And so Adam went to bed comforted, having woven for himself an ingenious web of probabilities—the surest screen a wise man can place between himself and the truth. His last waking thoughts melted into a dream that he was with Hetty again at the Hall Farm, and that he was asking her to forgive him for being so cold and silent.
And while he was dreaming this, Arthur was leading Hetty to the dance and saying to her in low hurried tones, “I shall be in the wood the day after to-morrow at seven; come as early as you can.” And Hetty’s foolish joys and hopes, which had flown away for a little space, scared by a mere nothing, now all came fluttering back, unconscious of the real peril. She was happy for the first time this long day, and wished that dance would last for hours. Arthur wished it too; it was the last weakness he meant to indulge in; and a man never lies with more delicious languor under the influence of a passion than when he has persuaded himself that he shall subdue it to-morrow.
But Mrs. Poyser’s wishes were quite the reverse of this, for her mind was filled with dreary forebodings as to the retardation of to-morrow morning’s cheese in consequence of these late hours. Now that Hetty had done her duty and danced one dance with the young squire, Mr. Poyser must go out and see if the cart was come back to fetch them, for it was half-past ten o’clock, and notwithstanding a mild suggestion on his part that it would be bad manners for them to be the first to go, Mrs. Poyser was resolute on the point, “manners or no manners.”
“What! Going already, Mrs. Poyser?” said old Mr. Donnithorne, as she came to curtsy and take leave; “I thought we should not part with any of our guests till eleven. Mrs. Irwine and I, who are elderly people, think of sitting out the dance till then.”
“Oh, Your Honour, it’s all right and proper for gentlefolks to stay up by candlelight—they’ve got no cheese on their minds. We’re late enough as it is, an’ there’s no lettin’ the cows know as they mustn’t want to be milked so early to-morrow mornin’. So, if you’ll please t’ excuse us, we’ll take our leave.”