Adam bede, p.1
Produced by An Anonymous Volunteer and David Widger
by George Eliot
With a single drop of ink for a mirror, the Egyptian sorcerer undertakesto reveal to any chance comer far-reaching visions of the past. This iswhat I undertake to do for you, reader. With this drop of ink at theend of my pen, I will show you the roomy workshop of Mr. Jonathan Burge,carpenter and builder, in the village of Hayslope, as it appeared on theeighteenth of June, in the year of our Lord 1799.
The afternoon sun was warm on the five workmen there, busy upon doorsand window-frames and wainscoting. A scent of pine-wood from a tentlikepile of planks outside the open door mingled itself with the scent ofthe elder-bushes which were spreading their summer snow close tothe open window opposite; the slanting sunbeams shone through thetransparent shavings that flew before the steady plane, and lit up thefine grain of the oak panelling which stood propped against the wall.On a heap of those soft shavings a rough, grey shepherd dog hadmade himself a pleasant bed, and was lying with his nose between hisfore-paws, occasionally wrinkling his brows to cast a glance at thetallest of the five workmen, who was carving a shield in the centre ofa wooden mantelpiece. It was to this workman that the strong barytonebelonged which was heard above the sound of plane and hammer singing--
Awake, my soul, and with the sun Thy daily stage of duty run; Shake off dull sloth...
Here some measurement was to be taken which required more concentratedattention, and the sonorous voice subsided into a low whistle; but itpresently broke out again with renewed vigour--
Let all thy converse be sincere, Thy conscience as the noonday clear.
Such a voice could only come from a broad chest, and the broad chestbelonged to a large-boned, muscular man nearly six feet high, with aback so flat and a head so well poised that when he drew himself upto take a more distant survey of his work, he had the air of a soldierstanding at ease. The sleeve rolled up above the elbow showed an armthat was likely to win the prize for feats of strength; yet the longsupple hand, with its broad finger-tips, looked ready for works ofskill. In his tall stalwartness Adam Bede was a Saxon, and justified hisname; but the jet-black hair, made the more noticeable by its contrastwith the light paper cap, and the keen glance of the dark eyes thatshone from under strongly marked, prominent and mobile eyebrows,indicated a mixture of Celtic blood. The face was large and roughlyhewn, and when in repose had no other beauty than such as belongs to anexpression of good-humoured honest intelligence.
It is clear at a glance that the next workman is Adam's brother. He isnearly as tall; he has the same type of features, the same hue of hairand complexion but the strength of the family likeness seems only torender more conspicuous the remarkable difference of expression both inform and face. Seth's broad shoulders have a slight stoop; his eyesare grey; his eyebrows have less prominence and more repose than hisbrother's; and his glance, instead of being keen, is confiding andbenign. He has thrown off his paper cap, and you see that his hair isnot thick and straight, like Adam's, but thin and wavy, allowing youto discern the exact contour of a coronal arch that predominates verydecidedly over the brow.
The idle tramps always felt sure they could get a copper from Seth; theyscarcely ever spoke to Adam.
The concert of the tools and Adam's voice was at last broken by Seth,who, lifting the door at which he had been working intently, placedit against the wall, and said, "There! I've finished my door to-day,anyhow."
The workmen all looked up; Jim Salt, a burly, red-haired man known asSandy Jim, paused from his planing, and Adam said to Seth, with a sharpglance of surprise, "What! Dost think thee'st finished the door?"
"Aye, sure," said Seth, with answering surprise; "what's awanting to't?"
A loud roar of laughter from the other three workmen made Seth lookround confusedly. Adam did not join in the laughter, but there was aslight smile on his face as he said, in a gentler tone than before,"Why, thee'st forgot the panels."
The laughter burst out afresh as Seth clapped his hands to his head, andcoloured over brow and crown.
"Hoorray!" shouted a small lithe fellow called Wiry Ben, running forwardand seizing the door. "We'll hang up th' door at fur end o' th' shop an'write on't 'Seth Bede, the Methody, his work.' Here, Jim, lend's houldo' th' red pot."
"Nonsense!" said Adam. "Let it alone, Ben Cranage. You'll mayhap bemaking such a slip yourself some day; you'll laugh o' th' other side o'your mouth then."
"Catch me at it, Adam. It'll be a good while afore my head's full o' th'Methodies," said Ben.
"Nay, but it's often full o' drink, and that's worse."
Ben, however, had now got the "red pot" in his hand, and was aboutto begin writing his inscription, making, by way of preliminary, animaginary S in the air.
"Let it alone, will you?" Adam called out, laying down his tools,striding up to Ben, and seizing his right shoulder. "Let it alone, orI'll shake the soul out o' your body."
Ben shook in Adam's iron grasp, but, like a plucky small man as he was,he didn't mean to give in. With his left hand he snatched the brush fromhis powerless right, and made a movement as if he would perform the featof writing with his left. In a moment Adam turned him round, seized hisother shoulder, and, pushing him along, pinned him against the wall. Butnow Seth spoke.
"Let be, Addy, let be. Ben will be joking. Why, he's i' the right tolaugh at me--I canna help laughing at myself."
"I shan't loose him till he promises to let the door alone," said Adam.
"Come, Ben, lad," said Seth, in a persuasive tone, "don't let's have aquarrel about it. You know Adam will have his way. You may's well tryto turn a waggon in a narrow lane. Say you'll leave the door alone, andmake an end on't."
"I binna frighted at Adam," said Ben, "but I donna mind sayin' as I'lllet 't alone at your askin', Seth."
"Come, that's wise of you, Ben," said Adam, laughing and relaxing hisgrasp.
They all returned to their work now; but Wiry Ben, having had the worstin the bodily contest, was bent on retrieving that humiliation by asuccess in sarcasm.
"Which was ye thinkin' on, Seth," he began--"the pretty parson's face orher sarmunt, when ye forgot the panels?"
"Come and hear her, Ben," said Seth, good-humouredly; "she's going topreach on the Green to-night; happen ye'd get something to think onyourself then, instead o' those wicked songs you're so fond on. Ye mightget religion, and that 'ud be the best day's earnings y' ever made."
