Part 9 out of 11
the while; and now, in her desperation at the nearness of their
marriage, she had run away. And she was gone to him. The old
indignation and jealousy rose again, and prompted the suspicion
that Arthur had been dealing falsely--had written to Hetty--had
tempted her to come to him--being unwilling, after all, that she
should belong to another man besides himself. Perhaps the whole
thing had been contrived by him, and he had given her directions
how to follow him to Ireland--for Adam knew that Arthur had been
gone thither three weeks ago, having recently learnt it at the
Chase. Every sad look of Hetty's, since she had been engaged to
Adam, returned upon him now with all the exaggeration of painful
retrospect. He had been foolishly sanguine and confident. The
poor thing hadn't perhaps known her own mind for a long while; had
thought that she could forget Arthur; had been momentarily drawn
towards the man who offered her a protecting, faithful love. He
couldn't bear to blame her: she never meant to cause him this
dreadful pain. The blame lay with that man who had selfishly
played with her heart--had perhaps even deliberately lured her
At Oakbourne, the ostler at the Royal Oak remembered such a young
woman as Adam described getting out of the Treddleston coach more
than a fortnight ago--wasn't likely to forget such a pretty lass
as that in a hurry--was sure she had not gone on by the Buxton
coach that went through Snowfield, but had lost sight of her while
he went away with the horses and had never set eyes on her again.
Adam then went straight to the house from which the Stonition
coach started: Stoniton was the most obvious place for Hetty to go
to first, whatever might be her destination, for she would hardly
venture on any but the chief coach-roads. She had been noticed
here too, and was remembered to have sat on the box by the
coachman; but the coachman could not be seen, for another man had
been driving on that road in his stead the last three or four
days. He could probably be seen at Stoniton, through inquiry at
the inn where the coach put up. So the anxious heart-stricken
Adam must of necessity wait and try to rest till morning--nay,
till eleven o'clock, when the coach started.
At Stoniton another delay occurred, for the old coachman who had
driven Hetty would not be in the town again till night. When he
did come he remembered Hetty well, and remembered his own joke
addressed to her, quoting it many times to Adam, and observing
with equal frequency that he thought there was something more than
common, because Hetty had not laughed when he joked her. But he
declared, as the people had done at the inn, that he had lost
sight of Hetty directly she got down. Part of the next morning
was consumed in inquiries at every house in the town from which a
coach started--(all in vain, for you know Hetty did not start from
Stonition by coach, but on foot in the grey morning)--and then in
walking out to the first toll-gates on the different lines of
road, in the forlorn hope of finding some recollection of her
there. No, she was not to be traced any farther; and the next
hard task for Adam was to go home and carry the wretched tidings
to the Hall Farm. As to what he should do beyond that, he had
come to two distinct resolutions amidst the tumult of thought and
feeling which was going on within him while he went to and fro.
He would not mention what he knew of Arthur Donnithorne's
behaviour to Hetty till there was a clear necessity for it: it was
still possible Hetty might come back, and the disclosure might be
an injury or an offence to her. And as soon as he had been home
and done what was necessary there to prepare for his further
absence, he would start off to Ireland: if he found no trace of
Hetty on the road, he would go straight to Arthur Donnithorne and
make himself certain how far he was acquainted with her movements.
Several times the thought occurred to him that he would consult
Mr. Irwine, but that would be useless unless he told him all, and
so betrayed the secret about Arthur. It seems strange that Adam,
in the incessant occupation of his mind about Hetty, should never
have alighted on the probability that she had gone to Windsor,
ignorant that Arthur was no longer there. Perhaps the reason was
that he could not conceive Hetty's throwing herself on Arthur
uncalled; he imagined no cause that could have driven her to such
a step, after that letter written in August. There were but two
alternatives in his mind: either Arthur had written to her again
and enticed her away, or she had simply fled from her approaching
marriage with himself because she found, after all, she could not
love him well enough, and yet was afraid of her friends' anger if
With this last determination on his mind, of going straight to
Arthur, the thought that he had spent two days in inquiries which
had proved to be almost useless, was torturing to Adam; and yet,
since he would not tell the Poysers his conviction as to where
Hetty was gone, or his intention to follow her thither, he must be
able to say to them that he had traced her as far as possible.
It was after twelve o'clock on Tuesday night when Adam reached
Treddleston; and, unwilling to disturb his mother and Seth, and
also to encounter their questions at that hour, he threw himself
without undressing on a bed at the "Waggon Overthrown," and slept
hard from pure weariness. Not more than four hours, however, for
before five o'clock he set out on his way home in the faint
morning twilight. He always kept a key of the workshop door in
his pocket, so that he could let himself in; and he wished to
enter without awaking his mother, for he was anxious to avoid
telling her the new trouble himself by seeing Seth first, and
asking him to tell her when it should be necessary. He walked
gently along the yard, and turned the key gently in the door; but,
as he expected, Gyp, who lay in the workshop, gave a sharp bark.
It subsided when he saw Adam, holding up his finger at him to
impose silence, and in his dumb, tailless joy he must content
himself with rubbing his body against his master's legs.
Adam was too heart-sick to take notice of Gyp's fondling. He
threw himself on the bench and stared dully at the wood and the
signs of work around him, wondering if he should ever come to feel
pleasure in them again, while Gyp, dimly aware that there was
something wrong with his master, laid his rough grey head on
Adam's knee and wrinkled his brows to look up at him. Hitherto,
since Sunday afternoon, Adam had been constantly among strange
people and in strange places, having no associations with the
details of his daily life, and now that by the light of this new
morning he was come back to his home and surrounded by the
familiar objects that seemed for ever robbed of their charm, the
reality--the hard, inevitable reality of his troubles pressed upon
him with a new weight. Right before him was an unfinished chest
of drawers, which he had been making in spare moments for Hetty's
use, when his home should be hers.
Seth had not heard Adam's entrance, but he had been roused by
Gyp's bark, and Adam heard him moving about in the room above,
dressing himself. Seth's first thoughts were about his brother:
he would come home to-day, surely, for the business would be
wanting him sadly by to-morrow, but it was pleasant to think he
had had a longer holiday than he had expected. And would Dinah
come too? Seth felt that that was the greatest happiness he could
look forward to for himself, though he had no hope left that she
would ever love him well enough to marry him; but he had often
said to himself, it was better to be Dinah's friend and brother
than any other woman's husband. If he could but be always near
her, instead of living so far off!
He came downstairs and opened the inner door leading from the
kitchen into the workshop, intending to let out Gyp; but he stood
still in the doorway, smitten with a sudden shock at the sight of
Adam seated listlessly on the bench, pale, unwashed, with sunken
blank eyes, almost like a drunkard in the morning. But Seth felt
in an instant what the marks meant--not drunkenness, but some
great calamity. Adam looked up at him without speaking, and Seth
moved forward towards the bench, himself trembling so that speech
did not come readily.
"God have mercy on us, Addy," he said, in a low voice, sitting
down on the bench beside Adam, "what is it?"
Adam was unable to speak. The strong man, accustomed to suppress
the signs of sorrow, had felt his heart swell like a child's at
this first approach of sympathy. He fell on Seth's neck and
Seth was prepared for the worst now, for, even in his
recollections of their boyhood, Adam had never sobbed before.
"Is it death, Adam? Is she dead?" he asked, in a low tone, when
Adam raised his head and was recovering himself.
"No, lad; but she's gone--gone away from us. She's never been to
Snowfield. Dinah's been gone to Leeds ever since last Friday was
a fortnight, the very day Hetty set out. I can't find out where
she went after she got to Stoniton."
Seth was silent from utter astonishment: he knew nothing that
could suggest to him a reason for Hetty's going away.
"Hast any notion what she's done it for?" he said, at last.
"She can't ha' loved me. She didn't like our marriage when it
came nigh--that must be it," said Adam. He had determined to
mention no further reason.
"I hear Mother stirring," said Seth. "Must we tell her?"
"No, not yet," said Adam, rising from the bench and pushing the
hair from his face, as if he wanted to rouse himself. "I can't
have her told yet; and I must set out on another journey directly,
after I've been to the village and th' Hall Farm. I can't tell
thee where I'm going, and thee must say to her I'm gone on
business as nobody is to know anything about. I'll go and wash
myself now." Adam moved towards the door of the workshop, but
after a step or two he turned round, and, meeting Seth's eyes with
a calm sad glance, he said, "I must take all the money out o' the
tin box, lad; but if anything happens to me, all the rest 'll be
thine, to take care o' Mother with."
Seth was pale and trembling: he felt there was some terrible
secret under all this. "Brother," he said, faintly--he never
called Adam "Brother" except in solemn moments--"I don't believe
you'll do anything as you can't ask God's blessing on."
"Nay, lad," said Adam, "don't be afraid. I'm for doing nought but
what's a man's duty."
The thought that if he betrayed his trouble to his mother, she
would only distress him by words, half of blundering affection,
half of irrepressible triumph that Hetty proved as unfit to be his
wife as she had always foreseen, brought back some of his habitual
firmness and self-command. He had felt ill on his journey home--
he told her when she came down--had stayed all night at
Tredddleston for that reason; and a bad headache, that still hung
about him this morning, accounted for his paleness and heavy eyes.
He determined to go to the village, in the first place, attend to
his business for an hour, and give notice to Burge of his being
obliged to go on a journey, which he must beg him not to mention
to any one; for he wished to avoid going to the Hall Farm near
breakfast-time, when the children and servants would be in the
house-place, and there must be exclamations in their hearing about
his having returned without Hetty. He waited until the clock
struck nine before he left the work-yard at the village, and set
off, through the fields, towards the Farm. It was an immense
relief to him, as he came near the Home Close, to see Mr. Poyser
advancing towards him, for this would spare him the pain of going
to the house. Mr. Poyser was walking briskly this March morning,
with a sense of spring business on his mind: he was going to cast
the master's eye on the shoeing of a new cart-horse, carrying his
spud as a useful companion by the way. His surprise was great
when he caught sight of Adam, but he was not a man given to
presentiments of evil.
"Why, Adam, lad, is't you? Have ye been all this time away and
not brought the lasses back, after all? Where are they?"
"No, I've not brought 'em," said Adam, turning round, to indicate
that he wished to walk back with Mr. Poyser.
"Why," said Martin, looking with sharper attention at Adam, "ye
look bad. Is there anything happened?"
"Yes," said Adam, heavily. "A sad thing's happened. I didna find
Hetty at Snowfield."
Mr. Poyser's good-natured face showed signs of troubled
astonishment. "Not find her? What's happened to her?" he said,
his thoughts flying at once to bodily accident.
"That I can't tell, whether anything's happened to her. She never
went to Snowfield--she took the coach to Stoniton, but I can't
learn nothing of her after she got down from the Stoniton coach."
"Why, you donna mean she's run away?" said Martin, standing still,
so puzzled and bewildered that the fact did not yet make itself
felt as a trouble by him.
