Part 8 out of 11
year come next Michaelmas, but I'll not consent to take more dairy
work into my hands, either for love or money; and there's nayther
love nor money here, as I can see, on'y other folks's love o'
theirselves, and the money as is to go into other folks's pockets.
I know there's them as is born t' own the land, and them as is
born to sweat on't"--here Mrs. Poyser paused to gasp a little--
"and I know it's christened folks's duty to submit to their
betters as fur as flesh and blood 'ull bear it; but I'll not make
a martyr o' myself, and wear myself to skin and bone, and worret
myself as if I was a churn wi' butter a-coming in't, for no
landlord in England, not if he was King George himself."
"No, no, my dear Mrs. Poyser, certainly not," said the squire,
still confident in his own powers of persuasion, "you must not
overwork yourself; but don't you think your work will rather be
lessened than increased in this way? There is so much milk
required at the Abbey that you will have little increase of cheese
and butter making from the addition to your dairy; and I believe
selling the milk is the most profitable way of disposing of dairy
produce, is it not?"
"Aye, that's true," said Mr. Poyser, unable to repress an opinion
on a question of farming profits, and forgetting that it was not
in this case a purely abstract question.
"I daresay," said Mrs. Poyser bitterly, turning her head half-way
towards her husband and looking at the vacant arm-chair--"I
daresay it's true for men as sit i' th' chimney-corner and make
believe as everything's cut wi' ins an' outs to fit int'
everything else. If you could make a pudding wi' thinking o' the
batter, it 'ud be easy getting dinner. How do I know whether the
milk 'ull be wanted constant? What's to make me sure as the house
won't be put o' board wage afore we're many months older, and then
I may have to lie awake o' nights wi' twenty gallons o' milk on my
mind--and Dingall 'ull take no more butter, let alone paying for
it; and we must fat pigs till we're obliged to beg the butcher on
our knees to buy 'em, and lose half of 'em wi' the measles. And
there's the fetching and carrying, as 'ud be welly half a day's
work for a man an' hoss--that's to be took out o' the profits, I
reckon? But there's folks 'ud hold a sieve under the pump and
expect to carry away the water."
"That difficulty--about the fetching and carrying--you will not
have, Mrs. Poyser," said the squire, who thought that this
entrance into particulars indicated a distant inclination to
compromise on Mrs. Poyser's part. "Bethell will do that regularly
with the cart and pony."
"Oh, sir, begging your pardon, I've never been used t' having
gentlefolks's servants coming about my back places, a-making love
to both the gells at once and keeping 'em with their hands on
their hips listening to all manner o' gossip when they should be
down on their knees a-scouring. If we're to go to ruin, it shanna
be wi' having our back kitchen turned into a public."
"Well, Poyser," said the squire, shifting his tactics and looking
as if he thought Mrs. Poyser had suddenly withdrawn from the
proceedings and left the room, "you can turn the Hollows into
feeding-land. I can easily make another arrangement about
supplying my house. And I shall not forget your readiness to
accommodate your landlord as well as a neighbour. I know you will
be glad to have your lease renewed for three years, when the
present one expires; otherwise, I daresay Thurle, who is a man of
some capital, would be glad to take both the farms, as they could
be worked so well together. But I don't want to part with an old
tenant like you."
To be thrust out of the discussion in this way would have been
enough to complete Mrs. Poyser's exasperation, even without the
final threat. Her husband, really alarmed at the possibility of
their leaving the old place where he had been bred and born--for
he believed the old squire had small spite enough for anything--
was beginning a mild remonstrance explanatory of the inconvenience
he should find in having to buy and sell more stock, with, "Well,
sir, I think as it's rether hard..." when Mrs. Poyser burst in
with the desperate determination to have her say out this once,
though it were to rain notices to quit and the only shelter were
"Then, sir, if I may speak--as, for all I'm a woman, and there's
folks as thinks a woman's fool enough to stan' by an' look on
while the men sign her soul away, I've a right to speak, for I
make one quarter o' the rent, and save another quarter--I say, if
Mr. Thurle's so ready to take farms under you, it's a pity but
what he should take this, and see if he likes to live in a house
wi' all the plagues o' Egypt in't--wi' the cellar full o' water,
and frogs and toads hoppin' up the steps by dozens--and the floors
rotten, and the rats and mice gnawing every bit o' cheese, and
runnin' over our heads as we lie i' bed till we expect 'em to eat
us up alive--as it's a mercy they hanna eat the children long ago.
I should like to see if there's another tenant besides Poyser as
'ud put up wi' never having a bit o' repairs done till a place
tumbles down--and not then, on'y wi' begging and praying and
having to pay half--and being strung up wi' the rent as it's much
if he gets enough out o' the land to pay, for all he's put his own
money into the ground beforehand. See if you'll get a stranger to
lead such a life here as that: a maggot must be born i' the rotten
cheese to like it, I reckon. You may run away from my words,
sir," continued Mrs. Poyser, following the old squire beyond the
door--for after the first moments of stunned surprise he had got
up, and, waving his hand towards her with a smile, had walked out
towards his pony. But it was impossible for him to get away
immediately, for John was walking the pony up and down the yard,
and was some distance from the causeway when his master beckoned.
"You may run away from my words, sir, and you may go spinnin'
underhand ways o' doing us a mischief, for you've got Old Harry to
your friend, though nobody else is, but I tell you for once as
we're not dumb creatures to be abused and made money on by them as
ha' got the lash i' their hands, for want o' knowing how t' undo
the tackle. An' if I'm th' only one as speaks my mind, there's
plenty o' the same way o' thinking i' this parish and the next to
't, for your name's no better than a brimstone match in
everybody's nose--if it isna two-three old folks as you think o'
saving your soul by giving 'em a bit o' flannel and a drop o'
porridge. An' you may be right i' thinking it'll take but little
to save your soul, for it'll be the smallest savin' y' iver made,
wi' all your scrapin'."
There are occasions on which two servant-girls and a waggoner may
be a formidable audience, and as the squire rode away on his black
pony, even the gift of short-sightedness did not prevent him from
being aware that Molly and Nancy and Tim were grinning not far
from him. Perhaps he suspected that sour old John was grinning
behind him--which was also the fact. Meanwhile the bull-dog, the
black-and-tan terrier, Alick's sheep-dog, and the gander hissing
at a safe distance from the pony's heels carried out the idea of
Mrs. Poyser's solo in an irnpressive quartet.
Mrs. Poyser, however, had no sooner seen the pony move off than
she turned round, gave the two hilarious damsels a look which
drove them into the back kitchen, and unspearing her knitting,
began to knit again with her usual rapidity as she re-entered the
"Thee'st done it now," said Mr. Poyser, a little alarmed and
uneasy, but not without some triumphant amusement at his wife's
"Yes, I know I've done it," said Mrs. Poyser; "but I've had my say
out, and I shall be th' easier for't all my life. There's no
pleasure i' living if you're to be corked up for ever, and only
dribble your mind out by the sly, like a leaky barrel. I shan't
repent saying what I think, if I live to be as old as th' old
squire; and there's little likelihood--for it seems as if them as
aren't wanted here are th' only folks as aren't wanted i' th'
"But thee wutna like moving from th' old place, this Michaelmas
twelvemonth," said Mr. Poyser, "and going into a strange parish,
where thee know'st nobody. It'll be hard upon us both, and upo'
"Eh, it's no use worreting; there's plenty o' things may happen
between this and Michaelmas twelvemonth. The captain may be
master afore them, for what we know," said Mrs. Poyser, inclined
to take an unusually hopeful view of an embarrassment which had
been brought about by her own merit and not by other people's
"I'M none for worreting," said Mr. Poyser, rising from his three-
cornered chair and walking slowly towards the door; "but I should
be loath to leave th' old place, and the parish where I was bred
and born, and Father afore me. We should leave our roots behind
us, I doubt, and niver thrive again."
THE barley was all carried at last, and the harvest suppers went
by without waiting for the dismal black crop of beans. The apples
and nuts were gathered and stored; the scent of whey departed from
the farm-houses, and the scent of brewing came in its stead. The
woods behind the Chase, and all the hedgerow trees, took on a
solemn splendour under the dark low-hanging skies. Michaelmas was
come, with its fragrant basketfuls of purple damsons, and its
paler purple daisies, and its lads and lasses leaving or seeking
service and winding along between the yellow hedges, with their
bundles under their arms. But though Michaelmas was come, Mr.
Thurle, that desirable tenant, did not come to the Chase Farm, and
the old squire, afler all, had been obliged to put in a new
bailiff. It was known throughout the two parishes that the
squire's plan had been frustrated because the Poysers had refused
to be "put upon," and Mrs. Poyser's outbreak was discussed in all
the farm-houses with a zest which was only heightened by frequent
repetition. The news that "Bony" was come back from Egypt was
comparatively insipid, and the repulse of the French in Italy was
nothing to Mrs. Poyser's repulse of the old squire. Mr. Irwine
had heard a version of it in every parishioner's house, with the
one exception of the Chase. But since he had always, with
marvellous skill, avoided any quarrel with Mr. Donnithorne, he
could not allow himself the pleasure of laughing at the old
gentleman's discomfiture with any one besides his mother, who
declared that if she were rich she should like to allow Mrs.
Poyser a pension for life, and wanted to invite her to the
parsonage that she might hear an account of the scene from Mrs.
Poyser's own lips.
"No, no, Mother," said Mr. Irwine; "it was a little bit of
irregular justice on Mrs. Poyser's part, but a magistrate like me
must not countenance irregular justice. There must be no report
spread that I have taken notice of the quarrel, else I shall lose
the little good influence I have over the old man."
"Well, I like that woman even better than her cream-cheeses," said
Mrs. Irwine. "She has the spirit of three men, with that pale
face of hers. And she says such sharp things too."
"Sharp! Yes, her tongue is like a new-set razor. She's quite
original in her talk too; one of those untaught wits that help to
stock a country with proverbs. I told you that capital thing I
heard her say about Craig--that he was like a cock, who thought
the sun had risen to hear him crow. Now that's an AEsop's fable
in a sentence."
"But it will be a bad business if the old gentleman turns them out
of the farm next Michaelmas, eh?" said Mrs. Irwine.
"Oh, that must not be; and Poyser is such a good tenant that
Donnithorne is likely to think twice, and digest his spleen rather
than turn them out. But if he should give them notice at Lady
Day, Arthur and I must move heaven and earth to mollify him. Such
old parishioners as they are must not go."
"Ah, there's no knowing what may happen before Lady day," said
Mrs. Irwine. "It struck me on Arthur's birthday that the old man
was a little shaken: he's eighty-three, you know. It's really an
unconscionable age. It's only women who have a right to live as
long as that."
"When they've got old-bachelor sons who would be forlorn without
them," said Mr. Irwine, laughing, and kissing his mother's hand.
