George MacDonald.

Mary Marston. A novel online

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and some of us at least are come from — ^'

''Tiger-cats ? or perhaps the Tasmanian devil ?" suggested
Sepia, with one of her scornful half-laughs.

But the same instant she turned white as death, and sat
softly down on the nearest chair.

"Good Heavens, Sepia I what is the matter? I did not
mean it," said Hesper, remorsefully, thinking she had wounded
her, and that she had broken down in the attempt to conceal
the pain.

"It's not that, Hesper, dear. Nothing you could say
would hurt me," reidied Sepia, drawing breath shai'])ly. " It's
a pain that comes sometimes — a sort of picture drawn in pains
— something I saw once."

"A picture ?"



Oh ! well ! — picture, or what you will ! — Where's the dif-
ference, once it's gone and done with ? Yet it will get the
better of me now and then for a moment ! Some day, when
you are married, and a little more used to men and their ways,
I will tell you. My little cousin is much too innocent now."

*' But you have not been married. Sepia ! What should
you know about disgraceful things ?"

^'I will tell you when you are married, and not until then,
Hesper. There's a bribe to make you a good child, and do as
you must — that is, as your father and mother and Mr. Red-
main would have you ! "

AVhile they talked, Godfrey, now seen, now vanishing, had
become a speck in the distance. Crossing a wide field, he was
now no longer to be distinguished from the grazing cattle, and
so was lost to the eyes of the ladies.

By this time he had collected his thoughts a little, and it
had grown plain to him that the last and only thing left for
him to do for Letty was to compel Tom to marry her at once.
*^ My mother will then have half her own way!" he said to
himself bitterly. But, instead of reproaching himself that he
had not drawn the poor girl's heart to liis own, and saved her
by letting her know that he loved her, he tried to congratulate
himself on the i)ridc and self-important delay which had jire-
served him from yielding his love to one who counted herself
of so little value. He * did not reflect that, if the value a wo-
man places upon herself be tlie true estimate of her worth, the
world is tolerably provided with utterly inestimable treasures
of womankind ; yet is it the meek who shall inherit it ; and
they who make least of themselves are those who shall be led
up to the dais at last.

*^But the wretch shall marry her at once!" he swore.
*'IIer character is nothing now but a withered flower in the
hands of that Avoman. Even were she capable of holding her
tongue, by this time a score must have seen them together."

Godfrey hardly knew Avhat he was to gain by riding to
Warrender, for how could he expect to find Tom there ? and
what could any one do with tlie mother ? Only, where else
could he go first to learn anything about him ? Some hint lie



might there get, suggesting in what direction to seek them.
And he must be doing something, hoTrcver useless : inaction
at such a moment would be hell itself !

Arrived at the hotise — a well-appointed cottage, with out-
houses larger than itself — he gave his horse to a boy to lead up
and down, while he went through the gate and rang the bell
in a porch covercKl with ivy. The old woman who opened the
door said Master Tom was not up yet, but she would take his
message. Retumiu. tly, she askc^i him to walk in.

He declined tlie li ^ •. and remained in front of the


Tom was no coward, in uie onunary sense of the word :
there was in him a good deal of what goes to the making of a
gentleman ; but he confessed to being ** in a bit of a funk"
when he heard who was U-low : there was but one thing it
could mean, he thought — that Letty had been found out, and
here was her cousin come to make a row. But what did it
matter, so long as Letty was true to him ? The world should
know that Wardour nor Piatt — his mother's maiden name ! —
nor any power on earth .-hould k«'p from him the woman of
his choice ! j^\^ soon as he was of age, he would marr}* her, in
spite of them all. But he could not help being a little afraid
of Godfrey "Wardour, for he . ' ' liini.

For Godfrey, he would h . r liked Tom Helmer, had

he ever seen down into the best of him : but Tom's carelessness

had so often misrepresented him, that Godfrey had too huge a

contemjtt for him. And now the miserable creature had not

merely grown dangerous, but had of a sudden done him the

, greatest possible hurt I It was all (iodfrey could do to keep

, his contc^mpt and hate within what he v/ould have calknl the

' bounds of reason, as he waited for "the miserable mongrel."

