Janet's Repentance, by George Eliot

Chapter 20

On Sunday morning the rain had ceased, and Janet, looking out of the bedroom window, saw, above the house-tops, a shining mass of white cloud rolling under the far-away blue sky. It was going to be a lovely April day. The fresh sky, left clear and calm after the long vexation of wind and rain, mingled its mild influence with Janet’s new thoughts and prospects. She felt a buoyant courage that surprised herself, after the cold crushing weight of despondency which had oppressed her the day before: she could think even of her husband’s rage without the old overpowering dread. For a delicious hope — the hope of purification and inward peace — had entered into Janet’s soul, and made it spring-time there as well as in the outer world.

While her mother was brushing and coiling up her thick black hair — a favourite task, because it seemed to renew the days of her daughter’s girlhood — Janet told how she came to send for Mr. Tryan, how she had remembered their meeting at Sally Martin’s in the autumn, and had felt an irresistible desire to see him, and tell him her sins and her troubles.

‘I see God’s goodness now, mother, in ordering it so that we should meet in that way, to overcome my prejudice against him, and make me feel that he was good, and then bringing it back to my mind in the depth of my trouble. You know what foolish things I used to say about him, knowing nothing of him all the while. And yet he was the man who was to give me comfort and help when everything else failed me. It is wonderful how I feel able to speak to him as I never have done to any one before; and how every word he says to me enters my heart and has a new meaning for me. I think it must be because he has felt life more deeply than others, and has a deeper faith. I believe everything he says at once. His words come to me like rain on the parched ground. It has always seemed to me before as if I could see behind people’s words, as one sees behind a screen; but in Mr. Tryan it is his very soul that speaks.’

‘Well, my dear child, I love and bless him for your sake, if he has given you any comfort. I never believed the harm people said of him, though I had no desire to go and hear him, for I am contented with old-fashioned ways. I find more good teaching than I can practise in reading my Bible at home, and hearing Mr. Crewe at church. But your wants are different, my dear, and we are not all led by the same road. That was certainly good advice of Mr. Tryan’s you told me of last night — that we should consult some one that may interfere for you with your husband; and I have been turning it over in my mind while I’ve been lying awake in the night. I think nobody will do so well as Mr. Benjamin Landor, for we must have a man that knows the law, and that Robert is rather afraid of. And perhaps he could bring about an agreement for you to live apart. Your husband’s bound to maintain you, you know; and, if you liked, we could move away from Milby and live somewhere else.’

‘O, mother, we must do nothing yet; I must think about it a little longer. I have a different feeling this morning from what I had yesterday. Something seems to tell me that I must go back to Robert some time — after a little while. I loved him once better than all the world, and I have never had any children to love. There were things in me that were wrong, and I should like to make up for them if I can.’

‘Well, my dear, I won’t persuade you. Think of it a little longer. But something must be done soon.’

‘How I wish I had my bonnet, and shawl, and black gown here!’ said Janet, after a few minutes’ silence. ‘I should like to go to Paddiford Church and hear Mr. Tryan. There would be no fear of my meeting Robert, for he never goes out on a Sunday morning.’

‘I’m afraid it would not do for me to go to the house and fetch your clothes,’ said Mrs. Raynor.

‘O no, no! I must stay quietly here while you two go to church. I will be Mrs. Pettifer’s maid, and get the dinner ready for her by the time she comes back. Dear good woman! She was so tender to me when she took me in, in the night, mother, and all the next day, when I couldn’t speak a word to her to thank her.’

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Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 21:42