Part 11 out of 11
They began their little task together, but Dinah had not recovered
herself sufficiently to think of any remark, and Adam looked at
her uneasily. Dinah, he thought, had seemed to disapprove him
somehow lately; she had not been so kind and open to him as she
used to be. He wanted her to look at him, and be as pleased as he
was himself with doing this bit of playful work. But Dinah did
not look at him--it was easy for her to avoid looking at the tall
man--and when at last there was no more dusting to be done and no
further excuse for him to linger near her, he could bear it no
longer, and said, in rather a pleading tone, "Dinah, you're not
displeased with me for anything, are you? I've not said or done
anything to make you think ill of me?"
The question surprised her, and relieved her by giving a new
course to her feeling. She looked up at him now, quite earnestly,
almost with the tears coming, and said, "Oh, no, Adam! how could
you think so?"
"I couldn't bear you not to feel as much a friend to me as I do to
you," said Adam. "And you don't know the value I set on the very
thought of you, Dinah. That was what I meant yesterday, when I
said I'd be content for you to go, if you thought right. I meant,
the thought of you was worth so much to me, I should feel I ought
to be thankful, and not grumble, if you see right to go away. You
know I do mind parting with you, Dinah?"
"Yes, dear friend," said Dinah, trembling, but trying to speak
calmly, "I know you have a brother's heart towards me, and we
shall often be with one another in spirit; but at this season I am
in heaviness through manifold temptations. You must not mark me.
I feel called to leave my kindred for a while; but it is a trial--
the flesh is weak."
Adam saw that it pained her to be obliged to answer.
"I hurt you by talking about it, Dinah," he said. "I'll say no
more. Let's see if Seth's ready with breakfast now."
That is a simple scene, reader. But it is almost certain that
you, too, have been in love--perhaps, even, more than once, though
you may not choose to say so to all your feminine friends. If so,
you will no more think the slight words, the timid looks, the
tremulous touches, by which two human souls approach each other
gradually, like two little quivering rain-streams, before they
mingle into one--you will no more think these things trivial than
you will think the first-detected signs of coming spring trivial,
though they be but a faint indescribable something in the air and
in the song of the birds, and the tiniest perceptible budding on
the hedge-row branches. Those slight words and looks and touches
are part of the soul's language; and the finest language, I
believe, is chiefly made up of unimposing words, such as "light,"
"sound," "stars," "music"--words really not worth looking at, or
hearing, in themselves, any more than "chips" or "sawdust." It is
only that they happen to be the signs of something unspeakably
great and beautiful. I am of opinion that love is a great and
beautiful thing too, and if you agree with me, the smallest signs
of it will not be chips and sawdust to you: they will rather be
like those little words,"light" and "music," stirring the long-
winding fibres of your memory and enriching your present with your
most precious past.
LISBETH'S touch of rheumatism could not be made to appear serious
enough to detain Dinah another night from the Hall Farm, now she
had made up her mind to leave her aunt so soon, and at evening the
friends must part. "For a long while," Dinah had said, for she
had told Lisbeth of her resolve.
"Then it'll be for all my life, an' I shall ne'er see thee again,"
said Lisbeth. "Long while! I'n got no long while t' live. An' I
shall be took bad an' die, an' thee canst ne'er come a-nigh me,
an' I shall die a-longing for thee."
That had been the key-note of her wailing talk all day; for Adam
was not in the house, and so she put no restraint on her
complaining. She had tried poor Dinah by returning again and
again to the question, why she must go away; and refusing to
accept reasons, which seemed to her nothing but whim and
"contrairiness"; and still more, by regretting that she "couldna'
ha' one o' the lads" and be her daughter.
"Thee couldstna put up wi' Seth," she said. "He isna cliver
enough for thee, happen, but he'd ha' been very good t' thee--he's
as handy as can be at doin' things for me when I'm bad, an' he's
as fond o' the Bible an' chappellin' as thee art thysen. But
happen, thee'dst like a husband better as isna just the cut o'
thysen: the runnin' brook isna athirst for th' rain. Adam 'ud ha'
done for thee--I know he would--an' he might come t' like thee
well enough, if thee'dst stop. But he's as stubborn as th' iron
bar--there's no bending him no way but's own. But he'd be a fine
husband for anybody, be they who they will, so looked-on an' so
cliver as he is. And he'd be rare an' lovin': it does me good
on'y a look o' the lad's eye when he means kind tow'rt me."
Dinah tried to escape from Lisbeth's closest looks and questions
by finding little tasks of housework that kept her moving about,
and as soon as Seth came home in the evening she put on her bonnet
to go. It touched Dinah keenly to say the last good-bye, and
still more to look round on her way across the fields and see the
old woman still standing at the door, gazing after her till she
must have been the faintest speck in the dim aged eyes. "The God
of love and peace be with them," Dinah prayed, as she looked back
from the last stile. "Make them glad according to the days
wherein thou hast afflicted them, and the years wherein they have
seen evil. It is thy will that I should part from them; let me
have no will but thine."
Lisbeth turned into the house at last and sat down in the workshop
near Seth, who was busying himself there with fitting some bits of
turned wood he had brought from the village into a small work-box,
which he meant to give to Dinah before she went away.
"Thee't see her again o' Sunday afore she goes," were her first
words. "If thee wast good for anything, thee'dst make her come in
again o' Sunday night wi' thee, and see me once more."
"Nay, Mother," said Seth. "Dinah 'ud be sure to come again if she
saw right to come. I should have no need to persuade her. She
only thinks it 'ud be troubling thee for nought, just to come in
to say good-bye over again."
"She'd ne'er go away, I know, if Adam 'ud be fond on her an' marry
her, but everything's so contrairy," said Lisbeth, with a burst of
Seth paused a moment and looked up, with a slight blush, at his
mother's face. "What! Has she said anything o' that sort to
thee, Mother?" he said, in a lower tone.
"Said? Nay, she'll say nothin'. It's on'y the men as have to
wait till folks say things afore they find 'em out."
"Well, but what makes thee think so, Mother? What's put it into
"It's no matter what's put it into my head. My head's none so
hollow as it must get in, an' nought to put it there. I know
she's fond on him, as I know th' wind's comin' in at the door, an'
that's anoof. An' he might be willin' to marry her if he know'd
she's fond on him, but he'll ne'er think on't if somebody doesna
put it into's head."
His mother's suggestion about Dinah's feeling towards Adam was not
quite a new thought to Seth, but her last words alarmed him, lest
she should herself undertake to open Adam's eyes. He was not sure
about Dinah's feeling, and he thought he was sure about Adam's.
"Nay, Mother, nay," he said, earnestly, "thee mustna think o'
speaking o' such things to Adam. Thee'st no right to say what
Dinah's feelings are if she hasna told thee, and it 'ud do nothing
but mischief to say such things to Adam. He feels very grateful
and affectionate toward Dinah, but he's no thoughts towards her
that 'ud incline him to make her his wife, and I don't believe
Dinah 'ud marry him either. I don't think she'll marry at all."
"Eh," said Lisbeth, impatiently. "Thee think'st so 'cause she
wouldna ha' thee. She'll ne'er marry thee; thee mightst as well
like her t' ha' thy brother."
Seth was hurt. "Mother," he said, in a remonstrating tone, "don't
think that of me. I should be as thankful t' have her for a
sister as thee wouldst t' have her for a daughter. I've no more
thoughts about myself in that thing, and I shall take it hard if
ever thee say'st it again."
"Well, well, then thee shouldstna cross me wi' sayin' things arena
as I say they are."
"But, Mother," said Seth, "thee'dst be doing Dinah a wrong by
telling Adam what thee think'st about her. It 'ud do nothing but
mischief, for it 'ud make Adam uneasy if he doesna feel the same
to her. And I'm pretty sure he feels nothing o' the sort."
"Eh, donna tell me what thee't sure on; thee know'st nought about
it. What's he allays goin' to the Poysers' for, if he didna want
t' see her? He goes twice where he used t' go once. Happen he
knowsna as he wants t' see her; he knowsna as I put salt in's
broth, but he'd miss it pretty quick if it warna there. He'll
ne'er think o' marrying if it isna put into's head, an' if
thee'dst any love for thy mother, thee'dst put him up to't an' not
let her go away out o' my sight, when I might ha' her to make a
bit o' comfort for me afore I go to bed to my old man under the
"Nay, Mother," said Seth, "thee mustna think me unkind, but I
should be going against my conscience if I took upon me to say
what Dinah's feelings are. And besides that, I think I should
give offence to Adam by speaking to him at all about marrying; and
I counsel thee not to do't. Thee may'st be quite deceived about
Dinah. Nay, I'm pretty sure, by words she said to me last
Sabbath, as she's no mind to marry."
"Eh, thee't as contrairy as the rest on 'em. If it war summat I
didna want, it 'ud be done fast enough."
Lisbeth rose from the bench at this, and went out of the workshop,
leaving Seth in much anxiety lest she should disturb Adam's mind
about Dinah. He consoled himself after a time with reflecting
that, since Adam's trouble, Lisbeth had been very timid about
speaking to him on matters of feeling, and that she would hardly
dare to approach this tenderest of all subjects. Even if she did,
he hoped Adam would not take much notice of what she said.
Seth was right in believing that Lisbeth would be held in
restraint by timidity, and during the next three days, the
intervals in which she had an opportunity of speaking to Adam were
too rare and short to cause her any strong temptation. But in her
long solitary hours she brooded over her regretful thoughts about
Dinah, till they had grown very near that point of unmanageable
strength when thoughts are apt to take wing out of their secret
nest in a startling manner. And on Sunday morning, when Seth went
away to chapel at Treddleston, the dangerous opportunity came.
Sunday morning was the happiest time in all the week to Lisbeth,
for as there was no service at Hayslope church till the afternoon,
Adam was always at home, doing nothing but reading, an occupation
in which she could venture to interrupt him. Moreover, she had
always a better dinner than usual to prepare for her sons--very
frequently for Adam and herself alone, Seth being often away the
entire day--and the smell of the roast meat before the clear fire
in the clean kitchen, the clock ticking in a peaceful Sunday
manner, her darling Adam seated near her in his best clothes,
doing nothing very important, so that she could go and stroke her
hand across his hair if she liked, and see him look up at her and
smile, while Gyp, rather jealous, poked his muzzle up between
them--all these things made poor Lisbeth's earthly paradise.
The book Adam most often read on a Sunday morning was his large
pictured Bible, and this morning it lay open before him on the
round white deal table in the kitchen; for he sat there in spite
of the fire, because he knew his mother liked to have him with
her, and it was the only day in the week when he could indulge her
in that way. You would have liked to see Adam reading his Bible.