• He kept walking up and down the little lawn, which a high

. shrublx-ry protected from the road, making a futile attempt,

as often as he thought of the policy of it, to look unconcerned,

and the next moment striking tierce, objectless blows with his

whip. Catching sight of him from a window on the stair, Tom

was so little reassured by his demeanor, that, crossing the hall,

he chose from the stand a thick oak stick — poor odds against


a hunting-whip in the hands of one like Godfrey, with the
steel of ten years of manhood in him.

Tom's long legs came doubling carelessly down the two
steps from the door, as, with a gracious wave of the hand, and
swinging his cudgel as if he were just going out for a stroll, he
coolly greeted his visitor. But the other, instead of returning
the salutation, stepped quickly up to him.

^^Mr. Helmer, where is Miss Lovel ?" he said, in a low

Tom turned pale, for a pang of undefined fear shot through
him, and his voice betrayed genuine anxiety as he answered :

*^ I do not know. What has happened ? '*

Wardour's fingers gripped convulsively his whip-handle,
and the word liar had almost escaped his lips ; but, through
the darkness of the tempest raging in him, he yet read truth
in Tom's scared face and trembling words.

^^ You were with her last night," he said, grinding it out
between his teeth.

"I was," answered Tom, looking more scared still.

*' Where is she now ?" demanded Godfrey again.

*'I hope to God you know," answered Tom, ''for I don't."

''Where did you leave her ?" asked Wardour, in the tone
of an avenger rather than a judge.

Tom, without a moment's hesitation, described the place
with precision — a spot not more than a hundred yards from the

"What right had you to come sneaking about the place ?"
hissed Godfrey, a vain attempt to master an involuntary move-
ment of the muscles of his face at once clinching and showing
his teeth. At the same moment he raised his whip uncon-

Tom instinctively stepped back, and raised his stick in at-
titude of defense. Godfrey burst into a scornful laugh.

"You fool !" he said ; " you need not be afraid ; I can see
you are speaking the truth. You dare not tell me a lie ! "

"It is enough," returned Tom with dignity, "that I do
not tell lies. I am not afraid of you, Mr. Wardour. What I
dare or dare not do, is neither for you nor me to say. You


are the older and stronger and every way better man, but that
gives you no right to bully me.*'

This answer brought Godfrey to a better sense of what
became himself, if not of what Helmer could claim of him.
Using positive violence over himself, he spoke next in a tone
calm even to iciness.

**Mr. Ilelmer," he said, "I will gladly address you as a
gentleman, if you will show me how it can be the jiart of a
gentleman to go })rowling about his neighbor's property after

*'Love acknowledges no law but itself, ^fr. Wardour,"
answered Tom, inspired by the dignity of his honest alToction
for Letty. *' Miss Lovel is not your property. I love her, and
she loves me. I would do my best to see her, if Thornwick
were the castle of (iiant Blunderbore."

''Why not walk up to the house, like a man, in the day-
light, and say you wanted to see her ? "

'^ Should I have been welcome, Mr. Waniuur !"" saiil Tom,
significantly. ** You know very well what my recei)tion w«)uld
have been ; and I know better than throw dillicultics in my
own path. To do as you say would have been to make it next
to impossible to see her."

'• Well, we must find her now anyhow ; and vou nuist marry
her olMiand."

'OlustI" echoed Tom, his eyes lla.shing, at once with
anger at the word and with pleasure at the proposal. '* Must ?"
he repeated, "when there is nothing in the world I desire or
care for but to marry her ? Tell me what it all means, Mr.
Wardour ; for, by Heaven I 1 am utterly in the dark."

*'It means jn^t this — and I don't know but 1 am making a
fool of myself to tell you — that the girl was seen in your com-
pany late last night, aiul has been neither seen nor heard of

''My God I" cried Tom, now first laying hold of the fact ;
and with the word he turned and started for the stable. His
run, however, broke down, and with a look of scared bewilder-
ment he came back to Godfrey.

'' Mr. Wardour," he said, " what am I to do ? Please advise


me. If we raise a hue and cry, it will set j^eople saying all
manner of things, pleasant neither for you nor for us."

'^ That is your business, Mr. Helmer," answered Godfrey,
bitterly. '^It is you who have brought this shame on

^^You are a cold-hearted man," said Tom. '^But there is
no shame in the matter. I will soon make that clear — if only
I knew where to go after her. The thing is to me utterly
mysterious : there are neither robbers nor wild beasts about
Thorn wick. What can have happened to her ? "

He turned his back on Godfrey for a moment, then, sud-
denly wheeling, broke out :

^^ I will tell you what it is ; I see it all now ; she found out
that she had been seen, and was too terrified to go into the
house again ! — Mr. "Wardour," he continued, with a new look
in his eyes, ^'1 have more reason to bo suspicious of you and
your mother than you have to suspect me. Your treatment
of Letty has not been of the kindest."

