Part 6 out of 11
of its ripeness. The woods are all one dark monotonous green; the
waggon-loads of hay no longer creep along the lanes, scattering
their sweet-smelling fragments on the blackberry branches; the
pastures are often a little tanned, yet the corn has not got its
last splendour of red and gold; the lambs and calves have lost all
traces of their innocent frisky prettiness, and have become stupid
young sheep and cows. But it is a time of leisure on the farm--
that pause between hay- and corn-harvest, and so the farmers and
labourers in Hayslope and Broxton thought the captain did well to
come of age just then, when they could give their undivided minds
to the flavour of the great cask of ale which had been brewed the
autumn after "the heir" was born, and was to be tapped on his
twenty-first birthday. The air had been merry with the ringing of
church-bells very early this morning, and every one had made haste
to get through the needful work before twelve, when it would be
time to think of getting ready to go to the Chase.
The midday sun was streaming into Hetty's bedchamber, and there
was no blind to temper the heat with which it fell on her head as
she looked at herself in the old specked glass. Still, that was
the only glass she had in which she could see her neck and arms,
for the small hanging glass she had fetched out of the next room--
the room that had been Dinah's--would show her nothing below her
little chin; and that beautiful bit of neck where the roundness of
her cheek melted into another roundness shadowed by dark delicate
curls. And to-day she thought more than usual about her neck and
arms; for at the dance this evening she was not to wear any
neckerchief, and she had been busy yesterday with her spotted
pink-and-white frock, that she might make the sleeves either long
or short at will. She was dressed now just as she was to be in
the evening, with a tucker made of "real" lace, which her aunt had
lent her for this unparalleled occasion, but with no ornaments
besides; she had even taken out her small round ear-rings which
she wore every day. But there was something more to be done,
apparently, before she put on her neckerchief and long sleeves,
which she was to wear in the day-time, for now she unlocked the
drawer that held her private treasures. It is more than a month
since we saw her unlock that drawer before, and now it holds new
treasures, so much more precious than the old ones that these are
thrust into the corner. Hetty would not care to put the large
coloured glass ear-rings into her ears now; for see! she has got a
beautiful pair of gold and pearls and garnet, lying snugly in a
pretty little box lined with white satin. Oh, the delight of
taking out that little box and looking at the ear-rings! Do not
reason about it, my philosphical reader, and say that Hetty, being
very pretty, must have known that it did not signify whether she
had on any ornaments or not; and that, moreover, to look at ear-
rings which she could not possibly wear out of her bedroom could
hardly be a satisfaction, the essence of vanity being a reference
to the impressions produced on others; you will never understand
women's natures if you are so excessively rational. Try rather to
divest yourself of all your rational prejudices, as much as if you
were studying the psychology of a canary bird, and only watch the
movements of this pretty round creature as she turns her head on
one side with an unconscious smile at the ear-rings nestled in the
little box. Ah, you think, it is for the sake of the person who
has given them to her, and her thoughts are gone back now to the
moment when they were put into her hands. No; else why should she
have cared to have ear-rings rather than anything else? And I
know that she had longed for ear-rings from among all the
ornaments she could imagine.
"Little, little ears!" Arthur had said, pretending to pinch them
one evening, as Hetty sat beside him on the grass without her hat.
"I wish I had some pretty ear-rings!" she said in a moment, almost
before she knew what she was saying--the wish lay so close to her
lips, it WOULD flutter past them at the slightest breath. And the
next day--it was only last week--Arthur had ridden over to
Rosseter on purpose to buy them. That little wish so naively
uttered seemed to him the prettiest bit of childishness; he had
never heard anything like it before; and he had wrapped the box up
in a great many covers, that he might see Hetty unwrapping it with
growing curiosity, till at last her eyes flashed back their new
delight into his.
No, she was not thinking most of the giver when she smiled at the
ear-rings, for now she is taking them out of the box, not to press
them to her lips, but to fasten them in her ears--only for one
moment, to see how pretty they look, as she peeps at them in the
glass against the wall, with first one position of the head and
then another, like a listening bird. It is impossible to be wise
on the subject of ear-rings as one looks at her; what should those
delicate pearls and crystals be made for, if not for such ears?
One cannot even find fault with the tiny round hole which they
leave when they are taken out; perhaps water-nixies, and such
lovely things without souls, have these little round holes in
their ears by nature, ready to hang jewels in. And Hetty must be
one of them: it is too painful to think that she is a woman, with
a woman's destiny before her--a woman spinning in young ignorance
a light web of folly and vain hopes which may one day close round
her and press upon her, a rancorous poisoned garment, changing all
at once her fluttering, trivial butterfly sensations into a life
of deep human anguish.
But she cannot keep in the ear-rings long, else she may make her
uncle and aunt wait. She puts them quickly into the box again and
shuts them up. Some day she will be able to wear any ear-rings
she likes, and already she lives in an invisible world of
brilliant costumes, shimmering gauze, soft satin, and velvet, such
as the lady's maid at the Chase has shown her in Miss Lydia's
wardrobe. She feels the bracelets on her arms, and treads on a
soft carpet in front of a tall mirror. But she has one thing in
the drawer which she can venture to wear to-day, because she can
hang it on the chain of dark-brown berries which she has been used
to wear on grand days, with a tiny flat scent-bottle at the end of
it tucked inside her frock; and she must put on her brown berries--
her neck would look so unfinished without it. Hetty was not
quite as fond of the locket as of the ear-rings, though it was a
handsome large locket, with enamelled flowers at the back and a
beautiful gold border round the glass, which showed a light-brown
slightly waving lock, forming a background for two little dark
rings. She must keep it under her clothes, and no one would see
it. But Hetty had another passion, only a little less strong than
her love of finery, and that other passion made her like to wear
the locket even hidden in her bosom. She would always have worn
it, if she had dared to encounter her aunt's questions about a
ribbon round her neck. So now she slipped it on along her chain
of dark-brown berries, and snapped the chain round her neck. It
was not a very long chain, only allowing the locket to hang a
little way below the edge of her frock. And now she had nothing
to do but to put on her long sleeves, her new white gauze
neckerchief, and her straw hat trimmed with white to-day instead
of the pink, which had become rather faded under the July sun.
That hat made the drop of bitterness in Hetty's cup to-day, for it
was not quite new--everybody would see that it was a little tanned
against the white ribbon--and Mary Burge, she felt sure, would
have a new hat or bonnet on. She looked for consolation at her
fine white cotton stockings: they really were very nice indeed,
and she had given almost all her spare money for them. Hetty's
dream of the future could not make her insensible to triumph in
the present. To be sure, Captain Donnithorne loved her so that he
would never care about looking at other people, but then those
other people didn't know how he loved her, and she was not
satisfied to appear shabby and insignificant in their eyes even
for a short space.
The whole party was assembled in the house-place when Hetty went
down, all of course in their Sunday clothes; and the bells had
been ringing so this morning in honour of the captain's twenty-
first birthday, and the work had all been got done so early, that
Marty and Tommy were not quite easy in their minds until their
mother had assured them that going to church was not part of the
day's festivities. Mr. Poyser had once suggested that the house
should be shut up and left to take care of itself; "for," said he,
"there's no danger of anybody's breaking in--everybody'll be at
the Chase, thieves an' all. If we lock th' house up, all the men
can go: it's a day they wonna see twice i' their lives." But
Mrs. Poyser answered with great decision: "I never left the house
to take care of itself since I was a missis, and I never will.
There's been ill-looking tramps enoo' about the place this last
week, to carry off every ham an' every spoon we'n got; and they
all collogue together, them tramps, as it's a mercy they hanna
come and poisoned the dogs and murdered us all in our beds afore
we knowed, some Friday night when we'n got the money in th' house
to pay the men. And it's like enough the tramps know where we're
going as well as we do oursens; for if Old Harry wants any work
done, you may be sure he'll find the means."
"Nonsense about murdering us in our beds," said Mr. Poyser; "I've
got a gun i' our room, hanna I? and thee'st got ears as 'ud find
it out if a mouse was gnawing the bacon. Howiver, if thee
wouldstna be easy, Alick can stay at home i' the forepart o' the
day, and Tim can come back tow'rds five o'clock, and let Alick
have his turn. They may let Growler loose if anybody offers to do
mischief, and there's Alick's dog too, ready enough to set his
tooth in a tramp if Alick gives him a wink."
Mrs. Poyser accepted this compromise, but thought it advisable to
bar and bolt to the utmost; and now, at the last moment before
starting, Nancy, the dairy-maid, was closing the shutters of the
house-place, although the window, lying under the immediate
observation of Alick and the dogs, might have been supposed the
least likely to be selected for a burglarious attempt.
The covered cart, without springs, was standing ready to carry the
whole family except the men-servants. Mr. Poyser and the
grandfather sat on the seat in front, and within there was room
for all the women and children; the fuller the cart the better,
because then the jolting would not hurt so much, and Nancy's broad
person and thick arms were an excellent cushion to be pitched on.
But Mr. Poyser drove at no more than a walking pace, that there
might be as little risk of jolting as possible on this warm day,
and there was time to exchange greetings and remarks with the
foot-passengers who were going the same way, specking the paths
between the green meadows and the golden cornfields with bits of
movable bright colour--a scarlet waistcoat to match the poppies
that nodded a little too thickly among the corn, or a dark-blue
neckerchief with ends flaunting across a brand-new white smock-
frock. All Broxton and all Hayslope were to be at the Chase, and
make merry there in honour of "th' heir"; and the old men and
women, who had never been so far down this side of the hill for
the last twenty years, were being brought from Broxton and
Hayslope in one of the farmer's waggons, at Mr. Irwine's
suggestion. The church-bells had struck up again now--a last
tune, before the ringers came down the hill to have their share in
the festival; and before the bells had finished, other music was
heard approaching, so that even Old Brown, the sober horse that
was drawing Mr. Poyser's cart, began to prick up his ears. It was
the band of the Benefit Club, which had mustered in all its glory--
that is to say, in bright-blue scarfs and blue favours, and
carrying its banner with the motto, "Let brotherly love continue,"
encircling a picture of a stone-pit.
The carts, of course, were not to enter the Chase. Every one must
get down at the lodges, and the vehicles must be sent back.
"Why, the Chase is like a fair a'ready," said Mrs. Poyser, as she
got down from the cart, and saw the groups scattered under the
great oaks, and the boys running about in the hot sunshine to
survey the tall poles surmounted by the fluttering garments that
were to be the prize of the successful climbers. "I should ha'
thought there wasna so many people i' the two parishes. Mercy on
us! How hot it is out o' the shade! Come here, Totty, else your
little face 'ull be burnt to a scratchin'! They might ha' cooked
the dinners i' that open space an' saved the fires. I shall go to
Mrs. Best's room an' sit down."
"Stop a bit, stop a bit," said Mr. Poyser. "There's th' waggin
coming wi' th' old folks in't; it'll be such a sight as wonna come
o'er again, to see 'em get down an' walk along all together. You
remember some on 'em i' their prime, eh, Father?"
"Aye, aye," said old Martin, walking slowly under the shade of the
lodge porch, from which he could see the aged party descend. "I
remember Jacob Taft walking fifty mile after the Scotch raybels,
when they turned back from Stoniton."
He felt himself quite a youngster, with a long life before him, as
he saw the Hayslope patriarch, old Feyther Taft, descend from the
waggon and walk towards him, in his brown nigbtcap, and leaning on
his two sticks.
