Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Inspiring Novel > Scenes of Clerical Life > Chapter 25
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
Chapter 25
 The faces looked very hard and unmoved that surrounded Dempster’s grave, while old Mr. Crewe read the burial-service in his low, broken voice. The pall-bearers were such men as Mr. Pittman, Mr. Lowme, and Mr. Budd—men whom Dempster had called his friends while he was in life; and worldly faces never look so worldly as at a funeral. They have the same effect of grating incongruity1 as the sound of a coarse voice breaking the solemn silence of night.  
The one face that had sorrow in it was covered by a thick crape-veil, and the sorrow was suppressed and silent. No one knew how deep it was; for the thought in most of her neighbours’ minds was, that Mrs. Dempster could hardly have had better fortune than to lose a bad husband who had left her the compensation of a good income. They found it difficult to conceive that her husband’s death could be felt by her otherwise than as a deliverance. The person who was most thoroughly2 convinced that Janet’s grief was deep and real, was Mr. Pilgrim, who in general was not at all weakly given to a belief in disinterested3 feeling.
‘That woman has a tender heart,’ he was frequently heard to observe in his morning rounds about this time. ‘I used to think there was a great deal of palaver4 in her, but you may depend upon it there’s no pretence5 about her. If he’d been the kindest husband in the world she couldn’t have felt more. There’s a great deal of good in Mrs. Dempster—a great deal of good.’
‘I always said so,’ was Mrs. Lowme’s reply, when he made the observation to her; ‘she was always so very full of pretty attentions to me when I was ill. But they tell me now she’s turned Tryanite; if that’s it we shan’t agree again. It’s very inconsistent in her, I think, turning round in that way, after being the foremost to laugh at the Tryanite cant6, and especially in a woman of her habits; she should cure herself of them before she pretends to be over-religious.’
‘Well, I think she means to cure herself, do you know,’ said Mr. Pilgrim, whose goodwill7 towards Janet was just now quite above that temperate8 point at which he could indulge his feminine patients with a little judicious9 detraction10. ‘I feel sure she has not taken any stimulants11 all through her husband’s illness; and she has been constantly in the way of them. I can see she sometimes suffers a good deal of depression for want of them—it shows all the more resolution in her. Those cures are rare: but I’ve known them happen sometimes with people of strong will.’
Mrs. Lowme took an opportunity of retailing12 Mr. Pilgrim’s conversation to Mrs. Phipps, who, as a victim of Pratt and plethora13, could rarely enjoy that pleasure at first-hand. Mrs. Phipps was a woman of decided14 opinions, though of wheezy utterance15.
‘For my part,’ she remarked, ‘I’m glad to hear there’s any likelihood of improvement in Mrs. Dempster, but I think the way things have turned out seems to show that she was more to blame than people thought she was; else, why should she feel so much about her husband? And Dempster, I understand, has left his wife pretty nearly all his property to do as she likes with; that isn’t behaving like such a very bad husband. I don’t believe Mrs. Dempster can have had so much provocation16 as they pretended. I’ve known husbands who’ve laid plans for tormenting17 their wives when they’re underground—tying up their money and hindering them from marrying again. Not that I should ever wish to marry again; I think one husband in one’s life is enough in all conscience’;—here she threw a fierce glance at the amiable18 Mr. Phipps, who was innocently delighting himself with the facetiæ in the ‘Rotherby Guardian,’ and thinking the editor must be a droll19 fellow—‘but it’s aggravating20 to be tied up in that way. Why, they say Mrs. Dempster will have as good as six hundred a-year at least. A fine thing for her, that was a poor girl without a farthing to her fortune. It’s well if she doesn’t make ducks and drakes of it somehow.’
Mrs. Phipps’s view of Janet, however, was far from being the prevalent one in Milby. Even neighbours who had no strong personal interest in her, could hardly see the noble-looking woman in her widow’s dress, with a sad sweet gravity in her face, and not be touched with fresh admiration21 for her—and not feel, at least vaguely22, that she had entered on a new life in which it was a sort of desecration23 to allude24 to the painful past. And the old friends who had a real regard for her, but whose cordiality had been repelled25 or chilled of late years, now came round her with hearty26 demonstrations27 of affection. Mr. Jerome felt that his happiness had a substantial addition now he could once more call on that ‘nice little woman Mrs. Dempster’, and think of her with rejoicing instead of sorrow. The Pratts lost no time in returning to the footing of old-established friendship with Janet and her mother; and Miss Pratt felt it incumbent29 on her, on all suitable occasions, to deliver a very emphatic31 approval of the remarkable32 strength of mind she understood Mrs. Dempster to be exhibiting. The Miss Linnets were eager to meet Mr. Tryan’s wishes by greeting Janet as one who was likely to be a sister in religious feeling and good works; and Mrs. Linnet was so agreeably surprised by the fact that Dempster had left his wife the money ‘in that handsome way, to do what she liked with it,’ that she even included Dempster himself, and his villanous discovery of the flaw in her title to Pye’s Croft, in her magnanimous oblivion of past offences. She and Mrs. Jerome agreed over a friendly cup of tea that there were ‘a many husbands as was very fine spoken an’ all that, an’ yet all the while kep’ a will locked up from you, as tied you up as tight as anything. I assure you,’ Mrs. Jerome continued, dropping her voice in a confidential34 manner, ‘I know no more to this day about Mr. Jerome’s will, nor the child as is unborn. I’ve no fears about a income—I’m well aware Mr. Jerome ’ud niver leave me stret for that; but I should like to hev a thousand or two at my own disposial; it makes a widow a deal more looked on.’