He never opened it on a weekday, and so he came to it as a holiday
book, serving him for history, biography, and poetry. He held one
hand thrust between his waistcoat buttons, and the other ready to
turn the pages, and in the course of the morning you would have
seen many changes in his face. Sometimes his lips moved in semi-
articulation--it was when he came to a speech that he could fancy
himself uttering, such as Samuel's dying speech to the people;
then his eyebrows would be raised, and the corners of his mouth
would quiver a little with sad sympathy--something, perhaps old
Isaac's meeting with his son, touched him closely; at other times,
over the New Testament, a very solemn look would come upon his
face, and he would every now and then shake his head in serious
assent, or just lift up his hand and let it fall again. And on
some mornings, when he read in the Apocrypha, of which he was very
fond, the son of Sirach's keen-edged words would bring a delighted
smile, though he also enjoyed the freedom of occasionally
differing from an Apocryphal writer. For Adam knew the Articles
quite well, as became a good churchman.
Lisbeth, in the pauses of attending to her dinner, always sat
opposite to him and watched him, till she could rest no longer
without going up to him and giving him a caress, to call his
attention to her. This morning he was reading the Gospel
according to St. Matthew, and Lisbeth had been standing close by
him for some minutes, stroking his hair, which was smoother than
usual this morning, and looking down at the large page with silent
wonderment at the mystery of letters. She was encouraged to
continue this caress, because when she first went up to him, he
had thrown himself back in his chair to look at her affectionately
and say, "Why, Mother, thee look'st rare and hearty this morning.
Eh, Gyp wants me t' look at him. He can't abide to think I love
thee the best." Lisbeth said nothing, because she wanted to say
so many things. And now there was a new leaf to be turned over,
and it was a picture--that of the angel seated on the great stone
that has been rolled away from the sepulchre. This picture had
one strong association in Lisbeth's memory, for she had been
reminded of it when she first saw Dinah, and Adam had no sooner
turned the page, and lifted the book sideways that they might look
at the angel, than she said, "That's her--that's Dinah."
Adam smiled, and, looking more intently at the angel's face, said,
"It is a bit like her; but Dinah's prettier, I think."
"Well, then, if thee think'st her so pretty, why arn't fond on
Adam looked up in surprise. "Why, Mother, dost think I don't set
store by Dinah?"
"Nay," said Lisbeth, frightened at her own courage, yet feeling
that she had broken the ice, and the waters must flow, whatever
mischief they might do. "What's th' use o' settin' store by
things as are thirty mile off? If thee wast fond enough on her,
thee wouldstna let her go away."
"But I've no right t' hinder her, if she thinks well," said Adam,
looking at his book as if he wanted to go on reading. He foresaw
a series of complaints tending to nothing. Lisbeth sat down again
in the chair opposite to him, as she said:
"But she wouldna think well if thee wastna so contrairy." Lisbeth
dared not venture beyond a vague phrase yet.
"Contrairy, mother?" Adam said, looking up again in some anxiety.
"What have I done? What dost mean?"
"Why, thee't never look at nothin', nor think o' nothin', but thy
figurin, an' thy work," said Lisbeth, half-crying. "An' dost
think thee canst go on so all thy life, as if thee wast a man cut
out o' timber? An' what wut do when thy mother's gone, an' nobody
to take care on thee as thee gett'st a bit o' victual comfortable
i' the mornin'?"
"What hast got i' thy mind, Mother?" said Adam, vexed at this
whimpering. "I canna see what thee't driving at. Is there
anything I could do for thee as I don't do?"
"Aye, an' that there is. Thee might'st do as I should ha'
somebody wi' me to comfort me a bit, an' wait on me when I'm bad,
an' be good to me."
"Well, Mother, whose fault is it there isna some tidy body i' th'
house t' help thee? It isna by my wish as thee hast a stroke o'
work to do. We can afford it--I've told thee often enough. It
'ud be a deal better for us."
"Eh, what's the use o' talking o' tidy bodies, when thee mean'st
one o' th' wenches out o' th' village, or somebody from
Treddles'on as I ne'er set eyes on i' my life? I'd sooner make a
shift an' get into my own coffln afore I die, nor ha' them folks
to put me in."
Adam was silent, and tried to go on reading. That was the utmost
severity he could show towards his mother on a Sunday morning.
But Lisbeth had gone too far now to check herself, and after
scarcely a minute's quietness she began again.
"Thee mightst know well enough who 'tis I'd like t' ha' wi' me.
It isna many folks I send for t' come an' see me. I reckon. An'
thee'st had the fetchin' on her times enow."
"Thee mean'st Dinah, Mother, I know," said Adam. "But it's no use
setting thy mind on what can't be. If Dinah 'ud be willing to
stay at Hayslope, it isn't likely she can come away from her
aunt's house, where they hold her like a daughter, and where she's
more bound than she is to us. If it had been so that she could
ha' married Seth, that 'ud ha' been a great blessing to us, but we
can't have things just as we like in this life. Thee must try and
make up thy mind to do without her."
"Nay, but I canna ma' up my mind, when she's just cut out for
thee; an' nought shall ma' me believe as God didna make her an'
send her there o' purpose for thee. What's it sinnify about her
bein' a Methody! It 'ud happen wear out on her wi' marryin'."
Adam threw himself back in his chair and looked at his mother. He
understood now what she had been aiming at from the beginning of
the conversation. It was as unreasonable, impracticable a wish as
she had ever urged, but he could not help being moved by so
entirely new an idea. The chief point, however, was to chase away
the notion from his mother's mind as quickly as possible.
"Mother," he said, gravely, "thee't talking wild. Don't let me
hear thee say such things again. It's no good talking o' what can
never be. Dinah's not for marrying; she's fixed her heart on a
different sort o' life."
"Very like," said Lisbeth, impatiently, "very like she's none for
marr'ing, when them as she'd be willin' t' marry wonna ax her. I
shouldna ha' been for marr'ing thy feyther if he'd ne'er axed me;
an' she's as fond o' thee as e'er I war o' Thias, poor fellow."
The blood rushed to Adam's face, and for a few moments he was not
quite conscious where he was. His mother and the kitchen had
vanished for him, and he saw nothing but Dinah's face turned up
towards his. It seemed as if there were a resurrection of his
dead joy. But he woke up very speedily from that dream (the
waking was chill and sad), for it would have been very foolish in
him to believe his mother's words--she could have no ground for
them. He was prompted to express his disbelief very strongly--
perhaps that he might call forth the proofs, if there were any to
"What dost say such things for, Mother, when thee'st got no
foundation for 'em? Thee know'st nothing as gives thee a right to
"Then I knowna nought as gi'es me a right to say as the year's
turned, for all I feel it fust thing when I get up i' th' morning.
She isna fond o' Seth, I reckon, is she? She doesna want to marry
HIM? But I can see as she doesna behave tow'rt thee as she daes
tow'rt Seth. She makes no more o' Seth's coming a-nigh her nor if
he war Gyp, but she's all of a tremble when thee't a-sittin' down
by her at breakfast an' a-looking at her. Thee think'st thy
mother knows nought, but she war alive afore thee wast born."
"But thee canstna be sure as the trembling means love?" said Adam
"Eh, what else should it mane? It isna hate, I reckon. An' what
should she do but love thee? Thee't made to be loved--for where's
there a straighter cliverer man? An' what's it sinnify her bein'
a Methody? It's on'y the marigold i' th' parridge."
Adam had thrust his hands in his pockets, and was looking down at
the book on the table, without seeing any of the letters. He was
trembling like a gold-seeker who sees the strong promise of gold
but sees in the same moment a sickening vision of disappointment.
He could not trust his mother's insight; she had seen what she
wished to see. And yet--and yet, now the suggestion had been made
to him, he remembered so many things, very slight things, like the
stirring of the water by an imperceptible breeze, which seemed to
him some confirmation of his mother's words.
Lisbeth noticed that he was moved. She went on, "An' thee't find
out as thee't poorly aff when she's gone. Thee't fonder on her
nor thee know'st. Thy eyes follow her about, welly as Gyp's
Adam could sit still no longer. He rose, took down his hat, and
went out into the fields.
The sunshine was on them: that early autumn sunshine which we
should know was not summer's, even if there were not the touches
of yellow on the lime and chestnut; the Sunday sunshine too, which
has more than autumnal calmness for the working man; the morning
sunshine, which still leaves the dew-crystals on the fine gossamer
webs in the shadow of the bushy hedgerows.
Adam needed the calm influence; he was amazed at the way in which
this new thought of Dinah's love had taken possession of him, with
an overmastering power that made all other feelings give way
before the impetuous desire to know that the thought was true.
Strange, that till that moment the possibility of their ever being
lovers had never crossed his mind, and yet now, all his longing
suddenly went out towards that possibility. He had no more doubt
or hesitation as to his own wishes than the bird that flies
towards the opening through which the daylight gleams and the
breath of heaven enters.
The autumnal Sunday sunshine soothed him, but not by preparing him
with resignation to the disappointment if his mother--if he
himself--proved to be mistaken about Dinah. It soothed him by
gentle encouragement of his hopes. Her love was so like that calm
sunshine that they seemed to make one presence to him, and he
believed in them both alike. And Dinah was so bound up with the
sad memories of his first passion that he was not forsaking them,
but rather giving them a new sacredness by loving her. Nay, his
love for her had grown out of that past: it was the noon of that
But Seth? Would the lad be hurt? Hardly; for he had seemed quite
contented of late, and there was no selfish jealousy in him; he
had never been jealous of his mother's fondness for Adam. But had
he seen anything of what their mother talked about? Adam longed
to know this, for he thought he could trust Seth's observation
better than his mother's. He must talk to Seth before he went to
see Dinah, and, with this intention in his mind, he walked back to
the cottage and said to his mother, "Did Seth say anything to thee
about when he was coming home? Will he be back to dinner?"
"Aye, lad, he'll be back for a wonder. He isna gone to
Treddles'on. He's gone somewhere else a-preachin' and a-prayin'."
"Hast any notion which way he's gone?" said Adam.
"Nay, but he aften goes to th' Common. Thee know'st more o's
goings nor I do."
Adam wanted to go and meet Seth, but he must content himself with
walking about the near fields and getting sight of him as soon as
possible. That would not be for more than an hour to come, for
Seth would scarcely be at home much before their dinner-time,
which was twelve o'clock. But Adam could not sit down to his
reading again, and he sauntered along by the brook and stood
leaning against the stiles, with eager intense eyes, which looked
as if they saw something very vividly; but it was not the brook or
the willows, not the fields or the sky. Again and again his
vision was interrupted by wonder at the strength of his own
feeling, at the strength and sweetness of this new love--almost
like the wonder a man feels at the added power he finds in himself
for an art which he had laid aside for a space. How is it that
the poets have said so many fine things about our first love, so
few about our later love? Are their first poems their best? Or
are not those the best which come from their fuller thought, their
larger experience, their deeper-rooted affections? The boy's
flutelike voice has its own spring charm; but the man should yield
a richer deeper music.
