Part 5 out of 11
come, really wanted to see her again. And by the time she rose
from her knees mechanically, because all the rest were rising, the
colour had returned to her cheeks even with a heightened glow, for
she was framing little indignant speeches to herself, saying she
hated Arthur for giving her this pain--she would like him to
suffer too. Yet while this selfish tumult was going on in her
soul, her eyes were bent down on her prayer-book, and the eyelids
with their dark fringe looked as lovely as ever. Adam Bede
thought so, as he glanced at her for a moment on rising from his
But Adam's thoughts of Hetty did not deafen him to the service;
they rather blended with all the other deep feelings for which the
church service was a channel to him this afternoon, as a certain
consciousness of our entire past and our imagined future blends
itself with all our moments of keen sensibility. And to Adam the
church service was the best channel he could have found for his
mingled regret, yearning, and resignation; its interchange of
beseeching cries for help with outbursts of faith and praise, its
recurrent responses and the familiar rhythm of its collects,
seemed to speak for him as no other form of worship could have
done; as, to those early Christians who had worshipped from their
childhood upwards in catacombs, the torch-light and shadows must
have seemed nearer the Divine presence than the heathenish
daylight of the streets. The secret of our emotions never lies in
the bare object, but in its subtle relations to our own past: no
wonder the secret escapes the unsympathizing oberver, who might as
well put on his spectacles to discern odours.
But there was one reason why even a chance comer would have found
the service in Hayslope Church more impressive than in most other
village nooks in the kingdom--a reason of which I am sure you have
not the slightest suspicion. It was the reading of our friend
Joshua Rann. Where that good shoemaker got his notion of reading
from remained a mystery even to his most intimate acquaintances.
I believe, after all, he got it chiefly from Nature, who had
poured some of her music into this honest conceited soul, as she
had been known to do into other narrow souls before his. She had
given him, at least, a fine bass voice and a musical ear; but I
cannot positively say whether these alone had sufficed to inspire
him with the rich chant in which he delivered the responses. The
way he rolled from a rich deep forte into a melancholy cadence,
subsiding, at the end of the last word, into a sort of faint
resonance, like the lingering vibrations of a fine violoncello, I
can compare to nothing for its strong calm melancholy but the rush
and cadence of the wind among the autumn boughs. This may seem a
strange mode of speaking about the reading of a parish clerk--a
man in rusty spectacles, with stubbly hair, a large occiput, and a
prominent crown. But that is Nature's way: she will allow a
gentleman of splendid physiognomy and poetic aspirations to sing
woefully out of tune, and not give him the slightest hint of it;
and takes care that some narrow-browed fellow, trolling a ballad
in the corner of a pot-house, shall be as true to his intervals as
Joshua himself was less proud of his reading than of his singing,
and it was always with a sense of heightened importance that he
passed from the desk to the choir. Still more to-day: it was a
special occasion, for an old man, familiar to all the parish, had
died a sad death--not in his bed, a circumstance the most painful
to the mind of the peasant--and now the funeral psalm was to be
sung in memory of his sudden departure. Moreover, Bartle Massey
was not at church, and Joshua's importance in the choir suffered
no eclipse. It was a solemn minor strain they sang. The old
psalm-tunes have many a wail among them, and the words--
Thou sweep'st us off as with a flood;
We vanish hence like dreams--
seemed to have a closer application than usual in the death of
poor Thias. The mother and sons listened, each with peculiar
feelings. Lisbeth had a vague belief that the psalm was doing her
husband good; it was part of that decent burial which she would
have thought it a greater wrong to withhold from him than to have
caused him many unhappy days while he was living. The more there
was said about her husband, the more there was done for him,
surely the safer he would be. It was poor Lisbeth's blind way of
feeling that human love and pity are a ground of faith in some
other love. Seth, who was easily touched, shed tears, and tried
to recall, as he had done continually since his father's death,
all that he had heard of the possibility that a single moment of
consciousness at the last might be a moment of pardon and
reconcilement; for was it not written in the very psalm they were
singing that the Divine dealings were not measured and
circumscribed by time? Adam had never been unable to join in a
psalm before. He had known plenty of trouble and vexation since
he had been a lad, but this was the first sorrow that had hemmed
in his voice, and strangely enough it was sorrow because the chief
source of his past trouble and vexation was for ever gone out of
his reach. He had not been able to press his father's hand before
their parting, and say, "Father, you know it was all right between
us; I never forgot what I owed you when I was a lad; you forgive
me if I have been too hot and hasty now and then!" Adam thought
but little to-day of the hard work and the earnings he had spent
on his father: his thoughts ran constantly on what the old man's
feelings had been in moments of humiliation, when he had held down
his head before the rebukes of his son. When our indignation is
borne in submissive silence, we are apt to feel twinges of doubt
afterwards as to our own generosity, if not justice; how much more
when the object of our anger has gone into everlasting silence,
and we have seen his face for the last time in the meekness of
"Ah! I was always too hard," Adam said to himself. "It's a sore
fault in me as I'm so hot and out o' patience with people when
they do wrong, and my heart gets shut up against 'em, so as I
can't bring myself to forgive 'em. I see clear enough there's
more pride nor love in my soul, for I could sooner make a thousand
strokes with th' hammer for my father than bring myself to say a
kind word to him. And there went plenty o' pride and temper to
the strokes, as the devil WILL be having his finger in what we
call our duties as well as our sins. Mayhap the best thing I ever
did in my life was only doing what was easiest for myself. It's
allays been easier for me to work nor to sit still, but the real
tough job for me 'ud be to master my own will and temper and go
right against my own pride. It seems to me now, if I was to find
Father at home to-night, I should behave different; but there's no
knowing--perhaps nothing 'ud be a lesson to us if it didn't come
too late. It's well we should feel as life's a reckoning we can't
make twice over; there's no real making amends in this world, any
more nor you can mend a wrong subtraction by doing your addition
This was the key-note to which Adam's thoughts had perpetually
returned since his father's death, and the solemn wail of the
funeral psalm was only an influence that brought back the old
thoughts with stronger emphasis. So was the sermon, which Mr.
Irwine had chosen with reference to Thias's funeral. It spoke
briefly and simply of the words, "In the midst of life we are in
death"--how the present moment is all we can call our own for
works of mercy, of righteous dealing, and of family tenderness.
All very old truths--but what we thought the oldest truth becomes
the most startling to us in the week when we have looked on the
dead face of one who has made a part of our own lives. For when
men want to impress us with the effect of a new and wonderfully
vivid light, do they not let it fall on the most familiar objects,
that we may measure its intensity by remembering the former
Then came the moment of the final blessing, when the forever
sublime words, "The peace of God, which passeth all
understanding," seemed to blend with the calm afternoon sunshine
that fell on the bowed heads of the congregation; and then the
quiet rising, the mothers tying on the bonnets of the little
maidens who had slept through the sermon, the fathers collecting
the prayer-books, until all streamed out through the old archway
into the green churchyard and began their neighbourly talk, their
simple civilities, and their invitations to tea; for on a Sunday
every one was ready to receive a guest--it was the day when all
must be in their best clothes and their best humour.
Mr. and Mrs. Poyser paused a minute at the church gate: they were
waiting for Adam to Come up, not being contented to go away
without saying a kind word to the widow and her sons.
"Well, Mrs. Bede," said Mrs. Poyser, as they walked on together,
"you must keep up your heart; husbands and wives must be content
when they've lived to rear their children and see one another's
"Aye, aye," said Mr. Poyser; "they wonna have long to wait for one
another then, anyhow. And ye've got two o' the strapping'st sons
i' th' country; and well you may, for I remember poor Thias as
fine a broad-shouldered fellow as need to be; and as for you, Mrs.
Bede, why you're straighter i' the back nor half the young women
"Eh," said Lisbeth, "it's poor luck for the platter to wear well
when it's broke i' two. The sooner I'm laid under the thorn the
better. I'm no good to nobody now."
Adam never took notice of his mother's little unjust plaints; but
Seth said, "Nay, Mother, thee mustna say so. Thy sons 'ull never
get another mother."
"That's true, lad, that's true," said Mr. Poyser; "and it's wrong
on us to give way to grief, Mrs. Bede; for it's like the children
cryin' when the fathers and mothers take things from 'em. There's
One above knows better nor us."
"Ah," said Mrs. Poyser, "an' it's poor work allays settin' the
dead above the livin'. We shall all on us be dead some time, I
reckon--it 'ud be better if folks 'ud make much on us beforehand,
i'stid o' beginnin' when we're gone. It's but little good you'll
do a-watering the last year's crop."
"Well, Adam," said Mr. Poyser, feeling that his wife's words were,
as usual, rather incisive than soothing, and that it would be well
to change the subject, "you'll come and see us again now, I hope.
I hanna had a talk with you this long while, and the missis here
wants you to see what can be done with her best spinning-wheel,
for it's got broke, and it'll be a nice job to mend it--there'll
want a bit o' turning. You'll come as soon as you can now, will
Mr. Poyser paused and looked round while he was speaking, as if to
see where Hetty was; for the children were running on before.
Hetty was not without a companion, and she had, besides, more pink
and white about her than ever, for she held in her hand the
wonderful pink-and-white hot-house plant, with a very long name--a
Scotch name, she supposed, since people said Mr. Craig the
gardener was Scotch. Adam took the opportunity of looking round
too; and I am sure you will not require of him that he should feel
any vexation in observing a pouting expression on Hetty's face as
she listened to the gardener's small talk. Yet in her secret
heart she was glad to have him by her side, for she would perhaps
learn from him how it was Arthur had not come to church. Not that
she cared to ask him the question, but she hoped the information
would be given spontaneously; for Mr. Craig, like a superior man,
was very fond of giving information.
Mr. Craig was never aware that his conversation and advances were
received coldly, for to shift one's point of view beyond certain
limits is impossible to the most liberal and expansive mind; we
are none of us aware of the impression we produce on Brazilian
monkeys of feeble understanding--it is possible they see hardly
anything in us. Moreover, Mr. Craig was a man of sober passions,
and was already in his tenth year of hesitation as to the relative
advantages of matrimony and bachelorhood. It is true that, now
and then, when he had been a little heated by an extra glass of
grog, he had been heard to say of Hetty that the "lass was well
enough," and that "a man might do worse"; but on convivial
occasions men are apt to express themselves strongly.
Martin Poyser held Mr. Craig in honour, as a man who "knew his
business" and who had great lights concerning soils and compost;
but he was less of a favourite with Mrs. Poyser, who had more than
once said in confidence to her husband, "You're mighty fond o'
Craig, but for my part, I think he's welly like a cock as thinks
the sun's rose o' purpose to hear him crow." For the rest, Mr.
Craig was an estimable gardener, and was not without reasons for
having a high opinion of himself. He had also high shoulders and
high cheek-bones and hung his head forward a little, as he walked
along with his hands in his breeches pockets. I think it was his
pedigree only that had the advantage of being Scotch, and not his
"bringing up"; for except that he had a stronger burr in his
accent, his speech differed little from that of the Loamshire
people about him. But a gardener is Scotch, as a French teacher
"Well, Mr. Poyser," he said, before the good slow farmer had time
to speak, "ye'll not be carrying your hay to-morrow, I'm thinking.
The glass sticks at 'change,' and ye may rely upo' my word as
we'll ha' more downfall afore twenty-four hours is past. Ye see
that darkish-blue cloud there upo' the 'rizon--ye know what I mean
by the 'rizon, where the land and sky seems to meet?"
