be the first youth kissing the first maiden, he may be
Eros himself, sipping the lips of Psyche--it is all one.

There was no speaking for minutes after. They walked along with beating
hearts till they came within sight of the gate at the end of the wood.
Then they looked at each other, not quite as they had looked before, for
in their eyes there was the memory of a kiss.

But already something bitter had begun to mingle itself with the
fountain of sweets: already Arthur was uncomfortable. He took his arm
from Hetty's waist, and said, "Here we are, almost at the end of the
Grove. I wonder how late it is," he added, pulling out his watch.
"Twenty minutes past eight--but my watch is too fast. However, I'd
better not go any further now. Trot along quickly with your little feet,
and get home safely. Good-bye."

He took her hand, and looked at her half-sadly, half with a constrained
smile. Hetty's eyes seemed to beseech him not to go away yet; but he
patted her cheek and said "Good-bye" again. She was obliged to turn away
from him and go on.

As for Arthur, he rushed back through the wood, as if he wanted to put
a wide space between himself and Hetty. He would not go to the Hermitage
again; he remembered how he had debated with himself there before
dinner, and it had all come to nothing--worse than nothing. He walked
right on into the Chase, glad to get out of the Grove, which surely was
haunted by his evil genius. Those beeches and smooth limes--there was
something enervating in the very sight of them; but the strong knotted
old oaks had no bending languor in them--the sight of them would give
a man some energy. Arthur lost himself among the narrow openings in
the fern, winding about without seeking any issue, till the twilight
deepened almost to night under the great boughs, and the hare looked
black as it darted across his path.

He was feeling much more strongly than he had done in the morning: it
was as if his horse had wheeled round from a leap and dared to dispute
his mastery. He was dissatisfied with himself, irritated, mortified. He
no sooner fixed his mind on the probable consequences of giving way to
the emotions which had stolen over him to-day--of continuing to notice
Hetty, of allowing himself any opportunity for such slight caresses as
he had been betrayed into already--than he refused to believe such a
future possible for himself. To flirt with Hetty was a very different
affair from flirting with a pretty girl of his own station: that was
understood to be an amusement on both sides, or, if it became serious,
there was no obstacle to marriage. But this little thing would be spoken
ill of directly, if she happened to be seen walking with him; and then
those excellent people, the Poysers, to whom a good name was as precious
as if they had the best blood in the land in their veins--he should hate
himself if he made a scandal of that sort, on the estate that was to be
his own some day, and among tenants by whom he liked, above all, to be
respected. He could no more believe that he should so fall in his own
esteem than that he should break both his legs and go on crutches all
the rest of his life. He couldn't imagine himself in that position; it
was too odious, too unlike him.

And even if no one knew anything about it, they might get too fond of
each other, and then there could be nothing but the misery of parting,
after all. No gentleman, out of a ballad, could marry a farmer's niece.
There must be an end to the whole thing at once. It was too foolish.

And yet he had been so determined this morning, before he went to
Gawaine's; and while he was there something had taken hold of him and
made him gallop back. It seemed he couldn't quite depend on his own
resolution, as he had thought he could; he almost wished his arm would
get painful again, and then he should think of nothing but the comfort
it would be to get rid of the pain. There was no knowing what impulse
might seize him to-morrow, in this confounded place, where there was
nothing to occupy him imperiously through the livelong day. What could
he do to secure himself from any more of this folly?

There was but one resource. He would go and tell Irwine--tell him
everything. The mere act of telling it would make it seem trivial; the
temptation would vanish, as the charm of fond words vanishes when one
repeats them to the indifferent. In every way it would help him to tell
Irwine. He would ride to Broxton Rectory the first thing after breakfast
to-morrow.

Arthur had no sooner come to this determination than he began to think
which of the paths would lead him home, and made as short a walk thither
as he could. He felt sure he should sleep now: he had had enough to tire
him, and there was no more need for him to think.



Chapter XIV

The Return Home


WHILE that parting in the wood was happening, there was a parting in the
cottage too, and Lisbeth had stood with Adam at the door, straining her
aged eyes to get the last glimpse of Seth and Dinah, as they mounted the
opposite slope.

"Eh, I'm loath to see the last on her," she said to Adam, as they turned
into the house again. "I'd ha' been willin' t' ha' her about me till
I died and went to lie by my old man. She'd make it easier dyin'--she
spakes so gentle an' moves about so still. I could be fast sure that
pictur' was drawed for her i' thy new Bible--th' angel a-sittin' on the
big stone by the grave. Eh, I wouldna mind ha'in a daughter like that;
but nobody ne'er marries them as is good for aught."

"Well, Mother, I hope thee WILT have her for a daughter; for Seth's got
a liking for her, and I hope she'll get a liking for Seth in time."

"Where's th' use o' talkin' a-that'n? She caresna for Seth. She's goin'
away twenty mile aff. How's she to get a likin' for him, I'd like to
know? No more nor the cake 'ull come wi'out the leaven. Thy figurin'
books might ha' tould thee better nor that, I should think, else thee
mightst as well read the commin print, as Seth allays does."

"Nay, Mother," said Adam, laughing, "the figures tell us a fine deal,
and we couldn't go far without 'em, but they don't tell us about folks's
feelings. It's a nicer job to calculate THEM. But Seth's as good-hearted
a lad as ever handled a tool, and plenty o' sense, and good-looking too;
and he's got the same way o' thinking as Dinah. He deserves to win her,
though there's no denying she's a rare bit o' workmanship. You don't see
such women turned off the wheel every day."

"Eh, thee't allays stick up for thy brother. Thee'st been just the
same, e'er sin' ye war little uns together. Thee wart allays for halving
iverything wi' him. But what's Seth got to do with marryin', as is on'y
three-an'-twenty? He'd more need to learn an' lay by sixpence. An' as
for his desarving her--she's two 'ear older nor Seth: she's pretty
near as old as thee. But that's the way; folks mun allays choose by
contrairies, as if they must be sorted like the pork--a bit o' good meat
wi' a bit o' offal."

To the feminine mind in some of its moods, all things that might be
receive a temporary charm from comparison with what is; and since Adam
did not want to marry Dinah himself, Lisbeth felt rather peevish on that
score--as peevish as she would have been if he HAD wanted to marry
her, and so shut himself out from Mary Burge and the partnership as
effectually as by marrying Hetty.

It was more than half-past eight when Adam and his mother were talking
in this way, so that when, about ten minutes later, Hetty reached the
turning of the lane that led to the farmyard gate, she saw Dinah and
Seth approaching it from the opposite direction, and waited for them to
come up to her. They, too, like Hetty, had lingered a little in their
walk, for Dinah was trying to speak words of comfort and strength to
Seth in these parting moments. But when they saw Hetty, they paused and
shook hands; Seth turned homewards, and Dinah came on alone.

"Seth Bede would have come and spoken to you, my dear," she said, as she
reached Hetty, "but he's very full of trouble to-night."

Hetty answered with a dimpled smile, as if she did not quite know what
had been said; and it made a strange contrast to see that sparkling
self-engrossed loveliness looked at by Dinah's calm pitying face, with
its open glance which told that her heart lived in no cherished secrets
of its own, but in feelings which it longed to share with all the world.
Hetty liked Dinah as well as she had ever liked any woman; how was it
possible to feel otherwise towards one who always put in a kind word for
her when her aunt was finding fault, and who was always ready to take
Totty off her hands--little tiresome Totty, that was made such a pet of
by every one, and that Hetty could see no interest in at all? Dinah
had never said anything disapproving or reproachful to Hetty during her
whole visit to the Hall Farm; she had talked to her a great deal in a
serious way, but Hetty didn't mind that much, for she never listened:
whatever Dinah might say, she almost always stroked Hetty's cheek after
it, and wanted to do some mending for her. Dinah was a riddle to her;
Hetty looked at her much in the same way as one might imagine a little
perching bird that could only flutter from bough to bough, to look at
the swoop of the swallow or the mounting of the lark; but she did not
care to solve such riddles, any more than she cared to know what was
meant by the pictures in the Pilgrim's Progress, or in the old folio
Bible that Marty and Tommy always plagued her about on a Sunday.

Dinah took her hand now and drew it under her own arm.

"You look very happy to-night, dear child," she said. "I shall think of
you often when I'm at Snowfield, and see your face before me as it is
now. It's a strange thing--sometimes when I'm quite alone, sitting in
my room with my eyes closed, or walking over the hills, the people I've
seen and known, if it's only been for a few days, are brought before me,
and I hear their voices and see them look and move almost plainer than
I ever did when they were really with me so as I could touch them. And
then my heart is drawn out towards them, and I feel their lot as if
it was my own, and I take comfort in spreading it before the Lord and
resting in His love, on their behalf as well as my own. And so I feel
sure you will come before me."

She paused a moment, but Hetty said nothing.

"It has been a very precious time to me," Dinah went on, "last night
and to-day--seeing two such good sons as Adam and Seth Bede. They are so
tender and thoughtful for their aged mother. And she has been telling
me what Adam has done, for these many years, to help his father and his
brother; it's wonderful what a spirit of wisdom and knowledge he has,
and how he's ready to use it all in behalf of them that are feeble. And
I'm sure he has a loving spirit too. I've noticed it often among my
own people round Snowfield, that the strong, skilful men are often the
gentlest to the women and children; and it's pretty to see 'em carrying
the little babies as if they were no heavier than little birds. And the
babies always seem to like the strong arm best. I feel sure it would be
so with Adam Bede. Don't you think so, Hetty?"

"Yes," said Hetty abstractedly, for her mind had been all the while
in the wood, and she would have found it difficult to say what she was
assenting to. Dinah saw she was not inclined to talk, but there would
not have been time to say much more, for they were now at the yard-gate.

The still twilight, with its dying western red and its few faint
struggling stars, rested on the farm-yard, where there was not a sound
to be heard but the stamping of the cart-horses in the stable. It was
about twenty minutes after sunset. The fowls were all gone to roost,
and the bull-dog lay stretched on the straw outside his kennel, with
the black-and-tan terrier by his side, when the falling-to of the gate
disturbed them and set them barking, like good officials, before they
had any distinct knowledge of the reason.

The barking had its effect in the house, for, as Dinah and Hetty
approached, the doorway was filled by a portly figure, with a ruddy
black-eyed face which bore in it the possibility of looking extremely
acute, and occasionally contemptuous, on market-days, but had now a
predominant after-supper expression of hearty good-nature. It is well
known that great scholars who have shown the most pitiless acerbity in
their criticism of other men's scholarship have yet been of a relenting
and indulgent temper in private life; and I have heard of a learned man
meekly rocking the twins in the cradle with his left hand, while with
his right he inflicted the most lacerating sarcasms on an opponent who
had betrayed a brutal ignorance of Hebrew. Weaknesses and errors must
be forgiven--alas! they are not alien to us--but the man who takes the
wrong side on the momentous subject of the Hebrew points must be treated
as the enemy of his race. There was the same sort of antithetic mixture
in Martin Poyser: he was of so excellent a disposition that he had been
kinder and more respectful than ever to his old father since he had made
a deed of gift of all his property, and no man judged his neighbours
more charitably on all personal matters; but for a farmer, like Luke
Britton, for example, whose fallows were not well cleaned, who didn't
know the rudiments of hedging and ditching, and showed but a small share
of judgment in the purchase of winter stock, Martin Poyser was as hard
and implacable as the north-east wind. Luke Britton could not make a
remark, even on the weather, but Martin Poyser detected in it a taint
of that unsoundness and general ignorance which was palpable in all his
farming operations. He hated to see the fellow lift the pewter pint to
his mouth in the bar of the Royal George on market-day, and the mere
sight of him on the other side of the road brought a severe and critical
expression into his black eyes, as different as possible from the
fatherly glance he bent on his two nieces as they approached the door.
Mr. Poyser had smoked his evening pipe, and now held his hands in his
pockets, as the only resource of a man who continues to sit up after the
day's business is done.

"Why, lasses, ye're rather late to-night," he said, when they reached
the little gate leading into the causeway. "The mother's begun to fidget
about you, an' she's got the little un ill. An' how did you leave the
old woman Bede, Dinah? Is she much down about the old man? He'd been but
a poor bargain to her this five year."

"She's been greatly distressed for the loss of him," said Dinah, "but
she's seemed more comforted to-day. Her son Adam's been at home all day,
working at his father's coffin, and she loves to have him at home. She's
been talking about him to me almost all the day. She has a loving heart,
though she's sorely given to fret and be fearful. I wish she had a surer
trust to comfort her in her old age."

"Adam's sure enough," said Mr. Poyser, misunderstanding Dinah's wish.
"There's no fear but he'll yield well i' the threshing. He's not one
o' them as is all straw and no grain. I'll be bond for him any day, as
he'll be a good son to the last. Did he say he'd be coming to see us
soon? But come in, come in," he added, making way for them; "I hadn't
need keep y' out any longer."

The tall buildings round the yard shut out a good deal of the sky,
but the large window let in abundant light to show every corner of the
house-place.

Mrs. Poyser, seated in the rocking-chair, which had been brought out of
the "right-hand parlour," was trying to soothe Totty to sleep. But Totty
was not disposed to sleep; and when her cousins entered, she raised
herself up and showed a pair of flushed cheeks, which looked fatter than
ever now they were defined by the edge of her linen night-cap.

In the large wicker-bottomed arm-chair in the left-hand chimney-nook sat
old Martin Poyser, a hale but shrunken and bleached image of his portly
black-haired son--his head hanging forward a little, and his elbows
pushed backwards so as to allow the whole of his forearm to rest on the
arm of the chair. His blue handkerchief was spread over his knees, as
was usual indoors, when it was not hanging over his head; and he sat
watching what went forward with the quiet OUTWARD glance of healthy old
age, which, disengaged from any interest in an inward drama, spies out
pins upon the floor, follows one's minutest motions with an unexpectant
purposeless tenacity, watches the flickering of the flame or the
sun-gleams on the wall, counts the quarries on the floor, watches even
the hand of the clock, and pleases itself with detecting a rhythm in the
tick.

"What a time o' night this is to come home, Hetty!" said Mrs. Poyser.
"Look at the clock, do; why, it's going on for half-past nine, and I've
sent the gells to bed this half-hour, and late enough too; when they've
got to get up at half after four, and the mowers' bottles to fill, and
the baking; and here's this blessed child wi' the fever for what I know,
and as wakeful as if it was dinner-time, and nobody to help me to give
her the physic but your uncle, and fine work there's been, and half of
it spilt on her night-gown--it's well if she's swallowed more nor 'ull
make her worse i'stead o' better. But folks as have no mind to be o' use
have allays the luck to be out o' the road when there's anything to be
done."

"I did set out before eight, aunt," said Hetty, in a pettish tone, with
a slight toss of her head. "But this clock's so much before the clock at
the Chase, there's no telling what time it'll be when I get here."

"What! You'd be wanting the clock set by gentlefolks's time, would you?
An' sit up burnin' candle, an' lie a-bed wi' the sun a-bakin' you like a
cowcumber i' the frame? The clock hasn't been put forrard for the first
time to-day, I reckon."

The fact was, Hetty had really forgotten the difference of the clocks
when she told Captain Donnithorne that she set out at eight, and this,
with her lingering pace, had made her nearly half an hour later than
usual. But here her aunt's attention was diverted from this tender
subject by Totty, who, perceiving at length that the arrival of
her cousins was not likely to bring anything satisfactory to her in
particular, began to cry, "Munny, munny," in an explosive manner.

"Well, then, my pet, Mother's got her, Mother won't leave her; Totty be
a good dilling, and go to sleep now," said Mrs. Poyser, leaning back and
rocking the chair, while she tried to make Totty nestle against her.
But Totty only cried louder, and said, "Don't yock!" So the mother, with
that wondrous patience which love gives to the quickest temperament, sat
up again, and pressed her cheek against the linen night-cap and kissed
it, and forgot to scold Hetty any longer.

"Come, Hetty," said Martin Poyser, in a conciliatory tone, "go and get
your supper i' the pantry, as the things are all put away; an' then you
can come and take the little un while your aunt undresses herself, for
she won't lie down in bed without her mother. An' I reckon YOU could eat
a bit, Dinah, for they don't keep much of a house down there."

"No, thank you, Uncle," said Dinah; "I ate a good meal before I came
away, for Mrs. Bede would make a kettle-cake for me."

"I don't want any supper," said Hetty, taking off her hat. "I can hold
Totty now, if Aunt wants me."

"Why, what nonsense that is to talk!" said Mrs. Poyser. "Do you think
you can live wi'out eatin', an' nourish your inside wi' stickin' red
ribbons on your head? Go an' get your supper this minute, child; there's
a nice bit o' cold pudding i' the safe--just what you're fond of."

Hetty complied silently by going towards the pantry, and Mrs. Poyser
went on speaking to Dinah.

"Sit down, my dear, an' look as if you knowed what it was to make
yourself a bit comfortable i' the world. I warrant the old woman was
glad to see you, since you stayed so long."

"She seemed to like having me there at last; but her sons say she
doesn't like young women about her commonly; and I thought just at first
she was almost angry with me for going."

"Eh, it's a poor look-out when th' ould folks doesna like the young
uns," said old Martin, bending his head down lower, and seeming to trace
the pattern of the quarries with his eye.

"Aye, it's ill livin' in a hen-roost for them as doesn't like fleas,"
said Mrs. Poyser. "We've all had our turn at bein' young, I reckon, be't
good luck or ill."

"But she must learn to 'commodate herself to young women," said Mr.
Poyser, "for it isn't to be counted on as Adam and Seth 'ull keep
bachelors for the next ten year to please their mother. That 'ud be
unreasonable. It isn't right for old nor young nayther to make a bargain
all o' their own side. What's good for one's good all round i' the
long run. I'm no friend to young fellows a-marrying afore they know the
difference atween a crab an' a apple; but they may wait o'er long."

"To be sure," said Mrs. Poyser; "if you go past your dinner-time,
there'll be little relish o' your meat. You turn it o'er an' o'er wi'
your fork, an' don't eat it after all. You find faut wi' your meat, an'
the faut's all i' your own stomach."

Hetty now came back from the pantry and said, "I can take Totty now,
Aunt, if you like."

"Come, Rachel," said Mr. Poyser, as his wife seemed to hesitate, seeing
that Totty was at last nestling quietly, "thee'dst better let Hetty
carry her upstairs, while thee tak'st thy things off. Thee't tired. It's
time thee wast in bed. Thee't bring on the pain in thy side again."

"Well, she may hold her if the child 'ull go to her," said Mrs. Poyser.

Hetty went close to the rocking-chair, and stood without her usual
smile, and without any attempt to entice Totty, simply waiting for her
aunt to give the child into her hands.

"Wilt go to Cousin Hetty, my dilling, while mother gets ready to go to
bed? Then Totty shall go into Mother's bed, and sleep there all night."

Before her mother had done speaking, Totty had given her answer in
an unmistakable manner, by knitting her brow, setting her tiny teeth
against her underlip, and leaning forward to slap Hetty on the arm with
her utmost force. Then, without speaking, she nestled to her mother
again.

"Hey, hey," said Mr. Poyser, while Hetty stood without moving, "not go
to Cousin Hetty? That's like a babby. Totty's a little woman, an' not a
babby."

"It's no use trying to persuade her," said Mrs. Poyser. "She allays
takes against Hetty when she isn't well. Happen she'll go to Dinah."

Dinah, having taken off her bonnet and shawl, had hitherto kept quietly
seated in the background, not liking to thrust herself between Hetty and
what was considered Hetty's proper work. But now she came forward, and,
putting out her arms, said, "Come Totty, come and let Dinah carry her
upstairs along with Mother: poor, poor Mother! she's so tired--she wants
to go to bed."

Totty turned her face towards Dinah, and looked at her an instant, then
lifted herself up, put out her little arms, and let Dinah lift her from
her mother's lap. Hetty turned away without any sign of ill humour,
and, taking her hat from the table, stood waiting with an air of
indifference, to see if she should be told to do anything else.

"You may make the door fast now, Poyser; Alick's been come in this long
while," said Mrs. Poyser, rising with an appearance of relief from
her low chair. "Get me the matches down, Hetty, for I must have the
rushlight burning i' my room. Come, Father."

The heavy wooden bolts began to roll in the house doors, and old Martin
prepared to move, by gathering up his blue handkerchief, and reaching
his bright knobbed walnut-tree stick from the corner. Mrs. Poyser then
led the way out of the kitchen, followed by the gandfather, and Dinah
with Totty in her arms--all going to bed by twilight, like the birds.
Mrs. Poyser, on her way, peeped into the room where her two boys lay;
just to see their ruddy round cheeks on the pillow, and to hear for a
moment their light regular breathing.

"Come, Hetty, get to bed," said Mr. Poyser, in a soothing tone, as
he himself turned to go upstairs. "You didna mean to be late, I'll
be bound, but your aunt's been worrited to-day. Good-night, my wench,
good-night."



Chapter XV

The Two Bed-Chambers


HETTY and Dinah both slept in the second story, in rooms adjoining each
other, meagrely furnished rooms, with no blinds to shut out the light,
which was now beginning to gather new strength from the rising of
the moon--more than enough strength to enable Hetty to move about and
undress with perfect comfort. She could see quite well the pegs in the
old painted linen-press on which she hung her hat and gown; she could
see the head of every pin on her red cloth pin-cushion; she could see
a reflection of herself in the old-fashioned looking-glass, quite as
distinct as was needful, considering that she had only to brush her hair
and put on her night-cap. A queer old looking-glass! Hetty got into an
ill temper with it almost every time she dressed. It had been considered
a handsome glass in its day, and had probably been bought into the
Poyser family a quarter of a century before, at a sale of genteel
household furniture. Even now an auctioneer could say something for
it: it had a great deal of tarnished gilding about it; it had a firm
mahogany base, well supplied with drawers, which opened with a decided
jerk and sent the contents leaping out from the farthest corners,
without giving you the trouble of reaching them; above all, it had a
brass candle-socket on each side, which would give it an aristocratic
air to the very last. But Hetty objected to it because it had numerous
dim blotches sprinkled over the mirror, which no rubbing would remove,
and because, instead of swinging backwards and forwards, it was fixed
in an upright position, so that she could only get one good view of
her head and neck, and that was to be had only by sitting down on a
low chair before her dressing-table. And the dressing-table was no
dressing-table at all, but a small old chest of drawers, the most
awkward thing in the world to sit down before, for the big brass
handles quite hurt her knees, and she couldn't get near the glass at
all comfortably. But devout worshippers never allow inconveniences
to prevent them from performing their religious rites, and Hetty this
evening was more bent on her peculiar form of worship than usual.

Having taken off her gown and white kerchief, she drew a key from the
large pocket that hung outside her petticoat, and, unlocking one of
the lower drawers in the chest, reached from it two short bits of wax
candle--secretly bought at Treddleston--and stuck them in the two
brass sockets. Then she drew forth a bundle of matches and lighted the
candles; and last of all, a small red-framed shilling looking-glass,
without blotches. It was into this small glass that she chose to look
first after seating herself. She looked into it, smiling and turning her
head on one side, for a minute, then laid it down and took out her brush
and comb from an upper drawer. She was going to let down her hair,
and make herself look like that picture of a lady in Miss Lydia
Donnithorne's dressing-room. It was soon done, and the dark hyacinthine
curves fell on her neck. It was not heavy, massive, merely rippling
hair, but soft and silken, running at every opportunity into delicate
rings. But she pushed it all backward to look like the picture, and form
a dark curtain, throwing into relief her round white neck. Then she put
down her brush and comb and looked at herself, folding her arms before
her, still like the picture. Even the old mottled glass couldn't help
sending back a lovely image, none the less lovely because Hetty's stays
were not of white satin--such as I feel sure heroines must generally
wear--but of a dark greenish cotton texture.

Oh yes! She was very pretty. Captain Donnithorne thought so. Prettier
than anybody about Hayslope--prettier than any of the ladies she had
ever seen visiting at the Chase--indeed it seemed fine ladies were
rather old and ugly--and prettier than Miss Bacon, the miller's
daughter, who was called the beauty of Treddleston. And Hetty looked at
herself to-night with quite a different sensation from what she had ever
felt before; there was an invisible spectator whose eye rested on her
like morning on the flowers. His soft voice was saying over and over
again those pretty things she had heard in the wood; his arm was round
her, and the delicate rose-scent of his hair was with her still. The
vainest woman is never thoroughly conscious of her own beauty till she
is loved by the man who sets her own passion vibrating in return.

But Hetty seemed to have made up her mind that something was wanting,
for she got up and reached an old black lace scarf out of the
linen-press, and a pair of large ear-rings out of the sacred drawer from
which she had taken her candles. It was an old old scarf, full of rents,
but it would make a becoming border round her shoulders, and set off the
whiteness of her upper arm. And she would take out the little ear-rings
she had in her ears--oh, how her aunt had scolded her for having her
ears bored!--and put in those large ones. They were but coloured glass
and gilding, but if you didn't know what they were made of, they looked
just as well as what the ladies wore. And so she sat down again, with
the large ear-rings in her ears, and the black lace scarf adjusted round
her shoulders. She looked down at her arms: no arms could be prettier
down to a little way below the elbow--they were white and plump, and
dimpled to match her cheeks; but towards the wrist, she thought with
vexation that they were coarsened by butter-making and other work that
ladies never did.

Captain Donnithorne couldn't like her to go on doing work: he would like
to see her in nice clothes, and thin shoes, and white stockings, perhaps
with silk clocks to them; for he must love her very much--no one else
had ever put his arm round her and kissed her in that way. He would want
to marry her and make a lady of her; she could hardly dare to shape
the thought--yet how else could it be? Marry her quite secretly, as Mr.
James, the doctor's assistant, married the doctor's niece, and nobody
ever found it out for a long while after, and then it was of no use to
be angry. The doctor had told her aunt all about it in Hetty's hearing.
She didn't know how it would be, but it was quite plain the old Squire
could never be told anything about it, for Hetty was ready to faint with
awe and fright if she came across him at the Chase. He might have been
earth-born, for what she knew. It had never entered her mind that he
had been young like other men; he had always been the old Squire at whom
everybody was frightened. Oh, it was impossible to think how it would
be! But Captain Donnithorne would know; he was a great gentleman, and
could have his way in everything, and could buy everything he liked. And
nothing could be as it had been again: perhaps some day she should be
a grand lady, and ride in her coach, and dress for dinner in a brocaded
silk, with feathers in her hair, and her dress sweeping the ground, like
Miss Lydia and Lady Dacey, when she saw them going into the dining-room
one evening as she peeped through the little round window in the lobby;
only she should not be old and ugly like Miss Lydia, or all the same
thickness like Lady Dacey, but very pretty, with her hair done in a
great many different ways, and sometimes in a pink dress, and sometimes
in a white one--she didn't know which she liked best; and Mary Burge and
everybody would perhaps see her going out in her carriage--or rather,
they would HEAR of it: it was impossible to imagine these things
happening at Hayslope in sight of her aunt. At the thought of all this
splendour, Hetty got up from her chair, and in doing so caught the
little red-framed glass with the edge of her scarf, so that it fell with
a bang on the floor; but she was too eagerly occupied with her vision
to care about picking it up; and after a momentary start, began to pace
with a pigeon-like stateliness backwards and forwards along her room,
in her coloured stays and coloured skirt, and the old black lace scarf
round her shoulders, and the great glass ear-rings in her ears.

How pretty the little puss looks in that odd dress! It would be the
easiest folly in the world to fall in love with her: there is such a
sweet babylike roundness about her face and figure; the delicate dark
rings of hair lie so charmingly about her ears and neck; her great
dark eyes with their long eye-lashes touch one so strangely, as if an
imprisoned frisky sprite looked out of them.

Ah, what a prize the man gets who wins a sweet bride like Hetty! How the
men envy him who come to the wedding breakfast, and see her hanging on
his arm in her white lace and orange blossoms. The dear, young, round,
soft, flexible thing! Her heart must be just as soft, her temper just
as free from angles, her character just as pliant. If anything ever goes
wrong, it must be the husband's fault there: he can make her what he
likes--that is plain. And the lover himself thinks so too: the little
darling is so fond of him, her little vanities are so bewitching, he
wouldn't consent to her being a bit wiser; those kittenlike glances and
movements are just what one wants to make one's hearth a paradise.
Every man under such circumstances is conscious of being a great
physiognomist. Nature, he knows, has a language of her own, which she
uses with strict veracity, and he considers himself an adept in the
language. Nature has written out his bride's character for him in those
exquisite lines of cheek and lip and chin, in those eyelids delicate as
petals, in those long lashes curled like the stamen of a flower, in the
dark liquid depths of those wonderful eyes. How she will dote on her
children! She is almost a child herself, and the little pink round
things will hang about her like florets round the central flower; and
the husband will look on, smiling benignly, able, whenever he chooses,
to withdraw into the sanctuary of his wisdom, towards which his sweet
wife will look reverently, and never lift the curtain. It is a marriage
such as they made in the golden age, when the men were all wise and
majestic and the women all lovely and loving.

It was very much in this way that our friend Adam Bede thought about
Hetty; only he put his thoughts into different words. If ever she
behaved with cold vanity towards him, he said to himself it is only
because she doesn't love me well enough; and he was sure that her love,
whenever she gave it, would be the most precious thing a man could
possess on earth. Before you despise Adam as deficient in penetration,
pray ask yourself if you were ever predisposed to believe evil of
any pretty woman--if you ever COULD, without hard head-breaking
demonstration, believe evil of the ONE supremely pretty woman who has
bewitched you. No: people who love downy peaches are apt not to think of
the stone, and sometimes jar their teeth terribly against it.

Arthur Donnithorne, too, had the same sort of notion about Hetty, so
far as he had thought of her nature of all. He felt sure she was a
dear, affectionate, good little thing. The man who awakes the wondering
tremulous passion of a young girl always thinks her affectionate; and
if he chances to look forward to future years, probably imagines himself
being virtuously tender to her, because the poor thing is so clingingly
fond of him. God made these dear women so--and it is a convenient
arrangement in case of sickness.

After all, I believe the wisest of us must be beguiled in this way
sometimes, and must think both better and worse of people than they
deserve. Nature has her language, and she is not unveracious; but we
don't know all the intricacies of her syntax just yet, and in a hasty
reading we may happen to extract the very opposite of her real meaning.
Long dark eyelashes, now--what can be more exquisite? I find it
impossible not to expect some depth of soul behind a deep grey eye with
a long dark eyelash, in spite of an experience which has shown me that
they may go along with deceit, peculation, and stupidity. But if, in
the reaction of disgust, I have betaken myself to a fishy eye, there has
been a surprising similarity of result. One begins to suspect at length
that there is no direct correlation between eyelashes and morals; or
else, that the eyelashes express the disposition of the fair one's
grandmother, which is on the whole less important to us.

No eyelashes could be more beautiful than Hetty's; and now, while she
walks with her pigeon-like stateliness along the room and looks down on
her shoulders bordered by the old black lace, the dark fringe shows to
perfection on her pink cheek. They are but dim ill-defined pictures that
her narrow bit of an imagination can make of the future; but of every
picture she is the central figure in fine clothes; Captain Donnithorne
is very close to her, putting his arm round her, perhaps kissing her,
and everybody else is admiring and envying her--especially Mary Burge,
whose new print dress looks very contemptible by the side of Hetty's
resplendent toilette. Does any sweet or sad memory mingle with this
dream of the future--any loving thought of her second parents--of the
children she had helped to tend--of any youthful companion, any pet
animal, any relic of her own childhood even? Not one. There are some
plants that have hardly any roots: you may tear them from their native
nook of rock or wall, and just lay them over your ornamental flower-pot,
and they blossom none the worse. Hetty could have cast all her past life
behind her and never cared to be reminded of it again. I think she had
no feeling at all towards the old house, and did not like the Jacob's
Ladder and the long row of hollyhocks in the garden better than other
flowers--perhaps not so well. It was wonderful how little she seemed to
care about waiting on her uncle, who had been a good father to her--she
hardly ever remembered to reach him his pipe at the right time without
being told, unless a visitor happened to be there, who would have a
better opportunity of seeing her as she walked across the hearth. Hetty
did not understand how anybody could be very fond of middle-aged people.
And as for those tiresome children, Marty and Tommy and Totty, they had
been the very nuisance of her life--as bad as buzzing insects that will
come teasing you on a hot day when you want to be quiet. Marty, the
eldest, was a baby when she first came to the farm, for the children
born before him had died, and so Hetty had had them all three, one after
the other, toddling by her side in the meadow, or playing about her on
wet days in the half-empty rooms of the large old house. The boys were
out of hand now, but Totty was still a day-long plague, worse than
either of the others had been, because there was more fuss made about
her. And there was no end to the making and mending of clothes. Hetty
would have been glad to hear that she should never see a child again;
they were worse than the nasty little lambs that the shepherd was always
bringing in to be taken special care of in lambing time; for the lambs
WERE got rid of sooner or later. As for the young chickens and turkeys,
Hetty would have hated the very word "hatching," if her aunt had not
bribed her to attend to the young poultry by promising her the proceeds
of one out of every brood. The round downy chicks peeping out from under
their mother's wing never touched Hetty with any pleasure; that was
not the sort of prettiness she cared about, but she did care about the
prettiness of the new things she would buy for herself at Treddleston
Fair with the money they fetched. And yet she looked so dimpled,
so charming, as she stooped down to put the soaked bread under the
hen-coop, that you must have been a very acute personage indeed to
suspect her of that hardness. Molly, the housemaid, with a turn-up nose
and a protuberant jaw, was really a tender-hearted girl, and, as Mrs.
Poyser said, a jewel to look after the poultry; but her stolid
face showed nothing of this maternal delight, any more than a brown
earthenware pitcher will show the light of the lamp within it.

It is generally a feminine eye that first detects the moral deficiencies
hidden under the "dear deceit" of beauty, so it is not surprising that
Mrs. Poyser, with her keenness and abundant opportunity for observation,
should have formed a tolerably fair estimate of what might be expected
from Hetty in the way of feeling, and in moments of indignation she had
sometimes spoken with great openness on the subject to her husband.

"She's no better than a peacock, as 'ud strut about on the wall and
spread its tail when the sun shone if all the folks i' the parish was
dying: there's nothing seems to give her a turn i' th' inside, not even
when we thought Totty had tumbled into the pit. To think o' that dear
cherub! And we found her wi' her little shoes stuck i' the mud an'
crying fit to break her heart by the far horse-pit. But Hetty never
minded it, I could see, though she's been at the nussin' o' the child
ever since it was a babby. It's my belief her heart's as hard as a
pebble."

"Nay, nay," said Mr. Poyser, "thee mustn't judge Hetty too hard. Them
young gells are like the unripe grain; they'll make good meal by and by,
but they're squashy as yet. Thee't see Hetty 'll be all right when she's
got a good husband and children of her own."

"I don't want to be hard upo' the gell. She's got cliver fingers of her
own, and can be useful enough when she likes and I should miss her wi'
the butter, for she's got a cool hand. An' let be what may, I'd strive
to do my part by a niece o' yours--an' THAT I've done, for I've taught
her everything as belongs to a house, an' I've told her her duty often
enough, though, God knows, I've no breath to spare, an' that catchin'
pain comes on dreadful by times. Wi' them three gells in the house I'd
need have twice the strength to keep 'em up to their work. It's
like having roast meat at three fires; as soon as you've basted one,
another's burnin'."

Hetty stood sufficiently in awe of her aunt to be anxious to conceal
from her so much of her vanity as could be hidden without too great a
sacrifice. She could not resist spending her money in bits of finery
which Mrs. Poyser disapproved; but she would have been ready to die with
shame, vexation, and fright if her aunt had this moment opened the door,
and seen her with her bits of candle lighted, and strutting about decked
in her scarf and ear-rings. To prevent such a surprise, she always
bolted her door, and she had not forgotten to do so to-night. It was
well: for there now came a light tap, and Hetty, with a leaping heart,
rushed to blow out the candles and throw them into the drawer. She dared
not stay to take out her ear-rings, but she threw off her scarf, and let
it fall on the floor, before the light tap came again. We shall know how
it was that the light tap came, if we leave Hetty for a short time
and return to Dinah, at the moment when she had delivered Totty to her
mother's arms, and was come upstairs to her bedroom, adjoining Hetty's.

Dinah delighted in her bedroom window. Being on the second story of that
tall house, it gave her a wide view over the fields. The thickness of
the wall formed a broad step about a yard below the window, where she
could place her chair. And now the first thing she did on entering her
room was to seat herself in this chair and look out on the peaceful
fields beyond which the large moon was rising, just above the hedgerow
elms. She liked the pasture best where the milch cows were lying,
and next to that the meadow where the grass was half-mown, and lay in
silvered sweeping lines. Her heart was very full, for there was to be
only one more night on which she would look out on those fields for a
long time to come; but she thought little of leaving the mere scene,
for, to her, bleak Snowfield had just as many charms. She thought of all
the dear people whom she had learned to care for among these peaceful
fields, and who would now have a place in her loving remembrance for
ever. She thought of the struggles and the weariness that might lie
before them in the rest of their life's journey, when she would be away
from them, and know nothing of what was befalling them; and the pressure
of this thought soon became too strong for her to enjoy the unresponding
stillness of the moonlit fields. She closed her eyes, that she might
feel more intensely the presence of a Love and Sympathy deeper and more
tender than was breathed from the earth and sky. That was often Dinah's
mode of praying in solitude. Simply to close her eyes and to feel
herself enclosed by the Divine Presence; then gradually her fears, her
yearning anxieties for others, melted away like ice-crystals in a warm
ocean. She had sat in this way perfectly still, with her hands crossed
on her lap and the pale light resting on her calm face, for at least ten
minutes when she was startled by a loud sound, apparently of something
falling in Hetty's room. But like all sounds that fall on our ears in a
state of abstraction, it had no distinct character, but was simply loud
and startling, so that she felt uncertain whether she had interpreted
it rightly. She rose and listened, but all was quiet afterwards, and she
reflected that Hetty might merely have knocked something down in getting
into bed. She began slowly to undress; but now, owing to the suggestions
of this sound, her thoughts became concentrated on Hetty--that sweet
young thing, with life and all its trials before her--the solemn daily
duties of the wife and mother--and her mind so unprepared for them all,
bent merely on little foolish, selfish pleasures, like a child hugging
its toys in the beginning of a long toilsome journey in which it will
have to bear hunger and cold and unsheltered darkness. Dinah felt a
double care for Hetty, because she shared Seth's anxious interest in his
brother's lot, and she had not come to the conclusion that Hetty did not
love Adam well enough to marry him. She saw too clearly the absence of
any warm, self-devoting love in Hetty's nature to regard the coldness of
her behaviour towards Adam as any indication that he was not the man
she would like to have for a husband. And this blank in Hetty's nature,
instead of exciting Dinah's dislike, only touched her with a deeper
pity: the lovely face and form affected her as beauty always affects a
pure and tender mind, free from selfish jealousies. It was an excellent
divine gift, that gave a deeper pathos to the need, the sin, the sorrow
with which it was mingled, as the canker in a lily-white bud is more
grievous to behold than in a common pot-herb.

By the time Dinah had undressed and put on her night-gown, this feeling
about Hetty had gathered a painful intensity; her imagination had
created a thorny thicket of sin and sorrow, in which she saw the poor
thing struggling torn and bleeding, looking with tears for rescue and
finding none. It was in this way that Dinah's imagination and sympathy
acted and reacted habitually, each heightening the other. She felt a
deep longing to go now and pour into Hetty's ear all the words of tender
warning and appeal that rushed into her mind. But perhaps Hetty was
already asleep. Dinah put her ear to the partition and heard still some
slight noises, which convinced her that Hetty was not yet in bed. Still
she hesitated; she was not quite certain of a divine direction; the
voice that told her to go to Hetty seemed no stronger that the other
voice which said that Hetty was weary, and that going to her now in an
unseasonable moment would only tend to close her heart more obstinately.
Dinah was not satisfied without a more unmistakable guidance than those
inward voices. There was light enough for her, if she opened her Bible,
to discern the text sufficiently to know what it would say to her. She
knew the physiognomy of every page, and could tell on what book she
opened, sometimes on what chapter, without seeing title or number. It
was a small thick Bible, worn quite round at the edges. Dinah laid it
sideways on the window ledge, where the light was strongest, and then
opened it with her forefinger. The first words she looked at were those
at the top of the left-hand page: "And they all wept sore, and fell on
Paul's neck and kissed him." That was enough for Dinah; she had opened
on that memorable parting at Ephesus, when Paul had felt bound to open
his heart in a last exhortation and warning. She hesitated no longer,
but, opening her own door gently, went and tapped on Hetty's. We know
she had to tap twice, because Hetty had to put out her candles and throw
off her black lace scarf; but after the second tap the door was opened
immediately. Dinah said, "Will you let me come in, Hetty?" and Hetty,
without speaking, for she was confused and vexed, opened the door wider
and let her in.

What a strange contrast the two figures made, visible enough in that
mingled twilight and moonlight! Hetty, her cheeks flushed and her eyes
glistening from her imaginary drama, her beautiful neck and arms bare,
her hair hanging in a curly tangle down her back, and the baubles in her
ears. Dinah, covered with her long white dress, her pale face full of
subdued emotion, almost like a lovely corpse into which the soul has
returned charged with sublimer secrets and a sublimer love. They were
nearly of the same height; Dinah evidently a little the taller as she
put her arm round Hetty's waist and kissed her forehead.

"I knew you were not in bed, my dear," she said, in her sweet clear
voice, which was irritating to Hetty, mingling with her own peevish
vexation like music with jangling chains, "for I heard you moving; and I
longed to speak to you again to-night, for it is the last but one that
I shall be here, and we don't know what may happen to-morrow to keep us
apart. Shall I sit down with you while you do up your hair?"

"Oh yes," said Hetty, hastily turning round and reaching the second
chair in the room, glad that Dinah looked as if she did not notice her
ear-rings.

Dinah sat down, and Hetty began to brush together her hair before
twisting it up, doing it with that air of excessive indifference which
belongs to confused self-consciousness. But the expression of Dinah's
eyes gradually relieved her; they seemed unobservant of all details.

"Dear Hetty," she said, "It has been borne in upon my mind to-night that
you may some day be in trouble--trouble is appointed for us all here
below, and there comes a time when we need more comfort and help than
the things of this life can give. I want to tell you that if ever you
are in trouble, and need a friend that will always feel for you and love
you, you have got that friend in Dinah Morris at Snowfield, and if you
come to her, or send for her, she'll never forget this night and the
words she is speaking to you now. Will you remember it, Hetty?"

"Yes," said Hetty, rather frightened. "But why should you think I shall
be in trouble? Do you know of anything?"

Hetty had seated herself as she tied on her cap, and now Dinah leaned
forwards and took her hands as she answered, "Because, dear, trouble
comes to us all in this life: we set our hearts on things which it isn't
God's will for us to have, and then we go sorrowing; the people we love
are taken from us, and we can joy in nothing because they are not with
us; sickness comes, and we faint under the burden of our feeble bodies;
we go astray and do wrong, and bring ourselves into trouble with our
fellow-men. There is no man or woman born into this world to whom some
of these trials do not fall, and so I feel that some of them must happen
to you; and I desire for you, that while you are young you should seek
for strength from your Heavenly Father, that you may have a support
which will not fail you in the evil day."

Dinah paused and released Hetty's hands that she might not hinder her.
Hetty sat quite still; she felt no response within herself to Dinah's
anxious affection; but Dinah's words uttered with solemn pathetic
distinctness, affected her with a chill fear. Her flush had died away
almost to paleness; she had the timidity of a luxurious pleasure-seeking
nature, which shrinks from the hint of pain. Dinah saw the effect, and
her tender anxious pleading became the more earnest, till Hetty, full of
a vague fear that something evil was some time to befall her, began to
cry.

It is our habit to say that while the lower nature can never understand
the higher, the higher nature commands a complete view of the lower. But
I think the higher nature has to learn this comprehension, as we learn
the art of vision, by a good deal of hard experience, often with bruises
and gashes incurred in taking things up by the wrong end, and fancying
our space wider than it is. Dinah had never seen Hetty affected in this
way before, and, with her usual benignant hopefulness, she trusted it
was the stirring of a divine impulse. She kissed the sobbing thing, and
began to cry with her for grateful joy. But Hetty was simply in that
excitable state of mind in which there is no calculating what turn the
feelings may take from one moment to another, and for the first time she
became irritated under Dinah's caress. She pushed her away impatiently,
and said, with a childish sobbing voice, "Don't talk to me so, Dinah.
Why do you come to frighten me? I've never done anything to you. Why
can't you let me be?"

Poor Dinah felt a pang. She was too wise to persist, and only said
mildly, "Yes, my dear, you're tired; I won't hinder you any longer. Make
haste and get into bed. Good-night."

She went out of the room almost as quietly and quickly as if she had
been a ghost; but once by the side of her own bed, she threw herself on
her knees and poured out in deep silence all the passionate pity that
filled her heart.

As for Hetty, she was soon in the wood again--her waking dreams being
merged in a sleeping life scarcely more fragmentary and confused.



Chapter XVI

Links


ARTHUR DONNITHORNE, you remember, is under an engagement with himself to
go and see Mr. Irwine this Friday morning, and he is awake and dressing
so early that he determines to go before breakfast, instead of after.
The rector, he knows, breakfasts alone at half-past nine, the ladies of
the family having a different breakfast-hour; Arthur will have an early
ride over the hill and breakfast with him. One can say everything best
over a meal.

The progress of civilization has made a breakfast or a dinner an
easy and cheerful substitute for more troublesome and disagreeable
ceremonies. We take a less gloomy view of our errors now our father
confessor listens to us over his egg and coffee. We are more distinctly
conscious that rude penances are out of the question for gentlemen in
an enlightened age, and that mortal sin is not incompatible with an
appetite for muffins. An assault on our pockets, which in more barbarous
times would have been made in the brusque form of a pistol-shot, is
quite a well-bred and smiling procedure now it has become a request for
a loan thrown in as an easy parenthesis between the second and third
glasses of claret.

Still, there was this advantage in the old rigid forms, that they
committed you to the fulfilment of a resolution by some outward deed:
when you have put your mouth to one end of a hole in a stone wall and
are aware that there is an expectant ear at the other end, you are more
likely to say what you came out with the intention of saying than if you
were seated with your legs in an easy attitude under the mahogany with
a companion who will have no reason to be surprised if you have nothing
particular to say.

However, Arthur Donnithorne, as he winds among the pleasant lanes on
horseback in the morning sunshine, has a sincere determination to open
his heart to the rector, and the swirling sound of the scythe as he
passes by the meadow is all the pleasanter to him because of this honest
purpose. He is glad to see the promise of settled weather now, for
getting in the hay, about which the farmers have been fearful; and there
is something so healthful in the sharing of a joy that is general and
not merely personal, that this thought about the hay-harvest reacts on
his state of mind and makes his resolution seem an easier matter. A man
about town might perhaps consider that these influences were not to be
felt out of a child's story-book; but when you are among the fields
and hedgerows, it is impossible to maintain a consistent superiority to
simple natural pleasures.

Arthur had passed the village of Hayslope and was approaching the
Broxton side of the hill, when, at a turning in the road, he saw a
figure about a hundred yards before him which it was impossible to
mistake for any one else than Adam Bede, even if there had been no grey,
tailless shepherd-dog at his heels. He was striding along at his usual
rapid pace, and Arthur pushed on his horse to overtake him, for he
retained too much of his boyish feeling for Adam to miss an opportunity
of chatting with him. I will not say that his love for that good fellow
did not owe some of its force to the love of patronage: our friend
Arthur liked to do everything that was handsome, and to have his
handsome deeds recognized.

Adam looked round as he heard the quickening clatter of the horse's
heels, and waited for the horseman, lifting his paper cap from his head
with a bright smile of recognition. Next to his own brother Seth, Adam
would have done more for Arthur Donnithorne than for any other young man
in the world. There was hardly anything he would not rather have lost
than the two-feet ruler which he always carried in his pocket; it was
Arthur's present, bought with his pocket-money when he was a fair-haired
lad of eleven, and when he had profited so well by Adam's lessons in
carpentering and turning as to embarrass every female in the house with
gifts of superfluous thread-reels and round boxes. Adam had quite a
pride in the little squire in those early days, and the feeling had
only become slightly modified as the fair-haired lad had grown into
the whiskered young man. Adam, I confess, was very susceptible to the
influence of rank, and quite ready to give an extra amount of respect to
every one who had more advantages than himself, not being a philosopher
or a proletaire with democratic ideas, but simply a stout-limbed clever
carpenter with a large fund of reverence in his nature, which inclined
him to admit all established claims unless he saw very clear grounds for
questioning them. He had no theories about setting the world to rights,
but he saw there was a great deal of damage done by building with
ill-seasoned timber--by ignorant men in fine clothes making plans for
outhouses and workshops and the like without knowing the bearings of
things--by slovenly joiners' work, and by hasty contracts that could
never be fulfilled without ruining somebody; and he resolved, for his
part, to set his face against such doings. On these points he would
have maintained his opinion against the largest landed proprietor in
Loamshire or Stonyshire either; but he felt that beyond these it would
be better for him to defer to people who were more knowing than himself.
He saw as plainly as possible how ill the woods on the estate were
managed, and the shameful state of the farm-buildings; and if old Squire
Donnithorne had asked him the effect of this mismanagement, he would
have spoken his opinion without flinching, but the impulse to a
respectful demeanour towards a "gentleman" would have been strong within
him all the while. The word "gentleman" had a spell for Adam, and, as he
often said, he "couldn't abide a fellow who thought he made himself fine
by being coxy to's betters." I must remind you again that Adam had the
blood of the peasant in his veins, and that since he was in his prime
half a century ago, you must expect some of his characteristics to be
obsolete.

Towards the young squire this instinctive reverence of Adam's was
assisted by boyish memories and personal regard so you may imagine that
he thought far more of Arthur's good qualities, and attached far more
value to very slight actions of his, than if they had been the qualities
and actions of a common workman like himself. He felt sure it would be
a fine day for everybody about Hayslope when the young squire came into
the estate--such a generous open-hearted disposition as he had, and an
"uncommon" notion about improvements and repairs, considering he was
only just coming of age. Thus there was both respect and affection in
the smile with which he raised his paper cap as Arthur Donnithorne rode
up.

"Well, Adam, how are you?" said Arthur, holding out his hand. He never
shook hands with any of the farmers, and Adam felt the honour keenly. "I
could swear to your back a long way off. It's just the same back, only
broader, as when you used to carry me on it. Do you remember?"

"Aye, sir, I remember. It 'ud be a poor look-out if folks didn't
remember what they did and said when they were lads. We should think no
more about old friends than we do about new uns, then."

"You're going to Broxton, I suppose?" said Arthur, putting his horse
on at a slow pace while Adam walked by his side. "Are you going to the
rectory?"

"No, sir, I'm going to see about Bradwell's barn. They're afraid of the
roof pushing the walls out, and I'm going to see what can be done with
it before we send the stuff and the workmen."

"Why, Burge trusts almost everything to you now, Adam, doesn't he? I
should think he will make you his partner soon. He will, if he's wise."

"Nay, sir, I don't see as he'd be much the better off for that. A
foreman, if he's got a conscience and delights in his work, will do his
business as well as if he was a partner. I wouldn't give a penny for
a man as 'ud drive a nail in slack because he didn't get extra pay for
it."

"I know that, Adam; I know you work for him as well as if you were
working for yourself. But you would have more power than you have now,
and could turn the business to better account perhaps. The old man must
give up his business sometime, and he has no son; I suppose he'll want a
son-in-law who can take to it. But he has rather grasping fingers of his
own, I fancy. I daresay he wants a man who can put some money into the
business. If I were not as poor as a rat, I would gladly invest some
money in that way, for the sake of having you settled on the estate. I'm
sure I should profit by it in the end. And perhaps I shall be better off
in a year or two. I shall have a larger allowance now I'm of age; and
when I've paid off a debt or two, I shall be able to look about me."

"You're very good to say so, sir, and I'm not unthankful. But"--Adam
continued, in a decided tone--"I shouldn't like to make any offers
to Mr. Burge, or t' have any made for me. I see no clear road to a
partnership. If he should ever want to dispose of the business, that 'ud
be a different matter. I should be glad of some money at a fair interest
then, for I feel sure I could pay it off in time."

"Very well, Adam," said Arthur, remembering what Mr. Irwine had said
about a probable hitch in the love-making between Adam and Mary Burge,
"we'll say no more about it at present. When is your father to be
buried?"

"On Sunday, sir; Mr. Irwine's coming earlier on purpose. I shall be glad
when it's over, for I think my mother 'ull perhaps get easier then. It
cuts one sadly to see the grief of old people; they've no way o' working
it off, and the new spring brings no new shoots out on the withered
tree."

"Ah, you've had a good deal of trouble and vexation in your life, Adam.
I don't think you've ever been hare-brained and light-hearted, like
other youngsters. You've always had some care on your mind."

"Why, yes, sir; but that's nothing to make a fuss about. If we're men
and have men's feelings, I reckon we must have men's troubles. We can't
be like the birds, as fly from their nest as soon as they've got their
wings, and never know their kin when they see 'em, and get a fresh lot
every year. I've had enough to be thankful for: I've allays had health
and strength and brains to give me a delight in my work; and I count it
a great thing as I've had Bartle Massey's night-school to go to. He's
helped me to knowledge I could never ha' got by myself."

"What a rare fellow you are, Adam!" said Arthur, after a pause, in which
he had looked musingly at the big fellow walking by his side. "I could
hit out better than most men at Oxford, and yet I believe you would
knock me into next week if I were to have a battle with you."

"God forbid I should ever do that, sir," said Adam, looking round at
Arthur and smiling. "I used to fight for fun, but I've never done that
since I was the cause o' poor Gil Tranter being laid up for a fortnight.
I'll never fight any man again, only when he behaves like a scoundrel.
If you get hold of a chap that's got no shame nor conscience to stop
him, you must try what you can do by bunging his eyes up."

Arthur did not laugh, for he was preoccupied with some thought that
made him say presently, "I should think now, Adam, you never have any
struggles within yourself. I fancy you would master a wish that you had
made up your mind it was not quite right to indulge, as easily as you
would knock down a drunken fellow who was quarrelsome with you. I mean,
you are never shilly-shally, first making up your mind that you won't do
a thing, and then doing it after all?"

"Well," said Adam, slowly, after a moment's hesitation, "no. I don't
remember ever being see-saw in that way, when I'd made my mind up, as
you say, that a thing was wrong. It takes the taste out o' my mouth for
things, when I know I should have a heavy conscience after 'em. I've
seen pretty clear, ever since I could cast up a sum, as you can never
do what's wrong without breeding sin and trouble more than you can ever
see. It's like a bit o' bad workmanship--you never see th' end o' the
mischief it'll do. And it's a poor look-out to come into the world to
make your fellow-creatures worse off instead o' better. But there's a
difference between the things folks call wrong. I'm not for making a
sin of every little fool's trick, or bit o' nonsense anybody may be let
into, like some o' them dissenters. And a man may have two minds whether
it isn't worthwhile to get a bruise or two for the sake of a bit o' fun.
But it isn't my way to be see-saw about anything: I think my fault lies
th' other way. When I've said a thing, if it's only to myself, it's hard
for me to go back."

"Yes, that's just what I expected of you," said Arthur. "You've got an
iron will, as well as an iron arm. But however strong a man's resolution
may be, it costs him something to carry it out, now and then. We may
determine not to gather any cherries and keep our hands sturdily in our
pockets, but we can't prevent our mouths from watering."

"That's true, sir, but there's nothing like settling with ourselves as
there's a deal we must do without i' this life. It's no use looking on
life as if it was Treddles'on Fair, where folks only go to see shows and
get fairings. If we do, we shall find it different. But where's the use
o' me talking to you, sir? You know better than I do."

"I'm not so sure of that, Adam. You've had four or five years of
experience more than I've had, and I think your life has been a better
school to you than college has been to me."

"Why, sir, you seem to think o' college something like what Bartle
Massey does. He says college mostly makes people like bladders--just
good for nothing but t' hold the stuff as is poured into 'em. But he's
got a tongue like a sharp blade, Bartle has--it never touches anything
but it cuts. Here's the turning, sir. I must bid you good-morning, as
you're going to the rectory."

"Good-bye, Adam, good-bye."

Arthur gave his horse to the groom at the rectory gate, and walked along
the gravel towards the door which opened on the garden. He knew that the
rector always breakfasted in his study, and the study lay on the left
hand of this door, opposite the dining-room. It was a small low room,
belonging to the old part of the house--dark with the sombre covers of
the books that lined the walls; yet it looked very cheery this morning
as Arthur reached the open window. For the morning sun fell aslant on
the great glass globe with gold fish in it, which stood on a scagliola
pillar in front of the ready-spread bachelor breakfast-table, and by the
side of this breakfast-table was a group which would have made any room
enticing. In the crimson damask easy-chair sat Mr. Irwine, with that
radiant freshness which he always had when he came from his morning
toilet; his finely formed plump white hand was playing along Juno's
brown curly back; and close to Juno's tail, which was wagging with calm
matronly pleasure, the two brown pups were rolling over each other in an
ecstatic duet of worrying noises. On a cushion a little removed sat
Pug, with the air of a maiden lady, who looked on these familiarities
as animal weaknesses, which she made as little show as possible of
observing. On the table, at Mr. Irwine's elbow, lay the first volume of
the Foulis AEschylus, which Arthur knew well by sight; and the silver
coffee-pot, which Carroll was bringing in, sent forth a fragrant steam
which completed the delights of a bachelor breakfast.

"Hallo, Arthur, that's a good fellow! You're just in time," said Mr.
Irwine, as Arthur paused and stepped in over the low window-sill.
"Carroll, we shall want more coffee and eggs, and haven't you got some
cold fowl for us to eat with that ham? Why, this is like old days,
Arthur; you haven't been to breakfast with me these five years."

"It was a tempting morning for a ride before breakfast," said Arthur;
"and I used to like breakfasting with you so when I was reading with
you. My grandfather is always a few degrees colder at breakfast than at
any other hour in the day. I think his morning bath doesn't agree with
him."

Arthur was anxious not to imply that he came with any special purpose.
He had no sooner found himself in Mr. Irwine's presence than the
confidence which he had thought quite easy before, suddenly appeared
the most difficult thing in the world to him, and at the very moment of
shaking hands he saw his purpose in quite a new light. How could he make
Irwine understand his position unless he told him those little scenes
in the wood; and how could he tell them without looking like a fool?
And then his weakness in coming back from Gawaine's, and doing the very
opposite of what he intended! Irwine would think him a shilly-shally
fellow ever after. However, it must come out in an unpremeditated way;
the conversation might lead up to it.

"I like breakfast-time better than any other moment in the day," said
Mr. Irwine. "No dust has settled on one's mind then, and it presents a
clear mirror to the rays of things. I always have a favourite book by
me at breakfast, and I enjoy the bits I pick up then so much, that
regularly every morning it seems to me as if I should certainly become
studious again. But presently Dent brings up a poor fellow who has
killed a hare, and when I've got through my 'justicing,' as Carroll
calls it, I'm inclined for a ride round the glebe, and on my way back
I meet with the master of the workhouse, who has got a long story of a
mutinous pauper to tell me; and so the day goes on, and I'm always the
same lazy fellow before evening sets in. Besides, one wants the
stimulus of sympathy, and I have never had that since poor D'Oyley left
Treddleston. If you had stuck to your books well, you rascal, I should
have had a pleasanter prospect before me. But scholarship doesn't run in
your family blood."

"No indeed. It's well if I can remember a little inapplicable Latin to
adorn my maiden speech in Parliament six or seven years hence. 'Cras
ingens iterabimus aequor,' and a few shreds of that sort, will perhaps
stick to me, and I shall arrange my opinions so as to introduce them.
But I don't think a knowledge of the classics is a pressing want to
a country gentleman; as far as I can see, he'd much better have a
knowledge of manures. I've been reading your friend Arthur Young's books
lately, and there's nothing I should like better than to carry out some
of his ideas in putting the farmers on a better management of their
land; and, as he says, making what was a wild country, all of the same
dark hue, bright and variegated with corn and cattle. My grandfather
will never let me have any power while he lives, but there's nothing
I should like better than to undertake the Stonyshire side of the
estate--it's in a dismal condition--and set improvements on foot, and
gallop about from one place to another and overlook them. I should like
to know all the labourers, and see them touching their hats to me with a
look of goodwill."

"Bravo, Arthur! A man who has no feeling for the classics couldn't
make a better apology for coming into the world than by increasing
the quantity of food to maintain scholars--and rectors who appreciate
scholars. And whenever you enter on your career of model landlord may
I be there to see. You'll want a portly rector to complete the picture,
and take his tithe of all the respect and honour you get by your hard
work. Only don't set your heart too strongly on the goodwill you are to
get in consequence. I'm not sure that men are the fondest of those who
try to be useful to them. You know Gawaine has got the curses of the
whole neighbourhood upon him about that enclosure. You must make
it quite clear to your mind which you are most bent upon, old
boy--popularity or usefulness--else you may happen to miss both."

"Oh! Gawaine is harsh in his manners; he doesn't make himself personally
agreeable to his tenants. I don't believe there's anything you can't
prevail on people to do with kindness. For my part, I couldn't live in
a neighbourhood where I was not respected and beloved. And it's very
pleasant to go among the tenants here--they seem all so well inclined
to me I suppose it seems only the other day to them since I was a little
lad, riding on a pony about as big as a sheep. And if fair allowances
were made to them, and their buildings attended to, one could persuade
them to farm on a better plan, stupid as they are."

"Then mind you fall in love in the right place, and don't get a wife who
will drain your purse and make you niggardly in spite of yourself. My
mother and I have a little discussion about you sometimes: she says, 'I
ll never risk a single prophecy on Arthur until I see the woman he falls
in love with.' She thinks your lady-love will rule you as the moon rules
the tides. But I feel bound to stand up for you, as my pupil you know,
and I maintain that you're not of that watery quality. So mind you don't
disgrace my judgment."

Arthur winced under this speech, for keen old Mrs. Irwine's opinion
about him had the disagreeable effect of a sinister omen. This, to be
sure, was only another reason for persevering in his intention, and
getting an additional security against himself. Nevertheless, at this
point in the conversation, he was conscious of increased disinclination
to tell his story about Hetty. He was of an impressible nature, and
lived a great deal in other people's opinions and feelings concerning
himself; and the mere fact that he was in the presence of an intimate
friend, who had not the slightest notion that he had had any such
serious internal struggle as he came to confide, rather shook his own
belief in the seriousness of the struggle. It was not, after all, a
thing to make a fuss about; and what could Irwine do for him that he
could not do for himself? He would go to Eagledale in spite of Meg's
lameness--go on Rattler, and let Pym follow as well as he could on the
old hack. That was his thought as he sugared his coffee; but the
next minute, as he was lifting the cup to his lips, he remembered how
thoroughly he had made up his mind last night to tell Irwine. No! He
would not be vacillating again--he WOULD do what he had meant to do,
this time. So it would be well not to let the personal tone of the
conversation altogether drop. If they went to quite indifferent topics,
his difficulty would be heightened. It had required no noticeable pause
for this rush and rebound of feeling, before he answered, "But I think
it is hardly an argument against a man's general strength of character
that he should be apt to be mastered by love. A fine constitution
doesn't insure one against smallpox or any other of those inevitable
diseases. A man may be very firm in other matters and yet be under a
sort of witchery from a woman."

"Yes; but there's this difference between love and smallpox, or
bewitchment either--that if you detect the disease at an early stage and
try change of air, there is every chance of complete escape without any
further development of symptoms. And there are certain alternative doses
which a man may administer to himself by keeping unpleasant consequences
before his mind: this gives you a sort of smoked glass through which
you may look at the resplendent fair one and discern her true outline;
though I'm afraid, by the by, the smoked glass is apt to be missing just
at the moment it is most wanted. I daresay, now, even a man fortified
with a knowledge of the classics might be lured into an imprudent
marriage, in spite of the warning given him by the chorus in the
Prometheus."

The smile that flitted across Arthur's face was a faint one, and instead
of following Mr. Irwine's playful lead, he said, quite seriously--"Yes,
that's the worst of it. It's a desperately vexatious thing, that after
all one's reflections and quiet determinations, we should be ruled by
moods that one can't calculate on beforehand. I don't think a man ought
to be blamed so much if he is betrayed into doing things in that way, in
spite of his resolutions."

"Ah, but the moods lie in his nature, my boy, just as much as his
reflections did, and more. A man can never do anything at variance with
his own nature. He carries within him the germ of his most exceptional
action; and if we wise people make eminent fools of ourselves on any
particular occasion, we must endure the legitimate conclusion that we
carry a few grains of folly to our ounce of wisdom."

"Well, but one may be betrayed into doing things by a combination of
circumstances, which one might never have done otherwise."

"Why, yes, a man can't very well steal a bank-note unless the bank-note
lies within convenient reach; but he won't make us think him an honest
man because he begins to howl at the bank-note for falling in his way."

"But surely you don't think a man who struggles against a temptation
into which he falls at last as bad as the man who never struggles at
all?"

"No, certainly; I pity him in proportion to his struggles, for they
foreshadow the inward suffering which is the worst form of Nemesis.
Consequences are unpitying. Our deeds carry their terrible consequences,
quite apart from any fluctuations that went before--consequences that
are hardly ever confined to ourselves. And it is best to fix our minds
on that certainty, instead of considering what may be the elements of
excuse for us. But I never knew you so inclined for moral discussion,
Arthur? Is it some danger of your own that you are considering in this
philosophical, general way?"

In asking this question, Mr. Irwine pushed his plate away, threw himself
back in his chair, and looked straight at Arthur. He really suspected
that Arthur wanted to tell him something, and thought of smoothing
the way for him by this direct question. But he was mistaken. Brought
suddenly and involuntarily to the brink of confession, Arthur shrank
back and felt less disposed towards it than ever. The conversation had
taken a more serious tone than he had intended--it would quite mislead
Irwine--he would imagine there was a deep passion for Hetty, while there
was no such thing. He was conscious of colouring, and was annoyed at his
boyishness.

"Oh no, no danger," he said as indifferently as he could. "I don't know
that I am more liable to irresolution than other people; only there are
little incidents now and then that set one speculating on what might
happen in the future."

Was there a motive at work under this strange reluctance of Arthur's
which had a sort of backstairs influence, not admitted to himself? Our
mental business is carried on much in the same way as the business
of the State: a great deal of hard work is done by agents who are not
acknowledged. In a piece of machinery, too, I believe there is often a
small unnoticeable wheel which has a great deal to do with the motion of
the large obvious ones. Possibly there was some such unrecognized agent
secretly busy in Arthur's mind at this moment--possibly it was the fear
lest he might hereafter find the fact of having made a confession to the
rector a serious annoyance, in case he should NOT be able quite to carry
out his good resolutions? I dare not assert that it was not so. The
human soul is a very complex thing.

The idea of Hetty had just crossed Mr. Irwine's mind as he looked
inquiringly at Arthur, but his disclaiming indifferent answer confirmed
the thought which had quickly followed--that there could be nothing
serious in that direction. There was no probability that Arthur ever saw
her except at church, and at her own home under the eye of Mrs. Poyser;
and the hint he had given Arthur about her the other day had no more
serious meaning than to prevent him from noticing her so as to rouse the
little chit's vanity, and in this way perturb the rustic drama of her
life. Arthur would soon join his regiment, and be far away: no, there
could be no danger in that quarter, even if Arthur's character had not
been a strong security against it. His honest, patronizing pride in
the good-will and respect of everybody about him was a safeguard even
against foolish romance, still more against a lower kind of folly.
If there had been anything special on Arthur's mind in the previous
conversation, it was clear he was not inclined to enter into details,
and Mr. Irwine was too delicate to imply even a friendly curiosity. He
perceived a change of subject would be welcome, and said, "By the way,
Arthur, at your colonel's birthday fete there were some transparencies
that made a great effect in honour of Britannia, and Pitt, and the
Loamshire Militia, and, above all, the 'generous youth,' the hero of
the day. Don't you think you should get up something of the same sort to
astonish our weak minds?"

The opportunity was gone. While Arthur was hesitating, the rope to
which he might have clung had drifted away--he must trust now to his own
swimming.

In ten minutes from that time, Mr. Irwine was called for on business,
and Arthur, bidding him good-bye, mounted his horse again with a sense
of dissatisfaction, which he tried to quell by determining to set off
for Eagledale without an hour's delay.




Book Two




Chapter XVII

In Which the Story Pauses a Little


"THIS Rector of Broxton is little better than a pagan!" I hear one of my
readers exclaim. "How much more edifying it would have been if you had
made him give Arthur some truly spiritual advice! You might have put
into his mouth the most beautiful things--quite as good as reading a
sermon."

Certainly I could, if I held it the highest vocation of the novelist
to represent things as they never have been and never will be. Then,
of course, I might refashion life and character entirely after my own
liking; I might select the most unexceptionable type of clergyman and
put my own admirable opinions into his mouth on all occasions. But it
happens, on the contrary, that my strongest effort is to avoid any such
arbitrary picture, and to give a faithful account of men and things
as they have mirrored themselves in my mind. The mirror is doubtless
defective, the outlines will sometimes be disturbed, the reflection
faint or confused; but I feel as much bound to tell you as precisely
as I can what that reflection is, as if I were in the witness-box,
narrating my experience on oath.

Sixty years ago--it is a long time, so no wonder things have
changed--all clergymen were not zealous; indeed, there is reason to
believe that the number of zealous clergymen was small, and it is
probable that if one among the small minority had owned the livings
of Broxton and Hayslope in the year 1799, you would have liked him no
better than you like Mr. Irwine. Ten to one, you would have thought him
a tasteless, indiscreet, methodistical man. It is so very rarely that
facts hit that nice medium required by our own enlightened opinions and
refined taste! Perhaps you will say, "Do improve the facts a little,
then; make them more accordant with those correct views which it is our
privilege to possess. The world is not just what we like; do touch it
up with a tasteful pencil, and make believe it is not quite such a mixed
entangled affair. Let all people who hold unexceptionable opinions act
unexceptionably. Let your most faulty characters always be on the wrong
side, and your virtuous ones on the right. Then we shall see at a glance
whom we are to condemn and whom we are to approve. Then we shall be able
to admire, without the slightest disturbance of our prepossessions: we
shall hate and despise with that true ruminant relish which belongs to
undoubting confidence."

But, my good friend, what will you do then with your fellow-parishioner
who opposes your husband in the vestry? With your newly appointed vicar,
whose style of preaching you find painfully below that of his regretted
predecessor? With the honest servant who worries your soul with her one
failing? With your neighbour, Mrs. Green, who was really kind to you
in your last illness, but has said several ill-natured things about you
since your convalescence? Nay, with your excellent husband himself, who
has other irritating habits besides that of not wiping his shoes? These
fellow-mortals, every one, must be accepted as they are: you can neither
straighten their noses, nor brighten their wit, nor rectify their
dispositions; and it is these people--amongst whom your life is
passed--that it is needful you should tolerate, pity, and love: it is
these more or less ugly, stupid, inconsistent people whose movements of
goodness you should be able to admire--for whom you should cherish all
possible hopes, all possible patience. And I would not, even if I had
the choice, be the clever novelist who could create a world so much
better than this, in which we get up in the morning to do our daily
work, that you would be likely to turn a harder, colder eye on the
dusty streets and the common green fields--on the real breathing men
and women, who can be chilled by your indifference or injured by your
prejudice; who can be cheered and helped onward by your fellow-feeling,
your forbearance, your outspoken, brave justice.

So I am content to tell my simple story, without trying to make things
seem better than they were; dreading nothing, indeed, but falsity,
which, in spite of one's best efforts, there is reason to dread.
Falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult. The pencil is conscious of a
delightful facility in drawing a griffin--the longer the claws, and
the larger the wings, the better; but that marvellous facility which
we mistook for genius is apt to forsake us when we want to draw a real
unexaggerated lion. Examine your words well, and you will find that even
when you have no motive to be false, it is a very hard thing to say the
exact truth, even about your own immediate feelings--much harder than to
say something fine about them which is NOT the exact truth.

It is for this rare, precious quality of truthfulness that I delight in
many Dutch paintings, which lofty-minded people despise. I find a source
of delicious sympathy in these faithful pictures of a monotonous
homely existence, which has been the fate of so many more among my
fellow-mortals than a life of pomp or of absolute indigence, of tragic
suffering or of world-stirring actions. I turn, without shrinking, from
cloud-borne angels, from prophets, sibyls, and heroic warriors, to an
old woman bending over her flower-pot, or eating her solitary dinner,
while the noonday light, softened perhaps by a screen of leaves, falls
on her mob-cap, and just touches the rim of her spinning-wheel, and
her stone jug, and all those cheap common things which are the precious
necessaries of life to her--or I turn to that village wedding, kept
between four brown walls, where an awkward bridegroom opens the dance
with a high-shouldered, broad-faced bride, while elderly and middle-aged
friends look on, with very irregular noses and lips, and probably
with quart-pots in their hands, but with an expression of unmistakable
contentment and goodwill. "Foh!" says my idealistic friend, "what vulgar
details! What good is there in taking all these pains to give an exact
likeness of old women and clowns? What a low phase of life! What clumsy,
ugly people!"

But bless us, things may be lovable that are not altogether handsome, I
hope? I am not at all sure that the majority of the human race have
not been ugly, and even among those "lords of their kind," the British,
squat figures, ill-shapen nostrils, and dingy complexions are not
startling exceptions. Yet there is a great deal of family love amongst
us. I have a friend or two whose class of features is such that the
Apollo curl on the summit of their brows would be decidedly trying; yet
to my certain knowledge tender hearts have beaten for them, and their
miniatures--flattering, but still not lovely--are kissed in secret by
motherly lips. I have seen many an excellent matron, who could have
never in her best days have been handsome, and yet she had a packet of
yellow love-letters in a private drawer, and sweet children showered
kisses on her sallow cheeks. And I believe there have been plenty of
young heroes, of middle stature and feeble beards, who have felt quite
sure they could never love anything more insignificant than a Diana, and
yet have found themselves in middle life happily settled with a wife who
waddles. Yes! Thank God; human feeling is like the mighty rivers that
bless the earth: it does not wait for beauty--it flows with resistless
force and brings beauty with it.

All honour and reverence to the divine beauty of form! Let us cultivate
it to the utmost in men, women, and children--in our gardens and in our
houses. But let us love that other beauty too, which lies in no secret
of proportion, but in the secret of deep human sympathy. Paint us an
angel, if you can, with a floating violet robe, and a face paled by the
celestial light; paint us yet oftener a Madonna, turning her mild face
upward and opening her arms to welcome the divine glory; but do not
impose on us any aesthetic rules which shall banish from the region of
Art those old women scraping carrots with their work-worn hands, those
heavy clowns taking holiday in a dingy pot-house, those rounded backs
and stupid weather-beaten faces that have bent over the spade and done
the rough work of the world--those homes with their tin pans, their
brown pitchers, their rough curs, and their clusters of onions. In
this world there are so many of these common coarse people, who have
no picturesque sentimental wretchedness! It is so needful we should
remember their existence, else we may happen to leave them quite out of
our religion and philosophy and frame lofty theories which only fit
a world of extremes. Therefore, let Art always remind us of them;
therefore let us always have men ready to give the loving pains of a
life to the faithful representing of commonplace things--men who see
beauty in these commonplace things, and delight in showing how kindly
the light of heaven falls on them. There are few prophets in the world;
few sublimely beautiful women; few heroes. I can't afford to give all
my love and reverence to such rarities: I want a great deal of those
feelings for my every-day fellow-men, especially for the few in the
foreground of the great multitude, whose faces I know, whose hands I
touch for whom I have to make way with kindly courtesy. Neither are
picturesque lazzaroni or romantic criminals half so frequent as your
common labourer, who gets his own bread and eats it vulgarly but
creditably with his own pocket-knife. It is more needful that I should
have a fibre of sympathy connecting me with that vulgar citizen who
weighs out my sugar in a vilely assorted cravat and waistcoat, than with
the handsomest rascal in red scarf and green feathers--more needful that
my heart should swell with loving admiration at some trait of gentle
goodness in the faulty people who sit at the same hearth with me, or in
the clergyman of my own parish, who is perhaps rather too corpulent and
in other respects is not an Oberlin or a Tillotson, than at the deeds
of heroes whom I shall never know except by hearsay, or at the sublimest
abstract of all clerical graces that was ever conceived by an able
novelist.

