Part 10 out of 11
"I send this letter to meet you on your arrival, Arthur, because I
may then be at Stoniton, whither I am called by the most painful
duty it has ever been given me to perform, and it is right that
you should know what I have to tell you without delay.
"I will not attempt to add by one word of reproach to the
retribution that is now falling on you: any other words that I
could write at this moment must be weak and unmeaning by the side
of those in which I must tell you the simple fact.
"Hetty Sorrel is in prison, and will be tried on Friday for the
crime of child-murder."...
Arthur read no more. He started up from his chair and stood for a
single minute with a sense of violent convulsion in his whole
frame, as if the life were going out of him with horrible throbs;
but the next minute he had rushed out of the room, still clutching
the letter--he was hurrying along the corridor, and down the
stairs into the hall. Mills was still there, but Arthur did not
see him, as he passed like a hunted man across the hall and out
along the gravel. The butler hurried out after him as fast as his
elderly limbs could run: he guessed, he knew, where the young
squire was going.
When Mills got to the stables, a horse was being saddled, and
Arthur was forcing himself to read the remaining words of the
letter. He thrust it into his pocket as the horse was led up to
him, and at that moment caught sight of Mills' anxious face in
front of him.
"Tell them I'm gone--gone to Stoniton," he said in a muffled tone
of agitation--sprang into the saddle, and set off at a gallop.
In the Prison
NEAR sunset that evening an elderly gentleman was standing with
his back against the smaller entrance-door of Stoniton jail,
saying a few last words to the departing chaplain. The chaplain
walked away, but the elderly gentleman stood still, looking down
on the pavement and stroking his chin with a ruminating air, when
he was roused by a sweet clear woman's voice, saying, "Can I get
into the prison, if you please?"
He turned his head and looked fixedly at the speaker for a few
moments without answering.
"I have seen you before," he said at last. "Do you remember
preaching on the village green at Hayslope in Loamshire?"
"Yes, sir, surely. Are you the gentleman that stayed to listen on
"Yes. Why do you want to go into the prison?"
"I want to go to Hetty Sorrel, the young woman who has been
condemned to death--and to stay with her, if I may be permitted.
Have you power in the prison, sir?"
"Yes; I am a magistrate, and can get admittance for you. But did
you know this criminal, Hetty Sorrel?"
"Yes, we are kin. My own aunt married her uncle, Martin Poyser.
But I was away at Leeds, and didn't know of this great trouble in
time to get here before to-day. I entreat you, sir, for the love
of our heavenly Father, to let me go to her and stay with her."
"How did you know she was condemned to death, if you are only just
come from Leeds?"
"I have seen my uncle since the trial, sir. He is gone back to
his home now, and the poor sinner is forsaken of all. I beseech
you to get leave for me to be with her."
"What! Have you courage to stay all night in the prison? She is
very sullen, and will scarcely make answer when she is spoken to."
"Oh, sir, it may please God to open her heart still. Don't let us
"Come, then," said the elderly gentleman, ringing and gaining
admission, "I know you have a key to unlock hearts."
Dinah mechanically took off her bonnet and shawl as soon as they
were within the prison court, from the habit she had of throwing
them off when she preached or prayed, or visited the sick; and
when they entered the jailer's room, she laid them down on a chair
unthinkingly. There was no agitation visible in her, but a deep
concentrated calmness, as if, even when she was speaking, her soul
was in prayer reposing on an unseen support.
After speaking to the jailer, the magistrate turned to her and
said, "The turnkey will take you to the prisoner's cell and leave
you there for the night, if you desire it, but you can't have a
light during the night--it is contrary to rules. My name is
Colonel Townley: if I can help you in anything, ask the jailer for
my address and come to me. I take some interest in this Hetty
Sorrel, for the sake of that fine fellow, Adam Bede. I happened
to see him at Hayslope the same evening I heard you preach, and
recognized him in court to-day, ill as he looked."
"Ah, sir, can you tell me anything about him? Can you tell me
where he lodges? For my poor uncle was too much weighed down with
trouble to remember."
"Close by here. I inquired all about him of Mr. Irwine. He
lodges over a tinman's shop, in the street on the right hand as
you entered the prison. There is an old school-master with him.
Now, good-bye: I wish you success."
"Farewell, sir. I am grateful to you."
As Dinah crossed the prison court with the turnkey, the solemn
evening light seemed to make the walls higher than they were by
day, and the sweet pale face in the cap was more than ever like a
white flower on this background of gloom. The turnkey looked
askance at her all the while, but never spoke. He somehow felt
that the sound of his own rude voice would be grating just then.
He struck a light as they entered the dark corridor leading to the
condemned cell, and then said in his most civil tone, "It'll be
pretty nigh dark in the cell a'ready, but I can stop with my light
a bit, if you like."
"Nay, friend, thank you," said Dinah. "I wish to go in alone."
"As you like," said the jailer, turning the harsh key in the lock
and opening the door wide enough to admit Dinah. A jet of light
from his lantern fell on the opposite corner of the cell, where
Hetty was sitting on her straw pallet with her face buried in her
knees. It seemed as if she were asleep, and yet the grating of
the lock would have been likely to waken her.
The door closed again, and the only light in the cell was that of
the evening sky, through the small high grating--enough to discern
human faces by. Dinah stood still for a minute, hesitating to
speak because Hetty might be asleep, and looking at the motionless
heap with a yearning heart. Then she said, softly, "Hetty!"
There was a slight movement perceptible in Hetty's frame--a start
such as might have been produced by a feeble electrical shock--but
she did not look up. Dinah spoke again, in a tone made stronger
by irrepressible emotion, "Hetty...it's Dinah."
Again there was a slight startled movement through Hetty's frame,
and without uncovering her face, she raised her head a little, as
"Hetty...Dinah is come to you."
After a moment's pause, Hetty lifted her head slowly and timidly
from her knees and raised her eyes. The two pale faces were
looking at each other: one with a wild hard despair in it, the
other full of sad yearning love. Dinah unconsciously opened her
arms and stretched them out.
"Don't you know me, Hetty? Don't you remember Dinah? Did you
think I wouldn't come to you in trouble?"
Hetty kept her eyes fixed on Dinah's face--at first like an animal
that gazes, and gazes, and keeps aloof.
"I'm come to be with you, Hetty--not to leave you--to stay with
you--to be your sister to the last."
Slowly, while Dinah was speaking, Hetty rose, took a step forward,
and was clasped in Dinah's arms.
They stood so a long while, for neither of them felt the impulse
to move apart again. Hetty, without any distinct thought of it,
hung on this something that was come to clasp her now, while she
was sinking helpless in a dark gulf; and Dinah felt a deep joy in
the first sign that her love was welcomed by the wretched lost
one. The light got fainter as they stood, and when at last they
sat down on the straw pallet together, their faces had become
Not a word was spoken. Dinah waited, hoping for a spontaneous
word from Hetty, but she sat in the same dull despair, only
clutching the hand that held hers and leaning her cheek against
Dinah's. It was the human contact she clung to, but she was not
the less sinking into the dark gulf.
Dinah began to doubt whether Hetty was conscious who it was that
sat beside her. She thought suffering and fear might have driven
the poor sinner out of her mind. But it was borne in upon her, as
she afterwards said, that she must not hurry God's work: we are
overhasty to speak--as if God did not manifest himself by our
silent feeling, and make his love felt through ours. She did not
know how long they sat in that way, but it got darker and darker,
till there was only a pale patch of light on the opposite wall:
all the rest was darkness. But she felt the Divine presence more
and more--nay, as if she herself were a part of it, and it was the
Divine pity that was beating in her heart and was willing the
rescue of this helpless one. At last she was prompted to speak
and find out how far Hetty was conscious of the present.
"Hetty," she said gently, "do you know who it is that sits by your
"Yes," Hetty answered slowly, "it's Dinah."
"And do you remember the time when we were at the Hall Farm
together, and that night when I told you to be sure and think of
me as a friend in trouble?"
"Yes," said Hetty. Then, after a pause, she added, "But you can
do nothing for me. You can't make 'em do anything. They'll hang
me o' Monday--it's Friday now."
As Hetty said the last words, she clung closer to Dinah,
"No, Hetty, I can't save you from that death. But isn't the
suffering less hard when you have somebody with you, that feels
for you--that you can speak to, and say what's in your
heart?...Yes, Hetty: you lean on me: you are glad to have me with
"You won't leave me, Dinah? You'll keep close to me?"
"No, Hetty, I won't leave you. I'll stay with you to the
last....But, Hetty, there is some one else in this cell besides
me, some one close to you."
Hetty said, in a frightened whisper, "Who?"
"Some one who has been with you through all your hours of sin and
trouble--who has known every thought you have had--has seen where
you went, where you lay down and rose up again, and all the deeds
you have tried to hide in darkness. And on Monday, when I can't
follow you--when my arms can't reach you--when death has parted
us--He who is with us now, and knows all, will be with you then.
It makes no difference--whether we live or die, we are in the
presence of God."
"Oh, Dinah, won't nobody do anything for me? Will they hang me
for certain?...I wouldn't mind if they'd let me live."
"My poor Hetty, death is very dreadful to you. I know it's
dreadful. But if you had a friend to take care of you after
death--in that other world--some one whose love is greater than
mine--who can do everything?...If God our Father was your friend,
and was willing to save you from sin and suffering, so as you
should neither know wicked feelings nor pain again? If you could
believe he loved you and would help you, as you believe I love you
and will help you, it wouldn't be so hard to die on Monday, would
"But I can't know anything about it," Hetty said, with sullen
"Because, Hetty, you are shutting up your soul against him, by
trying to hide the truth. God's love and mercy can overcome all
things--our ignorance, and weakness, and all the burden of our
past wickedness--all things but our wilful sin, sin that we cling
to, and will not give up. You believe in my love and pity for
you, Hetty, but if you had not let me come near you, if you
wouldn't have looked at me or spoken to me, you'd have shut me out
from helping you. I couldn't have made you feel my love; I
couldn't have told you what I felt for you. Don't shut God's love
out in that way, by clinging to sin....He can't bless you while
you have one falsehood in your soul; his pardoning mercy can't
reach you until you open your heart to him, and say, 'I have done
this great wickedness; O God, save me, make me pure from sin.'
