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Chapter 23
 The next morning Janet was so much calmer, and at breakfast spoke1 so decidedly of going to her mother’s, that Mrs. Pettifer and Mrs. Raynor agreed it would be wise to let her know by degrees what had befallen her husband, since as soon as she went out there would be danger of her meeting some one who would betray the fact. But Mrs. Raynor thought it would be well first to call at Dempster’s, and ascertain2 how he was: so she said to Janet,—‘My dear, I’ll go home first, and see to things, and get your room ready. You needn’t come yet, you know. I shall be back again in an hour or so, and we can go together.’  
‘O no,’ said Mrs. Pettifer. ‘Stay with me till evening. I shall be lost without you. You needn’t go till quite evening.’
Janet had dipped into the ‘Life of Henry Martyn,’ which Mrs. Pettifer had from the Paddiford Lending Library, and her interest was so arrested by that pathetic missionary3 story, that she readily acquiesced4 in both propositions, and Mrs. Raynor set out.
She had been gone more than an hour, and it was nearly twelve o’clock, when Janet put down her book; and after sitting meditatively5 for some minutes with her eyes unconsciously fixed6 on the opposite wall, she rose, went to her bedroom, and, hastily putting on her bonnet7 and shawl, came down to Mrs. Pettifer, who was busy in the kitchen.
‘Mrs. Pettifer,’ she said, ‘tell mother, when she comes back, I’m gone to see what has become of those poor Lakins in Butchers Lane. I know they’re half starving, and I’ve neglected them so, lately. And then, I think, I’ll go on to Mrs. Crewe. I want to see the dear little woman, and tell her myself about my going to hear Mr. Tryan. She won’t feel it half so much if I tell her myself.’
‘Won’t you wait till your mother comes, or put it off till to-morrow?’ said Mrs. Pettifer, alarmed. ‘You’ll hardly be back in time for dinner, if you get talking to Mrs. Crewe. And you’ll have to pass by your husband’s, you know; and yesterday, you were so afraid of seeing him.’
‘O, Robert will be shut up at the office now, if he’s not gone out of the town. I must go—I feel I must be doing something for some one—not be a mere8 useless log any longer. I’ve been reading about that wonderful Henry Martyn; he’s just like Mr. Tryan—wearing himself out for other people, and I sit thinking of nothing but myself. I must go. Good-bye; I shall be back soon.’
She ran off before Mrs. Pettifer could utter another word of dissuasion9, leaving the good woman in considerable anxiety lest this new impulse of Janet’s should frustrate10 all precautions to save her from a sudden shock.
Janet having paid her visit in Butcher Lane, turned again into Orchard11 Street on her way to Mrs. Crewe’s, and was thinking, rather sadly, that her mother’s economical housekeeping would leave no abundant surplus to be sent to the hungry Lakins, when she saw Mr. Pilgrim in advance of her on the other side of the street. He was walking at a rapid pace, and when he reached Dempster’s door he turned and entered without knocking.
Janet was startled. Mr. Pilgrim would never enter in that way unless there were some one very ill in the house. It was her husband; she felt certain of it at once. Something had happened to him. Without a moment’s pause, she ran across the street, opened the door, and entered. There was no one in the passage. The dining-room door was wide open—no one was there. Mr. Pilgrim, then, was already up-stairs. She rushed up at once to Dempster’s room—her own room. The door was open, and she paused in pale horror at the sight before her, which seemed to stand out only with the more appalling12 distinctness because the noonday light was darkened to twilight13 in the chamber14.
Two strong nurses were using their utmost force to hold Dempster in bed, while the medical assistant was applying a sponge to his head, and Mr. Pilgrim was busy adjusting some apparatus15 in the background. Dempster’s face was purple and swollen16, his eyes dilated17, and fixed with a look of dire18 terror on something he seemed to see approaching him from the iron closet. He trembled violently, and struggled as if to jump out of bed.
‘Let me go, let me go,’ he said in a loud, hoarse19 whisper; ‘she’s coming ... she’s cold ... she’s dead ... she’ll strangle me with her black hair. Ah!’ he shrieked20 aloud, ‘her hair is all serpents ... they’re black serpents ... they hiss22 ... they hiss . .. let me go . . . let me go . . . she wants to drag me with her cold arms ... her arms are serpents ... they are great white serpents ... they’ll twine23 round me ... she wants to drag me into the cold water ... her bosom24 is cold ... it is black ... it is all serpents ...’
‘No, Robert,’ Janet cried, in tones of yearning25 pity, rushing to the side of the bed, and stretching out her arms to............
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