Janet's Repentance, by George Eliot

Chapter 8

The next day, Friday, at five o’clock by the sun-dial, the large bow-window of Mrs. Jerome’s parlour was open; and that lady herself was seated within its ample semicircle, having a table before her on which her best tea-tray, her best china, and her best urn-rug had already been standing in readiness for half an hour. Mrs. Jerome’s best tea-service was of delicate white fluted china, with gold sprigs upon it — as pretty a tea-service as you need wish to see, and quite good enough for chimney ornaments; indeed, as the cups were without handles, most visitors who had the distinction of taking tea out of them, wished that such charming china had already been promoted to that honorary position. Mrs. Jerome was like her china, handsome and old-fashioned. She was a buxom lady of sixty, in an elaborate lace cap fastened by a frill under her chin, a dark, well-curled front concealing her forehead, a snowy neckerchief exhibiting its ample folds as far as her waist, and a stiff grey silk gown. She had a clean damask napkin pinned before her to guard her dress during the process of tea-making; her favourite geraniums in the bow-window were looking as healthy as she could desire; her own handsome portrait, painted when she was twenty years younger, was smiling down on her with agreeable flattery; and altogether she seemed to be in as peaceful and pleasant a position as a buxom, well-drest elderly lady need desire. But, as in so many other cases, appearances were deceptive. Her mind was greatly perturbed and her temper ruffled by the fact that it was more than a quarter past five even by the losing timepiece, that it was half-past by her large gold watch, which she held in her hand as if she were counting the pulse of the afternoon, and that, by the kitchen clock, which she felt sure was not an hour too fast, it had already struck six. The lapse of time was rendered the more unendurable to Mrs. Jerome by her wonder that Mr. Jerome could stay out in the garden with Lizzie in that thoughtless way, taking it so easily that tea-time was long past, and that, after all the trouble of getting down the best tea-things, Mr. Tryan would not come.

This honour had been shown to Mr. Tryan, not at all because Mrs. Jerome had any high appreciation of his doctrine or of his exemplary activity as a pastor, but simply because he was a ‘Church clergyman’, and as such was regarded by her with the same sort of exceptional respect that a white woman who had married a native of the Society Islands might be supposed to feel towards a white-skinned visitor from the land of her youth. For Mrs. Jerome had been reared a Churchwoman, and having attained the age of thirty before she was married, had felt the greatest repugnance in the first instance to renouncing the religious forms in which she had been brought up. ‘You know,’ she said in confidence to her Church acquaintances, ‘I wouldn’t give no ear at all to Mr. Jerome at fust; but after all, I begun to think as there was a maeny things worse nor goin’ to chapel, an’ you’d better do that nor not pay your way. Mr. Jerome had a very pleasant manner with him, an’ there was niver another as kept a gig, an’ ‘ud make a settlement on me like him, chapel or no chapel. It seemed very odd to me for a long while, the preachin’ without book, an’ the stannin’ up to one long prayer, istid o’ changin’ your postur. But la! there’s nothin’ as you mayn’t get used to i’ time; you can al’ys sit down, you know, before the prayer’s done. The ministers say pretty nigh the same things as the Church parsons, by what I could iver make out, an’ we’re out o’ chapel i’ the mornin’ a deal sooner nor they’re out o’ church. An’ as for pews, ourn’s is a deal comfortabler nor aeny i’ Milby Church.’

Mrs. Jerome, you perceive, had not a keen susceptibility to shades of doctrine, and it is probable that, after listening to Dissenting eloquence for thirty years, she might safely have re-entered the Establishment without performing any spiritual quarantine. Her mind, apparently, was of that non-porous flinty character which is not in the least danger from surrounding damp. But on the question of getting start of the sun on the day’s business, and clearing her conscience of the necessary sum of meals and the consequent ‘washing up’ as soon as possible, so that the family might be well in bed at nine, Mrs. Jerome was susceptible; and the present lingering pace of things, united with Mr. Jerome’s unaccountable obliviousness, was not to be borne any longer. So she rang the bell for Sally.

‘Goodness me, Sally! go into the garden an’ see after your master. Tell him it’s goin’ on for six, an’ Mr. Tryan ‘ull niver think o’ comin’ now, an’ it’s time we got tea over. An’ he’s lettin’ Lizzie stain her frock, I expect, among them strawberry beds. Mek her come in this minute.’

