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Adam Bede by George Eliot

Bartle said a night's sleep more or less


"But

let what will be," she added presently. "You will surely come, and let her speak the words that are in her heart. Although her poor soul is very dark and discerns little beyond the things of the flesh, she is no longer hard. She is contrite, she has confessed all to me. The pride of her heart has given way, and she leans on me for help and desires to be taught. This fills me with trust, for I cannot but think that the brethren sometimes err in measuring the Divine love by the sinner's knowledge. She is going to write a letter to the friends at the Hall Farm for me to give them when she is gone, and when I told her you were here, she said, 'I should like to say good-bye to Adam and ask him to forgive me.' You will come, Adam? Perhaps you will even now come back with me."

"I can't," Adam said. "I can't say good-bye while there's any hope. I'm listening, and listening--I can't think o' nothing but that. It can't be as she'll die that shameful death--I can't bring my mind to it."

He got up from his chair again and looked away out of the window, while Dinah stood with compassionate patience. In a minute or two he turned round and said, "I will come, Dinah...to-morrow morning...if it must be. I may have more strength to bear it, if I know it must be. Tell her, I forgive her; tell her I will come--at the very last."

"I will not urge you against the voice of your own heart," said Dinah.

"I must hasten back to her, for it is wonderful how she clings now, and was not willing to let me out of her sight. She used never to make any return to my affection before, but now tribulation has opened her heart. Farewell, Adam. Our heavenly Father comfort you and strengthen you to bear all things." Dinah put out her hand, and Adam pressed it in silence.

Bartle Massey was getting up to lift the stiff latch of the door for her, but before he could reach it, she had said gently, "Farewell, friend," and was gone, with her light step down the stairs.

"Well," said Bartle, taking off his spectacles and putting them into his pocket, "if there must be women to make trouble in the world, it's but fair there should be women to be comforters under it; and she's one--she's one. It's a pity she's a Methodist; but there's no getting a woman without some foolishness or other."

Adam never went to bed that night. The excitement of suspense, heightening with every hour that brought him nearer the fatal moment, was too great, and in spite of his entreaties, in spite of his promises that he would be perfectly quiet, the schoolmaster watched too.

"What does it matter to me, lad?" Bartle said: "a night's sleep more or less? I shall sleep long enough, by and by, underground. Let me keep thee company in trouble while I can."

It was a long and dreary night in that small chamber. Adam would sometimes get up and tread backwards and forwards along the short space from wall to wall; then he would sit down and hide his face, and no sound would be heard but the ticking of the watch on the table, or the falling of a cinder from the fire which the schoolmaster carefully tended. Sometimes he would burst out into vehement speech, "If I could ha' done anything to save her--if my bearing anything would ha' done any good...but t' have to sit still, and know it, and do nothing...it's hard for a man to bear...and to think o' what might ha' been now, if it hadn't been for HIM....O God, it's the very day we should ha' been married."


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