Adam Bede HTML version

44.Arthur's Return
When Arthur Donnithorne landed at Liverpool and read the letter from his Aunt
Lydia, briefly announcing his grand-father's death, his first feeling was, "Poor
Grandfather! I wish I could have got to him to be with him when he died. He
might have felt or wished something at the last that I shall never know now. It
was a lonely death."
It is impossible to say that his grief was deeper than that. Pity and softened
memory took place of the old antagonism, and in his busy thoughts about the
future, as the chaise carried him rapidly along towards the home where he was
now to be master, there was a continually recurring effort to remember anything
by which he could show a regard for his grandfather's wishes, without
counteracting his own cherished aims for the good of the tenants and the estate.
But it is not in human nature--only in human pretence--for a young man like
Arthur, with a fine constitution and fine spirits, thinking well of himself, believing
that others think well of him, and having a very ardent intention to give them
more and more reason for that good opinion--it is not possible for such a young
man, just coming into a splendid estate through the death of a very old man
whom he was not fond of, to feel anything very different from exultant joy. Now
his real life was beginning; now he would have room and opportunity for action,
and he would use them. He would show the Loamshire people what a fine
country gentleman was; he would not exchange that career for any other under
the sun. He felt himself riding over the hills in the breezy autumn days, looking
after favourite plans of drainage and enclosure; then admired on sombre
mornings as the best rider on the best horse in the hunt; spoken well of on
market-days as a first-rate landlord; by and by making speeches at election
dinners, and showing a wonderful knowledge of agriculture; the patron of new
ploughs and drills, the severe upbraider of negligent landowners, and withal a
jolly fellow that everybody must like--happy faces greeting him everywhere on his
own estate, and the neighbouring families on the best terms with him. The
Irwines should dine with him every week, and have their own carriage to come in,
for in some very delicate way that Arthur would devise, the lay-impropriator of the
Hayslope tithes would insist on paying a couple of hundreds more to the vicar;
and his aunt should be as comfortable as possible, and go on living at the Chase,
if she liked, in spite of her old-maidish ways--at least until he was married, and
that event lay in the indistinct background, for Arthur had not yet seen the woman
who would play the lady-wife to the first-rate country gentleman.
These were Arthur's chief thoughts, so far as a man's thoughts through hours of
travelling can be compressed into a few sentences, which are only like the list of
names telling you what are the scenes in a long long panorama full of colour, of
detail, and of life. The happy faces Arthur saw greeting him were not pale