"She must ha' done," said Adam. "She didn't like our marriage
when it came to the point--that must be it. She'd mistook her
Martin was silent for a minute or two, looking on the ground and
rooting up the grass with his spud, without knowing what he was
doing. His usual slowness was always trebled when the subject of
speech was painful. At last he looked up, right in Adam's face,
saying, "Then she didna deserve t' ha' ye, my lad. An' I feel i'
fault myself, for she was my niece, and I was allays hot for her
marr'ing ye. There's no amends I can make ye, lad--the more's the
pity: it's a sad cut-up for ye, I doubt."
Adam could say nothing; and Mr. Poyser, after pursuing his walk
for a little while, went on, "I'll be bound she's gone after
trying to get a lady's maid's place, for she'd got that in her
head half a year ago, and wanted me to gi' my consent. But I'd
thought better on her"--he added, shaking his head slowly and
sadly--"I'd thought better on her, nor to look for this, after
she'd gi'en y' her word, an' everything been got ready."
Adam had the strongest motives for encouraging this supposition in
Mr. Poyser, and he even tried to believe that it might possibly be
true. He had no warrant for the certainty that she was gone to
"It was better it should be so," he said, as quietly as he could,
"if she felt she couldn't like me for a husband. Better run away
before than repent after. I hope you won't look harshly on her if
she comes back, as she may do if she finds it hard to get on away
"I canna look on her as I've done before," said Martin decisively.
"She's acted bad by you, and by all of us. But I'll not turn my
back on her: she's but a young un, and it's the first harm I've
knowed on her. It'll be a hard job for me to tell her aunt. Why
didna Dinah come back wi' ye? She'd ha' helped to pacify her aunt
"Dinah wasn't at Snowfield. She's been gone to Leeds this
fortnight, and I couldn't learn from th' old woman any direction
where she is at Leeds, else I should ha' brought it you."
"She'd a deal better be staying wi' her own kin," said Mr. Poyser,
indignantly, "than going preaching among strange folks a-that'n."
"I must leave you now, Mr. Poyser," said Adam, "for I've a deal to
"Aye, you'd best be after your business, and I must tell the
missis when I go home. It's a hard job."
"But," said Adam, "I beg particular, you'll keep what's happened
quiet for a week or two. I've not told my mother yet, and there's
no knowing how things may turn out."
"Aye, aye; least said, soonest mended. We'n no need to say why
the match is broke off, an' we may hear of her after a bit. Shake
hands wi' me, lad: I wish I could make thee amends."
There was something in Martin Poyser's throat at that moment which
caused him to bring out those scanty words in rather a broken
fashion. Yet Adam knew what they meant all the better, and the
two honest men grasped each other's hard hands in mutual
There was nothing now to hinder Adam from setting off. He had
told Seth to go to the Chase and leave a message for the squire,
saying that Adam Bede had been obliged to start off suddenly on a
journey--and to say as much, and no more, to any one else who made
inquiries about him. If the Poysers learned that he was gone away
again, Adam knew they would infer that he was gone in search of
He had intended to go right on his way from the Hall Farm, but now
the impulse which had frequently visited him before--to go to Mr.
Irwine, and make a confidant of him--recurred with the new force
which belongs to a last opportunity. He was about to start on a
long journey--a difficult one--by sea--and no soul would know
where he was gone. If anything happened to him? Or, if he
absolutely needed help in any matter concerning Hetty? Mr. Irwine
was to be trusted; and the feeling which made Adam shrink from
telling anything which was her secret must give way before the
need there was that she should have some one else besides himself
who would be prepared to defend her in the worst extremity.
Towards Arthur, even though he might have incurred no new guilt,
Adam felt that he was not bound to keep silence when Hetty's
interest called on him to speak.
"I must do it," said Adam, when these thoughts, which had spread
themselves through hours of his sad journeying, now rushed upon
him in an instant, like a wave that had been slowly gathering;
"it's the right thing. I can't stand alone in this way any
ADAM turned his face towards Broxton and walked with his swiftest
stride, looking at his watch with the fear that Mr. Irwine might
be gone out--hunting, perhaps. The fear and haste together
produced a state of strong excitement before he reached the
rectory gate, and outside it he saw the deep marks of a recent
hoof on the gravel.
But the hoofs were turned towards the gate, not away from it, and
though there was a horse against the stable door, it was not Mr.
Irwine's: it had evidently had a journey this morning, and must
belong to some one who had come on business. Mr. Irwine was at
home, then; but Adam could hardly find breath and calmness to tell
Carroll that he wanted to speak to the rector. The double
suffering of certain and uncertain sorrow had begun to shake the
strong man. The butler looked at him wonderingly, as he threw
himself on a bench in the passage and stared absently at the clock
on the opposite wall. The master had somebody with him, he said,
but he heard the study door open--the stranger seemed to be coming
out, and as Adam was in a hurry, he would let the master know at
Adam sat looking at the clock: the minute-hand was hurrying along
the last five minutes to ten with a loud, hard, indifferent tick,
and Adam watched the movement and listened to the sound as if he
had had some reason for doing so. In our times of bitter
suffering there are almost always these pauses, when our
consciousness is benumbed to everything but some trivial
perception or sensation. It is as if semi-idiocy came to give us
rest from the memory and the dread which refuse to leave us in our
Carroll, coming back, recalled Adam to the sense of his burden.
He was to go into the study immediately. "I can't think what that
strange person's come about," the butler added, from mere
incontinence of remark, as he preceded Adam to the door, "he's
gone i' the dining-room. And master looks unaccountable--as if he
was frightened." Adam took no notice of the words: he could not
care about other people's business. But when he entered the study
and looked in Mr. Irwine's face, he felt in an instant that there
was a new expression in it, strangely different from the warm
friendliness it had always worn for him before. A letter lay open
on the table, and Mr. Irwine's hand was on it, but the changed
glance he cast on Adam could not be owing entirely to
preoccupation with some disagreeable business, for he was looking
eagerly towards the door, as if Adam's entrance were a matter of
poignant anxiety to him.
"You want to speak to me, Adam," he said, in that low
constrainedly quiet tone which a man uses when he is determined to
suppress agitation. "Sit down here." He pointed to a chair just
opposite to him, at no more than a yard's distance from his own,
and Adam sat down with a sense that this cold manner of Mr.
Irwine's gave an additional unexpected difficulty to his
disclosure. But when Adam had made up his mind to a measure, he
was not the man to renounce it for any but imperative reasons.
"I come to you, sir," he said, "as the gentleman I look up to most
of anybody. I've something very painful to tell you--something as
it'll pain you to hear as well as me to tell. But if I speak o'
the wrong other people have done, you'll see I didn't speak till
I'd good reason."
Mr. Irwine nodded slowly, and Adam went on rather tremulously,
"You was t' ha' married me and Hetty Sorrel, you know, sir, o' the
fifteenth o' this month. I thought she loved me, and I was th'
happiest man i' the parish. But a dreadful blow's come upon me."
Mr. Irwine started up from his chair, as if involuntarily, but
then, determined to control himself, walked to the window and
"She's gone away, sir, and we don't know where. She said she was
going to Snowfield o' Friday was a fortnight, and I went last
Sunday to fetch her back; but she'd never been there, and she took
the coach to Stoniton, and beyond that I can't trace her. But now
I'm going a long journey to look for her, and I can't trust t'
anybody but you where I'm going."
Mr. Irwine came back from the window and sat down.
"Have you no idea of the reason why she went away?" he said.
"It's plain enough she didn't want to marry me, sir," said Adam.
"She didn't like it when it came so near. But that isn't all, I
doubt. There's something else I must tell you, sir. There's
somebody else concerned besides me."
A gleam of something--it was almost like relief or joy--came
across the eager anxiety of Mr. Irwine's face at that moment.
Adam was looking on the ground, and paused a little: the next
words were hard to speak. But when he went on, he lifted up his
head and looked straight at Mr. Irwine. He would do the thing he
had resolved to do, without flinching.
"You know who's the man I've reckoned my greatest friend," he
said, "and used to be proud to think as I should pass my life i'
working for him, and had felt so ever since we were lads...."
Mr. Irwine, as if all self-control had forsaken him, grasped
Adam's arm, which lay on the table, and, clutching it tightly like
a man in pain, said, with pale lips and a low hurried voice, "No,
Adam, no--don't say it, for God's sake!"
Adam, surprised at the violence of Mr. Irwine's feeling, repented
of the words that had passed his lips and sat in distressed
silence. The grasp on his arm gradually relaxed, and Mr. Irwine
threw himself back in his chair, saying, "Go on--I must know it."
"That man played with Hetty's feelings, and behaved to her as he'd
no right to do to a girl in her station o' life--made her presents
and used to go and meet her out a-walking. I found it out only
two days before he went away--found him a-kissing her as they were
parting in the Grove. There'd been nothing said between me and
Hetty then, though I'd loved her for a long while, and she knew
it. But I reproached him with his wrong actions, and words and
blows passed between us; and he said solemnly to me, after that,
as it had been all nonsense and no more than a bit o' flirting.
But I made him write a letter to tell Hetty he'd meant nothing,
for I saw clear enough, sir, by several things as I hadn't
understood at the time, as he'd got hold of her heart, and I
thought she'd belike go on thinking of him and never come to love
another man as wanted to marry her. And I gave her the letter,
and she seemed to bear it all after a while better than I'd
expected...and she behaved kinder and kinder to me...I daresay she
didn't know her own feelings then, poor thing, and they came back
upon her when it was too late...I don't want to blame her...I
can't think as she meant to deceive me. But I was encouraged to
think she loved me, and--you know the rest, sir. But it's on my
mind as he's been false to me, and 'ticed her away, and she's gone
to him--and I'm going now to see, for I can never go to work again
till I know what's become of her."
During Adam's narrative, Mr. Irwine had had time to recover his
self-mastery in spite of the painful thoughts that crowded upon
him. It was a bitter remembrance to him now--that morning when
Arthur breakfasted with him and seemed as if he were on the verge
of a confession. It was plain enough now what he had wanted to
confess. And if their words had taken another turn...if he
himself had been less fastidious about intruding on another man's
secrets...it was cruel to think how thin a film had shut out
rescue from all this guilt and misery. He saw the whole history
now by that terrible illumination which the present sheds back
upon the past. But every other feeling as it rushed upon his was
thrown into abeyance by pity, deep respectful pity, for the man
who sat before him--already so bruised, going forth with sad blind
resignedness to an unreal sorrow, while a real one was close upon
him, too far beyond the range of common trial for him ever to have
feared it. His own agitation was quelled by a certain awe that
comes over us in the presence of a great anguish, for the anguish
he must inflict on Adam was already present to him. Again he put
his hand on the arm that lay on the table, but very gently this
time, as he said solemnly:
"Adam, my dear friend, you have had some hard trials in your life.