"Well, Mester Taft," shouted old Martin, at the utmost stretch of
his voice--for though he knew the old man was stone deaf, he could
not omit the propriety of a greeting--"you're hearty yet. You can
enjoy yoursen to-day, for-all you're ninety an' better."
"Your sarvant, mesters, your sarvant," said Feyther Taft in a
treble tone, perceiving that he was in company.
The aged group, under care of sons or daughters, themselves worn
and grey, passed on along the least-winding carriage-road towards
the house, where a special table was prepared for them; while the
Poyser party wisely struck across the grass under the shade of the
great trees, but not out of view of the house-front, with its
sloping lawn and flower-beds, or of the pretty striped marquee at
the edge of the lawn, standing at right angles with two larger
marquees on each side of the open green space where the games were
to be played. The house would have been nothing but a plain
square mansion of Queen Anne's time, but for the remnant of an old
abbey to which it was united at one end, in much the same way as
one may sometimes see a new farmhouse rising high and prim at the
end of older and lower farm-offices. The fine old remnant stood a
little backward and under the shadow of tall beeches, but the sun
was now on the taller and more advanced front, the blinds were all
down, and the house seemed asleep in the hot midday. It made
Hetty quite sad to look at it: Arthur must be somewhere in the
back rooms, with the grand company, where he could not possibly
know that she was come, and she should not see him for a long,
long while--not till after dinner, when they said he was to come
up and make a speech.
But Hetty was wrong in part of her conjecture. No grand company
was come except the Irwines, for whom the carriage had been sent
early, and Arthur was at that moment not in a back room, but
walking with the rector into the broad stone cloisters of the old
abbey, where the long tables were laid for all the cottage tenants
and the farm-servants. A very handsome young Briton he looked to-
day, in high spirits and a bright-blue frock-coat, the highest
mode--his arm no longer in a sling. So open-looking and candid,
too; but candid people have their secrets, and secrets leave no
lines in young faces.
"Upon my word," he said, as they entered the cool cloisters, "I
think the cottagers have the best of it: these cloisters make a
delightful dining-room on a hot day. That was capital advice of
yours, Irwine, about the dinners--to let them be as orderly and
comfortable as possible, and only for the tenants: especially as
I had only a limited sum after all; for though my grandfather
talked of a carte blanche, he couldn't make up his mind to trust
me, when it came to the point."
"Never mind, you'll give more pleasure in this quiet way," said
Mr. Irwine. "In this sort of thing people are constantly
confounding liberality with riot and disorder. It sounds very
grand to say that so many sheep and oxen were roasted whole, and
everybody ate who liked to come; but in the end it generally
happens that no one has had an enjoyable meal. If the people get
a good dinner and a moderate quantity of ale in the middle of the
day, they'll be able to enjoy the games as the day cools. You
can't hinder some of them from getting too much towards evening,
but drunkenness and darkness go better together than drunkenness
"Well, I hope there won't be much of it. I've kept the
Treddleston people away by having a feast for them in the town;
and I've got Casson and Adam Bede and some other good fellows to
look to the giving out of ale in the booths, and to take care
things don't go too far. Come, let us go up above now and see the
dinner-tables for the large tenants."
They went up the stone staircase leading simply to the long
gallery above the cloisters, a gallery where all the dusty
worthless old pictures had been banished for the last three
generations--mouldy portraits of Queen Elizabeth and her ladies,
General Monk with his eye knocked out, Daniel very much in the
dark among the lions, and Julius Caesar on horseback, with a high
nose and laurel crown, holding his Commentaries in his hand.
"What a capital thing it is that they saved this piece of the old
abbey!" said Arthur. "If I'm ever master here, I shall do up the
gallery in first-rate style. We've got no room in the house a
third as large as this. That second table is for the farmers'
wives and children: Mrs. Best said it would be more comfortable
for the mothers and children to be by themselves. I was
determined to have the children, and make a regular family thing
of it. I shall be 'the old squire' to those little lads and
lasses some day, and they'll tell their children what a much finer
young fellow I was than my own son. There's a table for the women
and children below as well. But you will see them all--you will
come up with me after dinner, I hope?"
"Yes, to be sure," said Mr. Irwine. "I wouldn't miss your maiden
speech to the tenantry."
"And there will be something else you'll like to hear," said
Arthur. "Let us go into the library and I'll tell you all about
it while my grandfather is in the drawing-room with the ladies.
Something that will surpsise you," he continued, as they sat down.
"My grandfather has come round after all."
"What, about Adam?"
"Yes; I should have ridden over to tell you about it, only I was
so busy. You know I told you I had quite given up arguing the
matter with him--I thought it was hopeless--but yesterday morning
he asked me to come in here to him before I went out, and
astonished me by saying that he had decided on all the new
arrangements he should make in consequence of old Satchell being
obliged to lay by work, and that he intended to employ Adam in
superintending the woods at a salary of a guinea a-week, and the
use of a pony to be kept here. I believe the secret of it is, he
saw from the first it would be a profitable plan, but he had some
particular dislike of Adam to get over--and besides, the fact that
I propose a thing is generally a reason with him for rejecting it.
There's the most curious contradiction in my grandfather: I know
he means to leave me all the money he has saved, and he is likely
enough to have cut off poor Aunt Lydia, who has been a slave to
him all her life, with only five hundred a-year, for the sake of
giving me all the more; and yet I sometimes think he positively
hates me because I'm his heir. I believe if I were to break my
neck, he would feel it the greatest misfortune that could befall
him, and yet it seems a pleasure to him to make my life a series
of petty annoyances."
"Ah, my boy, it is not only woman's love that is [two greek words
omitted] as old AEschylus calls it. There's plenty of 'unloving
love' in the world of a masculine kind. But tell me about Adam.
Has he accepted the post? I don't see that it can be much more
profitable than his present work, though, to be sure, it will
leave him a good deal of time on his own hands.
"Well, I felt some doubt about it when I spoke to him and he
seemed to hesitate at first. His objection was that he thought he
should not be able to satisfy my grandfather. But I begged him as
a personal favour to me not to let any reason prevent him from
accepting the place, if he really liked the employment and would
not be giving up anything that was more profitable to him. And he
assured me he should like it of all things--it would be a great
step forward for him in business, and it would enable him to do
what he had long wished to do, to give up working for Burge. He
says he shall have plenty of time to superintend a little business
of his own, which he and Seth will carry on, and will perhaps be
able to enlarge by degrees. So he has agreed at last, and I have
arranged that he shall dine with the large tenants to-day; and I
mean to announce the appointment to them, and ask them to drink
Adam's health. It's a little drama I've got up in honour of my
friend Adam. He's a fine fellow, and I like the opportunity of
letting people know that I think so."
"A drama in which friend Arthur piques himself on having a pretty
part to play," said Mr. Irwine, smiling. But when he saw Arthur
colour, he went on relentingly, "My part, you know, is always that
of the old fogy who sees nothing to admire in the young folks. I
don't like to admit that I'm proud of my pupil when he does
graceful things. But I must play the amiable old gentleman for
once, and second your toast in honour of Adam. Has your
grandfather yielded on the other point too, and agreed to have a
respectable man as steward?"
"Oh no," said Arthur, rising from his chair with an air of
impatience and walking along the room with his hands in his
pockets. "He's got some project or other about letting the Chase
Farm and bargaining for a supply of milk and butter for the house.
But I ask no questions about it--it makes me too angry. I believe
he means to do all the business himself, and have nothing in the
shape of a steward. It's amazing what energy he has, though."
"Well, we'll go to the ladies now," said Mr. Irwine, rising too.
"I want to tell my mother what a splendid throne you've prepared
for her under the marquee."
"Yes, and we must be going to luncheon too," said Arthur. "It
must be two o'clock, for there is the gong beginning to sound for
the tenants' dinners."
WHEN Adam heard that he was to dine upstairs with the large
tenants, he felt rather uncomfortable at the idea of being exalted
in this way above his mother and Seth, who were to dine in the
cloisters below. But Mr. Mills, the butler, assured him that
Captain Donnithorne had given particular orders about it, and
would be very angry if Adam was not there.
Adam nodded and went up to Seth, who was standing a few yards off.
"Seth, lad," he said, "the captain has sent to say I'm to dine
upstairs--he wishes it particular, Mr. Mills says, so I suppose it
'ud be behaving ill for me not to go. But I don't like sitting up
above thee and mother, as if I was better than my own flesh and
blood. Thee't not take it unkind, I hope?"
"Nay, nay, lad," said Seth, "thy honour's our honour; and if thee
get'st respect, thee'st won it by thy own deserts. The further I
see thee above me, the better, so long as thee feel'st like a
brother to me. It's because o' thy being appointed over the
woods, and it's nothing but what's right. That's a place o'
trust, and thee't above a common workman now."
"Aye," said Adam, "but nobody knows a word about it yet. I
haven't given notice to Mr. Burge about leaving him, and I don't
like to tell anybody else about it before he knows, for he'll be a
good bit hurt, I doubt. People 'ull be wondering to see me there,
and they'll like enough be guessing the reason and asking
questions, for there's been so much talk up and down about my
having the place, this last three weeks."
"Well, thee canst say thee wast ordered to come without being told
the reason. That's the truth. And mother 'ull be fine and joyful
about it. Let's go and tell her."
Adam was not the only guest invited to come upstairs on other
grounds than the amount he contributed to the rent-roll. There
were other people in the two parishes who derived dignity from
their functions rather than from their pocket, and of these Bartle
Massey was one. His lame walk was rather slower than usual on
this warm day, so Adam lingered behind when the bell rang for
dinner, that he might walk up with his old friend; for he was a
little too shy to join the Poyser party on this public occasion.
Opportunities of getting to Hetty's side would be sure to turn up
in the course of the day, and Adam contented himself with that for
he disliked any risk of being "joked" about Hetty--the big,
outspoken, fearless man was very shy and diffident as to his love-
"Well, Mester Massey," said Adam, as Bartle came up "I'm going to
dine upstairs with you to-day: the captain's sent me orders."
"Ah!" said Bartle, pausing, with one hand on his back. "Then
there's something in the wind--there's something in the wind.
Have you heard anything about what the old squire means to do?"
"Why, yes," said Adam; "I'll tell you what I know, because I
believe you can keep a still tongue in your head if you like, and
I hope you'll not let drop a word till it's common talk, for I've
particular reasons against its being known."
"Trust to me, my boy, trust to me. I've got no wife to worm it
out of me and then run out and cackle it in everybody's hearing.
If you trust a man, let him be a bachelor--let him be a bachelor."
"Well, then, it was so far settled yesterday that I'm to take the
management o' the woods. The captain sent for me t' offer it me,
when I was seeing to the poles and things here and I've agreed
to't. But if anybody asks any questions upstairs, just you take
no notice, and turn the talk to something else, and I'll be
obliged to you. Now, let us go on, for we're pretty nigh the
last, I think."
"I know what to do, never fear," said Bartle, moving on. "The
news will be good sauce to my dinner. Aye, aye, my boy, you'll
get on. I'll back you for an eye at measuring and a head-piece
for figures, against any man in this county and you've had good
teaching--you've had good teaching."
When they got upstairs, the question which Arthur had left
unsettled, as to who was to be president, and who vice, was still
under discussion, so that Adam's entrance passed without remark.
"It stands to sense," Mr. Casson was saying, "as old Mr. Poyser,
as is th' oldest man i' the room, should sit at top o' the table.