And so I come back to Mr. Irwine, with whom I desire you to be in
perfect charity, far as he may be from satisfying your demands on the
clerical character. Perhaps you think he was not--as he ought to have
been--a living demonstration of the benefits attached to a national
church? But I am not sure of that; at least I know that the people
in Broxton and Hayslope would have been very sorry to part with their
clergyman, and that most faces brightened at his approach; and until it
can be proved that hatred is a better thing for the soul than love,
I must believe that Mr. Irwine's influence in his parish was a more
wholesome one than that of the zealous Mr. Ryde, who came there twenty
years afterwards, when Mr. Irwine had been gathered to his fathers. It
is true, Mr. Ryde insisted strongly on the doctrines of the Reformation,
visited his flock a great deal in their own homes, and was severe
in rebuking the aberrations of the flesh--put a stop, indeed, to the
Christmas rounds of the church singers, as promoting drunkenness and
too light a handling of sacred things. But I gathered from Adam Bede, to
whom I talked of these matters in his old age, that few clergymen could
be less successful in winning the hearts of their parishioners than Mr.
Ryde. They learned a great many notions about doctrine from him, so
that almost every church-goer under fifty began to distinguish as well
between the genuine gospel and what did not come precisely up to that
standard, as if he had been born and bred a Dissenter; and for some time
after his arrival there seemed to be quite a religious movement in that
quiet rural district. "But," said Adam, "I've seen pretty clear, ever
since I was a young un, as religion's something else besides notions. It
isn't notions sets people doing the right thing--it's feelings. It's the
same with the notions in religion as it is with math'matics--a man may
be able to work problems straight off in's head as he sits by the fire
and smokes his pipe, but if he has to make a machine or a building, he
must have a will and a resolution and love something else better than
his own ease. Somehow, the congregation began to fall off, and people
began to speak light o' Mr. Ryde. I believe he meant right at bottom;
but, you see, he was sourish-tempered, and was for beating down prices
with the people as worked for him; and his preaching wouldn't go down
well with that sauce. And he wanted to be like my lord judge i' the
parish, punishing folks for doing wrong; and he scolded 'em from
the pulpit as if he'd been a Ranter, and yet he couldn't abide the
Dissenters, and was a deal more set against 'em than Mr. Irwine was. And
then he didn't keep within his income, for he seemed to think at first
go-off that six hundred a-year was to make him as big a man as Mr.
Donnithorne. That's a sore mischief I've often seen with the poor
curates jumping into a bit of a living all of a sudden. Mr. Ryde was a
deal thought on at a distance, I believe, and he wrote books, but as for
math'matics and the natur o' things, he was as ignorant as a woman. He
was very knowing about doctrines, and used to call 'em the bulwarks of
the Reformation; but I've always mistrusted that sort o' learning as
leaves folks foolish and unreasonable about business. Now Mester Irwine
was as different as could be: as quick!--he understood what you meant in
a minute, and he knew all about building, and could see when you'd made
a good job. And he behaved as much like a gentleman to the farmers, and
th' old women, and the labourers, as he did to the gentry. You never saw
HIM interfering and scolding, and trying to play th' emperor. Ah, he was
a fine man as ever you set eyes on; and so kind to's mother and sisters.
That poor sickly Miss Anne--he seemed to think more of her than of
anybody else in the world. There wasn't a soul in the parish had a word
to say against him; and his servants stayed with him till they were so
old and pottering, he had to hire other folks to do their work."

"Well," I said, "that was an excellent way of preaching in the weekdays;
but I daresay, if your old friend Mr. Irwine were to come to life again,
and get into the pulpit next Sunday, you would be rather ashamed that he
didn't preach better after all your praise of him."

"Nay, nay," said Adam, broadening his chest and throwing himself back in
his chair, as if he were ready to meet all inferences, "nobody has ever
heard me say Mr. Irwine was much of a preacher. He didn't go into deep
speritial experience; and I know there s a deal in a man's inward life
as you can't measure by the square, and say, 'Do this and that 'll
follow,' and, 'Do that and this 'll follow.' There's things go on in the
soul, and times when feelings come into you like a rushing mighty wind,
as the Scripture says, and part your life in two a'most, so you look
back on yourself as if you was somebody else. Those are things as you
can't bottle up in a 'do this' and 'do that'; and I'll go so far with
the strongest Methodist ever you'll find. That shows me there's deep
speritial things in religion. You can't make much out wi' talking about
it, but you feel it. Mr. Irwine didn't go into those things--he preached
short moral sermons, and that was all. But then he acted pretty much
up to what he said; he didn't set up for being so different from other
folks one day, and then be as like 'em as two peas the next. And he
made folks love him and respect him, and that was better nor stirring
up their gall wi' being overbusy. Mrs. Poyser used to say--you know she
would have her word about everything--she said, Mr. Irwine was like a
good meal o' victual, you were the better for him without thinking on
it, and Mr. Ryde was like a dose o' physic, he gripped you and worreted
you, and after all he left you much the same."

"But didn't Mr. Ryde preach a great deal more about that spiritual part
of religion that you talk of, Adam? Couldn't you get more out of his
sermons than out of Mr. Irwine's?"

"Eh, I knowna. He preached a deal about doctrines. But I've seen pretty
clear, ever since I was a young un, as religion's something else besides
doctrines and notions. I look at it as if the doctrines was like finding
names for your feelings, so as you can talk of 'em when you've never
known 'em, just as a man may talk o' tools when he knows their names,
though he's never so much as seen 'em, still less handled 'em. I've
heard a deal o' doctrine i' my time, for I used to go after the
Dissenting preachers along wi' Seth, when I was a lad o' seventeen, and
got puzzling myself a deal about th' Arminians and the Calvinists. The
Wesleyans, you know, are strong Arminians; and Seth, who could never
abide anything harsh and was always for hoping the best, held fast by
the Wesleyans from the very first; but I thought I could pick a hole or
two in their notions, and I got disputing wi' one o' the class leaders
down at Treddles'on, and harassed him so, first o' this side and then
o' that, till at last he said, 'Young man, it's the devil making use o'
your pride and conceit as a weapon to war against the simplicity o'
the truth.' I couldn't help laughing then, but as I was going home, I
thought the man wasn't far wrong. I began to see as all this weighing
and sifting what this text means and that text means, and whether folks
are saved all by God's grace, or whether there goes an ounce o' their
own will to't, was no part o' real religion at all. You may talk o'
these things for hours on end, and you'll only be all the more coxy and
conceited for't. So I took to going nowhere but to church, and hearing
nobody but Mr. Irwine, for he said nothing but what was good and what
you'd be the wiser for remembering. And I found it better for my soul
to be humble before the mysteries o' God's dealings, and not be making
a clatter about what I could never understand. And they're poor foolish
questions after all; for what have we got either inside or outside of us
but what comes from God? If we've got a resolution to do right, He gave
it us, I reckon, first or last; but I see plain enough we shall never do
it without a resolution, and that's enough for me."

Adam, you perceive, was a warm admirer, perhaps a partial judge, of Mr.
Irwine, as, happily, some of us still are of the people we have known
familiarly. Doubtless it will be despised as a weakness by that lofty
order of minds who pant after the ideal, and are oppressed by a general
sense that their emotions are of too exquisite a character to find fit
objects among their everyday fellowmen. I have often been favoured with
the confidence of these select natures, and find them to concur in
the experience that great men are overestimated and small men are
insupportable; that if you would love a woman without ever looking back
on your love as a folly, she must die while you are courting her; and if
you would maintain the slightest belief in human heroism, you must never
make a pilgrimage to see the hero. I confess I have often meanly shrunk
from confessing to these accomplished and acute gentlemen what my own
experience has been. I am afraid I have often smiled with hypocritical
assent, and gratified them with an epigram on the fleeting nature of our
illusions, which any one moderately acquainted with French literature
can command at a moment's notice. Human converse, I think some wise
man has remarked, is not rigidly sincere. But I herewith discharge my
conscience, and declare that I have had quite enthusiastic movements of
admiration towards old gentlemen who spoke the worst English, who were
occasionally fretful in their temper, and who had never moved in a
higher sphere of influence than that of parish overseer; and that
the way in which I have come to the conclusion that human nature is
lovable--the way I have learnt something of its deep pathos, its sublime
mysteries--has been by living a great deal among people more or less
commonplace and vulgar, of whom you would perhaps hear nothing very
surprising if you were to inquire about them in the neighbourhoods where
they dwelt. Ten to one most of the small shopkeepers in their vicinity
saw nothing at all in them. For I have observed this remarkable
coincidence, that the select natures who pant after the ideal, and
find nothing in pantaloons or petticoats great enough to command their
reverence and love, are curiously in unison with the narrowest and
pettiest. For example, I have often heard Mr. Gedge, the landlord of
the Royal Oak, who used to turn a bloodshot eye on his neighbours in
the village of Shepperton, sum up his opinion of the people in his own
parish--and they were all the people he knew--in these emphatic words:
"Aye, sir, I've said it often, and I'll say it again, they're a poor lot
i' this parish--a poor lot, sir, big and little." I think he had a
dim idea that if he could migrate to a distant parish, he might find
neighbours worthy of him; and indeed he did subsequently transfer
himself to the Saracen's Head, which was doing a thriving business in
the back street of a neighbouring market-town. But, oddly enough, he has
found the people up that back street of precisely the same stamp as the
inhabitants of Shepperton--"a poor lot, sir, big and little, and them
as comes for a go o' gin are no better than them as comes for a pint o'
twopenny--a poor lot."



Chapter XVIII

Church


"HETTY, Hetty, don't you know church begins at two, and it's gone half
after one a'ready? Have you got nothing better to think on this good
Sunday as poor old Thias Bede's to be put into the ground, and him
drownded i' th' dead o' the night, as it's enough to make one's back
run cold, but you must be 'dizening yourself as if there was a wedding
i'stid of a funeral?"

"Well, Aunt," said Hetty, "I can't be ready so soon as everybody else,
when I've got Totty's things to put on. And I'd ever such work to make
her stand still."

Hetty was coming downstairs, and Mrs. Poyser, in her plain bonnet and
shawl, was standing below. If ever a girl looked as if she had been made
of roses, that girl was Hetty in her Sunday hat and frock. For her hat
was trimmed with pink, and her frock had pink spots, sprinkled on a
white ground. There was nothing but pink and white about her, except
in her dark hair and eyes and her little buckled shoes. Mrs. Poyser
was provoked at herself, for she could hardly keep from smiling, as any
mortal is inclined to do at the sight of pretty round things. So she
turned without speaking, and joined the group outside the house door,
followed by Hetty, whose heart was fluttering so at the thought of some
one she expected to see at church that she hardly felt the ground she
trod on.

And now the little procession set off. Mr. Poyser was in his Sunday suit
of drab, with a red-and-green waistcoat and a green watch-ribbon having
a large cornelian seal attached, pendant like a plumb-line from that
promontory where his watch-pocket was situated; a silk handkerchief of a
yellow tone round his neck; and excellent grey ribbed stockings, knitted
by Mrs. Poyser's own hand, setting off the proportions of his leg. Mr.
Poyser had no reason to be ashamed of his leg, and suspected that the
growing abuse of top-boots and other fashions tending to disguise the
nether limbs had their origin in a pitiable degeneracy of the human
calf. Still less had he reason to be ashamed of his round jolly face,
which was good humour itself as he said, "Come, Hetty--come, little
uns!" and giving his arm to his wife, led the way through the causeway
gate into the yard.

The "little uns" addressed were Marty and Tommy, boys of nine and seven,
in little fustian tailed coats and knee-breeches, relieved by rosy
cheeks and black eyes, looking as much like their father as a very small
elephant is like a very large one. Hetty walked between them, and behind
came patient Molly, whose task it was to carry Totty through the yard
and over all the wet places on the road; for Totty, having speedily
recovered from her threatened fever, had insisted on going to church
to-day, and especially on wearing her red-and-black necklace outside her
tippet. And there were many wet places for her to be carried over this
afternoon, for there had been heavy showers in the morning, though now
the clouds had rolled off and lay in towering silvery masses on the
horizon.

You might have known it was Sunday if you had only waked up in the
farmyard. The cocks and hens seemed to know it, and made only crooning
subdued noises; the very bull-dog looked less savage, as if he would
have been satisfied with a smaller bite than usual. The sunshine seemed
to call all things to rest and not to labour. It was asleep itself on
the moss-grown cow-shed; on the group of white ducks nestling together
with their bills tucked under their wings; on the old black sow
stretched languidly on the straw, while her largest young one found an
excellent spring-bed on his mother's fat ribs; on Alick, the shepherd,
in his new smock-frock, taking an uneasy siesta, half-sitting,
half-standing on the granary steps. Alick was of opinion that church,
like other luxuries, was not to be indulged in often by a foreman who
had the weather and the ewes on his mind. "Church! Nay--I'n gotten
summat else to think on," was an answer which he often uttered in a tone
of bitter significance that silenced further question. I feel sure
Alick meant no irreverence; indeed, I know that his mind was not of a
speculative, negative cast, and he would on no account have missed going
to church on Christmas Day, Easter Sunday, and "Whissuntide." But he had
a general impression that public worship and religious ceremonies,
like other non-productive employments, were intended for people who had
leisure.

"There's Father a-standing at the yard-gate," said Martin Poyser. "I
reckon he wants to watch us down the field. It's wonderful what sight he
has, and him turned seventy-five."

"Ah, I often think it's wi' th' old folks as it is wi' the babbies,"
said Mrs. Poyser; "they're satisfied wi' looking, no matter what they're
looking at. It's God A'mighty's way o' quietening 'em, I reckon, afore
they go to sleep."

Old Martin opened the gate as he saw the family procession approaching,
and held it wide open, leaning on his stick--pleased to do this bit
of work; for, like all old men whose life has been spent in labour, he
liked to feel that he was still useful--that there was a better crop of
onions in the garden because he was by at the sowing--and that the cows
would be milked the better if he stayed at home on a Sunday afternoon
to look on. He always went to church on Sacrament Sundays, but not very
regularly at other times; on wet Sundays, or whenever he had a touch of
rheumatism, he used to read the three first chapters of Genesis instead.

"They'll ha' putten Thias Bede i' the ground afore ye get to the
churchyard," he said, as his son came up. "It 'ud ha' been better luck
if they'd ha' buried him i' the forenoon when the rain was fallin';
there's no likelihoods of a drop now; an' the moon lies like a boat
there, dost see? That's a sure sign o' fair weather--there's a many as
is false but that's sure."

"Aye, aye," said the son, "I'm in hopes it'll hold up now."

"Mind what the parson says, mind what the parson says, my lads," said
Grandfather to the black-eyed youngsters in knee-breeches, conscious of
a marble or two in their pockets which they looked forward to handling,
a little, secretly, during the sermon.

"Dood-bye, Dandad," said Totty. "Me doin' to church. Me dot my neklace
on. Dive me a peppermint."

Grandad, shaking with laughter at this "deep little wench," slowly
transferred his stick to his left hand, which held the gate open, and
slowly thrust his finger into the waistcoat pocket on which Totty had
fixed her eyes with a confident look of expectation.

And when they were all gone, the old man leaned on the gate again,
watching them across the lane along the Home Close, and through the
far gate, till they disappeared behind a bend in the hedge. For the
hedgerows in those days shut out one's view, even on the better-managed
farms; and this afternoon, the dog-roses were tossing out their pink
wreaths, the nightshade was in its yellow and purple glory, the pale
honeysuckle grew out of reach, peeping high up out of a holly bush, and
over all an ash or a sycamore every now and then threw its shadow across
the path.

There were acquaintances at other gates who had to move aside and let
them pass: at the gate of the Home Close there was half the dairy of
cows standing one behind the other, extremely slow to understand that
their large bodies might be in the way; at the far gate there was the
mare holding her head over the bars, and beside her the liver-coloured
foal with its head towards its mother's flank, apparently still much
embarrassed by its own straddling existence. The way lay entirely
through Mr. Poyser's own fields till they reached the main road leading
to the village, and he turned a keen eye on the stock and the crops
as they went along, while Mrs. Poyser was ready to supply a running
commentary on them all. The woman who manages a dairy has a large share
in making the rent, so she may well be allowed to have her opinion on
stock and their "keep"--an exercise which strengthens her understanding
so much that she finds herself able to give her husband advice on most
other subjects.

"There's that shorthorned Sally," she said, as they entered the Home
Close, and she caught sight of the meek beast that lay chewing the cud
and looking at her with a sleepy eye. "I begin to hate the sight o' the
cow; and I say now what I said three weeks ago, the sooner we get rid of
her the better, for there's that little yallow cow as doesn't give half
the milk, and yet I've twice as much butter from her."

"Why, thee't not like the women in general," said Mr. Poyser; "they like
the shorthorns, as give such a lot o' milk. There's Chowne's wife wants
him to buy no other sort."

"What's it sinnify what Chowne's wife likes? A poor soft thing, wi' no
more head-piece nor a sparrow. She'd take a big cullender to strain
her lard wi', and then wonder as the scratchin's run through. I've
seen enough of her to know as I'll niver take a servant from her house
again--all hugger-mugger--and you'd niver know, when you went in,
whether it was Monday or Friday, the wash draggin' on to th' end o' the
week; and as for her cheese, I know well enough it rose like a loaf in
a tin last year. And then she talks o' the weather bein' i' fault, as
there's folks 'ud stand on their heads and then say the fault was i'
their boots."

"Well, Chowne's been wanting to buy Sally, so we can get rid of her if
thee lik'st," said Mr. Poyser, secretly proud of his wife's superior
power of putting two and two together; indeed, on recent market-days
he had more than once boasted of her discernment in this very matter of
shorthorns. "Aye, them as choose a soft for a wife may's well buy up
the shorthorns, for if you get your head stuck in a bog, your legs may's
well go after it. Eh! Talk o' legs, there's legs for you," Mrs. Poyser
continued, as Totty, who had been set down now the road was dry, toddled
on in front of her father and mother. "There's shapes! An' she's got
such a long foot, she'll be her father's own child."

"Aye, she'll be welly such a one as Hetty i' ten years' time, on'y she's
got THY coloured eyes. I niver remember a blue eye i' my family; my
mother had eyes as black as sloes, just like Hetty's."

"The child 'ull be none the worse for having summat as isn't like Hetty.
An' I'm none for having her so overpretty. Though for the matter o'
that, there's people wi' light hair an' blue eyes as pretty as them wi'
black. If Dinah had got a bit o' colour in her cheeks, an' didn't stick
that Methodist cap on her head, enough to frighten the cows, folks 'ud
think her as pretty as Hetty."

"Nay, nay," said Mr. Poyser, with rather a contemptuous emphasis, "thee
dostna know the pints of a woman. The men 'ud niver run after Dinah as
they would after Hetty."

"What care I what the men 'ud run after? It's well seen what choice the
most of 'em know how to make, by the poor draggle-tails o' wives you
see, like bits o' gauze ribbin, good for nothing when the colour's
gone."

"Well, well, thee canstna say but what I knowed how to make a choice
when I married thee," said Mr. Poyser, who usually settled little
conjugal disputes by a compliment of this sort; "and thee wast twice as
buxom as Dinah ten year ago."

"I niver said as a woman had need to be ugly to make a good missis of a
house. There's Chowne's wife ugly enough to turn the milk an' save the
rennet, but she'll niver save nothing any other way. But as for Dinah,
poor child, she's niver likely to be buxom as long as she'll make her
dinner o' cake and water, for the sake o' giving to them as want. She
provoked me past bearing sometimes; and, as I told her, she went clean
again' the Scriptur', for that says, 'Love your neighbour as yourself';
'but,' I said, 'if you loved your neighbour no better nor you do
yourself, Dinah, it's little enough you'd do for him. You'd be thinking
he might do well enough on a half-empty stomach.' Eh, I wonder where she
is this blessed Sunday! Sitting by that sick woman, I daresay, as she'd
set her heart on going to all of a sudden."

"Ah, it was a pity she should take such megrims into her head, when
she might ha' stayed wi' us all summer, and eaten twice as much as she
wanted, and it 'ud niver ha' been missed. She made no odds in th' house
at all, for she sat as still at her sewing as a bird on the nest, and
was uncommon nimble at running to fetch anything. If Hetty gets married,
theed'st like to ha' Dinah wi' thee constant."

"It's no use thinking o' that," said Mrs. Poyser. "You might as
well beckon to the flying swallow as ask Dinah to come an' live here
comfortable, like other folks. If anything could turn her, I should ha'
turned her, for I've talked to her for a hour on end, and scolded her
too; for she's my own sister's child, and it behoves me to do what I can
for her. But eh, poor thing, as soon as she'd said us 'good-bye' an'
got into the cart, an' looked back at me with her pale face, as is welly
like her Aunt Judith come back from heaven, I begun to be frightened to
think o' the set-downs I'd given her; for it comes over you sometimes
as if she'd a way o' knowing the rights o' things more nor other folks
have. But I'll niver give in as that's 'cause she's a Methodist, no more
nor a white calf's white 'cause it eats out o' the same bucket wi' a
black un."

"Nay," said Mr. Poyser, with as near an approach to a snarl as his
good-nature would allow; "I'm no opinion o' the Methodists. It's on'y
tradesfolks as turn Methodists; you nuver knew a farmer bitten wi' them
maggots. There's maybe a workman now an' then, as isn't overclever at's
work, takes to preachin' an' that, like Seth Bede. But you see Adam, as
has got one o' the best head-pieces hereabout, knows better; he's a good
Churchman, else I'd never encourage him for a sweetheart for Hetty."

"Why, goodness me," said Mrs. Poyser, who had looked back while her
husband was speaking, "look where Molly is with them lads! They're the
field's length behind us. How COULD you let 'em do so, Hetty? Anybody
might as well set a pictur' to watch the children as you. Run back and
tell 'em to come on."

Mr. and Mrs. Poyser were now at the end of the second field, so they set
Totty on the top of one of the large stones forming the true Loamshire
stile, and awaited the loiterers Totty observing with complacency, "Dey
naughty, naughty boys--me dood."

The fact was that this Sunday walk through the fields was fraught with
great excitement to Marty and Tommy, who saw a perpetual drama going on
in the hedgerows, and could no more refrain from stopping and peeping
than if they had been a couple of spaniels or terriers. Marty was quite
sure he saw a yellow-hammer on the boughs of the great ash, and while
he was peeping, he missed the sight of a white-throated stoat, which had
run across the path and was described with much fervour by the junior
Tommy. Then there was a little greenfinch, just fledged, fluttering
along the ground, and it seemed quite possible to catch it, till it
managed to flutter under the blackberry bush. Hetty could not be got
to give any heed to these things, so Molly was called on for her ready
sympathy, and peeped with open mouth wherever she was told, and said
"Lawks!" whenever she was expected to wonder.

Molly hastened on with some alarm when Hetty had come back and called to
them that her aunt was angry; but Marty ran on first, shouting,
"We've found the speckled turkey's nest, Mother!" with the instinctive
confidence that people who bring good news are never in fault.

"Ah," said Mrs. Poyser, really forgetting all discipline in this
pleasant surprise, "that's a good lad; why, where is it?"

"Down in ever such a hole, under the hedge. I saw it first, looking
after the greenfinch, and she sat on th' nest."

"You didn't frighten her, I hope," said the mother, "else she'll forsake
it."

"No, I went away as still as still, and whispered to Molly--didn't I,
Molly?"

"Well, well, now come on," said Mrs. Poyser, "and walk before Father and
Mother, and take your little sister by the hand. We must go straight on
now. Good boys don't look after the birds of a Sunday."

"But, Mother," said Marty, "you said you'd give half-a-crown to find
the speckled turkey's nest. Mayn't I have the half-crown put into my
money-box?"

"We'll see about that, my lad, if you walk along now, like a good boy."

The father and mother exchanged a significant glance of amusement at
their eldest-born's acuteness; but on Tommy's round face there was a
cloud.

"Mother," he said, half-crying, "Marty's got ever so much more money in
his box nor I've got in mine."

"Munny, me want half-a-toun in my bots," said Totty.

"Hush, hush, hush," said Mrs. Poyser, "did ever anybody hear such
naughty children? Nobody shall ever see their money-boxes any more, if
they don't make haste and go on to church."

This dreadful threat had the desired effect, and through the two
remaining fields the three pair of small legs trotted on without any
serious interruption, notwithstanding a small pond full of tadpoles,
alias "bullheads," which the lads looked at wistfully.

The damp hay that must be scattered and turned afresh to-morrow was
not a cheering sight to Mr. Poyser, who during hay and corn harvest had
often some mental struggles as to the benefits of a day of rest; but no
temptation would have induced him to carry on any field-work, however
early in the morning, on a Sunday; for had not Michael Holdsworth had a
pair of oxen "sweltered" while he was ploughing on Good Friday? That was
a demonstration that work on sacred days was a wicked thing; and with
wickedness of any sort Martin Poyser was quite clear that he would have
nothing to do, since money got by such means would never prosper.

"It a'most makes your fingers itch to be at the hay now the sun shines
so," he observed, as they passed through the "Big Meadow." "But it's
poor foolishness to think o' saving by going against your conscience.
There's that Jim Wakefield, as they used to call 'Gentleman Wakefield,'
used to do the same of a Sunday as o' weekdays, and took no heed to
right or wrong, as if there was nayther God nor devil. An' what's he
come to? Why, I saw him myself last market-day a-carrying a basket wi'
oranges in't."

"Ah, to be sure," said Mrs. Poyser, emphatically, "you make but a poor
trap to catch luck if you go and bait it wi' wickedness. The money as is
got so's like to burn holes i' your pocket. I'd niver wish us to leave
our lads a sixpence but what was got i' the rightful way. And as for
the weather, there's One above makes it, and we must put up wi't: it's
nothing of a plague to what the wenches are."

Notwithstanding the interruption in their walk, the excellent habit
which Mrs. Poyser's clock had of taking time by the forelock had secured
their arrival at the village while it was still a quarter to two,
though almost every one who meant to go to church was already within the
churchyard gates. Those who stayed at home were chiefly mothers, like
Timothy's Bess, who stood at her own door nursing her baby and feeling
as women feel in that position--that nothing else can be expected of
them.

It was not entirely to see Thias Bede's funeral that the people were
standing about the churchyard so long before service began; that was
their common practice. The women, indeed, usually entered the church at
once, and the farmers' wives talked in an undertone to each other, over
the tall pews, about their illnesses and the total failure of doctor's
stuff, recommending dandelion-tea, and other home-made specifics, as
far preferable--about the servants, and their growing exorbitance as to
wages, whereas the quality of their services declined from year to year,
and there was no girl nowadays to be trusted any further than you could
see her--about the bad price Mr. Dingall, the Treddleston grocer, was
giving for butter, and the reasonable doubts that might be held as to
his solvency, notwithstanding that Mrs. Dingall was a sensible woman,
and they were all sorry for HER, for she had very good kin. Meantime the
men lingered outside, and hardly any of them except the singers, who had
a humming and fragmentary rehearsal to go through, entered the church
until Mr. Irwine was in the desk. They saw no reason for that premature
entrance--what could they do in church if they were there before service
began?--and they did not conceive that any power in the universe
could take it ill of them if they stayed out and talked a little about
"bus'ness."

Chad Cranage looks like quite a new acquaintance to-day, for he has got
his clean Sunday face, which always makes his little granddaughter cry
at him as a stranger. But an experienced eye would have fixed on him at
once as the village blacksmith, after seeing the humble deference with
which the big saucy fellow took off his hat and stroked his hair to the
farmers; for Chad was accustomed to say that a working-man must hold
a candle to a personage understood to be as black as he was himself
on weekdays; by which evil-sounding rule of conduct he meant what was,
after all, rather virtuous than otherwise, namely, that men who had
horses to be shod must be treated with respect. Chad and the rougher
sort of workmen kept aloof from the grave under the white thorn,
where the burial was going forward; but Sandy Jim, and several of the
farm-labourers, made a group round it, and stood with their hats off, as
fellow-mourners with the mother and sons. Others held a midway position,
sometimes watching the group at the grave, sometimes listening to the
conversation of the farmers, who stood in a knot near the church door,
and were now joined by Martin Poyser, while his family passed into the
church. On the outside of this knot stood Mr. Casson, the landlord of
the Donnithorne Arms, in his most striking attitude--that is to say,
with the forefinger of his right hand thrust between the buttons of his
waistcoat, his left hand in his breeches pocket, and his head very
much on one side; looking, on the whole, like an actor who has only a
mono-syllabic part entrusted to him, but feels sure that the audience
discern his fitness for the leading business; curiously in contrast with
old Jonathan Burge, who held his hands behind him and leaned forward,
coughing asthmatically, with an inward scorn of all knowingness that
could not be turned into cash. The talk was in rather a lower tone than
usual to-day, hushed a little by the sound of Mr. Irwine's voice reading
the final prayers of the burial-service. They had all had their word
of pity for poor Thias, but now they had got upon the nearer subject of
their own grievances against Satchell, the Squire's bailiff, who
played the part of steward so far as it was not performed by old Mr.
Donnithorne himself, for that gentleman had the meanness to receive
his own rents and make bargains about his own timber. This subject of
conversation was an additional reason for not being loud, since Satchell
himself might presently be walking up the paved road to the church door.
And soon they became suddenly silent; for Mr. Irwine's voice had ceased,
and the group round the white thorn was dispersing itself towards the
church.

They all moved aside, and stood with their hats off, while Mr. Irwine
passed. Adam and Seth were coming next, with their mother between them;
for Joshua Rann officiated as head sexton as well as clerk, and was not
yet ready to follow the rector into the vestry. But there was a pause
before the three mourners came on: Lisbeth had turned round to look
again towards the grave! Ah! There was nothing now but the brown earth
under the white thorn. Yet she cried less to-day than she had done any
day since her husband's death. Along with all her grief there was mixed
an unusual sense of her own importance in having a "burial," and in Mr.
Irwine's reading a special service for her husband; and besides, she
knew the funeral psalm was going to be sung for him. She felt this
counter-excitement to her sorrow still more strongly as she walked with
her sons towards the church door, and saw the friendly sympathetic nods
of their fellow-parishioners.

The mother and sons passed into the church, and one by one the
loiterers followed, though some still lingered without; the sight of Mr.
Donnithorne's carriage, which was winding slowly up the hill, perhaps
helping to make them feel that there was no need for haste.

But presently the sound of the bassoon and the key-bugles burst forth;
the evening hymn, which always opened the service, had begun, and every
one must now enter and take his place.

I cannot say that the interior of Hayslope Church was remarkable for
anything except for the grey age of its oaken pews--great square pews
mostly, ranged on each side of a narrow aisle. It was free, indeed,
from the modern blemish of galleries. The choir had two narrow pews to
themselves in the middle of the right-hand row, so that it was a short
process for Joshua Rann to take his place among them as principal bass,
and return to his desk after the singing was over. The pulpit and desk,
grey and old as the pews, stood on one side of the arch leading into
the chancel, which also had its grey square pews for Mr. Donnithorne's
family and servants. Yet I assure you these grey pews, with the
buff-washed walls, gave a very pleasing tone to this shabby interior,
and agreed extremely well with the ruddy faces and bright waistcoats.
And there were liberal touches of crimson toward the chancel, for
the pulpit and Mr. Donnithorne's own pew had handsome crimson cloth
cushions; and, to close the vista, there was a crimson altar-cloth,
embroidered with golden rays by Miss Lydia's own hand.

But even without the crimson cloth, the effect must have been warm and
cheering when Mr. Irwine was in the desk, looking benignly round on
that simple congregation--on the hardy old men, with bent knees and
shoulders, perhaps, but with vigour left for much hedge-clipping and
thatching; on the tall stalwart frames and roughly cut bronzed faces of
the stone-cutters and carpenters; on the half-dozen well-to-do farmers,
with their apple-cheeked families; and on the clean old women, mostly
farm-labourers' wives, with their bit of snow-white cap-border under
their black bonnets, and with their withered arms, bare from the elbow,
folded passively over their chests. For none of the old people held
books--why should they? Not one of them could read. But they knew a
few "good words" by heart, and their withered lips now and then moved
silently, following the service without any very clear comprehension
indeed, but with a simple faith in its efficacy to ward off harm and
bring blessing. And now all faces were visible, for all were standing
up--the little children on the seats peeping over the edge of the grey
pews, while good Bishop Ken's evening hymn was being sung to one of
those lively psalm-tunes which died out with the last generation of
rectors and choral parish clerks. Melodies die out, like the pipe of
Pan, with the ears that love them and listen for them. Adam was not in
his usual place among the singers to-day, for he sat with his mother
and Seth, and he noticed with surprise that Bartle Massey was absent
too--all the more agreeable for Mr. Joshua Rann, who gave out his bass
notes with unusual complacency and threw an extra ray of severity into
the glances he sent over his spectacles at the recusant Will Maskery.

I beseech you to imagine Mr. Irwine looking round on this scene, in his
ample white surplice that became him so well, with his powdered hair
thrown back, his rich brown complexion, and his finely cut nostril and
upper lip; for there was a certain virtue in that benignant yet keen
countenance as there is in all human faces from which a generous soul
beams out. And over all streamed the delicious June sunshine through the
old windows, with their desultory patches of yellow, red, and blue, that
threw pleasant touches of colour on the opposite wall.

I think, as Mr. Irwine looked round to-day, his eyes rested an instant
longer than usual on the square pew occupied by Martin Poyser and his
family. And there was another pair of dark eyes that found it impossible
not to wander thither, and rest on that round pink-and-white figure. But
Hetty was at that moment quite careless of any glances--she was absorbed
in the thought that Arthur Donnithorne would soon be coming into church,
for the carriage must surely be at the church-gate by this time. She
had never seen him since she parted with him in the wood on Thursday
evening, and oh, how long the time had seemed! Things had gone on just
the same as ever since that evening; the wonders that had happened then
had brought no changes after them; they were already like a dream. When
she heard the church door swinging, her heart beat so, she dared not
look up. She felt that her aunt was curtsying; she curtsied herself.
That must be old Mr. Donnithorne--he always came first, the wrinkled
small old man, peering round with short-sighted glances at the bowing
and curtsying congregation; then she knew Miss Lydia was passing,
and though Hetty liked so much to look at her fashionable little
coal-scuttle bonnet, with the wreath of small roses round it, she didn't
mind it to-day. But there were no more curtsies--no, he was not come;
she felt sure there was nothing else passing the pew door but the
house-keeper's black bonnet and the lady's maid's beautiful straw hat
that had once been Miss Lydia's, and then the powdered heads of the
butler and footman. No, he was not there; yet she would look now--she
might be mistaken--for, after all, she had not looked. So she lifted
up her eyelids and glanced timidly at the cushioned pew in the
chancel--there was no one but old Mr. Donnithorne rubbing his spectacles
with his white handkerchief, and Miss Lydia opening the large gilt-edged
prayer-book. The chill disappointment was too hard to bear. She felt
herself turning pale, her lips trembling; she was ready to cry. Oh, what
SHOULD she do? Everybody would know the reason; they would know she was
crying because Arthur was not there. And Mr. Craig, with the wonderful
hothouse plant in his button-hole, was staring at her, she knew. It was
dreadfully long before the General Confession began, so that she could
kneel down. Two great drops WOULD fall then, but no one saw them except
good-natured Molly, for her aunt and uncle knelt with their backs
towards her. Molly, unable to imagine any cause for tears in church
except faintness, of which she had a vague traditional knowledge, drew
out of her pocket a queer little flat blue smelling-bottle, and after
much labour in pulling the cork out, thrust the narrow neck against
Hetty's nostrils. "It donna smell," she whispered, thinking this was a
great advantage which old salts had over fresh ones: they did you good
without biting your nose. Hetty pushed it away peevishly; but this
little flash of temper did what the salts could not have done--it roused
her to wipe away the traces of her tears, and try with all her might
not to shed any more. Hetty had a certain strength in her vain little
nature: she would have borne anything rather than be laughed at, or
pointed at with any other feeling than admiration; she would have
pressed her own nails into her tender flesh rather than people should
know a secret she did not want them to know.

What fluctuations there were in her busy thoughts and feelings, while
Mr. Irwine was pronouncing the solemn "Absolution" in her deaf ears, and
through all the tones of petition that followed! Anger lay very close to
disappointment, and soon won the victory over the conjectures her
small ingenuity could devise to account for Arthur's absence on the
supposition that he really wanted to come, really wanted to see her
again. And by the time she rose from her knees mechanically, because all
the rest were rising, the colour had returned to her cheeks even with
a heightened glow, for she was framing little indignant speeches to
herself, saying she hated Arthur for giving her this pain--she would
like him to suffer too. Yet while this selfish tumult was going on in
her soul, her eyes were bent down on her prayer-book, and the eyelids
with their dark fringe looked as lovely as ever. Adam Bede thought so,
as he glanced at her for a moment on rising from his knees.

But Adam's thoughts of Hetty did not deafen him to the service; they
rather blended with all the other deep feelings for which the church
service was a channel to him this afternoon, as a certain consciousness
of our entire past and our imagined future blends itself with all our
moments of keen sensibility. And to Adam the church service was the
best channel he could have found for his mingled regret, yearning, and
resignation; its interchange of beseeching cries for help with outbursts
of faith and praise, its recurrent responses and the familiar rhythm of
its collects, seemed to speak for him as no other form of worship could
have done; as, to those early Christians who had worshipped from their
childhood upwards in catacombs, the torch-light and shadows must have
seemed nearer the Divine presence than the heathenish daylight of the
streets. The secret of our emotions never lies in the bare object, but
in its subtle relations to our own past: no wonder the secret escapes
the unsympathizing observer, who might as well put on his spectacles to
discern odours.

But there was one reason why even a chance comer would have found the
service in Hayslope Church more impressive than in most other village
nooks in the kingdom--a reason of which I am sure you have not the
slightest suspicion. It was the reading of our friend Joshua Rann. Where
that good shoemaker got his notion of reading from remained a mystery
even to his most intimate acquaintances. I believe, after all, he got it
chiefly from Nature, who had poured some of her music into this honest
conceited soul, as she had been known to do into other narrow souls
before his. She had given him, at least, a fine bass voice and a musical
ear; but I cannot positively say whether these alone had sufficed to
inspire him with the rich chant in which he delivered the responses.
The way he rolled from a rich deep forte into a melancholy cadence,
subsiding, at the end of the last word, into a sort of faint resonance,
like the lingering vibrations of a fine violoncello, I can compare to
nothing for its strong calm melancholy but the rush and cadence of the
wind among the autumn boughs. This may seem a strange mode of speaking
about the reading of a parish clerk--a man in rusty spectacles, with
stubbly hair, a large occiput, and a prominent crown. But that is
Nature's way: she will allow a gentleman of splendid physiognomy and
poetic aspirations to sing woefully out of tune, and not give him the
slightest hint of it; and takes care that some narrow-browed fellow,
trolling a ballad in the corner of a pot-house, shall be as true to his
intervals as a bird.

Joshua himself was less proud of his reading than of his singing, and it
was always with a sense of heightened importance that he passed from the
desk to the choir. Still more to-day: it was a special occasion, for an
old man, familiar to all the parish, had died a sad death--not in his
bed, a circumstance the most painful to the mind of the peasant--and
now the funeral psalm was to be sung in memory of his sudden departure.
Moreover, Bartle Massey was not at church, and Joshua's importance in
the choir suffered no eclipse. It was a solemn minor strain they sang.
The old psalm-tunes have many a wail among them, and the words--

     Thou sweep'st us off as with a flood;
     We vanish hence like dreams--

seemed to have a closer application than usual in the death of poor
Thias. The mother and sons listened, each with peculiar feelings.
Lisbeth had a vague belief that the psalm was doing her husband good; it
was part of that decent burial which she would have thought it a greater
wrong to withhold from him than to have caused him many unhappy days
while he was living. The more there was said about her husband, the
more there was done for him, surely the safer he would be. It was poor
Lisbeth's blind way of feeling that human love and pity are a ground of
faith in some other love. Seth, who was easily touched, shed tears, and
tried to recall, as he had done continually since his father's death,
all that he had heard of the possibility that a single moment of
consciousness at the last might be a moment of pardon and reconcilement;
for was it not written in the very psalm they were singing that the
Divine dealings were not measured and circumscribed by time? Adam had
never been unable to join in a psalm before. He had known plenty of
trouble and vexation since he had been a lad, but this was the first
sorrow that had hemmed in his voice, and strangely enough it was sorrow
because the chief source of his past trouble and vexation was for ever
gone out of his reach. He had not been able to press his father's
hand before their parting, and say, "Father, you know it was all right
between us; I never forgot what I owed you when I was a lad; you forgive
me if I have been too hot and hasty now and then!" Adam thought but
little to-day of the hard work and the earnings he had spent on his
father: his thoughts ran constantly on what the old man's feelings had
been in moments of humiliation, when he had held down his head before
the rebukes of his son. When our indignation is borne in submissive
silence, we are apt to feel twinges of doubt afterwards as to our own
generosity, if not justice; how much more when the object of our anger
has gone into everlasting silence, and we have seen his face for the
last time in the meekness of death!

"Ah! I was always too hard," Adam said to himself. "It's a sore fault in
me as I'm so hot and out o' patience with people when they do wrong, and
my heart gets shut up against 'em, so as I can't bring myself to forgive
'em. I see clear enough there's more pride nor love in my soul, for I
could sooner make a thousand strokes with th' hammer for my father than
bring myself to say a kind word to him. And there went plenty o' pride
and temper to the strokes, as the devil WILL be having his finger in
what we call our duties as well as our sins. Mayhap the best thing I
ever did in my life was only doing what was easiest for myself. It's
allays been easier for me to work nor to sit still, but the real tough
job for me 'ud be to master my own will and temper and go right against
my own pride. It seems to me now, if I was to find Father at home
to-night, I should behave different; but there's no knowing--perhaps
nothing 'ud be a lesson to us if it didn't come too late. It's well we
should feel as life's a reckoning we can't make twice over; there's
no real making amends in this world, any more nor you can mend a wrong
subtraction by doing your addition right."

This was the key-note to which Adam's thoughts had perpetually returned
since his father's death, and the solemn wail of the funeral psalm
was only an influence that brought back the old thoughts with stronger
emphasis. So was the sermon, which Mr. Irwine had chosen with reference
to Thias's funeral. It spoke briefly and simply of the words, "In the
midst of life we are in death"--how the present moment is all we can
call our own for works of mercy, of righteous dealing, and of family
tenderness. All very old truths--but what we thought the oldest truth
becomes the most startling to us in the week when we have looked on the
dead face of one who has made a part of our own lives. For when men want
to impress us with the effect of a new and wonderfully vivid light, do
they not let it fall on the most familiar objects, that we may measure
its intensity by remembering the former dimness?

Then came the moment of the final blessing, when the forever sublime
words, "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding," seemed to
blend with the calm afternoon sunshine that fell on the bowed heads of
the congregation; and then the quiet rising, the mothers tying on the
bonnets of the little maidens who had slept through the sermon, the
fathers collecting the prayer-books, until all streamed out through the
old archway into the green churchyard and began their neighbourly talk,
their simple civilities, and their invitations to tea; for on a Sunday
every one was ready to receive a guest--it was the day when all must be
in their best clothes and their best humour.

Mr. and Mrs. Poyser paused a minute at the church gate: they were
waiting for Adam to Come up, not being contented to go away without
saying a kind word to the widow and her sons.

"Well, Mrs. Bede," said Mrs. Poyser, as they walked on together, "you
must keep up your heart; husbands and wives must be content when they've
lived to rear their children and see one another's hair grey."

"Aye, aye," said Mr. Poyser; "they wonna have long to wait for one
another then, anyhow. And ye've got two o' the strapping'st sons i'
th' country; and well you may, for I remember poor Thias as fine a
broad-shouldered fellow as need to be; and as for you, Mrs. Bede, why
you're straighter i' the back nor half the young women now."

"Eh," said Lisbeth, "it's poor luck for the platter to wear well when
it's broke i' two. The sooner I'm laid under the thorn the better. I'm
no good to nobody now."

Adam never took notice of his mother's little unjust plaints; but Seth
said, "Nay, Mother, thee mustna say so. Thy sons 'ull never get another
mother."

"That's true, lad, that's true," said Mr. Poyser; "and it's wrong on us
to give way to grief, Mrs. Bede; for it's like the children cryin' when
the fathers and mothers take things from 'em. There's One above knows
better nor us."

"Ah," said Mrs. Poyser, "an' it's poor work allays settin' the dead
above the livin'. We shall all on us be dead some time, I reckon--it 'ud
be better if folks 'ud make much on us beforehand, i'stid o' beginnin'
when we're gone. It's but little good you'll do a-watering the last
year's crop."

"Well, Adam," said Mr. Poyser, feeling that his wife's words were,
as usual, rather incisive than soothing, and that it would be well to
change the subject, "you'll come and see us again now, I hope. I hanna
had a talk with you this long while, and the missis here wants you to
see what can be done with her best spinning-wheel, for it's got broke,
and it'll be a nice job to mend it--there'll want a bit o' turning.
You'll come as soon as you can now, will you?"

Mr. Poyser paused and looked round while he was speaking, as if to see
where Hetty was; for the children were running on before. Hetty was not
without a companion, and she had, besides, more pink and white about
her than ever, for she held in her hand the wonderful pink-and-white
hot-house plant, with a very long name--a Scotch name, she supposed,
since people said Mr. Craig the gardener was Scotch. Adam took the
opportunity of looking round too; and I am sure you will not require of
him that he should feel any vexation in observing a pouting expression
on Hetty's face as she listened to the gardener's small talk. Yet in her
secret heart she was glad to have him by her side, for she would perhaps
learn from him how it was Arthur had not come to church. Not that she
cared to ask him the question, but she hoped the information would be
given spontaneously; for Mr. Craig, like a superior man, was very fond
of giving information.

Mr. Craig was never aware that his conversation and advances were
received coldly, for to shift one's point of view beyond certain limits
is impossible to the most liberal and expansive mind; we are none of
us aware of the impression we produce on Brazilian monkeys of feeble
understanding--it is possible they see hardly anything in us. Moreover,
Mr. Craig was a man of sober passions, and was already in his tenth
year of hesitation as to the relative advantages of matrimony and
bachelorhood. It is true that, now and then, when he had been a little
heated by an extra glass of grog, he had been heard to say of Hetty
that the "lass was well enough," and that "a man might do worse"; but on
convivial occasions men are apt to express themselves strongly.

Martin Poyser held Mr. Craig in honour, as a man who "knew his business"
and who had great lights concerning soils and compost; but he was
less of a favourite with Mrs. Poyser, who had more than once said in
confidence to her husband, "You're mighty fond o' Craig, but for my
part, I think he's welly like a cock as thinks the sun's rose o' purpose
to hear him crow." For the rest, Mr. Craig was an estimable gardener,
and was not without reasons for having a high opinion of himself. He
had also high shoulders and high cheek-bones and hung his head forward
a little, as he walked along with his hands in his breeches pockets. I
think it was his pedigree only that had the advantage of being Scotch,
and not his "bringing up"; for except that he had a stronger burr in
his accent, his speech differed little from that of the Loamshire people
about him. But a gardener is Scotch, as a French teacher is Parisian.

"Well, Mr. Poyser," he said, before the good slow farmer had time to
speak, "ye'll not be carrying your hay to-morrow, I'm thinking. The
glass sticks at 'change,' and ye may rely upo' my word as we'll ha' more
downfall afore twenty-four hours is past. Ye see that darkish-blue cloud
there upo' the 'rizon--ye know what I mean by the 'rizon, where the land
and sky seems to meet?"

"Aye, aye, I see the cloud," said Mr. Poyser, "'rizon or no 'rizon. It's
right o'er Mike Holdsworth's fallow, and a foul fallow it is."

"Well, you mark my words, as that cloud 'ull spread o'er the sky pretty
nigh as quick as you'd spread a tarpaulin over one o' your hay-ricks.
It's a great thing to ha' studied the look o' the clouds. Lord bless
you! Th' met'orological almanecks can learn me nothing, but there's a
pretty sight o' things I could let THEM up to, if they'd just come
to me. And how are you, Mrs. Poyser?--thinking o' getherin' the red
currants soon, I reckon. You'd a deal better gether 'em afore they're
o'erripe, wi' such weather as we've got to look forward to. How do ye
do, Mistress Bede?" Mr. Craig continued, without a pause, nodding by the
way to Adam and Seth. "I hope y' enjoyed them spinach and gooseberries
as I sent Chester with th' other day. If ye want vegetables while ye're
in trouble, ye know where to come to. It's well known I'm not giving
other folks' things away, for when I've supplied the house, the garden
s my own spekilation, and it isna every man th' old squire could get
as 'ud be equil to the undertaking, let alone asking whether he'd be
willing I've got to run my calkilation fine, I can tell you, to make
sure o' getting back the money as I pay the squire. I should like to see
some o' them fellows as make the almanecks looking as far before their
noses as I've got to do every year as comes."

"They look pretty fur, though," said Mr. Poyser, turning his head on one
side and speaking in rather a subdued reverential tone. "Why, what could
come truer nor that pictur o' the cock wi' the big spurs, as has got its
head knocked down wi' th' anchor, an' th' firin', an' the ships behind?
Why, that pictur was made afore Christmas, and yit it's come as true
as th' Bible. Why, th' cock's France, an' th' anchor's Nelson--an' they
told us that beforehand."

"Pee--ee-eh!" said Mr. Craig. "A man doesna want to see fur to know as
th' English 'ull beat the French. Why, I know upo' good authority as
it's a big Frenchman as reaches five foot high, an' they live upo'
spoon-meat mostly. I knew a man as his father had a particular knowledge
o' the French. I should like to know what them grasshoppers are to
do against such fine fellows as our young Captain Arthur. Why, it
'ud astonish a Frenchman only to look at him; his arm's thicker nor a
Frenchman's body, I'll be bound, for they pinch theirsells in wi' stays;
and it's easy enough, for they've got nothing i' their insides."

"Where IS the captain, as he wasna at church to-day?" said Adam. "I was
talking to him o' Friday, and he said nothing about his going away."

"Oh, he's only gone to Eagledale for a bit o' fishing; I reckon he'll be
back again afore many days are o'er, for he's to be at all th' arranging
and preparing o' things for the comin' o' age o' the 30th o' July.
But he's fond o' getting away for a bit, now and then. Him and th' old
squire fit one another like frost and flowers."

Mr. Craig smiled and winked slowly as he made this last observation,
but the subject was not developed farther, for now they had reached the
turning in the road where Adam and his companions must say "good-bye."
The gardener, too, would have had to turn off in the same direction if
he had not accepted Mr. Poyser's invitation to tea. Mrs. Poyser duly
seconded the invitation, for she would have held it a deep disgrace not
to make her neighbours welcome to her house: personal likes and dislikes
must not interfere with that sacred custom. Moreover, Mr. Craig had
always been full of civilities to the family at the Hall Farm, and Mrs.
Poyser was scrupulous in declaring that she had "nothing to say again'
him, on'y it was a pity he couldna be hatched o'er again, an' hatched
different."

So Adam and Seth, with their mother between them, wound their way down
to the valley and up again to the old house, where a saddened memory had
taken the place of a long, long anxiety--where Adam would never have to
ask again as he entered, "Where's Father?"

And the other family party, with Mr. Craig for company, went back to
the pleasant bright house-place at the Hall Farm--all with quiet minds,
except Hetty, who knew now where Arthur was gone, but was only the
more puzzled and uneasy. For it appeared that his absence was quite
voluntary; he need not have gone--he would not have gone if he had
wanted to see her. She had a sickening sense that no lot could ever
be pleasant to her again if her Thursday night's vision was not to be
fulfilled; and in this moment of chill, bare, wintry disappointment and
doubt, she looked towards the possibility of being with Arthur again,
of meeting his loving glance, and hearing his soft words with that eager
yearning which one may call the "growing pain" of passion.



Chapter XIX

Adam on a Working Day


NOTWITHSTANDING Mr. Craig's prophecy, the dark-blue cloud dispersed
itself without having produced the threatened consequences. "The
weather"--as he observed the next morning--"the weather, you see, 's
a ticklish thing, an' a fool 'ull hit on't sometimes when a wise man
misses; that's why the almanecks get so much credit. It's one o' them
chancy things as fools thrive on."

This unreasonable behaviour of the weather, however, could displease no
one else in Hayslope besides Mr. Craig. All hands were to be out in
the meadows this morning as soon as the dew had risen; the wives and
daughters did double work in every farmhouse, that the maids might give
their help in tossing the hay; and when Adam was marching along the
lanes, with his basket of tools over his shoulder, he caught the sound
of jocose talk and ringing laughter from behind the hedges. The jocose
talk of hay-makers is best at a distance; like those clumsy bells round
the cows' necks, it has rather a coarse sound when it comes close,
and may even grate on your ears painfully; but heard from far off, it
mingles very prettily with the other joyous sounds of nature. Men's
muscles move better when their souls are making merry music, though
their merriment is of a poor blundering sort, not at all like the
merriment of birds.

And perhaps there is no time in a summer's day more cheering than when
the warmth of the sun is just beginning to triumph over the freshness
of the morning--when there is just a lingering hint of early coolness
to keep off languor under the delicious influence of warmth. The reason
Adam was walking along the lanes at this time was because his work for
the rest of the day lay at a country-house about three miles off, which
was being put in repair for the son of a neighbouring squire; and he
had been busy since early morning with the packing of panels, doors,
and chimney-pieces, in a waggon which was now gone on before him, while
Jonathan Burge himself had ridden to the spot on horseback, to await its
arrival and direct the workmen.

This little walk was a rest to Adam, and he was unconsciously under
the charm of the moment. It was summer morning in his heart, and he saw
Hetty in the sunshine--a sunshine without glare, with slanting rays
that tremble between the delicate shadows of the leaves. He thought,
yesterday when he put out his hand to her as they came out of church,
that there was a touch of melancholy kindness in her face, such as he
had not seen before, and he took it as a sign that she had some sympathy
with his family trouble. Poor fellow! That touch of melancholy came from
quite another source, but how was he to know? We look at the one little
woman's face we love as we look at the face of our mother earth, and see
all sorts of answers to our own yearnings. It was impossible for Adam
not to feel that what had happened in the last week had brought the
prospect of marriage nearer to him. Hitherto he had felt keenly the
danger that some other man might step in and get possession of Hetty's
heart and hand, while he himself was still in a position that made him
shrink from asking her to accept him. Even if he had had a strong hope
that she was fond of him--and his hope was far from being strong--he
had been too heavily burdened with other claims to provide a home for
himself and Hetty--a home such as he could expect her to be content with
after the comfort and plenty of the Farm. Like all strong natures, Adam
had confidence in his ability to achieve something in the future; he
felt sure he should some day, if he lived, be able to maintain a family
and make a good broad path for himself; but he had too cool a head not
to estimate to the full the obstacles that were to be overcome. And the
time would be so long! And there was Hetty, like a bright-cheeked apple
hanging over the orchard wall, within sight of everybody, and everybody
must long for her! To be sure, if she loved him very much, she would be
content to wait for him: but DID she love him? His hopes had never risen
so high that he had dared to ask her. He was clear-sighted enough to be
aware that her uncle and aunt would have looked kindly on his suit, and
indeed, without this encouragement he would never have persevered in
going to the Farm; but it was impossible to come to any but fluctuating
conclusions about Hetty's feelings. She was like a kitten, and had the
same distractingly pretty looks, that meant nothing, for everybody that
came near her.

But now he could not help saying to himself that the heaviest part of
his burden was removed, and that even before the end of another year
his circumstances might be brought into a shape that would allow him to
think of marrying. It would always be a hard struggle with his mother,
he knew: she would be jealous of any wife he might choose, and she had
set her mind especially against Hetty--perhaps for no other reason than
that she suspected Hetty to be the woman he HAD chosen. It would never
do, he feared, for his mother to live in the same house with him when
he was married; and yet how hard she would think it if he asked her to
leave him! Yes, there was a great deal of pain to be gone through with
his mother, but it was a case in which he must make her feel that his
will was strong--it would be better for her in the end. For himself,
he would have liked that they should all live together till Seth was
married, and they might have built a bit themselves to the old house,
and made more room. He did not like "to part wi' th' lad": they had
hardly every been separated for more than a day since they were born.

But Adam had no sooner caught his imagination leaping forward in this
way--making arrangements for an uncertain future--than he checked
himself. "A pretty building I'm making, without either bricks or
timber. I'm up i' the garret a'ready, and haven't so much as dug the
foundation." Whenever Adam was strongly convinced of any proposition, it
took the form of a principle in his mind: it was knowledge to be acted
on, as much as the knowledge that damp will cause rust. Perhaps here lay
the secret of the hardness he had accused himself of: he had too
little fellow-feeling with the weakness that errs in spite of foreseen
consequences. Without this fellow-feeling, how are we to get enough
patience and charity towards our stumbling, falling companions in the
long and changeful journey? And there is but one way in which a strong
determined soul can learn it--by getting his heart-strings bound
round the weak and erring, so that he must share not only the outward
consequence of their error, but their inward suffering. That is a long
and hard lesson, and Adam had at present only learned the alphabet of it
in his father's sudden death, which, by annihilating in an instant all
that had stimulated his indignation, had sent a sudden rush of thought
and memory over what had claimed his pity and tenderness.

But it was Adam's strength, not its correlative hardness, that
influenced his meditations this morning. He had long made up his mind
that it would be wrong as well as foolish for him to marry a blooming
young girl, so long as he had no other prospect than that of growing
poverty with a growing family. And his savings had been so constantly
drawn upon (besides the terrible sweep of paying for Seth's substitute
in the militia) that he had not enough money beforehand to furnish even
a small cottage, and keep something in reserve against a rainy day. He
had good hope that he should be "firmer on his legs" by and by; but he
could not be satisfied with a vague confidence in his arm and brain; he
must have definite plans, and set about them at once. The partnership
with Jonathan Burge was not to be thought of at present--there were
things implicitly tacked to it that he could not accept; but Adam
thought that he and Seth might carry on a little business for themselves
in addition to their journeyman's work, by buying a small stock of
superior wood and making articles of household furniture, for which Adam
had no end of contrivances. Seth might gain more by working at separate
jobs under Adam's direction than by his journeyman's work, and Adam,
in his overhours, could do all the "nice" work that required peculiar
skill. The money gained in this way, with the good wages he received
as foreman, would soon enable them to get beforehand with the world,
so sparingly as they would all live now. No sooner had this little
plan shaped itself in his mind than he began to be busy with exact
calculations about the wood to be bought and the particular article of
furniture that should be undertaken first--a kitchen cupboard of his
own contrivance, with such an ingenious arrangement of sliding-doors and
bolts, such convenient nooks for stowing household provender, and such
a symmetrical result to the eye, that every good housewife would be
in raptures with it, and fall through all the gradations of melancholy
longing till her husband promised to buy it for her. Adam pictured to
himself Mrs. Poyser examining it with her keen eye and trying in vain to
find out a deficiency; and, of course, close to Mrs. Poyser stood Hetty,
and Adam was again beguiled from calculations and contrivances into
dreams and hopes. Yes, he would go and see her this evening--it was so
long since he had been at the Hall Farm. He would have liked to go
to the night-school, to see why Bartle Massey had not been at church
yesterday, for he feared his old friend was ill; but, unless he could
manage both visits, this last must be put off till to-morrow--the desire
to be near Hetty and to speak to her again was too strong.

As he made up his mind to this, he was coming very near to the end of
his walk, within the sound of the hammers at work on the refitting of
the old house. The sound of tools to a clever workman who loves his work
is like the tentative sounds of the orchestra to the violinist who
has to bear his part in the overture: the strong fibres begin their
accustomed thrill, and what was a moment before joy, vexation, or
ambition, begins its change into energy. All passion becomes strength
when it has an outlet from the narrow limits of our personal lot in the
labour of our right arm, the cunning of our right hand, or the still,
creative activity of our thought. Look at Adam through the rest of the
day, as he stands on the scaffolding with the two-feet ruler in
his hand, whistling low while he considers how a difficulty about a
floor-joist or a window-frame is to be overcome; or as he pushes one of
the younger workmen aside and takes his place in upheaving a weight of
timber, saying, "Let alone, lad! Thee'st got too much gristle i' thy
bones yet"; or as he fixes his keen black eyes on the motions of a
workman on the other side of the room and warns him that his distances
are not right. Look at this broad-shouldered man with the bare muscular
arms, and the thick, firm, black hair tossed about like trodden
meadow-grass whenever he takes off his paper cap, and with the strong
barytone voice bursting every now and then into loud and solemn
psalm-tunes, as if seeking an outlet for superfluous strength, yet
presently checking himself, apparently crossed by some thought which
jars with the singing. Perhaps, if you had not been already in
the secret, you might not have guessed what sad memories what warm
affection, what tender fluttering hopes, had their home in this athletic
body with the broken finger-nails--in this rough man, who knew no better
lyrics than he could find in the Old and New Version and an occasional
hymn; who knew the smallest possible amount of profane history; and for
whom the motion and shape of the earth, the course of the sun, and the
changes of the seasons lay in the region of mystery just made visible by
fragmentary knowledge. It had cost Adam a great deal of trouble and
work in overhours to know what he knew over and above the secrets of his
handicraft, and that acquaintance with mechanics and figures, and the
nature of the materials he worked with, which was made easy to him by
inborn inherited faculty--to get the mastery of his pen, and write a
plain hand, to spell without any other mistakes than must in fairness be
attributed to the unreasonable character of orthography rather than to
any deficiency in the speller, and, moreover, to learn his musical notes
and part-singing. Besides all this, he had read his Bible, including
the apocryphal books; Poor Richard's Almanac, Taylor's Holy Living and
Dying, The Pilgrim's Progress, with Bunyan's Life and Holy War, a great
deal of Bailey's Dictionary, Valentine and Orson, and part of a History
of Babylon, which Bartle Massey had lent him. He might have had many
more books from Bartle Massey, but he had no time for reading "the
commin print," as Lisbeth called it, so busy as he was with figures in
all the leisure moments which he did not fill up with extra carpentry.

Adam, you perceive, was by no means a marvellous man, nor, properly
speaking, a genius, yet I will not pretend that his was an ordinary
character among workmen; and it would not be at all a safe conclusion
that the next best man you may happen to see with a basket of tools over
his shoulder and a paper cap on his head has the strong conscience and
the strong sense, the blended susceptibility and self-command, of our
friend Adam. He was not an average man. Yet such men as he are reared
here and there in every generation of our peasant artisans--with an
inheritance of affections nurtured by a simple family life of common
need and common industry, and an inheritance of faculties trained
in skilful courageous labour: they make their way upwards, rarely as
geniuses, most commonly as painstaking honest men, with the skill and
conscience to do well the tasks that lie before them. Their lives have
no discernible echo beyond the neighbourhood where they dwelt, but you
are almost sure to find there some good piece of road, some building,
some application of mineral produce, some improvement in farming
practice, some reform of parish abuses, with which their names are
associated by one or two generations after them. Their employers were
the richer for them, the work of their hands has worn well, and the work
of their brains has guided well the hands of other men. They went about
in their youth in flannel or paper caps, in coats black with coal-dust
or streaked with lime and red paint; in old age their white hairs are
seen in a place of honour at church and at market, and they tell their
well-dressed sons and daughters, seated round the bright hearth on
winter evenings, how pleased they were when they first earned their
twopence a-day. Others there are who die poor and never put off the
workman's coal on weekdays. They have not had the art of getting rich,
but they are men of trust, and when they die before the work is all out
of them, it is as if some main screw had got loose in a machine; the
master who employed them says, "Where shall I find their like?"



Chapter XX

Adam Visits the Hall Farm


ADAM came back from his work in the empty waggon--that was why he had
changed his clothes--and was ready to set out to the Hall Farm when it
still wanted a quarter to seven.

"What's thee got thy Sunday cloose on for?" said Lisbeth complainingly,
as he came downstairs. "Thee artna goin' to th' school i' thy best
coat?"

"No, Mother," said Adam, quietly. "I'm going to the Hall Farm, but
mayhap I may go to the school after, so thee mustna wonder if I'm a
bit late. Seth 'ull be at home in half an hour--he's only gone to the
village; so thee wutna mind."

"Eh, an' what's thee got thy best cloose on for to go to th' Hall Farm?
The Poyser folks see'd thee in 'em yesterday, I warrand. What dost mean
by turnin' worki'day into Sunday a-that'n? It's poor keepin' company wi'
folks as donna like to see thee i' thy workin' jacket."

"Good-bye, mother, I can't stay," said Adam, putting on his hat and
going out.

But he had no sooner gone a few paces beyond the door than Lisbeth
became uneasy at the thought that she had vexed him. Of course, the
secret of her objection to the best clothes was her suspicion that they
were put on for Hetty's sake; but deeper than all her peevishness lay
the need that her son should love her. She hurried after him, and laid
hold of his arm before he had got half-way down to the brook, and said,
"Nay, my lad, thee wutna go away angered wi' thy mother, an' her got
nought to do but to sit by hersen an' think on thee?"

"Nay, nay, Mother," said Adam, gravely, and standing still while he put
his arm on her shoulder, "I'm not angered. But I wish, for thy own sake,
thee'dst be more contented to let me do what I've made up my mind to do.
I'll never be no other than a good son to thee as long as we live. But a
man has other feelings besides what he owes to's father and mother, and
thee oughtna to want to rule over me body and soul. And thee must make
up thy mind as I'll not give way to thee where I've a right to do what I
like. So let us have no more words about it."

"Eh," said Lisbeth, not willing to show that she felt the real bearing
of Adam's words, "and' who likes to see thee i' thy best cloose better
nor thy mother? An' when thee'st got thy face washed as clean as
the smooth white pibble, an' thy hair combed so nice, and thy eyes
a-sparklin'--what else is there as thy old mother should like to look at
half so well? An' thee sha't put on thy Sunday cloose when thee lik'st
for me--I'll ne'er plague thee no moor about'n."

"Well, well; good-bye, mother," said Adam, kissing her and hurrying
away. He saw there was no other means of putting an end to the dialogue.
Lisbeth stood still on the spot, shading her eyes and looking after him
till he was quite out of sight. She felt to the full all the meaning
that had lain in Adam's words, and, as she lost sight of him and turned
back slowly into the house, she said aloud to herself--for it was her
way to speak her thoughts aloud in the long days when her husband and
sons were at their work--"Eh, he'll be tellin' me as he's goin' to bring
her home one o' these days; an' she'll be missis o'er me, and I mun
look on, belike, while she uses the blue-edged platters, and breaks
'em, mayhap, though there's ne'er been one broke sin' my old man an' me
bought 'em at the fair twenty 'ear come next Whissuntide. Eh!" she went
on, still louder, as she caught up her knitting from the table, "but
she'll ne'er knit the lad's stockin's, nor foot 'em nayther, while I
live; an' when I'm gone, he'll bethink him as nobody 'ull ne'er fit's
leg an' foot as his old mother did. She'll know nothin' o' narrowin' an'
heelin', I warrand, an' she'll make a long toe as he canna get's boot
on. That's what comes o' marr'in' young wenches. I war gone thirty, an'
th' feyther too, afore we war married; an' young enough too. She'll be
a poor dratchell by then SHE'S thirty, a-marr'in' a-that'n, afore her
teeth's all come."

Adam walked so fast that he was at the yard-gate before seven. Martin
Poyser and the grandfather were not yet come in from the meadow: every
one was in the meadow, even to the black-and-tan terrier--no one
kept watch in the yard but the bull-dog; and when Adam reached the
house-door, which stood wide open, he saw there was no one in the bright
clean house-place. But he guessed where Mrs. Poyser and some one else
would be, quite within hearing; so he knocked on the door and said in
his strong voice, "Mrs. Poyser within?"

"Come in, Mr. Bede, come in," Mrs. Poyser called out from the dairy. She
always gave Adam this title when she received him in her own house.
"You may come into the dairy if you will, for I canna justly leave the
cheese."

Adam walked into the dairy, where Mrs. Poyser and Nancy were crushing
the first evening cheese.

"Why, you might think you war come to a dead-house," said Mrs. Poyser,
as he stood in the open doorway; "they're all i' the meadow; but
Martin's sure to be in afore long, for they're leaving the hay cocked
to-night, ready for carrying first thing to-morrow. I've been forced
t' have Nancy in, upo' 'count as Hetty must gether the red currants
to-night; the fruit allays ripens so contrairy, just when every hand's
wanted. An' there's no trustin' the children to gether it, for they put
more into their own mouths nor into the basket; you might as well set
the wasps to gether the fruit."

Adam longed to say he would go into the garden till Mr. Poyser came in,
but he was not quite courageous enough, so he said, "I could be looking
at your spinning-wheel, then, and see what wants doing to it. Perhaps it
stands in the house, where I can find it?"

"No, I've put it away in the right-hand parlour; but let it be till
I can fetch it and show it you. I'd be glad now if you'd go into the
garden and tell Hetty to send Totty in. The child 'ull run in if she's
told, an' I know Hetty's lettin' her eat too many currants. I'll be much
obliged to you, Mr. Bede, if you'll go and send her in; an' there's the
York and Lankester roses beautiful in the garden now--you'll like to see
'em. But you'd like a drink o' whey first, p'r'aps; I know you're fond
o' whey, as most folks is when they hanna got to crush it out."

"Thank you, Mrs. Poyser," said Adam; "a drink o' whey's allays a treat
to me. I'd rather have it than beer any day."

"Aye, aye," said Mrs. Poyser, reaching a small white basin that stood on
the shelf, and dipping it into the whey-tub, "the smell o' bread's
sweet t' everybody but the baker. The Miss Irwines allays say, 'Oh, Mrs.
Poyser, I envy you your dairy; and I envy you your chickens; and what
a beautiful thing a farm-house is, to be sure!' An' I say, 'Yes; a
farm-house is a fine thing for them as look on, an' don't know the
liftin', an' the stannin', an' the worritin' o' th' inside as belongs
to't.'"

"Why, Mrs. Poyser, you wouldn't like to live anywhere else but in a
farm-house, so well as you manage it," said Adam, taking the basin;
"and there can be nothing to look at pleasanter nor a fine milch cow,
standing up to'ts knees in pasture, and the new milk frothing in the
pail, and the fresh butter ready for market, and the calves, and the
poultry. Here's to your health, and may you allays have strength to look
after your own dairy, and set a pattern t' all the farmers' wives in the
country."

Mrs. Poyser was not to be caught in the weakness of smiling at a
compliment, but a quiet complacency over-spread her face like a stealing
sunbeam, and gave a milder glance than usual to her blue-grey eyes,
as she looked at Adam drinking the whey. Ah! I think I taste that whey
now--with a flavour so delicate that one can hardly distinguish it from
an odour, and with that soft gliding warmth that fills one's imagination
with a still, happy dreaminess. And the light music of the dropping whey
is in my ears, mingling with the twittering of a bird outside the wire
network window--the window overlooking the garden, and shaded by tall
Guelder roses.

"Have a little more, Mr. Bede?" said Mrs. Poyser, as Adam set down the
basin.

"No, thank you; I'll go into the garden now, and send in the little
lass."

"Aye, do; and tell her to come to her mother in the dairy."

Adam walked round by the rick-yard, at present empty of ricks, to
the little wooden gate leading into the garden--once the well-tended
kitchen-garden of a manor-house; now, but for the handsome brick wall
with stone coping that ran along one side of it, a true farmhouse
garden, with hardy perennial flowers, unpruned fruit-trees, and kitchen
vegetables growing together in careless, half-neglected abundance. In
that leafy, flowery, bushy time, to look for any one in this garden
was like playing at "hide-and-seek." There were the tall hollyhocks
beginning to flower and dazzle the eye with their pink, white, and
yellow; there were the syringas and Guelder roses, all large and
disorderly for want of trimming; there were leafy walls of scarlet beans
and late peas; there was a row of bushy filberts in one direction,
and in another a huge apple-tree making a barren circle under its
low-spreading boughs. But what signified a barren patch or two? The
garden was so large. There was always a superfluity of broad beans--it
took nine or ten of Adam's strides to get to the end of the uncut grass
walk that ran by the side of them; and as for other vegetables, there
was so much more room than was necessary for them that in the rotation
of crops a large flourishing bed of groundsel was of yearly occurrence
on one spot or other. The very rose-trees at which Adam stopped to pluck
one looked as if they grew wild; they were all huddled together in bushy
masses, now flaunting with wide-open petals, almost all of them of the
streaked pink-and-white kind, which doubtless dated from the union
of the houses of York and Lancaster. Adam was wise enough to choose a
compact Provence rose that peeped out half-smothered by its flaunting
scentless neighbours, and held it in his hand--he thought he should be
more at ease holding something in his hand--as he walked on to the far
end of the garden, where he remembered there was the largest row of
currant-trees, not far off from the great yew-tree arbour.

But he had not gone many steps beyond the roses, when he heard the
shaking of a bough, and a boy's voice saying, "Now, then, Totty, hold
out your pinny--there's a duck."

The voice came from the boughs of a tall cherry-tree, where Adam had
no difficulty in discerning a small blue-pinafored figure perched in a
commodious position where the fruit was thickest. Doubtless Totty was
below, behind the screen of peas. Yes--with her bonnet hanging down her
back, and her fat face, dreadfully smeared with red juice, turned up
towards the cherry-tree, while she held her little round hole of a mouth
and her red-stained pinafore to receive the promised downfall. I am
sorry to say, more than half the cherries that fell were hard and yellow
instead of juicy and red; but Totty spent no time in useless regrets,
and she was already sucking the third juiciest when Adam said, "There
now, Totty, you've got your cherries. Run into the house with 'em to
Mother--she wants you--she's in the dairy. Run in this minute--there's a
good little girl."

He lifted her up in his strong arms and kissed her as he spoke,
a ceremony which Totty regarded as a tiresome interruption to
cherry-eating; and when he set her down she trotted off quite silently
towards the house, sucking her cherries as she went along.

"Tommy, my lad, take care you're not shot for a little thieving bird,"
said Adam, as he walked on towards the currant-trees.

He could see there was a large basket at the end of the row: Hetty would
not be far off, and Adam already felt as if she were looking at him. Yet
when he turned the corner she was standing with her back towards him,
and stooping to gather the low-hanging fruit. Strange that she had
not heard him coming! Perhaps it was because she was making the
leaves rustle. She started when she became conscious that some one was
near--started so violently that she dropped the basin with the currants
in it, and then, when she saw it was Adam, she turned from pale to deep
red. That blush made his heart beat with a new happiness. Hetty had
never blushed at seeing him before.

"I frightened you," he said, with a delicious sense that it didn't
signify what he said, since Hetty seemed to feel as much as he did; "let
ME pick the currants up."

That was soon done, for they had only fallen in a tangled mass on the
grass-plot, and Adam, as he rose and gave her the basin again, looked
straight into her eyes with the subdued tenderness that belongs to the
first moments of hopeful love.

Hetty did not turn away her eyes; her blush had subsided, and she met
his glance with a quiet sadness, which contented Adam because it was so
unlike anything he had seen in her before.

"There's not many more currants to get," she said; "I shall soon ha'
done now."

"I'll help you," said Adam; and he fetched the large basket, which was
nearly full of currants, and set it close to them.

Not a word more was spoken as they gathered the currants. Adam's heart
was too full to speak, and he thought Hetty knew all that was in it. She
was not indifferent to his presence after all; she had blushed when she
saw him, and then there was that touch of sadness about her which must
surely mean love, since it was the opposite of her usual manner, which
had often impressed him as indifference. And he could glance at her
continually as she bent over the fruit, while the level evening sunbeams
stole through the thick apple-tree boughs, and rested on her round cheek
and neck as if they too were in love with her. It was to Adam the time
that a man can least forget in after-life, the time when he believes
that the first woman he has ever loved betrays by a slight something--a
word, a tone, a glance, the quivering of a lip or an eyelid--that she is
at least beginning to love him in return. The sign is so slight, it
is scarcely perceptible to the ear or eye--he could describe it to no
one--it is a mere feather-touch, yet it seems to have changed his
whole being, to have merged an uneasy yearning into a delicious
unconsciousness of everything but the present moment. So much of our
early gladness vanishes utterly from our memory: we can never recall the
joy with which we laid our heads on our mother's bosom or rode on our
father's back in childhood. Doubtless that joy is wrought up into our
nature, as the sunlight of long-past mornings is wrought up in the soft
mellowness of the apricot, but it is gone for ever from our imagination,
and we can only BELIEVE in the joy of childhood. But the first glad
moment in our first love is a vision which returns to us to the last,
and brings with it a thrill of feeling intense and special as the
recurrent sensation of a sweet odour breathed in a far-off hour
of happiness. It is a memory that gives a more exquisite touch to
tenderness, that feeds the madness of jealousy and adds the last
keenness to the agony of despair.

Hetty bending over the red bunches, the level rays piercing the screen
of apple-tree boughs, the length of bushy garden beyond, his own emotion
as he looked at her and believed that she was thinking of him, and that
there was no need for them to talk--Adam remembered it all to the last
moment of his life.

And Hetty? You know quite well that Adam was mistaken about her. Like
many other men, he thought the signs of love for another were signs of
love towards himself. When Adam was approaching unseen by her, she was
absorbed as usual in thinking and wondering about Arthur's possible
return. The sound of any man's footstep would have affected her just in
the same way--she would have FELT it might be Arthur before she had time
to see, and the blood that forsook her cheek in the agitation of that
momentary feeling would have rushed back again at the sight of any one
else just as much as at the sight of Adam. He was not wrong in thinking
that a change had come over Hetty: the anxieties and fears of a first
passion, with which she was trembling, had become stronger than vanity,
had given her for the first time that sense of helpless dependence on
another's feeling which awakens the clinging deprecating womanhood even
in the shallowest girl that can ever experience it, and creates in her a
sensibility to kindness which found her quite hard before. For the first
time Hetty felt that there was something soothing to her in Adam's timid
yet manly tenderness. She wanted to be treated lovingly--oh, it was
very hard to bear this blank of absence, silence, apparent indifference,
after those moments of glowing love! She was not afraid that Adam
would tease her with love-making and flattering speeches like her other
admirers; he had always been so reserved to her; she could enjoy without
any fear the sense that this strong brave man loved her and was near
her. It never entered into her mind that Adam was pitiable too--that
Adam too must suffer one day.

Hetty, we know, was not the first woman that had behaved more gently
to the man who loved her in vain because she had herself begun to love
another. It was a very old story, but Adam knew nothing about it, so he
drank in the sweet delusion.

"That'll do," said Hetty, after a little while. "Aunt wants me to leave
some on the trees. I'll take 'em in now."

"It's very well I came to carry the basket," said Adam "for it 'ud ha'
been too heavy for your little arms."

"No; I could ha' carried it with both hands."

"Oh, I daresay," said Adam, smiling, "and been as long getting into the
house as a little ant carrying a caterpillar. Have you ever seen those
tiny fellows carrying things four times as big as themselves?"

