George MacDonald.

Mary Marston. A novel online

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large ricks of wheat, shining yellow in the cold, far-off moon.
Between tlie moon and the earth hung a faint mist, which the
thin clouds of her breath seemed to mingle with and augment.
There lay her life — out of doors — dank and dull ; all the sum-
mer faded from it — all its atmosplicre a growing fog ! She
would never see Tom again ! It was six weeks since she saw
him last ! He must have ceased to think of her by this time !
And, if he did think of her again, she would be far off, nobody
knew where.

Something struck the window with a slight, sharp clang.
It was winter, and there were no moths or other insects flying.
What could it be ? She put her face close to the pane, and
looked out. There was a man in the shadow of one of the
ricks ! He had his hat off, and was beckoning to her. It
could be nobody but Tom ! The thought sent to her heart a
pang of mingled pleasure and pain. Clearly he wanted to
speak to her ! How gladly she would ! but then Avould come
again all the trouble of conscious deceit : how was she to bear
that all over again ! Still, if she was going to be turned out
of the house so soon, what would it matter ? If her aunt was
going to compel her to be her own mistress, where was the


harm if she began it a few days sooner ? What did it matter
anyhow wliat she did ? But she dared not speak to him !
Mrs. Wardour's ears were as sharp as her eyes. The very
sound of her own Toice in tlie moonlight would terrify her.
She opened the lattice softly, and gently shaking her head —
she dared not shake it vigorously — was on the point of closing
it again, when, making frantic signs of entreaty, the man
stepped into the moonlight, and it was plainly Tom. It was
too dreadful ! He might be seen any moment ! She shook her
licad again, in a way she meant, and he understood, to moan
she dared not. lie fell on his knees and laid his hands to-
gether like one praying. Iler heart inter])reted the gesture
as indicating that he was in trouble, and that, therefore, he
begged lier to go to him. With sudden resolve she nodded
acquiescence, and left tlie window.

llcr room was in a little wing, projecting from the back of
the liouse, over the kitchen. The servants' rooms were in
another part, but Ix^tty forgot a tiny window in one of them,
wliich looked also ujmju the ricks. There was a back stair to
the kitchen, ayd in the kitchen a door to the farm-yard. She
stole down the stair, and opened the door with absolute noiso-
lessness. In a moment more she had stolen on tiptoe round
the corner, and was creeping like a gliost among the ricks.
Not even a rustle betrayed her as she came up to Tom from
behind. He still knelt where she had left him, looking up to
her window, which gleamed like a dead eye in the moonlight.
She stood for a moment, afraid to move, lest she should startle
him, and he should call out, for the slightest noise about the
place would bring Godfrey down. The next moment, however,
Tom, aware of her presence, sprang to his feet, and, turning,
bounded to her, and took her in his arms. Still possessed by
the one terror of making a noise, she did not object even bv a
contrary motion, and, when he took her hand to lead her away
out of sight of the house, she yielded at once.

When they were safe in the field behind the hedge —
"'Why did you make me come down, Tom?" she whis-
pered, half choked with fear, looking up in his face, which
was radiant in the moonshine.


*^ Because I could not bear it one day longer," he answered.
'^ All this time I haye been breaking my heart to get a word
with you, and never seeing you except at church, and there
you would never even look at me. It is cruel of you, Letty.
I know you could manage it, if you liked, well enough. AVhy
should you try me so ? "

*' Do speak a little lower, Tom : sound goes so far at
night ! — I didn't know you would want to see me like that,"
she answered, looking up in his face with a pleased smile.

*' Didn't know!" repeated Tom. *^ I want nothing else,
think of nothing else, dream of nothing else. Oh, the delight
of having you here all alone to myself at last ! You darling
Letty ! " "

" But I must go directly, Tom. I have no business to be
out of the house at this time of the night. If you hadn't
made me think you were in some trouble, I daredn't have

*^ And ain't I in trouble cnougli — trouble that nothing but
your coming could get mc out of ? To love your very shadow,
and not be able to get a peep even of that, expept in church,
where all the time of the service I'm racing inside like a wild
beast in a ca2:e — ain't that trouble enouo-li to make vou come
to me ? "

Letty's heart leaped up. He loved her, then ! Love, real
love, was what it meant ! It was paradise ! Anything might
come that would ! She would be afraid of nothing any more.
They might say or do to her what they pleased — she did not
care a straw, if he loved her — really loved her ! And he did !
he did ! She was going to have him all to her own self, and
nobody was to have any right to meddle with her more !

" I didn't know you loved me, Tom ! " she said, simply,
with a little gasp.

