Part 3 out of 11
heavenly lot it must be to have him for a husband. And so, poor
Hetty had got a face and a presence haunting her waking and
sleeping dreams; bright, soft glances had penetrated her, and
suffused her life with a strange, happy languor. The eyes that
shed those glances were really not half so fine as Adam's, which
sometimes looked at her with a sad, beseeching tenderness, but
they had found a ready medium in Hetty's little silly imagination,
whereas Adam's could get no entrance through that atmosphere. For
three weeks, at least, her inward life had consisted of little
else than living through in memory the looks and words Arthur had
directed towards her--of little else than recalling the sensations
with which she heard his voice outside the house, and saw him
enter, and became conscious that his eyes were fixed on her, and
then became conscious that a tall figure, looking down on her with
eyes that seemed to touch her, was coming nearer in clothes of
beautiful texture with an odour like that of a flower-garden borne
on the evening breeze. Foolish thoughts! But all this happened,
you must remember, nearly sixty years ago, and Hetty was quite
uneducated--a simple farmer's girl, to whom a gentleman with a
white hand was dazzling as an Olympian god. Until to-day, she had
never looked farther into the future than to the next time Captain
Donnithorne would come to the Farm, or the next Sunday when she
should see him at church; but now she thought, perhaps he would
try to meet her when she went to the Chase to-morrow--and if he
should speak to her, and walk a little way, when nobody was by!
That had never happened yet; and now her imagination, instead of
retracing the past, was busy fashioning what would happen to-
morrow--whereabout in the Chase she should see him coming towards
her, how she should put her new rose-coloured ribbon on, which he
had never seen, and what he would say to her to make her return
his glance--a glance which she would be living through in her
memory, over and over again, all the rest of the day.
In this state of mind, how could Hetty give any feeling to Adam's
troubles, or think much about poor old Thias being drowned? Young
souls, in such pleasant delirium as hers are as unsympathetic as
butterflies sipping nectar; they are isolated from all appeals by
a barrier of dreams--by invisible looks and impalpable arms.
While Hetty's hands were busy packing up the butter, and her head
filled with these pictures of the morrow, Arthur Donnithorne,
riding by Mr. Irwine's side towards the valley of the Willow
Brook, had also certain indistinct anticipations, running as an
undercurrent in his mind while he was listening to Mr. Irwine's
account of Dinah--indistinct, yet strong enough to make him feel
rather conscious when Mr. Irwine suddenly said, "What fascinated
you so in Mrs. Poyser's dairy, Arthur? Have you become an amateur
of damp quarries and skimming dishes?"
Arthur knew the rector too well to suppose that a clever invention
would be of any use, so he said, with his accustomed frankness,
"No, I went to look at the pretty butter-maker Hetty Sorrel.
She's a perfect Hebe; and if I were an artist, I would paint her.
It's amazing what pretty girls one sees among the farmers'
daughters, when the men are such clowns. That common, round, red
face one sees sometimes in the men--all cheek and no features,
like Martin Poyser's--comes out in the women of the famuly as the
most charming phiz imaginable."
"Well, I have no objection to your contemplating Hetty in an
artistic light, but I must not have you feeding her vanity and
filling her little noddle with the notion that she's a great
beauty, attractive to fine gentlemen, or you will spoil her for a
poor man's wife--honest Craig's, for example, whom I have seen
bestowing soft glances on her. The little puss seems already to
have airs enough to make a husband as miserable as it's a law of
nature for a quiet man to be when he marries a beauty. Apropos of
marrying, I hope our friend Adam will get settled, now the poor
old man's gone. He will only have his mother to keep in future,
and I've a notion that there's a kindness between him and that
nice modest girl, Mary Burge, from something that fell from old
Jonathan one day when I was talking to him. But when I mentioned
the subject to Adam he looked uneasy and turned the conversation.
I suppose the love-making doesn't run smooth, or perhaps Adam
hangs back till he's in a better position. He has independence of
spirit enough for two men--rather an excess of pride, if
"That would be a capital match for Adam. He would slip into old
Burge's shoes and make a fine thing of that building business,
I'll answer for him. I should like to see him well settled in
this parish; he would be ready then to act as my grand-vizier when
I wanted one. We could plan no end of repairs and improvements
together. I've never seen the girl, though, I think--at least
I've never looked at her."
"Look at her next Sunday at church--she sits with her father on
the left of the reading-desk. You needn't look quite so much at
Hetty Sorrel then. When I've made up my mind that I can't afford
to buy a tempting dog, I take no notice of him, because if he took
a strong fancy to me and looked lovingly at me, the struggle
between arithmetic and inclination might become unpleasantly
severe. I pique myself on my wisdom there, Arthur, and as an old
fellow to whom wisdom had become cheap, I bestow it upon you."
"Thank you. It may stand me in good stead some day though I don't
know that I have any present use for it. Bless me! How the brook
has overflowed. Suppose we have a canter, now we're at the bottom
of the hill."
That is the great advantage of dialogue on horseback; it can be
merged any minute into a trot or a canter, and one might have
escaped from Socrates himself in the saddle. The two friends were
free from the necessity of further conversation till they pulled
up in the lane behind Adam's cottage.
Dinah Visits Lisbeth
AT five o'clock Lisbeth came downstairs with a large key in her
hand: it was the key of the chamber where her husband lay dead.
Throughout the day, except in her occasional outbursts of wailing
grief, she had been in incessant movement, performing the initial
duties to her dead with the awe and exactitude that belong to
religious rites. She had brought out her little store of bleached
linen, which she had for long years kept in reserve for this
supreme use. It seemed but yesterday--that time so many
midsummers ago, when she had told Thias where this linen lay, that
he might be sure and reach it out for her when SHE died, for she
was the elder of the two. Then there had been the work of
cleansing to the strictest purity every object in the sacred
chamber, and of removing from it every trace of common daily
occupation. The small window, which had hitherto freely let in
the frosty moonlight or the warm summer sunrise on the working
man's slumber, must now be darkened with a fair white sheet, for
this was the sleep which is as sacred under the bare rafters as in
ceiled houses. Lisbeth had even mended a long-neglected and
unnoticeable rent in the checkered bit of bed-curtain; for the
moments were few and precious now in which she would be able to do
the smallest office of respect or love for the still corpse, to
which in all her thoughts she attributed some consciousness. Our
dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them: they can
be injured by us, they can be wounded; they know all our
penitence, all our aching sense that their place is empty, all the
kisses we bestow on the smallest relic of their presence. And the
aged peasant woman most of all believes that her dead are
conscious. Decent burial was what Lisbeth had been thinking of
for herself through years of thrift, with an indistinct
expectation that she should know when she was being carried to the
churchyard, followed by her husband and her sons; and now she felt
as if the greatest work of her life were to be done in seeing that
Thias was buried decently before her--under the white thorn, where
once, in a dream, she had thought she lay in the coffin, yet all
the while saw the sunshine above and smelt the white blossoms that
were so thick upon the thorn the Sunday she went to be churched
after Adam was born.
But now she had done everything that could be done to-day in the
chamber of death--had done it all herself, with some aid from her
sons in lifting, for she would let no one be fetched to help her
from the village, not being fond of female neighbours generally;
and her favourite Dolly, the old housekeeper at Mr. Burge's, who
had come to condole with her in the morning as soon as she heard
of Thias's death, was too dim-sighted to be of much use. She had
locked the door, and now held the key in her hand, as she threw
herself wearily into a chair that stood out of its place in the
middle of the house floor, where in ordinary times she would never
have consented to sit. The kitchen had had none of her attention
that day; it was soiled with the tread of muddy shoes and untidy
with clothes and other objects out of place. But what at another
time would have been intolerable to Lisbeth's habits of order and
cleanliness seemed to her now just what should be: it was right
that things should look strange and disordered and wretched, now
the old man had come to his end in that sad way; the kitchen ought
not to look as if nothing had happened. Adam, overcome with the
agitations and exertions of the day after his night of hard work,
had fallen asleep on a bench in the workshop; and Seth was in the
back kitchen making a fire of sticks that he might get the kettle
to boil, and persuade his mother to have a cup of tea, an
indulgence which she rarely allowed herself.
There was no one in the kitchen when Lisbeth entered and threw
herself into the chair. She looked round with blank eyes at the
dirt and confusion on which the bright afternoon's sun shone
dismally; it was all of a piece with the sad confusion of her
mind--that confusion which belongs to the first hours of a sudden
sorrow, when the poor human soul is like one who has been
deposited sleeping among the ruins of a vast city, and wakes up in
dreary amazement, not knowing whether it is the growing or the
dying day--not knowing why and whence came this illimitable scene
of desolation, or why he too finds himself desolate in the midst
At another time Lisbeth's first thought would have been, "Where is
Adam?" but the sudden death of her husband had restored him in
these hours to that first place in her affections which he had
held six-and-twenty years ago. She had forgotten his faults as we
forget the sorrows of our departed childhood, and thought of
nothing but the young husband's kindness and the old man's
patience. Her eyes continued to wander blankly until Seth came in
and began to remove some of the scattered things, and clear the
small round deal table that he might set out his mother's tea upon
"What art goin' to do?" she said, rather peevishly.
"I want thee to have a cup of tea, Mother," answered Seth,
tenderly. "It'll do thee good; and I'll put two or three of these
things away, and make the house look more comfortable."
"Comfortable! How canst talk o' ma'in' things comfortable? Let
a-be, let a-be. There's no comfort for me no more," she went on,
the tears coming when she began to speak, "now thy poor feyther's
gone, as I'n washed for and mended, an' got's victual for him for
thirty 'ear, an' him allays so pleased wi' iverything I done for
him, an' used to be so handy an' do the jobs for me when I war ill
an' cumbered wi' th' babby, an' made me the posset an' brought it
upstairs as proud as could be, an' carried the lad as war as heavy
as two children for five mile an' ne'er grumbled, all the way to
Warson Wake, 'cause I wanted to go an' see my sister, as war dead
an' gone the very next Christmas as e'er come. An' him to be
drownded in the brook as we passed o'er the day we war married an'
come home together, an' he'd made them lots o' shelves for me to
put my plates an' things on, an' showed 'em me as proud as could
be, 'cause he know'd I should be pleased. An' he war to die an'
me not to know, but to be a-sleepin' i' my bed, as if I caredna
nought about it. Eh! An' me to live to see that! An' us as war
young folks once, an' thought we should do rarely when we war
married. Let a-be, lad, let a-be! I wonna ha' no tay. I carena
if I ne'er ate nor drink no more. When one end o' th' bridge
tumbles down, where's th' use o' th' other stannin'? I may's well
die, an' foller my old man. There's no knowin' but he'll want
Here Lisbeth broke from words into moans, swaying herself
backwards and forwards on her chair. Seth, always timid in his
behaviour towards his mother, from the sense that he had no
influence over her, felt it was useless to attempt to persuade or
soothe her till this passion was past; so he contented himself
with tending the back kitchen fire and folding up his father's
clothes, which had been hanging out to dry since morning--afraid
to move about in the room where his mother was, lest he should
irritate her further.
But after Lisbeth had been rocking herself and moaning for some
minutes, she suddenly paused and said aloud to herself, "I'll go
an' see arter Adam, for I canna think where he's gotten; an' I
want him to go upstairs wi' me afore it's dark, for the minutes to
look at the corpse is like the meltin' snow."