"No," said Hetty, indifferently, not caring to know the difficulties of
ant life.

"Oh, I used to watch 'em often when I was a lad. But now, you see, I can
carry the basket with one arm, as if it was an empty nutshell, and give
you th' other arm to lean on. Won't you? Such big arms as mine were made
for little arms like yours to lean on."

Hetty smiled faintly and put her arm within his. Adam looked down at
her, but her eyes were turned dreamily towards another corner of the
garden.

"Have you ever been to Eagledale?" she said, as they walked slowly
along.

"Yes," said Adam, pleased to have her ask a question about himself. "Ten
years ago, when I was a lad, I went with father to see about some work
there. It's a wonderful sight--rocks and caves such as you never saw in
your life. I never had a right notion o' rocks till I went there."

"How long did it take to get there?"

"Why, it took us the best part o' two days' walking. But it's nothing of
a day's journey for anybody as has got a first-rate nag. The captain 'ud
get there in nine or ten hours, I'll be bound, he's such a rider. And I
shouldn't wonder if he's back again to-morrow; he's too active to rest
long in that lonely place, all by himself, for there's nothing but a
bit of a inn i' that part where he's gone to fish. I wish he'd got th'
estate in his hands; that 'ud be the right thing for him, for it 'ud
give him plenty to do, and he'd do't well too, for all he's so young;
he's got better notions o' things than many a man twice his age. He
spoke very handsome to me th' other day about lending me money to set up
i' business; and if things came round that way, I'd rather be beholding
to him nor to any man i' the world."

Poor Adam was led on to speak about Arthur because he thought Hetty
would be pleased to know that the young squire was so ready to befriend
him; the fact entered into his future prospects, which he would like to
seem promising in her eyes. And it was true that Hetty listened with an
interest which brought a new light into her eyes and a half-smile upon
her lips.

"How pretty the roses are now!" Adam continued, pausing to look at them.
"See! I stole the prettiest, but I didna mean to keep it myself. I think
these as are all pink, and have got a finer sort o' green leaves, are
prettier than the striped uns, don't you?"

He set down the basket and took the rose from his button-hole.

"It smells very sweet," he said; "those striped uns have no smell. Stick
it in your frock, and then you can put it in water after. It 'ud be a
pity to let it fade."

Hetty took the rose, smiling as she did so at the pleasant thought that
Arthur could so soon get back if he liked. There was a flash of hope and
happiness in her mind, and with a sudden impulse of gaiety she did what
she had very often done before--stuck the rose in her hair a little
above the left ear. The tender admiration in Adam's face was slightly
shadowed by reluctant disapproval. Hetty's love of finery was just the
thing that would most provoke his mother, and he himself disliked it
as much as it was possible for him to dislike anything that belonged to
her.

"Ah," he said, "that's like the ladies in the pictures at the Chase;
they've mostly got flowers or feathers or gold things i' their hair,
but somehow I don't like to see 'em they allays put me i' mind o' the
painted women outside the shows at Treddles'on Fair. What can a woman
have to set her off better than her own hair, when it curls so, like
yours? If a woman's young and pretty, I think you can see her good looks
all the better for her being plain dressed. Why, Dinah Morris looks very
nice, for all she wears such a plain cap and gown. It seems to me as a
woman's face doesna want flowers; it's almost like a flower itself. I'm
sure yours is."

"Oh, very well," said Hetty, with a little playful pout, taking the rose
out of her hair. "I'll put one o' Dinah's caps on when we go in, and
you'll see if I look better in it. She left one behind, so I can take
the pattern."

"Nay, nay, I don't want you to wear a Methodist cap like Dinah's. I
daresay it's a very ugly cap, and I used to think when I saw her here as
it was nonsense for her to dress different t' other people; but I never
rightly noticed her till she came to see mother last week, and then I
thought the cap seemed to fit her face somehow as th 'acorn-cup fits th'
acorn, and I shouldn't like to see her so well without it. But you've
got another sort o' face; I'd have you just as you are now, without
anything t' interfere with your own looks. It's like when a man's
singing a good tune--you don't want t' hear bells tinkling and
interfering wi' the sound."

He took her arm and put it within his again, looking down on her fondly.
He was afraid she should think he had lectured her, imagining, as we
are apt to do, that she had perceived all the thoughts he had only
half-expressed. And the thing he dreaded most was lest any cloud should
come over this evening's happiness. For the world he would not have
spoken of his love to Hetty yet, till this commencing kindness towards
him should have grown into unmistakable love. In his imagination he
saw long years of his future life stretching before him, blest with the
right to call Hetty his own: he could be content with very little at
present. So he took up the basket of currants once more, and they went
on towards the house.

The scene had quite changed in the half-hour that Adam had been in the
garden. The yard was full of life now: Marty was letting the screaming
geese through the gate, and wickedly provoking the gander by hissing at
him; the granary-door was groaning on its hinges as Alick shut it, after
dealing out the corn; the horses were being led out to watering,
amidst much barking of all the three dogs and many "whups" from Tim the
ploughman, as if the heavy animals who held down their meek, intelligent
heads, and lifted their shaggy feet so deliberately, were likely to rush
wildly in every direction but the right. Everybody was come back from
the meadow; and when Hetty and Adam entered the house-place, Mr. Poyser
was seated in the three-cornered chair, and the grandfather in the
large arm-chair opposite, looking on with pleasant expectation while the
supper was being laid on the oak table. Mrs. Poyser had laid the cloth
herself--a cloth made of homespun linen, with a shining checkered
pattern on it, and of an agreeable whitey-brown hue, such as all
sensible housewives like to see--none of your bleached "shop-rag" that
would wear into holes in no time, but good homespun that would last
for two generations. The cold veal, the fresh lettuces, and the stuffed
chine might well look tempting to hungry men who had dined at half-past
twelve o'clock. On the large deal table against the wall there were
bright pewter plates and spoons and cans, ready for Alick and his
companions; for the master and servants ate their supper not far off
each other; which was all the pleasanter, because if a remark about
to-morrow morning's work occurred to Mr. Poyser, Alick was at hand to
hear it.

"Well, Adam, I'm glad to see ye," said Mr. Poyser. "What! ye've been
helping Hetty to gether the curran's, eh? Come, sit ye down, sit ye
down. Why, it's pretty near a three-week since y' had your supper with
us; and the missis has got one of her rare stuffed chines. I'm glad
ye're come."

"Hetty," said Mrs. Poyser, as she looked into the basket of currants
to see if the fruit was fine, "run upstairs and send Molly down. She's
putting Totty to bed, and I want her to draw th' ale, for Nancy's busy
yet i' the dairy. You can see to the child. But whativer did you let her
run away from you along wi' Tommy for, and stuff herself wi' fruit as
she can't eat a bit o' good victual?"

This was said in a lower tone than usual, while her husband was talking
to Adam; for Mrs. Poyser was strict in adherence to her own rules of
propriety, and she considered that a young girl was not to be treated
sharply in the presence of a respectable man who was courting her. That
would not be fair-play: every woman was young in her turn, and had her
chances of matrimony, which it was a point of honour for other women not
to spoil--just as one market-woman who has sold her own eggs must not
try to balk another of a customer.

Hetty made haste to run away upstairs, not easily finding an answer to
her aunt's question, and Mrs. Poyser went out to see after Marty and
Tommy and bring them in to supper.

Soon they were all seated--the two rosy lads, one on each side, by the
pale mother, a place being left for Hetty between Adam and her uncle.
Alick too was come in, and was seated in his far corner, eating cold
broad beans out of a large dish with his pocket-knife, and finding
a flavour in them which he would not have exchanged for the finest
pineapple.

"What a time that gell is drawing th' ale, to be sure!" said Mrs.
Poyser, when she was dispensing her slices of stuffed chine. "I think
she sets the jug under and forgets to turn the tap, as there's nothing
you can't believe o' them wenches: they'll set the empty kettle o' the
fire, and then come an hour after to see if the water boils."

"She's drawin' for the men too," said Mr. Poyser. "Thee shouldst ha'
told her to bring our jug up first."

"Told her?" said Mrs. Poyser. "Yes, I might spend all the wind i' my
body, an' take the bellows too, if I was to tell them gells everything
as their own sharpness wonna tell 'em. Mr. Bede, will you take some
vinegar with your lettuce? Aye you're i' the right not. It spoils the
flavour o' the chine, to my thinking. It's poor eating where the flavour
o' the meat lies i' the cruets. There's folks as make bad butter and
trusten to the salt t' hide it."

Mrs. Poyser's attention was here diverted by the appearance of Molly,
carrying a large jug, two small mugs, and four drinking-cans, all full
of ale or small beer--an interesting example of the prehensile power
possessed by the human hand. Poor Molly's mouth was rather wider open
than usual, as she walked along with her eyes fixed on the double
cluster of vessels in her hands, quite innocent of the expression in her
mistress's eye.

"Molly, I niver knew your equils--to think o' your poor mother as is
a widow, an' I took you wi' as good as no character, an' the times an'
times I've told you...."

Molly had not seen the lightning, and the thunder shook her nerves the
more for the want of that preparation. With a vague alarmed sense that
she must somehow comport herself differently, she hastened her step
a little towards the far deal table, where she might set down her
cans--caught her foot in her apron, which had become untied, and fell
with a crash and a splash into a pool of beer; whereupon a tittering
explosion from Marty and Tommy, and a serious "Ello!" from Mr. Poyser,
who saw his draught of ale unpleasantly deferred.

"There you go!" resumed Mrs. Poyser, in a cutting tone, as she rose and
went towards the cupboard while Molly began dolefully to pick up the
fragments of pottery. "It's what I told you 'ud come, over and over
again; and there's your month's wage gone, and more, to pay for that jug
as I've had i' the house this ten year, and nothing ever happened to't
before; but the crockery you've broke sin' here in th' house you've been
'ud make a parson swear--God forgi' me for saying so--an' if it had been
boiling wort out o' the copper, it 'ud ha' been the same, and you'd ha'
been scalded and very like lamed for life, as there's no knowing but
what you will be some day if you go on; for anybody 'ud think you'd got
the St. Vitus's Dance, to see the things you've throwed down. It's
a pity but what the bits was stacked up for you to see, though it's
neither seeing nor hearing as 'ull make much odds to you--anybody 'ud
think you war case-hardened."

Poor Molly's tears were dropping fast by this time, and in her
desperation at the lively movement of the beer-stream towards Alick's
legs, she was converting her apron into a mop, while Mrs. Poyser,
opening the cupboard, turned a blighting eye upon her.

"Ah," she went on, "you'll do no good wi' crying an' making more wet to
wipe up. It's all your own wilfulness, as I tell you, for there's nobody
no call to break anything if they'll only go the right way to work. But
wooden folks had need ha' wooden things t' handle. And here must I take
the brown-and-white jug, as it's niver been used three times this year,
and go down i' the cellar myself, and belike catch my death, and be laid
up wi' inflammation...."

Mrs. Poyser had turned round from the cupboard with the brown-and-white
jug in her hand, when she caught sight of something at the other end
of the kitchen; perhaps it was because she was already trembling and
nervous that the apparition had so strong an effect on her; perhaps
jug-breaking, like other crimes, has a contagious influence. However
it was, she stared and started like a ghost-seer, and the precious
brown-and-white jug fell to the ground, parting for ever with its spout
and handle.

"Did ever anybody see the like?" she said, with a suddenly lowered
tone, after a moment's bewildered glance round the room. "The jugs are
bewitched, I think. It's them nasty glazed handles--they slip o'er the
finger like a snail."

"Why, thee'st let thy own whip fly i' thy face," said her husband, who
had now joined in the laugh of the young ones.

"It's all very fine to look on and grin," rejoined Mrs. Poyser; "but
there's times when the crockery seems alive an' flies out o' your hand
like a bird. It's like the glass, sometimes, 'ull crack as it stands.
What is to be broke WILL be broke, for I never dropped a thing i' my
life for want o' holding it, else I should never ha' kept the crockery
all these 'ears as I bought at my own wedding. And Hetty, are you mad?
Whativer do you mean by coming down i' that way, and making one think as
there's a ghost a-walking i' th' house?"

A new outbreak of laughter, while Mrs. Poyser was speaking, was caused,
less by her sudden conversion to a fatalistic view of jug-breaking than
by that strange appearance of Hetty, which had startled her aunt. The
little minx had found a black gown of her aunt's, and pinned it close
round her neck to look like Dinah's, had made her hair as flat as she
could, and had tied on one of Dinah's high-crowned borderless net caps.
The thought of Dinah's pale grave face and mild grey eyes, which the
sight of the gown and cap brought with it, made it a laughable surprise
enough to see them replaced by Hetty's round rosy cheeks and coquettish
dark eyes. The boys got off their chairs and jumped round her, clapping
their hands, and even Alick gave a low ventral laugh as he looked up
from his beans. Under cover of the noise, Mrs. Poyser went into the back
kitchen to send Nancy into the cellar with the great pewter measure,
which had some chance of being free from bewitchment.

"Why, Hetty, lass, are ye turned Methodist?" said Mr. Poyser, with
that comfortable slow enjoyment of a laugh which one only sees in stout
people. "You must pull your face a deal longer before you'll do for one;
mustna she, Adam? How come you put them things on, eh?"

"Adam said he liked Dinah's cap and gown better nor my clothes," said
Hetty, sitting down demurely. "He says folks looks better in ugly
clothes."

"Nay, nay," said Adam, looking at her admiringly; "I only said they
seemed to suit Dinah. But if I'd said you'd look pretty in 'em, I should
ha' said nothing but what was true."

"Why, thee thought'st Hetty war a ghost, didstna?" said Mr. Poyser to
his wife, who now came back and took her seat again. "Thee look'dst as
scared as scared."

"It little sinnifies how I looked," said Mrs. Poyser; "looks 'ull mend
no jugs, nor laughing neither, as I see. Mr. Bede, I'm sorry you've to
wait so long for your ale, but it's coming in a minute. Make yourself at
home wi' th' cold potatoes: I know you like 'em. Tommy, I'll send you to
bed this minute, if you don't give over laughing. What is there to laugh
at, I should like to know? I'd sooner cry nor laugh at the sight o' that
poor thing's cap; and there's them as 'ud be better if they could make
theirselves like her i' more ways nor putting on her cap. It little
becomes anybody i' this house to make fun o' my sister's child, an' her
just gone away from us, as it went to my heart to part wi' her. An' I
know one thing, as if trouble was to come, an' I was to be laid up i'
my bed, an' the children was to die--as there's no knowing but what they
will--an' the murrain was to come among the cattle again, an' everything
went to rack an' ruin, I say we might be glad to get sight o' Dinah's
cap again, wi' her own face under it, border or no border. For she's one
o' them things as looks the brightest on a rainy day, and loves you the
best when you're most i' need on't."

Mrs. Poyser, you perceive, was aware that nothing would be so likely
to expel the comic as the terrible. Tommy, who was of a susceptible
disposition, and very fond of his mother, and who had, besides, eaten so
many cherries as to have his feelings less under command than usual, was
so affected by the dreadful picture she had made of the possible future
that he began to cry; and the good-natured father, indulgent to all
weaknesses but those of negligent farmers, said to Hetty, "You'd better
take the things off again, my lass; it hurts your aunt to see 'em."

Hetty went upstairs again, and the arrival of the ale made an agreeable
diversion; for Adam had to give his opinion of the new tap, which could
not be otherwise than complimentary to Mrs. Poyser; and then followed
a discussion on the secrets of good brewing, the folly of stinginess in
"hopping," and the doubtful economy of a farmer's making his own malt.
Mrs. Poyser had so many opportunities of expressing herself with
weight on these subjects that by the time supper was ended, the ale-jug
refilled, and Mr. Poyser's pipe alight she was once more in high good
humour, and ready, at Adam's request, to fetch the broken spinning-wheel
for his inspection.

"Ah," said Adam, looking at it carefully, "here's a nice bit o' turning
wanted. It's a pretty wheel. I must have it up at the turning-shop in
the village and do it there, for I've no convenence for turning at home.
If you'll send it to Mr. Burge's shop i' the morning, I'll get it
done for you by Wednesday. I've been turning it over in my mind," he
continued, looking at Mr. Poyser, "to make a bit more convenence at home
for nice jobs o' cabinet-making. I've always done a deal at such
little things in odd hours, and they're profitable, for there's more
workmanship nor material in 'em. I look for me and Seth to get a little
business for ourselves i' that way, for I know a man at Rosseter as 'ull
take as many things as we should make, besides what we could get orders
for round about."

Mr. Poyser entered with interest into a project which seemed a step
towards Adam's becoming a "master-man," and Mrs. Poyser gave her
approbation to the scheme of the movable kitchen cupboard, which was to
be capable of containing grocery, pickles, crockery, and house-linen in
the utmost compactness without confusion. Hetty, once more in her own
dress, with her neckerchief pushed a little backwards on this warm
evening, was seated picking currants near the window, where Adam could
see her quite well. And so the time passed pleasantly till Adam got up
to go. He was pressed to come again soon, but not to stay longer, for at
this busy time sensible people would not run the risk of being sleepy at
five o'clock in the morning.

"I shall take a step farther," said Adam, "and go on to see Mester
Massey, for he wasn't at church yesterday, and I've not seen him for a
week past. I've never hardly known him to miss church before."

"Aye," said Mr. Poyser, "we've heared nothing about him, for it's the
boys' hollodays now, so we can give you no account."

"But you'll niver think o' going there at this hour o' the night?" said
Mrs. Poyser, folding up her knitting.

"Oh, Mester Massey sits up late," said Adam. "An' the night-school's not
over yet. Some o' the men don't come till late--they've got so far to
walk. And Bartle himself's never in bed till it's gone eleven."

"I wouldna have him to live wi' me, then," said Mrs. Poyser, "a-dropping
candle-grease about, as you're like to tumble down o' the floor the
first thing i' the morning."

"Aye, eleven o'clock's late--it's late," said old Martin. "I ne'er sot
up so i' MY life, not to say as it warna a marr'in', or a christenin',
or a wake, or th' harvest supper. Eleven o'clock's late."

"Why, I sit up till after twelve often," said Adam, laughing, "but
it isn't t' eat and drink extry, it's to work extry. Good-night, Mrs.
Poyser; good-night, Hetty."

Hetty could only smile and not shake hands, for hers were dyed and damp
with currant-juice; but all the rest gave a hearty shake to the large
palm that was held out to them, and said, "Come again, come again!"

"Aye, think o' that now," said Mr. Poyser, when Adam was out of on the
causeway. "Sitting up till past twelve to do extry work! Ye'll not find
many men o' six-an' twenty as 'ull do to put i' the shafts wi' him.
If you can catch Adam for a husband, Hetty, you'll ride i' your own
spring-cart some day, I'll be your warrant."

Hetty was moving across the kitchen with the currants, so her uncle did
not see the little toss of the head with which she answered him. To ride
in a spring-cart seemed a very miserable lot indeed to her now.



Chapter XXI

The Night-School and the Schoolmaster


Bartle Massey's was one of a few scattered houses on the edge of a
common, which was divided by the road to Treddleston. Adam reached it
in a quarter of an hour after leaving the Hall Farm; and when he had his
hand on the door-latch, he could see, through the curtainless window,
that there were eight or nine heads bending over the desks, lighted by
thin dips.

When he entered, a reading lesson was going forward and Bartle Massey
merely nodded, leaving him to take his place where he pleased. He had
not come for the sake of a lesson to-night, and his mind was too full
of personal matters, too full of the last two hours he had passed in
Hetty's presence, for him to amuse himself with a book till school was
over; so he sat down in a corner and looked on with an absent mind. It
was a sort of scene which Adam had beheld almost weekly for years; he
knew by heart every arabesque flourish in the framed specimen of Bartle
Massey's handwriting which hung over the schoolmaster's head, by way of
keeping a lofty ideal before the minds of his pupils; he knew the backs
of all the books on the shelf running along the whitewashed wall above
the pegs for the slates; he knew exactly how many grains were gone out
of the ear of Indian corn that hung from one of the rafters; he had long
ago exhausted the resources of his imagination in trying to think
how the bunch of leathery seaweed had looked and grown in its native
element; and from the place where he sat, he could make nothing of the
old map of England that hung against the opposite wall, for age had
turned it of a fine yellow brown, something like that of a well-seasoned
meerschaum. The drama that was going on was almost as familiar as the
scene, nevertheless habit had not made him indifferent to it, and even
in his present self-absorbed mood, Adam felt a momentary stirring of the
old fellow-feeling, as he looked at the rough men painfully holding pen
or pencil with their cramped hands, or humbly labouring through their
reading lesson.

The reading class now seated on the form in front of the schoolmaster's
desk consisted of the three most backward pupils. Adam would have known
it only by seeing Bartle Massey's face as he looked over his spectacles,
which he had shifted to the ridge of his nose, not requiring them for
present purposes. The face wore its mildest expression: the grizzled
bushy eyebrows had taken their more acute angle of compassionate
kindness, and the mouth, habitually compressed with a pout of the lower
lip, was relaxed so as to be ready to speak a helpful word or syllable
in a moment. This gentle expression was the more interesting because the
schoolmaster's nose, an irregular aquiline twisted a little on one side,
had rather a formidable character; and his brow, moreover, had that
peculiar tension which always impresses one as a sign of a keen
impatient temperament: the blue veins stood out like cords under the
transparent yellow skin, and this intimidating brow was softened by no
tendency to baldness, for the grey bristly hair, cut down to about an
inch in length, stood round it in as close ranks as ever.

"Nay, Bill, nay," Bartle was saying in a kind tone, as he nodded to
Adam, "begin that again, and then perhaps, it'll come to you what d-r-y
spells. It's the same lesson you read last week, you know."

"Bill" was a sturdy fellow, aged four-and-twenty, an excellent
stone-sawyer, who could get as good wages as any man in the trade of his
years; but he found a reading lesson in words of one syllable a harder
matter to deal with than the hardest stone he had ever had to saw. The
letters, he complained, were so "uncommon alike, there was no tellin'
'em one from another," the sawyer's business not being concerned with
minute differences such as exist between a letter with its tail
turned up and a letter with its tail turned down. But Bill had a firm
determination that he would learn to read, founded chiefly on two
reasons: first, that Tom Hazelow, his cousin, could read anything "right
off," whether it was print or writing, and Tom had sent him a letter
from twenty miles off, saying how he was prospering in the world and had
got an overlooker's place; secondly, that Sam Phillips, who sawed with
him, had learned to read when he was turned twenty, and what could be
done by a little fellow like Sam Phillips, Bill considered, could
be done by himself, seeing that he could pound Sam into wet clay if
circumstances required it. So here he was, pointing his big finger
towards three words at once, and turning his head on one side that he
might keep better hold with his eye of the one word which was to be
discriminated out of the group. The amount of knowledge Bartle Massey
must possess was something so dim and vast that Bill's imagination
recoiled before it: he would hardly have ventured to deny that the
schoolmaster might have something to do in bringing about the regular
return of daylight and the changes in the weather.

The man seated next to Bill was of a very different type: he was a
Methodist brickmaker who, after spending thirty years of his life in
perfect satisfaction with his ignorance, had lately "got religion," and
along with it the desire to read the Bible. But with him, too, learning
was a heavy business, and on his way out to-night he had offered as
usual a special prayer for help, seeing that he had undertaken this hard
task with a single eye to the nourishment of his soul--that he might
have a greater abundance of texts and hymns wherewith to banish evil
memories and the temptations of old habit--or, in brief language,
the devil. For the brickmaker had been a notorious poacher, and was
suspected, though there was no good evidence against him, of being the
man who had shot a neighbouring gamekeeper in the leg. However that
might be, it is certain that shortly after the accident referred to,
which was coincident with the arrival of an awakening Methodist preacher
at Treddleston, a great change had been observed in the brickmaker; and
though he was still known in the neighbourhood by his old sobriquet of
"Brimstone," there was nothing he held in so much horror as any further
transactions with that evil-smelling element. He was a broad-chested
fellow with a fervid temperament, which helped him better in imbibing
religious ideas than in the dry process of acquiring the mere human
knowledge of the alphabet. Indeed, he had been already a little shaken
in his resolution by a brother Methodist, who assured him that the
letter was a mere obstruction to the Spirit, and expressed a fear that
Brimstone was too eager for the knowledge that puffeth up.

The third beginner was a much more promising pupil. He was a tall but
thin and wiry man, nearly as old as Brimstone, with a very pale face and
hands stained a deep blue. He was a dyer, who in the course of dipping
homespun wool and old women's petticoats had got fired with the ambition
to learn a great deal more about the strange secrets of colour. He had
already a high reputation in the district for his dyes, and he was
bent on discovering some method by which he could reduce the expense
of crimsons and scarlets. The druggist at Treddleston had given him a
notion that he might save himself a great deal of labour and expense if
he could learn to read, and so he had begun to give his spare hours to
the night-school, resolving that his "little chap" should lose no time
in coming to Mr. Massey's day-school as soon as he was old enough.

It was touching to see these three big men, with the marks of their hard
labour about them, anxiously bending over the worn books and painfully
making out, "The grass is green," "The sticks are dry," "The corn is
ripe"--a very hard lesson to pass to after columns of single words
all alike except in the first letter. It was almost as if three rough
animals were making humble efforts to learn how they might become human.
And it touched the tenderest fibre in Bartle Massey's nature, for such
full-grown children as these were the only pupils for whom he had
no severe epithets and no impatient tones. He was not gifted with an
imperturbable temper, and on music-nights it was apparent that patience
could never be an easy virtue to him; but this evening, as he glances
over his spectacles at Bill Downes, the sawyer, who is turning his
head on one side with a desperate sense of blankness before the letters
d-r-y, his eyes shed their mildest and most encouraging light.

After the reading class, two youths between sixteen and nineteen came up
with the imaginary bills of parcels, which they had been writing out on
their slates and were now required to calculate "off-hand"--a test which
they stood with such imperfect success that Bartle Massey, whose eyes
had been glaring at them ominously through his spectacles for some
minutes, at length burst out in a bitter, high-pitched tone, pausing
between every sentence to rap the floor with a knobbed stick which
rested between his legs.

"Now, you see, you don't do this thing a bit better than you did a
fortnight ago, and I'll tell you what's the reason. You want to learn
accounts--that's well and good. But you think all you need do to learn
accounts is to come to me and do sums for an hour or so, two or three
times a-week; and no sooner do you get your caps on and turn out of
doors again than you sweep the whole thing clean out of your mind. You
go whistling about, and take no more care what you're thinking of
than if your heads were gutters for any rubbish to swill through that
happened to be in the way; and if you get a good notion in 'em,
it's pretty soon washed out again. You think knowledge is to be got
cheap--you'll come and pay Bartle Massey sixpence a-week, and he'll make
you clever at figures without your taking any trouble. But knowledge
isn't to be got with paying sixpence, let me tell you. If you're to know
figures, you must turn 'em over in your heads and keep your thoughts
fixed on 'em. There's nothing you can't turn into a sum, for there's
nothing but what's got number in it--even a fool. You may say to
yourselves, 'I'm one fool, and Jack's another; if my fool's head weighed
four pound, and Jack's three pound three ounces and three quarters, how
many pennyweights heavier would my head be than Jack's?' A man that had
got his heart in learning figures would make sums for himself and work
'em in his head. When he sat at his shoemaking, he'd count his stitches
by fives, and then put a price on his stitches, say half a farthing, and
then see how much money he could get in an hour; and then ask himself
how much money he'd get in a day at that rate; and then how much ten
workmen would get working three, or twenty, or a hundred years at that
rate--and all the while his needle would be going just as fast as if
he left his head empty for the devil to dance in. But the long and the
short of it is--I'll have nobody in my night-school that doesn't strive
to learn what he comes to learn, as hard as if he was striving to get
out of a dark hole into broad daylight. I'll send no man away because
he's stupid: if Billy Taft, the idiot, wanted to learn anything, I'd not
refuse to teach him. But I'll not throw away good knowledge on people
who think they can get it by the sixpenn'orth, and carry it away with
'em as they would an ounce of snuff. So never come to me again, if you
can't show that you've been working with your own heads, instead of
thinking that you can pay for mine to work for you. That's the last word
I've got to say to you."

With this final sentence, Bartle Massey gave a sharper rap than ever
with his knobbed stick, and the discomfited lads got up to go with a
sulky look. The other pupils had happily only their writing-books to
show, in various stages of progress from pot-hooks to round text; and
mere pen-strokes, however perverse, were less exasperating to Bartle
than false arithmetic. He was a little more severe than usual on Jacob
Storey's Z's, of which poor Jacob had written a pageful, all with their
tops turned the wrong way, with a puzzled sense that they were not right
"somehow." But he observed in apology, that it was a letter you never
wanted hardly, and he thought it had only been there "to finish off th'
alphabet, like, though ampusand (&) would ha' done as well, for what he
could see."

At last the pupils had all taken their hats and said their
"Good-nights," and Adam, knowing his old master's habits, rose and said,
"Shall I put the candles out, Mr. Massey?"

"Yes, my boy, yes, all but this, which I'll carry into the house; and
just lock the outer door, now you're near it," said Bartle, getting his
stick in the fitting angle to help him in descending from his stool.
He was no sooner on the ground than it became obvious why the stick
was necessary--the left leg was much shorter than the right. But the
school-master was so active with his lameness that it was hardly thought
of as a misfortune; and if you had seen him make his way along the
schoolroom floor, and up the step into his kitchen, you would perhaps
have understood why the naughty boys sometimes felt that his pace might
be indefinitely quickened and that he and his stick might overtake them
even in their swiftest run.

The moment he appeared at the kitchen door with the candle in his
hand, a faint whimpering began in the chimney-corner, and a
brown-and-tan-coloured bitch, of that wise-looking breed with short legs
and long body, known to an unmechanical generation as turnspits, came
creeping along the floor, wagging her tail, and hesitating at every
other step, as if her affections were painfully divided between the
hamper in the chimney-corner and the master, whom she could not leave
without a greeting.

"Well, Vixen, well then, how are the babbies?" said the schoolmaster,
making haste towards the chimney-corner and holding the candle over
the low hamper, where two extremely blind puppies lifted up their heads
towards the light from a nest of flannel and wool. Vixen could not even
see her master look at them without painful excitement: she got into the
hamper and got out again the next moment, and behaved with true feminine
folly, though looking all the while as wise as a dwarf with a large
old-fashioned head and body on the most abbreviated legs.

"Why, you've got a family, I see, Mr. Massey?" said Adam, smiling, as
he came into the kitchen. "How's that? I thought it was against the law
here."

"Law? What's the use o' law when a man's once such a fool as to let a
woman into his house?" said Bartle, turning away from the hamper with
some bitterness. He always called Vixen a woman, and seemed to have lost
all consciousness that he was using a figure of speech. "If I'd known
Vixen was a woman, I'd never have held the boys from drowning her; but
when I'd got her into my hand, I was forced to take to her. And now you
see what she's brought me to--the sly, hypocritical wench"--Bartle spoke
these last words in a rasping tone of reproach, and looked at Vixen, who
poked down her head and turned up her eyes towards him with a keen
sense of opprobrium--"and contrived to be brought to bed on a Sunday at
church-time. I've wished again and again I'd been a bloody minded man,
that I could have strangled the mother and the brats with one cord."

"I'm glad it was no worse a cause kept you from church," said Adam. "I
was afraid you must be ill for the first time i' your life. And I was
particularly sorry not to have you at church yesterday."

"Ah, my boy, I know why, I know why," said Bartle kindly, going up to
Adam and raising his hand up to the shoulder that was almost on a level
with his own head. "You've had a rough bit o' road to get over since I
saw you--a rough bit o' road. But I'm in hopes there are better times
coming for you. I've got some news to tell you. But I must get my supper
first, for I'm hungry, I'm hungry. Sit down, sit down."

Bartel went into his little pantry, and brought out an excellent
home-baked loaf; for it was his one extravagance in these dear times
to eat bread once a-day instead of oat-cake; and he justified it by
observing, that what a schoolmaster wanted was brains, and oat-cake ran
too much to bone instead of brains. Then came a piece of cheese and a
quart jug with a crown of foam upon it. He placed them all on the
round deal table which stood against his large arm-chair in the
chimney-corner, with Vixen's hamper on one side of it and a window-shelf
with a few books piled up in it on the other. The table was as clean as
if Vixen had been an excellent housewife in a checkered apron; so was
the quarry floor; and the old carved oaken press, table, and chairs,
which in these days would be bought at a high price in aristocratic
houses, though, in that period of spider-legs and inlaid cupids, Bartle
had got them for an old song, where as free from dust as things could be
at the end of a summer's day.

"Now, then, my boy, draw up, draw up. We'll not talk about business till
we've had our supper. No man can be wise on an empty stomach. But," said
Bartle, rising from his chair again, "I must give Vixen her supper
too, confound her! Though she'll do nothing with it but nourish those
unnecessary babbies. That's the way with these women--they've got no
head-pieces to nourish, and so their food all runs either to fat or to
brats."

He brought out of the pantry a dish of scraps, which Vixen at once fixed
her eyes on, and jumped out of her hamper to lick up with the utmost
dispatch.

"I've had my supper, Mr. Massey," said Adam, "so I'll look on while you
eat yours. I've been at the Hall Farm, and they always have their supper
betimes, you know: they don't keep your late hours."

"I know little about their hours," said Bartle dryly, cutting his bread
and not shrinking from the crust. "It's a house I seldom go into, though
I'm fond of the boys, and Martin Poyser's a good fellow. There's too
many women in the house for me: I hate the sound of women's voices;
they're always either a-buzz or a-squeak--always either a-buzz or
a-squeak. Mrs. Poyser keeps at the top o' the talk like a fife; and
as for the young lasses, I'd as soon look at water-grubs. I know what
they'll turn to--stinging gnats, stinging gnats. Here, take some ale, my
boy: it's been drawn for you--it's been drawn for you."

"Nay, Mr. Massey," said Adam, who took his old friend's whim more
seriously than usual to-night, "don't be so hard on the creaturs God has
made to be companions for us. A working-man 'ud be badly off without
a wife to see to th' house and the victual, and make things clean and
comfortable."

"Nonsense! It's the silliest lie a sensible man like you ever believed,
to say a woman makes a house comfortable. It's a story got up because
the women are there and something must be found for 'em to do. I tell
you there isn't a thing under the sun that needs to be done at all, but
what a man can do better than a woman, unless it's bearing children, and
they do that in a poor make-shift way; it had better ha' been left to
the men--it had better ha' been left to the men. I tell you, a woman
'ull bake you a pie every week of her life and never come to see that
the hotter th' oven the shorter the time. I tell you, a woman 'ull make
your porridge every day for twenty years and never think of measuring
the proportion between the meal and the milk--a little more or less,
she'll think, doesn't signify. The porridge WILL be awk'ard now and
then: if it's wrong, it's summat in the meal, or it's summat in the
milk, or it's summat in the water. Look at me! I make my own bread, and
there's no difference between one batch and another from year's end to
year's end; but if I'd got any other woman besides Vixen in the house,
I must pray to the Lord every baking to give me patience if the bread
turned out heavy. And as for cleanliness, my house is cleaner than any
other house on the Common, though the half of 'em swarm with women. Will
Baker's lad comes to help me in a morning, and we get as much cleaning
done in one hour, without any fuss, as a woman 'ud get done in three,
and all the while be sending buckets o' water after your ankles, and let
the fender and the fire-irons stand in the middle o' the floor half the
day for you to break your shins against 'em. Don't tell me about God
having made such creatures to be companions for us! I don't say but
He might make Eve to be a companion to Adam in Paradise--there was no
cooking to be spoilt there, and no other woman to cackle with and make
mischief, though you see what mischief she did as soon as she'd an
opportunity. But it's an impious, unscriptural opinion to say a woman's
a blessing to a man now; you might as well say adders and wasps, and
foxes and wild beasts are a blessing, when they're only the evils that
belong to this state o' probation, which it's lawful for a man to keep
as clear of as he can in this life, hoping to get quit of 'em for ever
in another--hoping to get quit of 'em for ever in another."

Bartle had become so excited and angry in the course of his invective
that he had forgotten his supper, and only used the knife for the
purpose of rapping the table with the haft. But towards the close, the
raps became so sharp and frequent, and his voice so quarrelsome, that
Vixen felt it incumbent on her to jump out of the hamper and bark
vaguely.

"Quiet, Vixen!" snarled Bartle, turning round upon her. "You're like the
rest o' the women--always putting in your word before you know why."

Vixen returned to her hamper again in humiliation, and her master
continued his supper in a silence which Adam did not choose to
interrupt; he knew the old man would be in a better humour when he had
had his supper and lighted his pipe. Adam was used to hear him talk in
this way, but had never learned so much of Bartle's past life as to know
whether his view of married comfort was founded on experience. On that
point Bartle was mute, and it was even a secret where he had lived
previous to the twenty years in which happily for the peasants and
artisans of this neighbourhood he had been settled among them as their
only schoolmaster. If anything like a question was ventured on this
subject, Bartle always replied, "Oh, I've seen many places--I've been a
deal in the south," and the Loamshire men would as soon have thought of
asking for a particular town or village in Africa as in "the south."

"Now then, my boy," said Bartle, at last, when he had poured out his
second mug of ale and lighted his pipe, "now then, we'll have a little
talk. But tell me first, have you heard any particular news to-day?"

"No," said Adam, "not as I remember."

"Ah, they'll keep it close, they'll keep it close, I daresay. But I
found it out by chance; and it's news that may concern you, Adam, else
I'm a man that don't know a superficial square foot from a solid."

Here Bartle gave a series of fierce and rapid puffs, looking earnestly
the while at Adam. Your impatient loquacious man has never any notion of
keeping his pipe alight by gentle measured puffs; he is always letting
it go nearly out, and then punishing it for that negligence. At last he
said, "Satchell's got a paralytic stroke. I found it out from the lad
they sent to Treddleston for the doctor, before seven o'clock this
morning. He's a good way beyond sixty, you know; it's much if he gets
over it."

"Well," said Adam, "I daresay there'd be more rejoicing than sorrow
in the parish at his being laid up. He's been a selfish, tale-bearing,
mischievous fellow; but, after all, there's nobody he's done so much
harm to as to th' old squire. Though it's the squire himself as is to
blame--making a stupid fellow like that a sort o' man-of-all-work, just
to save th' expense of having a proper steward to look after th' estate.
And he's lost more by ill management o' the woods, I'll be bound, than
'ud pay for two stewards. If he's laid on the shelf, it's to be hoped
he'll make way for a better man, but I don't see how it's like to make
any difference to me."

"But I see it, but I see it," said Bartle, "and others besides me. The
captain's coming of age now--you know that as well as I do--and it's to
be expected he'll have a little more voice in things. And I know, and
you know too, what 'ud be the captain's wish about the woods, if there
was a fair opportunity for making a change. He's said in plenty of
people's hearing that he'd make you manager of the woods to-morrow, if
he'd the power. Why, Carroll, Mr. Irwine's butler, heard him say so to
the parson not many days ago. Carroll looked in when we were smoking
our pipes o' Saturday night at Casson's, and he told us about it; and
whenever anybody says a good word for you, the parson's ready to back
it, that I'll answer for. It was pretty well talked over, I can tell
you, at Casson's, and one and another had their fling at you; for if
donkeys set to work to sing, you're pretty sure what the tune'll be."

"Why, did they talk it over before Mr. Burge?" said Adam; "or wasn't he
there o' Saturday?"

"Oh, he went away before Carroll came; and Casson--he's always for
setting other folks right, you know--would have it Burge was the man to
have the management of the woods. 'A substantial man,' says he, 'with
pretty near sixty years' experience o' timber: it 'ud be all very well
for Adam Bede to act under him, but it isn't to be supposed the squire
'ud appoint a young fellow like Adam, when there's his elders and
betters at hand!' But I said, 'That's a pretty notion o' yours, Casson.
Why, Burge is the man to buy timber; would you put the woods into his
hands and let him make his own bargains? I think you don't leave your
customers to score their own drink, do you? And as for age, what that's
worth depends on the quality o' the liquor. It's pretty well known who's
the backbone of Jonathan Burge's business.'"

"I thank you for your good word, Mr. Massey," said Adam. "But, for
all that, Casson was partly i' the right for once. There's not much
likelihood that th' old squire 'ud ever consent t' employ me. I offended
him about two years ago, and he's never forgiven me."

"Why, how was that? You never told me about it," said Bartle.

"Oh, it was a bit o' nonsense. I'd made a frame for a screen for
Miss Lyddy--she's allays making something with her worsted-work, you
know--and she'd given me particular orders about this screen, and there
was as much talking and measuring as if we'd been planning a house.
However, it was a nice bit o' work, and I liked doing it for her. But,
you know, those little friggling things take a deal o' time. I only
worked at it in overhours--often late at night--and I had to go to
Treddleston over an' over again about little bits o' brass nails and
such gear; and I turned the little knobs and the legs, and carved th'
open work, after a pattern, as nice as could be. And I was uncommon
pleased with it when it was done. And when I took it home, Miss Lyddy
sent for me to bring it into her drawing-room, so as she might give me
directions about fastening on the work--very fine needlework, Jacob and
Rachel a-kissing one another among the sheep, like a picture--and th'
old squire was sitting there, for he mostly sits with her. Well, she was
mighty pleased with the screen, and then she wanted to know what pay she
was to give me. I didn't speak at random--you know it's not my way; I'd
calculated pretty close, though I hadn't made out a bill, and I said,
'One pound thirty.' That was paying for the mater'als and paying me, but
none too much, for my work. Th' old squire looked up at this, and peered
in his way at the screen, and said, 'One pound thirteen for a gimcrack
like that! Lydia, my dear, if you must spend money on these things,
why don't you get them at Rosseter, instead of paying double price for
clumsy work here? Such things are not work for a carpenter like Adam.
Give him a guinea, and no more.' Well, Miss Lyddy, I reckon, believed
what he told her, and she's not overfond o' parting with the money
herself--she's not a bad woman at bottom, but she's been brought up
under his thumb; so she began fidgeting with her purse, and turned as
red as her ribbon. But I made a bow, and said, 'No, thank you, madam;
I'll make you a present o' the screen, if you please. I've charged
the regular price for my work, and I know it's done well; and I know,
begging His Honour's pardon, that you couldn't get such a screen at
Rosseter under two guineas. I'm willing to give you my work--it's been
done in my own time, and nobody's got anything to do with it but me; but
if I'm paid, I can't take a smaller price than I asked, because that
'ud be like saying I'd asked more than was just. With your leave, madam,
I'll bid you good-morning.' I made my bow and went out before she'd
time to say any more, for she stood with the purse in her hand, looking
almost foolish. I didn't mean to be disrespectful, and I spoke as polite
as I could; but I can give in to no man, if he wants to make it out as
I'm trying to overreach him. And in the evening the footman brought me
the one pound thirteen wrapped in paper. But since then I've seen pretty
clear as th' old squire can't abide me."

"That's likely enough, that's likely enough," said Bartle meditatively.
"The only way to bring him round would be to show him what was for his
own interest, and that the captain may do--that the captain may do."

"Nay, I don't know," said Adam; "the squire's 'cute enough but it takes
something else besides 'cuteness to make folks see what'll be their
interest in the long run. It takes some conscience and belief in right
and wrong, I see that pretty clear. You'd hardly ever bring round th'
old squire to believe he'd gain as much in a straightfor'ard way as by
tricks and turns. And, besides, I've not much mind to work under him:
I don't want to quarrel with any gentleman, more particular an old
gentleman turned eighty, and I know we couldn't agree long. If the
captain was master o' th' estate, it 'ud be different: he's got a
conscience and a will to do right, and I'd sooner work for him nor for
any man living."

"Well, well, my boy, if good luck knocks at your door, don't you put
your head out at window and tell it to be gone about its business,
that's all. You must learn to deal with odd and even in life, as well
as in figures. I tell you now, as I told you ten years ago, when you
pommelled young Mike Holdsworth for wanting to pass a bad shilling
before you knew whether he was in jest or earnest--you're overhasty and
proud, and apt to set your teeth against folks that don't square to your
notions. It's no harm for me to be a bit fiery and stiff-backed--I'm an
old schoolmaster, and shall never want to get on to a higher perch. But
where's the use of all the time I've spent in teaching you writing and
mapping and mensuration, if you're not to get for'ard in the world and
show folks there's some advantage in having a head on your shoulders,
instead of a turnip? Do you mean to go on turning up your nose at every
opportunity because it's got a bit of a smell about it that nobody finds
out but yourself? It's as foolish as that notion o' yours that a wife
is to make a working-man comfortable. Stuff and nonsense! Stuff and
nonsense! Leave that to fools that never got beyond a sum in simple
addition. Simple addition enough! Add one fool to another fool, and in
six years' time six fools more--they're all of the same denomination,
big and little's nothing to do with the sum!"

During this rather heated exhortation to coolness and discretion the
pipe had gone out, and Bartle gave the climax to his speech by striking
a light furiously, after which he puffed with fierce resolution, fixing
his eye still on Adam, who was trying not to laugh.

"There's a good deal o' sense in what you say, Mr. Massey," Adam began,
as soon as he felt quite serious, "as there always is. But you'll give
in that it's no business o' mine to be building on chances that may
never happen. What I've got to do is to work as well as I can with the
tools and mater'als I've got in my hands. If a good chance comes to me,
I'll think o' what you've been saying; but till then, I've got nothing
to do but to trust to my own hands and my own head-piece. I'm turning
over a little plan for Seth and me to go into the cabinet-making a bit
by ourselves, and win a extra pound or two in that way. But it's getting
late now--it'll be pretty near eleven before I'm at home, and Mother may
happen to lie awake; she's more fidgety nor usual now. So I'll bid you
good-night."

"Well, well, we'll go to the gate with you--it's a fine night," said
Bartle, taking up his stick. Vixen was at once on her legs, and without
further words the three walked out into the starlight, by the side of
Bartle's potato-beds, to the little gate.

"Come to the music o' Friday night, if you can, my boy," said the old
man, as he closed the gate after Adam and leaned against it.

"Aye, aye," said Adam, striding along towards the streak of pale road.
He was the only object moving on the wide common. The two grey donkeys,
just visible in front of the gorse bushes, stood as still as limestone
images--as still as the grey-thatched roof of the mud cottage a little
farther on. Bartle kept his eye on the moving figure till it passed into
the darkness, while Vixen, in a state of divided affection, had twice
run back to the house to bestow a parenthetic lick on her puppies.

"Aye, aye," muttered the schoolmaster, as Adam disappeared, "there you
go, stalking along--stalking along; but you wouldn't have been what you
are if you hadn't had a bit of old lame Bartle inside you. The strongest
calf must have something to suck at. There's plenty of these big,
lumbering fellows 'ud never have known their A B C if it hadn't been for
Bartle Massey. Well, well, Vixen, you foolish wench, what is it, what is
it? I must go in, must I? Aye, aye, I'm never to have a will o' my own
any more. And those pups--what do you think I'm to do with 'em, when
they're twice as big as you? For I'm pretty sure the father was that
hulking bull-terrier of Will Baker's--wasn't he now, eh, you sly hussy?"

(Here Vixen tucked her tail between her legs and ran forward into the
house. Subjects are sometimes broached which a well-bred female will
ignore.)

"But where's the use of talking to a woman with babbies?" continued
Bartle. "She's got no conscience--no conscience; it's all run to milk."





Book Three




Chapter XXII

Going to the Birthday Feast


THE thirtieth of July was come, and it was one of those half-dozen warm
days which sometimes occur in the middle of a rainy English summer. No
rain had fallen for the last three or four days, and the weather was
perfect for that time of the year: there was less dust than usual on
the dark-green hedge-rows and on the wild camomile that starred the
roadside, yet the grass was dry enough for the little children to roll
on it, and there was no cloud but a long dash of light, downy ripple,
high, high up in the far-off blue sky. Perfect weather for an outdoor
July merry-making, yet surely not the best time of year to be born in.
Nature seems to make a hot pause just then: all the loveliest flowers
are gone; the sweet time of early growth and vague hopes is past; and
yet the time of harvest and ingathering is not come, and we tremble at
the possible storms that may ruin the precious fruit in the moment
of its ripeness. The woods are all one dark monotonous green; the
waggon-loads of hay no longer creep along the lanes, scattering their
sweet-smelling fragments on the blackberry branches; the pastures are
often a little tanned, yet the corn has not got its last splendour
of red and gold; the lambs and calves have lost all traces of their
innocent frisky prettiness, and have become stupid young sheep and cows.
But it is a time of leisure on the farm--that pause between hay-and
corn-harvest, and so the farmers and labourers in Hayslope and Broxton
thought the captain did well to come of age just then, when they could
give their undivided minds to the flavour of the great cask of ale which
had been brewed the autumn after "the heir" was born, and was to be
tapped on his twenty-first birthday. The air had been merry with the
ringing of church-bells very early this morning, and every one had made
haste to get through the needful work before twelve, when it would be
time to think of getting ready to go to the Chase.

The midday sun was streaming into Hetty's bedchamber, and there was no
blind to temper the heat with which it fell on her head as she looked at
herself in the old specked glass. Still, that was the only glass she had
in which she could see her neck and arms, for the small hanging
glass she had fetched out of the next room--the room that had been
Dinah's--would show her nothing below her little chin; and that
beautiful bit of neck where the roundness of her cheek melted into
another roundness shadowed by dark delicate curls. And to-day she
thought more than usual about her neck and arms; for at the dance this
evening she was not to wear any neckerchief, and she had been busy
yesterday with her spotted pink-and-white frock, that she might make the
sleeves either long or short at will. She was dressed now just as she
was to be in the evening, with a tucker made of "real" lace, which her
aunt had lent her for this unparalleled occasion, but with no ornaments
besides; she had even taken out her small round ear-rings which she wore
every day. But there was something more to be done, apparently, before
she put on her neckerchief and long sleeves, which she was to wear in
the day-time, for now she unlocked the drawer that held her private
treasures. It is more than a month since we saw her unlock that drawer
before, and now it holds new treasures, so much more precious than the
old ones that these are thrust into the corner. Hetty would not care to
put the large coloured glass ear-rings into her ears now; for see! she
has got a beautiful pair of gold and pearls and garnet, lying snugly in
a pretty little box lined with white satin. Oh, the delight of taking
out that little box and looking at the ear-rings! Do not reason about
it, my philosphical reader, and say that Hetty, being very pretty, must
have known that it did not signify whether she had on any ornaments
or not; and that, moreover, to look at ear-rings which she could not
possibly wear out of her bedroom could hardly be a satisfaction, the
essence of vanity being a reference to the impressions produced
on others; you will never understand women's natures if you are so
excessively rational. Try rather to divest yourself of all your rational
prejudices, as much as if you were studying the psychology of a canary
bird, and only watch the movements of this pretty round creature as she
turns her head on one side with an unconscious smile at the ear-rings
nestled in the little box. Ah, you think, it is for the sake of the
person who has given them to her, and her thoughts are gone back now to
the moment when they were put into her hands. No; else why should she
have cared to have ear-rings rather than anything else? And I know that
she had longed for ear-rings from among all the ornaments she could
imagine.

"Little, little ears!" Arthur had said, pretending to pinch them one
evening, as Hetty sat beside him on the grass without her hat. "I wish I
had some pretty ear-rings!" she said in a moment, almost before she knew
what she was saying--the wish lay so close to her lips, it WOULD flutter
past them at the slightest breath. And the next day--it was only last
week--Arthur had ridden over to Rosseter on purpose to buy them. That
little wish so naively uttered seemed to him the prettiest bit of
childishness; he had never heard anything like it before; and he had
wrapped the box up in a great many covers, that he might see Hetty
unwrapping it with growing curiosity, till at last her eyes flashed back
their new delight into his.

No, she was not thinking most of the giver when she smiled at the
ear-rings, for now she is taking them out of the box, not to press them
to her lips, but to fasten them in her ears--only for one moment, to
see how pretty they look, as she peeps at them in the glass against
the wall, with first one position of the head and then another, like a
listening bird. It is impossible to be wise on the subject of ear-rings
as one looks at her; what should those delicate pearls and crystals be
made for, if not for such ears? One cannot even find fault with the
tiny round hole which they leave when they are taken out; perhaps
water-nixies, and such lovely things without souls, have these little
round holes in their ears by nature, ready to hang jewels in. And Hetty
must be one of them: it is too painful to think that she is a woman,
with a woman's destiny before her--a woman spinning in young ignorance a
light web of folly and vain hopes which may one day close round her and
press upon her, a rancorous poisoned garment, changing all at once
her fluttering, trivial butterfly sensations into a life of deep human
anguish.

But she cannot keep in the ear-rings long, else she may make her uncle
and aunt wait. She puts them quickly into the box again and shuts them
up. Some day she will be able to wear any ear-rings she likes,
and already she lives in an invisible world of brilliant costumes,
shimmering gauze, soft satin, and velvet, such as the lady's maid at the
Chase has shown her in Miss Lydia's wardrobe. She feels the bracelets on
her arms, and treads on a soft carpet in front of a tall mirror. But
she has one thing in the drawer which she can venture to wear to-day,
because she can hang it on the chain of dark-brown berries which she has
been used to wear on grand days, with a tiny flat scent-bottle at
the end of it tucked inside her frock; and she must put on her brown
berries--her neck would look so unfinished without it. Hetty was
not quite as fond of the locket as of the ear-rings, though it was
a handsome large locket, with enamelled flowers at the back and a
beautiful gold border round the glass, which showed a light-brown
slightly waving lock, forming a background for two little dark rings.
She must keep it under her clothes, and no one would see it. But Hetty
had another passion, only a little less strong than her love of finery,
and that other passion made her like to wear the locket even hidden in
her bosom. She would always have worn it, if she had dared to encounter
her aunt's questions about a ribbon round her neck. So now she slipped
it on along her chain of dark-brown berries, and snapped the chain round
her neck. It was not a very long chain, only allowing the locket to hang
a little way below the edge of her frock. And now she had nothing to do
but to put on her long sleeves, her new white gauze neckerchief, and
her straw hat trimmed with white to-day instead of the pink, which
had become rather faded under the July sun. That hat made the drop of
bitterness in Hetty's cup to-day, for it was not quite new--everybody
would see that it was a little tanned against the white ribbon--and Mary
Burge, she felt sure, would have a new hat or bonnet on. She looked for
consolation at her fine white cotton stockings: they really were very
nice indeed, and she had given almost all her spare money for them.
Hetty's dream of the future could not make her insensible to triumph in
the present. To be sure, Captain Donnithorne loved her so that he would
never care about looking at other people, but then those other people
didn't know how he loved her, and she was not satisfied to appear shabby
and insignificant in their eyes even for a short space.

The whole party was assembled in the house-place when Hetty went down,
all of course in their Sunday clothes; and the bells had been ringing so
this morning in honour of the captain's twenty-first birthday, and the
work had all been got done so early, that Marty and Tommy were not quite
easy in their minds until their mother had assured them that going
to church was not part of the day's festivities. Mr. Poyser had once
suggested that the house should be shut up and left to take care
of itself; "for," said he, "there's no danger of anybody's breaking
in--everybody'll be at the Chase, thieves an' all. If we lock th' house
up, all the men can go: it's a day they wonna see twice i' their lives."
But Mrs. Poyser answered with great decision: "I never left the house to
take care of itself since I was a missis, and I never will. There's been
ill-looking tramps enoo' about the place this last week, to carry off
every ham an' every spoon we'n got; and they all collogue together,
them tramps, as it's a mercy they hanna come and poisoned the dogs and
murdered us all in our beds afore we knowed, some Friday night when
we'n got the money in th' house to pay the men. And it's like enough the
tramps know where we're going as well as we do oursens; for if Old Harry
wants any work done, you may be sure he'll find the means."

"Nonsense about murdering us in our beds," said Mr. Poyser; "I've got a
gun i' our room, hanna I? and thee'st got ears as 'ud find it out if a
mouse was gnawing the bacon. Howiver, if thee wouldstna be easy, Alick
can stay at home i' the forepart o' the day, and Tim can come back
tow'rds five o'clock, and let Alick have his turn. They may let Growler
loose if anybody offers to do mischief, and there's Alick's dog too,
ready enough to set his tooth in a tramp if Alick gives him a wink."

Mrs. Poyser accepted this compromise, but thought it advisable to bar
and bolt to the utmost; and now, at the last moment before starting,
Nancy, the dairy-maid, was closing the shutters of the house-place,
although the window, lying under the immediate observation of Alick and
the dogs, might have been supposed the least likely to be selected for a
burglarious attempt.

The covered cart, without springs, was standing ready to carry the whole
family except the men-servants. Mr. Poyser and the grandfather sat
on the seat in front, and within there was room for all the women and
children; the fuller the cart the better, because then the jolting
would not hurt so much, and Nancy's broad person and thick arms were an
excellent cushion to be pitched on. But Mr. Poyser drove at no more
than a walking pace, that there might be as little risk of jolting as
possible on this warm day, and there was time to exchange greetings and
remarks with the foot-passengers who were going the same way, specking
the paths between the green meadows and the golden cornfields with bits
of movable bright colour--a scarlet waistcoat to match the poppies that
nodded a little too thickly among the corn, or a dark-blue neckerchief
with ends flaunting across a brand-new white smock-frock. All Broxton
and all Hayslope were to be at the Chase, and make merry there in honour
of "th' heir"; and the old men and women, who had never been so far down
this side of the hill for the last twenty years, were being brought from
Broxton and Hayslope in one of the farmer's waggons, at Mr. Irwine's
suggestion. The church-bells had struck up again now--a last tune,
before the ringers came down the hill to have their share in the
festival; and before the bells had finished, other music was heard
approaching, so that even Old Brown, the sober horse that was drawing
Mr. Poyser's cart, began to prick up his ears. It was the band of the
Benefit Club, which had mustered in all its glory--that is to say, in
bright-blue scarfs and blue favours, and carrying its banner with
the motto, "Let brotherly love continue," encircling a picture of a
stone-pit.

The carts, of course, were not to enter the Chase. Every one must get
down at the lodges, and the vehicles must be sent back.

"Why, the Chase is like a fair a'ready," said Mrs. Poyser, as she got
down from the cart, and saw the groups scattered under the great oaks,
and the boys running about in the hot sunshine to survey the tall poles
surmounted by the fluttering garments that were to be the prize of the
successful climbers. "I should ha' thought there wasna so many people
i' the two parishes. Mercy on us! How hot it is out o' the shade! Come
here, Totty, else your little face 'ull be burnt to a scratchin'! They
might ha' cooked the dinners i' that open space an' saved the fires. I
shall go to Mrs. Best's room an' sit down."

"Stop a bit, stop a bit," said Mr. Poyser. "There's th' waggin coming
wi' th' old folks in't; it'll be such a sight as wonna come o'er again,
to see 'em get down an' walk along all together. You remember some on
'em i' their prime, eh, Father?"

"Aye, aye," said old Martin, walking slowly under the shade of the lodge
porch, from which he could see the aged party descend. "I remember Jacob
Taft walking fifty mile after the Scotch raybels, when they turned back
from Stoniton."

He felt himself quite a youngster, with a long life before him, as he
saw the Hayslope patriarch, old Feyther Taft, descend from the waggon
and walk towards him, in his brown nightcap, and leaning on his two
sticks.

"Well, Mester Taft," shouted old Martin, at the utmost stretch of his
voice--for though he knew the old man was stone deaf, he could not omit
the propriety of a greeting--"you're hearty yet. You can enjoy yoursen
to-day, for-all you're ninety an' better."

"Your sarvant, mesters, your sarvant," said Feyther Taft in a treble
tone, perceiving that he was in company.

The aged group, under care of sons or daughters, themselves worn and
grey, passed on along the least-winding carriage-road towards the house,
where a special table was prepared for them; while the Poyser party
wisely struck across the grass under the shade of the great trees,
but not out of view of the house-front, with its sloping lawn and
flower-beds, or of the pretty striped marquee at the edge of the lawn,
standing at right angles with two larger marquees on each side of the
open green space where the games were to be played. The house would have
been nothing but a plain square mansion of Queen Anne's time, but for
the remnant of an old abbey to which it was united at one end, in much
the same way as one may sometimes see a new farmhouse rising high and
prim at the end of older and lower farm-offices. The fine old remnant
stood a little backward and under the shadow of tall beeches, but the
sun was now on the taller and more advanced front, the blinds were all
down, and the house seemed asleep in the hot midday. It made Hetty quite
sad to look at it: Arthur must be somewhere in the back rooms, with the
grand company, where he could not possibly know that she was come, and
she should not see him for a long, long while--not till after dinner,
when they said he was to come up and make a speech.

But Hetty was wrong in part of her conjecture. No grand company was
come except the Irwines, for whom the carriage had been sent early,
and Arthur was at that moment not in a back room, but walking with the
rector into the broad stone cloisters of the old abbey, where the long
tables were laid for all the cottage tenants and the farm-servants.
A very handsome young Briton he looked to-day, in high spirits and a
bright-blue frock-coat, the highest mode--his arm no longer in a sling.
So open-looking and candid, too; but candid people have their secrets,
and secrets leave no lines in young faces.

"Upon my word," he said, as they entered the cool cloisters, "I think
the cottagers have the best of it: these cloisters make a delightful
dining-room on a hot day. That was capital advice of yours, Irwine,
about the dinners--to let them be as orderly and comfortable as
possible, and only for the tenants: especially as I had only a limited
sum after all; for though my grandfather talked of a carte blanche, he
couldn't make up his mind to trust me, when it came to the point."

"Never mind, you'll give more pleasure in this quiet way," said Mr.
Irwine. "In this sort of thing people are constantly confounding
liberality with riot and disorder. It sounds very grand to say that so
many sheep and oxen were roasted whole, and everybody ate who liked
to come; but in the end it generally happens that no one has had an
enjoyable meal. If the people get a good dinner and a moderate quantity
of ale in the middle of the day, they'll be able to enjoy the games
as the day cools. You can't hinder some of them from getting too much
towards evening, but drunkenness and darkness go better together than
drunkenness and daylight."

"Well, I hope there won't be much of it. I've kept the Treddleston
people away by having a feast for them in the town; and I've got Casson
and Adam Bede and some other good fellows to look to the giving out of
ale in the booths, and to take care things don't go too far. Come, let
us go up above now and see the dinner-tables for the large tenants."

They went up the stone staircase leading simply to the long gallery
above the cloisters, a gallery where all the dusty worthless old
pictures had been banished for the last three generations--mouldy
portraits of Queen Elizabeth and her ladies, General Monk with his eye
knocked out, Daniel very much in the dark among the lions, and Julius
Caesar on horseback, with a high nose and laurel crown, holding his
Commentaries in his hand.

"What a capital thing it is that they saved this piece of the old
abbey!" said Arthur. "If I'm ever master here, I shall do up the gallery
in first-rate style. We've got no room in the house a third as large
as this. That second table is for the farmers' wives and children: Mrs.
Best said it would be more comfortable for the mothers and children
to be by themselves. I was determined to have the children, and make a
regular family thing of it. I shall be 'the old squire' to those little
lads and lasses some day, and they'll tell their children what a much
finer young fellow I was than my own son. There's a table for the women
and children below as well. But you will see them all--you will come up
with me after dinner, I hope?"

"Yes, to be sure," said Mr. Irwine. "I wouldn't miss your maiden speech
to the tenantry."

"And there will be something else you'll like to hear," said Arthur.
"Let us go into the library and I'll tell you all about it while my
grandfather is in the drawing-room with the ladies. Something that will
surprise you," he continued, as they sat down. "My grandfather has come
round after all."

"What, about Adam?"

"Yes; I should have ridden over to tell you about it, only I was so
busy. You know I told you I had quite given up arguing the matter with
him--I thought it was hopeless--but yesterday morning he asked me to
come in here to him before I went out, and astonished me by saying that
he had decided on all the new arrangements he should make in consequence
of old Satchell being obliged to lay by work, and that he intended to
employ Adam in superintending the woods at a salary of a guinea a-week,
and the use of a pony to be kept here. I believe the secret of it is,
he saw from the first it would be a profitable plan, but he had some
particular dislike of Adam to get over--and besides, the fact that I
propose a thing is generally a reason with him for rejecting it. There's
the most curious contradiction in my grandfather: I know he means to
leave me all the money he has saved, and he is likely enough to have cut
off poor Aunt Lydia, who has been a slave to him all her life, with only
five hundred a-year, for the sake of giving me all the more; and yet I
sometimes think he positively hates me because I'm his heir. I believe
if I were to break my neck, he would feel it the greatest misfortune
that could befall him, and yet it seems a pleasure to him to make my
life a series of petty annoyances."

"Ah, my boy, it is not only woman's love that is [two greek words
omitted] as old AEschylus calls it. There's plenty of 'unloving love' in
the world of a masculine kind. But tell me about Adam. Has he accepted
the post? I don't see that it can be much more profitable than his
present work, though, to be sure, it will leave him a good deal of time
on his own hands.

"Well, I felt some doubt about it when I spoke to him and he seemed to
hesitate at first. His objection was that he thought he should not be
able to satisfy my grandfather. But I begged him as a personal favour
to me not to let any reason prevent him from accepting the place, if he
really liked the employment and would not be giving up anything that
was more profitable to him. And he assured me he should like it of all
things--it would be a great step forward for him in business, and it
would enable him to do what he had long wished to do, to give up working
for Burge. He says he shall have plenty of time to superintend a little
business of his own, which he and Seth will carry on, and will perhaps
be able to enlarge by degrees. So he has agreed at last, and I have
arranged that he shall dine with the large tenants to-day; and I mean to
announce the appointment to them, and ask them to drink Adam's health.
It's a little drama I've got up in honour of my friend Adam. He's a fine
fellow, and I like the opportunity of letting people know that I think
so."

"A drama in which friend Arthur piques himself on having a pretty part
to play," said Mr. Irwine, smiling. But when he saw Arthur colour, he
went on relentingly, "My part, you know, is always that of the old fogy
who sees nothing to admire in the young folks. I don't like to admit
that I'm proud of my pupil when he does graceful things. But I must play
the amiable old gentleman for once, and second your toast in honour of
Adam. Has your grandfather yielded on the other point too, and agreed to
have a respectable man as steward?"

"Oh no," said Arthur, rising from his chair with an air of impatience
and walking along the room with his hands in his pockets. "He's got
some project or other about letting the Chase Farm and bargaining for
a supply of milk and butter for the house. But I ask no questions about
it--it makes me too angry. I believe he means to do all the business
himself, and have nothing in the shape of a steward. It's amazing what
energy he has, though."

"Well, we'll go to the ladies now," said Mr. Irwine, rising too. "I want
to tell my mother what a splendid throne you've prepared for her under
the marquee."

"Yes, and we must be going to luncheon too," said Arthur. "It must be
two o'clock, for there is the gong beginning to sound for the tenants'
dinners."



Chapter XXIII

Dinner-Time

WHEN Adam heard that he was to dine upstairs with the large tenants, he
felt rather uncomfortable at the idea of being exalted in this way above
his mother and Seth, who were to dine in the cloisters below. But
Mr. Mills, the butler, assured him that Captain Donnithorne had given
particular orders about it, and would be very angry if Adam was not
there.

Adam nodded and went up to Seth, who was standing a few yards off.
"Seth, lad," he said, "the captain has sent to say I'm to dine
upstairs--he wishes it particular, Mr. Mills says, so I suppose it 'ud
be behaving ill for me not to go. But I don't like sitting up above thee
and mother, as if I was better than my own flesh and blood. Thee't not
take it unkind, I hope?"

"Nay, nay, lad," said Seth, "thy honour's our honour; and if thee get'st
respect, thee'st won it by thy own deserts. The further I see thee
above me, the better, so long as thee feel'st like a brother to me.
It's because o' thy being appointed over the woods, and it's nothing but
what's right. That's a place o' trust, and thee't above a common workman
now."

"Aye," said Adam, "but nobody knows a word about it yet. I haven't given
notice to Mr. Burge about leaving him, and I don't like to tell anybody
else about it before he knows, for he'll be a good bit hurt, I doubt.
People 'ull be wondering to see me there, and they'll like enough be
guessing the reason and asking questions, for there's been so much talk
up and down about my having the place, this last three weeks."

"Well, thee canst say thee wast ordered to come without being told the
reason. That's the truth. And mother 'ull be fine and joyful about it.
Let's go and tell her."

Adam was not the only guest invited to come upstairs on other grounds
than the amount he contributed to the rent-roll. There were other people
in the two parishes who derived dignity from their functions rather than
from their pocket, and of these Bartle Massey was one. His lame walk was
rather slower than usual on this warm day, so Adam lingered behind when
the bell rang for dinner, that he might walk up with his old friend;
for he was a little too shy to join the Poyser party on this public
occasion. Opportunities of getting to Hetty's side would be sure to turn
up in the course of the day, and Adam contented himself with that for
he disliked any risk of being "joked" about Hetty--the big, outspoken,
fearless man was very shy and diffident as to his love-making.

"Well, Mester Massey," said Adam, as Bartle came up "I'm going to dine
upstairs with you to-day: the captain's sent me orders."

"Ah!" said Bartle, pausing, with one hand on his back. "Then there's
something in the wind--there's something in the wind. Have you heard
anything about what the old squire means to do?"

"Why, yes," said Adam; "I'll tell you what I know, because I believe you
can keep a still tongue in your head if you like, and I hope you'll
not let drop a word till it's common talk, for I've particular reasons
against its being known."

"Trust to me, my boy, trust to me. I've got no wife to worm it out of
me and then run out and cackle it in everybody's hearing. If you trust a
man, let him be a bachelor--let him be a bachelor."

"Well, then, it was so far settled yesterday that I'm to take the
management o' the woods. The captain sent for me t' offer it me, when
I was seeing to the poles and things here and I've agreed to't. But if
anybody asks any questions upstairs, just you take no notice, and turn
the talk to something else, and I'll be obliged to you. Now, let us go
on, for we're pretty nigh the last, I think."

"I know what to do, never fear," said Bartle, moving on. "The news will
be good sauce to my dinner. Aye, aye, my boy, you'll get on. I'll back
you for an eye at measuring and a head-piece for figures, against
any man in this county and you've had good teaching--you've had good
teaching."

When they got upstairs, the question which Arthur had left unsettled, as
to who was to be president, and who vice, was still under discussion, so
that Adam's entrance passed without remark.

"It stands to sense," Mr. Casson was saying, "as old Mr. Poyser, as is
th' oldest man i' the room, should sit at top o' the table. I wasn't
butler fifteen year without learning the rights and the wrongs about
dinner."

"Nay, nay," said old Martin, "I'n gi'en up to my son; I'm no tenant now:
let my son take my place. Th' ould foulks ha' had their turn: they mun
make way for the young uns."

"I should ha' thought the biggest tenant had the best right, more nor
th' oldest," said Luke Britton, who was not fond of the critical Mr.
Poyser; "there's Mester Holdsworth has more land nor anybody else on th'
estate."

"Well," said Mr. Poyser, "suppose we say the man wi' the foulest land
shall sit at top; then whoever gets th' honour, there'll be no envying
on him."

"Eh, here's Mester Massey," said Mr. Craig, who, being a neutral in the
dispute, had no interest but in conciliation; "the schoolmaster ought to
be able to tell you what's right. Who's to sit at top o' the table, Mr.
Massey?"

"Why, the broadest man," said Bartle; "and then he won't take up other
folks' room; and the next broadest must sit at bottom."

This happy mode of settling the dispute produced much laughter--a
smaller joke would have sufficed for that Mr. Casson, however, did not
feel it compatible with his dignity and superior knowledge to join
in the laugh, until it turned out that he was fixed on as the second
broadest man. Martin Poyser the younger, as the broadest, was to be
president, and Mr. Casson, as next broadest, was to be vice.

Owing to this arrangement, Adam, being, of course, at the bottom of the
table, fell under the immediate observation of Mr. Casson, who, too much
occupied with the question of precedence, had not hitherto noticed his
entrance. Mr. Casson, we have seen, considered Adam "rather lifted up
and peppery-like": he thought the gentry made more fuss about this
young carpenter than was necessary; they made no fuss about Mr. Casson,
although he had been an excellent butler for fifteen years.

"Well, Mr. Bede, you're one o' them as mounts hup'ards apace," he said,
when Adam sat down. "You've niver dined here before, as I remember."

"No, Mr. Casson," said Adam, in his strong voice, that could be heard
along the table; "I've never dined here before, but I come by Captain
Donnithorne's wish, and I hope it's not disagreeable to anybody here."

"Nay, nay," said several voices at once, "we're glad ye're come. Who's
got anything to say again' it?"

"And ye'll sing us 'Over the hills and far away,' after dinner, wonna
ye?" said Mr. Chowne. "That's a song I'm uncommon fond on."

"Peeh!" said Mr. Craig; "it's not to be named by side o' the Scotch
tunes. I've never cared about singing myself; I've had something better
to do. A man that's got the names and the natur o' plants in's head isna
likely to keep a hollow place t' hold tunes in. But a second cousin o'
mine, a drovier, was a rare hand at remembering the Scotch tunes. He'd
got nothing else to think on."

"The Scotch tunes!" said Bartle Massey, contemptuously; "I've heard
enough o' the Scotch tunes to last me while I live. They're fit for
nothing but to frighten the birds with--that's to say, the English
birds, for the Scotch birds may sing Scotch for what I know. Give the
lads a bagpipe instead of a rattle, and I'll answer for it the corn 'll
be safe."

"Yes, there's folks as find a pleasure in undervallying what they know
but little about," said Mr. Craig.

"Why, the Scotch tunes are just like a scolding, nagging woman," Bartle
went on, without deigning to notice Mr. Craig's remark. "They go on with
the same thing over and over again, and never come to a reasonable end.
Anybody 'ud think the Scotch tunes had always been asking a question of
somebody as deaf as old Taft, and had never got an answer yet."

Adam minded the less about sitting by Mr. Casson, because this position
enabled him to see Hetty, who was not far off him at the next table.
Hetty, however, had not even noticed his presence yet, for she was
giving angry attention to Totty, who insisted on drawing up her feet on
to the bench in antique fashion, and thereby threatened to make dusty
marks on Hetty's pink-and-white frock. No sooner were the little fat
legs pushed down than up they came again, for Totty's eyes were too busy
in staring at the large dishes to see where the plum pudding was for
her to retain any consciousness of her legs. Hetty got quite out of
patience, and at last, with a frown and pout, and gathering tears, she
said, "Oh dear, Aunt, I wish you'd speak to Totty; she keeps putting her
legs up so, and messing my frock."

"What's the matter wi' the child? She can niver please you," said the
mother. "Let her come by the side o' me, then. I can put up wi' her."

Adam was looking at Hetty, and saw the frown, and pout, and the dark
eyes seeming to grow larger with pettish half-gathered tears. Quiet Mary
Burge, who sat near enough to see that Hetty was cross and that Adam's
eyes were fixed on her, thought that so sensible a man as Adam must be
reflecting on the small value of beauty in a woman whose temper was bad.
Mary was a good girl, not given to indulge in evil feelings, but she
said to herself, that, since Hetty had a bad temper, it was better Adam
should know it. And it was quite true that if Hetty had been plain, she
would have looked very ugly and unamiable at that moment, and no one's
moral judgment upon her would have been in the least beguiled. But
really there was something quite charming in her pettishness: it looked
so much more like innocent distress than ill humour; and the severe Adam
felt no movement of disapprobation; he only felt a sort of amused pity,
as if he had seen a kitten setting up its back, or a little bird with
its feathers ruffled. He could not gather what was vexing her, but it
was impossible to him to feel otherwise than that she was the prettiest
thing in the world, and that if he could have his way, nothing should
ever vex her any more. And presently, when Totty was gone, she caught
his eye, and her face broke into one of its brightest smiles, as she
nodded to him. It was a bit of flirtation--she knew Mary Burge was
looking at them. But the smile was like wine to Adam.



Chapter XXIV

The Health-Drinking


WHEN the dinner was over, and the first draughts from the great cask of
birthday ale were brought up, room was made for the broad Mr. Poyser at
the side of the table, and two chairs were placed at the head. It had
been settled very definitely what Mr. Poyser was to do when the young
squire should appear, and for the last five minutes he had been in a
state of abstraction, with his eyes fixed on the dark picture opposite,
and his hands busy with the loose cash and other articles in his
breeches pockets.

When the young squire entered, with Mr. Irwine by his side, every one
stood up, and this moment of homage was very agreeable to Arthur. He
liked to feel his own importance, and besides that, he cared a great
deal for the good-will of these people: he was fond of thinking that
they had a hearty, special regard for him. The pleasure he felt was in
his face as he said, "My grandfather and I hope all our friends here
have enjoyed their dinner, and find my birthday ale good. Mr. Irwine
and I are come to taste it with you, and I am sure we shall all like
anything the better that the rector shares with us."

All eyes were now turned on Mr. Poyser, who, with his hands still busy
in his pockets, began with the deliberateness of a slow-striking clock.
"Captain, my neighbours have put it upo' me to speak for 'em to-day, for
where folks think pretty much alike, one spokesman's as good as a score.
And though we've mayhappen got contrairy ways o' thinking about a many
things--one man lays down his land one way an' another another--an' I'll
not take it upon me to speak to no man's farming, but my own--this I'll
say, as we're all o' one mind about our young squire. We've pretty nigh
all on us known you when you war a little un, an' we've niver known
anything on you but what was good an' honorable. You speak fair an'
y' act fair, an' we're joyful when we look forrard to your being our
landlord, for we b'lieve you mean to do right by everybody, an' 'ull
make no man's bread bitter to him if you can help it. That's what I
mean, an' that's what we all mean; and when a man's said what he means,
he'd better stop, for th' ale 'ull be none the better for stannin'. An'
I'll not say how we like th' ale yet, for we couldna well taste it till
we'd drunk your health in it; but the dinner was good, an' if there's
anybody hasna enjoyed it, it must be the fault of his own inside. An' as
for the rector's company, it's well known as that's welcome t' all the
parish wherever he may be; an' I hope, an' we all hope, as he'll live
to see us old folks, an' our children grown to men an' women an' Your
Honour a family man. I've no more to say as concerns the present time,
an' so we'll drink our young squire's health--three times three."

