Part 2 out of 11
This was what the omen meant, then! And the grey-haired father,
of whom he had thought with a sort of hardness a few hours ago, as
certain to live to be a thorn in his side was perhaps even then
struggling with that watery death! This was the first thought
that flashed through Adam's conscience, before he had time to
seize the coat and drag out the tall heavy body. Seth was already
by his side, helping him, and when they had it on the bank, the
two sons in the first moment knelt and looked with mute awe at the
glazed eyes, forgetting that there was need for action--forgetting
everything but that their father lay dead before them. Adam was
the first to speak.
"I'll run to Mother," he said, in a loud whisper. "I'll be back
to thee in a minute."
Poor Lisbeth was busy preparing her sons' breakfast, and their
porridge was already steaming on the fire. Her kitchen always
looked the pink of cleanliness, but this morning she was more than
usually bent on making her hearth and breakfast-table look
comfortable and inviting.
"The lads 'ull be fine an' hungry," she said, half-aloud, as she
stirred the porridge. "It's a good step to Brox'on, an' it's
hungry air o'er the hill--wi' that heavy coffin too. Eh! It's
heavier now, wi' poor Bob Tholer in't. Howiver, I've made a drap
more porridge nor common this mornin'. The feyther 'ull happen
come in arter a bit. Not as he'll ate much porridge. He swallers
sixpenn'orth o' ale, an' saves a hap'orth o' por-ridge--that's his
way o' layin' by money, as I've told him many a time, an' am
likely to tell him again afore the day's out. Eh, poor mon, he
takes it quiet enough; there's no denyin' that."
But now Lisbeth heard the heavy "thud" of a running footstep on
the turf, and, turning quickly towards the door, she saw Adam
enter, looking so pale and overwhelmed that she screamed aloud and
rushed towards him before he had time to speak.
"Hush, Mother," Adam said, rather hoarsely, "don't be frightened.
Father's tumbled into the water. Belike we may bring him round
again. Seth and me are going to carry him in. Get a blanket and
make it hot as the fire."
In reality Adam was convinced that his father was dead but he knew
there was no other way of repressing his mother's impetuous
wailing grief than by occupying her with some active task which
had hope in it.
He ran back to Seth, and the two sons lifted the sad burden in
heart-stricken silence. The wide-open glazed eyes were grey, like
Seth's, and had once looked with mild pride on the boys before
whom Thias had lived to hang his head in shame. Seth's chief
feeling was awe and distress at this sudden snatching away of his
father's soul; but Adam's mind rushed back over the past in a
flood of relenting and pity. When death, the great Reconciler,
has come, it is never our tenderness that we repent of, but our
BEFORE twelve o'clock there had been some heavy storms of rain,
and the water lay in deep gutters on the sides of the gravel walks
in the garden of Broxton Parsonage; the great Provence roses had
been cruelly tossed by the wind and beaten by the rain, and all
the delicate-stemmed border flowers had been dashed down and
stained with the wet soil. A melancholy morning--because it was
nearly time hay-harvest should begin, and instead of that the
meadows were likely to be flooded.
But people who have pleasant homes get indoor enjoyments that they
would never think of but for the rain. If it had not been a wet
morning, Mr. Irwine would not have been in the dining-room playing
at chess with his mother, and he loves both his mother and chess
quite well enough to pass some cloudy hours very easily by their
help. Let me take you into that dining-room and show you the Rev.
Adolphus Irwine, Rector of Broxton, Vicar of Hayslope, and Vicar
of Blythe, a pluralist at whom the severest Church reformer would
have found it difficult to look sour. We will enter very softly
and stand still in the open doorway, without awaking the glossy-
brown setter who is stretched across the hearth, with her two
puppies beside her; or the pug, who is dozing, with his black
muzzle aloft, like a sleepy president.
The room is a large and lofty one, with an ample mullioned oriel
window at one end; the walls, you see, are new, and not yet
painted; but the furniture, though originally of an expensive
sort, is old and scanty, and there is no drapery about the window.
The crimson cloth over the large dining-table is very threadbare,
though it contrasts pleasantly enough with the dead hue of the
plaster on the walls; but on this cloth there is a massive silver
waiter with a decanter of water on it, of the same pattern as two
larger ones that are propped up on the sideboard with a coat of
arms conspicuous in their centre. You suspect at once that the
inhabitants of this room have inherited more blood than wealth,
and would not be surprised to find that Mr. Irwine had a finely
cut nostril and upper lip; but at present we can only see that he
has a broad flat back and an abundance of powdered hair, all
thrown backward and tied behind with a black ribbon--a bit of
conservatism in costume which tells you that he is not a young
man. He will perhaps turn round by and by, and in the meantime we
can look at that stately old lady, his mother, a beautiful aged
brunette, whose rich-toned complexion is well set off by the
complex wrappings of pure white cambric and lace about her head
and neck. She is as erect in her comely embonpoint as a statue of
Ceres; and her dark face, with its delicate aquiline nose, firm
proud mouth, and small, intense, black eye, is so keen and
sarcastic in its expression that you instinctively substitute a
pack of cards for the chess-men and imagine her telling your
fortune. The small brown hand with which she is lifting her queen
is laden with pearls, diamonds, and turquoises; and a large black
veil is very carefully adjusted over the crown of her cap, and
falls in sharp contrast on the white folds about her neck. It
must take a long time to dress that old lady in the morning! But
it seems a law of nature that she should be dressed so: she is
clearly one of those children of royalty who have never doubted
their right divine and never met with any one so absurd as to
"There, Dauphin, tell me what that is!" says this magnificent old
lady, as she deposits her queen very quietly and folds her arms.
"I should be sorry to utter a word disagreeable to your feelings."
"Ah, you witch-mother, you sorceress! How is a Christian man to
win a game off you? I should have sprinkled the board with holy
water before we began. You've not won that game by fair means,
now, so don't pretend it."
"Yes, yes, that's what the beaten have always said of great
conquerors. But see, there's the sunshine falling on the board,
to show you more clearly what a foolish move you made with that
pawn. Come, shall I give you another chance?"
"No, Mother, I shall leave you to your own conscience, now it's
clearing up. We must go and plash up the mud a little, mus'n't
we, Juno?" This was addressed to the brown setter, who had jumped
up at the sound of the voices and laid her nose in an insinuating
way on her master's leg. "But I must go upstairs first and see
Anne. I was called away to Tholer's funeral just when I was going
"It's of no use, child; she can't speak to you. Kate says she has
one of her worst headaches this morning."
"Oh, she likes me to go and see her just the same; she's never too
ill to care about that."
If you know how much of human speech is mere purposeless impulse
or habit, you will not wonder when I tell you that this identical
objection had been made, and had received the same kind of answer,
many hundred times in the course of the fifteen years that Mr.
Irwine's sister Anne had been an invalid. Splendid old ladies,
who take a long time to dress in the morning, have often slight
sympathy with sickly daughters.
But while Mr. Irwine was still seated, leaning back in his chair
and stroking Juno's head, the servant came to the door and said,
"If you please, sir, Joshua Rann wishes to speak with you, if you
are at liberty."
"Let him be shown in here," said Mrs. Irwine, taking up her
knitting. "I always like to hear what Mr. Rann has got to say.
His shoes will be dirty, but see that he wipes them Carroll."
In two minutes Mr. Rann appeared at the door with very deferential
bows, which, however, were far from conciliating Pug, who gave a
sharp bark and ran across the room to reconnoitre the stranger's
legs; while the two puppies, regarding Mr. Rann's prominent calf
and ribbed worsted stockings from a more sensuous point of view,
plunged and growled over them in great enjoyment. Meantime, Mr.
Irwine turned round his chair and said, "Well, Joshua, anything
the matter at Hayslope, that you've come over this damp morning?
Sit down, sit down. Never mind the dogs; give them a friendly
kick. Here, Pug, you rascal!"
It is very pleasant to see some men turn round; pleasant as a
sudden rush of warm air in winter, or the flash of firelight in
the chill dusk. Mr. Irwine was one of those men. He bore the
same sort of resemblance to his mother that our loving memory of a
friend's face often bears to the face itself: the lines were all
more generous, the smile brighter, the expression heartier. If
the outline had been less finely cut, his face might have been
called jolly; but that was not the right word for its mixture of
bonhomie and distinction.
"Thank Your Reverence," answered Mr. Rann, endeavouring to look
unconcerned about his legs, but shaking them alternately to keep
off the puppies; "I'll stand, if you please, as more becoming. I
hope I see you an' Mrs. Irwine well, an' Miss Irwine--an' Miss
Anne, I hope's as well as usual."
"Yes, Joshua, thank you. You see how blooming my mother looks.
She beats us younger people hollow. But what's the matter?"
"Why, sir, I had to come to Brox'on to deliver some work, and I
thought it but right to call and let you know the goins-on as
there's been i' the village, such as I hanna seen i' my time, and
I've lived in it man and boy sixty year come St. Thomas, and
collected th' Easter dues for Mr. Blick before Your Reverence come
into the parish, and been at the ringin' o' every bell, and the
diggin' o' every grave, and sung i' the choir long afore Bartle
Massey come from nobody knows where, wi' his counter-singin' and
fine anthems, as puts everybody out but himself--one takin' it up
after another like sheep a-bleatin' i' th' fold. I know what
belongs to bein' a parish clerk, and I know as I should be wantin'
i' respect to Your Reverence, an' church, an' king, if I was t'
allow such goins-on wi'out speakin'. I was took by surprise, an'
knowed nothin' on it beforehand, an' I was so flustered, I was
clean as if I'd lost my tools. I hanna slep' more nor four hour
this night as is past an' gone; an' then it was nothin' but
nightmare, as tired me worse nor wakin'."
"Why, what in the world is the matter, Joshua? Have the thieves
been at the church lead again?"
"Thieves! No, sir--an' yet, as I may say, it is thieves, an' a-
thievin' the church, too. It's the Methodisses as is like to get
th' upper hand i' th' parish, if Your Reverence an' His Honour,
Squire Donnithorne, doesna think well to say the word an' forbid
it. Not as I'm a-dictatin' to you, sir; I'm not forgettin' myself
so far as to be wise above my betters. Howiver, whether I'm wise
or no, that's neither here nor there, but what I've got to say I
say--as the young Methodis woman as is at Mester Poyser's was a-
preachin' an' a-prayin' on the Green last night, as sure as I'm a-
stannin' afore Your Reverence now."
"Preaching on the Green!" said Mr. Irwine, looking surprised but
quite serene. "What, that pale pretty young woman I've seen at
Poyser's? I saw she was a Methodist, or Quaker, or something of
that sort, by her dress, but I didn't know she was a preacher."
"It's a true word as I say, sir," rejoined Mr. Rann, compressing
his mouth into a semicircular form and pausing long enough to
indicate three notes of exclamation. "She preached on the Green
last night; an' she's laid hold of Chad's Bess, as the girl's been
i' fits welly iver sin'."
"Well, Bessy Cranage is a hearty-looking lass; I daresay she'll
come round again, Joshua. Did anybody else go into fits?"
"No, sir, I canna say as they did. But there's no knowin' what'll
come, if we're t' have such preachin's as that a-goin' on ivery
week--there'll be no livin' i' th' village. For them Methodisses
make folks believe as if they take a mug o' drink extry, an' make
theirselves a bit comfortable, they'll have to go to hell for't as
sure as they're born. I'm not a tipplin' man nor a drunkard--
nobody can say it on me--but I like a extry quart at Easter or
Christmas time, as is nat'ral when we're goin' the rounds a-
singin', an' folks offer't you for nothin'; or when I'm a-
collectin' the dues; an' I like a pint wi' my pipe, an' a
neighbourly chat at Mester Casson's now an' then, for I was
brought up i' the Church, thank God, an' ha' been a parish clerk
this two-an'-thirty year: I should know what the church religion
"Well, what's your advice, Joshua? What do you think should be
"Well, Your Reverence, I'm not for takin' any measures again' the
young woman. She's well enough if she'd let alone preachin'; an'
I hear as she's a-goin' away back to her own country soon. She's
Mr. Poyser's own niece, an' I donna wish to say what's anyways
disrespectful o' th' family at th' Hall Farm, as I've measured for
shoes, little an' big, welly iver sin' I've been a shoemaker. But
there's that Will Maskery, sir as is the rampageousest Methodis as
can be, an' I make no doubt it was him as stirred up th' young
woman to preach last night, an' he'll be a-bringin' other folks to
preach from Treddles'on, if his comb isn't cut a bit; an' I think
as he should be let know as he isna t' have the makin' an' mendin'
o' church carts an' implemen's, let alone stayin' i' that house
an' yard as is Squire Donnithorne's."
"Well, but you say yourself, Joshua, that you never knew any one
come to preach on the Green before; why should you think they'll
come again? The Methodists don't come to preach in little
villages like Hayslope, where there's only a handful of labourers,
too tired to listen to them. They might almost as well go and
preach on the Binton Hills. Will Maskery is no preacher himself,
"Nay, sir, he's no gift at stringin' the words together wi'out
book; he'd be stuck fast like a cow i' wet clay. But he's got
tongue enough to speak disrespectful about's neebors, for he said
as I was a blind Pharisee--a-usin' the Bible i' that way to find
nick-names for folks as are his elders an' betters!--and what's
worse, he's been heard to say very unbecomin' words about Your
Reverence; for I could bring them as 'ud swear as he called you a
'dumb dog,' an' a 'idle shepherd.' You'll forgi'e me for sayin'
such things over again."
"Better not, better not, Joshua. Let evil words die as soon as
they're spoken. Will Maskery might be a great deal worse fellow
than he is. He used to be a wild drunken rascal, neglecting his
work and beating his wife, they told me; now he's thrifty and
decent, and he and his wife look comfortable together. If you can
bring me any proof that he interferes with his neighbours and
creates any disturbance, I shall think it my duty as a clergyman
and a magistrate to interfere. But it wouldn't become wise people
like you and me to be making a fuss about trifles, as if we
thought the Church was in danger because Will Maskery lets his
tongue wag rather foolishly, or a young woman talks in a serious
way to a handful of people on the Green. We must 'live and let
live,' Joshua, in religion as well as in other things. You go on
doing your duty, as parish clerk and sexton, as well as you've
always done it, and making those capital thick boots for your
neighbours, and things won't go far wrong in Hayslope, depend upon
"Your Reverence is very good to say so; an' I'm sensable as, you
not livin' i' the parish, there's more upo' my shoulders."
"To be sure; and you must mind and not lower the Church in
people's eyes by seeming to be frightened about it for a little
thing, Joshua. I shall trust to your good sense, now to take no
notice at all of what Will Maskery says, either about you or me.
You and your neighbours can go on taking your pot of beer soberly,
when you've done your day's work, like good churchmen; and if Will
Maskery doesn't like to join you, but to go to a prayermeeting at
Treddleston instead, let him; that's no business of yours, so long
as he doesn't hinder you from doing what you like. And as to
people saying a few idle words about us, we must not mind that,
any more than the old church-steeple minds the rooks cawing about
it. Will Maskery comes to church every Sunday afternoon, and does
his wheelwright's business steadily in the weekdays, and as long
as he does that he must be let alone."
"Ah, sir, but when he comes to church, he sits an' shakes his
head, an' looks as sour an' as coxy when we're a-singin' as I
should like to fetch him a rap across the jowl--God forgi'e me--
an' Mrs. Irwine, an' Your Reverence too, for speakin' so afore
you. An' he said as our Christmas singin' was no better nor the
cracklin' o' thorns under a pot."
"Well, he's got a bad ear for music, Joshua. When people have
wooden heads, you know, it can't be helped. He won't bring the
other people in Hayslope round to his opinion, while you go on
singing as well as you do."
"Yes, sir, but it turns a man's stomach t' hear the Scripture
misused i' that way. I know as much o' the words o' the Bible as
he does, an' could say the Psalms right through i' my sleep if you
was to pinch me; but I know better nor to take 'em to say my own
say wi'. I might as well take the Sacriment-cup home and use it
"That's a very sensible remark of yours, Joshua; but, as I said
While Mr. Irwine was speaking, the sound of a booted step and the
clink of a spur were heard on the stone floor of the entrance-
hall, and Joshua Rann moved hastily aside from the doorway to make
room for some one who paused there, and said, in a ringing tenor
"Godson Arthur--may he come in?"
"Come in, come in, godson!" Mrs. Irwine answered, in the deep
half-masculine tone which belongs to the vigorous old woman, and
there entered a young gentleman in a riding-dress, with his right
arm in a sling; whereupon followed that pleasant confusion of
laughing interjections, and hand-shakings, and "How are you's?"
mingled with joyous short barks and wagging of tails on the part
of the canine members of the family, which tells that the visitor
is on the best terms with the visited. The young gentleman was
Arthur Donnithorne, known in Hayslope, variously, as "the young
squire," "the heir," and "the captain." He was only a captain in
the Loamshire Militia, but to the Hayslope tenants he was more
intensely a captain than all the young gentlemen of the same rank
in his Majesty's regulars--he outshone them as the planet Jupiter
outshines the Milky Way. If you want to know more particularly
how he looked, call to your remembrance some tawny-whiskered,
brown-locked, clear-complexioned young Englishman whom you have
met with in a foreign town, and been proud of as a fellow-
countryman--well-washed, high-bred, white-handed, yet looking as
if he could deliver well from 'the left shoulder and floor his
man: I will not be so much of a tailor as to trouble your
imagination with the difference of costume, and insist on the
striped waistcoat, long-tailed coat, and low top-boots.
Turning round to take a chair, Captain Donnithorne said, "But
don't let me interrupt Joshua's business--he has something to
"Humbly begging Your Honour's pardon," said Joshua, bowing low,
"there was one thing I had to say to His Reverence as other things
had drove out o' my head."
"Out with it, Joshua, quickly!" said Mr. Irwine.
"Belike, sir, you havena heared as Thias Bede's dead--drownded
this morning, or more like overnight, i' the Willow Brook, again'
the bridge right i' front o' the house."
"Ah!" exclaimed both the gentlemen at once, as if they were a good
deal interested in the information.
"An' Seth Bede's been to me this morning to say he wished me to
tell Your Reverence as his brother Adam begged of you particular
t' allow his father's grave to be dug by the White Thorn, because
his mother's set her heart on it, on account of a dream as she
had; an' they'd ha' come theirselves to ask you, but they've so
much to see after with the crowner, an' that; an' their mother's
took on so, an' wants 'em to make sure o' the spot for fear
somebody else should take it. An' if Your Reverence sees well and
good, I'll send my boy to tell 'em as soon as I get home; an'
that's why I make bold to trouble you wi' it, His Honour being
"To be sure, Joshua, to be sure, they shall have it. I'll ride
round to Adam myself, and see him. Send your boy, however, to say
they shall have the grave, lest anything should happen to detain
me. And now, good morning, Joshua; go into the kitchen and have
"Poor old Thias!" said Mr. Irwine, when Joshua was gone. "I'm
afraid the drink helped the brook to drown him. I should have
been glad for the load to have been taken off my friend Adam's
shoulders in a less painful way. That fine fellow has been
propping up his father from ruin for the last five or six years."
"He's a regular trump, is Adam," said Captain Donnithorne. "When
I was a little fellow, and Adam was a strapping lad of fifteen,
and taught me carpentering, I used to think if ever I was a rich
sultan, I would make Adam my grand-vizier. And I believe now he
would bear the exaltation as well as any poor wise man in an
Eastern story. If ever I live to be a large-acred man instead of
a poor devil with a mortgaged allowance of pocket-money, I'll have
Adam for my right hand. He shall manage my woods for me, for he
seems to have a better notion of those things than any man I ever
met with; and I know he would make twice the money of them that my
grandfather does, with that miserable old Satchell to manage, who
understands no more about timber than an old carp. I've mentioned
the subject to my grandfather once or twice, but for some reason
or other he has a dislike to Adam, and I can do nothing. But
come, Your Reverence, are you for a ride with me? It's splendid
out of doors now. We can go to Adam's together, if you like; but
I want to call at the Hall Farm on my way, to look at the whelps
Poyser is keeping for me."
"You must stay and have lunch first, Arthur," said Mrs. Irwine.
"It's nearly two. Carroll will bring it in directly."
"I want to go to the Hall Farm too," said Mr. Irwine, "to have
another look at the little Methodist who is staying there. Joshua
tells me she was preaching on the Green last night."
"Oh, by Jove!" said Captain Donnithorne, laughing. "Why, she
looks as quiet as a mouse. There's something rather striking
about her, though. I positively felt quite bashful the first time
I saw her--she was sitting stooping over her sewing in the
sunshine outside the house, when I rode up and called out, without
noticing that she was a stranger, 'Is Martin Poyser at home?' I
declare, when she got up and looked at me and just said, 'He's in
the house, I believe: I'll go and call him,' I felt quite ashamed
of having spoken so abruptly to her. She looked like St.
Catherine in a Quaker dress. It's a type of face one rarely sees
among our common people."
"I should like to see the young woman, Dauphin," said Mrs. Irwine.
"Make her come here on some pretext or other."
"I don't know how I can manage that, Mother; it will hardly do for
me to patronize a Methodist preacher, even if she would consent to
be patronized by an idle shepherd, as Will Maskery calls me. You
should have come in a little sooner, Arthur, to hear Joshua's
denunciation of his neighbour Will Maskery. The old fellow wants
me to excommunicate the wheelwright, and then deliver him over to
the civil arm--that is to say, to your grandfather--to be turned
out of house and yard. If I chose to interfere in this business,
now, I might get up as pretty a story of hatred and persecution as
the Methodists need desire to publish in the next number of their
magazine. It wouldn't take me much trouble to persuade Chad
Cranage and half a dozen other bull-headed fellows that they would
be doing an acceptable service to the Church by hunting Will
Maskery out of the village with rope-ends and pitchforks; and
then, when I had furnished them with half a sovereign to get
gloriously drunk after their exertions, I should have put the
climax to as pretty a farce as any of my brother clergy have set
going in their parishes for the last thirty years."
"It is really insolent of the man, though, to call you an 'idle
shepherd' and a 'dumb dog,'" said Mrs. Irwine. "I should be
inclined to check him a little there. You are too easy-tempered,
"Why, Mother, you don't think it would be a good way of sustaining
my dignity to set about vindicating myself from the aspersions of
Will Maskery? Besides, I'm not so sure that they ARE aspersions.
I AM a lazy fellow, and get terribly heavy in my saddle; not to
mention that I'm always spending more than I can afford in bricks
and mortar, so that I get savage at a lame beggar when he asks me
for sixpence. Those poor lean cobblers, who think they can help
to regenerate mankind by setting out to preach in the morning
twilight before they begin their day's work, may well have a poor
opinion of me. But come, let us have our luncheon. Isn't Kate
coming to lunch?"
