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Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Charles Franks, Juliet
Sutherland and the DP Team










MARY MARSTON

A NOVEL.

BY

GEORGE MACDONALD

AUTHOR OF "ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBORHOOD," "ROBERT FALCONER," ETC.,
ETC.




CONTENTS.


I. - THE SHOP
II. - CUSTOMERS
III. - THE ARBOR AT THORNWICK
IV. - GODFREY WARDOUR
V. - GODFREY AND LETTY
VI. - TOM HELMER
VII. - DURNMELLING
VIII. - THE OAK
IX. - CONFUSION
X. - THE HEATH AND THE HUT
XI. - WILLIAM MARSTON
XII. - MARY'S DREAM
XIII. - THE HUMAN SACRIFICE
XIV. - UNGENEROUS BENEVOLENCE
XV. - THE MOONLIGHT
XVI. - THE MORNING
XVII. - THE RESULT
XVIII. - MARY AND GODFREY
XIX. - MARY IN THE SHOP
XX. - THE WEDDING-DRESS
XXI. - MR. REDMAIN
XXII. - MRS. REDMAIN
XXIII. - THE MENIAL
XXIV. - MRS. REDMAIN'S DRAWING-ROOM
XXV. - MARY'S RECEPTION
XXVI. - HER POSITION
XXVII. - MR. AND MRS. HELMER
XXVIII. - MARY AND LETTY
XXIX. - THE EVENING STAR
XXX. - A SCOLDING
XXXI. - SEPIA
XXXII. - HONOR
XXXIII. - TUB INVITATION
XXXIV. - A STRAY SOUND
XXXV. - THE MUSICIAN
XXXVI. - A CHANGE
XXXVII. - LYDGATE STREET
XXXVIII. - GODFREY AND LETTY
XXXIX. - RELIEF
XL. - GODFREY AND SEPIA
XLI. - THE HELPER
XLII. - THE LEPER
XLIII. - MARY AND MR. REDMAIN
XLIV. - JOSEPH JASPER
XLV. - THE SAPPHIRE
XLVI. - REPARATION
XLVII. - ANOTHER CHANGE
XLVIII. - DISSOLUTION
XLIX. - THORNWICK
L. - WILLIAM AND MARY MARSTON
LI. - A HARD TASK
LII. - A SUMMONS
LIII. - A FRIEND IN NEED
LIV. - THE NEXT NIGHT
LV. - DISAPPEARANCE
LVI. - A CATASTROPHE
LVII. - THE END OF THE BEGINNING




CHAPTER I

THE SHOP


It was an evening early in May. The sun was low, and the street was
mottled with the shadows of its paving-stones - smooth enough, but far
from evenly set. The sky was clear, except for a few clouds in the
west, hardly visible in the dazzle of the huge light, which lay among
them like a liquid that had broken its vessel, and was pouring over the
fragments. The street was almost empty, and the air was chill. The
spring was busy, and the summer was at hand; but the wind was blowing
from the north.

The street was not a common one; there was interest, that is feature,
in the shadowy front of almost each of its old houses. Not a few of
them wore, indeed, something like a human expression, the look of
having both known and suffered. From many a porch, and many a latticed
oriel, a long shadow stretched eastward, like a death flag streaming in
a wind unfelt of the body - or a fluttering leaf, ready to yield, and
flit away, and add one more to the mound of blackness gathering on the
horizon's edge. It was the main street of an old country town, dwindled
by the rise of larger and more prosperous places, but holding and
exercising a charm none of them would ever gain.

