Part 7 out of 11
Arthur felt a startled uncertainty how far Adam was speaking from
knowledge, and how far from mere inference. And this uncertainty,
which prevented him from contriving a prudent answer, heightened
his irritation. He said, in a high sharp tone, "Well, sir, what
"Why, then, instead of acting like th' upright, honourable man
we've all believed you to be, you've been acting the part of a
selfish light-minded scoundrel. You know as well as I do what
it's to lead to when a gentleman like you kisses and makes love to
a young woman like Hetty, and gives her presents as she's
frightened for other folks to see. And I say it again, you're
acting the part of a selfish light-minded scoundrel though it cuts
me to th' heart to say so, and I'd rather ha' lost my right hand."
"Let me tell you, Adam," said Arthur, bridling his growing anger
and trying to recur to his careless tone, "you're not only
devilishly impertinent, but you're talking nonsense. Every pretty
girl is not such a fool as you, to suppose that when a gentleman
admires her beauty and pays her a little attention, he must mean
something particular. Every man likes to flirt with a pretty
girl, and every pretty girl likes to be flirted with. The wider
the distance between them, the less harm there is, for then she's
not likely to deceive herself."
"I don't know what you mean by flirting," said Adam, "but if you
mean behaving to a woman as if you loved her, and yet not loving
her all the while, I say that's not th' action of an honest man,
and what isn't honest does come t' harm. I'm not a fool, and
you're not a fool, and you know better than what you're saying.
You know it couldn't be made public as you've behaved to Hetty as
y' have done without her losing her character and bringing shame
and trouble on her and her relations. What if you meant nothing
by your kissing and your presents? Other folks won't believe as
you've meant nothing; and don't tell me about her not deceiving
herself. I tell you as you've filled her mind so with the thought
of you as it'll mayhap poison her life, and she'll never love
another man as 'ud make her a good husband."
Arthur had felt a sudden relief while Adam was speaking; he
perceived that Adam had no positive knowledge of the past, and
that there was no irrevocable damage done by this evening's
unfortunate rencontre. Adam could still be deceived. The candid
Arthur had brought himself into a position in which successful
lying was his only hope. The hope allayed his anger a little.
"Well, Adam," he said, in a tone of friendly concession, "you're
perhaps right. Perhaps I've gone a little too far in taking
notice of the pretty little thing and stealing a kiss now and
then. You're such a grave, steady fellow, you don't understand
the temptation to such trifling. I'm sure I wouldn't bring any
trouble or annoyance on her and the good Poysers on any account if
I could help it. But I think you look a little too seriously at
it. You know I'm going away immediately, so I shan't make any
more mistakes of the kind. But let us say good-night"--Arthur
here turned round to walk on--"and talk no more about the matter.
The whole thing will soon be forgotten."
"No, by God!" Adam burst out with rage that could be controlled no
longer, throwing down the basket of tools and striding forward
till he was right in front of Arthur. All his jealousy and sense
of personal injury, which he had been hitherto trying to keep
under, had leaped up and mastered him. What man of us, in the
first moments of a sharp agony, could ever feel that the fellow-
man who has been the medium of inflicting it did not mean to hurt
us? In our instinctive rebellion against pain, we are children
again, and demand an active will to wreak our vengeance on. Adam
at this moment could only feel that he had been robbed of Hetty--
robbed treacherously by the man in whom he had trusted--and he
stood close in front of Arthur, with fierce eyes glaring at him,
with pale lips and clenched hands, the hard tones in which he had
hitherto been constraining himself to express no more than a just
indignation giving way to a deep agitated voice that seemed to
shake him as he spoke.
"No, it'll not be soon forgot, as you've come in between her and
me, when she might ha' loved me--it'll not soon be forgot as
you've robbed me o' my happiness, while I thought you was my best
friend, and a noble-minded man, as I was proud to work for. And
you've been kissing her, and meaning nothing, have you? And I
never kissed her i' my life--but I'd ha' worked hard for years for
the right to kiss her. And you make light of it. You think
little o' doing what may damage other folks, so as you get your
bit o' trifling, as means nothing. I throw back your favours, for
you're not the man I took you for. I'll never count you my friend
any more. I'd rather you'd act as my enemy, and fight me where I
stand--it's all th' amends you can make me."
Poor Adam, possessed by rage that could find no other vent, began
to throw off his coat and his cap, too blind with passion to
notice the change that had taken place in Arthur while he was
speaking. Arthur's lips were now as pale as Adam's; his heart was
beating violently. The discovery that Adam loved Hetty was a
shock which made him for the moment see himself in the light of
Adam's indignation, and regard Adam's suffering as not merely a
consequence, but an element of his error. The words of hatred and
contempt--the first he had ever heard in his life--seemed like
scorching missiles that were making ineffaceable scars on him.
All screening self-excuse, which rarely falls quite away while
others respect us, forsook him for an instant, and he stood face
to face with the first great irrevocable evil he had ever
committed. He was only twenty-one, and three months ago--nay,
much later--he had thought proudly that no man should ever be able
to reproach him justly. His first impulse, if there had been time
for it, would perhaps have been to utter words of propitiation;
but Adam had no sooner thrown off his coat and cap than he became
aware that Arthur was standing pale and motionless, with his hands
still thrust in his waistcoat pockets.
"What!" he said, "won't you fight me like a man? You know I won't
strike you while you stand so."
"Go away, Adam," said Arthur, "I don't want to fight you."
"No," said Adam, bitterly; "you don't want to fight me--you think
I'm a common man, as you can injure without answering for it."
"I never meant to injure you," said Arthur, with returning anger.
"I didn't know you loved her."
"But you've made her love you," said Adam. "You're a double-faced
man--I'll never believe a word you say again."
"Go away, I tell you," said Arthur, angrily, "or we shall both
"No," said Adam, with a convulsed voice, "I swear I won't go away
without fighting you. Do you want provoking any more? I tell you
you're a coward and a scoundrel, and I despise you."
The colour had all rushed back to Arthur's face; in a moment his
right hand was clenched, and dealt a blow like lightning, which
sent Adam staggering backward. His blood was as thoroughly up as
Adam's now, and the two men, forgetting the emotions that had gone
before, fought with the instinctive fierceness of panthers in the
deepening twilight darkened by the trees. The delicate-handed
gentleman was a match for the workman in everything but strength,
and Arthur's skill enabled him to protract the struggle for some
long moments. But between unarmed men the battle is to the
strong, where the strong is no blunderer, and Arthur must sink
under a well-planted blow of Adam's as a steel rod is broken by an
iron bar. The blow soon came, and Arthur fell, his head lying
concealed in a tuft of fern, so that Adam could only discern his
darkly clad body.
He stood still in the dim light waiting for Arthur to rise.
The blow had been given now, towards which he had been straining
all the force of nerve and muscle--and what was the good of it?
What had he done by fighting? Only satisfied his own passion,
only wreaked his own vengeance. He had not rescued Hetty, nor
changed the past--there it was, just as it had been, and he
sickened at the vanity of his own rage.
But why did not Arthur rise? He was perfectly motionless, and the
time seemed long to Adam. Good God! had the blow been too much
for him? Adam shuddered at the thought of his own strength, as
with the oncoming of this dread he knelt down by Arthur's side and
lifted his head from among the fern. There was no sign of life:
the eyes and teeth were set. The horror that rushed over Adam
completely mastered him, and forced upon him its own belief. He
could feel nothing but that death was in Arthur's face, and that
he was helpless before it. He made not a single movement, but
knelt like an image of despair gazing at an image of death.
IT was only a few minutes measured by the clock--though Adam
always thought it had been a long while--before he perceived a
gleam of consciousness in Arthur's face and a slight shiver
through his frame. The intense joy that flooded his soul brought
back some of the old affection with it.
"Do you feel any pain, sir?" he said, tenderly, loosening Arthur's
Arthur turned his eyes on Adam with a vague stare which gave way
to a slightly startled motion as if from the shock of returning
memory. But he only shivered again and said nothing.
"Do you feel any hurt, sir?" Adam said again, with a trembling in
Arthur put his hand up to his waistcoat buttons, and when Adam had
unbuttoned it, he took a longer breath. "Lay my head down," he
said, faintly, "and get me some water if you can."
Adam laid the head down gently on the fern again, and emptying the
tools out of the flag-basket, hurried through the trees to the
edge of the Grove bordering on the Chase, where a brook ran below
When he returned with his basket leaking, but still half-full,
Arthur looked at him with a more thoroughly reawakened
"Can you drink a drop out o' your hand, sir?" said Adam, kneeling
down again to lift up Arthur's head.
"No," said Arthur, "dip my cravat in and souse it on my head."
The water seemed to do him some good, for he presently raised
himself a little higher, resting on Adam's arm.
"Do you feel any hurt inside sir?" Adam asked again
"No--no hurt," said Arthur, still faintly, "but rather done up."
After a while he said, "I suppose I fainted away when you knocked
"Yes, sir, thank God," said Adam. "I thought it was worse."
"What! You thought you'd done for me, eh? Come help me on my
"I feel terribly shaky and dizzy," Arthur said, as he stood
leaning on Adam's arm; "that blow of yours must have come against
me like a battering-ram. I don't believe I can walk alone."
"Lean on me, sir; I'll get you along," said Adam. "Or, will you
sit down a bit longer, on my coat here, and I'll prop y' up.
You'll perhaps be better in a minute or two."
"No," said Arthur. "I'll go to the Hermitage--I think I've got
some brandy there. There's a short road to it a little farther
on, near the gate. If you'll just help me on."
They walked slowly, with frequent pauses, but without speaking
again. In both of them, the concentration in the present which
had attended the first moments of Arthur's revival had now given
way to a vivid recollection of the previous scene. It was nearly
dark in the narrow path among the trees, but within the circle of
fir-trees round the Hermitage there was room for the growing
moonlight to enter in at the windows. Their steps were noiseless
on the thick carpet of fir-needles, and the outward stillness
seemed to heighten their inward consciousness, as Arthur took the
key out of his pocket and placed it in Adam's hand, for him to
open the door. Adam had not known before that Arthur had
furnished the old Hermitage and made it a retreat for himself, and
it was a surprise to him when he opened the door to see a snug
room with all the signs of frequent habitation.
Arthur loosed Adam's arm and threw himself on the ottoman.
"You'll see my hunting-bottle somewhere," he said. "A leather
case with a bottle and glass in."
Adam was not long in finding the case. "There's very little
brandy in it, sir," he said, turning it downwards over the glass,
as he held it before the window; "hardly this little glassful."
"Well, give me that," said Arthur, with the peevishness of
physical depression. When he had taken some sips, Adam said,
"Hadn't I better run to th' house, sir, and get some more brandy?
I can be there and back pretty soon. It'll be a stiff walk home
for you, if you don't have something to revive you."
