Adam had the strongest motives for encouraging this supposition in Mr. Poyser, and he even tried to believe that it might possibly be true. He had no warrant for the certainty that she was gone to Arthur.
“It was better it should be so,” he said, as quietly as he could, “if she felt she couldn’t like me for a husband. Better run away before than repent after. I hope you won’t look harshly on her if she comes back, as she may do if she finds it hard to get on away from home.”
“I canna look on her as I’ve done before,” said Martin decisively. “She’s acted bad by you, and by all of us. But I’ll not turn my back on her: she’s but a young un, and it’s the first harm I’ve knowed on her. It’ll be a hard job for me to tell her aunt. Why didna Dinah come back wi’ ye? She’d ha’ helped to pacify her aunt a bit.”
“Dinah wasn’t at Snowfield. She’s been gone to Leeds this fortnight, and I couldn’t learn from th’ old woman any direction where she is at Leeds, else I should ha’ brought it you.”
“She’d a deal better be staying wi’ her own kin,” said Mr. Poyser, indignantly, “than going preaching among strange folks a-that’n.”
“I must leave you now, Mr. Poyser,” said Adam, “for I’ve a deal to see to.”
“Aye, you’d best be after your business, and I must tell the missis when I go home. It’s a hard job.”
“But,” said Adam, “I beg particular, you’ll keep what’s happened quiet for a week or two. I’ve not told my mother yet, and there’s no knowing how things may turn out.”
“Aye, aye; least said, soonest mended. We’n no need to say why the match is broke off, an’ we may hear of her after a bit. Shake hands wi’ me, lad: I wish I could make thee amends.”
There was something in Martin Poyser’s throat at that moment which caused him to bring out those scanty words in rather a broken fashion. Yet Adam knew what they meant all the better, and the two honest men grasped each other’s hard hands in mutual understanding.
There was nothing now to hinder Adam from setting off. He had told Seth to go to the Chase and leave a message for the squire, saying that Adam Bede had been obliged to start off suddenly on a journey—and to say as much, and no more, to any one else who made inquiries about him. If the Poysers learned that he was gone away again, Adam knew they would infer that he was gone in search of Hetty.
He had intended to go right on his way from the Hall Farm, but now the impulse which had frequently visited him before—to go to Mr. Irwine, and make a confidant of him—recurred with the new force which belongs to a last opportunity. He was about to start on a long journey—a difficult one—by sea—and no soul would know where he was gone. If anything happened to him? Or, if he absolutely needed help in any matter concerning Hetty? Mr. Irwine was to be trusted; and the feeling which made Adam shrink from telling anything which was her secret must give way before the need there was that she should have some one else besides himself who would be prepared to defend her in the worst extremity. Towards Arthur, even though he might have incurred no new guilt, Adam felt that he was not bound to keep silence when Hetty’s interest called on him to speak.