Adam Bede HTML version

that of most younger men, and filial enough to make him shrink strongly from
incurring Irwine's disapprobation.
You perceive that Arthur Donnithorne was "a good fellow"--all his college friends
thought him such. He couldn't bear to see any one uncomfortable; he would have
been sorry even in his angriest moods for any harm to happen to his grandfather;
and his Aunt Lydia herself had the benefit of that soft-heartedness which he bore
towards the whole sex. Whether he would have self-mastery enough to be
always as harmless and purely beneficent as his good-nature led him to desire,
was a question that no one had yet decided against him; he was but twenty-one,
you remember, and we don't inquire too closely into character in the case of a
handsome generous young fellow, who will have property enough to support
numerous peccadilloes--who, if he should unfortunately break a man's legs in his
rash driving, will be able to pension him handsomely; or if he should happen to
spoil a woman's existence for her, will make it up to her with expensive bon-bons,
packed up and directed by his own hand. It would be ridiculous to be prying and
analytic in such cases, as if one were inquiring into the character of a confidential
clerk. We use round, general, gentlemanly epithets about a young man of birth
and fortune; and ladies, with that fine intuition which is the distinguishing attribute
of their sex, see at once that he is "nice." The chances are that he will go through
life without scandalizing any one; a seaworthy vessel that no one would refuse to
insure. Ships, certainly, are liable to casualties, which sometimes make terribly
evident some flaw in their construction that would never have been discoverable
in smooth water; and many a "good fellow," through a disastrous combination of
circumstances, has undergone a like betrayal.
But we have no fair ground for entertaining unfavourable auguries concerning
Arthur Donnithorne, who this morning proves himself capable of a prudent
resolution founded on conscience. One thing is clear: Nature has taken care that
he shall never go far astray with perfect comfort and satisfaction to himself; he
will never get beyond that border-land of sin, where he will be perpetually
harassed by assaults from the other side of the boundary. He will never be a
courtier of Vice, and wear her orders in his button- hole.
It was about ten o'clock, and the sun was shining brilliantly; everything was
looking lovelier for the yesterday's rain. It is a pleasant thing on such a morning
to walk along the well-rolled gravel on one's way to the stables, meditating an
excursion. But the scent of the stables, which, in a natural state of things, ought
to be among the soothing influences of a man's life, always brought with it some
irritation to Arthur. There was no having his own way in the stables; everything
was managed in the stingiest fashion. His grandfather persisted in retaining as
head groom an old dolt whom no sort of lever could move out of his old habits,
and who was allowed to hire a succession of raw Loamshire lads as his
subordinates, one of whom had lately tested a new pair of shears by clipping an
oblong patch on Arthur's bay mare. This state of things is naturally embittering;
one can put up with annoyances in the house, but to have the stable made a