At last, there was Seth, visible at the farthest stile, and Adam
hastened to meet him. Seth was surprised, and thought something
unusual must have happened, but when Adam came up, his face said
plainly enough that it was nothing alarming.
"Where hast been?" said Adam, when they were side by side.
"I've been to the Common," said Seth. "Dinah's been speaking the
Word to a little company of hearers at Brimstone's, as they call
him. They're folks as never go to church hardly--them on the
Common--but they'll go and hear Dinah a bit. She's been speaking
with power this forenoon from the words, 'I came not to call the
righteous, but sinners to repentance.' And there was a little
thing happened as was pretty to see. The women mostly bring their
children with 'em, but to-day there was one stout curly headed
fellow about three or four year old, that I never saw there
before. He was as naughty as could be at the beginning while I
was praying, and while we was singing, but when we all sat down
and Dinah began to speak, th' young un stood stock still all at
once, and began to look at her with's mouth open, and presently he
ran away from's mother and went to Dinah, and pulled at her, like
a little dog, for her to take notice of him. So Dinah lifted him
up and held th' lad on her lap, while she went on speaking; and he
was as good as could be till he went to sleep--and the mother
cried to see him."
"It's a pity she shouldna be a mother herself," said Adam, "so
fond as the children are of her. Dost think she's quite fixed
against marrying, Seth? Dost think nothing 'ud turn her?"
There was something peculiar in his brother's tone, which made
Seth steal a glance at his face before he answered.
"It 'ud be wrong of me to say nothing 'ud turn her," he answered.
"But if thee mean'st it about myself, I've given up all thoughts
as she can ever be my wife. She calls me her brother, and that's
"But dost think she might ever get fond enough of anybody else to
be willing to marry 'em?" said Adam rather shyly.
"Well," said Seth, after some hesitation, "it's crossed my mind
sometimes o' late as she might; but Dinah 'ud let no fondness for
the creature draw her out o' the path as she believed God had
marked out for her. If she thought the leading was not from Him,
she's not one to be brought under the power of it. And she's
allays seemed clear about that--as her work was to minister t'
others, and make no home for herself i' this world."
"But suppose," said Adam, earnestly, "suppose there was a man as
'ud let her do just the same and not interfere with her--she might
do a good deal o' what she does now, just as well when she was
married as when she was single. Other women of her sort have
married--that's to say, not just like her, but women as preached
and attended on the sick and needy. There's Mrs. Fletcher as she
A new light had broken in on Seth. He turned round, and laying
his hand on Adam's shoulder, said, "Why, wouldst like her to marry
Adam looked doubtfully at Seth's inquiring eyes and said, "Wouldst
be hurt if she was to be fonder o' me than o' thee?"
"Nay," said Seth warmly, "how canst think it? Have I felt thy
trouble so little that I shouldna feel thy joy?"
There was silence a few moments as they walked on, and then Seth
said, "I'd no notion as thee'dst ever think of her for a wife."
"But is it o' any use to think of her?" said Adam. "What dost
say? Mother's made me as I hardly know where I am, with what
she's been saying to me this forenoon. She says she's sure Dinah
feels for me more than common, and 'ud be willing t' have me. But
I'm afraid she speaks without book. I want to know if thee'st
"It's a nice point to speak about," said Seth, "and I'm afraid o'
being wrong; besides, we've no right t' intermeddle with people's
feelings when they wouldn't tell 'em themselves."
"But thee mightst ask her," he said presently. "She took no
offence at me for asking, and thee'st more right than I had, only
thee't not in the Society. But Dinah doesn't hold wi' them as are
for keeping the Society so strict to themselves. She doesn't mind
about making folks enter the Society, so as they're fit t' enter
the kingdom o' God. Some o' the brethren at Treddles'on are
displeased with her for that."
"Where will she be the rest o' the day?" said Adam.
"She said she shouldn't leave the farm again to-day," said Seth,
"because it's her last Sabbath there, and she's going t' read out
o' the big Bible wi' the children."
Adam thought--but did not say--"Then I'll go this afternoon; for
if I go to church, my thoughts 'ull be with her all the while.
They must sing th' anthem without me to-day."
Adam and Dinah
IT was about three o'clock when Adam entered the farmyard and
roused Alick and the dogs from their Sunday dozing. Alick said
everybody was gone to church "but th' young missis"--so he called
Dinah--but this did not disappoint Adam, although the "everybody"
was so liberal as to include Nancy the dairymaid, whose works of
necessity were not unfrequently incompatible with church-going.
There was perfect stillness about the house. The doors were all
closed, and the very stones and tubs seemed quieter than usual.
Adam heard the water gently dripping from the pump--that was the
only sound--and he knocked at the house door rather softly, as was
suitable in that stillness.
The door opened, and Dinah stood before him, colouring deeply with
the great surprise of seeing Adam at this hour, when she knew it
was his regular practice to be at church. Yesterday he would have
said to her without any difficulty, "I came to see you, Dinah: I
knew the rest were not at home." But to-day something prevented
him from saying that, and he put out his hand to her in silence.
Neither of them spoke, and yet both wished they could speak, as
Adam entered, and they sat down. Dinah took the chair she had
just left; it was at the corner of the table near the window, and
there was a book lying on the table, but it was not open. She had
been sitting perfectly still, looking at the small bit of clear
fire in the bright grate. Adam sat down opposite her, in Mr.
Poyser's three-cornered chair.
"Your mother is not ill again, I hope, Adam?" Dinah said,
recovering herself. "Seth said she was well this morning."
"No, she's very hearty to-day," said Adam, happy in the signs of
Dinah's feeling at the sight of him, but shy.
"There's nobody at home, you see," Dinah said; "but you'll wait.
You've been hindered from going to church to-day, doubtless."
"Yes," Adam said, and then paused, before he added, "I was
thinking about you: that was the reason."
This confession was very awkward and sudden, Adam felt, for he
thought Dinah must understand all he meant. But the frankness of
the words caused her immediately to interpret them into a renewal
of his brotherly regrets that she was going away, and she answered
calmly, "Do not be careful and troubled for me, Adam. I have all
things and abound at Snowfield. And my mind is at rest, for I am
not seeking my own will in going."
"But if things were different, Dinah," said Adam, hesitatingly.
"If you knew things that perhaps you don't know now...."
Dinah looked at him inquiringly, but instead of going on, he
reached a chair and brought it near the corner of the table where
she was sitting. She wondered, and was afraid--and the next
moment her thoughts flew to the past: was it something about those
distant unhappy ones that she didn't know?
Adam looked at her. It was so sweet to look at her eyes, which
had now a self-forgetful questioning in them--for a moment he
forgot that he wanted to say anything, or that it was necessary to
tell her what he meant.
"Dinah," he said suddenly, taking both her hands between his, "I
love you with my whole heart and soul. I love you next to God who
Dinah's lips became pale, like her cheeks, and she trembled
violently under the shock of painful joy. Her hands were cold as
death between Adam's. She could not draw them away, because he
held them fast.
"Don't tell me you can't love me, Dinah. Don't tell me we must
part and pass our lives away from one another."
The tears were trembling in Dinah's eyes, and they fell before she
could answer. But she spoke in a quiet low voice.
"Yes, dear Adam, we must submit to another Will. We must part."
"Not if you love me, Dinah--not if you love me," Adam said
passionately. "Tell me--tell me if you can love me better than a
Dinah was too entirely reliant on the Supreme guidance to attempt
to achieve any end by a deceptive concealment. She was recovering
now from the first shock of emotion, and she looked at Adam with
simple sincere eyes as she said, "Yes, Adam, my heart is drawn
strongly towards you; and of my own will, if I had no clear
showing to the contrary, I could find my happiness in being near
you and ministering to you continually. I fear I should forget to
rejoice and weep with others; nay, I fear I should forget the
Divine presence, and seek no love but yours."
Adam did not speak immediately. They sat looking at each other in
delicious silence--for the first sense of mutual love excludes
other feelings; it will have the soul all to itself.
"Then, Dinah," Adam said at last, "how can there be anything
contrary to what's right in our belonging to one another and
spending our lives together? Who put this great love into our
hearts? Can anything be holier than that? For we can help one
another in everything as is good. I'd never think o' putting
myself between you and God, and saying you oughtn't to do this and
you oughtn't to do that. You'd follow your conscience as much as
you do now."
"Yes, Adam," Dinah said, "I know marriage is a holy state for
those who are truly called to it, and have no other drawing; but
from my chilhood upwards I have been led towards another path; all
my peace and my joy have come from having no life of my own, no
wants, no wishes for myself, and living only in God and those of
his creatures whose sorrows and joys he has given me to know.
Those have been very blessed years to me, and I feel that if I was
to listen to any voice that would draw me aside from that path, I
should be turning my back on the light that has shone upon me, and
darkness and doubt would take hold of me. We could not bless each
other, Adam, if there were doubts in my soul, and if I yearned,
when it was too late, after that better part which had once been
given me and I had put away from me."
"But if a new feeling has come into your mind, Dinah, and if you
love me so as to be willing to be nearer to me than to other
people, isn't that a sign that it's right for you to change your
life? Doesn't the love make it right when nothing else would?"
"Adam, my mind is full of questionings about that; for now, since
you tell me of your strong love towards me, what was clear to me
has become dark again. I felt before that my heart was too
strongly drawn towards you, and that your heart was not as mine;
and the thought of you had taken hold of me, so that my soul had
lost its freedom, and was becoming enslaved to an earthly
affection, which made me anxious and careful about what should
befall myself. For in all other affection I had been content with
any small return, or with none; but my heart was beginning to
hunger after an equal love from you. And I had no doubt that I
must wrestle against that as a great temptation, and the command
was clear that I must go away."
"But now, dear, dear Dinah, now you know I love you better than
you love me...it's all different now. You won't think o' going.
You'll stay, and be my dear wife, and I shall thank God for giving
me my life as I never thanked him before."
"Adam, it's hard to me to turn a deaf ear...you know it's hard;
but a great fear is upon me. It seems to me as if you were
stretching out your arms to me, and beckoning me to come and take
my ease and live for my own delight, and Jesus, the Man of
Sorrows, was standing looking towards me, and pointing to the
sinful, and suffering, and afflicted. I have seen that again and
again when I have been sitting in stillness and darkness, and a
great terror has come upon me lest I should become hard, and a
lover of self, and no more bear willingly the Redeemer's cross."
Dinah had closed her eyes, and a faint shudder went through her.