Seth overheard this, and coming into the kitchen again, as his
mother rose from her chair, he said, "Adam's asleep in the
workshop, mother. Thee'dst better not wake him. He was
o'erwrought with work and trouble."
"Wake him? Who's a-goin' to wake him? I shanna wake him wi'
lookin' at him. I hanna seen the lad this two hour--I'd welly
forgot as he'd e'er growed up from a babby when's feyther carried
Adam was seated on a rough bench, his head supported by his arm,
which rested from the shoulder to the elbow on the long planing-
table in the middle of the workshop. It seemed as if he had sat
down for a few minutes' rest and had fallen asleep without
slipping from his first attitude of sad, fatigued thought. His
face, unwashed since yesterday, looked pallid and clammy; his hair
was tossed shaggily about his forehead, and his closed eyes had
the sunken look which follows upon watching and sorrow. His brow
was knit, and his whole face had an expression of weariness and
pain. Gyp was evidently uneasy, for he sat on his haunches,
resting his nose on his master's stretched-out leg, and dividing
the time between licking the hand that hung listlessly down and
glancing with a listening air towards the door. The poor dog was
hungry and restless, but would not leave his master, and was
waiting impatiently for some change in the scene. It was owing to
this feeling on Gyp's part that, when Lisbeth came into the
workshop and advanced towards Adam as noiselessly as she could,
her intention not to awaken him was immediately defeated; for
Gyp's excitement was too great to find vent in anything short of a
sharp bark, and in a moment Adam opened his eyes and saw his
mother standing before him. It was not very unlike his dream, for
his sleep had been little more than living through again, in a
fevered delirious way, all that had happened since daybreak, and
his mother with her fretful grief was present to him through it
all. The chief difference between the reality and the vision was
that in his dream Hetty was continually coming before him in
bodily presence--strangely mingling herself as an actor in scenes
with which she had nothing to do. She was even by the Willow
Brook; she made his mother angry by coming into the house; and he
met her with her smart clothes quite wet through, as he walked in
the rain to Treddleston, to tell the coroner. But wherever Hetty
came, his mother was sure to follow soon; and when he opened his
eyes, it was not at all startling to see her standing near him.
"Eh, my lad, my lad!" Lisbeth burst out immediately, her wailing
impulse returning, for grief in its freshness feels the need of
associating its loss and its lament with every change of scene and
incident, "thee'st got nobody now but thy old mother to torment
thee and be a burden to thee. Thy poor feyther 'ull ne'er anger
thee no more; an' thy mother may's well go arter him--the sooner
the better--for I'm no good to nobody now. One old coat 'ull do
to patch another, but it's good for nought else. Thee'dst like to
ha' a wife to mend thy clothes an' get thy victual, better nor thy
old mother. An' I shall be nought but cumber, a-sittin' i' th'
chimney-corner. (Adam winced and moved uneasily; he dreaded, of
all things, to hear his mother speak of Hetty.) But if thy
feyther had lived, he'd ne'er ha' wanted me to go to make room for
another, for he could no more ha' done wi'out me nor one side o'
the scissars can do wi'out th' other. Eh, we should ha' been both
flung away together, an' then I shouldna ha' seen this day, an'
one buryin' 'ud ha' done for us both."
Here Lisbeth paused, but Adam sat in pained silence--he could not
speak otherwise than tenderly to his mother to-day, but he could
not help being irritated by this plaint. It was not possible for
poor Lisbeth to know how it affected Adam any more than it is
possible for a wounded dog to know how his moans affect the nerves
of his master. Like all complaining women, she complained in the
expectation of being soothed, and when Adam said nothing, she was
only prompted to complain more bitterly.
"I know thee couldst do better wi'out me, for thee couldst go
where thee likedst an' marry them as thee likedst. But I donna
want to say thee nay, let thee bring home who thee wut; I'd ne'er
open my lips to find faut, for when folks is old an' o' no use,
they may think theirsens well off to get the bit an' the sup,
though they'n to swallow ill words wi't. An' if thee'st set thy
heart on a lass as'll bring thee nought and waste all, when thee
mightst ha' them as 'ud make a man on thee, I'll say nought, now
thy feyther's dead an' drownded, for I'm no better nor an old haft
when the blade's gone."
Adam, unable to bear this any longer, rose silently from the bench
and walked out of the workshop into the kitchen. But Lisbeth
"Thee wutna go upstairs an' see thy feyther then? I'n done
everythin' now, an' he'd like thee to go an' look at him, for he
war allays so pleased when thee wast mild to him."
Adam turned round at once and said, "Yes, mother; let us go
upstairs. Come, Seth, let us go together."
They went upstairs, and for five minutes all was silence. Then
the key was turned again, and there was a sound of footsteps on
the stairs. But Adam did not come down again; he was too weary
and worn-out to encounter more of his mother's querulous grief,
and he went to rest on his bed. Lisbeth no sooner entered the
kitchen and sat down than she threw her apron over her head, and
began to cry and moan and rock herself as before. Seth thought,
"She will be quieter by and by, now we have been upstairs"; and he
went into the back kitchen again, to tend his little fire, hoping
that he should presently induce her to have some tea.
Lisbeth had been rocking herself in this way for more than five
minutes, giving a low moan with every forward movement of her
body, when she suddenly felt a hand placed gently on hers, and a
sweet treble voice said to her, "Dear sister, the Lord has sent me
to see if I can be a comfort to you."
Lisbeth paused, in a listening attitude, without removing her
apron from her face. The voice was strange to her. Could it be
her sister's spirit come back to her from the dead after all those
years? She trembled and dared not look.
Dinah, believing that this pause of wonder was in itself a relief
for the sorrowing woman, said no more just yet, but quietly took
off her bonnet, and then, motioning silence to Seth, who, on
hearing her voice, had come in with a beating heart, laid one hand
on the back of Lisbeth's chair and leaned over her, that she might
be aware of a friendly presence.
Slowly Lisbeth drew down her apron, and timidly she opened her dim
dark eyes. She saw nothing at first but a face--a pure, pale
face, with loving grey eyes, and it was quite unknown to her. Her
wonder increased; perhaps it WAS an angel. But in the same
instant Dinah had laid her hand on Lisbeth's again, and the old
woman looked down at it. It was a much smaller hand than her own,
but it was not white and delicate, for Dinah had never worn a
glove in her life, and her hand bore the traces of labour from her
childhood upwards. Lisbeth looked earnestly at the hand for a
moment, and then, fixing her eyes again on Dinah's face, said,
with something of restored courage, but in a tone of surprise,
"Why, ye're a workin' woman!"
"Yes, I am Dinah Morris, and I work in the cotton-mill when I am
"Ah!" said Lisbeth slowly, still wondering; "ye comed in so light,
like the shadow on the wall, an' spoke i' my ear, as I thought ye
might be a sperrit. Ye've got a'most the face o' one as is a-
sittin' on the grave i' Adam's new Bible."
"I come from the Hall Farm now. You know Mrs. Poyser--she's my
aunt, and she has heard of your great affliction, and is very
sorry; and I'm come to see if I can be any help to you in your
trouble; for I know your sons Adam and Seth, and I know you have
no daughter; and when the clergyman told me how the hand of God
was heavy upon you, my heart went out towards you, and I felt a
command to come and be to you in the place of a daughter in this
grief, if you will let me."
"Ah! I know who y' are now; y' are a Methody, like Seth; he's
tould me on you," said Lisbeth fretfully, her overpowering sense
of pain returning, now her wonder was gone. "Ye'll make it out as
trouble's a good thing, like HE allays does. But where's the use
o' talkin' to me a-that'n? Ye canna make the smart less wi'
talkin'. Ye'll ne'er make me believe as it's better for me not to
ha' my old man die in's bed, if he must die, an' ha' the parson to
pray by him, an' me to sit by him, an' tell him ne'er to mind th'
ill words I've gi'en him sometimes when I war angered, an' to gi'
him a bit an' a sup, as long as a bit an' a sup he'd swallow. But
eh! To die i' the cold water, an' us close to him, an' ne'er to
know; an' me a-sleepin', as if I ne'er belonged to him no more nor
if he'd been a journeyman tramp from nobody knows where!"
Here Lisbeth began to cry and rock herself again; and Dinah said,
"Yes, dear friend, your affliction is great. It would be hardness
of heart to say that your trouble was not heavy to bear. God
didn't send me to you to make light of your sorrow, but to mourn
with you, if you will let me. If you had a table spread for a
feast, and was making merry with your friends, you would think it
was kind to let me come and sit down and rejoice with you, because
you'd think I should like to share those good things; but I should
like better to share in your trouble and your labour, and it would
seem harder to me if you denied me that. You won't send me away?
You're not angry with me for coming?"
"Nay, nay; angered! who said I war angered? It war good on you to
come. An' Seth, why donna ye get her some tay? Ye war in a hurry
to get some for me, as had no need, but ye donna think o' gettin'
't for them as wants it. Sit ye down; sit ye down. I thank you
kindly for comin', for it's little wage ye get by walkin' through
the wet fields to see an old woman like me....Nay, I'n got no
daughter o' my own--ne'er had one--an' I warna sorry, for they're
poor queechy things, gells is; I allays wanted to ha' lads, as
could fend for theirsens. An' the lads 'ull be marryin'--I shall
ha' daughters eno', an' too many. But now, do ye make the tay as
ye like it, for I'n got no taste i' my mouth this day--it's all
one what I swaller--it's all got the taste o' sorrow wi't."
Dinah took care not to betray that she had had her tea, and
accepted Lisbeth's invitation very readily, for the sake of
persuading the old woman herself to take the food and drink she so
much needed after a day of hard work and fasting.
Seth was so happy now Dinah was in the house that he could not
help thinking her presence was worth purchasing with a life in
which grief incessantly followed upon grief; but the next moment
he reproached himself--it was almost as if he were rejoicing in
his father's sad death. Nevertheless the joy of being with Dinah
WOULD triumph--it was like the influence of climate, which no
resistance can overcome. And the feeling even suffused itself
over his face so as to attract his mother's notice, while she was
drinking her tea.
"Thee may'st well talk o' trouble bein' a good thing, Seth, for
thee thriv'st on't. Thee look'st as if thee know'dst no more o'
care an' cumber nor when thee wast a babby a-lyin' awake i' th'
cradle. For thee'dst allays lie still wi' thy eyes open, an' Adam
ne'er 'ud lie still a minute when he wakened. Thee wast allays
like a bag o' meal as can ne'er be bruised--though, for the matter
o' that, thy poor feyther war just such another. But ye've got
the same look too" (here Lisbeth turned to Dinah). "I reckon it's
wi' bein' a Methody. Not as I'm a-findin' faut wi' ye for't, for
ye've no call to be frettin', an' somehow ye looken sorry too.
Eh! Well, if the Methodies are fond o' trouble, they're like to
thrive: it's a pity they canna ha't all, an' take it away from
them as donna like it. I could ha' gi'en 'em plenty; for when I'd
gotten my old man I war worreted from morn till night; and now
he's gone, I'd be glad for the worst o'er again."
"Yes," said Dinah, careful not to oppose any feeling of Lisbeth's,
for her reliance, in her smallest words and deeds, on a divine
guidance, always issued in that finest woman's tact which proceeds
from acute and ready sympathy; "yes, I remember too, when my dear
aunt died, I longed for the sound of her bad cough in the nights,
instead of the silence that came when she was gone. But now, dear
friend, drink this other cup of tea and eat a little more."