"All i' good time for that, Seth; I'll think about that when I'm a-goin'to settle i' life; bachelors doesn't want such heavy earnin's. HappenI shall do the coortin' an' the religion both together, as YE do, Seth;but ye wouldna ha' me get converted an' chop in atween ye an' the prettypreacher, an' carry her aff?"
"No fear o' that, Ben; she's neither for you nor for me to win, I doubt.Only you come and hear her, and you won't speak lightly on her again."
"Well, I'm half a mind t' ha' a look at her to-night, if there isn'tgood company at th' Holly Bush. What'll she take for her text? Happen yecan tell me, Seth, if so be as I shouldna come up i' time for't. Will'tbe--what come ye out for to see? A prophetess? Yea, I say unto you, andmore than a prophetess--a uncommon pretty young woman."
"Come, Ben," said Adam, rather sternly, "you let the words o' the Biblealone; you're going too far now."
"What! Are YE a-turnin' roun', Adam? I thought ye war dead again th'women preachin', a while agoo?"
"Nay, I'm not turnin' noway. I said nought about the women preachin'.I said, You let the Bible alone: you've got a jest-book, han't you, asyou're rare and proud on? Keep your dirty fingers to that."
"Why, y' are gettin' as big a saint as Seth. Y' are goin' t
"Never do you bother yourself about me, Ben. I'm not a-going to turnMethodist any more nor you are--though it's like enough you'll turnto something worse. Mester Irwine's got more sense nor to meddle wi'people's doing as they like in religion. That's between themselves andGod, as he's said to me many a time."
"Aye, aye; but he's none so fond o' your dissenters, for all that."
"Maybe; I'm none so fond o' Josh Tod's thick ale, but I don't hinder youfrom making a fool o' yourself wi't."
There was a laugh at this thrust of Adam's, but Seth said, veryseriously. "Nay, nay, Addy, thee mustna say as anybody's religion'slike thick ale. Thee dostna believe but what the dissenters and theMethodists have got the root o' the matter as well as the church folks."
"Nay, Seth, lad; I'm not for laughing at no man's religion. Let 'emfollow their consciences, that's all. Only I think it 'ud be better iftheir consciences 'ud let 'em stay quiet i' the church--there's a dealto be learnt there. And there's such a thing as being oversperitial; wemust have something beside Gospel i' this world. Look at the canals, an'th' aqueduc's, an' th' coal-pit engines, and Arkwright's mills there atCromford; a man must learn summat beside Gospel to make them things, Ireckon. But t' hear some o' them preachers, you'd think as a man must bedoing nothing all's life but shutting's eyes and looking what's agoingon inside him. I know a man must have the love o' God in his soul, andthe Bible's God's word. But what does the Bible say? Why, it says as Godput his sperrit into the workman as built the tabernacle, to make him doall the carved work and things as wanted a nice hand. And this is myway o' looking at it: there's the sperrit o' God in all things and alltimes--weekday as well as Sunday--and i' the great works and inventions,and i' the figuring and the mechanics. And God helps us with ourheadpieces and our hands as well as with our souls; and if a man doesbits o' jobs out o' working hours--builds a oven for 's wife to save herfrom going to the bakehouse, or scrats at his bit o' garden and makestwo potatoes grow istead o' one, he's doin' more good, and he's just asnear to God, as if he was running after some preacher and a-praying anda-groaning."
"Well done, Adam!" said Sandy Jim, who had paused from his planing toshift his planks while Adam was speaking; "that's the best sarmunt I'veheared this long while. By th' same token, my wife's been a-plaguin' onme to build her a oven this twelvemont."
"There's reason in what thee say'st, Adam," observed Seth, gravely. "Butthee know'st thyself as it's hearing the preachers thee find'st so muchfault with has turned many an idle fellow into an industrious un. It'sthe preacher as empties th' alehouse; and if a man gets religion, he'lldo his work none the worse for that."
"On'y he'll lave the panels out o' th' doors sometimes, eh, Seth?" saidWiry Ben.
"Ah, Ben, you've got a joke again' me as 'll last you your life. But itisna religion as was i' fault there; it was Seth Bede, as was allays awool-gathering chap, and religion hasna cured him, the more's the pity."
"Ne'er heed me, Seth," said Wiry Ben, "y' are a down-right good-heartedchap, panels or no panels; an' ye donna set up your bristles at everybit o' fun, like some o' your kin, as is mayhap cliverer."
"Seth, lad," said Adam, taking no notice of the sarcasm against himself,"thee mustna take me unkind. I wasna driving at thee in what I said justnow. Some 's got one way o' looking at things and some 's got another."
"Nay, nay, Addy, thee mean'st me no unkindness," said Seth, "I know thatwell enough. Thee't like thy dog Gyp--thee bark'st at me sometimes, butthee allays lick'st my hand after."
All hands worked on in silence for some minutes, until the church clockbegan to strike six. Before the first stroke had died away, Sandy Jimhad loosed his plane and was reaching his jacket; Wiry Ben had left ascrew half driven in, and thrown his screwdriver into his tool-basket;Mum Taft, who, true to his name, had kept silence throughout theprevious conversation, had flung down his hammer as he was in the actof lifting it; and Seth, too, had straightened his back, and was puttingout his hand towards his paper cap. Adam alone had gone on with his workas if nothing had happened. But observing the cessation of the tools, helooked up, and said, in a tone of indignation, "Look there, now! I can'tabide to see men throw away their tools i' that way, the minute theclock begins to strike, as if they took no pleasure i' their work andwas afraid o' doing a stroke too much."
Seth looked a little conscious, and began to be slower in hispreparations for going, but Mum Taft broke silence, and said, "Aye, aye,Adam lad, ye talk like a young un. When y' are six-an'-forty like me,istid o' six-an'-twenty, ye wonna be so flush o' workin' for nought."
"Nonsense," said Adam, still wrathful; "what's age got to do with it, Iwonder? Ye arena getting stiff yet, I reckon. I hate to see a man's armsdrop down as if he was shot, before the clock's fairly struck, just asif he'd never a bit o' pride and delight in 's work. The very grindstone'ull go on turning a bit after you loose it."