"Adam," she went on, "you wouldn't desire that we should seek a
good through any unfaithfulness to the light that is in us; you
wouldn't believe that could be a good. We are of one mind in
"Yes, Dinah," said Adam sadly, "I'll never be the man t' urge you
against your conscience. But I can't give up the hope that you
may come to see different. I don't believe your loving me could
shut up your heart--it's only adding to what you've been before,
not taking away from it. For it seems to me it's the same with
love and happiness as with sorrow--the more we know of it the
better we can feel what other people's lives are or might be, and
so we shall only be more tender to 'em, and wishful to help 'em.
The more knowledge a man has, the better he'll do's work; and
feeling's a sort o' knowledge."
Dinah was silent; her eyes were fixed in contemplation of
something visible only to herself. Adam went on presently with
his pleading, "And you can do almost as much as you do now. I
won't ask you to go to church with me of a Sunday. You shall go
where you like among the people, and teach 'em; for though I like
church best, I don't put my soul above yours, as if my words was
better for you to follow than your own conscience. And you can
help the sick just as much, and you'll have more means o' making
'em a bit comfortable; and you'll be among all your own friends as
love you, and can help 'em and be a blessing to 'em till their
dying day. Surely, Dinah, you'd be as near to God as if you was
living lonely and away from me."
Dinah made no answer for some time. Adam was still holding her
hands and looking at her with almost trembling anxiety, when she
turned her grave loving eyes on his and said, in rather a sad
voice, "Adam there is truth in what you say, and there's many of
the brethren and sisters who have greater strength than I have,
and find their hearts enlarged by the cares of husband and
kindred. But I have not faith that it would be so with me, for
since my affections have been set above measure on you, I have had
less peace and joy in God. I have felt as it were a division in
my heart. And think how it is with me, Adam. That life I have
led is like a land I have trodden in blessedness since my
childhood; and if I long for a moment to follow the voice which
calls me to another land that I know not, I cannot but fear that
my soul might hereafter yearn for that early blessedness which I
had forsaken; and where doubt enters there is not perfect love. I
must wait for clearer guidance. I must go from you, and we must
submit ourselves entirely to the Divine Will. We are sometimes
required to lay our natural lawful affections on the altar."
Adam dared not plead again, for Dinah's was not the voice of
caprice or insincerity. But it was very hard for him; his eyes
got dim as he looked at her.
"But you may come to feel satisfied...to feel that you may come to
me again, and we may never part, Dinah?"
"We must submit ourselves, Adam. With time, our duty will be made
clear. It may be when I have entered on my former life, I shall
find all these new thoughts and wishes vanish, and become as
things that were not. Then I shall know that my calling is not
towards marriage. But we must wait."
"Dinah," said Adam mournfully, "you can't love me so well as I
love you, else you'd have no doubts. But it's natural you
shouldn't, for I'm not so good as you. I can't doubt it's right
for me to love the best thing God's ever given me to know."
"Nay, Adam. It seems to me that my love for you is not weak, for
my heart waits on your words and looks, almost as a little child
waits on the help and tenderness of the strong on whom it depends.
If the thought of you took slight hold of me, I should not fear
that it would be an idol in the temple. But you will strengthen
me--you will not hinder me in seeking to obey to the uttermost."
"Let us go out into the sunshine, Dinah, and walk together. I'll
speak no word to disturb you."
They went out and walked towards the fields, where they would meet
the family coming from church. Adam said, "Take my arm, Dinah,"
and she took it. That was the only change in their manner to each
other since they were last walking together. But no sadness in
the prospect of her going away--in the uncertainty of the issue--
could rob the sweetness from Adam's sense that Dinah loved him.
He thought he would stay at the Hall Farm all that evening. He
would be near her as long as he could.
"Hey-day! There's Adam along wi' Dinah," said Mr. Poyser, as he
opened the far gate into the Home Close. "I couldna think how he
happened away from church. Why," added good Martin, after a
moment's pause, "what dost think has just jumped into my head?"
"Summat as hadna far to jump, for it's just under our nose. You
mean as Adam's fond o' Dinah."
"Aye! hast ever had any notion of it before?"
"To be sure I have," said Mrs. Poyser, who always declined, if
possible, to be taken by surprise. "I'm not one o' those as can
see the cat i' the dairy an' wonder what she's come after."
"Thee never saidst a word to me about it."
"Well, I aren't like a bird-clapper, forced to make a rattle when
the wind blows on me. I can keep my own counsel when there's no
good i' speaking."
"But Dinah 'll ha' none o' him. Dost think she will?"
"Nay," said Mrs. Poyser, not sufficiently on her guard against a
possible surprise, "she'll never marry anybody, if he isn't a
Methodist and a cripple."
"It 'ud ha' been a pretty thing though for 'em t' marry," said
Martin, turning his head on one side, as if in pleased
contemplation of his new idea. "Thee'dst ha' liked it too,
"Ah! I should. I should ha' been sure of her then, as she
wouldn't go away from me to Snowfield, welly thirty mile off, and
me not got a creatur to look to, only neighbours, as are no kin to
me, an' most of 'em women as I'd be ashamed to show my face, if my
dairy things war like their'n. There may well be streaky butter
i' the market. An' I should be glad to see the poor thing settled
like a Christian woman, with a house of her own over her head; and
we'd stock her well wi' linen and feathers, for I love her next to
my own children. An' she makes one feel safer when she's i' the
house, for she's like the driven snow: anybody might sin for two
as had her at their elbow."
"Dinah," said Tommy, running forward to meet her, "mother says
you'll never marry anybody but a Methodist cripple. What a silly
you must be!" a comment which Tommy followed up by seizing Dinah
with both arms, and dancing along by her side with incommodious
"Why, Adam, we missed you i' the singing to-day," said Mr. Poyser.
"How was it?"
"I wanted to see Dinah--she's going away so soon," said Adam.
"Ah, lad! Can you persuade her to stop somehow? Find her a good
husband somewhere i' the parish. If you'll do that, we'll forgive
you for missing church. But, anyway, she isna going before the
harvest supper o' Wednesday, and you must come then. There's
Bartle Massey comin', an' happen Craig. You'll be sure an' come,
now, at seven? The missis wunna have it a bit later."
"Aye," said Adam, "I'll come if I can. But I can't often say what
I'll do beforehand, for the work often holds me longer than I
expect. You'll stay till the end o' the week, Dinah?"
"Yes, yes!" said Mr. Poyser. "We'll have no nay."
"She's no call to be in a hurry," observed Mrs. Poyser.
"Scarceness o' victual 'ull keep: there's no need to be hasty wi'
the cooking. An' scarceness is what there's the biggest stock of
i' that country."
Dinah smiled, but gave no promise to stay, and they talked of
other things through the rest of the walk, lingering in the
sunshine to look at the great flock of geese grazing, at the new
corn-ricks, and at the surprising abundance of fruit on the old
pear-tree; Nancy and Molly having already hastened home, side by
side, each holding, carefully wrapped in her pocket-handkerchief,
a prayer-book, in which she could read little beyond the large
letters and the Amens.
Surely all other leisure is hurry compared with a sunny walk
through the fields from "afternoon church"--as such walks used to
be in those old leisurely times, when the boat, gliding sleepily
along the canal, was the newest locomotive wonder; when Sunday
books had most of them old brown-leather covers, and opened with
remarkable precision always in one place. Leisure is gone--gone
where the spinning-wheels are gone, and the pack-horses, and the
slow waggons, and the pedlars, who brought bargains to the door on
sunny afternoons. Ingenious philosophers tell you, perhaps, that
the great work of the steam-engine is to create leisure for
mankind. Do not believe them: it only creates a vacuum for eager
thought to rush in. Even idleness is eager now--eager for
amusement; prone to excursion-trains, art museums, periodical
literature, and exciting novels; prone even to scientific
theorizing and cursory peeps through microscopes. Old Leisure was
quite a different personage. He only read one newspaper, innocent
of leaders, and was free from that periodicity of sensations which
we call post-time. He was a contemplative, rather stout
gentleman, of excellent digestion; of quiet perceptions,
undiseased by hypothesis; happy in his inability to know the
causes of things, preferring the things themselves. He lived
chiefly in the country, among pleasant seats and homesteads, and
was fond of sauntering by the fruit-tree wall and scenting the
apricots when they were warmed by the morning sunshine, or of
sheltering himself under the orchard boughs at noon, when the
summer pears were falling. He knew nothing of weekday services,
and thought none the worse of the Sunday sermon if it allowed him
to sleep from the text to the blessing; liking the afternoon
service best, because the prayers were the shortest, and not
ashamed to say so; for he had an easy, jolly conscience, broad-
backed like himself, and able to carry a great deal of beer or
port-wine, not being made squeamish by doubts and qualms and lofty
aspirations. Life was not a task to him, but a sinecure. He
fingered the guineas in his pocket, and ate his dinners, and slept
the sleep of the irresponsible, for had he not kept up his
character by going to church on the Sunday afternoons?
Fine old Leisure! Do not be severe upon him, and judge him by our
modern standard. He never went to Exeter Hall, or heard a popular
preacher, or read Tracts for the Times or Sartor Resartus.
The Harvest Supper
As Adam was going homeward, on Wednesday evening, in the six
o'clock sunlight, he saw in the distance the last load of barley
winding its way towards the yard-gate of the Hall Farm, and heard
the chant of "Harvest Home!" rising and sinking like a wave.
Fainter and fainter, and more musical through the growing
distance, the falling dying sound still reached him, as he neared
the Willow Brook. The low westering sun shone right on the
shoulders of the old Binton Hills, turning the unconscious sheep
into bright spots of light; shone on the windows of the cottage
too, and made them a-flame with a glory beyond that of amber or
amethyst. It was enough to make Adam feel that he was in a great
temple, and that the distant chant was a sacred song.
"It's wonderful," he thought, "how that sound goes to one's heart
almost like a funeral bell, for all it tells one o' the joyfullest
time o' the year, and the time when men are mostly the
thankfullest. I suppose it's a bit hard to us to think anything's
over and gone in our lives; and there's a parting at the root of
all our joys. It's like what I feel about Dinah. I should never
ha' come to know that her love 'ud be the greatest o' blessings to
me, if what I counted a blessing hadn't been wrenched and torn
away from me, and left me with a greater need, so as I could crave
and hunger for a greater and a better comfort."
He expected to see Dinah again this evening, and get leave to
accompany her as far as Oakbourne; and then he would ask her to
fix some time when he might go to Snowfield, and learn whether the
last best hope that had been born to him must be resigned like the
rest. The work he had to do at home, besides putting on his best
clothes, made it seven before he was on his way again to the Hall
Farm, and it was questionable whether, with his longest and
quickest strides, he should be there in time even for the roast
beef, which came after the plum pudding, for Mrs. Poyser's supper
would be punctual.
