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In less than a week Mr. Tryan was settled at Holly Mount, and there was
not one of his many attached hearers who did not sincerely rejoice at the
The autumn that year was bright and warm, and at the beginning of
October, Mr. Walsh, the new curate, came. The mild weather, the
relaxation from excessive work, and perhaps another benignant influence,
had for a few weeks a visibly favourable effect on Mr. Tryan. At least he
began to feel new hopes, which sometimes took the guise of new strength.
He thought of the cases in which consumption patients remain nearly
stationary for years, without suffering so as to make their life
burdensome to themselves or to others; and he began to struggle with a
longing that it might be so with him. He struggled with it, because he
felt it to be an indication that earthly affection was beginning to have
too strong a hold on him, and he prayed earnestly for more perfect
submission, and for a more absorbing delight in the Divine Presence as
the chief good. He was conscious that he did not wish for prolonged life
solely that he might reclaim the wanderers and sustain the feeble: he was
conscious of a new yearning for those pure human joys which he had
voluntarily and determinedly banished from his life--for a draught of
that deep affection from which he had been cut off by a dark chasm of
remorse. For now, that affection was within his reach; he saw it there,
like a palm-shadowed well in the desert; he _could_ not desire to die in
sight of it.
And so the autumn rolled gently by in its 'calm decay'. Until November.
Mr. Tryan continued to preach occasionally, to ride about visiting his
flock, and to look in at his schools: but his growing satisfaction in Mr.
Walsh as his successor saved him from too eager exertion and from
worrying anxieties. Janet was with him a great deal now, for she saw that
he liked her to read to him in the lengthening evenings, and it became
the rule for her and her mother to have tea at Holly Mount, where, with
Mrs. Pettifer, and sometimes another friend or two, they brought Mr.
Tryan the unaccustomed enjoyment of companionship by his own fireside.
Janet did not share his new hopes, for she was not only in the habit of
hearing Mr. Pratt's opinion that Mr. Tryan could hardly stand out through
the winter, but she also knew that it was shared by Dr Madely of
Rotherby, whom, at her request, he had consented to call in. It was not
necessary or desirable to tell Mr. Tryan what was revealed by the
stethoscope, but Janet knew the worst.
She felt no rebellion under this prospect of bereavement, but rather a
quiet submissive sorrow. Gratitude that his influence and guidance had
been given her, even if only for a little while--gratitude that she was
permitted to be with him, to take a deeper and deeper impress from daily
communion with him, to be something to him in these last months of his
life, was so strong in her that it almost silenced regret. Janet had
lived through the great tragedy of woman's life. Her keenest personal
emotions had been poured forth in her early love--her wounded affection
with its years of anguish--her agony of unavailing pity over that
deathbed seven months ago. The thought of Mr. Tryan was associated for
her with repose from that conflict of emotion, with trust in the
unchangeable, with the influx of a power to subdue self. To have been
assured of his sympathy, his teaching, his help, all through her life,
would have been to her like a heaven already begun--a deliverance from
fear and danger; but the time was not yet come for her to be conscious
that the hold he had on her heart was any other than that of the
heaven-sent friend who had come to her like the angel in the prison, and
loosed her bonds, and led her by the hand till she could look back on the
dreadful doors that had once closed her in.
Before November was over Mr. Tryan had ceased to go out. A new crisis had
come on: the cough had changed its character, and the worst symptoms
developed themselves so rapidly that Mr. Pratt began to think the end
would arrive sooner than he had expected. Janet became a constant
attendant on him now, and no one could feel that she was performing
anything but a sacred office. She made Holly Mount her home, and, with
her mother and Mrs. Pettifer to help her, she filled the painful days and
nights with every soothing influence that care and tenderness could
devise. There were many visitors to the sick-room, led thither by
venerating affection; and there could hardly be one who did not retain in
after years a vivid remembrance of the scene there--of the pale wasted
form in the easy-chair (for he sat up to the last), of the grey eyes so
full even yet of inquiring kindness, as the thin, almost transparent hand
was held out to give the pressure of welcome; and of the sweet woman,
too, whose dark watchful eyes detected every want, and who supplied the
want with a ready hand.
There were others who would have had the heart and the skill to fill this
place by Mr. Tryan's side, and who would have accepted it as an honour;
but they could not help feeling that God had given it to Janet by a train
of events which were too impressive not to shame all jealousies into
That sad history which most of us know too well, lasted more than three
months. He was too feeble and suffering for the last few weeks to see any
visitors, but he still sat up through the day. The strange hallucinations
of the disease which had seemed to take a more decided hold on him just
at the fatal crisis, and had made him think he was perhaps getting better
at the very time when death had begun to hurry on with more rapid
movement, had now given way, and left him calmly conscious of the
reality. One afternoon, near the end of February, Janet was moving gently
about the room, in the fire-lit dusk, arranging some things that would be
wanted in the night. There was no one else in the room, and his eyes
followed her as she moved with the firm grace natural to her, while the
bright fire every now and then lit up her face, and gave an unusual glow
to its dark beauty. Even to follow her in this way with his eyes was an
exertion that gave a painful tension to his face; while she looked like
an image of life and strength.
'Janet,' he said presently, in his faint voice--he always called her
Janet now. In a moment she was close to him, bending over him. He opened
his hand as he looked up at her, and she placed hers within it.
'Janet,' he said again, 'you will have a long while to live after I am
A sudden pang of fear shot through her. She thought he felt himself
dying, and she sank on her knees at his feet, holding his hand, while she
looked up at him, almost breathless.
'But you will not feel the need of me as you have done ... You have a
sure trust in God ... I shall not look for you in vain at the last.'
'No ... no ... I shall be there ... God will not forsake me.'
She could hardly utter the words, though she was not weeping. She was
waiting with trembling eagerness for anything else he might have to say.
'Let us kiss each other before we part.'
She lifted up her face to his, and the full life-breathing lips met the
wasted dying ones in a sacred kiss of promise.
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