Adam Bede HTML version

Hetty was quite certain her uncle wanted her to encourage Adam, and would be
pleased for her to marry him. For those were times when there was no rigid
demarcation of rank between the farmer and the respectable artisan, and on the
home hearth, as well as in the public house, they might be seen taking their jug
of ale together; the farmer having a latent sense of capital, and of weight in
parish affairs, which sustained him under his conspicuous inferiority in
conversation. Martin Poyser was not a frequenter of public houses, but he liked a
friendly chat over his own home- brewed; and though it was pleasant to lay down
the law to a stupid neighbour who had no notion how to make the best of his
farm, it was also an agreeable variety to learn something from a clever fellow like
Adam Bede. Accordingly, for the last three years-- ever since he had
superintended the building of the new barn--Adam had always been made
welcome at the Hall Farm, especially of a winter evening, when the whole family,
in patriarchal fashion, master and mistress, children and servants, were
assembled in that glorious kitchen, at well-graduated distances from the blazing
fire. And for the last two years, at least, Hetty had been in the habit of hearing her
uncle say, "Adam Bede may be working for wage now, but he'll be a master-man
some day, as sure as I sit in this chair. Mester Burge is in the right on't to want
him to go partners and marry his daughter, if it's true what they say; the woman
as marries him 'ull have a good take, be't Lady day or Michaelmas," a remark
which Mrs. Poyser always followed up with her cordial assent. "Ah," she would
say, "it's all very fine having a ready-made rich man, but mayhappen he'll be a
ready-made fool; and it's no use filling your pocket full o' money if you've got a
hole in the corner. It'll do you no good to sit in a spring-cart o' your own, if you've
got a soft to drive you: he'll soon turn you over into the ditch. I allays said I'd
never marry a man as had got no brains; for where's the use of a woman having
brains of her own if she's tackled to a geck as everybody's a- laughing at? She
might as well dress herself fine to sit back'ards on a donkey."
These expressions, though figurative, sufficiently indicated the bent of Mrs.
Poyser's mind with regard to Adam; and though she and her husband might have
viewed the subject differently if Hetty had been a daughter of their own, it was
clear that they would have welcomed the match with Adam for a penniless niece.
For what could Hetty have been but a servant elsewhere, if her uncle had not
taken her in and brought her up as a domestic help to her aunt, whose health
since the birth of Totty had not been equal to more positive labour than the
superintendence of servants and children? But Hetty had never given Adam any
steady encouragement. Even in the moments when she was most thoroughly
conscious of his superiority to her other admirers, she had never brought herself
to think of accepting him. She liked to feel that this strong, skilful, keen-eyed man
was in her power, and would have been indignant if he had shown the least sign
of slipping from under the yoke of her coquettish tyranny and attaching himself to
the gentle Mary Burge, who would have been grateful enough for the most trifling
notice from him. "Mary Burge, indeed! Such a sallow-faced girl: if she put on a bit
of pink ribbon, she looked as yellow as a crow-flower and her hair was as straight
as a hank of cotton." And always when Adam stayed away for several weeks