"Miss Irwine told Bridget to take her lunch upstairs," said
Carroll; "she can't leave Miss Anne."
"Oh, very well. Tell Bridget to say I'll go up and see Miss Anne
presently. You can use your right arm quite well now, Arthur,"
Mr. Irwine continued, observing that Captain Donnithorne had taken
his arm out of the sling.
"Yes, pretty well; but Godwin insists on my keeping it up
constantly for some time to come. I hope I shall be able to get
away to the regiment, though, in the beginning of August. It's a
desperately dull business being shut up at the Chase in the summer
months, when one can neither hunt nor shoot, so as to make one's
self pleasantly sleepy in the evening. However, we are to
astonish the echoes on the 30th of July. My grandfather has given
me carte blanche for once, and I promise you the entertainment
shall be worthy of the occasion. The world will not see the grand
epoch of my majority twice. I think I shall have a lofty throne
for you, Godmamma, or rather two, one on the lawn and another in
the ballroom, that you may sit and look down upon us like an
"I mean to bring out my best brocade, that I wore at your
christening twenty years ago," said Mrs. Irwine. "Ah, I think I
shall see your poor mother flitting about in her white dress,
which looked to me almost like a shroud that very day; and it WAS
her shroud only three months after; and your little cap and
christening dress were buried with her too. She had set her heart
on that, sweet soul! Thank God you take after your mother's
family, Arthur. If you had been a puny, wiry, yellow baby, I
wouldn't have stood godmother to you. I should have been sure you
would turn out a Donnithorne. But you were such a broad-faced,
broad-chested, loud-screaming rascal, I knew you were every inch
of you a Tradgett."
"But you might have been a little too hasty there, Mother," said
Mr. Irwine, smiling. "Don't you remember how it was with Juno's
last pups? One of them was the very image of its mother, but it
had two or three of its father's tricks notwithstanding. Nature
is clever enough to cheat even you, Mother."
"Nonsense, child! Nature never makes a ferret in the shape of a
mastiff. You'll never persuade me that I can't tell what men are
by their outsides. If I don't like a man's looks, depend upon it
I shall never like HIM. I don't want to know people that look
ugly and disagreeable, any more than I want to taste dishes that
look disagreeable. If they make me shudder at the first glance, I
say, take them away. An ugly, piggish, or fishy eye, now, makes
me feel quite ill; it's like a bad smell."
"Talking of eyes," said Captain Donnithorne, "that reminds me that
I've got a book I meant to bring you, Godmamma. It came down in a
parcel from London the other day. I know you are fond of queer,
wizardlike stories. It's a volume of poems, 'Lyrical Ballads.'
Most of them seem to be twaddling stuff, but the first is in a
different style--'The Ancient Mariner' is the title. I can hardly
make head or tail of it as a story, but it's a strange, striking
thing. I'll send it over to you; and there are some other books
that you may like to see, Irwine--pamphlets about Antinomianism
and Evangelicalism, whatever they may be. I can't think what the
fellow means by sending such things to me. I've written to him to
desire that from henceforth he will send me no book or pamphlet on
anything that ends in ISM."
"Well, I don't know that I'm very fond of isms myself; but I may
as well look at the pamphlets; they let one see what is going on.
I've a little matter to attend to, Arthur," continued Mr. Irwine,
rising to leave the room, "and then I shall be ready to set out
The little matter that Mr. Irwine had to attend to took him up the
old stone staircase (part of the house was very old) and made him
pause before a door at which he knocked gently. "Come in," said a
woman's voice, and he entered a room so darkened by blinds and
curtains that Miss Kate, the thin middle-aged lady standing by the
bedside, would not have had light enough for any other sort of
work than the knitting which lay on the little table near her.
But at present she was doing what required only the dimmest light--
sponging the aching head that lay on the pillow with fresh
vinegar. It was a small face, that of the poor sufferer; perhaps
it had once been pretty, but now it was worn and sallow. Miss
Kate came towards her brother and whispered, "Don't speak to her;
she can't bear to be spoken to to-day." Anne's eyes were closed,
and her brow contracted as if from intense pain. Mr. Irwine went
to the bedside and took up one of the delicate hands and kissed
it, a slight pressure from the small fingers told him that it was
worth-while to have come upstairs for the sake of doing that. He
lingered a moment, looking at her, and then turned away and left
the room, treading very gently--he had taken off his boots and put
on slippers before he came upstairs. Whoever remembers how many
things he has declined to do even for himself, rather than have
the trouble of putting on or taking off his boots, will not think
this last detail insignificant.
And Mr. Irwine's sisters, as any person of family within ten miles
of Broxton could have testified, were such stupid, uninteresting
women! It was quite a pity handsome, clever Mrs. Irwine should
have had such commonplace daughters. That fine old lady herself
was worth driving ten miles to see, any day; her beauty, her well-
preserved faculties, and her old-fashioned dignity made her a
graceful subject for conversation in turn with the King's health,
the sweet new patterns in cotton dresses, the news from Egypt, and
Lord Dacey's lawsuit, which was fretting poor Lady Dacey to death.
But no one ever thought of mentioning the Miss Irwines, except the
poor people in Broxton village, who regarded them as deep in the
science of medicine, and spoke of them vaguely as "the
gentlefolks." If any one had asked old Job Dummilow who gave him
his flannel jacket, he would have answered, "the gentlefolks, last
winter"; and widow Steene dwelt much on the virtues of the "stuff"
the gentlefolks gave her for her cough. Under this name too, they
were used with great effect as a means of taming refractory
children, so that at the sight of poor Miss Anne's sallow face,
several small urchins had a terrified sense that she was cognizant
of all their worst misdemeanours, and knew the precise number of
stones with which they had intended to hit Farmer Britton's ducks.
But for all who saw them through a less mythical medium, the Miss
Irwines were quite superfluous existences--inartistic figures
crowding the canvas of life without adequate effect. Miss Anne,
indeed, if her chronic headaches could have been accounted for by
a pathetic story of disappointed love, might have had some
romantic interest attached to her: but no such story had either
been known or invented concerning her, and the general impression
was quite in accordance with the fact, that both the sisters were
old maids for the prosaic reason that they had never received an
Nevertheless, to speak paradoxically, the existence of
insignificant people has very important consequences in the world.
It can be shown to affect the price of bread and the rate of
wages, to call forth many evil tempers from the selfish and many
heroisms from the sympathetic, and, in other ways, to play no
small part in the tragedy of life. And if that handsome,
generous-blooded clergyman, the Rev. Adolphus Irwine, had not had
these two hopelessly maiden sisters, his lot would have been
shaped quite differently: he would very likely have taken a comely
wife in his youth, and now, when his hair was getting grey under
the powder, would have had tall sons and blooming daughters--such
possessions, in short, as men commonly think will repay them for
all the labour they take under the sun. As it was--having with
all his three livings no more than seven hundred a-year, and
seeing no way of keeping his splendid mother and his sickly
sister, not to reckon a second sister, who was usually spoken of
without any adjective, in such ladylike ease as became their birth
and habits, and at the same time providing for a family of his
own--he remained, you see, at the age of eight-and-forty, a
bachelor, not making any merit of that renunciation, but saying
laughingly, if any one alluded to it, that he made it an excuse
for many indulgences which a wife would never have allowed him.
And perhaps he was the only person in the world who did not think
his sisters uninteresting and superfluous; for his was one of
those large-hearted, sweet-blooded natures that never know a
narrow or a grudging thought; Epicurean, if you will, with no
enthusiasm, no self-scourging sense of duty; but yet, as you have
seen, of a sufficiently subtle moral fibre to have an unwearying
tenderness for obscure and monotonous suffering. It was his
large-hearted indulgence that made him ignore his mother's
hardness towards her daughters, which was the more striking from
its contrast with her doting fondness towards himself; he held it
no virtue to frown at irremediable faults.
See the difference between the impression a man makes on you when
you walk by his side in familiar talk, or look at him in his home,
and the figure he makes when seen from a lofty historical level,
or even in the eyes of a critical neighbour who thinks of him as
an embodied system or opinion rather than as a man. Mr. Roe, the
"travelling preacher" stationed at Treddleston, had included Mr.
Irwine in a general statement concerning the Church clergy in the
surrounding district, whom he described as men given up to the
lusts of the flesh and the pride of life; hunting and shooting,
and adorning their own houses; asking what shall we eat, and what
shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed?--careless of
dispensing the bread of life to their flocks, preaching at best
but a carnal and soul-benumbing morality, and trafficking in the
souls of men by receiving money for discharging the pastoral
office in parishes where they did not so much as look on the faces
of the people more than once a-year. The ecclesiastical
historian, too, looking into parliamentary reports of that period,
finds honourable members zealous for the Church, and untainted
with any sympathy for the "tribe of canting Methodists," making
statements scarcely less melancholy than that of Mr. Roe. And it
is impossible for me to say that Mr. Irwine was altogether belied
by the generic classification assigned him. He really had no very
lofty aims, no theological enthusiasm: if I were closely
questioned, I should be obliged to confess that he felt no serious
alarms about the souls of his parishioners, and would have thought
it a mere loss of time to talk in a doctrinal and awakening manner
to old "Feyther Taft," or even to Chad Cranage the blacksmith. If
he had been in the habit of speaking theoretically, he would
perhaps have said that the only healthy form religion could take
in such minds was that of certain dim but strong emotions,
suffusing themselves as a hallowing influence over the family
affections and neighbourly duties. He thought the custom of
baptism more important than its doctrine, and that the religious
benefits the peasant drew from the church where his fathers
worshipped and the sacred piece of turf where they lay buried were
but slightly dependent on a clear understanding of the Liturgy or
the sermon. Clearly the rector was not what is called in these
days an "earnest" man: he was fonder of church history than of
divinity, and had much more insight into men's characters than
interest in their opinions; he was neither laborious, nor
obviously self-denying, nor very copious in alms-giving, and his
theology, you perceive, was lax. His mental palate, indeed, was
rather pagan, and found a savouriness in a quotation from
Sophocles or Theocritus that was quite absent from any text in
Isaiah or Amos. But if you feed your young setter on raw flesh,
how can you wonder at its retaining a relish for uncooked
partridge in after-life? And Mr. Irwine's recollections of young
enthusiasm and ambition were all associated with poetry and ethics
that lay aloof from the Bible.
On the other hand, I must plead, for I have an affectionate
partiality towards the rector's memory, that he was not
vindictive--and some philanthropists have been so; that he was not
intolerant--and there is a rumour that some zealous theologians
have not been altogether free from that blemish; that although he
would probably have declined to give his body to be burned in any
public cause, and was far from bestowing all his goods to feed the
poor, he had that charity which has sometimes been lacking to very
illustrious virtue--he was tender to other men's failings, and
unwilling to impute evil. He was one of those men, and they are
not the commonest, of whom we can know the best only by following
them away from the marketplace, the platform, and the pulpit,
entering with them into their own homes, hearing the voice with
which they speak to the young and aged about their own
hearthstone, and witnessing their thoughtful care for the everyday
wants of everyday companions, who take all their kindness as a
matter of course, and not as a subject for panegyric.
Such men, happily, have lived in times when great abuses
flourished, and have sometimes even been the living
representatives of the abuses. That is a thought which might
comfort us a little under the opposite fact--that it is better
sometimes NOT to follow great reformers of abuses beyond the
threshold of their homes.