You can bear sorrow manfully, as well as act manfully. God
requires both tasks at our hands. And there is a heavier sorrow
coming upon you than any you have yet known. But you are not
guilty--you have not the worst of all sorrows. God help him who
The two pale faces looked at each other; in Adam's there was
trembling suspense, in Mr. Irwine's hesitating, shrinking pity.
But he went on.
"I have had news of Hetty this morning. She is not gone to him.
She is in Stonyshire--at Stoniton."
Adam started up from his chair, as if he thought he could have
leaped to her that moment. But Mr. Irwine laid hold of his arm
again and said, persuasively, "Wait, Adam, wait." So he sat down.
"She is in a very unhappy position--one which will make it worse
for you to find her, my poor friend, than to have lost her for
Adam's lips moved tremulously, but no sound came. They moved
again, and he whispered, "Tell me."
"She has been arrested...she is in prison."
It was as if an insulting blow had brought back the spirit of
resistance into Adam. The blood rushed to his face, and he said,
loudly and sharply, "For what?"
"For a great crime--the murder of her child."
"It CAN'T BE!" Adam almost shouted, starting up from his cnair and
making a stride towards the door; but he turned round again,
setting his back against the bookcase, and looking fiercely at Mr.
Irwine. "It isn't possible. She never had a child. She can't be
guilty. WHO says it?"
"God grant she may be innocent, Adam. We can still hope she is."
"But who says she is guilty?" said Adam violently. "Tell me
"Here is a letter from the magistrate before whom she was taken,
and the constable who arrested her is in the dining-room. She
will not confess her name or where she comes from; but I fear, I
fear, there can be no doubt it is Hetty. The description of her
person corresponds, only that she is said to look very pale and
ill. She had a small red-leather pocket-book in her pocket with
two names written in it--one at the beginning, 'Hetty Sorrel,
Hayslope,' and the other near the end, 'Dinah Morris, Snowfield.'
She will not say which is her own name--she denies everything, and
will answer no questions, and application has been made to me, as
a magistrate, that I may take measures for identifying her, for it
was thought probable that the name which stands first is her own
"But what proof have they got against her, if it IS Hetty?" said
Adam, still violently, with an effort that seemed to shake his
whole frame. "I'll not believe it. It couldn't ha' been, and
none of us know it."
"Terrible proof that she was under the temptation to commit the
crime; but we have room to hope that she did not really commit it.
Try and read that letter, Adam."
Adam took the letter between his shaking hands and tried to fix
his eyes steadily on it. Mr. Irwine meanwhile went out to give
some orders. When he came back, Adam's eyes were still on the
first page--he couldn't read--he could not put the words together
and make out what they meant. He threw it down at last and
clenched his fist.
"It's HIS doing," he said; "if there's been any crime, it's at his
door, not at hers. HE taught her to deceive--HE deceived me
first. Let 'em put HIM on his trial--let him stand in court
beside her, and I'll tell 'em how he got hold of her heart, and
'ticed her t' evil, and then lied to me. Is HE to go free, while
they lay all the punishment on her...so weak and young?"
The image called up by these last words gave a new direction to
poor Adam's maddened feelings. He was silent, looking at the
corner of the room as if he saw something there. Then he burst
out again, in a tone of appealing anguish, "I can't bear it...O
God, it's too hard to lay upon me--it's too hard to think she's
Mr. Irwine had sat down again in silence. He was too wise to
utter soothing words at present, and indeed, the sight of Adam
before him, with that look of sudden age which sometimes comes
over a young face in moments of terrible emotion--the hard
bloodless look of the skin, the deep lines about the quivering
mouth, the furrows in the brow--the sight of this strong firm man
shattered by the invisible stroke of sorrow, moved him so deeply
that speech was not easy. Adam stood motionless, with his eyes
vacantly fixed in this way for a minute or two; in that short
space he was living through all his love again.
"She can't ha' done it," he said, still without moving his eyes,
as if he were only talking to himself: "it was fear made her hide
it...I forgive her for deceiving me...I forgive thee, Hetty...thee
wast deceived too...it's gone hard wi' thee, my poor Hetty...but
they'll never make me believe it."
He was silent again for a few moments, and then he said, with
fierce abruptness, "I'll go to him--I'll bring him back--I'll make
him go and look at her in her misery--he shall look at her till he
can't forget it--it shall follow him night and day--as long as he
lives it shall follow him--he shan't escape wi' lies this time--
I'll fetch him, I'll drag him myself."
In the act of going towards the door, Adam paused automatically
and looked about for his hat, quite unconscious where he was or
who was present with him. Mr. Irwine had followed him, and now
took him by the arm, saying, in a quiet but decided tone, "No,
Adam, no; I'm sure you will wish to stay and see what good can be
done for her, instead of going on a useless errand of vengeance.
The punishment will surely fall without your aid. Besides, he is
no longer in Ireland. He must be on his way home--or would be,
long before you arrived, for his grandfather, I know, wrote for
him to come at least ten days ago. I want you now to go with me
to Stoniton. I have ordered a horse for you to ride with us, as
soon as you can compose yourself."
While Mr. Irwine was speaking, Adam recovered his consciousness of
the actual scene. He rubbed his hair off his forehead and
"Remember," Mr. Irwine went on, "there are others to think of, and
act for, besides yourself, Adam: there are Hetty's friends, the
good Poysers, on whom this stroke will fall more heavily than I
can bear to think. I expect it from your strength of mind, Adam--
from your sense of duty to God and man--that you will try to act
as long as action can be of any use."
In reality, Mr. Irwine proposed this journey to Stoniton for
Adam's own sake. Movement, with some object before him, was the
best means of counteracting the violence of suffering in these
"You will go with me to Stoniton, Adam?" he said again, after a
moment's pause. "We have to see if it is really Hetty who is
there, you know."
"Yes, sir," said Adam, "I'll do what you think right. But the
folks at th' Hall Farm?"
"I wish them not to know till I return to tell them myself. I
shall have ascertained things then which I am uncertain about now,
and I shall return as soon as possible. Come now, the horses are
The Bitter Waters Spread
MR. IRWINE returned from Stoniton in a post-chaise that night, and
the first words Carroll said to him, as he entered the house,
were, that Squire Donnithorne was dead--found dead in his bed at
ten o'clock that morning--and that Mrs. Irwine desired him to say
she should be awake when Mr. Irwine came home, and she begged him
not to go to bed without seeing her.
"Well, Dauphin," Mrs. Irwine said, as her son entered her room,
"you're come at last. So the old gentleman's fidgetiness and low
spirits, which made him send for Arthur in that sudden way, really
meant something. I suppose Carroll has told you that Donnithorne
was found dead in his bed this morning. You will believe my
prognostications another time, though I daresay I shan't live to
prognosticate anything but my own death."
"What have they done about Arthur?" said Mr. Irwine. "Sent a
messenger to await him at Liverpool?"
"Yes, Ralph was gone before the news was brought to us. Dear
Arthur, I shall live now to see him master at the Chase, and
making good times on the estate, like a generous-hearted fellow as
he is. He'll be as happy as a king now."
Mr. Irwine could not help giving a slight groan: he was worn with
anxiety and exertion, and his mother's light words were almost
"What are you so dismal about, Dauphin? Is there any bad news?
Or are you thinking of the danger for Arthur in crossing that
frightful Irish Channel at this time of year?"
"No, Mother, I'm not thinking of that; but I'm not prepared to
rejoice just now."
"You've been worried by this law business that you've been to
Stoniton about. What in the world is it, that you can't tell me?"
"You will know by and by, mother. It would not be right for me to
tell you at present. Good-night: you'll sleep now you have no
longer anything to listen for."
Mr. Irwine gave up his intention of sending a letter to meet
Arthur, since it would not now hasten his return: the news of his
grandfather's death would bring him as soon as he could possibly
come. He could go to bed now and get some needful rest, before
the time came for the morning's heavy duty of carrying his
sickening news to the Hall Farm and to Adam's home.
Adam himself was not come back from Stoniton, for though he shrank
from seeing Hetty, he could not bear to go to a distance from her
"It's no use, sir," he said to the rector, "it's no use for me to
go back. I can't go to work again while she's here, and I
couldn't bear the sight o' the things and folks round home. I'll
take a bit of a room here, where I can see the prison walls, and
perhaps I shall get, in time, to bear seeing her."
Adam had not been shaken in his belief that Hetty was innocent of
the crime she was charged with, for Mr. Irwine, feeling that the
belief in her guilt would be a crushing addition to Adam's load,
had kept from him the facts which left no hope in his own mind.
There was not any reason for thrusting the whole burden on Adam at
once, and Mr. Irwine, at parting, only said, "If the evidence
should tell too strongly against her, Adam, we may still hope for
a pardon. Her youth and other circumstances will be a plea for
"Ah, and it's right people should know how she was tempted into
the wrong way," said Adam, with bitter earnestness. "It's right
they should know it was a fine gentleman made love to her, and
turned her head wi' notions. You'll remember, sir, you've
promised to tell my mother, and Seth, and the people at the farm,
who it was as led her wrong, else they'll think harder of her than
she deserves. You'll be doing her a hurt by sparing him, and I
hold him the guiltiest before God, let her ha' done what she may.
If you spare him, I'll expose him!"
"I think your demand is just, Adam," said Mr. Irwine, "but when
you are calmer, you will judge Arthur more mercifully. I say
nothing now, only that his punishment is in other hands than
Mr. Irwine felt it hard upon him that he should have to tell of
Arthur's sad part in the story of sin and sorrow--he who cared for
Arthur with fatherly affection, who had cared for him with
fatherly pride. But he saw clearly that the secret must be known
before long, even apart from Adam's determination, since it was
scarcely to be supposed that Hetty would persist to the end in her
obstinate silence. He made up his mind to withhold nothing from
the Poysers, but to tell them the worst at once, for there was no
time to rob the tidings of their suddenness. Hetty's trial must
come on at the Lent assizes, and they were to be held at Stoniton
the next week. It was scarcely to be hoped that Martin Poyser
could escape the pain of being called as a witness, and it was
better he should know everything as long beforehand as possible.
Before ten o'clock on Thursday morning the home at the Hall Farm
was a house of mourning for a misfortune felt to be worse than
death. The sense of family dishonour was too keen even in the
kind-hearted Martin Poyser the younger to leave room for any
compassion towards Hetty. He and his father were simple-minded
farmers, proud of their untarnished character, proud that they
came of a family which had held up its head and paid its way as
far back as its name was in the parish register; and Hetty had
brought disgrace on them all--disgrace that could never be wiped
out. That was the all-conquering feeling in the mind both of
father and son--the scorching sense of disgrace, which neutralised
all other sensibility--and Mr. Irwine was struck with surprise to
observe that Mrs. Poyser was less severe than her husband. We are
often startled by the severity of mild people on exceptional
occasions; the reason is, that mild people are most liable to be
under the yoke of traditional impressions.
