Adam Bede HTML version

25.The Games
THE great dance was not to begin until eight o'clock, but for any lads and lasses
who liked to dance on the shady grass before then, there was music always at
hand--for was not the band of the Benefit Club capable of playing excellent jigs,
reels, and hornpipes? And, besides this, there was a grand band hired from
Rosseter, who, with their wonderful wind-instruments and puffed- out cheeks,
were themselves a delightful show to the small boys and girls. To say nothing of
Joshua Rann's fiddle, which, by an act of generous forethought, he had provided
himself with, in case any one should be of sufficiently pure taste to prefer dancing
to a solo on that instrument.
Meantime, when the sun had moved off the great open space in front of the
house, the games began. There were, of course, well-soaped poles to be
climbed by the boys and youths, races to be run by the old women, races to be
run in sacks, heavy weights to be lifted by the strong men, and a long list of
challenges to such ambitious attempts as that of walking as many yards possible
on one leg-- feats in which it was generally remarked that Wiry Ben, being "the
lissom'st, springest fellow i' the country," was sure to be pre- eminent. To crown
all, there was to be a donkey-race--that sublimest of all races, conducted on the
grand socialistic idea of everybody encouraging everybody else's donkey, and
the sorriest donkey winning.
And soon after four o ciock, splendid old Mrs. Irwine, in her damask satin and
jewels and black lace, was led out by Arthur, followed by the whole family party,
to her raised seat under the striped marquee, where she was to give out the
prizes to the victors. Staid, formal Miss Lydia had requested to resign that
queenly office to the royal old lady, and Arthur was pleased with this opportunity
of gratifying his godmother's taste for stateliness. Old Mr. Donnithorne, the
delicately clean, finely scented, withered old man, led out Miss Irwine, with his air
of punctilious, acid politeness; Mr. Gawaine brought Miss Lydia, looking neutral
and stiff in an elegant peach-blossom silk; and Mr. Irwine came last with his pale
sister Anne. No other friend of the family, besides Mr. Gawaine, was invited to-
day; there was to be a grand dinner for the neighbouring gentry on the morrow,
but to-day all the forces were required for the entertainment of the tenants.
There was a sunk fence in front of the marquee, dividing the lawn from the park,
but a temporary bridge had been made for the passage of the victors, and the
groups of people standing, or seated here and there on benches, stretched on
each side of the open space from the white marquees up to the sunk fence.
"Upon my word it's a pretty sight," said the old lady, in her deep voice, when she
was seated, and looked round on the bright scene with its dark-green
background; "and it's the last fete-day I'm likely to see, unless you make haste