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Captain Donnithorne journeys home after receiving a letter
with news of his grandfather’s death. After musing about what a
good landlord he will be and how everyone will love him, his thoughts turn
to Hetty, and how bad he feels for what happened. However, Captain
Donnithorne is assured that her future is bright because she is
marrying Adam. Because Adam bested him in their fight, Captain Donnithorne
feels a little awkward toward him—in his view, Adam forced him to
tell a lie. Yet he decides to make that relationship right as well.
The journey is a comfortable one filled with self-satisfied reflections.
When he arrives, the servants greet him. Speaking briefly with his
aunt, he assures her that he will take care of her in her old age
and then goes to his room to change. In his room, he finds a letter from
Mr. Irwine detailing Hetty’s plight. Bolting back out the door, he
saddles up his horse.
Dinah arrives and Stoniton and goes immediately to the
prison to see Hetty. There she encounters the stranger who listened
to her in the opening preaching at Hayslope. He helps her gain entrance
to the prison. Dinah holds Hetty for a long time after she arrives,
and when she speaks, she tells Hetty that God is with her and loves
her. After Dinah asks Hetty to confess her sin and to open her heart, Hetty
says she cannot. Dinah calls on the suffering of Christ and begs
Him to open Hetty’s heart. Frightened, Hetty finally confesses her
crime and tells Dinah how she took the baby into the woods to kill
it, but she could not find a pool to drown it in. Then she saw a spot
in a tree root and buried the baby there, hoping someone would find
it. Ever since, Hetty still hears the baby’s cries. She returned
the next day to the spot where she buried the baby to see if it
was still crying, but the baby was gone. Hetty asks whether Dinah
believes that God will make her stop hearing the baby cry now that
she has confessed.
Dinah goes to see Adam to ask him to visit Hetty before
she is executed. He says he cannot until the very last moment, but
he promises to come the morning of her death if there has been no
stay of execution. In the morning, Adam prepares to go see Hetty
and realizes that it is the day that they were supposed to be married.
Mr. Massey tries to comfort Adam by saying that some good might
come of this suffering, but Adam reacts violently to that idea.
From Mr. Massey’s point of view, Hetty will always have suffered,
so no other good can redeem that suffering. When Adam reaches the
cell door, he is still so troubled that he is trembling. After a
moment, he sees Hetty and is deeply saddened by her appearance.
Consoling Hetty, Dinah urges Hetty to speak to Adam. Helpless and
clutching Dinah, Hetty asks for his forgiveness. Adam says he forgave
her long ago. Holding out her hand, Hetty asks Adam for a kiss for
the way she’s treated him. They kiss goodbye. Hetty’s voice is firmer
when she asks Adam to tell Captain Donnithorne that she cursed him
once, but Dinah says she should forgive him or else God will not
Dinah rides out to the gallows with Hetty. At the sight
of the crowd, Hetty clings to Dinah. They pray together and keep
their eyes closed. The crowd is silent and stares and Dinah in awe.
As they arrive at the gallows, a huge cry goes up from the crowd
because a man has arrived on horseback. Captain Donnithorne arrives,
and he has with him a stay of execution.
The chapter opens up the day after Hetty was scheduled
to be executed; Adam and Captain Donnithorne each go for a walk
in the woods at the Chase. They meet each other in the spot where
they had their fight several months earlier. Adam does not excoriate
Captain Donnithorne because he can see that Captain Donnithorne
is suffering badly. They go to the Hermitage, which has not been opened
since the night of their fight. Captain Donnithorne announces to
Adam that he plans to go away to join the army, and he begs Adam
to stay in Hayslope and convince the Poysers to stay as well, even
though they had all planned to leave. He reveals to Adam that he
wants to make the situation better and is annoyed when Adam does
not immediately feel sorry for him and agree. Eventually agreeing
to stay, Adam attempts to convince the Poysers to stay too. Captain
Donnithorne also laments that he was unable to obtain a full pardon
for Hetty and that she will be sent away from England for her crime.
To thank Dinah, Captain Donnithorne gives Adam a watch to give her
for all she has done for Hetty. After Adam leaves, Captain Donnithorne
goes to the trashcan and takes out Hetty’s handkerchief from where
he hid it several months earlier.
