Adam Bede HTML version

22.Going to the Birthday Feast
THE thirtieth of July was come, and it was one of those half-dozen warm days
which sometimes occur in the middle of a rainy English summer. No rain had
fallen for the last three or four days, and the weather was perfect for that time of
the year: there was less dust than usual on the dark-green hedge-rows and on
the wild camomile that starred the roadside, yet the grass was dry enough for the
little children to roll on it, and there was no cloud but a long dash of light, downy
ripple, high, high up in the far-off blue sky. Perfect weather for an outdoor July
merry-making, yet surely not the best time of year to be born in. Nature seems to
make a hot pause just then: all the loveliest flowers are gone; the sweet time of
early growth and vague hopes is past; and yet the time of harvest and
ingathering is not come, and we tremble at the possible storms that may ruin the
precious fruit in the moment of its ripeness. The woods are all one dark
monotonous green; the waggon-loads of hay no longer creep along the lanes,
scattering their sweet-smelling fragments on the blackberry branches; the
pastures are often a little tanned, yet the corn has not got its last splendour of red
and gold; the lambs and calves have lost all traces of their innocent frisky
prettiness, and have become stupid young sheep and cows. But it is a time of
leisure on the farm-- that pause between hay- and corn-harvest, and so the
farmers and labourers in Hayslope and Broxton thought the captain did well to
come of age just then, when they could give their undivided minds to the flavour
of the great cask of ale which had been brewed the autumn after "the heir" was
born, and was to be tapped on his twenty-first birthday. The air had been merry
with the ringing of church-bells very early this morning, and every one had made
haste to get through the needful work before twelve, when it would be time to
think of getting ready to go to the Chase.
The midday sun was streaming into Hetty's bedchamber, and there was no blind
to temper the heat with which it fell on her head as she looked at herself in the
old specked glass. Still, that was the only glass she had in which she could see
her neck and arms, for the small hanging glass she had fetched out of the next
room-- the room that had been Dinah's--would show her nothing below her little
chin; and that beautiful bit of neck where the roundness of her cheek melted into
another roundness shadowed by dark delicate curls. And to-day she thought
more than usual about her neck and arms; for at the dance this evening she was
not to wear any neckerchief, and she had been busy yesterday with her spotted
pink-and-white frock, that she might make the sleeves either long or short at will.
She was dressed now just as she was to be in the evening, with a tucker made of
"real" lace, which her aunt had lent her for this unparalleled occasion, but with no
ornaments besides; she had even taken out her small round ear-rings which she
wore every day. But there was something more to be done, apparently, before
she put on her neckerchief and long sleeves, which she was to wear in the day-
time, for now she unlocked the drawer that held her private treasures. It is more