"I'm willing to pay any money as is wanted towards trying to bring
her off," said Martin the younger when Mr. Irwine was gone, while
the old grandfather was crying in the opposite chair, "but I'll
not go nigh her, nor ever see her again, by my own will. She's
made our bread bitter to us for all our lives to come, an' we
shall ne'er hold up our heads i' this parish nor i' any other.
The parson talks o' folks pitying us: it's poor amends pity 'ull
"Pity?" said the grandfather, sharply. "I ne'er wanted folks's
pity i' MY life afore...an' I mun begin to be looked down on now,
an' me turned seventy-two last St. Thomas's, an' all th'
underbearers and pall-bearers as I'n picked for my funeral are i'
this parish and the next to 't....It's o' no use now...I mun be
ta'en to the grave by strangers."
"Don't fret so, father," said Mrs. Poyser, who had spoken very
little, being almost overawed by her husband's unusual hardness
and decision. "You'll have your children wi' you; an' there's the
lads and the little un 'ull grow up in a new parish as well as i'
th' old un."
"Ah, there's no staying i' this country for us now," said Mr.
Poyser, and the hard tears trickled slowly down his round cheeks.
"We thought it 'ud be bad luck if the old squire gave us notice
this Lady day, but I must gi' notice myself now, an' see if there
can anybody be got to come an' take to the crops as I'n put i' the
ground; for I wonna stay upo' that man's land a day longer nor I'm
forced to't. An' me, as thought him such a good upright young
man, as I should be glad when he come to be our landlord. I'll
ne'er lift my hat to him again, nor sit i' the same church wi'
him...a man as has brought shame on respectable folks...an'
pretended to be such a friend t' everybody....Poor Adam there...a
fine friend he's been t' Adam, making speeches an' talking so
fine, an' all the while poisoning the lad's life, as it's much if
he can stay i' this country any more nor we can."
"An' you t' ha' to go into court, and own you're akin t' her,"
said the old man. "Why, they'll cast it up to the little un, as
isn't four 'ear old, some day--they'll cast it up t' her as she'd
a cousin tried at the 'sizes for murder."
"It'll be their own wickedness, then," said Mrs. Poyser, with a
sob in her voice. "But there's One above 'ull take care o' the
innicent child, else it's but little truth they tell us at church.
It'll be harder nor ever to die an' leave the little uns, an'
nobody to be a mother to 'em."
"We'd better ha' sent for Dinah, if we'd known where she is," said
Mr. Poyser; "but Adam said she'd left no direction where she'd be
"Why, she'd be wi' that woman as was a friend t' her Aunt Judith,"
said Mrs. Poyser, comforted a little by this suggestion of her
husbands. "I've often heard Dinah talk of her, but I can't
remember what name she called her by. But there's Seth Bede; he's
like enough to know, for she's a preaching woman as the Methodists
think a deal on."
"I'll send to Seth," said Mr. Poyser. "I'll send Alick to tell
him to come, or else to send up word o' the woman's name, an' thee
canst write a letter ready to send off to Treddles'on as soon as
we can make out a direction."
"It's poor work writing letters when you want folks to come to you
i' trouble," said Mrs. Poyser. "Happen it'll be ever so long on
the road, an' never reach her at last."
Before Alick arrived with the message, Lisbeth's thoughts too had
already flown to Dinah, and she had said to Seth, "Eh, there's no
comfort for us i' this world any more, wi'out thee couldst get
Dinah Morris to come to us, as she did when my old man died. I'd
like her to come in an' take me by th' hand again, an' talk to me.
She'd tell me the rights on't, belike--she'd happen know some good
i' all this trouble an' heart-break comin' upo' that poor lad, as
ne'er done a bit o' wrong in's life, but war better nor anybody
else's son, pick the country round. Eh, my lad...Adam, my poor
"Thee wouldstna like me to leave thee, to go and fetch Dinah?"
said Seth, as his mother sobbed and rocked herself to and fro.
"Fetch her?" said Lisbeth, looking up and pausing from her grief,
like a crying child who hears some promise of consolation. "Why,
what place is't she's at, do they say?"
"It's a good way off, mother--Leeds, a big town. But I could be
back in three days, if thee couldst spare me."
"Nay, nay, I canna spare thee. Thee must go an' see thy brother,
an' bring me word what he's a-doin'. Mester Irwine said he'd come
an' tell me, but I canna make out so well what it means when he
tells me. Thee must go thysen, sin' Adam wonna let me go to him.
Write a letter to Dinah canstna? Thee't fond enough o' writin'
when nobody wants thee."
"I'm not sure where she'd be i' that big town," said Seth. "If
I'd gone myself, I could ha' found out by asking the members o'
the Society. But perhaps if I put Sarah Williamson, Methodist
preacher, Leeds, o' th' outside, it might get to her; for most
like she'd be wi' Sarah Williamson."
Alick came now with the message, and Seth, finding that Mrs.
Poyser was writing to Dinah, gave up the intention of writing
himself; but he went to the Hall Farm to tell them all he could
suggest about the address of the letter, and warn them that there
might be some delay in the delivery, from his not knowing an exact
On leaving Lisbeth, Mr. Irwine had gone to Jonathan Burge, who had
also a claim to be acquainted with what was likely to keep Adam
away from business for some time; and before six o'clock that
evening there were few people in Broxton and Hayslope who had not
heard the sad news. Mr. Irwine had not mentioned Arthur's name to
Burge, and yet the story of his conduct towards Hetty, with all
the dark shadows cast upon it by its terrible consequences, was
presently as well known as that his grandfather was dead, and that
he was come into the estate. For Martin Poyser felt no motive to
keep silence towards the one or two neighbours who ventured to
come and shake him sorrowfully by the hand on the first day of his
trouble; and Carroll, who kept his ears open to all that passed at
the rectory, had framed an inferential version of the story, and
found early opportunities of communicating it.
One of those neighbours who came to Martin Poyser and shook him by
the hand without speaking for some minutes was Bartle Massey. He
had shut up his school, and was on his way to the rectory, where
he arrived about half-past seven in the evening, and, sending his
duty to Mr. Irwine, begged pardon for troubling him at that hour,
but had something particular on his mind. He was shown into the
study, where Mr. Irwine soon joined him.
"Well, Bartle?" said Mr. Irwine, putting out his hand. That was
not his usual way of saluting the schoolmaster, but trouble makes
us treat all who feel with us very much alike. "Sit down."
"You know what I'm come about as well as I do, sir, I daresay,"
"You wish to know the truth about the sad news that has reached
you...about Hetty Sorrel?"
"Nay, sir, what I wish to know is about Adam Bede. I understand
you left him at Stoniton, and I beg the favour of you to tell me
what's the state of the poor lad's mind, and what he means to do.
For as for that bit o' pink-and-white they've taken the trouble to
put in jail, I don't value her a rotten nut--not a rotten nut--
only for the harm or good that may come out of her to an honest
man--a lad I've set such store by--trusted to, that he'd make my
bit o' knowledge go a good way in the world....Why, sir, he's the
only scholar I've had in this stupid country that ever had the
will or the head-piece for mathematics. If he hadn't had so much
hard work to do, poor fellow, he might have gone into the higher
branches, and then this might never have happened--might never
Bartle was heated by the exertion of walking fast in an agitated
frame of mind, and was not able to check himself on this first
occasion of venting his feelings. But he paused now to rub his
moist forehead, and probably his moist eyes also.
"You'll excuse me, sir," he said, when this pause had given him
time to reflect, "for running on in this way about my own
feelings, like that foolish dog of mine howling in a storm, when
there's nobody wants to listen to me. I came to hear you speak,
not to talk myself--if you'll take the trouble to tell me what the
poor lad's doing."
"Don't put yourself under any restraint, Bartle," said Mr. Irwine.
"The fact is, I'm very much in the same condition as you just now;
I've a great deal that's painful on my mind, and I find it hard
work to be quite silent about my own feelings and only attend to
others. I share your concern for Adam, though he is not the only
one whose sufferings I care for in this affair. He intends to
remain at Stoniton till after the trial: it will come on probably
a week to-morrow. He has taken a room there, and I encouraged him
to do so, because I think it better he should be away from his own
home at present; and, poor fellow, he still believes Hetty is
innocent--he wants to summon up courage to see her if he can; he
is unwilling to leave the spot where she is."
"Do you think the creatur's guilty, then?" said Bartle. "Do you
think they'll hang her?"
"I'm afraid it will go hard with her. The evidence is very
strong. And one bad symptom is that she denies everything--denies
that she has had a child in the face of the most positive
evidence. I saw her myself, and she was obstinately silent to me;
she shrank up like a frightened animal when she saw me. I was
never so shocked in my life as at the change in her. But I trust
that, in the worst case, we may obtain a pardon for the sake of
the innocent who are involved."
"Stuff and nonsense!" said Bartle, forgetting in his irritation to
whom he was speaking. "I beg your pardon, sir, I mean it's stuff
and nonsense for the innocent to care about her being hanged. For
my own part, I think the sooner such women are put out o' the
world the better; and the men that help 'em to do mischief had
better go along with 'em for that matter. What good will you do
by keeping such vermin alive, eating the victual that 'ud feed
rational beings? But if Adam's fool enough to care about it, I
don't want him to suffer more than's needful....Is he very much
cut up, poor fellow?" Bartle added, taking out his spectacles and
putting them on, as if they would assist his imagination.
"Yes, I'm afraid the grief cuts very deep," said Mr. Irwine. "He
looks terribly shattered, and a certain violence came over him now
and then yesterday, which made me wish I could have remained near
him. But I shall go to Stoniton again to-morrow, and I have
confidence enough in the strength of Adam's principle to trust
that he will be able to endure the worst without being driven to
Mr. Irwine, who was involuntarily uttering his own thoughts rather
than addressing Bartle Massey in the last sentence, had in his
mind the possibility that the spirit of vengeance to-wards Arthur,
which was the form Adam's anguish was continually taking, might
make him seek an encounter that was likely to end more fatally
than the one in the Grove. This possibility heightened the
anxiety with which he looked forward to Arthur's arrival. But
Bartle thought Mr. Irwine was referring to suicide, and his face
wore a new alarm.
"I'll tell you what I have in my head, sir," he said, "and I hope
you'll approve of it. I'm going to shut up my school--if the
scholars come, they must go back again, that's all--and I shall go
to Stoniton and look after Adam till this business is over. I'll
pretend I'm come to look on at the assizes; he can't object to
that. What do you think about it, sir?"
"Well," said Mr. Irwine, rather hesitatingly, "there would be some
real advantages in that...and I honour you for your friendship
towards him, Bartle. But...you must be careful what you say to
him, you know. I'm afraid you have too little fellow-feeling in
what you consider his weakness about Hetty."