"Aye, aye, I see the cloud," said Mr. Poyser, "'rizon or no
'rizon. It's right o'er Mike Holdsworth's fallow, and a foul
fallow it is."
"Well, you mark my words, as that cloud 'ull spread o'er the sky
pretty nigh as quick as you'd spread a tarpaulin over one o' your
hay-ricks. It's a great thing to ha' studied the look o' the
clouds. Lord bless you! Th' met'orological almanecks can learn
me nothing, but there's a pretty sight o' things I could let THEM
up to, if they'd just come to me. And how are you, Mrs. Poyser?--
thinking o' getherin' the red currants soon, I reckon. You'd a
deal better gether 'em afore they're o'erripe, wi' such weather as
we've got to look forward to. How do ye do, Mistress Bede?" Mr.
Craig continued, without a pause, nodding by the way to Adam and
Seth. "I hope y' enjoyed them spinach and gooseberries as I sent
Chester with th' other day. If ye want vegetables while ye're in
trouble, ye know where to come to. It's well known I'm not giving
other folks' things away, for when I've supplied the house, the
garden s my own spekilation, and it isna every man th' old squire
could get as 'ud be equil to the undertaking, let alone asking
whether he'd be willing I've got to run my calkilation fine, I can
tell you, to make sure o' getting back the money as I pay the
squire. I should like to see some o' them fellows as make the
almanecks looking as far before their noses as I've got to do
every year as comes."
"They look pretty fur, though," said Mr. Poyser, turning his head
on one side and speaking in rather a subdued reverential tone.
"Why, what could come truer nor that pictur o' the cock wi' the
big spurs, as has got its head knocked down wi' th' anchor, an'
th' firin', an' the ships behind? Why, that pictur was made afore
Christmas, and yit it's come as true as th' Bible. Why, th'
cock's France, an' th' anchor's Nelson--an' they told us that
"Pee--ee-eh!" said Mr. Craig. "A man doesna want to see fur to
know as th' English 'ull beat the French. Why, I know upo' good
authority as it's a big Frenchman as reaches five foot high, an'
they live upo' spoon-meat mostly. I knew a man as his father had
a particular knowledge o' the French. I should like to know what
them grasshoppers are to do against such fine fellows as our young
Captain Arthur. Why, it 'ud astonish a Frenchman only to look at
him; his arm's thicker nor a Frenchman's body, I'll be bound, for
they pinch theirsells in wi' stays; and it's easy enough, for
they've got nothing i' their insides."
"Where IS the captain, as he wasna at church to-day?" said Adam.
"I was talking to him o' Friday, and he said nothing about his
"Oh, he's only gone to Eagledale for a bit o' fishing; I reckon
he'll be back again afore many days are o'er, for he's to be at
all th' arranging and preparing o' things for the comin' o' age o'
the 30th o' July. But he's fond o' getting away for a bit, now
and then. Him and th' old squire fit one another like frost and
Mr. Craig smiled and winked slowly as he made this last
observation, but the subject was not developed farther, for now
they had reached the turning in the road where Adam and his
companions must say "good-bye." The gardener, too, would have had
to turn off in the same direction if he had not accepted Mr.
Poyser's invitation to tea. Mrs. Poyser duly seconded the
invitation, for she would have held it a deep disgrace not to make
her neighbours welcome to her house: personal likes and dislikes
must not interfere with that sacred custom. Moreover, Mr. Craig
had always been full of civilities to the family at the Hall Farm,
and Mrs. Poyser was scrupulous in declaring that she had "nothing
to say again' him, on'y it was a pity he couldna be hatched o'er
again, an' hatched different."
So Adam and Seth, with their mother between them, wound their way
down to the valley and up again to the old house, where a saddened
memory had taken the place of a long, long anxiety--where Adam
would never have to ask again as he entered, "Where's Father?"
And the other family party, with Mr. Craig for company, went back
to the pleasant bright house-place at the Hall Farm--all with
quiet minds, except Hetty, who knew now where Arthur was gone, but
was only the more puzzled and uneasy. For it appeared that his
absence was quite voluntary; he need not have gone--he would not
have gone if he had wanted to see her. She had a sickening sense
that no lot could ever be pleasant to her again if her Thursday
night's vision was not to be fulfilled; and in this moment of
chill, bare, wintry disappointment and doubt, she looked towards
the possibility of being with Arthur again, of meeting his loving
glance, and hearing his soft words with that eager yearning which
one may call the "growing pain" of passion.
Adam on a Working Day
NOTWITHSTANDING Mr. Craig's prophecy, the dark-blue cloud
dispersed itself without having produced the threatened
consequences. "The weather"--as he observed the next morning--
"the weather, you see, 's a ticklish thing, an' a fool 'ull hit
on't sometimes when a wise man misses; that's why the almanecks
get so much credit. It's one o' them chancy things as fools
This unreasonable behaviour of the weather, however, could
displease no one else in Hayslope besides Mr. Craig. All hands
were to be out in the meadows this morning as soon as the dew had
risen; the wives and daughters did double work in every farmhouse,
that the maids might give their help in tossing the hay; and when
Adam was marching along the lanes, with his basket of tools over
his shoulder, he caught the sound of jocose talk and ringing
laughter from behind the hedges. The jocose talk of hay-makers is
best at a distance; like those clumsy bells round the cows' necks,
it has rather a coarse sound when it comes close, and may even
grate on your ears painfully; but heard from far off, it mingles
very prettily with the other joyous sounds of nature. Men's
muscles move better when their souls are making merry music,
though their merriment is of a poor blundering sort, not at all
like the merriment of birds.
And perhaps there is no time in a summer's day more cheering than
when the warmth of the sun is just beginning to triumph over the
freshness of the morning--when there is just a lingering hint of
early coolness to keep off languor under the delicious influence
of warmth. The reason Adam was walking along the lanes at this
time was because his work for the rest of the day lay at a
country-house about three miles off, which was being put in repair
for the son of a neighbouring squire; and he had been busy since
early morning with the packing of panels, doors, and chimney-
pieces, in a waggon which was now gone on before him, while
Jonathan Burge himself had ridden to the spot on horseback, to
await its arrival and direct the workmen.
This little walk was a rest to Adam, and he was unconsciously
under the charm of the moment. It was summer morning in his
heart, and he saw Hetty in the sunshine--a sunshine without glare,
with slanting rays that tremble between the delicate shadows of
the leaves. He thought, yesterday when he put out his hand to her
as they came out of church, that there was a touch of melancholy
kindness in her face, such as he had not seen before, and he took
it as a sign that she had some sympathy with his family trouble.
Poor fellow! That touch of melancholy came from quite another
source, but how was he to know? We look at the one little woman's
face we love as we look at the face of our mother earth, and see
all sorts of answers to our own yearnings. It was impossible for
Adam not to feel that what had happened in the last week had
brought the prospect of marriage nearer to him. Hitherto he had
felt keenly the danger that some other man might step in and get
possession of Hetty's heart and hand, while he himself was still
in a position that made him shrink from asking her to accept him.
Even if he had had a strong hope that she was fond of him--and his
hope was far from being strong--he had been too heavily burdened
with other claims to provide a home for himself and Hetty--a home
such as he could expect her to be content with after the comfort
and plenty of the Farm. Like all strong natures, Adam had
confidence in his ability to achieve something in the future; he
felt sure he should some day, if he lived, be able to maintain a
family and make a good broad path for himself; but he had too cool
a head not to estimate to the full the obstacles that were to be
overcome. And the time would be so long! And there was Hetty,
like a bright-cheeked apple hanging over the orchard wall, within
sight of everybody, and everybody must long for her! To be sure,
if she loved him very much, she would be content to wait for him:
but DID she love him? His hopes had never risen so high that he
had dared to ask her. He was clear-sighted enough to be aware
that her uncle and aunt would have looked kindly on his suit, and
indeed, without this encouragement he would never have persevered
in going to the Farm; but it was impossible to come to any but
fluctuating conclusions about Hetty's feelings. She was like a
kitten, and had the same distractingly pretty looks, that meant
nothing, for everybody that came near her.
But now he could not help saying to himself that the heaviest part
of his burden was removed, and that even before the end of another
year his circumstances might be brought into a shape that would
allow him to think of marrying. It would always be a hard
struggle with his mother, he knew: she would be jealous of any
wife he might choose, and she had set her mind especially against
Hetty--perhaps for no other reason than that she suspected Hetty
to be the woman he HAD chosen. It would never do, he feared, for
his mother to live in the same house with him when he was married;
and yet how hard she would think it if he asked her to leave him!
Yes, there was a great deal of pain to be gone through with his
mother, but it was a case in which he must make her feel that his
will was strong--it would be better for her in the end. For
himself, he would have liked that they should all live together
till Seth was married, and they might have built a bit themselves
to the old house, and made more room. He did not like "to part
wi' th' lad": they had hardly every been separated for more than a
day since they were born.
But Adam had no sooner caught his imagination leaping forward in
this way--making arrangements for an uncertain future--than he
checked himself. "A pretty building I'm making, without either
bricks or timber. I'm up i' the garret a'ready, and haven't so
much as dug the foundation." Whenever Adam was strongly convinced
of any proposition, it took the form of a principle in his mind:
it was knowledge to be acted on, as much as the knowledge that
damp will cause rust. Perhaps here lay the secret of the hardness
he had accused himself of: he had too little fellow-feeling with
the weakness that errs in spite of foreseen consequences. Without
this fellow-feeling, how are we to get enough patience and charity
towards our stumbling, falling companions in the long and
changeful journey? And there is but one way in which a strong
determined soul can learn it--by getting his heart-strings bound
round the weak and erring, so that he must share not only the
outward consequence of their error, but their inward suffering.
That is a long and hard lesson, and Adam had at present only
learned the alphabet of it in his father's sudden death, which, by
annihilating in an instant all that had stimulated his
indignation, had sent a sudden rush of thought and memory over
what had claimed his pity and tenderness.