Great was the clatter of knives and pewter plates and tin cans
when Adam entered the house, but there was no hum of voices to
this accompaniment: the eating of excellent roast beef, provided
free of expense, was too serious a business to those good farm-
labourers to be performed with a divided attention, even if they
had had anything to say to each other--which they had not. And
Mr. Poyser, at the head of the table, was too busy with his
carving to listen to Bartle Massey's or Mr. Craig's ready talk.
"Here, Adam," said Mrs. Poyser, who was standing and looking on to
see that Molly and Nancy did their duty as waiters, "here's a
place kept for you between Mr. Massey and the boys. It's a poor
tale you couldn't come to see the pudding when it was whole."
Adam looked anxiously round for a fourth woman's figure, but Dinah
was not there. He was almost afraid of asking about her; besides,
his attention was claimed by greetings, and there remained the
hope that Dinah was in the house, though perhaps disinclined to
festivities on the eve of her departure.
It was a goodly sight--that table, with Martin Poyser's round
good-humoured face and large person at the head of it helping his
servants to the fragrant roast beef and pleased when the empty
plates came again. Martin, though usually blest with a good
appetite, really forgot to finish his own beef to-night--it was so
pleasant to him to look on in the intervals of carving and see how
the others enjoyed their supper; for were they not men who, on all
the days of the year except Christmas Day and Sundays, ate their
cold dinner, in a makeshift manner, under the hedgerows, and drank
their beer out of wooden bottles--with relish certainly, but with
their mouths towards the zenith, after a fashion more endurable to
ducks than to human bipeds. Martin Poyser had some faint
conception of the flavour such men must find in hot roast beef and
fresh-drawn ale. He held his head on one side and screwed up his
mouth, as he nudged Bartle Massey, and watched half-witted Tom
Tholer, otherwise known as "Tom Saft," receiving his second
plateful of beef. A grin of delight broke over Tom's face as the
plate was set down before him, between his knife and fork, which
he held erect, as if they had been sacred tapers. But the delight
was too strong to continue smouldering in a grin--it burst out the
next instant in a long-drawn "haw, haw!" followed by a sudden
collapse into utter gravity, as the knife and fork darted down on
the prey. Martin Poyser's large person shook with his silent
unctuous laugh. He turned towards Mrs. Poyser to see if she too
had been observant of Tom, and the eyes of husband and wife met in
a glance of good-natured amusement.
"Tom Saft" was a great favourite on the farm, where he played the
part of the old jester, and made up for his practical deficiencies
by his success in repartee. His hits, I imagine, were those of
the flail, which falls quite at random, but nevertheless smashes
an insect now and then. They were much quoted at sheep-shearing
and haymaking times, but I refrain from recording them here, lest
Tom's wit should prove to be like that of many other bygone
jesters eminent in their day--rather of a temporary nature, not
dealing with the deeper and more lasting relations of things.
Tom excepted, Martin Poyser had some pride in his servants and
labourers, thinking with satisfaction that they were the best
worth their pay of any set on the estate. There was Kester Bale,
for example (Beale, probably, if the truth were known, but he was
called Bale, and was not conscious of any claim to a fifth
letter), the old man with the close leather cap and the network of
wrinkles on his sun-browned face. Was there any man in Loamshire
who knew better the "natur" of all farming work? He was one of
those invaluable labourers who can not only turn their hand to
everything, but excel in everything they turn their hand to. It
is true Kester's knees were much bent outward by this time, and he
walked with a perpetual curtsy, as if he were among the, most
reverent of men. And so he was; but I am obliged to admit that
the object of his reverence was his own skill, towards which he
performed some rather affecting acts of worship. He always
thatched the ricks--for if anything were his forte more than
another, it was thatching--and when the last touch had been put to
the last beehive rick, Kester, whose home lay at some distance
from the farm, would take a walk to the rick-yard in his best
clothes on a Sunday morning and stand in the lane, at a due
distance, to contemplate his own thatching walking about to get
each rick from the proper point of view. As he curtsied along,
with his eyes upturned to the straw knobs imitative of golden
globes at the summits of the beehive ricks, which indeed were gold
of the best sort, you might have imagined him to be engaged in
some pagan act of adoration. Kester was an old bachelor and
reputed to have stockings full of coin, concerning which his
master cracked a joke with him every pay-night: not a new
unseasoned joke, but a good old one, that had been tried many
times before and had worn well. "Th' young measter's a merry
mon," Kester frequently remarked; for having begun his career by
frightening away the crows under the last Martin Poyser but one,
he could never cease to account the reigning Martin a young
master. I am not ashamed of commemorating old Kester. You and I
are indebted to the hard hands of such men--hands that have long
ago mingled with the soil they tilled so faithfully, thriftily
making the best they could of the earth's fruits, and receiving
the smallest share as their own wages.
Then, at the end of the table, opposite his master, there was
Alick, the shepherd and head-man, with the ruddy face and broad
shoulders, not on the best terms with old Kester; indeed, their
intercourse was confined to an occasional snarl, for though they
probably differed little concerning hedging and ditching and the
treatment of ewes, there was a profound difference of opinion
between them as to their own respective merits. When Tityrus and
Meliboeus happen to be on the same farm, they are not
sentimentally polite to each other. Alick, indeed, was not by any
means a honeyed man. His speech had usually something of a snarl
in it, and his broad-shouldered aspect something of the bull-dog
expression--"Don't you meddle with me, and I won't meddle with
you." But he was honest even to the splitting of an oat-grain
rather than he would take beyond his acknowledged share, and as
"close-fisted" with his master's property as if it had been his
own--throwing very small handfuls of damaged barley to the
chickens, because a large handful affected his imagination
painfully with a sense of profusion. Good-tempered Tim, the
waggoner, who loved his horses, had his grudge against Alick in
the matter of corn. They rarely spoke to each other, and never
looked at each other, even over their dish of cold potatoes; but
then, as this was their usual mode of behaviour towards all
mankind, it would be an unsafe conclusion that they had more than
transient fits of unfriendliness. The bucolic character at
Hayslope, you perceive, was not of that entirely genial, merry,
broad-grinning sort, apparently observed in most districts visited
by artists. The mild radiance of a smile was a rare sight on a
field-labourer's face, and there was seldom any gradation between
bovine gravity and a laugh. Nor was every labourer so honest as
our friend Alick. At this very table, among Mr. Poyser's men,
there is that big Ben Tholoway, a very powerful thresher, but
detected more than once in carrying away his master's corn in his
pockets--an action which, as Ben was not a philosopher, could
hardly be ascribed to absence of mind. However, his master had
forgiven him, and continued to employ him, for the Tholoways had
lived on the Common time out of mind, and had always worked for
the Poysers. And on the whole, I daresay, society was not much
the worse because Ben had not six months of it at the treadmill,
for his views of depredation were narrow, and the House of
Correction might have enlarged them. As it was, Ben ate his roast
beef to-night with a serene sense of having stolen nothing more
than a few peas and beans as seed for his garden since the last
harvest supper, and felt warranted in thinking that Alick's
suspicious eye, for ever upon him, was an injury to his innocence.
But NOW the roast beef was finished and the cloth was drawn,
leaving a fair large deal table for the bright drinking-cans, and
the foaming brown jugs, and the bright brass candlesticks,
pleasant to behold. NOW, the great ceremony of the evening was to
begin--the harvest-song, in which every man must join. He might
be in tune, if he liked to be singular, but he must not sit with
closed lips. The movement was obliged to be in triple time; the
rest was ad libitum.
As to the origin of this song--whether it came in its actual state
from the brain of a single rhapsodist, or was gradually perfected
by a school or succession of rhapsodists, I am ignorant. There is
a stamp of unity, of individual genius upon it, which inclines me
to the former hypothesis, though I am not blind to the
consideration that this unity may rather have arisen from that
consensus of many minds which was a condition of primitive
thought, foreign to our modern consciousness. Some will perhaps
think that they detect in the first quatrain an indication of a
lost line, which later rhapsodists, failing in imaginative vigour,
have supplied by the feeble device of iteration. Others, however,
may rather maintain that this very iteration is an original
felicity, to which none but the most prosaic minds can be
The ceremony connected with the song was a drinking ceremony.
(That is perhaps a painful fact, but then, you know, we cannot
reform our forefathers.) During the first and second quatrain,
sung decidedly forte, no can was filled.
Here's a health unto our master,
The founder of the feast;
Here's a health unto our master
And to our mistress!
And may his doings prosper,
Whate'er he takes in hand,
For we are all his servants,
And are at his command.
But now, immediately before the third quatrain or chorus, sung
fortissimo, with emphatic raps of the table, which gave the effect
of cymbals and drum together, Alick's can was filled, and he was
bound to empty it before the chorus ceased.
Then drink, boys, drink!
And see ye do not spill,
For if ye do, ye shall drink two,
For 'tis our master's will.
When Alick had gone successfully through this test of steady-
handed manliness, it was the turn of old Kester, at his right
hand--and so on, till every man had drunk his initiatory pint
under the stimulus of the chorus. Tom Saft--the rogue--took care
to spill a little by accident; but Mrs. Poyser (too officiously,
Tom thought) interfered to prevent the exaction of the penalty.
To any listener outside the door it would have been the reverse of
obvious why the "Drink, boys, drink!" should have such an
immediate and often-repeated encore; but once entered, he would
have seen that all faces were at present sober, and most of them
serious--it was the regular and respectable thing for those
excellent farm-labourers to do, as much as for elegant ladies and
gentlemen to smirk and bow over their wine-glasses. Bartle
Massey, whose ears were rather sensitive, had gone out to see what
sort of evening it was at an early stage in the ceremony, and had
not finished his contemplation until a silence of five minutes
declared that "Drink, boys, drink!" was not likely to begin again
for the next twelvemonth. Much to the regret of the boys and
Totty: on them the stillness fell rather flat, after that glorious
thumping of the table, towards which Totty, seated on her father's
knee, contributed with her small might and small fist.
When Bartle re-entered, however, there appeared to be a general
desire for solo music after the choral. Nancy declared that Tim
the waggoner knew a song and was "allays singing like a lark i'
the stable," whereupon Mr. Poyser said encouragingly, "Come, Tim,
lad, let's hear it." Tim looked sheepish, tucked down his head,
and said he couldn't sing, but this encouraging invitation of the
master's was echoed all round the table. It was a conversational
opportunity: everybody could say, "Come, Tim," except Alick, who
never relaxed into the frivolity of unnecessary speech. At last,
Tim's next neighbour, Ben Tholoway, began to give emphasis to his
speech by nudges, at which Tim, growing rather savage, said, "Let
me alooan, will ye? Else I'll ma' ye sing a toon ye wonna like."