"Bodderation, Adam!" exclaimed Wiry Ben; "lave a chap aloon, will 'ee?Ye war afinding faut wi' preachers a while agoo--y' are fond enough o'preachin' yoursen. Ye may like work better nor play, but I like playbetter nor work; that'll 'commodate ye--it laves ye th' more to do."
With this exit speech, which he considered effective, Wiry Benshouldered his basket and left the workshop, quickly followed by MumTaft and Sandy Jim. Seth lingered, and looked wistfully at Adam, as ifhe expected him to say something.
"Shalt go home before thee go'st to the preaching?" Adam asked, lookingup.
"Nay; I've got my hat and things at Will Maskery's. I shan't be homebefore going for ten. I'll happen see Dinah Morris safe home, if she'swilling. There's nobody comes with her from Poyser's, thee know'st."
"Then I'll tell mother not to look for thee," said Adam.
"Thee artna going to Poyser's thyself to-night?" said Seth rathertimidly, as he turned to leave the workshop.
"Nay, I'm going to th' school."
Hitherto Gyp had kept his comfortable bed, only lifting up his head andwatching Adam more closely as he noticed the other workmen departing.But no sooner did Adam put his ruler in his pocket, and begin to twisthis apron round his waist, than Gyp ran forward and looked up in hismaster's face with patient expectation. If Gyp had had a tail he woulddoubtless have wagged it, but being destitute of that vehicle for hisemotions, he was like many other worthy personages, destined to appearmore phlegmatic than nature had made him.
"What! Art ready for the basket, eh, Gyp?" said Adam, with the samegentle modulation of voice as when he spoke to Seth.
Gyp jumped and gave a short bark, as much as to say, "Of course." Poorfellow, he had not a great range of expression.
The basket was the one which on workdays held Adam's and Seth's dinner;and no official, walking in procession, could look more resolutelyunconscious of all acquaintances than Gyp with his basket, trotting athis master's heels.
On leaving the workshop Adam locked the door, took the key out, andcarried it to the house on the other side of the woodyard. It was alow house, with smooth grey thatch and buff walls, looking pleasantand mellow in the evening light. The leaded windows were bright andspeckless, and the door-stone was as clean as a white boulder at ebbtide. On the door-stone stood a clean old woman, in a dark-striped linengown, a red kerchief, and a linen cap, talking to some speckled fowlswhich appeared to have been drawn towards her by an illusory expectationof cold potatoes or barley. The old woman's sight seemed to be dim, forshe did not recognize Adam till he said, "Here's the key, Dolly; lay itdown for me in the house, will you?"
"Aye, sure; but wunna ye come in, Adam? Miss Mary's i' th' house, andMester Burge 'ull be back anon he'd be glad t' ha' ye to supper wi'm,I'll be's warrand."
"No, Dolly, thank you; I'm off home. Good evening."
Adam hastened with long strides, Gyp close to his heels, out of theworkyard, and along the highroad leading away from the village and downto the va
Adam, unconscious of the admiration he was exciting, presently struckacross the fields, and now broke out into the tune which had all daylong been running in his head:
Let all thy converse be sincere, Thy conscience as the noonday clear; For God's all-seeing eye surveys Thy secret thoughts, thy works and ways.
About a quarter to seven there was an unusual appearance of excitementin the village of Hayslope, and through the whole length of itslittle street, from the Donnithorne Arms to the churchyard gate, theinhabitants had evidently been drawn out of their houses by somethingmore than the pleasure of lounging in the evening sunshine. TheDonnithorne Arms stood at the entrance of the village, and a smallfarmyard and stackyard which flanked it, indicating that there was apretty take of land attached to the inn, gave the traveller a promiseof good feed for himself and his horse, which might well console himfor the ignorance in which the weather-beaten sign left him as to theheraldic bearings of that ancient family, the Donnithornes. Mr. Casson,the landlord, had been for some time standing at the door with his handsin his pockets, balancing himself on his heels and toes and lookingtowards a piece of unenclosed ground, with a maple in the middle of it,which he knew to be the destination of certain grave-looking men andwomen whom he had observed passing at intervals.
Mr. Casson's person was by no means of that common type which can beallowed to pass without description. On a front view it appeared toconsist principally of two spheres, bearing about the same relation toeach other as the earth and the moon: that is to say, the lower spheremight be said, at a rough guess, to be thirteen times larger than theupper which naturally performed the function of a mere satellite andtributary. But here the resemblance ceased, for Mr. Casson's head wasnot at all a melancholy-looking satellite nor was it a "spotty globe,"as Milton has irreverently called the moon on the contrary, no head andface could look more sleek and healthy, and its expression--which waschiefly confined to a pair of round and ruddy cheeks, the slightknot and interruptions forming the nose and eyes being scarcely worthmention--was one of jolly contentment, only tempered by that sense ofpersonal dignity which usually made itself felt in his attitude andbearing. This sense of dignity could hardly be considered excessive ina man who had been butler to "the family" for fifteen years, and who, inhis present high position, was necessarily very much in contact withhis inferiors. How to reconcile his dignity with the satisfaction of hiscuriosity by walking towards the Green was the problem that Mr. Cassonhad been revolving in his mind for the last five minutes; but whenhe had partly solved it by taking his hands out of his pockets, andthrusting them into the armholes of his waistcoat, by throwing hishead on one side, and providing himself with an air of contemptuousindifference to whatever might fall under his notice, his thoughts werediverted by the approach of the horseman whom we lately saw pausing tohave another look at our friend Adam, and who now pulled up at the doorof the Donnithorne Arms.
"Take off the bridle and give him a drink, ostler," said the travellerto the lad in a smock-frock, who had come out of the yard at the soundof the horse's hoofs.
"Why, what's up in your pretty village, landlord?" he continued, gettingdown. "There seems to be quite a stir."
"It's a Methodis' preaching, sir; it's been gev hout as a young woman'sa-going to preach on the Green," answered Mr. Casson, in a treble andwheezy voice, with a slightly mincing accent. "Will you please to stepin, sir, an' tek somethink?"
"No, I must be getting on to Rosseter. I only want a drink for my horse.And what does your parson say, I wonder, to a young woman preaching justunder his nose?"
