8. A Vocation
DINAH, who had risen when the gentlemen came in, but still kept hold of the
sheet she was mending, curtsied respectfully when she saw Mr. Irwine looking at
her and advancing towards her. He had never yet spoken to her, or stood face to
face with her, and her first thought, as her eyes met his, was, "What a well-
favoured countenance! Oh that the good seed might fall on that soil, for it would
surely flourish." The agreeable impression must have been mutual, for Mr. Irwine
bowed to her with a benignant deference, which would have been equally in
place if she had been the most dignified lady of his acquaintance.
"You are only a visitor in this neighbourhood, I think?" were his first words, as he
seated himself opposite to her.
"No, sir, I come from Snowfield, in Stonyshire. But my aunt was very kind,
wanting me to have rest from my work there, because I'd been ill, and she invited
me to come and stay with her for a while."
"Ah, I remember Snowfield very well; I once had occasion to go there. It's a
dreary bleak place. They were building a cotton- mill there; but that's many years
ago now. I suppose the place is a good deal changed by the employment that
mill must have brought."
"It IS changed so far as the mill has brought people there, who get a livelihood for
themselves by working in it, and make it better for the tradesfolks. I work in it
myself, and have reason to be grateful, for thereby I have enough and to spare.
But it's still a bleak place, as you say, sir--very different from this country."
"You have relations living there, probably, so that you are attached to the place
as your home?"
"I had an aunt there once; she brought me up, for I was an orphan. But she was
taken away seven years ago, and I have no other kindred that I know of, besides
my Aunt Poyser, who is very good to me, and would have me come and live in
this country, which to be sure is a good land, wherein they eat bread without
scarceness. But I'm not free to leave Snowfield, where I was first planted, and
have grown deep into it, like the small grass on the hill- top."
"Ah, I daresay you have many religious friends and companions there; you are a
Methodist--a Wesleyan, I think?"
"Yes, my aunt at Snowfield belonged to the Society, and I have cause to be
thankful for the privileges I have had thereby from my earliest childhood."