"What!" said Lisbeth, taking the cup and speaking in a less
querulous tone, "had ye got no feyther and mother, then, as ye war
so sorry about your aunt?"
"No, I never knew a father or mother; my aunt brought me up from a
baby. She had no children, for she was never married and she
brought me up as tenderly as if I'd been her own child."
"Eh, she'd fine work wi' ye, I'll warrant, bringin' ye up from a
babby, an' her a lone woman--it's ill bringin' up a cade lamb.
But I daresay ye warna franzy, for ye look as if ye'd ne'er been
angered i' your life. But what did ye do when your aunt died, an'
why didna ye come to live in this country, bein' as Mrs. Poyser's
your aunt too?"
Dinah, seeing that Lisbeth's attention was attracted, told her the
story of her early life--how she had been brought up to work hard,
and what sort of place Snowfield was, and how many people had a
hard life there--all the details that she thought likely to
interest Lisbeth. The old woman listened, and forgot to be
fretful, unconsciously subject to the soothing influence of
Dinah's face and voice. After a while she was persuaded to let
the kitchen be made tidy; for Dinah was bent on this, believing
that the sense of order and quietude around her would help in
disposing Lisbeth to join in the prayer she longed to pour forth
at her side. Seth, meanwhile, went out to chop wood, for he
surmised that Dinah would like to be left alone with his mother.
Lisbeth sat watching her as she moved about in her still quick
way, and said at last, "Ye've got a notion o' cleanin' up. I
wouldna mind ha'in ye for a daughter, for ye wouldna spend the
lad's wage i' fine clothes an' waste. Ye're not like the lasses
o' this countryside. I reckon folks is different at Snowfield
from what they are here."
"They have a different sort of life, many of 'em," said Dinah;
"they work at different things--some in the mill, and many in the
mines, in the villages round about. But the heart of man is the
same everywhere, and there are the children of this world and the
children of light there as well as elsewhere. But we've many more
Methodists there than in this country."
"Well, I didna know as the Methody women war like ye, for there's
Will Maskery's wife, as they say's a big Methody, isna pleasant to
look at, at all. I'd as lief look at a tooad. An' I'm thinkin' I
wouldna mind if ye'd stay an' sleep here, for I should like to see
ye i' th' house i' th' mornin'. But mayhappen they'll be lookin
for ye at Mester Poyser's."
"No," said Dinah, "they don't expect me, and I should like to
stay, if you'll let me."
"Well, there's room; I'n got my bed laid i' th' little room o'er
the back kitchen, an' ye can lie beside me. I'd be glad to ha' ye
wi' me to speak to i' th' night, for ye've got a nice way o'
talkin'. It puts me i' mind o' the swallows as was under the
thack last 'ear when they fust begun to sing low an' soft-like i'
th' mornin'. Eh, but my old man war fond o' them birds! An' so
war Adam, but they'n ne'er comed again this 'ear. Happen THEY'RE
"There," said Dinah, "now the kitchen looks tidy, and now, dear
Mother--for I'm your daughter to-night, you know--I should like
you to wash your face and have a clean cap on. Do you remember
what David did, when God took away his child from him? While the
child was yet alive he fasted and prayed to God to spare it, and
he would neither eat nor drink, but lay on the ground all night,
beseeching God for the child. But when he knew it was dead, he
rose up from the ground and washed and anointed himself, and
changed his clothes, and ate and drank; and when they asked him
how it was that he seemed to have left off grieving now the child
was dead, he said, 'While the child was yet alive, I fasted and
wept; for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me,
that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I
fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he
shall not return to me.'"
"Eh, that's a true word," said Lisbeth. "Yea, my old man wonna
come back to me, but I shall go to him--the sooner the better.
Well, ye may do as ye like wi' me: there's a clean cap i' that
drawer, an' I'll go i' the back kitchen an' wash my face. An'
Seth, thee may'st reach down Adam's new Bible wi' th' picters in,
an' she shall read us a chapter. Eh, I like them words--'I shall
go to him, but he wonna come back to me.'"
Dinah and Seth were both inwardly offering thanks for the greater
quietness of spirit that had come over Lisbeth. This was what
Dinah had been trying to bring about, through all her still
sympathy and absence from exhortation. From her girlhood upwards
she had had experience among the sick and the mourning, among
minds hardened and shrivelled through poverty and ignorance, and
had gained the subtlest perception of the mode in which they could
best be touched and softened into willingness to receive words of
spiritual consolation or warning. As Dinah expressed it, "she was
never left to herself; but it was always given her when to keep
silence and when to speak." And do we not all agree to call rapid
thought and noble impulse by the name of inspiration? After our
subtlest analysis of the mental process, we must still say, as
Dinah did, that our highest thoughts and our best deeds are all
given to us.
And so there was earnest prayer--there was faith, love, and hope
pouring forth that evening in the littie kitchen. And poor, aged,
fretful Lisbeth, without grasping any distinct idea, without going
through any course of religious emotions, felt a vague sense of
goodness and love, and of something right lying underneath and
beyond all this sorrowing life. She couldn't understand the
sorrow; but, for these moments, under the subduing influence of
Dinah's spirit, she felt that she must be patient and still.
In the Cottage
IT was but half-past four the next morning when Dinah, tired of
lying awake listening to the birds and watching the growing light
through the little window in the garret roof, rose and began to
dress herself very quietly, lest she should disturb Lisbeth. But
already some one else was astir in the house, and had gone
downstairs, preceded by Gyp. The dog's pattering step was a sure
sign that it was Adam who went down; but Dinah was not aware of
this, and she thought it was more likely to be Seth, for he had
told her how Adam had stayed up working the night before. Seth,
however, had only just awakened at the sound of the opening door.
The exciting influence of the previous day, heightened at last by
Dinah's unexpected presence, had not been counteracted by any
bodily weariness, for he had not done his ordinary amount of hard
work; and so when he went to bed; it was not till he had tired
himself with hours of tossing wakefulness that drowsiness came,
and led on a heavier morning sleep than was usual with him.
But Adam had been refreshed by his long rest, and with his
habitual impatience of mere passivity, he was eager to begin the
new day and subdue sadness by his strong will and strong arm. The
white mist lay in the valley; it was going to be a bright warm
day, and he would start to work again when he had had his
"There's nothing but what's bearable as long as a man can work,"
he said to himself; "the natur o' things doesn't change, though it
seems as if one's own life was nothing but change. The square o'
four is sixteen, and you must lengthen your lever in proportion to
your weight, is as true when a man's miserable as when he's happy;
and the best o' working is, it gives you a grip hold o' things
outside your own lot."
As he dashed the cold water over his head and face, he felt
completely himself again, and with his black eyes as keen as ever
and his thick black hair all glistening with the fresh moisture,
he went into the workshop to look out the wood for his father's
coffin, intending that he and Seth should carry it with them to
Jonathan Burge's and have the coffin made by one of the workmen
there, so that his mother might not see and hear the sad task
going forward at home.
He had just gone into the workshop when his quick ear detected a
light rapid foot on the stairs--certainly not his mother's. He
had been in bed and asleep when Dinah had come in, in the evening,
and now he wondered whose step this could be. A foolish thought
came, and moved him strangely. As if it could be Hetty! She was
the last person likely to be in the house. And yet he felt
reluctant to go and look and have the clear proof that it was some
one else. He stood leaning on a plank he had taken hold of,
listening to sounds which his imagination interpreted for him so
pleasantly that the keen strong face became suffused with a timid
tenderness. The light footstep moved about the kitchen, followed
by the sound of the sweeping brush, hardly making so much noise as
the lightest breeze that chases the autumn leaves along the dusty
path; and Adam's imagination saw a dimpled face, with dark bright
eyes and roguish smiles looking backward at this brush, and a
rounded figure just leaning a little to clasp the handle. A very
foolish thought--it could not be Hetty; but the only way of
dismissing such nonsense from his head was to go and see WHO it
was, for his fancy only got nearer and nearer to belief while he
stood there listening. He loosed the plank and went to the
"How do you do, Adam Bede?" said Dinah, in her calm treble,
pausing from her sweeping and fixing her mild grave eyes upon him.
"I trust you feel rested and strengthened again to bear the burden
and heat of the day."
It was like dreaming of the sunshine and awaking in the moonlight.
Adam had seen Dinah several times, but always at the Hall Farm,
where he was not very vividly conscious of any woman's presence
except Hetty's, and he had only in the last day or two begun to
suspect that Seth was in love with her, so that his attention had
not hitherto been drawn towards her for his brother's sake. But
now her slim figure, her plain black gown, and her pale serene
face impressed him with all the force that belongs to a reality
contrasted with a preoccupying fancy. For the first moment or two
he made no answer, but looked at her with the concentrated,
examining glance which a man gives to an object in which he has
suddenly begun to be interested. Dinah, for the first time in her
life, felt a painful self-consciousness; there was something in
the dark penetrating glance of this strong man so different from
the mildness and timidity of his brother Seth. A faint blush
came, which deepened as she wondered at it. This blush recalled
Adam from his forgetfulness.
"I was quite taken by surprise; it was very good of you to come
and see my mother in her trouble," he said, in a gentle grateful
tone, for his quick mind told him at once how she came to be
there. "I hope my mother was thankful to have you," he added,
wondering rather anxiously what had been Dinah's reception.
"Yes," said Dinah, resuming her work, "she seemed greatly
comforted after a while, and she's had a good deal of rest in the
night, by times. She was fast asleep when I left her."
"Who was it took the news to the Hall Farm?" said Adam, his
thoughts reverting to some one there; he wondered whether SHE had
felt anything about it.
"It was Mr. Irwine, the clergyman, told me, and my aunt was
grieved for your mother when she heard it, and wanted me to come;
and so is my uncle, I'm sure, now he's heard it, but he was gone
out to Rosseter all yesterday. They'll look for you there as soon
as you've got time to go, for there's nobody round that hearth but
what's glad to see you."
Dinah, with her sympathetic divination, knew quite well that Adam
was longing to hear if Hetty had said anything about their
trouble; she was too rigorously truthful for benevolent invention,
but she had contrived to say something in which Hetty was tacitly
included. Love has a way of cheating itself consciously, like a
child who plays at solitary hide-and-seek; it is pleased with
assurances that it all the while disbelieves. Adam liked what
Dinah had said so much that his mind was directly full of the next
visit he should pay to the Hall Farm, when Hetty would perhaps
behave more kindly to him than she had ever done before.
"But you won't be there yourself any longer?" he said to Dinah.
"No, I go back to Snowfield on Saturday, and I shall have to set
out to Treddleston early, to be in time for the Oakbourne carrier.
So I must go back to the farm to-night, that I may have the last
day with my aunt and her children. But I can stay here all to-
day, if your mother would like me; and her heart seemed inclined
towards me last night."
"Ah, then, she's sure to want you to-day. If mother takes to
people at the beginning, she's sure to get fond of 'em; but she's
a strange way of not liking young women. Though, to be sure,"
Adam went on, smiling, "her not liking other young women is no
reason why she shouldn't like you."