Perhaps this ground of respect to widows might not be entirely35 without its influence on the Milby mind, and might do something towards conciliating those more aristocratic acquaintances of Janet’s, who would otherwise have been inclined to take the severest view of her apostasy36 towards Evangelicalism. Errors look so very ugly in persons of small means—one feels they are taking quite a liberty in going astray; whereas people of fortune may naturally indulge in a few delinquencies. ‘They’ve got the money for it,’ as the girl said of her mistress who had made herself ill with pickled salmon37. However it may have been, there was not an acquaintance of Janet’s, in Milby, that did not offer her civilities in the early days of her widowhood. Even the severe Mrs. Phipps was not an exception; for heaven knows what would become of our sociality if we never visited people we speak ill of: we should live, like Egyptian hermits38, in crowded solitude39.
Perhaps the attentions most grateful to Janet were those of her old friend Mrs. Crewe, whose attachment40 to her favourite proved quite too strong for any resentment41 she might be supposed to feel on the score of Mr. Tryan. The little deaf old lady couldn’t do without her accustomed visitor, whom she had seen grow up from child to woman, always so willing to chat with her and tell her all the news, though she was deaf; while other people thought it tiresome42 to shout in her ear, and irritated her by recommending ear-trumpets of various construction.
All this friendliness43 was very precious to Janet. She was conscious of the aid it gave her in the self-conquest which was the blessing44 she prayed for with every fresh morning. The chief strength of her nature lay in her affection, which coloured all the rest of her mind: it gave a personal sisterly tenderness to her acts of benevolence45; it made her cling with tenacity46 to every object that had once stirred her kindly47 emotions. Alas48! it was unsatisfied, wounded affection that had made her trouble greater than she could bear. And now there was no check to the full flow of that plenteous current in her nature—no gnawing49 secret anguish50—no overhanging terror—no inward shame. Friendly faces beamed on her; she felt that friendly hearts were approving her, and wishing her well, and that mild sunshine of goodwill fell beneficently on her new hopes and efforts, as the clear shining after rain falls on the tender leaf-buds of spring, and wins them from promise to fulfilment.
And she needed these secondary helps, for her wrestling with her past self was not always easy. The strong emotions from which the life of a human being receives a new bias51, win their victory as the sea wins his: though their advance may be sure, they will often, after a mightier52 wave than usual, seem to roll back so far as to lose all the ground they had made. Janet showed the strong bent30 of her will by taking every outward precaution against the occurrence of a temptation. Her mother was now her constant companion, having shut up her little dwelling53 and come to reside in Orchard54 Street; and Janet gave all dangerous keys into her keeping, entreating55 her to lock them away in some secret place. Whenever the too well-known depression and craving56 threatened her, she would seek a refuge in what had always been her purest enjoyment—in visiting one of her poor neighbours, in carrying some food or comfort to a sick-bed, in cheering with her smile some of the familiar dwellings57 up the dingy58 back-lanes. But the great source of courage, the great help to perseverance59, was the sense that she had a friend and teacher in Mr. Tryan: she could confess her difficulties to him; she knew he prayed for her; she had always before her the prospect60 of soon seeing him, and hearing words of admonition and comfort, that came to her charged with a divine power such as she had never found in human words before.
So the time passed, till it was far on in May, nearly a month after her husband’s death, when, as she and her mother were seated peacefully at breakfast in the dining-room, looking through the open window at the old-fashioned garden, where the grass-plot was now whitened with apple-blossoms, a letter was brought in for Mrs. Raynor.
‘Why, there’s the Thurston post-mark on it,’ she said. ‘It must be about your aunt Anna. Ah, so it is, poor thing! she’s been taken worse this last day or two, and has asked them to send for me. That dropsy is carrying her off at last, I daresay. Poor thing! it will be a happy release. I must go, my dear—she’s your father’s last sister—though I am sorry to leave you. However, perhaps I shall not have to stay more than a night or two.’
Janet looked distressed62 as she said, ‘Yes, you must go, mother. But I don’t know what I shall do without you. I think I shall run in to Mrs. Pettifer, and ask her to come and stay with me while you’re away. I’m sure she will.’
At twelve o’clock, Janet, having seen her mother in the coach that was to carry her to Thurston, called, on her way back, at Mrs. Pettifer’s, but found, to her great disappointment, that her old friend was gone out for the day. So she wrote on a leaf of her pocket-book an urgent request that Mrs. Pettifer would come and stay with her while her mother was away; and, desiring the servant-girl to give it to her mistress as soon as she came home, walked on to the Vicarage to sit with Mrs. Crewe, thinking to relieve in this way the feeling of desolateness63 and undefined fear that was taking possession of her on being left alone for the first time since that great crisis in her life. And Mrs. Crewe, too, was not at home!
Janet, with a sense of discouragement for which she rebuked64 herself as childish, walked sadly home again; and when she entered the vacant dining-room, she could not help bursting into tears. It is such vague undefinable states of susceptibility as this—states of excitement or depression, half mental, half physical—that determine many a tragedy in women’s lives. Janet could scarcely eat anything at her solitary65 dinner: she tried to fix her attention on a book in vain; she walked about the garden, and felt the very sunshine melancholy66.
Between four and five o’clock, old Mr. Pittman called, and joined her in the garden, where she had been sitting for some time under one of the great apple-trees, thinking how Robert, in his best moods, used to take little Mamsey to look at the cucumbers, or to see the Alderney cow with its calf67 in the paddock. The tears and sobs69 had come again at these thoughts; and when Mr. Pittman approached her, she was feeling languid and exhausted70. But the old gentleman’s sight and sensibility were
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved