Adam Bede HTML version

during Mr. Poyser's speech, but it was too feeble to nullify the pleasure he felt in
being praised. Did he not deserve what was said of him on the whole? If there
was something in his conduct that Poyser wouldn't have liked if he had known it,
why, no man's conduct will bear too close an inspection; and Poyser was not
likely to know it; and, after all, what had he done? Gone a little too far, perhaps,
in flirtation, but another man in his place would have acted much worse; and no
harm would come--no harm should come, for the next time he was alone with
Hetty, he would explain to her that she must not think seriously of him or of what
had passed. It was necessary to Arthur, you perceive, to be satisfied with
himself. Uncomfortable thoughts must be got rid of by good intentions for the
future, which can be formed so rapidly that he had time to be uncomfortable and
to become easy again before Mr. Poyser's slow speech was finished, and when it
was time for him to speak he was quite light-hearted.
"I thank you all, my good friends and neighbours," Arthur said, "for the good
opinion of me, and the kind feelings towards me which Mr. Poyser has been
expressing on your behalf and on his own, and it will always be my heartiest wish
to deserve them. In the course of things we may expect that, if I live, I shall one
day or other be your landlord; indeed, it is on the ground of that expectation that
my grandfather has wished me to celebrate this day and to come among you
now; and I look forward to this position, not merely as one of power and pleasure
for myself, but as a means of benefiting my neighbours. It hardly becomes so
young a man as I am to talk much about farming to you, who are most of you so
much older, and are men of experience; still, I have interested myself a good
deal in such matters, and learned as much about them as my opportunities have
allowed; and when the course of events shall place the estate in my hands, it will
be my first desire to afford my tenants all the encouragement a landlord can give
them, in improving their land and trying to bring about a better practice of
husbandry. It will be my wish to be looked on by all my deserving tenants as their
best friend, and nothing would make me so happy as to be able to respect every
man on the estate, and to be respected by him in return. It is not my place at
present to enter into particulars; I only meet your good hopes concerning me by
telling you that my own hopes correspond to them-- that what you expect from
me I desire to fulfil; and I am quite of Mr. Poyser's opinion, that when a man has
said what he means, he had better stop. But the pleasure I feel in having my own
health drunk by you would not be perfect if we did not drink the health of my
grandfather, who has filled the place of both parents to me. I will say no more,
until you have joined me in drinking his health on a day when he has wished me
to appear among you as the future representative of his name and family."
Perhaps there was no one present except Mr. Irwine who thoroughly understood
and approved Arthur's graceful mode of proposing his grandfather's health. The
farmers thought the young squire knew well enough that they hated the old
squire, and Mrs. Poyser said, "he'd better not ha' stirred a kettle o' sour broth."
The bucolic mind does not readily apprehend the refinements of good taste. But
the toast could not be rejected and when it had been drunk, Arthur said, "I thank