Sunday, October 7, 2007


Adam Bede by George Eliot - I

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
"Aye, sure," said Seth, with answering surprise; "what's awanting
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
"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 jestbook,
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
"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 goodhearted
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
"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 sixan'-
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 gravelooking
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
"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
"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
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 earrings"
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 kneebreeches, 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 stouthearted
feller too, for when we saw the old tree all afire acomin'
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
egglike 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 nightwatches,
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"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.
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 impossibie 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
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
bebind, 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 linseywoolsey
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 workhardened
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 wellfilled
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 longlost
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
"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 shirtsleeves
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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 tomorrow,
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
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
"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 sucession.
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 floorquarries;
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
youve 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
"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
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 glossybrown
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
"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' athievin'
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 apreachin'
an' a-prayin' on the Green last night, as sure as I'm astannin'
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 asingin',
an' folks offer't you for nothin'; or when I'm acollectin'
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
"Well, what's your advice, Joshua? What do you think should be
"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
"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 prayermeeting 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
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 entrancehall,
and Joshua Rann moved hastily aside from the doorway to make
room for some one who paused there, and said, in a ringing tenor
"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 fellowcountryman--
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
"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
"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,
"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 wellpreserved
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 fioor 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 halfweaned
calves that have been sheltering themselves in a gorsebuilt
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 halfpast
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 foxhounds
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 nurnber 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 houseplace,
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 muchsuspected
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
"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 asewing.
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
"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 cheeeses
'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
"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 usial 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 asmilin'
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
"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
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
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 boddice, 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 starbrowed
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'
"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
"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
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
"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
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
"Ah, I remember Snowfield very well; I once had occasion to go
there. It's a dreary bleak place. They were building a cottonmill
there; but that's many years ago now. I suppose the place is
a good deal changed by the employment that mill must have
"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
"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 hilltop."
"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 twentyone."
"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
"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
"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
"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 creamcheese
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
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' bareribbed
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
"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
"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
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 homebrewed;
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 alaughing
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 earrings,
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 tomorrow--
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
"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
"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
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
Adam was seated on a rough bench, his head supported by his arm,
which rested from the shoulder to the elbow on the long planingtable
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 asittin'
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 littie 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
"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 today,
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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, warmblooded,
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 buttonhole.
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
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 halfpast
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
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
"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 smoothsweeping
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, hollowshaped,
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 violetscented
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 deepblushing,
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
"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
"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 oneand-
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 everinterlacing
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 dinnerhour
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
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
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 ot 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 goodnature.
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
"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 chimneynook
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 amarrying
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.
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
"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 oldfashioned
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
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 buttermaking
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 pigeonlike 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
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 tonight
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
Chapter XVI
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
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
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 wlth 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 openhearted
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
"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 lighthearted,
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
baltle 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 seesaw
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
"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 coffeepot,
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 windowsill.
"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 shillyshally
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
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
But, my good friend, what will you do then with your fellowparishioner
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 fellowfeeling,
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 notning 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
"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
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
netlace 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 setdowns
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
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 dandeliontea,
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
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
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
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 hedgeclipping
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 efflcacy 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
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 coalscuttle
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
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 oberver, 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
"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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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 chimneypieces,
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 tomorrow--
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' athat'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
"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
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
"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 bluegrey
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 welltended
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 fruittrees,
and kitchen vegetables growing together in careless, halfneglected
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-andwhite
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
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
"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
"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
"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
Mrs. Poyser's attention was here diverted by the appearance of
Molly, carrying a large jug, two small mugs, and four drinkingcans,
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'
Mrs. Poyser had turned round from the cupboard with the brown-andwhite
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 ghostseer,
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 awalking
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 jugbreaking
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
"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 nightschool'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, "adropping
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
"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
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
"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
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
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 pothooks
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 "Goodnights,"
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 brownand-
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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 akissing
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
"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 bullterrier
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 earrings
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 twentyfirst
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 smockfrock.
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 nigbtcap, 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 today,
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 surpsise 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
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 lovemaking.
"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
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
"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
"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 slowstriking
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

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