"Yes--go. But don't say I'm ill. Ask for my man Pym, and tell
him to get it from Mills, and not to say I'm at the Hermitage.
Get some water too."
Adam was relieved to have an active task--both of them were
relieved to be apart from each other for a short time. But Adam's
swift pace could not still the eager pain of thinking--of living
again with concentrated suffering through the last wretched hour,
and looking out from it over all the new sad future.
Arthur lay still for some minutes after Adam was gone, but
presently he rose feebly from the ottoman and peered about slowly
in the broken moonlight, seeking something. It was a short bit of
wax candle that stood amongst a confusion of writing and drawing
materials. There was more searching for the means of lighting the
candle, and when that was done, he went cautiously round the room,
as if wishing to assure himself of the presence or absence of
something. At last he had found a slight thing, which he put
first in his pocket, and then, on a second thought, took out again
and thrust deep down into a waste-paper basket. It was a woman's
little, pink, silk neckerchief. He set the candle on the table,
and threw himself down on the ottoman again, exhausted with the
When Adam came back with his supplies, his entrance awoke Arthur
from a doze.
"That's right," Arthur said; "I'm tremendously in want of some
"I'm glad to see you've got a light, sir," said Adam. "I've been
thinking I'd better have asked for a lanthorn."
"No, no; the candle will last long enough--I shall soon be up to
walking home now."
"I can't go before I've seen you safe home, sir," said Adam,
"No: it will be better for you to stay--sit down."
Adam sat down, and they remained opposite to each other in uneasy
silence, while Arthur slowly drank brandy-and-water, with visibly
renovating effect. He began to lie in a more voluntary position,
and looked as if he were less overpowered by bodily sensations.
Adam was keenly alive to these indications, and as his anxiety
about Arthur's condition began to be allayed, he felt more of that
impatience which every one knows who has had his just indignation
suspended by the physical state of the culprit. Yet there was one
thing on his mind to be done before he could recur to
remonstrance: it was to confess what had been unjust in his own
words. Perhaps he longed all the more to make this confession,
that his indignation might be free again; and as he saw the signs
of returning ease in Arthur, the words again and again came to his
lips and went back, checked by the thought that it would be better
to leave everything till to-morrow. As long as they were silent
they did not look at each other, and a foreboding came across Adam
that if they began to speak as though they remembered the past--if
they looked at each other with full recognition--they must take
fire again. So they sat in silence till the bit of wax candle
flickered low in the socket, the silence all the while becoming
more irksome to Adam. Arthur had just poured out some more
brandy-and-water, and he threw one arm behind his head and drew up
one leg in an attitude of recovered ease, which was an
irresistible temptation to Adam to speak what was on his mind.
"You begin to feel more yourself again, sir," he said, as the
candle went out and they were half-hidden from each other in the
"Yes: I don't feel good for much--very lazy, and not inclined to
move; but I'll go home when I've taken this dose."
There was a slight pause before Adam said, "My temper got the
better of me, and I said things as wasn't true. I'd no right to
speak as if you'd known you was doing me an injury: you'd no
grounds for knowing it; I've always kept what I felt for her as
secret as I could."
He paused again before he went on.
"And perhaps I judged you too harsh--I'm apt to be harsh--and you
may have acted out o' thoughtlessness more than I should ha'
believed was possible for a man with a heart and a conscience.
We're not all put together alike, and we may misjudge one another.
God knows, it's all the joy I could have now, to think the best of
Arthur wanted to go home without saying any more--he was too
painfully embarrassed in mind, as well as too weak in body, to
wish for any further explanation to-night. And yet it was a
relief to him that Adam reopened the subject in a way the least
difficult for him to answer. Arthur was in the wretched position
of an open, generous man who has committed an error which makes
deception seem a necessity. The native impulse to give truth in
return for truth, to meet trust with frank confession, must be
suppressed, and duty was becoming a question of tactics. His deed
was reacting upon him--was already governing him tyrannously and
forcing him into a course that jarred with his habitual feelings.
The only aim that seemed admissible to him now was to deceive Adam
to the utmost: to make Adam think better of him than he deserved.
And when he heard the words of honest retractation--when he heard
the sad appeal with which Adam ended--he was obliged to rejoice in
the remains of ignorant confidence it implied. He did not answer
immediately, for he had to be judicious and not truthful.
"Say no more about our anger, Adam," he said, at last, very
languidly, for the labour of speech was unwelcome to him; "I
forgive your momentary injustice--it was quite natural, with the
exaggerated notions you had in your mind. We shall be none the
worse friends in future, I hope, because we've fought. You had
the best of it, and that was as it should be, for I believe I've
been most in the wrong of the two. Come, let us shake hands."
Arthur held out his hand, but Adam sat still.
"I don't like to say 'No' to that, sir," he said, "but I can't
shake hands till it's clear what we mean by't. I was wrong when I
spoke as if you'd done me an injury knowingly, but I wasn't wrong
in what I said before, about your behaviour t' Hetty, and I can't
shake hands with you as if I held you my friend the same as ever
till you've cleared that up better."
Arthur swallowed his pride and resentment as he drew back his
hand. He was silent for some moments, and then said, as
indifferently as he could, "I don't know what you mean by clearing
up, Adam. I've told you already that you think too seriously of a
little flirtation. But if you are right in supposing there is any
danger in it--I'm going away on Saturday, and there will be an end
of it. As for the pain it has given you, I'm heartily sorry for
it. I can say no more."
Adam said nothing, but rose from his chair and stood with his face
towards one of the windows, as if looking at the blackness of the
moonlit fir-trees; but he was in reality conscious of nothing but
the conflict within him. It was of no use now--his resolution not
to speak till to-morrow. He must speak there and then. But it
was several minutes before he turned round and stepped nearer to
Arthur, standing and looking down on him as he lay.
"It'll be better for me to speak plain," he said, with evident
effort, "though it's hard work. You see, sir, this isn't a trifle
to me, whatever it may be to you. I'm none o' them men as can go
making love first to one woman and then t' another, and don't
think it much odds which of 'em I take. What I feel for Hetty's a
different sort o' love, such as I believe nobody can know much
about but them as feel it and God as has given it to 'em. She's
more nor everything else to me, all but my conscience and my good
name. And if it's true what you've been saying all along--and if
it's only been trifling and flirting as you call it, as 'll be put
an end to by your going away--why, then, I'd wait, and hope her
heart 'ud turn to me after all. I'm loath to think you'd speak
false to me, and I'll believe your word, however things may look."
"You would be wronging Hetty more than me not to believe it," said
Arthur, almost violently, starting up from the ottoman and moving
away. But he threw himself into a chair again directly, saying,
more feebly, "You seem to forget that, in suspecting me, you are
casting imputations upon her."
"Nay, sir," Adam said, in a calmer voice, as if he were half-
relieved--for he was too straightforward to make a distinction
between a direct falsehood and an indirect one--"Nay, sir, things
don't lie level between Hetty and you. You're acting with your
eyes open, whatever you may do; but how do you know what's been in
her mind? She's all but a child--as any man with a conscience in
him ought to feel bound to take care on. And whatever you may
think, I know you've disturbed her mind. I know she's been fixing
her heart on you, for there's a many things clear to me now as I
didn't understand before. But you seem to make light o' what she
may feel--you don't think o' that."
"Good God, Adam, let me alone!" Arthur burst out impetuously; "I
feel it enough without your worrying me."
He was aware of his indiscretion as soon as the words had escaped
"Well, then, if you feel it," Adam rejoined, eagerly; "if you feel
as you may ha' put false notions into her mind, and made her
believe as you loved her, when all the while you meant nothing,
I've this demand to make of you--I'm not speaking for myself, but
for her. I ask you t' undeceive her before you go away. Y'aren't
going away for ever, and if you leave her behind with a notion in
her head o' your feeling about her the same as she feels about
you, she'll be hankering after you, and the mischief may get
worse. It may be a smart to her now, but it'll save her pain i'
th' end. I ask you to write a letter--you may trust to my seeing
as she gets it. Tell her the truth, and take blame to yourself
for behaving as you'd no right to do to a young woman as isn't
your equal. I speak plain, sir, but I can't speak any other way.
There's nobody can take care o' Hetty in this thing but me."
"I can do what I think needful in the matter," said Arthur, more
and more irritated by mingled distress and perplexity, "without
giving promises to you. I shall take what measures I think
"No," said Adam, in an abrupt decided tone, "that won't do. I
must know what ground I'm treading on. I must be safe as you've
put an end to what ought never to ha' been begun. I don't forget
what's owing to you as a gentleman, but in this thing we're man
and man, and I can't give up."
There was no answer for some moments. Then Arthur said, "I'll see
you to-morrow. I can bear no more now; I'm ill." He rose as he
spoke, and reached his cap, as if intending to go.
"You won't see her again!" Adam exclaimed, with a flash of
recurring anger and suspicion, moving towards the door and placing
his back against it. "Either tell me she can never be my wife--
tell me you've been lying--or else promise me what I've said."
Adam, uttering this alternative, stood like a terrible fate before
Arthur, who had moved forward a step or two, and now stopped,
faint, shaken, sick in mind and body. It seemed long to both of
them--that inward struggle of Arthur's--before he said, feebly, "I
promise; let me go."
Adam moved away from the door and opened it, but when Arthur
reached the step, he stopped again and leaned against the door-
"You're not well enough to walk alone, sir," said Adam. "Take my
Arthur made no answer, and presently walked on, Adam following.
But, after a few steps, he stood still again, and said, coldly, "I
believe I must trouble you. It's getting late now, and there may
be an alarm set up about me at home."
Adam gave his arm, and they walked on without uttering a word,
till they came where the basket and the tools lay.
"I must pick up the tools, sir," Adam said. "They're my
brother's. I doubt they'll be rusted. If you'll please to wait a
Arthur stood still without speaking, and no other word passed
between them till they were at the side entrance, where he hoped
to get in without being seen by any one. He said then, "Thank
you; I needn't trouble you any further."
"What time will it be conven'ent for me to see you to-morrow,
sir?" said Adam.
"You may send me word that you're here at five o'clock," said
Arthur; "not before."
"Good-night, sir," said Adam. But he heard no reply; Arthur had
turned into the house.
The Next Morning
ARTHUR did not pass a sleepless night; he slept long and well.
For sleep comes to the perplexed--if the perplexed are only weary
enough. But at seven he rang his bell and astonished Pym by
declaring he was going to get up, and must have breakfast brought
to him at eight.
"And see that my mare is saddled at half-past eight, and tell my
grandfather when he's down that I'm better this morning and am
gone for a ride."