"Trust to me, sir--trust to me. I know what you mean. I've been
a fool myself in my time, but that's between you and me. I shan't
thrust myself on him only keep my eye on him, and see that he gets
some good food, and put in a word here and there."
"Then," said Mr. Irwine, reassured a little as to Bartle's
discretion, "I think you'll be doing a good deed; and it will be
well for you to let Adam's mother and brother know that you're
"Yes, sir, yes," said Bartle, rising, and taking off his
spectacles, "I'll do that, I'll do that; though the mother's a
whimpering thing--I don't like to come within earshot of her;
however, she's a straight-backed, clean woman, none of your
slatterns. I wish you good-bye, sir, and thank you for the time
you've spared me. You're everybody's friend in this business--
everybody's friend. It's a heavy weight you've got on your
"Good-bye, Bartle, till we meet at Stoniton, as I daresay we
Bartle hurried away from the rectory, evading Carroll's
conversational advances, and saying in an exasperated tone to
Vixen, whose short legs pattered beside him on the gravel, "Now, I
shall be obliged to take you with me, you good-for-nothing woman.
You'd go fretting yourself to death if I left you--you know you
would, and perhaps get snapped up by some tramp. And you'll be
running into bad company, I expect, putting your nose in every
hole and corner where you've no business! But if you do anything
disgraceful, I'll disown you--mind that, madam, mind that!"
The Eve of the Trial
AN upper room in a dull Stoniton street, with two beds in it--one
laid on the floor. It is ten o'clock on Thursday night, and the
dark wall opposite the window shuts out the moonlight that might
have struggled with the light of the one dip candle by which
Bartle Massey is pretending to read, while he is really looking
over his spectacles at Adam Bede, seated near the dark window.
You would hardly have known it was Adam without being told. His
face has got thinner this last week: he has the sunken eyes, the
neglected beard of a man just risen from a sick-bed. His heavy
black hair hangs over his forehead, and there is no active impulse
in him which inclines him to push it off, that he may be more
awake to what is around him. He has one arm over the back of the
chair, and he seems to be looking down at his clasped hands. He
is roused by a knock at the door.
"There he is," said Bartle Massey, rising hastily and unfastening
the door. It was Mr. Irwine.
Adam rose from his chair with instinctive respect, as Mr. Irwine
approached him and took his hand.
"I'm late, Adam," he said, sitting down on the chair which Bartle
placed for him, "but I was later in setting off from Broxton than
I intended to be, and I have been incessantly occupied since I
arrived. I have done everything now, however--everything that can
be done to-night, at least. Let us all sit down."
Adam took his chair again mechanically, and Bartle, for whom there
was no chair remaining, sat on the bed in the background.
"Have you seen her, sir?" said Adam tremulously.
"Yes, Adam; I and the chaplain have both been with her this
"Did you ask her, sir...did you say anything about me?"
"Yes," said Mr. Irwine, with some hesitation, "I spoke of you. I
said you wished to see her before the trial, if she consented."
As Mr. Irwine paused, Adam looked at him with eager, questioning
"You know she shrinks from seeing any one, Adam. It is not only
you--some fatal influence seems to have shut up her heart against
her fellow-creatures. She has scarcely said anything more than
'No' either to me or the chaplain. Three or four days ago, before
you were mentioned to her, when I asked her if there was any one
of her family whom she would like to see--to whom she could open
her mind--she said, with a violent shudder, 'Tell them not to come
near me--I won't see any of them.'"
Adam's head was hanging down again, and he did not speak. There
was silence for a few minutes, and then Mr. Irwine said, "I don't
like to advise you against your own feelings, Adam, if they now
urge you strongly to go and see her to-morrow morning, even
without her consent. It is just possible, notwithstanding
appearances to the contrary, that the interview might affect her
favourably. But I grieve to say I have scarcely any hope of that.
She didn't seem agitated when I mentioned your name; she only said
'No,' in the same cold, obstinate way as usual. And if the
meeting had no good effect on her, it would be pure, useless
suffering to you--severe suffering, I fear. She is very much
Adam started up from his chair and seized his hat, which lay on
the table. But he stood still then, and looked at Mr. Irwine, as
if he had a question to ask which it was yet difficult to utter.
Bartle Massey rose quietly, turned the key in the door, and put it
in his pocket.
"Is he come back?" said Adam at last.
"No, he is not," said Mr. Irwine, quietly. "Lay down your hat,
Adam, unless you like to walk out with me for a little fresh air.
I fear you have not been out again to-day."
"You needn't deceive me, sir," said Adam, looking hard at Mr.
Irwine and speaking in a tone of angry suspicion. "You needn't be
afraid of me. I only want justice. I want him to feel what she
feels. It's his work...she was a child as it 'ud ha' gone t'
anybody's heart to look at...I don't care what she's done...it was
him brought her to it. And he shall know it...he shall feel
it...if there's a just God, he shall feel what it is t' ha'
brought a child like her to sin and misery."
"I'm not deceiving you, Adam," said Mr. Irwine. "Arthur
Donnithorne is not come back--was not come back when I left. I
have left a letter for him: he will know all as soon as he
"But you don't mind about it," said Adam indignantly. "You think
it doesn't matter as she lies there in shame and misery, and he
knows nothing about it--he suffers nothing."
"Adam, he WILL know--he WILL suffer, long and bitterly. He has a
heart and a conscience: I can't be entirely deceived in his
character. I am convinced--I am sure he didn't fall under
temptation without a struggle. He may be weak, but he is not
callous, not coldly selfish. I am persuaded that this will be a
shock of which he will feel the effects all his life. Why do you
crave vengeance in this way? No amount of torture that you could
inflict on him could benefit her."
"No--O God, no," Adam groaned out, sinking on his chair again;
"but then, that's the deepest curse of all...that's what makes the
blackness of it...IT CAN NEVER BE UNDONE. My poor Hetty...she can
never be my sweet Hetty again...the prettiest thing God had made--
smiling up at me...I thought she loved me...and was good..."
Adam's voice had been gradually sinking into a hoarse undertone,
as if he were only talking to himself; but now he said abruptly,
looking at Mr. Irwine, "But she isn't as guilty as they say? You
don't think she is, sir? She can't ha' done it."
"That perhaps can never be known with certainty, Adam," Mr. Irwine
answered gently. "In these cases we sometimes form our judgment
on what seems to us strong evidence, and yet, for want of knowing
some small fact, our judgment is wrong. But suppose the worst:
you have no right to say that the guilt of her crime lies with
him, and that he ought to bear the punishment. It is not for us
men to apportion the shares of moral guilt and retribution. We
find it impossible to avoid mistakes even in determining who has
committed a single criminal act, and the problem how far a man is
to be held responsible for the unforeseen consequences of his own
deed is one that might well make us tremble to look into it. The
evil consequences that may lie folded in a single act of selfish
indulgence is a thought so awful that it ought surely to awaken
some feeling less presumptuous than a rash desire to punish. You
have a mind that can understand this fully, Adam, when you are
calm. Don't suppose I can't enter into the anguish that drives
you into this state of revengeful hatred. But think of this: if
you were to obey your passion--for it IS passion, and you deceive
yourself in calling it justice--it might be with you precisely as
it has been with Arthur; nay, worse; your passion might lead you
yourself into a horrible crime."
"No--not worse," said Adam, bitterly; "I don't believe it's worse--
I'd sooner do it--I'd sooner do a wickedness as I could suffer
for by myself than ha' brought HER to do wickedness and then stand
by and see 'em punish her while they let me alone; and all for a
bit o' pleasure, as, if he'd had a man's heart in him, he'd ha'
cut his hand off sooner than he'd ha' taken it. What if he didn't
foresee what's happened? He foresaw enough; he'd no right to
expect anything but harm and shame to her. And then he wanted to
smooth it off wi' lies. No--there's plenty o' things folks are
hanged for not half so hateful as that. Let a man do what he
will, if he knows he's to bear the punishment himself, he isn't
half so bad as a mean selfish coward as makes things easy t'
himself and knows all the while the punishment 'll fall on
"There again you partly deceive yourself, Adam. There is no sort
of wrong deed of which a man can bear the punishment alone; you
can't isolate yourself and say that the evil which is in you shall
not spread. Men's lives are as thoroughly blended with each other
as the air they breathe: evil spreads as necessarily as disease.
I know, I feel the terrible extent of suffering this sin of
Arthur's has caused to others; but so does every sin cause
suffering to others besides those who commit it. An act of
vengeance on your part against Arthur would simply be another evil
added to those we are suffering under: you could not bear the
punishment alone; you would entail the worst sorrows on every one
who loves you. You would have committed an act of blind fury that
would leave all the present evils just as they were and add worse
evils to them. You may tell me that you meditate no fatal act of
vengeance, but the feeling in your mind is what gives birth to
such actions, and as long as you indulge it, as long as you do not
see that to fix your mind on Arthur's punishment is revenge, and
not justice, you are in danger of being led on to the commission
of some great wrong. Remember what you told me about your
feelings after you had given that blow to Arthur in the Grove."
Adam was silent: the last words had called up a vivid image of the
past, and Mr. Irwine left him to his thoughts, while he spoke to
Bartle Massey about old Mr. Donnithorne's funeral and other
matters of an indifferent kind. But at length Adam turned round
and said, in a more subdued tone, "I've not asked about 'em at th'
Hall Farm, sir. Is Mr. Poyser coming?"
"He is come; he is in Stoniton to-night. But I could not advise
him to see you, Adam. His own mind is in a very perturbed state,
and it is best he should not see you till you are calmer."
"Is Dinah Morris come to 'em, sir? Seth said they'd sent for
"No. Mr. Poyser tells me she was not come when he left. They're
afraid the letter has not reached her. It seems they had no exact
Adam sat ruminating a little while, and then said, "I wonder if
Dinah 'ud ha' gone to see her. But perhaps the Poysers would ha'
been sorely against it, since they won't come nigh her themselves.
But I think she would, for the Methodists are great folks for
going into the prisons; and Seth said he thought she would. She'd
a very tender way with her, Dinah had; I wonder if she could ha'
done any good. You never saw her, sir, did you?"
"Yes, I did. I had a conversation with her--she pleased me a good
deal. And now you mention it, I wish she would come, for it is
possible that a gentle mild woman like her might move Hetty to
open her heart. The jail chaplain is rather harsh in his manner."
"But it's o' no use if she doesn't come," said Adam sadly.
"If I'd thought of it earlier, I would have taken some measures
for finding her out," said Mr. Irwine, "but it's too late now, I
fear...Well, Adam, I must go now. Try to get some rest to-night.
God bless you. I'll see you early to-morrow morning."
The Morning of the Trial
AT one o'clock the next day, Adam was alone in his dull upper
room; his watch lay before him on the table, as if he were
counting the long minutes. He had no knowledge of what was likely
to be said by the witnesses on the trial, for he had shrunk from
all the particulars connected with Hetty's arrest and accusation.