Mrs. Poyser, too, met her husband's occasional forebodings of a
notice to quit with "There's no knowing what may happen before
Lady day"--one of those undeniable general propositions which are
usually intended to convey a particular meaning very far from
undeniable. But it is really too hard upon human nature that it
should be held a criminal offence to imagine the death even of the
king when he is turned eighty-three. It is not to be believed
that any but the dullest Britons can be good subjects under that
Apart from this foreboding, things went on much as usual in the
Poyser household. Mrs. Poyser thought she noticed a surprising
improvement in Hetty. To be sure, the girl got "closer tempered,
and sometimes she seemed as if there'd be no drawing a word from
her with cart-ropes," but she thought much less about her dress,
and went after the work quite eagerly, without any telling. And
it was wonderful how she never wanted to go out now--indeed, could
hardly be persuaded to go; and she bore her aunt's putting a stop
to her weekly lesson in fine-work at the Chase without the least
grumbling or pouting. It must be, after all, that she had set her
heart on Adam at last, and her sudden freak of wanting to be a
lady's maid must have been caused by some little pique or
misunderstanding between them, which had passed by. For whenever
Adam came to the Hall Farm, Hetty seemed to be in better spirits
and to talk more than at other times, though she was almost sullen
when Mr. Craig or any other admirer happened to pay a visit there.
Adam himself watched her at first with trembling anxiety, which
gave way to surprise and delicious hope. Five days after
delivering Arthur's letter, he had ventured to go to the Hall Farm
again--not without dread lest the sight of him might be painful to
her. She was not in the house-place when he entered, and he sat
talking to Mr. and Mrs. Poyser for a few minutes with a heavy fear
on his heart that they might presently tell him Hetty was ill.
But by and by there came a light step that he knew, and when Mrs.
Poyser said, "Come, Hetty, where have you been?" Adam was obliged
to turn round, though he was afraid to see the changed look there
must be in her face. He almost started when he saw her smiling as
if she were pleased to see him--looking the same as ever at a
first glance, only that she had her cap on, which he had never
seen her in before when he came of an evening. Still, when he
looked at her again and again as she moved about or sat at her
work, there was a change: the cheeks were as pink as ever, and she
smiled as much as she had ever done of late, but there was
something different in her eyes, in the expression of her face, in
all her movements, Adam thought--something harder, older, less
child-like. "Poor thing!" he said to himself, "that's allays
likely. It's because she's had her first heartache. But she's
got a spirit to bear up under it. Thank God for that."
As the weeks went by, and he saw her always looking pleased to see
him--turning up her lovely face towards him as if she meant him to
understand that she was glad for him to come--and going about her
work in the same equable way, making no sign of sorrow, he began
to believe that her feeling towards Arthur must have been much
slighter than he had imagined in his first indignation and alarm,
and that she had been able to think of her girlish fancy that
Arthur was in love with her and would marry her as a folly of
which she was timely cured. And it perhaps was, as he had
sometimes in his more cheerful moments hoped it would be--her
heart was really turning with all the more warmth towards the man
she knew to have a serious love for her.
Possibly you think that Adam was not at all sagacious in his
interpretations, and that it was altogether extremely unbecoming
in a sensible man to behave as he did--falling in love with a girl
who really had nothing more than her beauty to recommend her,
attributing imaginary virtues to her, and even condescending to
cleave to her after she had fallen in love with another man,
waiting for her kind looks as a patient trembling dog waits for
his master's eye to be turned upon him. But in so complex a thing
as human nature, we must consider, it is hard to find rules
without exceptions. Of course, I know that, as a rule, sensible
men fall in love with the most sensible women of their
acquaintance, see through all the pretty deceits of coquettish
beauty, never imagine themselves loved when they are not loved,
cease loving on all proper occasions, and marry the woman most
fitted for them in every respect--indeed, so as to compel the
approbation of all the maiden ladies in their neighbourhood. But
even to this rule an exception will occur now and then in the
lapse of centuries, and my friend Adam was one. For my own part,
however, I respect him none the less--nay, I think the deep love
he had for that sweet, rounded, blossom-like, dark-eyed Hetty, of
whose inward self he was really very ignorant, came out of the
very strength of his nature and not out of any inconsistent
weakness. Is it any weakness, pray, to be wrought on by exquisite
music? To feel its wondrous harmonies searching the subtlest
windings of your soul, the delicate fibres of life where no memory
can penetrate, and binding together your whole being past and
present in one unspeakable vibration, melting you in one moment
with all the tenderness, all the love that has been scattered
through the toilsome years, concentrating in one emotion of heroic
courage or resignation all the hard-learnt lessons of self-
renouncing sympathy, blending your present joy with past sorrow
and your present sorrow with all your past joy? If not, then
neither is it a weakness to be so wrought upon by the exquisite
curves of a woman's cheek and neck and arms, by the liquid depths
of her beseeching eyes, or the sweet childish pout of her lips.
For the beauty of a lovely woman is like music: what can one say
more? Beauty has an expression beyond and far above the one
woman's soul that it clothes, as the words of genius have a wider
meaning than the thought that prompted them. It is more than a
woman's love that moves us in a woman's eyes--it seems to be a
far-off mighty love that has come near to us, and made speech for
itself there; the rounded neck, the dimpled arm, move us by
something more than their prettiness--by their close kinship with
all we have known of tenderness and peace. The noblest nature
sees the most of this impersonal expression in beauty (it is
needless to say that there are gentlemen with whiskers dyed and
undyed who see none of it whatever), and for this reason, the
noblest nature is often the most blinded to the character of the
one woman's soul that the beauty clothes. Whence, I fear, the
tragedy of human life is likely to continue for a long time to
come, in spite of mental philosophers who are ready with the best
receipts for avoiding all mistakes of the kind.
Our good Adam had no fine words into which he could put his
feeling for Hetty: he could not disguise mystery in this way with
the appearance of knowledge; he called his love frankly a mystery,
as you have heard him. He only knew that the sight and memory of
her moved him deeply, touching the spring of all love and
tenderness, all faith and courage within him. How could he
imagine narrowness, selfishness, hardness in her? He created the
mind he believed in out of his own, which was large, unselfish,
The hopes he felt about Hetty softened a little his feeling
towards Arthur. Surely his attentions to Hetty must have been of
a slight kind; they were altogether wrong, and such as no man in
Arthur's position ought to have allowed himself, but they must
have had an air of playfulness about them, which had probably
blinded him to their danger and had prevented them from laying any
strong hold on Hetty's heart. As the new promise of happiness
rose for Adam, his indignation and jealousy began to die out.
Hetty was not made unhappy; he almost believed that she liked him
best; and the thought sometimes crossed his mind that the
friendship which had once seemed dead for ever might revive in the
days to come, and he would not have to say "good-bye" to the grand
old woods, but would like them better because they were Arthur's.
For this new promise of happiness following so quickly on the
shock of pain had an intoxicating effect on the sober Adam, who
had all his life been used to much hardship and moderate hope.
Was he really going to have an easy lot after all? It seemed so,
for at the beginning of November, Jonathan Burge, finding it
impossible to replace Adam, had at last made up his mind to offer
him a share in the business, without further condition than that
he should continue to give his energies to it and renounce all
thought of having a separate business of his own. Son-in-law or
no son-in-law, Adam had made himself too necessary to be parted
with, and his headwork was so much more important to Burge than
his skill in handicraft that his having the management of the
woods made little difference in the value of his services; and as
to the bargains about the squire's timber, it would be easy to
call in a third person. Adam saw here an opening into a
broadening path of prosperous work such as he had thought of with
ambitious longing ever since he was a lad: he might come to build
a bridge, or a town hall, or a factory, for he had always said to
himself that Jonathan Burge's building buisness was like an acorn,
which might be the mother of a great tree. So he gave his hand to
Burge on that bargain, and went home with his mind full of happy
visions, in which (my refined reader will perhaps be shocked when
I say it) the image of Hetty hovered, and smiled over plans for
seasoning timber at a trifling expense, calculations as to the
cheapening of bricks per thousand by water-carriage, and a
favourite scheme for the strengthening of roofs and walls with a
peculiar form of iron girder. What then? Adam's enthusiasm lay
in these things; and our love is inwrought in our enthusiasm as
electricity is inwrought in the air, exalting its power by a
Adam would be able to take a separate house now, and provide for
his mother in the old one; his prospects would justify his
marrying very soon, and if Dinah consented to have Seth, their
mother would perhaps be more contented to live apart from Adam.
But he told himself that he would not be hasty--he would not try
Hetty's feeling for him until it had had time to grow strong and
firm. However, tomorrow, after church, he would go to the Hall
Farm and tell them the news. Mr. Poyser, he knew, would like it
better than a five-pound note, and he should see if Hetty's eyes
brightened at it. The months would be short with all he had to
fill his mind, and this foolish eagerness which had come over him
of late must not hurry him into any premature words. Yet when he
got home and told his mother the good news, and ate his supper,
while she sat by almost crying for joy and wanting him to eat
twice as much as usual because of this good-luck, he could not
help preparing her gently for the coming change by talking of the
old house being too small for them all to go on living in it
IT was a dry Sunday, and really a pleasant day for the 2d of
November. There was no sunshine, but the clouds were high, and
the wind was so still that the yellow leaves which fluttered down
from the hedgerow elms must have fallen from pure decay.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Poyser did not go to church, for she had taken
a cold too serious to be neglected; only two winters ago she had
been laid up for weeks with a cold; and since his wife did not go
to church, Mr. Poyser considered that on the whole it would be as
well for him to stay away too and "keep her company." He could
perhaps have given no precise form to the reasons that determined
this conclusion, but it is well known to all experienced minds
that our firmest convictions are often dependent on subtle
impressions for which words are quite too coarse a medium.
However it was, no one from the Poyser family went to church that
afternoon except Hetty and the boys; yet Adam was bold enough to
join them after church, and say that he would walk home with them,
though all the way through the village he appeared to be chiefly
occupied with Marty and Tommy, telling them about the squirrels in
Binton Coppice, and promising to take them there some day. But
when they came to the fields he said to the boys, "Now, then,
which is the stoutest walker? Him as gets to th' home-gate first
shall be the first to go with me to Binton Coppice on the donkey.
But Tommy must have the start up to the next stile, because he's
Adam had never behaved so much like a determined lover before. As
soon as the boys had both set off, he looked down at Hetty and
said, "Won't you hang on my arm, Hetty?" in a pleading tone, as if
he had already asked her and she had refused. Hetty looked up at
him smilingly and put her round arm through his in a moment. It
was nothing to her, putting her arm through Adam's, but she knew
he cared a great deal about having her arm through his, and she
wished him to care. Her heart beat no faster, and she looked at
the half-bare hedgerows and the ploughed field with the same sense
of oppressive dulness as before. But Adam scarcely felt that he
was walking. He thought Hetty must know that he was pressing her
arm a little--a very little. Words rushed to his lips that he
dared not utter--that he had made up his mind not to utter yet--
and so he was silent for the length of that field. The calm
patience with which he had once waited for Hetty's love, content
only with her presence and the thought of the future, had forsaken
him since that terrible shock nearly three months ago. The
agitations of jealousy had given a new restlessness to his
passion--had made fear and uncertainty too hard almost to bear.
But though he might not speak to Hetty of his love, he would tell
her about his new prospects and see if she would be pleased. So
when he was enough master of himself to talk, he said, "I'm going
to tell your uncle some news that'll surprise him, Hetty; and I
think he'll be glad to hear it too."
"What's that?" Hetty said indifferently.
"Why, Mr. Burge has offered me a share in his business, and I'm
going to take it."
There was a change in Hetty's face, certainly not produced by any
agreeable impression from this news. In fact she felt a momentary
annoyance and alarm, for she had so often heard it hinted by her
uncle that Adam might have Mary Burge and a share in the business
any day, if he liked, that she associated the two objects now, and
the thought immediately occurred that perhaps Adam had given her
up because of what had happened lately, and had turned towards
Mary Burge. With that thought, and before she had time to
remember any reasons why it could not be true, came a new sense of
forsakenness and disappointment. The one thing--the one person--
her mind had rested on in its dull weariness, had slipped away
from her, and peevish misery filled her eyes with tears. She was
looking on the ground, but Adam saw her face, saw the tears, and
before he had finished saying, "Hetty, dear Hetty, what are you
crying for?" his eager rapid thought had flown through all the
causes conceivable to him, and had at last alighted on half the
true one. Hetty thought he was going to marry Mary Burge--she
didn't like him to marry--perhaps she didn't like him to marry any
one but herself? All caution was swept away--all reason for it
was gone, and Adam could feel nothing but trembling joy. He
leaned towards her and took her hand, as he said:
"I could afford to be married now, Hetty--I could make a wife
comfortable; but I shall never want to be married if you won't
Hetty looked up at him and smiled through her tears, as she had
done to Arthur that first evening in the wood, when she had
thought he was not coming, and yet he came. It was a feebler
relief, a feebler triumph she felt now, but the great dark eyes
and the sweet lips were as beautiful as ever, perhaps more
beautiful, for there was a more luxuriant womanliness about Hetty
of late. Adam could hardly believe in the happiness of that
moment. His right hand held her left, and he pressed her arm
close against his heart as he leaned down towards her.
"Do you really love me, Hetty? Will you be my own wife, to love
and take care of as long as I live?"
Hetty did not speak, but Adam's face was very close to hers, and
she put up her round cheek against his, like a kitten. She wanted
to be caressed--she wanted to feel as if Arthur were with her
Adam cared for no words after that, and they hardly spoke through
the rest of the walk. He only said, "I may tell your uncle and
aunt, mayn't I, Hetty?" and she said, "Yes."
The red fire-light on the hearth at the Hall Farm shone on joyful
faces that evening, when Hetty was gone upstairs and Adam took the
opportunity of telling Mr. and Mrs. Poyser and the grandfather
that he saw his way to maintaining a wife now, and that Hetty had
consented to have him.
"I hope you have no objections against me for her husband," said
Adam; "I'm a poor man as yet, but she shall want nothing as I can
"Objections?" said Mr. Poyser, while the grandfather leaned
forward and brought out his long "Nay, nay." "What objections can
we ha' to you, lad? Never mind your being poorish as yet; there's
money in your head-piece as there's money i' the sown field, but
it must ha' time. You'n got enough to begin on, and we can do a
deal tow'rt the bit o' furniture you'll want. Thee'st got
feathers and linen to spare--plenty, eh?"
This question was of course addressed to Mrs. Poyser, who was
wrapped up in a warm shawl and was too hoarse to speak with her
usual facility. At first she only nodded emphatically, but she
was presently unable to resist the temptation to be more explicit.
"It ud be a poor tale if I hadna feathers and linen," she said,
hoarsely, "when I never sell a fowl but what's plucked, and the
wheel's a-going every day o' the week."
"Come, my wench," said Mr. Poyser, when Hetty came down, "come and
kiss us, and let us wish you luck."
Hetty went very quietly and kissed the big good-natured man.
"There!" he said, patting her on the back, "go and kiss your aunt
and your grandfather. I'm as wishful t' have you settled well as
if you was my own daughter; and so's your aunt, I'll be bound, for
she's done by you this seven 'ear, Hetty, as if you'd been her
own. Come, come, now," he went on, becoming jocose, as soon as
Hetty had kissed her aunt and the old man, "Adam wants a kiss too,
I'll warrant, and he's a right to one now."
Hetty turned away, smiling, towards her empty chair.
"Come, Adam, then, take one," persisted Mr. Poyser, "else y' arena
half a man."
Adam got up, blushing like a small maiden--great strong fellow as
he was--and, putting his arm round Hetty stooped down and gently
kissed her lips.
It was a pretty scene in the red fire-light; for there were no
candles--why should there be, when the fire was so bright and was
reflected from all the pewter and the polished oak? No one wanted
to work on a Sunday evening. Even Hetty felt something like
contentment in the midst of all this love. Adam's attachment to
her, Adam's caress, stirred no passion in her, were no longer
enough to satisfy her vanity, but they were the best her life
offered her now--they promised her some change.
There was a great deal of discussion before Adam went away, about
the possibility of his finding a house that would do for him to
settle in. No house was empty except the one next to Will
Maskery's in the village, and that was too small for Adam now.
Mr. Poyser insisted that the best plan would be for Seth and his
mother to move and leave Adam in the old home, which might be
enlarged after a while, for there was plenty of space in the
woodyard and garden; but Adam objected to turning his mother out.
"Well, well," said Mr. Poyser at last, "we needna fix everything
to-night. We must take time to consider. You canna think o'
getting married afore Easter. I'm not for long courtships, but
there must be a bit o' time to make things comfortable."
"Aye, to be sure," said Mrs. Poyser, in a hoarse whisper;
"Christian folks can't be married like cuckoos, I reckon."
"I'm a bit daunted, though," said Mr. Poyser, "when I think as we
may have notice to quit, and belike be forced to take a farm
twenty mile off."
"Eh," said the old man, staring at the floor and lifting his hands
up and down, while his arms rested on the elbows of his chair,
"it's a poor tale if I mun leave th' ould spot an be buried in a
strange parish. An' you'll happen ha' double rates to pay," he
added, looking up at his son.
"Well, thee mustna fret beforehand, father," said Martin the
younger. "Happen the captain 'ull come home and make our peace
wi' th' old squire. I build upo' that, for I know the captain 'll
see folks righted if he can."
The Hidden Dread
IT was a busy time for Adam--the time between the beginning of
November and the beginning of February, and he could see little of
Hetty, except on Sundays. But a happy time, nevertheless, for it
was taking him nearer and nearer to March, when they were to be
married, and all the little preparations for their new
housekeeping marked the progress towards the longed-for day. Two
new rooms had been "run up" to the old house, for his mother and
Seth were to live with them after all. Lisbeth had cried so
piteously at the thought of leaving Adam that he had gone to Hetty
and asked her if, for the love of him, she would put up with his
mother's ways and consent to live with her. To his great delight,
Hetty said, "Yes; I'd as soon she lived with us as not." Hetty's
mind was oppressed at that moment with a worse difficulty than
poor Lisbeth's ways; she could not care about them. So Adam was
consoled for the disappointment he had felt when Seth had come
back from his visit to Snowfield and said "it was no use--Dinah's
heart wasna turned towards marrying." For when he told his mother
that Hetty was willing they should all live together and there was
no more need of them to think of parting, she said, in a more
contented tone than he had heard her speak in since it had been
settled that he was to be married, "Eh, my lad, I'll be as still
as th' ould tabby, an' ne'er want to do aught but th' offal work,
as she wonna like t' do. An' then we needna part the platters an'
things, as ha' stood on the shelf together sin' afore thee wast
There was only one cloud that now and then came across Adam's
sunshine: Hetty seemed unhappy sometimes. But to all his
anxious, tender questions, she replied with an assurance that she
was quite contented and wished nothing different; and the next
time he saw her she was more lively than usual. It might be that
she was a little overdone with work and anxiety now, for soon
after Christmas Mrs. Poyser had taken another cold, which had
brought on inflammation, and this illness had confined her to her
room all through January. Hetty had to manage everything
downstairs, and half-supply Molly's place too, while that good
damsel waited on her mistress, and she seemed to throw herself so
entirely into her new functions, working with a grave steadiness
which was new in her, that Mr. Poyser often told Adam she was
wanting to show him what a good housekeeper he would have; but he
"doubted the lass was o'erdoing it--she must have a bit o' rest
when her aunt could come downstairs."
This desirable event of Mrs. Poyser's coming downstairs happened
in the early part of February, when some mild weather thawed the
last patch of snow on the Binton Hills. On one of these days,
soon after her aunt came down, Hetty went to Treddleston to buy
some of the wedding things which were wanting, and which Mrs.
Poyser had scolded her for neglecting, observing that she supposed
"it was because they were not for th' outside, else she'd ha'
bought 'em fast enough."
It was about ten o'clock when Hetty set off, and the slight hoar-
frost that had whitened the hedges in the early morning had
disappeared as the sun mounted the cloudless sky. Bright February
days have a stronger charm of hope about them than any other days
in the year. One likes to pause in the mild rays of the sun, and
look over the gates at the patient plough-horses turning at the
end of the furrow, and think that the beautiful year is all before
one. The birds seem to feel just the same: their notes are as
clear as the clear air. There are no leaves on the trees and
hedgerows, but how green all the grassy fields are! And the dark
purplish brown of the ploughed earth and of the bare branches is
beautiful too. What a glad world this looks like, as one drives
or rides along the valleys and over the hills! I have often
thought so when, in foreign countries, where the fields and woods
have looked to me like our English Loamshire--the rich land tilled
with just as much care, the woods rolling down the gentle slopes
to the green meadows--I have come on sormething by the roadside
which has reminded me that I am not in Loamshire: an image of a
great agony--the agony of the Cross. It has stood perhaps by the
clustering apple-blossoms, or in the broad sunshine by the
cornfield, or at a turning by the wood where a clear brook was
gurgling below; and surely, if there came a traveller to this
world who knew nothing of the story of man's life upon it, this
image of agony would seem to him strangely out of place in the
midst of this joyous nature. He would not know that hidden behind
the apple-blossoms, or among the golden corn, or under the
shrouding boughs of the wood, there might be a human heart beating
heavily with anguish--perhaps a young blooming girl, not knowing
where to turn for refuge from swift-advancing shame, understanding
no more of this life of ours than a foolish lost lamb wandering
farther and farther in the nightfall on the lonely heath, yet
tasting the bitterest of life's bitterness.