Hitherto Gyp had been assisting at this conversation in motionless
silence, seated on his haunches, and alternately looking up in his
master's face to watch its expression and observing Dinah's
movements about the kitchen. The kind smile with which Adam
uttered the last words was apparently decisive with Gyp of the
light in which the stranger was to be regarded, and as she turned
round after putting aside her sweeping-brush, he trotted towards
her and put up his muzzle against her hand in a friendly way.
"You see Gyp bids you welcome," said Adam, "and he's very slow to
"Poor dog!" said Dinah, patting the rough grey coat, "I've a
strange feeling about the dumb things as if they wanted to speak,
and it was a trouble to 'em because they couldn't. I can't help
being sorry for the dogs always, though perhaps there's no need.
But they may well have more in them than they know how to make us
understand, for we can't say half what we feel, with all our
Seth came down now, and was pleased to find Adam talking with
Dinah; he wanted Adam to know how much better she was than all
other women. But after a few words of greeting, Adam drew him
into the workshop to consult about the coffin, and Dinah went on
with her cleaning.
By six o'clock they were all at breakfast with Lisbeth in a
kitchen as clean as she could have made it herself. The window
and door were open, and the morning air brought with it a mingled
scent of southernwood, thyme, and sweet-briar from the patch of
garden by the side of the cottage. Dinah did not sit down at
first, but moved about, serving the others with the warm porridge
and the toasted oat-cake, which she had got ready in the usual
way, for she had asked Seth to tell her just what his mother gave
them for breakfast. Lisbeth had been unusually silent since she
came downstairs, apparently requiring some time to adjust her
ideas to a state of things in which she came down like a lady to
find all the work done, and sat still to be waited on. Her new
sensations seemed to exclude the remembrance of her grief. At
last, after tasting the porridge, she broke silence:
"Ye might ha' made the parridge worse," she said to Dinah; "I can
ate it wi'out its turnin' my stomach. It might ha' been a trifle
thicker an' no harm, an' I allays putten a sprig o' mint in mysen;
but how's ye t' know that? The lads arena like to get folks as
'll make their parridge as I'n made it for 'em; it's well if they
get onybody as 'll make parridge at all. But ye might do, wi' a
bit o' showin'; for ye're a stirrin' body in a mornin', an' ye've
a light heel, an' ye've cleaned th' house well enough for a
"Makeshift, mother?" said Adam. "Why, I think the house looks
beautiful. I don't know how it could look better."
"Thee dostna know? Nay; how's thee to know? Th' men ne'er know
whether the floor's cleaned or cat-licked. But thee'lt know when
thee gets thy parridge burnt, as it's like enough to be when I'n
gi'en o'er makin' it. Thee'lt think thy mother war good for
"Dinah," said Seth, "do come and sit down now and have your
breakfast. We're all served now."
"Aye, come an' sit ye down--do," said Lisbeth, "an' ate a morsel;
ye'd need, arter bein' upo' your legs this hour an' half a'ready.
Come, then," she added, in a tone of complaining affection, as
Dinah sat down by her side, "I'll be loath for ye t' go, but ye
canna stay much longer, I doubt. I could put up wi' ye i' th'
house better nor wi' most folks."
"I'll stay till to-night if you're willing," said Dinah. "I'd
stay longer, only I'm going back to Snowfield on Saturday, and I
must be with my aunt to-morrow."
"Eh, I'd ne'er go back to that country. My old man come from that
Stonyshire side, but he left it when he war a young un, an' i' the
right on't too; for he said as there war no wood there, an' it 'ud
ha' been a bad country for a carpenter."
"Ah," said Adam, "I remember father telling me when I was a little
lad that he made up his mind if ever he moved it should be
south'ard. But I'm not so sure about it. Bartle Massey says--and
he knows the South--as the northern men are a finer breed than the
southern, harder-headed and stronger-bodied, and a deal taller.
And then he says in some o' those counties it's as flat as the
back o' your hand, and you can see nothing of a distance without
climbing up the highest trees. I couldn't abide that. I like to
go to work by a road that'll take me up a bit of a hill, and see
the fields for miles round me, and a bridge, or a town, or a bit
of a steeple here and there. It makes you feel the world's a big
place, and there's other men working in it with their heads and
hands besides yourself."
"I like th' hills best," said Seth, "when the clouds are over your
head and you see the sun shining ever so far off, over the
Loamford way, as I've often done o' late, on the stormy days. It
seems to me as if that was heaven where there's always joy and
sunshine, though this life's dark and cloudy."
"Oh, I love the Stonyshire side," said Dinah; "I shouldn't like to
set my face towards the countries where they're rich in corn and
cattle, and the ground so level and easy to tread; and to turn my
back on the hills where the poor people have to live such a hard
life and the men spend their days in the mines away from the
sunlight. It's very blessed on a bleak cold day, when the sky is
hanging dark over the hill, to feel the love of God in one's soul,
and carry it to the lonely, bare, stone houses, where there's
nothing else to give comfort."
"Eh!" said Lisbeth, "that's very well for ye to talk, as looks
welly like the snowdrop-flowers as ha' lived for days an' days
when I'n gethered 'em, wi' nothin' but a drop o' water an' a peep
o' daylight; but th' hungry foulks had better leave th' hungry
country. It makes less mouths for the scant cake. But," she went
on, looking at Adam, "donna thee talk o' goin' south'ard or
north'ard, an' leavin' thy feyther and mother i' the churchyard,
an' goin' to a country as they know nothin' on. I'll ne'er rest
i' my grave if I donna see thee i' the churchyard of a Sunday."
"Donna fear, mother," said Adam. "If I hadna made up my mind not
to go, I should ha' been gone before now."
He had finished his breakfast now, and rose as he was speaking.
"What art goin' to do?" asked Lisbeth. "Set about thy feyther's
"No, mother," said Adam; "we're going to take the wood to the
village and have it made there."
"Nay, my lad, nay," Lisbeth burst out in an eager, wailing tone;
"thee wotna let nobody make thy feyther's coffin but thysen?
Who'd make it so well? An' him as know'd what good work war, an's
got a son as is the head o' the village an' all Treddles'on too,
"Very well, mother, if that's thy wish, I'll make the coffin at
home; but I thought thee wouldstna like to hear the work going
"An' why shouldna I like 't? It's the right thing to be done.
An' what's liking got to do wi't? It's choice o' mislikings is
all I'n got i' this world. One morsel's as good as another when
your mouth's out o' taste. Thee mun set about it now this mornin'
fust thing. I wonna ha' nobody to touch the coffin but thee."
Adam's eyes met Seth's, which looked from Dinah to him rather
"No, Mother," he said, "I'll not consent but Seth shall have a
hand in it too, if it's to be done at home. I'll go to the
village this forenoon, because Mr. Burge 'ull want to see me, and
Seth shall stay at home and begin the coffin. I can come back at
noon, and then he can go."
"Nay, nay," persisted Lisbeth, beginning to cry, "I'n set my heart
on't as thee shalt ma' thy feyther's coffin. Thee't so stiff an'
masterful, thee't ne'er do as thy mother wants thee. Thee wast
often angered wi' thy feyther when he war alive; thee must be the
better to him now he's gone. He'd ha' thought nothin' on't for
Seth to ma's coffin."
"Say no more, Adam, say no more," said Seth, gently, though his
voice told that he spoke with some effort; "Mother's in the right.
I'll go to work, and do thee stay at home."
He passed into the workshop immediately, followed by Adam; while
Lisbeth, automatically obeying her old habits, began to put away
the breakfast things, as if she did not mean Dinah to take her
place any longer. Dinah said nothing, but presently used the
opportunity of quietly joining the brothers in the workshop.
They had already got on their aprons and paper caps, and Adam was
standing with his left hand on Seth's shoulder, while he pointed
with the hammer in his right to some boards which they were
looking at. Their backs were turned towards the door by which
Dinah entered, and she came in so gently that they were not aware
of her presence till they heard her voice saying, "Seth Bede!"
Seth started, and they both turned round. Dinah looked as if she
did not see Adam, and fixed her eyes on Seth's face, saying with
calm kindness, "I won't say farewell. I shall see you again when
you come from work. So as I'm at the farm before dark, it will be
quite soon enough."
"Thank you, Dinah; I should like to walk home with you once more.
It'll perhaps be the last time."
There was a little tremor in Seth's voice. Dinah put out her hand
and said, "You'll have sweet peace in your mind to-day, Seth, for
your tenderness and long-suffering towards your aged mother."
She turned round and left the workshop as quickly and quietly as
she had entered it. Adam had been observing her closely all the
while, but she had not looked at him. As soon as she was gone, he
said, "I don't wonder at thee for loving her, Seth. She's got a
face like a lily."
Seth's soul rushed to his eyes and lips: he had never yet
confessed his secret to Adam, but now he felt a delicious sense of
disburdenment, as he answered, "Aye, Addy, I do love her--too
much, I doubt. But she doesna love me, lad, only as one child o'
God loves another. She'll never love any man as a husband--that's
"Nay, lad, there's no telling; thee mustna lose heart. She's made
out o' stuff with a finer grain than most o' the women; I can see
that clear enough. But if she's better than they are in other
things, I canna think she'll fall short of 'em in loving."
No more was said. Seth set out to the village, and Adam began his
work on the coffin.
"God help the lad, and me too," he thought, as he lifted the
board. "We're like enough to find life a tough job--hard work
inside and out. It's a strange thing to think of a man as can
lift a chair with his teeth and walk fifty mile on end, trembling
and turning hot and cold at only a look from one woman out of all
the rest i' the world. It's a mystery we can give no account of;
but no more we can of the sprouting o' the seed, for that matter."
In the Wood
THAT same Thursday morning, as Arthur Donnithorne was moving about
in his dressing-room seeing his well-looking British person
reflected in the old-fashioned mirrors, and stared at, from a
dingy olive-green piece of tapestry, by Pharaoh's daughter and her
maidens, who ought to have been minding the infant Moses, he was
holding a discussion with himself, which, by the time his valet
was tying the black silk sling over his shoulder, had issued in a
distinct practical resolution.
"I mean to go to Eagledale and fish for a week or so," he said
aloud. "I shall take you with me, Pym, and set off this morning;
so be ready by half-past eleven."
The low whistle, which had assisted him in arriving at this
resolution, here broke out into his loudest ringing tenor, and the
corridor, as he hurried along it, echoed to his favourite song
from the Beggar's Opera, "When the heart of a man is oppressed
with care." Not an heroic strain; nevertheless Arthur felt
himself very heroic as he strode towards the stables to give his
orders about the horses. His own approbation was necessary to
him, and it was not an approbation to be enjoyed quite
gratuitously; it must be won by a fair amount of merit. He had
never yet forfeited that approbation, and he had considerable
reliance on his own virtues. No young man could confess his
faults more candidly; candour was one of his favourite virtues;
and how can a man's candour be seen in all its lustre unless he
has a few failings to talk of? But he had an agreeable confidence
that his faults were all of a generous kind--impetuous, warm-
blooded, leonine; never crawling, crafty, reptilian. It was not
possible for Arthur Donnithorne to do anything mean, dastardly, or
cruel. "No! I'm a devil of a fellow for getting myself into a
hobble, but I always take care the load shall fall on my own
shoulders." Unhappily, there is no inherent poetical justice in
hobbles, and they will sometimes obstinately refuse to inflict
their worst consequences on the prime offender, in spite of his
loudly expressed wish. It was entirely owing to this deficiency
in the scheme of things that Arthur had ever brought any one into
trouble besides himself. He was nothing if not good-natured; and
all his pictures of the future, when he should come into the
estate, were made up of a prosperous, contented tenantry, adoring
their landlord, who would be the model of an English gentleman--
mansion in first-rate order, all elegance and high taste--jolly
housekeeping, finest stud in Loamshire--purse open to all public
objects--in short, everything as different as possible from what
was now associated with the name of Donnithorne. And one of the
first good actions he would perform in that future should be to
increase Irwine's income for the vicarage of Hayslope, so that he
might keep a carriage for his mother and sisters. His hearty
affection for the rector dated from the age of frocks and
trousers. It was an affection partly filial, partly fraternal--
fraternal enough to make him like Irwine's company better than
that of most younger men, and filial enough to make him shrink
strongly from incurring Irwine's disapprobation.