This brave active man, who would have hastened towards any danger
or toil to rescue Hetty from an apprehended wrong or misfortune,
felt himself powerless to contemplate irremediable evil and
suffering. The susceptibility which would have been an impelling
force where there was any possibility of action became helpless
anguish when he was obliged to be passive, or else sought an
active outlet in the thought of inflicting justice on Arthur.
Energetic natures, strong for all strenuous deeds, will often rush
away from a hopeless sufferer, as if they were hard-hearted. It
is the overmastering sense of pain that drives them. They shrink
by an ungovernable instinct, as they would shrink from laceration.
Adam had brought himself to think of seeing Hetty, if she would
consent to see him, because he thought the meeting might possibly
be a good to her--might help to melt away this terrible hardness
they told him of. If she saw he bore her no ill will for what she
had done to him, she might open her heart to him. But this
resolution had been an immense effort--he trembled at the thought
of seeing her changed face, as a timid woman trembles at the
thought of the surgeon's knife, and he chose now to bear the long
hours of suspense rather than encounter what seemed to him the
more intolerable agony of witnessing her trial.
Deep unspeakable suffering may well be called a baptism, a
regeneration, the initiation into a new state. The yearning
memories, the bitter regret, the agonized sympathy, the struggling
appeals to the Invisible Right--all the intense emotions which had
filled the days and nights of the past week, and were compressing
themselves again like an eager crowd into the hours of this single
morning, made Adam look back on all the previous years as if they
had been a dim sleepy existence, and he had only now awaked to
full consciousness. It seemed to him as if he had always before
thought it a light thing that men should suffer, as if all that he
had himself endured and called sorrow before was only a moment's
stroke that had never left a bruise. Doubtless a great anguish
may do the work of years, and we may come out from that baptism of
fire with a soul full of new awe and new pity.
"O God," Adam groaned, as he leaned on the table and looked
blankly at the face of the watch, "and men have suffered like this
before...and poor helpless young things have suffered like
her....Such a little while ago looking so happy and so
pretty...kissing 'em all, her grandfather and all of 'em, and they
wishing her luck....O my poor, poor Hetty...dost think on it now?"
Adam started and looked round towards the door. Vixen had begun
to whimper, and there was a sound of a stick and a lame walk on
the stairs. It was Bartle Massey come back. Could it be all
Bartle entered quietly, and, going up to Adam, grasped his hand
and said, "I'm just come to look at you, my boy, for the folks are
gone out of court for a bit."
Adam's heart beat so violently he was unable to speak--he could
only return the pressure of his friend's hand--and Bartle, drawing
up the other chair, came and sat in front of him, taking off his
hat and his spectacles.
"That's a thing never happened to me before," he observed, "to go
out o' the door with my spectacles on. I clean forgot to take 'em
The old man made this trivial remark, thinking it better not to
respond at all to Adam's agitation: he would gather, in an
indirect way, that there was nothing decisive to communicate at
"And now," he said, rising again, "I must see to your having a bit
of the loaf, and some of that wine Mr. Irwine sent this morning.
He'll be angry with me if you don't have it. Come, now," he went
on, bringing forward the bottle and the loaf and pouring some wine
into a cup, "I must have a bit and a sup myself. Drink a drop
with me, my lad--drink with me."
Adam pushed the cup gently away and said, entreatingly, "Tell me
about it, Mr. Massey--tell me all about it. Was she there? Have
"Yes, my boy, yes--it's taken all the time since I first went; but
they're slow, they're slow; and there's the counsel they've got
for her puts a spoke in the wheel whenever he can, and makes a
deal to do with cross-examining the witnesses and quarrelling with
the other lawyers. That's all he can do for the money they give
him; and it's a big sum--it's a big sum. But he's a 'cute fellow,
with an eye that 'ud pick the needles out of the hay in no time.
If a man had got no feelings, it 'ud be as good as a demonstration
to listen to what goes on in court; but a tender heart makes one
stupid. I'd have given up figures for ever only to have had some
good news to bring to you, my poor lad."
"But does it seem to be going against her?" said Adam. "Tell me
what they've said. I must know it now--I must know what they have
to bring against her."
"Why, the chief evidence yet has been the doctors; all but Martin
Poyser--poor Martin. Everybody in court felt for him--it was like
one sob, the sound they made when he came down again. The worst
was when they told him to look at the prisoner at the bar. It was
hard work, poor fellow--it was hard work. Adam, my boy, the blow
falls heavily on him as well as you; you must help poor Martin;
you must show courage. Drink some wine now, and show me you mean
to bear it like a man."
Bartle had made the right sort of appeal. Adam, with an air of
quiet obedience, took up the cup and drank a little.
"Tell me how SHE looked," he said presently.
"Frightened, very frightened, when they first brought her in; it
was the first sight of the crowd and the judge, poor creatur. And
there's a lot o' foolish women in fine clothes, with gewgaws all
up their arms and feathers on their heads, sitting near the judge:
they've dressed themselves out in that way, one 'ud think, to be
scarecrows and warnings against any man ever meddling with a woman
again. They put up their glasses, and stared and whispered. But
after that she stood like a white image, staring down at her hands
and seeming neither to hear nor see anything. And she's as white
as a sheet. She didn't speak when they asked her if she'd plead
'guilty' or 'not guilty,' and they pleaded 'not guilty' for her.
But when she heard her uncle's name, there seemed to go a shiver
right through her; and when they told him to look at her, she hung
her head down, and cowered, and hid her face in her hands. He'd
much ado to speak poor man, his voice trembled so. And the
counsellors--who look as hard as nails mostly--I saw, spared him
as much as they could. Mr. Irwine put himself near him and went
with him out o' court. Ah, it's a great thing in a man's life to
be able to stand by a neighbour and uphold him in such trouble as
"God bless him, and you too, Mr. Massey," said Adam, in a low
voice, laying his hand on Bartle's arm.
"Aye, aye, he's good metal; he gives the right ring when you try
him, our parson does. A man o' sense--says no more than's
needful. He's not one of those that think they can comfort you
with chattering, as if folks who stand by and look on knew a deal
better what the trouble was than those who have to bear it. I've
had to do with such folks in my time--in the south, when I was in
trouble myself. Mr. Irwine is to be a witness himself, by and by,
on her side, you know, to speak to her character and bringing up."
"But the other evidence...does it go hard against her!" said Adam.
"What do you think, Mr. Massey? Tell me the truth."
"Yes, my lad, yes. The truth is the best thing to tell. It must
come at last. The doctors' evidence is heavy on her--is heavy.
But she's gone on denying she's had a child from first to last.
These poor silly women-things--they've not the sense to know it's
no use denying what's proved. It'll make against her with the
jury, I doubt, her being so obstinate: they may be less for
recommending her to mercy, if the verdict's against her. But Mr.
Irwine 'ull leave no stone unturned with the judge--you may rely
upon that, Adam."
"Is there nobody to stand by her and seem to care for her in the
court?" said Adam.
"There's the chaplain o' the jail sits near her, but he's a sharp
ferrety-faced man--another sort o' flesh and blood to Mr. Irwine.
They say the jail chaplains are mostly the fag-end o' the clergy."
"There's one man as ought to be there," said Adam bitterly.
Presently he drew himself up and looked fixedly out of the window,
apparently turning over some new idea in his mind.
"Mr. Massey," he said at last, pushing the hair off his forehead,
"I'll go back with you. I'll go into court. It's cowardly of me
to keep away. I'll stand by her--I'll own her--for all she's been
deceitful. They oughtn't to cast her off--her own flesh and
blood. We hand folks over to God's mercy, and show none
ourselves. I used to be hard sometimes: I'll never be hard again.
I'll go, Mr. Massey--I'll go with you."
There was a decision in Adam's manner which would have prevented
Bartle from opposing him, even if he had wished to do so. He only
said, "Take a bit, then, and another sup, Adam, for the love of
me. See, I must stop and eat a morsel. Now, you take some."
Nerved by an active resolution, Adam took a morsel of bread and
drank some wine. He was haggard and unshaven, as he had been
yesterday, but he stood upright again, and looked more like the
Adam Bede of former days.
THE place fitted up that day as a court of justice was a grand old
hall, now destroyed by fire. The midday light that fell on the
close pavement of human heads was shed through a line of high
pointed windows, variegated with the mellow tints of old painted
glass. Grim dusty armour hung in high relief in front of the dark
oaken gallery at the farther end, and under the broad arch of the
great mullioned window opposite was spread a curtain of old
tapestry, covered with dim melancholy figures, like a dozing
indistinct dream of the past. It was a place that through the
rest of the year was haunted with the shadowy memories of old
kings and queens, unhappy, discrowned, imprisoned; but to-day all
those shadows had fled, and not a soul in the vast hall felt the
presence of any but a living sorrow, which was quivering in warm
But that sorrow seemed to have made it itself feebly felt
hitherto, now when Adam Bede's tall figure was suddenly seen being
ushered to the side of the prisoner's dock. In the broad sunlight
of the great hall, among the sleek shaven faces of other men, the
marks of suffering in his face were startling even to Mr. Irwine,
who had last seen him in the dim light of his small room; and the
neighbours from Hayslope who were present, and who told Hetty
Sorrel's story by their firesides in their old age, never forgot
to say how it moved them when Adam Bede, poor fellow, taller by
the head than most of the people round him, came into court and
took his place by her side.
But Hetty did not see him. She was standing in the same position
Bartle Massey had described, her hands crossed over each other and
her eyes fixed on them. Adam had not dared to look at her in the
first moments, but at last, when the attention of the court was
withdrawn by the proceedings he turned his face towards her with a
resolution not to shrink.
Why did they say she was so changed? In the corpse we love, it is
the likeness we see--it is the likeness, which makes itself felt
the more keenly because something else was and is not. There they
were--the sweet face and neck, with the dark tendrils of hair, the
long dark lashes, the rounded cheek and the pouting lips--pale and
thin, yes, but like Hetty, and only Hetty. Others thought she
looked as if some demon had cast a blighting glance upon her,
withered up the woman's soul in her, and left only a hard
despairing obstinacy. But the mother's yearning, that completest
type of the life in another life which is the essence of real
human love, feels the presence of the cherished child even in the
debased, degraded man; and to Adam, this pale, hard-looking
culprit was the Hetty who had smiled at him in the garden under
the apple-tree boughs--she was that Hetty's corpse, which he had
trembled to look at the first time, and then was unwilling to turn
away his eyes from.