But it was Adam's strength, not its correlative hardness, that
influenced his meditations this morning. He had long made up his
mind that it would be wrong as well as foolish for him to marry a
blooming young girl, so long as he had no other prospect than that
of growing poverty with a growing family. And his savings had
been so constantly drawn upon (besides the terrible sweep of
paying for Seth's substitute in the militia) that he had not
enough money beforehand to furnish even a small cottage, and keep
something in reserve against a rainy day. He had good hope that
he should be "firmer on his legs" by and by; but he could not be
satisfied with a vague confidence in his arm and brain; he must
have definite plans, and set about them at once. The partnership
with Jonathan Burge was not to be thought of at present--there
were things implicitly tacked to it that he could not accept; but
Adam thought that he and Seth might carry on a little business for
themselves in addition to their journeyman's work, by buying a
small stock of superior wood and making articles of household
furniture, for which Adam had no end of contrivances. Seth might
gain more by working at separate jobs under Adam's direction than
by his journeyman's work, and Adam, in his overhours, could do all
the "nice" work that required peculiar skill. The money gained in
this way, with the good wages he received as foreman, would soon
enable them to get beforehand with the world, so sparingly as they
would all live now. No sooner had this little plan shaped itself
in his mind than he began to be busy with exact calculations about
the wood to be bought and the particular article of furniture that
should be undertaken first--a kitchen cupboard of his own
contrivance, with such an ingenious arrangement of sliding-doors
and bolts, such convenient nooks for stowing household provender,
and such a symmetrical result to the eye, that every good
housewife would be in raptures with it, and fall through all the
gradations of melancholy longing till her husband promised to buy
it for her. Adam pictured to himself Mrs. Poyser examining it
with her keen eye and trying in vain to find out a deficiency;
and, of course, close to Mrs. Poyser stood Hetty, and Adam was
again beguiled from calculations and contrivances into dreams and
hopes. Yes, he would go and see her this evening--it was so long
since he had been at the Hall Farm. He would have liked to go to
the night-school, to see why Bartle Massey had not been at church
yesterday, for he feared his old friend was ill; but, unless he
could manage both visits, this last must be put off till to-
morrow--the desire to be near Hetty and to speak to her again was
As he made up his mind to this, he was coming very near to the end
of his walk, within the sound of the hammers at work on the
refitting of the old house. The sound of tools to a clever
workman who loves his work is like the tentative sounds of the
orchestra to the violinist who has to bear his part in the
overture: the strong fibres begin their accustomed thrill, and
what was a moment before joy, vexation, or ambition, begins its
change into energy. All passion becomes strength when it has an
outlet from the narrow limits of our personal lot in the labour of
our right arm, the cunning of our right hand, or the still,
creative activity of our thought. Look at Adam through the rest
of the day, as he stands on the scaffolding with the two-feet
ruler in his hand, whistling low while he considers how a
difficulty about a floor-joist or a window-frame is to be
overcome; or as he pushes one of the younger workmen aside and
takes his place in upheaving a weight of timber, saying, "Let
alone, lad! Thee'st got too much gristle i' thy bones yet"; or as
he fixes his keen black eyes on the motions of a workman on the
other side of the room and warns him that his distances are not
right. Look at this broad-shouldered man with the bare muscular
arms, and the thick, firm, black hair tossed about like trodden
meadow-grass whenever he takes off his paper cap, and with the
strong barytone voice bursting every now and then into loud and
solemn psalm-tunes, as if seeking an outlet for superfluous
strength, yet presently checking himself, apparently crossed by
some thought which jars with the singing. Perhaps, if you had not
been already in the secret, you might not have guessed what sad
memories what warm affection, what tender fluttering hopes, had
their home in this athletic body with the broken finger-nails--in
this rough man, who knew no better lyrics than he could find in
the Old and New Version and an occasional hymn; who knew the
smallest possible amount of profane history; and for whom the
motion and shape of the earth, the course of the sun, and the
changes of the seasons lay in the region of mystery just made
visible by fragmentary knowledge. It had cost Adam a great deal
of trouble and work in overhours to know what he knew over and
above the secrets of his handicraft, and that acquaintance with
mechanics and figures, and the nature of the materials he worked
with, which was made easy to him by inborn inherited faculty--to
get the mastery of his pen, and write a plain hand, to spell
without any other mistakes than must in fairness be attributed to
the unreasonable character of orthography rather than to any
deficiency in the speller, and, moreover, to learn his musical
notes and part-singing. Besides all this, he had read his Bible,
including the apocryphal books; Poor Richard's Almanac, Taylor's
Holy Living and Dying, The Pilgrim's Progress, with Bunyan's Life
and Holy War, a great deal of Bailey's Dictionary, Valentine and
Orson, and part of a History of Babylon, which Bartle Massey had
lent him. He might have had many more books from Bartle Massey,
but he had no time for reading "the commin print," as Lisbeth
called it, so busy as he was with figures in all the leisure
moments which he did not fill up with extra carpentry.
Adam, you perceive, was by no means a marvellous man, nor,
properly speaking, a genius, yet I will not pretend that his was
an ordinary character among workmen; and it would not be at all a
safe conclusion that the next best man you may happen to see with
a basket of tools over his shoulder and a paper cap on his head
has the strong conscience and the strong sense, the blended
susceptibility and self-command, of our friend Adam. He was not
an average man. Yet such men as he are reared here and there in
every generation of our peasant artisans--with an inheritance of
affections nurtured by a simple family life of common need and
common industry, and an inheritance of faculties trained in
skilful courageous labour: they make their way upwards, rarely as
geniuses, most commonly as painstaking honest men, with the skill
and conscience to do well the tasks that lie before them. Their
lives have no discernible echo beyond the neighbourhood where they
dwelt, but you are almost sure to find there some good piece of
road, some building, some application of mineral produce, some
improvement in farming practice, some reform of parish abuses,
with which their names are associated by one or two generations
after them. Their employers were the richer for them, the work of
their hands has worn well, and the work of their brains has guided
well the hands of other men. They went about in their youth in
flannel or paper caps, in coats black with coal-dust or streaked
with lime and red paint; in old age their white hairs are seen in
a place of honour at church and at market, and they tell their
well-dressed sons and daughters, seated round the bright hearth on
winter evenings, how pleased they were when they first earned
their twopence a-day. Others there are who die poor and never put
off the workman's coal on weekdays. They have not had the art of
getting rich, but they are men of trust, and when they die before
the work is all out of them, it is as if some main screw had got
loose in a machine; the master who employed them says, "Where
shall I find their like?"
Adam Visits the Hall Farm
ADAM came back from his work in the empty waggon--that was why he
had changed his clothes--and was ready to set out to the Hall Farm
when it still wanted a quarter to seven.
"What's thee got thy Sunday cloose on for?" said Lisbeth
complainingly, as he came downstairs. "Thee artna goin' to th'
school i' thy best coat?"
"No, Mother," said Adam, quietly. "I'm going to the Hall Farm,
but mayhap I may go to the school after, so thee mustna wonder if
I'm a bit late. Seth 'ull be at home in half an hour--he's only
gone to the village; so thee wutna mind."
"Eh, an' what's thee got thy best cloose on for to go to th' Hall
Farm? The Poyser folks see'd thee in 'em yesterday, I warrand.
What dost mean by turnin' worki'day into Sunday a-that'n? It's
poor keepin' company wi' folks as donna like to see thee i' thy
"Good-bye, mother, I can't stay," said Adam, putting on his hat
and going out.
But he had no sooner gone a few paces beyond the door than Lisbeth
became uneasy at the thought that she had vexed him. Of course,
the secret of her objection to the best clothes was her suspicion
that they were put on for Hetty's sake; but deeper than all her
peevishness lay the need that her son should love her. She
hurried after him, and laid hold of his arm before he had got
half-way down to the brook, and said, "Nay, my lad, thee wutna go
away angered wi' thy mother, an' her got nought to do but to sit
by hersen an' think on thee?"
"Nay, nay, Mother," said Adam, gravely, and standing still while
he put his arm on her shoulder, "I'm not angered. But I wish, for
thy own sake, thee'dst be more contented to let me do what I've
made up my mind to do. I'll never be no other than a good son to
thee as long as we live. But a man has other feelings besides
what he owes to's father and mother, and thee oughtna to want to
rule over me body and soul. And thee must make up thy mind as
I'll not give way to thee where I've a right to do what I like.
So let us have no more words about it."
"Eh," said Lisbeth, not willing to show that she felt the real
bearing of Adam's words, "and' who likes to see thee i' thy best
cloose better nor thy mother? An' when thee'st got thy face
washed as clean as the smooth white pibble, an' thy hair combed so
nice, and thy eyes a-sparklin'--what else is there as thy old
mother should like to look at half so well? An' thee sha't put on
thy Sunday cloose when thee lik'st for me--I'll ne'er plague thee
no moor about'n."
"Well, well; good-bye, mother," said Adam, kissing her and
hurrying away. He saw there was no other means of putting an end
to the dialogue. Lisbeth stood still on the spot, shading her
eyes and looking after him till he was quite out of sight. She
felt to the full all the meaning that had lain in Adam's words,
and, as she lost sight of him and turned back slowly into the
house, she said aloud to herself--for it was her way to speak her
thoughts aloud in the long days when her husband and sons were at
their work--"Eh, he'll be tellin' me as he's goin' to bring her
home one o' these days; an' she'll be missis o'er me, and I mun
look on, belike, while she uses the blue-edged platters, and
breaks 'em, mayhap, though there's ne'er been one broke sin' my
old man an' me bought 'em at the fair twenty 'ear come next Whis-
suntide. Eh!" she went on, still louder, as she caught up her
knitting from the table, "but she'll ne'er knit the lad's
stockin's, nor foot 'em nayther, while I live; an' when I'm gone,
he'll bethink him as nobody 'ull ne'er fit's leg an' foot as his
old mother did. She'll know nothin' o' narrowin' an' heelin', I
warrand, an' she'll make a long toe as he canna get's boot on.
That's what comes o' marr'in' young wenches. I war gone thirty,
an' th' feyther too, afore we war married; an' young enough too.
She'll be a poor dratchell by then SHE'S thirty, a-marr'in' a-
that'n, afore her teeth's all come."
Adam walked so fast that he was at the yard-gate before seven.
Martin Poyser and the grandfather were not yet come in from the
meadow: every one was in the meadow, even to the black-and-tan
terrier--no one kept watch in the yard but the bull-dog; and when
Adam reached the house-door, which stood wide open, he saw there
was no one in the bright clean house-place. But he guessed where
Mrs. Poyser and some one else would be, quite within hearing; so
he knocked on the door and said in his strong voice, "Mrs. Poyser
"Come in, Mr. Bede, come in," Mrs. Poyser called out from the
dairy. She always gave Adam this title when she received him in
her own house. "You may come into the dairy if you will, for I
canna justly leave the cheese."
Adam walked into the dairy, where Mrs. Poyser and Nancy were
crushing the first evening cheese.
"Why, you might think you war come to a dead-house," said Mrs.
Poyser, as he stood in the open doorway; "they're all i' the
meadow; but Martin's sure to be in afore long, for they're leaving
the hay cocked to-night, ready for carrying first thing to-morrow.
I've been forced t' have Nancy in, upo' 'count as Hetty must
gether the red currants to-night; the fruit allays ripens so
contrairy, just when every hand's wanted. An' there's no trustin'
the children to gether it, for they put more into their own mouths
nor into the basket; you might as well set the wasps to gether the
Adam longed to say he would go into the garden till Mr. Poyser
came in, but he was not quite courageous enough, so he said, "I
could be looking at your spinning-wheel, then, and see what wants
doing to it. Perhaps it stands in the house, where I can find
"No, I've put it away in the right-hand parlour; but let it be
till I can fetch it and show it you. I'd be glad now if you'd go
into the garden and tell Hetty to send Totty in. The child 'ull
run in if she's told, an' I know Hetty's lettin' her eat too many
currants. I'll be much obliged to you, Mr. Bede, if you'll go and
send her in; an' there's the York and Lankester roses beautiful in
the garden now--you'll like to see 'em. But you'd like a drink o'
whey first, p'r'aps; I know you're fond o' whey, as most folks is
when they hanna got to crush it out."
"Thank you, Mrs. Poyser," said Adam; "a drink o' whey's allays a
treat to me. I'd rather have it than beer any day."
"Aye, aye," said Mrs. Poyser, reaching a small white basin that
stood on the shelf, and dipping it into the whey-tub, "the smell
o' bread's sweet t' everybody but the baker. The Miss Irwines
allays say, 'Oh, Mrs. Poyser, I envy you your dairy; and I envy
you your chickens; and what a beautiful thing a farm-house is, to
be sure!' An' I say, 'Yes; a farm-house is a fine thing for them
as look on, an' don't know the liftin', an' the stannin', an' the
worritin' o' th' inside as belongs to't.'"
"Why, Mrs. Poyser, you wouldn't like to live anywhere else but in
a farm-house, so well as you manage it," said Adam, taking the
basin; "and there can be nothing to look at pleasanter nor a fine
milch cow, standing up to'ts knees in pasture, and the new milk
frothing in the pail, and the fresh butter ready for market, and
the calves, and the poultry. Here's to your health, and may you
allays have strength to look after your own dairy, and set a
pattern t' all the farmers' wives in the country."