You perceive that Arthur Donnithorne was "a good fellow"--all his
college friends thought him such. He couldn't bear to see any one
uncomfortable; he would have been sorry even in his angriest moods
for any harm to happen to his grandfather; and his Aunt Lydia
herself had the benefit of that soft-heartedness which he bore
towards the whole sex. Whether he would have self-mastery enough
to be always as harmless and purely beneficent as his good-nature
led him to desire, was a question that no one had yet decided
against him; he was but twenty-one, you remember, and we don't
inquire too closely into character in the case of a handsome
generous young fellow, who will have property enough to support
numerous peccadilloes--who, if he should unfortunately break a
man's legs in his rash driving, will be able to pension him
handsomely; or if he should happen to spoil a woman's existence
for her, will make it up to her with expensive bon-bons, packed up
and directed by his own hand. It would be ridiculous to be prying
and analytic in such cases, as if one were inquiring into the
character of a confidential clerk. We use round, general,
gentlemanly epithets about a young man of birth and fortune; and
ladies, with that fine intuition which is the distinguishing
attribute of their sex, see at once that he is "nice." The
chances are that he will go through life without scandalizing any
one; a seaworthy vessel that no one would refuse to insure.
Ships, certainly, are liable to casualties, which sometimes make
terribly evident some flaw in their construction that would never
have been discoverable in smooth water; and many a "good fellow,"
through a disastrous combination of circumstances, has undergone a
But we have no fair ground for entertaining unfavourable auguries
concerning Arthur Donnithorne, who this morning proves himself
capable of a prudent resolution founded on conscience. One thing
is clear: Nature has taken care that he shall never go far astray
with perfect comfort and satisfaction to himself; he will never
get beyond that border-land of sin, where he will be perpetually
harassed by assaults from the other side of the boundary. He will
never be a courtier of Vice, and wear her orders in his button-
It was about ten o'clock, and the sun was shining brilliantly;
everything was looking lovelier for the yesterday's rain. It is a
pleasant thing on such a morning to walk along the well-rolled
gravel on one's way to the stables, meditating an excursion. But
the scent of the stables, which, in a natural state of things,
ought to be among the soothing influences of a man's life, always
brought with it some irritation to Arthur. There was no having
his own way in the stables; everything was managed in the
stingiest fashion. His grandfather persisted in retaining as head
groom an old dolt whom no sort of lever could move out of his old
habits, and who was allowed to hire a succession of raw Loamshire
lads as his subordinates, one of whom had lately tested a new pair
of shears by clipping an oblong patch on Arthur's bay mare. This
state of things is naturally embittering; one can put up with
annoyances in the house, but to have the stable made a scene of
vexation and disgust is a point beyond what human flesh and blood
can be expected to endure long together without danger of
Old John's wooden, deep-wrinkled face was the first object that
met Arthur's eyes as he entered the stable-yard, and it quite
poisoned for him the bark of the two bloodhounds that kept watch
there. He could never speak quite patiently to the old blockhead.
"You must have Meg saddled for me and brought to the door at half-
past eleven, and I shall want Rattler saddled for Pym at the same
time. Do you hear?"
"Yes, I hear, I hear, Cap'n," said old John very deliberately,
following the young master into the stable. John considered a
young master as the natural enemy of an old servant, and young
people in general as a poor contrivance for carrying on the world.
Arthur went in for the sake of patting Meg, declining as far as
possible to see anything in the stables, lest he should lose his
temper before breakfast. The pretty creature was in one of the
inner stables, and turned her mild head as her master came beside
her. Little Trot, a tiny spaniel, her inseparable companion in
the stable, was comfortably curled up on her back.
"Well, Meg, my pretty girl," said Arthur, patting her neck, "we'll
have a glorious canter this morning."
"Nay, your honour, I donna see as that can be," said John.
"Not be? Why not?"
"Why, she's got lamed."
"Lamed, confound you! What do you mean?"
"Why, th' lad took her too close to Dalton's hosses, an' one on
'em flung out at her, an' she's got her shank bruised o' the near
The judicious historian abstains from narrating precisely what
ensued. You understand that there was a great deal of strong
language, mingled with soothing "who-ho's" while the leg was
examined; that John stood by with quite as much emotion as if he
had been a cunningly carved crab-tree walking-stick, and that
Arthur Donnithorne presently repassed the iron gates of the
pleasure-ground without singing as he went.
He considered himself thoroughly disappointed and annoyed. There
was not another mount in the stable for himself and his servant
besides Meg and Rattler. It was vexatious; just when he wanted to
get out of the way for a week or two. It seemed culpable in
Providence to allow such a combination of circumstances. To be
shut up at the Chase with a broken arm when every other fellow in
his regiment was enjoying himself at Windsor--shut up with his
grandfather, who had the same sort of affection for him as for his
parchment deeds! And to be disgusted at every turn with the
management of the house and the estate! In such circumstances a
man necessarily gets in an ill humour, and works off the
irritation by some excess or other. "Salkeld would have drunk a
bottle of port every day," he muttered to himself, "but I'm not
well seasoned enough for that. Well, since I can't go to
Eagledale, I'll have a gallop on Rattler to Norburne this morning,
and lunch with Gawaine."
Behind this explicit resolution there lay an implicit one. If he
lunched with Gawaine and lingered chatting, he should not reach
the Chase again till nearly five, when Hetty would be safe out of
his sight in the housekeeper's room; and when she set out to go
home, it would be his lazy time after dinner, so he should keep
out of her way altogether. There really would have been no harm
in being kind to the little thing, and it was worth dancing with a
dozen ballroom belles only to look at Hetty for half an hour. But
perhaps he had better not take any more notice of her; it might
put notions into her head, as Irwine had hinted; though Arthur,
for his part, thought girls were not by any means so soft and
easily bruised; indeed, he had generally found them twice as cool
and cunning as he was himself. As for any real harm in Hetty's
case, it was out of the question: Arthur Donnithorne accepted his
own bond for himself with perfect confidence.
So the twelve o'clock sun saw him galloping towards Norburne; and
by good fortune Halsell Common lay in his road and gave him some
fine leaps for Rattler. Nothing like "taking" a few bushes and
ditches for exorcising a demon; and it is really astonishing that
the Centaurs, with their immense advantages in this way, have left
so bad a reputation in history.
After this, you will perhaps be surprised to hear that although
Gawaine was at home, the hand of the dial in the courtyard had
scarcely cleared the last stroke of three when Arthur returned
through the entrance-gates, got down from the panting Rattler, and
went into the house to take a hasty luncheon. But I believe there
have been men since his day who have ridden a long way to avoid a
rencontre, and then galloped hastily back lest they should miss
it. It is the favourite stratagem of our passions to sham a
retreat, and to turn sharp round upon us at the moment we have
made up our minds that the day is our own.
"The cap'n's been ridin' the devil's own pace," said Dalton the
coachman, whose person stood out in high relief as he smoked his
pipe against the stable wall, when John brought up Rattler.
"An' I wish he'd get the devil to do's grooming for'n," growled
"Aye; he'd hev a deal haimabler groom nor what he has now,"
observed Dalton--and the joke appeared to him so good that, being
left alone upon the scene, he continued at intervals to take his
pipe from his mouth in order to wink at an imaginary audience and
shake luxuriously with a silent, ventral laughter, mentally
rehearsing the dialogue from the beginning, that he might recite
it with effect in the servants' hall.
When Arthur went up to his dressing-room again after luncheon, it
was inevitable that the debate he had had with himself there
earlier in the day should flash across his mind; but it was
impossible for him now to dwell on the remembrance--impossible to
recall the feelings and reflections which had been decisive with
him then, any more than to recall the peculiar scent of the air
that had freshened him when he first opened his window. The
desire to see Hetty had rushed back like an ill-stemmed current;
he was amazed himself at the force with which this trivial fancy
seemed to grasp him: he was even rather tremulous as he brushed
his hair--pooh! it was riding in that break-neck way. It was
because he had made a serious affair of an idle matter, by
thinking of it as if it were of any consequence. He would amuse
himself by seeing Hetty to-day, and get rid of the whole thing
from his mind. It was all Irwine's fault. "If Irwine had said
nothing, I shouldn't have thought half so much of Hetty as of
Meg's lameness." However, it was just the sort of day for lolling
in the Hermitage, and he would go and finish Dr. Moore's Zeluco
there before dinner. The Hermitage stood in Fir-tree Grove--the
way Hetty was sure to come in walking from the Hall Farm. So
nothing could be simpler and more natural: meeting Hetty was a
mere circumstance of his walk, not its object.
Arthur's shadow flitted rather faster among the sturdy oaks of the
Chase than might have been expected from the shadow of a tired man
on a warm afternoon, and it was still scarcely four o'clock when
he stood before the tall narrow gate leading into the delicious
labyrinthine wood which skirted one side of the Chase, and which
was called Fir-tree Grove, not because the firs were many, but
because they were few. It was a wood of beeches and limes, with
here and there a light silver-stemmed birch--just the sort of wood
most haunted by the nymphs: you see their white sunlit limbs
gleaming athwart the boughs, or peeping from behind the smooth-
sweeping outline of a tall lime; you hear their soft liquid
laughter--but if you look with a too curious sacrilegious eye,
they vanish behind the silvery beeches, they make you believe that
their voice was only a running brooklet, perhaps they metamorphose
themselves into a tawny squirrel that scampers away and mocks you
from the topmost bough. It was not a grove with measured grass or
rolled gravel for you to tread upon, but with narrow, hollow-
shaped, earthy paths, edged with faint dashes of delicate moss--
paths which look as if they were made by the free will of the
trees and underwood, moving reverently aside to look at the tall
queen of the white-footed nymphs.
It was along the broadest of these paths that Arthur Donnithorne
passed, under an avenue of limes and beeches. It was a still
afternoon--the golden light was lingering languidly among the
upper boughs, only glancing down here and there on the purple
pathway and its edge of faintly sprinkled moss: an afternoon in
which destiny disguises her cold awful face behind a hazy radiant
veil, encloses us in warm downy wings, and poisons us with violet-
scented breath. Arthur strolled along carelessly, with a book
under his arm, but not looking on the ground as meditative men are
apt to do; his eyes WOULD fix themselves on the distant bend in
the road round which a little figure must surely appear before
long. Ah! There she comes. First a bright patch of colour, like
a tropic bird among the boughs; then a tripping figure, with a
round hat on, and a small basket under her arm; then a deep-
blushing, almost frightened, but bright-smiling girl, making her
curtsy with a fluttered yet happy glance, as Arthur came up to
her. If Arthur had had time to think at all, he would have
thought it strange that he should feel fluttered too, be conscious
of blushing too--in fact, look and feel as foolish as if he had
been taken by surprise instead of meeting just what he expected.