I wasn't butler fifteen year without learning the rights and the
wrongs about dinner."
"Nay, nay," said old Martin, "I'n gi'en up to my son; I'm no
tenant now: let my son take my place. Th' ould foulks ha' had
their turn: they mun make way for the young uns."
"I should ha' thought the biggest tenant had the best right, more
nor th' oldest," said Luke Britton, who was not fond of the
critical Mr. Poyser; "there's Mester Holdsworth has more land nor
anybody else on th' estate."
"Well," said Mr. Poyser, "suppose we say the man wi' the foulest
land shall sit at top; then whoever gets th' honour, there'll be
no envying on him."
"Eh, here's Mester Massey," said Mr. Craig, who, being a neutral
in the dispute, had no interest but in conciliation; "the
schoolmaster ought to be able to tell you what's right. Who's to
sit at top o' the table, Mr. Massey?"
"Why, the broadest man," said Bartle; "and then he won't take up
other folks' room; and the next broadest must sit at bottom."
This happy mode of settling the dispute produced much laughter--a
smaller joke would have sufficed for that Mr. Casson, however, did
not feel it compatible with his dignity and superior knowledge to
join in the laugh, until it turned out that he was fixed on as the
second broadest man. Martin Poyser the younger, as the broadest,
was to be president, and Mr. Casson, as next broadest, was to be
Owing to this arrangement, Adam, being, of course, at the bottom
of the table, fell under the immediate observation of Mr. Casson,
who, too much occupied with the question of precedence, had not
hitherto noticed his entrance. Mr. Casson, we have seen,
considered Adam "rather lifted up and peppery-like": he thought
the gentry made more fuss about this young carpenter than was
necessary; they made no fuss about Mr. Casson, although he had
been an excellent butler for fifteen years.
"Well, Mr. Bede, you're one o' them as mounts hup'ards apace," he
said, when Adam sat down. "You've niver dined here before, as I
"No, Mr. Casson," said Adam, in his strong voice, that could be
heard along the table; "I've never dined here before, but I come
by Captain Donnithorne's wish, and I hope it's not disagreeable to
"Nay, nay," said several voices at once, "we're glad ye're come.
Who's got anything to say again' it?"
"And ye'll sing us 'Over the hills and far away,' after dinner,
wonna ye?" said Mr. Chowne. "That's a song I'm uncommon fond on."
"Peeh!" said Mr. Craig; "it's not to be named by side o' the
Scotch tunes. I've never cared about singing myself; I've had
something better to do. A man that's got the names and the natur
o' plants in's head isna likely to keep a hollow place t' hold
tunes in. But a second cousin o' mine, a drovier, was a rare hand
at remembering the Scotch tunes. He'd got nothing else to think
"The Scotch tunes!" said Bartle Massey, contemptuously; "I've
heard enough o' the Scotch tunes to last me while I live. They're
fit for nothing but to frighten the birds with--that's to say, the
English birds, for the Scotch birds may sing Scotch for what I
know. Give the lads a bagpipe instead of a rattle, and I'll
answer for it the corn 'll be safe."
"Yes, there's folks as find a pleasure in undervallying what they
know but little about," said Mr. Craig.
"Why, the Scotch tunes are just like a scolding, nagging woman,"
Bartle went on, without deigning to notice Mr. Craig's remark.
"They go on with the same thing over and over again, and never
come to a reasonable end. Anybody 'ud think the Scotch tunes had
always been asking a question of somebody as deaf as old Taft, and
had never got an answer yet."
Adam minded the less about sitting by Mr. Casson, because this
position enabled him to see Hetty, who was not far off him at the
next table. Hetty, however, had not even noticed his presence
yet, for she was giving angry attention to Totty, who insisted on
drawing up her feet on to the bench in antique fashion, and
thereby threatened to make dusty marks on Hetty's pink-and-white
frock. No sooner were the little fat legs pushed down than up
they came again, for Totty's eyes were too busy in staring at the
large dishes to see where the plum pudding was for her to retain
any consciousness of her legs. Hetty got quite out of patience,
and at last, with a frown and pout, and gathering tears, she said,
"Oh dear, Aunt, I wish you'd speak to Totty; she keeps putting her
legs up so, and messing my frock."
"What's the matter wi' the child? She can niver please you," said
the mother. "Let her come by the side o' me, then. I can put up
Adam was looking at Hetty, and saw the frown, and pout, and the
dark eyes seeming to grow larger with pettish half-gathered tears.
Quiet Mary Burge, who sat near enough to see that Hetty was cross
and that Adam's eyes were fixed on her, thought that so sensible a
man as Adam must be reflecting on the small value of beauty in a
woman whose temper was bad. Mary was a good girl, not given to
indulge in evil feelings, but she said to herself, that, since
Hetty had a bad temper, it was better Adam should know it. And it
was quite true that if Hetty had been plain, she would have looked
very ugly and unamiable at that moment, and no one's moral
judgment upon her would have been in the least beguiled. But
really there was something quite charming in her pettishness: it
looked so much more like innocent distress than ill humour; and
the severe Adam felt no movement of disapprobation; he only felt a
sort of amused pity, as if he had seen a kitten setting up its
back, or a little bird with its feathers ruffled. He could not
gather what was vexing her, but it was impossible to him to feel
otherwise than that she was the prettiest thing in the world, and
that if he could have his way, nothing should ever vex her any
more. And presently, when Totty was gone, she caught his eye, and
her face broke into one of its brightest smiles, as she nodded to
him. It was a bit of flirtation--she knew Mary Burge was looking
at them. But the smile was like wine to Adam.
WHEN the dinner was over, and the first draughts from the great
cask of birthday ale were brought up, room was made for the broad
Mr. Poyser at the side of the table, and two chairs were placed at
the head. It had been settled very definitely what Mr. Poyser was
to do when the young squire should appear, and for the last five
minutes he had been in a state of abstraction, with his eyes fixed
on the dark picture opposite, and his hands busy with the loose
cash and other articles in his breeches pockets.
When the young squire entered, with Mr. Irwine by his side, every
one stood up, and this moment of homage was very agreeable to
Arthur. He liked to feel his own importance, and besides that, he
cared a great deal for the good-will of these people: he was fond
of thinking that they had a hearty, special regard for him. The
pleasure he felt was in his face as he said, "My grandfather and I
hope all our friends here have enjoyed their dinner, and find my
birthday ale good. Mr. Irwine and I are come to taste it with
you, and I am sure we shall all like anything the better that the
rector shares with us."
All eyes were now turned on Mr. Poyser, who, with his hands still
busy in his pockets, began with the deliberateness of a slow-
striking clock. "Captain, my neighbours have put it upo' me to
speak for 'em to-day, for where folks think pretty much alike, one
spokesman's as good as a score. And though we've mayhappen got
contrairy ways o' thinking about a many things--one man lays down
his land one way an' another another--an' I'll not take it upon me
to speak to no man's farming, but my own--this I'll say, as we're
all o' one mind about our young squire. We've pretty nigh all on
us known you when you war a little un, an' we've niver known
anything on you but what was good an' honorable. You speak fair
an' y' act fair, an' we're joyful when we look forrard to your
being our landlord, for we b'lieve you mean to do right by
everybody, an' 'ull make no man's bread bitter to him if you can
help it. That's what I mean, an' that's what we all mean; and
when a man's said what he means, he'd better stop, for th' ale
'ull be none the better for stannin'. An' I'll not say how we
like th' ale yet, for we couldna well taste it till we'd drunk
your health in it; but the dinner was good, an' if there's anybody
hasna enjoyed it, it must be the fault of his own inside. An' as
for the rector's company, it's well known as that's welcome t' all
the parish wherever he may be; an' I hope, an' we all hope, as
he'll live to see us old folks, an' our children grown to men an'
women an' Your Honour a family man. I've no more to say as
concerns the present time, an' so we'll drink our young squire's
health--three times three."
Hereupon a glorious shouting, a rapping, a jingling, a clattering,
and a shouting, with plentiful da capo, pleasanter than a strain
of sublimest music in the ears that receive such a tribute for the
first time. Arthur had felt a twinge of conscience during Mr.
Poyser's speech, but it was too feeble to nullify the pleasure he
felt in being praised. Did he not deserve what was said of him on
the whole? If there was something in his conduct that Poyser
wouldn't have liked if he had known it, why, no man's conduct will
bear too close an inspection; and Poyser was not likely to know
it; and, after all, what had he done? Gone a little too far,
perhaps, in flirtation, but another man in his place would have
acted much worse; and no harm would come--no harm should come, for
the next time he was alone with Hetty, he would explain to her
that she must not think seriously of him or of what had passed.
It was necessary to Arthur, you perceive, to be satisfied with
himself. Uncomfortable thoughts must be got rid of by good
intentions for the future, which can be formed so rapidly that he
had time to be uncomfortable and to become easy again before Mr.
Poyser's slow speech was finished, and when it was time for him to
speak he was quite light-hearted.
"I thank you all, my good friends and neighbours," Arthur said,
"for the good opinion of me, and the kind feelings towards me
which Mr. Poyser has been expressing on your behalf and on his
own, and it will always be my heartiest wish to deserve them. In
the course of things we may expect that, if I live, I shall one
day or other be your landlord; indeed, it is on the ground of that
expectation that my grandfather has wished me to celebrate this
day and to come among you now; and I look forward to this
position, not merely as one of power and pleasure for myself, but
as a means of benefiting my neighbours. It hardly becomes so
young a man as I am to talk much about farming to you, who are
most of you so much older, and are men of experience; still, I
have interested myself a good deal in such matters, and learned as
much about them as my opportunities have allowed; and when the
course of events shall place the estate in my hands, it will be my
first desire to afford my tenants all the encouragement a landlord
can give them, in improving their land and trying to bring about a
better practice of husbandry. It will be my wish to be looked on
by all my deserving tenants as their best friend, and nothing
would make me so happy as to be able to respect every man on the
estate, and to be respected by him in return. It is not my place
at present to enter into particulars; I only meet your good hopes
concerning me by telling you that my own hopes correspond to them--
that what you expect from me I desire to fulfil; and I am quite
of Mr. Poyser's opinion, that when a man has said what he means,
he had better stop. But the pleasure I feel in having my own
health drunk by you would not be perfect if we did not drink the
health of my grandfather, who has filled the place of both parents
to me. I will say no more, until you have joined me in drinking
his health on a day when he has wished me to appear among you as
the future representative of his name and family."
Perhaps there was no one present except Mr. Irwine who thoroughly
understood and approved Arthur's graceful mode of proposing his
grandfather's health. The farmers thought the young squire knew
well enough that they hated the old squire, and Mrs. Poyser said,
"he'd better not ha' stirred a kettle o' sour broth." The bucolic
mind does not readily apprehend the refinements of good taste.