No wonder Mr. Jerome was tempted to linger in the garden, for though the house was pretty and well deserved its name —‘the White House’, the tall damask roses that clustered over the porch being thrown into relief by rough stucco of the most brilliant white, yet the garden and orchards were Mr. Jerome’s glory, as well they might be; and there was nothing in which he had a more innocent pride — peace to a good man’s memory! all his pride was innocent — than in conducting a hitherto uninitiated visitor over his grounds, and making him in some degree aware of the incomparable advantages possessed by the inhabitants of the White House in the matter of red-streaked apples, russets, northern greens (excellent for baking), swan-egg pears, and early vegetables, to say nothing of flowering ‘srubs,’ pink hawthorns, lavender bushes more than ever Mrs. Jerome could use, and, in short, a superabundance of everything that a person retired from business could desire to possess himself or to share with his friends. The garden was one of those old-fashioned paradises which hardly exist any longer except as memories of our childhood: no finical separation between flower and kitchen garden there; no monotony of enjoyment for one sense to the exclusion of another; but a charming paradisiacal mingling of all that was pleasant to the eyes and good for food. The rich flower-border running along every walk, with its endless succession of spring flowers, anemones, auriculas, wall-flowers, sweet-williams, campanulas, snapdragons, and tiger-lilies, had its taller beauties, such as moss and Provence roses, varied with espalier apple-trees; the crimson of a carnation was carried out in the lurking crimson of the neighbouring strawberry-beds; you gathered a moss-rose one moment and a bunch of currants the next; you were in a delicious fluctuation between the scent of jasmine and the juice of gooseberries. Then what a high wall at one end, flanked by a summer-house so lofty, that after ascending its long flight of steps you could see perfectly well there was no view worth looking at; what alcoves and garden-seats in all directions; and along one side, what a hedge, tall, and firm, and unbroken, like a green wall!

It was near this hedge that Mr. Jerome was standing when Sally found him. He had set down the basket of strawberries on the gravel, and had lifted up little Lizzie in his arms to look at a bird’s nest. Lizzie peeped, and then looked at her grandpa with round blue eyes, and then peeped again.

‘D’ye see it, Lizzie?’ he whispered.

‘Yes,’ she whispered in return, putting her lips very near grandpa’s face. At this moment Sally appeared.

‘Eh, eh, Sally, what’s the matter? Is Mr. Tryan come?’

‘No, sir, an’ Missis says she’s sure he won’t come now, an’ she wants you to come in an’ hev tea. Dear heart, Miss Lizzie, you’ve stained your pinafore, an’ I shouldn’t wonder if it’s gone through to your frock. There’ll be fine work! Come alonk wi’ me, do.’

‘Nay, nay, nay, we’ve done no harm, we’ve done no harm, hev we, Lizzie? The wash-tub’ll make all right again.’

Sally, regarding the wash-tub from a different point of view, looked sourly serious, and hurried away with Lizzie, who trotted submissively along, her little head in eclipse under a large nankin bonnet, while Mr. Jerome followed leisurely with his full broad shoulders in rather a stooping posture, and his large good-natured features and white locks shaded by a broad-brimmed hat.

‘Mr. Jerome, I wonder at you,’ said Mrs. Jerome, in a tone of indignant remonstrance, evidently sustained by a deep sense of injury, as her husband opened the parlour door. ‘When will you leave off invitin’ people to meals an’ not lettin’ ’em know the time? I’ll answer for’t, you niver said a word to Mr. Tryan as we should take tea at five o’clock. It’s just like you!’

‘Nay, nay, Susan,’ answered the husband in a soothing tone, ‘there’s nothin’ amiss. I told Mr. Tryan as we took tea at five punctial; mayhap summat’s a detainin’ on him. He’s a deal to do, an’ to think on, remember.’

‘Why, it’s struck six i’ the kitchen a’ready. It’s nonsense to look for him comin’ now. So you may’s well ring for th’ urn. Now Sally’s got th’ heater in the fire, we may’s well hev th’ urn in, though he doesn’t come. I niver see’d the like o’ you, Mr. Jerome, for axin’ people an’ givin’ me the trouble o’ gettin’ things down an’ hevin’ crumpets made, an’ after all they don’t come. I shall hev to wash every one o’ these tea-things myself, for there’s no trustin’ Sally — she’d break a fortin i’ crockery i’ no time!’

‘But why will you give yourself sich trouble, Susan? Our everyday tea-things would ha’ done as well for Mr. Tryan, an’ they’re a deal convenenter to hold.’

‘Yes, that’s just your way, Mr. Jerome, you’re al’ys a-findin’ faut wi’ my chany, because I bought it myself afore I was married. But let me tell you, I knowed how to choose chany if I didn’t know how to choose a husband. An’ where’s Lizzie? You’ve niver left her i’ the garden by herself, with her white frock on an’ clean stockins?’

‘Be easy, my dear Susan, be easy; Lizzie’s come in wi’ Sally. She’s hevin’ her pinafore took off, I’ll be bound. Ah! there’s Mr. Tryan a-comin’ through the gate.’

Mrs. Jerome began hastily to adjust her damask napkin and the expression of her countenance for the reception of the clergyman, and Mr. Jerome went out to meet his guest, whom he greeted outside the door.

‘Mr. Tryan, how do you do, Mr. Tryan? Welcome to the White House! I’m glad to see you, sir — I’m glad to see you.’

If you had heard the tone of mingled good-will, veneration, and condolence in which this greeting was uttered, even without seeing the face that completely harmonized with it, you would have no difficulty in inferring the ground-notes of Mr. Jerome’s character. To a fine ear that tone said as plainly as possible —‘Whatever recommends itself to me, Thomas Jerome, as piety and goodness, shall have my love and honour. Ah, friends, this pleasant world is a sad one, too, isn’t it? Let us help one another, let us help one another.’ And it was entirely owing to this basis of character, not at all from any clear and precise doctrinal discrimination, that Mr. Jerome had very early in life become a Dissenter. In his boyish days he had been thrown where Dissent seemed to have the balance of piety, purity, and good works on its side, and to become a Dissenter seemed to him identical with choosing God instead of mammon. That race of Dissenters is extinct in these days, when opinion has got far ahead of feeling, and every chapel-going youth can fill our ears with the advantages of the Voluntary system, the corruptions of a State Church, and the Scriptural evidence that the first Christians were Congregationalists. Mr. Jerome knew nothing of this theoretic basis for Dissent, and in the utmost extent of his polemical discussion he had not gone further than to question whether a Christian man was bound in conscience to distinguish Christmas and Easter by any peculiar observance beyond the eating of mince-pies and cheese-cakes. It seemed to him that all seasons were alike good for thanking God, departing from evil and doing well, whereas it might be desirable to restrict the period for indulging in unwholesome forms of pastry. Mr. Jerome’s dissent being of this simple, non-polemical kind, it is easy to understand that the report he heard of Mr. Tryan as a good man and a powerful preacher, who was stirring the hearts of the people, had been enough to attract him to the Paddiford Church, and that having felt himself more edified there than he had of late been under Mr. Stickney’s discourses at Salem, he had driven thither repeatedly in the Sunday afternoons, and had sought an opportunity of making Mr. Tryan’s acquaintance. The evening lecture was a subject of warm interest with him, and the opposition Mr. Tryan met with gave that interest a strong tinge of partisanship; for there was a store of irascibility in Mr. Jerome’s nature which must find a vent somewhere, and in so kindly and upright a man could only find it in indignation against those whom he held to be enemies of truth and goodness. Mr. Tryan had not hitherto been to the White House, but yesterday, meeting Mr. Jerome in the street, he had at once accepted the invitation to tea, saying there was something he wished to talk about. He appeared worn and fatigued now, and after shaking hands with Mrs. Jerome, threw himself into a chair and looked out on the pretty garden with an air of relief.

‘What a nice place you have here, Mr. Jerome! I’ve not seen anything so quiet and pretty since I came to Milby. On Paddiford Common, where I live, you know, the bushes are all sprinkled with soot, and there’s never any quiet except in the dead of night.’

‘Dear heart! dear heart! That’s very bad — and for you, too, as hev to study. Wouldn’t it be better for you to be somewhere more out i’ the country like?’

‘O no! I should lose so much time in going to and fro, and besides I like to be among the people. I’ve no face to go and preach resignation to those poor things in their smoky air and comfortless homes, when I come straight from every luxury myself. There are many things quite lawful for other men, which a clergyman must forego if he would do any good in a manufacturing population like this.’

Here the preparations for tea were crowned by the simultaneous appearance of Lizzie and the crumpet. It is a pretty surprise, when one visits an elderly couple, to see a little figure enter in a white frock with a blond head as smooth as satin, round blue eyes, and a cheek like an apple blossom. A toddling little girl is a centre of common feeling which makes the most dissimilar people understand each other; and Mr. Tryan looked at Lizzie with that quiet pleasure which is always genuine.