Poor things! It was a pity they were not in that golden age of
childhood when they would have stood face to face, eyeing each
other with timid liking, then given each other a little butterfly
kiss, and toddled off to play together. Arthur would have gone
home to his silk-curtained cot, and Hetty to her home-spun pillow,
and both would have slept without dreams, and to-morrow would have
been a life hardly conscious of a yesterday.
Arthur turned round and walked by Hetty's side without giving a
reason. They were alone together for the first time. What an
overpowering presence that first privacy is! He actually dared
not look at this little butter-maker for the first minute or two.
As for Hetty, her feet rested on a cloud, and she was borne along
by warm zephyrs; she had forgotten her rose-coloured ribbons; she
was no more conscious of her limbs than if her childish soul had
passed into a water-lily, resting on a liquid bed and warmed by
the midsummer sun-beams. It may seem a contradiction, but Arthur
gathered a certain carelessness and confidence from his timidity:
it was an entirely different state of mind from what he had
expected in such a meeting with Hetty; and full as he was of vague
feeling, there was room, in those moments of silence, for the
thought that his previous debates and scruples were needless.
"You are quite right to choose this way of coming to the Chase,"
he said at last, looking down at Hetty; "it is so much prettier as
well as shorter than coming by either of the lodges."
"Yes, sir," Hetty answered, with a tremulous, almost whispering
voice. She didn't know one bit how to speak to a gentleman like
Mr. Arthur, and her very vanity made her more coy of speech.
"Do you come every week to see Mrs. Pomfret?"
"Yes, sir, every Thursday, only when she's got to go out with Miss
"And she's teaching you something, is she?"
"Yes, sir, the lace-mending as she learnt abroad, and the
stocking-mending--it looks just like the stocking, you can't tell
it's been mended; and she teaches me cutting-out too."
"What! are YOU going to be a lady's maid?"
"I should like to be one very much indeed." Hetty spoke more
audibly now, but still rather tremulously; she thought, perhaps
she seemed as stupid to Captain Donnithorne as Luke Britton did to
"I suppose Mrs. Pomfret always expects you at this time?"
"She expects me at four o'clock. I'm rather late to-day, because
my aunt couldn't spare me; but the regular time is four, because
that gives us time before Miss Donnithorne's bell rings."
"Ah, then, I must not keep you now, else I should like to show you
the Hermitage. Did you ever see it?"
"This is the walk where we turn up to it. But we must not go now.
I'll show it you some other time, if you'd like to see it."
"Yes, please, sir."
"Do you always come back this way in the evening, or are you
afraid to come so lonely a road?"
"Oh no, sir, it's never late; I always set out by eight o'clock,
and it's so light now in the evening. My aunt would be angry with
me if I didn't get home before nine."
"Perhaps Craig, the gardener, comes to take care of you?"
A deep blush overspread Hetty's face and neck. "I'm sure he
doesn't; I'm sure he never did; I wouldn't let him; I don't like
him," she said hastily, and the tears of vexation had come so fast
that before she had done speaking a bright drop rolled down her
hot cheek. Then she felt ashamed to death that she was crying,
and for one long instant her happiness was all gone. But in the
next she felt an arm steal round her, and a gentle voice said,
"Why, Hetty, what makes you cry? I didn't mean to vex you. I
wouldn't vex you for the world, you little blossom. Come, don't
cry; look at me, else I shall think you won't forgive me."
Arthur had laid his hand on the soft arm that was nearest to him,
and was stooping towards Hetty with a look of coaxing entreaty.
Hetty lifted her long dewy lashes, and met the eyes that were bent
towards her with a sweet, timid, beseeching look. What a space of
time those three moments were while their eyes met and his arms
touched her! Love is such a simple thing when we have only one-
and-twenty summers and a sweet girl of seventeen trembles under
our glance, as if she were a bud first opening her heart with
wondering rapture to the morning. Such young unfurrowed souls
roll to meet each other like two velvet peaches that touch softly
and are at rest; they mingle as easily as two brooklets that ask
for nothing but to entwine themselves and ripple with ever-
interlacing curves in the leafiest hiding-places. While Arthur
gazed into Hetty's dark beseeching eyes, it made no difference to
him what sort of English she spoke; and even if hoops and powder
had been in fashion, he would very likely not have been sensible
just then that Hetty wanted those signs of high breeding.
But they started asunder with beating hearts: something had fallen
on the ground with a rattling noise; it was Hetty's basket; all
her little workwoman's matters were scattered on the path, some of
them showing a capability of rolling to great lengths. There was
much to be done in picking up, and not a word was spoken; but when
Arthur hung the basket over her arm again, the poor child felt a
strange difference in his look and manner. He just pressed her
hand, and said, with a look and tone that were almost chilling to
her, "I have been hindering you; I must not keep you any longer
now. You will be expected at the house. Good-bye."
Without waiting for her to speak, he turned away from her and
hurried back towards the road that led to the Hermitage, leaving
Hetty to pursue her way in a strange dream that seemed to have
begun in bewildering delight and was now passing into
contrarieties and sadness. Would he meet her again as she came
home? Why had he spoken almost as if he were displeased with her?
And then run away so suddenly? She cried, hardly knowing why.
Arthur too was very uneasy, but his feelings were lit up for him
by a more distinct consciousness. He hurried to the Hermitage,
which stood in the heart of the wood, unlocked the door with a
hasty wrench, slammed it after him, pitched Zeluco into the most
distant corner, and thrusting his right hand into his pocket,
first walked four or five times up and down the scanty length of
the little room, and then seated himself on the ottoman in an
uncomfortable stiff way, as we often do when we wish not to
abandon ourselves to feeling.
He was getting in love with Hetty--that was quite plain. He was
ready to pitch everything else--no matter where--for the sake of
surrendering himself to this delicious feeling which had just
disclosed itself. It was no use blinking the fact now--they would
get too fond of each other, if he went on taking notice of her--
and what would come of it? He should have to go away in a few
weeks, and the poor little thing would be miserable. He MUST NOT
see her alone again; he must keep out of her way. What a fool he
was for coming back from Gawaine's!
He got up and threw open the windows, to let in the soft breath of
the afternoon, and the healthy scent of the firs that made a belt
round the Hermitage. The soft air did not help his resolution, as
he leaned out and looked into the leafy distance. But he
considered his resolution sufficiently fixed: there was no need to
debate with himself any longer. He had made up his mind not to
meet Hetty again; and now he might give himself up to thinking how
immensely agreeable it would be if circumstances were different--
how pleasant it would have been to meet her this evening as she
came back, and put his arm round her again and look into her sweet
face. He wondered if the dear little thing were thinking of him
too--twenty to one she was. How beautiful her eyes were with the
tear on their lashes! He would like to satisfy his soul for a day
with looking at them, and he MUST see her again--he must see her,
simply to remove any false impression from her mind about his
manner to her just now. He would behave in a quiet, kind way to
her--just to prevent her from going home with her head full of
wrong fancies. Yes, that would be the best thing to do after all.
It was a long while--more than an hour before Arthur had brought
his meditations to this point; but once arrived there, he could
stay no longer at the Hermitage. The time must be filled up with
movement until he should see Hetty again. And it was already late
enough to go and dress for dinner, for his grandfather's dinner-
hour was six.
Evening in the Wood
IT happened that Mrs. Pomfret had had a slight quarrel with Mrs.
Best, the housekeeper, on this Thursday morning--a fact which had
two consequences highly convenient to Hetty. It caused Mrs.
Pomfret to have tea sent up to her own room, and it inspired that
exemplary lady's maid with so lively a recollection of former
passages in Mrs. Best's conduct, and of dialogues in which Mrs.
Best had decidedly the inferiority as an interlocutor with Mrs.
Pomfret, that Hetty required no more presence of mind than was
demanded for using her needle, and throwing in an occasional "yes"
or "no." She would have wanted to put on her hat earlier than
usual; only she had told Captain Donnithorne that she usually set
out about eight o'clock, and if he SHOULD go to the Grove again
expecting to see her, and she should be gone! Would he come? Her
little butterfly soul fluttered incessantly between memory and
dubious expectation. At last the minute-hand of the old-fashioned
brazen-faced timepiece was on the last quarter to eight, and there
was every reason for its being time to get ready for departure.
Even Mrs. Pomfret's preoccupied mind did not prevent her from
noticing what looked like a new flush of beauty in the little
thing as she tied on her hat before the looking-glass.
"That child gets prettier and prettier every day, I do believe,"
was her inward comment. "The more's the pity. She'll get neither
a place nor a husband any the sooner for it. Sober well-to-do men
don't like such pretty wives. When I was a girl, I was more
admired than if I had been so very pretty. However, she's reason
to be grateful to me for teaching her something to get her bread
with, better than farm-house work. They always told me I was
good-natured--and that's the truth, and to my hurt too, else
there's them in this house that wouldn't be here now to lord it
over me in the housekeeper's room."
Hetty walked hastily across the short space of pleasure-ground
which she had to traverse, dreading to meet Mr. Craig, to whom she
could hardly have spoken civilly. How relieved she was when she
had got safely under the oaks and among the fern of the Chase!
Even then she was as ready to be startled as the deer that leaped
away at her approach. She thought nothing of the evening light
that lay gently in the grassy alleys between the fern, and made
the beauty of their living green more visible than it had been in
the overpowering flood of noon: she thought of nothing that was
present. She only saw something that was possible: Mr. Arthur
Donnithorne coming to meet her again along the Fir-tree Grove.
That was the foreground of Hetty's picture; behind it lay a bright
hazy something--days that were not to be as the other days of her
life had been. It was as if she had been wooed by a river-god,
who might any time take her to his wondrous halls below a watery
heaven. There was no knowing what would come, since this strange
entrancing delight had come. If a chest full of lace and satin
and jewels had been sent her from some unknown source, how could
she but have thought that her whole lot was going to change, and
that to-morrow some still more bewildering joy would befall her?
Hetty had never read a novel; if she had ever seen one, I think
the words would have been too hard for her; how then could she
find a shape for her expectations? They were as formless as the
sweet languid odours of the garden at the Chase, which had floated
past her as she walked by the gate.
She is at another gate now--that leading into Fir-tree Grove. She
enters the wood, where it is already twilight, and at every step
she takes, the fear at her heart becomes colder. If he should not
come! Oh, how dreary it was--the thought of going out at the
other end of the wood, into the unsheltered road, without having
seen him. She reaches the first turning towards the Hermitage,
walking slowly--he is not there. She hates the leveret that runs
across the path; she hates everything that is not what she longs
for. She walks on, happy whenever she is coming to a bend in the
road, for perhaps he is behind it. No. She is beginning to cry:
her heart has swelled so, the tears stand in her eyes; she gives
one great sob, while the corners of her mouth quiver, and the
tears roll down.