But the toast could not be rejected and when it had been drunk,
Arthur said, "I thank you, both for my grandfather and myself; and
now there is one more thing I wish to tell you, that you may share
my pleasure about it, as I hope and believe you will. I think
there can be no man here who has not a respect, and some of you, I
am sure, have a very high regard, for my friend Adam Bede. It is
well known to every one in this neighbourhood that there is no man
whose word can be more depended on than his; that whatever he
undertakes to do, he does well, and is as careful for the
interests of those who employ him as for his own. I'm proud to
say that I was very fond of Adam when I was a little boy, and I
have never lost my old feeling for him--I think that shows that I
know a good fellow when I find him. It has long been my wish that
he should have the management of the woods on the estate, which
happen to be very valuable, not only because I think so highly of
his character, but because he has the knowledge and the skill
which fit him for the place. And I am happy to tell you that it
is my grandfather's wish too, and it is now settled that Adam
shall manage the woods--a change which I am sure will be very much
for the advantage of the estate; and I hope you will by and by
join me in drinking his health, and in wishing him all the
prosperity in life that he deserves. But there is a still older
friend of mine than Adam Bede present, and I need not tell you
that it is Mr. Irwine. I'm sure you will agree with me that we
must drink no other person's health until we have drunk his. I
know you have all reason to love him, but no one of his
parishioners has so much reason as I. Come, charge your glasses,
and let us drink to our excellent rector--three times three!"
This toast was drunk with all the enthusiasm that was wanting to
the last, and it certainly was the most picturesque moment in the
scene when Mr. Irwine got up to speak, and all the faces in the
room were turned towards him. The superior refinement of his face
was much more striking than that of Arthur's when seen in
comparison with the people round them. Arthur's was a much
commoner British face, and the splendour of his new-fashioned
clothes was more akin to the young farmer's taste in costume than
Mr. Irwine's powder and the well-brushed but well-worn black,
which seemed to be his chosen suit for great occasions; for he had
the mysterious secret of never wearing a new-looking coat.
"This is not the first time, by a great many," he said, "that I
have had to thank my parishioners for giving me tokens of their
goodwill, but neighbourly kindness is among those things that are
the more precious the older they get. Indeed, our pleasant
meeting to-day is a proof that when what is good comes of age and
is likely to live, there is reason for rejoicing, and the relation
between us as clergyman and parishioners came of age two years
ago, for it is three-and-twenty years since I first came among
you, and I see some tall fine-looking young men here, as well as
some blooming young women, that were far from looking as
pleasantly at me when I christened them as I am happy to see them
looking now. But I'm sure you will not wonder when I say that
among all those young men, the one in whom I have the strongest
interest is my friend Mr. Arthur Donnithorne, for whom you have
just expressed your regard. I had the pleasure of being his tutor
for several years, and have naturally had opportunities of knowing
him intimately which cannot have occurred to any one else who is
present; and I have some pride as well as pleasure in assuring you
that I share your high hopes concerning him, and your confidence
in his possession of those qualities which will make him an
excellent landlord when the time shall come for him to take that
important position among you. We feel alike on most matters on
which a man who is getting towards fifty can feel in common with a
young man of one-and-twenty, and he has just been expressing a
feeling which I share very heartily, and I would not willingly
omit the opportunity of saying so. That feeling is his value and
respect for Adam Bede. People in a high station are of course
more thought of and talked about and have their virtues more
praised, than those whose lives are passed in humble everyday
work; but every sensible man knows how necessary that humble
everyday work is, and how important it is to us that it should be
done well. And I agree with my friend Mr. Arthur Donnithorne in
feeling that when a man whose duty lies in that sort of work shows
a character which would make him an example in any station, his
merit should be acknowledged. He is one of those to whom honour
is due, and his friends should delight to honour him. I know Adam
Bede well--I know what he is as a workman, and what he has been as
a son and brother--and I am saying the simplest truth when I say
that I respect him as much as I respect any man living. But I am
not speaking to you about a stranger; some of you are his intimate
friends, and I believe there is not one here who does not know
enough of him to join heartily in drinking his health."
As Mr. Irwine paused, Arthur jumped up and, filling his glass,
said, "A bumper to Adam Bede, and may he live to have sons as
faithful and clever as himself!"
No hearer, not even Bartle Massey, was so delighted with this
toast as Mr. Poyser. "Tough work" as his first speech had been,
he would have started up to make another if he had not known the
extreme irregularity of such a course. As it was, he found an
outlet for his feeling in drinking his ale unusually fast, and
setting down his glass with a swing of his arm and a determined
rap. If Jonathan Burge and a few others felt less comfortable on
the occasion, they tried their best to look contented, and so the
toast was drunk with a goodwill apparently unanimous.
Adam was rather paler than usual when he got up to thank his
friends. He was a good deal moved by this public tribute--very
naturally, for he was in the presence of all his little world, and
it was uniting to do him honour. But he felt no shyness about
speaking, not being troubled with small vanity or lack of words;
he looked neither awkward nor embarrassed, but stood in his usual
firm upright attitude, with his head thrown a little backward and
his hands perfectly still, in that rough dignity which is peculiar
to intelligent, honest, well-built workmen, who are never
wondering what is their business in the world.
"I'm quite taken by surprise," he said. "I didn't expect anything
o' this sort, for it's a good deal more than my wages. But I've
the more reason to be grateful to you, Captain, and to you, Mr.
Irwine, and to all my friends here, who've drunk my health and
wished me well. It 'ud be nonsense for me to be saying, I don't
at all deserve th' opinion you have of me; that 'ud be poor thanks
to you, to say that you've known me all these years and yet
haven't sense enough to find out a great deal o' the truth about
me. You think, if I undertake to do a bit o' work, I'll do it
well, be my pay big or little--and that's true. I'd be ashamed to
stand before you here if it wasna true. But it seems to me that's
a man's plain duty, and nothing to be conceited about, and it's
pretty clear to me as I've never done more than my duty; for let
us do what we will, it's only making use o' the sperrit and the
powers that ha' been given to us. And so this kindness o' yours,
I'm sure, is no debt you owe me, but a free gift, and as such I
accept it and am thankful. And as to this new employment I've
taken in hand, I'll only say that I took it at Captain
Donnithorne's desire, and that I'll try to fulfil his
expectations. I'd wish for no better lot than to work under him,
and to know that while I was getting my own bread I was taking
care of his int'rests. For I believe he's one o those gentlemen
as wishes to do the right thing, and to leave the world a bit
better than he found it, which it's my belief every man may do,
whether he's gentle or simple, whether he sets a good bit o' work
going and finds the money, or whether he does the work with his
own hands. There's no occasion for me to say any more about what
I feel towards him: I hope to show it through the rest o' my life
in my actions."
There were various opinions about Adam's speech: some of the
women whispered that he didn't show himself thankful enough, and
seemed to speak as proud as could be; but most of the men were of
opinion that nobody could speak more straightfor'ard, and that
Adam was as fine a chap as need to be. While such observations
were being buzzed about, mingled with wonderings as to what the
old squire meant to do for a bailiff, and whether he was going to
have a steward, the two gentlemen had risen, and were walking
round to the table where the wives and children sat. There was
none of the strong ale here, of course, but wine and dessert--
sparkling gooseberry for the young ones, and some good sherry for
the mothers. Mrs. Poyser was at the head of this table, and Totty
was now seated in her lap, bending her small nose deep down into a
wine-glass in search of the nuts floating there.
"How do you do, Mrs. Poyser?" said Arthur. "Weren't you pleased
to hear your husband make such a good speech to-day?"
"Oh, sir, the men are mostly so tongue-tied--you're forced partly
to guess what they mean, as you do wi' the dumb creaturs."
"What! you think you could have made it better for him?" said Mr.
"Well, sir, when I want to say anything, I can mostly find words
to say it in, thank God. Not as I'm a-finding faut wi' my
husband, for if he's a man o' few words, what he says he'll stand
"I'm sure I never saw a prettier party than this," Arthur said,
looking round at the apple-cheeked children. "My aunt and the
Miss Irwines will come up and see you presently. They were afraid
of the noise of the toasts, but it would be a shame for them not
to see you at table."
He walked on, speaking to the mothers and patting the children,
while Mr. Irwine satisfied himself with standing still and nodding
at a distance, that no one's attention might be disturbed from the
young squire, the hero of the day. Arthur did not venture to stop
near Hetty, but merely bowed to her as he passed along the
opposite side. The foolish child felt her heart swelling with
discontent; for what woman was ever satisfied with apparent
neglect, even when she knows it to be the mask of love? Hetty
thought this was going to be the most miserable day she had had
for a long while, a moment of chill daylight and reality came
across her dream: Arthur, who had seemed so near to her only a
few hours before, was separated from her, as the hero of a great
procession is separated from a small outsider in the crowd.
THE great dance was not to begin until eight o'clock, but for any
lads and lasses who liked to dance on the shady grass before then,
there was music always at hand--for was not the band of the
Benefit Club capable of playing excellent jigs, reels, and
hornpipes? And, besides this, there was a grand band hired from
Rosseter, who, with their wonderful wind-instruments and puffed-
out cheeks, were themselves a delightful show to the small boys
and girls. To say nothing of Joshua Rann's fiddle, which, by an
act of generous forethought, he had provided himself with, in case
any one should be of sufficiently pure taste to prefer dancing to
a solo on that instrument.
Meantime, when the sun had moved off the great open space in front
of the house, the games began. There were, of course, well-soaped
poles to be climbed by the boys and youths, races to be run by the
old women, races to be run in sacks, heavy weights to be lifted by
the strong men, and a long list of challenges to such ambitious
attempts as that of walking as many yards possible on one leg--
feats in which it was generally remarked that Wiry Ben, being "the
lissom'st, springest fellow i' the country," was sure to be pre-
eminent. To crown all, there was to be a donkey-race--that
sublimest of all races, conducted on the grand socialistic idea of
everybody encouraging everybody else's donkey, and the sorriest
And soon after four o ciock, splendid old Mrs. Irwine, in her
damask satin and jewels and black lace, was led out by Arthur,
followed by the whole family party, to her raised seat under the
striped marquee, where she was to give out the prizes to the
victors. Staid, formal Miss Lydia had requested to resign that
queenly office to the royal old lady, and Arthur was pleased with
this opportunity of gratifying his godmother's taste for
stateliness. Old Mr. Donnithorne, the delicately clean, finely
scented, withered old man, led out Miss Irwine, with his air of
punctilious, acid politeness; Mr. Gawaine brought Miss Lydia,
looking neutral and stiff in an elegant peach-blossom silk; and
Mr. Irwine came last with his pale sister Anne. No other friend
of the family, besides Mr. Gawaine, was invited to-day; there was
to be a grand dinner for the neighbouring gentry on the morrow,
but to-day all the forces were required for the entertainment of
There was a sunk fence in front of the marquee, dividing the lawn
from the park, but a temporary bridge had been made for the
passage of the victors, and the groups of people standing, or
seated here and there on benches, stretched on each side of the
open space from the white marquees up to the sunk fence.
"Upon my word it's a pretty sight," said the old lady, in her deep
voice, when she was seated, and looked round on the bright scene
with its dark-green background; "and it's the last fete-day I'm
likely to see, unless you make haste and get married, Arthur. But
take care you get a charming bride, else I would rather die
without seeing her."
"You're so terribly fastidious, Godmother," said Arthur, "I'm
afraid I should never satisfy you with my choice."
"Well, I won't forgive you if she's not handsome. I can't be put
off with amiability, which is always the excuse people are making
for the existence of plain people. And she must not be silly;
that will never do, because you'll want managing, and a silly
woman can't manage you. Who is that tall young man, Dauphin, with
the mild face? There, standing without his hat, and taking such
care of that tall old woman by the side of him--his mother, of
course. I like to see that."
"What, don't you know him, Mother?" said Mr. Irwine. "That is
Seth Bede, Adam's brother--a Methodist, but a very good fellow.