Hereupon a glorious shouting, a rapping, a jingling, a clattering, and a
shouting, with plentiful da capo, pleasanter than a strain of sublimest
music in the ears that receive such a tribute for the first time. Arthur
had felt a twinge of conscience during Mr. Poyser's speech, but it was
too feeble to nullify the pleasure he felt in being praised. Did he not
deserve what was said of him on the whole? If there was something in
his conduct that Poyser wouldn't have liked if he had known it, why,
no man's conduct will bear too close an inspection; and Poyser was not
likely to know it; and, after all, what had he done? Gone a little too
far, perhaps, in flirtation, but another man in his place would have
acted much worse; and no harm would come--no harm should come, for the
next time he was alone with Hetty, he would explain to her that she must
not think seriously of him or of what had passed. It was necessary
to Arthur, you perceive, to be satisfied with himself. Uncomfortable
thoughts must be got rid of by good intentions for the future, which can
be formed so rapidly that he had time to be uncomfortable and to become
easy again before Mr. Poyser's slow speech was finished, and when it was
time for him to speak he was quite light-hearted.

"I thank you all, my good friends and neighbours," Arthur said, "for the
good opinion of me, and the kind feelings towards me which Mr. Poyser
has been expressing on your behalf and on his own, and it will always be
my heartiest wish to deserve them. In the course of things we may expect
that, if I live, I shall one day or other be your landlord; indeed, it
is on the ground of that expectation that my grandfather has wished me
to celebrate this day and to come among you now; and I look forward to
this position, not merely as one of power and pleasure for myself, but
as a means of benefiting my neighbours. It hardly becomes so young a man
as I am to talk much about farming to you, who are most of you so much
older, and are men of experience; still, I have interested myself a good
deal in such matters, and learned as much about them as my opportunities
have allowed; and when the course of events shall place the estate in
my hands, it will be my first desire to afford my tenants all the
encouragement a landlord can give them, in improving their land and
trying to bring about a better practice of husbandry. It will be my wish
to be looked on by all my deserving tenants as their best friend, and
nothing would make me so happy as to be able to respect every man on
the estate, and to be respected by him in return. It is not my place
at present to enter into particulars; I only meet your good hopes
concerning me by telling you that my own hopes correspond to them--that
what you expect from me I desire to fulfil; and I am quite of Mr.
Poyser's opinion, that when a man has said what he means, he had better
stop. But the pleasure I feel in having my own health drunk by you would
not be perfect if we did not drink the health of my grandfather, who has
filled the place of both parents to me. I will say no more, until you
have joined me in drinking his health on a day when he has wished me to
appear among you as the future representative of his name and family."

Perhaps there was no one present except Mr. Irwine who thoroughly
understood and approved Arthur's graceful mode of proposing his
grandfather's health. The farmers thought the young squire knew well
enough that they hated the old squire, and Mrs. Poyser said, "he'd
better not ha' stirred a kettle o' sour broth." The bucolic mind does
not readily apprehend the refinements of good taste. But the toast could
not be rejected and when it had been drunk, Arthur said, "I thank you,
both for my grandfather and myself; and now there is one more thing I
wish to tell you, that you may share my pleasure about it, as I hope
and believe you will. I think there can be no man here who has not a
respect, and some of you, I am sure, have a very high regard, for my
friend Adam Bede. It is well known to every one in this neighbourhood
that there is no man whose word can be more depended on than his; that
whatever he undertakes to do, he does well, and is as careful for the
interests of those who employ him as for his own. I'm proud to say that
I was very fond of Adam when I was a little boy, and I have never lost
my old feeling for him--I think that shows that I know a good fellow
when I find him. It has long been my wish that he should have the
management of the woods on the estate, which happen to be very valuable,
not only because I think so highly of his character, but because he has
the knowledge and the skill which fit him for the place. And I am happy
to tell you that it is my grandfather's wish too, and it is now settled
that Adam shall manage the woods--a change which I am sure will be very
much for the advantage of the estate; and I hope you will by and by join
me in drinking his health, and in wishing him all the prosperity in life
that he deserves. But there is a still older friend of mine than Adam
Bede present, and I need not tell you that it is Mr. Irwine. I'm sure
you will agree with me that we must drink no other person's health until
we have drunk his. I know you have all reason to love him, but no one of
his parishioners has so much reason as I. Come, charge your glasses, and
let us drink to our excellent rector--three times three!"

This toast was drunk with all the enthusiasm that was wanting to the
last, and it certainly was the most picturesque moment in the scene when
Mr. Irwine got up to speak, and all the faces in the room were turned
towards him. The superior refinement of his face was much more striking
than that of Arthur's when seen in comparison with the people round
them. Arthur's was a much commoner British face, and the splendour of
his new-fashioned clothes was more akin to the young farmer's taste
in costume than Mr. Irwine's powder and the well-brushed but well-worn
black, which seemed to be his chosen suit for great occasions; for he
had the mysterious secret of never wearing a new-looking coat.

"This is not the first time, by a great many," he said, "that I have
had to thank my parishioners for giving me tokens of their goodwill, but
neighbourly kindness is among those things that are the more precious
the older they get. Indeed, our pleasant meeting to-day is a proof that
when what is good comes of age and is likely to live, there is reason
for rejoicing, and the relation between us as clergyman and parishioners
came of age two years ago, for it is three-and-twenty years since I
first came among you, and I see some tall fine-looking young men here,
as well as some blooming young women, that were far from looking as
pleasantly at me when I christened them as I am happy to see them
looking now. But I'm sure you will not wonder when I say that among all
those young men, the one in whom I have the strongest interest is my
friend Mr. Arthur Donnithorne, for whom you have just expressed your
regard. I had the pleasure of being his tutor for several years, and
have naturally had opportunities of knowing him intimately which cannot
have occurred to any one else who is present; and I have some pride as
well as pleasure in assuring you that I share your high hopes concerning
him, and your confidence in his possession of those qualities which will
make him an excellent landlord when the time shall come for him to take
that important position among you. We feel alike on most matters on
which a man who is getting towards fifty can feel in common with a young
man of one-and-twenty, and he has just been expressing a feeling which
I share very heartily, and I would not willingly omit the opportunity of
saying so. That feeling is his value and respect for Adam Bede. People
in a high station are of course more thought of and talked about and
have their virtues more praised, than those whose lives are passed in
humble everyday work; but every sensible man knows how necessary that
humble everyday work is, and how important it is to us that it should be
done well. And I agree with my friend Mr. Arthur Donnithorne in feeling
that when a man whose duty lies in that sort of work shows a character
which would make him an example in any station, his merit should be
acknowledged. He is one of those to whom honour is due, and his friends
should delight to honour him. I know Adam Bede well--I know what he is
as a workman, and what he has been as a son and brother--and I am saying
the simplest truth when I say that I respect him as much as I respect
any man living. But I am not speaking to you about a stranger; some of
you are his intimate friends, and I believe there is not one here who
does not know enough of him to join heartily in drinking his health."

As Mr. Irwine paused, Arthur jumped up and, filling his glass, said, "A
bumper to Adam Bede, and may he live to have sons as faithful and clever
as himself!"

No hearer, not even Bartle Massey, was so delighted with this toast as
Mr. Poyser. "Tough work" as his first speech had been, he would have
started up to make another if he had not known the extreme irregularity
of such a course. As it was, he found an outlet for his feeling in
drinking his ale unusually fast, and setting down his glass with a swing
of his arm and a determined rap. If Jonathan Burge and a few others
felt less comfortable on the occasion, they tried their best to look
contented, and so the toast was drunk with a goodwill apparently
unanimous.

Adam was rather paler than usual when he got up to thank his friends. He
was a good deal moved by this public tribute--very naturally, for he was
in the presence of all his little world, and it was uniting to do him
honour. But he felt no shyness about speaking, not being troubled
with small vanity or lack of words; he looked neither awkward nor
embarrassed, but stood in his usual firm upright attitude, with his head
thrown a little backward and his hands perfectly still, in that rough
dignity which is peculiar to intelligent, honest, well-built workmen,
who are never wondering what is their business in the world.

"I'm quite taken by surprise," he said. "I didn't expect anything o'
this sort, for it's a good deal more than my wages. But I've the more
reason to be grateful to you, Captain, and to you, Mr. Irwine, and to
all my friends here, who've drunk my health and wished me well. It 'ud
be nonsense for me to be saying, I don't at all deserve th' opinion you
have of me; that 'ud be poor thanks to you, to say that you've known me
all these years and yet haven't sense enough to find out a great deal o'
the truth about me. You think, if I undertake to do a bit o' work, I'll
do it well, be my pay big or little--and that's true. I'd be ashamed
to stand before you here if it wasna true. But it seems to me that's
a man's plain duty, and nothing to be conceited about, and it's pretty
clear to me as I've never done more than my duty; for let us do what we
will, it's only making use o' the sperrit and the powers that ha' been
given to us. And so this kindness o' yours, I'm sure, is no debt you owe
me, but a free gift, and as such I accept it and am thankful. And as to
this new employment I've taken in hand, I'll only say that I took it
at Captain Donnithorne's desire, and that I'll try to fulfil his
expectations. I'd wish for no better lot than to work under him, and
to know that while I was getting my own bread I was taking care of his
int'rests. For I believe he's one o those gentlemen as wishes to do the
right thing, and to leave the world a bit better than he found it, which
it's my belief every man may do, whether he's gentle or simple, whether
he sets a good bit o' work going and finds the money, or whether he does
the work with his own hands. There's no occasion for me to say any more
about what I feel towards him: I hope to show it through the rest o' my
life in my actions."

There were various opinions about Adam's speech: some of the women
whispered that he didn't show himself thankful enough, and seemed to
speak as proud as could be; but most of the men were of opinion that
nobody could speak more straightfor'ard, and that Adam was as fine a
chap as need to be. While such observations were being buzzed about,
mingled with wonderings as to what the old squire meant to do for a
bailiff, and whether he was going to have a steward, the two gentlemen
had risen, and were walking round to the table where the wives and
children sat. There was none of the strong ale here, of course, but
wine and dessert--sparkling gooseberry for the young ones, and some good
sherry for the mothers. Mrs. Poyser was at the head of this table, and
Totty was now seated in her lap, bending her small nose deep down into a
wine-glass in search of the nuts floating there.

"How do you do, Mrs. Poyser?" said Arthur. "Weren't you pleased to hear
your husband make such a good speech to-day?"

"Oh, sir, the men are mostly so tongue-tied--you're forced partly to
guess what they mean, as you do wi' the dumb creaturs."

"What! you think you could have made it better for him?" said Mr.
Irwine, laughing.

"Well, sir, when I want to say anything, I can mostly find words to say
it in, thank God. Not as I'm a-finding faut wi' my husband, for if he's
a man o' few words, what he says he'll stand to."

"I'm sure I never saw a prettier party than this," Arthur said, looking
round at the apple-cheeked children. "My aunt and the Miss Irwines will
come up and see you presently. They were afraid of the noise of the
toasts, but it would be a shame for them not to see you at table."

He walked on, speaking to the mothers and patting the children, while
Mr. Irwine satisfied himself with standing still and nodding at a
distance, that no one's attention might be disturbed from the young
squire, the hero of the day. Arthur did not venture to stop near Hetty,
but merely bowed to her as he passed along the opposite side. The
foolish child felt her heart swelling with discontent; for what woman
was ever satisfied with apparent neglect, even when she knows it to be
the mask of love? Hetty thought this was going to be the most miserable
day she had had for a long while, a moment of chill daylight and reality
came across her dream: Arthur, who had seemed so near to her only a few
hours before, was separated from her, as the hero of a great procession
is separated from a small outsider in the crowd.



Chapter XXV

The Games


THE great dance was not to begin until eight o'clock, but for any lads
and lasses who liked to dance on the shady grass before then, there was
music always at hand--for was not the band of the Benefit Club capable
of playing excellent jigs, reels, and hornpipes? And, besides this,
there was a grand band hired from Rosseter, who, with their wonderful
wind-instruments and puffed-out cheeks, were themselves a delightful
show to the small boys and girls. To say nothing of Joshua Rann's
fiddle, which, by an act of generous forethought, he had provided
himself with, in case any one should be of sufficiently pure taste to
prefer dancing to a solo on that instrument.

Meantime, when the sun had moved off the great open space in front of
the house, the games began. There were, of course, well-soaped poles
to be climbed by the boys and youths, races to be run by the old women,
races to be run in sacks, heavy weights to be lifted by the strong men,
and a long list of challenges to such ambitious attempts as that
of walking as many yards possible on one leg--feats in which it was
generally remarked that Wiry Ben, being "the lissom'st, springest fellow
i' the country," was sure to be pre-eminent. To crown all, there was to
be a donkey-race--that sublimest of all races, conducted on the grand
socialistic idea of everybody encouraging everybody else's donkey, and
the sorriest donkey winning.

And soon after four o'clock, splendid old Mrs. Irwine, in her damask
satin and jewels and black lace, was led out by Arthur, followed by the
whole family party, to her raised seat under the striped marquee, where
she was to give out the prizes to the victors. Staid, formal Miss Lydia
had requested to resign that queenly office to the royal old lady, and
Arthur was pleased with this opportunity of gratifying his godmother's
taste for stateliness. Old Mr. Donnithorne, the delicately clean,
finely scented, withered old man, led out Miss Irwine, with his air of
punctilious, acid politeness; Mr. Gawaine brought Miss Lydia, looking
neutral and stiff in an elegant peach-blossom silk; and Mr. Irwine came
last with his pale sister Anne. No other friend of the family, besides
Mr. Gawaine, was invited to-day; there was to be a grand dinner for
the neighbouring gentry on the morrow, but to-day all the forces were
required for the entertainment of the tenants.

There was a sunk fence in front of the marquee, dividing the lawn from
the park, but a temporary bridge had been made for the passage of the
victors, and the groups of people standing, or seated here and there
on benches, stretched on each side of the open space from the white
marquees up to the sunk fence.

"Upon my word it's a pretty sight," said the old lady, in her deep
voice, when she was seated, and looked round on the bright scene with
its dark-green background; "and it's the last fete-day I'm likely to
see, unless you make haste and get married, Arthur. But take care you
get a charming bride, else I would rather die without seeing her."

"You're so terribly fastidious, Godmother," said Arthur, "I'm afraid I
should never satisfy you with my choice."

"Well, I won't forgive you if she's not handsome. I can't be put off
with amiability, which is always the excuse people are making for the
existence of plain people. And she must not be silly; that will never
do, because you'll want managing, and a silly woman can't manage you.
Who is that tall young man, Dauphin, with the mild face? There, standing
without his hat, and taking such care of that tall old woman by the side
of him--his mother, of course. I like to see that."

"What, don't you know him, Mother?" said Mr. Irwine. "That is Seth
Bede, Adam's brother--a Methodist, but a very good fellow. Poor Seth
has looked rather down-hearted of late; I thought it was because of his
father's dying in that sad way, but Joshua Rann tells me he wanted to
marry that sweet little Methodist preacher who was here about a month
ago, and I suppose she refused him."

"Ah, I remember hearing about her. But there are no end of people here
that I don't know, for they're grown up and altered so since I used to
go about."

"What excellent sight you have!" said old Mr. Donnithorne, who was
holding a double glass up to his eyes, "to see the expression of that
young man's face so far off. His face is nothing but a pale blurred
spot to me. But I fancy I have the advantage of you when we come to look
close. I can read small print without spectacles."

"Ah, my dear sir, you began with being very near-sighted, and those
near-sighted eyes always wear the best. I want very strong spectacles to
read with, but then I think my eyes get better and better for things at
a distance. I suppose if I could live another fifty years, I should be
blind to everything that wasn't out of other people's sight, like a man
who stands in a well and sees nothing but the stars."

"See," said Arthur, "the old women are ready to set out on their race
now. Which do you bet on, Gawaine?"

"The long-legged one, unless they're going to have several heats, and
then the little wiry one may win."

"There are the Poysers, Mother, not far off on the right hand," said
Miss Irwine. "Mrs. Poyser is looking at you. Do take notice of her."

"To be sure I will," said the old lady, giving a gracious bow to Mrs.
Poyser. "A woman who sends me such excellent cream-cheese is not to
be neglected. Bless me! What a fat child that is she is holding on her
knee! But who is that pretty girl with dark eyes?"

"That is Hetty Sorrel," said Miss Lydia Donnithorne, "Martin Poyser's
niece--a very likely young person, and well-looking too. My maid has
taught her fine needlework, and she has mended some lace of mine very
respectably indeed--very respectably."

"Why, she has lived with the Poysers six or seven years, Mother; you
must have seen her," said Miss Irwine.

"No, I've never seen her, child--at least not as she is now," said Mrs.
Irwine, continuing to look at Hetty. "Well-looking, indeed! She's a
perfect beauty! I've never seen anything so pretty since my young days.
What a pity such beauty as that should be thrown away among the farmers,
when it's wanted so terribly among the good families without fortune!
I daresay, now, she'll marry a man who would have thought her just as
pretty if she had had round eyes and red hair."

Arthur dared not turn his eyes towards Hetty while Mrs. Irwine was
speaking of her. He feigned not to hear, and to be occupied with
something on the opposite side. But he saw her plainly enough without
looking; saw her in heightened beauty, because he heard her beauty
praised--for other men's opinion, you know, was like a native climate
to Arthur's feelings: it was the air on which they thrived the best, and
grew strong. Yes! She was enough to turn any man's head: any man in his
place would have done and felt the same. And to give her up after all,
as he was determined to do, would be an act that he should always look
back upon with pride.

"No, Mother," and Mr. Irwine, replying to her last words; "I can't
agree with you there. The common people are not quite so stupid as you
imagine. The commonest man, who has his ounce of sense and feeling,
is conscious of the difference between a lovely, delicate woman and a
coarse one. Even a dog feels a difference in their presence. The man may
be no better able than the dog to explain the influence the more refined
beauty has on him, but he feels it."

"Bless me, Dauphin, what does an old bachelor like you know about it?"

"Oh, that is one of the matters in which old bachelors are wiser than
married men, because they have time for more general contemplation.
Your fine critic of woman must never shackle his judgment by calling
one woman his own. But, as an example of what I was saying, that pretty
Methodist preacher I mentioned just now told me that she had preached
to the roughest miners and had never been treated with anything but the
utmost respect and kindness by them. The reason is--though she doesn't
know it--that there's so much tenderness, refinement, and purity about
her. Such a woman as that brings with her 'airs from heaven' that the
coarsest fellow is not insensible to."

"Here's a delicate bit of womanhood, or girlhood, coming to receive a
prize, I suppose," said Mr. Gawaine. "She must be one of the racers in
the sacks, who had set off before we came."

The "bit of womanhood" was our old acquaintance Bessy Cranage, otherwise
Chad's Bess, whose large red cheeks and blowsy person had undergone
an exaggeration of colour, which, if she had happened to be a heavenly
body, would have made her sublime. Bessy, I am sorry to say, had taken
to her ear-rings again since Dinah's departure, and was otherwise decked
out in such small finery as she could muster. Any one who could have
looked into poor Bessy's heart would have seen a striking resemblance
between her little hopes and anxieties and Hetty's. The advantage,
perhaps, would have been on Bessy's side in the matter of feeling. But
then, you see, they were so very different outside! You would have been
inclined to box Bessy's ears, and you would have longed to kiss Hetty.

Bessy had been tempted to run the arduous race, partly from mere
hedonish gaiety, partly because of the prize. Some one had said there
were to be cloaks and other nice clothes for prizes, and she approached
the marquee, fanning herself with her handkerchief, but with exultation
sparkling in her round eyes.

"Here is the prize for the first sack-race," said Miss Lydia, taking a
large parcel from the table where the prizes were laid and giving it to
Mrs. Irwine before Bessy came up, "an excellent grogram gown and a piece
of flannel."

"You didn't think the winner was to be so young, I suppose, Aunt?" said
Arthur. "Couldn't you find something else for this girl, and save that
grim-looking gown for one of the older women?"

"I have bought nothing but what is useful and substantial," said Miss
Lydia, adjusting her own lace; "I should not think of encouraging a love
of finery in young women of that class. I have a scarlet cloak, but that
is for the old woman who wins."

This speech of Miss Lydia's produced rather a mocking expression in Mrs.
Irwine's face as she looked at Arthur, while Bessy came up and dropped a
series of curtsies.

"This is Bessy Cranage, mother," said Mr. Irwine, kindly, "Chad
Cranage's daughter. You remember Chad Cranage, the blacksmith?"

"Yes, to be sure," said Mrs. Irwine. "Well, Bessy, here is your
prize--excellent warm things for winter. I'm sure you have had hard work
to win them this warm day."

Bessy's lip fell as she saw the ugly, heavy gown--which felt so hot and
disagreeable too, on this July day, and was such a great ugly thing to
carry. She dropped her curtsies again, without looking up, and with a
growing tremulousness about the corners of her mouth, and then turned
away.

"Poor girl," said Arthur; "I think she's disappointed. I wish it had
been something more to her taste."

"She's a bold-looking young person," observed Miss Lydia. "Not at all
one I should like to encourage."

Arthur silently resolved that he would make Bessy a present of money
before the day was over, that she might buy something more to her mind;
but she, not aware of the consolation in store for her, turned out of
the open space, where she was visible from the marquee, and throwing
down the odious bundle under a tree, began to cry--very much tittered at
the while by the small boys. In this situation she was descried by her
discreet matronly cousin, who lost no time in coming up, having just
given the baby into her husband's charge.

"What's the matter wi' ye?" said Bess the matron, taking up the bundle
and examining it. "Ye'n sweltered yoursen, I reckon, running that fool's
race. An' here, they'n gi'en you lots o' good grogram and flannel, as
should ha' been gi'en by good rights to them as had the sense to keep
away from such foolery. Ye might spare me a bit o' this grogram to make
clothes for the lad--ye war ne'er ill-natured, Bess; I ne'er said that
on ye."

"Ye may take it all, for what I care," said Bess the maiden, with a
pettish movement, beginning to wipe away her tears and recover herself.

"Well, I could do wi't, if so be ye want to get rid on't," said the
disinterested cousin, walking quickly away with the bundle, lest Chad's
Bess should change her mind.

But that bonny-cheeked lass was blessed with an elasticity of spirits
that secured her from any rankling grief; and by the time the grand
climax of the donkey-race came on, her disappointment was entirely lost
in the delightful excitement of attempting to stimulate the last donkey
by hisses, while the boys applied the argument of sticks. But the
strength of the donkey mind lies in adopting a course inversely as the
arguments urged, which, well considered, requires as great a mental
force as the direct sequence; and the present donkey proved the
first-rate order of his intelligence by coming to a dead standstill
just when the blows were thickest. Great was the shouting of the crowd,
radiant the grinning of Bill Downes the stone-sawyer and the fortunate
rider of this superior beast, which stood calm and stiff-legged in the
midst of its triumph.

Arthur himself had provided the prizes for the men, and Bill was made
happy with a splendid pocket-knife, supplied with blades and gimlets
enough to make a man at home on a desert island. He had hardly returned
from the marquee with the prize in his hand, when it began to be
understood that Wiry Ben proposed to amuse the company, before
the gentry went to dinner, with an impromptu and gratuitous
performance--namely, a hornpipe, the main idea of which was doubtless
borrowed; but this was to be developed by the dancer in so peculiar and
complex a manner that no one could deny him the praise of originality.
Wiry Ben's pride in his dancing--an accomplishment productive of great
effect at the yearly Wake--had needed only slightly elevating by an
extra quantity of good ale to convince him that the gentry would be
very much struck with his performance of his hornpipe; and he had been
decidedly encouraged in this idea by Joshua Rann, who observed that it
was nothing but right to do something to please the young squire, in
return for what he had done for them. You will be the less surprised
at this opinion in so grave a personage when you learn that Ben had
requested Mr. Rann to accompany him on the fiddle, and Joshua felt quite
sure that though there might not be much in the dancing, the music would
make up for it. Adam Bede, who was present in one of the large marquees,
where the plan was being discussed, told Ben he had better not make a
fool of himself--a remark which at once fixed Ben's determination: he
was not going to let anything alone because Adam Bede turned up his nose
at it.

"What's this, what's this?" said old Mr. Donnithorne. "Is it something
you've arranged, Arthur? Here's the clerk coming with his fiddle, and a
smart fellow with a nosegay in his button-hole."

"No," said Arthur; "I know nothing about it. By Jove, he's going to
dance! It's one of the carpenters--I forget his name at this moment."

"It's Ben Cranage--Wiry Ben, they call him," said Mr. Irwine; "rather
a loose fish, I think. Anne, my dear, I see that fiddle-scraping is too
much for you: you're getting tired. Let me take you in now, that you may
rest till dinner."

Miss Anne rose assentingly, and the good brother took her away, while
Joshua's preliminary scrapings burst into the "White Cockade," from
which he intended to pass to a variety of tunes, by a series of
transitions which his good ear really taught him to execute with some
skill. It would have been an exasperating fact to him, if he had known
it, that the general attention was too thoroughly absorbed by Ben's
dancing for any one to give much heed to the music.

Have you ever seen a real English rustic perform a solo dance? Perhaps
you have only seen a ballet rustic, smiling like a merry countryman in
crockery, with graceful turns of the haunch and insinuating movements
of the head. That is as much like the real thing as the "Bird Waltz" is
like the song of birds. Wiry Ben never smiled: he looked as serious as a
dancing monkey--as serious as if he had been an experimental philosopher
ascertaining in his own person the amount of shaking and the varieties
of angularity that could be given to the human limbs.

To make amends for the abundant laughter in the striped marquee, Arthur
clapped his hands continually and cried "Bravo!" But Ben had one admirer
whose eyes followed his movements with a fervid gravity that equalled
his own. It was Martin Poyser, who was seated on a bench, with Tommy
between his legs.

"What dost think o' that?" he said to his wife. "He goes as pat to the
music as if he was made o' clockwork. I used to be a pretty good un at
dancing myself when I was lighter, but I could niver ha' hit it just to
th' hair like that."

"It's little matter what his limbs are, to my thinking," re-turned
Mrs. Poyser. "He's empty enough i' the upper story, or he'd niver come
jigging an' stamping i' that way, like a mad grasshopper, for the gentry
to look at him. They're fit to die wi' laughing, I can see."

"Well, well, so much the better, it amuses 'em," said Mr. Poyser, who
did not easily take an irritable view of things. "But they're going away
now, t' have their dinner, I reckon. Well move about a bit, shall we,
and see what Adam Bede's doing. He's got to look after the drinking and
things: I doubt he hasna had much fun."



Chapter XXVI

The Dance


ARTHUR had chosen the entrance-hall for the ballroom: very wisely, for
no other room could have been so airy, or would have had the advantage
of the wide doors opening into the garden, as well as a ready entrance
into the other rooms. To be sure, a stone floor was not the pleasantest
to dance on, but then, most of the dancers had known what it was
to enjoy a Christmas dance on kitchen quarries. It was one of those
entrance-halls which make the surrounding rooms look like closets--with
stucco angels, trumpets, and flower-wreaths on the lofty ceiling, and
great medallions of miscellaneous heroes on the walls, alternating with
statues in niches. Just the sort of place to be ornamented well with
green boughs, and Mr. Craig had been proud to show his taste and his
hothouse plants on the occasion. The broad steps of the stone staircase
were covered with cushions to serve as seats for the children, who were
to stay till half-past nine with the servant-maids to see the dancing,
and as this dance was confined to the chief tenants, there was
abundant room for every one. The lights were charmingly disposed in
coloured-paper lamps, high up among green boughs, and the farmers'
wives and daughters, as they peeped in, believed no scene could be more
splendid; they knew now quite well in what sort of rooms the king and
queen lived, and their thoughts glanced with some pity towards cousins
and acquaintances who had not this fine opportunity of knowing how
things went on in the great world. The lamps were already lit, though
the sun had not long set, and there was that calm light out of doors in
which we seem to see all objects more distinctly than in the broad day.

It was a pretty scene outside the house: the farmers and their families
were moving about the lawn, among the flowers and shrubs, or along the
broad straight road leading from the east front, where a carpet of
mossy grass spread on each side, studded here and there with a dark
flat-boughed cedar, or a grand pyramidal fir sweeping the ground with
its branches, all tipped with a fringe of paler green. The groups of
cottagers in the park were gradually diminishing, the young ones being
attracted towards the lights that were beginning to gleam from the
windows of the gallery in the abbey, which was to be their dancing-room,
and some of the sober elder ones thinking it time to go home quietly.
One of these was Lisbeth Bede, and Seth went with her--not from filial
attention only, for his conscience would not let him join in dancing.
It had been rather a melancholy day to Seth: Dinah had never been more
constantly present with him than in this scene, where everything was
so unlike her. He saw her all the more vividly after looking at the
thoughtless faces and gay-coloured dresses of the young women--just as
one feels the beauty and the greatness of a pictured Madonna the more
when it has been for a moment screened from us by a vulgar head in a
bonnet. But this presence of Dinah in his mind only helped him to bear
the better with his mother's mood, which had been becoming more and more
querulous for the last hour. Poor Lisbeth was suffering from a strange
conflict of feelings. Her joy and pride in the honour paid to her
darling son Adam was beginning to be worsted in the conflict with the
jealousy and fretfulness which had revived when Adam came to tell her
that Captain Donnithorne desired him to join the dancers in the hall.
Adam was getting more and more out of her reach; she wished all the old
troubles back again, for then it mattered more to Adam what his mother
said and did.

"Eh, it's fine talkin' o' dancin'," she said, "an' thy father not a five
week in's grave. An' I wish I war there too, i'stid o' bein' left to
take up merrier folks's room above ground."

"Nay, don't look at it i' that way, Mother," said Adam, who was
determined to be gentle to her to-day. "I don't mean to dance--I shall
only look on. And since the captain wishes me to be there, it 'ud look
as if I thought I knew better than him to say as I'd rather not stay.
And thee know'st how he's behaved to me to-day."

"Eh, thee't do as thee lik'st, for thy old mother's got no right t'
hinder thee. She's nought but th' old husk, and thee'st slipped away
from her, like the ripe nut."

"Well, Mother," said Adam, "I'll go and tell the captain as it hurts thy
feelings for me to stay, and I'd rather go home upo' that account: he
won't take it ill then, I daresay, and I'm willing." He said this with
some effort, for he really longed to be near Hetty this evening.

"Nay, nay, I wonna ha' thee do that--the young squire 'ull be angered.
Go an' do what thee't ordered to do, an' me and Seth 'ull go whome. I
know it's a grit honour for thee to be so looked on--an' who's to be
prouder on it nor thy mother? Hadna she the cumber o' rearin' thee an'
doin' for thee all these 'ears?"

"Well, good-bye, then, Mother--good-bye, lad--remember Gyp when you get
home," said Adam, turning away towards the gate of the pleasure-grounds,
where he hoped he might be able to join the Poysers, for he had been so
occupied throughout the afternoon that he had had no time to speak to
Hetty. His eye soon detected a distant group, which he knew to be the
right one, returning to the house along the broad gravel road, and he
hastened on to meet them.

"Why, Adam, I'm glad to get sight on y' again," said Mr. Poyser, who was
carrying Totty on his arm. "You're going t' have a bit o' fun, I hope,
now your work's all done. And here's Hetty has promised no end o'
partners, an' I've just been askin' her if she'd agreed to dance wi'
you, an' she says no."

"Well, I didn't think o' dancing to-night," said Adam, already tempted
to change his mind, as he looked at Hetty.

"Nonsense!" said Mr. Poyser. "Why, everybody's goin' to dance to-night,
all but th' old squire and Mrs. Irwine. Mrs. Best's been tellin' us as
Miss Lyddy and Miss Irwine 'ull dance, an' the young squire 'ull pick
my wife for his first partner, t' open the ball: so she'll be forced to
dance, though she's laid by ever sin' the Christmas afore the little un
was born. You canna for shame stand still, Adam, an' you a fine young
fellow and can dance as well as anybody."

"Nay, nay," said Mrs. Poyser, "it 'ud be unbecomin'. I know the dancin's
nonsense, but if you stick at everything because it's nonsense, you
wonna go far i' this life. When your broth's ready-made for you, you mun
swallow the thickenin', or else let the broth alone."

"Then if Hetty 'ull dance with me," said Adam, yielding either to Mrs.
Poyser's argument or to something else, "I'll dance whichever dance
she's free."

"I've got no partner for the fourth dance," said Hetty; "I'll dance that
with you, if you like."

"Ah," said Mr. Poyser, "but you mun dance the first dance, Adam, else
it'll look partic'ler. There's plenty o' nice partners to pick an'
choose from, an' it's hard for the gells when the men stan' by and don't
ask 'em."

Adam felt the justice of Mr. Poyser's observation: it would not do for
him to dance with no one besides Hetty; and remembering that Jonathan
Burge had some reason to feel hurt to-day, he resolved to ask Miss Mary
to dance with him the first dance, if she had no other partner.

"There's the big clock strikin' eight," said Mr. Poyser; "we must make
haste in now, else the squire and the ladies 'ull be in afore us, an'
that wouldna look well."

When they had entered the hall, and the three children under Molly's
charge had been seated on the stairs, the folding-doors of the
drawing-room were thrown open, and Arthur entered in his regimentals,
leading Mrs. Irwine to a carpet-covered dais ornamented with hot-house
plants, where she and Miss Anne were to be seated with old Mr.
Donnithorne, that they might look on at the dancing, like the kings
and queens in the plays. Arthur had put on his uniform to please the
tenants, he said, who thought as much of his militia dignity as if it
had been an elevation to the premiership. He had not the least objection
to gratify them in that way: his uniform was very advantageous to his
figure.

The old squire, before sitting down, walked round the hall to greet the
tenants and make polite speeches to the wives: he was always polite; but
the farmers had found out, after long puzzling, that this polish was
one of the signs of hardness. It was observed that he gave his most
elaborate civility to Mrs. Poyser to-night, inquiring particularly about
her health, recommending her to strengthen herself with cold water as
he did, and avoid all drugs. Mrs. Poyser curtsied and thanked him with
great self-command, but when he had passed on, she whispered to her
husband, "I'll lay my life he's brewin' some nasty turn against us. Old
Harry doesna wag his tail so for nothin'." Mr. Poyser had no time to
answer, for now Arthur came up and said, "Mrs. Poyser, I'm come to
request the favour of your hand for the first dance; and, Mr. Poyser,
you must let me take you to my aunt, for she claims you as her partner."

The wife's pale cheek flushed with a nervous sense of unwonted honour as
Arthur led her to the top of the room; but Mr. Poyser, to whom an extra
glass had restored his youthful confidence in his good looks and good
dancing, walked along with them quite proudly, secretly flattering
himself that Miss Lydia had never had a partner in HER life who could
lift her off the ground as he would. In order to balance the honours
given to the two parishes, Miss Irwine danced with Luke Britton, the
largest Broxton farmer, and Mr. Gawaine led out Mrs. Britton. Mr.
Irwine, after seating his sister Anne, had gone to the abbey gallery,
as he had agreed with Arthur beforehand, to see how the merriment of the
cottagers was prospering. Meanwhile, all the less distinguished couples
had taken their places: Hetty was led out by the inevitable Mr. Craig,
and Mary Burge by Adam; and now the music struck up, and the glorious
country-dance, best of all dances, began.

Pity it was not a boarded floor! Then the rhythmic stamping of the thick
shoes would have been better than any drums. That merry stamping, that
gracious nodding of the head, that waving bestowal of the hand--where
can we see them now? That simple dancing of well-covered matrons, laying
aside for an hour the cares of house and dairy, remembering but not
affecting youth, not jealous but proud of the young maidens by their
side--that holiday sprightliness of portly husbands paying little
compliments to their wives, as if their courting days were come
again--those lads and lasses a little confused and awkward with their
partners, having nothing to say--it would be a pleasant variety to
see all that sometimes, instead of low dresses and large skirts, and
scanning glances exploring costumes, and languid men in lacquered boots
smiling with double meaning.

There was but one thing to mar Martin Poyser's pleasure in this dance:
it was that he was always in close contact with Luke Britton, that
slovenly farmer. He thought of throwing a little glazed coldness into
his eye in the crossing of hands; but then, as Miss Irwine was opposite
to him instead of the offensive Luke, he might freeze the wrong person.
So he gave his face up to hilarity, unchilled by moral judgments.

How Hetty's heart beat as Arthur approached her! He had hardly looked at
her to-day: now he must take her hand. Would he press it? Would he look
at her? She thought she would cry if he gave her no sign of feeling.
Now he was there--he had taken her hand--yes, he was pressing it. Hetty
turned pale as she looked up at him for an instant and met his eyes,
before the dance carried him away. That pale look came upon Arthur like
the beginning of a dull pain, which clung to him, though he must dance
and smile and joke all the same. Hetty would look so, when he told her
what he had to tell her; and he should never be able to bear it--he
should be a fool and give way again. Hetty's look did not really mean
so much as he thought: it was only the sign of a struggle between the
desire for him to notice her and the dread lest she should betray the
desire to others. But Hetty's face had a language that transcended her
feelings. There are faces which nature charges with a meaning and pathos
not belonging to the single human soul that flutters beneath them, but
speaking the joys and sorrows of foregone generations--eyes that tell of
deep love which doubtless has been and is somewhere, but not paired with
these eyes--perhaps paired with pale eyes that can say nothing; just as
a national language may be instinct with poetry unfelt by the lips that
use it. That look of Hetty's oppressed Arthur with a dread which yet had
something of a terrible unconfessed delight in it, that she loved him
too well. There was a hard task before him, for at that moment he felt
he would have given up three years of his youth for the happiness of
abandoning himself without remorse to his passion for Hetty.

These were the incongruous thoughts in his mind as he led Mrs. Poyser,
who was panting with fatigue, and secretly resolving that neither judge
nor jury should force her to dance another dance, to take a quiet rest
in the dining-room, where supper was laid out for the guests to come and
take it as they chose.

"I've desired Hetty to remember as she's got to dance wi' you, sir,"
said the good innocent woman; "for she's so thoughtless, she'd be like
enough to go an' engage herself for ivery dance. So I told her not to
promise too many."

"Thank you, Mrs. Poyser," said Arthur, not without a twinge. "Now, sit
down in this comfortable chair, and here is Mills ready to give you what
you would like best."

He hurried away to seek another matronly partner, for due honour must be
paid to the married women before he asked any of the young ones; and
the country-dances, and the stamping, and the gracious nodding, and the
waving of the hands, went on joyously.

At last the time had come for the fourth dance--longed for by the
strong, grave Adam, as if he had been a delicate-handed youth of
eighteen; for we are all very much alike when we are in our first love;
and Adam had hardly ever touched Hetty's hand for more than a transient
greeting--had never danced with her but once before. His eyes had
followed her eagerly to-night in spite of himself, and had taken in
deeper draughts of love. He thought she behaved so prettily, so quietly;
she did not seem to be flirting at all she smiled less than usual; there
was almost a sweet sadness about her. "God bless her!" he said inwardly;
"I'd make her life a happy 'un, if a strong arm to work for her, and a
heart to love her, could do it."

And then there stole over him delicious thoughts of coming home from
work, and drawing Hetty to his side, and feeling her cheek softly
pressed against his, till he forgot where he was, and the music and the
tread of feet might have been the falling of rain and the roaring of the
wind, for what he knew.

But now the third dance was ended, and he might go up to her and
claim her hand. She was at the far end of the hall near the staircase,
whispering with Molly, who had just given the sleeping Totty into her
arms before running to fetch shawls and bonnets from the landing. Mrs.
Poyser had taken the two boys away into the dining-room to give them
some cake before they went home in the cart with Grandfather and Molly
was to follow as fast as possible.

"Let me hold her," said Adam, as Molly turned upstairs; "the children
are so heavy when they're asleep."

Hetty was glad of the relief, for to hold Totty in her arms, standing,
was not at all a pleasant variety to her. But this second transfer had
the unfortunate effect of rousing Totty, who was not behind any child
of her age in peevishness at an unseasonable awaking. While Hetty was
in the act of placing her in Adam's arms, and had not yet withdrawn her
own, Totty opened her eyes, and forthwith fought out with her left fist
at Adam's arm, and with her right caught at the string of brown beads
round Hetty's neck. The locket leaped out from her frock, and the next
moment the string was broken, and Hetty, helpless, saw beads and locket
scattered wide on the floor.

"My locket, my locket!" she said, in a loud frightened whisper to Adam;
"never mind the beads."

Adam had already seen where the locket fell, for it had attracted his
glance as it leaped out of her frock. It had fallen on the raised wooden
dais where the band sat, not on the stone floor; and as Adam picked it
up, he saw the glass with the dark and light locks of hair under it. It
had fallen that side upwards, so the glass was not broken. He turned it
over on his hand, and saw the enamelled gold back.

"It isn't hurt," he said, as he held it towards Hetty, who was unable to
take it because both her hands were occupied with Totty.

"Oh, it doesn't matter, I don't mind about it," said Hetty, who had been
pale and was now red.

"Not matter?" said Adam, gravely. "You seemed very frightened about it.
I'll hold it till you're ready to take it," he added, quietly closing
his hand over it, that she might not think he wanted to look at it
again.

By this time Molly had come with bonnet and shawl, and as soon as she
had taken Totty, Adam placed the locket in Hetty's hand. She took it
with an air of indifference and put it in her pocket, in her heart vexed
and angry with Adam because he had seen it, but determined now that she
would show no more signs of agitation.

"See," she said, "they're taking their places to dance; let us go."

Adam assented silently. A puzzled alarm had taken possession of him. Had
Hetty a lover he didn't know of? For none of her relations, he was sure,
would give her a locket like that; and none of her admirers, with whom
he was acquainted, was in the position of an accepted lover, as the
giver of that locket must be. Adam was lost in the utter impossibility
of finding any person for his fears to alight on. He could only feel
with a terrible pang that there was something in Hetty's life unknown to
him; that while he had been rocking himself in the hope that she would
come to love him, she was already loving another. The pleasure of the
dance with Hetty was gone; his eyes, when they rested on her, had an
uneasy questioning expression in them; he could think of nothing to say
to her; and she too was out of temper and disinclined to speak. They
were both glad when the dance was ended.

Adam was determined to stay no longer; no one wanted him, and no one
would notice if he slipped away. As soon as he got out of doors, he
began to walk at his habitual rapid pace, hurrying along without knowing
why, busy with the painful thought that the memory of this day, so full
of honour and promise to him, was poisoned for ever. Suddenly, when
he was far on through the Chase, he stopped, startled by a flash of
reviving hope. After all, he might be a fool, making a great misery out
of a trifle. Hetty, fond of finery as she was, might have bought the
thing herself. It looked too expensive for that--it looked like the
things on white satin in the great jeweller's shop at Rosseter. But Adam
had very imperfect notions of the value of such things, and he thought
it could certainly not cost more than a guinea. Perhaps Hetty had had as
much as that in Christmas boxes, and there was no knowing but she might
have been childish enough to spend it in that way; she was such a young
thing, and she couldn't help loving finery! But then, why had she been
so frightened about it at first, and changed colour so, and afterwards
pretended not to care? Oh, that was because she was ashamed of his
seeing that she had such a smart thing--she was conscious that it
was wrong for her to spend her money on it, and she knew that Adam
disapproved of finery. It was a proof she cared about what he liked and
disliked. She must have thought from his silence and gravity afterwards
that he was very much displeased with her, that he was inclined to be
harsh and severe towards her foibles. And as he walked on more quietly,
chewing the cud of this new hope, his only uneasiness was that he had
behaved in a way which might chill Hetty's feeling towards him. For this
last view of the matter must be the true one. How could Hetty have
an accepted lover, quite unknown to him? She was never away from her
uncle's house for more than a day; she could have no acquaintances that
did not come there, and no intimacies unknown to her uncle and aunt. It
would be folly to believe that the locket was given to her by a lover.
The little ring of dark hair he felt sure was her own; he could form
no guess about the light hair under it, for he had not seen it very
distinctly. It might be a bit of her father's or mother's, who had died
when she was a child, and she would naturally put a bit of her own along
with it.

And so Adam went to bed comforted, having woven for himself an ingenious
web of probabilities--the surest screen a wise man can place between
himself and the truth. His last waking thoughts melted into a dream that
he was with Hetty again at the Hall Farm, and that he was asking her to
forgive him for being so cold and silent.

And while he was dreaming this, Arthur was leading Hetty to the dance
and saying to her in low hurried tones, "I shall be in the wood the day
after to-morrow at seven; come as early as you can." And Hetty's foolish
joys and hopes, which had flown away for a little space, scared by a
mere nothing, now all came fluttering back, unconscious of the real
peril. She was happy for the first time this long day, and wished
that dance would last for hours. Arthur wished it too; it was the
last weakness he meant to indulge in; and a man never lies with more
delicious languor under the influence of a passion than when he has
persuaded himself that he shall subdue it to-morrow.

But Mrs. Poyser's wishes were quite the reverse of this, for her mind
was filled with dreary forebodings as to the retardation of to-morrow
morning's cheese in consequence of these late hours. Now that Hetty had
done her duty and danced one dance with the young squire, Mr. Poyser
must go out and see if the cart was come back to fetch them, for it was
half-past ten o'clock, and notwithstanding a mild suggestion on his part
that it would be bad manners for them to be the first to go, Mrs. Poyser
was resolute on the point, "manners or no manners."

"What! Going already, Mrs. Poyser?" said old Mr. Donnithorne, as she
came to curtsy and take leave; "I thought we should not part with any of
our guests till eleven. Mrs. Irwine and I, who are elderly people, think
of sitting out the dance till then."

"Oh, Your Honour, it's all right and proper for gentlefolks to stay up
by candlelight--they've got no cheese on their minds. We're late enough
as it is, an' there's no lettin' the cows know as they mustn't want to
be milked so early to-morrow mornin'. So, if you'll please t' excuse us,
we'll take our leave."

"Eh!" she said to her husband, as they set off in the cart, "I'd sooner
ha' brewin' day and washin' day together than one o' these pleasurin'
days. There's no work so tirin' as danglin' about an' starin' an' not
rightly knowin' what you're goin' to do next; and keepin' your face i'
smilin' order like a grocer o' market-day for fear people shouldna think
you civil enough. An' you've nothing to show for't when it's done, if it
isn't a yallow face wi' eatin' things as disagree."

"Nay, nay," said Mr. Poyser, who was in his merriest mood, and felt that
he had had a great day, "a bit o' pleasuring's good for thee sometimes.
An' thee danc'st as well as any of 'em, for I'll back thee against all
the wives i' the parish for a light foot an' ankle. An' it was a great
honour for the young squire to ask thee first--I reckon it was because
I sat at th' head o' the table an' made the speech. An' Hetty too--she
never had such a partner before--a fine young gentleman in reg'mentals.
It'll serve you to talk on, Hetty, when you're an old woman--how you
danced wi' th' young squire the day he come o' age."





Book Four




Chapter XXVII

A crisis


IT was beyond the middle of August--nearly three weeks after the
birthday feast. The reaping of the wheat had begun in our north midland
county of Loamshire, but the harvest was likely still to be retarded
by the heavy rains, which were causing inundations and much damage
throughout the country. From this last trouble the Broxton and Hayslope
farmers, on their pleasant uplands and in their brook-watered
valleys, had not suffered, and as I cannot pretend that they were such
exceptional farmers as to love the general good better than their own,
you will infer that they were not in very low spirits about the rapid
rise in the price of bread, so long as there was hope of gathering in
their own corn undamaged; and occasional days of sunshine and drying
winds flattered this hope.

The eighteenth of August was one of these days when the sunshine looked
brighter in all eyes for the gloom that went before. Grand masses of
cloud were hurried across the blue, and the great round hills behind the
Chase seemed alive with their flying shadows; the sun was hidden for a
moment, and then shone out warm again like a recovered joy; the leaves,
still green, were tossed off the hedgerow trees by the wind; around the
farmhouses there was a sound of clapping doors; the apples fell in the
orchards; and the stray horses on the green sides of the lanes and on
the common had their manes blown about their faces. And yet the wind
seemed only part of the general gladness because the sun was shining. A
merry day for the children, who ran and shouted to see if they could
top the wind with their voices; and the grown-up people too were in
good spirits, inclined to believe in yet finer days, when the wind had
fallen. If only the corn were not ripe enough to be blown out of the
husk and scattered as untimely seed!

And yet a day on which a blighting sorrow may fall upon a man. For if it
be true that Nature at certain moments seems charged with a presentiment
of one individual lot must it not also be true that she seems unmindful
unconscious of another? For there is no hour that has not its births
of gladness and despair, no morning brightness that does not bring new
sickness to desolation as well as new forces to genius and love. There
are so many of us, and our lots are so different, what wonder that
Nature's mood is often in harsh contrast with the great crisis of
our lives? We are children of a large family, and must learn, as such
children do, not to expect that our hurts will be made much of--to be
content with little nurture and caressing, and help each other the more.

It was a busy day with Adam, who of late had done almost double work,
for he was continuing to act as foreman for Jonathan Burge, until some
satisfactory person could be found to supply his place, and Jonathan was
slow to find that person. But he had done the extra work cheerfully, for
his hopes were buoyant again about Hetty. Every time she had seen him
since the birthday, she had seemed to make an effort to behave all the
more kindly to him, that she might make him understand she had forgiven
his silence and coldness during the dance. He had never mentioned the
locket to her again; too happy that she smiled at him--still happier
because he observed in her a more subdued air, something that he
interpreted as the growth of womanly tenderness and seriousness. "Ah!"
he thought, again and again, "she's only seventeen; she'll be thoughtful
enough after a while. And her aunt allays says how clever she is at the
work. She'll make a wife as Mother'll have no occasion to grumble at,
after all." To be sure, he had only seen her at home twice since the
birthday; for one Sunday, when he was intending to go from church to the
Hall Farm, Hetty had joined the party of upper servants from the Chase
and had gone home with them--almost as if she were inclined to encourage
Mr. Craig. "She's takin' too much likin' to them folks i' the house
keeper's room," Mrs. Poyser remarked. "For my part, I was never overfond
o' gentlefolks's servants--they're mostly like the fine ladies' fat
dogs, nayther good for barking nor butcher's meat, but on'y for show."
And another evening she was gone to Treddleston to buy some things;
though, to his great surprise, as he was returning home, he saw her at
a distance getting over a stile quite out of the Treddleston road. But,
when he hastened to her, she was very kind, and asked him to go in again
when he had taken her to the yard gate. She had gone a little farther
into the fields after coming from Treddleston because she didn't want to
go in, she said: it was so nice to be out of doors, and her aunt always
made such a fuss about it if she wanted to go out. "Oh, do come in with
me!" she said, as he was going to shake hands with her at the gate, and
he could not resist that. So he went in, and Mrs. Poyser was contented
with only a slight remark on Hetty's being later than was expected;
while Hetty, who had looked out of spirits when he met her, smiled and
talked and waited on them all with unusual promptitude.

That was the last time he had seen her; but he meant to make leisure for
going to the Farm to-morrow. To-day, he knew, was her day for going to
the Chase to sew with the lady's maid, so he would get as much work done
as possible this evening, that the next might be clear.

One piece of work that Adam was superintending was some slight repairs
at the Chase Farm, which had been hitherto occupied by Satchell, as
bailiff, but which it was now rumoured that the old squire was going to
let to a smart man in top-boots, who had been seen to ride over it
one day. Nothing but the desire to get a tenant could account for the
squire's undertaking repairs, though the Saturday-evening party at Mr.
Casson's agreed over their pipes that no man in his senses would take
the Chase Farm unless there was a bit more ploughland laid to it.
However that might be, the repairs were ordered to be executed with all
dispatch, and Adam, acting for Mr. Burge, was carrying out the order
with his usual energy. But to-day, having been occupied elsewhere,
he had not been able to arrive at the Chase Farm till late in the
afternoon, and he then discovered that some old roofing, which he had
calculated on preserving, had given way. There was clearly no good to
be done with this part of the building without pulling it all down, and
Adam immediately saw in his mind a plan for building it up again, so as
to make the most convenient of cow-sheds and calf-pens, with a hovel for
implements; and all without any great expense for materials. So, when
the workmen were gone, he sat down, took out his pocket-book, and
busied himself with sketching a plan, and making a specification of the
expenses that he might show it to Burge the next morning, and set him
on persuading the squire to consent. To "make a good job" of anything,
however small, was always a pleasure to Adam, and he sat on a block,
with his book resting on a planing-table, whistling low every now and
then and turning his head on one side with a just perceptible smile of
gratification--of pride, too, for if Adam loved a bit of good work, he
loved also to think, "I did it!" And I believe the only people who are
free from that weakness are those who have no work to call their own. It
was nearly seven before he had finished and put on his jacket again; and
on giving a last look round, he observed that Seth, who had been working
here to-day, had left his basket of tools behind him. "Why, th' lad's
forgot his tools," thought Adam, "and he's got to work up at the shop
to-morrow. There never was such a chap for wool-gathering; he'd leave
his head behind him, if it was loose. However, it's lucky I've seen 'em;
I'll carry 'em home."

The buildings of the Chase Farm lay at one extremity of the Chase,
at about ten minutes' walking distance from the Abbey. Adam had come
thither on his pony, intending to ride to the stables and put up his nag
on his way home. At the stables he encountered Mr. Craig, who had come
to look at the captain's new horse, on which he was to ride away the day
after to-morrow; and Mr. Craig detained him to tell how all the servants
were to collect at the gate of the courtyard to wish the young squire
luck as he rode out; so that by the time Adam had got into the Chase,
and was striding along with the basket of tools over his shoulder, the
sun was on the point of setting, and was sending level crimson rays
among the great trunks of the old oaks, and touching every bare patch of
ground with a transient glory that made it look like a jewel dropt upon
the grass. The wind had fallen now, and there was only enough breeze to
stir the delicate-stemmed leaves. Any one who had been sitting in the
house all day would have been glad to walk now; but Adam had been quite
enough in the open air to wish to shorten his way home, and he bethought
himself that he might do so by striking across the Chase and going
through the Grove, where he had never been for years. He hurried on
across the Chase, stalking along the narrow paths between the fern, with
Gyp at his heels, not lingering to watch the magnificent changes of the
light--hardly once thinking of it--yet feeling its presence in a certain
calm happy awe which mingled itself with his busy working-day thoughts.
How could he help feeling it? The very deer felt it, and were more
timid.

Presently Adam's thoughts recurred to what Mr. Craig had said about
Arthur Donnithorne, and pictured his going away, and the changes
that might take place before he came back; then they travelled back
affectionately over the old scenes of boyish companionship, and dwelt
on Arthur's good qualities, which Adam had a pride in, as we all have in
the virtues of the superior who honours us. A nature like Adam's, with
a great need of love and reverence in it, depends for so much of its
happiness on what it can believe and feel about others! And he had no
ideal world of dead heroes; he knew little of the life of men in
the past; he must find the beings to whom he could cling with loving
admiration among those who came within speech of him. These pleasant
thoughts about Arthur brought a milder expression than usual into his
keen rough face: perhaps they were the reason why, when he opened the
old green gate leading into the Grove, he paused to pat Gyp and say a
kind word to him.

After that pause, he strode on again along the broad winding path
through the Grove. What grand beeches! Adam delighted in a fine tree of
all things; as the fisherman's sight is keenest on the sea, so Adam's
perceptions were more at home with trees than with other objects. He
kept them in his memory, as a painter does, with all the flecks and
knots in their bark, all the curves and angles of their boughs, and had
often calculated the height and contents of a trunk to a nicety, as he
stood looking at it. No wonder that, not-withstanding his desire to get
on, he could not help pausing to look at a curious large beech which
he had seen standing before him at a turning in the road, and convince
himself that it was not two trees wedded together, but only one. For the
rest of his life he remembered that moment when he was calmly examining
the beech, as a man remembers his last glimpse of the home where his
youth was passed, before the road turned, and he saw it no more. The
beech stood at the last turning before the Grove ended in an archway of
boughs that let in the eastern light; and as Adam stepped away from the
tree to continue his walk, his eyes fell on two figures about twenty
yards before him.

He remained as motionless as a statue, and turned almost as pale. The
two figures were standing opposite to each other, with clasped hands
about to part; and while they were bending to kiss, Gyp, who had been
running among the brushwood, came out, caught sight of them, and gave
a sharp bark. They separated with a start--one hurried through the gate
out of the Grove, and the other, turning round, walked slowly, with
a sort of saunter, towards Adam who still stood transfixed and pale,
clutching tighter the stick with which he held the basket of tools over
his shoulder, and looking at the approaching figure with eyes in which
amazement was fast turning to fierceness.

Arthur Donnithorne looked flushed and excited; he had tried to make
unpleasant feelings more bearable by drinking a little more wine than
usual at dinner to-day, and was still enough under its flattering
influence to think more lightly of this unwished-for rencontre with Adam
than he would otherwise have done. After all, Adam was the best person
who could have happened to see him and Hetty together--he was a sensible
fellow, and would not babble about it to other people. Arthur felt
confident that he could laugh the thing off and explain it away. And so
he sauntered forward with elaborate carelessness--his flushed face, his
evening dress of fine cloth and fine linen, his hands half-thrust into
his waistcoat pockets, all shone upon by the strange evening light which
the light clouds had caught up even to the zenith, and were now shedding
down between the topmost branches above him.

Adam was still motionless, looking at him as he came up. He understood
it all now--the locket and everything else that had been doubtful to
him: a terrible scorching light showed him the hidden letters that
changed the meaning of the past. If he had moved a muscle, he must
inevitably have sprung upon Arthur like a tiger; and in the conflicting
emotions that filled those long moments, he had told himself that he
would not give loose to passion, he would only speak the right thing.
He stood as if petrified by an unseen force, but the force was his own
strong will.

"Well, Adam," said Arthur, "you've been looking at the fine old beeches,
eh? They're not to be come near by the hatchet, though; this is a sacred
grove. I overtook pretty little Hetty Sorrel as I was coming to my
den--the Hermitage, there. She ought not to come home this way so late.
So I took care of her to the gate, and asked for a kiss for my pains.
But I must get back now, for this road is confoundedly damp. Good-night,
Adam. I shall see you to-morrow--to say good-bye, you know."

Arthur was too much preoccupied with the part he was playing himself to
be thoroughly aware of the expression in Adam's face. He did not look
directly at Adam, but glanced carelessly round at the trees and then
lifted up one foot to look at the sole of his boot. He cared to say no
more--he had thrown quite dust enough into honest Adam's eyes--and as he
spoke the last words, he walked on.

"Stop a bit, sir," said Adam, in a hard peremptory voice, without
turning round. "I've got a word to say to you."

Arthur paused in surprise. Susceptible persons are more affected by
a change of tone than by unexpected words, and Arthur had the
susceptibility of a nature at once affectionate and vain. He was still
more surprised when he saw that Adam had not moved, but stood with his
back to him, as if summoning him to return. What did he mean? He was
going to make a serious business of this affair. Arthur felt his temper
rising. A patronising disposition always has its meaner side, and in the
confusion of his irritation and alarm there entered the feeling that a
man to whom he had shown so much favour as to Adam was not in a position
to criticize his conduct. And yet he was dominated, as one who feels
himself in the wrong always is, by the man whose good opinion he cares
for. In spite of pride and temper, there was as much deprecation as
anger in his voice when he said, "What do you mean, Adam?"

"I mean, sir"--answered Adam, in the same harsh voice, still without
turning round--"I mean, sir, that you don't deceive me by your light
words. This is not the first time you've met Hetty Sorrel in this grove,
and this is not the first time you've kissed her."

Arthur felt a startled uncertainty how far Adam was speaking from
knowledge, and how far from mere inference. And this uncertainty,
which prevented him from contriving a prudent answer, heightened his
irritation. He said, in a high sharp tone, "Well, sir, what then?"

"Why, then, instead of acting like th' upright, honourable man we've
all believed you to be, you've been acting the part of a selfish
light-minded scoundrel. You know as well as I do what it's to lead to
when a gentleman like you kisses and makes love to a young woman like
Hetty, and gives her presents as she's frightened for other folks
to see. And I say it again, you're acting the part of a selfish
light-minded scoundrel though it cuts me to th' heart to say so, and I'd
rather ha' lost my right hand."

"Let me tell you, Adam," said Arthur, bridling his growing anger and
trying to recur to his careless tone, "you're not only devilishly
impertinent, but you're talking nonsense. Every pretty girl is not such
a fool as you, to suppose that when a gentleman admires her beauty and
pays her a little attention, he must mean something particular. Every
man likes to flirt with a pretty girl, and every pretty girl likes to be
flirted with. The wider the distance between them, the less harm there
is, for then she's not likely to deceive herself."

"I don't know what you mean by flirting," said Adam, "but if you mean
behaving to a woman as if you loved her, and yet not loving her all
the while, I say that's not th' action of an honest man, and what isn't
honest does come t' harm. I'm not a fool, and you're not a fool, and you
know better than what you're saying. You know it couldn't be made
public as you've behaved to Hetty as y' have done without her losing her
character and bringing shame and trouble on her and her relations. What
if you meant nothing by your kissing and your presents? Other folks
won't believe as you've meant nothing; and don't tell me about her not
deceiving herself. I tell you as you've filled her mind so with the
thought of you as it'll mayhap poison her life, and she'll never love
another man as 'ud make her a good husband."

Arthur had felt a sudden relief while Adam was speaking; he perceived
that Adam had no positive knowledge of the past, and that there was no
irrevocable damage done by this evening's unfortunate rencontre. Adam
could still be deceived. The candid Arthur had brought himself into a
position in which successful lying was his only hope. The hope allayed
his anger a little.

"Well, Adam," he said, in a tone of friendly concession, "you're perhaps
right. Perhaps I've gone a little too far in taking notice of the pretty
little thing and stealing a kiss now and then. You're such a grave,
steady fellow, you don't understand the temptation to such trifling.
I'm sure I wouldn't bring any trouble or annoyance on her and the good
Poysers on any account if I could help it. But I think you look a little
too seriously at it. You know I'm going away immediately, so I shan't
make any more mistakes of the kind. But let us say good-night"--Arthur
here turned round to walk on--"and talk no more about the matter. The
whole thing will soon be forgotten."

"No, by God!" Adam burst out with rage that could be controlled no
longer, throwing down the basket of tools and striding forward till he
was right in front of Arthur. All his jealousy and sense of personal
injury, which he had been hitherto trying to keep under, had leaped up
and mastered him. What man of us, in the first moments of a sharp
agony, could ever feel that the fellow-man who has been the medium of
inflicting it did not mean to hurt us? In our instinctive rebellion
against pain, we are children again, and demand an active will to wreak
our vengeance on. Adam at this moment could only feel that he had
been robbed of Hetty--robbed treacherously by the man in whom he had
trusted--and he stood close in front of Arthur, with fierce eyes glaring
at him, with pale lips and clenched hands, the hard tones in which he
had hitherto been constraining himself to express no more than a just
indignation giving way to a deep agitated voice that seemed to shake him
as he spoke.

"No, it'll not be soon forgot, as you've come in between her and me,
when she might ha' loved me--it'll not soon be forgot as you've robbed
me o' my happiness, while I thought you was my best friend, and a
noble-minded man, as I was proud to work for. And you've been kissing
her, and meaning nothing, have you? And I never kissed her i' my
life--but I'd ha' worked hard for years for the right to kiss her. And
you make light of it. You think little o' doing what may damage other
folks, so as you get your bit o' trifling, as means nothing. I throw
back your favours, for you're not the man I took you for. I'll never
count you my friend any more. I'd rather you'd act as my enemy, and
fight me where I stand--it's all th' amends you can make me."

Poor Adam, possessed by rage that could find no other vent, began to
throw off his coat and his cap, too blind with passion to notice the
change that had taken place in Arthur while he was speaking. Arthur's
lips were now as pale as Adam's; his heart was beating violently. The
discovery that Adam loved Hetty was a shock which made him for the
moment see himself in the light of Adam's indignation, and regard Adam's
suffering as not merely a consequence, but an element of his error.
The words of hatred and contempt--the first he had ever heard in his
life--seemed like scorching missiles that were making ineffaceable scars
on him. All screening self-excuse, which rarely falls quite away while
others respect us, forsook him for an instant, and he stood face to face
with the first great irrevocable evil he had ever committed. He was
only twenty-one, and three months ago--nay, much later--he had thought
proudly that no man should ever be able to reproach him justly. His
first impulse, if there had been time for it, would perhaps have been to
utter words of propitiation; but Adam had no sooner thrown off his
coat and cap than he became aware that Arthur was standing pale and
motionless, with his hands still thrust in his waistcoat pockets.

"What!" he said, "won't you fight me like a man? You know I won't strike
you while you stand so."

"Go away, Adam," said Arthur, "I don't want to fight you."

"No," said Adam, bitterly; "you don't want to fight me--you think I'm a
common man, as you can injure without answering for it."

"I never meant to injure you," said Arthur, with returning anger. "I
didn't know you loved her."

"But you've made her love you," said Adam. "You're a double-faced
man--I'll never believe a word you say again."

"Go away, I tell you," said Arthur, angrily, "or we shall both repent."

"No," said Adam, with a convulsed voice, "I swear I won't go away
without fighting you. Do you want provoking any more? I tell you you're
a coward and a scoundrel, and I despise you."

The colour had all rushed back to Arthur's face; in a moment his right
hand was clenched, and dealt a blow like lightning, which sent Adam
staggering backward. His blood was as thoroughly up as Adam's now, and
the two men, forgetting the emotions that had gone before, fought
with the instinctive fierceness of panthers in the deepening twilight
darkened by the trees. The delicate-handed gentleman was a match for the
workman in everything but strength, and Arthur's skill enabled him to
protract the struggle for some long moments. But between unarmed men the
battle is to the strong, where the strong is no blunderer, and Arthur
must sink under a well-planted blow of Adam's as a steel rod is broken
by an iron bar. The blow soon came, and Arthur fell, his head lying
concealed in a tuft of fern, so that Adam could only discern his darkly
clad body.

He stood still in the dim light waiting for Arthur to rise.

The blow had been given now, towards which he had been straining all the
force of nerve and muscle--and what was the good of it? What had he
done by fighting? Only satisfied his own passion, only wreaked his own
vengeance. He had not rescued Hetty, nor changed the past--there it was,
just as it had been, and he sickened at the vanity of his own rage.

But why did not Arthur rise? He was perfectly motionless, and the time
seemed long to Adam. Good God! had the blow been too much for him? Adam
shuddered at the thought of his own strength, as with the oncoming of
this dread he knelt down by Arthur's side and lifted his head from among
the fern. There was no sign of life: the eyes and teeth were set. The
horror that rushed over Adam completely mastered him, and forced upon
him its own belief. He could feel nothing but that death was in Arthur's
face, and that he was helpless before it. He made not a single movement,
but knelt like an image of despair gazing at an image of death.



Chapter XXVIII

A Dilemma


IT was only a few minutes measured by the clock--though Adam always
thought it had been a long while--before he perceived a gleam of
consciousness in Arthur's face and a slight shiver through his frame.
The intense joy that flooded his soul brought back some of the old
affection with it.

"Do you feel any pain, sir?" he said, tenderly, loosening Arthur's
cravat.

Arthur turned his eyes on Adam with a vague stare which gave way to a
slightly startled motion as if from the shock of returning memory. But
he only shivered again and said nothing.

"Do you feel any hurt, sir?" Adam said again, with a trembling in his
voice.

Arthur put his hand up to his waistcoat buttons, and when Adam had
unbuttoned it, he took a longer breath. "Lay my head down," he said,
faintly, "and get me some water if you can."

Adam laid the head down gently on the fern again, and emptying the tools
out of the flag-basket, hurried through the trees to the edge of the
Grove bordering on the Chase, where a brook ran below the bank.

When he returned with his basket leaking, but still half-full, Arthur
looked at him with a more thoroughly reawakened consciousness.

"Can you drink a drop out o' your hand, sir?" said Adam, kneeling down
again to lift up Arthur's head.

"No," said Arthur, "dip my cravat in and souse it on my head."

The water seemed to do him some good, for he presently raised himself a
little higher, resting on Adam's arm.

"Do you feel any hurt inside sir?" Adam asked again

"No--no hurt," said Arthur, still faintly, "but rather done up."

After a while he said, "I suppose I fainted away when you knocked me
down."

"Yes, sir, thank God," said Adam. "I thought it was worse."

"What! You thought you'd done for me, eh? Come help me on my legs."

"I feel terribly shaky and dizzy," Arthur said, as he stood leaning
on Adam's arm; "that blow of yours must have come against me like a
battering-ram. I don't believe I can walk alone."

"Lean on me, sir; I'll get you along," said Adam. "Or, will you sit down
a bit longer, on my coat here, and I'll prop y' up. You'll perhaps be
better in a minute or two."

"No," said Arthur. "I'll go to the Hermitage--I think I've got some
brandy there. There's a short road to it a little farther on, near the
gate. If you'll just help me on."

They walked slowly, with frequent pauses, but without speaking again.
In both of them, the concentration in the present which had attended
the first moments of Arthur's revival had now given way to a vivid
recollection of the previous scene. It was nearly dark in the narrow
path among the trees, but within the circle of fir-trees round the
Hermitage there was room for the growing moonlight to enter in at the
windows. Their steps were noiseless on the thick carpet of fir-needles,
and the outward stillness seemed to heighten their inward consciousness,
as Arthur took the key out of his pocket and placed it in Adam's hand,
for him to open the door. Adam had not known before that Arthur had
furnished the old Hermitage and made it a retreat for himself, and it
was a surprise to him when he opened the door to see a snug room with
all the signs of frequent habitation.

Arthur loosed Adam's arm and threw himself on the ottoman. "You'll see
my hunting-bottle somewhere," he said. "A leather case with a bottle and
glass in."

Adam was not long in finding the case. "There's very little brandy in
it, sir," he said, turning it downwards over the glass, as he held it
before the window; "hardly this little glassful."

"Well, give me that," said Arthur, with the peevishness of physical
depression. When he had taken some sips, Adam said, "Hadn't I better
run to th' house, sir, and get some more brandy? I can be there and
back pretty soon. It'll be a stiff walk home for you, if you don't have
something to revive you."

"Yes--go. But don't say I'm ill. Ask for my man Pym, and tell him to get
it from Mills, and not to say I'm at the Hermitage. Get some water too."

Adam was relieved to have an active task--both of them were relieved to
be apart from each other for a short time. But Adam's swift pace could
not still the eager pain of thinking--of living again with concentrated
suffering through the last wretched hour, and looking out from it over
all the new sad future.

Arthur lay still for some minutes after Adam was gone, but presently
he rose feebly from the ottoman and peered about slowly in the broken
moonlight, seeking something. It was a short bit of wax candle that
stood amongst a confusion of writing and drawing materials. There was
more searching for the means of lighting the candle, and when that was
done, he went cautiously round the room, as if wishing to assure himself
of the presence or absence of something. At last he had found a slight
thing, which he put first in his pocket, and then, on a second thought,
took out again and thrust deep down into a waste-paper basket. It was a
woman's little, pink, silk neckerchief. He set the candle on the table,
and threw himself down on the ottoman again, exhausted with the effort.

When Adam came back with his supplies, his entrance awoke Arthur from a
doze.

"That's right," Arthur said; "I'm tremendously in want of some
brandy-vigour."

"I'm glad to see you've got a light, sir," said Adam. "I've been
thinking I'd better have asked for a lanthorn."

"No, no; the candle will last long enough--I shall soon be up to walking
home now."

"I can't go before I've seen you safe home, sir," said Adam,
hesitatingly.

"No: it will be better for you to stay--sit down."

Adam sat down, and they remained opposite to each other in uneasy
silence, while Arthur slowly drank brandy-and-water, with visibly
renovating effect. He began to lie in a more voluntary position, and
looked as if he were less overpowered by bodily sensations. Adam was
keenly alive to these indications, and as his anxiety about Arthur's
condition began to be allayed, he felt more of that impatience which
every one knows who has had his just indignation suspended by the
physical state of the culprit. Yet there was one thing on his mind to be
done before he could recur to remonstrance: it was to confess what had
been unjust in his own words. Perhaps he longed all the more to make
this confession, that his indignation might be free again; and as he saw
the signs of returning ease in Arthur, the words again and again came to
his lips and went back, checked by the thought that it would be better
to leave everything till to-morrow. As long as they were silent they did
not look at each other, and a foreboding came across Adam that if they
began to speak as though they remembered the past--if they looked at
each other with full recognition--they must take fire again. So they sat
in silence till the bit of wax candle flickered low in the socket, the
silence all the while becoming more irksome to Adam. Arthur had just
poured out some more brandy-and-water, and he threw one arm behind his
head and drew up one leg in an attitude of recovered ease, which was an
irresistible temptation to Adam to speak what was on his mind.

"You begin to feel more yourself again, sir," he said, as the candle
went out and they were half-hidden from each other in the faint
moonlight.

"Yes: I don't feel good for much--very lazy, and not inclined to move;
but I'll go home when I've taken this dose."

There was a slight pause before Adam said, "My temper got the better of
me, and I said things as wasn't true. I'd no right to speak as if you'd
known you was doing me an injury: you'd no grounds for knowing it; I've
always kept what I felt for her as secret as I could."

He paused again before he went on.

"And perhaps I judged you too harsh--I'm apt to be harsh--and you may
have acted out o' thoughtlessness more than I should ha' believed was
possible for a man with a heart and a conscience. We're not all put
together alike, and we may misjudge one another. God knows, it's all the
joy I could have now, to think the best of you."

Arthur wanted to go home without saying any more--he was too painfully
embarrassed in mind, as well as too weak in body, to wish for any
further explanation to-night. And yet it was a relief to him that Adam
reopened the subject in a way the least difficult for him to answer.
Arthur was in the wretched position of an open, generous man who has
committed an error which makes deception seem a necessity. The native
impulse to give truth in return for truth, to meet trust with frank
confession, must be suppressed, and duty was becoming a question of
tactics. His deed was reacting upon him--was already governing him
tyrannously and forcing him into a course that jarred with his habitual
feelings. The only aim that seemed admissible to him now was to deceive
Adam to the utmost: to make Adam think better of him than he deserved.
And when he heard the words of honest retractation--when he heard the
sad appeal with which Adam ended--he was obliged to rejoice in
the remains of ignorant confidence it implied. He did not answer
immediately, for he had to be judicious and not truthful.

"Say no more about our anger, Adam," he said, at last, very languidly,
for the labour of speech was unwelcome to him; "I forgive your momentary
injustice--it was quite natural, with the exaggerated notions you had in
your mind. We shall be none the worse friends in future, I hope, because
we've fought. You had the best of it, and that was as it should be, for
I believe I've been most in the wrong of the two. Come, let us shake
hands."

Arthur held out his hand, but Adam sat still.

"I don't like to say 'No' to that, sir," he said, "but I can't shake
hands till it's clear what we mean by't. I was wrong when I spoke as
if you'd done me an injury knowingly, but I wasn't wrong in what I said
before, about your behaviour t' Hetty, and I can't shake hands with you
as if I held you my friend the same as ever till you've cleared that up
better."

Arthur swallowed his pride and resentment as he drew back his hand.
He was silent for some moments, and then said, as indifferently as he
could, "I don't know what you mean by clearing up, Adam. I've told you
already that you think too seriously of a little flirtation. But if
you are right in supposing there is any danger in it--I'm going away on
Saturday, and there will be an end of it. As for the pain it has given
you, I'm heartily sorry for it. I can say no more."

Adam said nothing, but rose from his chair and stood with his face
towards one of the windows, as if looking at the blackness of the
moonlit fir-trees; but he was in reality conscious of nothing but the
conflict within him. It was of no use now--his resolution not to speak
till to-morrow. He must speak there and then. But it was several minutes
before he turned round and stepped nearer to Arthur, standing and
looking down on him as he lay.

"It'll be better for me to speak plain," he said, with evident effort,
"though it's hard work. You see, sir, this isn't a trifle to me,
whatever it may be to you. I'm none o' them men as can go making love
first to one woman and then t' another, and don't think it much odds
which of 'em I take. What I feel for Hetty's a different sort o' love,
such as I believe nobody can know much about but them as feel it and God
as has given it to 'em. She's more nor everything else to me, all but
my conscience and my good name. And if it's true what you've been saying
all along--and if it's only been trifling and flirting as you call it,
as 'll be put an end to by your going away--why, then, I'd wait, and
hope her heart 'ud turn to me after all. I'm loath to think you'd speak
false to me, and I'll believe your word, however things may look."

"You would be wronging Hetty more than me not to believe it," said
Arthur, almost violently, starting up from the ottoman and moving away.
But he threw himself into a chair again directly, saying, more feebly,
"You seem to forget that, in suspecting me, you are casting imputations
upon her."

"Nay, sir," Adam said, in a calmer voice, as if he were
half-relieved--for he was too straightforward to make a distinction
between a direct falsehood and an indirect one--"Nay, sir, things don't
lie level between Hetty and you. You're acting with your eyes open,
whatever you may do; but how do you know what's been in her mind? She's
all but a child--as any man with a conscience in him ought to feel bound
to take care on. And whatever you may think, I know you've disturbed
her mind. I know she's been fixing her heart on you, for there's a many
things clear to me now as I didn't understand before. But you seem to
make light o' what she may feel--you don't think o' that."