So Letty had been accusing him of unkindness ! Eeady as
he now was to hear anything to her disadvantage, it was yet a
fresh stab to the heart of him. Was this the girl for whom, in
all honesty and affection, ho had sought to do so much ! How
could she say he was unkind to her ? — and say it to a fellow
like this ? It was humiliating, indeed ! But he would not de-
fend himself. JSIot to Tom, not to his mother, not to any
living soul, would he utter a word even resembling blame
of the girl ! He, at least, would carry himself generously !
Everything, though she had plunged his heart in a pitcher of
gall, should be done for her sake ! She should go to her lover,
and leave blame behind her with him ! His sole care should be
that the wind-bag should not collapse and slip out of it, that
he should actually marry her ; and, as soon as he had handed
him over to her in safety, he would have done with her and
with all women for ever, except his mother ! Not once more
would he speak to one of them in tone of friendship !

He looked at Tom full in the eyes, and made him no

*^If I don't find Letty this very morning," said Tom, ^^I



shall apph' for a warrant to search your house : nij uncle Ken-
dall will give me one.''

Godfrey smiled a smile of scorn, turned from him as a wise
man turns from a fool, and went out of the gate.

He had just taken his horse from the boy and sent him off,
when he saw a young woman coming hurriedly across the road,
from the direction of Testbridge. Plainly she was on business
of pressing import. She came nearer, and he saw it was Mary
Marston. The moment she recognized Godfrey, she began to
run to him ; but, when she came near enough to take notice of
his mien, as he stood with his foot in the stirrup, witli no word
of greeting or look of reception, and in([uiry only in every
feature, her haste suddenly dropped, her llusiied face turned
})ale, and she stood still, panting. Not a word could she utter,
and uas but just able to force a faint smile, with intent to re-
assure liini.

TiiK i:i:.srLT.

Letty would never iK*rha})s liave come to herself in the
cold of this world, under the shifting tent of the winter night,
but for an outcast mongrel dog, which, wandering masterless
and hungry, but not selfish, along the road, came upon her
where she lay seemingly lifeless, and, recognizing with pity his
neighbor in misfortune, began at once to give her — it was all
he had that was sei)arable — what help and healing might lie in
a warm, honest tongue. Diligently he set himself io lick her
face and hands.

By slow degrees her misery returned, and she sat up. Re-
joiced at his success, the dog kept dodging about her, catching
a lick here and a lick there, wherever he saw a spot of bare within
his reach. By slow degrees, next, the knowledge of herself
joined on to the knowledge of her misery, and she knew who
it was that was miserable. She threw her arms round the
dog, laid her head on his, and wept. This relieved her a little :


weeping is good, even to such as Alberigo in an ice-pot of hell.
But she was cold to the very marrow, almost too cold to feel
it ; and, when she rose, could scarcely put one foot before the

Not once, for all her misery, did she imagine a return to
Thornwick. Without a thought of whither, she moved on,
unaware even that it was in the direction of the town. The
dog, delighted to believe that he had raised up to himself a
mistress, followed humbly at her heel : but always when she
stopped, as she did every few paces, ran round in front of her,
and looked up in her face, as much as to say, *^ Here I am,
mistress ! shall I lick again ? " If a dog could create, he
would make masters and mistresses. Gladly would she then
have fondled him, but feared the venture ; for, it seemed, were
she to stoop, she must fall flat on the road, and never rise

Slowly the two went on, with motion scarce enough to
keep the blood moving in their, veins. Had she not been, for
all her late depression, in fine health and strength, Letty could
hardly have escaped death from the cold of that night. For
many months after, some portion of every night she passed in
dreaming over again this dreariest wandering ; and in her af tj3r
life people would be puzzled to think why Mrs. Helmer looked
so angry when any one spoke as if the animals died outright.

But, although she never forgot this part of the terrible
night, she never dreamed of any rescue from it ; memory could
not join it on to the next part, for again she lost consciousness,
and could recall nothing between feeling the dog once more
licking her face and finding herself in bed.