While you cling to one sin and will not part with it, it must drag
you down to misery after death, as it has dragged you to misery
here in this world, my poor, poor Hetty. It is sin that brings
dread, and darkness, and despair: there is light and blessedness
for us as soon as we cast it off. God enters our souls then, and
teaches us, and brings us strength and peace. Cast it off now,
Hetty--now: confess the wickedness you have done--the sin you have
been guilty of against your Heavenly Father. Let us kneel down
together, for we are in the presence of God."
Hetty obeyed Dinah's movement, and sank on her knees. They still
held each other's hands, and there was long silence. Then Dinah
said, "Hetty, we are before God. He is waiting for you to tell
Still there was silence. At last Hetty spoke, in a tone of
"Dinah...help me...I can't feel anything like you...my heart is
Dinah held the clinging hand, and all her soul went forth in her
"Jesus, thou present Saviour! Thou hast known the depths of all
sorrow: thou hast entered that black darkness where God is not,
and hast uttered the cry of the forsaken. Come Lord, and gather
of the fruits of thy travail and thy pleading. Stretch forth thy
hand, thou who art mighty to save to the uttermost, and rescue
this lost one. She is clothed round with thick darkness. The
fetters of her sin are upon her, and she cannot stir to come to
thee. She can only feel her heart is hard, and she is helpless.
She cries to me, thy weak creature....Saviour! It is a blind cry
to thee. Hear it! Pierce the darkness! Look upon her with thy
face of love and sorrow that thou didst turn on him who denied
thee, and melt her hard heart.
"See, Lord, I bring her, as they of old brought the sick and
helpless, and thou didst heal them. I bear her on my arms and
carry her before thee. Fear and trembling have taken hold on her,
but she trembles only at the pain and death of the body. Breathe
upon her thy life-giving Spirit, and put a new fear within her--
the fear of her sin. Make her dread to keep the accursed thing
within her soul. Make her feel the presence of the living God,
who beholds all the past, to whom the darkness is as noonday; who
is waiting now, at the eleventh hour, for her to turn to him, and
confess her sin, and cry for mercy--now, before the night of death
comes, and the moment of pardon is for ever fled, like yesterday
that returneth not.
"Saviour! It is yet time--time to snatch this poor soul from
everlasting darkness. I believe--I believe in thy infinite love.
What is my love or my pleading? It is quenched in thine. I can
only clasp her in my weak arms and urge her with my weak pity.
Thou--thou wilt breathe on the dead soul, and it shall arise from
the unanswering sleep of death.
"Yea, Lord, I see thee, coming through the darkness coming, like
the morning, with healing on thy wings. The marks of thy agony
are upon thee--I see, I see thou art able and willing to save--
thou wilt not let her perish for ever. "Come, mighty Saviour!
Let the dead hear thy voice. Let the eyes of the blind be opened.
Let her see that God encompasses her. Let her tremble at nothing
but at the sin that cuts her off from him. Melt the hard heart.
Unseal the closed lips: make her cry with her whole soul, 'Father,
I have sinned.'..."
"Dinah," Hetty sobbed out, throwing her arms round Dinah's neck,
"I will speak...I will tell...I won't hide it any more."
But the tears and sobs were too violent. Dinah raised her gently
from her knees and seated her on the pallet again, sitting down by
her side. It was a long time before the convulsed throat was
quiet, and even then they sat some time in stillness and darkness,
holding each other's hands. At last Hetty whispered, "I did do
it, Dinah...I buried it in the wood...the little baby...and it
cried...I heard it cry...ever such a way off...all night...and I
went back because it cried."
She paused, and then spoke hurriedly in a louder, pleading tone.
"But I thought perhaps it wouldn't die--there might somebody find
it. I didn't kill it--I didn't kill it myself. I put it down
there and covered it up, and when I came back it was gone....It
was because I was so very miserable, Dinah...I didn't know where
to go...and I tried to kill myself before, and I couldn't. Oh, I
tried so to drown myself in the pool, and I couldn't. I went to
Windsor--I ran away--did you know? I went to find him, as he might
take care of me; and he was gone; and then I didn't know what to
do. I daredn't go back home again--I couldn't bear it. I
couldn't have bore to look at anybody, for they'd have scorned me.
I thought o' you sometimes, and thought I'd come to you, for I
didn't think you'd be cross with me, and cry shame on me. I
thought I could tell you. But then the other folks 'ud come to
know it at last, and I couldn't bear that. It was partly thinking
o' you made me come toward Stoniton; and, besides, I was so
frightened at going wandering about till I was a beggar-woman, and
had nothing; and sometimes it seemed as if I must go back to the
farm sooner than that. Oh, it was so dreadful, Dinah...I was so
miserable...I wished I'd never been born into this world. I
should never like to go into the green fields again--I hated 'em
so in my misery."
Hetty paused again, as if the sense of the past were too strong
upon her for words.
"And then I got to Stoniton, and I began to feel frightened that
night, because I was so near home. And then the little baby was
born, when I didn't expect it; and the thought came into my mind
that I might get rid of it and go home again. The thought came
all of a sudden, as I was lying in the bed, and it got stronger
and stronger...I longed so to go back again...I couldn't bear
being so lonely and coming to beg for want. And it gave me
strength and resolution to get up and dress myself. I felt I must
do it...I didn't know how...I thought I'd find a pool, if I could,
like that other, in the corner of the field, in the dark. And
when the woman went out, I felt as if I was strong enough to do
anything...I thought I should get rid of all my misery, and go
back home, and never let 'em know why I ran away I put on my
bonnet and shawl, and went out into the dark street, with the baby
under my cloak; and I walked fast till I got into a street a good
way off, and there was a public, and I got some warm stuff to
drink and some bread. And I walked on and on, and I hardly felt
the ground I trod on; and it got lighter, for there came the moon--
oh, Dinah, it frightened me when it first looked at me out o' the
clouds--it never looked so before; and I turned out of the road
into the fields, for I was afraid o' meeting anybody with the moon
shining on me. And I came to a haystack, where I thought I could
lie down and keep myself warm all night. There was a place cut
into it, where I could make me a bed, and I lay comfortable, and
the baby was warm against me; and I must have gone to sleep for a
good while, for when I woke it was morning, but not very light,
and the baby was crying. And I saw a wood a little way off...I
thought there'd perhaps be a ditch or a pond there...and it was so
early I thought I could hide the child there, and get a long way
off before folks was up. And then I thought I'd go home--I'd get
rides in carts and go home and tell 'em I'd been to try and see
for a place, and couldn't get one. I longed so for it, Dinah, I
longed so to be safe at home. I don't know how I felt about the
baby. I seemed to hate it--it was like a heavy weight hanging
round my neck; and yet its crying went through me, and I daredn't
look at its little hands and face. But I went on to the wood, and
I walked about, but there was no water...."
Hetty shuddered. She was silent for some moments, and when she
began again, it was in a whisper.
"I came to a place where there was lots of chips and turf, and I
sat down on the trunk of a tree to think what I should do. And
all of a sudden I saw a hole under the nut-tree, like a little
grave. And it darted into me like lightning--I'd lay the baby
there and cover it with the grass and the chips. I couldn't kill
it any other way. And I'd done it in a minute; and, oh, it cried
so, Dinah--I couldn't cover it quite up--I thought perhaps
somebody 'ud come and take care of it, and then it wouldn't die.
And I made haste out of the wood, but I could hear it crying all
the while; and when I got out into the fields, it was as if I was
held fast--I couldn't go away, for all I wanted so to go. And I
sat against the haystack to watch if anybody 'ud come. I was very
hungry, and I'd only a bit of bread left, but I couldn't go away.
And after ever such a while--hours and hours--the man came--him in
a smock-frock, and he looked at me so, I was frightened, and I
made haste and went on. I thought he was going to the wood and
would perhaps find the baby. And I went right on, till I came to
a village, a long way off from the wood, and I was very sick, and
faint, and hungry. I got something to eat there, and bought a
loaf. But I was frightened to stay. I heard the baby crying, and
thought the other folks heard it too--and I went on. But I was so
tired, and it was getting towards dark. And at last, by the
roadside there was a barn--ever such a way off any house--like the
barn in Abbot's Close, and I thought I could go in there and hide
myself among the hay and straw, and nobody 'ud be likely to come.
I went in, and it was half full o' trusses of straw, and there was
some hay too. And I made myself a bed, ever so far behind, where
nobody could find me; and I was so tired and weak, I went to
sleep....But oh, the baby's crying kept waking me, and I thought
that man as looked at me so was come and laying hold of me. But I
must have slept a long while at last, though I didn't know, for
when I got up and went out of the barn, I didn't know whether it
was night or morning. But it was morning, for it kept getting
lighter, and I turned back the way I'd come. I couldn't help it,
Dinah; it was the baby's crying made me go--and yet I was
frightened to death. I thought that man in the smock-frock 'ud
see me and know I put the baby there. But I went on, for all
that. I'd left off thinking about going home--it had gone out o'
my mind. I saw nothing but that place in the wood where I'd
buried the baby...I see it now. Oh Dinah! shall I allays see it?"
Hetty clung round Dinah and shuddered again. The silence seemed
long before she went on.
"I met nobody, for it was very early, and I got into the wood....I
knew the way to the place...the place against the nut-tree; and I
could hear it crying at every step....I thought it was alive....I
don't know whether I was frightened or glad...I don't know what I
felt. I only know I was in the wood and heard the cry. I don't
know what I felt till I saw the baby was gone. And when I'd put
it there, I thought I should like somebody to find it and save it
from dying; but when I saw it was gone, I was struck like a stone,
with fear. I never thought o' stirring, I felt so weak. I knew I
couldn't run away, and everybody as saw me 'ud know about the
baby. My heart went like a stone. I couldn't wish or try for
anything; it seemed like as if I should stay there for ever, and
nothing 'ud ever change. But they came and took me away."
Hetty was silent, but she shuddered again, as if there was still
something behind; and Dinah waited, for her heart was so full that
tears must come before words. At last Hetty burst out, with a
sob, "Dinah, do you think God will take away that crying and the
place in the wood, now I've told everything?"
