With a single drop
of ink for a mirror, the Egyptian sorcerer
undertakes to reveal
to any chance comer far-reaching visions of the past. This is what I undertake
to do for you, reader. With this drop
of ink at the end of my pen, I will show you the roomy workshop
of Mr. Jonathan Burge, carpenter
and builder, in the village
of Hayslope, as it appeared on the eighteenth of June, in the year of our Lord 1799.
Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth...
Let all thy converse be sincere,
Thy conscience as the noonday clear.
The afternoon sun was warm on the five workmen there, busy upon doors and window-frames and wainscoting. A scent
of pine-wood from a tentlike pile
of planks outside the open door mingled itself with the scent
of the elder-bushes which were spreading their summer snow close to the open window opposite
; the slanting sunbeams shone through
shavings that flew before the steady plane
, and lit up the fine grain
of the oak panelling which stood propped against the wall. On a heap of those soft shavings a rough, grey shepherd
dog had made himself a pleasant
bed, and was lying with his nose between his fore-paws, occasionally
wrinkling his brows to cast a glance
at the tallest of the five workmen, who was carving a shield
in the centre of a wooden mantelpiece
. It was to this workman that the strong barytone belonged which was heard above the sound
and hammer singing-
Such a voice could only come from a broad
chest, and the broad
chest belonged to a large-boned, muscular
man nearly six feet high, with a back so flat and a head so well poised
that when he drew himself up to take a more distant survey
of his work, he had the air of a soldier
standing at ease
. The sleeve rolled up above the elbow showed an arm that was likely
to win the prize for feats of strength
; yet the long supple
hand, with its broad
finger-tips, looked ready for works of skill
. In his tall stalwartness Adam Bede was a Saxon, and justified his name; but the jet-black hair, made the more noticeable
by its contrast
with the light paper cap, and the keen glance
of the dark eyes that shone from under strongly marked
eyebrows, indicated a mixture
of Celtic blood. The face was large and roughly hewn, and when in repose
had no other beauty than such as belongs to an expression
of good-humoured honest intelligence
tramps always felt sure they could get a copper from Seth; they scarcely
of the tools and Adam's voice was at last broken by Seth, who, lifting the door at which he had been working intently
, placed it against the wall, and said, "There! I've finished my door to-day, anyhow."
The workmen all looked up; Jim Salt, a burly
, red-haired man known as Sandy Jim, paused from his planing, and Adam said to Seth, with a sharp glance
, "What! Dost think thee'st finished the door?"
"Aye, sure," said Seth, with answering surprise
; "what's awanting to't?"
A loud roar
of laughter from the other three workmen made Seth look round confusedly. Adam did not join in the laughter, but there was a slight
smile on his face as he said, in a gentler tone
than before, "Why, thee'st forgot the panels."
The laughter burst
out afresh as Seth clapped his hands to his head, and coloured over brow and crown.
"Hoorray!" shouted a small lithe
fellow called Wiry Ben, running forward
and seizing the door. "We'll hang up th' door at fur
end o' th' shop an' write on't 'Seth Bede, the Methody, his work.' Here, Jim, lend
's hould o' th' red pot."
"Nonsense!" said Adam. "Let it alone, Ben Cranage. You'll mayhap be making such a slip yourself some day; you'll laugh o' th' other side o' your mouth then."
"Catch me at it, Adam. It'll be a good while afore my head's full o' th' Methodies," said Ben.
"Nay, but it's often full o' drink, and that's worse."
Ben, however, had now got the "red pot" in his hand, and was about to begin writing his inscription
, making, by way of preliminary
, an imaginary
S in the air.
"Let it alone, will you?" Adam called out, laying down his tools, striding up to Ben, and seizing his right
shoulder. "Let it alone, or I'll shake the soul
out o' your body."
Ben shook in Adam's iron grasp
, but, like a plucky
small man as he was, he didn't mean
to give in. With his left hand he snatched the brush
from his powerless right
, and made a movement
as if he would perform
of writing with his left. In a moment
Adam turned him round, seized his other shoulder, and, pushing him along, pinned him against the wall. But now Seth spoke
"Let be, Addy, let be. Ben will be joking. Why, he's i' the right
to laugh at me-I canna help laughing at myself."
"I shan't loose him till
he promises to let the door alone," said Adam.
"Come, Ben, lad," said Seth, in a persuasive tone
't let's have a quarrel
about it. You know Adam will have his way. You may's well try to turn a waggon in a narrow
lane. Say you'll leave the door alone, and make an end on't."
"I binna frighted at Adam," said Ben, "but I donna mind
sayin' as I'll let 't alone at your askin', Seth."
"Come, that's wise
of you, Ben," said Adam, laughing and relaxing
They all returned to their work now; but Wiry Ben, having had the worst in the bodily contest
, was bent
on retrieving that humiliation
by a success
"Which was ye thinkin' on, Seth," he began-"the pretty parson
's face or her sarmunt, when ye forgot the panels?"