A good-tempered waggoner's patience has limits, and Tim was not to
be urged further.
"Well, then, David, ye're the lad to sing," said Ben, willing to
show that he was not discomfited by this check. "Sing 'My loove's
a roos wi'out a thorn.'"
The amatory David was a young man of an unconscious abstracted
expression, which was due probably to a squint of superior
intensity rather than to any mental characteristic; for he was not
indifferent to Ben's invitation, but blushed and laughed and
rubbed his sleeve over his mouth in a way that was regarded as a
symptom of yielding. And for some time the company appeared to be
much in earnest about the desire to hear David's song. But in
vain. The lyricism of the evening was in the cellar at present,
and was not to be drawn from that retreat just yet.
Meanwhile the conversation at the head of the table had taken a
political turn. Mr. Craig was not above talking politics
occasionally, though he piqued himself rather on a wise insight
than on specific information. He saw so far beyond the mere facts
of a case that really it was superfluous to know them.
"I'm no reader o' the paper myself," he observed to-night, as he
filled his pipe, "though I might read it fast enough if I liked,
for there's Miss Lyddy has 'em and 's done with 'em i' no time.
But there's Mills, now, sits i' the chimney-corner and reads the
paper pretty nigh from morning to night, and when he's got to th'
end on't he's more addle-headed than he was at the beginning.
He's full o' this peace now, as they talk on; he's been reading
and reading, and thinks he's got to the bottom on't. 'Why, Lor'
bless you, Mills,' says I, 'you see no more into this thing nor
you can see into the middle of a potato. I'll tell you what it
is: you think it'll be a fine thing for the country. And I'm not
again' it--mark my words--I'm not again' it. But it's my opinion
as there's them at the head o' this country as are worse enemies
to us nor Bony and all the mounseers he's got at 's back; for as
for the mounseers, you may skewer half-a-dozen of 'em at once as
if they war frogs.'"
"Aye, aye," said Martin Poyser, listening with an air of much
intelligence and edification, "they ne'er ate a bit o' beef i'
their lives. Mostly sallet, I reckon."
"And says I to Mills," continued Mr. Craig, "'Will you try to make
me believe as furriners like them can do us half th' harm them
ministers do with their bad government? If King George 'ud turn
'em all away and govern by himself, he'd see everything righted.
He might take on Billy Pitt again if he liked; but I don't see
myself what we want wi' anybody besides King and Parliament. It's
that nest o' ministers does the mischief, I tell you.'"
"Ah, it's fine talking," observed Mrs. Poyser, who was now seated
near her husband, with Totty on her lap--"it's fine talking. It's
hard work to tell which is Old Harry when everybody's got boots
"As for this peace," said Mr. Poyser, turning his head on one side
in a dubitative manner and giving a precautionary puff to his pipe
between each sentence, "I don't know. Th' war's a fine thing for
the country, an' how'll you keep up prices wi'out it? An' them
French are a wicked sort o' folks, by what I can make out. What
can you do better nor fight 'em?"
"Ye're partly right there, Poyser," said Mr. Craig, "but I'm not
again' the peace--to make a holiday for a bit. We can break it
when we like, an' I'm in no fear o' Bony, for all they talk so
much o' his cliverness. That's what I says to Mills this morning.
Lor' bless you, he sees no more through Bony!...why, I put him up
to more in three minutes than he gets from's paper all the year
round. Says I, 'Am I a gardener as knows his business, or arn't
I, Mills? Answer me that.' 'To be sure y' are, Craig,' says he--
he's not a bad fellow, Mills isn't, for a butler, but weak i' the
head. 'Well,' says I, 'you talk o' Bony's cliverness; would it be
any use my being a first-rate gardener if I'd got nought but a
quagmire to work on?' 'No,' says he. 'Well,' I says, 'that's
just what it is wi' Bony. I'll not deny but he may be a bit
cliver--he's no Frenchman born, as I understand--but what's he got
at's back but mounseers?'"
Mr. Craig paused a moment with an emphatic stare after this
triumphant specimen of Socratic argument, and then added, thumping
the table rather fiercely, "Why, it's a sure thing--and there's
them 'ull bear witness to't--as i' one regiment where there was
one man a-missing, they put the regimentals on a big monkey, and
they fit him as the shell fits the walnut, and you couldn't tell
the monkey from the mounseers!"
"Ah! Think o' that, now!" said Mr. Poyser, impressed at once with
the political bearings of the fact and with its striking interest
as an anecdote in natural history.
"Come, Craig," said Adam, "that's a little too strong. You don't
believe that. It's all nonsense about the French being such poor
sticks. Mr. Irwine's seen 'em in their own country, and he says
they've plenty o' fine fellows among 'em. And as for knowledge,
and contrivances, and manufactures, there's a many things as we're
a fine sight behind 'em in. It's poor foolishness to run down
your enemies. Why, Nelson and the rest of 'em 'ud have no merit
i' beating 'em, if they were such offal as folks pretend."
Mr. Poyser looked doubtfully at Mr. Craig, puzzled by this
opposition of authorities. Mr. Irwine's testimony was not to be
disputed; but, on the other hand, Craig was a knowing fellow, and
his view was less startling. Martin had never "heard tell" of the
French being good for much. Mr. Craig had found no answer but
such as was implied in taking a long draught of ale and then
looking down fixedly at the proportions of his own leg, which he
turned a little outward for that purpose, when Bartle Massey
returned from the fireplace, where he had been smoking his first
pipe in quiet, and broke the silence by saying, as he thrust his
forefinger into the canister, "Why, Adam, how happened you not to
be at church on Sunday? Answer me that, you rascal. The anthem
went limping without you. Are you going to disgrace your
schoolmaster in his old age?"
"No, Mr. Massey," said Adam. "Mr. and Mrs. Poyser can tell you
where I was. I was in no bad company."
"She's gone, Adam--gone to Snowfield," said Mr. Poyser, reminded
of Dinah for the first time this evening. "I thought you'd ha'
persuaded her better. Nought 'ud hold her, but she must go
yesterday forenoon. The missis has hardly got over it. I thought
she'd ha' no sperrit for th' harvest supper."
Mrs. Poyser had thought of Dinah several times since Adam had come
in, but she had had "no heart" to mention the bad news.
"What!" said Bartle, with an air of disgust. "Was there a woman
concerned? Then I give you up, Adam."
"But it's a woman you'n spoke well on, Bartle," said Mr. Poyser.
"Come now, you canna draw back; you said once as women wouldna ha'
been a bad invention if they'd all been like Dinah."
"I meant her voice, man--I meant her voice, that was all," said
Bartle. "I can bear to hear her speak without wanting to put wool
in my ears. As for other things, I daresay she's like the rest o'
the women--thinks two and two 'll come to make five, if she cries
and bothers enough about it."
"Aye, aye!" said Mrs. Poyser; "one 'ud think, an' hear some folks
talk, as the men war 'cute enough to count the corns in a bag o'
wheat wi' only smelling at it. They can see through a barn-door,
they can. Perhaps that's the reason THEY can see so little o'
this side on't."
Martin Poyser shook with delighted laughter and winked at Adam, as
much as to say the schoolmaster was in for it now.
"Ah!" said Bartle sneeringly, "the women are quick enough--they're
quick enough. They know the rights of a story before they hear
it, and can tell a man what his thoughts are before he knows 'em
"Like enough," said Mrs. Poyser, "for the men are mostly so slow,
their thoughts overrun 'em, an' they can only catch 'em by the
tail. I can count a stocking-top while a man's getting's tongue
ready an' when he outs wi' his speech at last, there's little
broth to be made on't. It's your dead chicks take the longest
hatchin'. Howiver, I'm not denyin' the women are foolish: God
Almighty made 'em to match the men."
"Match!" said Bartle. "Aye, as vinegar matches one's teeth. If a
man says a word, his wife 'll match it with a contradiction; if
he's a mind for hot meat, his wife 'll match it with cold bacon;
if he laughs, she'll match him with whimpering. She's such a
match as the horse-fly is to th' horse: she's got the right venom
to sting him with--the right venom to sting him with."
"Yes," said Mrs. Poyser, "I know what the men like--a poor soft,
as 'ud simper at 'em like the picture o' the sun, whether they did
right or wrong, an' say thank you for a kick, an' pretend she
didna know which end she stood uppermost, till her husband told
her. That's what a man wants in a wife, mostly; he wants to make
sure o' one fool as 'ull tell him he's wise. But there's some men
can do wi'out that--they think so much o' themselves a'ready. An'
that's how it is there's old bachelors."
"Come, Craig," said Mr. Poyser jocosely, "you mun get married
pretty quick, else you'll be set down for an old bachelor; an' you
see what the women 'ull think on you."
"Well," said Mr. Craig, willing to conciliate Mrs. Poyser and
setting a high value on his own compliments, "I like a cleverish
woman--a woman o' sperrit--a managing woman."
"You're out there, Craig," said Bartle, dryly; "you're out there.
You judge o' your garden-stuff on a better plan than that. You
pick the things for what they can excel in--for what they can
excel in. You don't value your peas for their roots, or your
carrots for their flowers. Now, that's the way you should choose
women. Their cleverness 'll never come to much--never come to
much--but they make excellent simpletons, ripe and strong-
"What dost say to that?" said Mr. Poyser, throwing himself back
and looking merrily at his wife.
"Say!" answered Mrs. Poyser, with dangerous fire kindling in her
eye. "Why, I say as some folks' tongues are like the clocks as
run on strikin', not to tell you the time o' the day, but because
there's summat wrong i' their own inside..."
Mrs. Poyser would probably have brought her rejoinder to a further
climax, if every one's attention had not at this moment been
called to the other end of the table, where the lyricism, which
had at first only manifested itself by David's sotto voce
performance of "My love's a rose without a thorn," had gradually
assumed a rather deafening and complex character. Tim, thinking
slightly of David's vocalization, was impelled to supersede that
feeble buzz by a spirited commencement of "Three Merry Mowers,"
but David was not to be put down so easily, and showed himself
capable of a copious crescendo, which was rendering it doubtful
whether the rose would not predominate over the mowers, when old
Kester, with an entirely unmoved and immovable aspect, suddenly
set up a quavering treble--as if he had been an alarum, and the
time was come for him to go off.
The company at Alick's end of the table took this form of vocal
entertainment very much as a matter of course, being free from
musical prejudices; but Bartle Massey laid down his pipe and put
his fingers in his ears; and Adam, who had been longing to go ever
since he had heard Dinah was not in the house, rose and said he
must bid good-night.
"I'll go with you, lad," said Bartle; "I'll go with you before my
ears are split."
"I'll go round by the Common and see you home, if you like, Mr.
Massey," said Adam.
"Aye, aye!" said Bartle; "then we can have a bit o' talk together.
