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Adam Bede by George Eliot

Irwine is to be a witness himself


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 that."

"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."


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