But whatever you may think of Mr. Irwine now, if you had met him
that June afternoon riding on his grey cob, with his dogs running
beside him--portly, upright, manly, with a good-natured smile on
his finely turned lips as he talked to his dashing young companion
on the bay mare, you must have felt that, however ill he
harmonized with sound theories of the clerical office, he somehow
harmonized extremely well with that peaceful landscape.
See them in the bright sunlight, interrupted every now and then by
rolling masses of cloud, ascending the slope from the Broxton
side, where the tall gables and elms of the rectory predominate
over the tiny whitewashed church. They will soon be in the parish
of Hayslope; the grey church-tower and village roofs lie before
them to the left, and farther on, to the right, they can just see
the chimneys of the Hall Farm.
The Hall Farm
EVIDENTLY that gate is never opened, for the long grass and the
great hemlocks grow close against it, and if it were opened, it is
so rusty that the force necessary to turn it on its hinges would
be likely to pull down the square stone-built pillars, to the
detriment of the two stone lionesses which grin with a doubtful
carnivorous affability above a coat of arms surmounting each of
the pillars. It would be easy enough, by the aid of the nicks in
the stone pillars, to climb over the brick wall with its smooth
stone coping; but by putting our eyes close to the rusty bars of
the gate, we can see the house well enough, and all but the very
corners of the grassy enclosure.
It is a very fine old place, of red brick, softened by a pale
powdery lichen, which has dispersed itself with happy
irregularity, so as to bring the red brick into terms of friendly
companionship with the limestone ornaments surrounding the three
gables, the windows, and the door-place. But the windows are
patched with wooden panes, and the door, I think, is like the
gate--it is never opened. How it would groan and grate against
the stone fioor if it were! For it is a solid, heavy, handsome
door, and must once have been in the habit of shutting with a
sonorous bang behind a liveried lackey, who had just seen his
master and mistress off the grounds in a carriage and pair.
But at present one might fancy the house in the early stage of a
chancery suit, and that the fruit from that grand double row of
walnut-trees on the right hand of the enclosure would fall and rot
among the grass, if it were not that we heard the booming bark of
dogs echoing from great buildings at the back. And now the half-
weaned calves that have been sheltering themselves in a gorse-
built hovel against the left-hand wall come out and set up a silly
answer to that terrible bark, doubtless supposing that it has
reference to buckets of milk.
Yes, the house must be inhabited, and we will see by whom; for
imagination is a licensed trespasser: it has no fear of dogs, but
may climb over walls and peep in at windows with impunity. Put
your face to one of the glass panes in the right-hand window: what
do you see? A large open fireplace, with rusty dogs in it, and a
bare boarded floor; at the far end, fleeces of wool stacked up; in
the middle of the floor, some empty corn-bags. That is the
furniture of the dining-room. And what through the left-hand
window? Several clothes-horses, a pillion, a spinning-wheel, and
an old box wide open and stuffed full of coloured rags. At the
edge of this box there lies a great wooden doll, which, so far as
mutilation is concerned, bears a strong resemblance to the finest
Greek sculpture, and especially in the total loss of its nose.
Near it there is a little chair, and the butt end of a boy's
leather long-lashed whip.
The history of the house is plain now. It was once the residence
of a country squire, whose family, probably dwindling down to mere
spinsterhood, got merged in the more territorial name of
Donnithorne. It was once the Hall; it is now the Hall Farm. Like
the life in some coast town that was once a watering-place, and is
now a port, where the genteel streets are silent and grass-grown,
and the docks and warehouses busy and resonant, the life at the
Hall has changed its focus, and no longer radiates from the
parlour, but from the kitchen and the farmyard.
Plenty of life there, though this is the drowsiest time of the
year, just before hay-harvest; and it is the drowsiest time of the
day too, for it is close upon three by the sun, and it is half-
past three by Mrs. Poyser's handsome eight-day clock. But there
is always a stronger sense of life when the sun is brilliant after
rain; and now he is pouring down his beams, and making sparkles
among the wet straw, and lighting up every patch of vivid green
moss on the red tiles of the cow-shed, and turning even the muddy
water that is hurrying along the channel to the drain into a
mirror for the yellow-billed ducks, who are seizing the
opportunity of getting a drink with as much body in it as
possible. There is quite a concert of noises; the great bull-dog,
chained against the stables, is thrown into furious exasperation
by the unwary approach of a cock too near the mouth of his kennel,
and sends forth a thundering bark, which is answered by two fox-
hounds shut up in the opposite cow-house; the old top-knotted
hens, scratching with their chicks among the straw, set up a
sympathetic croaking as the discomfited cock joins them; a sow
with her brood, all very muddy as to the legs, and curled as to
the tail, throws in some deep staccato notes; our friends the
calves are bleating from the home croft; and, under all, a fine
ear discerns the continuous hum of human voices.
For the great barn-doors are thrown wide open, and men are busy
there mending the harness, under the superintendence of Mr. Goby,
the "whittaw," otherwise saddler, who entertains them with the
latest Treddleston gossip. It is certainly rather an unfortunate
day that Alick, the shepherd, has chosen for having the whittaws,
since the morning turned out so wet; and Mrs. Poyser has spoken
her mind pretty strongly as to the dirt which the extra nurnber of
men's shoes brought into the house at dinnertime. Indeed, she has
not yet recovered her equanimity on the subject, though it is now
nearly three hours since dinner, and the house-floor is perfectly
clean again; as clean as everything else in that wonderful house-
place, where the only chance of collecting a few grains of dust
would be to climb on the salt-coffer, and put your finger on the
high mantel-shelf on which the glittering brass candlesticks are
enjoying their summer sinecure; for at this time of year, of
course, every one goes to bed while it is yet light, or at least
light enough to discern the outline of objects after you have
bruised your shins against them. Surely nowhere else could an oak
clock-case and an oak table have got to such a polish by the hand:
genuine "elbow polish," as Mrs. Poyser called it, for she thanked
God she never had any of your varnished rubbish in her house.
Hetty Sorrel often took the opportunity, when her aunt's back was
turned, of looking at the pleasing reflection of herself in those
polished surfaces, for the oak table was usually turned up like a
screen, and was more for ornament than for use; and she could see
herself sometimes in the great round pewter dishes that were
ranged on the shelves above the long deal dinner-table, or in the
hobs of the grate, which always shone like jasper.
Everything was looking at its brightest at this moment, for the
sun shone right on the pewter dishes, and from their reflecting
surfaces pleasant jets of light were thrown on mellow oak and
bright brass--and on a still pleasanter object than these, for
some of the rays fell on Dinah's finely moulded cheek, and lit up
her pale red hair to auburn, as she bent over the heavy household
linen which she was mending for her aunt. No scene could have
been more peaceful, if Mrs. Poyser, who was ironing a few things
that still remained from the Monday's wash, had not been making a
frequent clinking with her iron and moving to and fro whenever she
wanted it to cool; carrying the keen glance of her blue-grey eye
from the kitchen to the dairy, where Hetty was making up the
butter, and from the dairy to the back kitchen, where Nancy was
taking the pies out of the oven. Do not suppose, however, that
Mrs. Poyser was elderly or shrewish in her appearance; she was a
good-looking woman, not more than eight-and-thirty, of fair
complexion and sandy hair, well-shapen, light-footed. The most
conspicuous article in her attire was an ample checkered linen
apron, which almost covered her skirt; and nothing could be
plainer or less noticeable than her cap and gown, for there was no
weakness of which she was less tolerant than feminine vanity, and
the preference of ornament to utility. The family likeness
between her and her niece Dinah Morris, with the contrast between
her keenness and Dinah's seraphic gentleness of expression, might
have served a painter as an excellent suggestion for a Martha and
Mary. Their eyes were just of the same colour, but a striking
test of the difference in their operation was seen in the
demeanour of Trip, the black-and-tan terrier, whenever that much-
suspected dog unwarily exposed himself to the freezing arctic ray
of Mrs. Poyser's glance. Her tongue was not less keen than her
eye, and, whenever a damsel came within earshot, seemed to take up
an unfinished lecture, as a barrel-organ takes up a tune,
precisely at the point where it had left off.
The fact that it was churning day was another reason why it was
inconvenient to have the whittaws, and why, consequently, Mrs.
Poyser should scold Molly the housemaid with unusual severity. To
all appearance Molly had got through her after-dinner work in an
exemplary manner, had "cleaned herself" with great dispatch, and
now came to ask, submissively, if she should sit down to her
spinning till milking time. But this blameless conduct, according
to Mrs. Poyser, shrouded a secret indulgence of unbecoming wishes,
which she now dragged forth and held up to Molly's view with
"Spinning, indeed! It isn't spinning as you'd be at, I'll be
bound, and let you have your own way. I never knew your equals
for gallowsness. To think of a gell o' your age wanting to go and
sit with half-a-dozen men! I'd ha' been ashamed to let the words
pass over my lips if I'd been you. And you, as have been here ever
since last Michaelmas, and I hired you at Treddles'on stattits,
without a bit o' character--as I say, you might be grateful to be
hired in that way to a respectable place; and you knew no more o'
what belongs to work when you come here than the mawkin i' the
field. As poor a two-fisted thing as ever I saw, you know you
was. Who taught you to scrub a floor, I should like to know?
Why, you'd leave the dirt in heaps i' the corners--anybody 'ud
think you'd never been brought up among Christians. And as for
spinning, why, you've wasted as much as your wage i' the flax
you've spoiled learning to spin. And you've a right to feel that,
and not to go about as gaping and as thoughtless as if you was
beholding to nobody. Comb the wool for the whittaws, indeed!
That's what you'd like to be doing, is it? That's the way with
you--that's the road you'd all like to go, headlongs to ruin.
You're never easy till you've got some sweetheart as is as big a
fool as yourself: you think you'll be finely off when you're
married, I daresay, and have got a three-legged stool to sit on,
and never a blanket to cover you, and a bit o' oat-cake for your
dinner, as three children are a-snatching at."
"I'm sure I donna want t' go wi' the whittaws," said Molly,
whimpering, and quite overcome by this Dantean picture of her
future, "on'y we allays used to comb the wool for 'n at Mester
Ottley's; an' so I just axed ye. I donna want to set eyes on the
whittaws again; I wish I may never stir if I do."
"Mr. Ottley's, indeed! It's fine talking o' what you did at Mr.
Ottley's. Your missis there might like her floors dirted wi'
whittaws for what I know. There's no knowing what people WONNA
like--such ways as I've heard of! I never had a gell come into my
house as seemed to know what cleaning was; I think people live
like pigs, for my part. And as to that Betty as was dairymaid at
Trent's before she come to me, she'd ha' left the cheeses without
turning from week's end to week's end, and the dairy thralls, I
might ha' wrote my name on 'em, when I come downstairs after my
illness, as the doctor said it was inflammation--it was a mercy I
got well of it. And to think o' your knowing no better, Molly,
and been here a-going i' nine months, and not for want o' talking
to, neither--and what are you stanning there for, like a jack as
is run down, instead o' getting your wheel out? You're a rare un
for sitting down to your work a little while after it's time to
"Munny, my iron's twite told; pease put it down to warm."
The small chirruping voice that uttered this request came from a
little sunny-haired girl between three and four, who, seated on a
high chair at the end of the ironing table, was arduously
clutching the handle of a miniature iron with her tiny fat fist,
and ironing rags with an assiduity that required her to put her
little red tongue out as far as anatomy would allow.
"Cold, is it, my darling? Bless your sweet face!" said Mrs.