She doesn't know that there is another turning to the Hermitage,
that she is close against it, and that Arthur Donnithorne is only
a few yards from her, full of one thought, and a thought of which
she only is the object. He is going to see Hetty again: that is
the longing which has been growing through the last three hours to
a feverish thirst. Not, of course, to speak in the caressing way
into which he had unguardedly fallen before dinner, but to set
things right with her by a kindness which would have the air of
friendly civility, and prevent her from running away with wrong
notions about their mutual relation.
If Hetty had known he was there, she would not have cried; and it
would have been better, for then Arthur would perhaps have behaved
as wisely as he had intended. As it was, she started when he
appeared at the end of the side-alley, and looked up at him with
two great drops rolling down her cheeks. What else could he do
but speak to her in a soft, soothing tone, as if she were a
bright-eyed spaniel with a thorn in her foot?
"Has something frightened you, Hetty? Have you seen anything in
the wood? Don't be frightened--I'll take care of you now."
Hetty was blushing so, she didn't know whether she was happy or
miserable. To be crying again--what did gentlemen think of girls
who cried in that way? She felt unable even to say "no," but
could only look away from him and wipe the tears from her cheek.
Not before a great drop had fallen on her rose-coloured strings--
she knew that quite well.
"Come, be cheerful again. Smile at me, and tell me what's the
matter. Come, tell me."
Hetty turned her head towards him, whispered, "I thought you
wouldn't come," and slowly got courage to lift her eyes to him.
That look was too much: he must have had eyes of Egyptian granite
not to look too lovingly in return.
"You little frightened bird! Little tearful rose! Silly pet!
You won't cry again, now I'm with you, will you?"
Ah, he doesn't know in the least what he is saying. This is not
what he meant to say. His arm is stealing round the waist again;
it is tightening its clasp; he is bending his face nearer and
nearer to the round cheek; his lips are meeting those pouting
child-lips, and for a long moment time has vanished. He may be a
shepherd in Arcadia for aught he knows, he may be the first youth
kissing the first maiden, he may be Eros himself, sipping the lips
of Psyche--it is all one.
There was no speaking for minutes after. They walked along with
beating hearts till they came within sight of the gate at the end
of the wood. Then they looked at each other, not quite as they
had looked before, for in their eyes there was the memory of a
But already something bitter had begun to mingle itself with the
fountain of sweets: already Arthur was uncomfortable. He took his
arm from Hetty's waist, and said, "Here we are, almost at the end
of the Grove. I wonder how late it is," he added, pulling out his
watch. "Twenty minutes past eight--but my watch is too fast.
However, I'd better not go any further now. Trot along quickly
with your little feet, and get home safely. Good-bye."
He took her hand, and looked at her half-sadly, half with a
constrained smile. Hetty's eyes seemed to beseech him not to go
away yet; but he patted her cheek and said "Good-bye" again. She
was obliged to turn away from him and go on.
As for Arthur, he rushed back through the wood, as if he wanted to
put a wide space between himself and Hetty. He would not go to
the Hermitage again; he remembered how he had debated with himself
there before dinner, and it had all come to nothing--worse than
nothing. He walked right on into the Chase, glad to get out of
the Grove, which surely was haunted by his evil genius. Those
beeches and smooth limes--there was something enervating in the
very sight of them; but the strong knotted old oaks had no bending
languor in them--the sight of them would give a man some energy.
Arthur lost himself among the narrow openings in the fern, winding
about without seeking any issue, till the twilight deepened almost
to night under the great boughs, and the hare looked black as it
darted across his path.
He was feeling much more strongly than he had done in the morning:
it was as if his horse had wheeled round from a leap and dared to
dispute his mastery. He was dissatisfied with himself, irritated,
mortified. He no sooner fixed his mind on the probable
consequences of giving way to the emotions which had stolen over
him to-day--of continuing to notice Hetty, of allowing himself any
opportunity for such slight caresses as he had been betrayed into
already--than he refused to believe such a future possible for
himself. To flirt with Hetty was a very different affair from
flirting with a pretty girl of his own station: that was
understood to be an amusement on both sides, or, if it became
serious, there was no obstacle to marriage. But this little thing
would be spoken ill of directly, if she happened to be seen
walking with him; and then those excellent people, the Poysers, to
whom a good name was as precious as if they had the best blood in
the land in their veins--he should hate himself if he made a
scandal of that sort, on the estate that was to be his own some
day, and among tenants by whom he liked, above all, to be
respected. He could no more believe that he should so fall in his
own esteem than that he should break both his legs and go on
crutches all the rest of his life. He couldn't imagine himself in
that position; it was too odious, too unlike him.
And even if no one knew anything about it, they might get too fond
of each other, and then there could be nothing but the misery of
parting, after all. No gentleman, out of a ballad, could marry a
farmer's niece. There must be an end to the whole thing at once.
It was too foolish.
And yet he had been so determined this morning, before he went to
Gawaine's; and while he was there something had taken hold of him
and made him gallop back. It seemed he couldn't quite depend on
his own resolution, as he had thought he could; he almost wished
his arm would get painful again, and then he should think of
nothing but the comfort it would be to get rid of the pain. There
was no knowing what impulse might seize him to-morrow, in this
confounded place, where there was nothing to occupy him
imperiously through the livelong day. What could he do to secure
himself from any more of this folly?
There was but one resource. He would go and tell Irwine--tell him
everything. The mere act of telling it would make it seem
trivial; the temptation would vanish, as the charm of fond words
vanishes when one repeats them to the indifferent. In every way
it would help him to tell Irwine. He would ride to Broxton
Rectory the first thing after breakfast to-morrow.
Arthur had no sooner come to this determination than he began to
think which of the paths would lead him home, and made as short a
walk thither as he could. He felt sure he should sleep now: he
had had enough to tire him, and there was no more need for him to
The Return Home
WHILE that parting in the wood was happening, there was a parting
in the cottage too, and Lisbeth had stood with Adam at the door,
straining her aged eyes to get the last glimpse of Seth and Dinah,
as they mounted the opposite slope.
"Eh, I'm loath to see the last on her," she said to Adam, as they
turned into the house again. "I'd ha' been willin' t' ha' her
about me till I died and went to lie by my old man. She'd make it
easier dyin'--she spakes so gentle an' moves about so still. I
could be fast sure that pictur' was drawed for her i' thy new
Bible--th' angel a-sittin' on the big stone by the grave. Eh, I
wouldna mind ha'in a daughter like that; but nobody ne'er marries
them as is good for aught."
"Well, Mother, I hope thee WILT have her for a daughter; for
Seth's got a liking for her, and I hope she'll get a liking for
Seth in time."
"Where's th' use o' talkin' a-that'n? She caresna for Seth.
She's goin' away twenty mile aff. How's she to get a likin' for
him, I'd like to know? No more nor the cake 'ull come wi'out the
leaven. Thy figurin' books might ha' tould thee better nor that,
I should think, else thee mightst as well read the commin print,
as Seth allays does."
"Nay, Mother," said Adam, laughing, "the figures tell us a fine
deal, and we couldn't go far without 'em, but they don't tell us
about folks's feelings. It's a nicer job to calculate THEM. But
Seth's as good-hearted a lad as ever handled a tool, and plenty o'
sense, and good-looking too; and he's got the same way o' thinking
as Dinah. He deserves to win her, though there's no denying she's
a rare bit o' workmanship. You don't see such women turned off
the wheel every day."
"Eh, thee't allays stick up for thy brother. Thee'st been just
the same, e'er sin' ye war little uns together. Thee wart allays
for halving iverything wi' him. But what's Seth got to do with
marryin', as is on'y three-an'-twenty? He'd more need to learn
an' lay by sixpence. An' as for his desarving her--she's two 'ear
older nor Seth: she's pretty near as old as thee. But that's the
way; folks mun allays choose by contrairies, as if they must be
sorted like the pork--a bit o' good meat wi' a bit o' offal."
To the feminine mind in some of its moods, all things that might
be receive a temporary charm from comparison with what is; and
since Adam did not want to marry Dinah himself, Lisbeth felt
rather peevish on that score--as peevish as she would have been if
he HAD wanted to marry her, and so shut himself out from Mary
Burge and the partnership as effectually as by marrying Hetty.
It was more than half-past eight when Adam and his mother were
talking in this way, so that when, about ten minutes later, Hetty
reached the turning of the lane that led to the farmyard gate, she
saw Dinah and Seth approaching it from the opposite direction, and
waited for them to come up to her. They, too, like Hetty, had
lingered a little in their walk, for Dinah was trying to speak
words of comfort and strength to Seth in these parting moments.
But when they saw Hetty, they paused and shook hands; Seth turned
homewards, and Dinah came on alone.
"Seth Bede would have come and spoken to you, my dear," she said,
as she reached Hetty, "but he's very full of trouble to-night."
Hetty answered with a dimpled smile, as if she did not quite know
what had been said; and it made a strange contrast to see that
sparkling self-engrossed loveliness looked at by Dinah's calm
pitying face, with its open glance which told that her heart lived
in no cherished secrets of its own, but in feelings which it
longed to share with all the world. Hetty liked Dinah as well as
she had ever liked any woman; how was it possible to feel
otherwise towards one who always put in a kind word for her when
her aunt was finding fault, and who was always ready to take Totty
off her hands--little tiresome Totty, that was made such a pet of
by every one, and that Hetty could see no interest in at all?
Dinah had never said anything disapproving or reproachful to Hetty
during her whole visit to the Hall Farm; she had talked to her a
great deal in a serious way, but Hetty didn't mind that much, for
she never listened: whatever Dinah might say, she almost always
stroked Hetty's cheek after it, and wanted to do some mending for
her. Dinah was a riddle to her; Hetty looked at her much in the
same way as one might imagine a little perching bird that could
only flutter from bough to bough, to look at the swoop of the
swallow or the mounting of the lark; but she did not care to solve
such riddles, any more than she cared to know what was meant by
the pictures in the Pilgrim's Progress, or in the old folio Bible
that Marty and Tommy always plagued her about on a Sunday.
Dinah took her hand now and drew it under her own arm.
"You look very happy to-night, dear child," she said. "I shall
think ot you often when I'm at Snowfield, and see your face before
me as it is now. It's a strange thing--sometimes when I'm quite
alone, sitting in my room with my eyes closed, or walking over the
hills, the people I've seen and known, if it's only been for a few
days, are brought before me, and I hear their voices and see them
look and move almost plainer than I ever did when they were really
with me so as I could touch them. And then my heart is drawn out
towards them, and I feel their lot as if it was my own, and I take
comfort in spreading it before the Lord and resting in His love,
on their behalf as well as my own. And so I feel sure you will
come before me."
She paused a moment, but Hetty said nothing.
"It has been a very precious time to me," Dinah went on, "last
night and to-day--seeing two such good sons as Adam and Seth Bede.
They are so tender and thoughtful for their aged mother. And she
has been telling me what Adam has done, for these many years, to
help his father and his brother; it's wonderful what a spirit of
wisdom and knowledge he has, and how he's ready to use it all in
behalf of them that are feeble. And I'm sure he has a loving
spirit too. I've noticed it often among my own people round
Snowfield, that the strong, skilful men are often the gentlest to
the women and children; and it's pretty to see 'em carrying the
little babies as if they were no heavier than little birds. And
the babies always seem to like the strong arm best. I feel sure
it would be so with Adam Bede. Don't you think so, Hetty?"
