Part 1 out of 11
by George Eliot
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
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
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
"Well, I'm half a mind t' ha' a look at her to-night, if there
isn't good company at th' Holly Bush. What'll she take for her
text? Happen ye can tell me, Seth, if so be as I shouldna come up
i' time for't. Will't be--what come ye out for to see? A
prophetess? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophetess--a
uncommon pretty young woman."
"Come, Ben," said Adam, rather sternly, "you let the words o' the
Bible alone; you're going too far now."
"What! Are YE a-turnin' roun', Adam? I thought ye war dead again
th' women preachin', a while agoo?"
"Nay, I'm not turnin' noway. I said nought about the women
preachin'. I said, You let the Bible alone: you've got a jest-
book, han't you, as you're rare and proud on? Keep your dirty
fingers to that."
"Why, y' are gettin' as big a saint as Seth. Y' are goin' to th'
preachin' to-night, I should think. Ye'll do finely t' lead the
singin'. But I don' know what Parson Irwine 'ull say at his gran'
favright Adam Bede a-turnin' Methody."
"Never do you bother yourself about me, Ben. I'm not a-going to
turn Methodist any more nor you are--though it's like enough
you'll turn to something worse. Mester Irwine's got more sense
nor to meddle wi' people's doing as they like in religion. That's
between themselves and God, as he's said to me many a time."
"Aye, aye; but he's none so fond o' your dissenters, for all
"Maybe; I'm none so fond o' Josh Tod's thick ale, but I don't
hinder you from making a fool o' yourself wi't."
There was a laugh at this thrust of Adam's, but Seth said, very
seriously. "Nay, nay, Addy, thee mustna say as anybody's
religion's like thick ale. Thee dostna believe but what the
dissenters and the Methodists have got the root o' the matter as
well as the church folks."
"Nay, Seth, lad; I'm not for laughing at no man's religion. Let
'em follow their consciences, that's all. Only I think it 'ud be
better if their consciences 'ud let 'em stay quiet i' the church--
there's a deal to be learnt there. And there's such a thing as
being oversperitial; we must have something beside Gospel i' this
world. Look at the canals, an' th' aqueduc's, an' th' coal-pit
engines, and Arkwright's mills there at Cromford; a man must learn
summat beside Gospel to make them things, I reckon. But t' hear
some o' them preachers, you'd think as a man must be doing nothing
all's life but shutting's eyes and looking what's agoing on inside
him. I know a man must have the love o' God in his soul, and the
Bible's God's word. But what does the Bible say? Why, it says as
God put his sperrit into the workman as built the tabernacle, to
make him do all the carved work and things as wanted a nice hand.
And this is my way o' looking at it: there's the sperrit o' God in
all things and all times--weekday as well as Sunday--and i' the
great works and inventions, and i' the figuring and the mechanics.
And God helps us with our headpieces and our hands as well as with
our souls; and if a man does bits o' jobs out o' working hours--
builds a oven for 's wife to save her from going to the bakehouse,
or scrats at his bit o' garden and makes two potatoes grow istead
o' one, he's doin' more good, and he's just as near to God, as if
he was running after some preacher and a-praying and a-groaning."
"Well done, Adam!" said Sandy Jim, who had paused from his planing
to shift his planks while Adam was speaking; "that's the best
sarmunt I've heared this long while. By th' same token, my wife's
been a-plaguin' on me to build her a oven this twelvemont."
"There's reason in what thee say'st, Adam," observed Seth,
gravely. "But thee know'st thyself as it's hearing the preachers
thee find'st so much fault with has turned many an idle fellow
into an industrious un. It's the preacher as empties th'
alehouse; and if a man gets religion, he'll do his work none the
worse for that."
"On'y he'll lave the panels out o' th' doors sometimes, eh, Seth?"
said Wiry Ben.
"Ah, Ben, you've got a joke again' me as 'll last you your life.
But it isna religion as was i' fault there; it was Seth Bede, as
was allays a wool-gathering chap, and religion hasna cured him,
the more's the pity."