The journey Captain Donnithorne makes back to Hayslope
contrasts with the journey Hetty makes in her attempts to find him. Captain
Donnithorne’s journey is luxurious. He rides in the fancy coach
he can afford, meditating peacefully on his inheritance and on how
he will improve his situation with Hetty. While his conscience is
not entirely at ease, he does not make himself uncomfortable by spending
too much time thinking about things that are difficult. Captain
Donnithorne believes he is heading home, to the place where he is
now master. Hetty’s journey, by contrast, is on the road traveling
by foot because she does not have the money to travel by coach.
Troubled to the point of distraction, she has no real destination
and no place she now considers home. The parallel shows the difference
between the consequences of their affair in each of their lives.
In fact, the two miss each other on the road by only a few days. The
culpability for the affair probably rests more squarely with Captain
Donnithorne, since he is the older of the two and because his social
position makes him able to exploit Hetty. But of the two of them,
Hetty is clearly the one suffering the consequences of the affair
while Captain Donnithorne’s life is still one of ease and luxury.
Hetty’s confession of her crime to Dinah simultaneously
represents a softening of her heart and shows how selfish she is
to the end. Prior to Dinah’s arrival, Hetty’s silence and denial
that she was ever pregnant reflects her desire that no one who knows
her should ever know about her shame. Her willingness to confess,
therefore, suggests that she has finally realized the severity of
her situation and that shame is not her primary problem anymore.
But her confession is startling in what it leaves out. Hetty has
no thought about the baby’s suffering and no maternal sense of loss
that her only child is dead. Hetty’s only thought is for her own
comfort. She wonders whether God will make the baby stop crying
so that she can be more comfortable, and she admits that when she
went back to find the baby the day after she abandoned it, she did
not know what her intentions were. Notably, the narrator does very
little to enhance sympathy for the baby. The reader does not, for
example, know whether the baby is a boy or a girl. Neither Hetty
nor Sarah Stone gives any description of what the baby looked like
or sounded like in its short life. The bare facts certainly engender
a good deal of sympathy for the child, who was left to die alone
in the woods because its mother was afraid. Nevertheless, Hetty
is more sympathetic. Hetty is not a monster but rather a confused,
scared, imperfect young woman who has made a terrible mistake and
will suffer a terrible price for it. Hetty’s suffering is pitiable,
and Dinah certainly pities her, but Hetty’s stubborn lack of concern
for herself makes it hard to love her.
Dinah’s decision to stay with Hetty in jail before she
is executed displays a genuine and accepting love for Hetty. When
they both lived together at Hall Farm, Dinah was aware of Hetty’s
selfish character, especially when she refuses to listen to Dinah’s
advice to seek out God in good and bad times. Dinah knows Hetty
needs some guidance. Since their talk at Hall Farm, Dinah has been
waiting for an opportunity to help her. Despite Hetty’s treatment
of her back then, Dinah believes in Hetty and does not give up on
her. Throughout the story, Dinah’s love for those around her is
not judgmental, and she accepts people as they are. When Dinah grasps
Hetty in her arms, she feels a rush of happiness sweep through her
because Hetty has accepted her love. Dinah’s inner beauty radiates
as she listens to Hetty’s story of murdering her baby and she does
not pass judgment. By asking Adam to come see Hetty, Dinah is showing
her love for both of them by having Hetty ask for Adam’s forgiveness
before she is hanged. Adam would have suffered more had he not conversed
with Hetty before her execution, and Dinah knows this. In this scene
of forgiveness, Adam and the reader are able to see that Dinah is
the better woman because she exhibits inner beauty.
Adam’s forgiveness of Captain Donnithorne represents a
major change in Adam’s character. Although Adam wanted to kill Captain Donnithorne,
he does not even reproach him because he sees how greatly the captain
suffers. Compassion is a new trait in Adam and contrasts with his
treatment of his father before his death and with his feelings about
Captain Donnithorne up to this point. Adam’s change of heart comes
from his own suffering. He refuses to make the suffering of another
person worse. This new gentleness, which remains with Adam through
the end of the novel, shows Adam to be a better man for all the
terrible things that have happened to him. No longer simply the
proud, self-sufficient workman he was when the novel began, Adam
is now worthy of Dinah and a better person for his ability to feel
compassion toward others.