I never get hold of you now."
"Eh! It's a pity but you'd sit it out," said Martin Poyser.
"They'll all go soon, for th' missis niver lets 'em stay past
But Adam was resolute, so the good-nights were said, and the two
friends turned out on their starlight walk together.
"There's that poor fool, Vixen, whimpering for me at home," said
Bartle. "I can never bring her here with me for fear she should
be struck with Mrs. Poyser's eye, and the poor bitch might go
limping for ever after."
"I've never any need to drive Gyp back," said Adam, laughing. "He
always turns back of his own head when he finds out I'm coming
"Aye, aye," said Bartle. "A terrible woman!--made of needles,
made of needles. But I stick to Martin--I shall always stick to
Martin. And he likes the needles, God help him! He's a cushion
made on purpose for 'em."
"But she's a downright good-natur'd woman, for all that," said
Adam, "and as true as the daylight. She's a bit cross wi' the
dogs when they offer to come in th' house, but if they depended on
her, she'd take care and have 'em well fed. If her tongue's keen,
her heart's tender: I've seen that in times o' trouble. She's one
o' those women as are better than their word."
"Well, well," said Bartle, "I don't say th' apple isn't sound at
the core; but it sets my teeth on edge--it sets my teeth on edge."
The Meeting on the Hill
ADAM understood Dinah's haste to go away, and drew hope rather
than discouragement from it. She was fearful lest the strength of
her feeling towards him should hinder her from waiting and
listening faithfully for the ultimate guiding voice from within.
"I wish I'd asked her to write to me, though," he thought. "And
yet even that might disturb her a bit, perhaps. She wants to be
quite quiet in her old way for a while. And I've no right to be
impatient and interrupting her with my wishes. She's told me what
her mind is, and she's not a woman to say one thing and mean
another. I'll wait patiently."
That was Adam's wise resolution, and it throve excellently for the
first two or three weeks on the nourishment it got from the
remembrance of Dinah's confession that Sunday afternoon. There is
a wonderful amount of sustenance in the first few words of love.
But towards the middle of October the resolution began to dwindle
perceptibly, and showed dangerous symptoms of exhaustion. The
weeks were unusually long: Dinah must surely have had more than
enough time to make up her mind. Let a woman say what she will
after she has once told a man that she loves him, he is a little
too flushed and exalted with that first draught she offers him to
care much about the taste of the second. He treads the earth with
a very elastic step as he walks away from her, and makes light of
all difficulties. But that sort of glow dies out: memory gets
sadly diluted with time, and is not strong enough to revive us.
Adam was no longer so confident as he had been. He began to fear
that perhaps Dinah's old life would have too strong a grasp upon
her for any new feeling to triumph. If she had not felt this, she
would surely have written to him to give him some comfort; but it
appeared that she held it right to discourage him. As Adam's
confidence waned, his patience waned with it, and he thought he
must write himself. He must ask Dinah not to leave him in painful
doubt longer than was needful. He sat up late one night to write
her a letter, but the next morning he burnt it, afraid of its
effect. It would be worse to have a discouraging answer by letter
than from her own lips, for her presence reconciled him to her
You perceive how it was: Adam was hungering for the sight of
Dinah, and when that sort of hunger reaches a certain stage, a
lover is likely to still it though he may have to put his future
But what harm could he do by going to Snowfield? Dinah could not
be displeased with him for it. She had not forbidden him to go.
She must surely expect that he would go before long. By the
second Sunday in October this view of the case had become so clear
to Adam that he was already on his way to Snowfield, on horseback
this time, for his hours were precious now, and he had borrowed
Jonathan Burge's good nag for the journey.
What keen memories went along the road with him! He had often
been to Oakbourne and back since that first journey to Snowfield,
but beyond Oakbourne the greystone walls, the broken country, the
meagre trees, seemed to be telling him afresh the story of that
painful past which he knew so well by heart. But no story is the
same to us after a lapse of time--or rather, we who read it are no
longer the same interpreters--and Adam this morning brought with
him new thoughts through that grey country, thoughts which gave an
altered significance to its story of the past.
That is a base and selfish, even a blasphemous, spirit which
rejoices and is thankful over the past evil that has blighted or
crushed another, because it has been made a source of unforeseen
good to ourselves. Adam could never cease to mourn over that
mystery of human sorrow which had been brought so close to him; he
could never thank God for another's misery. And if I were capable
of that narrow-sighted joy in Adam's behalf, I should still know
he was not the man to feel it for himself. He would have shaken
his head at such a sentiment and said, "Evil's evil, and sorrow's
sorrow, and you can't alter it's natur by wrapping it up in other
words. Other folks were not created for my sake, that I should
think all square when things turn out well for me."
But it is not ignoble to feel that the fuller life which a sad
experience has brought us is worth our own personal share of pain.
Surely it is not possible to feel otherwise, any more than it
would be possible for a man with cataract to regret the painful
process by which his dim blurred sight of men as trees walking had
been exchanged for clear outline and effulgent day. The growth of
higher feeling within us is like the growth of faculty, bringing
with it a sense of added strength. We can no more wish to return
to a narrower sympathy than a painter or a musician can wish to
return to his cruder manner, or a philosopher to his less complete
Something like this sense of enlarged being was in Adam's mind
this Sunday morning, as he rode along in vivid recollection of the
past. His feeling towards Dinah, the hope of passing his life
with her, had been the distant unseen point towards which that
hard journey from Snowfield eighteen months ago had been leading
him. Tender and deep as his love for Hetty had been--so deep that
the roots of it would never be torn away--his love for Dinah was
better and more precious to him, for it was the outgrowth of that
fuller life which had come to him from his acquaintance with deep
sorrow. "It's like as if it was a new strength to me," he said to
himself, "to love her and know as she loves me. I shall look t'
her to help me to see things right. For she's better than I am--
there's less o' self in her, and pride. And it's a feeling as
gives you a sort o' liberty, as if you could walk more fearless,
when you've more trust in another than y' have in yourself. I've
always been thinking I knew better than them as belonged to me,
and that's a poor sort o' life, when you can't look to them
nearest to you t' help you with a bit better thought than what
you've got inside you a'ready."
It was more than two o'clock in the afternoon when Adam came in
sight of the grey town on the hill-side and looked searchingly
towards the green valley below, for the first glimpse of the old
thatched roof near the ugly red mill. The scene looked less harsh
in the soft October sunshine than it had in the eager time of
early spring, and the one grand charm it possessed in common with
all wide-stretching woodless regions--that it filled you with a
new consciousness of the overarching sky--had a milder, more
soothing influence than usual, on this almost cloudless day.
Adam's doubts and fears melted under this influence as the
delicate weblike clouds had gradually melted away into the clear
blue above him. He seemed to see Dinah's gentle face assuring
him, with its looks alone, of all he longed to know.
He did not expect Dinah to be at home at this hour, but he got
down from his horse and tied it at the little gate, that he might
ask where she was gone to-day. He had set his mind on following
her and bringing her home. She was gone to Sloman's End, a hamlet
about three miles off, over the hill, the old woman told him--had
set off directly after morning chapel, to preach in a cottage
there, as her habit was. Anybody at the town would tell him the
way to Sloman's End. So Adam got on his horse again and rode to
the town, putting up at the old inn and taking a hasty dinner
there in the company of the too chatty landlord, from whose
friendly questions and reminiscences he was glad to escape as soon
as possible and set out towards Sloman's End. With all his haste
it was nearly four o'clock before he could set off, and he thought
that as Dinah had gone so early, she would perhaps already be near
returning. The little, grey, desolate-looking hamlet, unscreened
by sheltering trees, lay in sight long before he reached it, and
as he came near he could hear the sound of voices singing a hymn.
"Perhaps that's the last hymn before they come away," Adam
thought. "I'll walk back a bit and turn again to meet her,
farther off the village." He walked back till he got nearly to
the top of the hill again, and seated himself on a loose stone,
against the low wall, to watch till he should see the little black
figure leaving the hamlet and winding up the hill. He chose this
spot, almost at the top of the hill, because it was away from all
eyes--no house, no cattle, not even a nibbling sheep near--no
presence but the still lights and shadows and the great embracing
She was much longer coming than he expected. He waited an hour at
least watching for her and thinking of her, while the afternoon
shadows lengthened and the light grew softer. At last he saw the
little black figure coming from between the grey houses and
gradually approaching the foot of the hill. Slowly, Adam thought,
but Dinah was really walking at her usual pace, with a light quiet
step. Now she was beginning to wind along the path up the hill,
but Adam would not move yet; he would not meet her too soon; he
had set his heart on meeting her in this assured loneliness. And
now he began to fear lest he should startle her too much. "Yet,"
he thought, "she's not one to be overstartled; she's always so
calm and quiet, as if she was prepared for anything."
What was she thinking of as she wound up the hill? Perhaps she
had found complete repose without him, and had ceased to feel any
need of his love. On the verge of a decision we all tremble: hope
pauses with fluttering wings.
But now at last she was very near, and Adam rose from the stone
wall. It happened that just as he walked forward, Dinah had
paused and turned round to look back at the village--who does not
pause and look back in mounting a hill? Adam was glad, for, with
the fine instinct of a lover, he felt that it would be best for
her to hear his voice before she saw him. He came within three
paces of her and then said, "Dinah!" She started without looking
round, as if she connected the sound with no place. "Dinah!" Adam
said again. He knew quite well what was in her mind. She was so
accustomed to think of impressions as purely spiritual monitions
that she looked for no material visible accompaniment of the
But this second time she looked round. What a look of yearning
love it was that the mild grey eyes turned on the strong dark-eyed
man! She did not start again at the sight of him; she said
nothing, but moved towards him so that his arm could clasp her
And they walked on so in silence, while the warm tears fell. Adam
was content, and said nothing. It was Dinah who spoke first.
"Adam," she said, "it is the Divine Will. My soul is so knit to
yours that it is but a divided life I live without you. And this
moment, now you are with me, and I feel that our hearts are filled
with the same love. I have a fulness of strength to bear and do
our heavenly Father's Will that I had lost before."
Adam paused and looked into her sincere eyes.
"Then we'll never part any more, Dinah, till death parts us."
And they kissed each other with a deep joy.
What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that
they are joined for life--to strengthen each other in all labour,
to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in
all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories
at the moment of the last parting?
IN little more than a month after that meeting on the hill--on a
rimy morning in departing November--Adam and Dinah were married.
It was an event much thought of in the village. All Mr. Burge's
men had a holiday, and all Mr. Poyser's, and most of those who had
a holiday appeared in their best clothes at the wedding. I think
there was hardly an inhabitant of Hayslope specially mentioned in
this history and still resident in the parish on this November
morning who was not either in church to see Adam and Dinah
married, or near the church door to greet them as they came forth.