He had been awake an hour, and could rest in bed no longer. In
bed our yesterdays are too oppressive: if a man can only get up,
though it be but to whistle or to smoke, he has a present which
offers some resistance to the past--sensations which assert
themselves against tyrannous memories. And if there were such a
thing as taking averages of feeling, it would certainly be found
that in the hunting and shooting seasons regret, self-reproach,
and mortified pride weigh lighter on country gentlemen than in
late spring and summer. Arthur felt that he should be more of a
man on horseback. Even the presence of Pym, waiting on him with
the usual deference, was a reassurance to him after the scenes of
yesterday. For, with Arthur's sensitiveness to opinion, the loss
of Adam's respect was a shock to his self-contentment which
suffused his imagination with the sense that he had sunk in all
eyes--as a sudden shock of fear from some real peril makes a
nervous woman afraid even to step, because all her perceptions are
suffused with a sense of danger.
Arthur's, as you know, was a loving nature. Deeds of kindness
were as easy to him as a bad habit: they were the common issue of
his weaknesses and good qualities, of his egoism and his sympathy.
He didn't like to witness pain, and he liked to have grateful eyes
beaming on him as the giver of pleasure. When he was a lad of
seven, he one day kicked down an old gardener's pitcher of broth,
from no motive but a kicking impulse, not reflecting that it was
the old man's dinner; but on learning that sad fact, he took his
favourite pencil-case and a silver-hafted knife out of his pocket
and offered them as compensation. He had been the same Arthur
ever since, trying to make all offences forgotten in benefits. If
there were any bitterness in his nature, it could only show itself
against the man who refused to be conciliated by him. And perhaps
the time was come for some of that bitterness to rise. At the
first moment, Arthur had felt pure distress and self-reproach at
discovering that Adam's happiness was involved in his relation to
Hetty. If there had been a possibility of making Adam tenfold
amends--if deeds of gift, or any other deeds, could have restored
Adam's contentment and regard for him as a benefactor, Arthur
would not only have executed them without hesitation, but would
have felt bound all the more closely to Adam, and would never have
been weary of making retribution. But Adam could receive no
amends; his suffering could not be cancelled; his respect and
affection could not be recovered by any prompt deeds of atonement.
He stood like an immovable obstacle against which no pressure
could avail; an embodiment of what Arthur most shrank from
believing in--the irrevocableness of his own wrongdoing. The
words of scorn, the refusal to shake hands, the mastery asserted
over him in their last conversation in the Hermitage--above all,
the sense of having been knocked down, to which a man does not
very well reconcile himself, even under the most heroic
circumstances--pressed on him with a galling pain which was
stronger than compunction. Arthur would so gladly have persuaded
himself that he had done no harm! And if no one had told him the
contrary, he could have persuaded himself so much better. Nemesis
can seldom forge a sword for herself out of our consciences--out
of the suffering we feel in the suffering we may have caused:
there is rarely metal enough there to make an effective weapon.
Our moral sense learns the manners of good society and smiles when
others smile, but when some rude person gives rough names to our
actions, she is apt to take part against us. And so it was with
Arthur: Adam's judgment of him, Adam's grating words, disturbed
his self-soothing arguments.
Not that Arthur had been at ease before Adam's discovery.
Struggles and resolves had transformed themselves into compunction
and anxiety. He was distressed for Hetty's sake, and distressed
for his own, that he must leave her behind. He had always, both
in making and breaking resolutions, looked beyond his passion and
seen that it must speedily end in separation; but his nature was
too ardent and tender for him not to suffer at this parting; and
on Hetty's account he was filled with uneasiness. He had found
out the dream in which she was living--that she was to be a lady
in silks and satins--and when he had first talked to her about his
going away, she had asked him tremblingly to let her go with him
and be married. It was his painful knowledge of this which had
given the most exasperating sting to Adam's reproaches. He had
said no word with the purpose of deceiving her--her vision was all
spun by her own childish fancy--but he was obliged to confess to
himself that it was spun half out of his own actions. And to
increase the mischief, on this last evening he had not dared to
hint the truth to Hetty; he had been obliged to soothe her with
tender, hopeful words, lest he should throw her into violent
distress. He felt the situation acutely, felt the sorrow of the
dear thing in the present, and thought with a darker anxiety of
the tenacity which her feelings might have in the future. That
was the one sharp point which pressed against him; every other he
could evade by hopeful self-persuasion. The whole thing had been
secret; the Poysers had not the shadow of a suspicion. No one,
except Adam, knew anything of what had passed--no one else was
likely to know; for Arthur had impressed on Hetty that it would be
fatal to betray, by word or look, that there had been the least
intimacy between them; and Adam, who knew half their secret, would
rather help them to keep it than betray it. It was an unfortunate
business altogether, but there was no use in making it worse than
it was by imaginary exaggerations and forebodings of evil that
might never come. The temporary sadness for Hetty was the worst
consequence; he resolutely turned away his eyes from any bad
consequence that was not demonstrably inevitable. But--but Hetty
might have had the trouble in some other way if not in this. And
perhaps hereafter he might be able to do a great deal for her and
make up to her for all the tears she would shed about him. She
would owe the advantage of his care for her in future years to the
sorrow she had incurred now. So good comes out of evil. Such is
the beautiful arrangement of things!
Are you inclined to ask whether this can be the same Arthur who,
two months ago, had that freshness of feeling, that delicate
honour which shrinks from wounding even a sentiment, and does not
contemplate any more positive offence as possible for it?--who
thought that his own self-respect was a higher tribunal than any
external opinion? The same, I assure you, only under different
conditions. Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our
deeds, and until we know what has been or will be the peculiar
combination of outward with inward facts, which constitutes a
man's critical actions, it will be better not to think ourselves
wise about his character. There is a terrible coercion in our
deeds, which may first turn the honest man into a deceiver and
then reconcile him to the change, for this reason--that the second
wrong presents itself to him in the guise of the only practicable
right. The action which before commission has been seen with that
blended common sense and fresh untarnished feeling which is the
healthy eye of the soul, is looked at afterwards with the lens of
apologetic ingenuity, through which all things that men call
beautiful and ugly are seen to be made up of textures very much
alike. Europe adjusts itself to a fait accompli, and so does an
individual character--until the placid adjustment is disturbed by
a convulsive retribution.
No man can escape this vitiating effect of an offence against his
own sentiment of right, and the effect was the stronger in Arthur
because of that very need of self-respect which, while his
conscience was still at ease, was one of his best safeguards.
Self-accusation was too painful to him--he could not face it. He
must persuade himself that he had not been very much to blame; he
began even to pity himself for the necessity he was under of
deceiving Adam--it was a course so opposed to the honesty of his
own nature. But then, it was the only right thing to do.
Well, whatever had been amiss in him, he was miserable enough in
consequence: miserable about Hetty; miserable about this letter
that he had promised to write, and that seemed at one moment to be
a gross barbarity, at another perhaps the greatest kindness he
could do to her. And across all this reflection would dart every
now and then a sudden impulse of passionate defiance towards all
consequences. He would carry Hetty away, and all other
considerations might go to....
In this state of mind the four walls of his room made an
intolerable prison to him; they seemed to hem in and press down
upon him all the crowd of contradictory thoughts and conflicting
feelings, some of which would fly away in the open air. He had
only an hour or two to make up his mind in, and he must get clear
and calm. Once on Meg's back, in the fresh air of that fine
morning, he should be more master of the situation.
The pretty creature arched her bay neck in the sunshine, and pawed
the gravel, and trembled with pleasure when her master stroked her
nose, and patted her, and talked to her even in a more caressing
tone than usual. He loved her the better because she knew nothing
of his secrets. But Meg was quite as well acquainted with her
master's mental state as many others of her sex with the mental
condition of the nice young gentlemen towards whom their hearts
are in a state of fluttering expectation.
Arthur cantered for five miles beyond the Chase, till he was at
the foot of a hill where there were no hedges or trees to hem in
the road. Then he threw the bridle on Meg's neck and prepared to
make up his mind.
Hetty knew that their meeting yesterday must be the last before
Arthur went away--there was no possibility of their contriving
another without exciting suspicion--and she was like a frightened
child, unable to think of anything, only able to cry at the
mention of parting, and then put her face up to have the tears
kissed away. He could do nothing but comfort her, and lull her
into dreaming on. A letter would be a dreadfully abrupt way of
awakening her! Yet there was truth in what Adam said--that it
would save her from a lengthened delusion, which might be worse
than a sharp immediate pain. And it was the only way of
satisfying Adam, who must be satisfied, for more reasons than one.
If he could have seen her again! But that was impossible; there
was such a thorny hedge of hindrances between them, and an
imprudence would be fatal. And yet, if he COULD see her again,
what good would it do? Only cause him to suffer more from the
sight of her distress and the remembrance of it. Away from him
she was surrounded by all the motives to self-control.
A sudden dread here fell like a shadow across his imagination--the
dread lest she should do something violent in her grief; and close
upon that dread came another, which deepened the shadow. But he
shook them off with the force of youth and hope. What was the
ground for painting the future in that dark way? It was just as
likely to be the reverse. Arthur told himself he did not deserve
that things should turn out badly. He had never meant beforehand
to do anything his conscience disapproved; he had been led on by
circumstances. There was a sort of implicit confidence in him
that he was really such a good fellow at bottom, Providence would
not treat him harshly.
At all events, he couldn't help what would come now: all he could
do was to take what seemed the best course at the present moment.
And he persuaded himself that that course was to make the way open
between Adam and Hetty. Her heart might really turn to Adam, as
he said, after a while; and in that case there would have been no
great harm done, since it was still Adam's ardent wish to make her
his wife. To be sure, Adam was deceived--deceived in a way that
Arthur would have resented as a deep wrong if it had been
practised on himself. That was a reflection that marred the
consoling prospect. Arthur's cheeks even burned in mingled shame
and irritation at the thought. But what could a man do in such a
dilemma? He was bound in honour to say no word that could injure
Hetty: his first duty was to guard her. He would never have told
or acted a lie on his own account. Good God! What a miserable
fool he was to have brought himself into such a dilemma; and yet,
if ever a man had excuses, he had. (Pity that consequences are
determined not by excuses but by actions!)
Well, the letter must be written; it was the only means that
promised a solution of the difficulty. The tears came into
Arthur's eyes as he thought of Hetty reading it; but it would be
almost as hard for him to write it; he was not doing anything easy
to himself; and this last thought helped him to arrive at a
conclusion. He could never deliberately have taken a step which
inflicted pain on another and left himself at ease. Even a
movement of jealousy at the thought of giving up Hetty to Adam
went to convince him that he was making a sacrifice.
When once he had come to this conclusion, he turned Meg round and
set off home again in a canter. The letter should be written the
first thing, and the rest of the day would be filled up with other
business: he should have no time to look behind him. Happily,
Irwine and Gawaine were coming to dinner, and by twelve o'clock
the next day he should have left the Chase miles behind him.