"Good God, Adam, let me alone!" Arthur burst out impetuously; "I feel it
enough without your worrying me."

He was aware of his indiscretion as soon as the words had escaped him.

"Well, then, if you feel it," Adam rejoined, eagerly; "if you feel as
you may ha' put false notions into her mind, and made her believe as
you loved her, when all the while you meant nothing, I've this demand
to make of you--I'm not speaking for myself, but for her. I ask you t'
undeceive her before you go away. Y'aren't going away for ever, and if
you leave her behind with a notion in her head o' your feeling about her
the same as she feels about you, she'll be hankering after you, and the
mischief may get worse. It may be a smart to her now, but it'll save her
pain i' th' end. I ask you to write a letter--you may trust to my seeing
as she gets it. Tell her the truth, and take blame to yourself for
behaving as you'd no right to do to a young woman as isn't your equal.
I speak plain, sir, but I can't speak any other way. There's nobody can
take care o' Hetty in this thing but me."

"I can do what I think needful in the matter," said Arthur, more and
more irritated by mingled distress and perplexity, "without giving
promises to you. I shall take what measures I think proper."

"No," said Adam, in an abrupt decided tone, "that won't do. I must know
what ground I'm treading on. I must be safe as you've put an end to what
ought never to ha' been begun. I don't forget what's owing to you as a
gentleman, but in this thing we're man and man, and I can't give up."

There was no answer for some moments. Then Arthur said, "I'll see you
to-morrow. I can bear no more now; I'm ill." He rose as he spoke, and
reached his cap, as if intending to go.

"You won't see her again!" Adam exclaimed, with a flash of recurring
anger and suspicion, moving towards the door and placing his back
against it. "Either tell me she can never be my wife--tell me you've
been lying--or else promise me what I've said."

Adam, uttering this alternative, stood like a terrible fate before
Arthur, who had moved forward a step or two, and now stopped, faint,
shaken, sick in mind and body. It seemed long to both of them--that
inward struggle of Arthur's--before he said, feebly, "I promise; let me
go."

Adam moved away from the door and opened it, but when Arthur reached the
step, he stopped again and leaned against the door-post.

"You're not well enough to walk alone, sir," said Adam. "Take my arm
again."

Arthur made no answer, and presently walked on, Adam following. But,
after a few steps, he stood still again, and said, coldly, "I believe I
must trouble you. It's getting late now, and there may be an alarm set
up about me at home."

Adam gave his arm, and they walked on without uttering a word, till they
came where the basket and the tools lay.

"I must pick up the tools, sir," Adam said. "They're my brother's. I
doubt they'll be rusted. If you'll please to wait a minute."

Arthur stood still without speaking, and no other word passed between
them till they were at the side entrance, where he hoped to get in
without being seen by any one. He said then, "Thank you; I needn't
trouble you any further."

"What time will it be conven'ent for me to see you to-morrow, sir?" said
Adam.

"You may send me word that you're here at five o'clock," said Arthur;
"not before."

"Good-night, sir," said Adam. But he heard no reply; Arthur had turned
into the house.



Chapter XXIX

The Next Morning


ARTHUR did not pass a sleepless night; he slept long and well. For sleep
comes to the perplexed--if the perplexed are only weary enough. But at
seven he rang his bell and astonished Pym by declaring he was going to
get up, and must have breakfast brought to him at eight.

"And see that my mare is saddled at half-past eight, and tell my
grandfather when he's down that I'm better this morning and am gone for
a ride."

He had been awake an hour, and could rest in bed no longer. In bed our
yesterdays are too oppressive: if a man can only get up, though it
be but to whistle or to smoke, he has a present which offers some
resistance to the past--sensations which assert themselves against
tyrannous memories. And if there were such a thing as taking averages
of feeling, it would certainly be found that in the hunting and shooting
seasons regret, self-reproach, and mortified pride weigh lighter on
country gentlemen than in late spring and summer. Arthur felt that he
should be more of a man on horseback. Even the presence of Pym, waiting
on him with the usual deference, was a reassurance to him after the
scenes of yesterday. For, with Arthur's sensitiveness to opinion,
the loss of Adam's respect was a shock to his self-contentment which
suffused his imagination with the sense that he had sunk in all eyes--as
a sudden shock of fear from some real peril makes a nervous woman afraid
even to step, because all her perceptions are suffused with a sense of
danger.

Arthur's, as you know, was a loving nature. Deeds of kindness were as
easy to him as a bad habit: they were the common issue of his weaknesses
and good qualities, of his egoism and his sympathy. He didn't like to
witness pain, and he liked to have grateful eyes beaming on him as the
giver of pleasure. When he was a lad of seven, he one day kicked down an
old gardener's pitcher of broth, from no motive but a kicking impulse,
not reflecting that it was the old man's dinner; but on learning that
sad fact, he took his favourite pencil-case and a silver-hafted knife
out of his pocket and offered them as compensation. He had been the same
Arthur ever since, trying to make all offences forgotten in benefits.
If there were any bitterness in his nature, it could only show itself
against the man who refused to be conciliated by him. And perhaps the
time was come for some of that bitterness to rise. At the first moment,
Arthur had felt pure distress and self-reproach at discovering that
Adam's happiness was involved in his relation to Hetty. If there had
been a possibility of making Adam tenfold amends--if deeds of gift, or
any other deeds, could have restored Adam's contentment and regard for
him as a benefactor, Arthur would not only have executed them without
hesitation, but would have felt bound all the more closely to Adam,
and would never have been weary of making retribution. But Adam could
receive no amends; his suffering could not be cancelled; his respect and
affection could not be recovered by any prompt deeds of atonement. He
stood like an immovable obstacle against which no pressure could
avail; an embodiment of what Arthur most shrank from believing in--the
irrevocableness of his own wrongdoing. The words of scorn, the refusal
to shake hands, the mastery asserted over him in their last conversation
in the Hermitage--above all, the sense of having been knocked down, to
which a man does not very well reconcile himself, even under the most
heroic circumstances--pressed on him with a galling pain which was
stronger than compunction. Arthur would so gladly have persuaded himself
that he had done no harm! And if no one had told him the contrary, he
could have persuaded himself so much better. Nemesis can seldom forge a
sword for herself out of our consciences--out of the suffering we feel
in the suffering we may have caused: there is rarely metal enough there
to make an effective weapon. Our moral sense learns the manners of good
society and smiles when others smile, but when some rude person gives
rough names to our actions, she is apt to take part against us. And
so it was with Arthur: Adam's judgment of him, Adam's grating words,
disturbed his self-soothing arguments.

Not that Arthur had been at ease before Adam's discovery. Struggles and
resolves had transformed themselves into compunction and anxiety. He was
distressed for Hetty's sake, and distressed for his own, that he
must leave her behind. He had always, both in making and breaking
resolutions, looked beyond his passion and seen that it must speedily
end in separation; but his nature was too ardent and tender for him not
to suffer at this parting; and on Hetty's account he was filled with
uneasiness. He had found out the dream in which she was living--that she
was to be a lady in silks and satins--and when he had first talked to
her about his going away, she had asked him tremblingly to let her go
with him and be married. It was his painful knowledge of this which had
given the most exasperating sting to Adam's reproaches. He had said no
word with the purpose of deceiving her--her vision was all spun by her
own childish fancy--but he was obliged to confess to himself that it was
spun half out of his own actions. And to increase the mischief, on this
last evening he had not dared to hint the truth to Hetty; he had been
obliged to soothe her with tender, hopeful words, lest he should throw
her into violent distress. He felt the situation acutely, felt the
sorrow of the dear thing in the present, and thought with a darker
anxiety of the tenacity which her feelings might have in the future.
That was the one sharp point which pressed against him; every other he
could evade by hopeful self-persuasion. The whole thing had been secret;
the Poysers had not the shadow of a suspicion. No one, except Adam, knew
anything of what had passed--no one else was likely to know; for Arthur
had impressed on Hetty that it would be fatal to betray, by word or
look, that there had been the least intimacy between them; and Adam, who
knew half their secret, would rather help them to keep it than betray
it. It was an unfortunate business altogether, but there was no use in
making it worse than it was by imaginary exaggerations and forebodings
of evil that might never come. The temporary sadness for Hetty was
the worst consequence; he resolutely turned away his eyes from any bad
consequence that was not demonstrably inevitable. But--but Hetty might
have had the trouble in some other way if not in this. And perhaps
hereafter he might be able to do a great deal for her and make up to her
for all the tears she would shed about him. She would owe the advantage
of his care for her in future years to the sorrow she had incurred now.
So good comes out of evil. Such is the beautiful arrangement of things!

Are you inclined to ask whether this can be the same Arthur who, two
months ago, had that freshness of feeling, that delicate honour which
shrinks from wounding even a sentiment, and does not contemplate any
more positive offence as possible for it?--who thought that his own
self-respect was a higher tribunal than any external opinion? The same,
I assure you, only under different conditions. Our deeds determine us,
as much as we determine our deeds, and until we know what has been or
will be the peculiar combination of outward with inward facts, which
constitutes a man's critical actions, it will be better not to think
ourselves wise about his character. There is a terrible coercion in
our deeds, which may first turn the honest man into a deceiver and then
reconcile him to the change, for this reason--that the second wrong
presents itself to him in the guise of the only practicable right. The
action which before commission has been seen with that blended common
sense and fresh untarnished feeling which is the healthy eye of the
soul, is looked at afterwards with the lens of apologetic ingenuity,
through which all things that men call beautiful and ugly are seen to
be made up of textures very much alike. Europe adjusts itself to a
_fait accompli_, and so does an individual character--until the placid
adjustment is disturbed by a convulsive retribution.

No man can escape this vitiating effect of an offence against his own
sentiment of right, and the effect was the stronger in Arthur because of
that very need of self-respect which, while his conscience was still at
ease, was one of his best safeguards. Self-accusation was too painful to
him--he could not face it. He must persuade himself that he had not been
very much to blame; he began even to pity himself for the necessity he
was under of deceiving Adam--it was a course so opposed to the honesty
of his own nature. But then, it was the only right thing to do.

Well, whatever had been amiss in him, he was miserable enough in
consequence: miserable about Hetty; miserable about this letter that
he had promised to write, and that seemed at one moment to be a gross
barbarity, at another perhaps the greatest kindness he could do to her.
And across all this reflection would dart every now and then a sudden
impulse of passionate defiance towards all consequences. He would carry
Hetty away, and all other considerations might go to....

In this state of mind the four walls of his room made an intolerable
prison to him; they seemed to hem in and press down upon him all the
crowd of contradictory thoughts and conflicting feelings, some of which
would fly away in the open air. He had only an hour or two to make up
his mind in, and he must get clear and calm. Once on Meg's back, in
the fresh air of that fine morning, he should be more master of the
situation.

The pretty creature arched her bay neck in the sunshine, and pawed the
gravel, and trembled with pleasure when her master stroked her nose, and
patted her, and talked to her even in a more caressing tone than usual.
He loved her the better because she knew nothing of his secrets. But
Meg was quite as well acquainted with her master's mental state as many
others of her sex with the mental condition of the nice young gentlemen
towards whom their hearts are in a state of fluttering expectation.

Arthur cantered for five miles beyond the Chase, till he was at the foot
of a hill where there were no hedges or trees to hem in the road. Then
he threw the bridle on Meg's neck and prepared to make up his mind.

Hetty knew that their meeting yesterday must be the last before Arthur
went away--there was no possibility of their contriving another without
exciting suspicion--and she was like a frightened child, unable to think
of anything, only able to cry at the mention of parting, and then put
her face up to have the tears kissed away. He could do nothing but
comfort her, and lull her into dreaming on. A letter would be a
dreadfully abrupt way of awakening her! Yet there was truth in what Adam
said--that it would save her from a lengthened delusion, which might be
worse than a sharp immediate pain. And it was the only way of satisfying
Adam, who must be satisfied, for more reasons than one. If he could have
seen her again! But that was impossible; there was such a thorny hedge
of hindrances between them, and an imprudence would be fatal. And yet,
if he COULD see her again, what good would it do? Only cause him to
suffer more from the sight of her distress and the remembrance of it.
Away from him she was surrounded by all the motives to self-control.

A sudden dread here fell like a shadow across his imagination--the dread
lest she should do something violent in her grief; and close upon that
dread came another, which deepened the shadow. But he shook them off
with the force of youth and hope. What was the ground for painting the
future in that dark way? It was just as likely to be the reverse. Arthur
told himself he did not deserve that things should turn out badly. He
had never meant beforehand to do anything his conscience disapproved;
he had been led on by circumstances. There was a sort of implicit
confidence in him that he was really such a good fellow at bottom,
Providence would not treat him harshly.

At all events, he couldn't help what would come now: all he could do
was to take what seemed the best course at the present moment. And he
persuaded himself that that course was to make the way open between
Adam and Hetty. Her heart might really turn to Adam, as he said, after a
while; and in that case there would have been no great harm done, since
it was still Adam's ardent wish to make her his wife. To be sure, Adam
was deceived--deceived in a way that Arthur would have resented as a
deep wrong if it had been practised on himself. That was a reflection
that marred the consoling prospect. Arthur's cheeks even burned in
mingled shame and irritation at the thought. But what could a man do in
such a dilemma? He was bound in honour to say no word that could injure
Hetty: his first duty was to guard her. He would never have told or
acted a lie on his own account. Good God! What a miserable fool he was
to have brought himself into such a dilemma; and yet, if ever a man had
excuses, he had. (Pity that consequences are determined not by excuses
but by actions!)

Well, the letter must be written; it was the only means that promised
a solution of the difficulty. The tears came into Arthur's eyes as he
thought of Hetty reading it; but it would be almost as hard for him
to write it; he was not doing anything easy to himself; and this
last thought helped him to arrive at a conclusion. He could never
deliberately have taken a step which inflicted pain on another and left
himself at ease. Even a movement of jealousy at the thought of giving up
Hetty to Adam went to convince him that he was making a sacrifice.

When once he had come to this conclusion, he turned Meg round and set
off home again in a canter. The letter should be written the first
thing, and the rest of the day would be filled up with other business:
he should have no time to look behind him. Happily, Irwine and Gawaine
were coming to dinner, and by twelve o'clock the next day he should
have left the Chase miles behind him. There was some security in this
constant occupation against an uncontrollable impulse seizing him to
rush to Hetty and thrust into her hand some mad proposition that would
undo everything. Faster and faster went the sensitive Meg, at every
slight sign from her rider, till the canter had passed into a swift
gallop.

"I thought they said th' young mester war took ill last night," said
sour old John, the groom, at dinner-time in the servants' hall. "He's
been ridin' fit to split the mare i' two this forenoon."

"That's happen one o' the symptims, John," said the facetious coachman.

"Then I wish he war let blood for 't, that's all," said John, grimly.

Adam had been early at the Chase to know how Arthur was, and had been
relieved from all anxiety about the effects of his blow by learning
that he was gone out for a ride. At five o'clock he was punctually there
again, and sent up word of his arrival. In a few minutes Pym came down
with a letter in his hand and gave it to Adam, saying that the captain
was too busy to see him, and had written everything he had to say.
The letter was directed to Adam, but he went out of doors again before
opening it. It contained a sealed enclosure directed to Hetty. On the
inside of the cover Adam read:


"In the enclosed letter I have written everything you wish. I leave it
to you to decide whether you will be doing best to deliver it to Hetty
or to return it to me. Ask yourself once more whether you are not taking
a measure which may pain her more than mere silence.

"There is no need for our seeing each other again now. We shall meet
with better feelings some months hence.

"A.D."


"Perhaps he's i' th' right on 't not to see me," thought Adam. "It's
no use meeting to say more hard words, and it's no use meeting to shake
hands and say we're friends again. We're not friends, an' it's better
not to pretend it. I know forgiveness is a man's duty, but, to my
thinking, that can only mean as you're to give up all thoughts o' taking
revenge: it can never mean as you're t' have your old feelings back
again, for that's not possible. He's not the same man to me, and I can't
feel the same towards him. God help me! I don't know whether I feel the
same towards anybody: I seem as if I'd been measuring my work from a
false line, and had got it all to measure over again."

But the question about delivering the letter to Hetty soon absorbed
Adam's thoughts. Arthur had procured some relief to himself by throwing
the decision on Adam with a warning; and Adam, who was not given to
hesitation, hesitated here. He determined to feel his way--to ascertain
as well as he could what was Hetty's state of mind before he decided on
delivering the letter.



Chapter XXX

The Delivery of the Letter


THE next Sunday Adam joined the Poysers on their way out of church,
hoping for an invitation to go home with them. He had the letter in
his pocket, and was anxious to have an opportunity of talking to Hetty
alone. He could not see her face at church, for she had changed her
seat, and when he came up to her to shake hands, her manner was doubtful
and constrained. He expected this, for it was the first time she had
met him since she had been aware that he had seen her with Arthur in the
Grove.

"Come, you'll go on with us, Adam," Mr. Poyser said when they reached
the turning; and as soon as they were in the fields Adam ventured to
offer his arm to Hetty. The children soon gave them an opportunity of
lingering behind a little, and then Adam said:

"Will you contrive for me to walk out in the garden a bit with you this
evening, if it keeps fine, Hetty? I've something partic'lar to talk to
you about."

Hetty said, "Very well." She was really as anxious as Adam was that she
should have some private talk with him. She wondered what he thought of
her and Arthur. He must have seen them kissing, she knew, but she had
no conception of the scene that had taken place between Arthur and Adam.
Her first feeling had been that Adam would be very angry with her, and
perhaps would tell her aunt and uncle, but it never entered her mind
that he would dare to say anything to Captain Donnithorne. It was a
relief to her that he behaved so kindly to her to-day, and wanted to
speak to her alone, for she had trembled when she found he was going
home with them lest he should mean "to tell." But, now he wanted to talk
to her by herself, she should learn what he thought and what he meant to
do. She felt a certain confidence that she could persuade him not to
do anything she did not want him to do; she could perhaps even make him
believe that she didn't care for Arthur; and as long as Adam thought
there was any hope of her having him, he would do just what she liked,
she knew. Besides, she MUST go on seeming to encourage Adam, lest her
uncle and aunt should be angry and suspect her of having some secret
lover.

Hetty's little brain was busy with this combination as she hung on
Adam's arm and said "yes" or "no" to some slight observations of his
about the many hawthorn-berries there would be for the birds this
next winter, and the low-hanging clouds that would hardly hold up till
morning. And when they rejoined her aunt and uncle, she could pursue her
thoughts without interruption, for Mr. Poyser held that though a young
man might like to have the woman he was courting on his arm, he would
nevertheless be glad of a little reasonable talk about business the
while; and, for his own part, he was curious to heal the most recent
news about the Chase Farm. So, through the rest of the walk, he claimed
Adam's conversation for himself, and Hetty laid her small plots and
imagined her little scenes of cunning blandishment, as she walked along
by the hedgerows on honest Adam's arm, quite as well as if she had been
an elegantly clad coquette alone in her boudoir. For if a country beauty
in clumsy shoes be only shallow-hearted enough, it is astonishing how
closely her mental processes may resemble those of a lady in society
and crinoline, who applies her refined intellect to the problem of
committing indiscretions without compromising herself. Perhaps the
resemblance was not much the less because Hetty felt very unhappy all
the while. The parting with Arthur was a double pain to her--mingling
with the tumult of passion and vanity there was a dim undefined fear
that the future might shape itself in some way quite unlike her dream.
She clung to the comforting hopeful words Arthur had uttered in their
last meeting--"I shall come again at Christmas, and then we will see
what can be done." She clung to the belief that he was so fond of
her, he would never be happy without her; and she still hugged her
secret--that a great gentleman loved her--with gratified pride, as a
superiority over all the girls she knew. But the uncertainty of the
future, the possibilities to which she could give no shape, began to
press upon her like the invisible weight of air; she was alone on her
little island of dreams, and all around her was the dark unknown water
where Arthur was gone. She could gather no elation of spirits now by
looking forward, but only by looking backward to build confidence on
past words and caresses. But occasionally, since Thursday evening, her
dim anxieties had been almost lost behind the more definite fear that
Adam might betray what he knew to her uncle and aunt, and his sudden
proposition to talk with her alone had set her thoughts to work in a
new way. She was eager not to lose this evening's opportunity; and after
tea, when the boys were going into the garden and Totty begged to go
with them, Hetty said, with an alacrity that surprised Mrs. Poyser,
"I'll go with her, Aunt."

It did not seem at all surprising that Adam said he would go too,
and soon he and Hetty were left alone together on the walk by the
filbert-trees, while the boys were busy elsewhere gathering the large
unripe nuts to play at "cob-nut" with, and Totty was watching them with
a puppylike air of contemplation. It was but a short time--hardly two
months--since Adam had had his mind filled with delicious hopes as he
stood by Hetty's side un this garden. The remembrance of that scene had
often been with him since Thursday evening: the sunlight through
the apple-tree boughs, the red bunches, Hetty's sweet blush. It came
importunately now, on this sad evening, with the low-hanging clouds, but
he tried to suppress it, lest some emotion should impel him to say more
than was needful for Hetty's sake.

"After what I saw on Thursday night, Hetty," he began, "you won't think
me making too free in what I'm going to say. If you was being courted by
any man as 'ud make you his wife, and I'd known you was fond of him and
meant to have him, I should have no right to speak a word to you about
it; but when I see you're being made love to by a gentleman as can never
marry you, and doesna think o' marrying you, I feel bound t' interfere
for you. I can't speak about it to them as are i' the place o' your
parents, for that might bring worse trouble than's needful."

Adam's words relieved one of Hetty's fears, but they also carried a
meaning which sickened her with a strengthened foreboding. She was pale
and trembling, and yet she would have angrily contradicted Adam, if she
had dared to betray her feelings. But she was silent.

"You're so young, you know, Hetty," he went on, almost tenderly, "and y'
haven't seen much o' what goes on in the world. It's right for me to
do what I can to save you from getting into trouble for want o' your
knowing where you're being led to. If anybody besides me knew what I
know about your meeting a gentleman and having fine presents from him,
they'd speak light on you, and you'd lose your character. And besides
that, you'll have to suffer in your feelings, wi' giving your love to
a man as can never marry you, so as he might take care of you all your
life."

Adam paused and looked at Hetty, who was plucking the leaves from the
filbert-trees and tearing them up in her hand. Her little plans and
preconcerted speeches had all forsaken her, like an ill-learnt lesson,
under the terrible agitation produced by Adam's words. There was a cruel
force in their calm certainty which threatened to grapple and crush her
flimsy hopes and fancies. She wanted to resist them--she wanted to throw
them off with angry contradiction--but the determination to conceal what
she felt still governed her. It was nothing more than a blind prompting
now, for she was unable to calculate the effect of her words.

"You've no right to say as I love him," she said, faintly, but
impetuously, plucking another rough leaf and tearing it up. She was very
beautiful in her paleness and agitation, with her dark childish eyes
dilated and her breath shorter than usual. Adam's heart yearned over her
as he looked at her. Ah, if he could but comfort her, and soothe her,
and save her from this pain; if he had but some sort of strength that
would enable him to rescue her poor troubled mind, as he would have
rescued her body in the face of all danger!

"I doubt it must be so, Hetty," he said, tenderly; "for I canna believe
you'd let any man kiss you by yourselves, and give you a gold box with
his hair, and go a-walking i' the Grove to meet him, if you didna love
him. I'm not blaming you, for I know it 'ud begin by little and little,
till at last you'd not be able to throw it off. It's him I blame for
stealing your love i' that way, when he knew he could never make you
the right amends. He's been trifling with you, and making a plaything of
you, and caring nothing about you as a man ought to care."

"Yes, he does care for me; I know better nor you," Hetty burst out.
Everything was forgotten but the pain and anger she felt at Adam's
words.

"Nay, Hetty," said Adam, "if he'd cared for you rightly, he'd never
ha' behaved so. He told me himself he meant nothing by his kissing and
presents, and he wanted to make me believe as you thought light of 'em
too. But I know better nor that. I can't help thinking as you've been
trusting to his loving you well enough to marry you, for all he's a
gentleman. And that's why I must speak to you about it, Hetty, for
fear you should be deceiving yourself. It's never entered his head the
thought o' marrying you."

"How do you know? How durst you say so?" said Hetty, pausing in her walk
and trembling. The terrible decision of Adam's tone shook her with fear.
She had no presence of mind left for the reflection that Arthur would
have his reasons for not telling the truth to Adam. Her words and look
were enough to determine Adam: he must give her the letter.

"Perhaps you can't believe me, Hetty, because you think too well of
him--because you think he loves you better than he does. But I've got
a letter i' my pocket, as he wrote himself for me to give you. I've not
read the letter, but he says he's told you the truth in it. But before
I give you the letter, consider, Hetty, and don't let it take too much
hold on you. It wouldna ha' been good for you if he'd wanted to do such
a mad thing as marry you: it 'ud ha' led to no happiness i' th' end."

Hetty said nothing; she felt a revival of hope at the mention of a
letter which Adam had not read. There would be something quite different
in it from what he thought.

Adam took out the letter, but he held it in his hand still, while he
said, in a tone of tender entreaty, "Don't you bear me ill will, Hetty,
because I'm the means o' bringing you this pain. God knows I'd ha' borne
a good deal worse for the sake o' sparing it you. And think--there's
nobody but me knows about this, and I'll take care of you as if I was
your brother. You're the same as ever to me, for I don't believe you've
done any wrong knowingly."

Hetty had laid her hand on the letter, but Adam did not loose it till
he had done speaking. She took no notice of what he said--she had not
listened; but when he loosed the letter, she put it into her pocket,
without opening it, and then began to walk more quickly, as if she
wanted to go in.

"You're in the right not to read it just yet," said Adam. "Read it when
you're by yourself. But stay out a little bit longer, and let us call
the children: you look so white and ill, your aunt may take notice of
it."

Hetty heard the warning. It recalled to her the necessity of rallying
her native powers of concealment, which had half given way under the
shock of Adam's words. And she had the letter in her pocket: she was
sure there was comfort in that letter in spite of Adam. She ran to find
Totty, and soon reappeared with recovered colour, leading Totty, who was
making a sour face because she had been obliged to throw away an unripe
apple that she had set her small teeth in.

"Hegh, Totty," said Adam, "come and ride on my shoulder--ever so
high--you'll touch the tops o' the trees."

What little child ever refused to be comforted by that glorious sense of
being seized strongly and swung upward? I don't believe Ganymede cried
when the eagle carried him away, and perhaps deposited him on Jove's
shoulder at the end. Totty smiled down complacently from her secure
height, and pleasant was the sight to the mother's eyes, as she stood at
the house door and saw Adam coming with his small burden.

"Bless your sweet face, my pet," she said, the mother's strong love
filling her keen eyes with mildness, as Totty leaned forward and put
out her arms. She had no eyes for Hetty at that moment, and only said,
without looking at her, "You go and draw some ale, Hetty; the gells are
both at the cheese."

After the ale had been drawn and her uncle's pipe lighted, there was
Totty to be taken to bed, and brought down again in her night-gown
because she would cry instead of going to sleep. Then there was supper
to be got ready, and Hetty must be continually in the way to give help.
Adam stayed till he knew Mrs. Poyser expected him to go, engaging her
and her husband in talk as constantly as he could, for the sake of
leaving Hetty more at ease. He lingered, because he wanted to see her
safely through that evening, and he was delighted to find how much
self-command she showed. He knew she had not had time to read the
letter, but he did not know she was buoyed up by a secret hope that the
letter would contradict everything he had said. It was hard work for him
to leave her--hard to think that he should not know for days how she was
bearing her trouble. But he must go at last, and all he could do was
to press her hand gently as he said "Good-bye," and hope she would take
that as a sign that if his love could ever be a refuge for her, it was
there the same as ever. How busy his thoughts were, as he walked home,
in devising pitying excuses for her folly, in referring all her weakness
to the sweet lovingness of her nature, in blaming Arthur, with less and
less inclination to admit that his conduct might be extenuated too! His
exasperation at Hetty's suffering--and also at the sense that she was
possibly thrust for ever out of his own reach--deafened him to any
plea for the miscalled friend who had wrought this misery. Adam was a
clear-sighted, fair-minded man--a fine fellow, indeed, morally as well
as physically. But if Aristides the Just was ever in love and jealous,
he was at that moment not perfectly magnanimous. And I cannot pretend
that Adam, in these painful days, felt nothing but righteous indignation
and loving pity. He was bitterly jealous, and in proportion as his love
made him indulgent in his judgment of Hetty, the bitterness found a vent
in his feeling towards Arthur.

"Her head was allays likely to be turned," he thought, "when a
gentleman, with his fine manners, and fine clothes, and his white hands,
and that way o' talking gentlefolks have, came about her, making up to
her in a bold way, as a man couldn't do that was only her equal; and
it's much if she'll ever like a common man now." He could not help
drawing his own hands out of his pocket and looking at them--at the hard
palms and the broken finger-nails. "I'm a roughish fellow, altogether; I
don't know, now I come to think on't, what there is much for a woman to
like about me; and yet I might ha' got another wife easy enough, if
I hadn't set my heart on her. But it's little matter what other women
think about me, if she can't love me. She might ha' loved me, perhaps,
as likely as any other man--there's nobody hereabouts as I'm afraid of,
if he hadn't come between us; but now I shall belike be hateful to her
because I'm so different to him. And yet there's no telling--she may
turn round the other way, when she finds he's made light of her all the
while. She may come to feel the vally of a man as 'ud be thankful to be
bound to her all his life. But I must put up with it whichever way it
is--I've only to be thankful it's been no worse. I am not th' only man
that's got to do without much happiness i' this life. There's many a
good bit o' work done with a bad heart. It's God's will, and that's
enough for us: we shouldn't know better how things ought to be than He
does, I reckon, if we was to spend our lives i' puzzling. But it 'ud ha'
gone near to spoil my work for me, if I'd seen her brought to sorrow and
shame, and through the man as I've always been proud to think on. Since
I've been spared that, I've no right to grumble. When a man's got his
limbs whole, he can bear a smart cut or two."

As Adam was getting over a stile at this point in his reflections, he
perceived a man walking along the field before him. He knew it was Seth,
returning from an evening preaching, and made haste to overtake him.

"I thought thee'dst be at home before me," he said, as Seth turned round
to wait for him, "for I'm later than usual to-night."

"Well, I'm later too, for I got into talk, after meeting, with John
Barnes, who has lately professed himself in a state of perfection,
and I'd a question to ask him about his experience. It's one o' them
subjects that lead you further than y' expect--they don't lie along the
straight road."

They walked along together in silence two or three minutes. Adam was not
inclined to enter into the subtleties of religious experience, but he
was inclined to interchange a word or two of brotherly affection and
confidence with Seth. That was a rare impulse in him, much as the
brothers loved each other. They hardly ever spoke of personal matters,
or uttered more than an allusion to their family troubles. Adam was
by nature reserved in all matters of feeling, and Seth felt a certain
timidity towards his more practical brother.

"Seth, lad," Adam said, putting his arm on his brother's shoulder, "hast
heard anything from Dinah Morris since she went away?"

"Yes," said Seth. "She told me I might write her word after a while, how
we went on, and how mother bore up under her trouble. So I wrote to her
a fortnight ago, and told her about thee having a new employment, and
how Mother was more contented; and last Wednesday, when I called at the
post at Treddles'on, I found a letter from her. I think thee'dst perhaps
like to read it, but I didna say anything about it because thee'st
seemed so full of other things. It's quite easy t' read--she writes
wonderful for a woman."

Seth had drawn the letter from his pocket and held it out to Adam, who
said, as he took it, "Aye, lad, I've got a tough load to carry just
now--thee mustna take it ill if I'm a bit silenter and crustier nor
usual. Trouble doesna make me care the less for thee. I know we shall
stick together to the last."

"I take nought ill o' thee, Adam. I know well enough what it means if
thee't a bit short wi' me now and then."

"There's Mother opening the door to look out for us," said Adam, as they
mounted the slope. "She's been sitting i' the dark as usual. Well, Gyp,
well, art glad to see me?"

Lisbeth went in again quickly and lighted a candle, for she had heard
the welcome rustling of footsteps on the grass, before Gyp's joyful
bark.

"Eh, my lads! Th' hours war ne'er so long sin' I war born as they'n been
this blessed Sunday night. What can ye both ha' been doin' till this
time?"

"Thee shouldstna sit i' the dark, Mother," said Adam; "that makes the
time seem longer."

"Eh, what am I to do wi' burnin' candle of a Sunday, when there's on'y
me an' it's sin to do a bit o' knittin'? The daylight's long enough
for me to stare i' the booke as I canna read. It 'ud be a fine way o'
shortenin' the time, to make it waste the good candle. But which on
you's for ha'in' supper? Ye mun ayther be clemmed or full, I should
think, seein' what time o' night it is."

"I'm hungry, Mother," said Seth, seating himself at the little table,
which had been spread ever since it was light.

"I've had my supper," said Adam. "Here, Gyp," he added, taking some cold
potato from the table and rubbing the rough grey head that looked up
towards him.

"Thee needstna be gi'in' th' dog," said Lisbeth; "I'n fed him well
a'ready. I'm not like to forget him, I reckon, when he's all o' thee I
can get sight on."

"Come, then, Gyp," said Adam, "we'll go to bed. Good-night, Mother; I'm
very tired."

"What ails him, dost know?" Lisbeth said to Seth, when Adam was gone
upstairs. "He's like as if he was struck for death this day or two--he's
so cast down. I found him i' the shop this forenoon, arter thee wast
gone, a-sittin' an' doin' nothin'--not so much as a booke afore him."

"He's a deal o' work upon him just now, Mother," said Seth, "and I think
he's a bit troubled in his mind. Don't you take notice of it, because it
hurts him when you do. Be as kind to him as you can, Mother, and don't
say anything to vex him."

"Eh, what dost talk o' my vexin' him? An' what am I like to be but kind?
I'll ma' him a kettle-cake for breakfast i' the mornin'."

Adam, meanwhile, was reading Dinah's letter by the light of his dip
candle.


DEAR BROTHER SETH--Your letter lay three days beyond my knowing of it
at the post, for I had not money enough by me to pay the carriage, this
being a time of great need and sickness here, with the rains that have
fallen, as if the windows of heaven were opened again; and to lay
by money, from day to day, in such a time, when there are so many in
present need of all things, would be a want of trust like the laying
up of the manna. I speak of this, because I would not have you think me
slow to answer, or that I had small joy in your rejoicing at the worldly
good that has befallen your brother Adam. The honour and love you bear
him is nothing but meet, for God has given him great gifts, and he uses
them as the patriarch Joseph did, who, when he was exalted to a place of
power and trust, yet yearned with tenderness towards his parent and his
younger brother.

"My heart is knit to your aged mother since it was granted me to be near
her in the day of trouble. Speak to her of me, and tell her I often bear
her in my thoughts at evening time, when I am sitting in the dim light
as I did with her, and we held one another's hands, and I spoke the
words of comfort that were given to me. Ah, that is a blessed time,
isn't it, Seth, when the outward light is fading, and the body is a
little wearied with its work and its labour. Then the inward light
shines the brighter, and we have a deeper sense of resting on the Divine
strength. I sit on my chair in the dark room and close my eyes, and it
is as if I was out of the body and could feel no want for evermore. For
then, the very hardship, and the sorrow, and the blindness, and the sin
I have beheld and been ready to weep over--yea, all the anguish of the
children of men, which sometimes wraps me round like sudden darkness--I
can bear with a willing pain, as if I was sharing the Redeemer's cross.
For I feel it, I feel it--infinite love is suffering too--yea, in the
fulness of knowledge it suffers, it yearns, it mourns; and that is a
blind self-seeking which wants to be freed from the sorrow wherewith
the whole creation groaneth and travaileth. Surely it is not true
blessedness to be free from sorrow, while there is sorrow and sin in the
world: sorrow is then a part of love, and love does not seek to throw it
off. It is not the spirit only that tells me this--I see it in the whole
work and word of the Gospel. Is there not pleading in heaven? Is not the
Man of Sorrows there in that crucified body wherewith he ascended? And
is He not one with the Infinite Love itself--as our love is one with our
sorrow?

"These thoughts have been much borne in on me of late, and I have seen
with new clearness the meaning of those words, 'If any man love me, let
him take up my cross.' I have heard this enlarged on as if it meant the
troubles and persecutions we bring on ourselves by confessing Jesus. But
surely that is a narrow thought. The true cross of the Redeemer was the
sin and sorrow of this world--that was what lay heavy on his heart--and
that is the cross we shall share with him, that is the cup we must drink
of with him, if we would have any part in that Divine Love which is one
with his sorrow.

"In my outward lot, which you ask about, I have all things and abound. I
have had constant work in the mill, though some of the other hands have
been turned off for a time, and my body is greatly strengthened, so that
I feel little weariness after long walking and speaking. What you say
about staying in your own country with your mother and brother shows me
that you have a true guidance; your lot is appointed there by a clear
showing, and to seek a greater blessing elsewhere would be like laying a
false offering on the altar and expecting the fire from heaven to kindle
it. My work and my joy are here among the hills, and I sometimes think
I cling too much to my life among the people here, and should be
rebellious if I was called away.

"I was thankful for your tidings about the dear friends at the Hall
Farm, for though I sent them a letter, by my aunt's desire, after I came
back from my sojourn among them, I have had no word from them. My
aunt has not the pen of a ready writer, and the work of the house is
sufficient for the day, for she is weak in body. My heart cleaves to her
and her children as the nearest of all to me in the flesh--yea, and to
all in that house. I am carried away to them continually in my sleep,
and often in the midst of work, and even of speech, the thought of them
is borne in on me as if they were in need and trouble, which yet is dark
to me. There may be some leading here; but I wait to be taught. You say
they are all well.

"We shall see each other again in the body, I trust, though, it may be,
not for a long while; for the brethren and sisters at Leeds are desirous
to have me for a short space among them, when I have a door opened me
again to leave Snowfield.

"Farewell, dear brother--and yet not farewell. For those children of
God whom it has been granted to see each other face to face, and to
hold communion together, and to feel the same spirit working in both can
never more be sundered though the hills may lie between. For their souls
are enlarged for evermore by that union, and they bear one another about
in their thoughts continually as it were a new strength.--Your faithful
Sister and fellow-worker in Christ,

"DINAH MORRIS."


"I have not skill to write the words so small as you do and my pen moves
slow. And so I am straitened, and say but little of what is in my mind.
Greet your mother for me with a kiss. She asked me to kiss her twice
when we parted."


Adam had refolded the letter, and was sitting meditatively with his head
resting on his arm at the head of the bed, when Seth came upstairs.

"Hast read the letter?" said Seth.

"Yes," said Adam. "I don't know what I should ha' thought of her and her
letter if I'd never seen her: I daresay I should ha' thought a preaching
woman hateful. But she's one as makes everything seem right she says
and does, and I seemed to see her and hear her speaking when I read the
letter. It's wonderful how I remember her looks and her voice. She'd
make thee rare and happy, Seth; she's just the woman for thee."

"It's no use thinking o' that," said Seth, despondingly. "She spoke so
firm, and she's not the woman to say one thing and mean another."

"Nay, but her feelings may grow different. A woman may get to love by
degrees--the best fire dosna flare up the soonest. I'd have thee go and
see her by and by: I'd make it convenient for thee to be away three
or four days, and it 'ud be no walk for thee--only between twenty and
thirty mile."

"I should like to see her again, whether or no, if she wouldna be
displeased with me for going," said Seth.

"She'll be none displeased," said Adam emphatically, getting up and
throwing off his coat. "It might be a great happiness to us all if she'd
have thee, for mother took to her so wonderful and seemed so contented
to be with her."

"Aye," said Seth, rather timidly, "and Dinah's fond o' Hetty too; she
thinks a deal about her."

Adam made no reply to that, and no other word but "good-night" passed
between them.



Chapter XXXI

In Hetty's Bed-Chamber


IT was no longer light enough to go to bed without a candle, even in
Mrs. Poyser's early household, and Hetty carried one with her as she
went up at last to her bedroom soon after Adam was gone, and bolted the
door behind her.

Now she would read her letter. It must--it must have comfort in it. How
was Adam to know the truth? It was always likely he should say what he
did say.

She set down the candle and took out the letter. It had a faint scent of
roses, which made her feel as if Arthur were close to her. She put it to
her lips, and a rush of remembered sensations for a moment or two swept
away all fear. But her heart began to flutter strangely, and her hands
to tremble as she broke the seal. She read slowly; it was not easy for
her to read a gentleman's handwriting, though Arthur had taken pains to
write plainly.


"DEAREST HETTY--I have spoken truly when I have said that I loved you,
and I shall never forget our love. I shall be your true friend as long
as life lasts, and I hope to prove this to you in many ways. If I say
anything to pain you in this letter, do not believe it is for want of
love and tenderness towards you, for there is nothing I would not do
for you, if I knew it to be really for your happiness. I cannot bear to
think of my little Hetty shedding tears when I am not there to kiss them
away; and if I followed only my own inclinations, I should be with her
at this moment instead of writing. It is very hard for me to part from
her--harder still for me to write words which may seem unkind, though
they spring from the truest kindness.

"Dear, dear Hetty, sweet as our love has been to me, sweet as it would
be to me for you to love me always, I feel that it would have been
better for us both if we had never had that happiness, and that it is
my duty to ask you to love me and care for me as little as you can. The
fault has all been mine, for though I have been unable to resist the
longing to be near you, I have felt all the while that your affection
for me might cause you grief. I ought to have resisted my feelings. I
should have done so, if I had been a better fellow than I am; but now,
since the past cannot be altered, I am bound to save you from any evil
that I have power to prevent. And I feel it would be a great evil for
you if your affections continued so fixed on me that you could think of
no other man who might be able to make you happier by his love than I
ever can, and if you continued to look towards something in the future
which cannot possibly happen. For, dear Hetty, if I were to do what you
one day spoke of, and make you my wife, I should do what you yourself
would come to feel was for your misery instead of your welfare. I know
you can never be happy except by marrying a man in your own station; and
if I were to marry you now, I should only be adding to any wrong I have
done, besides offending against my duty in the other relations of life.
You know nothing, dear Hetty, of the world in which I must always live,
and you would soon begin to dislike me, because there would be so little
in which we should be alike.

"And since I cannot marry you, we must part--we must try not to feel
like lovers any more. I am miserable while I say this, but nothing else
can be. Be angry with me, my sweet one, I deserve it; but do not believe
that I shall not always care for you--always be grateful to you--always
remember my Hetty; and if any trouble should come that we do not now
foresee, trust in me to do everything that lies in my power.

"I have told you where you are to direct a letter to, if you want to
write, but I put it down below lest you should have forgotten. Do not
write unless there is something I can really do for you; for, dear
Hetty, we must try to think of each other as little as we can. Forgive
me, and try to forget everything about me, except that I shall be, as
long as I live, your affectionate friend,

"ARTHUR DONNITHORNE."


Slowly Hetty had read this letter; and when she looked up from it there
was the reflection of a blanched face in the old dim glass--a white
marble face with rounded childish forms, but with something sadder than
a child's pain in it. Hetty did not see the face--she saw nothing--she
only felt that she was cold and sick and trembling. The letter shook and
rustled in her hand. She laid it down. It was a horrible sensation--this
cold and trembling. It swept away the very ideas that produced it, and
Hetty got up to reach a warm cloak from her clothes-press, wrapped it
round her, and sat as if she were thinking of nothing but getting warm.
Presently she took up the letter with a firmer hand, and began to read
it through again. The tears came this time--great rushing tears that
blinded her and blotched the paper. She felt nothing but that Arthur was
cruel--cruel to write so, cruel not to marry her. Reasons why he could
not marry her had no existence for her mind; how could she believe in
any misery that could come to her from the fulfilment of all she had
been longing for and dreaming of? She had not the ideas that could make
up the notion of that misery.

As she threw down the letter again, she caught sight of her face in the
glass; it was reddened now, and wet with tears; it was almost like a
companion that she might complain to--that would pity her. She leaned
forward on her elbows, and looked into those dark overflooding eyes and
at the quivering mouth, and saw how the tears came thicker and thicker,
and how the mouth became convulsed with sobs.

The shattering of all her little dream-world, the crushing blow on
her new-born passion, afflicted her pleasure-craving nature with an
overpowering pain that annihilated all impulse to resistance, and
suspended her anger. She sat sobbing till the candle went out, and then,
wearied, aching, stupefied with crying, threw herself on the bed without
undressing and went to sleep.

There was a feeble dawn in the room when Hetty awoke, a little after
four o'clock, with a sense of dull misery, the cause of which broke upon
her gradually as she began to discern the objects round her in the dim
light. And then came the frightening thought that she had to conceal her
misery as well as to bear it, in this dreary daylight that was coming.
She could lie no longer. She got up and went towards the table: there
lay the letter. She opened her treasure-drawer: there lay the ear-rings
and the locket--the signs of all her short happiness--the signs of
the lifelong dreariness that was to follow it. Looking at the little
trinkets which she had once eyed and fingered so fondly as the earnest
of her future paradise of finery, she lived back in the moments when
they had been given to her with such tender caresses, such strangely
pretty words, such glowing looks, which filled her with a bewildering
delicious surprise--they were so much sweeter than she had thought
anything could be. And the Arthur who had spoken to her and looked at
her in this way, who was present with her now--whose arm she felt round
her, his cheek against hers, his very breath upon her--was the cruel,
cruel Arthur who had written that letter, that letter which she snatched
and crushed and then opened again, that she might read it once more. The
half-benumbed mental condition which was the effect of the last night's
violent crying made it necessary to her to look again and see if her
wretched thoughts were actually true--if the letter was really so cruel.
She had to hold it close to the window, else she could not have read it
by the faint light. Yes! It was worse--it was more cruel. She crushed
it up again in anger. She hated the writer of that letter--hated him
for the very reason that she hung upon him with all her love--all the
girlish passion and vanity that made up her love.

She had no tears this morning. She had wept them all away last night,
and now she felt that dry-eyed morning misery, which is worse than the
first shock because it has the future in it as well as the present.
Every morning to come, as far as her imagination could stretch, she
would have to get up and feel that the day would have no joy for her.
For there is no despair so absolute as that which comes with the first
moments of our first great sorrow, when we have not yet known what it is
to have suffered and be healed, to have despaired and to have recovered
hope. As Hetty began languidly to take off the clothes she had worn all
the night, that she might wash herself and brush her hair, she had a
sickening sense that her life would go on in this way. She should always
be doing things she had no pleasure in, getting up to the old tasks of
work, seeing people she cared nothing about, going to church, and to
Treddleston, and to tea with Mrs. Best, and carrying no happy thought
with her. For her short poisonous delights had spoiled for ever all the
little joys that had once made the sweetness of her life--the new frock
ready for Treddleston Fair, the party at Mr. Britton's at Broxton wake,
the beaux that she would say "No" to for a long while, and the prospect
of the wedding that was to come at last when she would have a silk gown
and a great many clothes all at once. These things were all flat and
dreary to her now; everything would be a weariness, and she would carry
about for ever a hopeless thirst and longing.

She paused in the midst of her languid undressing and leaned against the
dark old clothes-press. Her neck and arms were bare, her hair hung down
in delicate rings--and they were just as beautiful as they were that
night two months ago, when she walked up and down this bed-chamber
glowing with vanity and hope. She was not thinking of her neck and arms
now; even her own beauty was indifferent to her. Her eyes wandered sadly
over the dull old chamber, and then looked out vacantly towards the
growing dawn. Did a remembrance of Dinah come across her mind? Of her
foreboding words, which had made her angry? Of Dinah's affectionate
entreaty to think of her as a friend in trouble? No, the impression
had been too slight to recur. Any affection or comfort Dinah could
have given her would have been as indifferent to Hetty this morning as
everything else was except her bruised passion. She was only thinking
she could never stay here and go on with the old life--she could better
bear something quite new than sinking back into the old everyday round.
She would like to run away that very morning, and never see any of the
old faces again. But Hetty's was not a nature to face difficulties--to
dare to loose her hold on the familiar and rush blindly on some unknown
condition. Hers was a luxurious and vain nature--not a passionate
one--and if she were ever to take any violent measure, she must be urged
to it by the desperation of terror. There was not much room for her
thoughts to travel in the narrow circle of her imagination, and she soon
fixed on the one thing she would do to get away from her old life: she
would ask her uncle to let her go to be a lady's maid. Miss Lydia's maid
would help her to get a situation, if she krew Hetty had her uncle's
leave.

When she had thought of this, she fastened up her hair and began to
wash: it seemed more possible to her to go downstairs and try to behave
as usual. She would ask her uncle this very day. On Hetty's blooming
health it would take a great deal of such mental suffering as hers to
leave any deep impress; and when she was dressed as neatly as usual
in her working-dress, with her hair tucked up under her little cap,
an indifferent observer would have been more struck with the young
roundness of her cheek and neck and the darkness of her eyes and
eyelashes than with any signs of sadness about her. But when she took up
the crushed letter and put it in her drawer, that she might lock it out
of sight, hard smarting tears, having no relief in them as the great
drops had that fell last night, forced their way into her eyes. She
wiped them away quickly: she must not cry in the day-time. Nobody should
find out how miserable she was, nobody should know she was disappointed
about anything; and the thought that the eyes of her aunt and uncle
would be upon her gave her the self-command which often accompanies a
great dread. For Hetty looked out from her secret misery towards the
possibility of their ever knowing what had happened, as the sick and
weary prisoner might think of the possible pillory. They would think her
conduct shameful, and shame was torture. That was poor little Hetty's
conscience.

So she locked up her drawer and went away to her early work.

In the evening, when Mr. Poyser was smoking his pipe, and his
good-nature was therefore at its superlative moment, Hetty seized the
opportunity of her aunt's absence to say, "Uncle, I wish you'd let me go
for a lady's maid."

Mr. Poyser took the pipe from his mouth and looked at Hetty in mild
surprise for some moments. She was sewing, and went on with her work
industriously.

"Why, what's put that into your head, my wench?" he said at last, after
he had given one conservative puff.

"I should like it--I should like it better than farm-work."

"Nay, nay; you fancy so because you donna know it, my wench. It wouldn't
be half so good for your health, nor for your luck i' life. I'd like you
to stay wi' us till you've got a good husband: you're my own niece, and
I wouldn't have you go to service, though it was a gentleman's house, as
long as I've got a home for you."

Mr. Poyser paused, and puffed away at his pipe.

"I like the needlework," said Hetty, "and I should get good wages."

"Has your aunt been a bit sharp wi' you?" said Mr. Poyser, not noticing
Hetty's further argument. "You mustna mind that, my wench--she does it
for your good. She wishes you well; an' there isn't many aunts as are no
kin to you 'ud ha' done by you as she has."

"No, it isn't my aunt," said Hetty, "but I should like the work better."

"It was all very well for you to learn the work a bit--an' I gev my
consent to that fast enough, sin' Mrs. Pomfret was willing to teach you.
For if anything was t' happen, it's well to know how to turn your hand
to different sorts o' things. But I niver meant you to go to service, my
wench; my family's ate their own bread and cheese as fur back as anybody
knows, hanna they, Father? You wouldna like your grand-child to take
wage?"

"Na-a-y," said old Martin, with an elongation of the word, meant to make
it bitter as well as negative, while he leaned forward and looked down
on the floor. "But the wench takes arter her mother. I'd hard work t'
hould HER in, an' she married i' spite o' me--a feller wi' on'y two head
o' stock when there should ha' been ten on's farm--she might well die o'
th' inflammation afore she war thirty."

It was seldom the old man made so long a speech, but his son's question
had fallen like a bit of dry fuel on the embers of a long unextinguished
resentment, which had always made the grandfather more indifferent to
Hetty than to his son's children. Her mother's fortune had been spent by
that good-for-nought Sorrel, and Hetty had Sorrel's blood in her veins.

"Poor thing, poor thing!" said Martin the younger, who was sorry to have
provoked this retrospective harshness. "She'd but bad luck. But Hetty's
got as good a chance o' getting a solid, sober husband as any gell i'
this country."

After throwing out this pregnant hint, Mr. Poyser recurred to his pipe
and his silence, looking at Hetty to see if she did not give some sign
of having renounced her ill-advised wish. But instead of that, Hetty,
in spite of herself, began to cry, half out of ill temper at the denial,
half out of the day's repressed sadness.

"Hegh, hegh!" said Mr. Poyser, meaning to check her playfully, "don't
let's have any crying. Crying's for them as ha' got no home, not for
them as want to get rid o' one. What dost think?" he continued to his
wife, who now came back into the house-place, knitting with fierce
rapidity, as if that movement were a necessary function, like the
twittering of a crab's antennae.

"Think? Why, I think we shall have the fowl stole before we are much
older, wi' that gell forgetting to lock the pens up o' nights. What's
the matter now, Hetty? What are you crying at?"

"Why, she's been wanting to go for a lady's maid," said Mr. Poyser. "I
tell her we can do better for her nor that."

"I thought she'd got some maggot in her head, she's gone about wi' her
mouth buttoned up so all day. It's all wi' going so among them servants
at the Chase, as we war fools for letting her. She thinks it 'ud be a
finer life than being wi' them as are akin to her and ha' brought her up
sin' she war no bigger nor Marty. She thinks there's nothing belongs to
being a lady's maid but wearing finer clothes nor she was born to, I'll
be bound. It's what rag she can get to stick on her as she's thinking on
from morning till night, as I often ask her if she wouldn't like to be
the mawkin i' the field, for then she'd be made o' rags inside and out.
I'll never gi' my consent to her going for a lady's maid, while she's
got good friends to take care on her till she's married to somebody
better nor one o' them valets, as is neither a common man nor a
gentleman, an' must live on the fat o' the land, an's like enough to
stick his hands under his coat-tails and expect his wife to work for
him."

"Aye, aye," said Mr. Poyser, "we must have a better husband for her nor
that, and there's better at hand. Come, my wench, give over crying and
get to bed. I'll do better for you nor letting you go for a lady's maid.
Let's hear no more on't."

When Hetty was gone upstairs he said, "I canna make it out as she should
want to go away, for I thought she'd got a mind t' Adam Bede. She's
looked like it o' late."

"Eh, there's no knowing what she's got a liking to, for things take
no more hold on her than if she was a dried pea. I believe that gell,
Molly--as is aggravatin' enough, for the matter o' that--but I believe
she'd care more about leaving us and the children, for all she's been
here but a year come Michaelmas, nor Hetty would. But she's got this
notion o' being a lady's maid wi' going among them servants--we might
ha' known what it 'ud lead to when we let her go to learn the fine work.
But I'll put a stop to it pretty quick."

"Thee'dst be sorry to part wi' her, if it wasn't for her good," said Mr.
Poyser. "She's useful to thee i' the work."

"Sorry? Yes, I'm fonder on her nor she deserves--a little hard-hearted
hussy, wanting to leave us i' that way. I can't ha' had her about me
these seven year, I reckon, and done for her, and taught her everything
wi'out caring about her. An' here I'm having linen spun, an' thinking
all the while it'll make sheeting and table-clothing for her when she's
married, an' she'll live i' the parish wi' us, and never go out of
our sights--like a fool as I am for thinking aught about her, as is no
better nor a cherry wi' a hard stone inside it."

"Nay, nay, thee mustna make much of a trifle," said Mr. Poyser,
soothingly. "She's fond on us, I'll be bound; but she's young, an' gets
things in her head as she can't rightly give account on. Them young
fillies 'ull run away often wi'-ou; knowing why."

Her uncle's answers, however, had had another effect on Hetty besides
that of disappointing her and making her cry. She knew quite well whom
he had in his mind in his allusions to marriage, and to a sober, solid
husband; and when she was in her bedroom again, the possibility of her
marrying Adam presented itself to her in a new light. In a mind where no
strong sympathies are at work, where there is no supreme sense of
right to which the agitated nature can cling and steady itself to quiet
endurance, one of the first results of sorrow is a desperate vague
clutching after any deed that will change the actual condition. Poor
Hetty's vision of consequences, at no time more than a narrow fantastic
calculation of her own probable pleasures and pains, was now quite shut
out by reckless irritation under present suffering, and she was ready
for one of those convulsive, motiveless actions by which wretched men
and women leap from a temporary sorrow into a lifelong misery.

Why should she not marry Adam? She did not care what she did, so that
it made some change in her life. She felt confident that he would still
want to marry her, and any further thought about Adam's happiness in the
matter had never yet visited her.

"Strange!" perhaps you will say, "this rush of impulse to-wards a course
that might have seemed the most repugnant to her present state of mind,
and in only the second night of her sadness!"

Yes, the actions of a little trivial soul like Hetty's, struggling
amidst the serious sad destinies of a human being, are strange. So are
the motions of a little vessel without ballast tossed about on a stormy
sea. How pretty it looked with its parti-coloured sail in the sunlight,
moored in the quiet bay!

"Let that man bear the loss who loosed it from its moorings."

But that will not save the vessel--the pretty thing that might have been
a lasting joy.



Chapter XXXII

Mrs. Poyser "Has Her Say Out"


THE next Saturday evening there was much excited discussion at the
Donnithorne Arms concerning an incident which had occurred that very
day--no less than a second appearance of the smart man in top-boots said
by some to be a mere farmer in treaty for the Chase Farm, by others to
be the future steward, but by Mr. Casson himself, the personal witness
to the stranger's visit, pronounced contemptuously to be nothing better
than a bailiff, such as Satchell had been before him. No one had thought
of denying Mr. Casson's testimony to the fact that he had seen
the stranger; nevertheless, he proffered various corroborating
circumstances.

"I see him myself," he said; "I see him coming along by the Crab-tree
Meadow on a bald-faced hoss. I'd just been t' hev a pint--it was
half after ten i' the fore-noon, when I hev my pint as reg'lar as the
clock--and I says to Knowles, as druv up with his waggon, 'You'll get
a bit o' barley to-day, Knowles,' I says, 'if you look about you'; and
then I went round by the rick-yard, and towart the Treddles'on road, and
just as I come up by the big ash-tree, I see the man i' top-boots coming
along on a bald-faced hoss--I wish I may never stir if I didn't. And I
stood still till he come up, and I says, 'Good morning, sir,' I says,
for I wanted to hear the turn of his tongue, as I might know whether he
was a this-country man; so I says, 'Good morning, sir: it 'll 'old hup
for the barley this morning, I think. There'll be a bit got hin, if
we've good luck.' And he says, 'Eh, ye may be raight, there's noo
tallin',' he says, and I knowed by that"--here Mr. Casson gave a
wink--"as he didn't come from a hundred mile off. I daresay he'd think
me a hodd talker, as you Loamshire folks allays does hany one as talks
the right language."

"The right language!" said Bartle Massey, contemptuously. "You're about
as near the right language as a pig's squeaking is like a tune played on
a key-bugle."

"Well, I don't know," answered Mr. Casson, with an angry smile. "I
should think a man as has lived among the gentry from a by, is likely to
know what's the right language pretty nigh as well as a schoolmaster."

"Aye, aye, man," said Bartle, with a tone of sarcastic consolation,
"you talk the right language for you. When Mike Holdsworth's goat says
ba-a-a, it's all right--it 'ud be unnatural for it to make any other
noise."

The rest of the party being Loamsnire men, Mr. Casson had the laugh
strongly against him, and wisely fell back on the previous question,
which, far from being exhausted in a single evening, was renewed in
the churchyard, before service, the next day, with the fresh interest
conferred on all news when there is a fresh person to hear it; and
that fresh hearer was Martin Poyser, who, as his wife said, "never
went boozin' with that set at Casson's, a-sittin' soakin' in drink, and
looking as wise as a lot o' cod-fish wi' red faces."

It was probably owing to the conversation she had had with her husband
on their way from church concerning this problematic stranger that
Mrs. Poyser's thoughts immediately reverted to him when, a day or two
afterwards, as she was standing at the house-door with her knitting,
in that eager leisure which came to her when the afternoon cleaning was
done, she saw the old squire enter the yard on his black pony,
followed by John the groom. She always cited it afterwards as a case of
prevision, which really had something more in it than her own remarkable
penetration, that the moment she set eyes on the squire she said to
herself, "I shouldna wonder if he's come about that man as is a-going to
take the Chase Farm, wanting Poyser to do something for him without pay.
But Poyser's a fool if he does."

Something unwonted must clearly be in the wind, for the old squire's
visits to his tenantry were rare; and though Mrs. Poyser had during the
last twelvemonth recited many imaginary speeches, meaning even more than
met the ear, which she was quite determined to make to him the next time
he appeared within the gates of the Hall Farm, the speeches had always
remained imaginary.

"Good-day, Mrs. Poyser," said the old squire, peering at her with his
short-sighted eyes--a mode of looking at her which, as Mrs. Poyser
observed, "allays aggravated me: it was as if you was a insect, and he
was going to dab his finger-nail on you."

However, she said, "Your servant, sir," and curtsied with an air of
perfect deference as she advanced towards him: she was not the woman
to misbehave towards her betters, and fly in the face of the catechism,
without severe provocation.

"Is your husband at home, Mrs. Poyser?"

"Yes, sir; he's only i' the rick-yard. I'll send for him in a minute, if
you'll please to get down and step in."

"Thank you; I will do so. I want to consult him about a little matter;
but you are quite as much concerned in it, if not more. I must have your
opinion too."

"Hetty, run and tell your uncle to come in," said Mrs. Poyser, as they
entered the house, and the old gentleman bowed low in answer to Hetty's
curtsy; while Totty, conscious of a pinafore stained with gooseberry
jam, stood hiding her face against the clock and peeping round
furtively.

"What a fine old kitchen this is!" said Mr. Donnithorne, looking round
admiringly. He always spoke in the same deliberate, well-chiselled,
polite way, whether his words were sugary or venomous. "And you keep it
so exquisitely clean, Mrs. Poyser. I like these premises, do you know,
beyond any on the estate."

"Well, sir, since you're fond of 'em, I should be glad if you'd let a
bit o' repairs be done to 'em, for the boarding's i' that state as we're
like to be eaten up wi' rats and mice; and the cellar, you may stan' up
to your knees i' water in't, if you like to go down; but perhaps you'd
rather believe my words. Won't you please to sit down, sir?"

"Not yet; I must see your dairy. I have not seen it for years, and I
hear on all hands about your fine cheese and butter," said the squire,
looking politely unconscious that there could be any question on which
he and Mrs. Poyser might happen to disagree. "I think I see the door
open, there. You must not be surprised if I cast a covetous eye on your
cream and butter. I don't expect that Mrs. Satchell's cream and butter
will bear comparison with yours."

"I can't say, sir, I'm sure. It's seldom I see other folks's butter,
though there's some on it as one's no need to see--the smell's enough."

"Ah, now this I like," said Mr. Donnithorne, looking round at the damp
temple of cleanliness, but keeping near the door. "I'm sure I should
like my breakfast better if I knew the butter and cream came from this
dairy. Thank you, that really is a pleasant sight. Unfortunately, my
slight tendency to rheumatism makes me afraid of damp: I'll sit down
in your comfortable kitchen. Ah, Poyser, how do you do? In the midst of
business, I see, as usual. I've been looking at your wife's beautiful
dairy--the best manager in the parish, is she not?"

Mr. Poyser had just entered in shirt-sleeves and open waistcoat, with a
face a shade redder than usual, from the exertion of "pitching." As
he stood, red, rotund, and radiant, before the small, wiry, cool old
gentleman, he looked like a prize apple by the side of a withered crab.

"Will you please to take this chair, sir?" he said, lifting his father's
arm-chair forward a little: "you'll find it easy."

"No, thank you, I never sit in easy-chairs," said the old gentleman,
seating himself on a small chair near the door. "Do you know, Mrs.
Poyser--sit down, pray, both of you--I've been far from contented, for
some time, with Mrs. Satchell's dairy management. I think she has not a
good method, as you have."

"Indeed, sir, I can't speak to that," said Mrs. Poyser in a hard voice,
rolling and unrolling her knitting and looking icily out of the window,
as she continued to stand opposite the squire. Poyser might sit down if
he liked, she thought; she wasn't going to sit down, as if she'd give in
to any such smooth-tongued palaver. Mr. Poyser, who looked and felt the
reverse of icy, did sit down in his three-cornered chair.

"And now, Poyser, as Satchell is laid up, I am intending to let the
Chase Farm to a respectable tenant. I'm tired of having a farm on my
own hands--nothing is made the best of in such cases, as you know. A
satisfactory bailiff is hard to find; and I think you and I, Poyser,
and your excellent wife here, can enter into a little arrangement in
consequence, which will be to our mutual advantage."

"Oh," said Mr. Poyser, with a good-natured blankness of imagination as
to the nature of the arrangement.

"If I'm called upon to speak, sir," said Mrs. Poyser, after glancing at
her husband with pity at his softness, "you know better than me; but I
don't see what the Chase Farm is t' us--we've cumber enough wi' our own
farm. Not but what I'm glad to hear o' anybody respectable coming into
the parish; there's some as ha' been brought in as hasn't been looked on
i' that character."

"You're likely to find Mr. Thurle an excellent neighbour, I assure
you--such a one as you will feel glad to have accommodated by the little
plan I'm going to mention, especially as I hope you will find it as much
to your own advantage as his."

"Indeed, sir, if it's anything t' our advantage, it'll be the first
offer o' the sort I've heared on. It's them as take advantage that get
advantage i' this world, I think. Folks have to wait long enough afore
it's brought to 'em."

"The fact is, Poyser," said the squire, ignoring Mrs. Poyser's theory of
worldly prosperity, "there is too much dairy land, and too little plough
land, on the Chase Farm to suit Thurle's purpose--indeed, he will only
take the farm on condition of some change in it: his wife, it appears,
is not a clever dairy-woman, like yours. Now, the plan I'm thinking of
is to effect a little exchange. If you were to have the Hollow Pastures,
you might increase your dairy, which must be so profitable under your
wife's management; and I should request you, Mrs. Poyser, to supply my
house with milk, cream, and butter at the market prices. On the other
hand, Poyser, you might let Thurle have the Lower and Upper Ridges,
which really, with our wet seasons, would be a good riddance for you.
There is much less risk in dairy land than corn land."

Mr. Poyser was leaning forward, with his elbows on his knees, his head
on one side, and his mouth screwed up--apparently absorbed in making the
tips of his fingers meet so as to represent with perfect accuracy the
ribs of a ship. He was much too acute a man not to see through the whole
business, and to foresee perfectly what would be his wife's view of the
subject; but he disliked giving unpleasant answers. Unless it was on a
point of farming practice, he would rather give up than have a quarrel,
any day; and, after all, it mattered more to his wife than to him. So,
after a few moments' silence, he looked up at her and said mildly, "What
dost say?"

Mrs. Poyser had had her eyes fixed on her husband with cold severity
during his silence, but now she turned away her head with a toss, looked
icily at the opposite roof of the cow-shed, and spearing her knitting
together with the loose pin, held it firmly between her clasped hands.

"Say? Why, I say you may do as you like about giving up any o' your
corn-land afore your lease is up, which it won't be for a year come next
Michaelmas, but I'll not consent to take more dairy work into my hands,
either for love or money; and there's nayther love nor money here, as I
can see, on'y other folks's love o' theirselves, and the money as is to
go into other folks's pockets. I know there's them as is born t' own
the land, and them as is born to sweat on't"--here Mrs. Poyser paused
to gasp a little--"and I know it's christened folks's duty to submit to
their betters as fur as flesh and blood 'ull bear it; but I'll not make
a martyr o' myself, and wear myself to skin and bone, and worret
myself as if I was a churn wi' butter a-coming in't, for no landlord in
England, not if he was King George himself."

"No, no, my dear Mrs. Poyser, certainly not," said the squire, still
confident in his own powers of persuasion, "you must not overwork
yourself; but don't you think your work will rather be lessened than
increased in this way? There is so much milk required at the Abbey
that you will have little increase of cheese and butter making from
the addition to your dairy; and I believe selling the milk is the most
profitable way of disposing of dairy produce, is it not?"

"Aye, that's true," said Mr. Poyser, unable to repress an opinion on a
question of farming profits, and forgetting that it was not in this case
a purely abstract question.

"I daresay," said Mrs. Poyser bitterly, turning her head half-way
towards her husband and looking at the vacant arm-chair--"I daresay
it's true for men as sit i' th' chimney-corner and make believe as
everything's cut wi' ins an' outs to fit int' everything else. If you
could make a pudding wi' thinking o' the batter, it 'ud be easy getting
dinner. How do I know whether the milk 'ull be wanted constant? What's
to make me sure as the house won't be put o' board wage afore we're
many months older, and then I may have to lie awake o' nights wi' twenty
gallons o' milk on my mind--and Dingall 'ull take no more butter, let
alone paying for it; and we must fat pigs till we're obliged to beg the
butcher on our knees to buy 'em, and lose half of 'em wi' the measles.
And there's the fetching and carrying, as 'ud be welly half a day's work
for a man an' hoss--that's to be took out o' the profits, I reckon? But
there's folks 'ud hold a sieve under the pump and expect to carry away
the water."

"That difficulty--about the fetching and carrying--you will not have,
Mrs. Poyser," said the squire, who thought that this entrance into
particulars indicated a distant inclination to compromise on Mrs.
Poyser's part. "Bethell will do that regularly with the cart and pony."

"Oh, sir, begging your pardon, I've never been used t' having
gentlefolks's servants coming about my back places, a-making love to
both the gells at once and keeping 'em with their hands on their hips
listening to all manner o' gossip when they should be down on their
knees a-scouring. If we're to go to ruin, it shanna be wi' having our
back kitchen turned into a public."

"Well, Poyser," said the squire, shifting his tactics and looking as if
he thought Mrs. Poyser had suddenly withdrawn from the proceedings and
left the room, "you can turn the Hollows into feeding-land. I can easily
make another arrangement about supplying my house. And I shall not
forget your readiness to accommodate your landlord as well as a
neighbour. I know you will be glad to have your lease renewed for three
years, when the present one expires; otherwise, I daresay Thurle, who
is a man of some capital, would be glad to take both the farms, as they
could be worked so well together. But I don't want to part with an old
tenant like you."

To be thrust out of the discussion in this way would have been enough to
complete Mrs. Poyser's exasperation, even without the final threat.
Her husband, really alarmed at the possibility of their leaving the old
place where he had been bred and born--for he believed the old squire
had small spite enough for anything--was beginning a mild remonstrance
explanatory of the inconvenience he should find in having to buy and
sell more stock, with, "Well, sir, I think as it's rether hard..." when
Mrs. Poyser burst in with the desperate determination to have her say
out this once, though it were to rain notices to quit and the only
shelter were the work-house.

"Then, sir, if I may speak--as, for all I'm a woman, and there's folks
as thinks a woman's fool enough to stan' by an' look on while the men
sign her soul away, I've a right to speak, for I make one quarter o' the
rent, and save another quarter--I say, if Mr. Thurle's so ready to take
farms under you, it's a pity but what he should take this, and see if
he likes to live in a house wi' all the plagues o' Egypt in't--wi'
the cellar full o' water, and frogs and toads hoppin' up the steps by
dozens--and the floors rotten, and the rats and mice gnawing every bit
o' cheese, and runnin' over our heads as we lie i' bed till we expect
'em to eat us up alive--as it's a mercy they hanna eat the children long
ago. I should like to see if there's another tenant besides Poyser as
'ud put up wi' never having a bit o' repairs done till a place tumbles
down--and not then, on'y wi' begging and praying and having to pay
half--and being strung up wi' the rent as it's much if he gets enough
out o' the land to pay, for all he's put his own money into the ground
beforehand. See if you'll get a stranger to lead such a life here as
that: a maggot must be born i' the rotten cheese to like it, I reckon.
You may run away from my words, sir," continued Mrs. Poyser, following
the old squire beyond the door--for after the first moments of stunned
surprise he had got up, and, waving his hand towards her with a smile,
had walked out towards his pony. But it was impossible for him to get
away immediately, for John was walking the pony up and down the yard,
and was some distance from the causeway when his master beckoned.

"You may run away from my words, sir, and you may go spinnin' underhand
ways o' doing us a mischief, for you've got Old Harry to your friend,
though nobody else is, but I tell you for once as we're not dumb
creatures to be abused and made money on by them as ha' got the lash i'
their hands, for want o' knowing how t' undo the tackle. An' if I'm th'
only one as speaks my mind, there's plenty o' the same way o' thinking
i' this parish and the next to 't, for your name's no better than a
brimstone match in everybody's nose--if it isna two-three old folks as
you think o' saving your soul by giving 'em a bit o' flannel and a drop
o' porridge. An' you may be right i' thinking it'll take but little to
save your soul, for it'll be the smallest savin' y' iver made, wi' all
your scrapin'."

There are occasions on which two servant-girls and a waggoner may be a
formidable audience, and as the squire rode away on his black pony, even
the gift of short-sightedness did not prevent him from being aware
that Molly and Nancy and Tim were grinning not far from him. Perhaps he
suspected that sour old John was grinning behind him--which was also
the fact. Meanwhile the bull-dog, the black-and-tan terrier, Alick's
sheep-dog, and the gander hissing at a safe distance from the pony's
heels carried out the idea of Mrs. Poyser's solo in an impressive
quartet.

Mrs. Poyser, however, had no sooner seen the pony move off than she
turned round, gave the two hilarious damsels a look which drove them
into the back kitchen, and unspearing her knitting, began to knit again
with her usual rapidity as she re-entered the house.

"Thee'st done it now," said Mr. Poyser, a little alarmed and uneasy, but
not without some triumphant amusement at his wife's outbreak.

"Yes, I know I've done it," said Mrs. Poyser; "but I've had my say out,
and I shall be th' easier for't all my life. There's no pleasure i'
living if you're to be corked up for ever, and only dribble your mind
out by the sly, like a leaky barrel. I shan't repent saying what I
think, if I live to be as old as th' old squire; and there's little
likelihood--for it seems as if them as aren't wanted here are th' only
folks as aren't wanted i' th' other world."

"But thee wutna like moving from th' old place, this Michaelmas
twelvemonth," said Mr. Poyser, "and going into a strange parish, where
thee know'st nobody. It'll be hard upon us both, and upo' Father too."

"Eh, it's no use worreting; there's plenty o' things may happen between
this and Michaelmas twelvemonth. The captain may be master afore them,
for what we know," said Mrs. Poyser, inclined to take an unusually
hopeful view of an embarrassment which had been brought about by her own
merit and not by other people's fault.

"I'M none for worreting," said Mr. Poyser, rising from his
three-cornered chair and walking slowly towards the door; "but I should
be loath to leave th' old place, and the parish where I was bred and
born, and Father afore me. We should leave our roots behind us, I doubt,
and niver thrive again."



Chapter XXXIII

More Links


THE barley was all carried at last, and the harvest suppers went by
without waiting for the dismal black crop of beans. The apples and
nuts were gathered and stored; the scent of whey departed from the
farm-houses, and the scent of brewing came in its stead. The woods
behind the Chase, and all the hedgerow trees, took on a solemn splendour
under the dark low-hanging skies. Michaelmas was come, with its fragrant
basketfuls of purple damsons, and its paler purple daisies, and its
lads and lasses leaving or seeking service and winding along between
the yellow hedges, with their bundles under their arms. But though
Michaelmas was come, Mr. Thurle, that desirable tenant, did not come to
the Chase Farm, and the old squire, after all, had been obliged to put
in a new bailiff. It was known throughout the two parishes that the
squire's plan had been frustrated because the Poysers had refused to
be "put upon," and Mrs. Poyser's outbreak was discussed in all
the farm-houses with a zest which was only heightened by frequent
repetition. The news that "Bony" was come back from Egypt was
comparatively insipid, and the repulse of the French in Italy was
nothing to Mrs. Poyser's repulse of the old squire. Mr. Irwine had heard
a version of it in every parishioner's house, with the one exception of
the Chase. But since he had always, with marvellous skill, avoided any
quarrel with Mr. Donnithorne, he could not allow himself the pleasure
of laughing at the old gentleman's discomfiture with any one besides his
mother, who declared that if she were rich she should like to allow Mrs.
Poyser a pension for life, and wanted to invite her to the parsonage
that she might hear an account of the scene from Mrs. Poyser's own lips.

"No, no, Mother," said Mr. Irwine; "it was a little bit of irregular
justice on Mrs. Poyser's part, but a magistrate like me must not
countenance irregular justice. There must be no report spread that I
have taken notice of the quarrel, else I shall lose the little good
influence I have over the old man."

"Well, I like that woman even better than her cream-cheeses," said Mrs.
Irwine. "She has the spirit of three men, with that pale face of hers.
And she says such sharp things too."

"Sharp! Yes, her tongue is like a new-set razor. She's quite original
in her talk too; one of those untaught wits that help to stock a country
with proverbs. I told you that capital thing I heard her say about
Craig--that he was like a cock, who thought the sun had risen to hear
him crow. Now that's an AEsop's fable in a sentence."

"But it will be a bad business if the old gentleman turns them out of
the farm next Michaelmas, eh?" said Mrs. Irwine.

"Oh, that must not be; and Poyser is such a good tenant that Donnithorne
is likely to think twice, and digest his spleen rather than turn them
out. But if he should give them notice at Lady Day, Arthur and I must
move heaven and earth to mollify him. Such old parishioners as they are
must not go."

"Ah, there's no knowing what may happen before Lady day," said Mrs.
Irwine. "It struck me on Arthur's birthday that the old man was a little
shaken: he's eighty-three, you know. It's really an unconscionable age.
It's only women who have a right to live as long as that."

"When they've got old-bachelor sons who would be forlorn without them,"
said Mr. Irwine, laughing, and kissing his mother's hand.

