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certainty of George's succession; if he retired to his chamber, his reflections were intolerable. He did not eat sufficiently, and hardly slept at all. Though he hated meeting people, he was forced abroad by his own emotions; and when he showed himself, none could help remarking his haggard appearance. This, however, did not astonish them: the tragedy in his family, his total loss of all inheritance from his uncle, quite accounted for it. And only to think that if Mrs Bateman had died first, George would have had it all!
It was while he was in this miserable condition that one day Mrs Parkins saw him walking and accosted him. "It grieves me, George Bateman, indeed it does, to see how your trials have worn you. I wish I could comfort you, or induce you to seek for better comfort than I can give." This, said with the kindest, sweetest voice and manner, was too much for even hard, cynical George. He tried to say that she was very kind and he much obliged; but his voice gave way, and the tears started to his eyes. "We have so grieved for you," she said; "perhaps now you would let us try and comfort you. Would you like to open your mind to my husband?" George began some objection, which she almost anticipated; and then she named one or two of their body whom George had been well disposed to, and asked if she should bring them to see him. And there came over him such a yearning for sympathising companionship, that he assented thankfully. She was George's advocate and friend after this, helping him, and trying to reconcile him to the brotherhood. "You, of all people," said the brethren—"you whom he slandered and insulted—why do you take his part?" Then she answered: "If we'd always kept friends all round, you know, there would have been no call for anybody to take his part; but those who have persecuted and slandered you are greatly in need of exhortation and conversion." (The last words of this sentence seemed rather to turn away from the point to which the first words had been leading up. Sister Parkins shrank from sounding a trumpet before her; but, clearly, what she felt was that her good offices would unquestionably be rendered to her persecutor and slanderer.) The brothers came and visited George; but it was a difficult matter to bring them to it: he had repelled so many of them, that they were unwilling to invite further insult; and he had so openly reviled and ridiculed the sect. that perhaps they didn't wish to let him make his peace on too easy terms. There must be some brands left for the burning, otherwise there is no distinction in being saved. His true-hearted friend, however, brought him through all difficulties, and procured him at least some spiritual consolation and support. Still, though his heart may have been softened, he was not yet equal to freeing Eoberts. It is not certain that he thought himself bound to do it for the present. If Eoberts should get off, there was an end of the business; if not, how far would he be proved to be implicated? And so he went on irresolute till the time drew near for the assizes, which occurred not very long after the homicide. He felt that he was too much shattered in body and mind to remain in Gravelshire while that was going on; and he determined to go and stay in the suburb of London in which was now employed the young woman whom he had seen in chapel on the night of his conversion, and who afterwards used often to talk to him on religious matters. He thought he should like to hear her earnest voice again. The state of his health was quite sufficient reason for his leaving home.
One might come or go in Gritvale at this time without being much noticed. The mind of everybody there was fixed upon the coming assizes, and the trial of the man accused of murder. As the day of trial drew near, Gritvale, one might say, was precipitated upon Sandyford. The hall was besieged; never was there such a struggle for places. From the high sheriff down to his bailiffs and javelin-men—nay, down to the keepers and sweepers of the building—every official was tormented with applications for seats or standing-room. The crowd was dreadful on the awful day; the weather was hot; women, and men too, were carried out fainting; others were only too glad to replace the exhausted ones.
Eoberts took his place in the dock. He was in the prison dress; and those who could see his lower limbs perceived that he was heavily ironed. He did not look ill; nay, many young Gritvale females who could see him affirmed that he was lovelier than ever. Ned stood up, looking everybody full in the face—the old open expression—not a bit like a murderer. His appearance, as far as that could go, was in his favour.
The grand jury had found a true bill for murder the day before; and the prisoner, when he was arraigned, answered, in a firm voice, "Not guilty." He was then asked, as was the fashion of those days—perhaps may be the fashion now—" How will you be tried?" and, prompted by the jailer, he replied, "By God and my country."
The details of the trial may be omitted, because those who have read the preceding pages know already the strong evidence there would be against him. The letter to Patty Bateman had been found, and created a bad impression—found, too, in Mr Bateman's desk. Prisoner had been seen, both going and coming, with a heavy stick, near the coppice. The matter of the bank-notes was minutely gone into. The supposition of the prosecution was, that Mrs Bateman had communicated the