‘Here we are, here we are!’ said proud grandpapa. ‘You didn’t think we’d got such a little gell as this, did you, Mr. Tryan? Why, it seems but th’ other day since her mother was just such another. This is our little Lizzie, this is. Come an’ shake hands wi’ Mr. Tryan, Lizzie; come.’

Lizzie advanced without hesitation, and put out one hand, while she fingered her coral necklace with the other, and looked up into Mr. Tryan’s face with a reconnoitring gaze. He stroked the satin head, and said in his gentlest voice, ‘How do you do, Lizzie? will you give me a kiss?’ She put up her little bud of a mouth, and then retreating a little and glancing down at her frock, said — ‘Dit id my noo fock. I put it on ‘tod you wad toming. Tally taid you wouldn’t ‘ook at it.’

‘Hush, hush, Lizzie, little gells must be seen and not heard,’ said Mrs. Jerome; while grandpapa, winking significantly, and looking radiant with delight at Lizzie’s extraordinary promise of cleverness, set her up on her high cane-chair by the side of grandma, who lost no time in shielding the beauties of the new frock with a napkin.

‘Well now, Mr. Tryan,’ said Mr. Jerome, in a very serious tone, when tea had been distributed, ‘let me hear how you’re a-goin’ on about the lectur. When I was i’ the town yisterday, I heared as there was pessecutin’ schemes a-bein’ laid again’ you. I fear me those raskills ‘ll mek things very onpleasant to you.’

‘I’ve no doubt they will attempt it; indeed, I quite expect there will be a regular mob got up on Sunday evening, as there was when the delegates returned, on purpose to annoy me and the congregation on our way to church.’

‘Ah, they’re capible o’ anything, such men as Dempster an’ Budd; an’ Tomlinson backs ’em wi’ money, though he can’t wi’ brains. Howiver, Dempster’s lost one client by his wicked doins, an’ I’m deceived if he won’t lose more nor one. I little thought, Mr. Tryan, when I put my affairs into his hands twenty ‘ear ago this Michaelmas, as he was to turn out a pessecutor o’ religion. I niver lighted on a cliverer, promisiner young man nor he was then. They talked of his bein’ fond of a extry glass now an’ then, but niver nothin’ like what he’s come to since. An’ it’s head-piece you must look for in a lawyer, Mr. Tryan, it’s head-piece. His wife, too, was al’ys an uncommon favourite o’ mine — poor thing! I hear sad stories about her now. But she’s druv to it, she’s druv to it, Mr. Tryan. A tender-hearted woman to the poor, she is, as iver lived; an’ as pretty-spoken a woman as you need wish to talk to. Yes! I’d al’ys a likin’ for Dempster an’ his wife, spite o’ iverything. But as soon as iver I heared o’ that dilegate business, I says, says I, that man shall hev no more to do wi’ my affairs. It may put me t’ inconvenience, but I’ll encourage no man as pessecutes religion.’

‘He is evidently the brain and hand of the persecution,’ said Mr. Tryan. ‘There may be a strong feeling against me in a large number of the inhabitants — it must be so from the great ignorance of spiritual things in this place. But I fancy there would have been no formal opposition to the lecture, if Dempster had not planned it. I am not myself the least alarmed at anything he can do; he will find I am not to be cowed or driven away by insult or personal danger. God has sent me to this place, and, by His blessing, I’ll not shrink from anything I may have to encounter in doing His work among the people. But I feel it right to call on all those who know the value of the Gospel, to stand by me publicly. I think — and Mr. Landor agrees with me — that it will be well for my friends to proceed with me in a body to the church on Sunday evening. Dempster, you know, has pretended that almost all the respectable inhabitants are opposed to the lecture. Now, I wish that falsehood to be visibly contradicted. What do you think of the plan? I have today been to see several of my friends, who will make a point of being there to accompany me, and will communicate with others on the subject.’