Mrs. Poyser was not to be caught in the weakness of smiling at a
compliment, but a quiet complacency over-spread her face like a
stealing sunbeam, and gave a milder glance than usual to her blue-
grey eyes, as she looked at Adam drinking the whey. Ah! I think
I taste that whey now--with a flavour so delicate that one can
hardly distinguish it from an odour, and with that soft gliding
warmth that fills one's imagination with a still, happy
dreaminess. And the light music of the dropping whey is in my
ears, mingling with the twittering of a bird outside the wire
network window--the window overlooking the garden, and shaded by
tall Guelder roses.
"Have a little more, Mr. Bede?" said Mrs. Poyser, as Adam set down
"No, thank you; I'll go into the garden now, and send in the
"Aye, do; and tell her to come to her mother in the dairy."
Adam walked round by the rick-yard, at present empty of ricks, to
the little wooden gate leading into the garden--once the well-
tended kitchen-garden of a manor-house; now, but for the handsome
brick wall with stone coping that ran along one side of it, a true
farmhouse garden, with hardy perennial flowers, unpruned fruit-
trees, and kitchen vegetables growing together in careless, half-
neglected abundance. In that leafy, flowery, bushy time, to look
for any one in this garden was like playing at "hide-and-seek."
There were the tall hollyhocks beginning to flower and dazzle the
eye with their pink, white, and yellow; there were the syringas
and Guelder roses, all large and disorderly for want of trimming;
there were leafy walls of scarlet beans and late peas; there was a
row of bushy filberts in one direction, and in another a huge
apple-tree making a barren circle under its low-spreading boughs.
But what signified a barren patch or two? The garden was so
large. There was always a superfluity of broad beans--it took
nine or ten of Adam's strides to get to the end of the uncut grass
walk that ran by the side of them; and as for other vegetables,
there was so much more room than was necessary for them that in
the rotation of crops a large flourishing bed of groundsel was of
yearly occurrence on one spot or other. The very rose-trees at
which Adam stopped to pluck one looked as if they grew wild; they
were all huddled together in bushy masses, now flaunting with
wide-open petals, almost all of them of the streaked pink-and-
white kind, which doubtless dated from the union of the houses of
York and Lancaster. Adam was wise enough to choose a compact
Provence rose that peeped out half-smothered by its flaunting
scentless neighbours, and held it in his hand--he thought he
should be more at ease holding something in his hand--as he walked
on to the far end of the garden, where he remembered there was the
largest row of currant-trees, not far off from the great yew-tree
But he had not gone many steps beyond the roses, when he heard the
shaking of a bough, and a boy's voice saying, "Now, then, Totty,
hold out your pinny--there's a duck."
The voice came from the boughs of a tall cherry-tree, where Adam
had no difficulty in discerning a small blue-pinafored figure
perched in a commodious position where the fruit was thickest.
Doubtless Totty was below, behind the screen of peas. Yes--with
her bonnet hanging down her back, and her fat face, dreadfully
smeared with red juice, turned up towards the cherry-tree, while
she held her little round hole of a mouth and her red-stained
pinafore to receive the promised downfall. I am sorry to say,
more than half the cherries that fell were hard and yellow instead
of juicy and red; but Totty spent no time in useless regrets, and
she was already sucking the third juiciest when Adam said, "There
now, Totty, you've got your cherries. Run into the house with 'em
to Mother--she wants you--she's in the dairy. Run in this minute--
there's a good little girl."
He lifted her up in his strong arms and kissed her as he spoke, a
ceremony which Totty regarded as a tiresome interruption to
cherry-eating; and when he set her down she trotted off quite
silently towards the house, sucking her cherries as she went
"Tommy, my lad, take care you're not shot for a little thieving
bird," said Adam, as he walked on towards the currant-trees.
He could see there was a large basket at the end of the row: Hetty
would not be far off, and Adam already felt as if she were looking
at him. Yet when he turned the corner she was standing with her
back towards him, and stooping to gather the low-hanging fruit.
Strange that she had not heard him coming! Perhaps it was because
she was making the leaves rustle. She started when she became
conscious that some one was near--started so violently that she
dropped the basin with the currants in it, and then, when she saw
it was Adam, she turned from pale to deep red. That blush made
his heart beat with a new happiness. Hetty had never blushed at
seeing him before.
"I frightened you," he said, with a delicious sense that it didn't
signify what he said, since Hetty seemed to feel as much as he
did; "let ME pick the currants up."
That was soon done, for they had only fallen in a tangled mass on
the grass-plot, and Adam, as he rose and gave her the basin again,
looked straight into her eyes with the subdued tenderness that
belongs to the first moments of hopeful love.
Hetty did not turn away her eyes; her blush had subsided, and she
met his glance with a quiet sadness, which contented Adam because
it was so unlike anything he had seen in her before.
"There's not many more currants to get," she said; "I shall soon
ha' done now."
"I'll help you," said Adam; and he fetched the large basket, which
was nearly full of currants, and set it close to them.
Not a word more was spoken as they gathered the currants. Adam's
heart was too full to speak, and he thought Hetty knew all that
was in it. She was not indifferent to his presence after all; she
had blushed when she saw him, and then there was that touch of
sadness about her which must surely mean love, since it was the
opposite of her usual manner, which had often impressed him as
indifference. And he could glance at her continually as she bent
over the fruit, while the level evening sunbeams stole through the
thick apple-tree boughs, and rested on her round cheek and neck as
if they too were in love with her. It was to Adam the time that a
man can least forget in after-life, the time when he believes that
the first woman he has ever loved betrays by a slight something--a
word, a tone, a glance, the quivering of a lip or an eyelid--that
she is at least beginning to love him in return. The sign is so
slight, it is scarcely perceptible to the ear or eye--he could
describe it to no one--it is a mere feather-touch, yet it seems to
have changed his whole being, to have merged an uneasy yearning
into a delicious unconsciousness of everything but the present
moment. So much of our early gladness vanishes utterly from our
memory: we can never recall the joy with which we laid our heads
on our mother's bosom or rode on our father's back in childhood.
Doubtless that joy is wrought up into our nature, as the sunlight
of long-past mornings is wrought up in the soft mellowness of the
apricot, but it is gone for ever from our imagination, and we can
only BELIEVE in the joy of childhood. But the first glad moment
in our first love is a vision which returns to us to the last, and
brings with it a thrill of feeling intense and special as the
recurrent sensation of a sweet odour breathed in a far-off hour of
happiness. It is a memory that gives a more exquisite touch to
tenderness, that feeds the madness of jealousy and adds the last
keenness to the agony of despair.
Hetty bending over the red bunches, the level rays piercing the
screen of apple-tree boughs, the length of bushy garden beyond,
his own emotion as he looked at her and believed that she was
thinking of him, and that there was no need for them to talk--Adam
remembered it all to the last moment of his life.
And Hetty? You know quite well that Adam was mistaken about her.
Like many other men, he thought the signs of love for another were
signs of love towards himself. When Adam was approaching unseen
by her, she was absorbed as usual in thinking and wondering about
Arthur's possible return. The sound of any man's footstep would
have affected her just in the same way--she would have FELT it
might be Arthur before she had time to see, and the blood that
forsook her cheek in the agitation of that momentary feeling would
have rushed back again at the sight of any one else just as much
as at the sight of Adam. He was not wrong in thinking that a
change had come over Hetty: the anxieties and fears of a first
passion, with which she was trembling, had become stronger than
vanity, had given her for the first time that sense of helpless
dependence on another's feeling which awakens the clinging
deprecating womanhood even in the shallowest girl that can ever
experience it, and creates in her a sensibility to kindness which
found her quite hard before. For the first time Hetty felt that
there was something soothing to her in Adam's timid yet manly
tenderness. She wanted to be treated lovingly--oh, it was very
hard to bear this blank of absence, silence, apparent
indifference, after those moments of glowing love! She was not
afraid that Adam would tease her with love-making and flattering
speeches like her other admirers; he had always been so reserved
to her; she could enjoy without any fear the sense that this
strong brave man loved her and was near her. It never entered
into her mind that Adam was pitiable too--that Adam too must
suffer one day.
Hetty, we know, was not the first woman that had behaved more
gently to the man who loved her in vain because she had herself
begun to love another. It was a very old story, but Adam knew
nothing about it, so he drank in the sweet delusion.
"That'll do," said Hetty, after a little while. "Aunt wants me to
leave some on the trees. I'll take 'em in now."
"It's very well I came to carry the basket," said Adam "for it 'ud
ha' been too heavy for your little arms."
"No; I could ha' carried it with both hands."
"Oh, I daresay," said Adam, smiling, "and been as long getting
into the house as a little ant carrying a caterpillar. Have you
ever seen those tiny fellows carrying things four times as big as
"No," said Hetty, indifferently, not caring to know the
difficulties of ant life.
"Oh, I used to watch 'em often when I was a lad. But now, you
see, I can carry the basket with one arm, as if it was an empty
nutshell, and give you th' other arm to lean on. Won't you? Such
big arms as mine were made for little arms like yours to lean on."
Hetty smiled faintly and put her arm within his. Adam looked down
at her, but her eyes were turned dreamily towards another corner
of the garden.
"Have you ever been to Eagledale?" she said, as they walked slowly
"Yes," said Adam, pleased to have her ask a question about
himself. "Ten years ago, when I was a lad, I went with father to
see about some work there. It's a wonderful sight--rocks and
caves such as you never saw in your life. I never had a right
notion o' rocks till I went there."
"How long did it take to get there?"
"Why, it took us the best part o' two days' walking. But it's
nothing of a day's journey for anybody as has got a first-rate
nag. The captain 'ud get there in nine or ten hours, I'll be
bound, he's such a rider. And I shouldn't wonder if he's back
again to-morrow; he's too active to rest long in that lonely
place, all by himself, for there's nothing but a bit of a inn i'
that part where he's gone to fish. I wish he'd got th' estate in
his hands; that 'ud be the right thing for him, for it 'ud give
him plenty to do, and he'd do't well too, for all he's so young;
he's got better notions o' things than many a man twice his age.
He spoke very handsome to me th' other day about lending me money
to set up i' business; and if things came round that way, I'd
rather be beholding to him nor to any man i' the world."
Poor Adam was led on to speak about Arthur because he thought
Hetty would be pleased to know that the young squire was so ready
to befriend him; the fact entered into his future prospects, which
he would like to seem promising in her eyes. And it was true that
Hetty listened with an interest which brought a new light into her
eyes and a half-smile upon her lips.
"How pretty the roses are now!" Adam continued, pausing to look at
them. "See! I stole the prettiest, but I didna mean to keep it
myself. I think these as are all pink, and have got a finer sort
o' green leaves, are prettier than the striped uns, don't you?"
He set down the basket and took the rose from his button-hole.
"It smells very sweet," he said; "those striped uns have no smell.
Stick it in your frock, and then you can put it in water after.
It 'ud be a pity to let it fade."
Hetty took the rose, smiling as she did so at the pleasant thought
that Arthur could so soon get back if he liked. There was a flash
of hope and happiness in her mind, and with a sudden impulse of
gaiety she did what she had very often done before--stuck the rose
in her hair a little above the left ear. The tender admiration in
Adam's face was slightly shadowed by reluctant disapproval.
Hetty's love of finery was just the thing that would most provoke
his mother, and he himself disliked it as much as it was possible
for him to dislike anything that belonged to her.