"Let us pray, poor sinner. Let us fall on our knees again, and
pray to the God of all mercy."
The Hours of Suspense
ON Sunday morning, when the church bells in Stoniton were ringing
for morning service, Bartle Massey re-entered Adam's room, after a
short absence, and said, "Adam, here's a visitor wants to see
Adam was seated with is back towards the door, but he started up
and turned round instantly, with a flushed face and an eager look.
His face was even thinner and more worn than we have seen it
before, but he was washed and shaven this Sunday morning.
"Is it any news?" he said.
"Keep yourself quiet, my lad," said Bartle; "keep quiet. It's not
what you're thinking of. It's the young Methodist woman come from
the prison. She's at the bottom o' the stairs, and wants to know
if you think well to see her, for she has something to say to you
about that poor castaway; but she wouldn't come in without your
leave, she said. She thought you'd perhaps like to go out and
speak to her. These preaching women are not so back'ard
commonly," Bartle muttered to himself.
"Ask her to come in," said Adam.
He was standing with his face towards the door, and as Dinah
entered, lifting up her mild grey eyes towards him, she saw at
once the great change that had come since the day when she had
looked up at the tall man in the cottage. There was a trembling
in her clear voice as she put her hand into his and said, "Be
comforted, Adam Bede, the Lord has not forsaken her."
"Bless you for coming to her," Adam said. "Mr. Massey brought me
word yesterday as you was come."
They could neither of them say any more just yet, but stood before
each other in silence; and Bartle Massey, too, who had put on his
spectacles, seemed transfixed, examining Dinah's face. But he
recovered himself first, and said, "Sit down, young woman, sit
down," placing the chair for her and retiring to his old seat on
"Thank you, friend; I won't sit down," said Dinah, "for I must
hasten back. She entreated me not to stay long away. What I came
for, Adam Bede, was to pray you to go and see the poor sinner and
bid her farewell. She desires to ask your forgiveness, and it is
meet you should see her to-day, rather than in the early morning,
when the time will be short."
Adam stood trembling, and at last sank down on his chair again.
"It won't be," he said, "it'll be put off--there'll perhaps come a
pardon. Mr. Irwine said there was hope. He said, I needn't quite
give it up."
"That's a blessed thought to me," said Dinah, her eyes filling
with tears. "It's a fearful thing hurrying her soul away so
"But let what will be," she added presently. "You will surely
come, and let her speak the words that are in her heart. Although
her poor soul is very dark and discerns little beyond the things
of the flesh, she is no longer hard. She is contrite, she has
confessed all to me. The pride of her heart has given way, and
she leans on me for help and desires to be taught. This fills me
with trust, for I cannot but think that the brethren sometimes err
in measuring the Divine love by the sinner's knowledge. She is
going to write a letter to the friends at the Hall Farm for me to
give them when she is gone, and when I told her you were here, she
said, 'I should like to say good-bye to Adam and ask him to
forgive me.' You will come, Adam? Perhaps you will even now come
back with me."
"I can't," Adam said. "I can't say good-bye while there's any
hope. I'm listening, and listening--I can't think o' nothing but
that. It can't be as she'll die that shameful death--I can't
bring my mind to it."
He got up from his chair again and looked away out of the window,
while Dinah stood with compassionate patience. In a minute or two
he turned round and said, "I will come, Dinah...to-morrow
morning...if it must be. I may have more strength to bear it, if
I know it must be. Tell her, I forgive her; tell her I will come--
at the very last."
"I will not urge you against the voice of your own heart," said
Dinah. "I must hasten back to her, for it is wonderful how she
clings now, and was not willing to let me out of her sight. She
used never to make any return to my affection before, but now
tribulation has opened her heart. Farewell, Adam. Our heavenly
Father comfort you and strengthen you to bear all things." Dinah
put out her hand, and Adam pressed it in silence.
Bartle Massey was getting up to lift the stiff latch of the door
for her, but before he could reach it, she had said gently,
"Farewell, friend," and was gone, with her light step down the
"Well," said Bartle, taking off his spectacles and putting them
into his pocket, "if there must be women to make trouble in the
world, it's but fair there should be women to be comforters under
it; and she's one--she's one. It's a pity she's a Methodist; but
there's no getting a woman without some foolishness or other."
Adam never went to bed that night. The excitement of suspense,
heightening with every hour that brought him nearer the fatal
moment, was too great, and in spite of his entreaties, in spite of
his promises that he would be perfectly quiet, the schoolmaster
"What does it matter to me, lad?" Bartle said: "a night's sleep
more or less? I shall sleep long enough, by and by, underground.
Let me keep thee company in trouble while I can."
It was a long and dreary night in that small chamber. Adam would
sometimes get up and tread backwards and forwards along the short
space from wall to wall; then he would sit down and hide his face,
and no sound would be heard but the ticking of the watch on the
table, or the falling of a cinder from the fire which the
schoolmaster carefully tended. Sometimes he would burst out into
vehement speech, "If I could ha' done anything to save her--if my
bearing anything would ha' done any good...but t' have to sit
still, and know it, and do nothing...it's hard for a man to
bear...and to think o' what might ha' been now, if it hadn't been
for HIM....O God, it's the very day we should ha' been married."
"Aye, my lad," said Bartle tenderly, "it's heavy--it's heavy. But
you must remember this: when you thought of marrying her, you'd a
notion she'd got another sort of a nature inside her. You didn't
think she could have got hardened in that little while to do what
"I know--I know that," said Adam. "I thought she was loving and
tender-hearted, and wouldn't tell a lie, or act deceitful. How
could I think any other way? And if he'd never come near her, and
I'd married her, and been loving to her, and took care of her, she
might never ha' done anything bad. What would it ha' signified--
my having a bit o' trouble with her? It 'ud ha' been nothing to
"There's no knowing, my lad--there's no knowing what might have
come. The smart's bad for you to bear now: you must have time--
you must have time. But I've that opinion of you, that you'll
rise above it all and be a man again, and there may good come out
of this that we don't see."
"Good come out of it!" said Adam passionately. "That doesn't
alter th' evil: HER ruin can't be undone. I hate that talk o'
people, as if there was a way o' making amends for everything.
They'd more need be brought to see as the wrong they do can never
be altered. When a man's spoiled his fellow-creatur's life, he's
no right to comfort himself with thinking good may come out of it.
Somebody else's good doesn't alter her shame and misery."
"Well, lad, well," said Bartle, in a gentle tone, strangely in
contrast with his usual peremptoriness and impatience of
contradiction, "it's likely enough I talk foolishness. I'm an old
fellow, and it's a good many years since I was in trouble myself.
It's easy finding reasons why other folks should be patient."
"Mr. Massey," said Adam penitently, "I'm very hot and hasty. I
owe you something different; but you mustn't take it ill of me."
"Not I, lad--not I."
So the night wore on in agitation till the chill dawn and the
growing light brought the tremulous quiet that comes on the brink
of despair. There would soon be no more suspense.
"Let us go to the prison now, Mr. Massey," said Adam, when he saw
the hand of his watch at six. "If there's any news come, we shall
hear about it."
The people were astir already, moving rapidly, in one direction,
through the streets. Adam tried not to think where they were
going, as they hurried past him in that short space between his
lodging and the prison gates. He was thankful when the gates shut
him in from seeing those eager people.
No; there was no news come--no pardon--no reprieve.
Adam lingered in the court half an hour before he could bring
himself to send word to Dinah that he was come. But a voice
caught his ear: he could not shut out the words.
"The cart is to set off at half-past seven."
It must be said--the last good-bye: there was no help.
In ten minutes from that time, Adam was at the door of the cell.
Dinah had sent him word that she could not come to him; she could
not leave Hetty one moment; but Hetty was prepared for the
He could not see her when he entered, for agitation deadened his
senses, and the dim cell was almost dark to him. He stood a
moment after the door closed behind him, trembling and stupefied.
But he began to see through the dimness--to see the dark eyes
lifted up to him once more, but with no smile in them. O God, how
sad they looked! The last time they had met his was when he
parted from her with his heart full of joyous hopeful love, and
they looked out with a tearful smile from a pink, dimpled,
childish face. The face was marble now; the sweet lips were
pallid and half-open and quivering; the dimples were all gone--all
but one, that never went; and the eyes--O, the worst of all was
the likeness they had to Hetty's. They were Hetty's eyes looking
at him with that mournful gaze, as if she had come back to him
from the dead to tell him of her misery.
She was clinging close to Dinah; her cheek was against Dinah's.
It seemed as if her last faint strength and hope lay in that
contact, and the pitying love that shone out from Dinah's face
looked like a visible pledge of the Invisible Mercy.
When the sad eyes met--when Hetty and Adam looked at each other--
she felt the change in him too, and it seemed to strike her with
fresh fear. It was the first time she had seen any being whose
face seemed to reflect the change in herself: Adam was a new image
of the dreadful past and the dreadful present. She trembled more
as she looked at him.
"Speak to him, Hetty," Dinah said; "tell him what is in your
Hetty obeyed her, like a little child.
"Adam...I'm very sorry...I behaved very wrong to you...will you
forgive me...before I die?"
Adam answered with a half-sob, "Yes, I forgive thee Hetty. I
forgave thee long ago."
It had seemed to Adam as if his brain would burst with the anguish
of meeting Hetty's eyes in the first moments, but the sound of her
voice uttering these penitent words touched a chord which had been
less strained. There was a sense of relief from what was becoming
unbearable, and the rare tears came--they had never come before,
since he had hung on Seth's neck in the beginning of his sorrow.
Hetty made an involuntary movement towards him, some of the love
that she had once lived in the midst of was come near her again.
She kept hold of Dinah's hand, but she went up to Adam and said
timidly, "Will you kiss me again, Adam, for all I've been so
Adam took the blanched wasted hand she put out to him, and they
gave each other the solemn unspeakable kiss of a lifelong parting.
"And tell him," Hetty said, in rather a stronger voice, "tell
him...for there's nobody else to tell him...as I went after him
and couldn't find him...and I hated him and cursed him once...but
Dinah says I should forgive him...and I try...for else God won't
There was a noise at the door of the cell now--the key was being
turned in the lock, and when the door opened, Adam saw
indistinctly that there were several faces there. He was too
agitated to see more--even to see that Mr. Irwine's face was one
of them. He felt that the last preparations were beginning, and
he could stay no longer. Room was silently made for him to
depart, and he went to his chamber in loneliness, leaving Bartle
Massey to watch and see the end.