"Ne'er heed me, Seth," said Wiry Ben, "y' are a down-right good-
hearted chap, panels or no panels; an' ye donna set up your
bristles at every bit o' fun, like some o' your kin, as is mayhap
"Seth, lad," said Adam, taking no notice of the sarcasm against
himself, "thee mustna take me unkind. I wasna driving at thee in
what I said just now. Some 's got one way o' looking at things
and some 's got another."
"Nay, nay, Addy, thee mean'st me no unkindness," said Seth, "I
know that well enough. Thee't like thy dog Gyp--thee bark'st at
me sometimes, but thee allays lick'st my hand after."
All hands worked on in silence for some minutes, until the church
clock began to strike six. Before the first stroke had died away,
Sandy Jim had loosed his plane and was reaching his jacket; Wiry
Ben had left a screw half driven in, and thrown his screwdriver
into his tool-basket; Mum Taft, who, true to his name, had kept
silence throughout the previous conversation, had flung down his
hammer as he was in the act of lifting it; and Seth, too, had
straightened his back, and was putting out his hand towards his
paper cap. Adam alone had gone on with his work as if nothing had
happened. But observing the cessation of the tools, he looked up,
and said, in a tone of indignation, "Look there, now! I can't
abide to see men throw away their tools i' that way, the minute
the clock begins to strike, as if they took no pleasure i' their
work and was afraid o' doing a stroke too much."
Seth looked a little conscious, and began to be slower in his
preparations for going, but Mum Taft broke silence, and said,
"Aye, aye, Adam lad, ye talk like a young un. When y' are six-
an'-forty like me, istid o' six-an'-twenty, ye wonna be so flush
o' workin' for nought."
"Nonsense," said Adam, still wrathful; "what's age got to do with
it, I wonder? Ye arena getting stiff yet, I reckon. I hate to
see a man's arms drop down as if he was shot, before the clock's
fairly struck, just as if he'd never a bit o' pride and delight in
's work. The very grindstone 'ull go on turning a bit after you
"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,
"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.
About a quarter to seven there was an unusual appearance of
excitement in the village of Hayslope, and through the whole
length of its little street, from the Donnithorne Arms to the
churchyard gate, the inhabitants had evidently been drawn out of
their houses by something more than the pleasure of lounging in
the evening sunshine. The Donnithorne Arms stood at the entrance
of the village, and a small farmyard and stackyard which flanked
it, indicating that there was a pretty take of land attached to
the inn, gave the traveller a promise of good feed for himself and
his horse, which might well console him for the ignorance in which
the weather-beaten sign left him as to the heraldic bearings of
that ancient family, the Donnithornes. Mr. Casson, the landlord,
had been for some time standing at the door with his hands in his
pockets, balancing himself on his heels and toes and looking
towards a piece of unenclosed ground, with a maple in the middle
of it, which he knew to be the destination of certain grave-
looking men and women whom he had observed passing at intervals.
Mr. Casson's person was by no means of that common type which can
be allowed to pass without description. On a front view it
appeared to consist principally of two spheres, bearing about the
same relation to each other as the earth and the moon: that is to
say, the lower sphere might be said, at a rough guess, to be
thirteen times larger than the upper which naturally performed the
function of a mere satellite and tributary. But here the
resemblance ceased, for Mr. Casson's head was not at all a
melancholy-looking satellite nor was it a "spotty globe," as
Milton has irreverently called the moon; on the contrary, no head
and face could look more sleek and healthy, and its expression--
which was chiefly confined to a pair of round and ruddy cheeks,
the slight knot and interruptions forming the nose and eyes being
scarcely worth mention--was one of jolly contentment, only
tempered by that sense of personal dignity which usually made
itself felt in his attitude and bearing. This sense of dignity
could hardly be considered excessive in a man who had been butler
to "the family" for fifteen years, and who, in his present high
position, was necessarily very much in contact with his inferiors.
