"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 hard condition.
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