There was some security in this constant occupation against an
uncontrollable impulse seizing him to rush to Hetty and thrust
into her hand some mad proposition that would undo everything.
Faster and faster went the sensitive Meg, at every slight sign
from her rider, till the canter had passed into a swift gallop.
"I thought they said th' young mester war took ill last night,"
said sour old John, the groom, at dinner-time in the servants'
hall. "He's been ridin' fit to split the mare i' two this
"That's happen one o' the symptims, John," said the facetious
"Then I wish he war let blood for 't, that's all," said John,
Adam had been early at the Chase to know how Arthur was, and had
been relieved from all anxiety about the effects of his blow by
learning that he was gone out for a ride. At five o'clock he was
punctually there again, and sent up word of his arrival. In a few
minutes Pym came down with a letter in his hand and gave it to
Adam, saying that the captain was too busy to see him, and had
written everything he had to say. The letter was directed to
Adam, but he went out of doors again before opening it. It
contained a sealed enclosure directed to Hetty. On the inside of
the cover Adam read:
"In the enclosed letter I have written everything you wish. I
leave it to you to decide whether you will be doing best to
deliver it to Hetty or to return it to me. Ask yourself once more
whether you are not taking a measure which may pain her more than
"There is no need for our seeing each other again now. We shall
meet with better feelings some months hence.
"Perhaps he's i' th' right on 't not to see me," thought Adam.
"It's no use meeting to say more hard words, and it's no use
meeting to shake hands and say we're friends again. We're not
friends, an' it's better not to pretend it. I know forgiveness is
a man's duty, but, to my thinking, that can only mean as you're to
give up all thoughts o' taking revenge: it can never mean as
you're t' have your old feelings back again, for that's not
possible. He's not the same man to me, and I can't feel the same
towards him. God help me! I don't know whether I feel the same
towards anybody: I seem as if I'd been measuring my work from a
false line, and had got it all to measure over again."
But the question about delivering the letter to Hetty soon
absorbed Adam's thoughts. Arthur had procured some relief to
himself by throwing the decision on Adam with a warning; and Adam,
who was not given to hesitation, hesitated here. He determined to
feel his way--to ascertain as well as he could what was Hetty's
state of mind before he decided on delivering the letter.
The Delivery of the Letter
THE next Sunday Adam joined the Poysers on their way out of
church, hoping for an invitation to go home with them. He had the
letter in his pocket, and was anxious to have an opportunity of
talking to Hetty alone. He could not see her face at church, for
she had changed her seat, and when he came up to her to shake
hands, her manner was doubtful and constrained. He expected this,
for it was the first time she had met him since she had been aware
that he had seen her with Arthur in the Grove.
"Come, you'll go on with us, Adam," Mr. Poyser said when they
reached the turning; and as soon as they were in the fields Adam
ventured to offer his arm to Hetty. The children soon gave them
an opportunity of lingering behind a little, and then Adam said:
"Will you contrive for me to walk out in the garden a bit with you
this evening, if it keeps fine, Hetty? I've something partic'lar
to talk to you about."
Hetty said, "Very well." She was really as anxious as Adam was
that she should have some private talk with him. She wondered
what he thought of her and Arthur. He must have seen them
kissing, she knew, but she had no conception of the scene that had
taken place between Arthur and Adam. Her first feeling had been
that Adam would be very angry with her, and perhaps would tell her
aunt and uncle, but it never entered her mind that he would dare
to say anything to Captain Donnithorne. It was a relief to her
that he behaved so kindly to her to-day, and wanted to speak to
her alone, for she had trembled when she found he was going home
with them lest he should mean "to tell." But, now he wanted to
talk to her by herself, she should learn what he thought and what
he meant to do. She felt a certain confidence that she could
persuade him not to do anything she did not want him to do; she
could perhaps even make him believe that she didn't care for
Arthur; and as long as Adam thought there was any hope of her
having him, he would do just what she liked, she knew. Besides,
she MUST go on seeming to encourage Adam, lest her uncle and aunt
should be angry and suspect her of having some secret lover.
Hetty's little brain was busy with this combination as she hung on
Adam's arm and said "yes" or "no" to some slight observations of
his about the many hawthorn-berries there would be for the birds
this next winter, and the low-hanging clouds that would hardly
hold up till morning. And when they rejoined her aunt and uncle,
she could pursue her thoughts without interruption, for Mr. Poyser
held that though a young man might like to have the woman he was
courting on his arm, he would nevertheless be glad of a little
reasonable talk about business the while; and, for his own part,
he was curious to heal the most recent news about the Chase Farm.
So, through the rest of the walk, he claimed Adam's conversation
for himself, and Hetty laid her small plots and imagined her
little scenes of cunning blandishment, as she walked along by the
hedgerows on honest Adam's arm, quite as well as if she had been
an elegantly clad coquette alone in her boudoir. For if a country
beauty in clumsy shoes be only shallow-hearted enough, it is
astonishing how closely her mental processes may resemble those of
a lady in society and crinoline, who applies her refined intellect
to the problem of committing indiscretions without compromising
herself. Perhaps the resemblance was not much the less because
Hetty felt very unhappy all the while. The parting with Arthur
was a double pain to her--mingling with the tumult of passion and
vanity there was a dim undefined fear that the future might shape
itself in some way quite unlike her dream. She clung to the
comforting hopeful words Arthur had uttered in their last meeting--
"I shall come again at Christmas, and then we will see what can
be done." She clung to the belief that he was so fond of her, he
would never be happy without her; and she still hugged her secret--
that a great gentleman loved her--with gratified pride, as a
superiority over all the girls she knew. But the uncertainty of
the future, the possibilities to which she could give no shape,
began to press upon her like the invisible weight of air; she was
alone on her little island of dreams, and all around her was the
dark unknown water where Arthur was gone. She could gather no
elation of spirits now by looking forward, but only by looking
backward to build confidence on past words and caresses. But
occasionally, since Thursday evening, her dim anxieties had been
almost lost behind the more definite fear that Adam might betray
what he knew to her uncle and aunt, and his sudden proposition to
talk with her alone had set her thoughts to work in a new way.
She was eager not to lose this evening's opportunity; and after
tea, when the boys were going into the garden and Totty begged to
go with them, Hetty said, with an alacrity that surprised Mrs.
Poyser, "I'll go with her, Aunt."
It did not seem at all surprising that Adam said he would go too,
and soon he and Hetty were left alone together on the walk by the
filbert-trees, while the boys were busy elsewhere gathering the
large unripe nuts to play at "cob-nut" with, and Totty was
watching them with a puppylike air of contemplation. It was but a
short time--hardly two months--since Adam had had his mind filled
with delicious hopes as he stood by Hetty's side un this garden.
The remembrance of that scene had often been with him since
Thursday evening: the sunlight through the apple-tree boughs, the
red bunches, Hetty's sweet blush. It came importunately now, on
this sad evening, with the low-hanging clouds, but he tried to
suppress it, lest some emotion should impel him to say more than
was needful for Hetty's sake.
"After what I saw on Thursday night, Hetty," he began, "you won't
think me making too free in what I'm going to say. If you was
being courted by any man as 'ud make you his wife, and I'd known
you was fond of him and meant to have him, I should have no right
to speak a word to you about it; but when I see you're being made
love to by a gentleman as can never marry you, and doesna think o'
marrying you, I feel bound t' interfere for you. I can't speak
about it to them as are i' the place o' your parents, for that
might bring worse trouble than's needful."
Adam's words relieved one of Hetty's fears, but they also carried
a meaning which sickened her with a strengthened foreboding. She
was pale and trembling, and yet she would have angrily
contradicted Adam, if she had dared to betray her feelings. But
she was silent.
"You're so young, you know, Hetty," he went on, almost tenderly,
"and y' haven't seen much o' what goes on in the world. It's
right for me to do what I can to save you from getting into
trouble for want o' your knowing where you're being led to. If
anybody besides me knew what I know about your meeting a gentleman
and having fine presents from him, they'd speak light on you, and
you'd lose your character. And besides that, you'll have to
suffer in your feelings, wi' giving your love to a man as can
never marry you, so as he might take care of you all your life."
Adam paused and looked at Hetty, who was plucking the leaves from
the filbert-trees and tearing them up in her hand. Her little
plans and preconcerted speeches had all forsaken her, like an ill-
learnt lesson, under the terrible agitation produced by Adam's
words. There was a cruel force in their calm certainty which
threatened to grapple and crush her flimsy hopes and fancies. She
wanted to resist them--she wanted to throw them off with angry
contradiction--but the determination to conceal what she felt
still governed her. It was nothing more than a blind prompting
now, for she was unable to calculate the effect of her words.
"You've no right to say as I love him," she said, faintly, but
impetuously, plucking another rough leaf and tearing it up. She
was very beautiful in her paleness and agitation, with her dark
childish eyes dilated and her breath shorter than usual. Adam's
heart yearned over her as he looked at her. Ah, if he could but
comfort her, and soothe her, and save her from this pain; if he
had but some sort of strength that would enable him to rescue her
poor troubled mind, as he would have rescued her body in the face
of all danger!
"I doubt it must be so, Hetty," he said, tenderly; "for I canna
believe you'd let any man kiss you by yourselves, and give you a
gold box with his hair, and go a-walking i' the Grove to meet him,
if you didna love him. I'm not blaming you, for I know it 'ud
begin by little and little, till at last you'd not be able to
throw it off. It's him I blame for stealing your love i' that
way, when he knew he could never make you the right amends. He's
been trifling with you, and making a plaything of you, and caring
nothing about you as a man ought to care."
"Yes, he does care for me; I know better nor you," Hetty burst
out. Everything was forgotten but the pain and anger she felt at
"Nay, Hetty," said Adam, "if he'd cared for you rightly, he'd
never ha' behaved so. He told me himself he meant nothing by his
kissing and presents, and he wanted to make me believe as you
thought light of 'em too. But I know better nor that. I can't
help thinking as you've been trusting to his loving you well
enough to marry you, for all he's a gentleman. And that's why I
must speak to you about it, Hetty, for fear you should be
deceiving yourself. It's never entered his head the thought o'
"How do you know? How durst you say so?" said Hetty, pausing in
her walk and trembling. The terrible decision of Adam's tone
shook her with fear. She had no presence of mind left for the
reflection that Arthur would have his reasons for not telling the
truth to Adam. Her words and look were enough to determine Adam:
he must give her the letter.
"Perhaps you can't believe me, Hetty, because you think too well
of him--because you think he loves you better than he does. But
I've got a letter i' my pocket, as he wrote himself for me to give
you. I've not read the letter, but he says he's told you the
truth in it. But before I give you the letter, consider, Hetty,
and don't let it take too much hold on you. It wouldna ha' been
good for you if he'd wanted to do such a mad thing as marry you:
it 'ud ha' led to no happiness i' th' end."