Poor Seth has looked rather down-hearted of late; I thought it was
because of his father's dying in that sad way, but Joshua Rann
tells me he wanted to marry that sweet little Methodist preacher
who was here about a month ago, and I suppose she refused him."
"Ah, I remember hearing about her. But there are no end of people
here that I don't know, for they're grown up and altered so since
I used to go about."
"What excellent sight you have!" said old Mr. Donnithorne, who was
holding a double glass up to his eyes, "to see the expression of
that young man's face so far off. His face is nothing but a pale
blurred spot to me. But I fancy I have the advantage of you when
we come to look close. I can read small print without
"Ah, my dear sir, you began with being very near-sighted, and
those near-sighted eyes always wear the best. I want very strong
spectacles to read with, but then I think my eyes get better and
better for things at a distance. I suppose if I could live
another fifty years, I should be blind to everything that wasn't
out of other people's sight, like a man who stands in a well and
sees nothing but the stars."
"See," said Arthur, "the old women are ready to set out on their
race now. Which do you bet on, Gawaine?"
"The long-legged one, unless they're going to have several heats,
and then the little wiry one may win."
"There are the Poysers, Mother, not far off on the right hand,"
said Miss Irwine. "Mrs. Poyser is looking at you. Do take notice
"To be sure I will," said the old lady, giving a gracious bow to
Mrs. Poyser. "A woman who sends me such excellent cream-cheese is
not to be neglected. Bless me! What a fat child that is she is
holding on her knee! But who is that pretty girl with dark eyes?"
"That is Hetty Sorrel," said Miss Lydia Donnithorne, "Martin
Poyser's niece--a very likely young person, and well-looking too.
My maid has taught her fine needlework, and she has mended some
lace of mine very respectably indeed--very respectably."
"Why, she has lived with the Poysers six or seven years, Mother;
you must have seen her," said Miss Irwine.
"No, I've never seen her, child--at least not as she is now," said
Mrs. Irwine, continuing to look at Hetty. "Well-looking, indeed!
She's a perfect beauty! I've never seen anything so pretty since
my young days. What a pity such beauty as that should be thrown
away among the farmers, when it's wanted so terribly among the
good families without fortune! I daresay, now, she'll marry a man
who would have thought her just as pretty if she had had round
eyes and red hair."
Arthur dared not turn his eyes towards Hetty while Mrs. Irwine was
speaking of her. He feigned not to hear, and to be occupied with
something on the opposite side. But he saw her plainly enough
without looking; saw her in heightened beauty, because he heard
her beauty praised--for other men's opinion, you know, was like a
native climate to Arthur's feelings: it was the air on which they
thrived the best, and grew strong. Yes! She was enough to turn
any man's head: any man in his place would have done and felt the
same. And to give her up after all, as he was determined to do,
would be an act that he should always look back upon with pride.
"No, Mother," and Mr. Irwine, replying to her last words; "I can't
agree with you there. The common people are not quite so stupid
as you imagine. The commonest man, who has his ounce of sense and
feeling, is conscious of the difference between a lovely, delicate
woman and a coarse one. Even a dog feels a difference in their
presence. The man may be no better able than the dog to explain
the influence the more refined beauty has on him, but he feels
"Bless me, Dauphin, what does an old bachelor like you know about
"Oh, that is one of the matters in which old bachelors are wiser
than married men, because they have time for more general
contemplation. Your fine critic of woman must never shackle his
judgment by calling one woman his own. But, as an example of what
I was saying, that pretty Methodist preacher I mentioned just now
told me that she had preached to the roughest miners and had never
been treated with anything but the utmost respect and kindness by
them. The reason is--though she doesn't know it--that there's so
much tenderness, refinement, and purity about her. Such a woman
as that brings with her 'airs from heaven' that the coarsest
fellow is not insensible to."
"Here's a delicate bit of womanhood, or girlhood, coming to
receive a prize, I suppose," said Mr. Gawaine. "She must be one
of the racers in the sacks, who had set off before we came."
The "bit of womanhood" was our old acquaintance Bessy Cranage,
otherwise Chad's Bess, whose large red cheeks and blowsy person
had undergone an exaggeration of colour, which, if she had
happened to be a heavenly body, would have made her sublime.
Bessy, I am sorry to say, had taken to her ear-rings again since
Dinah's departure, and was otherwise decked out in such small
finery as she could muster. Any one who could have looked into
poor Bessy's heart would have seen a striking resemblance between
her little hopes and anxieties and Hetty's. The advantage,
perhaps, would have been on Bessy's side in the matter of feeling.
But then, you see, they were so very different outside! You would
have been inclined to box Bessy's ears, and you would have longed
to kiss Hetty.
Bessy had been tempted to run the arduous race, partly from mere
hedonish gaiety, partly because of the prize. Some one had said
there were to be cloaks and other nice clothes for prizes, and she
approached the marquee, fanning herself with her handkerchief, but
with exultation sparkling in her round eyes.
"Here is the prize for the first sack-race," said Miss Lydia,
taking a large parcel from the table where the prizes were laid
and giving it to Mrs. Irwine before Bessy came up, "an excellent
grogram gown and a piece of flannel."
"You didn't think the winner was to be so young, I suppose, Aunt?"
said Arthur. "Couldn't you find something else for this girl, and
save that grim-looking gown for one of the older women?"
"I have bought nothing but what is useful and substantial," said
Miss Lydia, adjusting her own lace; "I should not think of
encouraging a love of finery in young women of that class. I have
a scarlet cloak, but that is for the old woman who wins."
This speech of Miss Lydia's produced rather a mocking expression
in Mrs. Irwine's face as she looked at Arthur, while Bessy came up
and dropped a series of curtsies.
"This is Bessy Cranage, mother," said Mr. Irwine, kindly, "Chad
Cranage's daughter. You remember Chad Cranage, the blacksmith?"
"Yes, to be sure," said Mrs. Irwine. "Well, Bessy, here is your
prize--excellent warm things for winter. I'm sure you have had
hard work to win them this warm day."
Bessy's lip fell as she saw the ugly, heavy gown--which felt so
hot and disagreeable too, on this July day, and was such a great
ugly thing to carry. She dropped her curtsies again, without
looking up, and with a growing tremulousness about the corners of
her mouth, and then turned away.
"Poor girl," said Arthur; "I think she's disappointed. I wish it
had been something more to her taste."
"She's a bold-looking young person," observed Miss Lydia. "Not at
all one I should like to encourage."
Arthur silently resolved that he would make Bessy a present of
money before the day was over, that she might buy something more
to her mind; but she, not aware of the consolation in store for
her, turned out of the open space, where she was visible from the
marquee, and throwing down the odious bundle under a tree, began
to cry--very much tittered at the while by the small boys. In
this situation she was descried by her discreet matronly cousin,
who lost no time in coming up, having just given the baby into her
"What's the matter wi' ye?" said Bess the matron, taking up the
bundle and examining it. "Ye'n sweltered yoursen, I reckon,
running that fool's race. An' here, they'n gi'en you lots o' good
grogram and flannel, as should ha' been gi'en by good rights to
them as had the sense to keep away from such foolery. Ye might
spare me a bit o' this grogram to make clothes for the lad--ye war
ne'er ill-natured, Bess; I ne'er said that on ye."
"Ye may take it all, for what I care," said Bess the maiden, with
a pettish movement, beginning to wipe away her tears and recover
"Well, I could do wi't, if so be ye want to get rid on't," said
the disinterested cousin, walking quickly away with the bundle,
lest Chad's Bess should change her mind.
But that bonny-cheeked lass was blessed with an elasticity of
spirits that secured her from any rankling grief; and by the time
the grand climax of the donkey-race came on, her disappointment
was entirely lost in the delightful excitement of attempting to
stimulate the last donkey by hisses, while the boys applied the
argument of sticks. But the strength of the donkey mind lies in
adopting a course inversely as the arguments urged, which, well
considered, requires as great a mental force as the direct
sequence; and the present donkey proved the first-rate order of
his intelligence by coming to a dead standstill just when the
blows were thickest. Great was the shouting of the crowd, radiant
the grinning of Bill Downes the stone-sawyer and the fortunate
rider of this superior beast, which stood calm and stiff-legged in
the midst of its triumph.
Arthur himself had provided the prizes for the men, and Bill was
made happy with a splendid pocket-knife, supplied with blades and
gimlets enough to make a man at home on a desert island. He had
hardly returned from the marquee with the prize in his hand, when
it began to be understood that Wiry Ben proposed to amuse the
company, before the gentry went to dinner, with an impromptu and
gratuitous performance--namely, a hornpipe, the main idea of which
was doubtless borrowed; but this was to be developed by the dancer
in so peculiar and complex a manner that no one could deny him the
praise of originality. Wiry Ben's pride in his dancing--an
accomplishment productive of great effect at the yearly Wake--had
needed only slightly elevating by an extra quantity of good ale to
convince him that the gentry would be very much struck with his
performance of his hornpipe; and he had been decidedly encouraged
in this idea by Joshua Rann, who observed that it was nothing but
right to do something to please the young squire, in return for
what he had done for them. You will be the less surprised at this
opinion in so grave a personage when you learn that Ben had
requested Mr. Rann to accompany him on the fiddle, and Joshua felt
quite sure that though there might not be much in the dancing, the
music would make up for it. Adam Bede, who was present in one of
the large marquees, where the plan was being discussed, told Ben
he had better not make a fool of himself--a remark which at once
fixed Ben's determination: he was not going to let anything alone
because Adam Bede turned up his nose at it.
"What's this, what's this?" said old Mr. Donnithorne. "Is it
something you've arranged, Arthur? Here's the clerk coming with
his fiddle, and a smart fellow with a nosegay in his button-hole."
"No," said Arthur; "I know nothing about it. By Jove, he's going
to dance! It's one of the carpenters--I forget his name at this
"It's Ben Cranage--Wiry Ben, they call him," said Mr. Irwine;
"rather a loose fish, I think. Anne, my dear, I see that fiddle-
scraping is too much for you: you're getting tired. Let me take
you in now, that you may rest till dinner."
Miss Anne rose assentingly, and the good brother took her away,
while Joshua's preliminary scrapings burst into the "White
Cockade," from which he intended to pass to a variety of tunes, by
a series of transitions which his good ear really taught him to
execute with some skill. It would have been an exasperating fact
to him, if he had known it, that the general attention was too
thoroughly absorbed by Ben's dancing for any one to give much heed
to the music.
Have you ever seen a real English rustic perform a solo dance?
Perhaps you have only seen a ballet rustic, smiling like a merry
countryman in crockery, with graceful turns of the haunch and
insinuating movements of the head. That is as much like the real
thing as the "Bird Waltz" is like the song of birds. Wiry Ben
never smiled: he looked as serious as a dancing monkey--as serious
as if he had been an experimental philosopher ascertaining in his
own person the amount of shaking and the varieties of angularity
that could be given to the human limbs.
To make amends for the abundant laughter in the striped marquee,
Arthur clapped his hands continually and cried "Bravo!" But Ben
had one admirer whose eyes followed his movements with a fervid
gravity that equalled his own. It was Martin Poyser, who was
seated on a bench, with Tommy between his legs.
"What dost think o' that?" he said to his wife. "He goes as pat
to the music as if he was made o' clockwork. I used to be a
pretty good un at dancing myself when I was lighter, but I could
niver ha' hit it just to th' hair like that."
