“There’s one thing, sir, that perhaps you don’t take account of,” said Adam, with hesitating gentleness, “and that was what made me hang back longer. You see, it’s the same with both me and the Poysers: if we stay, it’s for our own worldly interest, and it looks as if we’d put up with anything for the sake o’ that. I know that’s what they’ll feel, and I can’t help feeling a little of it myself. When folks have got an honourable independent spirit, they don’t like to do anything that might make ’em seem base-minded.”
“But no one who knows you will think that, Adam. That is not a reason strong enough against a course that is really more generous, more unselfish than the other. And it will be known—it shall be made known, that both you and the Poysers stayed at my entreaty. Adam, don’t try to make things worse for me; I’m punished enough without that.”
“No, sir, no,” Adam said, looking at Arthur with mournful affection. “God forbid I should make things worse for you. I used to wish I could do it, in my passion—but that was when I thought you didn’t feel enough. I’ll stay, sir, I’ll do the best I can. It’s all I’ve got to think of now—to do my work well and make the world a bit better place for them as can enjoy it.”
“Then we’ll part now, Adam. You will see Mr. Irwine to-morrow, and consult with him about everything.”
“Are you going soon, sir?” said Adam.
“As soon as possible—after I’ve made the necessary arrangements. Good-bye, Adam. I shall think of you going about the old place.”
“Good-bye, sir. God bless you.”
The hands were clasped once more, and Adam left the Hermitage, feeling that sorrow was more bearable now hatred was gone.
As soon as the door was closed behind him, Arthur went to the waste-paper basket and took out the little pink silk handkerchief.
At the Hall Farm
The first autumnal afternoon sunshine of 1801—more than eighteen months after that parting of Adam and Arthur in the Hermitage—was on the yard at the Hall Farm; and the bull-dog was in one of his most excited moments, for it was that hour of the day when the cows were being driven into the yard for their afternoon milking. No wonder the patient beasts ran confusedly into the wrong places, for the alarming din of the bull-dog was mingled with more distant sounds which the timid feminine creatures, with pardonable superstition, imagined also to have some relation to their own movements—with the tremendous crack of the waggoner’s whip, the roar of his voice, and the booming thunder of the waggon, as it left the rick-yard empty of its golden load.
The milking of the cows was a sight Mrs. Poyser loved, and at this hour on mild days she was usually standing at the house door, with her knitting in her hands, in quiet contemplation, only heightened to a keener interest when the vicious yellow cow, who had once kicked over a pailful of precious milk, was about to undergo the preventive punishment of having her hinder-legs strapped.