‘I’ll mek one, Mr. Tryan, I’ll mek one. You shall not be wantin’ in any support as I can give. Before you come to it, sir, Milby was a dead an’ dark place; you are the fust man i’ the Church to my knowledge as has brought the word o’ God home to the people; an’ I’ll stan’ by you, sir, I’ll stan’ by you. I’m a Dissenter, Mr. Tryan; I’ve been a Dissenter ever sin’ I was fifteen ‘ear old; but show me good i’ the Church, an’ I’m a Churchman too. When I was a boy I lived at Tilston; you mayn’t know the place; the best part o’ the land there belonged to Squire Sandeman; he’d a club-foot, had Squire Sandeman — lost a deal o’ money by canal shares. Well, sir, as I was sayin’, I lived at Tilston, an’ the rector there was a terrible drinkin’, fox-huntin’ man; you niver see’d such a parish i’ your time for wickedness; Milby’s nothin’ to it. Well, sir, my father was a workin’ man, an’ couldn’t afford to gi’ me ony eddication, so I went to a night-school as was kep by a Dissenter, one Jacob Wright; an’ it was from that man, sir, as I got my little schoolin’ an’ my knowledge o’ religion. I went to chapel wi’ Jacob — he was a good man was Jacob — an’ to chapel I’ve been iver since. But I’m no enemy o’ the Church, sir, when the Church brings light to the ignorant and the sinful; an’ that’s what you’re a-doin’, Mr. Tryan. Yes, sir, I’ll stan’ by you. I’ll go to church wi’ you o’ Sunday evenin’.’

‘You’d far better stay at home, Mr. Jerome, if I may give my opinion,’ interposed Mrs. Jerome. ‘It’s not as I hevn’t ivery respect for you, Mr. Tryan, but Mr. Jerome ‘ull do you no good by his interferin’. Dissenters are not at all looked on i’ Milby, an’ he’s as nervous as iver he can be; he’ll come back as ill as ill, an’ niver let me hev a wink o’ sleep all night.’

Mrs. Jerome had been frightened at the mention of a mob, and her retrospective regard for the religious communion of her youth by no means inspired her with the temper of a martyr. Her husband looked at her with an expression of tender and grieved remonstrance, which might have been that of the patient patriarch on the memorable occasion when he rebuked his wife.

‘Susan, Susan, let me beg on you not to oppose me, and put stumblin’-blocks i’ the way o’ doing’ what’s right. I can’t give up my conscience, let me give up what else I may.’

‘Perhaps,’ said Mr. Tryan, feeling slightly uncomfortable, ‘since you are not very strong, my dear sir, it will be well, as Mrs. Jerome suggests, that you should not run the risk of any excitement.’

‘Say no more, Mr. Tryan. I’ll stan’ by you, sir. It’s my duty. It’s the cause o’ God, sir; it’s the cause o’ God.’

Mr. Tryan obeyed his impulse of admiration and gratitude, and put out his hand to the white-haired old man, saying, ‘Thank you, Mr. Jerome, thank you.’

Mr. Jerome grasped the proffered hand in silence, and then threw himself back in his chair, casting a regretful look at his wife, which seemed to say, ‘Why don’t you feel with me, Susan?’

The sympathy of this simple-minded old man was more precious to Mr. Tryan than any mere onlooker could have imagined. To persons possessing a great deal of that facile psychology which prejudges individuals by means of formulae, and casts them, without further trouble, into duly lettered pigeon-holes, the Evangelical curate might seem to be doing simply what all other men like to do — carrying out objects which were identified not only with his theory, which is but a kind of secondary egoism, but also with the primary egoism of his feelings. Opposition may become sweet to a man when he has christened it persecution: a self-obtrusive, over-hasty reformer complacently disclaiming all merit, while his friends call him a martyr, has not in reality a career the most arduous to the fleshly mind. But Mr. Tryan was not cast in the mould of the gratuitous martyr. With a power of persistence which had been often blamed as obstinacy, he had an acute sensibility to the very hatred or ridicule he did not flinch from provoking. Every form of disapproval jarred him painfully; and, though he fronted his opponents manfully, and often with considerable warmth of temper, he had no pugnacious pleasure in the contest. It was one of the weaknesses of his nature to be too keenly alive to every harsh wind of opinion; to wince under the frowns of the foolish; to be irritated by the injustice of those who could not possibly have the elements indispensable for judging him rightly; and with all this acute sensibility to blame, this dependence on sympathy, he had for years been constrained into a position of antagonism. No wonder, then, that good old Mr. Jerome’s cordial words were balm to him. He had often been thankful to an old woman for saying ‘God bless you’; to a little child for smiling at him; to a dog for submitting to be patted by him.

Tea being over by this time, Mr. Tryan proposed a walk in the garden as a means of dissipating all recollection of the recent conjugal dissidence Little Lizzie’s appeal, ‘Me go, gandpa!’ could not be rejected, so she was duly bonneted and pinafored, and then they turned out into the evening sunshine. Not Mrs. Jerome, however; she had a deeply-meditated plan of retiring ad interim to the kitchen and washing up the best teathings, as a mode of getting forward with the sadly-retarded business of the day.

