"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
"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 have me."
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 again.
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
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