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Adam Bede

1. The Workshop
With a single drop of ink for a mirror, the Egyptian sorcerer undertakes to reveal
to any chance comer far-reaching visions of the past. This is what I undertake to
do for you, reader. With this drop of ink at the end 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 the eighteenth of June, in the year of our Lord 1799.
The afternoon sun was warm on the five workmen there, busy upon doors and
window-frames and wainscoting. A scent of pine-wood from a tentlike pile of
planks outside the open door mingled itself with the scent of the elder-bushes
which were spreading their summer snow close to the open window opposite; the
slanting sunbeams shone through the transparent shavings that flew before the
steady plane, and lit up the fine grain of the oak panelling which stood propped
against the wall. On a heap of those soft shavings a rough, grey shepherd dog
had made himself a pleasant bed, and was lying with his nose between his fore-
paws, occasionally wrinkling his brows to cast a glance at the tallest of the five
workmen, who was carving a shield in the centre of a wooden mantelpiece. It
was to this workman that the strong barytone belonged 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 concentrated
attention, and the sonorous voice subsided into a low whistle; but it presently
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 chest belonged
to a large-boned, muscular man nearly six feet high, with a back so flat and a
head so well poised that when he drew himself up to take a more distant survey
of his work, he had the air of a soldier standing at ease. The sleeve rolled up
above the elbow showed an arm that was likely to win the prize for feats of
strength; yet the long supple hand, with its broad finger-tips, looked ready for
works of skill. In his tall stalwartness Adam Bede was a Saxon, and justified his
name; but the jet-black hair, made the more noticeable by its contrast with the
light paper cap, and the keen glance of the dark eyes that shone from under
strongly marked, prominent and mobile eyebrows, indicated a mixture of Celtic
blood. The face was large and roughly hewn, and when in repose had no other