"Parson Irwine, sir, doesn't live here; he lives at Brox'on, over thehill there. The parsonage here's a tumble-down place, sir, not fit forgentry to live in. He comes here to preach of a Sunday afternoon, sir,an' puts up his hoss here. It's a grey cob, sir, an' he sets great storeby't. He's allays put up his hoss here, sir, iver since before I hed theDonnithorne Arms. I'm not this countryman, you may tell by my tongue,sir. They're cur'ous talkers i' this country, sir; the gentry's hardwork to hunderstand 'em. I was brought hup among the gentry, sir, an'got the turn o' their tongue when I was a bye. Why, what do you thinkthe folks here says for 'hevn't you?'--the gentry, you know, says,'hevn't you'--well, the people about here says 'hanna yey.' It's whatthey call the dileck as is spoke hereabout, sir. That's what I've hearedSquire Donnithorne say many a time; it's the dileck, says he."
"Aye, aye," said the stranger, smiling. "I know it very well. But you'venot got many Methodists about here, surely--in this agricultural spot? Ishould have thought there would hardly be such a thing as a Methodist tobe found about here. You're all farmers, aren't you? The Methodists canseldom lay much hold on THEM."
"Why, sir, there's a pretty lot o' workmen round about, sir. There'sMester Burge as owns the timber-yard over there, he underteks a good bito' building an' repairs. An' there's the stone-pits not far off. There'splenty of emply i' this countryside, sir. An' there's a fine batch o'Methodisses at Treddles'on--that's the market town about three mileoff--you'll maybe ha' come through it, sir. There's pretty nigh a scoreof 'em on the Green now, as come from there. That's where our peoplegets it from, though there's only two men of 'em in all Hayslope: that'sWill Maskery, the wheelwright, and Seth Bede, a young man as works atthe carpenterin'."
"The preacher comes from Treddleston, then, does she?"
"Nay, sir, she comes out o' Stonyshire, pretty nigh thirty mile off.But she's a-visitin' hereabout at Mester Poyser's at the Hall Farm--it'sthem barns an' big walnut-trees, right away to the left, sir. She's ownniece to Poyser's wife, an' they'll be fine an' vexed at her for makinga fool of herself i' that way. But I've heared as there's no holdingthese Methodisses when the maggit's once got i' their head: many of 'emgoes stark starin' mad wi' their religion. Though this young woman'squiet enough to look at, by what I can make out; I've not seen hermyself."
"Well, I wish I had time to wait and see her, but I must get on. I'vebeen out of my way for the last twenty minutes to have a look at thatplace in the valley. It's Squire Donnithorne's, I suppose?"
"Yes, sir, that's Donnithorne Chase, that is. Fine hoaks there, isn'tthere, sir? I should know what it is, sir, for I've lived butler therea-going i' fifteen year. It's Captain Donnithorne as is th' heir,sir--Squire Donnithorne's grandson. He'll be comin' of hage this'ay-'arvest, sir, an' we shall hev fine doin's. He owns all the landabout here, sir, Squire Donnithorne does."
"Well, it's a pretty spot, whoever may own it," said the traveller,mounting his horse; "and one meets some fine strapping fellows abouttoo. I met as fine a young fellow as ever I saw in my life, abouthalf an hour ago, before I came up the hill--a carpenter, a tall,broad-shouldered fellow with black hair and black eyes, marching alonglike a soldier. We want such fellows as he to lick the French."
"Aye, sir, that's Adam Bede, that is, I'll be bound--Thias Bede's soneverybody knows him hereabout. He's an uncommon clever stiddy fellow,an' wonderful strong. Lord bless you, sir--if you'll hexcuse me forsaying so--he can walk forty mile a-day, an' lift a matter o' sixtyston'. He's an uncommon favourite wi' the gentry, sir: CaptainDonnithorne and Parson Irwine meks a fine fuss wi' him. But he's alittle lifted up an' peppery-like."
"Well, good evening to you, landlord; I must get on."
"Your servant, sir; good evenin'."
The traveller put his horse into a quick walk up the village, but whenhe approached the Green, the beauty of the view that lay on his righthand, the singular contrast presented by the groups of villagers withthe knot of Methodists near the maple, and perhaps yet more, curiosityto see the young female preacher, proved too much for his anxiety to getto the end of his journey, and he paused.
He might have seen other beauties in the landscape if he had turneda little in his saddle and looked eastward, beyond Jonathan Burge'spasture and woodyard towards the green corn-fields and walnut-trees ofthe Hall Farm; but apparently there was more interest for him in theliving groups close at hand. Every generation in the village was there,from old "Feyther Taft" in his brown worsted night-cap, who was bentnearly double, but seemed tough enough to keep on his legs a long while,leaning on his short stick, down to the babies with their little roundheads lolling forward in quilted linen caps. Now and then there was anew arrival; perhaps a slouching labourer, who, having eaten his supper,came out to look at the unusual scene with a slow bovine gaze, willingto hear what any one had to say in explanation of it, but by no meansexcited enough to ask a question. But all took care not to join theMethodists on the Green, and identify themselves in that way with theexpectant audience, for there was not one of them that would not havedisclaimed the imputation of having come out to hear the "preacherwoman"--they had only come out to see "what war a-goin' on, like." Themen were chiefly gathered in the neighbourhood of the blacksmith's shop.But do not imagine them gathered in a knot. Villagers never swarm: awhisper is unknown among them, and they seem almost as incapable of anundertone as a cow or a stag. Your true rustic turns his back on hisinterlocutor, throwing a question over his shoulder as if he meant torun away from the answer, and walking a step or two farther off when theinterest of the dialogue culminates. So the group in the vicinity of theblacksmith's door was by no means a close one, and formed no screen infront of Chad Cranage, the blacksmith himself, who stood with his blackbrawny arms folded, leaning against the door-post, and occasionallysending forth a bellowing laugh at his own jokes, giving them amarked preference over the sarcasms of Wiry Ben, who had renounced thepleasures of the Holly Bush for the sake of seeing life under a newform. But both styles of wit were treated with equal contempt by Mr.Joshua Rann. Mr. Rann's leathern apron and subdued griminess can leaveno one in any doubt that he is the village shoemaker; the thrusting outof his chin and stomach and the twirling of his thumbs are more subtleindications, intended to prepare unwary strangers for the discovery thatthey are in the presence of the parish clerk. "Old Joshway," as heis irreverently called by his neighbours, is in a state of simmeringindignation but he has not yet opened his lips except to say, in aresounding bass undertone, like the tuning of a violoncello, "Sehon,King of the Amorites; for His mercy endureth for ever; and Og the Kingof Basan: for His mercy endureth for ever"--a quotation which may seemto have slight bearing on the present occasion, but, as with every otheranomaly, adequate knowledge will show it to be a natural sequence. Mr.Rann was inwardly maintaining the dignity of the Church in the face ofthis scandalous irruption of Methodism, and as that dignity was bound upwith his own sonorous utterance of the responses, his argument naturallysuggested a quotation from the psalm he had read the last Sundayafternoon.