Hetty said nothing; she felt a revival of hope at the mention of a
letter which Adam had not read. There would be something quite
different in it from what he thought.
Adam took out the letter, but he held it in his hand still, while
he said, in a tone of tender entreaty, "Don't you bear me ill
will, Hetty, because I'm the means o' bringing you this pain. God
knows I'd ha' borne a good deal worse for the sake o' sparing it
you. And think--there's nobody but me knows about this, and I'll
take care of you as if I was your brother. You're the same as
ever to me, for I don't believe you've done any wrong knowingly."
Hetty had laid her hand on the letter, but Adam did not loose it
till he had done speaking. She took no notice of what he said--
she had not listened; but when he loosed the letter, she put it
into her pocket, without opening it, and then began to walk more
quickly, as if she wanted to go in.
"You're in the right not to read it just yet," said Adam. "Read
it when you're by yourself. But stay out a little bit longer, and
let us call the children: you look so white and ill, your aunt may
take notice of it."
Hetty heard the warning. It recalled to her the necessity of
rallying her native powers of concealment, which had half given
way under the shock of Adam's words. And she had the letter in
her pocket: she was sure there was comfort in that letter in spite
of Adam. She ran to find Totty, and soon reappeared with
recovered colour, leading Totty, who was making a sour face
because she had been obliged to throw away an unripe apple that
she had set her small teeth in.
"Hegh, Totty," said Adam, "come and ride on my shoulder--ever so
high--you'll touch the tops o' the trees."
What little child ever refused to be comforted by that glorious
sense of being seized strongly and swung upward? I don't believe
Ganymede cried when the eagle carried him away, and perhaps
deposited him on Jove's shoulder at the end. Totty smiled down
complacently from her secure height, and pleasant was the sight to
the mother's eyes, as she stood at the house door and saw Adam
coming with his small burden.
"Bless your sweet face, my pet," she said, the mother's strong
love filling her keen eyes with mildness, as Totty leaned forward
and put out her arms. She had no eyes for Hetty at that moment,
and only said, without looking at her, "You go and draw some ale,
Hetty; the gells are both at the cheese."
After the ale had been drawn and her uncle's pipe lighted, there
was Totty to be taken to bed, and brought down again in her night-
gown because she would cry instead of going to sleep. Then there
was supper to be got ready, and Hetty must be continually in the
way to give help. Adam stayed till he knew Mrs. Poyser expected
him to go, engaging her and her husband in talk as constantly as
he could, for the sake of leaving Hetty more at ease. He
lingered, because he wanted to see her safely through that
evening, and he was delighted to find how much self-command she
showed. He knew she had not had time to read the letter, but he
did not know she was buoyed up by a secret hope that the letter
would contradict everything he had said. It was hard work for him
to leave her--hard to think that he should not know for days how
she was bearing her trouble. But he must go at last, and all he
could do was to press her hand gently as he said "Good-bye," and
hope she would take that as a sign that if his love could ever be
a refuge for her, it was there the same as ever. How busy his
thoughts were, as he walked home, in devising pitying excuses for
her folly, in referring all her weakness to the sweet lovingness
of her nature, in blaming Arthur, with less and less inclination
to admit that his conduct might be extenuated too! His
exasperation at Hetty's suffering--and also at the sense that she
was possibly thrust for ever out of his own reach--deafened him to
any plea for the miscalled friend who had wrought this misery.
Adam was a clear-sighted, fair-minded man--a fine fellow, indeed,
morally as well as physically. But if Aristides the Just was ever
in love and jealous, he was at that moment not perfectly
magnanimous. And I cannot pretend that Adam, in these painful
days, felt nothing but righteous indignation and loving pity. He
was bitterly jealous, and in proportion as his love made him
indulgent in his judgment of Hetty, the bitterness found a vent in
his feeling towards Arthur.
"Her head was allays likely to be turned," he thought, "when a
gentleman, with his fine manners, and fine clothes, and his white
hands, and that way o' talking gentlefolks have, came about her,
making up to her in a bold way, as a man couldn't do that was only
her equal; and it's much if she'll ever like a common man now."
He could not help drawing his own hands out of his pocket and
looking at them--at the hard palms and the broken finger-nails.
"I'm a roughish fellow, altogether; I don't know, now I come to
think on't, what there is much for a woman to like about me; and
yet I might ha' got another wife easy enough, if I hadn't set my
heart on her. But it's little matter what other women think about
me, if she can't love me. She might ha' loved me, perhaps, as
likely as any other man--there's nobody hereabouts as I'm afraid
of, if he hadn't come between us; but now I shall belike be
hateful to her because I'm so different to him. And yet there's
no telling--she may turn round the other way, when she finds he's
made light of her all the while. She may come to feel the vally
of a man as 'ud be thankful to be bound to her all his life. But
I must put up with it whichever way it is--I've only to be
thankful it's been no worse. I am not th' only man that's got to
do without much happiness i' this life. There's many a good bit
o' work done with a bad heart. It's God's will, and that's enough
for us: we shouldn't know better how things ought to be than He
does, I reckon, if we was to spend our lives i' puzzling. But it
'ud ha' gone near to spoil my work for me, if I'd seen her brought
to sorrow and shame, and through the man as I've always been proud
to think on. Since I've been spared that, I've no right to
grumble. When a man's got his limbs whole, he can bear a smart
cut or two."
As Adam was getting over a stile at this point in his reflections,
he perceived a man walking along the field before him. He knew it
was Seth, returning from an evening preaching, and made haste to
"I thought thee'dst be at home before me," he said, as Seth turned
round to wait for him, "for I'm later than usual to-night."
"Well, I'm later too, for I got into talk, after meeting, with
John Barnes, who has lately professed himself in a state of
perfection, and I'd a question to ask him about his experience.
It's one o' them subjects that lead you further than y' expect--
they don't lie along the straight road."
They walked along together in silence two or three minutes. Adam
was not inclined to enter into the subtleties of religious
experience, but he was inclined to interchange a word or two of
brotherly affection and confidence with Seth. That was a rare
impulse in him, much as the brothers loved each other. They
hardly ever spoke of personal matters, or uttered more than an
allusion to their family troubles. Adam was by nature reserved in
all matters of feeling, and Seth felt a certain timidity towards
his more practical brother.
"Seth, lad," Adam said, putting his arm on his brother's shoulder,
"hast heard anything from Dinah Morris since she went away?"
"Yes," said Seth. "She told me I might write her word after a
while, how we went on, and how mother bore up under her trouble.
So I wrote to her a fortnight ago, and told her about thee having
a new employment, and how Mother was more contented; and last
Wednesday, when I called at the post at Treddles'on, I found a
letter from her. I think thee'dst perhaps like to read it, but I
didna say anything about it because thee'st seemed so full of
other things. It's quite easy t' read--she writes wonderful for a
Seth had drawn the letter from his pocket and held it out to Adam,
who said, as he took it, "Aye, lad, I've got a tough load to carry
just now--thee mustna take it ill if I'm a bit silenter and
crustier nor usual. Trouble doesna make me care the less for
thee. I know we shall stick together to the last."
"I take nought ill o' thee, Adam. I know well enough what it
means if thee't a bit short wi' me now and then."
"There's Mother opening the door to look out for us," said Adam,
as they mounted the slope. "She's been sitting i' the dark as
usual. Well, Gyp, well, art glad to see me?"
Lisbeth went in again quickly and lighted a candle, for she had
heard the welcome rustling of footsteps on the grass, before Gyp's
"Eh, my lads! Th' hours war ne'er so long sin' I war born as
they'n been this blessed Sunday night. What can ye both ha' been
doin' till this time?"
"Thee shouldstna sit i' the dark, Mother," said Adam; "that makes
the time seem longer."
"Eh, what am I to do wi' burnin' candle of a Sunday, when there's
on'y me an' it's sin to do a bit o' knittin'? The daylight's long
enough for me to stare i' the booke as I canna read. It 'ud be a
fine way o' shortenin' the time, to make it waste the good candle.
But which on you's for ha'in' supper? Ye mun ayther be clemmed or
full, I should think, seein' what time o' night it is."
"I'm hungry, Mother," said Seth, seating himself at the little
table, which had been spread ever since it was light.
"I've had my supper," said Adam. "Here, Gyp," he added, taking
some cold potato from the table and rubbing the rough grey head
that looked up towards him.
"Thee needstna be gi'in' th' dog," said Lisbeth; "I'n fed him well
a'ready. I'm not like to forget him, I reckon, when he's all o'
thee I can get sight on."
"Come, then, Gyp," said Adam, "we'll go to bed. Good-night,
Mother; I'm very tired."
"What ails him, dost know?" Lisbeth said to Seth, when Adam was
gone upstairs. "He's like as if he was struck for death this day
or two--he's so cast down. I found him i' the shop this forenoon,
arter thee wast gone, a-sittin' an' doin' nothin'--not so much as
a booke afore him."
"He's a deal o' work upon him just now, Mother," said Seth, "and I
think he's a bit troubled in his mind. Don't you take notice of
it, because it hurts him when you do. Be as kind to him as you
can, Mother, and don't say anything to vex him."
"Eh, what dost talk o' my vexin' him? An' what am I like to be
but kind? I'll ma' him a kettle-cake for breakfast i' the
Adam, meanwhile, was reading Dinah's letter by the light of his
DEAR BROTHER SETH--Your letter lay three days beyond my knowing of
it at the post, for I had not money enough by me to pay the
carriage, this being a time of great need and sickness here, with
the rains that have fallen, as if the windows of heaven were
opened again; and to lay by money, from day to day, in such a
time, when there are so many in present need of all things, would
be a want of trust like the laying up of the manna. I speak of
this, because I would not have you think me slow to answer, or
that I had small joy in your rejoicing at the worldly good that
has befallen your brother Adam. The honour and love you bear him
is nothing but meet, for God has given him great gifts, and he
uses them as the patriarch Joseph did, who, when he was exalted to
a place of power and trust, yet yearned with tenderness towards
his parent and his younger brother.