Mrs. Irwine and her daughters were waiting at the churchyard gates
in their carriage (for they had a carriage now) to shake hands
with the bride and bridegroom and wish them well; and in the
absence of Miss Lydia Donnithorne at Bath, Mrs. Best, Mr. Mills,
and Mr. Craig had felt it incumbent on them to represent "the
family" at the Chase on the occasion. The churchyard walk was
quite lined with familiar faces, many of them faces that had first
looked at Dinah when she preached on the Green. And no wonder
they showed this eager interest on her marriage morning, for
nothing like Dinah and the history which had brought her and Adam
Bede together had been known at Hayslope within the memory of man.
Bessy Cranage, in her neatest cap and frock, was crying, though
she did not exactly know why; for, as her cousin Wiry Ben, who
stood near her, judiciously suggested, Dinah was not going away,
and if Bessy was in low spirits, the best thing for her to do was
to follow Dinah's example and marry an honest fellow who was ready
to have her. Next to Bessy, just within the church door, there
were the Poyser children, peeping round the corner of the pews to
get a sight of the mysterious ceremony; Totty's face wearing an
unusual air of anxiety at the idea of seeing cousin Dinah come
back looking rather old, for in Totty's experience no married
people were young.
I envy them all the sight they had when the marriage was fairly
ended and Adam led Dinah out of church. She was not in black this
morning, for her Aunt Poyser would by no means allow such a risk
of incurring bad luck, and had herself made a present of the
wedding dress, made all of grey, though in the usual Quaker form,
for on this point Dinah could not give way. So the lily face
looked out with sweet gravity from under a grey Quaker bonnet,
neither smiling nor blushing, but with lips trembling a little
under the weight of solemn feelings. Adam, as he pressed her arm
to his side, walked with his old erectness and his head thrown
rather backward as if to face all the world better. But it was
not because he was particularly proud this morning, as is the wont
of bridegrooms, for his happiness was of a kind that had little
reference to men's opinion of it. There was a tinge of sadness in
his deep joy; Dinah knew it, and did not feel aggrieved.
There were three other couples, following the bride and
bridegroom: first, Martin Poyser, looking as cheery as a bright
fire on this rimy morning, led quiet Mary Burge, the bridesmaid;
then came Seth serenely happy, with Mrs. Poyser on his arm; and
last of all Bartle Massey, with Lisbeth--Lisbeth in a new gown and
bonnet, too busy with her pride in her son and her delight in
possessing the one daughter she had desired to devise a single
pretext for complaint.
Bartle Massey had consented to attend the wedding at Adam's
earnest request, under protest against marriage in general and the
marriage of a sensible man in particular. Nevertheless, Mr.
Poyser had a joke against him after the wedding dinner, to the
effect that in the vestry he had given the bride one more kiss
than was necessary.
Behind this last couple came Mr. Irwine, glad at heart over this
good morning's work of joining Adam and Dinah. For he had seen
Adam in the worst moments of his sorrow; and what better harvest
from that painful seed-time could there be than this? The love
that had brought hope and comfort in the hour of despair, the love
that had found its way to the dark prison cell and to poor Hetty's
darker soul--this strong gentle love was to be Adam's companion
and helper till death.
There was much shaking of hands mingled with "God bless you's" and
other good wishes to the four couples, at the churchyard gate, Mr.
Poyser answering for the rest with unwonted vivacity of tongue,
for he had all the appropriate wedding-day jokes at his command.
And the women, he observed, could never do anything but put finger
in eye at a wedding. Even Mrs. Poyser could not trust herself to
speak as the neighbours shook hands with her, and Lisbeth began to
cry in the face of the very first person who told her she was
getting young again.
Mr. Joshua Rann, having a slight touch of rheumatism, did not join
in the ringing of the bells this morning, and, looking on with
some contempt at these informal greetings which required no
official co-operation from the clerk, began to hum in his musical
bass, "Oh what a joyful thing it is," by way of preluding a little
to the effect he intended to produce in the wedding psalm next
"That's a bit of good news to cheer Arthur," said Mr. Irwine to
his mother, as they drove off. "I shall write to him the first
thing when we get home."
IT is near the end of June, in 1807. The workshops have been shut
up half an hour or more in Adam Bede's timber-yard, which used to
be Jonathan Burge's, and the mellow evening light is falling on
the pleasant house with the buff walls and the soft grey thatch,
very much as it did when we saw Adam bringing in the keys on that
June evening nine years ago.
There is a figure we know well, just come out of the house, and
shading her eyes with her hands as she looks for something in the
distance, for the rays that fall on her white borderless cap and
her pale auburn hair are very dazzling. But now she turns away
from the sunlight and looks towards the door.
We can see the sweet pale face quite well now: it is scarcely at
all altered--only a little fuller, to correspond to her more
matronly figure, which still seems light and active enough in the
plain black dress.
"I see him, Seth," Dinah said, as she looked into the house. "Let
us go and meet him. Come, Lisbeth, come with Mother."
The last call was answered immediately by a small fair creature
with pale auburn hair and grey eyes, little more than four years
old, who ran out silently and put her hand into her mother's.
"Come, Uncle Seth," said Dinah.
"Aye, aye, we're coming," Seth answered from within, and presently
appeared stooping under the doorway, being taller than usual by
the black head of a sturdy two-year-old nephew, who had caused
some delay by demanding to be carried on uncle's shoulder.
"Better take him on thy arm, Seth," said Dinah, looking fondly at
the stout black-eyed fellow. "He's troublesome to thee so."
"Nay, nay: Addy likes a ride on my shoulder. I can carry him so
for a bit." A kindness which young Addy acknowledged by drumming
his heels with promising force against Uncle Seth's chest. But to
walk by Dinah's side, and be tyrannized over by Dinah's and Adam's
children, was Uncle Seth's earthly happiness.
"Where didst see him?" asked Seth, as they walked on into the
adjoining field. "I can't catch sight of him anywhere."
"Between the hedges by the roadside," said Dinah. "I saw his hat
and his shoulder. There he is again."
"Trust thee for catching sight of him if he's anywhere to be
seen," said Seth, smiling. "Thee't like poor mother used to be.
She was always on the look out for Adam, and could see him sooner
than other folks, for all her eyes got dim."
"He's been longer than he expected," said Dinah, taking Arthur's
watch from a small side pocket and looking at it; "it's nigh upon
"Aye, they'd have a deal to say to one another," said Seth, "and
the meeting 'ud touch 'em both pretty closish. Why, it's getting
on towards eight years since they parted."
"Yes," said Dinah, "Adam was greatly moved this morning at the
thought of the change he should see in the poor young man, from
the sickness he has undergone, as well as the years which have
changed us all. And the death of the poor wanderer, when she was
coming back to us, has been sorrow upon sorrow."
"See, Addy," said Seth, lowering the young one to his arm now and
pointing, "there's Father coming--at the far stile."
Dinah hastened her steps, and little Lisbeth ran on at her utmost
speed till she clasped her father's leg. Adam patted her head and
lifted her up to kiss her, but Dinah could see the marks of
agitation on his face as she approached him, and he put her arm
within his in silence.
"Well, youngster, must I take you?" he said, trying to smile, when
Addy stretched out his arms--ready, with the usual baseness of
infancy, to give up his Uncle Seth at once, now there was some
rarer patronage at hand.
"It's cut me a good deal, Dinah," Adam said at last, when they
were walking on.
"Didst find him greatly altered?" said Dinah.
"Why, he's altered and yet not altered. I should ha' known him
anywhere. But his colour's changed, and he looks sadly. However,
the doctors say he'll soon be set right in his own country air.
He's all sound in th' inside; it's only the fever shattered him
so. But he speaks just the same, and smiles at me just as he did
when he was a lad. It's wonderful how he's always had just the
same sort o' look when he smiles."
"I've never seen him smile, poor young man," said Dinah.
"But thee wilt see him smile, to-morrow," said Adam. "He asked
after thee the first thing when he began to come round, and we
could talk to one another. 'I hope she isn't altered,' he said,
'I remember her face so well.' I told him 'no,'" Adam continued,
looking fondly at the eyes that were turned towards his, "only a
bit plumper, as thee'dst a right to be after seven year. 'I may
come and see her to-morrow, mayn't I?' he said; 'I long to tell
her how I've thought of her all these years.'"
"Didst tell him I'd always used the watch?" said Dinah.
"Aye; and we talked a deal about thee, for he says he never saw a
woman a bit like thee. 'I shall turn Methodist some day,' he
said, 'when she preaches out of doors, and go to hear her.' And I
said, 'Nay, sir, you can't do that, for Conference has forbid the
women preaching, and she's given it up, all but talking to the
people a bit in their houses.'"
"Ah," said Seth, who could not repress a comment on this point,
"and a sore pity it was o' Conference; and if Dinah had seen as I
did, we'd ha' left the Wesleyans and joined a body that 'ud put no
bonds on Christian liberty."
"Nay, lad, nay," said Adam, "she was right and thee wast wrong.
There's no rules so wise but what it's a pity for somebody or
other. Most o' the women do more harm nor good with their
preaching--they've not got Dinah's gift nor her sperrit--and she's
seen that, and she thought it right to set th' example o'
submitting, for she's not held from other sorts o' teaching. And
I agree with her, and approve o' what she did."
Seth was silent. This was a standing subject of difference rarely
alluded to, and Dinah, wishing to quit it at once, said, "Didst
remember, Adam, to speak to Colonel Donnithorne the words my uncle
and aunt entrusted to thee?"
"Yes, and he's going to the Hall Farm with Mr. Irwine the day
after to-morrow. Mr. Irwine came in while we were talking about
it, and he would have it as the Colonel must see nobody but thee
to-morrow. He said--and he's in the right of it--as it'll be bad
for him t' have his feelings stirred with seeing many people one
after another. 'We must get you strong and hearty,' he said,
'that's the first thing to be done Arthur, and then you shall have
your own way. But I shall keep you under your old tutor's thumb
till then.' Mr. Irwine's fine and joyful at having him home
Adam was silent a little while, and then said, "It was very
cutting when we first saw one another. He'd never heard about
poor Hetty till Mr. Irwine met him in London, for the letters
missed him on his journey. The first thing he said to me, when
we'd got hold o' one another's hands was, 'I could never do
anything for her, Adam--she lived long enough for all the
suffering--and I'd thought so of the time when I might do
something for her. But you told me the truth when you said to me
once, "There's a sort of wrong that can never be made up for."'"
"Why, there's Mr. and Mrs. Poyser coming in at the yard gate,"
"So there is," said Dinah. "Run, Lisbeth, run to meet Aunt Poyser.
Come in, Adam, and rest; it has been a hard day for thee."