Mrs. Poyser, too, met her husband's occasional forebodings of a notice
to quit with "There's no knowing what may happen before Lady day"--one
of those undeniable general propositions which are usually intended to
convey a particular meaning very far from undeniable. But it is really
too hard upon human nature that it should be held a criminal offence to
imagine the death even of the king when he is turned eighty-three. It is
not to be believed that any but the dullest Britons can be good subjects
under that hard condition.

Apart from this foreboding, things went on much as usual in the Poyser
household. Mrs. Poyser thought she noticed a surprising improvement
in Hetty. To be sure, the girl got "closer tempered, and sometimes she
seemed as if there'd be no drawing a word from her with cart-ropes,"
but she thought much less about her dress, and went after the work quite
eagerly, without any telling. And it was wonderful how she never wanted
to go out now--indeed, could hardly be persuaded to go; and she bore
her aunt's putting a stop to her weekly lesson in fine-work at the Chase
without the least grumbling or pouting. It must be, after all, that she
had set her heart on Adam at last, and her sudden freak of wanting to
be a lady's maid must have been caused by some little pique or
misunderstanding between them, which had passed by. For whenever Adam
came to the Hall Farm, Hetty seemed to be in better spirits and to talk
more than at other times, though she was almost sullen when Mr. Craig or
any other admirer happened to pay a visit there.

Adam himself watched her at first with trembling anxiety, which gave
way to surprise and delicious hope. Five days after delivering Arthur's
letter, he had ventured to go to the Hall Farm again--not without
dread lest the sight of him might be painful to her. She was not in the
house-place when he entered, and he sat talking to Mr. and Mrs. Poyser
for a few minutes with a heavy fear on his heart that they might
presently tell him Hetty was ill. But by and by there came a light step
that he knew, and when Mrs. Poyser said, "Come, Hetty, where have you
been?" Adam was obliged to turn round, though he was afraid to see the
changed look there must be in her face. He almost started when he saw
her smiling as if she were pleased to see him--looking the same as ever
at a first glance, only that she had her cap on, which he had never seen
her in before when he came of an evening. Still, when he looked at
her again and again as she moved about or sat at her work, there was a
change: the cheeks were as pink as ever, and she smiled as much as she
had ever done of late, but there was something different in her eyes,
in the expression of her face, in all her movements, Adam
thought--something harder, older, less child-like. "Poor thing!" he
said to himself, "that's allays likely. It's because she's had her first
heartache. But she's got a spirit to bear up under it. Thank God for
that."

As the weeks went by, and he saw her always looking pleased to see
him--turning up her lovely face towards him as if she meant him to
understand that she was glad for him to come--and going about her work
in the same equable way, making no sign of sorrow, he began to believe
that her feeling towards Arthur must have been much slighter than he had
imagined in his first indignation and alarm, and that she had been able
to think of her girlish fancy that Arthur was in love with her and would
marry her as a folly of which she was timely cured. And it perhaps was,
as he had sometimes in his more cheerful moments hoped it would be--her
heart was really turning with all the more warmth towards the man she
knew to have a serious love for her.

Possibly you think that Adam was not at all sagacious in his
interpretations, and that it was altogether extremely unbecoming in a
sensible man to behave as he did--falling in love with a girl who really
had nothing more than her beauty to recommend her, attributing imaginary
virtues to her, and even condescending to cleave to her after she had
fallen in love with another man, waiting for her kind looks as a patient
trembling dog waits for his master's eye to be turned upon him. But in
so complex a thing as human nature, we must consider, it is hard to find
rules without exceptions. Of course, I know that, as a rule, sensible
men fall in love with the most sensible women of their acquaintance,
see through all the pretty deceits of coquettish beauty, never imagine
themselves loved when they are not loved, cease loving on all
proper occasions, and marry the woman most fitted for them in every
respect--indeed, so as to compel the approbation of all the maiden
ladies in their neighbourhood. But even to this rule an exception will
occur now and then in the lapse of centuries, and my friend Adam was
one. For my own part, however, I respect him none the less--nay, I think
the deep love he had for that sweet, rounded, blossom-like, dark-eyed
Hetty, of whose inward self he was really very ignorant, came out of the
very strength of his nature and not out of any inconsistent weakness. Is
it any weakness, pray, to be wrought on by exquisite music? To feel its
wondrous harmonies searching the subtlest windings of your soul, the
delicate fibres of life where no memory can penetrate, and binding
together your whole being past and present in one unspeakable vibration,
melting you in one moment with all the tenderness, all the love that has
been scattered through the toilsome years, concentrating in one
emotion of heroic courage or resignation all the hard-learnt lessons of
self-renouncing sympathy, blending your present joy with past sorrow and
your present sorrow with all your past joy? If not, then neither is it
a weakness to be so wrought upon by the exquisite curves of a woman's
cheek and neck and arms, by the liquid depths of her beseeching eyes, or
the sweet childish pout of her lips. For the beauty of a lovely woman is
like music: what can one say more? Beauty has an expression beyond and
far above the one woman's soul that it clothes, as the words of genius
have a wider meaning than the thought that prompted them. It is more
than a woman's love that moves us in a woman's eyes--it seems to be a
far-off mighty love that has come near to us, and made speech for itself
there; the rounded neck, the dimpled arm, move us by something more
than their prettiness--by their close kinship with all we have known
of tenderness and peace. The noblest nature sees the most of this
impersonal expression in beauty (it is needless to say that there are
gentlemen with whiskers dyed and undyed who see none of it whatever),
and for this reason, the noblest nature is often the most blinded to
the character of the one woman's soul that the beauty clothes. Whence, I
fear, the tragedy of human life is likely to continue for a long time
to come, in spite of mental philosophers who are ready with the best
receipts for avoiding all mistakes of the kind.

Our good Adam had no fine words into which he could put his feeling for
Hetty: he could not disguise mystery in this way with the appearance of
knowledge; he called his love frankly a mystery, as you have heard him.
He only knew that the sight and memory of her moved him deeply, touching
the spring of all love and tenderness, all faith and courage within
him. How could he imagine narrowness, selfishness, hardness in her?
He created the mind he believed in out of his own, which was large,
unselfish, tender.

The hopes he felt about Hetty softened a little his feeling towards
Arthur. Surely his attentions to Hetty must have been of a slight kind;
they were altogether wrong, and such as no man in Arthur's position
ought to have allowed himself, but they must have had an air of
playfulness about them, which had probably blinded him to their danger
and had prevented them from laying any strong hold on Hetty's heart. As
the new promise of happiness rose for Adam, his indignation and jealousy
began to die out. Hetty was not made unhappy; he almost believed that
she liked him best; and the thought sometimes crossed his mind that the
friendship which had once seemed dead for ever might revive in the days
to come, and he would not have to say "good-bye" to the grand old woods,
but would like them better because they were Arthur's. For this new
promise of happiness following so quickly on the shock of pain had an
intoxicating effect on the sober Adam, who had all his life been used to
much hardship and moderate hope. Was he really going to have an easy
lot after all? It seemed so, for at the beginning of November, Jonathan
Burge, finding it impossible to replace Adam, had at last made up his
mind to offer him a share in the business, without further condition
than that he should continue to give his energies to it and renounce
all thought of having a separate business of his own. Son-in-law or no
son-in-law, Adam had made himself too necessary to be parted with,
and his headwork was so much more important to Burge than his skill
in handicraft that his having the management of the woods made little
difference in the value of his services; and as to the bargains about
the squire's timber, it would be easy to call in a third person. Adam
saw here an opening into a broadening path of prosperous work such as he
had thought of with ambitious longing ever since he was a lad: he might
come to build a bridge, or a town hall, or a factory, for he had always
said to himself that Jonathan Burge's building business was like an
acorn, which might be the mother of a great tree. So he gave his hand
to Burge on that bargain, and went home with his mind full of happy
visions, in which (my refined reader will perhaps be shocked when I
say it) the image of Hetty hovered, and smiled over plans for seasoning
timber at a trifling expense, calculations as to the cheapening of
bricks per thousand by water-carriage, and a favourite scheme for the
strengthening of roofs and walls with a peculiar form of iron girder.
What then? Adam's enthusiasm lay in these things; and our love is
inwrought in our enthusiasm as electricity is inwrought in the air,
exalting its power by a subtle presence.

Adam would be able to take a separate house now, and provide for his
mother in the old one; his prospects would justify his marrying very
soon, and if Dinah consented to have Seth, their mother would perhaps
be more contented to live apart from Adam. But he told himself that he
would not be hasty--he would not try Hetty's feeling for him until it
had had time to grow strong and firm. However, tomorrow, after church,
he would go to the Hall Farm and tell them the news. Mr. Poyser, he
knew, would like it better than a five-pound note, and he should see if
Hetty's eyes brightened at it. The months would be short with all he had
to fill his mind, and this foolish eagerness which had come over him of
late must not hurry him into any premature words. Yet when he got home
and told his mother the good news, and ate his supper, while she sat
by almost crying for joy and wanting him to eat twice as much as usual
because of this good-luck, he could not help preparing her gently for
the coming change by talking of the old house being too small for them
all to go on living in it always.



Chapter XXXIV

The Betrothal


IT was a dry Sunday, and really a pleasant day for the 2d of November.
There was no sunshine, but the clouds were high, and the wind was so
still that the yellow leaves which fluttered down from the hedgerow elms
must have fallen from pure decay. Nevertheless, Mrs. Poyser did not go
to church, for she had taken a cold too serious to be neglected; only
two winters ago she had been laid up for weeks with a cold; and since
his wife did not go to church, Mr. Poyser considered that on the whole
it would be as well for him to stay away too and "keep her company." He
could perhaps have given no precise form to the reasons that determined
this conclusion, but it is well known to all experienced minds that our
firmest convictions are often dependent on subtle impressions for which
words are quite too coarse a medium. However it was, no one from the
Poyser family went to church that afternoon except Hetty and the boys;
yet Adam was bold enough to join them after church, and say that he
would walk home with them, though all the way through the village he
appeared to be chiefly occupied with Marty and Tommy, telling them about
the squirrels in Binton Coppice, and promising to take them there some
day. But when they came to the fields he said to the boys, "Now, then,
which is the stoutest walker? Him as gets to th' home-gate first shall
be the first to go with me to Binton Coppice on the donkey. But Tommy
must have the start up to the next stile, because he's the smallest."

Adam had never behaved so much like a determined lover before. As soon
as the boys had both set off, he looked down at Hetty and said, "Won't
you hang on my arm, Hetty?" in a pleading tone, as if he had already
asked her and she had refused. Hetty looked up at him smilingly and put
her round arm through his in a moment. It was nothing to her, putting
her arm through Adam's, but she knew he cared a great deal about having
her arm through his, and she wished him to care. Her heart beat no
faster, and she looked at the half-bare hedgerows and the ploughed field
with the same sense of oppressive dulness as before. But Adam scarcely
felt that he was walking. He thought Hetty must know that he was
pressing her arm a little--a very little. Words rushed to his lips that
he dared not utter--that he had made up his mind not to utter yet--and
so he was silent for the length of that field. The calm patience
with which he had once waited for Hetty's love, content only with her
presence and the thought of the future, had forsaken him since that
terrible shock nearly three months ago. The agitations of jealousy had
given a new restlessness to his passion--had made fear and uncertainty
too hard almost to bear. But though he might not speak to Hetty of his
love, he would tell her about his new prospects and see if she would be
pleased. So when he was enough master of himself to talk, he said, "I'm
going to tell your uncle some news that'll surprise him, Hetty; and I
think he'll be glad to hear it too."

"What's that?" Hetty said indifferently.

"Why, Mr. Burge has offered me a share in his business, and I'm going to
take it."

There was a change in Hetty's face, certainly not produced by any
agreeable impression from this news. In fact she felt a momentary
annoyance and alarm, for she had so often heard it hinted by her uncle
that Adam might have Mary Burge and a share in the business any day,
if he liked, that she associated the two objects now, and the thought
immediately occurred that perhaps Adam had given her up because of
what had happened lately, and had turned towards Mary Burge. With that
thought, and before she had time to remember any reasons why it could
not be true, came a new sense of forsakenness and disappointment. The
one thing--the one person--her mind had rested on in its dull weariness,
had slipped away from her, and peevish misery filled her eyes with
tears. She was looking on the ground, but Adam saw her face, saw the
tears, and before he had finished saying, "Hetty, dear Hetty, what
are you crying for?" his eager rapid thought had flown through all the
causes conceivable to him, and had at last alighted on half the true
one. Hetty thought he was going to marry Mary Burge--she didn't like him
to marry--perhaps she didn't like him to marry any one but herself? All
caution was swept away--all reason for it was gone, and Adam could feel
nothing but trembling joy. He leaned towards her and took her hand, as
he said:

"I could afford to be married now, Hetty--I could make a wife
comfortable; but I shall never want to be married if you won't have me."

Hetty looked up at him and smiled through her tears, as she had done to
Arthur that first evening in the wood, when she had thought he was not
coming, and yet he came. It was a feebler relief, a feebler triumph she
felt now, but the great dark eyes and the sweet lips were as beautiful
as ever, perhaps more beautiful, for there was a more luxuriant
womanliness about Hetty of late. Adam could hardly believe in the
happiness of that moment. His right hand held her left, and he pressed
her arm close against his heart as he leaned down towards her.

"Do you really love me, Hetty? Will you be my own wife, to love and take
care of as long as I live?"

Hetty did not speak, but Adam's face was very close to hers, and she
put up her round cheek against his, like a kitten. She wanted to be
caressed--she wanted to feel as if Arthur were with her again.

Adam cared for no words after that, and they hardly spoke through the
rest of the walk. He only said, "I may tell your uncle and aunt, mayn't
I, Hetty?" and she said, "Yes."

The red fire-light on the hearth at the Hall Farm shone on joyful faces
that evening, when Hetty was gone upstairs and Adam took the opportunity
of telling Mr. and Mrs. Poyser and the grandfather that he saw his way
to maintaining a wife now, and that Hetty had consented to have him.

"I hope you have no objections against me for her husband," said Adam;
"I'm a poor man as yet, but she shall want nothing as I can work for."

"Objections?" said Mr. Poyser, while the grandfather leaned forward and
brought out his long "Nay, nay." "What objections can we ha' to you,
lad? Never mind your being poorish as yet; there's money in your
head-piece as there's money i' the sown field, but it must ha' time.
You'n got enough to begin on, and we can do a deal tow'rt the bit o'
furniture you'll want. Thee'st got feathers and linen to spare--plenty,
eh?"

This question was of course addressed to Mrs. Poyser, who was wrapped up
in a warm shawl and was too hoarse to speak with her usual facility.
At first she only nodded emphatically, but she was presently unable to
resist the temptation to be more explicit.

"It ud be a poor tale if I hadna feathers and linen," she said,
hoarsely, "when I never sell a fowl but what's plucked, and the wheel's
a-going every day o' the week."

"Come, my wench," said Mr. Poyser, when Hetty came down, "come and kiss
us, and let us wish you luck."

Hetty went very quietly and kissed the big good-natured man.

"There!" he said, patting her on the back, "go and kiss your aunt and
your grandfather. I'm as wishful t' have you settled well as if you was
my own daughter; and so's your aunt, I'll be bound, for she's done by
you this seven 'ear, Hetty, as if you'd been her own. Come, come, now,"
he went on, becoming jocose, as soon as Hetty had kissed her aunt and
the old man, "Adam wants a kiss too, I'll warrant, and he's a right to
one now."

Hetty turned away, smiling, towards her empty chair.

"Come, Adam, then, take one," persisted Mr. Poyser, "else y' arena half
a man."

Adam got up, blushing like a small maiden--great strong fellow as he
was--and, putting his arm round Hetty stooped down and gently kissed her
lips.

It was a pretty scene in the red fire-light; for there were no
candles--why should there be, when the fire was so bright and was
reflected from all the pewter and the polished oak? No one wanted to
work on a Sunday evening. Even Hetty felt something like contentment
in the midst of all this love. Adam's attachment to her, Adam's caress,
stirred no passion in her, were no longer enough to satisfy her vanity,
but they were the best her life offered her now--they promised her some
change.

There was a great deal of discussion before Adam went away, about the
possibility of his finding a house that would do for him to settle in.
No house was empty except the one next to Will Maskery's in the village,
and that was too small for Adam now. Mr. Poyser insisted that the best
plan would be for Seth and his mother to move and leave Adam in the old
home, which might be enlarged after a while, for there was plenty of
space in the woodyard and garden; but Adam objected to turning his
mother out.

"Well, well," said Mr. Poyser at last, "we needna fix everything
to-night. We must take time to consider. You canna think o' getting
married afore Easter. I'm not for long courtships, but there must be a
bit o' time to make things comfortable."

"Aye, to be sure," said Mrs. Poyser, in a hoarse whisper; "Christian
folks can't be married like cuckoos, I reckon."

"I'm a bit daunted, though," said Mr. Poyser, "when I think as we may
have notice to quit, and belike be forced to take a farm twenty mile
off."

"Eh," said the old man, staring at the floor and lifting his hands up
and down, while his arms rested on the elbows of his chair, "it's a poor
tale if I mun leave th' ould spot an be buried in a strange parish. An'
you'll happen ha' double rates to pay," he added, looking up at his son.

"Well, thee mustna fret beforehand, father," said Martin the younger.
"Happen the captain 'ull come home and make our peace wi' th' old
squire. I build upo' that, for I know the captain 'll see folks righted
if he can."



Chapter XXXV

The Hidden Dread


IT was a busy time for Adam--the time between the beginning of November
and the beginning of February, and he could see little of Hetty, except
on Sundays. But a happy time, nevertheless, for it was taking him nearer
and nearer to March, when they were to be married, and all the little
preparations for their new housekeeping marked the progress towards the
longed-for day. Two new rooms had been "run up" to the old house, for
his mother and Seth were to live with them after all. Lisbeth had cried
so piteously at the thought of leaving Adam that he had gone to Hetty
and asked her if, for the love of him, she would put up with his
mother's ways and consent to live with her. To his great delight, Hetty
said, "Yes; I'd as soon she lived with us as not." Hetty's mind was
oppressed at that moment with a worse difficulty than poor Lisbeth's
ways; she could not care about them. So Adam was consoled for the
disappointment he had felt when Seth had come back from his visit to
Snowfield and said "it was no use--Dinah's heart wasna turned towards
marrying." For when he told his mother that Hetty was willing they
should all live together and there was no more need of them to think of
parting, she said, in a more contented tone than he had heard her speak
in since it had been settled that he was to be married, "Eh, my lad,
I'll be as still as th' ould tabby, an' ne'er want to do aught but
th' offal work, as she wonna like t' do. An' then we needna part the
platters an' things, as ha' stood on the shelf together sin' afore thee
wast born."

There was only one cloud that now and then came across Adam's sunshine:
Hetty seemed unhappy sometimes. But to all his anxious, tender
questions, she replied with an assurance that she was quite contented
and wished nothing different; and the next time he saw her she was more
lively than usual. It might be that she was a little overdone with work
and anxiety now, for soon after Christmas Mrs. Poyser had taken another
cold, which had brought on inflammation, and this illness had confined
her to her room all through January. Hetty had to manage everything
downstairs, and half-supply Molly's place too, while that good damsel
waited on her mistress, and she seemed to throw herself so entirely into
her new functions, working with a grave steadiness which was new in her,
that Mr. Poyser often told Adam she was wanting to show him what a
good housekeeper he would have; but he "doubted the lass was o'erdoing
it--she must have a bit o' rest when her aunt could come downstairs."

This desirable event of Mrs. Poyser's coming downstairs happened in the
early part of February, when some mild weather thawed the last patch of
snow on the Binton Hills. On one of these days, soon after her aunt came
down, Hetty went to Treddleston to buy some of the wedding things which
were wanting, and which Mrs. Poyser had scolded her for neglecting,
observing that she supposed "it was because they were not for th'
outside, else she'd ha' bought 'em fast enough."

It was about ten o'clock when Hetty set off, and the slight hoar-frost
that had whitened the hedges in the early morning had disappeared as
the sun mounted the cloudless sky. Bright February days have a stronger
charm of hope about them than any other days in the year. One likes
to pause in the mild rays of the sun, and look over the gates at the
patient plough-horses turning at the end of the furrow, and think that
the beautiful year is all before one. The birds seem to feel just the
same: their notes are as clear as the clear air. There are no leaves on
the trees and hedgerows, but how green all the grassy fields are! And
the dark purplish brown of the ploughed earth and of the bare branches
is beautiful too. What a glad world this looks like, as one drives or
rides along the valleys and over the hills! I have often thought so
when, in foreign countries, where the fields and woods have looked to me
like our English Loamshire--the rich land tilled with just as much care,
the woods rolling down the gentle slopes to the green meadows--I have
come on something by the roadside which has reminded me that I am not
in Loamshire: an image of a great agony--the agony of the Cross. It has
stood perhaps by the clustering apple-blossoms, or in the broad sunshine
by the cornfield, or at a turning by the wood where a clear brook was
gurgling below; and surely, if there came a traveller to this world who
knew nothing of the story of man's life upon it, this image of agony
would seem to him strangely out of place in the midst of this joyous
nature. He would not know that hidden behind the apple-blossoms, or
among the golden corn, or under the shrouding boughs of the wood, there
might be a human heart beating heavily with anguish--perhaps a young
blooming girl, not knowing where to turn for refuge from swift-advancing
shame, understanding no more of this life of ours than a foolish lost
lamb wandering farther and farther in the nightfall on the lonely heath,
yet tasting the bitterest of life's bitterness.

Such things are sometimes hidden among the sunny fields and behind the
blossoming orchards; and the sound of the gurgling brook, if you came
close to one spot behind a small bush, would be mingled for your ear
with a despairing human sob. No wonder man's religion has much sorrow in
it: no wonder he needs a suffering God.

Hetty, in her red cloak and warm bonnet, with her basket in her hand, is
turning towards a gate by the side of the Treddleston road, but not that
she may have a more lingering enjoyment of the sunshine and think
with hope of the long unfolding year. She hardly knows that the sun is
shining; and for weeks, now, when she has hoped at all, it has been for
something at which she herself trembles and shudders. She only wants to
be out of the high-road, that she may walk slowly and not care how her
face looks, as she dwells on wretched thoughts; and through this gate
she can get into a field-path behind the wide thick hedgerows. Her great
dark eyes wander blankly over the fields like the eyes of one who is
desolate, homeless, unloved, not the promised bride of a brave tender
man. But there are no tears in them: her tears were all wept away in
the weary night, before she went to sleep. At the next stile the pathway
branches off: there are two roads before her--one along by the hedgerow,
which will by and by lead her into the road again, the other across
the fields, which will take her much farther out of the way into the
Scantlands, low shrouded pastures where she will see nobody. She chooses
this and begins to walk a little faster, as if she had suddenly thought
of an object towards which it was worth while to hasten. Soon she is in
the Scantlands, where the grassy land slopes gradually downwards, and
she leaves the level ground to follow the slope. Farther on there is a
clump of trees on the low ground, and she is making her way towards it.
No, it is not a clump of trees, but a dark shrouded pool, so full with
the wintry rains that the under boughs of the elder-bushes lie low
beneath the water. She sits down on the grassy bank, against the
stooping stem of the great oak that hangs over the dark pool. She has
thought of this pool often in the nights of the month that has just gone
by, and now at last she is come to see it. She clasps her hands round
her knees, and leans forward, and looks earnestly at it, as if trying to
guess what sort of bed it would make for her young round limbs.

No, she has not courage to jump into that cold watery bed, and if
she had, they might find her--they might find out why she had drowned
herself. There is but one thing left to her: she must go away, go where
they can't find her.

After the first on-coming of her great dread, some weeks after her
betrothal to Adam, she had waited and waited, in the blind vague hope
that something would happen to set her free from her terror; but she
could wait no longer. All the force of her nature had been concentrated
on the one effort of concealment, and she had shrunk with irresistible
dread from every course that could tend towards a betrayal of her
miserable secret. Whenever the thought of writing to Arthur had occurred
to her, she had rejected it. He could do nothing for her that would
shelter her from discovery and scorn among the relatives and neighbours
who once more made all her world, now her airy dream had vanished. Her
imagination no longer saw happiness with Arthur, for he could do
nothing that would satisfy or soothe her pride. No, something else
would happen--something must happen--to set her free from this dread. In
young, childish, ignorant souls there is constantly this blind trust in
some unshapen chance: it is as hard to a boy or girl to believe that
a great wretchedness will actually befall them as to believe that they
will die.

But now necessity was pressing hard upon her--now the time of her
marriage was close at hand--she could no longer rest in this blind
trust. She must run away; she must hide herself where no familiar eyes
could detect her; and then the terror of wandering out into the world,
of which she knew nothing, made the possibility of going to Arthur a
thought which brought some comfort with it. She felt so helpless now, so
unable to fashion the future for herself, that the prospect of throwing
herself on him had a relief in it which was stronger than her pride. As
she sat by the pool and shuddered at the dark cold water, the hope that
he would receive her tenderly--that he would care for her and think for
her--was like a sense of lulling warmth, that made her for the moment
indifferent to everything else; and she began now to think of nothing
but the scheme by which she should get away.

She had had a letter from Dinah lately, full of kind words about the
coming marriage, which she had heard of from Seth; and when Hetty had
read this letter aloud to her uncle, he had said, "I wish Dinah 'ud come
again now, for she'd be a comfort to your aunt when you're gone. What
do you think, my wench, o' going to see her as soon as you can be spared
and persuading her to come back wi' you? You might happen persuade her
wi' telling her as her aunt wants her, for all she writes o' not being
able to come." Hetty had not liked the thought of going to Snowfield,
and felt no longing to see Dinah, so she only said, "It's so far off,
Uncle." But now she thought this proposed visit would serve as a pretext
for going away. She would tell her aunt when she got home again that she
should like the change of going to Snowfield for a week or ten days. And
then, when she got to Stoniton, where nobody knew her, she would ask
for the coach that would take her on the way to Windsor. Arthur was at
Windsor, and she would go to him.

As soon as Hetty had determined on this scheme, she rose from the
grassy bank of the pool, took up her basket, and went on her way to
Treddleston, for she must buy the wedding things she had come out for,
though she would never want them. She must be careful not to raise any
suspicion that she was going to run away.

Mrs. Poyser was quite agreeably surprised that Hetty wished to go and
see Dinah and try to bring her back to stay over the wedding. The sooner
she went the better, since the weather was pleasant now; and Adam, when
he came in the evening, said, if Hetty could set off to-morrow, he
would make time to go with her to Treddleston and see her safe into the
Stoniton coach.

"I wish I could go with you and take care of you, Hetty," he said, the
next morning, leaning in at the coach door; "but you won't stay much
beyond a week--the time 'ull seem long."

He was looking at her fondly, and his strong hand held hers in its
grasp. Hetty felt a sense of protection in his presence--she was used
to it now: if she could have had the past undone and known no other love
than her quiet liking for Adam! The tears rose as she gave him the last
look.

"God bless her for loving me," said Adam, as he went on his way to work
again, with Gyp at his heels.

But Hetty's tears were not for Adam--not for the anguish that would come
upon him when he found she was gone from him for ever. They were for the
misery of her own lot, which took her away from this brave tender man
who offered up his whole life to her, and threw her, a poor helpless
suppliant, on the man who would think it a misfortune that she was
obliged to cling to him.

At three o'clock that day, when Hetty was on the coach that was to take
her, they said, to Leicester--part of the long, long way to Windsor--she
felt dimly that she might be travelling all this weary journey towards
the beginning of new misery.

Yet Arthur was at Windsor; he would surely not be angry with her. If he
did not mind about her as he used to do, he had promised to be good to
her.





Book Five




Chapter XXXVI

The Journey of Hope


A LONG, lonely journey, with sadness in the heart; away from the
familiar to the strange: that is a hard and dreary thing even to the
rich, the strong, the instructed; a hard thing, even when we are called
by duty, not urged by dread.

What was it then to Hetty? With her poor narrow thoughts, no longer
melting into vague hopes, but pressed upon by the chill of
definite fear, repeating again and again the same small round of
memories--shaping again and again the same childish, doubtful images
of what was to come--seeing nothing in this wide world but the little
history of her own pleasures and pains; with so little money in her
pocket, and the way so long and difficult. Unless she could afford
always to go in the coaches--and she felt sure she could not, for the
journey to Stoniton was more expensive than she had expected--it was
plain that she must trust to carriers' carts or slow waggons; and what
a time it would be before she could get to the end of her journey! The
burly old coachman from Oakbourne, seeing such a pretty young woman
among the outside passengers, had invited her to come and sit beside
him; and feeling that it became him as a man and a coachman to open the
dialogue with a joke, he applied himself as soon as they were off the
stones to the elaboration of one suitable in all respects. After many
cuts with his whip and glances at Hetty out of the corner of his eye,
he lifted his lips above the edge of his wrapper and said, "He's pretty
nigh six foot, I'll be bound, isna he, now?"

"Who?" said Hetty, rather startled.

"Why, the sweetheart as you've left behind, or else him as you're goin'
arter--which is it?"

Hetty felt her face flushing and then turning pale. She thought this
coachman must know something about her. He must know Adam, and might
tell him where she was gone, for it is difficult to country people to
believe that those who make a figure in their own parish are not known
everywhere else, and it was equally difficult to Hetty to understand
that chance words could happen to apply closely to her circumstances.
She was too frightened to speak.

"Hegh, hegh!" said the coachman, seeing that his joke was not so
gratifying as he had expected, "you munna take it too ser'ous; if he's
behaved ill, get another. Such a pretty lass as you can get a sweetheart
any day."

Hetty's fear was allayed by and by, when she found that the coachman
made no further allusion to her personal concerns; but it still had the
effect of preventing her from asking him what were the places on the
road to Windsor. She told him she was only going a little way out of
Stoniton, and when she got down at the inn where the coach stopped, she
hastened away with her basket to another part of the town. When she
had formed her plan of going to Windsor, she had not foreseen any
difficulties except that of getting away, and after she had overcome
this by proposing the visit to Dinah, her thoughts flew to the meeting
with Arthur and the question how he would behave to her--not resting on
any probable incidents of the journey. She was too entirely ignorant
of traveling to imagine any of its details, and with all her store
of money--her three guineas--in her pocket, she thought herself amply
provided. It was not until she found how much it cost her to get to
Stoniton that she began to be alarmed about the journey, and then, for
the first time, she felt her ignorance as to the places that must be
passed on her way. Oppressed with this new alarm, she walked along the
grim Stoniton streets, and at last turned into a shabby little inn,
where she hoped to get a cheap lodging for the night. Here she asked
the landlord if he could tell her what places she must go to, to get to
Windsor.

"Well, I can't rightly say. Windsor must be pretty nigh London, for it's
where the king lives," was the answer. "Anyhow, you'd best go t' Ashby
next--that's south'ard. But there's as many places from here to London
as there's houses in Stoniton, by what I can make out. I've never been
no traveller myself. But how comes a lone young woman like you to be
thinking o' taking such a journey as that?"

"I'm going to my brother--he's a soldier at Windsor," said Hetty,
frightened at the landlord's questioning look. "I can't afford to go
by the coach; do you think there's a cart goes toward Ashby in the
morning?"

"Yes, there may be carts if anybody knowed where they started from; but
you might run over the town before you found out. You'd best set off and
walk, and trust to summat overtaking you."

Every word sank like lead on Hetty's spirits; she saw the journey
stretch bit by bit before her now. Even to get to Ashby seemed a hard
thing: it might take the day, for what she knew, and that was nothing
to the rest of the journey. But it must be done--she must get to Arthur.
Oh, how she yearned to be again with somebody who would care for her!
She who had never got up in the morning without the certainty of seeing
familiar faces, people on whom she had an acknowledged claim; whose
farthest journey had been to Rosseter on the pillion with her uncle;
whose thoughts had always been taking holiday in dreams of pleasure,
because all the business of her life was managed for her--this
kittenlike Hetty, who till a few months ago had never felt any other
grief than that of envying Mary Burge a new ribbon, or being girded
at by her aunt for neglecting Totty, must now make her toilsome way in
loneliness, her peaceful home left behind for ever, and nothing but a
tremulous hope of distant refuge before her. Now for the first time, as
she lay down to-night in the strange hard bed, she felt that her home
had been a happy one, that her uncle had been very good to her, that
her quiet lot at Hayslope among the things and people she knew, with her
little pride in her one best gown and bonnet, and nothing to hide from
any one, was what she would like to wake up to as a reality, and find
that all the feverish life she had known besides was a short nightmare.
She thought of all she had left behind with yearning regret for her own
sake. Her own misery filled her heart--there was no room in it for other
people's sorrow. And yet, before the cruel letter, Arthur had been so
tender and loving. The memory of that had still a charm for her, though
it was no more than a soothing draught that just made pain bearable.
For Hetty could conceive no other existence for herself in future than
a hidden one, and a hidden life, even with love, would have had no
delights for her; still less a life mingled with shame. She knew no
romances, and had only a feeble share in the feelings which are the
source of romance, so that well-read ladies may find it difficult to
understand her state of mind. She was too ignorant of everything beyond
the simple notions and habits in which she had been brought up to have
any more definite idea of her probable future than that Arthur would
take care of her somehow, and shelter her from anger and scorn. He would
not marry her and make her a lady; and apart from that she could think
of nothing he could give towards which she looked with longing and
ambition.

The next morning she rose early, and taking only some milk and bread
for her breakfast, set out to walk on the road towards Ashby, under a
leaden-coloured sky, with a narrowing streak of yellow, like a departing
hope, on the edge of the horizon. Now in her faintness of heart at the
length and difficulty of her journey, she was most of all afraid of
spending her money, and becoming so destitute that she would have to ask
people's charity; for Hettv had the pride not only of a proud nature
but of a proud class--the class that pays the most poor-rates, and
most shudders at the idea of profiting by a poor-rate. It had not yet
occurred to her that she might get money for her locket and earrings
which she carried with her, and she applied all her small arithmetic
and knowledge of prices to calculating how many meals and how many rides
were contained in her two guineas, and the odd shillings, which had
a melancholy look, as if they were the pale ashes of the other
bright-flaming coin.

For the first few miles out of Stoniton, she walked on bravely, always
fixing on some tree or gate or projecting bush at the most distant
visible point in the road as a goal, and feeling a faint joy when she
had reached it. But when she came to the fourth milestone, the first she
had happened to notice among the long grass by the roadside, and read
that she was still only four miles beyond Stoniton, her courage sank.
She had come only this little way, and yet felt tired, and almost hungry
again in the keen morning air; for though Hetty was accustomed to much
movement and exertion indoors, she was not used to long walks which
produced quite a different sort of fatigue from that of household
activity. As she was looking at the milestone she felt some drops
falling on her face--it was beginning to rain. Here was a new trouble
which had not entered into her sad thoughts before, and quite weighed
down by this sudden addition to her burden, she sat down on the step of
a stile and began to sob hysterically. The beginning of hardship is like
the first taste of bitter food--it seems for a moment unbearable; yet,
if there is nothing else to satisfy our hunger, we take another bite
and find it possible to go on. When Hetty recovered from her burst of
weeping, she rallied her fainting courage: it was raining, and she
must try to get on to a village where she might find rest and shelter.
Presently, as she walked on wearily, she heard the rumbling of heavy
wheels behind her; a covered waggon was coming, creeping slowly along
with a slouching driver cracking his whip beside the horses. She waited
for it, thinking that if the waggoner were not a very sour-looking man,
she would ask him to take her up. As the waggon approached her, the
driver had fallen behind, but there was something in the front of the
big vehicle which encouraged her. At any previous moment in her life
she would not have noticed it, but now, the new susceptibility that
suffering had awakened in her caused this object to impress her
strongly. It was only a small white-and-liver-coloured spaniel which
sat on the front ledge of the waggon, with large timid eyes, and an
incessant trembling in the body, such as you may have seen in some of
these small creatures. Hetty cared little for animals, as you know,
but at this moment she felt as if the helpless timid creature had some
fellowship with her, and without being quite aware of the reason, she
was less doubtful about speaking to the driver, who now came forward--a
large ruddy man, with a sack over his shoulders, by way of scarf or
mantle.

"Could you take me up in your waggon, if you're going towards Ashby?"
said Hetty. "I'll pay you for it."

"Aw," said the big fellow, with that slowly dawning smile which belongs
to heavy faces, "I can take y' up fawst enough wi'out bein' paid for't
if you dooant mind lyin' a bit closish a-top o' the wool-packs. Where do
you coom from? And what do you want at Ashby?"

"I come from Stoniton. I'm going a long way--to Windsor."

"What! Arter some service, or what?"

"Going to my brother--he's a soldier there."

"Well, I'm going no furder nor Leicester--and fur enough too--but I'll
take you, if you dooant mind being a bit long on the road. Th' hosses
wooant feel YOUR weight no more nor they feel the little doog there, as
I puck up on the road a fortni't agoo. He war lost, I b'lieve, an's been
all of a tremble iver sin'. Come, gi' us your basket an' come behind and
let me put y' in."

To lie on the wool-packs, with a cranny left between the curtains of the
awning to let in the air, was luxury to Hetty now, and she half-slept
away the hours till the driver came to ask her if she wanted to get down
and have "some victual"; he himself was going to eat his dinner at this
"public." Late at night they reached Leicester, and so this second day
of Hetty's journey was past. She had spent no money except what she
had paid for her food, but she felt that this slow journeying would be
intolerable for her another day, and in the morning she found her way
to a coach-office to ask about the road to Windsor, and see if it would
cost her too much to go part of the distance by coach again. Yes! The
distance was too great--the coaches were too dear--she must give them
up; but the elderly clerk at the office, touched by her pretty anxious
face, wrote down for her the names of the chief places she must pass
through. This was the only comfort she got in Leicester, for the men
stared at her as she went along the street, and for the first time in
her life Hetty wished no one would look at her. She set out walking
again; but this day she was fortunate, for she was soon overtaken by
a carrier's cart which carried her to Hinckley, and by the help of a
return chaise, with a drunken postilion--who frightened her by driving
like Jehu the son of Nimshi, and shouting hilarious remarks at her,
twisting himself backwards on his saddle--she was before night in the
heart of woody Warwickshire: but still almost a hundred miles from
Windsor, they told her. Oh what a large world it was, and what hard work
for her to find her way in it! She went by mistake to Stratford-on-Avon,
finding Stratford set down in her list of places, and then she was told
she had come a long way out of the right road. It was not till the fifth
day that she got to Stony Stratford. That seems but a slight journey as
you look at the map, or remember your own pleasant travels to and from
the meadowy banks of the Avon. But how wearily long it was to Hetty!
It seemed to her as if this country of flat fields, and hedgerows, and
dotted houses, and villages, and market-towns--all so much alike to her
indifferent eyes--must have no end, and she must go on wandering among
them for ever, waiting tired at toll-gates for some cart to come, and
then finding the cart went only a little way--a very little way--to the
miller's a mile off perhaps; and she hated going into the public houses,
where she must go to get food and ask questions, because there were
always men lounging there, who stared at her and joked her rudely. Her
body was very weary too with these days of new fatigue and anxiety; they
had made her look more pale and worn than all the time of hidden dread
she had gone through at home. When at last she reached Stony Stratford,
her impatience and weariness had become too strong for her economical
caution; she determined to take the coach for the rest of the way,
though it should cost her all her remaining money. She would need
nothing at Windsor but to find Arthur. When she had paid the fare for
the last coach, she had only a shilling; and as she got down at the
sign of the Green Man in Windsor at twelve o'clock in the middle of the
seventh day, hungry and faint, the coachman came up, and begged her
to "remember him." She put her hand in her pocket and took out the
shilling, but the tears came with the sense of exhaustion and the
thought that she was giving away her last means of getting food, which
she really required before she could go in search of Arthur. As she
held out the shilling, she lifted up her dark tear-filled eyes to the
coachman's face and said, "Can you give me back sixpence?"

"No, no," he said, gruffly, "never mind--put the shilling up again."

The landlord of the Green Man had stood near enough to witness this
scene, and he was a man whose abundant feeding served to keep his
good nature, as well as his person, in high condition. And that lovely
tearful face of Hetty's would have found out the sensitive fibre in most
men.

"Come, young woman, come in," he said, "and have adrop o' something;
you're pretty well knocked up, I can see that."

He took her into the bar and said to his wife, "Here, missis, take this
young woman into the parlour; she's a little overcome"--for Hetty's
tears were falling fast. They were merely hysterical tears: she thought
she had no reason for weeping now, and was vexed that she was too weak
and tired to help it. She was at Windsor at last, not far from Arthur.

She looked with eager, hungry eyes at the bread and meat and beer that
the landlady brought her, and for some minutes she forgot everything
else in the delicious sensations of satisfying hunger and recovering
from exhaustion. The landlady sat opposite to her as she ate, and looked
at her earnestly. No wonder: Hetty had thrown off her bonnet, and her
curls had fallen down. Her face was all the more touching in its
youth and beauty because of its weary look, and the good woman's eyes
presently wandered to her figure, which in her hurried dressing on her
journey she had taken no pains to conceal; moreover, the stranger's eye
detects what the familiar unsuspecting eye leaves unnoticed.

"Why, you're not very fit for travelling," she said, glancing while she
spoke at Hetty's ringless hand. "Have you come far?"

"Yes," said Hetty, roused by this question to exert more self-command,
and feeling the better for the food she had taken. "I've come a good
long way, and it's very tiring. But I'm better now. Could you tell me
which way to go to this place?" Here Hetty took from her pocket a bit
of paper: it was the end of Arthur's letter on which he had written his
address.

While she was speaking, the landlord had come in and had begun to look
at her as earnestly as his wife had done. He took up the piece of paper
which Hetty handed across the table, and read the address.

"Why, what do you want at this house?" he said. It is in the nature of
innkeepers and all men who have no pressing business of their own to ask
as many questions as possible before giving any information.

"I want to see a gentleman as is there," said Hetty.

"But there's no gentleman there," returned the landlord. "It's shut
up--been shut up this fortnight. What gentleman is it you want? Perhaps
I can let you know where to find him."

"It's Captain Donnithorne," said Hetty tremulously, her heart beginning
to beat painfully at this disappointment of her hope that she should
find Arthur at once.

"Captain Donnithorne? Stop a bit," said the landlord, slowly. "Was he
in the Loamshire Militia? A tall young officer with a fairish skin and
reddish whiskers--and had a servant by the name o' Pym?"

"Oh yes," said Hetty; "you know him--where is he?"

"A fine sight o' miles away from here. The Loamshire Militia's gone to
Ireland; it's been gone this fortnight."

"Look there! She's fainting," said the landlady, hastening to support
Hetty, who had lost her miserable consciousness and looked like a
beautiful corpse. They carried her to the sofa and loosened her dress.

"Here's a bad business, I suspect," said the landlord, as he brought in
some water.

"Ah, it's plain enough what sort of business it is," said the wife.
"She's not a common flaunting dratchell, I can see that. She looks like
a respectable country girl, and she comes from a good way off, to judge
by her tongue. She talks something like that ostler we had that come
from the north. He was as honest a fellow as we ever had about the
house--they're all honest folks in the north."

"I never saw a prettier young woman in my life," said the husband.
"She's like a pictur in a shop-winder. It goes to one's 'eart to look at
her."

"It 'ud have been a good deal better for her if she'd been uglier and
had more conduct," said the landlady, who on any charitable construction
must have been supposed to have more "conduct" than beauty. "But she's
coming to again. Fetch a drop more water."



Chapter XXXVII

The Journey in Despair


HETTY was too ill through the rest of that day for any questions to be
addressed to her--too ill even to think with any distinctness of the
evils that were to come. She only felt that all her hope was crushed,
and that instead of having found a refuge she had only reached the
borders of a new wilderness where no goal lay before her. The sensations
of bodily sickness, in a comfortable bed, and with the tendance of the
good-natured landlady, made a sort of respite for her; such a respite as
there is in the faint weariness which obliges a man to throw himself on
the sand instead of toiling onward under the scorching sun.

But when sleep and rest had brought back the strength necessary for the
keenness of mental suffering--when she lay the next morning looking at
the growing light which was like a cruel task-master returning to urge
from her a fresh round of hated hopeless labour--she began to think what
course she must take, to remember that all her money was gone, to
look at the prospect of further wandering among strangers with the new
clearness shed on it by the experience of her journey to Windsor. But
which way could she turn? It was impossible for her to enter into any
service, even if she could obtain it. There was nothing but immediate
beggary before her. She thought of a young woman who had been found
against the church wall at Hayslope one Sunday, nearly dead with cold
and hunger--a tiny infant in her arms. The woman was rescued and taken
to the parish. "The parish!" You can perhaps hardly understand the
effect of that word on a mind like Hetty's, brought up among people who
were somewhat hard in their feelings even towards poverty, who lived
among the fields, and had little pity for want and rags as a cruel
inevitable fate such as they sometimes seem in cities, but held them
a mark of idleness and vice--and it was idleness and vice that brought
burdens on the parish. To Hetty the "parish" was next to the prison
in obloquy, and to ask anything of strangers--to beg--lay in the same
far-off hideous region of intolerable shame that Hetty had all her life
thought it impossible she could ever come near. But now the remembrance
of that wretched woman whom she had seen herself, on her way from
church, being carried into Joshua Rann's, came back upon her with the
new terrible sense that there was very little now to divide HER from
the same lot. And the dread of bodily hardship mingled with the dread
of shame; for Hetty had the luxurious nature of a round soft-coated pet
animal.

How she yearned to be back in her safe home again, cherished and cared
for as she had always been! Her aunt's scolding about trifles would have
been music to her ears now; she longed for it; she used to hear it in a
time when she had only trifles to hide. Could she be the same Hetty that
used to make up the butter in the dairy with the Guelder roses peeping
in at the window--she, a runaway whom her friends would not open their
doors to again, lying in this strange bed, with the knowledge that
she had no money to pay for what she received, and must offer those
strangers some of the clothes in her basket? It was then she thought of
her locket and ear-rings, and seeing her pocket lie near, she reached it
and spread the contents on the bed before her. There were the locket and
ear-rings in the little velvet-lined boxes, and with them there was a
beautiful silver thimble which Adam had bought her, the words "Remember
me" making the ornament of the border; a steel purse, with her one
shilling in it; and a small red-leather case, fastening with a strap.
Those beautiful little ear-rings, with their delicate pearls and garnet,
that she had tried in her ears with such longing in the bright sunshine
on the 30th of July! She had no longing to put them in her ears now: her
head with its dark rings of hair lay back languidly on the pillow, and
the sadness that rested about her brow and eyes was something too hard
for regretful memory. Yet she put her hands up to her ears: it was
because there were some thin gold rings in them, which were also worth
a little money. Yes, she could surely get some money for her ornaments:
those Arthur had given her must have cost a great deal of money. The
landlord and landlady had been good to her; perhaps they would help her
to get the money for these things.

But this money would not keep her long. What should she do when it was
gone? Where should she go? The horrible thought of want and beggary
drove her once to think she would go back to her uncle and aunt and ask
them to forgive her and have pity on her. But she shrank from that idea
again, as she might have shrunk from scorching metal. She could never
endure that shame before her uncle and aunt, before Mary Burge, and the
servants at the Chase, and the people at Broxton, and everybody who knew
her. They should never know what had happened to her. What could she do?
She would go away from Windsor--travel again as she had done the last
week, and get among the flat green fields with the high hedges round
them, where nobody could see her or know her; and there, perhaps, when
there was nothing else she could do, she should get courage to drown
herself in some pond like that in the Scantlands. Yes, she would get
away from Windsor as soon as possible: she didn't like these people at
the inn to know about her, to know that she had come to look for Captain
Donnithorne. She must think of some reason to tell them why she had
asked for him.

With this thought she began to put the things back into her pocket,
meaning to get up and dress before the landlady came to her. She had her
hand on the red-leather case, when it occurred to her that there might
be something in this case which she had forgotten--something worth
selling; for without knowing what she should do with her life, she
craved the means of living as long as possible; and when we desire
eagerly to find something, we are apt to search for it in hopeless
places. No, there was nothing but common needles and pins, and dried
tulip-petals between the paper leaves where she had written down her
little money-accounts. But on one of these leaves there was a name,
which, often as she had seen it before, now flashed on Hetty's mind like
a newly discovered message. The name was--Dinah Morris, Snowfield. There
was a text above it, written, as well as the name, by Dinah's own hand
with a little pencil, one evening that they were sitting together and
Hetty happened to have the red case lying open before her. Hetty did not
read the text now: she was only arrested by the name. Now, for the first
time, she remembered without indifference the affectionate kindness
Dinah had shown her, and those words of Dinah in the bed-chamber--that
Hetty must think of her as a friend in trouble. Suppose she were to go
to Dinah, and ask her to help her? Dinah did not think about things as
other people did. She was a mystery to Hetty, but Hetty knew she was
always kind. She couldn't imagine Dinah's face turning away from her in
dark reproof or scorn, Dinah's voice willingly speaking ill of her, or
rejoicing in her misery as a punishment. Dinah did not seem to belong to
that world of Hetty's, whose glance she dreaded like scorching fire. But
even to her Hetty shrank from beseeching and confession. She could not
prevail on herself to say, "I will go to Dinah": she only thought of
that as a possible alternative, if she had not courage for death.

The good landlady was amazed when she saw Hetty come downstairs soon
after herself, neatly dressed, and looking resolutely self-possessed.
Hetty told her she was quite well this morning. She had only been very
tired and overcome with her journey, for she had come a long way to ask
about her brother, who had run away, and they thought he was gone for a
soldier, and Captain Donnithorne might know, for he had been very
kind to her brother once. It was a lame story, and the landlady looked
doubtfully at Hetty as she told it; but there was a resolute air of
self-reliance about her this morning, so different from the helpless
prostration of yesterday, that the landlady hardly knew how to make a
remark that might seem like prying into other people's affairs. She only
invited her to sit down to breakfast with them, and in the course of it
Hetty brought out her ear-rings and locket, and asked the landlord if
he could help her to get money for them. Her journey, she said, had cost
her much more than she expected, and now she had no money to get back to
her friends, which she wanted to do at once.

It was not the first time the landlady had seen the ornaments, for she
had examined the contents of Hetty's pocket yesterday, and she and her
husband had discussed the fact of a country girl having these beautiful
things, with a stronger conviction than ever that Hetty had been
miserably deluded by the fine young officer.

"Well," said the landlord, when Hetty had spread the precious trifles
before him, "we might take 'em to the jeweller's shop, for there's one
not far off; but Lord bless you, they wouldn't give you a quarter o'
what the things are worth. And you wouldn't like to part with 'em?" he
added, looking at her inquiringly.

"Oh, I don't mind," said Hetty, hastily, "so as I can get money to go
back."

"And they might think the things were stolen, as you wanted to sell
'em," he went on, "for it isn't usual for a young woman like you to have
fine jew'llery like that."

The blood rushed to Hetty's face with anger. "I belong to respectable
folks," she said; "I'm not a thief."

"No, that you aren't, I'll be bound," said the landlady; "and you'd no
call to say that," looking indignantly at her husband. "The things were
gev to her: that's plain enough to be seen."

"I didn't mean as I thought so," said the husband, apologetically,
"but I said it was what the jeweller might think, and so he wouldn't be
offering much money for 'em."

"Well," said the wife, "suppose you were to advance some money on the
things yourself, and then if she liked to redeem 'em when she got home,
she could. But if we heard nothing from her after two months, we might
do as we liked with 'em."

I will not say that in this accommodating proposition the landlady had
no regard whatever to the possible reward of her good nature in the
ultimate possession of the locket and ear-rings: indeed, the effect they
would have in that case on the mind of the grocer's wife had presented
itself with remarkable vividness to her rapid imagination. The landlord
took up the ornaments and pushed out his lips in a meditative manner.
He wished Hetty well, doubtless; but pray, how many of your well-wishers
would decline to make a little gain out of you? Your landlady is
sincerely affected at parting with you, respects you highly, and will
really rejoice if any one else is generous to you; but at the same
time she hands you a bill by which she gains as high a percentage as
possible.

"How much money do you want to get home with, young woman?" said the
well-wisher, at length.

"Three guineas," answered Hetty, fixing on the sum she set out with, for
want of any other standard, and afraid of asking too much.

"Well, I've no objections to advance you three guineas," said the
landlord; "and if you like to send it me back and get the jewellery
again, you can, you know. The Green Man isn't going to run away."

"Oh yes, I'll be very glad if you'll give me that," said Hetty, relieved
at the thought that she would not have to go to the jeweller's and be
stared at and questioned.

"But if you want the things again, you'll write before long," said the
landlady, "because when two months are up, we shall make up our minds as
you don't want 'em."

"Yes," said Hetty indifferently.

The husband and wife were equally content with this arrangement. The
husband thought, if the ornaments were not redeemed, he could make a
good thing of it by taking them to London and selling them. The wife
thought she would coax the good man into letting her keep them. And
they were accommodating Hetty, poor thing--a pretty, respectable-looking
young woman, apparently in a sad case. They declined to take anything
for her food and bed: she was quite welcome. And at eleven o'clock Hetty
said "Good-bye" to them with the same quiet, resolute air she had worn
all the morning, mounting the coach that was to take her twenty miles
back along the way she had come.

There is a strength of self-possession which is the sign that the
last hope has departed. Despair no more leans on others than perfect
contentment, and in despair pride ceases to be counteracted by the sense
of dependence.

Hetty felt that no one could deliver her from the evils that would make
life hateful to her; and no one, she said to herself, should ever know
her misery and humiliation. No; she would not confess even to Dinah. She
would wander out of sight, and drown herself where her body would never
be found, and no one should know what had become of her.

When she got off this coach, she began to walk again, and take cheap
rides in carts, and get cheap meals, going on and on without distinct
purpose, yet strangely, by some fascination, taking the way she had
come, though she was determined not to go back to her own country.
Perhaps it was because she had fixed her mind on the grassy Warwickshire
fields, with the bushy tree-studded hedgerows that made a hiding-place
even in this leafless season. She went more slowly than she came, often
getting over the stiles and sitting for hours under the hedgerows,
looking before her with blank, beautiful eyes; fancying herself at the
edge of a hidden pool, low down, like that in the Scantlands; wondering
if it were very painful to be drowned, and if there would be anything
worse after death than what she dreaded in life. Religious doctrines had
taken no hold on Hetty's mind. She was one of those numerous people
who have had godfathers and godmothers, learned their catechism, been
confirmed, and gone to church every Sunday, and yet, for any practical
result of strength in life, or trust in death, have never appropriated a
single Christian idea or Christian feeling. You would misunderstand
her thoughts during these wretched days, if you imagined that they were
influenced either by religious fears or religious hopes.

She chose to go to Stratford-on-Avon again, where she had gone before by
mistake, for she remembered some grassy fields on her former way towards
it--fields among which she thought she might find just the sort of pool
she had in her mind. Yet she took care of her money still; she carried
her basket; death seemed still a long way off, and life was so strong
in her. She craved food and rest--she hastened towards them at the very
moment she was picturing to herself the bank from which she would leap
towards death. It was already five days since she had left Windsor, for
she had wandered about, always avoiding speech or questioning looks,
and recovering her air of proud self-dependence whenever she was under
observation, choosing her decent lodging at night, and dressing herself
neatly in the morning, and setting off on her way steadily, or remaining
under shelter if it rained, as if she had a happy life to cherish.

And yet, even in her most self-conscious moments, the face was sadly
different from that which had smiled at itself in the old specked glass,
or smiled at others when they glanced at it admiringly. A hard and even
fierce look had come in the eyes, though their lashes were as long as
ever, and they had all their dark brightness. And the cheek was never
dimpled with smiles now. It was the same rounded, pouting, childish
prettiness, but with all love and belief in love departed from it--the
sadder for its beauty, like that wondrous Medusa-face, with the
passionate, passionless lips.

At last she was among the fields she had been dreaming of, on a long
narrow pathway leading towards a wood. If there should be a pool in that
wood! It would be better hidden than one in the fields. No, it was not a
wood, only a wild brake, where there had once been gravel-pits, leaving
mounds and hollows studded with brushwood and small trees. She roamed up
and down, thinking there was perhaps a pool in every hollow before she
came to it, till her limbs were weary, and she sat down to rest. The
afternoon was far advanced, and the leaden sky was darkening, as if the
sun were setting behind it. After a little while Hetty started up again,
feeling that darkness would soon come on; and she must put off finding
the pool till to-morrow, and make her way to some shelter for the night.
She had quite lost her way in the fields, and might as well go in one
direction as another, for aught she knew. She walked through field after
field, and no village, no house was in sight; but there, at the corner
of this pasture, there was a break in the hedges; the land seemed to
dip down a little, and two trees leaned towards each other across the
opening. Hetty's heart gave a great heat as she thought there must be
a pool there. She walked towards it heavily over the tufted grass, with
pale lips and a sense of trembling. It was as if the thing were come in
spite of herself, instead of being the object of her search.

There it was, black under the darkening sky: no motion, no sound near.
She set down her basket, and then sank down herself on the grass,
trembling. The pool had its wintry depth now: by the time it got
shallow, as she remembered the pools did at Hayslope, in the summer,
no one could find out that it was her body. But then there was her
basket--she must hide that too. She must throw it into the water--make
it heavy with stones first, and then throw it in. She got up to look
about for stones, and soon brought five or six, which she laid down
beside her basket, and then sat down again. There was no need to
hurry--there was all the night to drown herself in. She sat leaning her
elbow on the basket. She was weary, hungry. There were some buns in her
basket--three, which she had supplied herself with at the place where
she ate her dinner. She took them out now and ate them eagerly, and then
sat still again, looking at the pool. The soothed sensation that came
over her from the satisfaction of her hunger, and this fixed dreamy
attitude, brought on drowsiness, and presently her head sank down on her
knees. She was fast asleep.

When she awoke it was deep night, and she felt chill. She was frightened
at this darkness--frightened at the long night before her. If she could
but throw herself into the water! No, not yet. She began to walk about
that she might get warm again, as if she would have more resolution
then. Oh how long the time was in that darkness! The bright hearth and
the warmth and the voices of home, the secure uprising and lying down,
the familiar fields, the familiar people, the Sundays and holidays with
their simple joys of dress and feasting--all the sweets of her young
life rushed before her now, and she seemed to be stretching her arms
towards them across a great gulf. She set her teeth when she thought of
Arthur. She cursed him, without knowing what her cursing would do. She
wished he too might know desolation, and cold, and a life of shame that
he dared not end by death.

The horror of this cold, and darkness, and solitude--out of all human
reach--became greater every long minute. It was almost as if she were
dead already, and knew that she was dead, and longed to get back to life
again. But no: she was alive still; she had not taken the dreadful
leap. She felt a strange contradictory wretchedness and exultation:
wretchedness, that she did not dare to face death; exultation, that she
was still in life--that she might yet know light and warmth again. She
walked backwards and forwards to warm herself, beginning to discern
something of the objects around her, as her eyes became accustomed to
the night--the darker line of the hedge, the rapid motion of some living
creature--perhaps a field-mouse--rushing across the grass. She no longer
felt as if the darkness hedged her in. She thought she could walk back
across the field, and get over the stile; and then, in the very next
field, she thought she remembered there was a hovel of furze near a
sheepfold. If she could get into that hovel, she would be warmer. She
could pass the night there, for that was what Alick did at Hayslope
in lambing-time. The thought of this hovel brought the energy of a new
hope. She took up her basket and walked across the field, but it was
some time before she got in the right direction for the stile. The
exercise and the occupation of finding the stile were a stimulus to her,
however, and lightened the horror of the darkness and solitude. There
were sheep in the next field, and she startled a group as she set down
her basket and got over the stile; and the sound of their movement
comforted her, for it assured her that her impression was right--this
was the field where she had seen the hovel, for it was the field where
the sheep were. Right on along the path, and she would get to it. She
reached the opposite gate, and felt her way along its rails and the
rails of the sheep-fold, till her hand encountered the pricking of the
gorsy wall. Delicious sensation! She had found the shelter. She groped
her way, touching the prickly gorse, to the door, and pushed it open.
It was an ill-smelling close place, but warm, and there was straw on
the ground. Hetty sank down on the straw with a sense of escape. Tears
came--she had never shed tears before since she left Windsor--tears and
sobs of hysterical joy that she had still hold of life, that she
was still on the familiar earth, with the sheep near her. The very
consciousness of her own limbs was a delight to her: she turned up her
sleeves, and kissed her arms with the passionate love of life. Soon
warmth and weariness lulled her in the midst of her sobs, and she fell
continually into dozing, fancying herself at the brink of the pool
again--fancying that she had jumped into the water, and then awaking
with a start, and wondering where she was. But at last deep dreamless
sleep came; her head, guarded by her bonnet, found a pillow against
the gorsy wall, and the poor soul, driven to and fro between two equal
terrors, found the one relief that was possible to it--the relief of
unconsciousness.

Alas! That relief seems to end the moment it has begun. It seemed to
Hetty as if those dozen dreams had only passed into another dream--that
she was in the hovel, and her aunt was standing over her with a candle
in her hand. She trembled under her aunt's glance, and opened her eyes.
There was no candle, but there was light in the hovel--the light of
early morning through the open door. And there was a face looking down
on her; but it was an unknown face, belonging to an elderly man in a
smock-frock.

"Why, what do you do here, young woman?" the man said roughly.

Hetty trembled still worse under this real fear and shame than she had
done in her momentary dream under her aunt's glance. She felt that she
was like a beggar already--found sleeping in that place. But in spite of
her trembling, she was so eager to account to the man for her presence
here, that she found words at once.

"I lost my way," she said. "I'm travelling--north'ard, and I got away
from the road into the fields, and was overtaken by the dark. Will you
tell me the way to the nearest village?"

She got up as she was speaking, and put her hands to her bonnet to
adjust it, and then laid hold of her basket.

The man looked at her with a slow bovine gaze, without giving her any
answer, for some seconds. Then he turned away and walked towards the
door of the hovel, but it was not till he got there that he stood still,
and, turning his shoulder half-round towards her, said, "Aw, I can show
you the way to Norton, if you like. But what do you do gettin' out o'
the highroad?" he added, with a tone of gruff reproof. "Y'ull be gettin'
into mischief, if you dooant mind."

"Yes," said Hetty, "I won't do it again. I'll keep in the road, if
you'll be so good as show me how to get to it."

"Why dooant you keep where there's a finger-poasses an' folks to ax the
way on?" the man said, still more gruffly. "Anybody 'ud think you was a
wild woman, an' look at yer."

Hetty was frightened at this gruff old man, and still more at this last
suggestion that she looked like a wild woman. As she followed him out of
the hovel she thought she would give him a sixpence for telling her the
way, and then he would not suppose she was wild. As he stopped to point
out the road to her, she put her hand in her pocket to get the six-pence
ready, and when he was turning away, without saying good-morning,
she held it out to him and said, "Thank you; will you please to take
something for your trouble?"

He looked slowly at the sixpence, and then said, "I want none o' your
money. You'd better take care on't, else you'll get it stool from yer,
if you go trapesin' about the fields like a mad woman a-thatway."

The man left her without further speech, and Hetty held on her way.
Another day had risen, and she must wander on. It was no use to think of
drowning herself--she could not do it, at least while she had money left
to buy food and strength to journey on. But the incident on her waking
this morning heightened her dread of that time when her money would be
all gone; she would have to sell her basket and clothes then, and she
would really look like a beggar or a wild woman, as the man had said.
The passionate joy in life she had felt in the night, after escaping
from the brink of the black cold death in the pool, was gone now.
Life now, by the morning light, with the impression of that man's hard
wondering look at her, was as full of dread as death--it was worse; it
was a dread to which she felt chained, from which she shrank and shrank
as she did from the black pool, and yet could find no refuge from it.

She took out her money from her purse, and looked at it. She had still
two-and-twenty shillings; it would serve her for many days more, or it
would help her to get on faster to Stonyshire, within reach of
Dinah. The thought of Dinah urged itself more strongly now, since the
experience of the night had driven her shuddering imagination away from
the pool. If it had been only going to Dinah--if nobody besides Dinah
would ever know--Hetty could have made up her mind to go to her. The
soft voice, the pitying eyes, would have drawn her. But afterwards the
other people must know, and she could no more rush on that shame than
she could rush on death.

She must wander on and on, and wait for a lower depth of despair to give
her courage. Perhaps death would come to her, for she was getting less
and less able to bear the day's weariness. And yet--such is the strange
action of our souls, drawing us by a lurking desire towards the very
ends we dread--Hetty, when she set out again from Norton, asked the
straightest road northwards towards Stonyshire, and kept it all that
day.

Poor wandering Hetty, with the rounded childish face and the hard,
unloving, despairing soul looking out of it--with the narrow heart
and narrow thoughts, no room in them for any sorrows but her own, and
tasting that sorrow with the more intense bitterness! My heart bleeds
for her as I see her toiling along on her weary feet, or seated in
a cart, with her eyes fixed vacantly on the road before her, never
thinking or caring whither it tends, till hunger comes and makes her
desire that a village may be near.

What will be the end, the end of her objectless wandering, apart from
all love, caring for human beings only through her pride, clinging to
life only as the hunted wounded brute clings to it?

God preserve you and me from being the beginners of such misery!



Chapter XXXVIII

The Quest


THE first ten days after Hetty's departure passed as quietly as any
other days with the family at the Hall Farm, and with Adam at his daily
work. They had expected Hetty to stay away a week or ten days at least,
perhaps a little longer if Dinah came back with her, because there might
then be something to detain them at Snowfield. But when a fortnight had
passed they began to feel a little surprise that Hetty did not return;
she must surely have found it pleasanter to be with Dinah than any one
could have supposed. Adam, for his part, was getting very impatient
to see her, and he resolved that, if she did not appear the next day
(Saturday), he would set out on Sunday morning to fetch her. There
was no coach on a Sunday, but by setting out before it was light, and
perhaps getting a lift in a cart by the way, he would arrive pretty
early at Snowfield, and bring back Hetty the next day--Dinah too, if she
were coming. It was quite time Hetty came home, and he would afford to
lose his Monday for the sake of bringing her.

His project was quite approved at the Farm when he went there on
Saturday evening. Mrs. Poyser desired him emphatically not to come back
without Hetty, for she had been quite too long away, considering the
things she had to get ready by the middle of March, and a week was
surely enough for any one to go out for their health. As for Dinah, Mrs.
Poyser had small hope of their bringing her, unless they could make her
believe the folks at Hayslope were twice as miserable as the folks at
Snowfield. "Though," said Mrs. Poyser, by way of conclusion, "you might
tell her she's got but one aunt left, and SHE'S wasted pretty nigh to
a shadder; and we shall p'rhaps all be gone twenty mile farther off her
next Michaelmas, and shall die o' broken hearts among strange folks, and
leave the children fatherless and motherless."

"Nay, nay," said Mr. Poyser, who certainly had the air of a man
perfectly heart-whole, "it isna so bad as that. Thee't looking rarely
now, and getting flesh every day. But I'd be glad for Dinah t' come, for
she'd help thee wi' the little uns: they took t' her wonderful."

So at daybreak, on Sunday, Adam set off. Seth went with him the first
mile or two, for the thought of Snowfield and the possibility that Dinah
might come again made him restless, and the walk with Adam in the cold
morning air, both in their best clothes, helped to give him a sense of
Sunday calm. It was the last morning in February, with a low grey sky,
and a slight hoar-frost on the green border of the road and on the black
hedges. They heard the gurgling of the full brooklet hurrying down the
hill, and the faint twittering of the early birds. For they walked in
silence, though with a pleased sense of companionship.

"Good-bye, lad," said Adam, laying his hand on Seth's shoulder and
looking at him affectionately as they were about to part. "I wish thee
wast going all the way wi' me, and as happy as I am."

"I'm content, Addy, I'm content," said Seth cheerfully. "I'll be an old
bachelor, belike, and make a fuss wi' thy children."

The'y turned away from each other, and Seth walked leisurely homeward,
mentally repeating one of his favourite hymns--he was very fond of
hymns:

     Dark and cheerless is the morn
     Unaccompanied by thee:
     Joyless is the day's return
     Till thy mercy's beams I see:
     Till thou inward light impart,
     Glad my eyes and warm my heart.

     Visit, then, this soul of mine,
     Pierce the gloom of sin and grief--
     Fill me, Radiancy Divine,
     Scatter all my unbelief.
     More and more thyself display,
     Shining to the perfect day.

Adam walked much faster, and any one coming along the Oakbourne road
at sunrise that morning must have had a pleasant sight in this tall
broad-chested man, striding along with a carriage as upright and firm
as any soldier's, glancing with keen glad eyes at the dark-blue hills as
they began to show themselves on his way. Seldom in Adam's life had his
face been so free from any cloud of anxiety as it was this morning; and
this freedom from care, as is usual with constructive practical minds
like his, made him all the more observant of the objects round him
and all the more ready to gather suggestions from them towards his
own favourite plans and ingenious contrivances. His happy love--the
knowledge that his steps were carrying him nearer and nearer to Hetty,
who was so soon to be his--was to his thoughts what the sweet morning
air was to his sensations: it gave him a consciousness of well-being
that made activity delightful. Every now and then there was a rush of
more intense feeling towards her, which chased away other images than
Hetty; and along with that would come a wondering thankfulness that
all this happiness was given to him--that this life of ours had such
sweetness in it. For Adam had a devout mind, though he was perhaps
rather impatient of devout words, and his tenderness lay very close
to his reverence, so that the one could hardly be stirred without the
other. But after feeling had welled up and poured itself out in this
way, busy thought would come back with the greater vigour; and this
morning it was intent on schemes by which the roads might be improved
that were so imperfect all through the country, and on picturing all
the benefits that might come from the exertions of a single country
gentleman, if he would set himself to getting the roads made good in his
own district.

It seemed a very short walk, the ten miles to Oakbourne, that pretty
town within sight of the blue hills, where he break-fasted. After
this, the country grew barer and barer: no more rolling woods, no more
wide-branching trees near frequent homesteads, no more bushy hedgerows,
but greystone walls intersecting the meagre pastures, and dismal
wide-scattered greystone houses on broken lands where mines had been and
were no longer. "A hungry land," said Adam to himself. "I'd rather go
south'ard, where they say it's as flat as a table, than come to live
here; though if Dinah likes to live in a country where she can be the
most comfort to folks, she's i' the right to live o' this side; for she
must look as if she'd come straight from heaven, like th' angels in the
desert, to strengthen them as ha' got nothing t' eat." And when at last
he came in sight of Snowfield, he thought it looked like a town that was
"fellow to the country," though the stream through the valley where the
great mill stood gave a pleasant greenness to the lower fields. The town
lay, grim, stony, and unsheltered, up the side of a steep hill, and Adam
did not go forward to it at present, for Seth had told him where to find
Dinah. It was at a thatched cottage outside the town, a little way from
the mill--an old cottage, standing sideways towards the road, with a
little bit of potato-ground before it. Here Dinah lodged with an elderly
couple; and if she and Hetty happened to be out, Adam could learn where
they were gone, or when they would be at home again. Dinah might be out
on some preaching errand, and perhaps she would have left Hetty at home.
Adam could not help hoping this, and as he recognized the cottage by the
roadside before him, there shone out in his face that involuntary smile
which belongs to the expectation of a near joy.

He hurried his step along the narrow causeway, and rapped at the door.
It was opened by a very clean old woman, with a slow palsied shake of
the head.

"Is Dinah Morris at home?" said Adam.

"Eh?...no," said the old woman, looking up at this tall stranger with
a wonder that made her slower of speech than usual. "Will you please to
come in?" she added, retiring from the door, as if recollecting herself.
"Why, ye're brother to the young man as come afore, arena ye?"

"Yes," said Adam, entering. "That was Seth Bede. I'm his brother Adam.
He told me to give his respects to you and your good master."

"Aye, the same t' him. He was a gracious young man. An' ye feature him,
on'y ye're darker. Sit ye down i' th' arm-chair. My man isna come home
from meeting."

Adam sat down patiently, not liking to hurry the shaking old woman with
questions, but looking eagerly towards the narrow twisting stairs in one
corner, for he thought it was possible Hetty might have heard his voice
and would come down them.

"So you're come to see Dinah Morris?" said the old woman, standing
opposite to him. "An' you didn' know she was away from home, then?"

"No," said Adam, "but I thought it likely she might be away, seeing as
it's Sunday. But the other young woman--is she at home, or gone along
with Dinah?"

The old woman looked at Adam with a bewildered air.

"Gone along wi' her?" she said. "Eh, Dinah's gone to Leeds, a big town
ye may ha' heared on, where there's a many o' the Lord's people. She's
been gone sin' Friday was a fortnight: they sent her the money for her
journey. You may see her room here," she went on, opening a door and not
noticing the effect of her words on Adam. He rose and followed her, and
darted an eager glance into the little room with its narrow bed, the
portrait of Wesley on the wall, and the few books lying on the large
Bible. He had had an irrational hope that Hetty might be there. He could
not speak in the first moment after seeing that the room was empty; an
undefined fear had seized him--something had happened to Hetty on the
journey. Still the old woman was so slow of; speech and apprehension,
that Hetty might be at Snowfield after all.

"It's a pity ye didna know," she said. "Have ye come from your own
country o' purpose to see her?"

"But Hetty--Hetty Sorrel," said Adam, abruptly; "Where is she?"

"I know nobody by that name," said the old woman, wonderingly. "Is it
anybody ye've heared on at Snowfield?"

"Did there come no young woman here--very young and pretty--Friday was a
fortnight, to see Dinah Morris?"

"Nay; I'n seen no young woman."

"Think; are you quite sure? A girl, eighteen years old, with dark eyes
and dark curly hair, and a red cloak on, and a basket on her arm? You
couldn't forget her if you saw her."

"Nay; Friday was a fortnight--it was the day as Dinah went away--there
come nobody. There's ne'er been nobody asking for her till you come, for
the folks about know as she's gone. Eh dear, eh dear, is there summat
the matter?"

The old woman had seen the ghastly look of fear in Adam's face. But he
was not stunned or confounded: he was thinking eagerly where he could
inquire about Hetty.

"Yes; a young woman started from our country to see Dinah, Friday was a
fortnight. I came to fetch her back. I'm afraid something has happened
to her. I can't stop. Good-bye."

He hastened out of the cottage, and the old woman followed him to the
gate, watching him sadly with her shaking head as he almost ran towards
the town. He was going to inquire at the place where the Oakbourne coach
stopped.

No! No young woman like Hetty had been seen there. Had any accident
happened to the coach a fortnight ago? No. And there was no coach to
take him back to Oakbourne that day. Well, he would walk: he couldn't
stay here, in wretched inaction. But the innkeeper, seeing that Adam was
in great anxiety, and entering into this new incident with the eagerness
of a man who passes a great deal of time with his hands in his pockets
looking into an obstinately monotonous street, offered to take him back
to Oakbourne in his own "taxed cart" this very evening. It was not five
o'clock; there was plenty of time for Adam to take a meal and yet to get
to Oakbourne before ten o'clock. The innkeeper declared that he really
wanted to go to Oakbourne, and might as well go to-night; he should have
all Monday before him then. Adam, after making an ineffectual attempt
to eat, put the food in his pocket, and, drinking a draught of ale,
declared himself ready to set off. As they approached the cottage, it
occurred to him that he would do well to learn from the old woman
where Dinah was to be found in Leeds: if there was trouble at the Hall
Farm--he only half-admitted the foreboding that there would be--the
Poysers might like to send for Dinah. But Dinah had not left any
address, and the old woman, whose memory for names was infirm, could not
recall the name of the "blessed woman" who was Dinah's chief friend in
the Society at Leeds.

During that long, long journey in the taxed cart, there was time for
all the conjectures of importunate fear and struggling hope. In the very
first shock of discovering that Hetty had not been to Snowfield, the
thought of Arthur had darted through Adam like a sharp pang, but he
tried for some time to ward off its return by busying himself with modes
of accounting for the alarming fact, quite apart from that intolerable
thought. Some accident had happened. Hetty had, by some strange chance,
got into a wrong vehicle from Oakbourne: she had been taken ill, and did
not want to frighten them by letting them know. But this frail fence
of vague improbabilities was soon hurled down by a rush of distinct
agonizing fears. Hetty had been deceiving herself in thinking that she
could love and marry him: she had been loving Arthur all the while; and
now, in her desperation at the nearness of their marriage, she had run
away. And she was gone to him. The old indignation and jealousy
rose again, and prompted the suspicion that Arthur had been dealing
falsely--had written to Hetty--had tempted her to come to him--being
unwilling, after all, that she should belong to another man besides
himself. Perhaps the whole thing had been contrived by him, and he had
given her directions how to follow him to Ireland--for Adam knew that
Arthur had been gone thither three weeks ago, having recently learnt it
at the Chase. Every sad look of Hetty's, since she had been engaged
to Adam, returned upon him now with all the exaggeration of painful
retrospect. He had been foolishly sanguine and confident. The poor thing
hadn't perhaps known her own mind for a long while; had thought that
she could forget Arthur; had been momentarily drawn towards the man who
offered her a protecting, faithful love. He couldn't bear to blame her:
she never meant to cause him this dreadful pain. The blame lay with
that man who had selfishly played with her heart--had perhaps even
deliberately lured her away.

At Oakbourne, the ostler at the Royal Oak remembered such a young woman
as Adam described getting out of the Treddleston coach more than a
fortnight ago--wasn't likely to forget such a pretty lass as that in
a hurry--was sure she had not gone on by the Buxton coach that went
through Snowfield, but had lost sight of her while he went away with the
horses and had never set eyes on her again. Adam then went straight to
the house from which the Stonition coach started: Stoniton was the
most obvious place for Hetty to go to first, whatever might be
her destination, for she would hardly venture on any but the chief
coach-roads. She had been noticed here too, and was remembered to have
sat on the box by the coachman; but the coachman could not be seen, for
another man had been driving on that road in his stead the last three or
four days. He could probably be seen at Stoniton, through inquiry at the
inn where the coach put up. So the anxious heart-stricken Adam must of
necessity wait and try to rest till morning--nay, till eleven o'clock,
when the coach started.