How to reconcile his dignity with the satisfaction of his
curiosity by walking towards the Green was the problem that Mr.
Casson had been revolving in his mind for the last five minutes;
but when he had partly solved it by taking his hands out of his
pockets, and thrusting them into the armholes of his waistcoat, by
throwing his head on one side, and providing himself with an air
of contemptuous indifference to whatever might fall under his
notice, his thoughts were diverted by the approach of the horseman
whom we lately saw pausing to have another look at our friend
Adam, and who now pulled up at the door of the Donnithorne Arms.
"Take off the bridle and give him a drink, ostler," said the
traveller to the lad in a smock-frock, who had come out of the
yard at the sound of the horse's hoofs.
"Why, what's up in your pretty village, landlord?" he continued,
getting down. "There seems to be quite a stir."
"It's a Methodis' preaching, sir; it's been gev hout as a young
woman's a-going to preach on the Green," answered Mr. Casson, in a
treble and wheezy voice, with a slightly mincing accent. "Will
you please to step in, sir, an' tek somethink?"
"No, I must be getting on to Rosseter. I only want a drink for my
horse. And what does your parson say, I wonder, to a young woman
preaching just under his nose?"
"Parson Irwine, sir, doesn't live here; he lives at Brox'on, over
the hill there. The parsonage here's a tumble-down place, sir,
not fit for gentry to live in. He comes here to preach of a
Sunday afternoon, sir, an' puts up his hoss here. It's a grey
cob, sir, an' he sets great store by't. He's allays put up his
hoss here, sir, iver since before I hed the Donnithorne Arms. I'm
not this countryman, you may tell by my tongue, sir. They're
cur'ous talkers i' this country, sir; the gentry's hard work to
hunderstand 'em. I was brought hup among the gentry, sir, an' got
the turn o' their tongue when I was a bye. Why, what do you think
the folks here says for 'hevn't you?'--the gentry, you know, says,
'hevn't you'--well, the people about here says 'hanna yey.' It's
what they call the dileck as is spoke hereabout, sir. That's what
I've heared Squire Donnithorne say many a time; it's the dileck,
"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 ear-
rings" might come to good.
Timothy's Bess, though retaining her maiden appellation among her
familiars, had long been the wife of Sandy Jim, and possessed a
handsome set of matronly jewels, of which it is enough to mention
the heavy baby she was rocking in her arms, and the sturdy fellow
of five in 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'
"I'd advise you not to be up to no nonsense, Chad," said Mr.
Casson, with some dignity; "Poyser wouldn't like to hear as his
wife's niece was treated any ways disrespectful, for all he mayn't
be fond of her taking on herself to preach."
"Aye, an' she's a pleasant-looked un too," said Wiry Ben. "I'll
stick up for the pretty women preachin'; I know they'd persuade me
over a deal sooner nor th' ugly men. I shouldna wonder if I turn
Methody afore the night's out, an' begin to coort the preacher,
like Seth Bede."
"Why, Seth's looking rether too high, I should think," said Mr.
Casson. "This woman's kin wouldn't like her to demean herself to
a common carpenter."
"Tchu!" said Ben, with a long treble intonation, "what's folks's
kin got to do wi't? Not a chip. Poyser's wife may turn her nose
up an' forget bygones, but this Dinah Morris, they tell me, 's as
poor as iver she was--works at a mill, an's much ado to keep
hersen. A strappin' young carpenter as is a ready-made Methody,
like Seth, wouldna be a bad match for her. Why, Poysers make as
big a fuss wi' Adam Bede as if he war a nevvy o' their own."
"Idle talk! idle talk!" said Mr. Joshua Rann. "Adam an' Seth's
two men; you wunna fit them two wi' the same last."