The Last Moment
IT was a sight that some people remembered better even than their
own sorrows--the sight in that grey clear morning, when the fatal
cart with the two young women in it was descried by the waiting
watching multitude, cleaving its way towards the hideous symbol of
a deliberately inflicted sudden death.
All Stoniton had heard of Dinah Morris, the young Methodist woman
who had brought the obstinate criminal to confess, and there was
as much eagerness to see her as to see the wretched Hetty.
But Dinah was hardly conscious of the multitude. When Hetty had
caught sight of the vast crowd in the distance, she had clutched
"Close your eyes, Hetty," Dinah said, "and let us pray without
ceasing to God."
And in a low voice, as the cart went slowly along through the
midst of the gazing crowd, she poured forth her soul with the
wrestling intensity of a last pleading, for the trembling creature
that clung to her and clutched her as the only visible sign of
love and pity.
Dinah did not know that the crowd was silent, gazing at her with a
sort of awe--she did not even know how near they were to the fatal
spot, when the cart stopped, and she shrank appalled at a loud
shout hideous to her ear, like a vast yell of demons. Hetty's
shriek mingled with the sound, and they clasped each other in
But it was not a shout of execration--not a yell of exultant
It was a shout of sudden excitement at the appearance of a
horseman cleaving the crowd at full gallop. The horse is hot and
distressed, but answers to the desperate spurring; the rider looks
as if his eyes were glazed by madness, and he saw nothing but what
was unseen by others. See, he has something in his hand--he is
holding it up as if it were a signal.
The Sheriff knows him: it is Arthur Donnithorne, carrying in his
hand a hard-won release from death.
A nother Meeting in the Wood
THE next day, at evening, two men were walking from opposite
points towards the same scene, drawn thither by a common memory.
The scene was the Grove by Donnithorne Chase: you know who the men
The old squire's funeral had taken place that morning, the will
had been read, and now in the first breathing-space, Arthur
Donnithorne had come out for a lonely walk, that he might look
fixedly at the new future before him and confirm himself in a sad
resolution. He thought he could do that best in the Grove.
Adam too had come from Stontion on Monday evening, and to-day he
had not left home, except to go to the family at the Hall Farm and
tell them everything that Mr. Irwine had left untold. He had
agreed with the Poysers that he would follow them to their new
neighbourhood, wherever that might be, for he meant to give up the
management of the woods, and, as soon as it was practicable, he
would wind up his business with Jonathan Burge and settle with his
mother and Seth in a home within reach of the friends to whom he
felt bound by a mutual sorrow.
"Seth and me are sure to find work," he said. "A man that's got
our trade at his finger-ends is at home everywhere; and we must
make a new start. My mother won't stand in the way, for she's
told me, since I came home, she'd made up her mind to being buried
in another parish, if I wished it, and if I'd be more comfortable
elsewhere. It's wonderful how quiet she's been ever since I came
back. It seems as if the very greatness o' the trouble had
quieted and calmed her. We shall all be better in a new country,
though there's some I shall be loath to leave behind. But I won't
part from you and yours, if I can help it, Mr. Poyser. Trouble's
made us kin."
"Aye, lad," said Martin. "We'll go out o' hearing o' that man's
name. But I doubt we shall ne'er go far enough for folks not to
find out as we've got them belonging to us as are transported o'er
the seas, and were like to be hanged. We shall have that flyin'
up in our faces, and our children's after us."
That was a long visit to the Hall Farm, and drew too strongly on
Adam's energies for him to think of seeing others, or re-entering
on his old occupations till the morrow. "But to-morrow," he said
to himself, "I'll go to work again. I shall learn to like it
again some time, maybe; and it's right whether I like it or not."
This evening was the last he would allow to be absorbed by sorrow:
suspense was gone now, and he must bear the unalterable. He was
resolved not to see Arthur Donnithorne again, if it were possible
to avoid him. He had no message to deliver from Hetty now, for
Hetty had seen Arthur. And Adam distrusted himself--he had
learned to dread the violence of his own feeling. That word of
Mr. Irwine's--that he must remember what he had felt after giving
the last blow to Arthur in the Grove--had remained with him.
These thoughts about Arthur, like all thoughts that are charged
with strong feeling, were continually recurring, and they always
called up the image of the Grove--of that spot under the
overarching boughs where he had caught sight of the two bending
figures, and had been possessed by sudden rage.
"I'll go and see it again to-night for the last time," he said;
"it'll do me good; it'll make me feel over again what I felt when
I'd knocked him down. I felt what poor empty work it was, as soon
as I'd done it, before I began to think he might be dead."
In this way it happened that Arthur and Adam were walking towards
the same spot at the same time.
Adam had on his working-dress again, now, for he had thrown off
the other with a sense of relief as soon as he came home; and if
he had had the basket of tools over his shoulder, he might have
been taken, with his pale wasted face, for the spectre of the Adam
Bede who entered the Grove on that August evening eight months
ago. But he had no basket of tools, and he was not walking with
the old erectness, looking keenly round him; his hands were thrust
in his side pockets, and his eyes rested chiefly on the ground.
He had not long entered the Grove, and now he paused before a
beech. He knew that tree well; it was the boundary mark of his
youth--the sign, to him, of the time when some of his earliest,
strongest feelings had left him. He felt sure they would never
return. And yet, at this moment, there was a stirring of
affection at the remembrance of that Arthur Donnithorne whom he
had believed in before he had come up to this beech eight months
ago. It was affection for the dead: THAT Arthur existed no
He was disturbed by the sound of approaching footsteps, but the
beech stood at a turning in the road, and he could not see who was
coming until the tall slim figure in deep mourning suddenly stood
before him at only two yards' distance. They both started, and
looked at each other in silence. Often, in the last fortnight,
Adam had imagined himself as close to Arthur as this, assailing
him with words that should be as harrowing as the voice of
remorse, forcing upon him a just share in the misery he had
caused; and often, too, he had told himself that such a meeting
had better not be. But in imagining the meeting he had always
seen Arthur, as he had met him on that evening in the Grove,
florid, careless, light of speech; and the figure before him
touched him with the signs of suffering. Adam knew what suffering
was--he could not lay a cruel finger on a bruised man. He felt no
impulse that he needed to resist. Silence was more just than
reproach. Arthur was the first to speak.
"Adam," he said, quietly, "it may be a good thing that we have met
here, for I wished to see you. I should have asked to see you to-
He paused, but Adam said nothing.
"I know it is painful to you to meet me," Arthur went on, "but it
is not likely to happen again for years to come."
"No, sir," said Adam, coldly, "that was what I meant to write to
you to-morrow, as it would be better all dealings should be at an
end between us, and somebody else put in my place."
Arthur felt the answer keenly, and it was not without an effort
that he spoke again.
"It was partly on that subject I wished to speak to you. I don't
want to lessen your indignation against me, or ask you to do
anything for my sake. I only wish to ask you if you will help me
to lessen the evil consequences of the past, which is
unchangeable. I don't mean consequences to myself, but to others.
It is but little I can do, I know. I know the worst consequences
will remain; but something may be done, and you can help me. Will
you listen to me patiently?"
"Yes, sir," said Adam, after some hesitation; "I'll hear what it
is. If I can help to mend anything, I will. Anger 'ull mend
nothing, I know. We've had enough o' that."
"I was going to the Hermitage," said Arthur. "Will you go there
with me and sit down? We can talk better there."
The Hermitage had never been entered since they left it together,
for Arthur had locked up the key in his desk. And now, when he
opened the door, there was the candle burnt out in the socket;
there was the chair in the same place where Adam remembered
sitting; there was the waste-paper basket full of scraps, and deep
down in it, Arthur felt in an instant, there was the little pink
silk handkerchief. It would have been painful to enter this place
if their previous thoughts had been less painful.
They sat down opposite each other in the old places, and Arthur
said, "I'm going away, Adam; I'm going into the army."
Poor Arthur felt that Adam ought to be affected by this
announcement--ought to have a movement of sympathy towards him.
But Adam's lips remained firmly closed, and the expression of his
"What I want to say to you," Arthur continued, "is this: one of my
reasons for going away is that no one else may leave Hayslope--may
leave their home on my account. I would do anything, there is no
sacrifice I would not make, to prevent any further injury to
others through my--through what has happened."
Arthur's words had precisely the opposite effect to that he had
anticipated. Adam thought he perceived in them that notion of
compensation for irretrievable wrong, that self-soothing attempt
to make evil bear the same fruits as good, which most of all
roused his indignation. He was as strongly impelled to look
painful facts right in the face as Arthur was to turn away his
eyes from them. Moreover, he had the wakeful suspicious pride of
a poor man in the presence of a rich man. He felt his old
severity returning as he said, "The time's past for that, sir. A
man should make sacrifices to keep clear of doing a wrong;
sacrifices won't undo it when it's done. When people's feelings
have got a deadly wound, they can't be cured with favours."
"Favours!" said Arthur, passionately; "no; how can you suppose I
meant that? But the Poysers--Mr. Irwine tells me the Poysers mean
to leave the place where they have lived so many years--for
generations. Don't you see, as Mr. Irwine does, that if they
could be persuaded to overcome the feeling that drives them away,
it would be much better for them in the end to remain on the old
spot, among the friends and neighbours who know them?"
"That's true," said Adam coldly. "But then, sir, folks's feelings
are not so easily overcome. It'll be hard for Martin Poyser to go
to a strange place, among strange faces, when he's been bred up on
the Hall Farm, and his father before him; but then it 'ud be
harder for a man with his feelings to stay. I don't see how the
thing's to be made any other than hard. There's a sort o' damage,
sir, that can't be made up for."
Arthur was silent some moments. In spite of other feelings
dominant in him this evening, his pride winced under Adam's mode
of treating him. Wasn't he himself suffering? Was not he too
obliged to renounce his most cherished hopes? It was now as it
had been eight months ago--Adam was forcing Arthur to feel more
intensely the irrevocableness of his own wrong-doing. He was
presenting the sort of resistance that was the most irritating to
Arthur's eager ardent nature. But his anger was subdued by the
same influence that had subdued Adam's when they first confronted
each other--by the marks of suffering in a long familiar face.