"Ah," he said, "that's like the ladies in the pictures at the
Chase; they've mostly got flowers or feathers or gold things i'
their hair, but somehow I don't like to see 'em they allays put me
i' mind o' the painted women outside the shows at Treddles'on
Fair. What can a woman have to set her off better than her own
hair, when it curls so, like yours? If a woman's young and
pretty, I think you can see her good looks all the better for her
being plain dressed. Why, Dinah Morris looks very nice, for all
she wears such a plain cap and gown. It seems to me as a woman's
face doesna want flowers; it's almost like a flower itself. I'm
sure yours is."
"Oh, very well," said Hetty, with a little playful pout, taking
the rose out of her hair. "I'll put one o' Dinah's caps on when
we go in, and you'll see if I look better in it. She left one
behind, so I can take the pattern."
"Nay, nay, I don't want you to wear a Methodist cap like Dinah's.
I daresay it's a very ugly cap, and I used to think when I saw her
here as it was nonsense for her to dress different t' other
people; but I never rightly noticed her till she came to see
mother last week, and then I thought the cap seemed to fit her
face somehow as th 'acorn-cup fits th' acorn, and I shouldn't like
to see her so well without it. But you've got another sort o'
face; I'd have you just as you are now, without anything t'
interfere with your own looks. It's like when a man's singing a
good tune--you don't want t' hear bells tinkling and interfering
wi' the sound."
He took her arm and put it within his again, looking down on her
fondly. He was afraid she should think he had lectured her,
imagining, as we are apt to do, that she had perceived all the
thoughts he had only half-expressed. And the thing he dreaded
most was lest any cloud should come over this evening's happiness.
For the world he would not have spoken of his love to Hetty yet,
till this commencing kindness towards him should have grown into
unmistakable love. In his imagination he saw long years of his
future life stretching before him, blest with the right to call
Hetty his own: he could be content with very little at present.
So he took up the basket of currants once more, and they went on
towards the house.
The scene had quite changed in the half-hour that Adam had been in
the garden. The yard was full of life now: Marty was letting the
screaming geese through the gate, and wickedly provoking the
gander by hissing at him; the granary-door was groaning on its
hinges as Alick shut it, after dealing out the corn; the horses
were being led out to watering, amidst much barking of all the
three dogs and many "whups" from Tim the ploughman, as if the
heavy animals who held down their meek, intelligent heads, and
lifted their shaggy feet so deliberately, were likely to rush
wildly in every direction but the right. Everybody was come back
from the meadow; and when Hetty and Adam entered the house-place,
Mr. Poyser was seated in the three-cornered chair, and the
grandfather in the large arm-chair opposite, looking on with
pleasant expectation while the supper was being laid on the oak
table. Mrs. Poyser had laid the cloth herself--a cloth made of
homespun linen, with a shining checkered pattern on it, and of an
agreeable whitey-brown hue, such as all sensible housewives like
to see--none of your bleached "shop-rag" that would wear into
holes in no time, but good homespun that would last for two
generations. The cold veal, the fresh lettuces, and the stuffed
chine might well look tempting to hungry men who had dined at
half-past twelve o'clock. On the large deal table against the
wall there were bright pewter plates and spoons and cans, ready
for Alick and his companions; for the master and servants ate
their supper not far off each other; which was all the pleasanter,
because if a remark about to-morrow morning's work occurred to Mr.
Poyser, Alick was at hand to hear it.
"Well, Adam, I'm glad to see ye," said Mr. Poyser. "What! ye've
been helping Hetty to gether the curran's, eh? Come, sit ye down,
sit ye down. Why, it's pretty near a three-week since y' had your
supper with us; and the missis has got one of her rare stuffed
chines. I'm glad ye're come."
"Hetty," said Mrs. Poyser, as she looked into the basket of
currants to see if the fruit was fine, "run upstairs and send
Molly down. She's putting Totty to bed, and I want her to draw
th' ale, for Nancy's busy yet i' the dairy. You can see to the
child. But whativer did you let her run away from you along wi'
Tommy for, and stuff herself wi' fruit as she can't eat a bit o'
This was said in a lower tone than usual, while her husband was
talking to Adam; for Mrs. Poyser was strict in adherence to her
own rules of propriety, and she considered that a young girl was
not to be treated sharply in the presence of a respectable man who
was courting her. That would not be fair-play: every woman was
young in her turn, and had her chances of matrimony, which it was
a point of honour for other women not to spoil--just as one
market-woman who has sold her own eggs must not try to balk
another of a customer.
Hetty made haste to run away upstairs, not easily finding an
answer to her aunt's question, and Mrs. Poyser went out to see
after Marty and Tommy and bring them in to supper.
Soon they were all seated--the two rosy lads, one on each side, by
the pale mother, a place being left for Hetty between Adam and her
uncle. Alick too was come in, and was seated in his far corner,
eating cold broad beans out of a large dish with his pocket-knife,
and finding a flavour in them which he would not have exchanged
for the finest pineapple.
"What a time that gell is drawing th' ale, to be sure!" said Mrs.
Poyser, when she was dispensing her slices of stuffed chine. "I
think she sets the jug under and forgets to turn the tap, as
there's nothing you can't believe o' them wenches: they'll set the
empty kettle o' the fire, and then come an hour after to see if
the water boils."
"She's drawin' for the men too," said Mr. Poyser. "Thee shouldst
ha' told her to bring our jug up first."
"Told her?" said Mrs. Poyser. "Yes, I might spend all the wind i'
my body, an' take the bellows too, if I was to tell them gells
everything as their own sharpness wonna tell 'em. Mr. Bede, will
you take some vinegar with your lettuce? Aye you're i' the right
not. It spoils the flavour o' the chine, to my thinking. It's
poor eating where the flavour o' the meat lies i' the cruets.
There's folks as make bad butter and trusten to the salt t' hide
Mrs. Poyser's attention was here diverted by the appearance of
Molly, carrying a large jug, two small mugs, and four drinking-
cans, all full of ale or small beer--an interesting example of the
prehensile power possessed by the human hand. Poor Molly's mouth
was rather wider open than usual, as she walked along with her
eyes fixed on the double cluster of vessels in her hands, quite
innocent of the expression in her mistress's eye.
"Molly, I niver knew your equils--to think o' your poor mother as
is a widow, an' I took you wi' as good as no character, an' the
times an' times I've told you...."
Molly had not seen the lightning, and the thunder shook her nerves
the more for the want of that preparation. With a vague alarmed
sense that she must somehow comport herself differently, she
hastened her step a little towards the far deal table, where she
might set down her cans--caught her foot in her apron, which had
become untied, and fell with a crash and a splash into a pool of
beer; whereupon a tittering explosion from Marty and Tommy, and a
serious "Ello!" from Mr. Poyser, who saw his draught of ale
"There you go!" resumed Mrs. Poyser, in a cutting tone, as she
rose and went towards the cupboard while Molly began dolefully to
pick up the fragments of pottery. "It's what I told you 'ud come,
over and over again; and there's your month's wage gone, and more,
to pay for that jug as I've had i' the house this ten year, and
nothing ever happened to't before; but the crockery you've broke
sin' here in th' house you've been 'ud make a parson swear--God
forgi' me for saying so--an' if it had been boiling wort out o'
the copper, it 'ud ha' been the same, and you'd ha' been scalded
and very like lamed for life, as there's no knowing but what you
will be some day if you go on; for anybody 'ud think you'd got the
St. Vitus's Dance, to see the things you've throwed down. It's a
pity but what the bits was stacked up for you to see, though it's
neither seeing nor hearing as 'ull make much odds to you--anybody
'ud think you war case-hardened."
Poor Molly's tears were dropping fast by this time, and in her
desperation at the lively movement of the beer-stream towards
Alick's legs, she was converting her apron into a mop, while Mrs.
Poyser, opening the cupboard, turned a blighting eye upon her.
"Ah," she went on, "you'll do no good wi' crying an' making more
wet to wipe up. It's all your own wilfulness, as I tell you, for
there's nobody no call to break anything if they'll only go the
right way to work. But wooden folks had need ha' wooden things t'
handle. And here must I take the brown-and-white jug, as it's
niver been used three times this year, and go down i' the cellar
myself, and belike catch my death, and be laid up wi'
Mrs. Poyser had turned round from the cupboard with the brown-and-
white jug in her hand, when she caught sight of something at the
other end of the kitchen; perhaps it was because she was already
trembling and nervous that the apparition had so strong an effect
on her; perhaps jug-breaking, like other crimes, has a contagious
influence. However it was, she stared and started like a ghost-
seer, and the precious brown-and-white jug fell to the ground,
parting for ever with its spout and handle.
"Did ever anybody see the like?" she said, with a suddenly lowered
tone, after a moment's bewildered glance round the room. "The
jugs are bewitched, I think. It's them nasty glazed handles--they
slip o'er the finger like a snail."
"Why, thee'st let thy own whip fly i' thy face," said her husband,
who had now joined in the laugh of the young ones.
"It's all very fine to look on and grin," rejoined Mrs. Poyser;
"but there's times when the crockery seems alive an' flies out o'
your hand like a bird. It's like the glass, sometimes, 'ull crack
as it stands. What is to be broke WILL be broke, for I never
dropped a thing i' my life for want o' holding it, else I should
never ha' kept the crockery all these 'ears as I bought at my own
wedding. And Hetty, are you mad? Whativer do you mean by coming
down i' that way, and making one think as there's a ghost a-
walking i' th' house?"
A new outbreak of laughter, while Mrs. Poyser was speaking, was
caused, less by her sudden conversion to a fatalistic view of jug-
breaking than by that strange appearance of Hetty, which had
startled her aunt. The little minx had found a black gown of her
aunt's, and pinned it close round her neck to look like Dinah's,
had made her hair as flat as she could, and had tied on one of
Dinah's high-crowned borderless net caps. The thought of Dinah's
pale grave face and mild grey eyes, which the sight of the gown
and cap brought with it, made it a laughable surprise enough to
see them replaced by Hetty's round rosy cheeks and coquettish dark
eyes. The boys got off their chairs and jumped round her,
clapping their hands, and even Alick gave a low ventral laugh as
he looked up from his beans. Under cover of the noise, Mrs.
Poyser went into the back kitchen to send Nancy into the cellar
with the great pewter measure, which had some chance of being free
"Why, Hetty, lass, are ye turned Methodist?" said Mr. Poyser, with
that comfortable slow enjoyment of a laugh which one only sees in
stout people. "You must pull your face a deal longer before
you'll do for one; mustna she, Adam? How come you put them things
"Adam said he liked Dinah's cap and gown better nor my clothes,"
said Hetty, sitting down demurely. "He says folks looks better in
"Nay, nay," said Adam, looking at her admiringly; "I only said
they seemed to suit Dinah. But if I'd said you'd look pretty in
'em, I should ha' said nothing but what was true."
"Why, thee thought'st Hetty war a ghost, didstna?" said Mr. Poyser
to his wife, who now came back and took her seat again. "Thee
look'dst as scared as scared."
"It little sinnifies how I looked," said Mrs. Poyser; "looks 'ull
mend no jugs, nor laughing neither, as I see. Mr. Bede, I'm sorry
you've to wait so long for your ale, but it's coming in a minute.
Make yourself at home wi' th' cold potatoes: I know you like 'em.
Tommy, I'll send you to bed this minute, if you don't give over
laughing. What is there to laugh at, I should like to know? I'd
sooner cry nor laugh at the sight o' that poor thing's cap; and
there's them as 'ud be better if they could make theirselves like
her i' more ways nor putting on her cap. It little becomes
anybody i' this house to make fun o' my sister's child, an' her
just gone away from us, as it went to my heart to part wi' her.