But presently he heard something that compelled him to listen, and
made the sense of sight less absorbing. A woman was in the
witness-box, a middle-aged woman, who spoke in a firm distinct
voice. She said, "My name is Sarah Stone. I am a widow, and keep
a small shop licensed to sell tobacco, snuff, and tea in Church
Lane, Stoniton. The prisoner at the bar is the same young woman
who came, looking ill and tired, with a basket on her arm, and
asked for a lodging at my house on Saturday evening, the 27th of
February. She had taken the house for a public, because there was
a figure against the door. And when I said I didn't take in
lodgers, the prisoner began to cry, and said she was too tired to
go anywhere else, and she only wanted a bed for one night. And
her prettiness, and her condition, and something respectable about
her clothes and looks, and the trouble she seemed to be in made me
as I couldn't find in my heart to send her away at once. I asked
her to sit down, and gave her some tea, and asked her where she
was going, and where her friends were. She said she was going
home to her friends: they were farming folks a good way off, and
she'd had a long journey that had cost her more money than she
expected, so as she'd hardly any money left in her pocket, and was
afraid of going where it would cost her much. She had been
obliged to sell most of the things out of her basket, but she'd
thankfully give a shilling for a bed. I saw no reason why I
shouldn't take the young woman in for the night. I had only one
room, but there were two beds in it, and I told her she might stay
with me. I thought she'd been led wrong, and got into trouble,
but if she was going to her friends, it would be a good work to
keep her out of further harm."
The witness then stated that in the night a child was born, and
she identified the baby-clothes then shown to her as those in
which she had herself dressed the child.
"Those are the clothes. I made them myself, and had kept them by
me ever since my last child was born. I took a deal of trouble
both for the child and the mother. I couldn't help taking to the
little thing and being anxious about it. I didn't send for a
doctor, for there seemed no need. I told the mother in the day-
time she must tell me the name of her friends, and where they
lived, and let me write to them. She said, by and by she would
write herself, but not to-day. She would have no nay, but she
would get up and be dressed, in spite of everything I could say.
She said she felt quite strong enough; and it was wonderful what
spirit she showed. But I wasn't quite easy what I should do about
her, and towards evening I made up my mind I'd go, after Meeting
was over, and speak to our minister about it. I left the house
about half-past eight o'clock. I didn't go out at the shop door,
but at the back door, which opens into a narrow alley. I've only
got the ground-floor of the house, and the kitchen and bedroom
both look into the alley. I left the prisoner sitting up by the
fire in the kitchen with the baby on her lap. She hadn't cried or
seemed low at all, as she did the night before. I thought she had
a strange look with her eyes, and she got a bit flushed towards
evening. I was afraid of the fever, and I thought I'd call and
ask an acquaintance of mine, an experienced woman, to come back
with me when I went out. It was a very dark night. I didn't
fasten the door behind me; there was no lock; it was a latch with
a bolt inside, and when there was nobody in the house I always
went out at the shop door. But I thought there was no danger in
leaving it unfastened that little while. I was longer than I
meant to be, for I had to wait for the woman that came back with
me. It was an hour and a half before we got back, and when we
went in, the candle was standing burning just as I left it, but
the prisoner and the baby were both gone. She'd taken her cloak
and bonnet, but she'd left the basket and the things in it....I
was dreadful frightened, and angry with her for going. I didn't
go to give information, because I'd no thought she meant to do any
harm, and I knew she had money in her pocket to buy her food and
lodging. I didn't like to set the constable after her, for she'd
a right to go from me if she liked."
The effect of this evidence on Adam was electrical; it gave him
new force. Hetty could not be guilty of the crime--her heart must
have clung to her baby--else why should she have taken it with
her? She might have left it behind. The little creature had died
naturally, and then she had hidden it. Babies were so liable to
death--and there might be the strongest suspicions without any
proof of guilt. His mind was so occupied with imaginary arguments
against such suspicions, that he could not listen to the cross-
examination by Hetty's counsel, who tried, without result, to
elicit evidence that the prisoner had shown some movements of
maternal affection towards the child. The whole time this witness
was being examined, Hetty had stood as motionless as before: no
word seemed to arrest her ear. But the sound of the next
witness's voice touched a chord that was still sensitive, she gave
a start and a frightened look towards him, but immediately turned
away her head and looked down at her hands as before. This
witness was a man, a rough peasant. He said:
"My name is John Olding. I am a labourer, and live at Tedd's
Hole, two miles out of Stoniton. A week last Monday, towards one
o'clock in the afternoon, I was going towards Hetton Coppice, and
about a quarter of a mile from the coppice I saw the prisoner, in
a red cloak, sitting under a bit of a haystack not far off the
stile. She got up when she saw me, and seemed as if she'd be
walking on the other way. It was a regular road through the
fields, and nothing very uncommon to see a young woman there, but
I took notice of her because she looked white and scared. I
should have thought she was a beggar-woman, only for her good
clothes. I thought she looked a bit crazy, but it was no business
of mine. I stood and looked back after her, but she went right on
while she was in sight. I had to go to the other side of the
coppice to look after some stakes. There's a road right through
it, and bits of openings here and there, where the trees have been
cut down, and some of 'em not carried away. I didn't go straight
along the road, but turned off towards the middle, and took a
shorter way towards the spot I wanted to get to. I hadn't got far
out of the road into one of the open places before I heard a
strange cry. I thought it didn't come from any animal I knew, but
I wasn't for stopping to look about just then. But it went on,
and seemed so strange to me in that place, I couldn't help
stopping to look. I began to think I might make some money of it,
if it was a new thing. But I had hard work to tell which way it
came from, and for a good while I kept looking up at the boughs.
And then I thought it came from the ground; and there was a lot of
timber-choppings lying about, and loose pieces of turf, and a
trunk or two. And I looked about among them, but could find
nothing, and at last the cry stopped. So I was for giving it up,
and I went on about my business. But when I came back the same
way pretty nigh an hour after, I couldn't help laying down my
stakes to have another look. And just as I was stooping and
laying down the stakes, I saw something odd and round and whitish
lying on the ground under a nut-bush by the side of me. And I
stooped down on hands and knees to pick it up. And I saw it was a
little baby's hand."
At these words a thrill ran through the court. Hetty was visibly
trembling; now, for the first time, she seemed to be listening to
what a witness said.
"There was a lot of timber-choppings put together just where the
ground went hollow, like, under the bush, and the hand came out
from among them. But there was a hole left in one place and I
could see down it and see the child's head; and I made haste and
did away the turf and the choppings, and took out the child. It
had got comfortable clothes on, but its body was cold, and I
thought it must be dead. I made haste back with it out of the
wood, and took it home to my wife. She said it was dead, and I'd
better take it to the parish and tell the constable. And I said,
'I'll lay my life it's that young woman's child as I met going to
the coppice.' But she seemed to be gone clean out of sight. And
I took the child on to Hetton parish and told the constable, and
we went on to Justice Hardy. And then we went looking after the
young woman till dark at night, and we went and gave information
at Stoniton, as they might stop her. And the next morning,
another constable came to me, to go with him to the spot where I
found the child. And when we got there, there was the prisoner a-
sitting against the bush where I found the child; and she cried
out when she saw us, but she never offered to move. She'd got a
big piece of bread on her lap."
Adam had given a faint groan of despair while this witness was
speaking. He had hidden his face on his arm, which rested on the
boarding in front of him. It was the supreme moment of his
suffering: Hetty was guilty; and he was silently calling to God
for help. He heard no more of the evidence, and was unconscious
when the case for the prosecution had closed--unconscious that Mr.
Irwine was in the witness-box, telling of Hetty's unblemished
character in her own parish and of the virtuous habits in which
she had been brought up. This testimony could have no influence
on the verdict, but it was given as part of that plea for mercy
which her own counsel would have made if he had been allowed to
speak for her--a favour not granted to criminals in those stern
At last Adam lifted up his head, for there was a general movement
round him. The judge had addressed the jury, and they were
retiring. The decisive moment was not far off Adam felt a
shuddering horror that would not let him look at Hetty, but she
had long relapsed into her blank hard indifference. All eyes were
strained to look at her, but she stood like a statue of dull
'There was a mingled rustling, whispering, and low buzzing
throughout the court during this interval. The desire to listen
was suspended, and every one had some feeling or opinion to
express in undertones. Adam sat looking blankly before him, but
he did not see the objects that were right in front of his eyes--
the counsel and attorneys talking with an air of cool business,
and Mr. Irwine in low earnest conversation with the judge--did not
see Mr. Irwine sit down again in agitation and shake his head
mournfully when somebody whispered to him. The inward action was
too intense for Adam to take in outward objects until some strong
sensation roused him.
It was not very long, hardly more than a quarter of an hour,
before the knock which told that the jury had come to their
decision fell as a signal for silence on every ear. It is
sublime--that sudden pause of a great multitude which tells that
one soul moves in them all. Deeper and deeper the silence seemed
to become, like the deepening night, while the jurymen's names
were called over, and the prisoner was made to hold up her hand,
and the jury were asked for their verdict.
It was the verdict every one expected, but there was a sigh of
disappointment from some hearts that it was followed by no
recommendation to mercy. Still the sympathy of the court was not
with the prisoner. The unnaturalness of her crime stood out the
more harshly by the side of her hard immovability and obstinate
silence. Even the verdict, to distant eyes, had not appeared to
move her, but those who were near saw her trembling.
The stillness was less intense until the judge put on his black
cap, and the chaplain in his canonicals was observed behind him.
Then it deepened again, before the crier had had time to command
silence. If any sound were heard, it must have been the sound of
beating hearts. The judge spoke, "Hester Sorrel...."
The blood rushed to Hetty's face, and then fled back again as she
looked up at the judge and kept her wide-open eyes fixed on him,
as if fascinated by fear. Adam had not yet turned towards her,
there was a deep horror, like a great gulf, between them. But at
the words "and then to be hanged by the neck till you be dead," a
piercing shriek rang through the hall. It was Hetty's shriek.
Adam started to his feet and stretched out his arms towards her.
But the arms could not reach her: she had fallen down in a
fainting-fit, and was carried out of court.
When Arthur Donnithorne landed at Liverpool and read the letter
from his Aunt Lydia, briefly announcing his grand-father's death,
his first feeling was, "Poor Grandfather! I wish I could have got
to him to be with him when he died. He might have felt or wished
something at the last that I shall never know now. It was a
It is impossible to say that his grief was deeper than that. Pity
and softened memory took place of the old antagonism, and in his
busy thoughts about the future, as the chaise carried him rapidly
along towards the home where he was now to be master, there was a
continually recurring effort to remember anything by which he
could show a regard for his grandfather's wishes, without
counteracting his own cherished aims for the good of the tenants
and the estate. But it is not in human nature--only in human
pretence--for a young man like Arthur, with a fine constitution
and fine spirits, thinking well of himself, believing that others
think well of him, and having a very ardent intention to give them
more and more reason for that good opinion--it is not possible for
such a young man, just coming into a splendid estate through the
death of a very old man whom he was not fond of, to feel anything
very different from exultant joy. Now his real life was
beginning; now he would have room and opportunity for action, and
he would use them. He would show the Loamshire people what a fine
country gentleman was; he would not exchange that career for any
other under the sun. He felt himself riding over the hills in the
breezy autumn days, looking after favourite plans of drainage and
enclosure; then admired on sombre mornings as the best rider on
the best horse in the hunt; spoken well of on market-days as a
first-rate landlord; by and by making speeches at election
dinners, and showing a wonderful knowledge of agriculture; the
patron of new ploughs and drills, the severe upbraider of
negligent landowners, and withal a jolly fellow that everybody
must like--happy faces greeting him everywhere on his own estate,
and the neighbouring families on the best terms with him. The
Irwines should dine with him every week, and have their own
carriage to come in, for in some very delicate way that Arthur
would devise, the lay-impropriator of the Hayslope tithes would
insist on paying a couple of hundreds more to the vicar; and his
aunt should be as comfortable as possible, and go on living at the
Chase, if she liked, in spite of her old-maidish ways--at least
until he was married, and that event lay in the indistinct
background, for Arthur had not yet seen the woman who would play
the lady-wife to the first-rate country gentleman.