When Beenie opened her kitchen-door in the morning to
let in the fresh air, she found seated on the step, and leaning
against the wall, what she took first for a young woman asleep,
and then for the dead body of one ; for, when she gave her a
little shake, she fell sideways off the door-step. Beenie's heart
smote her ; for during the last hours of her morning's sleep
she had been disturbed by the howling of a dog, apparently
in their own yard, but had paid no further attention to it than
that of repeated mental objurgation : there stood the offender.


looking up at hor pitifully — ugly, disreputable, of breed un-
known, one of tlie canaille! When the girl fell down, he
darted at her, licked her cold face for a moment, then stretch-
ing out a long, gaunt neck, uttered from the depth of his hide-
bound frame the most melancholy appeal, not to Beenie, at
whom he would not 'even look again, but to the oj^en door.
But, when Beenie, in whom, as in most of us, curiosity had
the start of service, stooped, and, peering more closely into
the face of the girl, recognized, though uncertainly, a known
face, she too uttered a kind of howl, and straightway raising
Letty's head drew her into the house. It is the mark of an
imperfect humanity, tliat personal knowledge should spur the
sides of hospitable intent : what ditlerence does our knowing
or not knowing make to the fact of human need ? The good
Samaritan would never have been mentioned by the mouth of
the True, had he been even an old acquaintance of the "cer-
tain man." But it is thus we learn ; and, from lovini^ this
one and that, we come to love all at hist, and then is our
humanity complete.

Lctty moved not one frozen muscle, and Beenie, growing
terrified, Hew up the stair to her mistress. Mary sprang from
her bed and hurried down. There, on the kitchen-lloor, in front
of the yet tireless grate, lay the ])ody of Letty Lovel. A hide-
ous dog was sitting on liis haunches at her head. The moment
she entered, again the animal stretched out a long, bony neck,
and sent fortli a howl that rang ]^enetrative through the house.
It sounded in Mary's ears like the cry of the whole animal cre-
ation over the absence of their Maker. They raised her and
carried her to Mary's room. There they laid her in the still
warm bed, and i)roceeded to use all possible means for the res-
toration of heat and the renewal of circulation.

Here I am sorry to have to mention that Beenie, return-
ing, unsuccessful, from their first efforts, to the kitchen, to
get hot water, and finding the dog sitting there motionless,
with his face turned toward the door by which they had car-
ried Letty out, peevish with disajipointment and dread, drove
him from the kitchen, and from the court, into the street,
where that same day he was seen wildly running with a pan at


his tail, and the next was found lying dead in a bit of waste
ground among stones and shards. God rest all such !

But, as far as Letty was concerned, happily Beenie was not
an old woman for nothing. AVith a woman's sympathy, Mary
hesitated to run for the doctor : who could tell what might be
involved in so strange an event ? If they could but bring her
to, first, and learn something to guide them ! She pushed
delay to the very verge of danger. But, soon after, thanks to
Beenie's persistence, indications of success appeared, and Letty
began to breathe. It was then resolved between the nurses
that, for the present, they would keep the affair to themselves,
a conclusion affording much satisfaction to Beenie, in the con-
sciousness that therein she had the better of the Turnbulls,
against whom she cherished an ever-renewed indignation.

But, when Mary set herself at length to find out from Letty
what had happened, without which she could not tell wdiat to
do next, she found her mind so far gone that she understood
nothing said to her, or, at least, could return no rational re-
sponse, although occasionally an individual word would seem
to influence the current of her ideas. She kept murmuring
almost inarticulately ; but, to Mary's uneasiness, every now
and then plainly uttered the name Tom. What was she to
make of it ? In terror lest she should betray her, she must
yet do something. Matters could not have gone wrong so far
that nothing could be done to set them at least a little straight !
If only she knew what ! A single false step might do no end
of mischief ! She must see Tom Helmer : without betraying
Letty, she might get from him some enlightenment. She
knew his open nature, had a better opinion of him than many
had, and was a little nearer the right of him. The doctor
must be called ; but she would, if possible, see Tom first.

It was not more than half an hour's walk to Warrender, and
she set out in haste. She must get back before George Turn-
bull came to open the shop.

When she got near enough to see Mr. Wardour's face, she
read in it at once that he was there from the same cause as her-
self ; but there was no good omen to be drawn from its expres-
sion : she read there not only keen anxiety and bitter disap-


pointmcnt, but lowering anger ; nor was that absent which she
felt to be distrust of herself. The sole acknowledgment he
made of her ujiproach was to withdraw his foot from the stir-
ru]) and stand waiting.