Poyser, who was remarkable for the facility with which she could
relapse from her official objurgatory to one of fondness or of
friendly converse. "Never mind! Mother's done her ironing now.
She's going to put the ironing things away."
"Munny, I tould 'ike to do into de barn to Tommy, to see de
"No, no, no; Totty 'ud get her feet wet," said Mrs. Poyser,
carrying away her iron. "Run into the dairy and see cousin Hetty
make the butter."
"I tould 'ike a bit o' pum-take," rejoined Totty, who seemed to be
provided with several relays of requests; at the same time, taking
the opportunity of her momentary leisure to put her fingers into a
bowl of starch, and drag it down so as to empty the contents with
tolerable completeness on to the ironing sheet.
"Did ever anybody see the like?" screamed Mrs. Poyser, running
towards the table when her eye had fallen on the blue stream.
"The child's allays i' mischief if your back's turned a minute.
What shall I do to you, you naughty, naughty gell?"
Totty, however, had descended from her chair with great swiftness,
and was already in retreat towards the dairy with a sort of
waddling run, and an amount of fat on the nape of her neck which
made her look like the metamorphosis of a white suckling pig.
The starch having been wiped up by Molly's help, and the ironing
apparatus put by, Mrs. Poyser took up her knitting which always
lay ready at hand, and was the work she liked best, because she
could carry it on automatically as she walked to and fro. But now
she came and sat down opposite Dinah, whom she looked at in a
meditative way, as she knitted her grey worsted stocking.
"You look th' image o' your Aunt Judith, Dinah, when you sit a-
sewing. I could almost fancy it was thirty years back, and I was
a little gell at home, looking at Judith as she sat at her work,
after she'd done the house up; only it was a little cottage,
Father's was, and not a big rambling house as gets dirty i' one
corner as fast as you clean it in another--but for all that, I
could fancy you was your Aunt Judith, only her hair was a deal
darker than yours, and she was stouter and broader i' the
shoulders. Judith and me allays hung together, though she had
such queer ways, but your mother and her never could agree. Ah,
your mother little thought as she'd have a daughter just cut out
after the very pattern o' Judith, and leave her an orphan, too,
for Judith to take care on, and bring up with a spoon when SHE was
in the graveyard at Stoniton. I allays said that o' Judith, as
she'd bear a pound weight any day to save anybody else carrying a
ounce. And she was just the same from the first o' my remembering
her; it made no difference in her, as I could see, when she took
to the Methodists, only she talked a bit different and wore a
different sort o' cap; but she'd never in her life spent a penny
on herself more than keeping herself decent."
"She was a blessed woman," said Dinah; "God had given her a
loving, self-forgetting nature, and He perfected it by grace. And
she was very fond of you too, Aunt Rachel. I often heard her talk
of you in the same sort of way. When she had that bad illness,
and I was only eleven years old, she used to say, 'You'll have a
friend on earth in your Aunt Rachel, if I'm taken from you, for
she has a kind heart,' and I'm sure I've found it so."
"I don't know how, child; anybody 'ud be cunning to do anything
for you, I think; you're like the birds o' th' air, and live
nobody knows how. I'd ha' been glad to behave to you like a
mother's sister, if you'd come and live i' this country where
there's some shelter and victual for man and beast, and folks
don't live on the naked hills, like poultry a-scratching on a
gravel bank. And then you might get married to some decent man,
and there'd be plenty ready to have you, if you'd only leave off
that preaching, as is ten times worse than anything your Aunt
Judith ever did. And even if you'd marry Seth Bede, as is a poor
wool-gathering Methodist and's never like to have a penny
beforehand, I know your uncle 'ud help you with a pig, and very
like a cow, for he's allays been good-natur'd to my kin, for all
they're poor, and made 'em welcome to the house; and 'ud do for
you, I'll be bound, as much as ever he'd do for Hetty, though
she's his own niece. And there's linen in the house as I could
well spare you, for I've got lots o' sheeting and table-clothing,
and towelling, as isn't made up. There's a piece o' sheeting I
could give you as that squinting Kitty spun--she was a rare girl
to spin, for all she squinted, and the children couldn't abide
her; and, you know, the spinning's going on constant, and there's
new linen wove twice as fast as the old wears out. But where's
the use o' talking, if ye wonna be persuaded, and settle down like
any other woman in her senses, i'stead o' wearing yourself out
with walking and preaching, and giving away every penny you get,
so as you've nothing saved against sickness; and all the things
you've got i' the world, I verily believe, 'ud go into a bundle no
bigger nor a double cheese. And all because you've got notions i'
your head about religion more nor what's i' the Catechism and the
"But not more than what's in the Bible, Aunt," said Dinah.
"Yes, and the Bible too, for that matter," Mrs. Poyser rejoined,
rather sharply; "else why shouldn't them as know best what's in
the Bible--the parsons and people as have got nothing to do but
learn it--do the same as you do? But, for the matter o' that, if
everybody was to do like you, the world must come to a standstill;
for if everybody tried to do without house and home, and with poor
eating and drinking, and was allays talking as we must despise the
things o' the world as you say, I should like to know where the
pick o' the stock, and the corn, and the best new-milk cheeeses
'ud have to go. Everybody 'ud be wanting bread made o' tail ends
and everybody 'ud be running after everybody else to preach to
'em, istead o' bringing up their families, and laying by against a
bad harvest. It stands to sense as that can't be the right
"Nay, dear aunt, you never heard me say that all people are called
to forsake their work and their families. It's quite right the
land should be ploughed and sowed, and the precious corn stored,
and the things of this life cared for, and right that people
should rejoice in their families, and provide for them, so that
this is done in the fear of the Lord, and that they are not
unmindful of the soul's wants while they are caring for the body.
We can all be servants of God wherever our lot is cast, but He
gives us different sorts of work, according as He fits us for it
and calls us to it. I can no more help spending my life in trying
to do what I can for the souls of others, than you could help
running if you heard little Totty crying at the other end of the
house; the voice would go to your heart, you would think the dear
child was in trouble or in danger, and you couldn't rest without
running to help her and comfort her."
"Ah," said Mrs. Poyser, rising and walking towards the door, "I
know it 'ud be just the same if I was to talk to you for hours.
You'd make me the same answer, at th' end. I might as well talk
to the running brook and tell it to stan' still."
The causeway outside the kitchen door was dry enough now for Mrs.
Poyser to stand there quite pleasantly and see what was going on
in the yard, the grey worsted stocking making a steady progress in
her hands all the while. But she had not been standing there more
than five minutes before she came in again, and said to Dinah, in
rather a flurried, awe-stricken tone, "If there isn't Captain
Donnithorne and Mr. Irwine a-coming into the yard! I'll lay my
life they're come to speak about your preaching on the Green,
Dinah; it's you must answer 'em, for I'm dumb. I've said enough
a'ready about your bringing such disgrace upo' your uncle's
family. I wouldn't ha' minded if you'd been Mr. Poyser's own
niece--folks must put up wi' their own kin, as they put up wi'
their own noses--it's their own flesh and blood. But to think of
a niece o' mine being cause o' my husband's being turned out of
his farm, and me brought him no fortin but my savin's----"
"Nay, dear Aunt Rachel," said Dinah gently, "you've no cause for
such fears. I've strong assurance that no evil will happen to you
and my uncle and the children from anything I've done. I didn't
preach without direction."
"Direction! I know very well what you mean by direction," said
Mrs. Poyser, knitting in a rapid and agitated manner. "When
there's a bigger maggot than usial in your head you call it
'direction'; and then nothing can stir you--you look like the
statty o' the outside o' Treddles'on church, a-starin' and a-
smilin' whether it's fair weather or foul. I hanna common
patience with you."
By this time the two gentlemen had reached the palings and had got
down from their horses: it was plain they meant to come in. Mrs.
Poyser advanced to the door to meet them, curtsying low and
trembling between anger with Dinah and anxiety to conduct herself
with perfect propriety on the occasion. For in those days the
keenest of bucolic minds felt a whispering awe at the sight of the
gentry, such as of old men felt when they stood on tiptoe to watch
the gods passing by in tall human shape.
"Well, Mrs. Poyser, how are you after this stormy morning?" said
Mr. Irwine, with his stately cordiality. "Our feet are quite dry;
we shall not soil your beautiful floor."
"Oh, sir, don't mention it," said Mrs. Poyser. "Will you and the
captain please to walk into the parlour?"
"No, indeed, thank you, Mrs. Poyser," said the captain, looking
eagerly round the kitchen, as if his eye were seeking something it
could not find. "I delight in your kitchen. I think it is the
most charming room I know. I should like every farmer's wife to
come and look at it for a pattern."
"Oh, you're pleased to say so, sir. Pray take a seat," said Mrs.
Poyser, relieved a little by this compliment and the captain's
evident good-humour, but still glancing anxiously at Mr. Irwine,
who, she saw, was looking at Dinah and advancing towards her.
"Poyser is not at home, is he?" said Captain Donnithorne, seating
himself where he could see along the short passage to the open
"No, sir, he isn't; he's gone to Rosseter to see Mr. West, the
factor, about the wool. But there's Father i' the barn, sir, if
he'd be of any use."
"No, thank you; I'll just look at the whelps and leave a message
about them with your shepherd. I must come another day and see
your husband; I want to have a consultation with him about horses.
Do you know when he's likely to be at liberty?"
"Why, sir, you can hardly miss him, except it's o' Treddles'on
market-day--that's of a Friday, you know. For if he's anywhere on
the farm we can send for him in a minute. If we'd got rid o' the
Scantlands, we should have no outlying fields; and I should be
glad of it, for if ever anything happens, he's sure to be gone to
the Scantlands. Things allays happen so contrairy, if they've a
chance; and it's an unnat'ral thing to have one bit o' your farm
in one county and all the rest in another."
"Ah, the Scantlands would go much better with Choyce's farm,
especially as he wants dairyland and you've got plenty. I think
yours is the prettiest farm on the estate, though; and do you
know, Mrs. Poyser, if I were going to marry and settle, I should
be tempted to turn you out, and do up this fine old house, and
turn farmer myself."
"Oh, sir," said Mrs. Poyser, rather alarmed, "you wouldn't like it
at all. As for farming, it's putting money into your pocket wi'
your right hand and fetching it out wi' your left. As fur as I
can see, it's raising victual for other folks and just getting a
mouthful for yourself and your children as you go along. Not as
you'd be like a poor man as wants to get his bread--you could
afford to lose as much money as you liked i' farming--but it's
poor fun losing money, I should think, though I understan' it's
what the great folks i' London play at more than anything. For my
husband heard at market as Lord Dacey's eldest son had lost
thousands upo' thousands to the Prince o' Wales, and they said my
lady was going to pawn her jewels to pay for him. But you know
more about that than I do, sir. But, as for farming, sir, I canna
think as you'd like it; and this house--the draughts in it are
enough to cut you through, and it's my opinion the floors upstairs
are very rotten, and the rats i' the cellar are beyond anything."
"Why, that's a terrible picture, Mrs. Poyser. I think I should be
doing you a service to turn you out of such a place. But there's
no chance of that. I'm not likely to settle for the next twenty
years, till I'm a stout gentleman of forty; and my grandfather
would never consent to part with such good tenants as you."