"It's little matter what his limbs are, to my thinking," re-turned
Mrs. Poyser. "He's empty enough i' the upper story, or he'd niver
come jigging an' stamping i' that way, like a mad grasshopper, for
the gentry to look at him. They're fit to die wi' laughing, I can
"Well, well, so much the better, it amuses 'em," said Mr. Poyser,
who did not easily take an irritable view of things. "But they're
going away now, t' have their dinner, I reckon. Well move about a
bit, shall we, and see what Adam Bede's doing. He's got to look
after the drinking and things: I doubt he hasna had much fun."
ARTHUR had chosen the entrance-hall for the ballroom: very wisely,
for no other room could have heen so airy, or would have had the
advantage of the wide doors opening into the garden, as well as a
ready entrance into the other rooms. To be sure, a stone floor
was not the pleasantest to dance on, but then, most of the dancers
had known what it was to enjoy a Christmas dance on kitchen
quarries. It was one of those entrance-halls which make the
surrounding rooms look like closets--with stucco angels, trumpets,
and flower-wreaths on the lofty ceiling, and great medallions of
miscellaneous heroes on the walls, alternating with statues in
niches. Just the sort of place to be ornamented well with green
boughs, and Mr. Craig had been proud to show his taste and his
hothouse plants on the occasion. The broad steps of the stone
staircase were covered with cushions to serve as seats for the
children, who were to stay till half-past nine with the servant-
maids to see the dancing, and as this dance was confined to the
chief tenants, there was abundant room for every one. The lights
were charmingly disposed in coloured-paper lamps, high up among
green boughs, and the farmers' wives and daughters, as they peeped
in, believed no scene could be more splendid; they knew now quite
well in what sort of rooms the king and queen lived, and their
thoughts glanced with some pity towards cousins and acquaintances
who had not this fine opportunity of knowing how things went on in
the great world. The lamps were already lit, though the sun had
not long set, and there was that calm light out of doors in which
we seem to see all objects more distinctly than in the broad day.
It was a pretty scene outside the house: the farmers and their
families were moving about the lawn, among the flowers and shrubs,
or along the broad straight road leading from the east front,
where a carpet of mossy grass spread on each side, studded here
and there with a dark flat-boughed cedar, or a grand pyramidal fir
sweeping the ground with its branches, all tipped with a fringe of
paler green. The groups of cottagers in the park were gradually
diminishing, the young ones being attracted towards the lights
that were beginning to gleam from the windows of the gallery in
the abbey, which was to be their dancing-room, and some of the
sober elder ones thinking it time to go home quietly. One of
these was Lisbeth Bede, and Seth went with her--not from filial
attention only, for his conscience would not let him join in
dancing. It had been rather a melancholy day to Seth: Dinah had
never been more constantly present with him than in this scene,
where everything was so unlike her. He saw her all the more
vividly after looking at the thoughtless faces and gay-coloured
dresses of the young women--just as one feels the beauty and the
greatness of a pictured Madonna the more when it has been for a
moment screened from us by a vulgar head in a bonnet. But this
presence of Dinah in his mind only helped him to bear the better
with his mother's mood, which had been becoming more and more
querulous for the last hour. Poor Lisbeth was suffering from a
strange conflict of feelings. Her joy and pride in the honour
paid to her darling son Adam was beginning to be worsted in the
conflict with the jealousy and fretfulness which had revived when
Adam came to tell her that Captain Donnithorne desired him to join
the dancers in the hall. Adam was getting more and more out of
her reach; she wished all the old troubles back again, for then it
mattered more to Adam what his mother said and did.
"Eh, it's fine talkin' o' dancin'," she said, "an' thy father not
a five week in's grave. An' I wish I war there too, i'stid o'
bein' left to take up merrier folks's room above ground."
"Nay, don't look at it i' that way, Mother," said Adam, who was
determined to be gentle to her to-day. "I don't mean to dance--I
shall only look on. And since the captain wishes me to be there,
it 'ud look as if I thought I knew better than him to say as I'd
rather not stay. And thee know'st how he's behaved to me to-day."
"Eh, thee't do as thee lik'st, for thy old mother's got no right
t' hinder thee. She's nought but th' old husk, and thee'st
slipped away from her, like the ripe nut."
"Well, Mother," said Adam, "I'll go and tell the captain as it
hurts thy feelings for me to stay, and I'd rather go home upo'
that account: he won't take it ill then, I daresay, and I'm
willing." He said this with some effort, for he really longed to
be near Hetty this evening.
"Nay, nay, I wonna ha' thee do that--the young squire 'ull be
angered. Go an' do what thee't ordered to do, an' me and Seth
'ull go whome. I know it's a grit honour for thee to be so looked
on--an' who's to be prouder on it nor thy mother? Hadna she the
cumber o' rearin' thee an' doin' for thee all these 'ears?"
"Well, good-bye, then, Mother--good-bye, lad--remember Gyp when
you get home," said Adam, turning away towards the gate of the
pleasure-grounds, where he hoped he might be able to join the
Poysers, for he had been so occupied throughout the afternoon that
he had had no time to speak to Hetty. His eye soon detected a
distant group, which he knew to be the right one, returning to the
house along the broad gravel road, and he hastened on to meet
"Why, Adam, I'm glad to get sight on y' again," said Mr. Poyser,
who was carrying Totty on his arm. "You're going t' have a bit o'
fun, I hope, now your work's all done. And here's Hetty has
promised no end o' partners, an' I've just been askin' her if
she'd agreed to dance wi' you, an' she says no."
"Well, I didn't think o' dancing to-night," said Adam, already
tempted to change his mind, as he looked at Hetty.
"Nonsense!" said Mr. Poyser. "Why, everybody's goin' to dance to-
night, all but th' old squire and Mrs. Irwine. Mrs. Best's been
tellin' us as Miss Lyddy and Miss Irwine 'ull dance, an' the young
squire 'ull pick my wife for his first partner, t' open the ball:
so she'll be forced to dance, though she's laid by ever sin' the
Christmas afore the little un was born. You canna for shame stand
still, Adam, an' you a fine young fellow and can dance as well as
"Nay, nay," said Mrs. Poyser, "it 'ud be unbecomin'. I know the
dancin's nonsense, but if you stick at everything because it's
nonsense, you wonna go far i' this life. When your broth's ready-
made for you, you mun swallow the thickenin', or else let the
"Then if Hetty 'ull d'ance with me," said Adam, yielding either to
Mrs. Poyser's argument or to something else, "I'll dance whichever
dance she's free."
"I've got no partner for the fourth dance," said Hetty; "I'll
dance that with you, if you like."
"Ah," said Mr. Poyser, "but you mun dance the first dance, Adam,
else it'll look partic'ler. There's plenty o' nice partners to
pick an' choose from, an' it's hard for the gells when the men
stan' by and don't ask 'em."
Adam felt the justice of Mr. Poyser's observation: it would not do
for him to dance with no one besides Hetty; and remembering that
Jonathan Burge had some reason to feel hurt to-day, he resolved to
ask Miss Mary to dance with him the first dance, if she had no
"There's the big clock strikin' eight," said Mr. Poyser; "we must
make haste in now, else the squire and the ladies 'ull be in afore
us, an' that wouldna look well."
When they had entered the hall, and the three children under
Molly's charge had been seated on the stairs, the folding-doors of
the drawing-room were thrown open, and Arthur entered in his
regimentals, leading Mrs. Irwine to a carpet-covered dais
ornamented with hot-house plants, where she and Miss Anne were to
be seated with old Mr. Donnithorne, that they might look on at the
dancing, like the kings and queens in the plays. Arthur had put
on his uniform to please the tenants, he said, who thought as much
of his militia dignity as if it had been an elevation to the
premiership. He had not the least objection to gratify them in
that way: his uniform was very advantageous to his figure.
The old squire, before sitting down, walked round the hall to
greet the tenants and make polite speeches to the wives: he was
always polite; but the farmers had found out, after long puzzling,
that this polish was one of the signs of hardness. It was
observed that he gave his most elaborate civility to Mrs. Poyser
to-night, inquiring particularly about her health, recommending
her to strengthen herself with cold water as he did, and avoid all
drugs. Mrs. Poyser curtsied and thanked him with great self-
command, but when he had passed on, she whispered to her husband,
"I'll lay my life he's brewin' some nasty turn against us. Old
Harry doesna wag his tail so for nothin'." Mr. Poyser had no time
to answer, for now Arthur came up and said, "Mrs. Poyser, I'm come
to request the favour of your hand for the first dance; and, Mr.
Poyser, you must let me take you to my aunt, for she claims you as
The wife's pale cheek flushed with a nervous sense of unwonted
honour as Arthur led her to the top of the room; but Mr. Poyser,
to whom an extra glass had restored his youthful confidence in his
good looks and good dancing, walked along with them quite proudly,
secretly flattering himself that Miss Lydia had never had a
partner in HER life who could lift her off the ground as he would.
In order to balance the honours given to the two parishes, Miss
Irwine danced with Luke Britton, the largest Broxton farmer, and
Mr. Gawaine led out Mrs. Britton. Mr. Irwine, after seating his
sister Anne, had gone to the abbey gallery, as he had agreed with
Arthur beforehand, to see how the merriment of the cottagers was
prospering. Meanwhile, all the less distinguished couples had
taken their places: Hetty was led out by the inevitable Mr. Craig,
and Mary Burge by Adam; and now the music struck up, and the
glorious country-dance, best of all dances, began.
Pity it was not a boarded floor! Then the rhythmic stamping of
the thick shoes would have been better than any drums. That merry
stamping, that gracious nodding of the head, that waving bestowal
of the hand--where can we see them now? That simple dancing of
well-covered matrons, laying aside for an hour the cares of house
and dairy, remembering but not affecting youth, not jealous but
proud of the young maidens by their side--that holiday
sprightliness of portly husbands paying little compliments to
their wives, as if their courting days were come again--those lads
and lasses a little confused and awkward with their partners,
having nothing to say--it would be a pleasant variety to see all
that sometimes, instead of low dresses and large skirts, and
scanning glances exploring costumes, and languid men in lacquered
boots smiling with double meaning.
There was but one thing to mar Martin Poyser's pleasure in this
dance: it was that he was always in close contact with Luke
Britton, that slovenly farmer. He thought of throwing a little
glazed coldness into his eye in the crossing of hands; but then,
as Miss Irwine was opposite to him instead of the offensive Luke,
he might freeze the wrong person. So he gave his face up to
hilarity, unchilled by moral judgments.
How Hetty's heart beat as Arthur approached her! He had hardly
looked at her to-day: now he must take her hand. Would he press
it? Would he look at her? She thought she would cry if he gave
her no sign of feeling. Now he was there--he had taken her hand--
yes, he was pressing it. Hetty turned pale as she looked up at
him for an instant and met his eyes, before the dance carried him
away. That pale look came upon Arthur like the beginning of a
dull pain, which clung to him, though he must dance and smile and
joke all the same. Hetty would look so, when he told her what he
had to tell her; and he should never be able to bear it--he should
be a fool and give way again. Hetty's look did not really mean so
much as he thought: it was only the sign of a struggle between the
desire for him to notice her and the dread lest she should betray
the desire to others. But Hetty's face had a language that
transcended her feelings. There are faces which nature charges
with a meaning and pathos not belonging to the single human soul
that flutters beneath them, but speaking the joys and sorrows of
foregone generations--eyes that tell of deep love which doubtless
has been and is somewhere, but not paired with these eyes--perhaps
paired with pale eyes that can say nothing; just as a national
language may be instinct with poetry unfelt by the lips that use
it. That look of Hetty's oppressed Arthur with a dread which yet
had something of a terrible unconfessed delight in it, that she
loved him too well. There was a hard task before him, for at that
moment he felt he would have given up three years of his youth for
the happiness of abandoning himself without remorse to his passion
These were the incongruous thoughts in his mind as he led Mrs.