" And I don't know yet whether you love me," returned

** Of course, if you love me,-^ answered Letty, as if every-
body must give back love for love.

Tom took her again in his arms, and Letty was in greater
bliss than she had ever dreamed possible. From being a no-


body in the world, slie might now queen it to the top of her
modest bent ; from being looked down on by everybody, she
had the whole earth under her feet ; from being utterly friend-
less, she had the heart of Tom Ilelmer for her own ! Yet even
then, eluding the barriers of Tom's arms, shot to her heart,
sharp as an arrow, the thought that she was forsaking Cousin
Godfrey. She did not attem])t to explain it to herself ; she
was in too great confusion, even if she had been capable of the
necessary analysis. It came, probably, of what her aunt had
told her concerning her cousin's opinion of Tom. Often and
often since, she had said to herself that, of course, Cousin God-
frey was mistaken and quite wrong in not liking Tom ; she
was sure lie would liku him if lie knew him as she did ! — and
yet to act against his opinion, and lliat niver uttered to lier-
self, cost her this sharp ining, and nut a few that followed !
To soften it for the moment, however, came the vaguely, sadly
reproachful feeling, that, seeing they were about to send her
out into the world to earn her bread, they had no more any right
to make such demands upon her loyalty to them as should ex-
clude the closest and only satisfying friend she had — one who
Avould not turn her away, but wanted to have her for ever.
That Godfrey knew nothing of his mother's design, she did not
once sus])e{'t.

''Now, Tom, you have seen me, and spoken to me. and I
must go," said Letty.

"0 Letty!'' cried 'I'om, re})r()aehfully, "now when we
understand each other ? Would you leave me in the very mo-
ment of my supremest bliss ? That would be mockery, \Aii\y !
That is the way my dreams serve me always. lUit, surely, you
are no dream ! Perhaps I am dreaming, and shall wake to
llnd myself alone ! I never was so hapj)y in my life, and you
want to leave me all alone in the midnight, with the moon to
comfort me ! Do as you like, Letty ! — I won't leave the place
till the morning. I will go back to the rick-yard, and lie under
your window all night."

The idea of Tom out on the cold ground, while she was
warm in bed, was too much for Letty's childish heart. Had
she known Tom better, she would not have been afraid : she


would have known that he would indeed do as he had said — so
far ; that he would lie down under her window, and there re-
main, even to the very moment when he began to feel miser-
able, and a moment longer, but not more than two ; that then
he would get up, and, with a last look, start home for bed.

*^ I will stop a little while, Tom," she offered, " if you will
promise to go home as soon as I leave you."

Tom promised.

They went wandering along the farm-lanes, and Tom made
love to her, as the phrase is — in his case, alas ! a phrase only
too correct. I do not say, or wish understood, that he did not
love her — with such love as lay in the immediate power of his
development ; but, being a sort of a poet, such as a man may
be who loves the form of beauty, but not the indwelling 2:)ower
of it, that is, the truth, he made love to her — fashioned forms
of love, and offered them to her ; and she accepted them, and
found the words of them very dear and very lovely. For
neither had she got far enough, with all Godfrey's endeavors
for her development, to love aright the ring of the true gold,
and therefore was not able to distinguish the dull sound of the
gilt brass Tom offered her. Poor fellow ! it was all he had.
But compassion itself can hardly urge that as a reason for ac-
cepting it for genuine. What rubbish most girls will take for
poetry, and with it heap up impassably their door to the gar-
den of delights ! Avhat French polish they will take for refine-
ment ! what merest French gallantry for love ! what French
sentiment for passion ! what commonest passion they will take
for devotion ! — passion that has little to do with their beauty
even, still less with the individuality of it, and nothing at all
with their loveliness !

In justice to Tom, I must add, however, that he also took
not a little rubbish for poetry, much sentiment for pathos, and
all passion for love. He was no intentional deceiver ; he was
so self-deceived, that, being himself a deception, he could be
nothing but a deceiver — at once the most complete and the
most pardonable, and perhaps the most dangerous of deceivers.

With all his fine talk of love, to which he now gave full
flow, it was characteristic of him that, although he saw Letty



without hat or cloak, just because he was himself warmly clad,
he never thought of her being cold, until the arm he had thrown
round her waist felt her shiver. Thereupon he was kind, and
would have insisted that she should go in and get a shawl, had
she not positively refused to go in and come out again. Then
he would have had her put on his coat, that she might be able
to stay a little longer ; but she prevailed on him to let her go.
He brought her to the nearest i)oint not within sight of any of
the windows, and, there leaving her, set out at a ra})id pace for
the inn where he had put up his mare.

When Tom was gone, and the bare night, a diffused con-
science, all about lior, Letty, witli a strange fear at her heart,
like one in a churchyard, with the ghost-hour at hand, and
feeling like ** agtiilty thing surprised," although she had done
notliing wrong in its mere self, stole back to the door of the
kitclicn, longing for the slielter

Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldMary Marston. A novel → online text (page 12 of 40)