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Adam Bede

42.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 arrestand 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?"