Summary of Chapter 7: The Dairy
The freshness of the dairy favorably sets off Hetty’s fresh seventeen-year-old beauty, and Arthur Donnithorne is attracted to her kittenish loveliness. Even Aunt Poyser likes to look at Hetty’s beauty, though she is usually scolding her. Arthur mentions his birthday celebration in July and asks Hetty to reserve two dances for him. He invites the whole Poyser family. When the aunt runs off to find her daughter Totty, who is usually into mischief, Arthur invites Hetty to go walking with him in the Chase on his estate sometime. She mentions that she goes on some afternoons to Mrs. Pomfret, the lady’s maid, to learn lace-mending and has to walk through the Chase. Arthur gives three-year-old Totty some coins for a present and prepares to find Mr. Irwine, who has been speaking to Dinah Morris.
Commentary on Chapter 7
Both Arthur and Hetty are acting deceptively in this scene, foreshadowing their entanglement to come, although the deception seems like the innocent flirting of the young behind the backs of their elders. Hetty is described as a springtide beauty, like a kitten. Hetty is aware of her disturbing effect, for she stares at herself in the mirror and practices. She knows how every move is affecting Arthur. Her eyes hide “a soft roguishness” (p. 85). There are clues early in the story that Hetty is not an admirable character. She dislikes taking care of Totty or taking part in any family activities. She does not seem attached to the aunt and uncle who are good to her. She is self-absorbed, and does not do any task well, except for making butter.
Similarly, here is the first hint that though Arthur wants to be thought the good squire, loved by the people, he is flattering Mrs. Poyser on the one hand, and flirting with her niece behind her back. Although he asks for Hetty to reserve dances for him at his party in front of the aunt, when she leaves, he encourages a clandestine meeting in the Chase, something an honorable gentleman would know is out of bounds. Hetty is not shy about accepting.