"Well, sir, if he thinks so well o' Mr. Poyser for a tenant I wish
you could put in a word for him to allow us some new gates for the
Five closes, for my husband's been asking and asking till he's
tired, and to think o' what he's done for the farm, and's never
had a penny allowed him, be the times bad or good. And as I've
said to my husband often and often, I'm sure if the captain had
anything to do with it, it wouldn't be so. Not as I wish to speak
disrespectful o' them as have got the power i' their hands, but
it's more than flesh and blood 'ull bear sometimes, to be toiling
and striving, and up early and down late, and hardly sleeping a
wink when you lie down for thinking as the cheese may swell, or
the cows may slip their calf, or the wheat may grow green again i'
the sheaf--and after all, at th' end o' the year, it's like as if
you'd been cooking a feast and had got the smell of it for your
Mrs. Poyser, once launched into conversation, always sailed along
without any check from her preliminary awe of the gentry. The
confidence she felt in her own powers of exposition was a motive
force that overcame all resistance.
"I'm afraid I should only do harm instead of good, if I were to
speak about the gates, Mrs. Poyser," said the captain, "though I
assure you there's no man on the estate I would sooner say a word
for than your husband. I know his farm is in better order than
any other within ten miles of us; and as for the kitchen," he
added, smiling, "I don't believe there's one in the kingdom to
beat it. By the by, I've never seen your dairy: I must see your
dairy, Mrs. Poyser."
"Indeed, sir, it's not fit for you to go in, for Hetty's in the
middle o' making the butter, for the churning was thrown late, and
I'm quite ashamed." This Mrs. Poyser said blushing, and believing
that the captain was really interested in her milk-pans, and would
adjust his opinion of her to the appearance of her dairy.
"Oh, I've no doubt it's in capital order. Take me in," said the
captain, himself leading the way, while Mrs. Poyser followed.
THE dairy was certainly worth looking at: it was a scene to sicken
for with a sort of calenture in hot and dusty streets--such
coolness, such purity, such fresh fragrance of new-pressed cheese,
of firm butter, of wooden vessels perpetually bathed in pure
water; such soft colouring of red earthenware and creamy surfaces,
brown wood and polished tin, grey limestone and rich orange-red
rust on the iron weights and hooks and hinges. But one gets only
a confused notion of these details when they surround a
distractingly pretty girl of seventeen, standing on little pattens
and rounding her dimpled arm to lift a pound of butter out of the
Hetty blushed a deep rose-colour when Captain Donnithorne entered
the dairy and spoke to her; but it was not at all a distressed
blush, for it was inwreathed with smiles and dimples, and with
sparkles from under long, curled, dark eyelashes; and while her
aunt was discoursing to him about the limited amount of milk that
was to be spared for butter and cheese so long as the calves were
not all weaned, and a large quantity but inferior quality of milk
yielded by the shorthorn, which had been bought on experiment,
together with other matters which must be interesting to a young
gentleman who would one day be a landlord, Hetty tossed and patted
her pound of butter with quite a self-possessed, coquettish air,
slyly conscious that no turn of her head was lost.
There are various orders of beauty, causing men to make fools of
themselves in various styles, from the desperate to the sheepish;
but there is one order of beauty which seems made to turn the
heads not only of men, but of all intelligent mammals, even of
women. It is a beauty like that of kittens, or very small downy
ducks making gentle rippling noises with their soft bills, or
babies just beginning to toddle and to engage in conscious
mischief--a beauty with which you can never be angry, but that you
feel ready to crush for inability to comprehend the state of mind
into which it throws you. Hetty Sorrel's was that sort of beauty.
Her aunt, Mrs. Poyser, who professed to despise all personal
attractions and intended to be the severest of mentors,
continually gazed at Hetty's charms by the sly, fascinated in
spite of herself; and after administering such a scolding as
naturally flowed from her anxiety to do well by her husband's
niece--who had no mother of her own to scold her, poor thing!--she
would often confess to her husband, when they were safe out of
hearing, that she firmly believed, "the naughtier the little huzzy
behaved, the prettier she looked."
It is of little use for me to tell you that Hetty's cheek was like
a rose-petal, that dimples played about her pouting lips, that her
large dark eyes hid a soft roguishness under their long lashes,
and that her curly hair, though all pushed back under her round
cap while she was at work, stole back in dark delicate rings on
her forehead, and about her white shell-like ears; it is of little
use for me to say how lovely was the contour of her pink-and-white
neckerchief, tucked into her low plum-coloured stuff boddice, or
how the linen butter-making apron, with its bib, seemed a thing to
be imitated in silk by duchesses, since it fell in such charming
lines, or how her brown stockings and thick-soled buckled shoes
lost all that clumsiness which they must certainly have had when
empty of her foot and ankle--of little use, unless you have seen a
woman who affected you as Hetty affected her beholders, for
otherwise, though you might conjure up the image of a lovely
woman, she would not in the least resemble that distracting
kittenlike maiden. I might mention all the divine charms of a
bright spring day, but if you had never in your life utterly
forgotten yourself in straining your eyes after the mounting lark,
or in wandering through the still lanes when the fresh-opened
blossoms fill them with a sacred silent beauty like that of
fretted aisles, where would be the use of my descriptive
catalogue? I could never make you know what I meant by a bright
spring day. Hetty's was a spring-tide beauty; it was the beauty
of young frisking things, round-limbed, gambolling, circumventing
you by a false air of innocence--the innocence of a young star-
browed calf, for example, that, being inclined for a promenade out
of bounds, leads you a severe steeplechase over hedge and ditch,
and only comes to a stand in the middle of a bog.
And they are the prettiest attitudes and movements into which a
pretty girl is thrown in making up butter--tossing movements that
give a charming curve to the arm, and a sideward inclination of
the round white neck; little patting and rolling movements with
the palm of the hand, and nice adaptations and finishings which
cannot at all be effected without a great play of the pouting
mouth and the dark eyes. And then the butter itself seems to
communicate a fresh charm--it is so pure, so sweet-scented; it is
turned off the mould with such a beautiful firm surface, like
marble in a pale yellow light! Moreover, Hetty was particularly
clever at making up the butter; it was the one performance of hers
that her aunt allowed to pass without severe criticism; so she
handled it with all the grace that belongs to mastery.
"I hope you will be ready for a great holiday on the thirtieth of
July, Mrs. Poyser," said Captain Donnithorne, when he had
sufficiently admired the dairy and given several improvised
opinions on Swede turnips and shorthorns. "You know what is to
happen then, and I shall expect you to be one of the guests who
come earliest and leave latest. Will you promise me your hand for
two dances, Miss Hetty? If I don't get your promise now, I know I
shall hardly have a chance, for all the smart young farmers will
take care to secure you."
Hetty smiled and blushed, but before she could answer, Mrs. Poyser
interposed, scandalized at the mere suggestion that the young
squire could be excluded by any meaner partners.
"Indeed, sir, you are very kind to take that notice of her. And
I'm sure, whenever you're pleased to dance with her, she'll be
proud and thankful, if she stood still all the rest o' th'
"Oh no, no, that would be too cruel to all the other young fellows
who can dance. But you will promise me two dances, won't you?"
the captain continued, determined to make Hetty look at him and
speak to him.
Hetty dropped the prettiest little curtsy, and stole a half-shy,
half-coquettish glance at him as she said, "Yes, thank you, sir."
"And you must bring all your children, you know, Mrs. Poyser; your
little Totty, as well as the boys. I want all the youngest
children on the estate to be there--all those who will be fine
young men and women when I'm a bald old fellow."
"Oh dear, sir, that 'ull be a long time first," said Mrs. Poyser,
quite overcome at the young squire's speaking so lightly of
himself, and thinking how her husband would be interested in
hearing her recount this remarkable specimen of high-born humour.
The captain was thought to be "very full of his jokes," and was a
great favourite throughout the estate on account of his free
manners. Every tenant was quite sure things would be different
when the reins got into his hands--there was to be a millennial
abundance of new gates, allowances of lime, and returns of ten per
"But where is Totty to-day?" he said. "I want to see her."
"Where IS the little un, Hetty?" said Mrs. Poyser. "She came in
here not long ago."
"I don't know. She went into the brewhouse to Nancy, I think."
The proud mother, unable to resist the temptation to show her
Totty, passed at once into the back kitchen, in search of her,
not, however, without misgivings lest something should have
happened to render her person and attire unfit for presentation.
"And do you carry the butter to market when you've made it?" said
the Captain to Hetty, meanwhile.
"Oh no, sir; not when it's so heavy. I'm not strong enough to
carry it. Alick takes it on horseback."
"No, I'm sure your pretty arms were never meant for such heavy
weights. But you go out a walk sometimes these pleasant evenings,
don't you? Why don't you have a walk in the Chase sometimes, now
it's so green and pleasant? I hardly ever see you anywhere except
at home and at church."
"Aunt doesn't like me to go a-walking only when I'm going
somewhere," said Hetty. "But I go through the Chase sometimes."
"And don't you ever go to see Mrs. Best, the housekeeper? I think
I saw you once in the housekeeper's room."
"It isn't Mrs. Best, it's Mrs. Pomfret, the lady's maid, as I go
to see. She's teaching me tent-stitch and the lace-mending. I'm
going to tea with her to-morrow afternoon."
The reason why there had been space for this tete-a-tete can only
be known by looking into the back kitchen, where Totty had been
discovered rubbing a stray blue-bag against her nose, and in the
same moment allowing some liberal indigo drops to fall on her
afternoon pinafore. But now she appeared holding her mother's
hand--the end of her round nose rather shiny from a recent and
hurried application of soap and water.
"Here she is!" said the captain, lifting her up and setting her on
the low stone shelf. "Here's Totty! By the by, what's her other
name? She wasn't christened Totty."
"Oh, sir, we call her sadly out of her name. Charlotte's her
christened name. It's a name i' Mr. Poyser's family: his
grandmother was named Charlotte. But we began with calling her
Lotty, and now it's got to Totty. To be sure it's more like a
name for a dog than a Christian child."
"Totty's a capital name. Why, she looks like a Totty. Has she
got a pocket on?" said the captain, feeling in his own waistcoat
Totty immediately with great gravity lifted up her frock, and
showed a tiny pink pocket at present in a state of collapse.
"It dot notin' in it," she said, as she looked down at it very
"No! What a pity! Such a pretty pocket. Well, I think I've got
some things in mine that will make a pretty jingle in it. Yes! I
declare I've got five little round silver things, and hear what a
pretty noise they make in Totty's pink pocket." Here he shook the
pocket with the five sixpences in it, and Totty showed her teeth
and wrinkled her nose in great glee; but, divining that there was
nothing more to be got by staying, she jumped off the shelf and
ran away to jingle her pocket in the hearing of Nancy, while her
mother called after her, "Oh for shame, you naughty gell! Not to
thank the captain for what he's given you I'm sure, sir, it's very
kind of you; but she's spoiled shameful; her father won't have her
said nay in anything, and there's no managing her. It's being the
youngest, and th' only gell."
"Oh, she's a funny little fatty; I wouldn't have her different.
But I must be going now, for I suppose the rector is waiting for
With a "good-bye," a bright glance, and a bow to Hetty Arthur left
the dairy. But he was mistaken in imagining himself waited for.
The rector had been so much interested in his conversation with
Dinah that he would not have chosen to close it earlier; and you
shall hear now what they had been saying to each other.
DINAH, who had risen when the gentlemen came in, but still kept
hold of the sheet she was mending, curtsied respectfully when she
saw Mr. Irwine looking at her and advancing towards her. He had
never yet spoken to her, or stood face to face with her, and her
first thought, as her eyes met his, was, "What a well-favoured
countenance! Oh that the good seed might fall on that soil, for
it would surely flourish." The agreeable impression must have
been mutual, for Mr. Irwine bowed to her with a benignant
deference, which would have been equally in place if she had been
the most dignified lady of his acquaintance.