At Stoniton another delay occurred, for the old coachman who had driven
Hetty would not be in the town again till night. When he did come he
remembered Hetty well, and remembered his own joke addressed to her,
quoting it many times to Adam, and observing with equal frequency that
he thought there was something more than common, because Hetty had not
laughed when he joked her. But he declared, as the people had done at
the inn, that he had lost sight of Hetty directly she got down. Part of
the next morning was consumed in inquiries at every house in the town
from which a coach started--(all in vain, for you know Hetty did not
start from Stonition by coach, but on foot in the grey morning)--and
then in walking out to the first toll-gates on the different lines of
road, in the forlorn hope of finding some recollection of her there. No,
she was not to be traced any farther; and the next hard task for Adam
was to go home and carry the wretched tidings to the Hall Farm. As to
what he should do beyond that, he had come to two distinct resolutions
amidst the tumult of thought and feeling which was going on within him
while he went to and fro. He would not mention what he knew of Arthur
Donnithorne's behaviour to Hetty till there was a clear necessity for
it: it was still possible Hetty might come back, and the disclosure
might be an injury or an offence to her. And as soon as he had been home
and done what was necessary there to prepare for his further absence, he
would start off to Ireland: if he found no trace of Hetty on the road,
he would go straight to Arthur Donnithorne and make himself certain
how far he was acquainted with her movements. Several times the thought
occurred to him that he would consult Mr. Irwine, but that would be
useless unless he told him all, and so betrayed the secret about Arthur.
It seems strange that Adam, in the incessant occupation of his mind
about Hetty, should never have alighted on the probability that she had
gone to Windsor, ignorant that Arthur was no longer there. Perhaps the
reason was that he could not conceive Hetty's throwing herself on Arthur
uncalled; he imagined no cause that could have driven her to such
a step, after that letter written in August. There were but two
alternatives in his mind: either Arthur had written to her again and
enticed her away, or she had simply fled from her approaching marriage
with himself because she found, after all, she could not love him well
enough, and yet was afraid of her friends' anger if she retracted.

With this last determination on his mind, of going straight to Arthur,
the thought that he had spent two days in inquiries which had proved to
be almost useless, was torturing to Adam; and yet, since he would not
tell the Poysers his conviction as to where Hetty was gone, or his
intention to follow her thither, he must be able to say to them that he
had traced her as far as possible.

It was after twelve o'clock on Tuesday night when Adam reached
Treddleston; and, unwilling to disturb his mother and Seth, and also
to encounter their questions at that hour, he threw himself without
undressing on a bed at the "Waggon Overthrown," and slept hard from pure
weariness. Not more than four hours, however, for before five o'clock he
set out on his way home in the faint morning twilight. He always kept a
key of the workshop door in his pocket, so that he could let himself in;
and he wished to enter without awaking his mother, for he was anxious
to avoid telling her the new trouble himself by seeing Seth first, and
asking him to tell her when it should be necessary. He walked gently
along the yard, and turned the key gently in the door; but, as he
expected, Gyp, who lay in the workshop, gave a sharp bark. It subsided
when he saw Adam, holding up his finger at him to impose silence, and
in his dumb, tailless joy he must content himself with rubbing his body
against his master's legs.

Adam was too heart-sick to take notice of Gyp's fondling. He threw
himself on the bench and stared dully at the wood and the signs of work
around him, wondering if he should ever come to feel pleasure in them
again, while Gyp, dimly aware that there was something wrong with his
master, laid his rough grey head on Adam's knee and wrinkled his brows
to look up at him. Hitherto, since Sunday afternoon, Adam had been
constantly among strange people and in strange places, having no
associations with the details of his daily life, and now that by the
light of this new morning he was come back to his home and surrounded
by the familiar objects that seemed for ever robbed of their charm, the
reality--the hard, inevitable reality of his troubles pressed upon him
with a new weight. Right before him was an unfinished chest of drawers,
which he had been making in spare moments for Hetty's use, when his home
should be hers.

Seth had not heard Adam's entrance, but he had been roused by Gyp's
bark, and Adam heard him moving about in the room above, dressing
himself. Seth's first thoughts were about his brother: he would come
home to-day, surely, for the business would be wanting him sadly by
to-morrow, but it was pleasant to think he had had a longer holiday than
he had expected. And would Dinah come too? Seth felt that that was the
greatest happiness he could look forward to for himself, though he had
no hope left that she would ever love him well enough to marry him; but
he had often said to himself, it was better to be Dinah's friend and
brother than any other woman's husband. If he could but be always near
her, instead of living so far off!

He came downstairs and opened the inner door leading from the kitchen
into the workshop, intending to let out Gyp; but he stood still in
the doorway, smitten with a sudden shock at the sight of Adam seated
listlessly on the bench, pale, unwashed, with sunken blank eyes, almost
like a drunkard in the morning. But Seth felt in an instant what the
marks meant--not drunkenness, but some great calamity. Adam looked up at
him without speaking, and Seth moved forward towards the bench, himself
trembling so that speech did not come readily.

"God have mercy on us, Addy," he said, in a low voice, sitting down on
the bench beside Adam, "what is it?"

Adam was unable to speak. The strong man, accustomed to suppress the
signs of sorrow, had felt his heart swell like a child's at this first
approach of sympathy. He fell on Seth's neck and sobbed.

Seth was prepared for the worst now, for, even in his recollections of
their boyhood, Adam had never sobbed before.

"Is it death, Adam? Is she dead?" he asked, in a low tone, when Adam
raised his head and was recovering himself.

"No, lad; but she's gone--gone away from us. She's never been to
Snowfield. Dinah's been gone to Leeds ever since last Friday was a
fortnight, the very day Hetty set out. I can't find out where she went
after she got to Stoniton."

Seth was silent from utter astonishment: he knew nothing that could
suggest to him a reason for Hetty's going away.

"Hast any notion what she's done it for?" he said, at last.

"She can't ha' loved me. She didn't like our marriage when it came
nigh--that must be it," said Adam. He had determined to mention no
further reason.

"I hear Mother stirring," said Seth. "Must we tell her?"

"No, not yet," said Adam, rising from the bench and pushing the hair
from his face, as if he wanted to rouse himself. "I can't have her told
yet; and I must set out on another journey directly, after I've been to
the village and th' Hall Farm. I can't tell thee where I'm going, and
thee must say to her I'm gone on business as nobody is to know anything
about. I'll go and wash myself now." Adam moved towards the door of the
workshop, but after a step or two he turned round, and, meeting Seth's
eyes with a calm sad glance, he said, "I must take all the money out
o' the tin box, lad; but if anything happens to me, all the rest 'll be
thine, to take care o' Mother with."

Seth was pale and trembling: he felt there was some terrible secret
under all this. "Brother," he said, faintly--he never called Adam
"Brother" except in solemn moments--"I don't believe you'll do anything
as you can't ask God's blessing on."

"Nay, lad," said Adam, "don't be afraid. I'm for doing nought but what's
a man's duty."

The thought that if he betrayed his trouble to his mother, she would
only distress him by words, half of blundering affection, half of
irrepressible triumph that Hetty proved as unfit to be his wife as she
had always foreseen, brought back some of his habitual firmness and
self-command. He had felt ill on his journey home--he told her when she
came down--had stayed all night at Tredddleston for that reason; and a
bad headache, that still hung about him this morning, accounted for his
paleness and heavy eyes.

He determined to go to the village, in the first place, attend to his
business for an hour, and give notice to Burge of his being obliged to
go on a journey, which he must beg him not to mention to any one; for
he wished to avoid going to the Hall Farm near breakfast-time, when the
children and servants would be in the house-place, and there must be
exclamations in their hearing about his having returned without Hetty.
He waited until the clock struck nine before he left the work-yard at
the village, and set off, through the fields, towards the Farm. It was
an immense relief to him, as he came near the Home Close, to see Mr.
Poyser advancing towards him, for this would spare him the pain of going
to the house. Mr. Poyser was walking briskly this March morning, with a
sense of spring business on his mind: he was going to cast the master's
eye on the shoeing of a new cart-horse, carrying his spud as a useful
companion by the way. His surprise was great when he caught sight of
Adam, but he was not a man given to presentiments of evil.

"Why, Adam, lad, is't you? Have ye been all this time away and not
brought the lasses back, after all? Where are they?"

"No, I've not brought 'em," said Adam, turning round, to indicate that
he wished to walk back with Mr. Poyser.

"Why," said Martin, looking with sharper attention at Adam, "ye look
bad. Is there anything happened?"

"Yes," said Adam, heavily. "A sad thing's happened. I didna find Hetty
at Snowfield."

Mr. Poyser's good-natured face showed signs of troubled astonishment.
"Not find her? What's happened to her?" he said, his thoughts flying at
once to bodily accident.

"That I can't tell, whether anything's happened to her. She never went
to Snowfield--she took the coach to Stoniton, but I can't learn nothing
of her after she got down from the Stoniton coach."

"Why, you donna mean she's run away?" said Martin, standing still, so
puzzled and bewildered that the fact did not yet make itself felt as a
trouble by him.

"She must ha' done," said Adam. "She didn't like our marriage when it
came to the point--that must be it. She'd mistook her feelings."

Martin was silent for a minute or two, looking on the ground and rooting
up the grass with his spud, without knowing what he was doing. His usual
slowness was always trebled when the subject of speech was painful. At
last he looked up, right in Adam's face, saying, "Then she didna deserve
t' ha' ye, my lad. An' I feel i' fault myself, for she was my niece, and
I was allays hot for her marr'ing ye. There's no amends I can make ye,
lad--the more's the pity: it's a sad cut-up for ye, I doubt."

Adam could say nothing; and Mr. Poyser, after pursuing his walk for a
little while, went on, "I'll be bound she's gone after trying to get a
lady's maid's place, for she'd got that in her head half a year ago, and
wanted me to gi' my consent. But I'd thought better on her"--he added,
shaking his head slowly and sadly--"I'd thought better on her, nor to
look for this, after she'd gi'en y' her word, an' everything been got
ready."

Adam had the strongest motives for encouraging this supposition in Mr.
Poyser, and he even tried to believe that it might possibly be true. He
had no warrant for the certainty that she was gone to Arthur.

"It was better it should be so," he said, as quietly as he could, "if
she felt she couldn't like me for a husband. Better run away before than
repent after. I hope you won't look harshly on her if she comes back, as
she may do if she finds it hard to get on away from home."

"I canna look on her as I've done before," said Martin decisively.
"She's acted bad by you, and by all of us. But I'll not turn my back on
her: she's but a young un, and it's the first harm I've knowed on her.
It'll be a hard job for me to tell her aunt. Why didna Dinah come back
wi' ye? She'd ha' helped to pacify her aunt a bit."

"Dinah wasn't at Snowfield. She's been gone to Leeds this fortnight, and
I couldn't learn from th' old woman any direction where she is at Leeds,
else I should ha' brought it you."

"She'd a deal better be staying wi' her own kin," said Mr. Poyser,
indignantly, "than going preaching among strange folks a-that'n."

"I must leave you now, Mr. Poyser," said Adam, "for I've a deal to see
to."

"Aye, you'd best be after your business, and I must tell the missis when
I go home. It's a hard job."

"But," said Adam, "I beg particular, you'll keep what's happened quiet
for a week or two. I've not told my mother yet, and there's no knowing
how things may turn out."

"Aye, aye; least said, soonest mended. We'n no need to say why the match
is broke off, an' we may hear of her after a bit. Shake hands wi' me,
lad: I wish I could make thee amends."

There was something in Martin Poyser's throat at that moment which
caused him to bring out those scanty words in rather a broken fashion.
Yet Adam knew what they meant all the better, and the two honest men
grasped each other's hard hands in mutual understanding.

There was nothing now to hinder Adam from setting off. He had told Seth
to go to the Chase and leave a message for the squire, saying that Adam
Bede had been obliged to start off suddenly on a journey--and to say as
much, and no more, to any one else who made inquiries about him. If the
Poysers learned that he was gone away again, Adam knew they would infer
that he was gone in search of Hetty.

He had intended to go right on his way from the Hall Farm, but now the
impulse which had frequently visited him before--to go to Mr. Irwine,
and make a confidant of him--recurred with the new force which belongs
to a last opportunity. He was about to start on a long journey--a
difficult one--by sea--and no soul would know where he was gone. If
anything happened to him? Or, if he absolutely needed help in any matter
concerning Hetty? Mr. Irwine was to be trusted; and the feeling which
made Adam shrink from telling anything which was her secret must give
way before the need there was that she should have some one else besides
himself who would be prepared to defend her in the worst extremity.
Towards Arthur, even though he might have incurred no new guilt, Adam
felt that he was not bound to keep silence when Hetty's interest called
on him to speak.

"I must do it," said Adam, when these thoughts, which had spread
themselves through hours of his sad journeying, now rushed upon him in
an instant, like a wave that had been slowly gathering; "it's the right
thing. I can't stand alone in this way any longer."



Chapter XXXIX

The Tidings


ADAM turned his face towards Broxton and walked with his swiftest
stride, looking at his watch with the fear that Mr. Irwine might be gone
out--hunting, perhaps. The fear and haste together produced a state of
strong excitement before he reached the rectory gate, and outside it he
saw the deep marks of a recent hoof on the gravel.

But the hoofs were turned towards the gate, not away from it, and though
there was a horse against the stable door, it was not Mr. Irwine's: it
had evidently had a journey this morning, and must belong to some one
who had come on business. Mr. Irwine was at home, then; but Adam could
hardly find breath and calmness to tell Carroll that he wanted to speak
to the rector. The double suffering of certain and uncertain sorrow had
begun to shake the strong man. The butler looked at him wonderingly, as
he threw himself on a bench in the passage and stared absently at the
clock on the opposite wall. The master had somebody with him, he said,
but he heard the study door open--the stranger seemed to be coming out,
and as Adam was in a hurry, he would let the master know at once.

Adam sat looking at the clock: the minute-hand was hurrying along the
last five minutes to ten with a loud, hard, indifferent tick, and Adam
watched the movement and listened to the sound as if he had had some
reason for doing so. In our times of bitter suffering there are almost
always these pauses, when our consciousness is benumbed to everything
but some trivial perception or sensation. It is as if semi-idiocy came
to give us rest from the memory and the dread which refuse to leave us
in our sleep.

Carroll, coming back, recalled Adam to the sense of his burden. He
was to go into the study immediately. "I can't think what that strange
person's come about," the butler added, from mere incontinence of
remark, as he preceded Adam to the door, "he's gone i' the dining-room.
And master looks unaccountable--as if he was frightened." Adam took no
notice of the words: he could not care about other people's business.
But when he entered the study and looked in Mr. Irwine's face, he felt
in an instant that there was a new expression in it, strangely different
from the warm friendliness it had always worn for him before. A letter
lay open on the table, and Mr. Irwine's hand was on it, but the changed
glance he cast on Adam could not be owing entirely to preoccupation with
some disagreeable business, for he was looking eagerly towards the door,
as if Adam's entrance were a matter of poignant anxiety to him.

"You want to speak to me, Adam," he said, in that low constrainedly
quiet tone which a man uses when he is determined to suppress agitation.
"Sit down here." He pointed to a chair just opposite to him, at no more
than a yard's distance from his own, and Adam sat down with a sense
that this cold manner of Mr. Irwine's gave an additional unexpected
difficulty to his disclosure. But when Adam had made up his mind to
a measure, he was not the man to renounce it for any but imperative
reasons.

"I come to you, sir," he said, "as the gentleman I look up to most of
anybody. I've something very painful to tell you--something as it'll
pain you to hear as well as me to tell. But if I speak o' the wrong
other people have done, you'll see I didn't speak till I'd good reason."

Mr. Irwine nodded slowly, and Adam went on rather tremulously, "You was
t' ha' married me and Hetty Sorrel, you know, sir, o' the fifteenth o'
this month. I thought she loved me, and I was th' happiest man i' the
parish. But a dreadful blow's come upon me."

Mr. Irwine started up from his chair, as if involuntarily, but then,
determined to control himself, walked to the window and looked out.

"She's gone away, sir, and we don't know where. She said she was going
to Snowfield o' Friday was a fortnight, and I went last Sunday to
fetch her back; but she'd never been there, and she took the coach to
Stoniton, and beyond that I can't trace her. But now I'm going a long
journey to look for her, and I can't trust t' anybody but you where I'm
going."

Mr. Irwine came back from the window and sat down.

"Have you no idea of the reason why she went away?" he said.

"It's plain enough she didn't want to marry me, sir," said Adam. "She
didn't like it when it came so near. But that isn't all, I doubt.
There's something else I must tell you, sir. There's somebody else
concerned besides me."

A gleam of something--it was almost like relief or joy--came across the
eager anxiety of Mr. Irwine's face at that moment. Adam was looking on
the ground, and paused a little: the next words were hard to speak.
But when he went on, he lifted up his head and looked straight at Mr.
Irwine. He would do the thing he had resolved to do, without flinching.

"You know who's the man I've reckoned my greatest friend," he said, "and
used to be proud to think as I should pass my life i' working for him,
and had felt so ever since we were lads...."

Mr. Irwine, as if all self-control had forsaken him, grasped Adam's arm,
which lay on the table, and, clutching it tightly like a man in pain,
said, with pale lips and a low hurried voice, "No, Adam, no--don't say
it, for God's sake!"

Adam, surprised at the violence of Mr. Irwine's feeling, repented of the
words that had passed his lips and sat in distressed silence. The grasp
on his arm gradually relaxed, and Mr. Irwine threw himself back in his
chair, saying, "Go on--I must know it."

"That man played with Hetty's feelings, and behaved to her as he'd no
right to do to a girl in her station o' life--made her presents and used
to go and meet her out a-walking. I found it out only two days before
he went away--found him a-kissing her as they were parting in the Grove.
There'd been nothing said between me and Hetty then, though I'd loved
her for a long while, and she knew it. But I reproached him with his
wrong actions, and words and blows passed between us; and he said
solemnly to me, after that, as it had been all nonsense and no more
than a bit o' flirting. But I made him write a letter to tell Hetty
he'd meant nothing, for I saw clear enough, sir, by several things as
I hadn't understood at the time, as he'd got hold of her heart, and
I thought she'd belike go on thinking of him and never come to love
another man as wanted to marry her. And I gave her the letter, and she
seemed to bear it all after a while better than I'd expected...and she
behaved kinder and kinder to me...I daresay she didn't know her own
feelings then, poor thing, and they came back upon her when it was too
late...I don't want to blame her...I can't think as she meant to deceive
me. But I was encouraged to think she loved me, and--you know the rest,
sir. But it's on my mind as he's been false to me, and 'ticed her away,
and she's gone to him--and I'm going now to see, for I can never go to
work again till I know what's become of her."

During Adam's narrative, Mr. Irwine had had time to recover his
self-mastery in spite of the painful thoughts that crowded upon him.
It was a bitter remembrance to him now--that morning when Arthur
breakfasted with him and seemed as if he were on the verge of a
confession. It was plain enough now what he had wanted to confess. And
if their words had taken another turn...if he himself had been less
fastidious about intruding on another man's secrets...it was cruel
to think how thin a film had shut out rescue from all this guilt and
misery. He saw the whole history now by that terrible illumination which
the present sheds back upon the past. But every other feeling as it
rushed upon his was thrown into abeyance by pity, deep respectful pity,
for the man who sat before him--already so bruised, going forth with sad
blind resignedness to an unreal sorrow, while a real one was close
upon him, too far beyond the range of common trial for him ever to have
feared it. His own agitation was quelled by a certain awe that comes
over us in the presence of a great anguish, for the anguish he must
inflict on Adam was already present to him. Again he put his hand on
the arm that lay on the table, but very gently this time, as he said
solemnly:

"Adam, my dear friend, you have had some hard trials in your life. You
can bear sorrow manfully, as well as act manfully. God requires both
tasks at our hands. And there is a heavier sorrow coming upon you than
any you have yet known. But you are not guilty--you have not the worst
of all sorrows. God help him who has!"

The two pale faces looked at each other; in Adam's there was trembling
suspense, in Mr. Irwine's hesitating, shrinking pity. But he went on.

"I have had news of Hetty this morning. She is not gone to him. She is
in Stonyshire--at Stoniton."

Adam started up from his chair, as if he thought he could have leaped
to her that moment. But Mr. Irwine laid hold of his arm again and said,
persuasively, "Wait, Adam, wait." So he sat down.

"She is in a very unhappy position--one which will make it worse for you
to find her, my poor friend, than to have lost her for ever."

Adam's lips moved tremulously, but no sound came. They moved again, and
he whispered, "Tell me."

"She has been arrested...she is in prison."

It was as if an insulting blow had brought back the spirit of resistance
into Adam. The blood rushed to his face, and he said, loudly and
sharply, "For what?"

"For a great crime--the murder of her child."

"It CAN'T BE!" Adam almost shouted, starting up from his chair and
making a stride towards the door; but he turned round again, setting his
back against the bookcase, and looking fiercely at Mr. Irwine. "It isn't
possible. She never had a child. She can't be guilty. WHO says it?"

"God grant she may be innocent, Adam. We can still hope she is."

"But who says she is guilty?" said Adam violently. "Tell me everything."

"Here is a letter from the magistrate before whom she was taken, and the
constable who arrested her is in the dining-room. She will not confess
her name or where she comes from; but I fear, I fear, there can be no
doubt it is Hetty. The description of her person corresponds, only
that she is said to look very pale and ill. She had a small red-leather
pocket-book in her pocket with two names written in it--one at the
beginning, 'Hetty Sorrel, Hayslope,' and the other near the end, 'Dinah
Morris, Snowfield.' She will not say which is her own name--she denies
everything, and will answer no questions, and application has been made
to me, as a magistrate, that I may take measures for identifying her,
for it was thought probable that the name which stands first is her own
name."

"But what proof have they got against her, if it IS Hetty?" said Adam,
still violently, with an effort that seemed to shake his whole frame.
"I'll not believe it. It couldn't ha' been, and none of us know it."

"Terrible proof that she was under the temptation to commit the crime;
but we have room to hope that she did not really commit it. Try and read
that letter, Adam."

Adam took the letter between his shaking hands and tried to fix his eyes
steadily on it. Mr. Irwine meanwhile went out to give some orders. When
he came back, Adam's eyes were still on the first page--he couldn't
read--he could not put the words together and make out what they meant.
He threw it down at last and clenched his fist.

"It's HIS doing," he said; "if there's been any crime, it's at his door,
not at hers. HE taught her to deceive--HE deceived me first. Let 'em put
HIM on his trial--let him stand in court beside her, and I'll tell 'em
how he got hold of her heart, and 'ticed her t' evil, and then lied to
me. Is HE to go free, while they lay all the punishment on her...so weak
and young?"

The image called up by these last words gave a new direction to poor
Adam's maddened feelings. He was silent, looking at the corner of the
room as if he saw something there. Then he burst out again, in a tone of
appealing anguish, "I can't bear it...O God, it's too hard to lay upon
me--it's too hard to think she's wicked."

Mr. Irwine had sat down again in silence. He was too wise to utter
soothing words at present, and indeed, the sight of Adam before him,
with that look of sudden age which sometimes comes over a young face in
moments of terrible emotion--the hard bloodless look of the skin, the
deep lines about the quivering mouth, the furrows in the brow--the sight
of this strong firm man shattered by the invisible stroke of sorrow,
moved him so deeply that speech was not easy. Adam stood motionless,
with his eyes vacantly fixed in this way for a minute or two; in that
short space he was living through all his love again.

"She can't ha' done it," he said, still without moving his eyes, as
if he were only talking to himself: "it was fear made her hide it...I
forgive her for deceiving me...I forgive thee, Hetty...thee wast
deceived too...it's gone hard wi' thee, my poor Hetty...but they'll
never make me believe it."

He was silent again for a few moments, and then he said, with fierce
abruptness, "I'll go to him--I'll bring him back--I'll make him go and
look at her in her misery--he shall look at her till he can't forget
it--it shall follow him night and day--as long as he lives it shall
follow him--he shan't escape wi' lies this time--I'll fetch him, I'll
drag him myself."

In the act of going towards the door, Adam paused automatically and
looked about for his hat, quite unconscious where he was or who was
present with him. Mr. Irwine had followed him, and now took him by the
arm, saying, in a quiet but decided tone, "No, Adam, no; I'm sure you
will wish to stay and see what good can be done for her, instead of
going on a useless errand of vengeance. The punishment will surely fall
without your aid. Besides, he is no longer in Ireland. He must be on his
way home--or would be, long before you arrived, for his grandfather, I
know, wrote for him to come at least ten days ago. I want you now to go
with me to Stoniton. I have ordered a horse for you to ride with us, as
soon as you can compose yourself."

While Mr. Irwine was speaking, Adam recovered his consciousness of the
actual scene. He rubbed his hair off his forehead and listened.

"Remember," Mr. Irwine went on, "there are others to think of, and
act for, besides yourself, Adam: there are Hetty's friends, the good
Poysers, on whom this stroke will fall more heavily than I can bear to
think. I expect it from your strength of mind, Adam--from your sense of
duty to God and man--that you will try to act as long as action can be
of any use."

In reality, Mr. Irwine proposed this journey to Stoniton for Adam's
own sake. Movement, with some object before him, was the best means of
counteracting the violence of suffering in these first hours.

"You will go with me to Stoniton, Adam?" he said again, after a moment's
pause. "We have to see if it is really Hetty who is there, you know."

"Yes, sir," said Adam, "I'll do what you think right. But the folks at
th' Hall Farm?"

"I wish them not to know till I return to tell them myself. I shall
have ascertained things then which I am uncertain about now, and I shall
return as soon as possible. Come now, the horses are ready."



Chapter XL

The Bitter Waters Spread


MR. IRWINE returned from Stoniton in a post-chaise that night, and the
first words Carroll said to him, as he entered the house, were, that
Squire Donnithorne was dead--found dead in his bed at ten o'clock that
morning--and that Mrs. Irwine desired him to say she should be awake
when Mr. Irwine came home, and she begged him not to go to bed without
seeing her.

"Well, Dauphin," Mrs. Irwine said, as her son entered her room, "you're
come at last. So the old gentleman's fidgetiness and low spirits, which
made him send for Arthur in that sudden way, really meant something. I
suppose Carroll has told you that Donnithorne was found dead in his bed
this morning. You will believe my prognostications another time, though
I daresay I shan't live to prognosticate anything but my own death."

"What have they done about Arthur?" said Mr. Irwine. "Sent a messenger
to await him at Liverpool?"

"Yes, Ralph was gone before the news was brought to us. Dear Arthur, I
shall live now to see him master at the Chase, and making good times on
the estate, like a generous-hearted fellow as he is. He'll be as happy
as a king now."

Mr. Irwine could not help giving a slight groan: he was worn with
anxiety and exertion, and his mother's light words were almost
intolerable.

"What are you so dismal about, Dauphin? Is there any bad news? Or are
you thinking of the danger for Arthur in crossing that frightful Irish
Channel at this time of year?"

"No, Mother, I'm not thinking of that; but I'm not prepared to rejoice
just now."

"You've been worried by this law business that you've been to Stoniton
about. What in the world is it, that you can't tell me?"

"You will know by and by, mother. It would not be right for me to tell
you at present. Good-night: you'll sleep now you have no longer anything
to listen for."

Mr. Irwine gave up his intention of sending a letter to meet Arthur,
since it would not now hasten his return: the news of his grandfather's
death would bring him as soon as he could possibly come. He could go
to bed now and get some needful rest, before the time came for the
morning's heavy duty of carrying his sickening news to the Hall Farm and
to Adam's home.

Adam himself was not come back from Stoniton, for though he shrank from
seeing Hetty, he could not bear to go to a distance from her again.

"It's no use, sir," he said to the rector, "it's no use for me to go
back. I can't go to work again while she's here, and I couldn't bear
the sight o' the things and folks round home. I'll take a bit of a room
here, where I can see the prison walls, and perhaps I shall get, in
time, to bear seeing her."

Adam had not been shaken in his belief that Hetty was innocent of the
crime she was charged with, for Mr. Irwine, feeling that the belief in
her guilt would be a crushing addition to Adam's load, had kept from him
the facts which left no hope in his own mind. There was not any reason
for thrusting the whole burden on Adam at once, and Mr. Irwine, at
parting, only said, "If the evidence should tell too strongly against
her, Adam, we may still hope for a pardon. Her youth and other
circumstances will be a plea for her."

"Ah, and it's right people should know how she was tempted into the
wrong way," said Adam, with bitter earnestness. "It's right they should
know it was a fine gentleman made love to her, and turned her head wi'
notions. You'll remember, sir, you've promised to tell my mother, and
Seth, and the people at the farm, who it was as led her wrong, else
they'll think harder of her than she deserves. You'll be doing her a
hurt by sparing him, and I hold him the guiltiest before God, let her
ha' done what she may. If you spare him, I'll expose him!"

"I think your demand is just, Adam," said Mr. Irwine, "but when you are
calmer, you will judge Arthur more mercifully. I say nothing now, only
that his punishment is in other hands than ours."

Mr. Irwine felt it hard upon him that he should have to tell of Arthur's
sad part in the story of sin and sorrow--he who cared for Arthur with
fatherly affection, who had cared for him with fatherly pride. But he
saw clearly that the secret must be known before long, even apart from
Adam's determination, since it was scarcely to be supposed that Hetty
would persist to the end in her obstinate silence. He made up his mind
to withhold nothing from the Poysers, but to tell them the worst at
once, for there was no time to rob the tidings of their suddenness.
Hetty's trial must come on at the Lent assizes, and they were to be
held at Stoniton the next week. It was scarcely to be hoped that Martin
Poyser could escape the pain of being called as a witness, and it was
better he should know everything as long beforehand as possible.

Before ten o'clock on Thursday morning the home at the Hall Farm was
a house of mourning for a misfortune felt to be worse than death. The
sense of family dishonour was too keen even in the kind-hearted Martin
Poyser the younger to leave room for any compassion towards Hetty. He
and his father were simple-minded farmers, proud of their untarnished
character, proud that they came of a family which had held up its head
and paid its way as far back as its name was in the parish register;
and Hetty had brought disgrace on them all--disgrace that could never
be wiped out. That was the all-conquering feeling in the mind both of
father and son--the scorching sense of disgrace, which neutralised all
other sensibility--and Mr. Irwine was struck with surprise to observe
that Mrs. Poyser was less severe than her husband. We are often startled
by the severity of mild people on exceptional occasions; the reason is,
that mild people are most liable to be under the yoke of traditional
impressions.

"I'm willing to pay any money as is wanted towards trying to bring her
off," said Martin the younger when Mr. Irwine was gone, while the old
grandfather was crying in the opposite chair, "but I'll not go nigh her,
nor ever see her again, by my own will. She's made our bread bitter to
us for all our lives to come, an' we shall ne'er hold up our heads i'
this parish nor i' any other. The parson talks o' folks pitying us: it's
poor amends pity 'ull make us."

"Pity?" said the grandfather, sharply. "I ne'er wanted folks's pity i'
MY life afore...an' I mun begin to be looked down on now, an' me turned
seventy-two last St. Thomas's, an' all th' underbearers and pall-bearers
as I'n picked for my funeral are i' this parish and the next to
't....It's o' no use now...I mun be ta'en to the grave by strangers."

"Don't fret so, father," said Mrs. Poyser, who had spoken very little,
being almost overawed by her husband's unusual hardness and decision.
"You'll have your children wi' you; an' there's the lads and the little
un 'ull grow up in a new parish as well as i' th' old un."

"Ah, there's no staying i' this country for us now," said Mr. Poyser,
and the hard tears trickled slowly down his round cheeks. "We thought
it 'ud be bad luck if the old squire gave us notice this Lady day, but I
must gi' notice myself now, an' see if there can anybody be got to come
an' take to the crops as I'n put i' the ground; for I wonna stay upo'
that man's land a day longer nor I'm forced to't. An' me, as thought him
such a good upright young man, as I should be glad when he come to be
our landlord. I'll ne'er lift my hat to him again, nor sit i' the same
church wi' him...a man as has brought shame on respectable folks...an'
pretended to be such a friend t' everybody....Poor Adam there...a fine
friend he's been t' Adam, making speeches an' talking so fine, an' all
the while poisoning the lad's life, as it's much if he can stay i' this
country any more nor we can."

"An' you t' ha' to go into court, and own you're akin t' her," said the
old man. "Why, they'll cast it up to the little un, as isn't four 'ear
old, some day--they'll cast it up t' her as she'd a cousin tried at the
'sizes for murder."

"It'll be their own wickedness, then," said Mrs. Poyser, with a sob in
her voice. "But there's One above 'ull take care o' the innicent child,
else it's but little truth they tell us at church. It'll be harder nor
ever to die an' leave the little uns, an' nobody to be a mother to 'em."

"We'd better ha' sent for Dinah, if we'd known where she is," said Mr.
Poyser; "but Adam said she'd left no direction where she'd be at Leeds."

"Why, she'd be wi' that woman as was a friend t' her Aunt Judith," said
Mrs. Poyser, comforted a little by this suggestion of her husbands.
"I've often heard Dinah talk of her, but I can't remember what name
she called her by. But there's Seth Bede; he's like enough to know, for
she's a preaching woman as the Methodists think a deal on."

"I'll send to Seth," said Mr. Poyser. "I'll send Alick to tell him to
come, or else to send up word o' the woman's name, an' thee canst write
a letter ready to send off to Treddles'on as soon as we can make out a
direction."

"It's poor work writing letters when you want folks to come to you i'
trouble," said Mrs. Poyser. "Happen it'll be ever so long on the road,
an' never reach her at last."

Before Alick arrived with the message, Lisbeth's thoughts too had
already flown to Dinah, and she had said to Seth, "Eh, there's no
comfort for us i' this world any more, wi'out thee couldst get Dinah
Morris to come to us, as she did when my old man died. I'd like her to
come in an' take me by th' hand again, an' talk to me. She'd tell me the
rights on't, belike--she'd happen know some good i' all this trouble an'
heart-break comin' upo' that poor lad, as ne'er done a bit o' wrong in's
life, but war better nor anybody else's son, pick the country round. Eh,
my lad...Adam, my poor lad!"

"Thee wouldstna like me to leave thee, to go and fetch Dinah?" said
Seth, as his mother sobbed and rocked herself to and fro.

"Fetch her?" said Lisbeth, looking up and pausing from her grief, like
a crying child who hears some promise of consolation. "Why, what place
is't she's at, do they say?"

"It's a good way off, mother--Leeds, a big town. But I could be back in
three days, if thee couldst spare me."

"Nay, nay, I canna spare thee. Thee must go an' see thy brother, an'
bring me word what he's a-doin'. Mester Irwine said he'd come an' tell
me, but I canna make out so well what it means when he tells me. Thee
must go thysen, sin' Adam wonna let me go to him. Write a letter to
Dinah canstna? Thee't fond enough o' writin' when nobody wants thee."

"I'm not sure where she'd be i' that big town," said Seth. "If I'd gone
myself, I could ha' found out by asking the members o' the Society. But
perhaps if I put Sarah Williamson, Methodist preacher, Leeds, o'
th' outside, it might get to her; for most like she'd be wi' Sarah
Williamson."

Alick came now with the message, and Seth, finding that Mrs. Poyser was
writing to Dinah, gave up the intention of writing himself; but he went
to the Hall Farm to tell them all he could suggest about the address
of the letter, and warn them that there might be some delay in the
delivery, from his not knowing an exact direction.

On leaving Lisbeth, Mr. Irwine had gone to Jonathan Burge, who had also
a claim to be acquainted with what was likely to keep Adam away from
business for some time; and before six o'clock that evening there were
few people in Broxton and Hayslope who had not heard the sad news. Mr.
Irwine had not mentioned Arthur's name to Burge, and yet the story of
his conduct towards Hetty, with all the dark shadows cast upon it by
its terrible consequences, was presently as well known as that his
grandfather was dead, and that he was come into the estate. For Martin
Poyser felt no motive to keep silence towards the one or two neighbours
who ventured to come and shake him sorrowfully by the hand on the first
day of his trouble; and Carroll, who kept his ears open to all that
passed at the rectory, had framed an inferential version of the story,
and found early opportunities of communicating it.

One of those neighbours who came to Martin Poyser and shook him by the
hand without speaking for some minutes was Bartle Massey. He had shut
up his school, and was on his way to the rectory, where he arrived about
half-past seven in the evening, and, sending his duty to Mr. Irwine,
begged pardon for troubling him at that hour, but had something
particular on his mind. He was shown into the study, where Mr. Irwine
soon joined him.

"Well, Bartle?" said Mr. Irwine, putting out his hand. That was not his
usual way of saluting the schoolmaster, but trouble makes us treat all
who feel with us very much alike. "Sit down."

"You know what I'm come about as well as I do, sir, I daresay," said
Bartle.

"You wish to know the truth about the sad news that has reached
you...about Hetty Sorrel?"

"Nay, sir, what I wish to know is about Adam Bede. I understand you left
him at Stoniton, and I beg the favour of you to tell me what's the state
of the poor lad's mind, and what he means to do. For as for that bit o'
pink-and-white they've taken the trouble to put in jail, I don't value
her a rotten nut--not a rotten nut--only for the harm or good that may
come out of her to an honest man--a lad I've set such store
by--trusted to, that he'd make my bit o' knowledge go a good way in the
world....Why, sir, he's the only scholar I've had in this stupid country
that ever had the will or the head-piece for mathematics. If he hadn't
had so much hard work to do, poor fellow, he might have gone into the
higher branches, and then this might never have happened--might never
have happened."

Bartle was heated by the exertion of walking fast in an agitated frame
of mind, and was not able to check himself on this first occasion of
venting his feelings. But he paused now to rub his moist forehead, and
probably his moist eyes also.

"You'll excuse me, sir," he said, when this pause had given him time to
reflect, "for running on in this way about my own feelings, like that
foolish dog of mine howling in a storm, when there's nobody wants to
listen to me. I came to hear you speak, not to talk myself--if you'll
take the trouble to tell me what the poor lad's doing."

"Don't put yourself under any restraint, Bartle," said Mr. Irwine. "The
fact is, I'm very much in the same condition as you just now; I've a
great deal that's painful on my mind, and I find it hard work to be
quite silent about my own feelings and only attend to others. I share
your concern for Adam, though he is not the only one whose sufferings I
care for in this affair. He intends to remain at Stoniton till after the
trial: it will come on probably a week to-morrow. He has taken a room
there, and I encouraged him to do so, because I think it better he
should be away from his own home at present; and, poor fellow, he still
believes Hetty is innocent--he wants to summon up courage to see her if
he can; he is unwilling to leave the spot where she is."

"Do you think the creatur's guilty, then?" said Bartle. "Do you think
they'll hang her?"

"I'm afraid it will go hard with her. The evidence is very strong. And
one bad symptom is that she denies everything--denies that she has had
a child in the face of the most positive evidence. I saw her myself, and
she was obstinately silent to me; she shrank up like a frightened animal
when she saw me. I was never so shocked in my life as at the change in
her. But I trust that, in the worst case, we may obtain a pardon for the
sake of the innocent who are involved."

"Stuff and nonsense!" said Bartle, forgetting in his irritation to whom
he was speaking. "I beg your pardon, sir, I mean it's stuff and nonsense
for the innocent to care about her being hanged. For my own part, I
think the sooner such women are put out o' the world the better; and the
men that help 'em to do mischief had better go along with 'em for that
matter. What good will you do by keeping such vermin alive, eating the
victual that 'ud feed rational beings? But if Adam's fool enough to care
about it, I don't want him to suffer more than's needful....Is he very
much cut up, poor fellow?" Bartle added, taking out his spectacles and
putting them on, as if they would assist his imagination.

"Yes, I'm afraid the grief cuts very deep," said Mr. Irwine. "He looks
terribly shattered, and a certain violence came over him now and then
yesterday, which made me wish I could have remained near him. But I
shall go to Stoniton again to-morrow, and I have confidence enough in
the strength of Adam's principle to trust that he will be able to endure
the worst without being driven to anything rash."

Mr. Irwine, who was involuntarily uttering his own thoughts rather
than addressing Bartle Massey in the last sentence, had in his mind the
possibility that the spirit of vengeance to-wards Arthur, which was
the form Adam's anguish was continually taking, might make him seek an
encounter that was likely to end more fatally than the one in the Grove.
This possibility heightened the anxiety with which he looked forward
to Arthur's arrival. But Bartle thought Mr. Irwine was referring to
suicide, and his face wore a new alarm.

"I'll tell you what I have in my head, sir," he said, "and I hope you'll
approve of it. I'm going to shut up my school--if the scholars come,
they must go back again, that's all--and I shall go to Stoniton and look
after Adam till this business is over. I'll pretend I'm come to look
on at the assizes; he can't object to that. What do you think about it,
sir?"

"Well," said Mr. Irwine, rather hesitatingly, "there would be some real
advantages in that...and I honour you for your friendship towards him,
Bartle. But...you must be careful what you say to him, you know. I'm
afraid you have too little fellow-feeling in what you consider his
weakness about Hetty."

"Trust to me, sir--trust to me. I know what you mean. I've been a fool
myself in my time, but that's between you and me. I shan't thrust myself
on him only keep my eye on him, and see that he gets some good food, and
put in a word here and there."

"Then," said Mr. Irwine, reassured a little as to Bartle's discretion,
"I think you'll be doing a good deed; and it will be well for you to let
Adam's mother and brother know that you're going."

"Yes, sir, yes," said Bartle, rising, and taking off his spectacles,
"I'll do that, I'll do that; though the mother's a whimpering
thing--I don't like to come within earshot of her; however, she's
a straight-backed, clean woman, none of your slatterns. I wish you
good-bye, sir, and thank you for the time you've spared me. You're
everybody's friend in this business--everybody's friend. It's a heavy
weight you've got on your shoulders."

"Good-bye, Bartle, till we meet at Stoniton, as I daresay we shall."

Bartle hurried away from the rectory, evading Carroll's conversational
advances, and saying in an exasperated tone to Vixen, whose short legs
pattered beside him on the gravel, "Now, I shall be obliged to take you
with me, you good-for-nothing woman. You'd go fretting yourself to death
if I left you--you know you would, and perhaps get snapped up by some
tramp. And you'll be running into bad company, I expect, putting your
nose in every hole and corner where you've no business! But if you do
anything disgraceful, I'll disown you--mind that, madam, mind that!"



Chapter XLI

The Eve of the Trial



AN upper room in a dull Stoniton street, with two beds in it--one laid
on the floor. It is ten o'clock on Thursday night, and the dark wall
opposite the window shuts out the moonlight that might have struggled
with the light of the one dip candle by which Bartle Massey is
pretending to read, while he is really looking over his spectacles at
Adam Bede, seated near the dark window.

You would hardly have known it was Adam without being told. His face has
got thinner this last week: he has the sunken eyes, the neglected beard
of a man just risen from a sick-bed. His heavy black hair hangs over his
forehead, and there is no active impulse in him which inclines him to
push it off, that he may be more awake to what is around him. He has one
arm over the back of the chair, and he seems to be looking down at his
clasped hands. He is roused by a knock at the door.

"There he is," said Bartle Massey, rising hastily and unfastening the
door. It was Mr. Irwine.

Adam rose from his chair with instinctive respect, as Mr. Irwine
approached him and took his hand.

"I'm late, Adam," he said, sitting down on the chair which Bartle placed
for him, "but I was later in setting off from Broxton than I intended
to be, and I have been incessantly occupied since I arrived. I have done
everything now, however--everything that can be done to-night, at least.
Let us all sit down."

Adam took his chair again mechanically, and Bartle, for whom there was
no chair remaining, sat on the bed in the background.

"Have you seen her, sir?" said Adam tremulously.

"Yes, Adam; I and the chaplain have both been with her this evening."

"Did you ask her, sir...did you say anything about me?"

"Yes," said Mr. Irwine, with some hesitation, "I spoke of you. I said
you wished to see her before the trial, if she consented."

As Mr. Irwine paused, Adam looked at him with eager, questioning eyes.

"You know she shrinks from seeing any one, Adam. It is not only
you--some fatal influence seems to have shut up her heart against her
fellow-creatures. She has scarcely said anything more than 'No' either
to me or the chaplain. Three or four days ago, before you were mentioned
to her, when I asked her if there was any one of her family whom she
would like to see--to whom she could open her mind--she said, with a
violent shudder, 'Tell them not to come near me--I won't see any of
them.'"

Adam's head was hanging down again, and he did not speak. There was
silence for a few minutes, and then Mr. Irwine said, "I don't like
to advise you against your own feelings, Adam, if they now urge you
strongly to go and see her to-morrow morning, even without her consent.
It is just possible, notwithstanding appearances to the contrary, that
the interview might affect her favourably. But I grieve to say I have
scarcely any hope of that. She didn't seem agitated when I mentioned
your name; she only said 'No,' in the same cold, obstinate way as usual.
And if the meeting had no good effect on her, it would be pure, useless
suffering to you--severe suffering, I fear. She is very much changed..."

Adam started up from his chair and seized his hat, which lay on the
table. But he stood still then, and looked at Mr. Irwine, as if he had a
question to ask which it was yet difficult to utter. Bartle Massey rose
quietly, turned the key in the door, and put it in his pocket.

"Is he come back?" said Adam at last.

"No, he is not," said Mr. Irwine, quietly. "Lay down your hat, Adam,
unless you like to walk out with me for a little fresh air. I fear you
have not been out again to-day."

"You needn't deceive me, sir," said Adam, looking hard at Mr. Irwine and
speaking in a tone of angry suspicion. "You needn't be afraid of me.
I only want justice. I want him to feel what she feels. It's his
work...she was a child as it 'ud ha' gone t' anybody's heart to look
at...I don't care what she's done...it was him brought her to it. And he
shall know it...he shall feel it...if there's a just God, he shall feel
what it is t' ha' brought a child like her to sin and misery."

"I'm not deceiving you, Adam," said Mr. Irwine. "Arthur Donnithorne is
not come back--was not come back when I left. I have left a letter for
him: he will know all as soon as he arrives."

"But you don't mind about it," said Adam indignantly. "You think it
doesn't matter as she lies there in shame and misery, and he knows
nothing about it--he suffers nothing."

"Adam, he WILL know--he WILL suffer, long and bitterly. He has a heart
and a conscience: I can't be entirely deceived in his character. I am
convinced--I am sure he didn't fall under temptation without a struggle.
He may be weak, but he is not callous, not coldly selfish. I am
persuaded that this will be a shock of which he will feel the effects
all his life. Why do you crave vengeance in this way? No amount of
torture that you could inflict on him could benefit her."

"No--O God, no," Adam groaned out, sinking on his chair again; "but
then, that's the deepest curse of all...that's what makes the blackness
of it...IT CAN NEVER BE UNDONE. My poor Hetty...she can never be my
sweet Hetty again...the prettiest thing God had made--smiling up at
me...I thought she loved me...and was good..."

Adam's voice had been gradually sinking into a hoarse undertone, as if
he were only talking to himself; but now he said abruptly, looking at
Mr. Irwine, "But she isn't as guilty as they say? You don't think she
is, sir? She can't ha' done it."

"That perhaps can never be known with certainty, Adam," Mr. Irwine
answered gently. "In these cases we sometimes form our judgment on what
seems to us strong evidence, and yet, for want of knowing some small
fact, our judgment is wrong. But suppose the worst: you have no right to
say that the guilt of her crime lies with him, and that he ought to bear
the punishment. It is not for us men to apportion the shares of moral
guilt and retribution. We find it impossible to avoid mistakes even in
determining who has committed a single criminal act, and the problem how
far a man is to be held responsible for the unforeseen consequences of
his own deed is one that might well make us tremble to look into it.
The evil consequences that may lie folded in a single act of selfish
indulgence is a thought so awful that it ought surely to awaken some
feeling less presumptuous than a rash desire to punish. You have a mind
that can understand this fully, Adam, when you are calm. Don't suppose
I can't enter into the anguish that drives you into this state
of revengeful hatred. But think of this: if you were to obey your
passion--for it IS passion, and you deceive yourself in calling it
justice--it might be with you precisely as it has been with Arthur; nay,
worse; your passion might lead you yourself into a horrible crime."

"No--not worse," said Adam, bitterly; "I don't believe it's worse--I'd
sooner do it--I'd sooner do a wickedness as I could suffer for by myself
than ha' brought HER to do wickedness and then stand by and see 'em
punish her while they let me alone; and all for a bit o' pleasure, as,
if he'd had a man's heart in him, he'd ha' cut his hand off sooner than
he'd ha' taken it. What if he didn't foresee what's happened? He foresaw
enough; he'd no right to expect anything but harm and shame to her. And
then he wanted to smooth it off wi' lies. No--there's plenty o' things
folks are hanged for not half so hateful as that. Let a man do what he
will, if he knows he's to bear the punishment himself, he isn't half so
bad as a mean selfish coward as makes things easy t' himself and knows
all the while the punishment 'll fall on somebody else."

"There again you partly deceive yourself, Adam. There is no sort of
wrong deed of which a man can bear the punishment alone; you can't
isolate yourself and say that the evil which is in you shall not spread.
Men's lives are as thoroughly blended with each other as the air they
breathe: evil spreads as necessarily as disease. I know, I feel the
terrible extent of suffering this sin of Arthur's has caused to others;
but so does every sin cause suffering to others besides those who commit
it. An act of vengeance on your part against Arthur would simply be
another evil added to those we are suffering under: you could not bear
the punishment alone; you would entail the worst sorrows on every one
who loves you. You would have committed an act of blind fury that would
leave all the present evils just as they were and add worse evils to
them. You may tell me that you meditate no fatal act of vengeance, but
the feeling in your mind is what gives birth to such actions, and as
long as you indulge it, as long as you do not see that to fix your mind
on Arthur's punishment is revenge, and not justice, you are in danger
of being led on to the commission of some great wrong. Remember what you
told me about your feelings after you had given that blow to Arthur in
the Grove."

Adam was silent: the last words had called up a vivid image of the past,
and Mr. Irwine left him to his thoughts, while he spoke to Bartle Massey
about old Mr. Donnithorne's funeral and other matters of an indifferent
kind. But at length Adam turned round and said, in a more subdued tone,
"I've not asked about 'em at th' Hall Farm, sir. Is Mr. Poyser coming?"

"He is come; he is in Stoniton to-night. But I could not advise him to
see you, Adam. His own mind is in a very perturbed state, and it is best
he should not see you till you are calmer."

"Is Dinah Morris come to 'em, sir? Seth said they'd sent for her."

"No. Mr. Poyser tells me she was not come when he left. They're afraid
the letter has not reached her. It seems they had no exact address."

Adam sat ruminating a little while, and then said, "I wonder if Dinah
'ud ha' gone to see her. But perhaps the Poysers would ha' been sorely
against it, since they won't come nigh her themselves. But I think she
would, for the Methodists are great folks for going into the prisons;
and Seth said he thought she would. She'd a very tender way with her,
Dinah had; I wonder if she could ha' done any good. You never saw her,
sir, did you?"

"Yes, I did. I had a conversation with her--she pleased me a good deal.
And now you mention it, I wish she would come, for it is possible that a
gentle mild woman like her might move Hetty to open her heart. The jail
chaplain is rather harsh in his manner."

"But it's o' no use if she doesn't come," said Adam sadly.

"If I'd thought of it earlier, I would have taken some measures
for finding her out," said Mr. Irwine, "but it's too late now, I
fear...Well, Adam, I must go now. Try to get some rest to-night. God
bless you. I'll see you early to-morrow morning."



Chapter XLII

The Morning of the Trial


AT one o'clock the next day, Adam was alone in his dull upper room;
his watch lay before him on the table, as if he were counting the
long minutes. He had no knowledge of what was likely to be said by
the witnesses on the trial, for he had shrunk from all the particulars
connected with Hetty's arrest and accusation. This brave active man, who
would have hastened towards any danger or toil to rescue Hetty from an
apprehended wrong or misfortune, felt himself powerless to contemplate
irremediable evil and suffering. The susceptibility which would have
been an impelling force where there was any possibility of action became
helpless anguish when he was obliged to be passive, or else sought an
active outlet in the thought of inflicting justice on Arthur. Energetic
natures, strong for all strenuous deeds, will often rush away from a
hopeless sufferer, as if they were hard-hearted. It is the overmastering
sense of pain that drives them. They shrink by an ungovernable instinct,
as they would shrink from laceration. Adam had brought himself to think
of seeing Hetty, if she would consent to see him, because he thought the
meeting might possibly be a good to her--might help to melt away this
terrible hardness they told him of. If she saw he bore her no ill will
for what she had done to him, she might open her heart to him. But this
resolution had been an immense effort--he trembled at the thought of
seeing her changed face, as a timid woman trembles at the thought of
the surgeon's knife, and he chose now to bear the long hours of suspense
rather than encounter what seemed to him the more intolerable agony of
witnessing her trial.

Deep unspeakable suffering may well be called a baptism, a regeneration,
the initiation into a new state. The yearning memories, the bitter
regret, the agonized sympathy, the struggling appeals to the Invisible
Right--all the intense emotions which had filled the days and nights of
the past week, and were compressing themselves again like an eager crowd
into the hours of this single morning, made Adam look back on all the
previous years as if they had been a dim sleepy existence, and he had
only now awaked to full consciousness. It seemed to him as if he had
always before thought it a light thing that men should suffer, as if all
that he had himself endured and called sorrow before was only a moment's
stroke that had never left a bruise. Doubtless a great anguish may do
the work of years, and we may come out from that baptism of fire with a
soul full of new awe and new pity.

"O God," Adam groaned, as he leaned on the table and looked blankly at
the face of the watch, "and men have suffered like this before...and
poor helpless young things have suffered like her....Such a little while
ago looking so happy and so pretty...kissing 'em all, her grandfather
and all of 'em, and they wishing her luck....O my poor, poor
Hetty...dost think on it now?"

Adam started and looked round towards the door. Vixen had begun to
whimper, and there was a sound of a stick and a lame walk on the stairs.
It was Bartle Massey come back. Could it be all over?

Bartle entered quietly, and, going up to Adam, grasped his hand and
said, "I'm just come to look at you, my boy, for the folks are gone out
of court for a bit."

Adam's heart beat so violently he was unable to speak--he could only
return the pressure of his friend's hand--and Bartle, drawing up the
other chair, came and sat in front of him, taking off his hat and his
spectacles.

"That's a thing never happened to me before," he observed, "to go out o'
the door with my spectacles on. I clean forgot to take 'em off."

The old man made this trivial remark, thinking it better not to respond
at all to Adam's agitation: he would gather, in an indirect way, that
there was nothing decisive to communicate at present.

"And now," he said, rising again, "I must see to your having a bit of
the loaf, and some of that wine Mr. Irwine sent this morning. He'll be
angry with me if you don't have it. Come, now," he went on, bringing
forward the bottle and the loaf and pouring some wine into a cup, "I
must have a bit and a sup myself. Drink a drop with me, my lad--drink
with me."

Adam pushed the cup gently away and said, entreatingly, "Tell me about
it, Mr. Massey--tell me all about it. Was she there? Have they begun?"

"Yes, my boy, yes--it's taken all the time since I first went; but
they're slow, they're slow; and there's the counsel they've got for her
puts a spoke in the wheel whenever he can, and makes a deal to do with
cross-examining the witnesses and quarrelling with the other lawyers.
That's all he can do for the money they give him; and it's a big
sum--it's a big sum. But he's a 'cute fellow, with an eye that 'ud pick
the needles out of the hay in no time. If a man had got no feelings, it
'ud be as good as a demonstration to listen to what goes on in court;
but a tender heart makes one stupid. I'd have given up figures for ever
only to have had some good news to bring to you, my poor lad."

"But does it seem to be going against her?" said Adam. "Tell me what
they've said. I must know it now--I must know what they have to bring
against her."

"Why, the chief evidence yet has been the doctors; all but Martin
Poyser--poor Martin. Everybody in court felt for him--it was like one
sob, the sound they made when he came down again. The worst was when
they told him to look at the prisoner at the bar. It was hard work, poor
fellow--it was hard work. Adam, my boy, the blow falls heavily on him
as well as you; you must help poor Martin; you must show courage. Drink
some wine now, and show me you mean to bear it like a man."

Bartle had made the right sort of appeal. Adam, with an air of quiet
obedience, took up the cup and drank a little.

"Tell me how SHE looked," he said presently.

"Frightened, very frightened, when they first brought her in; it was the
first sight of the crowd and the judge, poor creatur. And there's a lot
o' foolish women in fine clothes, with gewgaws all up their arms
and feathers on their heads, sitting near the judge: they've dressed
themselves out in that way, one 'ud think, to be scarecrows and warnings
against any man ever meddling with a woman again. They put up their
glasses, and stared and whispered. But after that she stood like a white
image, staring down at her hands and seeming neither to hear nor see
anything. And she's as white as a sheet. She didn't speak when they
asked her if she'd plead 'guilty' or 'not guilty,' and they pleaded 'not
guilty' for her. But when she heard her uncle's name, there seemed to go
a shiver right through her; and when they told him to look at her, she
hung her head down, and cowered, and hid her face in her hands.
He'd much ado to speak poor man, his voice trembled so. And the
counsellors--who look as hard as nails mostly--I saw, spared him as much
as they could. Mr. Irwine put himself near him and went with him out o'
court. Ah, it's a great thing in a man's life to be able to stand by a
neighbour and uphold him in such trouble as that."

"God bless him, and you too, Mr. Massey," said Adam, in a low voice,
laying his hand on Bartle's arm.

"Aye, aye, he's good metal; he gives the right ring when you try him,
our parson does. A man o' sense--says no more than's needful. He's not
one of those that think they can comfort you with chattering, as if
folks who stand by and look on knew a deal better what the trouble was
than those who have to bear it. I've had to do with such folks in my
time--in the south, when I was in trouble myself. Mr. Irwine is to be
a witness himself, by and by, on her side, you know, to speak to her
character and bringing up."

"But the other evidence...does it go hard against her!" said Adam. "What
do you think, Mr. Massey? Tell me the truth."

"Yes, my lad, yes. The truth is the best thing to tell. It must come at
last. The doctors' evidence is heavy on her--is heavy. But she's gone
on denying she's had a child from first to last. These poor silly
women-things--they've not the sense to know it's no use denying what's
proved. It'll make against her with the jury, I doubt, her being so
obstinate: they may be less for recommending her to mercy, if the
verdict's against her. But Mr. Irwine 'ull leave no stone unturned with
the judge--you may rely upon that, Adam."

"Is there nobody to stand by her and seem to care for her in the court?"
said Adam.

"There's the chaplain o' the jail sits near her, but he's a sharp
ferrety-faced man--another sort o' flesh and blood to Mr. Irwine. They
say the jail chaplains are mostly the fag-end o' the clergy."

"There's one man as ought to be there," said Adam bitterly. Presently he
drew himself up and looked fixedly out of the window, apparently turning
over some new idea in his mind.

"Mr. Massey," he said at last, pushing the hair off his forehead, "I'll
go back with you. I'll go into court. It's cowardly of me to keep away.
I'll stand by her--I'll own her--for all she's been deceitful. They
oughtn't to cast her off--her own flesh and blood. We hand folks over to
God's mercy, and show none ourselves. I used to be hard sometimes: I'll
never be hard again. I'll go, Mr. Massey--I'll go with you."

There was a decision in Adam's manner which would have prevented Bartle
from opposing him, even if he had wished to do so. He only said, "Take
a bit, then, and another sup, Adam, for the love of me. See, I must stop
and eat a morsel. Now, you take some."

Nerved by an active resolution, Adam took a morsel of bread and drank
some wine. He was haggard and unshaven, as he had been yesterday, but he
stood upright again, and looked more like the Adam Bede of former days.



Chapter XLIII

The Verdict


THE place fitted up that day as a court of justice was a grand old hall,
now destroyed by fire. The midday light that fell on the close pavement
of human heads was shed through a line of high pointed windows,
variegated with the mellow tints of old painted glass. Grim dusty armour
hung in high relief in front of the dark oaken gallery at the farther
end, and under the broad arch of the great mullioned window opposite was
spread a curtain of old tapestry, covered with dim melancholy figures,
like a dozing indistinct dream of the past. It was a place that through
the rest of the year was haunted with the shadowy memories of old
kings and queens, unhappy, discrowned, imprisoned; but to-day all those
shadows had fled, and not a soul in the vast hall felt the presence of
any but a living sorrow, which was quivering in warm hearts.

But that sorrow seemed to have made it itself feebly felt hitherto, now
when Adam Bede's tall figure was suddenly seen being ushered to the side
of the prisoner's dock. In the broad sunlight of the great hall, among
the sleek shaven faces of other men, the marks of suffering in his face
were startling even to Mr. Irwine, who had last seen him in the dim
light of his small room; and the neighbours from Hayslope who were
present, and who told Hetty Sorrel's story by their firesides in their
old age, never forgot to say how it moved them when Adam Bede, poor
fellow, taller by the head than most of the people round him, came into
court and took his place by her side.

But Hetty did not see him. She was standing in the same position Bartle
Massey had described, her hands crossed over each other and her eyes
fixed on them. Adam had not dared to look at her in the first moments,
but at last, when the attention of the court was withdrawn by the
proceedings he turned his face towards her with a resolution not to
shrink.

Why did they say she was so changed? In the corpse we love, it is the
likeness we see--it is the likeness, which makes itself felt the more
keenly because something else was and is not. There they were--the sweet
face and neck, with the dark tendrils of hair, the long dark lashes, the
rounded cheek and the pouting lips--pale and thin, yes, but like Hetty,
and only Hetty. Others thought she looked as if some demon had cast a
blighting glance upon her, withered up the woman's soul in her, and
left only a hard despairing obstinacy. But the mother's yearning, that
completest type of the life in another life which is the essence of
real human love, feels the presence of the cherished child even in the
debased, degraded man; and to Adam, this pale, hard-looking culprit
was the Hetty who had smiled at him in the garden under the apple-tree
boughs--she was that Hetty's corpse, which he had trembled to look at
the first time, and then was unwilling to turn away his eyes from.

But presently he heard something that compelled him to listen, and made
the sense of sight less absorbing. A woman was in the witness-box, a
middle-aged woman, who spoke in a firm distinct voice. She said, "My
name is Sarah Stone. I am a widow, and keep a small shop licensed to
sell tobacco, snuff, and tea in Church Lane, Stoniton. The prisoner at
the bar is the same young woman who came, looking ill and tired, with
a basket on her arm, and asked for a lodging at my house on Saturday
evening, the 27th of February. She had taken the house for a public,
because there was a figure against the door. And when I said I didn't
take in lodgers, the prisoner began to cry, and said she was too tired
to go anywhere else, and she only wanted a bed for one night. And her
prettiness, and her condition, and something respectable about her
clothes and looks, and the trouble she seemed to be in made me as I
couldn't find in my heart to send her away at once. I asked her to sit
down, and gave her some tea, and asked her where she was going, and
where her friends were. She said she was going home to her friends: they
were farming folks a good way off, and she'd had a long journey that had
cost her more money than she expected, so as she'd hardly any money left
in her pocket, and was afraid of going where it would cost her much. She
had been obliged to sell most of the things out of her basket, but she'd
thankfully give a shilling for a bed. I saw no reason why I shouldn't
take the young woman in for the night. I had only one room, but there
were two beds in it, and I told her she might stay with me. I thought
she'd been led wrong, and got into trouble, but if she was going to her
friends, it would be a good work to keep her out of further harm."

The witness then stated that in the night a child was born, and she
identified the baby-clothes then shown to her as those in which she had
herself dressed the child.

"Those are the clothes. I made them myself, and had kept them by me
ever since my last child was born. I took a deal of trouble both for
the child and the mother. I couldn't help taking to the little thing and
being anxious about it. I didn't send for a doctor, for there seemed no
need. I told the mother in the day-time she must tell me the name of her
friends, and where they lived, and let me write to them. She said, by
and by she would write herself, but not to-day. She would have no nay,
but she would get up and be dressed, in spite of everything I could say.
She said she felt quite strong enough; and it was wonderful what spirit
she showed. But I wasn't quite easy what I should do about her, and
towards evening I made up my mind I'd go, after Meeting was over, and
speak to our minister about it. I left the house about half-past eight
o'clock. I didn't go out at the shop door, but at the back door, which
opens into a narrow alley. I've only got the ground-floor of the
house, and the kitchen and bedroom both look into the alley. I left the
prisoner sitting up by the fire in the kitchen with the baby on her lap.
She hadn't cried or seemed low at all, as she did the night before. I
thought she had a strange look with her eyes, and she got a bit flushed
towards evening. I was afraid of the fever, and I thought I'd call and
ask an acquaintance of mine, an experienced woman, to come back with
me when I went out. It was a very dark night. I didn't fasten the door
behind me; there was no lock; it was a latch with a bolt inside, and
when there was nobody in the house I always went out at the shop door.
But I thought there was no danger in leaving it unfastened that little
while. I was longer than I meant to be, for I had to wait for the woman
that came back with me. It was an hour and a half before we got back,
and when we went in, the candle was standing burning just as I left it,
but the prisoner and the baby were both gone. She'd taken her cloak and
bonnet, but she'd left the basket and the things in it....I was
dreadful frightened, and angry with her for going. I didn't go to give
information, because I'd no thought she meant to do any harm, and I knew
she had money in her pocket to buy her food and lodging. I didn't like
to set the constable after her, for she'd a right to go from me if she
liked."

The effect of this evidence on Adam was electrical; it gave him new
force. Hetty could not be guilty of the crime--her heart must have clung
to her baby--else why should she have taken it with her? She might have
left it behind. The little creature had died naturally, and then she
had hidden it. Babies were so liable to death--and there might be
the strongest suspicions without any proof of guilt. His mind was so
occupied with imaginary arguments against such suspicions, that he
could not listen to the cross-examination by Hetty's counsel, who tried,
without result, to elicit evidence that the prisoner had shown some
movements of maternal affection towards the child. The whole time this
witness was being examined, Hetty had stood as motionless as before: no
word seemed to arrest her ear. But the sound of the next witness's
voice touched a chord that was still sensitive, she gave a start and a
frightened look towards him, but immediately turned away her head and
looked down at her hands as before. This witness was a man, a rough
peasant. He said:

"My name is John Olding. I am a labourer, and live at Tedd's Hole, two
miles out of Stoniton. A week last Monday, towards one o'clock in the
afternoon, I was going towards Hetton Coppice, and about a quarter of a
mile from the coppice I saw the prisoner, in a red cloak, sitting under
a bit of a haystack not far off the stile. She got up when she saw me,
and seemed as if she'd be walking on the other way. It was a regular
road through the fields, and nothing very uncommon to see a young woman
there, but I took notice of her because she looked white and scared. I
should have thought she was a beggar-woman, only for her good clothes. I
thought she looked a bit crazy, but it was no business of mine. I stood
and looked back after her, but she went right on while she was in sight.
I had to go to the other side of the coppice to look after some stakes.
There's a road right through it, and bits of openings here and there,
where the trees have been cut down, and some of 'em not carried away.
I didn't go straight along the road, but turned off towards the middle,
and took a shorter way towards the spot I wanted to get to. I hadn't got
far out of the road into one of the open places before I heard a strange
cry. I thought it didn't come from any animal I knew, but I wasn't for
stopping to look about just then. But it went on, and seemed so strange
to me in that place, I couldn't help stopping to look. I began to think
I might make some money of it, if it was a new thing. But I had hard
work to tell which way it came from, and for a good while I kept looking
up at the boughs. And then I thought it came from the ground; and there
was a lot of timber-choppings lying about, and loose pieces of turf, and
a trunk or two. And I looked about among them, but could find nothing,
and at last the cry stopped. So I was for giving it up, and I went on
about my business. But when I came back the same way pretty nigh an hour
after, I couldn't help laying down my stakes to have another look. And
just as I was stooping and laying down the stakes, I saw something odd
and round and whitish lying on the ground under a nut-bush by the side
of me. And I stooped down on hands and knees to pick it up. And I saw it
was a little baby's hand."

At these words a thrill ran through the court. Hetty was visibly
trembling; now, for the first time, she seemed to be listening to what a
witness said.

"There was a lot of timber-choppings put together just where the ground
went hollow, like, under the bush, and the hand came out from among
them. But there was a hole left in one place and I could see down it
and see the child's head; and I made haste and did away the turf and the
choppings, and took out the child. It had got comfortable clothes on,
but its body was cold, and I thought it must be dead. I made haste back
with it out of the wood, and took it home to my wife. She said it was
dead, and I'd better take it to the parish and tell the constable. And I
said, 'I'll lay my life it's that young woman's child as I met going to
the coppice.' But she seemed to be gone clean out of sight. And I took
the child on to Hetton parish and told the constable, and we went on to
Justice Hardy. And then we went looking after the young woman till dark
at night, and we went and gave information at Stoniton, as they might
stop her. And the next morning, another constable came to me, to go with
him to the spot where I found the child. And when we got there, there
was the prisoner a-sitting against the bush where I found the child; and
she cried out when she saw us, but she never offered to move. She'd got
a big piece of bread on her lap."

Adam had given a faint groan of despair while this witness was speaking.
He had hidden his face on his arm, which rested on the boarding in front
of him. It was the supreme moment of his suffering: Hetty was guilty;
and he was silently calling to God for help. He heard no more of the
evidence, and was unconscious when the case for the prosecution had
closed--unconscious that Mr. Irwine was in the witness-box, telling
of Hetty's unblemished character in her own parish and of the virtuous
habits in which she had been brought up. This testimony could have no
influence on the verdict, but it was given as part of that plea for
mercy which her own counsel would have made if he had been allowed to
speak for her--a favour not granted to criminals in those stern times.

At last Adam lifted up his head, for there was a general movement round
him. The judge had addressed the jury, and they were retiring. The
decisive moment was not far off Adam felt a shuddering horror that would
not let him look at Hetty, but she had long relapsed into her blank hard
indifference. All eyes were strained to look at her, but she stood like
a statue of dull despair.

'There was a mingled rustling, whispering, and low buzzing throughout
the court during this interval. The desire to listen was suspended, and
every one had some feeling or opinion to express in undertones. Adam
sat looking blankly before him, but he did not see the objects that were
right in front of his eyes--the counsel and attorneys talking with an
air of cool business, and Mr. Irwine in low earnest conversation with
the judge--did not see Mr. Irwine sit down again in agitation and shake
his head mournfully when somebody whispered to him. The inward action
was too intense for Adam to take in outward objects until some strong
sensation roused him.

It was not very long, hardly more than a quarter of an hour, before
the knock which told that the jury had come to their decision fell as a
signal for silence on every ear. It is sublime--that sudden pause of a
great multitude which tells that one soul moves in them all. Deeper and
deeper the silence seemed to become, like the deepening night, while the
jurymen's names were called over, and the prisoner was made to hold up
her hand, and the jury were asked for their verdict.

"Guilty."

It was the verdict every one expected, but there was a sigh
of disappointment from some hearts that it was followed by no
recommendation to mercy. Still the sympathy of the court was not with
the prisoner. The unnaturalness of her crime stood out the more harshly
by the side of her hard immovability and obstinate silence. Even the
verdict, to distant eyes, had not appeared to move her, but those who
were near saw her trembling.

The stillness was less intense until the judge put on his black cap, and
the chaplain in his canonicals was observed behind him. Then it deepened
again, before the crier had had time to command silence. If any sound
were heard, it must have been the sound of beating hearts. The judge
spoke, "Hester Sorrel...."

The blood rushed to Hetty's face, and then fled back again as she
looked up at the judge and kept her wide-open eyes fixed on him, as if
fascinated by fear. Adam had not yet turned towards her, there was a
deep horror, like a great gulf, between them. But at the words "and
then to be hanged by the neck till you be dead," a piercing shriek rang
through the hall. It was Hetty's shriek. Adam started to his feet and
stretched out his arms towards her. But the arms could not reach her:
she had fallen down in a fainting-fit, and was carried out of court.



Chapter XLIV

Arthur's Return


When Arthur Donnithorne landed at Liverpool and read the letter from
his Aunt Lydia, briefly announcing his grand-father's death, his first
feeling was, "Poor Grandfather! I wish I could have got to him to be
with him when he died. He might have felt or wished something at the
last that I shall never know now. It was a lonely death."

It is impossible to say that his grief was deeper than that. Pity
and softened memory took place of the old antagonism, and in his busy
thoughts about the future, as the chaise carried him rapidly along
towards the home where he was now to be master, there was a continually
recurring effort to remember anything by which he could show a regard
for his grandfather's wishes, without counteracting his own cherished
aims for the good of the tenants and the estate. But it is not in human
nature--only in human pretence--for a young man like Arthur, with a fine
constitution and fine spirits, thinking well of himself, believing that
others think well of him, and having a very ardent intention to give
them more and more reason for that good opinion--it is not possible for
such a young man, just coming into a splendid estate through the
death of a very old man whom he was not fond of, to feel anything very
different from exultant joy. Now his real life was beginning; now he
would have room and opportunity for action, and he would use them. He
would show the Loamshire people what a fine country gentleman was; he
would not exchange that career for any other under the sun. He felt
himself riding over the hills in the breezy autumn days, looking after
favourite plans of drainage and enclosure; then admired on sombre
mornings as the best rider on the best horse in the hunt; spoken well
of on market-days as a first-rate landlord; by and by making speeches at
election dinners, and showing a wonderful knowledge of agriculture;
the patron of new ploughs and drills, the severe upbraider of negligent
landowners, and withal a jolly fellow that everybody must like--happy
faces greeting him everywhere on his own estate, and the neighbouring
families on the best terms with him. The Irwines should dine with him
every week, and have their own carriage to come in, for in some very
delicate way that Arthur would devise, the lay-impropriator of the
Hayslope tithes would insist on paying a couple of hundreds more to
the vicar; and his aunt should be as comfortable as possible, and go on
living at the Chase, if she liked, in spite of her old-maidish ways--at
least until he was married, and that event lay in the indistinct
background, for Arthur had not yet seen the woman who would play the
lady-wife to the first-rate country gentleman.

These were Arthur's chief thoughts, so far as a man's thoughts through
hours of travelling can be compressed into a few sentences, which are
only like the list of names telling you what are the scenes in a long
long panorama full of colour, of detail, and of life. The happy faces
Arthur saw greeting him were not pale abstractions, but real ruddy
faces, long familiar to him: Martin Poyser was there--the whole Poyser
family.

What--Hetty?

Yes; for Arthur was at ease about Hetty--not quite at ease about the
past, for a certain burning of the ears would come whenever he thought
of the scenes with Adam last August, but at ease about her present lot.
Mr. Irwine, who had been a regular correspondent, telling him all the
news about the old places and people, had sent him word nearly three
months ago that Adam Bede was not to marry Mary Burge, as he had
thought, but pretty Hetty Sorrel. Martin Poyser and Adam himself had
both told Mr. Irwine all about it--that Adam had been deeply in love
with Hetty these two years, and that now it was agreed they were to be
married in March. That stalwart rogue Adam was more susceptible than the
rector had thought; it was really quite an idyllic love affair; and if
it had not been too long to tell in a letter, he would have liked to
describe to Arthur the blushing looks and the simple strong words with
which the fine honest fellow told his secret. He knew Arthur would like
to hear that Adam had this sort of happiness in prospect.

Yes, indeed! Arthur felt there was not air enough in the room to satisfy
his renovated life, when he had read that passage in the letter. He
threw up the windows, he rushed out of doors into the December air, and
greeted every one who spoke to him with an eager gaiety, as if there had
been news of a fresh Nelson victory. For the first time that day since
he had come to Windsor, he was in true boyish spirits. The load that
had been pressing upon him was gone, the haunting fear had vanished. He
thought he could conquer his bitterness towards Adam now--could offer
him his hand, and ask to be his friend again, in spite of that painful
memory which would still make his ears burn. He had been knocked down,
and he had been forced to tell a lie: such things make a scar, do what
we will. But if Adam were the same again as in the old days, Arthur
wished to be the same too, and to have Adam mixed up with his business
and his future, as he had always desired before the accursed meeting
in August. Nay, he would do a great deal more for Adam than he should
otherwise have done, when he came into the estate; Hetty's husband had
a special claim on him--Hetty herself should feel that any pain she
had suffered through Arthur in the past was compensated to her a
hundredfold. For really she could not have felt much, since she had so
soon made up her mind to marry Adam.

You perceive clearly what sort of picture Adam and Hetty made in the
panorama of Arthur's thoughts on his journey homeward. It was March now;
they were soon to be married: perhaps they were already married. And now
it was actually in his power to do a great deal for them. Sweet--sweet
little Hetty! The little puss hadn't cared for him half as much as
he cared for her; for he was a great fool about her still--was almost
afraid of seeing her--indeed, had not cared much to look at any other
woman since he parted from her. That little figure coming towards him in
the Grove, those dark-fringed childish eyes, the lovely lips put up to
kiss him--that picture had got no fainter with the lapse of months. And
she would look just the same. It was impossible to think how he could
meet her: he should certainly tremble. Strange, how long this sort of
influence lasts, for he was certainly not in love with Hetty now. He
had been earnestly desiring, for months, that she should marry Adam,
and there was nothing that contributed more to his happiness in these
moments than the thought of their marriage. It was the exaggerating
effect of imagination that made his heart still beat a little more
quickly at the thought of her. When he saw the little thing again as she
really was, as Adam's wife, at work quite prosaically in her new home,
he should perhaps wonder at the possibility of his past feelings. Thank
heaven it had turned out so well! He should have plenty of affairs and
interests to fill his life now, and not be in danger of playing the fool
again.

