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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 635 pages of information about Adam Bede.

“I’ll tell you what I have in my head, sir,” he said, “and I hope you’ll approve of it.  I’m going to shut up my school—­if the scholars come, they must go back again, that’s all—­and I shall go to Stoniton and look after Adam till this business is over.  I’ll pretend I’m come to look on at the assizes; he can’t object to that.  What do you think about it, sir?”

“Well,” said Mr. Irwine, rather hesitatingly, “there would be some real advantages in that...and I honour you for your friendship towards him, Bartle.  But...you must be careful what you say to him, you know.  I’m afraid you have too little fellow-feeling in what you consider his weakness about Hetty.”

“Trust to me, sir—­trust to me.  I know what you mean.  I’ve been a fool myself in my time, but that’s between you and me.  I shan’t thrust myself on him only keep my eye on him, and see that he gets some good food, and put in a word here and there.”

“Then,” said Mr. Irwine, reassured a little as to Bartle’s discretion, “I think you’ll be doing a good deed; and it will be well for you to let Adam’s mother and brother know that you’re going.”

“Yes, sir, yes,” said Bartle, rising, and taking off his spectacles, “I’ll do that, I’ll do that; though the mother’s a whimpering thing—­I don’t like to come within earshot of her; however, she’s a straight-backed, clean woman, none of your slatterns.  I wish you good-bye, sir, and thank you for the time you’ve spared me.  You’re everybody’s friend in this business—­everybody’s friend.  It’s a heavy weight you’ve got on your shoulders.”

“Good-bye, Bartle, till we meet at Stoniton, as I daresay we shall.”

Bartle hurried away from the rectory, evading Carroll’s conversational advances, and saying in an exasperated tone to Vixen, whose short legs pattered beside him on the gravel, “Now, I shall be obliged to take you with me, you good-for-nothing woman.  You’d go fretting yourself to death if I left you—­you know you would, and perhaps get snapped up by some tramp.  And you’ll be running into bad company, I expect, putting your nose in every hole and corner where you’ve no business!  But if you do anything disgraceful, I’ll disown you—­mind that, madam, mind that!”

Chapter XLI

The Eve of the Trial

An upper room in a dull Stoniton street, with two beds in it—­one laid on the floor.  It is ten o’clock on Thursday night, and the dark wall opposite the window shuts out the moonlight that might have struggled with the light of the one dip candle by which Bartle Massey is pretending to read, while he is really looking over his spectacles at Adam Bede, seated near the dark window.

You would hardly have known it was Adam without being told.  His face has got thinner this last week:  he has the sunken eyes, the neglected beard of a man just risen from a sick-bed.  His heavy black hair hangs over his forehead, and there is no active impulse in him which inclines him to push it off, that he may be more awake to what is around him.  He has one arm over the back of the chair, and he seems to be looking down at his clasped hands.  He is roused by a knock at the door.

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