"My heart is knit to your aged mother since it was granted me to
be near her in the day of trouble. Speak to her of me, and tell
her I often bear her in my thoughts at evening time, when I am
sitting in the dim light as I did with her, and we held one
another's hands, and I spoke the words of comfort that were given
to me. Ah, that is a blessed time, isn't it, Seth, when the
outward light is fading, and the body is a little wearied with its
work and its labour. Then the inward light shines the brighter,
and we have a deeper sense of resting on the Divine strength. I
sit on my chair in the dark room and close my eyes, and it is as
if I was out of the body and could feel no want for evermore. For
then, the very hardship, and the sorrow, and the blindness, and
the sin I have beheld and been ready to weep over--yea, all the
anguish of the children of men, which sometimes wraps me round
like sudden darkness--I can bear with a willing pain, as if I was
sharing the Redeemer's cross. For I feel it, I feel it--infinite
love is suffering too--yea, in the fulness of knowledge it
suffers, it yearns, it mourns; and that is a blind self-seeking
which wants to be freed from the sorrow wherewith the whole
creation groaneth and travaileth. Surely it is not true
blessedness to be free from sorrow, while there is sorrow and sin
in the world: sorrow is then a part of love, and love does not
seek to throw it off. It is not the spirit only that tells me
this--I see it in the whole work and word of the Gospel. Is there
not pleading in heaven? Is not the Man of Sorrows there in that
crucified body wherewith he ascended? And is He not one with the
Infinite Love itself--as our love is one with our sorrow?
"These thoughts have been much borne in on me of late, and I have
seen with new clearness the meaning of those words, 'If any man
love me, let him take up my cross.' I have heard this enlarged on
as if it meant the troubles and persecutions we bring on ourselves
by confessing Jesus. But surely that is a narrow thought. The
true cross of the Redeemer was the sin and sorrow of this world--
that was what lay heavy on his heart--and that is the cross we
shall share with him, that is the cup we must drink of with him,
if we would have any part in that Divine Love which is one with
"In my outward lot, which you ask about, I have all things and
abound. I have had constant work in the mill, though some of the
other hands have been turned off for a time, and my body is
greatly strengthened, so that I feel little weariness after long
walking and speaking. What you say about staying in your own
country with your mother and brother shows me that you have a true
guidance; your lot is appointed there by a clear showing, and to
seek a greater blessing elsewhere would be like laying a false
offering on the altar and expecting the fire from heaven to kindle
it. My work and my joy are here among the hills, and I sometimes
think I cling too much to my life among the people here, and
should be rebellious if I was called away.
"I was thankful for your tidings about the dear friends at the
Hall Farm, for though I sent them a letter, by my aunt's desire,
after I came back from my sojourn among them, I have had no word
from them. My aunt has not the pen of a ready writer, and the
work of the house is sufficient for the day, for she is weak in
body. My heart cleaves to her and her children as the nearest of
all to me in the flesh--yea, and to all in that house. I am
carried away to them continually in my sleep, and often in the
midst of work, and even of speech, the thought of them is borne in
on me as if they were in need and trouble, which yet is dark to
me. There may be some leading here; but I wait to be taught. You
say they are all well.
"We shall see each other again in the body, I trust, though, it
may be, not for a long while; for the brethren and sisters at
Leeds are desirous to have me for a short space among them, when I
have a door opened me again to leave Snowfield.
"Farewell, dear brother--and yet not farewell. For those children
of God whom it has been granted to see each other face to face,
and to hold communion together, and to feel the same spirit
working in both can never more be sundered though the hills may
lie between. For their souls are enlarged for evermore by that
union, and they bear one another about in their thoughts
continually as it were a new strength.--Your faithful Sister and
fellow-worker in Christ,
"I have not skill to write the words so small as you do and my pen
moves slow. And so I am straitened, and say but little of what is
in my mind. Greet your mother for me with a kiss. She asked me
to kiss her twice when we parted."
Adam had refolded the letter, and was sitting meditatively with
his head resting on his arm at the head of the bed, when Seth came
"Hast read the letter?" said Seth.
"Yes," said Adam. "I don't know what I should ha' thought of her
and her letter if I'd never seen her: I daresay I should ha'
thought a preaching woman hateful. But she's one as makes
everything seem right she says and does, and I seemed to see her
and hear her speaking when I read the letter. It's wonderful how
I remember her looks and her voice. She'd make thee rare and
happy, Seth; she's just the woman for thee."
"It's no use thinking o' that," said Seth, despondingly. "She
spoke so firm, and she's not the woman to say one thing and mean
"Nay, but her feelings may grow different. A woman may get to
love by degrees--the best fire dosna flare up the soonest. I'd
have thee go and see her by and by: I'd make it convenient for
thee to be away three or four days, and it 'ud be no walk for
thee--only between twenty and thirty mile."
"I should like to see her again, whether or no, if she wouldna be
displeased with me for going," said Seth.
"She'll be none displeased," said Adam emphatically, getting up
and throwing off his coat. "It might be a great happiness to us
all if she'd have thee, for mother took to her so wonderful and
seemed so contented to be with her."
"Aye," said Seth, rather timidly, "and Dinah's fond o' Hetty too;
she thinks a deal about her."
Adam made no reply to that, and no other word but "good-night"
passed between them.
In Hetty's Bed-Chamber
IT was no longer light enough to go to bed without a candle, even
in Mrs. Poyser's early household, and Hetty carried one with her
as she went up at last to her bedroom soon after Adam was gone,
and bolted the door behind her.
Now she would read her letter. It must--it must have comfort in
it. How was Adam to know the truth? It was always likely he
should say what he did say.
She set down the candle and took out the letter. It had a faint
scent of roses, which made her feel as if Arthur were close to
her. She put it to her lips, and a rush of remembered sensations
for a moment or two swept away all fear. But her heart began to
flutter strangely, and her hands to tremble as she broke the seal.
She read slowly; it was not easy for her to read a gentleman's
handwriting, though Arthur had taken pains to write plainly.
"DEAREST HETTY--I have spoken truly when I have said that I loved
you, and I shall never forget our love. I shall be your true
friend as long as life lasts, and I hope to prove this to you in
many ways. If I say anything to pain you in this letter, do not
believe it is for want of love and tenderness towards you, for
there is nothing I would not do for you, if I knew it to be really
for your happiness. I cannot bear to think of my little Hetty
shedding tears when I am not there to kiss them away; and if I
followed only my own inclinations, I should be with her at this
moment instead of writing. It is very hard for me to part from
her--harder still for me to write words which may seem unkind,
though they spring from the truest kindness.
"Dear, dear Hetty, sweet as our love has been to me, sweet as it
would be to me for you to love me always, I feel that it would
have been better for us both if we had never had that happiness,
and that it is my duty to ask you to love me and care for me as
little as you can. The fault has all been mine, for though I have
been unable to resist the longing to be near you, I have felt all
the while that your affection for me might cause you grief. I
ought to have resisted my feelings. I should have done so, if I
had been a better fellow than I am; but now, since the past cannot
be altered, I am bound to save you from any evil that I have power
to prevent. And I feel it would be a great evil for you if your
affections continued so fixed on me that you could think of no
other man who might be able to make you happier by his love than I
ever can, and if you continued to look towards something in the
future which cannot possibly happen. For, dear Hetty, if I were
to do what you one day spoke of, and make you my wife, I should do
what you yourself would come to feel was for your misery instead
of your welfare. I know you can never be happy except by marrying
a man in your own station; and if I were to marry you now, I
should only be adding to any wrong I have done, besides offending
against my duty in the other relations of life. You know nothing,
dear Hetty, of the world in which I must always live, and you
would soon begin to dislike me, because there would be so little
in which we should be alike.
"And since I cannot marry you, we must part--we must try not to
feel like lovers any more. I am miserable while I say this, but
nothing else can be. Be angry with me, my sweet one, I deserve
it; but do not believe that I shall not always care for you--
always be grateful to you--always remember my Hetty; and if any
trouble should come that we do not now foresee, trust in me to do
everything that lies in my power.
"I have told you where you are to direct a letter to, if you want
to write, but I put it down below lest you should have forgotten.
Do not write unless there is something I can really do for you;
for, dear Hetty, we must try to think of each other as little as
we can. Forgive me, and try to forget everything about me, except
that I shall be, as long as I live, your affectionate friend,
Slowly Hetty had read this letter; and when she looked up from it
there was the reflection of a blanched face in the old dim glass--
a white marble face with rounded childish forms, but with
something sadder than a child's pain in it. Hetty did not see the
face--she saw nothing--she only felt that she was cold and sick
and trembling. The letter shook and rustled in her hand. She
laid it down. It was a horrible sensation--this cold and
trembling. It swept away the very ideas that produced it, and
Hetty got up to reach a warm cloak from her clothes-press, wrapped
it round her, and sat as if she were thinking of nothing but
getting warm. Presently she took up the letter with a firmer
hand, and began to read it through again. The tears came this
time--great rushing tears that blinded her and blotched the paper.
She felt nothing but that Arthur was cruel--cruel to write so,
cruel not to marry her. Reasons why he could not marry her had no
existence for her mind; how could she believe in any misery that
could come to her from the fulfilment of all she had been longing
for and dreaming of? She had not the ideas that could make up the
notion of that misery.
As she threw down the letter again, she caught sight of her face
in the glass; it was reddened now, and wet with tears; it was
almost like a companion that she might complain to--that would
pity her. She leaned forward on her elbows, and looked into those
dark overflooding eyes and at the quivering mouth, and saw how the
tears came thicker and thicker, and how the mouth became convulsed
The shattering of all her little dream-world, the crushing blow on
her new-born passion, afflicted her pleasure-craving nature with
an overpowering pain that annihilated all impulse to resistance,
and suspended her anger. She sat sobbing till the candle went
out, and then, wearied, aching, stupefied with crying, threw
herself on the bed without undressing and went to sleep.
