It should not be lightly touched upon, this heroism of Janet Hallard’s in sacrificing three weeks of her work—every hour of which meant some living to her—in order to save Sally from that ultimate dark world of dementia towards which she was inevitably drifting. It was not the sacrifice of time alone, not the fact that on her return she was compelled to sell some of her valued possessions in order to meet the rent of her studio which the work she had left undone would have amply supplied. Much rather was it the noble perseverance of effort through the dim, impenetrable gloom of Sally’s wide-eyed misery, her own spirits never cast down by the seeming impossibility of the task, her resources never exhausted by the persistent drain that was made upon them. Here was the strength of her masculinity united with the patient endurance of the woman in her heart. No man, of his own nature alone, could have won through the sweating labour of those three weeks—few women either. But that very combination of sex, that very duality of her nature which, as a woman, made her unlovable to any man, and endeared her so closely to Sally’s life, had succeeded where a thousand others of her sex would have failed.
She left Sally, it is true, a woman with a wounded heart to nurse, an aching misery to bear; but she left her with a sanity of purpose which can take up the tangled threads and, however blinded be the eyes with weeping, with fingers feeling their way, can unravel the knotted mass that lies before her.
So she slowly returned to the common factors of existence, and in six weeks from the time of Traill’s departure, was ready to smile at any moment to the humour of Janet’s dry criticisms of life. But to move from her rooms, to disassociate herself from the past with every sorrow and every joy that it contained, was more than she could bring herself to do. Through all Janet’s persuasions, Sally remained obdurate.
“I’ve only got the rooms for three years,” she replied finally. “I can’t think of it as really past until that time’s gone by; Then, I will. I’ll go anywhere you like. I’ll come and share your studio with you.”
They entered into a formal agreement on that and, knowing the Romance in Sally’s nature, Janet pursued her quest of success on the other point no further.
But circumstance, with an arm stronger than Janet could ever wield, succeeded where she had failed.
One evening, as Sally was preparing to go out alone to dinner, she heard footsteps mounting the stairs to her floor. On the moment, her heart leapt, beating to her throat. Her hands, raising the hat to her head, so trembled that she had to put it back upon the dressing-table. A cold dew damped her forehead. She put her hand up and found it wet. Then the knock fell and, shaking in every limb, she set her lips and walked as firmly as she could to the door. There she stopped, taking a deep breath. Then she swung it open.