‘This way, Mr. Tryan, this way,’ said the old gentleman; ‘I must take you to my pastur fust, an’ show you our cow — the best milker i’ the county. An’ see here at these backbuildins, how convenent the dairy is; I planned it ivery bit myself. An’ here I’ve got my little carpenter’s shop an’ my blacksmith’s shop; I do no end o’ jobs here myself. I niver could bear to be idle, Mr. Tryan; I must al’ys be at somethin’ or other. It was time for me to lay by business an mek room for younger folks. I’d got money enough, wi’ only one daughter to leave it to, an’ I says to myself, says I, it’s time to leave off moitherin’ myself wi’ this world so much, an’ give more time to thinkin’ of another. But there’s a many hours atween getting up an’ lyin’ down, an’ thoughts are no cumber; you can move about wi’ a good many on ’em in your head. See, here’s the pastur.’

A very pretty pasture it was, where the large-spotted short-horned cow quietly chewed the cud as she lay and looked sleepily at her admirers — a daintily-trimmed hedge all round, dotted here and there with a mountain-ash or a cherry-tree.

‘I’ve a good bit more land besides this, worth your while to look at, but mayhap it’s further nor you’d like to walk now. Bless you! I’ve welly an’ acre o’ potato-ground yonders; I’ve a good big family to supply, you know.’ (Here Mr. Jerome winked and smiled significantly.) ‘An’ that puts me i’ mind, Mr. Tryan, o’ summat I wanted to say to you. Clergymen like you, I know, see a deal more poverty an’ that, than other folks, an’ hev a many claims on ’em more nor they can well meet; an’ if you’ll mek use o’ my purse any time, or let me know where I can be o’ any help, I’ll tek it very kind on you.’

‘Thank you, Mr. Jerome, I will do so, I promise you. I saw a sad case yesterday; a collier — a fine broad-chested fellow about thirty — was killed by the falling of a wall in the Paddiford colliery. I was in one of the cottages near, when they brought him home on a door, and the shriek of the wife has been ringing in my ears ever since. There are three little children. Happily the woman has her loom, so she will be able to keep out of the workhouse; but she looks very delicate.’

‘Give me her name, Mr. Tryan,’ said Mr. Jerome, drawing out his pocket-book. ‘I’ll call an’ see her.’

Deep was the fountain of pity in the good old man’s heart! He often ate his dinner stintingly, oppressed by the thought that there were men, women, and children, with no dinner to sit down to, and would relieve his mind by going out in the afternoon to look for some need that he could supply, some honest struggle in which he could lend a helping hand. That any living being should want, was his chief sorrow; that any rational being should waste, was the next. Sally, indeed, having been scolded by master for a too lavish use of sticks in lighting the kitchen fire, and various instances of recklessness with regard to candle ends, considered him ‘as mean as aenythink;’ but he had as kindly a warmth as the morning sunlight, and, like the sunlight, his goodness shone on all that came in his way, from the saucy rosy-cheeked lad whom he delighted to make happy with a Christmas box, to the pallid sufferers up dim entries, languishing under the tardy death of want and misery.

It was very pleasant to Mr. Tryan to listen to the simple chat of the old man — to walk in the shade of the incomparable orchard, and hear the story of the crops yielded by the red-streaked apple-tree, and the quite embarrassing plentifulness of the summer-pears — to drink-in the sweet evening breath of the garden, as they sat in the alcove — and so, for a short interval, to feel the strain of his pastoral task relaxed.

Perhaps he felt the return to that task through the dusty roads all the more painfully, perhaps something in that quiet shady home had reminded him of the time before he had taken on him the yoke of self-denial. The strongest heart will faint sometimes under the feeling that enemies are bitter, and that friends only know half its sorrows. The most resolute soul will now and then cast back a yearning look in treading the rough mountain-path, away from the greensward and laughing voices of the valley. However it was, in the nine o’clock twilight that evening, when Mr. Tryan had entered his small study and turned the key in the door, he threw himself into the chair before his writing-table, and, heedless of the papers there, leaned his face low on his hand, and moaned heavily.

It is apt to be so in this life, I think. While we are coldly discussing a man’s career, sneering at his mistakes, blaming his rashness, and labelling his opinions —‘he is Evangelical and narrow’, or ‘Latitudinarian and Pantheistic’ or ‘Anglican and supercilious’— that man, in his solitude, is perhaps shedding hot tears because his sacrifice is a hard one, because strength and patience are failing him to speak the difficult word, and do the difficult deed.

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