Janet's Repentance, by George Eliot

Chapter 9

Mr. Tryan showed no such symptoms of weakness on the critical Sunday. He unhesitatingly rejected the suggestion that he should be taken to church in Mr. Landor’s carriage — a proposition which that gentleman made as an amendment on the original plan, when the rumours of meditated insult became alarming. Mr. Tryan declared he would have no precautions taken, but would simply trust in God and his good cause. Some of his more timid friends thought this conduct rather defiant than wise, and reflecting that a mob has great talents for impromptu, and that legal redress is imperfect satisfaction for having one’s head broken with a brickbat, were beginning to question their consciences very closely as to whether it was not a duty they owed to their families to stay at home on Sunday evening. These timorous persons, however, were in a small minority, and the generality of Mr. Tryan’s friends and hearers rather exulted in an opportunity of braving insult for the sake of a preacher to whom they were attached on personal as well as doctrinal grounds. Miss Pratt spoke of Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, and observed that the present crisis afforded an occasion for emulating their heroism even in these degenerate times; while less highly instructed persons, whose memories were not well stored with precedents, simply expressed their determination, as Mr. Jerome had done, to ‘stan’ by’ the preacher and his cause, believing it to be the ‘cause of God’.

On Sunday evening, then, at a quarter past six, Mr. Tryan, setting out from Mr. Landor’s with a party of his friends who had assembled there, was soon joined by two other groups from Mr. Pratt’s and Mr. Dunn’s; and stray persons on their way to church naturally falling into rank behind this leading file, by the time they reached the entrance of Orchard Street, Mr. Tryan’s friends formed a considerable procession, walking three or four abreast. It was in Orchard Street, and towards the church gates, that the chief crowd was collected; and at Mr. Dempster’s drawing-room window, on the upper floor, a more select assembly of Anti-Tryanites were gathered to witness the entertaining spectacle of the Tryanites walking to church amidst the jeers and hootings of the crowd.

To prompt the popular wit with appropriate sobriquets, numerous copies of Mr. Dempster’s play-bill were posted on the walls, in suitably large and emphatic type. As it is possible that the most industrious collector of mural literature may not have been fortunate enough to possess himself of this production, which ought by all means to be preserved amongst the materials of our provincial religious history, I subjoin a faithful copy.

               GRAND ENTERTAINMENT!!!

      To be given at Milby on Sunday evening next, by the

             FAMOUS COMEDIAN, TRY-IT-ON!

      And his first-rate company, including not only an

            UNPARALLELED CAST FOR COMEDY!

 But a Large Collection of reclaimed and converted Animals:
                 Among the rest
           A Bear, who used to dance!

         A Parrot, once given to swearing!!

                A Polygamous Pig!!!
                       and
    A Monkey who used to catch fleas on a Sunday!!!!

                   Together with a
             Pair of regenerated LINNETS!
         With an entirely new song, and plumage.

                   MR. TRY-IT-ON

Will first pass through the streets, in procession, with his unrivalled Company warranted to have their eyes turned up higher, and the corners of their mouths turned down lower, than any other company of Mountebanks in this circuit!

                   AFTER WHICH

The Theatre will be opened, and the entertainment will

            commence at HALF-PAST SIX

              When will be presented
  A piece, never before performed on any stage, entitled

            THE WOLF IN SHEEPS CLOTHING;
                           or
             THE METHODIST IN A MASK

Mr. Boanerges Soft Sawder, . . . . MR. TRY-IT-ON. Old Ten-per-cent Godly, . . . . . MR. GANDER. Dr. Feedemup, . . . . . . . . MR. TONIC. Mr. Lime-Twig Lady-winner, . . . . MR. TRY-IT-ON.

 Miss Piety Bait-the-hook, . . . . MISS TONIC.
 Angelica, . . . . . . . . . MISS SERAPHINA TONIC.

                      After which
     A miscellaneous Musical Interlude, commencing with
            The Lamentations of Jerom-iah!
                  In nasal recitative.
                   To be followed by
           The favourite Cackling Quartette,
         by Two Hen-birds who are no chickens!

  The well-known counter-tenor, Mr. Done, and a Gander,
  lineally descended from the Goose that laid golden eggs!
                   To conclude with a
                   GRAND CHORUS by the
         Entire Orchestra of Converted Animals!!

But owing to the unavoidable absence (from illness) of the Bulldog, who has left off fighting, Mr. Tonic has kindly undertaken, at a moment’s notice, to supply the ‘bark!

              The whole to conclude with a
                 Screaming Farce of
                 THE PULPIT SNATCHER

Mr. Saintly Smooth-face, . . . . MR. TRY-IT-ON! Mr. Worming Sneaker, . . . . . MR. TRY-IT-ON!! Mr. All-grace No-works, . . . . MR. TRY-IT-ON!!! Mr. Elect-and-Chosen Apewell, . . MR. TRY-IT-ON!!!! Mr. Malevolent Prayerful, . . . . MR. TRY-IT-ON!!!!! Mr. Foist-himself Everywhere, . . MR. TRY-IT-ON!!!!!! Mr. Flout-the-aged Upstart, . . . MR. TRY-IT-ON!!!!!!!

Admission Free. A Collection will be made at the Doors.

                  Vivat Rex!

This satire, though it presents the keenest edge of Milby wit, does not strike you as lacerating, I imagine. But hatred is like fire — it makes even light rubbish deadly. And Mr. Dempster’s sarcasms were not merely visible on the walls; they were reflected in the derisive glances, and audible in the jeering voices of the crowd. Through this pelting shower of nicknames and bad puns, with an ad libitum accompaniment of groans, howls, hisses, and hee-haws, but of no heavier missiles, Mr. Tryan walked pale and composed, giving his arm to old Mr. Landor, whose step was feeble. On the other side of him was Mr. Jerome, who still walked firmly, though his shoulders were slightly bowed.

Outwardly Mr. Tryan was composed, but inwardly he was suffering acutely from these tones of hatred and scorn. However strong his consciousness of right, he found it no stronger armour against such weapons as derisive glances and virulent words, than against stones and clubs: his conscience was in repose, but his sensibility was bruised.

Once more only did the Evangelical curate pass up Orchard Street followed by a train of friends; once more only was there a crowd assembled to witness his entrance through the church gates. But that second time no voice was heard above a whisper, and the whispers were words of sorrow and blessing. That second time, Janet Dempster was not looking on in scorn and merriment; her eyes were worn with grief and watching, and she was following her beloved friend and pastor to the grave.

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