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Adam Bede

It was about ten o'clock when Hetty set off, and the slight hoar- frost that had
whitened the hedges in the early morning had disappeared as the sun mounted
the cloudless sky. Bright February days have a stronger charm of hope about
them than any other days in the year. One likes to pause in the mild rays of the
sun, and look over the gates at the patient plough-horses turning at the end of
the furrow, and think that the beautiful year is all before one. The birds seem to
feel just the same: their notes are as clear as the clear air. There are no leaves
on the trees and hedgerows, but how green all the grassy fields are! And the
dark purplish brown of the ploughed earth and of the bare branches is beautiful
too. What a glad world this looks like, as one drives or rides along the valleys and
over the hills! I have often thought so when, in foreign countries, where the fields
and woods have looked to me like our English Loamshire--the rich land tilled with
just as much care, the woods rolling down the gentle slopes to the green
meadows--I have come on sormething by the roadside which has reminded me
that I am not in Loamshire: an image of a great agony--the agony of the Cross. It
has stood perhaps by the clustering apple-blossoms, or in the broad sunshine by
the cornfield, or at a turning by the wood where a clear brook was gurgling below;
and surely, if there came a traveller to this world who knew nothing of the story of
man's life upon it, this image of agony would seem to him strangely out of place
in the midst of this joyous nature. He would not know that hidden behind the
apple-blossoms, or among the golden corn, or under the shrouding boughs of the
wood, there might be a human heart beating heavily with anguish--perhaps a
young blooming girl, not knowing where to turn for refuge from swift-advancing
shame, understanding no more of this life of ours than a foolish lost lamb
wandering farther and farther in the nightfall on the lonely heath, yet tasting the
bitterest of life's bitterness.
Such things are sometimes hidden among the sunny fields and behind the
blossoming orchards; and the sound of the gurgling brook, if you came close to
one spot behind a small bush, would be mingled for your ear with a despairing
human sob. No wonder man's religion has much sorrow in it: no wonder he
needs a suffering God.
Hetty, in her red cloak and warm bonnet, with her basket in her hand, is turning
towards a gate by the side of the Treddleston road, but not that she may have a
more lingering enjoyment of the sunshine and think with hope of the long
unfolding year. She hardly knows that the sun is shining; and for weeks, now,
when she has hoped at all, it has been for something at which she herself
trembles and shudders. She only wants to be out of the high-road, that she may
walk slowly and not care how her face looks, as she dwells on wretched
thoughts; and through this gate she can get into a field-path behind the wide thick
hedgerows. Her great dark eyes wander blankly over the fields like the eyes of
one who is desolate, homeless, unloved, not the promised bride of a brave
tender man. But there are no tears in them: her tears were all wept away in the
weary night, before she went to sleep. At the next stile the pathway branches off:
there are two roads before her--one along by the hedgerow, which will by and by
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