An' I know one thing, as if trouble was to come, an' I was to be
laid up i' my bed, an' the children was to die--as there's no
knowing but what they will--an' the murrain was to come among the
cattle again, an' everything went to rack an' ruin, I say we might
be glad to get sight o' Dinah's cap again, wi' her own face under
it, border or no border. For she's one o' them things as looks
the brightest on a rainy day, and loves you the best when you're
most i' need on't."
Mrs. Poyser, you perceive, was aware that nothing would be so
likely to expel the comic as the terrible. Tommy, who was of a
susceptible disposition, and very fond of his mother, and who had,
besides, eaten so many cherries as to have his feelings less under
command than usual, was so affected by the dreadful picture she
had made of the possible future that he began to cry; and the
good-natured father, indulgent to all weaknesses but those of
negligent farmers, said to Hetty, "You'd better take the things
off again, my lass; it hurts your aunt to see 'em."
Hetty went upstairs again, and the arrival of the ale made an
agreeable diversion; for Adam had to give his opinion of the new
tap, which could not be otherwise than complimentary to Mrs.
Poyser; and then followed a discussion on the secrets of good
brewing, the folly of stinginess in "hopping," and the doubtful
economy of a farmer's making his own malt. Mrs. Poyser had so
many opportunities of expressing herself with weight on these
subjects that by the time supper was ended, the ale-jug refilled,
and Mr. Poyser's pipe alight she was once more in high good
humour, and ready, at Adam's request, to fetch the broken
spinning-wheel for his inspection.
"Ah," said Adam, looking at it carefully, "here's a nice bit o'
turning wanted. It's a pretty wheel. I must have it up at the
turning-shop in the village and do it there, for I've no
convenence for turning at home. If you'll send it to Mr. Burge's
shop i' the morning, I'll get it done for you by Wednesday. I've
been turning it over in my mind," he continued, looking at Mr.
Poyser, "to make a bit more convenence at home for nice jobs o'
cabinet-making. I've always done a deal at such little things in
odd hours, and they're profitable, for there's more workmanship
nor material in 'em. I look for me and Seth to get a little
business for ourselves i' that way, for I know a man at Rosseter
as 'ull take as many things as we should make, besides what we
could get orders for round about."
Mr. Poyser entered with interest into a project which seemed a
step towards Adam's becoming a "master-man," and Mrs. Poyser gave
her approbation to the scheme of the movable kitchen cupboard,
which was to be capable of containing grocery, pickles, crockery,
and house-linen in the utmost compactness without confusion.
Hetty, once more in her own dress, with her neckerchief pushed a
little backwards on this warm evening, was seated picking currants
near the window, where Adam could see her quite well. And so the
time passed pleasantly till Adam got up to go. He was pressed to
come again soon, but not to stay longer, for at this busy time
sensible people would not run the risk of being sleepy at five
o'clock in the morning.
"I shall take a step farther," said Adam, "and go on to see Mester
Massey, for he wasn't at church yesterday, and I've not seen him
for a week past. I've never hardly known him to miss church
"Aye," said Mr. Poyser, "we've heared nothing about him, for it's
the boys' hollodays now, so we can give you no account."
"But you'll niver think o' going there at this hour o' the night?"
said Mrs. Poyser, folding up her knitting.
"Oh, Mester Massey sits up late," said Adam. "An' the night-
school's not over yet. Some o' the men don't come till late--
they've got so far to walk. And Bartle himself's never in bed
till it's gone eleven."
"I wouldna have him to live wi' me, then," said Mrs. Poyser, "a-
dropping candle-grease about, as you're like to tumble down o' the
floor the first thing i' the morning."
"Aye, eleven o'clock's late--it's late," said old Martin. "I
ne'er sot up so i' MY life, not to say as it warna a marr'in', or
a christenin', or a wake, or th' harvest supper. Eleven o'clock's
"Why, I sit up till after twelve often," said Adam, laughing, "but
it isn't t' eat and drink extry, it's to work extry. Good-night,
Mrs. Poyser; good-night, Hetty."
Hetty could only smile and not shake hands, for hers were dyed and
damp with currant-juice; but all the rest gave a hearty shake to
the large palm that was held out to them, and said, "Come again,
"Aye, think o' that now," said Mr. Poyser, when Adam was out of on
the causeway. "Sitting up till past twelve to do extry work!
Ye'll not find many men o' six-an' twenty as 'ull do to put i' the
shafts wi' him. If you can catch Adam for a husband, Hetty,
you'll ride i' your own spring-cart some day, I'll be your
Hetty was moving across the kitchen with the currants, so her
uncle did not see the little toss of the head with which she
answered him. To ride in a spring-cart seemed a very miserable
lot indeed to her now.
The Night-School and the Schoolmaster
Bartle Massey's was one of a few scattered houses on the edge of a
common, which was divided by the road to Treddleston. Adam
reached it in a quarter of an hour after leaving the Hall Farm;
and when he had his hand on the door-latch, he could see, through
the curtainless window, that there were eight or nine heads
bending over the desks, lighted by thin dips.
When he entered, a reading lesson was going forward and Bartle
Massey merely nodded, leaving him to take his place where he
pleased. He had not come for the sake of a lesson to-night, and
his mind was too full of personal matters, too full of the last
two hours he had passed in Hetty's presence, for him to amuse
himself with a book till school was over; so he sat down in a
corner and looked on with an absent mind. It was a sort of scene
which Adam had beheld almost weekly for years; he knew by heart
every arabesque flourish in the framed specimen of Bartle Massey's
handwriting which hung over the schoolmaster's head, by way of
keeping a lofty ideal before the minds of his pupils; he knew the
backs of all the books on the shelf running along the whitewashed
wall above the pegs for the slates; he knew exactly how many
grains were gone out of the ear of Indian corn that hung from one
of the rafters; he had long ago exhausted the resources of his
imagination in trying to think how the bunch of leathery seaweed
had looked and grown in its native element; and from the place
where he sat, he could make nothing of the old map of England that
hung against the opposite wall, for age had turned it of a fine
yellow brown, something like that of a well-seasoned meerschaum.
The drama that was going on was almost as familiar as the scene,
nevertheless habit had not made him indifferent to it, and even in
his present self-absorbed mood, Adam felt a momentary stirring of
the old fellow-feeling, as he looked at the rough men painfully
holding pen or pencil with their cramped hands, or humbly
labouring through their reading lesson.
The reading class now seated on the form in front of the
schoolmaster's desk consisted of the three most backward pupils.
Adam would have known it only by seeing Bartle Massey's face as he
looked over his spectacles, which he had shifted to the ridge of
his nose, not requiring them for present purposes. The face wore
its mildest expression: the grizzled bushy eyebrows had taken
their more acute angle of compassionate kindness, and the mouth,
habitually compressed with a pout of the lower lip, was relaxed so
as to be ready to speak a helpful word or syllable in a moment.
This gentle expression was the more interesting because the
schoolmaster's nose, an irregular aquiline twisted a little on one
side, had rather a formidable character; and his brow, moreover,
had that peculiar tension which always impresses one as a sign of
a keen impatient temperament: the blue veins stood out like cords
under the transparent yellow skin, and this intimidating brow was
softened by no tendency to baldness, for the grey bristly hair,
cut down to about an inch in length, stood round it in as close
ranks as ever.
"Nay, Bill, nay," Bartle was saying in a kind tone, as he nodded
to Adam, "begin that again, and then perhaps, it'll come to you
what d-r-y spells. It's the same lesson you read last week, you
"Bill" was a sturdy fellow, aged four-and-twenty, an excellent
stone-sawyer, who could get as good wages as any man in the trade
of his years; but he found a reading lesson in words of one
syllable a harder matter to deal with than the hardest stone he
had ever had to saw. The letters, he complained, were so
"uncommon alike, there was no tellin' 'em one from another," the
sawyer's business not being concerned with minute differences such
as exist between a letter with its tail turned up and a letter
with its tail turned down. But Bill had a firm determination that
he would learn to read, founded chiefly on two reasons: first,
that Tom Hazelow, his cousin, could read anything "right off,"
whether it was print or writing, and Tom had sent him a letter
from twenty miles off, saying how he was prospering in the world
and had got an overlooker's place; secondly, that Sam Phillips,
who sawed with him, had learned to read when he was turned twenty,
and what could be done by a little fellow like Sam Phillips, Bill
considered, could be done by himself, seeing that he could pound
Sam into wet clay if circumstances required it. So here he was,
pointing his big finger towards three words at once, and turning
his head on one side that he might keep better hold with his eye
of the one word which was to be discriminated out of the group.
The amount of knowledge Bartle Massey must possess was something
so dim and vast that Bill's imagination recoiled before it: he
would hardly have ventured to deny that the schoolmaster might
have something to do in bringing about the regular return of
daylight and the changes in the weather.
The man seated next to Bill was of a very different type: he was a
Methodist brickmaker who, after spending thirty years of his life
in perfect satisfaction with his ignorance, had lately "got
religion," and along with it the desire to read the Bible. But
with him, too, learning was a heavy business, and on his way out
to-night he had offered as usual a special prayer for help, seeing
that he had undertaken this hard task with a single eye to the
nourishment of his soul--that he might have a greater abundance of
texts and hymns wherewith to banish evil memories and the
temptations of old habit--or, in brief language, the devil. For
the brickmaker had been a notorious poacher, and was suspected,
though there was no good evidence against him, of being the man
who had shot a neighbouring gamekeeper in the leg. However that
might be, it is certain that shortly after the accident referred
to, which was coincident with the arrival of an awakening
Methodist preacher at Treddleston, a great change had been
observed in the brickmaker; and though he was still known in the
neighbourhood by his old sobriquet of "Brimstone," there was
nothing he held in so much horror as any further transactions with
that evil-smelling element. He was a broad-chested fellow. with
a fervid temperament, which helped him better in imbibing
religious ideas than in the dry process of acquiring the mere
human knowledge of the alphabet. Indeed, he had been already a
little shaken in his resolution by a brother Methodist, who
assured him that the letter was a mere obstruction to the Spirit,
and expressed a fear that Brimstone was too eager for the
knowledge that puffeth up.
The third beginner was a much more promising pupil. He was a tall
but thin and wiry man, nearly as old as Brimstone, with a very
pale face and hands stained a deep blue. He was a dyer, who in
the course of dipping homespun wool and old women's petticoats had
got fired with the ambition to learn a great deal more about the
strange secrets of colour. He had already a high reputation in
the district for his dyes, and he was bent on discovering some
method by which he could reduce the expense of crimsons and
scarlets. The druggist at Treddleston had given him a notion that
he might save himself a great deal of labour and expense if he
could learn to read, and so he had begun to give his spare hours
to the night-school, resolving that his "little chap" should lose
no time in coming to Mr. Massey's day-school as soon as he was old
It was touching to see these three big men, with the marks of
their hard labour about them, anxiously bending over the worn
books and painfully making out, "The grass is green," "The sticks
are dry," "The corn is ripe"--a very hard lesson to pass to after
columns of single words all alike except in the first letter. It
was almost as if three rough animals were making humble efforts to
learn how they might become human. And it touched the tenderest
fibre in Bartle Massey's nature, for such full-grown children as
these were the only pupils for whom he had no severe epithets and
no impatient tones. He was not gifted with an imperturbable
temper, and on music-nights it was apparent that patience could
never be an easy virtue to him; but this evening, as he glances
over his spectacles at Bill Downes, the sawyer, who is turning his
head on one side with a desperate sense of blankness before the
letters d-r-y, his eyes shed their mildest and most encouraging
After the reading class, two youths between sixteen and nineteen
came up with the imaginary bills of parcels, which they had been
writing out on their slates and were now required to calculate
"off-hand"--a test which they stood with such imperfect success
that Bartle Massey, whose eyes had been glaring at them ominously
through his spectacles for some minutes, at length burst out in a
bitter, high-pitched tone, pausing between every sentence to rap
the floor with a knobbed stick which rested between his legs.