The stronger curiosity of the women had drawn them quite to the edge ofthe Green, where they could examine more closely the Quakerlike costumeand odd deportment of the female Methodists. Underneath the maple therewas a small cart, which had been brought from the wheelwright's to serveas a pulpit, and round this a couple of benches and a few chairs hadbeen placed. Some of the Methodists were resting on these, with theireyes closed, as if wrapt in prayer or meditation. Others chose tocontinue standing, and had turned their faces towards the villagerswith a look of melancholy compassion, which was highly amusing to BessyCranage, the blacksmith's buxom daughter, known to her neighbours asChad's Bess, who wondered "why the folks war amakin' faces a that'ns."Chad's Bess was the object of peculiar compassion, because her hair,being turned back under a cap which was set at the top of her head,exposed to view an ornament of which she was much prouder than of herred cheeks--namely, a pair of large round ear-rings with false garnetsin them, ornaments condemned not only by the Methodists, but by her owncousin and namesake Timothy's Bess, who, with much cousinly feeling,often wished "them ear-rings" might come to good.
Timothy's Bess, though retaining her maiden appellation among herfamiliars, had long been the wife of Sandy Jim, and possessed a handsomeset of matronly jewels, of which it is enough to mention the heavybaby she was rocking in her arms, and the sturdy fellow of five inknee-breeches, and red legs, who had a rusty milk-can round his neck byway of drum, and was very carefully avoided by Chad's small terrier.This young olive-branch, notorious under the name of Timothy's Bess'sBen, being of an inquiring disposition, unchecked by any false modesty,had advanced beyond the group of women and children, and was walkinground the Methodists, looking up in their faces with his mouth wideopen, and beating his stick against the milk-can by way of musicalaccompaniment. But one of the elderly women bending down to take him bythe shoulder, with an air of grave remonstrance, Timothy's Bess's Benfirst kicked out vigorously, then took to his heels and sought refugebehind his father's legs.
"Ye gallows young dog," said Sandy Jim, with some paternal pride, "ifye donna keep that stick quiet, I'll tek it from ye. What dy'e mane bykickin' foulks?"
"Here! Gie him here to me, Jim," said Chad Cranage; "I'll tie hirs upan' shoe him as I do th' hosses. Well, Mester Casson," he continued,as that personage sauntered up towards the group of men, "how are yet' naight? Are ye coom t' help groon? They say folks allays groon whenthey're hearkenin' to th' Methodys, as if they war bad i' th' inside.I mane to groon as loud as your cow did th' other naight, an' then thepraicher 'ull think I'm i' th' raight way."
"I'd advise you not to be up to no nonsense, Chad," said Mr. Casson,with some dignity; "Poyser wouldn't like to hear as his wife's niece wastreated any ways disrespectful, for all he mayn't be fond of her takingon herself to preach."
"Aye, an' she's a pleasant-looked un too," said Wiry Ben. "I'll stickup for the pretty women preachin'; I know they'd persuade me over a dealsooner nor th' ugly men. I shouldna wonder if I turn Methody afore thenight's out, an' begin to coort the preacher, like Seth Bede."
"Why, Seth's looking rether too high, I should think," said Mr. Casson."This woman's kin wouldn't like her to demean herself to a commoncarpenter."
"Tchu!" said Ben, with a long treble intonation, "what's folks's kin gotto do wi't? Not a chip. Poyser's wife may turn her nose up an' forgetbygones, but this Dinah Morris, they tell me, 's as poor as iver shewas--works at a mill, an's much ado to keep hersen. A strappin' youngcarpenter as is a ready-made Methody, like Seth, wouldna be a bad matchfor her. Why, Poysers make as big a fuss wi' Adam Bede as if he war anevvy o' their own."
"Idle talk! idle talk!" said Mr. Joshua Rann. "Adam an' Seth's two men;you wunna fit them two wi' the same last."
"Maybe," said Wiry Ben, contemptuously, "but Seth's the lad for me,though he war a Methody twice o'er. I'm fair beat wi' Seth, for I'vebeen teasin' him iver sin' we've been workin' together, an' he bears meno more malice nor a lamb. An' he's a stout-hearted feller too, for whenwe saw the old tree all afire a-comin' across the fields one night, an'we thought as it war a boguy, Seth made no more ado, but he up to'tas bold as a constable. Why, there he comes out o' Will Maskery's; an'there's Will hisself, lookin' as meek as if he couldna knock a nail o'the head for fear o' hurtin't. An' there's the pretty preacher woman! Myeye, she's got her bonnet off. I mun go a bit nearer."