Some of the oldest of its houses, most of them with more than one
projecting story, stood about the middle of the street. The central and
oldest of these was a draper's shop. The windows of the ground-floor
encroached a little on the pavement, to which they descended very
close, for the floor of the shop was lower than the street. But,
although they had glass on three oriel sides, they were little used for
the advertising of the stores within. A few ribbons and gay
handkerchiefs, mostly of cotton, for the eyes of the country people on
market-days, formed the chief part of their humble show. The door was
wide and very low, the upper half of it of glass - old, and
bottle-colored; and its threshold was a deep step down into the shop.
As a place for purchases it might not to some eyes look promising, but
both the ladies and the housekeepers of Testbridge knew that rarely
could they do better in London itself than at the shop of Turnbull and
Marston, whether variety, quality, or price, was the point in
consideration. And, whatever the first impression concerning it, the
moment the eyes of a stranger began to grow accustomed to its gloom,
the evident size and plenitude of the shop might well suggest a large
hope. It was low, indeed, and the walls could therefore accommodate few
shelves; but the ceiling was therefore so near as to be itself
available for stowage by means of well-contrived slides and shelves
attached to the great beams crossing it in several directions. During
the shop-day, many an article, light as lace, and heavy as broadcloth,
was taken from overhead to lay upon the counter. The shop had a special
reputation for all kinds of linen goods, from cambric handkerchiefs to
towels, and from table-napkins to sheets; but almost everything was to
be found in it, from Manchester moleskins for the navy's trousers, to
Genoa velvet for the dowager's gown, and from Horrocks's prints to
Lyons silks. It had been enlarged at the back, by building beyond the
original plan, and that part of it was a little higher, and a little
better lighted than the front; but the whole place was still dark
enough to have awaked the envy of any swindling London shopkeeper. Its
owners, however, had so long enjoyed the confidence of the
neighborhood, that faith readily took the place of sight with their
customers - so far at least as quality was concerned; and seldom, except
in a question of color or shade, was an article carried to the door to
be confronted with the day. It had been just such a shop, untouched of
even legendary change, as far back as the memory of the sexton reached;
and he, because of his age and his occupation, was the chief authority
in the local history of the place.

As, on this evening, there were few people in the street, so were there
few in the shop, and it was on the point of being closed: they were not
particular there to a good many minutes either way. Behind the counter,
on the left hand, stood a youth of about twenty, young George Turnbull,
the son of the principal partner, occupied in leisurely folding and
putting aside a number of things he had been showing to a farmer's
wife, who was just gone. He was an ordinary-looking lad, with little
more than business in his high forehead, fresh-colored, good-humored,
self-satisfied cheeks, and keen hazel eyes. These last kept wandering
from his not very pressing occupation to the other side of the shop,
where stood, behind the opposing counter, a young woman, in attendance
upon the wants of a well-dressed youth in front of it, who had just
made choice of a pair of driving-gloves. His air and carriage were
conventionally those of a gentleman - a gentleman, however, more than
ordinarily desirous of pleasing a young woman behind a counter. She
answered him with politeness, and even friendliness, nor seemed aware
of anything unusual in his attentions.

"They're splendid gloves," he said, making talk; "but don't you think
it a great price for a pair of gloves, Miss Marston?"

"It is a good deal of money," she answered, in a sweet, quiet voice,
whose very tone suggested simplicity and straightforwardness; "but they
will last you a long time. Just look at the work, Mr. Helmer. You see
how they are made? It is much more difficult to stitch them like that,
one edge over the other, than to sew the two edges together, as they do
with ladies' gloves. But I'll just ask my father whether he marked them
himself."

"He did mark those, I know," said young Turnbull, who had been
listening to all that went on, "for I heard my father say they ought to
be sixpence more."

"Ah, then!" she returned, assentingly, and laid the gloves on the box
before her, the question settled.

Helmer took them, and began to put them on.

"They certainly are the only glove where there is much handling of
reins," he said.

"That is what Mr. Wardour says of them," rejoined Miss Marston.

"By the by," said Helmer, lowering his voice, "when did you see anybody
from Thornwick?"

"Their old man was in the town yesterday with the dog-cart."

"Nobody with him?"

"Miss Letty. She came in for just two minutes or so."

"How was she looking?"

"Very well," answered Miss Marston, with what to Helmer seemed
indifference.

"Ah!" he said, with a look of knowingness, "you girls don't see each
other with the same eyes as we. I grant Letty is not very tall, and I
grant she has not much of a complexion; but where did you ever see such
eyes?"

"You must excuse me, Mr. Helmer," returned Mary, with a smile, "if I
don't choose to discuss Letty's merits with you; she is my friend."

"Where would be the harm?" rejoined Helmer, looking puzzled. "I am not
likely to say anything against her. You know perfectly well I admire
her beyond any woman in the world. I don't care who knows it."

"Your mother?" suggested Mary, in the tone of one who makes a venture.

"Ah, come now, Miss Marston! Don't you turn my mother loose upon me. I
shall be of age in a few months, and then my mother may - think as she
pleases. I know, of course, with her notions, she would never consent
to my making love to Letty - "

"I should think not!" exclaimed Mary. "Who ever thought of such an
absurdity? Not you, surely, Mr. Helmer? What would your mother say to
hear you? I mention her in earnest now."