The momentary struggle ended in the feeling that he could bear a
great deal from Adam, to whom he had been the occasion of bearing
so much; but there was a touch of pleading, boyish vexation in his
tone as he said, "But people may make injuries worse by
unreasonable conduct--by giving way to anger and satisfying that
for the moment, instead of thinking what will be the effect in the
"If I were going to stay here and act as landlord," he added
presently, with still more eagerness--"if I were careless about
what I've done--what I've been the cause of, you would have some
excuse, Adam, for going away and encouraging others to go. You
would have some excuse then for trying to make the evil worse.
But when I tell you I'm going away for years--when you know what
that means for me, how it cuts off every plan of happiness I've
ever formed--it is impossible for a sensible man like you to
believe that there is any real ground for the Poysers refusing to
remain. I know their feeling about disgrace--Mr. Irwine has told
me all; but he is of opinion that they might be persuaded out of
this idea that they are disgraced in the eyes of their neighbours,
and that they can't remain on my estate, if you would join him in
his efforts--if you would stay yourself and go on managing the old
Arthur paused a moment and then added, pleadingly, "You know
that's a good work to do for the sake of other people, besides the
owner. And you don't know but that they may have a better owner
soon, whom you will like to work for. If I die, my cousin
Tradgett will have the estate and take my name. He is a good
Adam could not help being moved: it was impossible for him not to
feel that this was the voice of the honest warm-hearted Arthur
whom he had loved and been proud of in old days; but nearer
memories would not be thrust away. He was silent; yet Arthur saw
an answer in his face that induced him to go on, with growing
"And then, if you would talk to the Poysers--if you would talk the
matter over with Mr. Irwine--he means to see you to-morrow--and
then if you would join your arguments to his to prevail on them
not to go....I know, of course, that they would not accept any
favour from me--I mean nothing of that kind--but I'm sure they
would suffer less in the end. Irwine thinks so too. And Mr.
Irwine is to have the chief authority on the estate--he has
consented to undertake that. They will really be under no man but
one whom they respect and like. It would be the same with you,
Adam, and it could be nothing but a desire to give me worse pain
that could incline you to go."
Arthur was silent again for a little while, and then said, with
some agitation in his voice, "I wouldn't act so towards you, I
know. If you were in my place and I in yours, I should try to
help you to do the best."
Adam made a hasty movement on his chair and looked on the ground.
Arthur went on, "Perhaps you've never done anything you've had
bitterly to repent of in your life, Adam; if you had, you would be
more generous. You would know then that it's worse for me than
Arthur rose from his seat with the last words, and went to one of
the windows, looking out and turning his back on Adam, as he
continued, passionately, "Haven't I loved her too? Didn't I see
her yesterday? Shan't I carry the thought of her about with me as
much as you will? And don't you think you would suffer more if
you'd been in fault?"
There was silence for several minutes, for the struggle in Adam's
mind was not easily decided. Facile natures, whose emotions have
little permanence, can hardly understand how much inward
resistance he overcame before he rose from his seat and turned
towards Arthur. Arthur heard the movement, and turning round, met
the sad but softened look with which Adam said, "It's true what
you say, sir. I'm hard--it's in my nature. I was too hard with
my father, for doing wrong. I've been a bit hard t' everybody but
her. I felt as if nobody pitied her enough--her suffering cut
into me so; and when I thought the folks at the farm were too hard
with her, I said I'd never be hard to anybody myself again. But
feeling overmuch about her has perhaps made me unfair to you.
I've known what it is in my life to repent and feel it's too late.
I felt I'd been too harsh to my father when he was gone from me--I
feel it now, when I think of him. I've no right to be hard
towards them as have done wrong and repent."
Adam spoke these words with the firm distinctness of a man who is
resolved to leave nothing unsaid that he is bound to say; but he
went on with more hesitation.
"I wouldn't shake hands with you once, sir, when you asked me--but
if you're willing to do it now, for all I refused then..."
Arthur's white hand was in Adam's large grasp in an instant, and
with that action there was a strong rush, on both sides, of the
old, boyish affection.
"Adam," Arthur said, impelled to full confession now, "it would
never have happened if I'd known you loved her. That would have
helped to save me from it. And I did struggle. I never meant to
injure her. I deceived you afterwards--and that led on to worse;
but I thought it was forced upon me, I thought it was the best
thing I could do. And in that letter I told her to let me know if
she were in any trouble: don't think I would not have done
everything I could. But I was all wrong from the very first, and
horrible wrong has come of it. God knows, I'd give my life if I
could undo it."
They sat down again opposite each other, and Adam said,
tremulously, "How did she seem when you left her, sir?"
"Don't ask me, Adam," Arthur said; "I feel sometimes as if I
should go mad with thinking of her looks and what she said to me,
and then, that I couldn't get a full pardon--that I couldn't save
her from that wretched fate of being transported--that I can do
nothing for her all those years; and she may die under it, and
never know comfort any more."
"Ah, sir," said Adam, for the first time feeling his own pain
merged in sympathy for Arthur, "you and me'll often be thinking o'
the same thing, when we're a long way off one another. I'll pray
God to help you, as I pray him to help me."
"But there's that sweet woman--that Dinah Morris," Arthur said,
pursuing his own thoughts and not knowing what had been the sense
of Adam's words, "she says she shall stay with her to the very
last moment--till she goes; and the poor thing clings to her as if
she found some comfort in her. I could worship that woman; I
don't know what I should do if she were not there. Adam, you will
see her when she comes back. I could say nothing to her
yesterday--nothing of what I felt towards her. Tell her," Arthur
went on hurriedly, as if he wanted to hide the emotion with which
he spoke, while he took off his chain and watch, "tell her I asked
you to give her this in remembrance of me--of the man to whom she
is the one source of comfort, when he thinks of...I know she
doesn't care about such things--or anything else I can give her
for its own sake. But she will use the watch--I shall like to
think of her using it."
"I'll give it to her, sir," Adam said, "and tell her your words.
She told me she should come back to the people at the Hall Farm."
"And you will persuade the Poysers to stay, Adam?" said Arthur,
reminded of the subject which both of them had forgotten in the
first interchange of revived friendship. "You will stay yourself,
and help Mr. Irwine to carry out the repairs and improvements on
"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
"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.
To-day, however, Mrs. Poyser gave but a divided attention to the
arrival of the cows, for she was in eager discussion with Dinah,
who was stitching Mr. Poyser's shirt-collars, and had borne
patiently to have her thread broken three times by Totty pulling
at her arm with a sudden insistence that she should look at
"Baby," that is, at a large wooden doll with no legs and a long
skirt, whose bald head Totty, seated in her small chair at Dinah's
side, was caressing and pressing to her fat cheek with much
fervour. Totty is larger by more than two years' growth than when
you first saw her, and she has on a black frock under her
pinafore. Mrs. Poyser too has on a black gown, which seems to
heighten the family likeness between her and Dinah. In other
respects there is little outward change now discernible in our old
friends, or in the pleasant house-place, bright with polished oak
"I never saw the like to you, Dinah," Mrs. Poyser was saying,
"when you've once took anything into your head: there's no more
moving you than the rooted tree. You may say what you like, but I
don't believe that's religion; for what's the Sermon on the Mount
about, as you're so fond o' reading to the boys, but doing what
other folks 'ud have you do? But if it was anything unreasonable
they wanted you to do, like taking your cloak off and giving it to
'em, or letting 'em slap you i' the face, I daresay you'd be ready
enough. It's only when one 'ud have you do what's plain common
sense and good for yourself, as you're obstinate th' other way."
"Nay, dear Aunt," said Dinah, smiling slightly as she went on with
her work, "I'm sure your wish 'ud be a reason for me to do
anything that I didn't feel it was wrong to do."
"Wrong! You drive me past bearing. What is there wrong, I should
like to know, i' staying along wi' your own friends, as are th'
happier for having you with 'em an' are willing to provide for
you, even if your work didn't more nor pay 'em for the bit o'
sparrow's victual y' eat and the bit o' rag you put on? An' who
is it, I should like to know, as you're bound t' help and comfort
i' the world more nor your own flesh and blood--an' me th' only
aunt you've got above-ground, an' am brought to the brink o' the
grave welly every winter as comes, an' there's the child as sits
beside you 'ull break her little heart when you go, an' the
grandfather not been dead a twelvemonth, an' your uncle 'ull miss
you so as never was--a-lighting his pipe an' waiting on him, an'
now I can trust you wi' the butter, an' have had all the trouble
o' teaching you, and there's all the sewing to be done, an' I must
have a strange gell out o' Treddles'on to do it--an' all because
you must go back to that bare heap o' stones as the very crows fly
over an' won't stop at."
"Dear Aunt Rachel," said Dinah, looking up in Mrs. Poyser's face,
"it's your kindness makes you say I'm useful to you. You don't
really want me now, for Nancy and Molly are clever at their work,
and you're in good health now, by the blessing of God, and my
uncle is of a cheerful countenance again, and you have neighbours
and friends not a few--some of them come to sit with my uncle
almost daily. Indeed, you will not miss me; and at Snowfield
there are brethren and sisters in great need, who have none of
those comforts you have around you. I feel that I am called back
to those amongst whom my lot was first cast. I feel drawn again
towards the hills where I used to be blessed in carrying the word
of life to the sinful and desolate."
"You feel! Yes," said Mrs. Poyser, returning from a parenthetic
glance at the cows, "that's allays the reason I'm to sit down wi',
when you've a mind to do anything contrairy. What do you want to
be preaching for more than you're preaching now? Don't you go
off, the Lord knows where, every Sunday a-preaching and praying?
An' haven't you got Methodists enow at Treddles'on to go and look
at, if church-folks's faces are too handsome to please you? An'
isn't there them i' this parish as you've got under hand, and
they're like enough to make friends wi' Old Harry again as soon as
your back's turned? There's that Bessy Cranage--she'll be
flaunting i' new finery three weeks after you're gone, I'll be
bound. She'll no more go on in her new ways without you than a
dog 'ull stand on its hind-legs when there's nobody looking. But
I suppose it doesna matter so much about folks's souls i' this
country, else you'd be for staying with your own aunt, for she's
none so good but what you might help her to be better."