Several of the men followed Ben's lead, and the traveller pushed hishorse on to the Green, as Dinah walked rather quickly and in advance ofher companions towards the cart under the maple-tree. While she was nearSeth's tall figure, she looked short, but when she had mounted the cart,and was away from all comparison, she seemed above the middle height ofwoman, though in reality she did not exceed it--an effect which was dueto the slimness of her figure and the simple line of her black stuffdress. The stranger was struck with surprise as he saw her approach andmount the cart--surprise, not so much at the feminine delicacy ofher appearance, as at the total absence of self-consciousness in herdemeanour. He had made up his mind to see her advance with a measuredstep and a demure solemnity of countenance; he had felt sure that herface would be mantled with the smile of conscious saintship, orelse charged with denunciatory bitterness. He knew but two types ofMethodist--the ecstatic and the bilious. But Dinah walked as simply asif she were going to market, and seemed as unconscious of her outwardappearance as a little boy: there was no blush, no tremulousness, whichsaid, "I know you think me a pretty woman, too young to preach"; nocasting up or down of the eyelids, no compression of the lips, noattitude of the arms that said, "But you must think of me as a saint."She held no book in her ungloved hands, but let them hang down lightlycrossed before her, as she stood and turned her grey eyes on the people.There was no keenness in the eyes; they seemed rather to be sheddinglove than making observations; they had the liquid look which tells thatthe mind is full of what it has to give out, rather than impressed byexternal objects. She stood with her left hand towards the descendingsun, and leafy boughs screened her from its rays; but in this soberlight the delicate colouring of her face seemed to gather a calmvividness, like flowers at evening. It was a small oval face, of auniform transparent whiteness, with an egg-like line of cheek and chin,a full but firm mouth, a delicate nostril, and a low perpendicular brow,surmounted by a rising arch of parting between smooth locks of palereddish hair. The hair was drawn straight back behind the ears, andcovered, except for an inch or two above the brow, by a net Quaker cap.The eyebrows, of the same colour as the hair, were perfectly horizontaland firmly pencilled; the eyelashes, though no darker, were long andabundant--nothing was left blurred or unfinished. It was one of thosefaces that make one think of white flowers with light touches of colouron their pure petals. The eyes had no peculiar beauty, beyond that ofexpression they looked so simple, so candid, so gravely loving, thatno accusing scowl, no light sneer could help melting away before theirglance. Joshua Rann gave a long cough, as if he were clearing his throatin order to come to a new understanding with himself; Chad Cranagelifted up his leather skull-cap and scratched his head; and Wiry Benwondered how Seth had the pluck to think of courting her.
"A sweet woman," the stranger said to himself, "but surely nature nevermeant her for a preacher."
Perhaps he was one of those who think that nature has theatricalproperties and, with the considerate view of facilitating art andpsychology, "makes up," her characters, so that there may be no mistakeabout them. But Dinah began to speak.
"Dear friends," she said in a clear but not loud voice "let us pray fora blessing."
She closed her eyes, and hanging her head down a little continued in thesame moderate tone, as if speaking to some one quite near her: "Saviourof sinners! When a poor woman laden with sins, went out to the well todraw water, she found Thee sitting at the well. She knew Thee not; shehad not sought Thee; her mind was dark; her life was unholy. But Thoudidst speak to her, Thou didst teach her, Thou didst show her that herlife lay open before Thee, and yet Thou wast ready to give her thatblessing which she had never sought. Jesus, Thou art in the midst of us,and Thou knowest all men: if there is any here like that poor woman--iftheir minds are dark, their lives unholy--if they have come out notseeking Thee, not desiring to be taught; deal with them according to thefree mercy which Thou didst show to her. Speak to them, Lord, open theirears to my message, bring their sins to their minds, and make themthirst for that salvation which Thou art ready to give.
"Lord, Thou art with Thy people still: they see Thee in thenight-watches, and their hearts burn within them as Thou talkest withthem by the way. And Thou art near to those who have not known Thee:open their eyes that they may see Thee--see Thee weeping over them,and saying 'Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life'--see Theehanging on the cross and saying, 'Father, forgive them, for they knownot what they do'--see Thee as Thou wilt come again in Thy glory tojudge them at the last. Amen."
Dinah opened her eyes again and paused, looking at the group ofvillagers, who were now gathered rather more closely on her right hand.
"Dear friends," she began, raising her voice a little, "you have all ofyou been to church, and I think you must have heard the clergymanread these words: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hathanointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.' Jesus Christ spoke thosewords--he said he came TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. I don't knowwhether you ever thought about those words much, but I will tell youwhen I remember first hearing them. It was on just such a sort ofevening as this, when I was a little girl, and my aunt as brought me uptook me to hear a good man preach out of doors, just as we are here. Iremember his face well: he was a very old man, and had very long whitehair; his voice was very soft and beautiful, not like any voice I hadever heard before. I was a little girl and scarcely knew anything, andthis old man seemed to me such a different sort of a man from anybodyI had ever seen before that I thought he had perhaps come down fromthe sky to preach to us, and I said, 'Aunt, will he go back to the skyto-night, like the picture in the Bible?'
"That man of God was Mr. Wesley, who spent his life in doing what ourblessed Lord did--preaching the Gospel to the poor--and he entered intohis rest eight y
"Think of that now! Jesus Christ did really come down from heaven, asI, like a silly child, thought Mr. Wesley did; and what he came downfor was to tell good news about God to the poor. Why, you and me, dearfriends, are poor. We have been brought up in poor cottages and havebeen reared on oat-cake, and lived coarse; and we haven't been to schoolmuch, nor read books, and we don't know much about anything but whathappens just round us. We are just the sort of people that want tohear good news. For when anybody's well off, they don't much mind abouthearing news from distant parts; but if a poor man or woman's in troubleand has hard work to make out a living, they like to have a letter totell 'em they've got a friend as will help 'em. To be sure, we can'thelp knowing something about God, even if we've never heard the Gospel,the good news that our Saviour brought us. For we know everything comesfrom God: don't you say almost every day, 'This and that will happen,please God,' and 'We shall begin to cut the grass soon, please God tosend us a little more sunshine'? We know very well we are altogetherin the hands of God. We didn't bring ourselves into the world, we can'tkeep ourselves alive while we're sleeping; the daylight, and the wind,and the corn, and the cows to give us milk--everything we have comesfrom God. And he gave us our souls and put love between parents andchildren, and husband and wife. But is that as much as we want to knowabout God? We see he is great and mighty, and can do what he will: weare lost, as if we was struggling in great waters, when we try to thinkof him.
"But perhaps doubts come into your mind like this: Can God take muchnotice of us poor people? Perhaps he only made the world for the greatand the wise and the rich. It doesn't cost him much to give us ourlittle handful of victual and bit of clothing; but how do we know hecares for us any more than we care for the worms and things in thegarden, so as we rear our carrots and onions? Will God take care of uswhen we die? And has he any comfort for us when we are lame and sick andhelpless? Perhaps, too, he is angry with us; else why does the blightcome, and the bad harvests, and the fever, and all sorts of pain andtrouble? For our life is full of trouble, and if God sends us good, heseems to send bad too. How is it? How is it?
