Arthur acts in the only way he can, using his influence to seek a stay of execution for Hetty, his one-time lover who faces the gallows after murdering the child he fathered by her. She is duly saved from hanging and her sentence is commuted to deportation. We learn later, in passing, that she died a while after.
We learn, and we shrug. Hetty’s first tragedy is that her silliness leads her into catastrophe; her second tragedy is that we don’t feel much in the way of compassion, even though some of the finest characters in the book do.
‘The Sheriff knows him: it is Arthur Donnithorne, carrying in his hand the hard-won release from death.’
Source: George Eliot, Adam Bede (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985 (1859)), p. 507