"You are only a visitor in this neighbourhood, I think?" were his
first words, as he seated himself opposite to her.
"No, sir, I come from Snowfield, in Stonyshire. But my aunt was
very kind, wanting me to have rest from my work there, because I'd
been ill, and she invited me to come and stay with her for a
"Ah, I remember Snowfield very well; I once had occasion to go
there. It's a dreary bleak place. They were building a cotton-
mill there; but that's many years ago now. I suppose the place is
a good deal changed by the employment that mill must have
"It IS changed so far as the mill has brought people there, who
get a livelihood for themselves by working in it, and make it
better for the tradesfolks. I work in it myself, and have reason
to be grateful, for thereby I have enough and to spare. But it's
still a bleak place, as you say, sir--very different from this
"You have relations living there, probably, so that you are
attached to the place as your home?"
"I had an aunt there once; she brought me up, for I was an orphan.
But she was taken away seven years ago, and I have no other
kindred that I know of, besides my Aunt Poyser, who is very good
to me, and would have me come and live in this country, which to
be sure is a good land, wherein they eat bread without scarceness.
But I'm not free to leave Snowfield, where I was first planted,
and have grown deep into it, like the small grass on the hill-
"Ah, I daresay you have many religious friends and companions
there; you are a Methodist--a Wesleyan, I think?"
"Yes, my aunt at Snowfield belonged to the Society, and I have
cause to be thankful for the privileges I have had thereby from my
"And have you been long in the habit of preaching? For I
understand you preached at Hayslope last night."
"I first took to the work four years since, when I was twenty-
"Your Society sanctions women's preaching, then?"
"It doesn't forbid them, sir, when they've a clear call to the
work, and when their ministry is owned by the conversion of
sinners and the strengthening of God's people. Mrs. Fletcher, as
you may have heard about, was the first woman to preach in the
Society, I believe, before she was married, when she was Miss
Bosanquet; and Mr. Wesley approved of her undertaking the work.
She had a great gift, and there are many others now living who are
precious fellow-helpers in the work of the ministry. I understand
there's been voices raised against it in the Society of late, but
I cannot but think their counsel will come to nought. It isn't
for men to make channels for God's Spirit, as they make channels
for the watercourses, and say, 'Flow here, but flow not there.'"
"But don't you find some danger among your people--I don't mean to
say that it is so with you, far from it--but don't you find
sometimes that both men and women fancy themselves channels for
God's Spirit, and are quite mistaken, so that they set about a
work for which they are unfit and bring holy things into
"Doubtless it is so sometimes; for there have been evil-doers
among us who have sought to deceive the brethren, and some there
are who deceive their own selves. But we are not without
discipline and correction to put a check upon these things.
There's a very strict order kept among us, and the brethren and
sisters watch for each other's souls as they that must give
account. They don't go every one his own way and say, 'Am I my
"But tell me--if I may ask, and I am really interested in knowing
it--how you first came to think of preaching?"
"Indeed, sir, I didn't think of it at all--I'd been used from the
time I was sixteen to talk to the little children, and teach them,
and sometimes I had had my heart enlarged to speak in class, and
was much drawn out in prayer with the sick. But I had felt no
call to preach, for when I'm not greatly wrought upon, I'm too
much given to sit still and keep by myself. It seems as if I
could sit silent all day long with the thought of God overflowing
my soul--as the pebbles lie bathed in the Willow Brook. For
thoughts are so great--aren't they, sir? They seem to lie upon us
like a deep flood; and it's my besetment to forget where I am and
everything about me, and lose myself in thoughts that I could give
no account of, for I could neither make a beginning nor ending of
them in words. That was my way as long as I can remember; but
sometimes it seemed as if speech came to me without any will of my
own, and words were given to me that came out as the tears come,
because our hearts are full and we can't help it. And those were
always times of great blessing, though I had never thought it
could be so with me before a congregation of people. But, sir, we
are led on, like the little children, by a way that we know not.
I was called to preach quite suddenly, and since then I have never
been left in doubt about the work that was laid upon me."
"But tell me the circumstances--just how it was, the very day you
began to preach."
"It was one Sunday I walked with brother Marlowe, who was an aged
man, one of the local preachers, all the way to Hetton-Deeps--
that's a village where the people get their living by working in
the lead-mines, and where there's no church nor preacher, but they
live like sheep without a shepherd. It's better than twelve miles
from Snowfield, so we set out early in the morning, for it was
summertime; and I had a wonderful sense of the Divine love as we
walked over the hills, where there's no trees, you know, sir, as
there is here, to make the sky look smaller, but you see the
heavens stretched out like a tent, and you feel the everlasting
arms around you. But before we got to Hetton, brother Marlowe was
seized with a dizziness that made him afraid of falling, for he
overworked himself sadly, at his years, in watching and praying,
and walking so many miles to speak the Word, as well as carrying
on his trade of linen-weaving. And when we got to the village,
the people were expecting him, for he'd appointed the time and the
place when he was there before, and such of them as cared to hear
the Word of Life were assembled on a spot where the cottages was
thickest, so as others might be drawn to come. But he felt as he
couldn't stand up to preach, and he was forced to lie down in the
first of the cottages we came to. So I went to tell the people,
thinking we'd go into one of the houses, and I would read and pray
with them. But as I passed along by the cottages and saw the aged
and trembling women at the doors, and the hard looks of the men,
who seemed to have their eyes no more filled with the sight of the
Sabbath morning than if they had been dumb oxen that never looked
up to the sky, I felt a great movement in my soul, and I trembled
as if I was shaken by a strong spirit entering into my weak body.
And I went to where the little flock of people was gathered
together, and stepped on the low wall that was built against the
green hillside, and I spoke the words that were given to me
abundantly. And they all came round me out of all the cottages,
and many wept over their sins, and have since been joined to the
Lord. That was the beginning of my preaching, sir, and I've
preached ever since."
Dinah had let her work fall during this narrative, which she
uttered in her usual simple way, but with that sincere articulate,
thrilling treble by which she always mastered her audience. She
stooped now to gather up her sewing, and then went on with it as
before. Mr. Irwine was deeply interested. He said to himself,
"He must be a miserable prig who would act the pedagogue here: one
might as well go and lecture the trees for growing in their own
"And you never feel any embarrassment from the sense of your
youth--that you are a lovely young woman on whom men's eyes are
fixed?" he said aloud.
"No, I've no room for such feelings, and I don't believe the
people ever take notice about that. I think, sir, when God makes
His presence felt through us, we are like the burning bush: Moses
never took any heed what sort of bush it was--he only saw the
brightness of the Lord. I've preached to as rough ignorant people
as can be in the villages about Snowfield--men that looked very
hard and wild--but they never said an uncivil word to me, and
often thanked me kindly as they made way for me to pass through
the midst of them."
"THAT I can believe--that I can well believe," said Mr. Irwine,
emphatically. "And what did you think of your hearers last night,
now? Did you find them quiet and attentive?"
"Very quiet, sir, but I saw no signs of any great work upon them,
except in a young girl named Bessy Cranage, towards whom my heart
yearned greatly, when my eyes first fell on her blooming youth,
given up to folly and vanity. I had some private talk and prayer
with her afterwards, and I trust her heart is touched. But I've
noticed that in these villages where the people lead a quiet life
among the green pastures and the still waters, tilling the ground
and tending the cattle, there's a strange deadness to the Word, as
different as can be from the great towns, like Leeds, where I once
went to visit a holy woman who preaches there. It's wonderful how
rich is the harvest of souls up those high-walled streets, where
you seemed to walk as in a prison-yard, and the ear is deafened
with the sounds of worldly toil. I think maybe it is because the
promise is sweeter when this life is so dark and weary, and the
soul gets more hungry when the body is ill at ease."
"Why, yes, our farm-labourers are not easily roused. They take
life almost as slowly as the sheep and cows. But we have some
intelligent workmen about here. I daresay you know the Bedes;
Seth Bede, by the by, is a Methodist."
"Yes, I know Seth well, and his brother Adam a little. Seth is a
gracious young man--sincere and without offence; and Adam is like
the patriarch Joseph, for his great skill and knowledge and the
kindness he shows to his brother and his parents."
"Perhaps you don't know the trouble that has just happened to
them? Their father, Matthias Bede, was drowned in the Willow
Brook last night, not far from his own door. I'm going now to see
"Ah, their poor aged mother!" said Dinah, dropping her hands and
looking before her with pitying eyes, as if she saw the object of
her sympathy. "She will mourn heavily, for Seth has told me she's
of an anxious, troubled heart. I must go and see if I can give
her any help."
As she rose and was beginning to fold up her work, Captain
Donnithorne, having exhausted all plausible pretexts for remaining
among the milk-pans, came out of the dairy, followed by Mrs.
Poyser. Mr. Irwine now rose also, and, advancing towards Dinah,
held out his hand, and said, "Good-bye. I hear you are going away
soon; but this will not be the last visit you will pay your aunt--
so we shall meet again, I hope."
His cordiality towards Dinah set all Mrs. Poyser's anxieties at
rest, and her face was brighter than usual, as she said, "I've
never asked after Mrs. Irwine and the Miss Irwines, sir; I hope
they're as well as usual."
"Yes, thank you, Mrs. Poyser, except that Miss Anne has one of her
bad headaches to-day. By the by, we all liked that nice cream-
cheese you sent us--my mother especially."
"I'm very glad, indeed, sir. It is but seldom I make one, but I
remembered Mrs. Irwine was fond of 'em. Please to give my duty to
her, and to Miss Kate and Miss Anne. They've never been to look
at my poultry this long while, and I've got some beautiful
speckled chickens, black and white, as Miss Kate might like to
have some of amongst hers."
"Well, I'll tell her; she must come and see them. Good-bye," said
the rector, mounting his horse.
"Just ride slowly on, Irwine," said Captain Donnithorne, mounting
also. "I'll overtake you in three minutes. I'm only going to
speak to the shepherd about the whelps. Good-bye, Mrs. Poyser;
tell your husband I shall come and have a long talk with him
Mrs. Poyser curtsied duly, and watched the two horses until they
had disappeared from the yard, amidst great excitement on the part
of the pigs and the poultry, and under the furious indignation of
the bull-dog, who performed a Pyrrhic dance, that every moment
seemed to threaten the breaking of his chain. Mrs. Poyser
delighted in this noisy exit; it was a fresh assurance to her that
the farm-yard was well guarded, and that no loiterers could enter
unobserved; and it was not until the gate had closed behind the
captain that she turned into the kitchen again, where Dinah stood
with her bonnet in her hand, waiting to speak to her aunt, before
she set out for Lisbeth Bede's cottage.
Mrs. Poyser, however, though she noticed the bonnet, deferred
remarking on it until she had disburdened herself of her surprise
at Mr. Irwine's behaviour.
"Why, Mr. Irwine wasn't angry, then? What did he say to you,
Dinah? Didn't he scold you for preaching?"
"No, he was not at all angry; he was very friendly to me. I was
quite drawn out to speak to him; I hardly know how, for I had
always thought of him as a worldly Sadducee. But his countenance
is as pleasant as the morning sunshine."
