He had just gone into the workshop when his quick ear detected a light rapid foot on the stairs—certainly not his mother’s. He had been in bed and asleep when Dinah had come in, in the evening, and now he wondered whose step this could be. A foolish thought came, and moved him strangely. As if it could be Hetty! She was the last person likely to be in the house. And yet he felt reluctant to go and look and have the clear proof that it was some one else. He stood leaning on a plank he had taken hold of, listening to sounds which his imagination interpreted for him so pleasantly that the keen strong face became suffused with a timid tenderness. The light footstep moved about the kitchen, followed by the sound of the sweeping brush, hardly making so much noise as the lightest breeze that chases the autumn leaves along the dusty path; and Adam’s imagination saw a dimpled face, with dark bright eyes and roguish smiles looking backward at this brush, and a rounded figure just leaning a little to clasp the handle. A very foolish thought—it could not be Hetty; but the only way of dismissing such nonsense from his head was to go and see who it was, for his fancy only got nearer and nearer to belief while he stood there listening. He loosed the plank and went to the kitchen door.
“How do you do, Adam Bede?” said Dinah, in her calm treble, pausing from her sweeping and fixing her mild grave eyes upon him. “I trust you feel rested and strengthened again to bear the burden and heat of the day.”
It was like dreaming of the sunshine and awaking in the moonlight. Adam had seen Dinah several times, but always at the Hall Farm, where he was not very vividly conscious of any woman’s presence except Hetty’s, and he had only in the last day or two begun to suspect that Seth was in love with her, so that his attention had not hitherto been drawn towards her for his brother’s sake. But now her slim figure, her plain black gown, and her pale serene face impressed him with all the force that belongs to a reality contrasted with a preoccupying fancy. For the first moment or two he made no answer, but looked at her with the concentrated, examining glance which a man gives to an object in which he has suddenly begun to be interested. Dinah, for the first time in her life, felt a painful self-consciousness; there was something in the dark penetrating glance of this strong man so different from the mildness and timidity of his brother Seth. A faint blush came, which deepened as she wondered at it. This blush recalled Adam from his forgetfulness.
“I was quite taken by surprise; it was very good of you to come and see my mother in her trouble,” he said, in a gentle grateful tone, for his quick mind told him at once how she came to be there. “I hope my mother was thankful to have you,” he added, wondering rather anxiously what had been Dinah’s reception.
“Yes,” said Dinah, resuming her work, “she seemed greatly comforted after a while, and she’s had a good deal of rest in the night, by times. She was fast asleep when I left her.”