Adam Bede HTML version

5. The Rector
BEFORE twelve o'clock there had been some heavy storms of rain, and the
water lay in deep gutters on the sides of the gravel walks in the garden of
Broxton Parsonage; the great Provence roses had been cruelly tossed by the
wind and beaten by the rain, and all the delicate-stemmed border flowers had
been dashed down and stained with the wet soil. A melancholy morning--
because it was nearly time hay-harvest should begin, and instead of that the
meadows were likely to be flooded.
But people who have pleasant homes get indoor enjoyments that they would
never think of but for the rain. If it had not been a wet morning, Mr. Irwine would
not have been in the dining-room playing at chess with his mother, and he loves
both his mother and chess quite well enough to pass some cloudy hours very
easily by their help. Let me take you into that dining-room and show you the Rev.
Adolphus Irwine, Rector of Broxton, Vicar of Hayslope, and Vicar of Blythe, a
pluralist at whom the severest Church reformer would have found it difficult to
look sour. We will enter very softly and stand still in the open doorway, without
awaking the glossy- brown setter who is stretched across the hearth, with her two
puppies beside her; or the pug, who is dozing, with his black muzzle aloft, like a
sleepy president.
The room is a large and lofty one, with an ample mullioned oriel window at one
end; the walls, you see, are new, and not yet painted; but the furniture, though
originally of an expensive sort, is old and scanty, and there is no drapery about
the window. The crimson cloth over the large dining-table is very threadbare,
though it contrasts pleasantly enough with the dead hue of the plaster on the
walls; but on this cloth there is a massive silver waiter with a decanter of water on
it, of the same pattern as two larger ones that are propped up on the sideboard
with a coat of arms conspicuous in their centre. You suspect at once that the
inhabitants of this room have inherited more blood than wealth, and would not be
surprised to find that Mr. Irwine had a finely cut nostril and upper lip; but at
present we can only see that he has a broad flat back and an abundance of
powdered hair, all thrown backward and tied behind with a black ribbon--a bit of
conservatism in costume which tells you that he is not a young man. He will
perhaps turn round by and by, and in the meantime we can look at that stately
old lady, his mother, a beautiful aged brunette, whose rich-toned complexion is
well set off by the complex wrappings of pure white cambric and lace about her
head and neck. She is as erect in her comely embonpoint as a statue of Ceres;
and her dark face, with its delicate aquiline nose, firm proud mouth, and small,
intense, black eye, is so keen and sarcastic in its expression that you instinctively
substitute a pack of cards for the chess-men and imagine her telling your fortune.
The small brown hand with which she is lifting her queen is laden with pearls,
diamonds, and turquoises; and a large black veil is very carefully adjusted over
the crown of her cap, and falls in sharp contrast on the white folds about her