These were Arthur's chief thoughts, so far as a man's thoughts
through hours of travelling can be compressed into a few
sentences, which are only like the list of names telling you what
are the scenes in a long long panorama full of colour, of detail,
and of life. The happy faces Arthur saw greeting him were not
pale abstractions, but real ruddy faces, long familiar to him:
Martin Poyser was there--the whole Poyser family.
Yes; for Arthur was at ease about Hetty--not quite at ease about
the past, for a certain burning of the ears would come whenever he
thought of the scenes with Adam last August, but at ease about her
present lot. Mr. Irwine, who had been a regular correspondent,
telling him all the news about the old places and people, had sent
him word nearly three months ago that Adam Bede was not to marry
Mary Burge, as he had thought, but pretty Hetty Sorrel. Martin
Poyser and Adam himself had both told Mr. Irwine all about it--
that Adam had been deeply in love with Hetty these two years, and
that now it was agreed they were to be married in March. That
stalwart rogue Adam was more susceptible than the rector had
thought; it was really quite an idyllic love affair; and if it had
not been too long to tell in a letter, he would have liked to
describe to Arthur the blushing looks and the simple strong words
with which the fine honest fellow told his secret. He knew Arthur
would like to hear that Adam had this sort of happiness in
Yes, indeed! Arthur felt there was not air enough in the room to
satisfy his renovated life, when he had read that passage in the
letter. He threw up the windows, he rushed out of doors into the
December air, and greeted every one who spoke to him with an eager
gaiety, as if there had been news of a fresh Nelson victory. For
the first time that day since he had come to Windsor, he was in
true boyish spirits. The load that had been pressing upon him was
gone, the haunting fear had vanished. He thought he could conquer
his bitterness towards Adam now--could offer him his hand, and ask
to be his friend again, in spite of that painful memory which
would still make his ears burn. He had been knocked down, and he
had been forced to tell a lie: such things make a scar, do what we
will. But if Adam were the same again as in the old days, Arthur
wished to be the same too, and to have Adam mixed up with his
business and his future, as he had always desired before the
accursed meeting in August. Nay, he would do a great deal more
for Adam than he should otherwise have done, when he came into the
estate; Hetty's husband had a special claim on him--Hetty herself
should feel that any pain she had suffered through Arthur in the
past was compensated to her a hundredfold. For really she could
not have felt much, since she had so soon made up her mind to
You perceive clearly what sort of picture Adam and Hetty made in
the panorama of Arthur's thoughts on his journey homeward. It was
March now; they were soon to be married: perhaps they were already
married. And now it was actually in his power to do a great deal
for them. Sweet--sweet little Hetty! The little puss hadn't
cared for him half as much as he cared for her; for he was a great
fool about her still--was almost afraid of seeing her--indeed, had
not cared much to look at any other woman since he parted from
her. That little figure coming towards him in the Grove, those
dark-fringed childish eyes, the lovely lips put up to kiss him--
that picture had got no fainter with the lapse of months. And she
would look just the same. It was impossible to think how he could
meet her: he should certainly tremble. Strange, how long this
sort of influence lasts, for he was certainly not in love with
Hetty now. He had been earnestly desiring, for months, that she
should marry Adam, and there was nothing that contributed more to
his happiness in these moments than the thought of their marriage.
It was the exaggerating effect of imagination that made his heart
still beat a little more quickly at the thought of her. When he
saw the little thing again as she really was, as Adam's wife, at
work quite prosaically in her new home, he should perhaps wonder
at the possibility of his past feelings. Thank heaven it had
turned out so well! He should have plenty of affairs and
interests to fill his life now, and not be in danger of playing
the fool again.
Pleasant the crack of the post-boy's whip! Pleasant the sense of
being hurried along in swift ease through English scenes, so like
those round his own home, only not quite so charming. Here was a
market-town--very much like Treddleston--where the arms of the
neighbouring lord of the manor were borne on the sign of the
principal inn; then mere fields and hedges, their vicinity to a
market-town carrying an agreeable suggestion of high rent, till
the land began to assume a trimmer look, the woods were more
frequent, and at length a white or red mansion looked down from a
moderate eminence, or allowed him to be aware of its parapet and
chimneys among the dense-looking masses of oaks and elms--masses
reddened now with early buds. And close at hand came the village:
the small church, with its red-tiled roof, looking humble even
among the faded half-timbered houses; the old green gravestones
with nettles round them; nothing fresh and bright but the
children, opening round eyes at the swift post-chaise; nothing
noisy and busy but the gaping curs of mysterious pedigree. What a
much prettier village Hayslope was! And it should not be
neglected like this place: vigorous repairs should go on
everywhere among farm-buildings and cottages, and travellers in
post-chaises, coming along the Rosseter road, should do nothing
but admire as they went. And Adam Bede should superintend all the
repairs, for he had a share in Burge's business now, and, if he
liked, Arthur would put some money into the concern and buy the
old man out in another year or two. That was an ugly fault in
Arthur's life, that affair last summer, but the future should make
amends. Many men would have retained a feeling of vindictiveness
towards Adam, but he would not--he would resolutely overcome all
littleness of that kind, for he had certainly been very much in
the wrong; and though Adam had been harsh and violent, and had
thrust on him a painful dilemma, the poor fellow was in love, and
had real provocation. No, Arthur had not an evil feeling in his
mind towards any human being: he was happy, and would make every
one else happy that came within his reach.
And here was dear old Hayslope at last, sleeping, on the hill,
like a quiet old place as it was, in the late afternoon sunlight,
and opposite to it the great shoulders of the Binton Hills, below
them the purplish blackness of the hanging woods, and at last the
pale front of the Abbey, looking out from among the oaks of the
Chase, as if anxious for the heir's return. "Poor Grandfather!
And he lies dead there. He was a young fellow once, coming into
the estate and making his plans. So the world goes round! Aunt
Lydia must feel very desolate, poor thing; but she shall be
indulged as much as she indulges her fat Fido."
The wheels of Arthur's chaise had been anxiously listened for at
the Chase, for to-day was Friday, and the funeral had already been
deferred two days. Before it drew up on the gravel of the
courtyard, all the servants in the house were assembled to receive
him with a grave, decent welcome, befitting a house of death. A
month ago, perhaps, it would have been difficult for them to have
maintained a suitable sadness in their faces, when Mr. Arthur was
come to take possession; but the hearts of the head-servants were
heavy that day for another cause than the death of the old squire,
and more than one of them was longing to be twenty miles away, as
Mr. Craig was, knowing what was to become of Hetty Sorrel--pretty
Hetty Sorrel--whom they used to see every week. They had the
partisanship of household servants who like their places, and were
not inclined to go the full length of the severe indignation felt
against him by the farming tenants, but rather to make excuses for
him; nevertheless, the upper servants, who had been on terms of
neighbourly intercourse with the Poysers for many years, could not
help feeling that the longed-for event of the young squire's
coming into the estate had been robbed of all its pleasantness.
To Arthur it was nothing surprising that the servants looked grave
and sad: he himself was very much touched on seeing them all
again, and feeling that he was in a new relation to them. It was
that sort of pathetic emotion which has more pleasure than pain in
it--which is perhaps one of the most delicious of all states to a
good-natured man, conscious of the power to satisfy his good
nature. His heart swelled agreeably as he said, "Well, Mills, how
is my aunt?"
But now Mr. Bygate, the lawyer, who had been in the house ever
since the death, came forward to give deferential greetings and
answer all questions, and Arthur walked with him towards the
library, where his Aunt Lydia was expecting him. Aunt Lydia was
the only person in the house who knew nothing about Hetty. Her
sorrow as a maiden daughter was unmixed with any other thoughts
than those of anxiety about funeral arrangements and her own
future lot; and, after the manner of women, she mourned for the
father who had made her life important, all the more because she
had a secret sense that there was little mourning for him in other
But Arthur kissed her tearful face more tenderly than he had ever
done in his life before.
"Dear Aunt," he said affectionately, as he held her hand, "YOUR
loss is the greatest of all, but you must tell me how to try and
make it up to you all the rest of your life."
"It was so sudden and so dreadful, Arthur," poor Miss Lydia began,
pouring out her little plaints, and Arthur sat down to listen with
impatient patience. When a pause came, he said:
"Now, Aunt, I'll leave you for a quarter of an hour just to go to
my own room, and then I shall come and give full attention to
"My room is all ready for me, I suppose, Mills?" he said to the
butler, who seemed to be lingering uneasily about the entrance-
"Yes, sir, and there are letters for you; they are all laid on the
writing-table in your dressing-room."
On entering the small anteroom which was called a dressing-room,
but which Arthur really used only to lounge and write in, he just
cast his eyes on the writing-table, and saw that there were
several letters and packets lying there; but he was in the
uncomfortable dusty condition of a man who has had a long hurried
journey, and he must really refresh himself by attending to his
toilette a little, before he read his letters. Pym was there,
making everything ready for him, and soon, with a delightful
freshness about him, as if he were prepared to begin a new day, he
went back into his dressing-room to open his letters. The level
rays of the low afternoon sun entered directly at the window, and
as Arthur seated himself in his velvet chair with their pleasant
warmth upon him, he was conscious of that quiet well-being which
perhaps you and I have felt on a sunny afternoon when, in our
brightest youth and health, life has opened a new vista for us,
and long to-morrows of activity have stretched before us like a
lovely plain which there was no need for hurrying to look at,
because it was all our own.
The top letter was placed with its address upwards: it was in Mr.
Irwine's handwriting, Arthur saw at once; and below the address
was written, "To be delivered as soon as he arrives." Nothing
could have been less surprising to him than a letter from Mr.
Irwine at that moment: of course, there was something he wished
Arthur to know earlier than it was possible for them to see each
other. At such a time as that it was quite natural that Irwine
should have something pressing to say. Arthur broke the seal with
an agreeable anticipation of soon seeing the writer.