There was a certain something in Mrs. Poyser's voice just then,
which she did not wish to be noticed, so she turned round hastily
to look at the clock, and said: "See there! It's tea-time; an' if
Martin's i' the rick-yard, he'll like a cup. Here, Totty, my
chicken, let mother put your bonnet on, and then you go out into
the rick-yard and see if Father's there, and tell him he mustn't
go away again without coming t' have a cup o' tea; and tell your
brothers to come in too."
Totty trotted off in her flapping bonnet, while Mrs. Poyser set
out the bright oak table and reached down the tea-cups.
"You talk o' them gells Nancy and Molly being clever i' their
work," she began again; "it's fine talking. They're all the same,
clever or stupid--one can't trust 'em out o' one's sight a minute.
They want somebody's eye on 'em constant if they're to be kept to
their work. An' suppose I'm ill again this winter, as I was the
winter before last? Who's to look after 'em then, if you're gone?
An' there's that blessed child--something's sure t' happen to her--
they'll let her tumble into the fire, or get at the kettle wi'
the boiling lard in't, or some mischief as 'ull lame her for life;
an' it'll be all your fault, Dinah."
"Aunt," said Dinah, "I promise to come back to you in the winter
if you're ill. Don't think I will ever stay away from you if
you're in real want of me. But, indeed, it is needful for my own
soul that I should go away from this life of ease and luxury in
which I have all things too richly to enjoy--at least that I
should go away for a short space. No one can know but myself what
are my inward needs, and the besetments I am most in danger from.
Your wish for me to stay is not a call of duty which I refuse to
hearken to because it is against my own desires; it is a
temptation that I must resist, lest the love of the creature
should become like a mist in my soul shutting out the heavenly
"It passes my cunning to know what you mean by ease and luxury,"
said Mrs. Poyser, as she cut the bread and butter. "It's true
there's good victual enough about you, as nobody shall ever say I
don't provide enough and to spare, but if there's ever a bit o'
odds an' ends as nobody else 'ud eat, you're sure to pick it
out...but look there! There's Adam Bede a-carrying the little un
in. I wonder how it is he's come so early."
Mrs. Poyser hastened to the door for the pleasure of looking at
her darling in a new position, with love in her eyes but reproof
on her tongue.
"Oh for shame, Totty! Little gells o' five year old should be
ashamed to be carried. Why, Adam, she'll break your arm, such a
big gell as that; set her down--for shame!"
"Nay, nay," said Adam, "I can lift her with my hand--I've no need
to take my arm to it."
Totty, looking as serenely unconscious of remark as a fat white
puppy, was set down at the door-place, and the mother enforced her
reproof with a shower of kisses.
"You're surprised to see me at this hour o' the day," said Adam.
"Yes, but come in," said Mrs. Poyser, making way for him; "there's
no bad news, I hope?"
"No, nothing bad," Adam answered, as he went up to Dinah and put
out his hand to her. She had laid down her work and stood up,
instinctively, as he approached her. A faint blush died away from
her pale cheek as she put her hand in his and looked up at him
"It's an errand to you brought me, Dinah," said Adam, apparently
unconscious that he was holding her hand all the while; "mother's
a bit ailing, and she's set her heart on your coming to stay the
night with her, if you'll be so kind. I told her I'd call and ask
you as I came from the village. She overworks herself, and I
can't persuade her to have a little girl t' help her. I don't
know what's to be done."
Adam released Dinah's hand as he ceased speaking, and was
expecting an answer, but before she had opened her lips Mrs.
Poyser said, "Look there now! I told you there was folks enow t'
help i' this parish, wi'out going further off. There's Mrs. Bede
getting as old and cas'alty as can be, and she won't let anybody
but you go a-nigh her hardly. The folks at Snowfield have learnt
by this time to do better wi'out you nor she can."
"I'll put my bonnet on and set off directly, if you don't want
anything done first, Aunt," said Dinah, folding up her work.
"Yes, I do want something done. I want you t' have your tea,
child; it's all ready--and you'll have a cup, Adam, if y' arena in
too big a hurry."
"Yes, I'll have a cup, please; and then I'll walk with Dinah. I'm
going straight home, for I've got a lot o' timber valuations to
"Why, Adam, lad, are you here?" said Mr. Poyser, entering warm and
coatless, with the two black-eyed boys behind him, still looking
as much like him as two small elephants are like a large one.
"How is it we've got sight o' you so long before foddering-time?"
"I came on an errand for Mother," said Adam. "She's got a touch
of her old complaint, and she wants Dinah to go and stay with her
"Well, we'll spare her for your mother a little while," said Mr.
Poyser. "But we wonna spare her for anybody else, on'y her
"Husband!" said Marty, who was at the most prosaic and literal
period of the boyish mind. "Why, Dinah hasn't got a husband."
"Spare her?" said Mrs. Poyser, placing a seed-cake on the table
and then seating herself to pour out the tea. "But we must spare
her, it seems, and not for a husband neither, but for her own
megrims. Tommy, what are you doing to your little sister's doll?
Making the child naughty, when she'd be good if you'd let her.
You shanna have a morsel o' cake if you behave so."
Tommy, with true brotherly sympathy, was amusing himself by
turning Dolly's skirt over her bald head and exhibiting her
truncated body to the general scorn--an indignity which cut Totty
to the heart.
"What do you think Dinah's been a-telling me since dinner-time?"
Mrs. Poyser continued, looking at her husband.
"Eh! I'm a poor un at guessing," said Mr. Poyser.
"Why, she means to go back to Snowfield again, and work i' the
mill, and starve herself, as she used to do, like a creatur as has
got no friends."
Mr. Poyser did not readily find words to express his unpleasant
astonishment; he only looked from his wife to Dinah, who had now
seated herself beside Totty, as a bulwark against brotherly
playfulness, and was busying herself with the children's tea. If
he had been given to making general reflections, it would have
occurred to him that there was certainly a change come over Dinah,
for she never used to change colour; but, as it was, he merely
observed that her face was flushed at that moment. Mr. Poyser
thought she looked the prettier for it: it was a flush no deeper
than the petal of a monthly rose. Perhaps it came because her
uncle was looking at her so fixedly; but there is no knowing, for
just then Adam was saying, with quiet surprise, "Why, I hoped
Dinah was settled among us for life. I thought she'd given up the
notion o' going back to her old country."
"Thought! Yes," said Mrs. Poyser, "and so would anybody else ha'
thought, as had got their right end up'ards. But I suppose you
must be a Methodist to know what a Methodist 'ull do. It's ill
guessing what the bats are flying after."
"Why, what have we done to you. Dinah, as you must go away from
us?" said Mr. Poyser, still pausing over his tea-cup. "It's like
breaking your word, welly, for your aunt never had no thought but
you'd make this your home."
"Nay, Uncle," said Dinah, trying to be quite calm. "When I first
came, I said it was only for a time, as long as I could be of any
comfort to my aunt."
"Well, an' who said you'd ever left off being a comfort to me?"
said Mrs. Poyser. "If you didna mean to stay wi' me, you'd better
never ha' come. Them as ha' never had a cushion don't miss it."
"Nay, nay," said Mr. Poyser, who objected to exaggerated views.
"Thee mustna say so; we should ha' been ill off wi'out her, Lady
day was a twelvemont'. We mun be thankful for that, whether she
stays or no. But I canna think what she mun leave a good home
for, to go back int' a country where the land, most on't, isna
worth ten shillings an acre, rent and profits."
"Why, that's just the reason she wants to go, as fur as she can
give a reason," said Mrs. Poyser. "She says this country's too
comfortable, an' there's too much t' eat, an' folks arena
miserable enough. And she's going next week. I canna turn her,
say what I will. It's allays the way wi' them meek-faced people;
you may's well pelt a bag o' feathers as talk to 'em. But I say
it isna religion, to be so obstinate--is it now, Adam?"
Adam saw that Dinah was more disturbed than he had ever seen her
by any matter relating to herself, and, anxious to relieve her, if
possible, he said, looking at her affectionately, "Nay, I can't
find fault with anything Dinah does. I believe her thoughts are
better than our guesses, let 'em be what they may. I should ha'
been thankful for her to stay among us, but if she thinks well to
go, I wouldn't cross her, or make it hard to her by objecting. We
owe her something different to that."
As it often happens, the words intended to relieve her were just
too much for Dinah's susceptible feelings at this moment. The
tears came into the grey eyes too fast to be hidden and she got up
hurriedly, meaning it to be understood that she was going to put
on her bonnet.
"Mother, what's Dinah crying for?" said Totty. "She isn't a
"Thee'st gone a bit too fur," said Mr. Poyser. "We've no right t'
interfere with her doing as she likes. An' thee'dst be as angry
as could be wi' me, if I said a word against anything she did."
"Because you'd very like be finding fault wi'out reason," said
Mrs. Poyser. "But there's reason i' what I say, else I shouldna
say it. It's easy talking for them as can't love her so well as
her own aunt does. An' me got so used to her! I shall feel as
uneasy as a new sheared sheep when she's gone from me. An' to
think of her leaving a parish where she's so looked on. There's
Mr. Irwine makes as much of her as if she was a lady, for all her
being a Methodist, an' wi' that maggot o' preaching in her head--
God forgi'e me if I'm i' the wrong to call it so."
"Aye," said Mr. Poyser, looking jocose; "but thee dostna tell Adam
what he said to thee about it one day. The missis was saying,
Adam, as the preaching was the only fault to be found wi' Dinah,
and Mr. Irwine says, 'But you mustn't find fault with her for
that, Mrs. Poyser; you forget she's got no husband to preach to.
I'll answer for it, you give Poyser many a good sermon.' The
parson had thee there," Mr. Poyser added, laughing unctuously. "I
told Bartle Massey on it, an' he laughed too."
"Yes, it's a small joke sets men laughing when they sit a-staring
at one another with a pipe i' their mouths," said Mrs. Poyser.