"Let mothers mind their own business!" retorted the youth angrily. "I
shall mind mine. My mother ought to know that by this time."

Mary said no more. She knew Mrs. Helmer was not a mother to deserve her
boy's confidence, any more than to gain it; for she treated him as if
she had made him, and was not satisfied with her work.

"When are you going to see Letty, Miss Marston?" resumed Helmer, after
a brief pause of angry feeling.

"Next Sunday evening probably."

"Take me with you."

"Take you with me! What are you dreaming of, Mr. Helmer?"

"I would give my bay mare for a good talk with Letty Lovel," he
returned.

Mary made no reply.

"You won't?" he said petulantly, after a vain pause of expectation.

"Won't what?" rejoined Miss Marston, as if she could not believe him in
earnest.

"Take me with you on Sunday?"

"No," she answered quietly, but with sober decision.

"Where would be the harm?" pleaded the youth, in a tone mingled of
expostulation, entreaty, and mortification.

"One is not bound to do everything there would be no harm in doing,"
answered Miss Marston. "Besides, Mr. Helmer, I don't choose to go out
walking with you of a Sunday evening."

"Why not?"

"For one thing, your mother would not like it. You know she would not."

"Never mind my mother. She's nothing to you. She can't bite you. - Ask
the dentist. Come, come! that's all nonsense. I shall be at the stile
beyond the turnpike-gate all the afternoon - waiting till you come."

"The moment I see you - anywhere upon the road - that moment I shall turn
back. - Do you think," she added with half-amused indignation, "I would
put up with having all the gossips of Testbridge talk of my going out
on a Sunday evening with a boy like you?"

Tom Helmer's face flushed. He caught up the gloves, threw the price of
them on the counter, and walked from the shop, without even a good
night.

"Hullo!" cried George Turnbull, vaulting over the counter, and taking
the place Helmer had just left opposite Mary; "what did you say to the
fellow to send him off like that? If you do hate the business, you
needn't scare the customers, Mary."

"I don't hate the business, you know quite well, George. And if I did
scare a customer," she added, laughing, as she dropped the money in the
till, "it was not before he had done buying."

"That may be; but we must look to to-morrow as well as to-day. When is
Mr. Helmer likely to come near us again, after such a wipe as you must
have given him to make him go off like that?"

"Just to-morrow, George, I fancy," answered Mary. "He won't be able to
bear the thought of having left a bad impression on me, and so he'll
come again to remove it. After all, there's something about him I can't
help liking. I said nothing that ought to have put him out of temper
like that, though; I only called him a boy."

"Let me tell you, Mary, you could not have called him a worse name."

"Why, what else is he?"

"A more offensive word a man could not hear from the lips of a woman,"
said George loftily.

"A man, I dare say! But Mr. Helmer can't be nineteen yet."

"How can you say so, when he told you himself he would be of age in a
few months? The fellow is older than I am. You'll be calling me a boy
next."

"What else are you? You at least are not one-and-twenty."

"And how old do you call yourself, pray, miss?"

"Three-and-twenty last birthday."

"A mighty difference indeed!"

"Not much - only all the difference, it seems, between sense and
absurdity, George."

"That may be all very true of a fine gentleman, like Helmer, that does
nothing from morning to night but run away from his mother; but you
don't think it applies to me, Mary, I hope!"

"That's as you behave yourself, George. If you do not make it apply, it
won't apply of itself. But if young women had not more sense than most
of the young men I see in the shop - on both sides of the counter,
George - things would soon be at a fine pass. Nothing better in your
head than in a peacock's! - only that a peacock _has_ the fine feathers
he's so proud of."

"If it were Mr. Wardour now, Mary, that was spreading his tail for you
to see, you would not complain of that peacock!"

A vivid rose blossomed instantly in Mary's cheek. Mr. Wardour was not
even an acquaintance of hers. He was cousin and friend to Letty Lovel,
indeed, but she had never spoken to him, except in the shop.

"It would not be quite out of place if you were to learn a little
respect for your superiors, George," she returned. "Mr. Wardour is not
to be thought of in the same moment with the young men that were in my
mind. Mr. Wardour is not a young man; and he is a gentleman."

She took the glove-box, and turning placed it on a shelf behind her.

"Just so!" remarked George, bitterly. "Any man you don't choose to
count a gentleman, you look down upon! What have you got to do with
gentlemen, I should like to know?"

"To admire one when I see him," answered Mary. "Why shouldn't I? It is
very seldom, and it does me good."