Such things are sometimes hidden among the sunny fields and behind
the blossoming orchards; and the sound of the gurgling brook, if
you came close to one spot behind a small bush, would be mingled
for your ear with a despairing human sob. No wonder man's
religion has much sorrow in it: no wonder he needs a suffering
Hetty, in her red cloak and warm bonnet, with her basket in her
hand, is turning towards a gate by the side of the Treddleston
road, but not that she may have a more lingering enjoyment of the
sunshine and think with hope of the long unfolding year. She
hardly knows that the sun is shining; and for weeks, now, when she
has hoped at all, it has been for something at which she herself
trembles and shudders. She only wants to be out of the high-road,
that she may walk slowly and not care how her face looks, as she
dwells on wretched thoughts; and through this gate she can get
into a field-path behind the wide thick hedgerows. Her great dark
eyes wander blankly over the fields like the eyes of one who is
desolate, homeless, unloved, not the promised bride of a brave
tender man. But there are no tears in them: her tears were all
wept away in the weary night, before she went to sleep. At the
next stile the pathway branches off: there are two roads before
her--one along by the hedgerow, which will by and by lead her into
the road again, the other across the fields, which will take her
much farther out of the way into the Scantlands, low shrouded
pastures where she will see nobody. She chooses this and begins
to walk a little faster, as if she had suddenly thought of an
object towards which it was worth while to hasten. Soon she is in
the Scantlands, where the grassy land slopes gradually downwards,
and she leaves the level ground to follow the slope. Farther on
there is a clump of trees on the low ground, and she is making her
way towards it. No, it is not a clump of trees, but a dark
shrouded pool, so full with the wintry rains that the under boughs
of the elder-bushes lie low beneath the water. She sits down on
the grassy bank, against the stooping stem of the great oak that
hangs over the dark pool. She has thought of this pool often in
the nights of the month that has just gone by, and now at last she
is come to see it. She clasps her hands round her knees, and
leans forward, and looks earnestly at it, as if trying to guess
what sort of bed it would make for her young round limbs.
No, she has not courage to jump into that cold watery bed, and if
she had, they might find her--they might find out why she had
drowned herself. There is but one thing left to her: she must go
away, go where they can't find her.
After the first on-coming of her great dread, some weeks after her
betrothal to Adam, she had waited and waited, in the blind vague
hope that something would happen to set her free from her terror;
but she could wait no longer. All the force of her nature had
been concentrated on the one effort of concealment, and she had
shrunk with irresistible dread from every course that could tend
towards a betrayal of her miserable secret. Whenever the thought
of writing to Arthur had occurred to her, she had rejected it. He
could do nothing for her that would shelter her from discovery and
scorn among the relatives and neighbours who once more made all
her world, now her airy dream had vanished. Her imagination no
longer saw happiness with Arthur, for he could do nothing that
would satisfy or soothe her pride. No, something else would
happen--something must happen--to set her free from this dread.
In young, childish, ignorant souls there is constantly this blind
trust in some unshapen chance: it is as hard to a boy or girl to
believe that a great wretchedness will actually befall them as to
believe that they will die.
But now necessity was pressing hard upon her--now the time of her
marriage was close at hand--she could no longer rest in this blind
trust. She must run away; she must hide herself where no familiar
eyes could detect her; and then the terror of wandering out into
the world, of which she knew nothing, made the possibility of
going to Arthur a thought which brought some comfort with it. She
felt so helpless now, so unable to fashion the future for herself,
that the prospect of throwing herself on him had a relief in it
which was stronger than her pride. As she sat by the pool and
shuddered at the dark cold water, the hope that he would receive
her tenderly--that he would care for her and think for her--was
like a sense of lulling warmth, that made her for the moment
indifferent to everything else; and she began now to think of
nothing but the scheme by which she should get away.
She had had a letter from Dinah lately, full of kind words about
the coming marriage, which she had heard of from Seth; and when
Hetty had read this letter aloud to her uncle, he had said, "I
wish Dinah 'ud come again now, for she'd be a comfort to your aunt
when you're gone. What do you think, my wench, o' going to see
her as soon as you can be spared and persuading her to come back
wi' you? You might happen persuade her wi' telling her as her
aunt wants her, for all she writes o' not being able to come."
Hetty had not liked the thought of going to Snowfield, and felt no
longing to see Dinah, so she only said, "It's so far off, Uncle."
But now she thought this proposed visit would serve as a pretext
for going away. She would tell her aunt when she got home again
that she should like the change of going to Snowfield for a week
or ten days. And then, when she got to Stoniton, where nobody
knew her, she would ask for the coach that would take her on the
way to Windsor. Arthur was at Windsor, and she would go to him.
As soon as Hetty had determined on this scheme, she rose from the
grassy bank of the pool, took up her basket, and went on her way
to Treddleston, for she must buy the wedding things she had come
out for, though she would never want them. She must be careful
not to raise any suspicion that she was going to run away.
Mrs. Poyser was quite agreeably surprised that Hetty wished to go
and see Dinah and try to bring her back to stay over the wedding.
The sooner she went the better, since the weather was pleasant
now; and Adam, when he came in the evening, said, if Hetty could
set off to-morrow, he would make time to go with her to
Treddleston and see her safe into the Stoniton coach.
"I wish I could go with you and take care of you, Hetty," he said,
the next morning, leaning in at the coach door; "but you won't
stay much beyond a week--the time 'ull seem long."
He was looking at her fondly, and his strong hand beld hers in its
grasp. Hetty felt a sense of protection in his presence--she was
used to it now: if she could have had the past undone and known no
other love than her quiet liking for Adam! The tears rose as she
gave him the last look.
"God bless her for loving me," said Adam, as he went on his way to
work again, with Gyp at his heels.
But Hetty's tears were not for Adam--not for the anguish that
would come upon him when he found she was gone from him for ever.
They were for the misery of her own lot, which took her away from
this brave tender man who offered up his whole life to her, and
threw her, a poor helpless suppliant, on the man who would think
it a misfortune that she was obliged to cling to him.
At three o'clock that day, when Hetty was on the coach that was to
take her, they said, to Leicester--part of the long, long way to
Windsor--she felt dimly that she might be travelling all this
weary journey towards the beginning of new misery.
Yet Arthur was at Windsor; he would surely not be angry with her.
If he did not mind about her as he used to do, he had promised to
be good to her.
The Journey of Hope
A LONG, lonely journey, with sadness in the heart; away from the
familiar to the strange: that is a hard and dreary thing even to
the rich, the strong, the instructed; a hard thing, even when we
are called by duty, not urged by dread.
What was it then to Hetty? With her poor narrow thoughts, no
longer melting into vague hopes, but pressed upon by the chill of
definite fear, repeating again and again the same small round of
memories--shaping again and again the same childish, doubtful
images of what was to come--seeing nothing in this wide world but
the little history of her own pleasures and pains; with so little
money in her pocket, and the way so long and difficult. Unless
she could afford always to go in the coaches--and she felt sure
she could not, for the journey to Stoniton was more expensive than
she had expected--it was plain that she must trust to carriers'
carts or slow waggons; and what a time it would be before she
could get to the end of her journey! The burly old coachman from
Oakbourne, seeing such a pretty young woman among the outside
passengers, had invited her to come and sit beside him; and
feeling that it became him as a man and a coachman to open the
dialogue with a joke, he applied himself as soon as they were off
the stones to the elaboration of one suitable in all respects.
After many cuts with his whip and glances at Hetty out of the
corner of his eye, he lifted his lips above the edge of his
wrapper and said, "He's pretty nigh six foot, I'll be bound, isna
"Who?" said Hetty, rather startled.
"Why, the sweetheart as you've left behind, or else him as you're
goin' arter--which is it?"
Hetty felt her face flushing and then turning pale. She thought
this coachman must know something about her. He must know Adam,
and might tell him where she was gone, for it is difficult to
country people to believe that those who make a figure in their
own parish are not known everywhere else, and it was equally
difficult to Hetty to understand that chance words could happen to
apply closely to her circumstances. She was too frightened to
"Hegh, hegh!" said the coachman, seeing that his joke was not so
gratifying as he had expected, "you munna take it too ser'ous; if
he's behaved ill, get another. Such a pretty lass as you can get
a sweetheart any day."
Hetty's fear was allayed by and by, when she found that the
coachman made no further allusion to her personal concerns; but it
still had the effect of preventing her from asking him what were
the places on the road to Windsor. She told him she was only
going a little way out of Stoniton, and when she got down at the
inn where the coach stopped, she hastened away with her basket to
another part of the town. When she had formed her plan of going
to Windsor, she had not foreseen any difficulties except that of
getting away, and after she had overcome this by proposing the
visit to Dinah, her thoughts flew to the meeting with Arthur and
the question how he would behave to her--not resting on any
probable incidents of the journey. She was too entirely ignorant
of traveling to imagine any of its details, and with all her store
of money--her three guineas--in her pocket, she thought herself
amply provided. It was not until she found how much it cost her
to get to Stoniton that she began to be alarmed about the journey,
and then, for the first time, she felt her ignorance as to the
places that must be passed on her way. Oppressed with this new
alarm, she walked along the grim Stoniton streets, and at last
turned into a shabby little inn, where she hoped to get a cheap
lodging for the night. Here she asked the landlord if he could
tell her what places she must go to, to get to Windsor.
"Well, I can't rightly say. Windsor must be pretty nigh London,
for it's where the king lives," was the answer. "Anyhow, you'd
best go t' Ashby next--that's south'ard. But there's as many
places from here to London as there's houses in Stoniton, by what
I can make out. I've never been no traveller myself. But how
comes a lone young woman like you to be thinking o' taking such a
journey as that?"
"I'm going to my brother--he's a soldier at Windsor," said Hetty,
frightened at the landlord's questioning look. "I can't afford to
go by the coach; do you think there's a cart goes toward Ashby in
"Yes, there may be carts if anybody knowed where they started
from; but you might run over the town before you found out. You'd
best set off and walk, and trust to summat overtaking you."
Every word sank like lead on Hetty's spirits; she saw the journey
stretch bit by bit before her now. Even to get to Ashby seemed a
hard thing: it might take the day, for what she knew, and that was
nothing to the rest of the journey. But it must be done--she must
get to Arthur. Oh, how she yearned to be again with somebody who
would care for her! She who had never got up in the morning
without the certainty of seeing familiar faces, people on whom she
had an acknowledged claim; whose farthest journey had been to
Rosseter on the pillion with her uncle; whose thoughts had always
been taking holiday in dreams of pleasure, because all the
business of her life was managed for her--this kittenlike Hetty,
who till a few months ago had never felt any other grief than that
of envying Mary Burge a new ribbon, or being girded at by her aunt
for neglecting Totty, must now make her toilsome way in
loneliness, her peaceful home left behind for ever, and nothing
but a tremulous hope of distant refuge before her. Now for the
first time, as she lay down to-night in the strange hard bed, she
felt that her home had been a happy one, that her uncle had been
very good to her, that her quiet lot at Hayslope among the things
and people she knew, with her little pride in her one best gown
and bonnet, and nothing to hide from any one, was what she would
like to wake up to as a reality, and find that all the feverish
life she had known besides was a short nightmare. She thought of
all she had left behind with yearning regret for her own sake.