"Now, you see, you don't do this thing a bit better than you did a
fortnight ago, and I'll tell you what's the reason. You want to
learn accounts--that's well and good. But you think all you need
do to learn accounts is to come to me and do sums for an hour or
so, two or three times a-week; and no sooner do you get your caps
on and turn out of doors again than you sweep the whole thing
clean out of your mind. You go whistling about, and take no more
care what you're thinking of than if your heads were gutters for
any rubbish to swill through that happened to be in the way; and
if you get a good notion in 'em, it's pretty soon washed out
again. You think knowledge is to be got cheap--you'll come and
pay Bartle Massey sixpence a-week, and he'll make you clever at
figures without your taking any trouble. But knowledge isn't to
be got with paying sixpence, let me tell you. If you're to know
figures, you must turn 'em over in your heads and keep your
thoughts fixed on 'em. There's nothing you can't turn into a sum,
for there's nothing but what's got number in it--even a fool. You
may say to yourselves, 'I'm one fool, and Jack's another; if my
fool's head weighed four pound, and Jack's three pound three
ounces and three quarters, how many pennyweights heavier would my
head be than Jack's?' A man that had got his heart in learning
figures would make sums for himself and work 'em in his head.
When he sat at his shoemaking, he'd count his stitches by fives,
and then put a price on his stitches, say half a farthing, and
then see how much money he could get in an hour; and then ask
himself how much money he'd get in a day at that rate; and then
how much ten workmen would get working three, or twenty, or a
hundred years at that rate--and all the while his needle would be
going just as fast as if he left his head empty for the devil to
dance in. But the long and the short of it is--I'll have nobody
in my night-school that doesn't strive to learn what he comes to
learn, as hard as if he was striving to get out of a dark hole
into broad daylight. I'll send no man away because he's stupid:
if Billy Taft, the idiot, wanted to learn anything, I'd not refuse
to teach him. But I'll not throw away good knowledge on people
who think they can get it by the sixpenn'orth, and carry it away
with 'em as they would an ounce of snuff. So never come to me
again, if you can't show that you've been working with your own
heads, instead of thinking that you can pay for mine to work for
you. That's the last word I've got to say to you."
With this final sentence, Bartle Massey gave a sharper rap than
ever with his knobbed stick, and the discomfited lads got up to go
with a sulky look. The other pupils had happily only their
writing-books to show, in various stages of progress from pot-
hooks to round text; and mere pen-strokes, however perverse, were
less exasperating to Bartle than false arithmetic. He was a
little more severe than usual on Jacob Storey's Z's, of which poor
Jacob had written a pageful, all with their tops turned the wrong
way, with a puzzled sense that they were not right "somehow." But
he observed in apology, that it was a letter you never wanted
hardly, and he thought it had only been there "to finish off th'
alphabet, like, though ampusand (&) would ha' done as well, for
what he could see."
At last the pupils had all taken their hats and said their "Good-
nights," and Adam, knowing his old master's habits, rose and said,
"Shall I put the candles out, Mr. Massey?"
"Yes, my boy, yes, all but this, which I'll carry into the house;
and just lock the outer door, now you're near it," said Bartle,
getting his stick in the fitting angle to help him in descending
from his stool. He was no sooner on the ground than it became
obvious why the stick was necessary--the left leg was much shorter
than the right. But the school-master was so active with his
lameness that it was hardly thought of as a misfortune; and if you
had seen him make his way along the schoolroom floor, and up the
step into his kitchen, you would perhaps have understood why the
naughty boys sometimes felt that his pace might be indefinitely
quickened and that he and his stick might overtake them even in
their swiftest run.
The moment he appeared at the kitchen door with the candle in his
hand, a faint whimpering began in the chimney-corner, and a brown-
and-tan-coloured bitch, of that wise-looking breed with short legs
and long body, known to an unmechanical generation as turnspits,
came creeping along the floor, wagging her tail, and hesitating at
every other step, as if her affections were painfully divided
between the hamper in the chimney-corner and the master, whom she
could not leave without a greeting.
"Well, Vixen, well then, how are the babbies?" said the
schoolmaster, making haste towards the chimney-corner and holding
the candle over the low hamper, where two extremely blind puppies
lifted up their heads towards the light from a nest of flannel and
wool. Vixen could not even see her master look at them without
painful excitement: she got into the hamper and got out again the
next moment, and behaved with true feminine folly, though looking
all the while as wise as a dwarf with a large old-fashioned head
and body on the most abbreviated legs.
"Why, you've got a family, I see, Mr. Massey?" said Adam, smiling,
as he came into the kitchen. "How's that? I thought it was
against the law here."
"Law? What's the use o' law when a man's once such a fool as to
let a woman into his house?" said Bartle, turning away from the
hamper with some bitterness. He always called Vixen a woman, and
seemed to have lost all consciousness that he was using a figure
of speech. "If I'd known Vixen was a woman, I'd never have held
the boys from drowning her; but when I'd got her into my hand, I
was forced to take to her. And now you see what she's brought me
to--the sly, hypocritical wench"--Bartle spoke these last words in
a rasping tone of reproach, and looked at Vixen, who poked down
her head and turned up her eyes towards him with a keen sense of
opprobrium--"and contrived to be brought to bed on a Sunday at
church-time. I've wished again and again I'd been a bloody minded
man, that I could have strangled the mother and the brats with one
"I'm glad it was no worse a cause kept you from church," said
Adam. "I was afraid you must be ill for the first time i' your
life. And I was particularly sorry not to have you at church
"Ah, my boy, I know why, I know why," said Bartle kindly, going up
to Adam and raising his hand up to the shoulder that was almost on
a level with his own head. "You've had a rough bit o' road to get
over since I saw you--a rough bit o' road. But I'm in hopes there
are better times coming for you. I've got some news to tell you.
But I must get my supper first, for I'm hungry, I'm hungry. Sit
down, sit down."
Bartel went into his little pantry, and brought out an excellent
home-baked loaf; for it was his one extravagance in these dear
times to eat bread once a-day instead of oat-cake; and he
justified it by observing, that what a schoolmaster wanted was
brains, and oat-cake ran too much to bone instead of brains. Then
came a piece of cheese and a quart jug with a crown of foam upon
it. He placed them all on the round deal table which stood
against his large arm-chair in the chimney-corner, with Vixen's
hamper on one side of it and a window-shelf with a few books piled
up in it on the other. The table was as clean as if Vixen had
been an excellent housewife in a checkered apron; so was the
quarry floor; and the old carved oaken press, table, and chairs,
which in these days would be bought at a high price in
aristocratic houses, though, in that period of spider-legs and
inlaid cupids, Bartle had got them for an old song, where as free
from dust as things could be at the end of a summer's day.
"Now, then, my boy, draw up, draw up. We'll not talk about
business till we've had our supper. No man can be wise on an
empty stomach. But," said Bartle, rising from his chair again, "I
must give Vixen her supper too, confound her! Though she'll do
nothing with it but nourish those unnecessary babbies. That's the
way with these women--they've got no head-pieces to nourish, and
so their food all runs either to fat or to brats."
He brought out of the pantry a dish of scraps, which Vixen at once
fixed her eyes on, and jumped out of her hamper to lick up with
the utmost dispatch.
"I've had my supper, Mr. Massey," said Adam, "so I'll look on
while you eat yours. I've been at the Hall Farm, and they always
have their supper betimes, you know: they don't keep your late
"I know little about their hours," said Bartle dryly, cutting his
bread and not shrinking from the crust. "It's a house I seldom go
into, though I'm fond of the boys, and Martin Poyser's a good
fellow. There's too many women in the house for me: I hate the
sound of women's voices; they're always either a-buzz or a-squeak--
always either a-buzz or a-squeak. Mrs. Poyser keeps at the top
o' the talk like a fife; and as for the young lasses, I'd as soon
look at water-grubs. I know what they'll turn to--stinging gnats,
stinging gnats. Here, take some ale, my boy: it's been drawn for
you--it's been drawn for you."
"Nay, Mr. Massey," said Adam, who took his old friend's whim more
seriously than usual to-night, "don't be so hard on the creaturs
God has made to be companions for us. A working-man 'ud be badly
off without a wife to see to th' house and the victual, and make
things clean and comfortable."
"Nonsense! It's the silliest lie a sensible man like you ever
believed, to say a woman makes a house comfortable. It's a story
got up because the women are there and something must be found for
'em to do. I tell you there isn't a thing under the sun that
needs to be done at all, but what a man can do better than a
woman, unless it's bearing children, and they do that in a poor
make-shift way; it had better ha' been left to the men--it had
better ha' been left to the men. I tell you, a woman 'ull bake
you a pie every week of her life and never come to see that the
hotter th' oven the shorter the time. I tell you, a woman 'ull
make your porridge every day for twenty years and never think of
measuring the proportion between the meal and the milk--a little
more or less, she'll think, doesn't signify. The porridge WILL be
awk'ard now and then: if it's wrong, it's summat in the meal, or
it's summat in the milk, or it's summat in the water. Look at me!
I make my own bread, and there's no difference between one batch
and another from year's end to year's end; but if I'd got any
other woman besides Vixen in the house, I must pray to the Lord
every baking to give me patience if the bread turned out heavy.
And as for cleanliness, my house is cleaner than any other house
on the Common, though the half of 'em swarm with women. Will
Baker's lad comes to help me in a morning, and we get as much
cleaning done in one hour, without any fuss, as a woman 'ud get
done in three, and all the while be sending buckets o' water after
your ankles, and let the fender and the fire-irons stand in the
middle o' the floor half the day for you to break your shins
against 'em. Don't tell me about God having made such creatures
to be companions for us! I don't say but He might make Eve to be
a companion to Adam in Paradise--there was no cooking to be spoilt
there, and no other woman to cackle with and make mischief, though
you see what mischief she did as soon as she'd an opportunity.
But it's an impious, unscriptural opinion to say a woman's a
blessing to a man now; you might as well say adders and wasps, and
foxes and wild beasts are a blessing, when they're only the evils
that belong to this state o' probation, which it's lawful for a
man to keep as clear of as he can in this life, hoping to get quit
of 'em for ever in another--hoping to get quit of 'em for ever in
Bartle had become so excited and angry in the course of his
invective that he had forgotten his supper, and only used the
knife for the purpose of rapping the table with the haft. But
towards the close, the raps became so sharp and frequent, and his
voice so quarrelsome, that Vixen felt it incumbent on her to jump
out of the hamper and bark vaguely.
"Quiet, Vixen!" snarled Bartle, turning round upon her. "You're
like the rest o' the women--always putting in your word before you
Vixen returned to her hamper again in humiliation, and her master
continued his supper in a silence which Adam did not choose to
interrupt; he knew the old man would be in a better humour when he
had had his supper and lighted his pipe. Adam was used to hear
him talk in this way, but had never learned so much of Bartle's
past life as to know whether his view of married comfort was
founded on experience. On that point Bartle was mute, and it was
even a secret where he had lived previous to the twenty years in
which happily for the peasants and artisans of this neighbourhood
he had been settled among them as their only schoolmaster. If
anything like a question was ventured on this subject, Bartle
always replied, "Oh, I've seen many places--I've been a deal in
the south," and the Loamshire men would as soon have thought of
asking for a particular town or village in Africa as in "the
"Now then, my boy," said Bartle, at last, when he had poured out
his second mug of ale and lighted his pipe, "now then, we'll have
a little talk. But tell me first, have you heard any particular
"No," said Adam, "not as I remember."