There was a feeble dawn in the room when Hetty awoke, a little
after four o'clock, with a sense of dull misery, the cause of
which broke upon her gradually as she began to discern the objects
round her in the dim light. And then came the frightening thought
that she had to conceal her misery as well as to bear it, in this
dreary daylight that was coming. She could lie no longer. She
got up and went towards the table: there lay the letter. She
opened her treasure-drawer: there lay the ear-rings and the
locket--the signs of all her short happiness--the signs of the
lifelong dreariness that was to follow it. Looking at the little
trinkets which she had once eyed and fingered so fondly as the
earnest of her future paradise of finery, she lived back in the
moments when they had been given to her with such tender caresses,
such strangely pretty words, such glowing looks, which filled her
with a bewildering delicious surprise--they were so much sweeter
than she had thought anything could be. And the Arthur who had
spoken to her and looked at her in this way, who was present with
her now--whose arm she felt round her, his cheek against hers, his
very breath upon her--was the cruel, cruel Arthur who had written
that letter, that letter which she snatched and crushed and then
opened again, that she might read it once more. The half-benumbed
mental condition which was the effect of the last night's violent
crying made it necessary to her to look again and see if her
wretched thoughts were actually true--if the letter was really so
cruel. She had to hold it close to the window, else she could not
have read it by the faint light. Yes! It was worse--it was more
cruel. She crushed it up again in anger. She hated the writer of
that letter--hated him for the very reason that she hung upon him
with all her love--all the girlish passion and vanity that made up
She had no tears this morning. She had wept them all away last
night, and now she felt that dry-eyed morning misery, which is
worse than the first shock because it has the future in it as well
as the present. Every morning to come, as far as her imagination
could stretch, she would have to get up and feel that the day
would have no joy for her. For there is no despair so absolute as
that which comes with the first moments of our first great sorrow,
when we have not yet known what it is to have suffered and be
healed, to have despaired and to have recovered hope. As Hetty
began languidly to take off the clothes she had worn all the
night, that she might wash herself and brush her hair, she had a
sickening sense that her life would go on in this way. She should
always be doing things she had no pleasure in, getting up to the
old tasks of work, seeing people she cared nothing about, going to
church, and to Treddleston, and to tea with Mrs. Best, and
carrying no happy thought with her. For her short poisonous
delights had spoiled for ever all the little joys that had once
made the sweetness of her life--the new frock ready for
Treddleston Fair, the party at Mr. Britton's at Broxton wake, the
beaux that she would say "No" to for a long while, and the
prospect of the wedding that was to come at last when she would
have a silk gown and a great many clothes all at once. These
things were all flat and dreary to her now; everything would be a
weariness, and she would carry about for ever a hopeless thirst
She paused in the midst of her languid undressing and leaned
against the dark old clothes-press. Her neck and arms were bare,
her hair hung down in delicate rings--and they were just as
beautiful as they were that night two months ago, when she walked
up and down this bed-chamber glowing with vanity and hope. She
was not thinking of her neck and arms now; even her own beauty was
indifferent to her. Her eyes wandered sadly over the dull old
chamber, and then looked out vacantly towards the growing dawn.
Did a remembrance of Dinah come across her mind? Of her
foreboding words, which had made her angry? Of Dinah's
affectionate entreaty to think of her as a friend in trouble? No,
the impression had been too slight to recur. Any affection or
comfort Dinah could have given her would have been as indifferent
to Hetty this morning as everything else was except her bruised
passion. She was only thinking she could never stay here and go
on with the old life--she could better bear something quite new
than sinking back into the old everyday round. She would like to
run away that very morning, and never see any of the old faces
again. But Hetty's was not a nature to face difficulties--to dare
to loose her hold on the familiar and rush blindly on some unknown
condition. Hers was a luxurious and vain nature--not a passionate
one--and if she were ever to take any violent measure, she must be
urged to it by the desperation of terror. There was not much room
for her thoughts to travel in the narrow circle of her
imagination, and she soon fixed on the one thing she would do to
get away from her old life: she would ask her uncle to let her go
to be a lady's maid. Miss Lydia's maid would help her to get a
situation, if she krew Hetty had her uncle's leave.
When she had thought of this, she fastened up her hair and began
to wash: it seemed more possible to her to go downstairs and try
to behave as usual. She would ask her uncle this very day. On
Hetty's blooming health it would take a great deal of such mental
suffering as hers to leave any deep impress; and when she was
dressed as neatly as usual in her working-dress, with her hair
tucked up under her little cap, an indifferent observer would have
been more struck with the young roundness of her cheek and neck
and the darkness of her eyes and eyelashes than with any signs of
sadness about her. But when she took up the crushed letter and
put it in her drawer, that she might lock it out of sight, hard
smarting tears, having no relief in them as the great drops had
that fell last night, forced their way into her eyes. She wiped
them away quickly: she must not cry in the day-time. Nobody
should find out how miserable she was, nobody should know she was
disappointed about anything; and the thought that the eyes of her
aunt and uncle would be upon her gave her the self-command which
often accompanies a great dread. For Hetty looked out from her
secret misery towards the possibility of their ever knowing what
had happened, as the sick and weary prisoner might think of the
possible pillory. They would think her conduct shameful, and
shame was torture. That was poor little Hetty's conscience.
So she locked up her drawer and went away to her early work.
In the evening, when Mr. Poyser was smoking his pipe, and his
good-nature was therefore at its superlative moment, Hetty seized
the opportunity of her aunt's absence to say, "Uncle, I wish you'd
let me go for a lady's maid."
Mr. Poyser took the pipe from his mouth and looked at Hetty in
mild surprise for some moments. She was sewing, and went on with
her work industriously.
"Why, what's put that into your head, my wench?" he said at last,
after he had given one conservative puff.
"I should like it--I should like it better than farm-work."
"Nay, nay; you fancy so because you donna know it, my wench. It
wouldn't be half so good for your health, nor for your luck i'
life. I'd like you to stay wi' us till you've got a good husband:
you're my own niece, and I wouldn't have you go to service, though
it was a gentleman's house, as long as I've got a home for you."
Mr. Poyser paused, and puffed away at his pipe.
"I like the needlework," said Hetty, "and I should get good
"Has your aunt been a bit sharp wi' you?" said Mr. Poyser, not
noticing Hetty's further argument. "You mustna mind that, my
wench--she does it for your good. She wishes you well; an' there
isn't many aunts as are no kin to you 'ud ha' done by you as she
"No, it isn't my aunt," said Hetty, "but I should like the work
"It was all very well for you to learn the work a bit--an' I gev
my consent to that fast enough, sin' Mrs. Pomfret was willing to
teach you. For if anything was t' happen, it's well to know how
to turn your hand to different sorts o' things. But I niver meant
you to go to service, my wench; my family's ate their own bread
and cheese as fur back as anybody knows, hanna they, Father? You
wouldna like your grand-child to take wage?"
"Na-a-y," said old Martin, with an elongation of the word, meant
to make it bitter as well as negative, while he leaned forward and
looked down on the floor. "But the wench takes arter her mother.
I'd hard work t' hould HER in, an' she married i' spite o' me--a
feller wi' on'y two head o' stock when there should ha' been ten
on's farm--she might well die o' th' inflammation afore she war
It was seldom the old man made so long a speech, but his son's
question had fallen like a bit of dry fuel on the embers of a long
unextinguished resentment, which had always made the grandfather
more indifferent to Hetty than to his son's children. Her
mother's fortune had been spent by that good-for-nought Sorrel,
and Hetty had Sorrel's blood in her veins.
"Poor thing, poor thing!" said Martin the younger, who was sorry
to have provoked this retrospective harshness. "She'd but bad
luck. But Hetty's got as good a chance o' getting a solid, sober
husband as any gell i' this country."
After throwing out this pregnant hint, Mr. Poyser recurred to his
pipe and his silence, looking at Hetty to see if she did not give
some sign of having renounced her ill-advised wish. But instead
of that, Hetty, in spite of herself, began to cry, half out of ill
temper at the denial, half out of the day's repressed sadness.
"Hegh, hegh!" said Mr. Poyser, meaning to check her playfully,
"don't let's have any crying. Crying's for them as ha' got no
home, not for them as want to get rid o' one. What dost think?"
he continued to his wife, who now came back into the house-place,
knitting with fierce rapidity, as if that movement were a
necessary function, like the twittering of a crab's antennae.
"Think? Why, I think we shall have the fowl stole before we are
much older, wi' that gell forgetting to lock the pens up o'
nights. What's the matter now, Hetty? What are you crying at?"
"Why, she's been wanting to go for a lady's maid," said Mr.
Poyser. "I tell her we can do better for her nor that."
"I thought she'd got some maggot in her head, she's gone about wi'
her mouth buttoned up so all day. It's all wi' going so among
them servants at the Chase, as we war fools for letting her. She
thinks it 'ud be a finer life than being wi' them as are akin to
her and ha' brought her up sin' she war no bigger nor Marty. She
thinks there's nothing belongs to being a lady's maid but wearing
finer clothes nor she was born to, I'll be bound. It's what rag
she can get to stick on her as she's thinking on from morning till
night, as I often ask her if she wouldn't like to be the mawkin i'
the field, for then she'd be made o' rags inside and out. I'll
never gi' my consent to her going for a lady's maid, while she's
got good friends to take care on her till she's married to
somebody better nor one o' them valets, as is neither a common man
nor a gentleman, an' must live on the fat o' the land, an's like
enough to stick his hands under his coat-tails and expect his wife
to work for him."
"Aye, aye," said Mr. Poyser, "we must have a better husband for
her nor that, and there's better at hand. Come, my wench, give
over crying and get to bed. I'll do better for you nor letting
you go for a lady's maid. Let's hear no more on't."
When Hetty was gone upstairs he said, "I canna make it out as she
should want to go away, for I thought she'd got a mind t' Adam
Bede. She's looked like it o' late."
"Eh, there's no knowing what she's got a liking to, for things
take no more hold on her than if she was a dried pea. I believe
that gell, Molly--as is aggravatin' enough, for the matter o'
that--but I believe she'd care more about leaving us and the
children, for all she's been here but a year come Michaelmas, nor
Hetty would. But she's got this notion o' being a lady's maid wi'
going among them servants--we might ha' known what it 'ud lead to
when we let her go to learn the fine work. But I'll put a stop to
it pretty quick."
"Thee'dst be sorry to part wi' her, if it wasn't for her good,"
said Mr. Poyser. "She's useful to thee i' the work."
"Sorry? Yes, I'm fonder on her nor she deserves--a little hard-
hearted hussy, wanting to leave us i' that way. I can't ha' had
her about me these seven year, I reckon, and done for her, and
taught her everything wi'out caring about her. An' here I'm
having linen spun, an' thinking all the while it'll make sheeting
and table-clothing for her when she's married, an' she'll live i'
the parish wi' us, and never go out of our sights--like a fool as
I am for thinking aught about her, as is no better nor a cherry
wi' a hard stone inside it."
"Nay, nay, thee mustna make much of a trifle," said Mr. Poyser,
soothingly. "She's fond on us, I'll be bound; but she's young,
an' gets things in her head as she can't rightly give account on.
Them young fillies 'ull run away often wi'-ou; knowing why."
Her uncle's answers, however, had had another effect on Hetty
besides that of disappointing her and making her cry. She knew
quite well whom he had in his mind in his allusions to marriage,
and to a sober, solid husband; and when she was in her bedroom
again, the possibility of her marrying Adam presented itself to
her in a new light. In a mind where no strong sympathies are at
work, where there is no supreme sense of right to which the
agitated nature can cling and steady itself to quiet endurance,
one of the first results of sorrow is a desperate vague clutching
after any deed that will change the actual condition. Poor
Hetty's vision of consequences, at no time more than a narrow
fantastic calculation of her own probable pleasures and pains, was
now quite shut out by reckless irritation under present suffering,
and she was ready for one of those convulsive, motiveless actions
by which wretched men and women leap from a temporary sorrow into
a lifelong misery.
Why should she not marry Adam? She did not care what she did, so
that it made some change in her life. She felt confident that he
would still want to marry her, and any further thought about
Adam's happiness in the matter had never yet visited her.