"Oh, yes!" rejoined George, contemptuously. "You _call_ yourself a
lady, but - "

"I do nothing of the kind," interrupted Mary, sharply. "I should _like_
to be a lady; and inside of me, please God, I _will_ be a lady; but I
leave it to other people to call me this or that. It matters little
what any one is _called_."

"All right," returned George, a little cowed; "I don't mean to
contradict you. Only just tell me why a well-to-do tradesman shouldn't
be a gentleman as well as a small yeoman like Wardour."

"Why don't you say - as well as a squire, or an earl, or a duke?" said
Mary.

"There you are, chaffing me again! It's hard enough to have every fool
of a lawyer's clerk, or a doctor's boy, looking down upon a fellow, and
calling him a counter-jumper; but, upon my soul, it's too bad when a
girl in the same shop hasn't a civil word for him, because he isn't
what she counts a gentleman! Isn't my father a gentleman? Answer me
that, Mary."

It was one of George's few good things that he had a great opinion of
his father, though the grounds of it were hardly such as to enable Mary
to answer his appeal in a way he would have counted satisfactory. She
thought of her own father, and was silent.

"Everything depends on what a man is in himself, George," she answered.
"Mr. Wardour would be a gentleman all the same if he were a shopkeeper
or a blacksmith."

"And shouldn't I be as good a gentleman as Mr. Wardour, if I had been
born with an old tumble-down house on my back, and a few acres of land
I could do with as I liked? Come, answer me that."

"If it be the house and the land that makes the difference, you would,
of course," answered Mary.

Her tone implied, even to George's rough perceptions, that there was a
good deal more of a difference between them than therein lay. But
common people, whether lords or shopkeepers, are slow to understand
that possession, whether in the shape of birth, or lands, or money, or
intellect, is a small affair in the difference between men.

"I know you don't think me fit to hold a candle to him," he said. "But
I happen to know, for all he rides such a good horse, he's not above
doing the work of a wretched menial, for he polishes his own
stirrup-irons."

"I'm very glad to hear it," rejoined Mary. "He must be more of a
gentleman yet than I thought him."

"Then why should you count him a better gentleman than me?"

"I'm afraid for one thing, you would go with your stirrup-irons rusty,
rather than clean them yourself, George. But I will tell you one thing
Mr. Wardour would not do if he were a shopkeeper: he would not, like
you, talk one way to the rich, and another way to the poor - all
submission and politeness to the one, and familiarity, even to
rudeness, with the other! If you go on like that, you'll never come
within sight of being a gentleman, George - not if you live to the age
of Methuselah."

"Thank you, Miss Mary! It's a fine thing to have a lady in the shop!
Shouldn't I just like my father to hear you! I'm blowed if I know how a
fellow is to get on with you! Certain sure I am that it ain't _my_
fault if we're not friends."

Mary made no reply. She could not help understanding what George meant,
and she flushed, with honest anger, from brow to chin. But, while her
dark-blue eyes flamed with indignation, her anger was not such as to
render her face less pleasant to look upon. There are as many kinds of
anger as there are of the sunsets with which they ought to end: Mary's
anger had no hate in it.

I must now hope my readers sufficiently interested in my narrative to
care that I should tell them something of what she was like. Plainly as
I see her, I can not do more for them than that. I can not give a
portrait of her; I can but cast her shadow on my page. It was a dainty
half-length, neither tall nor short, in a plain, well-fitting dress of
black silk, with linen collar and cuffs, that rose above the counter,
standing, in spite of displeasure, calm and motionless. Her hair was
dark, and dressed in the simplest manner, without even a reminder of
the hideous occipital structure then in favor - especially with shop
women, who in general choose for imitation and exorbitant development
whatever is ugliest and least lady-like in the fashion of the hour. It
had a natural wave in it, which broke the too straight lines it would
otherwise have made across a forehead of sweet and composing
proportions. Her features were regular - her nose straight - perhaps a
little thin; the curve of her upper lip carefully drawn, as if with
design to express a certain firmness of modesty; and her chin well
shaped, perhaps a little too sharply defined for her years, and rather
large. Everything about her suggested the repose of order satisfied, of
unconstrained obedience to the laws of harmonious relation. The only
fault honest criticism could have suggested, merely suggested, was the
presence of just a possible _nuance_ of primness. Her boots, at this
moment unseen of any, fitted her feet, as her feet fitted her body. Her
hands were especially good. There are not many ladies, interested in
their own graces, who would not have envied her such seals to her
natural patent of ladyhood. Her speech and manners corresponded with
her person and dress; they were direct and simple, in tone and
inflection, those of one at peace with herself. Neatness was more
notable in her than grace, but grace was not absent; good breeding was
more evident than delicacy, yet delicacy was there; and unity was plain
throughout.