"Ah, they'll keep it close, they'll keep it close, I daresay. But
I found it out by chance; and it's news that may concern you,
Adam, else I'm a man that don't know a superficial square foot
from a solid."
Here Bartle gave a series of fierce and rapid puffs, looking
earnestly the while at Adam. Your impatient loquacious man has
never any notion of keeping his pipe alight by gentle measured
puffs; he is always letting it go nearly out, and then punishing
it for that negligence. At last he said, "Satchell's got a
paralytic stroke. I found it out from the lad they sent to
Treddleston for the doctor, before seven o'clock this morning.
He's a good way beyond sixty, you know; it's much if he gets over
"Well," said Adam, "I daresay there'd be more rejoicing than
sorrow in the parish at his being laid up. He's been a selfish,
tale-bearing, mischievous fellow; but, after all, there's nobody
he's done so much harm to as to th' old squire. Though it's the
squire himself as is to blame--making a stupid fellow like that a
sort o' man-of-all-work, just to save th' expense of having a
proper steward to look after th' estate. And he's lost more by
ill management o' the woods, I'll be bound, than 'ud pay for two
stewards. If he's laid on the shelf, it's to be hoped he'll make
way for a better man, but I don't see how it's like to make any
difference to me."
"But I see it, but I see it," said Bartle, "and others besides me.
The captain's coming of age now--you know that as well as I do--
and it's to be expected he'll have a little more voice in things.
And I know, and you know too, what 'ud be the captain's wish about
the woods, if there was a fair opportunity for making a change.
He's said in plenty of people's hearing that he'd make you manager
of the woods to-morrow, if he'd the power. Why, Carroll, Mr.
Irwine's butler, heard him say so to the parson not many days ago.
Carroll looked in when we were smoking our pipes o' Saturday night
at Casson's, and he told us about it; and whenever anybody says a
good word for you, the parson's ready to back it, that I'll answer
for. It was pretty well talked over, I can tell you, at Casson's,
and one and another had their fling at you; for if donkeys set to
work to sing, you're pretty sure what the tune'll be."
"Why, did they talk it over before Mr. Burge?" said Adam; "or
wasn't he there o' Saturday?"
"Oh, he went away before Carroll came; and Casson--he's always for
setting other folks right, you know--would have it Burge was the
man to have the management of the woods. 'A substantial man,'
says he, 'with pretty near sixty years' experience o' timber: it
'ud be all very well for Adam Bede to act under him, but it isn't
to be supposed the squire 'ud appoint a young fellow like Adam,
when there's his elders and betters at hand!' But I said, 'That's
a pretty notion o' yours, Casson. Why, Burge is the man to buy
timber; would you put the woods into his hands and let him make
his own bargains? I think you don't leave your customers to score
their own drink, do you? And as for age, what that's worth
depends on the quality o' the liquor. It's pretty well known
who's the backbone of Jonathan Burge's business.'"
"I thank you for your good word, Mr. Massey," said Adam. "But,
for all that, Casson was partly i' the right for once. There's
not much likelihood that th' old squire 'ud ever consent t' employ
me. I offended him about two years ago, and he's never forgiven
"Why, how was that? You never told me about it," said Bartle.
"Oh, it was a bit o' nonsense. I'd made a frame for a screen for
Miss Lyddy--she's allays making something with her worsted-work,
you know--and she'd given me particular orders about this screen,
and there was as much talking and measuring as if we'd been
planning a house. However, it was a nice bit o' work, and I liked
doing it for her. But, you know, those little friggling things
take a deal o' time. I only worked at it in overhours--often late
at night--and I had to go to Treddleston over an' over again about
little bits o' brass nails and such gear; and I turned the little
knobs and the legs, and carved th' open work, after a pattern, as
nice as could be. And I was uncommon pleased with it when it was
done. And when I took it home, Miss Lyddy sent for me to bring it
into her drawing-room, so as she might give me directions about
fastening on the work--very fine needlework, Jacob and Rachel a-
kissing one another among the sheep, like a picture--and th' old
squire was sitting there, for he mostly sits with her. Well, she
was mighty pleased with the screen, and then she wanted to know
what pay she was to give me. I didn't speak at random--you know
it's not my way; I'd calculated pretty close, though I hadn't made
out a bill, and I said, 'One pound thirty.' That was paying for
the mater'als and paying me, but none too much, for my work. Th'
old squire looked up at this, and peered in his way at the screen,
and said, 'One pound thirteen for a gimcrack like that! Lydia, my
dear, if you must spend money on these things, why don't you get
them at Rosseter, instead of paying double price for clumsy work
here? Such things are not work for a carpenter like Adam. Give
him a guinea, and no more.' Well, Miss Lyddy, I reckon, believed
what he told her, and she's not overfond o' parting with the money
herself--she's not a bad woman at bottom, but she's been brought
up under his thumb; so she began fidgeting with her purse, and
turned as red as her ribbon. But I made a bow, and said, 'No,
thank you, madam; I'll make you a present o' the screen, if you
please. I've charged the regular price for my work, and I know
it's done well; and I know, begging His Honour's pardon, that you
couldn't get such a screen at Rosseter under two guineas. I'm
willing to give you my work--it's been done in my own time, and
nobody's got anything to do with it but me; but if I'm paid, I
can't take a smaller price than I asked, because that 'ud be like
saying I'd asked more than was just. With your leave, madam, I'll
bid you good-morning.' I made my bow and went out before she'd
time to say any more, for she stood with the purse in her hand,
looking almost foolish. I didn't mean to be disrespectful, and I
spoke as polite as I could; but I can give in to no man, if he
wants to make it out as I'm trying to overreach him. And in the
evening the footman brought me the one pound thirteen wrapped in
paper. But since then I've seen pretty clear as th' old squire
can't abide me."
"That's likely enough, that's likely enough," said Bartle
meditatively. "The only way to bring him round would be to show
him what was for his own interest, and that the captain may do--
that the captain may do."
"Nay, I don't know," said Adam; "the squire's 'cute enough but it
takes something else besides 'cuteness to make folks see what'll
be their interest in the long run. It takes some conscience and
belief in right and wrong, I see that pretty clear. You'd hardly
ever bring round th' old squire to believe he'd gain as much in a
straightfor'ard way as by tricks and turns. And, besides, I've
not much mind to work under him: I don't want to quarrel with any
gentleman, more particular an old gentleman turned eighty, and I
know we couldn't agree long. If the captain was master o' th'
estate, it 'ud be different: he's got a conscience and a will to
do right, and I'd sooner work for him nor for any man living."
"Well, well, my boy, if good luck knocks at your door, don't you
put your head out at window and tell it to be gone about its
business, that's all. You must learn to deal with odd and even in
life, as well as in figures. I tell you now, as I told you ten
years ago, when you pommelled young Mike Holdsworth for wanting to
pass a bad shilling before you knew whether he was in jest or
earnest--you're overhasty and proud, and apt to set your teeth
against folks that don't square to your notions. It's no harm for
me to be a bit fiery and stiff-backed--I'm an old schoolmaster,
and shall never want to get on to a higher perch. But where's the
use of all the time I've spent in teaching you writing and mapping
and mensuration, if you're not to get for'ard in the world and
show folks there's some advantage in having a head on your
shoulders, instead of a turnip? Do you mean to go on turning up
your nose at every opportunity because it's got a bit of a smell
about it that nobody finds out but yourself? It's as foolish as
that notion o' yours that a wife is to make a working-man
comfortable. Stuff and nonsense! Stuff and nonsense! Leave that
to fools that never got beyond a sum in simple addition. Simple
addition enough! Add one fool to another fool, and in six years'
time six fools more--they're all of the same denomination, big and
little's nothing to do with the sum!"
During this rather heated exhortation to coolness and discretion
the pipe had gone out, and Bartle gave the climax to his speech by
striking a light furiously, after which he puffed with fierce
resolution, fixing his eye still on Adam, who was trying not to
"There's a good deal o' sense in what you say, Mr. Massey," Adam
began, as soon as he felt quite serious, "as there always is. But
you'll give in that it's no business o' mine to be building on
chances that may never happen. What I've got to do is to work as
well as I can with the tools and mater'als I've got in my hands.
If a good chance comes to me, I'll think o' what you've been
saying; but till then, I've got nothing to do but to trust to my
own hands and my own head-piece. I'm turning over a little plan
for Seth and me to go into the cabinet-making a bit by ourselves,
and win a extra pound or two in that way. But it's getting late
now--it'll be pretty near eleven before I'm at home, and Mother
may happen to lie awake; she's more fidgety nor usual now. So
I'll bid you good-night."
"Well, well, we'll go to the gate with you--it's a fine night,"
said Bartle, taking up his stick. Vixen was at once on her legs,
and without further words the three walked out into the starlight,
by the side of Bartle's potato-beds, to the little gate.
"Come to the music o' Friday night, if you can, my boy," said the
old man, as he closed the gate after Adam and leaned against it.
"Aye, aye," said Adam, striding along towards the streak of pale
road. He was the only object moving on the wide common. The two
grey donkeys, just visible in front of the gorse bushes, stood as
still as limestone images--as still as the grey-thatched roof of
the mud cottage a little farther on. Bartle kept his eye on the
moving figure till it passed into the darkness, while Vixen, in a
state of divided affection, had twice run back to the house to
bestow a parenthetic lick on her puppies.
"Aye, aye," muttered the schoolmaster, as Adam disappeared, "there
you go, stalking along--stalking along; but you wouldn't have been
what you are if you hadn't had a bit of old lame Bartle inside
you. The strongest calf must have something to suck at. There's
plenty of these big, lumbering fellows 'ud never have known their
A B C if it hadn't been for Bartle Massey. Well, well, Vixen, you
foolish wench, what is it, what is it? I must go in, must I?
Aye, aye, I'm never to have a will o' my own any more. And those
pups--what do you think I'm to do with 'em, when they're twice as
big as you? For I'm pretty sure the father was that hulking bull-
terrier of Will Baker's--wasn't he now, eh, you sly hussy?"
(Here Vixen tucked her tail between her legs and ran forward into
the house. Subjects are sometimes broached which a well-bred
female will ignore.)
"But where's the use of talking to a woman with babbies?"
continued Bartle. "She's got no conscience--no conscience; it's
all run to milk."
Going to the Birthday Feast
THE thirtieth of July was come, and it was one of those half-dozen
warm days which sometimes occur in the middle of a rainy English
summer. No rain had fallen for the last three or four days, and
the weather was perfect for that time of the year: there was less
dust than usual on the dark-green hedge-rows and on the wild
camomile that starred the roadside, yet the grass was dry enough
for the little children to roll on it, and there was no cloud but
a long dash of light, downy ripple, high, high up in the far-off
blue sky. Perfect weather for an outdoor July merry-making, yet
surely not the best time of year to be born in. Nature seems to
make a hot pause just then: all the loveliest flowers are gone;
the sweet time of early growth and vague hopes is past; and yet
the time of harvest and ingathering is not come, and we tremble at
the possible storms that may ruin the precious fruit in the moment