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Adam Bede

9. Hetty's World
WHILE she adjusted the broad leaves that set off the pale fragrant butter as the
primrose is set off by its nest of green I am afraid Hetty was thinking a great deal
more of the looks Captain Donnithorne had cast at her than of Adam and his
troubles. Bright, admiring glances from a handsome young gentleman with white
hands, a gold chain, occasional regimentals, and wealth and grandeur
immeasurable--those were the warm rays that set poor Hetty's heart vibrating
and playing its little foolish tunes over and over again. We do not hear that
Memnon's statue gave forth its melody at all under the rushing of the mightiest
wind, or in response to any other influence divine or human than certain short-
lived sunbeams of morning; and we must learn to accommodate ourselves to the
discovery that some of those cunningly fashioned instruments called human
souls have only a very limited range of music, and will not vibrate in the least
under a touch that fills others with tremulous rapture or quivering agony.
Hetty was quite used to the thought that people liked to look at her. She was not
blind to the fact that young Luke Britton of Broxton came to Hayslope Church on
a Sunday afternoon on purpose that he might see her; and that he would have
made much more decided advances if her uncle Poyser, thinking but lightly of a
young man whose father's land was so foul as old Luke Britton's, had not
forbidden her aunt to encourage him by any civilities. She was aware, too, that
Mr. Craig, the gardener at the Chase, was over head and ears in love with her,
and had lately made unmistakable avowals in luscious strawberries and
hyperbolical peas. She knew still better, that Adam Bede--tall, upright, clever,
brave Adam Bede--who carried such authority with all the people round about,
and whom her uncle was always delighted to see of an evening, saying that
"Adam knew a fine sight more o' the natur o' things than those as thought
themselves his betters"--she knew that this Adam, who was often rather stern to
other people and not much given to run after the lasses, could be made to turn
pale or red any day by a word or a look from her. Hetty's sphere of comparison
was not large, but she couldn't help perceiving that Adam was "something like" a
man; always knew what to say about things, could tell her uncle how to prop the
hovel, and had mended the churn in no time; knew, with only looking at it, the
value of the chestnut-tree that was blown down, and why the damp came in the
walls, and what they must do to stop the rats; and wrote a beautiful hand that you
could read off, and could do figures in his head--a degree of accomplishment
totally unknown among the richest farmers of that countryside. Not at all like that
slouching Luke Britton, who, when she once walked with him all the way from
Broxton to Hayslope, had only broken silence to remark that the grey goose had
begun to lay. And as for Mr. Craig, the gardener, he was a sensible man enough,
to be sure, but he was knock-kneed, and had a queer sort of sing-song in his
talk; moreover, on the most charitable supposition, he must be far on the way to
forty.
 
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