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Chapter 18
 It was dusk, and the candles were lighted before Mr. Tryan knocked at Mrs. Pettifer’s door. Her messenger had brought back word that he was not at home, and all afternoon Janet had been agitated1 by the fear that he would not come; but as soon as that anxiety was removed by the knock at the door, she felt a sudden rush of doubt and timidity: she trembled and turned cold.  
Mrs. Pettifer went to open the door, and told Mr. Tryan, in as few words as possible, what had happened in the night. As he laid down his hat and prepared to enter the parlour, she said, ‘I won’t go in with you, for I think perhaps she would rather see you go in alone.’
Janet, wrapped up in a large white shawl which threw her dark face into startling relief, was seated with her eyes turned anxiously towards the door when Mr. Tryan entered. He had not seen her since their interview at Sally Martin’s long months ago; and he felt a strong movement of compassion2 at the sight of the pain-stricken face which seemed to bear written on it the signs of all Janet’s intervening misery3. Her heart gave a great leap, as her eyes met his once more. No! she had not deceived herself: there was all the sincerity4, all the sadness, all the deep pity in them her memory had told her of; more than it had told her, for in proportion as his face had become thinner and more worn, his eyes appeared to have gathered intensity5.
He came forward, and, putting out his hand, said, ‘I am so glad you sent for me—I am so thankful you thought I could be any comfort to you.’ Janet took his hand in silence. She was unable to utter any words of mere6 politeness, or even of gratitude7; her heart was too full of other words that had welled up the moment she met his pitying glance, and felt her doubts fall away.
They sat down opposite each other, and she said in a low voice, while slow difficult tears gathered in her aching eyes,—‘I want to tell you how unhappy I am—how weak and wicked. I feel no strength to live or die. I thought you could tell me something that would help me.’ She paused.
‘Perhaps I can,’ Mr. Tryan said, ‘for in speaking to me you are speaking to a fellow-sinner who has needed just the comfort and help you are needing.’
‘And you did find it?’
‘Yes; and I trust you will find it.’
‘O, I should like to be good and to do right,’ Janet burst forth8; ‘but indeed, indeed, my lot has been a very hard one. I loved my husband very dearly when we were married, and I meant to make him happy—I wanted nothing else. But he began to be angry with me for little things and ... I don’t want to accuse him ... but he drank and got more and more unkind to me, and then very cruel, and he beat me. And that cut me to the heart. It made me almost mad sometimes to think all our love had come to that ... I couldn’t bear up against it. I had never been used to drink anything but water. I hated wine and spirits because Robert drank them so; but one day when I was very wretched, and the wine was standing9 on the table, I suddenly ... I can hardly remember how I came to do it ... I poured some wine into a large glass and drank it. It blunted my feelings, and made me more indifferent. After that, the temptation was always coming, and it got stronger and stronger. I was ashamed, and I hated what I did; but almost while the thought was passing through my mind that I would never do it again, I did it. It seemed as if there was a demon10 in me always making me rush to do what I longed not to do. And I thought all the more that God was cruel; for if He had not sent me that dreadful trial, so much worse than other women have to bear, I should not have done wrong in that way. I suppose it is wicked to think so ... I feel as if there must be goodness and right above us, but I can’t see it, I can’t trust in it. And I have gone on in that way for years and years. At one time it used to be better now and then, but everything has got worse lately. I felt sure it must soon end somehow. And last night he turned me out of doors ... I don’t know what to do. I will never go back to that life again if I can help it; and yet everything else seems so miserable11. I feel sure that demon will always be urging me to satisfy the craving12 that comes upon me, and the days will go on as they have done through all those miserable years. I shall always be doing wrong, and hating myself after—sinking lower and lower, and knowing that I am sinking. O can you tell me any way of getting strength? Have you ever known any one like me that got peace of mind and power to do right? Can you give me any comfort—any hope?’
While Janet was speaking, she had forgotten everything but her misery and her yearning13 for comfort. Her voice had risen from the low tone of timid distress14 to an intense pitch of imploring15 anguish16. She clasped her hands tightly, and looked at Mr. Tryon with eager questioning eyes, with parted, trembling lips, with the deep horizontal lines of overmastering pain on her brow. In this artificial life of ours, it is not often we see a human face with all a heart’s agony in it, uncontrolled by self-consciousness; when we do see it, it startles us as if we had suddenly waked into the real world of which this everyday one is but a puppet-show copy. For some moments Mr. Tryan was too deeply moved to speak.
‘Yes, dear Mrs. Dempster,’ he said at last, ‘there is comfort, there is hope for you. Believe me there is, for I speak from my own deep and hard experience.’ He paused, as if he had not made up his mind to utter the words that were urging themselves to his lips. Presently he continued, ‘Ten years ago, I felt as wretched as you do. I think my wretchedness was even worse than yours, for I had a heavier sin on my conscience. I had suffered no wrong from others as you have, and I had injured another irreparably in body and soul. The image of the wrong I had done pursued me everywhere, and I seemed on the brink17 of madness. I hated my life, for I thought, just as you do, that I should go on falling into temptation and doing more harm in the world; and I dreaded18 death, for with that sense of guilt19 on my soul, I felt that whatever state I entered on must be one of misery. But a dear friend to whom I opened my mind showed me it was just such as I—the helpless who feel themselves helpless—that God specially20 invites to come to Him, and offers all the riches of His salvation21: not forgiveness only; forgiveness would be worth little if it left us under the powers of our evil passions; but strength—that strength which enables us to conquer sin.’
‘But,’ said Janet, ‘I can feel no trust in God. He seems always to have left me to myself. I have sometimes prayed to Him to help me, and yet everything has been just the same as before. If you felt like me, how did you come to have hope and trust?’
‘Do not believe that God has left you to yourself. How can you tell but that the hardest trials you have known have been only the road by which He was leading you to that complete sense of your own sin and helplessness, without which you would never have renounced22 all other hopes, and trusted in His love alone? I know, dear Mrs. Dempster, I know it is hard to bear. I would not speak lightly of your sorrows. I feel that the mystery of our life is great, and at one time it seemed as dark to me as it does to you.’ Mr. Tryan hesitated again. He saw that the first thing Janet needed was to be assured of sympathy. She must be made to feel that her anguish was not strange to him; that he entered into the only half-expressed secrets of her spiritual weakness, before any other message of consolation23 could find its way to her heart. The tale of the Divine Pity was never yet believed from lips that were not felt to be moved by human pity. And Janet’s anguish was not strange to Mr. Tryan. He had never been in the presence of a sorrow and a self-despair that had sent so strong a thrill through all the recesses24 of his saddest experience; and it is because sympathy is but a living again through our own past in a new form, that confession25 often prompts a response of confession. Mr. Tryan felt this prompting, and his judgement, too, told him that in obeying it he would be taking the best means of administering comfort to Janet. Yet he hesitated; as we tremble to let in the daylight on a chamber26 of relics27 which we have never visited except in curtained silence. But the first impulse triumphed, and he went on. ‘I had lived all my life at a distance from God. My youth was spent in thoughtless self-indulgence, and all my hopes were of a vain worldly kind. I had no thought of entering the Church; I looked forward to a political career, for my father was private secretary to a man high in the Whig Ministry28, and had been promised strong interest in my behalf. At college I lived in intimacy29 with the gayest men, even adopting follies30 and vices31 for which I had no taste, out of mere pliancy32 and the love of standing well with my companions. You see, I was more guilty even then than you have been, for I threw away all the rich blessings34 of untroubled youth and health; I had no excuse in my outward lot. But while I............
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