“How did you know she was condemned to death, if you are only just come from Leeds?”
“I have seen my uncle since the trial, sir. He is gone back to his home now, and the poor sinner is forsaken of all. I beseech you to get leave for me to be with her.”
“What! Have you courage to stay all night in the prison? She is very sullen, and will scarcely make answer when she is spoken to.”
“Oh, sir, it may please God to open her heart still. Don’t let us delay.”
“Come, then,” said the elderly gentleman, ringing and gaining admission, “I know you have a key to unlock hearts.”
Dinah mechanically took off her bonnet and shawl as soon as they were within the prison court, from the habit she had of throwing them off when she preached or prayed, or visited the sick; and when they entered the jailer’s room, she laid them down on a chair unthinkingly. There was no agitation visible in her, but a deep concentrated calmness, as if, even when she was speaking, her soul was in prayer reposing on an unseen support.
After speaking to the jailer, the magistrate turned to her and said, “The turnkey will take you to the prisoner’s cell and leave you there for the night, if you desire it, but you can’t have a light during the night—it is contrary to rules. My name is Colonel Townley: if I can help you in anything, ask the jailer for my address and come to me. I take some interest in this Hetty Sorrel, for the sake of that fine fellow, Adam Bede. I happened to see him at Hayslope the same evening I heard you preach, and recognized him in court to-day, ill as he looked.”
“Ah, sir, can you tell me anything about him? Can you tell me where he lodges? For my poor uncle was too much weighed down with trouble to remember.”
“Close by here. I inquired all about him of Mr. Irwine. He lodges over a tinman’s shop, in the street on the right hand as you entered the prison. There is an old school-master with him. Now, good-bye: I wish you success.”
“Farewell, sir. I am grateful to you.”
As Dinah crossed the prison court with the turnkey, the solemn evening light seemed to make the walls higher than they were by day, and the sweet pale face in the cap was more than ever like a white flower on this background of gloom. The turnkey looked askance at her all the while, but never spoke. He somehow felt that the sound of his own rude voice would be grating just then. He struck a light as they entered the dark corridor leading to the condemned cell, and then said in his most civil tone, “It’ll be pretty nigh dark in the cell a’ready, but I can stop with my light a bit, if you like.”
“Nay, friend, thank you,” said Dinah. “I wish to go in alone.”
“As you like,” said the jailer, turning the harsh key in the lock and opening the door wide enough to admit Dinah. A jet of light from his lantern fell on the opposite corner of the cell, where Hetty was sitting on her straw pallet with her face buried in her knees. It seemed as if she were asleep, and yet the grating of the lock would have been likely to waken her.