"Pleasant! And what else did y' expect to find him but pleasant?"
said Mrs. Poyser impatiently, resuming her knitting. "I should
think his countenance is pleasant indeed! And him a gentleman
born, and's got a mother like a picter. You may go the country
round and not find such another woman turned sixty-six. It's
summat-like to see such a man as that i' the desk of a Sunday! As
I say to Poyser, it's like looking at a full crop o' wheat, or a
pasture with a fine dairy o' cows in it; it makes you think the
world's comfortable-like. But as for such creaturs as you
Methodisses run after, I'd as soon go to look at a lot o' bare-
ribbed runts on a common. Fine folks they are to tell you what's
right, as look as if they'd never tasted nothing better than
bacon-sword and sour-cake i' their lives. But what did Mr. Irwine
say to you about that fool's trick o' preaching on the Green?"
"He only said he'd heard of it; he didn't seem to feel any
displeasure about it. But, dear aunt, don't think any more about
that. He told me something that I'm sure will cause you sorrow,
as it does me. Thias Bede was drowned last night in the Willow
Brook, and I'm thinking that the aged mother will be greatly in
need of comfort. Perhaps I can be of use to her, so I have
fetched my bonnet and am going to set out."
"Dear heart, dear heart! But you must have a cup o' tea first,
child," said Mrs. Poyser, falling at once from the key of B with
five sharps to the frank and genial C. "The kettle's boiling--
we'll have it ready in a minute; and the young uns 'ull be in and
wanting theirs directly. I'm quite willing you should go and see
th' old woman, for you're one as is allays welcome in trouble,
Methodist or no Methodist; but, for the matter o' that, it's the
flesh and blood folks are made on as makes the difference. Some
cheeses are made o' skimmed milk and some o' new milk, and it's no
matter what you call 'em, you may tell which is which by the look
and the smell. But as to Thias Bede, he's better out o' the way
nor in--God forgi' me for saying so--for he's done little this ten
year but make trouble for them as belonged to him; and I think it
'ud be well for you to take a little bottle o' rum for th' old
woman, for I daresay she's got never a drop o' nothing to comfort
her inside. Sit down, child, and be easy, for you shan't stir out
till you've had a cup o' tea, and so I tell you."
During the latter part of this speech, Mrs. Poyser had been
reaching down the tea-things from the shelves, and was on her way
towards the pantry for the loaf (followed close by Totty, who had
made her appearance on the rattling of the tea-cups), when Hetty
came out of the dairy relieving her tired arms by lifting them up,
and clasping her hands at the back of her head.
"Molly," she said, rather languidly, "just run out and get me a
bunch of dock-leaves: the butter's ready to pack up now."
"D' you hear what's happened, Hetty?" said her aunt.
"No; how should I hear anything?" was the answer, in a pettish
"Not as you'd care much, I daresay, if you did hear; for you're
too feather-headed to mind if everybody was dead, so as you could
stay upstairs a-dressing yourself for two hours by the clock. But
anybody besides yourself 'ud mind about such things happening to
them as think a deal more of you than you deserve. But Adam Bede
and all his kin might be drownded for what you'd care--you'd be
perking at the glass the next minute."
"Adam Bede--drowned?" said Hetty, letting her arms fall and
looking rather bewildered, but suspecting that her aunt was as
usual exaggerating with a didactic purpose.
"No, my dear, no," said Dinah kindly, for Mrs. Poyser had passed
on to the pantry without deigning more precise information. "Not
Adam. Adam's father, the old man, is drowned. He was drowned
last night in the Willow Brook. Mr. Irwine has just told me about
"Oh, how dreadful!" said Hetty, looking serious, but not deeply
affected; and as Molly now entered with the dock-leaves, she took
them silently and returned to the dairy without asking further
WHILE she adjusted the broad leaves that set off the pale fragrant
butter as the primrose is set off by its nest of green I am afraid
Hetty was thinking a great deal more of the looks Captain
Donnithorne had cast at her than of Adam and his troubles.
Bright, admiring glances from a handsome young gentleman with
white hands, a gold chain, occasional regimentals, and wealth and
grandeur immeasurable--those were the warm rays that set poor
Hetty's heart vibrating and playing its little foolish tunes over
and over again. We do not hear that Memnon's statue gave forth
its melody at all under the rushing of the mightiest wind, or in
response to any other influence divine or human than certain
short-lived sunbeams of morning; and we must learn to accommodate
ourselves to the discovery that some of those cunningly fashioned
instruments called human souls have only a very limited range of
music, and will not vibrate in the least under a touch that fills
others with tremulous rapture or quivering agony.
Hetty was quite used to the thought that people liked to look at
her. She was not blind to the fact that young Luke Britton of
Broxton came to Hayslope Church on a Sunday afternoon on purpose
that he might see her; and that he would have made much more
decided advances if her uncle Poyser, thinking but lightly of a
young man whose father's land was so foul as old Luke Britton's,
had not forbidden her aunt to encourage him by any civilities.
She was aware, too, that Mr. Craig, the gardener at the Chase, was
over head and ears in love with her, and had lately made
unmistakable avowals in luscious strawberries and hyperbolical
peas. She knew still better, that Adam Bede--tall, upright,
clever, brave Adam Bede--who carried such authority with all the
people round about, and whom her uncle was always delighted to see
of an evening, saying that "Adam knew a fine sight more o' the
natur o' things than those as thought themselves his betters"--she
knew that this Adam, who was often rather stern to other people
and not much given to run after the lasses, could be made to turn
pale or red any day by a word or a look from her. Hetty's sphere
of comparison was not large, but she couldn't help perceiving that
Adam was "something like" a man; always knew what to say about
things, could tell her uncle how to prop the hovel, and had mended
the churn in no time; knew, with only looking at it, the value of
the chestnut-tree that was blown down, and why the damp came in
the walls, and what they must do to stop the rats; and wrote a
beautiful hand that you could read off, and could do figures in
his head--a degree of accomplishment totally unknown among the
richest farmers of that countryside. Not at all like that
slouching Luke Britton, who, when she once walked with him all the
way from Broxton to Hayslope, had only broken silence to remark
that the grey goose had begun to lay. And as for Mr. Craig, the
gardener, he was a sensible man enough, to be sure, but he was
knock-kneed, and had a queer sort of sing-song in his talk;
moreover, on the most charitable supposition, he must be far on
the way to forty.
Hetty was quite certain her uncle wanted her to encourage Adam,
and would be pleased for her to marry him. For those were times
when there was no rigid demarcation of rank between the farmer and
the respectable artisan, and on the home hearth, as well as in the
public house, they might be seen taking their jug of ale together;
the farmer having a latent sense of capital, and of weight in
parish affairs, which sustained him under his conspicuous
inferiority in conversation. Martin Poyser was not a frequenter
of public houses, but he liked a friendly chat over his own home-
brewed; and though it was pleasant to lay down the law to a stupid
neighbour who had no notion how to make the best of his farm, it
was also an agreeable variety to learn something from a clever
fellow like Adam Bede. Accordingly, for the last three years--
ever since he had superintended the building of the new barn--Adam
had always been made welcome at the Hall Farm, especially of a
winter evening, when the whole family, in patriarchal fashion,
master and mistress, children and servants, were assembled in that
glorious kitchen, at well-graduated distances from the blazing
fire. And for the last two years, at least, Hetty had been in the
habit of hearing her uncle say, "Adam Bede may be working for wage
now, but he'll be a master-man some day, as sure as I sit in this
chair. Mester Burge is in the right on't to want him to go
partners and marry his daughter, if it's true what they say; the
woman as marries him 'ull have a good take, be't Lady day or
Michaelmas," a remark which Mrs. Poyser always followed up with
her cordial assent. "Ah," she would say, "it's all very fine
having a ready-made rich man, but mayhappen he'll be a ready-made
fool; and it's no use filling your pocket full o' money if you've
got a hole in the corner. It'll do you no good to sit in a
spring-cart o' your own, if you've got a soft to drive you: he'll
soon turn you over into the ditch. I allays said I'd never marry
a man as had got no brains; for where's the use of a woman having
brains of her own if she's tackled to a geck as everybody's a-
laughing at? She might as well dress herself fine to sit
back'ards on a donkey."
These expressions, though figurative, sufficiently indicated the
bent of Mrs. Poyser's mind with regard to Adam; and though she and
her husband might have viewed the subject differently if Hetty had
been a daughter of their own, it was clear that they would have
welcomed the match with Adam for a penniless niece. For what
could Hetty have been but a servant elsewhere, if her uncle had
not taken her in and brought her up as a domestic help to her
aunt, whose health since the birth of Totty had not been equal to
more positive labour than the superintendence of servants and
children? But Hetty had never given Adam any steady
encouragement. Even in the moments when she was most thoroughly
conscious of his superiority to her other admirers, she had never
brought herself to think of accepting him. She liked to feel that
this strong, skilful, keen-eyed man was in her power, and would
have been indignant if he had shown the least sign of slipping
from under the yoke of her coquettish tyranny and attaching
himself to the gentle Mary Burge, who would have been grateful
enough for the most trifling notice from him. "Mary Burge,
indeed! Such a sallow-faced girl: if she put on a bit of pink
ribbon, she looked as yellow as a crow-flower and her hair was as
straight as a hank of cotton." And always when Adam stayed away
for several weeks from the Hall Farm, and otherwise made some show
of resistance to his passion as a foolish one, Hetty took care to
entice him back into the net by little airs of meekness and
timidity, as if she were in trouble at his neglect. But as to
marrying Adam, that was a very different affair! There was
nothing in the world to tempt her to do that. Her cheeks never
grew a shade deeper when his name was mentioned; she felt no
thrill when she saw him passing along the causeway by the window,
or advancing towards her unexpectedly in the footpath across the
meadow; she felt nothing, when his eyes rested on her, but the
cold triumph of knowing that he loved her and would not care to
look at Mary Burge. He could no more stir in her the emotions
that make the sweet intoxication of young love than the mere
picture of a sun can stir the spring sap in the subtle fibres of
the plant. She saw him as he was--a poor man with old parents to
keep, who would not be able, for a long while to come, to give her
even such luxuries as she shared in her uncle's house. And
Hetty's dreams were all of luxuries: to sit in a carpeted parlour,
and always wear white stockings; to have some large beautiful ear-
rings, such as were all the fashion; to have Nottingham lace round
the top of her gown, and something to make her handkerchief smell
nice, like Miss Lydia Donnithorne's when she drew it out at
church; and not to be obliged to get up early or be scolded by
anybody. She thought, if Adam had been rich and could have given
her these things, she loved him well enough to marry him.
But for the last few weeks a new influence had come over Hetty--
vague, atmospheric, shaping itself into no self-confessed hopes or
prospects, but producing a pleasant narcotic effect, making her
tread the ground and go about her work in a sort of dream,
unconscious of weight or effort, and showing her all things
through a soft, liquid veil, as if she were living not in this
solid world of brick and stone, but in a beatified world, such as
the sun lights up for us in the waters. Hetty had become aware
that Mr. Arthur Donnithorne would take a good deal of trouble for
the chance of seeing her; that he always placed himself at church
so as to have the fullest view of her both sitting and standing;
that he was constantly finding reason for calling at the Hall
Farm, and always would contrive to say something for the sake of
making her speak to him and look at him. The poor child no more
conceived at present the idea that the young squire could ever be
her lover than a baker's pretty daughter in the crowd, whom a
young emperor distinguishes by an imperial but admiring smile,
conceives that she shall be made empress. But the baker's
daughter goes home and dreams of the handsome young emperor, and
perhaps weighs the flour amiss while she is thinking what a