"Maybe," said Wiry Ben, contemptuously, "but Seth's the lad for
me, though he war a Methody twice o'er. I'm fair beat wi' Seth,
for I've been teasin' him iver sin' we've been workin' together,
an' he bears me no more malice nor a lamb. An' he's a stout-
hearted feller too, for when we saw the old tree all afire a-
comin' across the fields one night, an' we thought as it war a
boguy, Seth made no more ado, but he up to't as bold as a
constable. Why, there he comes out o' Will Maskery's; an' there's
Will hisself, lookin' as meek as if he couldna knock a nail o' the
head for fear o' hurtin't. An' there's the pretty preacher woman!
My eye, she's got her bonnet off. I mun go a bit nearer."
Several of the men followed Ben's lead, and the traveller pushed
his horse on to the Green, as Dinah walked rather quickly and in
advance of her companions towards the cart under the maple-tree.
While she was near Seth's tall figure, she looked short, but when
she had mounted the cart, and was away from all comparison, she
seemed above the middle height of woman, though in reality she did
not exceed it--an effect which was due to the slimness of her
figure and the simple line of her black stuff dress. The stranger
was struck with surprise as he saw her approach and mount the
cart--surprise, not so much at the feminine delicacy of her
appearance, as at the total absence of self-consciousness in her
demeanour. He had made up his mind to see her advance with a
measured step and a demure solemnity of countenance; he had felt
sure that her face would be mantled with the smile of conscious
saintship, or else charged with denunciatory bitterness. He knew
but two types of Methodist--the ecstatic and the bilious. But
Dinah walked as simply as if she were going to market, and seemed
as unconscious of her outward appearance as a little boy: there
was no blush, no tremulousness, which said, "I know you think me a
pretty woman, too young to preach"; no casting up or down of the
eyelids, no compression of the lips, no attitude of the arms that
said, "But you must think of me as a saint." She held no book in
her ungloved hands, but let them hang down lightly crossed before
her, as she stood and turned her grey eyes on the people. There
was no keenness in the eyes; they seemed rather to be shedding
love than making observations; they had the liquid look which
tells that the mind is full of what it has to give out, rather
than impressed by external objects. She stood with her left hand
towards the descending sun, and leafy boughs screened her from its
rays; but in this sober light the delicate colouring of her face
seemed to gather a calm vividness, like flowers at evening. It
was a small oval face, of a uniform transparent whiteness, with an
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 night-
watches, and their hearts burn within them as Thou talkest with
them by the way. And Thou art near to those who have not known
Thee: open their eyes that they may see Thee--see Thee weeping
over them, and saying 'Ye will not come unto me that ye might have
life'--see Thee hanging on the cross and saying, 'Father, forgive
them, for they know not what they do'--see Thee as Thou wilt come
again in Thy glory to judge them at the last. Amen."
Dinah opened her eyes again and paused, looking at the group of
villagers, who were now gathered rather more closely on her right
"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
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
"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
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.
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'
"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
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.
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
The door of the house is open, and an elderly woman is looking
out; but she is not placidly contemplating the evening sunshine;
she has been watching with dim eyes the gradually enlarging speck
which for the last few minutes she has been quite sure is her
darling son Adam. Lisbeth Bede loves her son with the love of a
woman to whom her first-born has come late in life. She is an
anxious, spare, yet vigorous old woman, clean as a snowdrop. Her
grey hair is turned neatly back under a pure linen cap with a
black band round it; her broad chest is covered with a buff
neckerchief, and below this you see a sort of short bedgown made
of blue-checkered linen, tied round the waist and descending to
the hips, from whence there is a considerable length of linsey-
woolsey petticoat. For Lisbeth is tall, and in other points too
there is a strong likeness between her and her son Adam. Her dark
eyes are somewhat dim now--perhaps from too much crying--but her
broadly marked eyebrows are still black, her teeth are sound, and
as she stands knitting rapidly and unconsciously with her work-
hardened hands, she has as firmly upright an attitude as when she
is carrying a pail of water on her head from the spring. There is
the same type of frame and the same keen activity of temperament
in mother and son, but it was not from her that Adam got his well-
filled brow and his expression of large-hearted intelligence.
