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Adam Bede

16.Links
ARTHUR DONNITHORNE, you remember, is under an engagement with himself
to go and see Mr. Irwine this Friday morning, and he is awake and dressing so
early that he determines to go before breakfast, instead of after. The rector, he
knows, breakfasts alone at half-past nine, the ladies of the family having a
different breakfast-hour; Arthur will have an early ride over the hill and breakfast
with him. One can say everything best over a meal.
The progress of civilization has made a breakfast or a dinner an easy and
cheerful substitute for more troublesome and disagreeable ceremonies. We take
a less gloomy view of our errors now our father confessor listens to us over his
egg and coffee. We are more distinctly conscious that rude penances are out of
the question for gentlemen in an enlightened age, and that mortal sin is not
incompatible with an appetite for muffins. An assault on our pockets, which in
more barbarous times would have been made in the brusque form of a pistol-
shot, is quite a well-bred and smiling procedure now it has become a request for
a loan thrown in as an easy parenthesis between the second and third glasses of
claret.
Still, there was this advantage in the old rigid forms, that they committed you to
the fulfilment of a resolution by some outward deed: when you have put your
mouth to one end of a hole in a stone wall and are aware that there is an
expectant ear at the other end, you are more likely to say what you came out with
the intention of saying than if you were seated with your legs in an easy attitude
under the mahogany with a companion who will have no reason to be surprised if
you have nothing particular to say.
However, Arthur Donnithorne, as he winds among the pleasant lanes on
horseback in the morning sunshine, has a sincere determination to open his
heart to the rector, and the swirling sound of the scythe as he passes by the
meadow is all the pleasanter to him because of this honest purpose. He is glad to
see the promise of settled weather now, for getting in the hay, about which the
farmers have been fearful; and there is something so healthful in the sharing of a
joy that is general and not merely personal, that this thought about the hay-
harvest reacts on his state of mind and makes his resolution seem an easier
matter. A man about town might perhaps consider that these influences were not
to be felt out of a child's story-book; but when you are among the fields and
hedgerows, it is impossible to maintain a consistent superiority to simple natural
pleasures.
Arthur had passed the village of Hayslope and was approaching the Broxton side
of the hill, when, at a turning in the road, he saw a figure about a hundred yards
before him which it was impossible to mistake for any one else than Adam Bede,
even if there had been no grey, tailless shepherd-dog at his heels. He was
 
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