Her own misery filled her heart--there was no room in it for other
people's sorrow. And yet, before the cruel letter, Arthur had
been so tender and loving. The memory of that had still a charm
for her, though it was no more than a soothing draught that just
made pain bearable. For Hetty could conceive no other existence
for herself in future than a hidden one, and a hidden life, even
with love, would have had no delights for her; still less a life
mingled with shame. She knew no romances, and had only a feeble
share in the feelings which are the source of romance, so that
well-read ladies may find it difflcult to understand her state of
mind. She was too igrorant of everything beyond the simple
notions and habits in which she had been brought up to have any
more definite idea of her probable future than that Arthur would
take care of her somehow, and shelter her from anger and scorn.
He would not marry her and make her a lady; and apart from that
she could think of nothing he could give towards which she looked
with longing and ambition.
The next morning she rose early, and taking only some milk and
bread for her breakfast, set out to walk on the road towards
Ashby, under a leaden-coloured sky, with a narrowing streak of
yellow, like a departing hope, on the edge of the horizon. Now in
her faintness of heart at the length and difficulty of her
journey, she was most of all afraid of spending her money, and
becoming so destitute that she would have to ask people's charity;
for Hettv had the pride not only of a proud nature but of a proud
class--the class that pays the most poor-rates, and most shudders
at the idea of profiting by a poor-rate. It had not yet occurred
to her that she might get money for her locket and earrings which
she carried with her, and she applied all her small arithmetic and
knowledge of prices to calculating how many meals and how many
rides were contained in her two guineas, and the odd shillings,
which had a melancholy look, as if they were the pale ashes of the
other bright-flaming coin.
For the first few miles out of Stoniton, she walked on bravely,
always fixing on some tree or gate or projecting bush at the most
distant visible point in the road as a goal, and feeling a faint
joy when she had reached it. But when she came to the fourth
milestone, the first she had happened to notice among the long
grass by the roadside, and read that she was still only four miles
beyond Stoniton, her courage sank. She had come only this little
way, and yet felt tired, and almost hungry again in the keen
morning air; for though Hetty was accustomed to much movement and
exertion indoors, she was not used to long walks which produced
quite a different sort of fatigue from that of household activity.
As she was looking at the milestone she felt some drops falling on
her face--it was beginning to rain. Here was a new trouble which
had not entered into her sad thoughts before, and quite weighed
down by this sudden addition to her burden, she sat down on the
step of a stile and began to sob hysterically. The beginning of
hardship is like the first taste of bitter food--it seems for a
moment unbearable; yet, if there is nothing else to satisfy our
hunger, we take another bite and find it possible to go on. When
Hetty recovered from her burst of weeping, she rallied her
fainting courage: it was raining, and she must try to get on to a
village where she might find rest and shelter. Presently, as she
walked on wearily, she heard the rumbling of heavy wheels behind
her; a covered waggon was coming, creeping slowly along with a
slouching driver cracking his whip beside the horses. She waited
for it, thinking that if the waggoner were not a very sour-looking
man, she would ask him to take her up. As the waggon approached
her, the driver had fallen behind, but there was something in the
front of the big vehicle which encouraged her. At any previous
moment in her life she would not have noticed it, but now, the new
susceptibility that suffering had awakened in her caused this
object to impress her strongly. It was only a small white-and-
liver-coloured spaniel which sat on the front ledge of the waggon,
with large timid eyes, and an incessant trembling in the body,
such as you may have seen in some of these small creatures. Hetty
cared little for animals, as you know, but at this moment she felt
as if the helpless timid creature had some fellowship with her,
and without being quite aware of the reason, she was less doubtful
about speaking to the driver, who now came forward--a large ruddy
man, with a sack over his shoulders, by way of scarf or mantle.
"Could you take me up in your waggon, if you're going towards
Ashby?" said Hetty. "I'll pay you for it."
"Aw," said the big fellow, with that slowly dawning smile which
belongs to heavy faces, "I can take y' up fawst enough wi'out
bein' paid for't if you dooant mind lyin' a bit closish a-top o'
the wool-packs. Where do you coom from? And what do you want at
"I come from Stoniton. I'm going a long way--to Windsor."
"What! Arter some service, or what?"
"Going to my brother--he's a soldier there."
"Well, I'm going no furder nor Leicester--and fur enough too--but
I'll take you, if you dooant mind being a bit long on the road.
Th' hosses wooant feel YOUR weight no more nor they feel the
little doog there, as I puck up on the road a fortni't agoo. He
war lost, I b'lieve, an's been all of a tremble iver sin'. Come,
gi' us your basket an' come behind and let me put y' in."
To lie on the wool-packs, with a cranny left between the curtains
of the awning to let in the air, was luxury to Hetty now, and she
half-slept away the hours till the driver came to ask her if she
wanted to get down and have "some victual"; he himself was going
to eat his dinner at this "public." Late at night they reached
Leicester, and so this second day of Hetty's journey was past.
She had spent no money except what she had paid for her food, but
she felt that this slow journeying would be intolerable for her
another day, and in the morning she found her way to a coach-
office to ask about the road to Windsor, and see if it would cost
her too much to go part of the distance by coach again. Yes! The
distance was too great--the coaches were too dear--she must give
them up; but the elderly clerk at the office, touched by her
pretty anxious face, wrote down for her the names of the chief
places she must pass through. This was the only comfort she got
in Leicester, for the men stared at her as she went along the
street, and for the first time in her life Hetty wished no one
would look at her. She set out walking again; but this day she
was fortunate, for she was soon overtaken by a carrier's cart
which carried her to Hinckley, and by the help of a return chaise,
with a drunken postilion--who frightened her by driving like Jehu
the son of Nimshi, and shouting hilarious remarks at her, twisting
himself backwards on his saddle--she was before night in the heart
of woody Warwickshire: but still almost a hundred miles from
Windsor, they told her. Oh what a large world it was, and what
hard work for her to find her way in it! She went by mistake to
Stratford-on-Avon, finding Stratford set down in her list of
places, and then she was told she had come a long way out of the
right road. It was not till the fifth day that she got to Stony
Stratford. That seems but a slight journey as you look at the
map, or remember your own pleasant travels to and from the meadowy
banks of the Avon. But how wearily long it was to Hetty! It
seemed to her as if this country of flat fields, and hedgerows,
and dotted houses, and villages, and market-towns--all so much
alike to her indifferent eyes--must have no end, and she must go
on wandering among them for ever, waiting tired at toll-gates for
some cart to come, and then finding the cart went only a little
way--a very little way--to the miller's a mile off perhaps; and
she hated going into the public houses, where she must go to get
food and ask questions, because there were always men lounging
there, who stared at her and joked her rudely. Her body was very
weary too with these days of new fatigue and anxiety; they had
made her look more pale and worn than all the time of hidden dread
she had gone through at home. When at last she reached Stony
Stratford, her impatience and weariness had become too strong for
her economical caution; she determined to take the coach for the
rest of the way, though it should cost her all her remaining
money. She would need nothing at Windsor but to find Arthur.
When she had paid the fare for the last coach, she had only a
shilling; and as she got down at the sign of the Green Man in
Windsor at twelve o'clock in the middle of the seventh day, hungry
and faint, the coachman came up, and begged her to "remember him."
She put her hand in her pocket and took out the shilling, but the
tears came with the sense of exhaustion and the thought that she
was giving away her last means of getting food, which she really
required before she could go in search of Arthur. As she held out
the shilling, she lifted up her dark tear-filled eyes to the
coachman's face and said, "Can you give me back sixpence?"
"No, no," he said, gruffly, "never mind--put the shilling up
The landlord of the Green Man had stood near enough to witness
this scene, and he was a man whose abundant feeding served to keep
his good nature, as well as his person, in high condition. And
that lovely tearful face of Hetty's would have found out the
sensitive fibre in most men.
"Come, young woman, come in," he said, "and have adrop o'
something; you're pretty well knocked up, I can see that."
He took her into the bar and said to his wife, "Here, missis, take
this young woman into the parlour; she's a little overcome"--for
Hetty's tears were falling fast. They were merely hysterical
tears: she thought she had no reason for weeping now, and was
vexed that she was too weak and tired to help it. She was at
Windsor at last, not far from Arthur.
She looked with eager, hungry eyes at the bread and meat and beer
that the landlady brought her, and for some minutes she forgot
everything else in the delicious sensations of satisfying hunger
and recovering from exhaustion. The landlady sat opposite to her
as she ate, and looked at her earnestly. No wonder: Hetty had
thrown off her bonnet, and her curls had fallen down. Her face
was all the more touching in its youth and beauty because of its
weary look, and the good woman's eyes presently wandered to her
figure, which in her hurried dressing on her journey she had taken
no pains to conceal; moreover, the stranger's eye detects what the
familiar unsuspecting eye leaves unnoticed.
"Why, you're not very fit for travelling," she said, glancing
while she spoke at Hetty's ringless hand. "Have you come far?"
"Yes," said Hetty, roused by this question to exert more self-
command, and feeling the better for the food she had taken. "I've
come a good long way, and it's very tiring. But I'm better now.
Could you tell me which way to go to this place?" Here Hetty took
from her pocket a bit of paper: it was the end of Arthur's letter
on which he had written his address.
While she was speaking, the landlord had come in and had begun to
look at her as earnestly as his wife had done. He took up the
piece of paper which Hetty handed across the table, and read the
"Why, what do you want at this house?" he said. It is in the
nature of innkeepers and all men who have no pressing business of
their own to ask as many questions as possible before giving any
"I want to see a gentleman as is there," said Hetty.
"But there's no gentleman there," returned the landlord. "It's
shut up--been shut up this fortnight. What gentleman is it you
want? Perhaps I can let you know where to find him."
"It's Captain Donnithorne," said Hetty tremulously, her heart
beginning to beat painfully at this disappointment of her hope
that she should find Arthur at once.
"Captain Donnithorne? Stop a bit," said the landlard, slowly.
"Was he in the Loamshire Militia? A tall young officer with a
fairish skin and reddish whiskers--and had a servant by the name
"Oh yes," said Hetty; "you know him--where is he?"
"A fine sight o' miles away from here. The Loamshire Militia's
gone to Ireland; it's been gone this fortnight."
"Look there! She's fainting," said the landlady, hastening to
support Hetty, who had lost her miserable consciousness and looked
like a beautiful corpse. They carried her to the sofa and
loosened her dress.
"Here's a bad business, I suspect," said the landlord, as he
brought in some water.
"Ah, it's plain enough what sort of business it is," said the
wife. "She's not a common flaunting dratchell, I can see that.
She looks like a respectable country girl, and she comes from a
good way off, to judge by her tongue. She talks something like
that ostler we had that come from the north. He was as honest a
fellow as we ever had about the house--they're all honest folks in
"I never saw a prettier young woman in my life," said the husband.
"She's like a pictur in a shop-winder. It goes to one's 'eart to
look at her."
"It 'ud have been a good deal better for her if she'd been uglier
and had more conduct," said the landlady, who on any charitable
construction must have been supposed to have more "conduct" than
beauty. "But she's coming to again. Fetch a drop more water."
The Journey in Despair
HETTY was too ill through the rest of that day for any questions
to be addressed to her--too ill even to think with any
distinctness of the evils that were to come. She only felt that
all her hope was crushed, and that instead of having found a
refuge she had only reached the borders of a new wilderness where
no goal lay before her. The sensations of bodily sickness, in a
comfortable bed, and with the tendance of the good-natured
landlady, made a sort of respite for her; such a respite as there
is in the faint weariness which obliges a man to throw himself on
the sand instead of toiling onward under the scorching sun.