"Strange!" perhaps you will say, "this rush of impulse to-wards a
course that might have seemed the most repugnant to her present
state of mind, and in only the second night of her sadness!"
Yes, the actions of a little trivial soul like Hetty's, struggling
amidst the serious sad destinies of a human being, are strange.
So are the motions of a little vessel without ballast tossed about
on a stormy sea. How pretty it looked with its parti-coloured
sail in the sunlight, moored in the quiet bay!
"Let that man bear the loss who loosed it from its moorings."
But that will not save the vessel--the pretty thing that might
have been a lasting joy.
Mrs. Poyser "Has Her Say Out"
THE next Saturday evening there was much excited discussion at the
Donnithorne Arms concerning an incident which had occurred that
very day--no less than a second appearance of the smart man in
top-boots said by some to be a mere farmer in treaty for the Chase
Farm, by others to be the future steward, but by Mr. Casson
himself, the personal witness to the stranger's visit, pronounced
contemptuously to be nothing better than a bailiff, such as
Satchell had been before him. No one had thought of denying Mr.
Casson's testimony to the fact that he had seen the stranger;
nevertheless, he proffered various corroborating circumstances.
"I see him myself," he said; "I see him coming along by the Crab-
tree Meadow on a bald-faced hoss. I'd just been t' hev a pint--it
was half after ten i' the fore-noon, when I hev my pint as reg'lar
as the clock--and I says to Knowles, as druv up with his waggon,
'You'll get a bit o' barley to-day, Knowles,' I says, 'if you look
about you'; and then I went round by the rick-yard, and towart the
Treddles'on road, and just as I come up by the big ash-tree, I see
the man i' top-boots coming along on a bald-faced hoss--I wish I
may never stir if I didn't. And I stood still till he come up,
and I says, 'Good morning, sir,' I says, for I wanted to hear the
turn of his tongue, as I might know whether he was a this-country
man; so I says, 'Good morning, sir: it 'll 'old hup for the barley
this morning, I think. There'll be a bit got hin, if we've good
luck.' And he says, 'Eh, ye may be raight, there's noo tallin','
he says, and I knowed by that"--here Mr. Casson gave a wink--"as
he didn't come from a hundred mile off. I daresay he'd think me a
hodd talker, as you Loamshire folks allays does hany one as talks
the right language."
"The right language!" said Bartle Massey, contemptuously. "You're
about as near the right language as a pig's squeaking is like a
tune played on a key-bugle."
"Well, I don't know," answered Mr. Casson, with an angry smile.
"I should think a man as has lived among the gentry from a by, is
likely to know what's the right language pretty nigh as well as a
"Aye, aye, man," said Bartle, with a tone of sarcastic
consolation, "you talk the right language for you. When Mike
Holdsworth's goat says ba-a-a, it's all right--it 'ud be unnatural
for it to make any other noise."
The rest of the party being Loamsnire men, Mr. Casson had the
laugh strongly against him, and wisely fell back on the previous
question, which, far from being exhausted in a single evening, was
renewed in the churchyard, before service, the next day, with the
fresh interest conferred on all news when there is a fresh person
to hear it; and that fresh hearer was Martin Poyser, who, as his
wife said, "never went boozin' with that set at Casson's, a-
sittin' soakin' in drink, and looking as wise as a lot o' cod-fish
wi' red faces."
It was probably owing to the conversation she had had with her
husband on their way from church concerning this problematic
stranger that Mrs. Poyser's thoughts immediately reverted to him
when, a day or two afterwards, as she was standing at the house-
door with her knitting, in that eager leisure which came to her
when the afternoon cleaning was done, she saw the old squire enter
the yard on his black pony, followed by John the groom. She
always cited it afterwards as a case of prevision, which really
had something more in it than her own remarkable penetration, that
the moment she set eyes on the squire she said to herself, "I
shouldna wonder if he's come about that man as is a-going to take
the Chase Farm, wanting Poyser to do something for him without
pay. But Poyser's a fool if he does."
Something unwonted must clearly be in the wind, for the old
squire's visits to his tenantry were rare; and though Mrs. Poyser
had during the last twelvemonth recited many imaginary speeches,
meaning even more than met the ear, which she was quite determined
to make to him the next time he appeared within the gates of the
Hall Farm, the speeches had always remained imaginary.
"Good-day, Mrs. Poyser," said the old squire, peering at her with
his short-sighted eyes--a mode of looking at her which, as Mrs.
Poyser observed, "allays aggravated me: it was as if you was a
insect, and he was going to dab his finger-nail on you."
However, she said, "Your servant, sir," and curtsied with an air
of perfect deference as she advanced towards him: she was not the
woman to misbehave towards her betters, and fly in the face of the
catechism, without severe provocation.
"Is your husband at home, Mrs. Poyser?"
"Yes, sir; he's only i' the rick-yard. I'll send for him in a
minute, if you'll please to get down and step in."
"Thank you; I will do so. I want to consult him about a little
matter; but you are quite as much concerned in it, if not more. I
must have your opinion too."
"Hetty, run and tell your uncle to come in," said Mrs. Poyser, as
they entered the house, and the old gentleman bowed low in answer
to Hetty's curtsy; while Totty, conscious of a pinafore stained
with gooseberry jam, stood hiding her face against the clock and
peeping round furtively.
"What a fine old kitchen this is!" said Mr. Donnithorne, looking
round admiringly. He always spoke in the same deliberate, well-
chiselled, polite way, whether his words were sugary or venomous.
"And you keep it so exquisitely clean, Mrs. Poyser. I like these
premises, do you know, beyond any on the estate."
"Well, sir, since you're fond of 'em, I should be glad if you'd
let a bit o' repairs be done to 'em, for the boarding's i' that
state as we're like to be eaten up wi' rats and mice; and the
cellar, you may stan' up to your knees i' water in't, if you like
to go down; but perhaps you'd rather believe my words. Won't you
please to sit down, sir?"
"Not yet; I must see your dairy. I have not seen it for years,
and I hear on all hands about your fine cheese and butter," said
the squire, looking politely unconscious that there could be any
question on which he and Mrs. Poyser might happen to disagree. "I
think I see the door open, there. You must not be surprised if I
cast a covetous eye on your cream and butter. I don't expect that
Mrs. Satchell's cream and butter will bear comparison with yours."
"I can't say, sir, I'm sure. It's seldom I see other folks's
butter, though there's some on it as one's no need to see--the
"Ah, now this I like," said Mr. Donnithorne, looking round at the
damp temple of cleanliness, but keeping near the door. "I'm sure
I should like my breakfast better if I knew the butter and cream
came from this dairy. Thank you, that really is a pleasant sight.
Unfortunately, my slight tendency to rheumatism makes me afraid of
damp: I'll sit down in your comfortable kitchen. Ah, Poyser, how
do you do? In the midst of business, I see, as usual. I've been
looking at your wife's beautiful dairy--the best manager in the
parish, is she not?"
Mr. Poyser had just entered in shirt-sleeves and open waistcoat,
with a face a shade redder than usual, from the exertion of
"pitching." As he stood, red, rotund, and radiant, before the
small, wiry, cool old gentleman, he looked like a prize apple by
the side of a withered crab.
"Will you please to take this chair, sir?" he said, lifting his
father's arm-chair forward a little: "you'll find it easy."
"No, thank you, I never sit in easy-chairs," said the old
gentleman, seating himself on a small chair near the door. "Do
you know, Mrs. Poyser--sit down, pray, both of you--I've been far
from contented, for some time, with Mrs. Satchell's dairy
management. I think she has not a good method, as you have."
"Indeed, sir, I can't speak to that," said Mrs. Poyser in a hard
voice, rolling and unrolling her knitting and looking icily out of
the window, as she continued to stand opposite the squire. Poyser
might sit down if he liked, she thought; she wasn't going to sit
down, as if she'd give in to any such smooth-tongued palaver. Mr.
Poyser, who looked and felt the reverse of icy, did sit down in
his three-cornered chair.
"And now, Poyser, as Satchell is laid up, I am intending to let
the Chase Farm to a respectable tenant. I'm tired of having a
farm on my own hands--nothing is made the best of in such cases,
as you know. A satisfactory bailiff is hard to find; and I think
you and I, Poyser, and your excellent wife here, can enter into a
little arrangement in consequence, which will be to our mutual
"Oh," said Mr. Poyser, with a good-natured blankness of
imagination as to the nature of the arrangement.
"If I'm called upon to speak, sir," said Mrs. Poyser, after
glancing at her husband with pity at his softness, "you know
better than me; but I don't see what the Chase Farm is t' us--
we've cumber enough wi' our own farm. Not but what I'm glad to
hear o' anybody respectable coming into the parish; there's some
as ha' been brought in as hasn't been looked on i' that
"You're likely to find Mr. Thurle an excellent neighbour, I assure
you--such a one as you will feel glad to have accommodated by the
little plan I'm going to mention, especially as I hope you will
find it as much to your own advantage as his."
"Indeed, sir, if it's anything t' our advantage, it'll be the
first offer o' the sort I've heared on. It's them as take
advantage that get advantage i' this world, I think. Folks have
to wait long enough afore it's brought to 'em."
"The fact is, Poyser," said the squire, ignoring Mrs. Poyser's
theory of worldly prosperity, "there is too much dairy land, and
too little plough land, on the Chase Farm to suit Thurle's
purpose--indeed, he will only take the farm on condition of some
change in it: his wife, it appears, is not a clever dairy-woman,
like yours. Now, the plan I'm thinking of is to effect a little
exchange. If you were to have the Hollow Pastures, you might
increase your dairy, which must be so profitable under your wife's
management; and I should request you, Mrs. Poyser, to supply my
house with milk, cream, and butter at the market prices. On the
other hand, Poyser, you might let Thurle have the Lower and Upper
Ridges, which really, with our wet seasons, would be a good
riddance for you. There is much less risk in dairy land than corn
Mr. Poyser was leaning forward, with his elbows on his knees, his
head on one side, and his mouth screwed up--apparently absorbed in
making the tips of his fingers meet so as to represent with
perfect accuracy the ribs of a ship. He was much too acute a man
not to see through the whole business, and to foresee perfectly
what would be his wife's view of the subject; but he disliked
giving unpleasant answers. Unless it was on a point of farming
practice, he would rather give up than have a quarrel, any day;
and, after all, it mattered more to his wife than to him. So,
after a few moments' silence, he looked up at her and said mildly,
"What dost say?"
Mrs. Poyser had had her eyes fixed on her husband with cold
severity during his silence, but now she turned away her head with
a toss, looked icily at the opposite roof of the cow-shed, and
spearing her knitting together with the loose pin, held it firmly
between her clasped hands.
"Say? Why, I say you may do as you like about giving up any o'
your corn-land afore your lease is up, which it won't be for a