for the comin' o' age o' the 30th o' July. But he's fond o' getting away for a bit,
now and then. Him and th' old squire fit one another like frost and flowers."
Mr. Craig smiled and winked slowly as he made this last observation, but the
subject was not developed farther, for now they had reached the turning in the
road where Adam and his companions must say "good-bye." The gardener, too,
would have had to turn off in the same direction if he had not accepted Mr.
Poyser's invitation to tea. Mrs. Poyser duly seconded the invitation, for she would
have held it a deep disgrace not to make her neighbours welcome to her house:
personal likes and dislikes must not interfere with that sacred custom. Moreover,
Mr. Craig had always been full of civilities to the family at the Hall Farm, and Mrs.
Poyser was scrupulous in declaring that she had "nothing to say again' him, on'y
it was a pity he couldna be hatched o'er again, an' hatched different."
So Adam and Seth, with their mother between them, wound their way down to
the valley and up again to the old house, where a saddened memory had taken
the place of a long, long anxiety--where Adam would never have to ask again as
he entered, "Where's Father?"
And the other family party, with Mr. Craig for company, went back to the pleasant
bright house-place at the Hall Farm--all with quiet minds, except Hetty, who knew
now where Arthur was gone, but was only the more puzzled and uneasy. For it
appeared that his absence was quite voluntary; he need not have gone--he
would not have gone if he had wanted to see her. She had a sickening sense
that no lot could ever be pleasant to her again if her Thursday night's vision was
not to be fulfilled; and in this moment of chill, bare, wintry disappointment and
doubt, she looked towards the possibility of being with Arthur again, of meeting
his loving glance, and hearing his soft words with that eager yearning which one
may call the "growing pain" of passion.