George went back to his own side of the shop, jumped the counter, put
the cover on the box he had left open with a bang, and shoved it into
its place as if it had been the backboard of a cart, shouting as he did
so to a boy invisible, to make haste and put up the shutters. Mary left
the shop by a door on the inside of the counter, for she and her father
lived in the house; and, as soon as the shop was closed, George went
home to the villa his father had built in the suburbs.




CHAPTER II.

CUSTOMERS.


The next day was Saturday, a busy one at the shop. From the neighboring
villages and farms came customers not a few; and ladies, from the
country-seats around, began to arrive as the hours went on. The whole
strength of the establishment was early called out. Busiest in serving
was the senior partner, Mr. Turnbull. He was a stout, florid man, with
a bald crown, a heavy watch-chain of the best gold festooned across the
wide space between waistcoat-button-hole and pocket, and a large
hemispheroidal carbuncle on a huge fat finger, which yet was his little
one. He was close-shaved, double-chinned, and had cultivated an
ordinary smile to such an extraordinary degree that, to use the common
hyperbole, it reached from ear to ear. By nature he was good-tempered
and genial; but, having devoted every mental as well as physical
endowment to the making of money, what few drops of spiritual water
were in him had to go with the rest to the turning of the mill-wheel
that ground the universe into coin. In his own eyes he was a strong
churchman, but the only sign of it visible to others was the strength
of his contempt for dissenters - which, however, excepting his partner
and Mary, he showed only to church-people; a dissenter's money being,
as he often remarked, when once in his till, as good as the best
churchman's.

To the receptive eye he was a sight not soon to be forgotten, as he
bent over a piece of goods outspread before a customer, one hand
resting on the stuff, the other on the yard-measure, his chest as
nearly touching the counter as the protesting adjacent parts would
permit, his broad smooth face turned up at right angles, and his mouth,
eloquent even to solemnity on the merits of the article, now hiding,
now disclosing a gulf of white teeth. No sooner was anything admitted
into stock, than he bent his soul to the selling of it, doing
everything that could be done, saying everything he could think of
saying, short of plain lying as to its quality: that he was not guilty
of. To buy well was a care to him, to sell well was a greater, but to
make money, and that as speedily as possible, was his greatest care,
and his whole ambition.

John Turnbull in his gig, as he drove along the road to the town, and
through the street approached his shop-door, showed to the chance
observer a man who knew himself of importance, a man who might have a
soul somewhere inside that broad waistcoat; as he drew up, threw the
reins to his stable-boy, and descended upon the pavement - as he stepped
down into the shop even, he looked a being in whom son or daughter or
friend might feel some honest pride; but, the moment he was behind the
counter and in front of a customer, he changed to a creature whose
appearance and carriage were painfully contemptible to any beholder who
loved his kind; he had lost the upright bearing of a man, and cringed
like an ape. But I fear it was thus he had gained a portion at least of
his favor with the country-folk, many of whom much preferred his
ministrations to those of his partner. A glance, indeed, from the one
to the other, was enough to reveal which must be the better
salesman - and to some eyes which the better man.

In the narrow walk of his commerce - behind the counter, I mean - Mr.
Marston stood up tall and straight, lank and lean, seldom bending more
than his long neck in the direction of the counter, but doing
everything needful upon it notwithstanding, from the unusual length of
his arms and his bony hands. His forehead was high and narrow, his face
pale and thin, his hair long and thin, his nose aquiline and thin, his
eyes large, his mouth and chin small. He seldom spoke a syllable more
than was needful, but his words breathed calm respect to every
customer. His conversation with one was commonly all but over as he
laid something for approval or rejection on the counter: he had already
taken every pains to learn the precise nature of the necessity or
desire; and what he then offered he submitted without comment; if the
thing was not judged satisfactory, he removed it and brought another.
Many did not like this mode of service; they would be helped to buy;
unequal to the task of making up their minds, they welcomed any aid
toward it; and therefore preferred Mr. Turnbull, who gave them every
imaginable and unimaginable assistance, groveling before them like a
man whose many gods came to him one after the other to be worshiped;



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