3. After the Preaching
IN less than an hour from that time, Seth Bede was walking by Dinah's side along
the hedgerow-path that skirted the pastures and green corn-fields which lay
between the village and the Hall Farm. Dinah had taken off her little Quaker
bonnet again, and was holding it in her hands that she might have a freer
enjoyment of the cool evening twilight, and Seth could see the expression of her
face quite clearly as he walked by her side, timidly revolving something he
wanted to say to her. It was an expression of unconscious placid gravity--of
absorption in thoughts that had no connection with the present moment or with
her own personality--an expression that is most of all discouraging to a lover. Her
very walk was discouraging: it had that quiet elasticity that asks for no support.
Seth felt this dimly; he said to himself, "She's too good and holy for any man, let
alone me," and the words he had been summoning rushed back again before
they had reached his lips. But another thought gave him courage: "There's no
man could love her better and leave her freer to follow the Lord's work." They
had been silent for many minutes now, since they had done talking about Bessy
Cranage; Dinah seemed almost to have forgotten Seth's presence, and her pace
was becoming so much quicker that the sense of their being only a few minutes'
walk from the yard-gates of the Hall Farm at last gave Seth courage to speak.
"You've quite made up your mind to go back to Snowfield o' Saturday, Dinah?"
"Yes," said Dinah, quietly. "I'm called there. It was borne in upon my mind while I
was meditating on Sunday night, as Sister Allen, who's in a decline, is in need of
me. I saw her as plain as we see that bit of thin white cloud, lifting up her poor
thin hand and beckoning to me. And this morning when I opened the Bible for
direction, the first words my eyes fell on were, 'And after we had seen the vision,
immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia.' If it wasn't for that clear
showing of the Lord's will, I should be loath to go, for my heart yearns over my
aunt and her little ones, and that poor wandering lamb Hetty Sorrel. I've been
much drawn out in prayer for her of late, and I look on it as a token that there
may be mercy in store for her."
"God grant it," said Seth. "For I doubt Adam's heart is so set on her, he'll never
turn to anybody else; and yet it 'ud go to my heart if he was to marry her, for I
canna think as she'd make him happy. It's a deep mystery--the way the heart of
man turns to one woman out of all the rest he's seen i' the world, and makes it
easier for him to work seven year for HER, like Jacob did for Rachel, sooner than
have any other woman for th' asking. I often think of them words, 'And Jacob
served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed to him but a few days for the
love he had to her.' I know those words 'ud come true with me, Dinah, if so be
you'd give me hope as I might win you after seven years was over. I know you
think a husband 'ud be taking up too much o' your thoughts, because St. Paul