"Come and hear her, Ben," said Seth, good-humouredly; "she's going to preach
on the Green to-night; happen ye'd get something to think on yourself then, instead o' those wicked
songs you're so fond
on. Ye might
, and that 'ud be the best day's earnings y' ever made."
"All i' good time for that, Seth; I'll think about that when I'm a-goin' to settle
i' life; bachelors doesn't want such heavy earnin's. Happen I shall do the coortin' an' the religion
both together, as YE do, Seth; but ye wouldna ha' me get converted an' chop in atween ye an' the pretty preacher, an' carry
"No fear o' that, Ben; she's neither for you nor for me to win, I doubt
. Only you come and hear her, and you won't speak lightly on her again."
"Well, I'm half a mind
t' ha' a look at her to-night, if there isn't good company at th' Holly Bush. What'll she take for her text? Happen ye can tell me, Seth, if so be as I shouldna come up i' time for't. Will't be-what come ye out for to see? A prophetess? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophetess-a uncommon pretty young woman."
"Come, Ben," said Adam, rather sternly, "you let the words o' the Bible alone; you're going too far now."
"What! Are YE a-turnin' roun', Adam? I thought
ye war dead again th' women preachin', a while agoo?"
"Nay, I'm not turnin' noway. I said nought about the women preachin'. I said, You let the Bible alone: you've got a jest-book, han't you, as you're rare
on? Keep your dirty fingers to that."
"Why, y' are gettin' as big a saint as Seth. Y' are goin' to th' preachin' to-night, I should think. Ye'll do finely t' lead the singin'. But I don
' know what Parson Irwine 'ull say at his gran' favright Adam Bede a-turnin' Methody."
"Never do you bother
yourself about me, Ben. I'm not a-going to turn Methodist any more nor you are-though it's like enough you'll turn to something worse. Mester Irwine's got more sense nor to meddle
wi' people's doing as they like in religion
. That's between themselves and God, as he's said to me many a time."
"Aye, aye; but he's none so fond
o' your dissenters, for all that."
"Maybe; I'm none so fond
o' Josh Tod's thick ale, but I don
you from making a fool o' yourself wi't."
There was a laugh at this thrust
of Adam's, but Seth said, very seriously. "Nay, nay, Addy, thee mustna say as anybody's religion
's like thick ale. Thee dostna believe but what the dissenters and the Methodists have got the root
o' the matter
as well as the church folks."
"Nay, Seth, lad; I'm not for laughing at no man's religion
. Let 'em follow their consciences, that's all. Only I think it 'ud be better if their consciences 'ud let 'em stay quiet i' the church-there's a deal to be learnt there. And there's such a thing as being oversperitial; we must have something beside Gospel i' this world. Look at the canals, an' th' aqueduc's, an' th' coal-pit engines, and Arkwright's mills there at Cromford; a man must learn summat beside Gospel to make them things, I reckon
. But t' hear some o' them preachers, you'd think as a man must be doing nothing all's life but shutting's eyes and looking what's agoing on inside him. I know a man must have the love o' God in his soul
, and the Bible's God's word. But what does the Bible say? Why, it says as God put his sperrit into the workman as built the tabernacle, to make him do all the carved work and things as wanted a nice hand. And this is my way o' looking at it: there's the sperrit o' God in all things and all times-weekday as well as Sunday-and i' the great works and inventions, and i' the figuring and the mechanics
. And God helps us with our headpieces and our hands as well as with our souls; and if a man does bits o' jobs out o' working hours-builds a oven for 's wife to save her from going to the bakehouse, or scrats at his bit o' garden and makes two potatoes grow istead o' one, he's doin' more good, and he's just as near to God, as if he was running after some preacher and a-praying and a-groaning."
"Well done, Adam!" said Sandy Jim, who had paused from his planing to shift
his planks while Adam was speaking; "that's the best sarmunt I've heared this long while. By th' same token
, my wife's been a-plaguin' on me to build her a oven this twelvemont."
in what thee say'st, Adam," observed Seth, gravely. "But thee know'st thyself as it's hearing the preachers thee find'st so much fault
with has turned many an idle
fellow into an industrious
un. It's the preacher as empties th' alehouse; and if a man gets religion
, he'll do his work none the worse for that."
"On'y he'll lave the panels out o' th' doors sometimes, eh, Seth?" said Wiry Ben.
"Ah, Ben, you've got a joke again' me as 'll last you your life. But it isna religion
as was i' fault
there; it was Seth Bede, as was allays a wool-gathering chap
, and religion
hasna cured him, the more's the pity
me, Seth," said Wiry Ben, "y' are a down-right
, panels or no panels; an' ye donna set up your bristles at every bit o' fun, like some o' your kin
, as is mayhap cliverer."
"Seth, lad," said Adam, taking no notice
of the sarcasm
against himself, "thee mustna take me unkind. I wasna driving at thee in what I said just now. Some 's got one way o' looking at things and some 's got another."