"Ah, dear friends, we are in sad want of good news about God; and whatdoes other good news signify if we haven't that? For everything elsecomes to an end, and when we die we leave it all. But God lasts wheneverything else is gone. What shall we do if he is not our friend?"
Then Dinah told how the good news had been brought, and how the mindof God towards the poor had been made manifest in the life of Jesus,dwelling on its lowliness and its acts of mercy.
"So you see, dear friends," she went on, "Jesus spent his time almostall in doing good to poor people; he preached out of doors to them, andhe made friends of poor workmen, and taught them and took pains withthem. Not but what he did good to the rich too, for he was full of loveto all men, only he saw as the poor were more in want of his help. Sohe cured the lame and the sick and the blind, and he worked miracles tofeed the hungry because, he said, he was sorry for them; and he wasvery kind to the little children and comforted those who had lost theirfriends; and he spoke very tenderly to poor sinners that were sorry fortheir sins.
"Ah, wouldn't you love such a man if you saw him--if he were here inthis village? What a kind heart he must have! What a friend he would beto go to in trouble! How pleasant it must be to be taught by him.
"Well, dear friends, who WAS this man? Was he only a good man--a verygood man, and no more--like our dear Mr. Wesley, who has been taken fromus?...He was the Son of God--'in the image of the Father,' the Biblesays; that means, just like God, who is the beginning and end of allthings--the God we want to know about. So then, all the love thatJesus showed to the poor is the same love that God has for us. We canunderstand what Jesus felt, because he came in a body like ours andspoke words such as we speak to each other. We were afraid to think whatGod was before--the God who made the world and the sky and the thunderand lightning. We could never see him; we could only see the things hehad made; and some of these things was very terrible, so as we mightwell tremble when we thought of him. But our blessed Saviour has showedus what God is in a way us poor ignorant people can understand; he hasshowed us what God's heart is, what are his feelings towards us.
"But let us see a little more about what Jesus came on earth for.Another time he said, 'I came to seek and to save that which was lost';and another time, 'I came not to call the righteous but sinners torepentance.'
"The LOST!...SINNERS!...Ah, dear friends, does that mean you and me?"
Hitherto the traveller had been chained to the spot against his willby the charm of Dinah's mellow treble tones, which had a variety ofmodulation like that of a fine instrument touched with the unconsciousskill of musical instinct. The simple things she said seemed likenovelties, as a melody strikes us with a new feeling when we hearit sung by the pure voice of a boyish chorister; the quiet depth ofconviction with which she spoke seemed in itself an evidence for thetruth of her message. He saw that she had thoroughly arrested herhearers. The villagers had pressed nearer to her, and there was nolonger anything but grave attention on all faces. She spoke slowly,though quite fluently, often pausing after a question, or before anytransition of ideas. There was no change of attitude, no gesture; theeffect of her speech was produced entirely by the inflections of hervoice, and when she came to the question, "Will God take care of uswhen we die?" she uttered it in such a tone of plaintive appeal thatthe tears came into some of the hardest eyes. The stranger had ceasedto doubt, as he had done at the first glance, that she could fix theattention of her rougher hearers, but still he wondered whether shecould have that power of rousing their more violent emotions, whichmust surely be a necessary seal of her vocation as a Methodist preacher,until she came to the words, "Lost!--Sinners!" when there was a greatchange in her voice and manner. She had made a long pause before theexclamation, and the pause seemed to be filled by agitating thoughtsthat showed themselves in her features. Her pale face became paler;the circles under her eyes deepened, as they did when tears half-gatherwithout falling; and the mild loving eyes took an expression of appalledpity, as if she had suddenly discerned a destroying angel hovering overthe heads of the people. Her voice became deep and muffled, but therewas still no gesture. Nothing could be less like the ordinary type ofthe Ranter than Dinah. She was not preaching as she heard others preach,but speaking directly from her own emotions and under the inspiration ofher own simple faith.
But now she had entered into a new current of feeling. Her manner becameless calm, her utterance more rapid and agitated, as she tried to bringhome to the people their guilt, their wilful darkness, their state ofdisobedience to God--as she dwelt on the hatefulness of sin, the Divineholiness, and the sufferings of the Saviour, by which a way had beenopened for their salvation. At last it seemed as if, in her yearningdesire to reclaim the lost sheep, she could not be satisfied byaddressing her hearers as a body. She appealed first to one and then toanother, beseeching them with tears to turn to God while there wasyet time; painting to them the desolation of their souls, lost in sin,feeding on the husks of this miserable world, far away from God theirFather; and then the love of the Saviour, who was waiting and watchingfor their return.
There was many a responsive sigh and groan from her fellow-Methodists,but the village mind does not easily take fire, and a little smoulderingvague anxiety that might easily die out again was the utmost effectDinah's preaching had wrought in them at present. Yet no one hadretired, except the children and "old Feyther Taft," who being too deafto catch many words, had some time ago gone back to his inglenook. WiryBen was feeling very uncomfortable, and almost wishing he had not cometo hear Dinah; he thought what she said would haunt him somehow. Yet hecouldn't help liking to look at her and listen to her, though he dreadedevery moment th
In front of Sandy Jim stood Chad's Bess, who had shown an unwontedquietude and fixity of attention ever since Dinah had begun to speak.Not that the matter of the discourse had arrested her at once, for shewas lost in a puzzling speculation as to what pleasure and satisfactionthere could be in life to a young woman who wore a cap like Dinah's.Giving up this inquiry in despair, she took to studying Dinah's nose,eyes, mouth, and hair, and wondering whether it was better to have sucha sort of pale face as that, or fat red cheeks and round black eyes likeher own. But gradually the influence of the general gravity told uponher, and she became conscious of what Dinah was saying. The gentletones, the loving persuasion, did not touch her, but when the moresevere appeals came she began to be frightened. Poor Bessy had alwaysbeen considered a naughty girl; she was conscious of it; if it wasnecessary to be very good, it was clear she must be in a bad way. Shecouldn't find her places at church as Sally Rann could, she had oftenbeen tittering when she "curcheyed" to Mr. Irwine; and these religiousdeficiencies were accompanied by a corresponding slackness in the minormorals, for Bessy belonged unquestionably to that unsoaped lazy class offeminine characters with whom you may venture to "eat an egg, an apple,or a nut." All this she was generally conscious of, and hitherto had notbeen greatly ashamed of it. But now she began to feel very much as ifthe constable had come to take her up and carry her before the justicefor some undefined offence. She had a terrified sense that God, whom shehad always thought of as very far off, was very near to her, and thatJesus was close by looking at her, though she could not see him. ForDinah had that belief in visible manifestations of Jesus, which iscommon among the Methodists, and she communicated it irresistibly to herhearers: she made them feel that he was among them bodily, and might atany moment show himself to them in some way that would strike anguishand penitence into their hearts.
"See!" she exclaimed, turning to the left, with her eyes fixed on apoint above the heads of the people. "See where our blessed Lord standsand weeps and stretches out his arms towards you. Hear what he says:'How often would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickensunder her wings, and ye would not!'...and ye would not," she repeated,in a tone of pleading reproach, turning her eyes on the people again."See the print of the nails on his dear hands and feet. It is your sinsthat made them! Ah! How pale and worn he looks! He has gone through allthat great agony in the garden, when his soul was exceeding sorrowfuleven unto death, and the great drops of sweat fell like blood to theground. They spat upon him and buffeted him, they scourged him, theymocked him, they laid the heavy cross on his bruised shoulders. Thenthey nailed him up. Ah, what pain! His lips are parched with thirst, andthey mock him still in this great agony; yet with those parched lips heprays for them, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'Then a horror of great darkness fell upon him, and he felt what sinnersfeel when they are for ever shut out from God. That was the last dropin the cup of bitterness. 'My God, my God!' he cries, 'why hast Thouforsaken me?'
"All this he bore for you! For you--and you never think of him; foryou--and you turn your backs on him; you don't care what he has gonethrough for you. Yet he is not weary of toiling for you: he has risenfrom the dead, he is praying for you at the right hand of God--'Father,forgive them, for they know not what they do.' And he is upon this earthtoo; he is among us; he is there close to you now; I see his woundedbody and his look of love."
Here Dinah turned to Bessy Cranage, whose bonny youth and evident vanityhad touched her with pity.
"Poor child! Poor child! He is beseeching you, and you don't listen tohim. You think of ear-rings and fine gowns and caps, and you never thinkof the Saviour who died to save your precious soul. Your cheeks will beshrivelled one day, your hair will be grey, your poor body will be thinand tottering! Then you will begin to feel that your soul is not saved;then you will have to stand before God dressed in your sins, in yourevil tempers and vain thoughts. And Jesus, who stands ready to help younow, won't help you then; because you won't have him to be your Saviour,he will be your judge. Now he looks at you with love and mercy and says,'Come to me that you may have life'; then he will turn away from you,and say, 'Depart from me into ever-lasting fire!'"
Poor Bessy's wide-open black eyes began to fill with tears, her greatred cheeks and lips became quite pale, and her face was distorted like alittle child's before a burst of crying.
"Ah, poor blind child!" Dinah went on, "think if it should happen to youas it once happened to a servant of God in the days of her vanity. SHEthought of her lace caps and saved all her money to buy 'em; she thoughtnothing about how she might get a clean heart and a right spirit--sheonly wanted to have better lace than other girls. And one day when sheput her new cap on and looked in the glass, she saw a bleeding Facecrowned with thorns. That face is looking at you now"--here Dinahpointed to a spot close in front of Bessy--"Ah, tear off those follies!Cast them away from you, as if they were stinging adders. They AREstinging you--they are poisoning your soul--they are dragging you downinto a dark bottomless pit, where you will sink for ever, and for ever,and for ever, further away from light and God."
Bessy could bear it no longer: a great terror was upon her, andwrenching her ear-rings from her ears, she threw them down before her,sobbing aloud. Her father, Chad, frightened lest he should be "laid holdon" too, this impression on the rebellious Bess striking him as nothingless than a miracle, walked hastily away and began to work at his anvilby way of reassuring himself. "Folks mun ha' hoss-shoes, praichin' orno praichin': the divil canna lay hould o' me for that," he muttered tohimself.
But now Dinah began to tell of the joys that were in store for thepenitent, and to describe in her simple way the divine peace and lovewith which the soul of the believer is filled--how the sense of God'slove turns poverty into riches and satisfies the soul so that no uneasydesire vexes it, no fear alarms it: how, at last, the very temptationto sin is extinguished, and heaven is begun upon earth, because no cloudpasses between the soul and God, who is its eternal sun.
"Dear friends," she said at last, "brothers and sisters, whom I loveas those for whom my Lord has died, believe me, I know what this greatblessedness is; and because I know it, I want you to have it too. I ampoor, like you: I have to get my living with my hands; but no lord norlady can be so happy as me, if they haven't got the love of God in theirsouls. Think what it is--not to hate anything but sin; to be full oflove to every creature; to be frightened at nothing; to be sure that allthings will turn to good; not to mind pain, because it is our Father'swill; to know that nothing--no, not if the earth was to be burnt up, orthe waters come and drown us--nothing could part us from God who lovesus, and who fills our souls with peace and joy, because we are sure thatwhatever he wills is holy, just, and good.
"Dear friends, come and take this blessedness; it is offered to you; itis the good news that Jesus came to preach to the poor. It is not likethe riches of this world, so that the more one gets the less the restcan have. God is without end; his love is without end--"
Its streams the whole creation reach, So plenteous is the store; Enough for all, enough for each, Enough for evermore.
Dinah had been speaking at least an hour, and the reddening light of theparting day seemed to give a solemn emphasis to her closing words. Thestranger, who had been interested in the course of her sermon as ifit had been the development of a drama--for there is this sort offascination in all sincere unpremeditated eloquence, which opens to onethe inward drama of the speaker's emotions--now turned his horse asideand pursued his way, while Dinah said, "Let us sing a little, dearfriends"; and as he was still winding down the slope, the voices of theMethodists reached him, rising and falli
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