Adam Bede HTML version

7. The Dairy
THE dairy was certainly worth looking at: it was a scene to sicken for with a sort
of calenture in hot and dusty streets--such coolness, such purity, such fresh
fragrance of new-pressed cheese, of firm butter, of wooden vessels perpetually
bathed in pure water; such soft colouring of red earthenware and creamy
surfaces, brown wood and polished tin, grey limestone and rich orange-red rust
on the iron weights and hooks and hinges. But one gets only a confused notion
of these details when they surround a distractingly pretty girl of seventeen,
standing on little pattens and rounding her dimpled arm to lift a pound of butter
out of the scale.
Hetty blushed a deep rose-colour when Captain Donnithorne entered the dairy
and spoke to her; but it was not at all a distressed blush, for it was inwreathed
with smiles and dimples, and with sparkles from under long, curled, dark
eyelashes; and while her aunt was discoursing to him about the limited amount of
milk that was to be spared for butter and cheese so long as the calves were not
all weaned, and a large quantity but inferior quality of milk yielded by the
shorthorn, which had been bought on experiment, together with other matters
which must be interesting to a young gentleman who would one day be a
landlord, Hetty tossed and patted her pound of butter with quite a self-possessed,
coquettish air, slyly conscious that no turn of her head was lost.
There are various orders of beauty, causing men to make fools of themselves in
various styles, from the desperate to the sheepish; but there is one order of
beauty which seems made to turn the heads not only of men, but of all intelligent
mammals, even of women. It is a beauty like that of kittens, or very small downy
ducks making gentle rippling noises with their soft bills, or babies just beginning
to toddle and to engage in conscious mischief--a beauty with which you can
never be angry, but that you feel ready to crush for inability to comprehend the
state of mind into which it throws you. Hetty Sorrel's was that sort of beauty. Her
aunt, Mrs. Poyser, who professed to despise all personal attractions and
intended to be the severest of mentors, continually gazed at Hetty's charms by
the sly, fascinated in spite of herself; and after administering such a scolding as
naturally flowed from her anxiety to do well by her husband's niece--who had no
mother of her own to scold her, poor thing!--she would often confess to her
husband, when they were safe out of hearing, that she firmly believed, "the
naughtier the little huzzy behaved, the prettier she looked."
It is of little use for me to tell you that Hetty's cheek was like a rose-petal, that
dimples played about her pouting lips, that her large dark eyes hid a soft
roguishness under their long lashes, and that her curly hair, though all pushed
back under her round cap while she was at work, stole back in dark delicate rings
on her forehead, and about her white shell-like ears; it is of little use for me to say
how lovely was the contour of her pink-and-white neckerchief, tucked into her low