"Nay, nay, Addy, thee mean
'st me no unkindness," said Seth, "I know that well enough. Thee't like thy dog Gyp-thee bark
'st at me sometimes, but thee allays lick'st my hand after."
All hands worked on in silence
for some minutes, until the church clock began to strike
six. Before the first stroke
had died away, Sandy Jim had loosed his plane
and was reaching his jacket; Wiry Ben had left a screw half driven in, and thrown his screwdriver into his tool
-basket; Mum Taft, who, true to his name, had kept silence throughout
the previous conversation
, had flung down his hammer as he was in the act of lifting it; and Seth, too, had straightened his back, and was putting out his hand towards his paper cap. Adam alone had gone on with his work as if nothing had happened. But observing the cessation
of the tools, he looked up, and said, in a tone
, "Look there, now! I can't abide
to see men throw
away their tools i' that way, the minute
the clock begins to strike
, as if they took no pleasure i' their work and was afraid o' doing a stroke
Seth looked a little conscious
, and began to be slower in his preparations for going, but Mum Taft broke silence
, and said, "Aye, aye, Adam lad, ye talk like a young un. When y' are six-an'-forty like me, istid o' six-an'-twenty, ye wonna be so flush
o' workin' for nought."
"Nonsense," said Adam, still wrathful; "what's age got to do with it, I wonder
? Ye arena
yet, I reckon
. I hate to see a man's arms drop
down as if he was shot, before the clock's fairly struck, just as if he'd never a bit o' pride
in 's work. The very grindstone 'ull go on turning a bit after you loose it."
"Bodderation, Adam!" exclaimed Wiry Ben; "lave a chap
aloon, will 'ee? Ye war afinding faut wi' preachers a while agoo-y' are fond
enough o' preachin' yoursen. Ye may like work better nor play, but I like play better nor work; that'll 'commodate ye-it laves ye th' more to do."
With this exit speech
, which he considered effective
, Wiry Ben shouldered his basket and left the workshop
, quickly followed by Mum Taft and Sandy Jim. Seth lingered, and looked wistfully
at Adam, as if he expected
him to say something.
"Shalt go home before thee go'st to the preaching?" Adam asked, looking up.
"Nay; I've got my hat and things at Will Maskery's. I shan't be home before going for ten. I'll happen see Dinah Morris safe home, if she's willing. There's nobody comes with her from Poyser's, thee know'st."
"Then I'll tell mother not to look for thee," said Adam.
"Thee artna going to Poyser's thyself to-night?" said Seth rather timidly, as he turned to leave the workshop
"Nay, I'm going to th' school."
Hitherto Gyp had kept his comfortable
bed, only lifting up his head and watching Adam more closely as he noticed the other workmen departing. But no sooner did Adam put his ruler
in his pocket, and begin to twist
his apron round his waist, than Gyp ran forward
and looked up in his master
's face with patient expectation
. If Gyp had had a tail he would doubtless
have wagged it, but being destitute
of that vehicle
for his emotions, he was like many other worthy
to appear more phlegmatic
had made him.
"What! Art ready for the basket, eh, Gyp?" said Adam, with the same gentle modulation
of voice as when he spoke
Gyp jumped and gave a short bark
, as much as to say, "Of course." Poor fellow, he had not a great range
The basket was the one which on workdays held Adam's and Seth's dinner; and no official
, walking in procession
, could look more resolutely unconscious
of all acquaintances than Gyp with his basket, trotting at his master
On leaving the workshop
Adam locked the door, took the key out, and carried it to the house on the other side of the woodyard. It was a low house, with smooth
and buff walls, looking pleasant
in the evening light. The leaded windows were bright and speckless, and the door-stone was as clean as a white boulder
at ebb tide
. On the door-stone stood a clean old woman, in a dark-striped linen
gown, a red kerchief
, and a linen
cap, talking to some speckled fowls which appeared to have been drawn towards her by an illusory expectation
of cold potatoes or barley. The old woman's sight
seemed to be dim
, for she did not recognize
he said, "Here's the key, Dolly; lay it down for me in the house, will you?"
"Aye, sure; but wunna ye come in, Adam? Miss Mary's i' th' house, and Mester Burge 'ull be back anon
; he'd be glad t' ha' ye to supper wi'm, I'll be's warrand."
"No, Dolly, thank you; I'm off home. Good evening."
Adam hastened with long strides, Gyp close to his heels, out of the workyard, and along the highroad leading away from the village
and down to the valley
. As he reached the foot of the slope
, an elderly
horseman, with his portmanteau
strapped behind him, stopped his horse when Adam had passed him, and turned round to have another long look at the stalwart
workman in paper cap, leather
breeches, and dark-blue worsted stockings.
Let all thy converse be sincere,
Thy conscience as the noonday clear;
For God's all-seeing eye surveys
Thy secret thoughts, thy works and ways.
of the admiration
he was exciting, presently
struck across the fields, and now broke out into the tune which had all day long been running in his head: