Adam Bede HTML version

13. Evening in the Wood
IT happened that Mrs. Pomfret had had a slight quarrel with Mrs. Best, the
housekeeper, on this Thursday morning--a fact which had two consequences
highly convenient to Hetty. It caused Mrs. Pomfret to have tea sent up to her own
room, and it inspired that exemplary lady's maid with so lively a recollection of
former passages in Mrs. Best's conduct, and of dialogues in which Mrs. Best had
decidedly the inferiority as an interlocutor with Mrs. Pomfret, that Hetty required
no more presence of mind than was demanded for using her needle, and
throwing in an occasional "yes" or "no." She would have wanted to put on her hat
earlier than usual; only she had told Captain Donnithorne that she usually set out
about eight o'clock, and if he SHOULD go to the Grove again expecting to see
her, and she should be gone! Would he come? Her little butterfly soul fluttered
incessantly between memory and dubious expectation. At last the minute-hand of
the old-fashioned brazen-faced timepiece was on the last quarter to eight, and
there was every reason for its being time to get ready for departure. Even Mrs.
Pomfret's preoccupied mind did not prevent her from noticing what looked like a
new flush of beauty in the little thing as she tied on her hat before the looking-
"That child gets prettier and prettier every day, I do believe," was her inward
comment. "The more's the pity. She'll get neither a place nor a husband any the
sooner for it. Sober well-to-do men don't like such pretty wives. When I was a girl,
I was more admired than if I had been so very pretty. However, she's reason to
be grateful to me for teaching her something to get her bread with, better than
farm-house work. They always told me I was good-natured--and that's the truth,
and to my hurt too, else there's them in this house that wouldn't be here now to
lord it over me in the housekeeper's room."
Hetty walked hastily across the short space of pleasure-ground which she had to
traverse, dreading to meet Mr. Craig, to whom she could hardly have spoken
civilly. How relieved she was when she had got safely under the oaks and among
the fern of the Chase! Even then she was as ready to be startled as the deer that
leaped away at her approach. She thought nothing of the evening light that lay
gently in the grassy alleys between the fern, and made the beauty of their living
green more visible than it had been in the overpowering flood of noon: she
thought of nothing that was present. She only saw something that was possible:
Mr. Arthur Donnithorne coming to meet her again along the Fir-tree Grove. That
was the foreground of Hetty's picture; behind it lay a bright hazy something--days
that were not to be as the other days of her life had been. It was as if she had
been wooed by a river-god, who might any time take her to his wondrous halls
below a watery heaven. There was no knowing what would come, since this
strange entrancing delight had come. If a chest full of lace and satin and jewels