"Yes," said Hetty abstractedly, for her mind had been all the
while in the wood, and she would have found it difficult to say
what she was assenting to. Dinah saw she was not inclined to
talk, but there would not have been time to say much more, for
they were now at the yard-gate.
The still twilight, with its dying western red and its few faint
struggling stars, rested on the farm-yard, where there was not a
sound to be heard but the stamping of the cart-horses in the
stable. It was about twenty minutes after sunset. The fowls were
all gone to roost, and the bull-dog lay stretched on the straw
outside his kennel, with the black-and-tan terrier by his side,
when the falling-to of the gate disturbed them and set them
barking, like good officials, before they had any distinct
knowledge of the reason.
The barking had its effect in the house, for, as Dinah and Hetty
approached, the doorway was filled by a portly figure, with a
ruddy black-eyed face which bore in it the possibility of looking
extremely acute, and occasionally contemptuous, on market-days,
but had now a predominant after-supper expression of hearty good-
nature. It is well known that great scholars who have shown the
most pitiless acerbity in their criticism of other men's
scholarship have yet been of a relenting and indulgent temper in
private life; and I have heard of a learned man meekly rocking the
twins in the cradle with his left hand, while with his right he
inflicted the most lacerating sarcasms on an opponent who had
betrayed a brutal ignorance of Hebrew. Weaknesses and errors must
be forgiven--alas! they are not alien to us--but the man who takes
the wrong side on the momentous subject of the Hebrew points must
be treated as the enemy of his race. There was the same sort of
antithetic mixture in Martin Poyser: he was of so excellent a
disposition that he had been kinder and more respectful than ever
to his old father since he had made a deed of gift of all his
property, and no man judged his neighbours more charitably on all
personal matters; but for a farmer, like Luke Britton, for
example, whose fallows were not well cleaned, who didn't know the
rudiments of hedging and ditching, and showed but a small share of
judgment in the purchase of winter stock, Martin Poyser was as
hard and implacable as the north-east wind. Luke Britton could
not make a remark, even on the weather, but Martin Poyser detected
in it a taint of that unsoundness and general ignorance which was
palpable in all his farming operations. He hated to see the
fellow lift the pewter pint to his mouth in the bar of the Royal
George on market-day, and the mere sight of him on the other side
of the road brought a severe and critical expression into his
black eyes, as different as possible from the fatherly glance he
bent on his two nieces as they approached the door. Mr. Poyser
had smoked his evening pipe, and now held his hands in his
pockets, as the only resource of a man who continues to sit up
after the day's business is done.
"Why, lasses, ye're rather late to-night," he said, when they
reached the little gate leading into the causeway. "The mother's
begun to fidget about you, an' she's got the little un ill. An'
how did you leave the old woman Bede, Dinah? Is she much down
about the old man? He'd been but a poor bargain to her this five
"She's been greatly distressed for the loss of him," said Dinah,
"but she's seemed more comforted to-day. Her son Adam's been at
home all day, working at his father's coffin, and she loves to
have him at home. She's been talking about him to me almost all
the day. She has a loving heart, though she's sorely given to
fret and be fearful. I wish she had a surer trust to comfort her
in her old age."
"Adam's sure enough," said Mr. Poyser, misunderstanding Dinah's
wish. "There's no fear but he'll yield well i' the threshing.
He's not one o' them as is all straw and no grain. I'll be bond
for him any day, as he'll be a good son to the last. Did he say
he'd be coming to see us soon? But come in, come in," he added,
making way for them; "I hadn't need keep y' out any longer."
The tall buildings round the yard shut out a good deal of the sky,
but the large window let in abundant light to show every corner of
Mrs. Poyser, seated in the rocking-chair, which had been brought
out of the "right-hand parlour," was trying to soothe Totty to
sleep. But Totty was not disposed to sleep; and when her cousins
entered, she raised herself up and showed a pair of flushed
cheeks, which looked fatter than ever now they were defined by the
edge of her linen night-cap.
In the large wicker-bottomed arm-chair in the left-hand chimney-
nook sat old Martin Poyser, a hale but shrunken and bleached image
of his portly black-haired son--his head hanging forward a little,
and his elbows pushed backwards so as to allow the whole of his
forearm to rest on the arm of the chair. His blue handkerchief
was spread over his knees, as was usual indoors, when it was not
hanging over his head; and he sat watching what went forward with
the quiet OUTWARD glance of healthy old age, which, disengaged
from any interest in an inward drama, spies out pins upon the
floor, follows one's minutest motions with an unexpectant
purposeless tenacity, watches the flickering of the flame or the
sun-gleams on the wall, counts the quarries on the floor, watches
even the hand of the clock, and pleases itself with detecting a
rhythm in the tick.
"What a time o' night this is to come home, Hetty!" said Mrs.
Poyser. "Look at the clock, do; why, it's going on for half-past
nine, and I've sent the gells to bed this half-hour, and late
enough too; when they've got to get up at half after four, and the
mowers' bottles to fill, and the baking; and here's this blessed
child wi' the fever for what I know, and as wakeful as if it was
dinner-time, and nobody to help me to give her the physic but your
uncle, and fine work there's been, and half of it spilt on her
night-gown--it's well if she's swallowed more nor 'ull make her
worse i'stead o' better. But folks as have no mind to be o' use
have allays the luck to be out o' the road when there's anything
to be done."
"I did set out before eight, aunt," said Hetty, in a pettish tone,
with a slight toss of her head. But this clock's so much before
the clock at the Chase, there's no telling what time it'll be when
I get here."
"What! You'd be wanting the clock set by gentlefolks's time,
would you? An' sit up burnin' candle, an' lie a-bed wi' the sun
a-bakin' you like a cowcumber i' the frame? The clock hasn't been
put forrard for the first time to-day, I reckon."
The fact was, Hetty had really forgotten the difference of the
clocks when she told Captain Donnithorne that she set out at
eight, and this, with her lingering pace, had made her nearly half
an hour later than usual. But here her aunt's attention was
diverted from this tender subject by Totty, who, perceiving at
length that the arrival of her cousins was not likely to bring
anything satisfactory to her in particular, began to cry, "Munny,
munny," in an explosive manner.
"Well, then, my pet, Mother's got her, Mother won't leave her;
Totty be a good dilling, and go to sleep now," said Mrs. Poyser,
leaning back and rocking the chair, while she tried to make Totty
nestle against her. But Totty only cried louder, and said, "Don't
yock!" So the mother, with that wondrous patience which love gives
to the quickest temperament, sat up again, and pressed her cheek
against the linen night-cap and kissed it, and forgot to scold
Hetty any longer.
"Come, Hetty," said Martin Poyser, in a conciliatory tone, "go and
get your supper i' the pantry, as the things are all put away; an'
then you can come and take the little un while your aunt undresses
herself, for she won't lie down in bed without her mother. An' I
reckon YOU could eat a bit, Dinah, for they don't keep much of a
house down there."
"No, thank you, Uncle," said Dinah; "I ate a good meal before I
came away, for Mrs. Bede would make a kettle-cake for me."
"I don't want any supper," said Hetty, taking off her hat. "I can
hold Totty now, if Aunt wants me."
"Why, what nonsense that is to talk!" said Mrs. Poyser. "Do you
think you can live wi'out eatin', an' nourish your inside wi'
stickin' red ribbons on your head? Go an' get your supper this
minute, child; there's a nice bit o' cold pudding i' the safe--
just what you're fond of."
Hetty complied silently by going towards the pantry, and Mrs.
Poyser went on speaking to Dinah.
"Sit down, my dear, an' look as if you knowed what it was to make
yourself a bit comfortable i' the world. I warrant the old woman
was glad to see you, since you stayed so long."
"She seemed to like having me there at last; but her sons say she
doesn't like young women about her commonly; and I thought just at
first she was almost angry with me for going."
"Eh, it's a poor look-out when th' ould folks doesna like the
young uns," said old Martin, bending his head down lower, and
seeming to trace the pattern of the quarries with his eye.
"Aye, it's ill livin' in a hen-roost for them as doesn't like
fleas," said Mrs. Poyser. "We've all had our turn at bein' young,
I reckon, be't good luck or ill."
"But she must learn to 'commodate herself to young women," said
Mr. Poyser, "for it isn't to be counted on as Adam and Seth 'ull
keep bachelors for the next ten year to please their mother. That
'ud be unreasonable. It isn't right for old nor young nayther to
make a bargain all o' their own side. What's good for one's good
all round i' the long run. I'm no friend to young fellows a-
marrying afore they know the difference atween a crab an' a apple;
but they may wait o'er long."
"To be sure," said Mrs. Poyser; "if you go past your dinner-time,
there'll be little relish o' your meat. You turn it o'er an' o'er
wi' your fork, an' don't eat it after all. You find faut wi' your
meat, an' the faut's all i' your own stomach."
Hetty now came back from the pantry and said, "I can take Totty
now, Aunt, if you like."
"Come, Rachel," said Mr. Poyser, as his wife seemed to hesitate,
seeing that Totty was at last nestling quietly, "thee'dst better
let Hetty carry her upstairs, while thee tak'st thy things off.
Thee't tired. It's time thee wast in bed. Thee't bring on the
pain in thy side again."
"Well, she may hold her if the child 'ull go to her," said Mrs.
Hetty went close to the rocking-chair, and stood without her usual
smile, and without any attempt to entice Totty, simply waiting for
her aunt to give the child into her hands.
"Wilt go to Cousin Hetty, my dilling, while mother gets ready to
go to bed? Then Totty shall go into Mother's bed, and sleep there
Before her mother had done speaking, Totty had given her answer in
an unmistakable manner, by knitting her brow, setting her tiny
teeth against her underlip, and leaning forward to slap Hetty on
the arm with her utmost force. Then, without speaking, she
nestled to her mother again.
"Hey, hey," said Mr. Poyser, while Hetty stood without moving,
"not go to Cousin Hetty? That's like a babby. Totty's a little
woman, an' not a babby."
"It's no use trying to persuade her," said Mrs. Poyser. "She
allays takes against Hetty when she isn't well. Happen she'll go
Dinah, having taken off her bonnet and shawl, had hitherto kept
quietly seated in the background, not liking to thrust herself
between Hetty and what was considered Hetty's proper work. But
now she came forward, and, putting out her arms, said, "Come
Totty, come and let Dinah carry her upstairs along with Mother:
poor, poor Mother! she's so tired--she wants to go to bed."
Totty turned her face towards Dinah, and looked at her an instant,
then lifted herself up, put out her little arms, and let Dinah
lift her from her mother's lap. Hetty turned away without any
sign of ill humour, and, taking her hat from the table, stood
waiting with an air of indifference, to see if she should be told
to do anything else.
"You may make the door fast now, Poyser; Alick's been come in this
long while," said Mrs. Poyser, rising with an appearance of relief
from her low chair. "Get me the matches down, Hetty, for I must
have the rushlight burning i' my room. Come, Father."
The heavy wooden bolts began to roll in the house doors, and old
Martin prepared to move, by gathering up his blue handkerchief,
and reaching his bright knobbed walnut-tree stick from the corner.
Mrs. Poyser then led the way out of the kitchen, followed by the
gandfather, and Dinah with Totty in her arms--all going to bed by
twilight, like the birds. Mrs. Poyser, on her way, peeped into
the room where her two boys lay; just to see their ruddy round
cheeks on the pillow, and to hear for a moment their light regular