Adam Bede HTML version

37.The Journey in Despair
HETTY was too ill through the rest of that day for any questions to be addressed
to her--too ill even to think with any distinctness of the evils that were to come.
She only felt that all her hope was crushed, and that instead of having found a
refuge she had only reached the borders of a new wilderness where no goal lay
before her. The sensations of bodily sickness, in a comfortable bed, and with the
tendance of the good-natured landlady, made a sort of respite for her; such a
respite as there is in the faint weariness which obliges a man to throw himself on
the sand instead of toiling onward under the scorching sun.
But when sleep and rest had brought back the strength necessary for the
keenness of mental suffering--when she lay the next morning looking at the
growing light which was like a cruel task- master returning to urge from her a
fresh round of hated hopeless labour--she began to think what course she must
take, to remember that all her money was gone, to look at the prospect of further
wandering among strangers with the new clearness shed on it by the experience
of her journey to Windsor. But which way could she turn? It was impossible for
her to enter into any service, even if she could obtain it. There was nothing but
immediate beggary before her. She thought of a young woman who had been
found against the church wall at Hayslope one Sunday, nearly dead with cold
and hunger--a tiny infant in her arms. The woman was rescued and taken to the
parish. "The parish!" You can perhaps hardly understand the effect of that word
on a mind like Hetty's, brought up among people who were somewhat hard in
their feelings even towards poverty, who lived among the fields, and had little pity
for want and rags as a cruel inevitable fate such as they sometimes seem in
cities, but held them a mark of idleness and vice--and it was idleness and vice
that brought burdens on the parish. To Hetty the "parish" was next to the prison
in obloquy, and to ask anything of strangers--to beg--lay in the same far-off
hideous region of intolerable shame that Hetty had all her life thought it
impossible she could ever come near. But now the remembrance of that
wretched woman whom she had seen herself, on her way from church, being
carried into Joshua Rann's, came back upon her with the new terrible sense that
there was very little now to divide HER from the same lot. And the dread of bodily
hardship mingled with the dread of shame; for Hetty had the luxurious nature of a
round soft-coated pet animal.
How she yearned to be back in her safe home again, cherished and cared for as
she had always been! Her aunt's scolding about trifles would have been music to
her ears now; she longed for it; she used to hear it in a time when she had only
trifles to hide. Could she be the same Hetty that used to make up the butter in the
dairy with the Guelder roses peeping in at the window--she, a runaway whom her
friends would not open their doors to again, lying in this strange bed, with the
knowledge that she had no money to pay for what she received, and must offer