"Give Bartle Massey his way and he'd have all the sharpness to
himself. If the chaff-cutter had the making of us, we should all
be straw, I reckon. Totty, my chicken, go upstairs to cousin
Dinah, and see what she's doing, and give her a pretty kiss."
This errand was devised for Totty as a means of checking certain
threatening symptoms about the corners of the mouth; for Tommy, no
longer expectant of cake, was lifting up his eyelids with his
forefingers and turning his eyeballs towards Totty in a way that
she felt to be disagreeably personal.
"You're rare and busy now--eh, Adam?" said Mr. Poyser. "Burge's
getting so bad wi' his asthmy, it's well if he'll ever do much
riding about again."
"Yes, we've got a pretty bit o' building on hand now," said Adam,
"what with the repairs on th' estate, and the new houses at
"I'll bet a penny that new house Burge is building on his own bit
o' land is for him and Mary to go to," said Mr. Poyser. "He'll be
for laying by business soon, I'll warrant, and be wanting you to
take to it all and pay him so much by th' 'ear. We shall see you
living on th' hill before another twelvemont's over."
"Well," said Adam, "I should like t' have the business in my own
hands. It isn't as I mind much about getting any more money.
We've enough and to spare now, with only our two selves and
mother; but I should like t' have my own way about things--I could
try plans then, as I can't do now."
"You get on pretty well wi' the new steward, I reckon?" said Mr.
"Yes, yes; he's a sensible man enough; understands farming--he's
carrying on the draining, and all that, capital. You must go some
day towards the Stonyshire side and see what alterations they're
making. But he's got no notion about buildings. You can so
seldom get hold of a man as can turn his brains to more nor one
thing; it's just as if they wore blinkers like th' horses and
could see nothing o' one side of 'em. Now, there's Mr. Irwine has
got notions o' building more nor most architects; for as for th'
architects, they set up to be fine fellows, but the most of 'em
don't know where to set a chimney so as it shan't be quarrelling
with a door. My notion is, a practical builder that's got a bit
o' taste makes the best architect for common things; and I've ten
times the pleasure i' seeing after the work when I've made the
Mr. Poyser listened with an admiring interest to Adam's discourse
on building, but perhaps it suggested to him that the building of
his corn-rick had been proceeding a little too long without the
control of the master's eye, for when Adam had done speaking, he
got up and said, "Well, lad, I'll bid you good-bye now, for I'm
off to the rick-yard again."
Adam rose too, for he saw Dinah entering, with her bonnet on and a
little basket in her hand, preceded by Totty.
"You're ready, I see, Dinah," Adam said; "so we'll set off, for
the sooner I'm at home the better."
"Mother," said Totty, with her treble pipe, "Dinah was saying her
prayers and crying ever so."
"Hush, hush," said the mother, "little gells mustn't chatter."
Whereupon the father, shaking with silent laughter, set Totty on
the white deal table and desired her to kiss him. Mr. and Mrs.
Poyser, you perceive, had no correct principles of education.
"Come back to-morrow if Mrs. Bede doesn't want you, Dinah," said
Mrs. Poyser: "but you can stay, you know, if she's ill."
So, when the good-byes had been said, Dinah and Adam left the Hall
In the Cottage
ADAM did not ask Dinah to take his arm when they got out into the
lane. He had never yet done so, often as they had walked
together, for he had observed that she never walked arm-in-arm
with Seth, and he thought, perhaps, that kind of support was not
agreeable to her. So they walked apart, though side by side, and
the close poke of her little black bonnet hid her face from him.
"You can't be happy, then, to make the Hall Farm your home,
Dinah?" Adam said, with the quiet interest of a brother, who has
no anxiety for himself in the matter. "It's a pity, seeing
they're so fond of you."
"You know, Adam, my heart is as their heart, so far as love for
them and care for their welfare goes, but they are in no present
need. Their sorrows are healed, and I feel that I am called back
to my old work, in which I found a blessing that I have missed of
late in the midst of too abundant worldly good. I know it is a
vain thought to flee from the work that God appoints us, for the
sake of finding a greater blessing to our own souls, as if we
could choose for ourselves where we shall find the fulness of the
Divine Presence, instead of seeking it where alone it is to be
found, in loving obedience. But now, I believe, I have a clear
showing that my work lies elsewhere--at least for a time. In the
years to come, if my aunt's health should fail, or she should
otherwise need me, I shall return."
"You know best, Dinah," said Adam. "I don't believe you'd go
against the wishes of them that love you, and are akin to you,
without a good and sufficient reason in your own conscience. I've
no right to say anything about my being sorry: you know well
enough what cause I have to put you above every other friend I've
got; and if it had been ordered so that you could ha' been my
sister, and lived with us all our lives, I should ha' counted it
the greatest blessing as could happen to us now. But Seth tells
me there's no hope o' that: your feelings are different, and
perhaps I'm taking too much upon me to speak about it."
Dinah made no answer, and they walked on in silence for some
yards, till they came to the stone stile, where, as Adam had
passed through first and turned round to give her his hand while
she mounted the unusually high step, she could not prevent him
from seeing her face. It struck him with surprise, for the grey
eyes, usually so mild and grave, had the bright uneasy glance
which accompanies suppressed agitation, and the slight flush in
her cheeks, with which she had come downstairs, was heightened to
a deep rose-colour. She looked as if she were only sister to
Dinah. Adam was silent with surprise and conjecture for some
moments, and then he said, "I hope I've not hurt or displeased you
by what I've said, Dinah. Perhaps I was making too free. I've no
wish different from what you see to be best, and I'm satisfied for
you to live thirty mile off, if you think it right. I shall think
of you just as much as I do now, for you're bound up with what I
can no more help remembering than I can help my heart beating."
Poor Adam! Thus do men blunder. Dinah made no answer, but she
presently said, "Have you heard any news from that poor young man,
since we last spoke of him?"
Dinah always called Arthur so; she had never lost the image of him
as she had seen him in the prison.
"Yes," said Adam. "Mr. Irwine read me part of a letter from him
yesterday. It's pretty certain, they say, that there'll be a
peace soon, though nobody believes it'll last long; but he says he
doesn't mean to come home. He's no heart for it yet, and it's
better for others that he should keep away. Mr. Irwine thinks
he's in the right not to come. It's a sorrowful letter. He asks
about you and the Poysers, as he always does. There's one thing
in the letter cut me a good deal: 'You can't think what an old
fellow I feel,' he says; 'I make no schemes now. I'm the best
when I've a good day's march or fighting before me.'"
"He's of a rash, warm-hearted nature, like Esau, for whom I have
always felt great pity," said Dinah. "That meeting between the
brothers, where Esau is so loving and generous, and Jacob so timid
and distrustful, notwithstanding his sense of the Divine favour,
has always touched me greatly. Truly, I have been tempted
sometimes to say that Jacob was of a mean spirit. But that is our
trial: we must learn to see the good in the midst of much that is
"Ah," said Adam, "I like to read about Moses best, in th' Old
Testament. He carried a hard business well through, and died when
other folks were going to reap the fruits. A man must have
courage to look at his life so, and think what'll come of it after
he's dead and gone. A good solid bit o' work lasts: if it's only
laying a floor down, somebody's the better for it being done well,
besides the man as does it."
They were both glad to talk of subjects that were not personal,
and in this way they went on till they passed the bridge across
the Willow Brook, when Adam turned round and said, "Ah, here's
Seth. I thought he'd be home soon. Does he know of you're going,
"Yes, I told him last Sabbath."
Adam remembered now that Seth had come home much depressed on
Sunday evening, a circumstance which had been very unusual with
him of late, for the happiness he had in seeing Dinah every week
seemed long to have outweighed the pain of knowing she would never
marry him. This evening he had his habitual air of dreamy
benignant contentment, until he came quite close to Dinah and saw
the traces of tears on her delicate eyelids and eyelashes. He
gave one rapid glance at his brother, but Adam was evidently quite
outside the current of emotion that had shaken Dinah: he wore his
everyday look of unexpectant calm. Seth tried not to let Dinah
see that he had noticed her face, and only said, "I'm thankful
you're come, Dinah, for Mother's been hungering after the sight of
you all day. She began to talk of you the first thing in the
When they entered the cottage, Lisbeth was seated in her arm-
chair, too tired with setting out the evening meal, a task she
always performed a long time beforehand, to go and meet them at
the door as usual, when she heard the approaching footsteps.
"Coom, child, thee't coom at last," she said, when Dinah went
towards her. "What dost mane by lavin' me a week an' ne'er
coomin' a-nigh me?"
"Dear friend," said Dinah, taking her hand, "you're not well. If
I'd known it sooner, I'd have come."
"An' how's thee t' know if thee dostna coom? Th' lads on'y know
what I tell 'em. As long as ye can stir hand and foot the men
think ye're hearty. But I'm none so bad, on'y a bit of a cold
sets me achin'. An' th' lads tease me so t' ha' somebody wi' me
t' do the work--they make me ache worse wi' talkin'. If thee'dst
come and stay wi' me, they'd let me alone. The Poysers canna want
thee so bad as I do. But take thy bonnet off, an' let me look at
Dinah was moving away, but Lisbeth held her fast, while she was
taking off her bonnet, and looked at her face as one looks into a
newly gathered snowdrop, to renew the old impressions of purity
"What's the matter wi' thee?" said Lisbeth, in astonishment;
"thee'st been a-cryin'."
"It's only a grief that'll pass away," said Dinah, who did not
wish just now to call forth Lisbeth's remonstrances by disclosing
her intention to leave Hayslope. "You shall know about it
shortly--we'll talk of it to-night. I shall stay with you to-
Lisbeth was pacified by this prospect. And she had the whole
evening to talk with Dinah alone; for there was a new room in the
cottage, you remember, built nearly two years ago, in the
expectation of a new inmate; and here Adam always sat when he had
writing to do or plans to make. Seth sat there too this evening,
for he knew his mother would like to have Dinah all to herself.
There were two pretty pictures on the two sides of the wall in the
cottage. On one side there was the broad-shouldered, large-
featured, hardy old woman, in her blue jacket and buff kerchief,
with her dim-eyed anxious looks turned continually on the lily
face and the slight form in the black dress that were either
moving lightly about in helpful activity, or seated close by the
old woman's arm-chair, holding her withered hand, with eyes lifted
up towards her to speak a language which Lisbeth understood far
better than the Bible or the hymn-book. She would scarcely listen
to reading at all to-night. "Nay, nay, shut the book," she said.