Family likeness has often a deep sadness in it. Nature, that
great tragic dramatist, knits us together by bone and muscle, and
divides us by the subtler web of our brains; blends yearning and
repulsion; and ties us by our heart-strings to the beings that jar
us at every movement. We hear a voice with the very cadence of
our own uttering the thoughts we despise; we see eyes--ah, so like
our mother's!--averted from us in cold alienation; and our last
darling child startles us with the air and gestures of the sister
we parted from in bitterness long years ago. The father to whom
we owe our best heritage--the mechanical instinct, the keen
sensibility to harmony, the unconscious skill of the modelling
hand--galls us and puts us to shame by his daily errors; the long-
lost mother, whose face we begin to see in the glass as our own
wrinkles come, once fretted our young souls with her anxious
humours and irrational persistence.
It is such a fond anxious mother's voice that you hear, as Lisbeth
says, "Well, my lad, it's gone seven by th' clock. Thee't allays
stay till the last child's born. Thee wants thy supper, I'll
warrand. Where's Seth? Gone arter some o's chapellin', I
"Aye, aye, Seth's at no harm, mother, thee mayst be sure.
But where's father?" said Adam quickly, as he entered the house
and glanced into the room on the left hand, which was used as a
workshop. "Hasn't he done the coffin for Tholer? There's the
stuff standing just as I left it this morning."
"Done the coffin?" said Lisbeth, following him, and knitting
uninterruptedly, though she looked at her son very anxiously.
"Eh, my lad, he went aff to Treddles'on this forenoon, an's niver
come back. I doubt he's got to th' 'Waggin Overthrow' again."
A deep flush of anger passed rapidly over Adam's face. He said
nothing, but threw off his jacket and began to roll up his shirt-
"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
"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
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 to-
morrow, but do our duty and leave the rest to God's will."
"Aye, aye, that's the way wi' thee: thee allays makes a peck o'
thy own words out o' a pint o' the Bible's. I donna see how
thee't to know as 'take no thought for the morrow' means all that.
An' when the Bible's such a big book, an' thee canst read all
thro't, an' ha' the pick o' the texes, I canna think why thee
dostna pick better words as donna mean so much more nor they say.
Adam doesna pick a that'n; I can understan' the tex as he's allays
a-sayin', 'God helps them as helps theirsens.'"
"Nay, Mother," said Seth, "that's no text o' the Bible. It comes
out of a book as Adam picked up at the stall at Treddles'on. It
was wrote by a knowing man, but overworldly, I doubt. However,
that saying's partly true; for the Bible tells us we must be
workers together with God."
"Well, how'm I to know? It sounds like a tex. But what's th'
matter wi' th' lad? Thee't hardly atin' a bit o' supper. Dostna
mean to ha' no more nor that bit o' oat-cake? An' thee lookst as
white as a flick o' new bacon. What's th' matter wi' thee?"
"Nothing to mind about, Mother; I'm not hungry. I'll just look in
at Adam again, and see if he'll let me go on with the coffin."
"Ha' a drop o' warm broth?" said Lisbeth, whose motherly feeling
now got the better of her "nattering" habit. "I'll set two-three
sticks a-light in a minute."
"Nay, Mother, thank thee; thee't very good," said Seth,
gratefully; and encouraged by this touch of tenderness, he went
on: "Let me pray a bit with thee for Father, and Adam, and all of
us--it'll comfort thee, happen, more than thee thinkst."
"Well, I've nothin' to say again' it."
Lisbeth, though disposed always to take the negative side in her
conversations with Seth, had a vague sense that there was some
comfort and safety in the fact of his piety, and that it somehow
relieved her from the trouble of any spiritual transactions on her
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 floor-
quarries; while Lisbeth would ask him how he supposed the coffin
had been got ready, that he had slinked off and left undone--for
Lisbeth was always the first to utter the word of reproach,
although she cried at Adam's severity towards his father.
"So it will go on, worsening and worsening," thought Adam;
"there's no slipping uphill again, and no standing still when once
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
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
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
"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.