But when sleep and rest had brought back the strength necessary
for the keenness of mental suffering--when she lay the next
morning looking at the growing light which was like a cruel task-
master returning to urge from her a fresh round of hated hopeless
labour--she began to think what course she must take, to remember
that all her money was gone, to look at the prospect of further
wandering among strangers with the new clearness shed on it by the
experience of her journey to Windsor. But which way could she
turn? It was impossible for her to enter into any service, even
if she could obtain it. There was nothing but immediate beggary
before her. She thought of a young woman who had been found
against the church wall at Hayslope one Sunday, nearly dead with
cold and hunger--a tiny infant in her arms. The woman was rescued
and taken to the parish. "The parish!" You can perhaps hardly
understand the effect of that word on a mind like Hetty's, brought
up among people who were somewhat hard in their feelings even
towards poverty, who lived among the fields, and had little pity
for want and rags as a cruel inevitable fate such as they
sometimes seem in cities, but held them a mark of idleness and
vice--and it was idleness and vice that brought burdens on the
parish. To Hetty the "parish" was next to the prison in obloquy,
and to ask anything of strangers--to beg--lay in the same far-off
hideous region of intolerable shame that Hetty had all her life
thought it impossible she could ever come near. But now the
remembrance of that wretched woman whom she had seen herself, on
her way from church, being carried into Joshua Rann's, came back
upon her with the new terrible sense that there was very little
now to divide HER from the same lot. And the dread of bodily
hardship mingled with the dread of shame; for Hetty had the
luxurious nature of a round soft-coated pet animal.
How she yearned to be back in her safe home again, cherished and
cared for as she had always been! Her aunt's scolding about
trifles would have been music to her ears now; she longed for it;
she used to hear it in a time when she had only trifles to hide.
Could she be the same Hetty that used to make up the butter in the
dairy with the Guelder roses peeping in at the window--she, a
runaway whom her friends would not open their doors to again,
lying in this strange bed, with the knowledge that she had no
money to pay for what she received, and must offer those strangers
some of the clothes in her basket? It was then she thought of her
locket and ear-rings, and seeing her pocket lie near, she reached
it and spread the contents on the bed before her. There were the
locket and ear-rings in the little velvet-lined boxes, and with
them there was a beautiful silver thimble which Adam had bought
her, the words "Remember me" making the ornament of the border; a
steel purse, with her one shilling in it;and a small red-leather
case, fastening with a strap. Those beautiful little ear-rings,
with their delicate pearls and garnet, that she had tried in her
ears with such longing in the bright sunshine on the 30th of July!
She had no longing to put them in her ears now: her head with its
dark rings of hair lay back languidly on the pillow, and the
sadness that rested about her brow and eyes was something too hard
for regretful memory. Yet she put her hands up to her ears: it
was because there were some thin gold rings in them, which were
also worth a little money. Yes, she could surely get some money
for her ornaments: those Arthur had given her must have cost a
great deal of money. The landlord and landlady had been good to
her; perhaps they would help her to get the money for these
But this money would not keep her long. What should she do when
it was gone? Where should she go? The horrible thought of want
and beggary drove her once to think she would go back to her uncle
and aunt and ask them to forgive her and have pity on her. But
she shrank from that idea again, as she might have shrunk from
scorching metal. She could never endure that shame before her
uncle and aunt, before Mary Burge, and the servants at the Chase,
and the people at Broxton, and everybody who knew her. They
should never know what had happened to her. What could she do?
She would go away from Windsor--travel again as she had done the
last week, and get among the flat green fields with the high
hedges round them, where nobody could see her or know her; and
there, perhaps, when there was nothing else she could do, she
should get courage to drown herself in some pond like that in the
Scantlands. Yes, she would get away from Windsor as soon as
possible: she didn't like these people at the inn to know about
her, to know that she had come to look for Captain Donnithorne.
She must think of some reason to tell them why she had asked for
With this thought she began to put the things back into her
pocket, meaning to get up and dress before the landlady came to
her. She had her hand on the red-leather case, when it occurred
to her that there might be something in this case which she had
forgotten--something worth selling; for without knowing what she
should do with her life, she craved the means of living as long as
possible; and when we desire eagerly to find something, we are apt
to search for it in hopeless places. No, there was nothing but
common needles and pins, and dried tulip-petals between the paper
leaves where she had written down her little money-accounts. But
on one of these leaves there was a name, which, often as she had
seen it before, now flashed on Hetty's mind like a newly
discovered message. The name was--Dinah Morris, Snowfield. There
was a text above it, written, as well as the name, by Dinah's own
hand with a little pencil, one evening that they were sitting
together and Hetty happened to have the red case lying open before
her. Hetty did not read the text now: she was only arrested by
the name. Now, for the first time, she remembered without
indifference the affectionate kindness Dinah had shown her, and
those words of Dinah in the bed-chamber--that Hetty must think of
her as a friend in trouble. Suppose she were to go to Dinah, and
ask her to help her? Dinah did not think about things as other
people did. She was a mystery to Hetty, but Hetty knew she was
always kind. She couldn't imagine Dinah's face turning away from
her in dark reproof or scorn, Dinah's voice willingly speaking ill
of her, or rejoicing in her misery as a punishment. Dinah did not
seem to belong to that world of Hetty's, whose glance she dreaded
like scorching fire. But even to her Hetty shrank from beseeching
and confession. She could not prevail on herself to say, "I will
go to Dinah": she only thought of that as a possible alternative,
if she had not courage for death.
The good landlady was amazed when she saw Hetty come downstairs
soon after herself, neatly dressed, and looking resolutely self-
possessed. Hetty told her she was quite well this morning. She
had only been very tired and overcome with her journey, for she
had come a long way to ask about her brother, who had run away,
and they thought he was gone for a soldier, and Captain
Donnithorne might know, for he had been very kind to her brother
once. It was a lame story, and the landlady looked doubtfully at
Hetty as she told it; but there was a resolute air of self-
reliance about her this morning, so different from the helpless
prostration of yesterday, that the landlady hardly knew how to
make a remark that might seem like prying into other people's
affairs. She only invited her to sit down to breakfast with them,
and in the course of it Hetty brought out her ear-rings and
locket, and asked the landlord if he could help her to get money
for them. Her journey, she said, had cost her much more than she
expected, and now she had no money to get back to her friends,
which she wanted to do at once.
It was not the first time the landlady had seen the ornaments, for
she had examined the contents of Hetty's pocket yesterday, and she
and her husband had discussed the fact of a country girl having
these beautiful things, with a stronger conviction than ever that
Hetty had been miserably deluded by the fine young officer.
"Well," said the landlord, when Hetty had spread the precious
trifles before him, "we might take 'em to the jeweller's shop, for
there's one not far off; but Lord bless you, they wouldn't give
you a quarter o' what the things are worth. And you wouldn't like
to part with 'em?" he added, looking at her inquiringly.
"Oh, I don't mind," said Hetty, hastily, "so as I can get money to
"And they might think the things were stolen, as you wanted to
sell 'em," he went on, "for it isn't usual for a young woman like
you to have fine jew'llery like that."
The blood rushed to Hetty's face with anger. "I belong to
respectable folks," she said; "I'm not a thief."
"No, that you aren't, I'll be bound," said the landlady; "and
you'd no call to say that," looking indignantly at her husband.
"The things were gev to her: that's plain enough to be seen."
"I didn't mean as I thought so," said the husband, apologetically,
"but I said it was what the jeweller might think, and so he
wouldn't be offering much money for 'em."
"Well," said the wife, "suppose you were to advance some money on
the things yourself, and then if she liked to redeem 'em when she
got home, she could. But if we heard nothing from her after two
months, we might do as we liked with 'em."
I will not say that in this accommodating proposition the landlady
had no regard whatever to the possible reward of her good nature
in the ultimate possession of the locket and ear-rings: indeed,
the effect they would have in that case on the mind of the
grocer's wife had presented itself with remarkable vividness to
her rapid imagination. The landlord took up the ornaments and
pushed out his lips in a meditative manner. He wished Hetty well,
doubtless; but pray, how many of your well-wishers would decline
to make a little gain out of you? Your landlady is sincerely
affected at parting with you, respects you highly, and will really
rejoice if any one else is generous to you; but at the same time
she hands you a bill by which she gains as high a percentage as
"How much money do you want to get home with, young woman?" said
the well-wisher, at length.
"Three guineas," answered Hetty, fixing on the sum she set out
with, for want of any other standard, and afraid of asking too
"Well, I've ho objections to advance you three guineas," said the
landlord; "and if you like to send it me back and get the
jewellery again, you can, you know. The Green Man isn't going to
"Oh yes, I'll be very glad if you'll give me that," said Hetty,
relieved at the thought that she would not have to go to the
jeweller's and be stared at and questioned.
"But if you want the things again, you'll write before long," said
the landlady, "because when two months are up, we shall make up
our minds as you don't want 'em."
"Yes," said Hetty indifferently.
The husband and wife were equally content with this arrangement.
The husband thought, if the ornaments were not redeemed, he could
make a good thing of it by taking them to London and selling them.
The wife thought she would coax the good man into letting her keep
them. And they were accommodating Hetty, poor thing--a pretty,
respectable-looking young woman, apparently in a sad case. They
declined to take anything for her food and bed: she was quite
welcome. And at eleven o'clock Hetty said "Good-bye" to them with
the same quiet, resolute air she had worn all the morning,
mounting the coach that was to take her twenty miles back along
the way she had come.
There is a strength of self-possession which is the sign that the
last hope has departed. Despair no more leans on others than
perfect contentment, and in despair pride ceases to be
counteracted by the sense of dependence.
Hetty felt that no one could deliver her from the evils that would
make life hateful to her; and no one, she said to herself, should
ever know her misery and humiliation. No; she would not confess
even to Dinah. She would wander out of sight, and drown herself
where her body would never be found, and no one should know what
had become of her.
When she got off this coach, she began to walk again, and take
cheap rides in carts, and get cheap meals, going on and on without
distinct purpose, yet strangely, by some fascination, taking the
way she had come, though she was determined not to go back to her
own country. Perhaps it was because she had fixed her mind on the
grassy Warwickshire fields, with the bushy tree-studded hedgerows
that made a hiding-place even in this leafless season. She went
more slowly than she came, often getting over the stiles and
sitting for hours under the hedgerows, looking before her with
blank, beautiful eyes; fancying herself at the edge of a hidden
pool, low down, like that in the Scantlands; wondering if it were
very painful to be drowned, and if there would be anything worse
after death than what she dreaded in life. Religious doctrines
had taken no hold on Hetty's mind. She was one of those numerous
people who have had godfathers and godmothers, learned their
catechism, been confirmed, and gone to church every Sunday, and
yet, for any practical result of strength in life, or trust in
death, have never appropriated a single Christian idea or
Christian feeling. You would misunderstand her thoughts during
these wretched days, if you imagined that they were influenced
either by religious fears or religious hopes.
She chose to go to Stratford-on-Avon again, where she had gone
before by mistake, for she remembered some grassy fields on her
former way towards it--fields among which she thought she might
find just the sort of pool she had in her mind. Yet she took care
of her money still; she carried her basket; death seemed still a
long way off, and life was so strong in her. She craved food and
rest--she hastened towards them at the very moment she was
picturing to herself the bank from which she would leap towards
death. It was already five days since she had left Windsor, for
she had wandered about, always avoiding speech or questioning
looks, and recovering her air of proud self-dependence whenever
she was under observation, choosing her decent lodging at night,
and dressing herself neatly in the morning, and setting off on her
way steadily, or remaining under shelter if it rained, as if she
had a happy life to cherish.
And yet, even in her most self-conscious moments, the face was
sadly different from that which had smiled at itself in the old
specked glass, or smiled at others when they glanced at it
admiringly. A hard and even fierce look had come in the eyes,
though their lashes were as long as ever, and they had all their
dark brightness. And the cheek was never dimpled with smiles now.
It was the same rounded, pouting, childish prettiness, but with
all love and belief in love departed from it--the sadder for its
beauty, like that wondrous Medusa-face, with the passionate,
At last she was among the fields she had been dreaming of, on a
long narrow pathway leading towards a wood. If there should be a
pool in that wood! It would be better hidden than one in the
fields. No, it was not a wood, only a wild brake, where there had
once been gravel-pits, leaving mounds and hollows studded with
brushwood and small trees. She roamed up and down, thinking there
was perhaps a pool in every hollow before she came to it, till her
limbs were weary, and she sat down to rest. The afternoon was far
advanced, and the leaden sky was darkening, as if the sun were
setting behind it. After a little while Hetty started up again,
feeling that darkness would soon come on; and she must put off
finding the pool till to-morrow, and make her way to some shelter
for the night. She had quite lost her way in the fields, and
might as well go in one direction as another, for aught she knew.
She walked through field after field, and no village, no house was
in sight; but there, at the corner of this pasture, there was a
break in the hedges; the land seemed to dip down a little, and two
trees leaned towards each other across the opening. Hetty's heart
gave a great heat as she thought there must be a pool there. She
walked towards it heavily over the tufted grass, with pale lips
and a sense of trembling. It was as if the thing were come in
spite of herself, instead of being the object of her search.
There it was, black under the darkening sky: no motion, no sound
near. She set down her basket, and then sank down herself on the
grass, trembling. The pool had its wintry depth now: by the time
it got shallow, as she remembered the pools did at Hayslope, in
the summer, no one could find out that it was her body. But then
there was her basket--she must hide that too. She must throw it
into the water--make it heavy with stones first, and then throw it
in. She got up to look about for stones, and soon brought five or
six, which she laid down beside her basket, and then sat down
again. There was no need to hurry--there was all the night to
drown herself in. She sat leaning her elbow on the basket. She
was weary, hungry. There were some buns in her basket--three,
which she had supplied herself with at the place where she ate her
dinner. She took them out now and ate them eagerly, and then sat
still again, looking at the pool. The soothed sensation that came
over her from the satisfaction of her hunger, and this fixed
dreamy attitude, brought on drowsiness, and presently her head
sank down on her knees. She was fast asleep.
When she awoke it was deep night, and she felt chill. She was
frightened at this darkness--frightened at the long night before
her. If she could but throw herself into the water! No, not yet.
She began to walk about that she might get warm again, as if she
would have more resolution then. Oh how long the time was in that
darkness! The bright hearth and the warmth and the voices of
home, the secure uprising and lying down, the familiar fields, the
familiar people, the Sundays and holidays with their simple joys
of dress and feasting--all the sweets of her young life rushed
before her now, and she seemed to be stretching her arms towards
them across a great gulf. She set her teeth when she thought of
Arthur. She cursed him, without knowing what her cursing would
do. She wished he too might know desolation, and cold, and a life
of shame that he dared not end by death.
The horror of this cold, and darkness, and solitude--out of all
human reach--became greater every long minute. It was almost as
if she were dead already, and knew that she was dead, and longed
to get back to life again. But no: she was alive still; she had
not taken the dreadful leap. She felt a strange contradictory
wretchedness and exultation: wretchedness, that she did not dare
to face death; exultation, that she was still in life--that she
might yet know light and warmth again. She walked backwards and
forwards to warm herself, beginning to discern something of the
objects around her, as her eyes became accustomed to the night--
the darker line of the hedge, the rapid motion of some living
creature--perhaps a field-mouse--rushing across the grass. She no
longer felt as if the darkness hedged her in. She thought she
could walk back across the field, and get over the stile; and
then, in the very next field, she thought she remembered there was
a hovel of furze near a sheepfold. If she could get into that
hovel, she would be warmer. She could pass the night there, for
that was what Alick did at Hayslope in lambing-time. The thought
of this hovel brought the energy of a new hope. She took up her
basket and walked across the field, but it was some time before
she got in the right direction for the stile. The exercise and
the occupation of finding the stile were a stimulus to her,
however, and lightened the horror of the darkness and solitude.
There were sheep in the next field, and she startled a group as
she set down her basket and got over the stile; and the sound of
their movement comforted her, for it assured her that her
impression was right--this was the field where she had seen the
hovel, for it was the field where the sheep were. Right on along
the path, and she would get to it. She reached the opposite gate,
and felt her way along its rails and the rails of the sheep-fold,
till her hand encountered the pricking of the gorsy wall.
Delicious sensation! She had found the shelter. She groped her
way, touching the prickly gorse, to the door, and pushed it open.
It was an ill-smelling close place, but warm, and there was straw
on the ground. Hetty sank down on the straw with a sense of
escape. Tears came--she had never shed tears before since she
left Windsor--tears and sobs of hysterical joy that she had still
hold of life, that she was still on the familiar earth, with the
sheep near her. The very consciousness of her own limbs was a
delight to her: she turned up her sleeves, and kissed her arms
with the passionate love of life. Soon warmth and weariness
lulled her in the midst of her sobs, and she fell continually into
dozing, fancying herself at the brink of the pool again--fancying
that she had jumped into the water, and then awaking with a start,
and wondering where she was. But at last deep dreamless sleep
came; her head, guarded by her bonnet, found a pillow against the
gorsy wall, and the poor soul, driven to and fro between two equal
terrors, found the one relief that was possible to it--the relief
Alas! That relief seems to end the moment it has begun. It
seemed to Hetty as if those dozen dreams had only passed into
another dream--that she was in the hovel, and her aunt was
standing over her with a candle in her hand. She trembled under
her aunt's glance, and opened her eyes. There was no candle, but
there was light in the hovel--the light of early morning through
the open door. And there was a face looking down on her; but it
was an unknown face, belonging to an elderly man in a smock-frock.
"Why, what do you do here, young woman?" the man said roughly.
Hetty trembled still worse under this real fear and shame than she
had done in her momentary dream under her aunt's glance. She felt
that she was like a beggar already--found sleeping in that place.
But in spite of her trembling, she was so eager to account to the
man for her presence here, that she found words at once.
"I lost my way," she said. "I'm travelling--north'ard, and I got
away from the road into the fields, and was overtaken by the dark.
Will you tell me the way to the nearest village?"
She got up as she was speaking, and put her hands to her bonnet to
adjust it, and then laid hold of her basket.
The man looked at her with a slow bovine gaze, without giving her
any answer, for some seconds. Then he turned away and walked
towards the door of the hovel, but it was not till he got there
that he stood still, and, turning his shoulder half-round towards
her, said, "Aw, I can show you the way to Norton, if you like.
But what do you do gettin' out o' the highroad?" he added, with a
tone of gruff reproof. "Y'ull be gettin' into mischief, if you
"Yes," said Hetty, "I won't do it again. I'll keep in the road,
if you'll be so good as show me how to get to it."
"Why dooant you keep where there's a finger-poasses an' folks to
ax the way on?" the man said, still more gruffly. "Anybody 'ud
think you was a wild woman, an' look at yer."
Hetty was frightened at this gruff old man, and still more at this
last suggestion that she looked like a wild woman. As she
followed him out of the hovel she thought she would give him a
sixpence for telling her the way, and then he would not suppose
she was wild. As he stopped to point out the road to her, she put
her hand in her pocket to get the six-pence ready, and when he was
turning away, without saying good-morning, she held it out to him
and said, "Thank you; will you please to take something for your
He looked slowly at the sixpence, and then said, "I want none o'
your money. You'd better take care on't, else you'll get it stool
from yer, if you go trapesin' about the fields like a mad woman a-
The man left her without further speech, and Hetty held on her
way. Another day had risen, and she must wander on. It was no
use to think of drowning herself--she could not do it, at least
while she had money left to buy food and strength to journey on.
But the incident on her waking this morning heightened her dread
of that time when her money would be all gone; she would have to
sell her basket and clothes then, and she would really look like a
beggar or a wild woman, as the man had said. The passionate joy
in life she had felt in the night, after escaping from the brink
of the black cold death in the pool, was gone now. Life now, by
the morning light, with the impression of that man's hard
wondering look at her, was as full of dread as death--it was
worse; it was a dread to which she felt chained, from which she
shrank and shrank as she did from the black pool, and yet could
find no refuge from it.
She took out her money from her purse, and looked at it. She had
still two-and-twenty shillings; it would serve her for many days
more, or it would help her to get on faster to Stonyshire, within
reach of Dinah. The thought of Dinah urged itself more strongly
now, since the experience of the night had driven her shuddering
imagination away from the pool. If it had been only going to
Dinah--if nobody besides Dinah would ever know--Hetty could have
made up her mind to go to her. The soft voice, the pitying eyes,
would have drawn her. But afterwards the other people must know,
and she could no more rush on that shame than she could rush on
She must wander on and on, and wait for a lower depth of despair
to give her courage. Perhaps death would come to her, for she was
getting less and less able to bear the day's weariness. And yet--
such is the strange action of our souls, drawing us by a lurking
desire towards the very ends we dread--Hetty, when she set out
again from Norton, asked the straightest road northwards towards
Stonyshire, and kept it all that day.
Poor wandering Hetty, with the rounded childish face and the hard,
unloving, despairing soul looking out of it--with the narrow heart
and narrow thoughts, no room in them for any sorrows but her own,
and tasting that sorrow with the more intense bitterness! My
heart bleeds for her as I see her toiling along on her weary feet,
or seated in a cart, with her eyes fixed vacantly on the road
before her, never thinking or caring whither it tends, till hunger
comes and makes her desire that a village may be near.
What will be the end, the end of her objectless wandering, apart
from all love, caring for human beings only through her pride,
clinging to life only as the hunted wounded brute clings to it?
God preserve you and me from being the beginners of such miserty!
THE first ten days after Hetty's departure passed as quietly as
any other days with the family at the Hall Farm, and with Adam at
his daily work. They had expected Hetty to stay away a week or
ten days at least, perhaps a little longer if Dinah came back with
her, because there might then be somethung to detain them at
Snowfield. But when a fortnight had passed they began to feel a
little surprise that Hetty did not return; she must surely have
found it pleasanter to be with Dinah than any one could have
supposed. Adam, for his part, was getting very impatient to see
her, and he resolved that, if she did not appear the next day
(Saturday), he would set out on Sunday morning to fetch her.
There was no coach on a Sunday, but by setting out before it was
light, and perhaps getting a lift in a cart by the way, he would
arrive pretty early at Snowfield, and bring back Hetty the next
day--Dinah too, if she were coming. It was quite time Hetty came
home, and he would afford to lose his Monday for the sake of
His project was quite approved at the Farm when he went there on
Saturday evening. Mrs. Poyser desired him emphatically not to
come back without Hetty, for she had been quite too long away,
considering the things she had to get ready by the middle of
March, and a week was surely enough for any one to go out for
their health. As for Dinah, Mrs. Poyser had small hope of their
bringing her, unless they could make her believe the folks at
Hayslope were twice as miserable as the folks at Snowfield.
"Though," said Mrs. Poyser, by way of conclusion, "you might tell
her she's got but one aunt left, and SHE'S wasted pretty nigh to a
shadder; and we shall p'rhaps all be gone twenty mile farther off
her next Michaelmas, and shall die o' broken hearts among strange
folks, and leave the children fatherless and motherless."
"Nay, nay," said Mr. Poyser, who certainly had the air of a man
perfectly heart-whole, "it isna so bad as that. Thee't looking
rarely now, and getting flesh every day. But I'd be glad for
Dinah t' come, for she'd help thee wi' the little uns: they took
t' her wonderful."
So at daybreak, on Sunday, Adam set off. Seth went with him the
first mile or two, for the thought of Snowfield and the
possibility that Dinah might come again made him restless, and the
walk with Adam in the cold morning air, both in their best
clothes, helped to give him a sense of Sunday calm. It was the
last morning in February, with a low grey sky, and a slight hoar-
frost on the green border of the road and on the black hedges.
They heard the gurgling of the full brooklet hurrying down the
hill, and the faint twittering of the early birds. For they
walked in silence, though with a pleased sense of companionship.
"Good-bye, lad," said Adam, laying his hand on Seth's shoulder and
looking at him affectionately as they were about to part. "I wish
thee wast going all the way wi' me, and as happy as I am."
"I'm content, Addy, I'm content," said Seth cheerfully. "I'll be
an old bachelor, belike, and make a fuss wi' thy children."
The'y turned away from each other, and Seth walked leisurely
homeward, mentally repeating one of his favourite hymns--he was
very fond of hymns:
Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by thee:
Joyless is the day's return
Till thy mercy's beams I see:
Till thou inward light impart,
Glad my eyes and warm my heart.
Visit, then, this soul of mine,
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief--
Fill me, Radiancy Divine,
Scatter all my unbelief.
More and more thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.
Adam walked much faster, and any one coming along the Oakbourne
road at sunrise that morning must have had a pleasant sight in
this tall broad-chested man, striding along with a carriage as
upright and firm as any soldier's, glancing with keen glad eyes at
the dark-blue hills as they began to show themselves on his way.
Seldom in Adam's life had his face been so free from any cloud of
anxiety as it was this morning; and this freedom from care, as is
usual with constructive practical minds like his, made him all the
more observant of the objects round him and all the more ready to
gather suggestions from them towards his own favourite plans and
ingenious contrivances. His happy love--the knowledge that his
steps were carrying him nearer and nearer to Hetty, who was so
soon to be his--was to his thoughts what the sweet morning air was
to his sensations: it gave him a consciousness of well-being that
made activity delightful. Every now and then there was a rush of
more intense feeling towards her, which chased away other images
than Hetty; and along with that would come a wondering
thankfulness that all this happiness was given to him--that this
life of ours had such sweetness in it. For Adam had a devout
mind, though he was perhaps rather impatient of devout words, and
his tenderness lay very close to his reverence, so that the one
could hardly be stirred without the other. But after feeling had
welled up and poured itself out in this way, busy thought would
come back with the greater vigour; and this morning it was intent
on schemes by which the roads might be improved that were so
imperfect all through the country, and on picturing all the
benefits that might come from the exertions of a single country
gentleman, if he would set himself to getting the roads made good
in his own district.
It seemed a very short walk, the ten miles to Oakbourne, that
pretty town within sight of the blue hills, where he break-fasted.
After this, the country grew barer and barer: no more rolling
woods, no more wide-branching trees near frequent homesteads, no
more bushy hedgerows, but greystone walls intersecting the meagre
pastures, and dismal wide-scattered greystone houses on broken
lands where mines had been and were no longer. "A hungry land,"
said Adam to himself. "I'd rather go south'ard, where they say
it's as flat as a table, than come to live here; though if Dinah
likes to live in a country where she can be the most comfort to
folks, she's i' the right to live o' this side; for she must look
as if she'd come straight from heaven, like th' angels in the
desert, to strengthen them as ha' got nothing t' eat." And when
at last he came in sight of Snowfield, he thought it looked like a
town that was "fellow to the country," though the stream through
the valley where the great mill stood gave a pleasant greenness to
the lower fields. The town lay, grim, stony, and unsheltered, up
the side of a steep hill, and Adam did not go forward to it at
present, for Seth had told him where to find Dinah. It was at a
thatched cottage outside the town, a little way from the mill--an
old cottage, standing sideways towards the road, with a little bit
of potato-ground before it. Here Dinah lodged with an elderly
couple; and if she and Hetty happened to be out, Adam could learn
where they were gone, or when they would be at home again. Dinah
might be out on some preaching errand, and perhaps she would have
left Hetty at home. Adam could not help hoping this, and as he
recognized the cottage by the roadside before him, there shone out
in his face that involuntary smile which belongs to the
expectation of a near joy.
He hurried his step along the narrow causeway, and rapped at the
door. It was opened by a very clean old woman, with a slow
palsied shake of the head.
"Is Dinah Morris at home?" said Adam.
"Eh?...no," said the old woman, looking up at this tall stranger
with a wonder that made her slower of speech than usual. "Will
you please to come in?" she added, retiring from the door, as if
recollecting herself. "Why, ye're brother to the young man as
come afore, arena ye?"
"Yes," said Adam, entering. "That was Seth Bede. I'm his brother
Adam. He told me to give his respects to you and your good
"Aye, the same t' him. He was a gracious young man. An' ye
feature him, on'y ye're darker. Sit ye down i' th' arm-chair. My
man isna come home from meeting."
Adam sat down patiently, not liking to hurry the shaking old woman
with questions, but looking eagerly towards the narrow twisting
stairs in one corner, for he thought it was possible Hetty might
have heard his voice and would come down them.
"So you're come to see Dinah Morris?" said the old woman, standing
opposite to him. "An' you didn' know she was away from home,
"No," said Adam, "but I thought it likely she might be away,
seeing as it's Sunday. But the other young woman--is she at home,
or gone along with Dinah?"
The old woman looked at Adam with a bewildered air.
"Gone along wi' her?" she said. "Eh, Dinah's gone to Leeds, a big
town ye may ha' heared on, where there's a many o' the Lord's
people. She's been gone sin' Friday was a fortnight: they sent
her the money for her journey. You may see her room here," she
went on, opening a door and not noticing the effect of her words
on Adam. He rose and followed her, and darted an eager glance
into the little room with its narrow bed, the portrait of Wesley
on the wall, and the few books lying on the large Bible. He had
had an irrational hope that Hetty might be there. He could not
speak in the first moment after seeing that the room was empty; an
undefined fear had seized him--something had happened to Hetty on
the journey. Still the old woman was so slow of; speech and
apprehension, that Hetty might be at Snowfield after all.
"It's a pity ye didna know," she said. "Have ye come from your
own country o' purpose to see her?"
"But Hetty--Hetty Sorrel," said Adam, abruptly; "Where is she?"
"I know nobody by that name," said the old woman, wonderingly.
"Is it anybody ye've heared on at Snowfield?"
"Did there come no young woman here--very young and pretty--Friday
was a fortnight, to see Dinah Morris?"
"Nay; I'n seen no young woman."
"Think; are you quite sure? A girl, eighteen years old, with dark
eyes and dark curly hair, and a red cloak on, and a basket on her
arm? You couldn't forget her if you saw her."
"Nay; Friday was a fortnight--it was the day as Dinah went away--
there come nobody. There's ne'er been nobody asking for her till
you come, for the folks about know as she's gone. Eh dear, eh
dear, is there summat the matter?"
The old woman had seen the ghastly look of fear in Adam's face.
But he was not stunned or confounded: he was thinking eagerly
where he could inquire about Hetty.
"Yes; a young woman started from our country to see Dinah, Friday
was a fortnight. I came to fetch her back. I'm afraid something
has happened to her. I can't stop. Good-bye."
He hastened out of the cottage, and the old woman followed him to
the gate, watching him sadly with her shaking head as he almost
ran towards the town. He was going to inquire at the place where
the Oakbourne coach stopped.
No! No young woman like Hetty had been seen there. Had any
accident happened to the coach a fortnight ago? No. And there
was no coach to take him back to Oakbourne that day. Well, he
would walk: he couldn't stay here, in wretched inaction. But the
innkeeper, seeing that Adam was in great anxiety, and entering
into this new incident with the eagerness of a man who passes a
great deal of time with his hands in his pockets looking into an
obstinately monotonous street, offered to take him back to
Oakbourne in his own "taxed cart" this very evening. It was not
five o'clock; there was plenty of time for Adam to take a meal and
yet to get to Oakbourne before ten o'clock. The innkeeper
declared that he really wanted to go to Oakbourne, and might as
well go to-night; he should have all Monday before him then.
Adam, after making an ineffectual attempt to eat, put the food in
his pocket, and, drinking a draught of ale, declared himself ready
to set off. As they approached the cottage, it occurred to him
that he would do well to learn from the old woman where Dinah was
to be found in Leeds: if there was trouble at the Hall Farm--he
only half-admitted the foreboding that there would be--the Poysers
might like to send for Dinah. But Dinah had not left any address,
and the old woman, whose memory for names was infirm, could not
recall the name of the "blessed woman" who was Dinah's chief
friend in the Society at Leeds.
During that long, long journey in the taxed cart, there was time
for all the conjectures of importunate fear and struggling hope.
In the very first shock of discovering that Hetty had not been to
Snowfield, the thought of Arthur had darted through Adam like a
sharp pang, but he tried for some time to ward off its return by
busying himself with modes of accounting for the alarming fact,
quite apart from that intolerable thought. Some accident had
happened. Hetty had, by some strange chance, got into a wrong
vehicle from Oakbourne: she had been taken ill, and did not want
to frighten them by letting them know. But this frail fence of
vague improbabilities was soon hurled down by a rush of distinct
agonizing fears. Hetty had been deceiving herself in thinking
that she could love and marry him: she had been loving Arthur all