"We mun talk. I want t' know what thee was cryin' about. Hast
got troubles o' thy own, like other folks?"
On the other side of the wall there were the two brothers so like
each other in the midst of their unlikeness: Adam with knit brows,
shaggy hair, and dark vigorous colour, absorbed in his "figuring";
Seth, with large rugged features, the close copy of his brother's,
but with thin, wavy, brown hair and blue dreamy eyes, as often as
not looking vaguely out of the window instead of at his book,
although it was a newly bought book--Wesley's abridgment of Madame
Guyon's life, which was full of wonder and interest for him. Seth
had said to Adam, "Can I help thee with anything in here to-night?
I don't want to make a noise in the shop."
"No, lad," Adam answered, "there's nothing but what I must do
myself. Thee'st got thy new book to read."
And often, when Seth was quite unconscious, Adam, as he paused
after drawing a line with his ruler, looked at his brother with a
kind smile dawning in his eyes. He knew "th' lad liked to sit
full o' thoughts he could give no account of; they'd never come t'
anything, but they made him happy," and in the last year or so,
Adam had been getting more and more indulgent to Seth. It was
part of that growing tenderness which came from the sorrow at work
For Adam, though you see him quite master of himself, working hard
and delighting in his work after his inborn inalienable nature,
had not outlived his sorrow--had not felt it slip from him as a
temporary burden, and leave him the same man again. Do any of us?
God forbid. It would be a poor result of all our anguish and our
wrestling if we won nothing but our old selves at the end of it--
if we could return to the same blind loves, the same self-
confident blame, the same light thoughts of human suffering, the
same frivolous gossip over blighted human lives, the same feeble
sense of that Unknown towards which we have sent forth
irrepressible cries in our loneliness. Let us rather be thankful
that our sorrow lives in us as an indestructible force, only
changing its form, as forces do, and passing from pain into
sympathy--the one poor word which includes all our best insight
and our best love. Not that this transformation of pain into
sympathy had completely taken place in Adam yet. There was still
a great remnant of pain, and this he felt would subsist as long as
her pain was not a memory, but an existing thing, which he must
think of as renewed with the light of every new morning. But we
get accustomed to mental as well as bodily pain, without, for all
that, losing our sensibility to it. It becomes a habit of our
lives, and we cease to imagine a condition of perfect ease as
possible for us. Desire is chastened into submission, and we are
contented with our day when we have been able to bear our grief in
silence and act as if we were not suffering. For it is at such
periods that the sense of our lives having visible and invisible
relations, beyond any of which either our present or prospective
self is the centre, grows like a muscle that we are obliged to
lean on and exert.
That was Adam's state of mind in this second autumn of his sorrow.
His work, as you know, had always been part of his religion, and
from very early days he saw clearly that good carpentry was God's
will--was that form of God's will that most immediately concerned
him. But now there was no margin of dreams for him beyond this
daylight reality, no holiday-time in the working-day world, no
moment in the distance when duty would take off her iron glove and
breast-plate and clasp him gently into rest. He conceived no
picture of the future but one made up of hard-working days such as
he lived through, with growing contentment and intensity of
interest, every fresh week. Love, he thought, could never be
anything to him but a living memory--a limb lopped off, but not
gone from consciousness. He did not know that the power of loving
was all the while gaining new force within him; that the new
sensibilities bought by a deep experience were so many new fibres
by which it was possible, nay, necessary to him, that his nature
should intertwine with another. Yet he was aware that common
affection and friendship were more precious to him than they used
to be--that he clung more to his mother and Seth, and had an
unspeakable satisfaction in the sight or imagination of any small
addition to their happiness. The Poysers, too--hardly three or
four days passed but he felt the need of seeing them and
interchanging words and looks of friendliness with them. He would
have felt this, probably, even if Dinah had not been with them,
but he had only said the simplest truth in telling Dinah that he
put her above all other friends in the world. Could anything be
more natural? For in the darkest moments of memory the thought of
her always came as the first ray of returning comfort. The early
days of gloom at the Hall Farm had been gradually turned into soft
moonlight by her presence; and in the cottage, too, for she had
come at every spare moment to soothe and cheer poor Lisbeth, who
had been stricken with a fear that subdued even her querulousness
at the sight of her darling Adam's grief-worn face. He had become
used to watching her light quiet movements, her pretty loving ways
to the children, when he went to the Hall Farm; to listen for her
voice as for a recurrent music; to think everything she said and
did was just right, and could not have been better. In spite of
his wisdom, he could not find fault with her for her
overindulgence of the children, who had managed to convert Dinah
the preacher, before whom a circle of rough men had often trembled
a little, into a convenient household slave--though Dinah herself
was rather ashamed of this weakness, and had some inward conflict
as to her departure from the precepts of Solomon. Yes, there was
one thing that might have been better; she might have loved Seth
and consented to marry him. He felt a little vexed, for his
brother's sake, and he could not help thinking regretfully how
Dinah, as Seth's wife, would have made their home as happy as it
could be for them all--how she was the one being that would have
soothed their mother's last days into peacefulness and rest.
"It's wonderful she doesn't love th' lad," Adam had said sometimes
to himself, "for anybody 'ud think he was just cut out for her.
But her heart's so taken up with other things. She's one o' those
women that feel no drawing towards having a husband and children
o' their own. She thinks she should be filled up with her own
life then, and she's been used so to living in other folks's
cares, she can't bear the thought of her heart being shut up from
'em. I see how it is, well enough. She's cut out o' different
stuff from most women: I saw that long ago. She's never easy but
when she's helping somebody, and marriage 'ud interfere with her
ways--that's true. I've no right to be contriving and thinking it
'ud be better if she'd have Seth, as if I was wiser than she is--
or than God either, for He made her what she is, and that's one o'
the greatest blessings I've ever had from His hands, and others
This self-reproof had recurred strongly to Adam's mind when he
gathered from Dinah's face that he had wounded her by referring to
his wish that she had accepted Seth, and so he had endeavoured to
put into the strongest words his confidence in her decision as
right--his resignation even to her going away from them and
ceasing to make part of their life otherwise than by living in
their thoughts, if that separation were chosen by herself. He
felt sure she knew quite well enough how much he cared to see her
continually--to talk to her with the silent consciousness of a
mutual great remembrance. It was not possible she should hear
anything but self-renouncing affection and respect in his
assurance that he was contented for her to go away; and yet there
remained an uneasy feeling in his mind that he had not said quite
the right thing--that, somehow, Dinah had not understood him.
Dinah must have risen a little before the sun the next morning,
for she was downstairs about five o'clock. So was Seth, for,
through Lisbeth's obstinate refusal to have any woman-helper in
the house, he had learned to make himself, as Adam said, "very
handy in the housework," that he might save his mother from too
great weariness; on which ground I hope you will not think him
unmanly, any more than you can have thought the gallant Colonel
Bath unmanly when he made the gruel for his invalid sister. Adam,
who had sat up late at his writing, was still asleep, and was not
likely, Seth said, to be down till breakfast-time. Often as Dinah
had visited Lisbeth during the last eighteen months, she had never
slept in the cottage since that night after Thias's death, when,
you remember, Lisbeth praised her deft movements and even gave a
modified approval to her porridge. But in that long interval
Dinah had made great advances in household cleverness, and this
morning, since Seth was there to help, she was bent on bringing
everything to a pitch of cleanliness and order that would have
satisfied her Aunt Poyser. The cottage was far from that standard
at present, for Lisbeth's rheumatism had forced her to give up her
old habits of dilettante scouring and polishing. When the kitchen
was to her mind, Dinah went into the new room, where Adam had been
writing the night before, to see what sweeping and dusting were
needed there. She opened the window and let in the fresh morning
air, and the smell of the sweet-brier, and the bright low-slanting
rays of the early sun, which made a glory about her pale face and
pale auburn hair as she held the long brush, and swept, singing to
herself in a very low tone--like a sweet summer murmur that you
have to listen for very closely--one of Charles Wesley's hymns:
Eternal Beam of Light Divine,
Fountain of unexhausted love,
In whom the Father's glories shine,
Through earth beneath and heaven above;
Jesus! the weary wanderer's rest,
Give me thy easy yoke to bear;
With steadfast patience arm my breast,
With spotless love and holy fear.
Speak to my warring passions, "Peace!"
Say to my trembling heart, "Be still!"
Thy power my strength and fortress is,
For all things serve thy sovereign will.
She laid by the brush and took up the duster; and if you had ever
lived in Mrs. Poyser's household, you would know how the duster
behaved in Dinah's hand--how it went into every small corner, and
on every ledge in and out of sight--how it went again and again
round every bar of the chairs, and every leg, and under and over
everything that lay on the table, till it came to Adam's papers
and rulers and the open desk near them. Dinah dusted up to the
very edge of these and then hesitated, looking at them with a
longing but timid eye. It was painful to see how much dust there
was among them. As she was looking in this way, she heard Seth's
step just outside the open door, towards which her back was
turned, and said, raising her clear treble, "Seth, is your brother
wrathful when his papers are stirred?"
"Yes, very, when they are not put back in the right places," said
a deep strong voice, not Seth's.
It was as if Dinah had put her hands unawares on a vibrating
chord. She was shaken with an intense thrill, and for the instant
felt nothing else; then she knew her cheeks were glowing, and
dared not look round, but stood still, distressed because she
could not say good-morning in a friendly way. Adam, finding that
she did not look round so as to see the smile on his face, was
afraid she had thought him serious about his wrathfulness, and
went up to her, so that she was obliged to look at him.
"What! You think I'm a cross fellow at home, Dinah?" he said,
"Nay," said Dinah, looking up with timid eyes, "not so. But you
might be put about by finding things meddled with; and even the
man Moses, the meekest of men, was wrathful sometimes."
"Come, then," said Adam, looking at her affectionately, "I'll help
you move the things, and put 'em back again, and then they can't
get wrong. You're getting to be your aunt's own niece, I see, for