Pleasant the crack of the post-boy's whip! Pleasant the sense of being
hurried along in swift ease through English scenes, so like those round
his own home, only not quite so charming. Here was a market-town--very
much like Treddleston--where the arms of the neighbouring lord of the
manor were borne on the sign of the principal inn; then mere fields and
hedges, their vicinity to a market-town carrying an agreeable suggestion
of high rent, till the land began to assume a trimmer look, the woods
were more frequent, and at length a white or red mansion looked down
from a moderate eminence, or allowed him to be aware of its parapet
and chimneys among the dense-looking masses of oaks and elms--masses
reddened now with early buds. And close at hand came the village: the
small church, with its red-tiled roof, looking humble even among the
faded half-timbered houses; the old green gravestones with nettles round
them; nothing fresh and bright but the children, opening round eyes at
the swift post-chaise; nothing noisy and busy but the gaping curs of
mysterious pedigree. What a much prettier village Hayslope was! And it
should not be neglected like this place: vigorous repairs should go
on everywhere among farm-buildings and cottages, and travellers in
post-chaises, coming along the Rosseter road, should do nothing but
admire as they went. And Adam Bede should superintend all the repairs,
for he had a share in Burge's business now, and, if he liked, Arthur
would put some money into the concern and buy the old man out in another
year or two. That was an ugly fault in Arthur's life, that affair last
summer, but the future should make amends. Many men would have retained
a feeling of vindictiveness towards Adam, but he would not--he would
resolutely overcome all littleness of that kind, for he had certainly
been very much in the wrong; and though Adam had been harsh and violent,
and had thrust on him a painful dilemma, the poor fellow was in love,
and had real provocation. No, Arthur had not an evil feeling in his mind
towards any human being: he was happy, and would make every one else
happy that came within his reach.

And here was dear old Hayslope at last, sleeping, on the hill, like a
quiet old place as it was, in the late afternoon sunlight, and opposite
to it the great shoulders of the Binton Hills, below them the purplish
blackness of the hanging woods, and at last the pale front of the Abbey,
looking out from among the oaks of the Chase, as if anxious for the
heir's return. "Poor Grandfather! And he lies dead there. He was a young
fellow once, coming into the estate and making his plans. So the world
goes round! Aunt Lydia must feel very desolate, poor thing; but she
shall be indulged as much as she indulges her fat Fido."

The wheels of Arthur's chaise had been anxiously listened for at the
Chase, for to-day was Friday, and the funeral had already been deferred
two days. Before it drew up on the gravel of the courtyard, all the
servants in the house were assembled to receive him with a grave, decent
welcome, befitting a house of death. A month ago, perhaps, it would have
been difficult for them to have maintained a suitable sadness in their
faces, when Mr. Arthur was come to take possession; but the hearts of
the head-servants were heavy that day for another cause than the death
of the old squire, and more than one of them was longing to be twenty
miles away, as Mr. Craig was, knowing what was to become of Hetty
Sorrel--pretty Hetty Sorrel--whom they used to see every week. They had
the partisanship of household servants who like their places, and
were not inclined to go the full length of the severe indignation felt
against him by the farming tenants, but rather to make excuses for him;
nevertheless, the upper servants, who had been on terms of neighbourly
intercourse with the Poysers for many years, could not help feeling that
the longed-for event of the young squire's coming into the estate had
been robbed of all its pleasantness.

To Arthur it was nothing surprising that the servants looked grave and
sad: he himself was very much touched on seeing them all again, and
feeling that he was in a new relation to them. It was that sort of
pathetic emotion which has more pleasure than pain in it--which is
perhaps one of the most delicious of all states to a good-natured man,
conscious of the power to satisfy his good nature. His heart swelled
agreeably as he said, "Well, Mills, how is my aunt?"

But now Mr. Bygate, the lawyer, who had been in the house ever since
the death, came forward to give deferential greetings and answer all
questions, and Arthur walked with him towards the library, where his
Aunt Lydia was expecting him. Aunt Lydia was the only person in the
house who knew nothing about Hetty. Her sorrow as a maiden daughter
was unmixed with any other thoughts than those of anxiety about funeral
arrangements and her own future lot; and, after the manner of women,
she mourned for the father who had made her life important, all the more
because she had a secret sense that there was little mourning for him in
other hearts.

But Arthur kissed her tearful face more tenderly than he had ever done
in his life before.

"Dear Aunt," he said affectionately, as he held her hand, "YOUR loss is
the greatest of all, but you must tell me how to try and make it up to
you all the rest of your life."

"It was so sudden and so dreadful, Arthur," poor Miss Lydia began,
pouring out her little plaints, and Arthur sat down to listen with
impatient patience. When a pause came, he said:

"Now, Aunt, I'll leave you for a quarter of an hour just to go to my own
room, and then I shall come and give full attention to everything."

"My room is all ready for me, I suppose, Mills?" he said to the butler,
who seemed to be lingering uneasily about the entrance-hall.

"Yes, sir, and there are letters for you; they are all laid on the
writing-table in your dressing-room."

On entering the small anteroom which was called a dressing-room, but
which Arthur really used only to lounge and write in, he just cast his
eyes on the writing-table, and saw that there were several letters and
packets lying there; but he was in the uncomfortable dusty condition
of a man who has had a long hurried journey, and he must really refresh
himself by attending to his toilette a little, before he read his
letters. Pym was there, making everything ready for him, and soon, with
a delightful freshness about him, as if he were prepared to begin a new
day, he went back into his dressing-room to open his letters. The level
rays of the low afternoon sun entered directly at the window, and as
Arthur seated himself in his velvet chair with their pleasant warmth
upon him, he was conscious of that quiet well-being which perhaps you
and I have felt on a sunny afternoon when, in our brightest youth and
health, life has opened a new vista for us, and long to-morrows of
activity have stretched before us like a lovely plain which there was no
need for hurrying to look at, because it was all our own.

The top letter was placed with its address upwards: it was in Mr.
Irwine's handwriting, Arthur saw at once; and below the address was
written, "To be delivered as soon as he arrives." Nothing could have
been less surprising to him than a letter from Mr. Irwine at that
moment: of course, there was something he wished Arthur to know earlier
than it was possible for them to see each other. At such a time as that
it was quite natural that Irwine should have something pressing to say.
Arthur broke the seal with an agreeable anticipation of soon seeing the
writer.


"I send this letter to meet you on your arrival, Arthur, because I may
then be at Stoniton, whither I am called by the most painful duty it has
ever been given me to perform, and it is right that you should know what
I have to tell you without delay.

"I will not attempt to add by one word of reproach to the retribution
that is now falling on you: any other words that I could write at this
moment must be weak and unmeaning by the side of those in which I must
tell you the simple fact.

"Hetty Sorrel is in prison, and will be tried on Friday for the crime of
child-murder."...


Arthur read no more. He started up from his chair and stood for a single
minute with a sense of violent convulsion in his whole frame, as if the
life were going out of him with horrible throbs; but the next minute he
had rushed out of the room, still clutching the letter--he was hurrying
along the corridor, and down the stairs into the hall. Mills was still
there, but Arthur did not see him, as he passed like a hunted man across
the hall and out along the gravel. The butler hurried out after him
as fast as his elderly limbs could run: he guessed, he knew, where the
young squire was going.

When Mills got to the stables, a horse was being saddled, and Arthur was
forcing himself to read the remaining words of the letter. He thrust
it into his pocket as the horse was led up to him, and at that moment
caught sight of Mills' anxious face in front of him.

"Tell them I'm gone--gone to Stoniton," he said in a muffled tone of
agitation--sprang into the saddle, and set off at a gallop.



Chapter XLV

In the Prison


NEAR sunset that evening an elderly gentleman was standing with his back
against the smaller entrance-door of Stoniton jail, saying a few last
words to the departing chaplain. The chaplain walked away, but the
elderly gentleman stood still, looking down on the pavement and stroking
his chin with a ruminating air, when he was roused by a sweet clear
woman's voice, saying, "Can I get into the prison, if you please?"

He turned his head and looked fixedly at the speaker for a few moments
without answering.

"I have seen you before," he said at last. "Do you remember preaching on
the village green at Hayslope in Loamshire?"

"Yes, sir, surely. Are you the gentleman that stayed to listen on
horseback?"

"Yes. Why do you want to go into the prison?"

"I want to go to Hetty Sorrel, the young woman who has been condemned
to death--and to stay with her, if I may be permitted. Have you power in
the prison, sir?"

"Yes; I am a magistrate, and can get admittance for you. But did you
know this criminal, Hetty Sorrel?"

"Yes, we are kin. My own aunt married her uncle, Martin Poyser. But I
was away at Leeds, and didn't know of this great trouble in time to get
here before to-day. I entreat you, sir, for the love of our heavenly
Father, to let me go to her and stay with her."

"How did you know she was condemned to death, if you are only just come
from Leeds?"

"I have seen my uncle since the trial, sir. He is gone back to his home
now, and the poor sinner is forsaken of all. I beseech you to get leave
for me to be with her."

"What! Have you courage to stay all night in the prison? She is very
sullen, and will scarcely make answer when she is spoken to."

"Oh, sir, it may please God to open her heart still. Don't let us
delay."

"Come, then," said the elderly gentleman, ringing and gaining admission,
"I know you have a key to unlock hearts."

Dinah mechanically took off her bonnet and shawl as soon as they were
within the prison court, from the habit she had of throwing them off
when she preached or prayed, or visited the sick; and when they entered
the jailer's room, she laid them down on a chair unthinkingly. There was
no agitation visible in her, but a deep concentrated calmness, as if,
even when she was speaking, her soul was in prayer reposing on an unseen
support.

After speaking to the jailer, the magistrate turned to her and said,
"The turnkey will take you to the prisoner's cell and leave you there
for the night, if you desire it, but you can't have a light during the
night--it is contrary to rules. My name is Colonel Townley: if I can
help you in anything, ask the jailer for my address and come to me.
I take some interest in this Hetty Sorrel, for the sake of that fine
fellow, Adam Bede. I happened to see him at Hayslope the same evening I
heard you preach, and recognized him in court to-day, ill as he looked."

"Ah, sir, can you tell me anything about him? Can you tell me where
he lodges? For my poor uncle was too much weighed down with trouble to
remember."

"Close by here. I inquired all about him of Mr. Irwine. He lodges over
a tinman's shop, in the street on the right hand as you entered the
prison. There is an old school-master with him. Now, good-bye: I wish
you success."

"Farewell, sir. I am grateful to you."

As Dinah crossed the prison court with the turnkey, the solemn evening
light seemed to make the walls higher than they were by day, and the
sweet pale face in the cap was more than ever like a white flower on
this background of gloom. The turnkey looked askance at her all the
while, but never spoke. He somehow felt that the sound of his own rude
voice would be grating just then. He struck a light as they entered the
dark corridor leading to the condemned cell, and then said in his most
civil tone, "It'll be pretty nigh dark in the cell a'ready, but I can
stop with my light a bit, if you like."

"Nay, friend, thank you," said Dinah. "I wish to go in alone."

"As you like," said the jailer, turning the harsh key in the lock and
opening the door wide enough to admit Dinah. A jet of light from his
lantern fell on the opposite corner of the cell, where Hetty was sitting
on her straw pallet with her face buried in her knees. It seemed as if
she were asleep, and yet the grating of the lock would have been likely
to waken her.

The door closed again, and the only light in the cell was that of the
evening sky, through the small high grating--enough to discern human
faces by. Dinah stood still for a minute, hesitating to speak because
Hetty might be asleep, and looking at the motionless heap with a
yearning heart. Then she said, softly, "Hetty!"

There was a slight movement perceptible in Hetty's frame--a start such
as might have been produced by a feeble electrical shock--but she did
not look up. Dinah spoke again, in a tone made stronger by irrepressible
emotion, "Hetty...it's Dinah."

Again there was a slight startled movement through Hetty's frame,
and without uncovering her face, she raised her head a little, as if
listening.

"Hetty...Dinah is come to you."

After a moment's pause, Hetty lifted her head slowly and timidly from
her knees and raised her eyes. The two pale faces were looking at
each other: one with a wild hard despair in it, the other full of sad
yearning love. Dinah unconsciously opened her arms and stretched them
out.

"Don't you know me, Hetty? Don't you remember Dinah? Did you think I
wouldn't come to you in trouble?"

Hetty kept her eyes fixed on Dinah's face--at first like an animal that
gazes, and gazes, and keeps aloof.

"I'm come to be with you, Hetty--not to leave you--to stay with you--to
be your sister to the last."

Slowly, while Dinah was speaking, Hetty rose, took a step forward, and
was clasped in Dinah's arms.

They stood so a long while, for neither of them felt the impulse to move
apart again. Hetty, without any distinct thought of it, hung on this
something that was come to clasp her now, while she was sinking helpless
in a dark gulf; and Dinah felt a deep joy in the first sign that her
love was welcomed by the wretched lost one. The light got fainter as
they stood, and when at last they sat down on the straw pallet together,
their faces had become indistinct.

Not a word was spoken. Dinah waited, hoping for a spontaneous word from
Hetty, but she sat in the same dull despair, only clutching the hand
that held hers and leaning her cheek against Dinah's. It was the human
contact she clung to, but she was not the less sinking into the dark
gulf.

Dinah began to doubt whether Hetty was conscious who it was that sat
beside her. She thought suffering and fear might have driven the poor
sinner out of her mind. But it was borne in upon her, as she afterwards
said, that she must not hurry God's work: we are overhasty to speak--as
if God did not manifest himself by our silent feeling, and make his love
felt through ours. She did not know how long they sat in that way, but
it got darker and darker, till there was only a pale patch of light on
the opposite wall: all the rest was darkness. But she felt the Divine
presence more and more--nay, as if she herself were a part of it, and
it was the Divine pity that was beating in her heart and was willing the
rescue of this helpless one. At last she was prompted to speak and find
out how far Hetty was conscious of the present.

"Hetty," she said gently, "do you know who it is that sits by your
side?"

"Yes," Hetty answered slowly, "it's Dinah."

"And do you remember the time when we were at the Hall Farm together,
and that night when I told you to be sure and think of me as a friend in
trouble?"

"Yes," said Hetty. Then, after a pause, she added, "But you can do
nothing for me. You can't make 'em do anything. They'll hang me o'
Monday--it's Friday now."

As Hetty said the last words, she clung closer to Dinah, shuddering.

"No, Hetty, I can't save you from that death. But isn't the suffering
less hard when you have somebody with you, that feels for you--that you
can speak to, and say what's in your heart?...Yes, Hetty: you lean on
me: you are glad to have me with you."

"You won't leave me, Dinah? You'll keep close to me?"

"No, Hetty, I won't leave you. I'll stay with you to the last....But,
Hetty, there is some one else in this cell besides me, some one close to
you."

Hetty said, in a frightened whisper, "Who?"

"Some one who has been with you through all your hours of sin and
trouble--who has known every thought you have had--has seen where you
went, where you lay down and rose up again, and all the deeds you have
tried to hide in darkness. And on Monday, when I can't follow you--when
my arms can't reach you--when death has parted us--He who is with
us now, and knows all, will be with you then. It makes no
difference--whether we live or die, we are in the presence of God."

"Oh, Dinah, won't nobody do anything for me? Will they hang me for
certain?...I wouldn't mind if they'd let me live."

"My poor Hetty, death is very dreadful to you. I know it's dreadful.
But if you had a friend to take care of you after death--in that
other world--some one whose love is greater than mine--who can do
everything?...If God our Father was your friend, and was willing to
save you from sin and suffering, so as you should neither know wicked
feelings nor pain again? If you could believe he loved you and would
help you, as you believe I love you and will help you, it wouldn't be so
hard to die on Monday, would it?"

"But I can't know anything about it," Hetty said, with sullen sadness.

"Because, Hetty, you are shutting up your soul against him, by trying
to hide the truth. God's love and mercy can overcome all things--our
ignorance, and weakness, and all the burden of our past wickedness--all
things but our wilful sin, sin that we cling to, and will not give up.
You believe in my love and pity for you, Hetty, but if you had not let
me come near you, if you wouldn't have looked at me or spoken to me,
you'd have shut me out from helping you. I couldn't have made you feel
my love; I couldn't have told you what I felt for you. Don't shut God's
love out in that way, by clinging to sin....He can't bless you while
you have one falsehood in your soul; his pardoning mercy can't reach
you until you open your heart to him, and say, 'I have done this great
wickedness; O God, save me, make me pure from sin.' While you cling to
one sin and will not part with it, it must drag you down to misery after
death, as it has dragged you to misery here in this world, my poor, poor
Hetty. It is sin that brings dread, and darkness, and despair: there is
light and blessedness for us as soon as we cast it off. God enters our
souls then, and teaches us, and brings us strength and peace. Cast it
off now, Hetty--now: confess the wickedness you have done--the sin you
have been guilty of against your Heavenly Father. Let us kneel down
together, for we are in the presence of God."

Hetty obeyed Dinah's movement, and sank on her knees. They still held
each other's hands, and there was long silence. Then Dinah said, "Hetty,
we are before God. He is waiting for you to tell the truth."

Still there was silence. At last Hetty spoke, in a tone of beseeching--

"Dinah...help me...I can't feel anything like you...my heart is hard."

Dinah held the clinging hand, and all her soul went forth in her voice:


"Jesus, thou present Saviour! Thou hast known the depths of all sorrow:
thou hast entered that black darkness where God is not, and hast uttered
the cry of the forsaken. Come Lord, and gather of the fruits of thy
travail and thy pleading. Stretch forth thy hand, thou who art mighty
to save to the uttermost, and rescue this lost one. She is clothed round
with thick darkness. The fetters of her sin are upon her, and she cannot
stir to come to thee. She can only feel her heart is hard, and she is
helpless. She cries to me, thy weak creature....Saviour! It is a blind
cry to thee. Hear it! Pierce the darkness! Look upon her with thy face
of love and sorrow that thou didst turn on him who denied thee, and melt
her hard heart.

"See, Lord, I bring her, as they of old brought the sick and helpless,
and thou didst heal them. I bear her on my arms and carry her before
thee. Fear and trembling have taken hold on her, but she trembles only
at the pain and death of the body. Breathe upon her thy life-giving
Spirit, and put a new fear within her--the fear of her sin. Make her
dread to keep the accursed thing within her soul. Make her feel the
presence of the living God, who beholds all the past, to whom the
darkness is as noonday; who is waiting now, at the eleventh hour, for
her to turn to him, and confess her sin, and cry for mercy--now, before
the night of death comes, and the moment of pardon is for ever fled,
like yesterday that returneth not.

"Saviour! It is yet time--time to snatch this poor soul from everlasting
darkness. I believe--I believe in thy infinite love. What is my love or
my pleading? It is quenched in thine. I can only clasp her in my weak
arms and urge her with my weak pity. Thou--thou wilt breathe on the dead
soul, and it shall arise from the unanswering sleep of death.

"Yea, Lord, I see thee, coming through the darkness coming, like the
morning, with healing on thy wings. The marks of thy agony are upon
thee--I see, I see thou art able and willing to save--thou wilt not let
her perish for ever. Come, mighty Saviour! Let the dead hear thy voice.
Let the eyes of the blind be opened. Let her see that God encompasses
her. Let her tremble at nothing but at the sin that cuts her off from
him. Melt the hard heart. Unseal the closed lips: make her cry with her
whole soul, 'Father, I have sinned.'..."

"Dinah," Hetty sobbed out, throwing her arms round Dinah's neck, "I will
speak...I will tell...I won't hide it any more."

But the tears and sobs were too violent. Dinah raised her gently from
her knees and seated her on the pallet again, sitting down by her side.
It was a long time before the convulsed throat was quiet, and even
then they sat some time in stillness and darkness, holding each other's
hands. At last Hetty whispered, "I did do it, Dinah...I buried it in the
wood...the little baby...and it cried...I heard it cry...ever such a way
off...all night...and I went back because it cried."

She paused, and then spoke hurriedly in a louder, pleading tone.

"But I thought perhaps it wouldn't die--there might somebody find it. I
didn't kill it--I didn't kill it myself. I put it down there and covered
it up, and when I came back it was gone....It was because I was so
very miserable, Dinah...I didn't know where to go...and I tried to kill
myself before, and I couldn't. Oh, I tried so to drown myself in the
pool, and I couldn't. I went to Windsor--I ran away--did you know? I
went to find him, as he might take care of me; and he was gone; and then
I didn't know what to do. I daredn't go back home again--I couldn't bear
it. I couldn't have bore to look at anybody, for they'd have scorned me.
I thought o' you sometimes, and thought I'd come to you, for I didn't
think you'd be cross with me, and cry shame on me. I thought I could
tell you. But then the other folks 'ud come to know it at last, and I
couldn't bear that. It was partly thinking o' you made me come toward
Stoniton; and, besides, I was so frightened at going wandering about
till I was a beggar-woman, and had nothing; and sometimes it seemed as
if I must go back to the farm sooner than that. Oh, it was so dreadful,
Dinah...I was so miserable...I wished I'd never been born into this
world. I should never like to go into the green fields again--I hated
'em so in my misery."

Hetty paused again, as if the sense of the past were too strong upon her
for words.

"And then I got to Stoniton, and I began to feel frightened that night,
because I was so near home. And then the little baby was born, when I
didn't expect it; and the thought came into my mind that I might get
rid of it and go home again. The thought came all of a sudden, as I was
lying in the bed, and it got stronger and stronger...I longed so to go
back again...I couldn't bear being so lonely and coming to beg for want.
And it gave me strength and resolution to get up and dress myself. I
felt I must do it...I didn't know how...I thought I'd find a pool, if
I could, like that other, in the corner of the field, in the dark.
And when the woman went out, I felt as if I was strong enough to do
anything...I thought I should get rid of all my misery, and go back
home, and never let 'em know why I ran away I put on my bonnet and
shawl, and went out into the dark street, with the baby under my cloak;
and I walked fast till I got into a street a good way off, and there
was a public, and I got some warm stuff to drink and some bread. And
I walked on and on, and I hardly felt the ground I trod on; and it got
lighter, for there came the moon--oh, Dinah, it frightened me when it
first looked at me out o' the clouds--it never looked so before; and
I turned out of the road into the fields, for I was afraid o' meeting
anybody with the moon shining on me. And I came to a haystack, where
I thought I could lie down and keep myself warm all night. There was a
place cut into it, where I could make me a bed, and I lay comfortable,
and the baby was warm against me; and I must have gone to sleep for a
good while, for when I woke it was morning, but not very light, and the
baby was crying. And I saw a wood a little way off...I thought there'd
perhaps be a ditch or a pond there...and it was so early I thought I
could hide the child there, and get a long way off before folks was up.
And then I thought I'd go home--I'd get rides in carts and go home and
tell 'em I'd been to try and see for a place, and couldn't get one. I
longed so for it, Dinah, I longed so to be safe at home. I don't know
how I felt about the baby. I seemed to hate it--it was like a heavy
weight hanging round my neck; and yet its crying went through me, and I
daredn't look at its little hands and face. But I went on to the wood,
and I walked about, but there was no water...."

Hetty shuddered. She was silent for some moments, and when she began
again, it was in a whisper.

"I came to a place where there was lots of chips and turf, and I sat
down on the trunk of a tree to think what I should do. And all of a
sudden I saw a hole under the nut-tree, like a little grave. And it
darted into me like lightning--I'd lay the baby there and cover it with
the grass and the chips. I couldn't kill it any other way. And I'd done
it in a minute; and, oh, it cried so, Dinah--I couldn't cover it quite
up--I thought perhaps somebody 'ud come and take care of it, and then
it wouldn't die. And I made haste out of the wood, but I could hear it
crying all the while; and when I got out into the fields, it was as if I
was held fast--I couldn't go away, for all I wanted so to go. And I sat
against the haystack to watch if anybody 'ud come. I was very hungry,
and I'd only a bit of bread left, but I couldn't go away. And after ever
such a while--hours and hours--the man came--him in a smock-frock, and
he looked at me so, I was frightened, and I made haste and went on. I
thought he was going to the wood and would perhaps find the baby. And I
went right on, till I came to a village, a long way off from the wood,
and I was very sick, and faint, and hungry. I got something to eat
there, and bought a loaf. But I was frightened to stay. I heard the baby
crying, and thought the other folks heard it too--and I went on. But
I was so tired, and it was getting towards dark. And at last, by the
roadside there was a barn--ever such a way off any house--like the barn
in Abbot's Close, and I thought I could go in there and hide myself
among the hay and straw, and nobody 'ud be likely to come. I went in,
and it was half full o' trusses of straw, and there was some hay too.
And I made myself a bed, ever so far behind, where nobody could find
me; and I was so tired and weak, I went to sleep....But oh, the baby's
crying kept waking me, and I thought that man as looked at me so was
come and laying hold of me. But I must have slept a long while at last,
though I didn't know, for when I got up and went out of the barn, I
didn't know whether it was night or morning. But it was morning, for
it kept getting lighter, and I turned back the way I'd come. I couldn't
help it, Dinah; it was the baby's crying made me go--and yet I was
frightened to death. I thought that man in the smock-frock 'ud see me
and know I put the baby there. But I went on, for all that. I'd left off
thinking about going home--it had gone out o' my mind. I saw nothing
but that place in the wood where I'd buried the baby...I see it now. Oh
Dinah! shall I allays see it?"

Hetty clung round Dinah and shuddered again. The silence seemed long
before she went on.

"I met nobody, for it was very early, and I got into the wood....I knew
the way to the place...the place against the nut-tree; and I could
hear it crying at every step....I thought it was alive....I don't know
whether I was frightened or glad...I don't know what I felt. I only know
I was in the wood and heard the cry. I don't know what I felt till I saw
the baby was gone. And when I'd put it there, I thought I should like
somebody to find it and save it from dying; but when I saw it was gone,
I was struck like a stone, with fear. I never thought o' stirring, I
felt so weak. I knew I couldn't run away, and everybody as saw me 'ud
know about the baby. My heart went like a stone. I couldn't wish or try
for anything; it seemed like as if I should stay there for ever, and
nothing 'ud ever change. But they came and took me away."

Hetty was silent, but she shuddered again, as if there was still
something behind; and Dinah waited, for her heart was so full that tears
must come before words. At last Hetty burst out, with a sob, "Dinah, do
you think God will take away that crying and the place in the wood, now
I've told everything?"

"Let us pray, poor sinner. Let us fall on our knees again, and pray to
the God of all mercy."



Chapter XLVI

The Hours of Suspense


ON Sunday morning, when the church bells in Stoniton were ringing for
morning service, Bartle Massey re-entered Adam's room, after a short
absence, and said, "Adam, here's a visitor wants to see you."

Adam was seated with is back towards the door, but he started up and
turned round instantly, with a flushed face and an eager look. His face
was even thinner and more worn than we have seen it before, but he was
washed and shaven this Sunday morning.

"Is it any news?" he said.

"Keep yourself quiet, my lad," said Bartle; "keep quiet. It's not what
you're thinking of. It's the young Methodist woman come from the prison.
She's at the bottom o' the stairs, and wants to know if you think
well to see her, for she has something to say to you about that poor
castaway; but she wouldn't come in without your leave, she said. She
thought you'd perhaps like to go out and speak to her. These preaching
women are not so back'ard commonly," Bartle muttered to himself.

"Ask her to come in," said Adam.

He was standing with his face towards the door, and as Dinah entered,
lifting up her mild grey eyes towards him, she saw at once the great
change that had come since the day when she had looked up at the tall
man in the cottage. There was a trembling in her clear voice as she put
her hand into his and said, "Be comforted, Adam Bede, the Lord has not
forsaken her."

"Bless you for coming to her," Adam said. "Mr. Massey brought me word
yesterday as you was come."

They could neither of them say any more just yet, but stood before each
other in silence; and Bartle Massey, too, who had put on his spectacles,
seemed transfixed, examining Dinah's face. But he recovered himself
first, and said, "Sit down, young woman, sit down," placing the chair
for her and retiring to his old seat on the bed.

"Thank you, friend; I won't sit down," said Dinah, "for I must hasten
back. She entreated me not to stay long away. What I came for, Adam
Bede, was to pray you to go and see the poor sinner and bid her
farewell. She desires to ask your forgiveness, and it is meet you should
see her to-day, rather than in the early morning, when the time will be
short."

Adam stood trembling, and at last sank down on his chair again.

"It won't be," he said, "it'll be put off--there'll perhaps come a
pardon. Mr. Irwine said there was hope. He said, I needn't quite give it
up."

"That's a blessed thought to me," said Dinah, her eyes filling with
tears. "It's a fearful thing hurrying her soul away so fast."

"But let what will be," she added presently. "You will surely come, and
let her speak the words that are in her heart. Although her poor soul is
very dark and discerns little beyond the things of the flesh, she is no
longer hard. She is contrite, she has confessed all to me. The pride of
her heart has given way, and she leans on me for help and desires to
be taught. This fills me with trust, for I cannot but think that the
brethren sometimes err in measuring the Divine love by the sinner's
knowledge. She is going to write a letter to the friends at the Hall
Farm for me to give them when she is gone, and when I told her you were
here, she said, 'I should like to say good-bye to Adam and ask him to
forgive me.' You will come, Adam? Perhaps you will even now come back
with me."

"I can't," Adam said. "I can't say good-bye while there's any hope. I'm
listening, and listening--I can't think o' nothing but that. It can't be
as she'll die that shameful death--I can't bring my mind to it."

He got up from his chair again and looked away out of the window, while
Dinah stood with compassionate patience. In a minute or two he turned
round and said, "I will come, Dinah...to-morrow morning...if it must be.
I may have more strength to bear it, if I know it must be. Tell her, I
forgive her; tell her I will come--at the very last."

"I will not urge you against the voice of your own heart," said Dinah.
"I must hasten back to her, for it is wonderful how she clings now, and
was not willing to let me out of her sight. She used never to make any
return to my affection before, but now tribulation has opened her heart.
Farewell, Adam. Our heavenly Father comfort you and strengthen you
to bear all things." Dinah put out her hand, and Adam pressed it in
silence.

Bartle Massey was getting up to lift the stiff latch of the door for
her, but before he could reach it, she had said gently, "Farewell,
friend," and was gone, with her light step down the stairs.

"Well," said Bartle, taking off his spectacles and putting them into his
pocket, "if there must be women to make trouble in the world, it's
but fair there should be women to be comforters under it; and she's
one--she's one. It's a pity she's a Methodist; but there's no getting a
woman without some foolishness or other."

Adam never went to bed that night. The excitement of suspense,
heightening with every hour that brought him nearer the fatal moment,
was too great, and in spite of his entreaties, in spite of his promises
that he would be perfectly quiet, the schoolmaster watched too.

"What does it matter to me, lad?" Bartle said: "a night's sleep more
or less? I shall sleep long enough, by and by, underground. Let me keep
thee company in trouble while I can."

It was a long and dreary night in that small chamber. Adam would
sometimes get up and tread backwards and forwards along the short space
from wall to wall; then he would sit down and hide his face, and no
sound would be heard but the ticking of the watch on the table, or
the falling of a cinder from the fire which the schoolmaster carefully
tended. Sometimes he would burst out into vehement speech, "If I could
ha' done anything to save her--if my bearing anything would ha' done any
good...but t' have to sit still, and know it, and do nothing...it's
hard for a man to bear...and to think o' what might ha' been now, if
it hadn't been for HIM....O God, it's the very day we should ha' been
married."

"Aye, my lad," said Bartle tenderly, "it's heavy--it's heavy. But you
must remember this: when you thought of marrying her, you'd a notion
she'd got another sort of a nature inside her. You didn't think she
could have got hardened in that little while to do what she's done."

"I know--I know that," said Adam. "I thought she was loving and
tender-hearted, and wouldn't tell a lie, or act deceitful. How could I
think any other way? And if he'd never come near her, and I'd married
her, and been loving to her, and took care of her, she might never
ha' done anything bad. What would it ha' signified--my having a bit o'
trouble with her? It 'ud ha' been nothing to this."

"There's no knowing, my lad--there's no knowing what might have come.
The smart's bad for you to bear now: you must have time--you must have
time. But I've that opinion of you, that you'll rise above it all and be
a man again, and there may good come out of this that we don't see."

"Good come out of it!" said Adam passionately. "That doesn't alter th'
evil: HER ruin can't be undone. I hate that talk o' people, as if there
was a way o' making amends for everything. They'd more need be brought
to see as the wrong they do can never be altered. When a man's spoiled
his fellow-creatur's life, he's no right to comfort himself with
thinking good may come out of it. Somebody else's good doesn't alter her
shame and misery."

"Well, lad, well," said Bartle, in a gentle tone, strangely in contrast
with his usual peremptoriness and impatience of contradiction, "it's
likely enough I talk foolishness. I'm an old fellow, and it's a good
many years since I was in trouble myself. It's easy finding reasons why
other folks should be patient."

"Mr. Massey," said Adam penitently, "I'm very hot and hasty. I owe you
something different; but you mustn't take it ill of me."

"Not I, lad--not I."

So the night wore on in agitation till the chill dawn and the growing
light brought the tremulous quiet that comes on the brink of despair.
There would soon be no more suspense.

"Let us go to the prison now, Mr. Massey," said Adam, when he saw the
hand of his watch at six. "If there's any news come, we shall hear about
it."

The people were astir already, moving rapidly, in one direction, through
the streets. Adam tried not to think where they were going, as they
hurried past him in that short space between his lodging and the prison
gates. He was thankful when the gates shut him in from seeing those
eager people.

No; there was no news come--no pardon--no reprieve.

Adam lingered in the court half an hour before he could bring himself
to send word to Dinah that he was come. But a voice caught his ear: he
could not shut out the words.

"The cart is to set off at half-past seven."

It must be said--the last good-bye: there was no help.

In ten minutes from that time, Adam was at the door of the cell. Dinah
had sent him word that she could not come to him; she could not leave
Hetty one moment; but Hetty was prepared for the meeting.

He could not see her when he entered, for agitation deadened his senses,
and the dim cell was almost dark to him. He stood a moment after the
door closed behind him, trembling and stupefied.

But he began to see through the dimness--to see the dark eyes lifted up
to him once more, but with no smile in them. O God, how sad they looked!
The last time they had met his was when he parted from her with his
heart full of joyous hopeful love, and they looked out with a tearful
smile from a pink, dimpled, childish face. The face was marble now; the
sweet lips were pallid and half-open and quivering; the dimples were all
gone--all but one, that never went; and the eyes--O, the worst of all
was the likeness they had to Hetty's. They were Hetty's eyes looking
at him with that mournful gaze, as if she had come back to him from the
dead to tell him of her misery.

She was clinging close to Dinah; her cheek was against Dinah's. It
seemed as if her last faint strength and hope lay in that contact, and
the pitying love that shone out from Dinah's face looked like a visible
pledge of the Invisible Mercy.

When the sad eyes met--when Hetty and Adam looked at each other--she
felt the change in him too, and it seemed to strike her with fresh
fear. It was the first time she had seen any being whose face seemed to
reflect the change in herself: Adam was a new image of the dreadful past
and the dreadful present. She trembled more as she looked at him.

"Speak to him, Hetty," Dinah said; "tell him what is in your heart."

Hetty obeyed her, like a little child.

"Adam...I'm very sorry...I behaved very wrong to you...will you forgive
me...before I die?"

Adam answered with a half-sob, "Yes, I forgive thee Hetty. I forgave
thee long ago."

It had seemed to Adam as if his brain would burst with the anguish of
meeting Hetty's eyes in the first moments, but the sound of her voice
uttering these penitent words touched a chord which had been less
strained. There was a sense of relief from what was becoming unbearable,
and the rare tears came--they had never come before, since he had hung
on Seth's neck in the beginning of his sorrow.

Hetty made an involuntary movement towards him, some of the love that
she had once lived in the midst of was come near her again. She kept
hold of Dinah's hand, but she went up to Adam and said timidly, "Will
you kiss me again, Adam, for all I've been so wicked?"

Adam took the blanched wasted hand she put out to him, and they gave
each other the solemn unspeakable kiss of a lifelong parting.

"And tell him," Hetty said, in rather a stronger voice, "tell him...for
there's nobody else to tell him...as I went after him and couldn't find
him...and I hated him and cursed him once...but Dinah says I should
forgive him...and I try...for else God won't forgive me."

There was a noise at the door of the cell now--the key was being turned
in the lock, and when the door opened, Adam saw indistinctly that there
were several faces there. He was too agitated to see more--even to
see that Mr. Irwine's face was one of them. He felt that the last
preparations were beginning, and he could stay no longer. Room
was silently made for him to depart, and he went to his chamber in
loneliness, leaving Bartle Massey to watch and see the end.



Chapter XLVII

The Last Moment


IT was a sight that some people remembered better even than their own
sorrows--the sight in that grey clear morning, when the fatal cart
with the two young women in it was descried by the waiting watching
multitude, cleaving its way towards the hideous symbol of a deliberately
inflicted sudden death.

All Stoniton had heard of Dinah Morris, the young Methodist woman who
had brought the obstinate criminal to confess, and there was as much
eagerness to see her as to see the wretched Hetty.

But Dinah was hardly conscious of the multitude. When Hetty had
caught sight of the vast crowd in the distance, she had clutched Dinah
convulsively.

"Close your eyes, Hetty," Dinah said, "and let us pray without ceasing
to God."

And in a low voice, as the cart went slowly along through the midst of
the gazing crowd, she poured forth her soul with the wrestling intensity
of a last pleading, for the trembling creature that clung to her and
clutched her as the only visible sign of love and pity.

Dinah did not know that the crowd was silent, gazing at her with a sort
of awe--she did not even know how near they were to the fatal spot, when
the cart stopped, and she shrank appalled at a loud shout hideous to her
ear, like a vast yell of demons. Hetty's shriek mingled with the sound,
and they clasped each other in mutual horror.

But it was not a shout of execration--not a yell of exultant cruelty.

It was a shout of sudden excitement at the appearance of a horseman
cleaving the crowd at full gallop. The horse is hot and distressed, but
answers to the desperate spurring; the rider looks as if his eyes were
glazed by madness, and he saw nothing but what was unseen by others.
See, he has something in his hand--he is holding it up as if it were a
signal.

The Sheriff knows him: it is Arthur Donnithorne, carrying in his hand a
hard-won release from death.



Chapter XLVIII

Another Meeting in the Wood


THE next day, at evening, two men were walking from opposite points
towards the same scene, drawn thither by a common memory. The scene was
the Grove by Donnithorne Chase: you know who the men were.

The old squire's funeral had taken place that morning, the will had been
read, and now in the first breathing-space, Arthur Donnithorne had come
out for a lonely walk, that he might look fixedly at the new future
before him and confirm himself in a sad resolution. He thought he could
do that best in the Grove.

Adam too had come from Stontion on Monday evening, and to-day he had
not left home, except to go to the family at the Hall Farm and tell
them everything that Mr. Irwine had left untold. He had agreed with the
Poysers that he would follow them to their new neighbourhood, wherever
that might be, for he meant to give up the management of the woods,
and, as soon as it was practicable, he would wind up his business with
Jonathan Burge and settle with his mother and Seth in a home within
reach of the friends to whom he felt bound by a mutual sorrow.

"Seth and me are sure to find work," he said. "A man that's got our
trade at his finger-ends is at home everywhere; and we must make a new
start. My mother won't stand in the way, for she's told me, since I came
home, she'd made up her mind to being buried in another parish, if I
wished it, and if I'd be more comfortable elsewhere. It's wonderful
how quiet she's been ever since I came back. It seems as if the very
greatness o' the trouble had quieted and calmed her. We shall all be
better in a new country, though there's some I shall be loath to leave
behind. But I won't part from you and yours, if I can help it, Mr.
Poyser. Trouble's made us kin."

"Aye, lad," said Martin. "We'll go out o' hearing o' that man's name.
But I doubt we shall ne'er go far enough for folks not to find out as
we've got them belonging to us as are transported o'er the seas, and
were like to be hanged. We shall have that flyin' up in our faces, and
our children's after us."

That was a long visit to the Hall Farm, and drew too strongly on Adam's
energies for him to think of seeing others, or re-entering on his old
occupations till the morrow. "But to-morrow," he said to himself, "I'll
go to work again. I shall learn to like it again some time, maybe; and
it's right whether I like it or not."

This evening was the last he would allow to be absorbed by sorrow:
suspense was gone now, and he must bear the unalterable. He was resolved
not to see Arthur Donnithorne again, if it were possible to avoid him.
He had no message to deliver from Hetty now, for Hetty had seen Arthur.
And Adam distrusted himself--he had learned to dread the violence of his
own feeling. That word of Mr. Irwine's--that he must remember what he
had felt after giving the last blow to Arthur in the Grove--had remained
with him.

These thoughts about Arthur, like all thoughts that are charged with
strong feeling, were continually recurring, and they always called up
the image of the Grove--of that spot under the overarching boughs where
he had caught sight of the two bending figures, and had been possessed
by sudden rage.

"I'll go and see it again to-night for the last time," he said; "it'll
do me good; it'll make me feel over again what I felt when I'd knocked
him down. I felt what poor empty work it was, as soon as I'd done it,
before I began to think he might be dead."

In this way it happened that Arthur and Adam were walking towards the
same spot at the same time.

Adam had on his working-dress again, now, for he had thrown off the
other with a sense of relief as soon as he came home; and if he had had
the basket of tools over his shoulder, he might have been taken, with
his pale wasted face, for the spectre of the Adam Bede who entered the
Grove on that August evening eight months ago. But he had no basket of
tools, and he was not walking with the old erectness, looking keenly
round him; his hands were thrust in his side pockets, and his eyes
rested chiefly on the ground. He had not long entered the Grove, and now
he paused before a beech. He knew that tree well; it was the boundary
mark of his youth--the sign, to him, of the time when some of his
earliest, strongest feelings had left him. He felt sure they would never
return. And yet, at this moment, there was a stirring of affection
at the remembrance of that Arthur Donnithorne whom he had believed in
before he had come up to this beech eight months ago. It was affection
for the dead: THAT Arthur existed no longer.

He was disturbed by the sound of approaching footsteps, but the beech
stood at a turning in the road, and he could not see who was coming
until the tall slim figure in deep mourning suddenly stood before him at
only two yards' distance. They both started, and looked at each other
in silence. Often, in the last fortnight, Adam had imagined himself
as close to Arthur as this, assailing him with words that should be as
harrowing as the voice of remorse, forcing upon him a just share in the
misery he had caused; and often, too, he had told himself that such a
meeting had better not be. But in imagining the meeting he had always
seen Arthur, as he had met him on that evening in the Grove, florid,
careless, light of speech; and the figure before him touched him with
the signs of suffering. Adam knew what suffering was--he could not lay
a cruel finger on a bruised man. He felt no impulse that he needed to
resist. Silence was more just than reproach. Arthur was the first to
speak.

"Adam," he said, quietly, "it may be a good thing that we have met here,
for I wished to see you. I should have asked to see you to-morrow."

He paused, but Adam said nothing.

"I know it is painful to you to meet me," Arthur went on, "but it is not
likely to happen again for years to come."

"No, sir," said Adam, coldly, "that was what I meant to write to you
to-morrow, as it would be better all dealings should be at an end
between us, and somebody else put in my place."

Arthur felt the answer keenly, and it was not without an effort that he
spoke again.

"It was partly on that subject I wished to speak to you. I don't want
to lessen your indignation against me, or ask you to do anything for
my sake. I only wish to ask you if you will help me to lessen the
evil consequences of the past, which is unchangeable. I don't mean
consequences to myself, but to others. It is but little I can do, I
know. I know the worst consequences will remain; but something may be
done, and you can help me. Will you listen to me patiently?"

"Yes, sir," said Adam, after some hesitation; "I'll hear what it is. If
I can help to mend anything, I will. Anger 'ull mend nothing, I know.
We've had enough o' that."

"I was going to the Hermitage," said Arthur. "Will you go there with me
and sit down? We can talk better there."

The Hermitage had never been entered since they left it together, for
Arthur had locked up the key in his desk. And now, when he opened the
door, there was the candle burnt out in the socket; there was the
chair in the same place where Adam remembered sitting; there was the
waste-paper basket full of scraps, and deep down in it, Arthur felt in
an instant, there was the little pink silk handkerchief. It would have
been painful to enter this place if their previous thoughts had been
less painful.

They sat down opposite each other in the old places, and Arthur said,
"I'm going away, Adam; I'm going into the army."

Poor Arthur felt that Adam ought to be affected by this
announcement--ought to have a movement of sympathy towards him. But
Adam's lips remained firmly closed, and the expression of his face
unchanged.

"What I want to say to you," Arthur continued, "is this: one of my
reasons for going away is that no one else may leave Hayslope--may leave
their home on my account. I would do anything, there is no sacrifice
I would not make, to prevent any further injury to others through
my--through what has happened."

Arthur's words had precisely the opposite effect to that he had
anticipated. Adam thought he perceived in them that notion of
compensation for irretrievable wrong, that self-soothing attempt to
make evil bear the same fruits as good, which most of all roused his
indignation. He was as strongly impelled to look painful facts right in
the face as Arthur was to turn away his eyes from them. Moreover, he
had the wakeful suspicious pride of a poor man in the presence of a rich
man. He felt his old severity returning as he said, "The time's past for
that, sir. A man should make sacrifices to keep clear of doing a wrong;
sacrifices won't undo it when it's done. When people's feelings have got
a deadly wound, they can't be cured with favours."

"Favours!" said Arthur, passionately; "no; how can you suppose I meant
that? But the Poysers--Mr. Irwine tells me the Poysers mean to leave the
place where they have lived so many years--for generations. Don't you
see, as Mr. Irwine does, that if they could be persuaded to overcome the
feeling that drives them away, it would be much better for them in the
end to remain on the old spot, among the friends and neighbours who know
them?"

"That's true," said Adam coldly. "But then, sir, folks's feelings are
not so easily overcome. It'll be hard for Martin Poyser to go to a
strange place, among strange faces, when he's been bred up on the Hall
Farm, and his father before him; but then it 'ud be harder for a man
with his feelings to stay. I don't see how the thing's to be made any
other than hard. There's a sort o' damage, sir, that can't be made up
for."

Arthur was silent some moments. In spite of other feelings dominant in
him this evening, his pride winced under Adam's mode of treating him.
Wasn't he himself suffering? Was not he too obliged to renounce his most
cherished hopes? It was now as it had been eight months ago--Adam was
forcing Arthur to feel more intensely the irrevocableness of his own
wrong-doing. He was presenting the sort of resistance that was the most
irritating to Arthur's eager ardent nature. But his anger was subdued
by the same influence that had subdued Adam's when they first confronted
each other--by the marks of suffering in a long familiar face. The
momentary struggle ended in the feeling that he could bear a great deal
from Adam, to whom he had been the occasion of bearing so much; but
there was a touch of pleading, boyish vexation in his tone as he said,
"But people may make injuries worse by unreasonable conduct--by giving
way to anger and satisfying that for the moment, instead of thinking
what will be the effect in the future.

"If I were going to stay here and act as landlord," he added presently,
with still more eagerness--"if I were careless about what I've
done--what I've been the cause of, you would have some excuse, Adam, for
going away and encouraging others to go. You would have some excuse then
for trying to make the evil worse. But when I tell you I'm going away
for years--when you know what that means for me, how it cuts off every
plan of happiness I've ever formed--it is impossible for a sensible
man like you to believe that there is any real ground for the Poysers
refusing to remain. I know their feeling about disgrace--Mr. Irwine has
told me all; but he is of opinion that they might be persuaded out of
this idea that they are disgraced in the eyes of their neighbours,
and that they can't remain on my estate, if you would join him in his
efforts--if you would stay yourself and go on managing the old woods."

Arthur paused a moment and then added, pleadingly, "You know that's a
good work to do for the sake of other people, besides the owner. And
you don't know but that they may have a better owner soon, whom you will
like to work for. If I die, my cousin Tradgett will have the estate and
take my name. He is a good fellow."

Adam could not help being moved: it was impossible for him not to feel
that this was the voice of the honest warm-hearted Arthur whom he had
loved and been proud of in old days; but nearer memories would not be
thrust away. He was silent; yet Arthur saw an answer in his face that
induced him to go on, with growing earnestness.

"And then, if you would talk to the Poysers--if you would talk the
matter over with Mr. Irwine--he means to see you to-morrow--and then if
you would join your arguments to his to prevail on them not to go....I
know, of course, that they would not accept any favour from me--I mean
nothing of that kind--but I'm sure they would suffer less in the end.
Irwine thinks so too. And Mr. Irwine is to have the chief authority
on the estate--he has consented to undertake that. They will really be
under no man but one whom they respect and like. It would be the same
with you, Adam, and it could be nothing but a desire to give me worse
pain that could incline you to go."

Arthur was silent again for a little while, and then said, with some
agitation in his voice, "I wouldn't act so towards you, I know. If you
were in my place and I in yours, I should try to help you to do the
best."

Adam made a hasty movement on his chair and looked on the ground. Arthur
went on, "Perhaps you've never done anything you've had bitterly to
repent of in your life, Adam; if you had, you would be more generous.
You would know then that it's worse for me than for you."

Arthur rose from his seat with the last words, and went to one of the
windows, looking out and turning his back on Adam, as he continued,
passionately, "Haven't I loved her too? Didn't I see her yesterday?
Shan't I carry the thought of her about with me as much as you will? And
don't you think you would suffer more if you'd been in fault?"

There was silence for several minutes, for the struggle in Adam's mind
was not easily decided. Facile natures, whose emotions have little
permanence, can hardly understand how much inward resistance he overcame
before he rose from his seat and turned towards Arthur. Arthur heard the
movement, and turning round, met the sad but softened look with which
Adam said, "It's true what you say, sir. I'm hard--it's in my nature.
I was too hard with my father, for doing wrong. I've been a bit hard t'
everybody but her. I felt as if nobody pitied her enough--her suffering
cut into me so; and when I thought the folks at the farm were too hard
with her, I said I'd never be hard to anybody myself again. But feeling
overmuch about her has perhaps made me unfair to you. I've known what
it is in my life to repent and feel it's too late. I felt I'd been too
harsh to my father when he was gone from me--I feel it now, when I think
of him. I've no right to be hard towards them as have done wrong and
repent."

Adam spoke these words with the firm distinctness of a man who is
resolved to leave nothing unsaid that he is bound to say; but he went on
with more hesitation.

"I wouldn't shake hands with you once, sir, when you asked me--but if
you're willing to do it now, for all I refused then..."

Arthur's white hand was in Adam's large grasp in an instant, and with
that action there was a strong rush, on both sides, of the old, boyish
affection.

"Adam," Arthur said, impelled to full confession now, "it would never
have happened if I'd known you loved her. That would have helped to save
me from it. And I did struggle. I never meant to injure her. I deceived
you afterwards--and that led on to worse; but I thought it was forced
upon me, I thought it was the best thing I could do. And in that letter
I told her to let me know if she were in any trouble: don't think I
would not have done everything I could. But I was all wrong from the
very first, and horrible wrong has come of it. God knows, I'd give my
life if I could undo it."

They sat down again opposite each other, and Adam said, tremulously,
"How did she seem when you left her, sir?"

"Don't ask me, Adam," Arthur said; "I feel sometimes as if I should go
mad with thinking of her looks and what she said to me, and then, that I
couldn't get a full pardon--that I couldn't save her from that wretched
fate of being transported--that I can do nothing for her all those
years; and she may die under it, and never know comfort any more."

"Ah, sir," said Adam, for the first time feeling his own pain merged in
sympathy for Arthur, "you and me'll often be thinking o' the same thing,
when we're a long way off one another. I'll pray God to help you, as I
pray him to help me."

"But there's that sweet woman--that Dinah Morris," Arthur said, pursuing
his own thoughts and not knowing what had been the sense of Adam's
words, "she says she shall stay with her to the very last moment--till
she goes; and the poor thing clings to her as if she found some comfort
in her. I could worship that woman; I don't know what I should do if she
were not there. Adam, you will see her when she comes back. I could say
nothing to her yesterday--nothing of what I felt towards her. Tell her,"
Arthur went on hurriedly, as if he wanted to hide the emotion with which
he spoke, while he took off his chain and watch, "tell her I asked you
to give her this in remembrance of me--of the man to whom she is the
one source of comfort, when he thinks of...I know she doesn't care about
such things--or anything else I can give her for its own sake. But she
will use the watch--I shall like to think of her using it."

"I'll give it to her, sir," Adam said, "and tell her your words. She
told me she should come back to the people at the Hall Farm."

"And you will persuade the Poysers to stay, Adam?" said Arthur, reminded
of the subject which both of them had forgotten in the first interchange
of revived friendship. "You will stay yourself, and help Mr. Irwine to
carry out the repairs and improvements on the estate?"

"There's one thing, sir, that perhaps you don't take account of," said
Adam, with hesitating gentleness, "and that was what made me hang back
longer. You see, it's the same with both me and the Poysers: if we stay,
it's for our own worldly interest, and it looks as if we'd put up with
anything for the sake o' that. I know that's what they'll feel, and
I can't help feeling a little of it myself. When folks have got an
honourable independent spirit, they don't like to do anything that might
make 'em seem base-minded."

"But no one who knows you will think that, Adam. That is not a reason
strong enough against a course that is really more generous, more
unselfish than the other. And it will be known--it shall be made known,
that both you and the Poysers stayed at my entreaty. Adam, don't try to
make things worse for me; I'm punished enough without that."

"No, sir, no," Adam said, looking at Arthur with mournful affection.
"God forbid I should make things worse for you. I used to wish I could
do it, in my passion--but that was when I thought you didn't feel
enough. I'll stay, sir, I'll do the best I can. It's all I've got to
think of now--to do my work well and make the world a bit better place
for them as can enjoy it."

"Then we'll part now, Adam. You will see Mr. Irwine to-morrow, and
consult with him about everything."

"Are you going soon, sir?" said Adam.

"As soon as possible--after I've made the necessary arrangements.
Good-bye, Adam. I shall think of you going about the old place."

"Good-bye, sir. God bless you."

The hands were clasped once more, and Adam left the Hermitage, feeling
that sorrow was more bearable now hatred was gone.

As soon as the door was closed behind him, Arthur went to the
waste-paper basket and took out the little pink silk handkerchief.





Book Six




Chapter XLIX

At the Hall Farm


THE first autumnal afternoon sunshine of 1801--more than eighteen months
after that parting of Adam and Arthur in the Hermitage--was on the
yard at the Hall Farm; and the bull-dog was in one of his most excited
moments, for it was that hour of the day when the cows were being driven
into the yard for their afternoon milking. No wonder the patient beasts
ran confusedly into the wrong places, for the alarming din of the
bull-dog was mingled with more distant sounds which the timid feminine
creatures, with pardonable superstition, imagined also to have some
relation to their own movements--with the tremendous crack of the
waggoner's whip, the roar of his voice, and the booming thunder of the
waggon, as it left the rick-yard empty of its golden load.

The milking of the cows was a sight Mrs. Poyser loved, and at this
hour on mild days she was usually standing at the house door, with her
knitting in her hands, in quiet contemplation, only heightened to a
keener interest when the vicious yellow cow, who had once kicked over a
pailful of precious milk, was about to undergo the preventive punishment
of having her hinder-legs strapped.

To-day, however, Mrs. Poyser gave but a divided attention to the
arrival of the cows, for she was in eager discussion with Dinah, who was
stitching Mr. Poyser's shirt-collars, and had borne patiently to have
her thread broken three times by Totty pulling at her arm with a sudden
insistence that she should look at "Baby," that is, at a large wooden
doll with no legs and a long skirt, whose bald head Totty, seated in her
small chair at Dinah's side, was caressing and pressing to her fat cheek
with much fervour. Totty is larger by more than two years' growth than
when you first saw her, and she has on a black frock under her pinafore.
Mrs. Poyser too has on a black gown, which seems to heighten the family
likeness between her and Dinah. In other respects there is little
outward change now discernible in our old friends, or in the pleasant
house-place, bright with polished oak and pewter.

"I never saw the like to you, Dinah," Mrs. Poyser was saying, "when
you've once took anything into your head: there's no more moving you
than the rooted tree. You may say what you like, but I don't believe
that's religion; for what's the Sermon on the Mount about, as you're so
fond o' reading to the boys, but doing what other folks 'ud have you do?
But if it was anything unreasonable they wanted you to do, like taking
your cloak off and giving it to 'em, or letting 'em slap you i' the
face, I daresay you'd be ready enough. It's only when one 'ud have you
do what's plain common sense and good for yourself, as you're obstinate
th' other way."

"Nay, dear Aunt," said Dinah, smiling slightly as she went on with her
work, "I'm sure your wish 'ud be a reason for me to do anything that I
didn't feel it was wrong to do."

"Wrong! You drive me past bearing. What is there wrong, I should like
to know, i' staying along wi' your own friends, as are th' happier for
having you with 'em an' are willing to provide for you, even if your
work didn't more nor pay 'em for the bit o' sparrow's victual y' eat
and the bit o' rag you put on? An' who is it, I should like to know, as
you're bound t' help and comfort i' the world more nor your own flesh
and blood--an' me th' only aunt you've got above-ground, an' am brought
to the brink o' the grave welly every winter as comes, an' there's the
child as sits beside you 'ull break her little heart when you go, an'
the grandfather not been dead a twelvemonth, an' your uncle 'ull miss
you so as never was--a-lighting his pipe an' waiting on him, an' now I
can trust you wi' the butter, an' have had all the trouble o' teaching
you, and there's all the sewing to be done, an' I must have a strange
gell out o' Treddles'on to do it--an' all because you must go back to
that bare heap o' stones as the very crows fly over an' won't stop at."

"Dear Aunt Rachel," said Dinah, looking up in Mrs. Poyser's face, "it's
your kindness makes you say I'm useful to you. You don't really want me
now, for Nancy and Molly are clever at their work, and you're in good
health now, by the blessing of God, and my uncle is of a cheerful
countenance again, and you have neighbours and friends not a few--some
of them come to sit with my uncle almost daily. Indeed, you will not
miss me; and at Snowfield there are brethren and sisters in great need,
who have none of those comforts you have around you. I feel that I am
called back to those amongst whom my lot was first cast. I feel drawn
again towards the hills where I used to be blessed in carrying the word
of life to the sinful and desolate."

"You feel! Yes," said Mrs. Poyser, returning from a parenthetic glance
at the cows, "that's allays the reason I'm to sit down wi', when you've
a mind to do anything contrairy. What do you want to be preaching for
more than you're preaching now? Don't you go off, the Lord knows where,
every Sunday a-preaching and praying? An' haven't you got Methodists
enow at Treddles'on to go and look at, if church-folks's faces are too
handsome to please you? An' isn't there them i' this parish as you've
got under hand, and they're like enough to make friends wi' Old Harry
again as soon as your back's turned? There's that Bessy Cranage--she'll
be flaunting i' new finery three weeks after you're gone, I'll be bound.
She'll no more go on in her new ways without you than a dog 'ull stand
on its hind-legs when there's nobody looking. But I suppose it doesna
matter so much about folks's souls i' this country, else you'd be for
staying with your own aunt, for she's none so good but what you might
help her to be better."

There was a certain something in Mrs. Poyser's voice just then, which
she did not wish to be noticed, so she turned round hastily to look at
the clock, and said: "See there! It's tea-time; an' if Martin's i' the
rick-yard, he'll like a cup. Here, Totty, my chicken, let mother put
your bonnet on, and then you go out into the rick-yard and see if
Father's there, and tell him he mustn't go away again without coming t'
have a cup o' tea; and tell your brothers to come in too."

Totty trotted off in her flapping bonnet, while Mrs. Poyser set out the
bright oak table and reached down the tea-cups.

"You talk o' them gells Nancy and Molly being clever i' their work,"
she began again; "it's fine talking. They're all the same, clever or
stupid--one can't trust 'em out o' one's sight a minute. They want
somebody's eye on 'em constant if they're to be kept to their work.
An' suppose I'm ill again this winter, as I was the winter before last?
Who's to look after 'em then, if you're gone? An' there's that blessed
child--something's sure t' happen to her--they'll let her tumble into
the fire, or get at the kettle wi' the boiling lard in't, or some
mischief as 'ull lame her for life; an' it'll be all your fault, Dinah."

"Aunt," said Dinah, "I promise to come back to you in the winter if
you're ill. Don't think I will ever stay away from you if you're in real
want of me. But, indeed, it is needful for my own soul that I should go
away from this life of ease and luxury in which I have all things too
richly to enjoy--at least that I should go away for a short space. No
one can know but myself what are my inward needs, and the besetments I
am most in danger from. Your wish for me to stay is not a call of duty
which I refuse to hearken to because it is against my own desires; it
is a temptation that I must resist, lest the love of the creature should
become like a mist in my soul shutting out the heavenly light."

"It passes my cunning to know what you mean by ease and luxury," said
Mrs. Poyser, as she cut the bread and butter. "It's true there's good
victual enough about you, as nobody shall ever say I don't provide
enough and to spare, but if there's ever a bit o' odds an' ends as
nobody else 'ud eat, you're sure to pick it out...but look there!
There's Adam Bede a-carrying the little un in. I wonder how it is he's
come so early."

Mrs. Poyser hastened to the door for the pleasure of looking at her
darling in a new position, with love in her eyes but reproof on her
tongue.

"Oh for shame, Totty! Little gells o' five year old should be ashamed to
be carried. Why, Adam, she'll break your arm, such a big gell as that;
set her down--for shame!"

"Nay, nay," said Adam, "I can lift her with my hand--I've no need to
take my arm to it."

Totty, looking as serenely unconscious of remark as a fat white puppy,
was set down at the door-place, and the mother enforced her reproof with
a shower of kisses.

"You're surprised to see me at this hour o' the day," said Adam.

"Yes, but come in," said Mrs. Poyser, making way for him; "there's no
bad news, I hope?"

"No, nothing bad," Adam answered, as he went up to Dinah and put out his
hand to her. She had laid down her work and stood up, instinctively, as
he approached her. A faint blush died away from her pale cheek as she
put her hand in his and looked up at him timidly.

"It's an errand to you brought me, Dinah," said Adam, apparently
unconscious that he was holding her hand all the while; "mother's a bit
ailing, and she's set her heart on your coming to stay the night with
her, if you'll be so kind. I told her I'd call and ask you as I came
from the village. She overworks herself, and I can't persuade her to
have a little girl t' help her. I don't know what's to be done."

Adam released Dinah's hand as he ceased speaking, and was expecting an
answer, but before she had opened her lips Mrs. Poyser said, "Look there
now! I told you there was folks enow t' help i' this parish, wi'out
going further off. There's Mrs. Bede getting as old and cas'alty as can
be, and she won't let anybody but you go a-nigh her hardly. The folks at
Snowfield have learnt by this time to do better wi'out you nor she can."

"I'll put my bonnet on and set off directly, if you don't want anything
done first, Aunt," said Dinah, folding up her work.

"Yes, I do want something done. I want you t' have your tea, child; it's
all ready--and you'll have a cup, Adam, if y' arena in too big a hurry."

"Yes, I'll have a cup, please; and then I'll walk with Dinah. I'm going
straight home, for I've got a lot o' timber valuations to write out."

"Why, Adam, lad, are you here?" said Mr. Poyser, entering warm and
coatless, with the two black-eyed boys behind him, still looking as much
like him as two small elephants are like a large one. "How is it we've
got sight o' you so long before foddering-time?"

"I came on an errand for Mother," said Adam. "She's got a touch of her
old complaint, and she wants Dinah to go and stay with her a bit."

"Well, we'll spare her for your mother a little while," said Mr. Poyser.
"But we wonna spare her for anybody else, on'y her husband."

"Husband!" said Marty, who was at the most prosaic and literal period of
the boyish mind. "Why, Dinah hasn't got a husband."

"Spare her?" said Mrs. Poyser, placing a seed-cake on the table and then
seating herself to pour out the tea. "But we must spare her, it seems,
and not for a husband neither, but for her own megrims. Tommy, what are
you doing to your little sister's doll? Making the child naughty, when
she'd be good if you'd let her. You shanna have a morsel o' cake if you
behave so."

Tommy, with true brotherly sympathy, was amusing himself by turning
Dolly's skirt over her bald head and exhibiting her truncated body to
the general scorn--an indignity which cut Totty to the heart.

"What do you think Dinah's been a-telling me since dinner-time?" Mrs.
Poyser continued, looking at her husband.

"Eh! I'm a poor un at guessing," said Mr. Poyser.

"Why, she means to go back to Snowfield again, and work i' the mill,
and starve herself, as she used to do, like a creatur as has got no
friends."

Mr. Poyser did not readily find words to express his unpleasant
astonishment; he only looked from his wife to Dinah, who had now seated
herself beside Totty, as a bulwark against brotherly playfulness, and
was busying herself with the children's tea. If he had been given to
making general reflections, it would have occurred to him that there was
certainly a change come over Dinah, for she never used to change colour;
but, as it was, he merely observed that her face was flushed at that
moment. Mr. Poyser thought she looked the prettier for it: it was
a flush no deeper than the petal of a monthly rose. Perhaps it came
because her uncle was looking at her so fixedly; but there is no
knowing, for just then Adam was saying, with quiet surprise, "Why, I
hoped Dinah was settled among us for life. I thought she'd given up the
notion o' going back to her old country."

"Thought! Yes," said Mrs. Poyser, "and so would anybody else ha'
thought, as had got their right end up'ards. But I suppose you must be
a Methodist to know what a Methodist 'ull do. It's ill guessing what the
bats are flying after."

"Why, what have we done to you. Dinah, as you must go away from us?"
said Mr. Poyser, still pausing over his tea-cup. "It's like breaking
your word, welly, for your aunt never had no thought but you'd make this
your home."

"Nay, Uncle," said Dinah, trying to be quite calm. "When I first came, I
said it was only for a time, as long as I could be of any comfort to my
aunt."

"Well, an' who said you'd ever left off being a comfort to me?" said
Mrs. Poyser. "If you didna mean to stay wi' me, you'd better never ha'
come. Them as ha' never had a cushion don't miss it."

"Nay, nay," said Mr. Poyser, who objected to exaggerated views. "Thee
mustna say so; we should ha' been ill off wi'out her, Lady day was a
twelvemont'. We mun be thankful for that, whether she stays or no. But
I canna think what she mun leave a good home for, to go back int' a
country where the land, most on't, isna worth ten shillings an acre,
rent and profits."

"Why, that's just the reason she wants to go, as fur as she can give a
reason," said Mrs. Poyser. "She says this country's too comfortable,
an' there's too much t' eat, an' folks arena miserable enough. And she's
going next week. I canna turn her, say what I will. It's allays the way
wi' them meek-faced people; you may's well pelt a bag o' feathers as
talk to 'em. But I say it isna religion, to be so obstinate--is it now,
Adam?"

Adam saw that Dinah was more disturbed than he had ever seen her by any
matter relating to herself, and, anxious to relieve her, if possible,
he said, looking at her affectionately, "Nay, I can't find fault with
anything Dinah does. I believe her thoughts are better than our guesses,
let 'em be what they may. I should ha' been thankful for her to stay
among us, but if she thinks well to go, I wouldn't cross her, or make it
hard to her by objecting. We owe her something different to that."

As it often happens, the words intended to relieve her were just too
much for Dinah's susceptible feelings at this moment. The tears came
into the grey eyes too fast to be hidden and she got up hurriedly,
meaning it to be understood that she was going to put on her bonnet.

"Mother, what's Dinah crying for?" said Totty. "She isn't a naughty
dell."

"Thee'st gone a bit too fur," said Mr. Poyser. "We've no right t'
interfere with her doing as she likes. An' thee'dst be as angry as could
be wi' me, if I said a word against anything she did."

"Because you'd very like be finding fault wi'out reason," said Mrs.
Poyser. "But there's reason i' what I say, else I shouldna say it. It's
easy talking for them as can't love her so well as her own aunt does.
An' me got so used to her! I shall feel as uneasy as a new sheared sheep
when she's gone from me. An' to think of her leaving a parish where
she's so looked on. There's Mr. Irwine makes as much of her as if
she was a lady, for all her being a Methodist, an' wi' that maggot o'
preaching in her head--God forgi'e me if I'm i' the wrong to call it
so."

"Aye," said Mr. Poyser, looking jocose; "but thee dostna tell Adam what
he said to thee about it one day. The missis was saying, Adam, as the
preaching was the only fault to be found wi' Dinah, and Mr. Irwine says,
'But you mustn't find fault with her for that, Mrs. Poyser; you forget
she's got no husband to preach to. I'll answer for it, you give Poyser
many a good sermon.' The parson had thee there," Mr. Poyser added,
laughing unctuously. "I told Bartle Massey on it, an' he laughed too."

"Yes, it's a small joke sets men laughing when they sit a-staring at
one another with a pipe i' their mouths," said Mrs. Poyser. "Give
Bartle Massey his way and he'd have all the sharpness to himself. If
the chaff-cutter had the making of us, we should all be straw, I reckon.
Totty, my chicken, go upstairs to cousin Dinah, and see what she's
doing, and give her a pretty kiss."

This errand was devised for Totty as a means of checking certain
threatening symptoms about the corners of the mouth; for Tommy,
no longer expectant of cake, was lifting up his eyelids with his
forefingers and turning his eyeballs towards Totty in a way that she
felt to be disagreeably personal.

"You're rare and busy now--eh, Adam?" said Mr. Poyser. "Burge's getting
so bad wi' his asthmy, it's well if he'll ever do much riding about
again."

"Yes, we've got a pretty bit o' building on hand now," said Adam, "what
with the repairs on th' estate, and the new houses at Treddles'on."

"I'll bet a penny that new house Burge is building on his own bit o'
land is for him and Mary to go to," said Mr. Poyser. "He'll be for
laying by business soon, I'll warrant, and be wanting you to take to it
all and pay him so much by th' 'ear. We shall see you living on th' hill
before another twelvemont's over."

"Well," said Adam, "I should like t' have the business in my own hands.
It isn't as I mind much about getting any more money. We've enough and
to spare now, with only our two selves and mother; but I should like
t' have my own way about things--I could try plans then, as I can't do
now."

"You get on pretty well wi' the new steward, I reckon?" said Mr. Poyser.

"Yes, yes; he's a sensible man enough; understands farming--he's
carrying on the draining, and all that, capital. You must go some day
towards the Stonyshire side and see what alterations they're making. But
he's got no notion about buildings. You can so seldom get hold of a man
as can turn his brains to more nor one thing; it's just as if they wore
blinkers like th' horses and could see nothing o' one side of 'em. Now,
there's Mr. Irwine has got notions o' building more nor most architects;
for as for th' architects, they set up to be fine fellows, but the most
of 'em don't know where to set a chimney so as it shan't be quarrelling
with a door. My notion is, a practical builder that's got a bit o'
taste makes the best architect for common things; and I've ten times the
pleasure i' seeing after the work when I've made the plan myself."

Mr. Poyser listened with an admiring interest to Adam's discourse on
building, but perhaps it suggested to him that the building of his
corn-rick had been proceeding a little too long without the control of
the master's eye, for when Adam had done speaking, he got up and said,
"Well, lad, I'll bid you good-bye now, for I'm off to the rick-yard
again."

Adam rose too, for he saw Dinah entering, with her bonnet on and a
little basket in her hand, preceded by Totty.

"You're ready, I see, Dinah," Adam said; "so we'll set off, for the
sooner I'm at home the better."

"Mother," said Totty, with her treble pipe, "Dinah was saying her
prayers and crying ever so."

"Hush, hush," said the mother, "little gells mustn't chatter."

Whereupon the father, shaking with silent laughter, set Totty on the
white deal table and desired her to kiss him. Mr. and Mrs. Poyser, you
perceive, had no correct principles of education.

"Come back to-morrow if Mrs. Bede doesn't want you, Dinah," said Mrs.
Poyser: "but you can stay, you know, if she's ill."

So, when the good-byes had been said, Dinah and Adam left the Hall Farm
together.



Chapter L

In the Cottage


ADAM did not ask Dinah to take his arm when they got out into the lane.
He had never yet done so, often as they had walked together, for he had
observed that she never walked arm-in-arm with Seth, and he thought,
perhaps, that kind of support was not agreeable to her. So they walked
apart, though side by side, and the close poke of her little black
bonnet hid her face from him.

"You can't be happy, then, to make the Hall Farm your home, Dinah?"
Adam said, with the quiet interest of a brother, who has no anxiety for
himself in the matter. "It's a pity, seeing they're so fond of you."

"You know, Adam, my heart is as their heart, so far as love for them
and care for their welfare goes, but they are in no present need. Their
sorrows are healed, and I feel that I am called back to my old work, in
which I found a blessing that I have missed of late in the midst of too
abundant worldly good. I know it is a vain thought to flee from the work
that God appoints us, for the sake of finding a greater blessing to our
own souls, as if we could choose for ourselves where we shall find the
fulness of the Divine Presence, instead of seeking it where alone it
is to be found, in loving obedience. But now, I believe, I have a clear
showing that my work lies elsewhere--at least for a time. In the years
to come, if my aunt's health should fail, or she should otherwise need
me, I shall return."

"You know best, Dinah," said Adam. "I don't believe you'd go against the
wishes of them that love you, and are akin to you, without a good and
sufficient reason in your own conscience. I've no right to say anything
about my being sorry: you know well enough what cause I have to put you
above every other friend I've got; and if it had been ordered so that
you could ha' been my sister, and lived with us all our lives, I should
ha' counted it the greatest blessing as could happen to us now. But
Seth tells me there's no hope o' that: your feelings are different, and
perhaps I'm taking too much upon me to speak about it."

Dinah made no answer, and they walked on in silence for some yards, till
they came to the stone stile, where, as Adam had passed through first
and turned round to give her his hand while she mounted the unusually
high step, she could not prevent him from seeing her face. It struck
him with surprise, for the grey eyes, usually so mild and grave, had
the bright uneasy glance which accompanies suppressed agitation, and
the slight flush in her cheeks, with which she had come downstairs, was
heightened to a deep rose-colour. She looked as if she were only sister
to Dinah. Adam was silent with surprise and conjecture for some moments,
and then he said, "I hope I've not hurt or displeased you by what I've
said, Dinah. Perhaps I was making too free. I've no wish different from
what you see to be best, and I'm satisfied for you to live thirty mile
off, if you think it right. I shall think of you just as much as I do
now, for you're bound up with what I can no more help remembering than I
can help my heart beating."

Poor Adam! Thus do men blunder. Dinah made no answer, but she presently
said, "Have you heard any news from that poor young man, since we last
spoke of him?"

Dinah always called Arthur so; she had never lost the image of him as
she had seen him in the prison.

"Yes," said Adam. "Mr. Irwine read me part of a letter from him
yesterday. It's pretty certain, they say, that there'll be a peace soon,
though nobody believes it'll last long; but he says he doesn't mean to
come home. He's no heart for it yet, and it's better for others that he
should keep away. Mr. Irwine thinks he's in the right not to come. It's
a sorrowful letter. He asks about you and the Poysers, as he always
does. There's one thing in the letter cut me a good deal: 'You can't
think what an old fellow I feel,' he says; 'I make no schemes now. I'm
the best when I've a good day's march or fighting before me.'"

"He's of a rash, warm-hearted nature, like Esau, for whom I have always
felt great pity," said Dinah. "That meeting between the brothers, where
Esau is so loving and generous, and Jacob so timid and distrustful,
notwithstanding his sense of the Divine favour, has always touched me
greatly. Truly, I have been tempted sometimes to say that Jacob was of a
mean spirit. But that is our trial: we must learn to see the good in the
midst of much that is unlovely."

"Ah," said Adam, "I like to read about Moses best, in th' Old Testament.
He carried a hard business well through, and died when other folks were
going to reap the fruits. A man must have courage to look at his life
so, and think what'll come of it after he's dead and gone. A good solid
bit o' work lasts: if it's only laying a floor down, somebody's the
better for it being done well, besides the man as does it."

They were both glad to talk of subjects that were not personal, and
in this way they went on till they passed the bridge across the Willow
Brook, when Adam turned round and said, "Ah, here's Seth. I thought he'd
be home soon. Does he know of you're going, Dinah?"

"Yes, I told him last Sabbath."

Adam remembered now that Seth had come home much depressed on Sunday
evening, a circumstance which had been very unusual with him of late,
for the happiness he had in seeing Dinah every week seemed long to have
outweighed the pain of knowing she would never marry him. This evening
he had his habitual air of dreamy benignant contentment, until he came
quite close to Dinah and saw the traces of tears on her delicate eyelids
and eyelashes. He gave one rapid glance at his brother, but Adam was
evidently quite outside the current of emotion that had shaken Dinah: he
wore his everyday look of unexpectant calm. Seth tried not to let Dinah
see that he had noticed her face, and only said, "I'm thankful you're
come, Dinah, for Mother's been hungering after the sight of you all day.
She began to talk of you the first thing in the morning."

When they entered the cottage, Lisbeth was seated in her arm-chair, too
tired with setting out the evening meal, a task she always performed a
long time beforehand, to go and meet them at the door as usual, when she
heard the approaching footsteps.

"Coom, child, thee't coom at last," she said, when Dinah went towards
her. "What dost mane by lavin' me a week an' ne'er coomin' a-nigh me?"

"Dear friend," said Dinah, taking her hand, "you're not well. If I'd
known it sooner, I'd have come."

"An' how's thee t' know if thee dostna coom? Th' lads on'y know what
I tell 'em. As long as ye can stir hand and foot the men think ye're
hearty. But I'm none so bad, on'y a bit of a cold sets me achin'. An'
th' lads tease me so t' ha' somebody wi' me t' do the work--they make me
ache worse wi' talkin'. If thee'dst come and stay wi' me, they'd let me
alone. The Poysers cann