Poyser, who was panting with fatigue, and secretly resolving that
neither judge nor jury should force her to dance another dance, to
take a quiet rest in the dining-room, where supper was laid out
for the guests to come and take it as they chose.
"I've desired Hetty to remember as she's got to dance wi' you,
sir," said the good innocent woman; "for she's so thoughtless,
she'd be like enough to go an' engage herself for ivery dance. So
I told her not to promise too many."
"Thank you, Mrs. Poyser," said Arthur, not without a twinge.
"Now, sit down in this comfortable chair, and here is Mills ready
to give you what you would like best."
He hurried away to seek another matronly partner, for due honour
must be paid to the married women before he asked any of the young
ones; and the country-dances, and the stamping, and the gracious
nodding, and the waving of the hands, went on joyously.
At last the time had come for the fourth dance--longed for by the
strong, grave Adam, as if he had been a delicate-handed youth of
eighteen; for we are all very much alike when we are in our first
love; and Adam had hardly ever touched Hetty's hand for more than
a transient greeting--had never danced with her but once before.
His eyes had followed her eagerly to-night in spite of himself,
and had taken in deeper draughts of love. He thought she behaved
so prettily, so quietly; she did not seem to be flirting at all
she smiled less than usual; there was almost a sweet sadness about
her. "God bless her!" he said inwardly; "I'd make her life a
happy 'un, if a strong arm to work for her, and a heart to love
her, could do it."
And then there stole over him delicious thoughts of coming home
from work, and drawing Hetty to his side, and feeling her cheek
softly pressed against his, till he forgot where he was, and the
music and the tread of feet might have been the falling of rain
and the roaring of the wind, for what he knew.
But now the third dance was ended, and he might go up to her and
claim her hand. She was at the far end of the hall near the
staircase, whispering with Molly, who had just given the sleeping
Totty into her arms before running to fetch shawls and bonnets
from the landing. Mrs. Poyser had taken the two boys away into
the dining-room to give them some cake before they went home in
the cart with Grandfather and Molly was to follow as fast as
"Let me hold her," said Adam, as Molly turned upstairs; "the
children are so heavy when they're asleep."
Hetty was glad of the relief, for to hold Totty in her arms,
standing, was not at all a pleasant variety to her. But this
second transfer had the unfortunate effect of rousing Totty, who
was not behind any child of her age in peevishness at an
unseasonable awaking. While Hetty was in the act of placing her
in Adam's arms, and had not yet withdrawn her own, Totty opened
her eyes, and forthwith fought out with her left fist at Adam's
arm, and with her right caught at the string of brown beads round
Hetty's neck. The locket leaped out from her frock, and the next
moment the string was broken, and Hetty, helpless, saw beads and
locket scattered wide on the floor.
"My locket, my locket!" she said, in a loud frightened whisper to
Adam; "never mind the beads."
Adam had already seen where the locket fell, for it had attracted
his glance as it leaped out of her frock. It had fallen on the
raised wooden dais where the band sat, not on the stone floor; and
as Adam picked it up, he saw the glass with the dark and light
locks of hair under it. It had fallen that side upwards, so the
glass was not broken. He turned it over on his hand, and saw the
enamelled gold back.
"It isn't hurt," he said, as he held it towards Hetty, who was
unable to take it because both her hands were occupied with Totty.
"Oh, it doesn't matter, I don't mind about it," said Hetty, who
had been pale and was now red.
"Not matter?" said Adam, gravely. "You seemed very frightened
about it. I'll hold it till you're ready to take it," he added,
quietly closing his hand over it, that she might not think he
wanted to look at it again.
By this time Molly had come with bonnet and shawl, and as soon as
she had taken Totty, Adam placed the locket in Hetty's hand. She
took it with an air of indifference and put it in her pocket, in
her heart vexed and angry with Adam because he had seen it, but
determined now that she would show no more signs of agitation.
"See," she said, "they're taking their places to dance; let us
Adam assented silently. A puzzled alarm had taken possession of
him. Had Hetty a lover he didn't know of? For none of her
relations, he was sure, would give her a locket like that; and
none of her admirers, with whom he was acquainted, was in the
position of an accepted lover, as the giver of that locket must
be. Adam was lost in the utter impossibility of finding any
person for his fears to alight on. He could only feel with a
terrible pang that there was something in Hetty's life unknown to
him; that while he had been rocking himself in the hope that she
would come to love him, she was already loving another. The
pleasure of the dance with Hetty was gone; his eyes, when they
rested on her, had an uneasy questioning expression in them; he
could think of nothing to say to her; and she too was out of
temper and disinclined to speak. They were both glad when the
dance was ended.
Adam was determined to stay no longer; no one wanted him, and no
one would notice if he slipped away. As soon as he got out of
doors, he began to walk at his habitual rapid pace, hurrying along
without knowing why, busy with the painful thought that the memory
of this day, so full of honour and promise to him, was poisoned
for ever. Suddenly, when he was far on through the Chase, he
stopped, startled by a flash of reviving hope. After all, he
might be a fool, making a great misery out of a trifle. Hetty,
fond of finery as she was, might have bought the thing herself.
It looked too expensive for that--it looked like the things on
white satin in the great jeweller's shop at Rosseter. But Adam
had very imperfect notions of the value of such things, and he
thought it could certainly not cost more than a guinea. Perhaps
Hetty had had as much as that in Christmas boxes, and there was no
knowing but she might have been childish enough to spend it in
that way; she was such a young thing, and she couldn't help loving
finery! But then, why had she been so frightened about it at
first, and changed colour so, and afterwards pretended not to
care? Oh, that was because she was ashamed of his seeing that she
had such a smart thing--she was conscious that it was wrong for
her to spend her money on it, and she knew that Adam disapproved
of finery. It was a proof she cared about what he liked and
disliked. She must have thought from his silence and gravity
afterwards that he was very much displeased with her, that he was
inclined to be harsh and severe towards her foibles. And as he
walked on more quietly, chewing the cud of this new hope, his only
uneasiness was that he had behaved in a way which might chill
Hetty's feeling towards him. For this last view of the matter
must be the true one. How could Hetty have an accepted lover,
quite unknown to him? She was never away from her uncle's house
for more than a day; she could have no acquaintances that did not
come there, and no intimacies unknown to her uncle and aunt. It
would be folly to believe that the locket was given to her by a
lover. The little ring of dark hair he felt sure was her own; he
could form no guess about the light hair under it, for he had not
seen it very distinctly. It might be a bit of her father's or
mother's, who had died when she was a child, and she would
naturally put a bit of her own along with it.
And so Adam went to bed comforted, having woven for himself an
ingenious web of probabilities--the surest screen a wise man can
place between himself and the truth. His last waking thoughts
melted into a dream that he was with Hetty again at the Hall Farm,
and that he was asking her to forgive him for being so cold and
And while he was dreaming this, Arthur was leading Hetty to the
dance and saying to her in low hurried tones, "I shall be in the
wood the day after to-morrow at seven; come as early as you can."
And Hetty's foolish joys and hopes, which had flown away for a
little space, scared by a mere nothing, now all came fluttering
back, unconscious of the real peril. She was happy for the first
time this long day, and wished that dance would last for hours.
Arthur wished it too; it was the last weakness he meant to indulge
in; and a man never lies with more delicious languor under the
influence of a passion than when he has persuaded himself that he
shall subdue it to-morrow.
But Mrs. Poyser's wishes were quite the reverse of this, for her
mind was filled with dreary forebodings as to the retardation of
to-morrow morning's cheese in consequence of these late hours.
Now that Hetty had done her duty and danced one dance with the
young squire, Mr. Poyser must go out and see if the cart was come
back to fetch them, for it was half-past ten o'clock, and
notwithstanding a mild suggestion on his part that it would be bad
manners for them to be the first to go, Mrs. Poyser was resolute
on the point, "manners or no manners."
"What! Going already, Mrs. Poyser?" said old Mr. Donnithorne, as
she came to curtsy and take leave; "I thought we should not part
with any of our guests till eleven. Mrs. Irwine and I, who are
elderly people, think of sitting out the dance till then."
"Oh, Your Honour, it's all right and proper for gentlefolks to
stay up by candlelight--they've got no cheese on their minds.
We're late enough as it is, an' there's no lettin' the cows know
as they mustn't want to be milked so early to-morrow mornin'. So,
if you'll please t' excuse us, we'll take our leave."
"Eh!" she said to her husband, as they set off in the cart, "I'd
sooner ha' brewin' day and washin' day together than one o' these
pleasurin' days. There's no work so tirin' as danglin' about an'
starin' an' not rightly knowin' what you're goin' to do next; and
keepin' your face i' smilin' order like a grocer o' market-day for
fear people shouldna think you civil enough. An' you've nothing
to show for't when it's done, if it isn't a yallow face wi' eatin'
things as disagree."
"Nay, nay," said Mr. Poyser, who was in his merriest mood, and
felt that he had had a great day, "a bit o' pleasuring's good for
thee sometimes. An' thee danc'st as well as any of 'em, for I'll
back thee against all the wives i' the parish for a light foot an'
ankle. An' it was a great honour for the young squire to ask thee
first--I reckon it was because I sat at th' head o' the table an'
made the speech. An' Hetty too--she never had such a partner
before--a fine young gentleman in reg'mentals. It'll serve you to
talk on, Hetty, when you're an old woman--how you danced wi' th'
young squire the day he come o' age."
IT was beyond the middle of August--nearly three weeks after the
birthday feast. The reaping of the wheat had begun in our north
midland county of Loamshire, but the harvest was likely still to
be retarded by the heavy rains, which were causing inundations and
much damage throughout the country. From this last trouble the
Broxton and Hayslope farmers, on their pleasant uplands and in
their brook-watered valleys, had not suffered, and as I cannot
pretend that they were such exceptional farmers as to love the
general good better than their own, you will infer that they were
not in very low spirits about the rapid rise in the price of
bread, so long as there was hope of gathering in their own corn
undamaged; and occasional days of sunshine and drying winds
flattered this hope.
The eighteenth of August was one of these days when the sunshine
looked brighter in all eyes for the gloom that went before. Grand
masses of cloud were hurried across the blue, and the great round
hills behind the Chase seemed alive with their flying shadows; the
sun was hidden for a moment, and then shone out warm again like a
recovered joy; the leaves, still green, were tossed off the
hedgerow trees by the wind; around the farmhouses there was a
sound of clapping doors; the apples fell in the orchards; and the
stray horses on the green sides of the lanes and on the common had
their manes blown about their faces. And yet the wind seemed only
part of the general gladness because the sun was shining. A merry
day for the children, who ran and shouted to see if they could top
the wind with their voices; and the grown-up people too were in
good spirits, inclined to believe in yet finer days, when the wind
had fallen. If only the corn were not ripe enough to be blown out
of the husk and scattered as untimely seed!
And yet a day on which a blighting sorrow may fall upon a man.