** You know something,"' he said, looking cold and hard in
her face.

"About wliat?'' returned Mary, recovering liersclf ; she
was careful, for Letty's sake, to feel her way.

*^I hope to goodness," returned Godfrey, almost fiercely,
yet with a dash of rude indillcrence, "you are not concerned in
this — business !'' — he wao about to use a bad adjective, but sup-
pressed it.

^^I am concerned in it," said Mary, with jK-rfrct ([uii-tness.

*^ You knew what was going on ? " cried Wardour. " You
knew that fellow there came prowling about Thornwick like a
fox about a hen-roo5t ? ]iv Heaven I if I had but susjiected

*^No, Mr. Wardour," intcrrupttd Mary, already catching a
glimpse of light, *' I knew nothing of that."

''Then what do yon mean by saying you arc concerned in
the matter ?"

Mary thought he was behaving so unlike himself that a
shock might be of service.

" Only this," she answered, " — tliat Ix'tty is now lying in
my room, whether dead or alive I am in dcnibt. She must have
spent the night in the ojK-n air — and that without cloak or

"Good God !" cried Godfrev. "And vou could leave her
like that!"

'' She is attended to," replied Mary, with dignity. '' There
are worse evils to be warded than death, else I should not be
here ; there are hard judgments and evil tongues. — Will you
come and see her, Mr. Wardour ? "

"No," answered Godfrey, gruflly.

*' Shall I send a note to Mrs. Wardour, then ?"

'a will tell her myself."

"What would you have me do about her ?"

"I have no concern in the matter, but I suppose you had


better send for a doctor. Talk to that fellow there," he added,
pointing with his whip toward the cottage, and again putting
his foot in the stirrup. " Tell him he has brought her to dis-
grace — "

** I don't believe it," interrupted Mary, her face flushing
with indignant shame. But Godfrey went on without heeding
her :

^^A — nd get him to marry her off-hand, if you can — for,
by God ! he shall marry her, or I will kill him."

He spoke looking round at her oyer his shoulder, a scowl
on his face, his foot in the stirrup, one hand twisted in the
mane of his horse, and the other with the whip stretched out
as if threatening the universe. Mary stood white but calm,
and made no answer. He swung himself into the saddle, and
rode away. She turned to the gate.

From behind the shrubbery, Tom had heard all that passed
between them, and, meeting her as she entered, led the way to
a side-walk, unseen from the house.

'' Miss Marston ! what is to be done ?" he said. " This
is a terrible business ! But I am so glad you have got her,
poor girl ! I heard all you said to that brute, Wardour. Thank
you, thank you a thousand times, for taking her part. Indeed,
you spoke but the truth for her. Let me tell you all I
know. "

He had not much to tell, however, beyond what Mary knew

"She keeps calling out for you, Mr. Ilelmer," she said,
when he had ended.

**I will go with you. Come, come," he answered.

'* You will leave a message for your mother ? "

'^ Never mind my mother. She's good at finding out for

'^ She ought to be told," said Mary ; "but I can't stop to
argue it with you. Certainly your first duty is to Letty now.
Oh, if peoi)le only wouldn't hide things ! "

"Come along," cried Tom, hurrying before her; "I will
soon set everything right."

"How shall we manage with the doctor ?" said Mary, as


they went. " We can not do without him, for I am sure she
is in danger."

*^0h, no!" said Tom. *SShe will be all right when she
sees me. But Ave will take the doctor on our wav, and prepare

When they came to the doctors house, Mary walked on,
and Tom told the doctor he had met Miss Marston on lier way
to him, and had come instead : she wanted to let him know
that Miss Lovel had come to her quite unexj)ected that morn-
ing ; that she was delirious, and had apparently wandered
from home under an attack of brain-fever, or something of the

CIIAP'i"i:i; Will.
ii A n V A \ I) ci () I) F n i: y .

Everything went very tolerably, so far as concerned the
world of talk, in the matter of Lctty's misfortunes. Kumors,
it is true — and more than one of them strange enough — did for
a time go floating about the country ; but none of them came
to the ears of I'om or of Marv, and Tx'ttv was safe from heariuir
.'inything ; and the engagement between her and Tom soon be-

Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldMary Marston. A novel → online text (page 13 of 40)