For if it be true that Nature at certain moments seems charged
with a presentiment of one individual lot must it not also be true
that she seems unmindful uncon-scious of another? For there is no
hour that has not its births of gladness and despair, no morning
brightness that does not bring new sickness to desolation as well
as new forces to genius and love. There are so many of us, and
our lots are so different, what wonder that Nature's mood is often
in harsh contrast with the great crisis of our lives? We are
children of a large family, and must learn, as such children do,
not to expect that our hurts will be made much of--to be content
with little nurture and caressing, and help each other the more.
It was a busy day with Adam, who of late had done almost double
work, for he was continuing to act as foreman for Jonathan Burge,
until some satisfactory person could be found to supply his place,
and Jonathan was slow to find that person. But he had done the
extra work cheerfully, for his hopes were buoyant again about
Hetty. Every time she had seen him since the birthday, she had
seemed to make an effort to behave all the more kindly to him,
that she might make him understand she had forgiven his silence
and coldness during the dance. He had never mentioned the locket
to her again; too happy that she smiled at him--still happier
because he observed in her a more subdued air, something that he
interpreted as the growth of womanly tenderness and seriousness.
"Ah!" he thought, again and again, "she's only seventeen; she'll
be thoughtful enough after a while. And her aunt allays says how
clever she is at the work. She'll make a wife as Mother'll have
no occasion to grumble at, after all." To be sure, he had only
seen her at home twice since the birthday; for one Sunday, when he
was intending to go from church to the Hall Farm, Hetty had joined
the party of upper servants from the Chase and had gone home with
them--almost as if she were inclined to encourage Mr. Craig.
"She's takin' too much likin' to them folks i' the house keeper's
room," Mrs. Poyser remarked. "For my part, I was never overfond
o' gentlefolks's servants--they're mostly like the fine ladies'
fat dogs, nayther good for barking nor butcher's meat, but on'y
for show." And another evening she was gone to Treddleston to buy
some things; though, to his great surprise, as he was returning
home, he saw her at a distance getting over a stile quite out of
the Treddleston road. But, when he hastened to her, she was very
kind, and asked him to go in again when he had taken her to the
yard gate. She had gone a little farther into the fields after
coming from Treddleston because she didn't want to go in, she
said: it was so nice to be out of doors, and her aunt always made
such a fuss about it if she wanted to go out. "Oh, do come in
with me!" she said, as he was going to shake hands with her at the
gate, and he could not resist that. So he went in, and Mrs.
Poyser was contented with only a slight remark on Hetty's being
later than was expected; while Hetty, who had looked out of
spirits when he met her, smiled and talked and waited on them all
with unusual promptitude.
That was the last time he had seen her; but he meant to make
leisure for going to the Farm to-morrow. To-day, he knew, was her
day for going to the Chase to sew with the lady's maid, so he
would get as much work done as possible this evening, that the
next might be clear.
One piece of work that Adam was superintending was some slight
repairs at the Chase Farm, which had been hitherto occupied by
Satchell, as bailiff, but which it was now rumoured that the old
squire was going to let to a smart man in top-boots, who had been
seen to ride over it one day. Nothing but the desire to get a
tenant could account for the squire's undertaking repairs, though
the Saturday-evening party at Mr. Casson's agreed over their pipes
that no man in his senses would take the Chase Farm unless there
was a bit more ploughland laid to it. However that might be, the
repairs were ordered to be executed with all dispatch, and Adam,
acting for Mr. Burge, was carrying out the order with his usual
energy. But to-day, having been occupied elsewhere, he had not
been able to arrive at the Chase Farm till late in the afternoon,
and he then discovered that some old roofing, which he had
calculated on preserving, had given way. There was clearly no
good to be done with this part of the building without pulling it
all down, and Adam immediately saw in his mind a plan for building
it up again, so as to make the most convenient of cow-sheds and
calf-pens, with a hovel for implements; and all without any great
expense for materials. So, when the workmen were gone, he sat
down, took out his pocket-book, and busied himself with sketching
a plan, and making a specification of the expenses that he might
show it to Burge the next morning, and set him on persuading the
squire to consent. To "make a good job" of anything, however
small, was always a pleasure to Adam, and he sat on a block, with
his book resting on a planing-table, whistling low every now and
then and turning his head on one side with a just perceptible
smile of gratification--of pride, too, for if Adam loved a bit of
good work, he loved also to think, "I did it!" And I believe the
only people who are free from that weakness are those who have no
work to call their own. It was nearly seven before he had
finished and put on his jacket again; and on giving a last look
round, he observed that Seth, who had been working here to-day,
had left his basket of tools behind him. "Why, th' lad's forgot
his tools," thought Adam, "and he's got to work up at the shop to-
morrow. There never was such a chap for wool-gathering; he'd
leave his head behind him, if it was loose. However, it's lucky
I've seen 'em; I'll carry 'em home."
The buildings of the Chase Farm lay at one extremity of the Chase,
at about ten minutes' walking distance from the Abbey. Adam had
come thither on his pony, intending to ride to the stables and put
up his nag on his way home. At the stables he encountered Mr.
Craig, who had come to look at the captain's new horse, on which
he was to ride away the day after to-morrow; and Mr. Craig
detained him to tell how all the servants were to collect at the
gate of the courtyard to wish the young squire luck as he rode
out; so that by the time Adam had got into the Chase, and was
striding along with the basket of tools over his shoulder, the sun
was on the point of setting, and was sending level crimson rays
among the great trunks of the old oaks, and touching every bare
patch of ground with a transient glory that made it look like a
jewel dropt upon the grass. The wind had fallen now, and there
was only enough breeze to stir the delicate-stemmed leaves. Any
one who had been sitting in the house all day would have been glad
to walk now; but Adam had been quite enough in the open air to
wish to shorten his way home, and he bethought himself that he
might do so by striking across the Chase and going through the
Grove, where he had never been for years. He hurried on across
the Chase, stalking along the narrow paths between the fern, with
Gyp at his heels, not lingering to watch the magnificent changes
of the light--hardly once thinking of it--yet feeling its presence
in a certain calm happy awe which mingled itself with his busy
working-day thoughts. How could he help feeling it? The very
deer felt it, and were more timid.
Presently Adam's thoughts recurred to what Mr. Craig had said
about Arthur Donnithorne, and pictured his going away, and the
changes that might take place before he came back; then they
travelled back affectionately over the old scenes of boyish
companionship, and dwelt on Arthur's good qualities, which Adam
had a pride in, as we all have in the virtues of the superior who
honours us. A nature like Adam's, with a great need of love and
reverence in it, depends for so much of its happiness on what it
can believe and feel about others! And he had no ideal world of
dead heroes; he knew little of the life of men in the past; he
must find the beings to whom he could cling with loving admiration
among those who came within speech of him. These pleasant
thoughts about Arthur brought a milder expression than usual into
his keen rough face: perhaps they were the reason why, when he
opened the old green gate leading into the Grove, he paused to pat
Gyp and say a kind word to him.
After that pause, he strode on again along the broad winding path
through the Grove. What grand beeches! Adam delighted in a fine
tree of all things; as the fisherman's sight is keenest on the
sea, so Adam's perceptions were more at home with trees than with
other objects. He kept them in his memory, as a painter does,
with all the flecks and knots in their bark, all the curves and
angles of their boughs, and had often calculated the height and
contents of a trunk to a nicety, as he stood looking at it. No
wonder that, not-withstanding his desire to get on, he could not
help pausing to look at a curious large beech which he had seen
standing before him at a turning in the road, and convince himself
that it was not two trees wedded together, but only one. For the
rest of his life he remembered that moment when he was calmly
examining the beech, as a man remembers his last glimpse of the
home where his youth was passed, before the road turned, and he
saw it no more. The beech stood at the last turning before the
Grove ended in an archway of boughs that let in the eastern light;
and as Adam stepped away from the tree to continue his walk, his
eyes fell on two figures about twenty yards before him.
He remained as motionless as a statue, and turned almost as pale.
The two figures were standing opposite to each other, with clasped
hands about to part; and while they were bending to kiss, Gyp, who
had been running among the brushwood, came out, caught sight of
them, and gave a sharp bark. They separated with a start--one
hurried through the gate out of the Grove, and the other, turning
round, walked slowly, with a sort of saunter, towards Adam who
still stood transfixed and pale, clutching tighter the stick with
which he held the basket of tools over his shoulder, and looking
at the approaching figure with eyes in which amazement was fast
turning to fierceness.
Arthur Donnithorne looked flushed and excited; he had tried to
make unpleasant feelings more bearable by drinking a little more
wine than usual at dinner to-day, and was still enough under its
flattering influence to think more lightly of this unwished-for
rencontre with Adam than he would otherwise have done. After all,
Adam was the best person who could have happened to see him and
Hetty together--he was a sensible fellow, and would not babble
about it to other people. Arthur felt confident that he could
laugh the thing off and explain it away. And so he sauntered
forward with elaborate carelessness--his flushed face, his evening
dress of fine cloth and fine linen, his hands half-thrust into his
waistcoat pockets, all shone upon by the strange evening light
which the light clouds had caught up even to the zenith, and were
now shedding down between the topmost branches above him.
Adam was still motionless, looking at him as he came up. He
understood it all now--the locket and everything else that had
been doubtful to him: a terrible scorching light showed him the
hidden letters that changed the meaning of the past. If he had
moved a muscle, he must inevitably have sprung upon Arthur like a
tiger; and in the conflicting emotions that filled those long
moments, he had told himself that he would not give loose to
passion, he would only speak the right thing. He stood as if
petrified by an unseen force, but the force was his own strong
"Well, Adam," said Arthur, "you've been looking at the fine old
beeches, eh? They're not to be come near by the hatchet, though;
this is a sacred grove. I overtook pretty little Hetty Sorrel as
I was coming to my den--the Hermitage, there. She ought not to
come home this way so late. So I took care of her to the gate,
and asked for a kiss for my pains. But I must get back now, for
this road is confoundedly damp. Good-night, Adam. I shall see
you to-morrow--to say good-bye, you know."
Arthur was too much preoccupied with the part he was playing
himself to be thoroughly aware of the expression in Adam's face.
He did not look directly at Adam, but glanced carelessly round at
the trees and then lifted up one foot to look at the sole of his
boot. He cared to say no more--he had thrown quite dust enough
into honest Adam's eyes--and as he spoke the last words, he walked
"Stop a bit, sir," said Adam, in a hard peremptory voice, without
turning round. "I've got a word to say to you."
Arthur paused in surprise. Susceptible persons are more affected
by a change of tone than by unexpected words, and Arthur had the
susceptibility of a nature at once affectionate and vain. He was
still more surprised when he saw that Adam had not moved, but
stood with his back to him, as if summoning him to return. What
did he mean? He was going to make a serious business of this
affair. Arthur felt his temper rising. A patronising disposition
always has its meaner side, and in the confusion of his irritation
and alarm there entered the feeling that a man to whom he had
shown so much favour as to Adam was not in a position to criticize
his conduct. And yet he was dominated, as one who feels himself
in the wrong always is, by the man whose good opinion he cares
for. In spite of pride and temper, there was as much deprecation
as anger in his voice when he said, "What do you mean, Adam?"
"I mean, sir"--answered Adam, in the same harsh voice, still
without turning round--"I mean, sir, that you don't deceive me by
your light words. This is not the first time you've met Hetty
Sorrel in this grove, and this is not the first time you've kissed